Oh how the latest kerfluffle with Gov. Blagojevich make me nostalgic for my days in Chicago.
Illinois politicians are a colorful bunch and governors have had a tendency to get into trouble (e.g. Walker, Kerner, Ryan, now Gov. B). Otto Kerner was a particular issue for law students and clerks. After he was governor, he went on the bench, on the Seventh Circuit. He was eventually indicted and convicted of bribery, perjury and various related charges (as the Wikipedia entry on him notes, he was found out because the payor deducted the bribe on her income tax return as a necessary business expense in Illinois. Well?). He finally left the bench on his way to jail, but not before spending years on the bench.
So, what to do with his decisions? Do you cite them? His convictions weren't related. But still, it's not exactly like citing Learned Hand. But what if it's the only decision on your issue in the Circuit? Is a decision from a different circuit better than a Kerner decision? Strangely, this question was not discussed in my legal writing class at Northwestern.
I was also happy to see that Ed Genson was still around (now defending Gov. B). He was there when I was working for a criminal defense lawyer and, like the lawyer I worked for, a member of the old school. Nowadays many defense attorneys come out of the US Attorney's office and go to big firms like Jones, Day, Winston etc., preferring the more remunerative corporate white collar defense. Back then, the defense lawyers I knew were in scrappy little firms. Some would never be on the prosecutor's side, and they were, in general, not the type of people to play well with others and fit in comfortably in big firms with glossy digs. They would converge on at Binyon's, a now defunct bar-restaurant a block south of the federal building where I clerked, and tell the best stories. The AUSAs I worked with when I interned there were great people, too, but the kind to go home to their families in the suburbs after work.
Chicago was a great place to be a law student, clerk and newbie. Appeals on the criminal side were a challenge (some defense lawyers called it the Court of Affirmance) — but hey, there was always plenty of work. One of the cases I worked on was a Hobbs Act case against the Mayor of — wait for it –Justice, Illinois. The tradition continues.