ICYMI: Twitter Threads

Decided to post links to some of my Twitter threads, because most of these threads could (and maybe should) have been blog posts.

[listed in reverse chronological order]

On the Gorsuch nomination & whether the Democrats should filibuster: 3/20/17

Explaining the legal/policy issue of selling insurance “across state lines”: 3/7/17

A primer on class actions and why we have them: 2/16/17

On the case challenging the scope of Obergefell at SCOTX: 2/13/17

On federalism: 1/30/17

On work-life “balance”: 1/11/17

On appeals, standards of review, and reversal rates: 12/20/16

Some post-election thoughts about the Electoral College: 11/21/16

On judicial vacancies left unfilled: 11/18/16

On court-packing, reverse-court-packing, and constitutional norms: 10/26/16

The thread that launched the #AppellateTwitter coffee mugs: 10/22/16

On Flannery O’Connor & wanting to be an appellate lawyer: 9/14/16

Remembering where I was on 9/11: 9/11/16

On alternative-fee arrangements for appellate work: 9/6/16

On doing pro bono to get appellate experience: 8/23/16

The now-(in)famous thread on the social function of humor: 8/9/16

On RBG expressing political opinions: 7/13/16

On whether current SCOTUS can be called a “liberal” court: 6/28/16

And last but not least, the Twitter version of my life story: 10/23/16

Steed Style Guide, pt. 1

Complaints about The Bluebook have become commonplace. I have many. This, combined with the new availability of The Supreme Court’s Style Guide and The Solicitor General’s Style Guide—and with the longtime presence of Garner’s The Redbook, and with the presence, in Texas, of The Greenbook—has led me to become eclectic in my style choices, when it comes to brief writing. (I also have traces of MLA style still in me, from my days in academia.) Thus, over the years I haven’t been very consistent. I mean, I’m always consistent within a brief, to be sure—that’s imperative. But I haven’t been very consistent from brief to brief (or, more precisely, from case to case). Instead, I’ve been trying things out, here and there, to see how I like this or that.

Now, though, I think I’ve settled into some fairly consistent stylistic preferences that I’m going to go ahead and codify (here, on this blog) in my own personal style guide—with the caveat, of course, that I might change my mind at any moment.

So, without further ado, here is the first installment of the Steed Style Guide:

Continue reading

Circuit Splits

There’s a split over whether plaintiffs must prove the absence of probable cause when bringing a First Amendment retaliatory-arrest claim. See here at p.19. (Incidentally, this case is a good example of how messed up the law is, on qualified immunity. The question in this case is whether a person has a right against retaliatory arrest even when there is probable cause for the arrest. But the court grants immunity, saying it doesn’t need to determine whether the right exists because the Supreme Court has previously recognized that the right has not been clearly established. In this way, under our current qualified-immunity jurisprudence, when a right isn’t clearly established the courts can just continue to grant immunity on that basis, without ever deciding whether the right exists. Happens all the time. I’ve written more here.)

There’s a split over whether a mandatory supervised-release term may be modified or terminated under section 3583(e). See here at p.4.

There’s a split over whether participants or beneficiaries of an ERISA plan must exhaust internal plan remedies before suing plan fiduciaries on the basis of alleged violations of statutory duties. See here at p.14.

There’s a split over whether the denial of a “Hail Mary” chance at trial constitutes prejudice (in the context of possibly rejecting a plea agreement). See here at p.9 & n.3.

There’s a split over whether burglary requires intent-at-entry or just “the development of intent at any point.” See here at p.5.

Courts are divided over whether the joint-employer or single-integrated-enterprise theory of liability under the FLSA also applies to the personal-jurisdiction inquiry. See here at pp.5-6.

There’s disagreement over the interaction between sections 2680(a) and 2680(h) in the context of determining sovereign immunity. See here at p.15 n.5.

And there’s a split over whether the failure to object to the reasonableness of a sentence upon its imposition requires plain-error review. See here at p.6 n.10.


cxaav8wviaagbjq-1Our band of merry travelers, known affectionately as #AppellateTwitter, has been in the news recently. In case you missed it, first there was some coverage of our crew at Above the Law. Then U.S. Law Week did a story on us, which was cross-posted at Bloomberg BNA. Then Today’s General Counsel did its own little blurb referring to the Law Week article. Then Law.com ran a story about us.

