One in a thousand: Judge Reinhardt and Ninth Circuit odds

Josh Blackman recently noted that Judge Stephen Reinhardt has the "uncanny ability to be on the right panels," and asked what the odds are that he could serve on the three recent panels, one regarding California's marriage amendment, another on striking jurors on the basis of sexual orientation, and a third on other Ninth Circuit marriage cases.

The odds are about 1 in 1000.

That's slightly deceptive--it's not unique to these three cases. It's simply because the odds of being on any three random panels are 1 in 1000 in the Ninth Circuit.

But here's now the math works.

There are 29 active judges in the Ninth Circuit. The odds of being on any given panel are 1/29 + 1/28 + 1/27, or 10.72% 1/29 + 1/28(28/29) + 1/27(27/29), or 10.34%.

But there are also 16 senior judges, and one of them may sit on a panel with two active judges. In those cases, the odds are 1/45 + 1/29 + 1/28, or 9.24% 1/29 + 1/28(28/29), or 0.69%.

So assuming the odds of selecting the first judge are completely random, there is a 29/45 chance that the first set of odds applies, and a 16/45 chance that the second set of odds applies for an active judge. That means we have 10.72 * (29/45) + 9.24 * (16/45), or 10.2% 10.32 * (29/45) + 6.89 * (16/45), or 9.10%, that an active judge will be selected for a given panel.

If we're looking at three panels, we take those odds and raise them to the third power. That leaves the odds of serving on any given three panels as 0.106% 0.075%, or something a little over 1 in 1000.

There are a number of caveats. Not all judges are "on" at the same time, and some pick different months to be available for panels, so the number at any given time is often fewer than 29. Senior judges have a lower caseload, and their odds of being picked may or may not be as certain a figure. Sometimes visiting judges, such as district court judges or senior judges from other circuits, may sit on the panel. Not all of the vacancies were filled on the Ninth Circuit in the last couple of years, and the number of senior judges fluctuated slightly in that period, too.

Yes, there's deeply limited data. But that's the high-level math behind any given Ninth Circuit panel selection.

Update: Roger Ford tweets, for just Ninth Circuit active judges, "It’s 3/29 or (1/29)+(1/28)*(28/29)+(1/27)(27/29)." That's more accurate--it factors in the odds as to whether a given judge has been selected for the first or second slots on the three-judge panel. And that's about 10.3%, slightly lower odds than my original math, but still comes out to just about 1 in 1000.

Update II: I've attempted to fix the math... but this is the peril when it's been a decade since my last math class. Thanks for all the patience with my rough efforts.

Ray Bradbury's thoughts on the new Apple Watch

Ray Bradbury has long been one of my favorite writers. Although he wrote "The Murderer" in 1953 and died in 2012, Ray Bradbury offered this vision of the future--which applies as much to the new release of the Apple Watch as it does to most contemporary technology, but particularly given the ubiquity of two-way "wrist radios," as he describes them.

"The Murderer" is the story of a man tired of technology--miniaturized, pocket-sized, constantly keeping man "in touch" with fellow man--that chirps incessantly at him. He takes matters into his own hands:

"Then I got the idea of the portable diathermy machine. I rented one, took it on the bus going home that night. There sat all the tired commuters with their wrist radios, talking to their wives saying, 'Now I'm at Forty-Third, now I'm at Forty-fourth, here I am at Forty-ninth, now turning at Sixty-first.' One husband cursing, 'Well, get out of that bar, damn it, and get home and get dinner started, I'm at Seventieth!' And the transit-system radio playing 'Tales from the Vienna Woods,' a canary singing words about a first-rate wheat cereal. Then--I switched on my diathermy! Static! Interference! All wives cut off from husbands grousing about a hard day at the office. All husbands cut off from wives who had just seen their children break a window! The 'Vienna Woods' chopped down, the canary mangled. Silence! A terrible, unexpected silence. The bus inhabitants faced with having to converse with each other. Panic! Sheer, animal panic!"

"The police seized you?"

