29 February 2016

The Absurdity of Suing the Supreme Court Over Gay Marriage

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I wonder if Supreme Court Justices laugh. They must when they realize that five of them are being sued over gay marriage. Most people when served with a lawsuit utter an expletive of some sort or an “Are you kidding me?” I feel like in their chambers, one of them, maybe Justice Sonia Sotomeyer (she looks like she has a sense of humor), opened a bottle of fine brandy and started telling young lawyer jokes. She and the other four justices on the complaint, Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Elena Kegan are probably stringing together puns about the Alabama lawyer, Austin Burdick.
Apparently, he seeks to be compensated $6,000,000 plus punitive damages for their majority decision allowing same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges. He is basically alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of the 5th and 14th Amendments (which together provide that the federal and state governments will not deprive individuals due process of law). He complains that they have nullified the Constitution by making bad law. 
[As a result] Plaintiff’s livelihood is dependent on his ability to protect his clients’ constitutional rights. If the Constitution is no longer a charter of liberty that guarantees the rights of U.S. citizens then Plaintiff has lost all income that he would have received had the Constitution not been destroyed. Without the Constitution Plaintiff’s law license is greatly diminished in value if not ruined entirely.

I taught constitutional law to high school students in law school. There was nothing in the textbook about suing the Supreme Court judges if you didn’t agree with them. However, I did have the flu and missed one class. Maybe my co-teacher went over it.
To my knowledge, unless someone brings you before the disciplinary board you get to keep on practicing with your law license.
As he is the only attorney listed on his website, I imagine Burdick is a solo practitioner. He got his license ten years ago. Since a JD (Juris Doctor) takes three years to earn after college, he is probably at least 35 years old. He probably has 30 years left in his lawyer life assuming he plans to retire at 65. If gets the $6,000,000, that works out to $200,000 a year in lost salary. He must be a really good lawyer if he makes that. 
To pump out $200,000 in net profit, he needs two legal secretaries and maybe a marble statue of blind Lady Justice. Assuming he skips the art deco but pays for an office, two secretaries, insurance, utilities, a photocopier, and one of those nifty Kuerig coffee makers where you insert the little coffee pods that also allow you to brew hot chocolate, his expenses must run at least $200,000 a year. So he would need to earn $400,000 a year. If he bills 2000 hours a year, his rate must be $200 an hour. I don’t know if that is reasonable in Alabama. I think he is shooting a bit high.
Then again he did allege mental anguish and that's compensable.  Maybe he is sensitive. That’s ok, the world needs metrosexuals. (Note: I am not saying he is a metrosexual. I don’t want him to sue me for libel).
While I appreciate his moxie and the amount of interest he has generated (24,000 hits on his complaint), he doesn’t have legal authority or precedent to make this stick. Personally, I believe that he doesn’t like judges. Maybe he is not a people-person. (Note: again, this is just speculation. I still don’t want him to sue me for libel. He’d probably throw in slander too).
Burdick has tried some of the arguments before when he sued Alabama Judge Robert S. Vance, Jr. The case was dismissed with prejudice.The Supreme Court case is different because he is not just the lawyer but also the plaintiff.
And you know what they say about lawyers representing themselves in court, they foolishly get a lot of free advertising. This article is case in point.