And to cap it all off, Judge Dillard (@JudgeDillard) actually cited #AppellateTwitter in a footnote to one of his judicial opinions.

Big League!


Gorsuch in L/E Cases

labor-law-598x299I found 25 cases from the past 10 years, involving labor or employment claims, where Judge Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion. Here’s a quick overview of how those cases turned out.

Continue reading

Proposed Changes to SCOTX Jurisdiction

A bill (HB 1761) has been proposed in the Texas Legislature to change the Texas Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Below is my explanation (and first impression) of what the bill would do.

Continue reading

Circuit Splits

ccsplits4There’s a split over what exactly unauthorized access means, in violating the CFAA. See here at p.13.

There’s a split over what law applies (state or federal) in determining the validity of a contract’s forum-selection clause. See here at p.5.

There’s an intra-circuit split in the Sixth Circuit, as well as a split across circuits, over the proper standard of review for Rule 404(b) evidence. See here at p.14 & n.4.

Circuits disagree over whether an ADEA plaintiff must “reasonably pursue,” “complete,” or merely “start” the administrative process, to “exhaust” administrative remedies before filing suit. See here at p.9.

There’s a split over whether the probate exception, which applies to diversity jurisdiction, also applies to federal-question jurisdiction. See here at p.3-4.

There’s a split over whether an arbitration agreement may require the resolution of labor disputes on an individual basis (i.e., no class arbitration). See here at p.20-21.

Circuits disagree over “whether the rationale of Martinez/Trevino extends to ineffective assistance of direct appeal counsel.” See here at p.10-11.

And there’s a split over whether independently exculpatory Brady material must be disclosed before a plea. See here at p.7-8.

Revisions as Decisions

TexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_VectorGraphicA good way to teach (and to learn) good writing is by demonstration. So, in an attempt to demonstrate how to improve the first two paragraphs of a motion, I’m just going to show you what the two paragraphs looked like before and after the revision.

Continue reading

Circuit Splits

away-228675_960_720There’s a split over whether “double counting” is permitted in the context of enhancing a criminal sentence. See here at p.15 n.7.

There’s a split over whether, in its de novo review of naturalization denials under 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c), a court should give Chevron deference to agency interpretations. See here at p.7.

In the context of the “public authority” defense against criminal prosecution, there is a split over whether the defendant must show that the government official had actual authority to authorize the act or merely apparent authority. See here at p.7 & n.2.

There’s a split over whether debtors can simultaneously maintain Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. See here at p.5.

There’s a split over whether the Bankruptcy Code allows an injunction against refiling for more than 180 days. See here at p.8.

There’s a split over whether the bankruptcy estate may recover from a debtor or transferee under § 542 if the debtor or transferee was in possession of property of the estate at some time during the pendency of the case, but no longer is in possession of that property at the time that the turnover adversary proceeding or motion is filed. See here at p.12.

The Tenth Circuit has taken a side in the split over the definition of a “criminal case,” for purposes of applying the Fifth Amendment protection against compelled statements and self-incrimination. See here at p.8-13.

There’s a split over whether the “plausibility” standard for reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint also applies to affirmative defenses. See here at p.5-6 & n.3.

And there’s a split over whether there is a combined 25% cap on attorneys’ fees awarded under 42 U.S.C. § 406(a), or if the cap applies only to fees awarded under § 406(b). See here at p.2 n.2.

Recent & Upcoming Activities

A busy calendar.The last couple months have been busy. In addition to the holidays, I argued at the Fifth Circuit; published two articles at The Huffington Post (here and here); produced a podcast episode on appellate practice for the ABA’s Sound Advice series; gave a presentation to the Dallas Bar Association (about the post-election Supreme Court and Trump’s list of possible nominees); participated in a panel discussion about e-briefs and legal writing at the annual meeting of the Council of Chief Judges of State Courts of Appeal (in North Carolina); was cited on SCOTUSblog and the Appellate Advocacy Blog (both here and here); and was quoted by Bloomberg (herehere, here, and here), CNN, and the Winnipeg Free Press.

This month I’ve got an article forthcoming in Texas Lawbook (about the Garland fiasco and Trump’s possible SCOTUS nominees); I’ll be in Austin on January 20, leading a workshop on legal writing at Lawyer Forward; and I’ll be in Utah January 21-24.