"The bus had to stop. After all, the music was being scrambled, husbands and wives were out of touch with reality. Pandemonium, riot, and chaos!"

The inset image, featuring the gleeful murderer preparing to use his machine on all the chattering machines around him, is from the 1990 television adaptation in an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater.

Extraterrestrial exposure quarantine laws and Apollo 11

President Richard Nixon greets Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin during their quarantine, July 24, 1969, via NASA.

This month marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing. But less discussed about this historical incident is the quarantine that took place after the astronauts landed.

The astronauts were quarantined from their splashdown on July 24, 1969 until their release on the evening of August 10--18 days of isolation to ensure that they did not bring back any contaminants from the moon.

The quarantine procedures were set forth in 14 C.F.R. § 1211 (now long since amended) in a part entitled "Extraterrestrial Exposure." The scope of the regulation:

This part establishes: (a) NASA policy, responsibility and authority to guard the Earth against any harmful contamination or adverse changes in its environment resulting from personnel, spacecraft and other property returning to the Earth after landing on or coming within the atmospheric envelope of a celestial body; and (b) security requirements, restrictions and safeguards that are necessary in the interest of national security.

It authorizes NASA to establish quarantine procedures and standards to evaluate who should be quarantined and when it is safe to release a person from quarantine.

The regulation was filed on July 15, 1969 (45 years ago today), and appeared in the Federal Register at 34 Fed. Reg. 11975 on July 16, 1969--the day of the Apollo 11 launch. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that it includes this effective date:

Effective date. In light of the Apollo 11 space mission and the need to guard the Earth against extraterrestrial contamination, it is hereby determined that compliance with section 553 of Title 5 of the United States Code is impracticable and contrary to the public interest; therefore, the provisions of this Part 1211 are effective upon publication in the FEDERAL REGISTER.

You can read the entire regulation here, via Scribd.


Ranking law blogs by Feedly subscribers

Following up on my earlier ranking of law professor blogs by digital privacy, I thought I'd rank blogs (mostly run by law professors, but a few other notable law-related blogs, too) by Feedly subscribers.

Since the shutdown of Google Reader, Feedly is the most prominent RSS feed aggregator in use. Feedly conveniently distills the content from many different sources into a single page for convenient browsing. Other rankings rank things like "page views," which can be easily manipulated by instituting various programming tactics, like providing only previews of content in RSS feeds, programming scripts to automatically refresh pages, separating content into multiple pages or "slideshows," and other mechanisms designed to provide the illusion (usually for the purpose of inflating prices for advertising service providers) that there are more readers than there actually are.++ (For my own site statistics from 2013, see here.) Feedly subscribers, however, are a highly non-manipulable metric, something like newspaper subscribers: not the total number, but a useful number of measure influence and impact.

Granted, this ranking would only measure a portion of each site's users; it would exclude any users who stumble upon the content from Google, or who visit the homepage of the site daily from a bookmark or entering the address directly, or who are referred from another site. Further, others many not use Feedly because of more robust alternatives for content delivery, like email subscriptions or tweets of new content. But it provides for a bare subscription base from a single (popular) RSS client.

Feedly reports how many readers there are for the blog. Its reports are occasionally inconsistent by a margin of 1 reader. Once a blog reaches 1000 readers, it rounds all numbers.

Finally, this ranking is completely not in my self interest: it confirms that virtually no one actually subscribes to this blog, and that the vast amount of my traffic is driven by Twitter readers, referrals, and Google searches. (And part of it is my fault: I failed to include an RSS link for a substantial period of time, and the one I use now is different than the one Feedly previously used on its own.)

Below is the ranking for 85 blogs of note, with the number of Feedly subscribers after it. For links... I'm sorry, you'll have to use Google, or visit other sites that rank blogs.

Freakonomics 22000

The Becker-Posner Blog 8000

Above the Law 7000

SCOTUSblog 7000

WSJ Law Blog 7000

Deeplinks 6000

Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog 4000

Legal Nomads 3000

Lowering the Bar 3000

Popehat 3000

Balkinization 2000

Credit Slips 2000

FOSS Patents 2000

How Appealing 2000

Instapundit 2000

Lawyerist 2000

Lessig 2000

Patently-O 2000

3 Geeks and a Law Blog 1000

Althouse 1000

Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Law 1000

Incidental Economist 1000

iPhone JD 1000

Jim Calloway's Law Practice 1000

Law and the Multiverse 1000

Lawfare 1000

Legal Theory Blog 1000

Opinio Juris 1000

Overlawyered 1000

TaxProf Blog 1000

PrawfsBlawg 997

Sentencing Law and Policy 963

Real Lawyers Have Blogs 725

The Volokh Conspiracy 715

Leiter's Law School Reports 677

Conglomerate 668

The Faculty Lounge 597

Concurring Opinions 532

Religion Clause 506

M & A Law Prof Blog 451

Feminist Law Professors 382

Legal Insurrection 380

ACS Blog 366

Liberty Law Blog 326

White Collar Crime Prof Blog 269

#wheninlawschool 257

Business Law Professor Blog 249 210

The Legal Whiteboard 210

Deal Professor 168

California Appellate Report 160

PointOfLaw 140

Legal Writing Prof Blog 135

FedSocBlog 134

Non Curat Lex 134

Antitrust Policy Blog 128

Dorf on Law 125

Legal Ethics Forum 125

Constitutional Law Prof Blog 124

Legal Profession Blog 123

Workplace Prof Blog 120

ImmigrationProf Blog 114

Josh Blackman's Blog 114

Turtle Talk 113

Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog 111

Election Law Blog 107

The Right Coast 107

College Insurrection 105

Legal History Blog 98

CrimProf Blog 97

Mirror of Justice 88

Civil Procedure & Federal Courts Blog 82

Legal Skills Prof Blog 78

ContractsProf Blog 77

Hugh Hewitt 76

Re's Judicata 75

Adjunct Law Prof Blog 74

EvidenceProf Blog 56

Nonprofit Law Prof Blog 53

Word on the Streeterville 51

PropertyProf Blog 43


Law School Academic Support Blog 34

Excess of Democracy 27

Jack Bog's Blog 6

Update: this post will occasionally be updated.

++Setting aside the snark, these practices are very good business practices for the overwhelming number of sites and blogs, and they are also best practices for many advertising providers. Indeed, some methods that might result in additional clicks, such as below-the-fold click-throughs, are a means of improving readability. Further, to clarify my own carelessness, many advertisers do not need page views as a model of ranking, but other factors like actual visits--and page views are not a relevant metric for them.

The five law-related podcasts you should listen to

Living in suburban Los Angeles, I have a fairly substantial commute each day, in addition to still longer commutes to LAX or Dodger Stadium. During my commute, I listen to podcasts. I don't listen to all of them all the time; I'll skip past ones that are outside my general interest. I also tend to listen to podcasts at 1.4x speed, which allows me to consume far more of them and I rarely lose comprehension. I use BeyondPod for Android to listen, an invaluable app.

Here are five law-related podcasts I recommend listening to.

Supreme Court Oral Arguments

Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court offers no RSS feed to its oral arguments (but it does include a "print-friendly" link). Andrew Grossman at BakerHostetler has created an RSS for the oral arguments, which includes every oral argument. Strictly speaking, I suppose it isn't a podcast; but, I put them in my RSS and listen to many of the arguments.

Frequency: about 70 a year, between October and April.

Typical length: 60 minutes.


The Federalist Society offers podcasts for every Supreme Court cases, usually twice-over: one summary of the case at oral argument, and one after the opinion is handed down. They are usually brief and thorough summaries of the cases from a variety of perspectives and often a useful analysis.

Frequency: about 140 a year, between October and July.

Typical length: 15 minutes.

This Week in Law

TWiL is hosted by Denise Howell and Evan Brown, taking on the intersection of technology and law. Patents, copyrights, FCC, IP litigation, and a host of other issues are on the table with these two and their rotating cast of excellent guests.

Frequency: weekly, Friday afternoons.

Typical length: 90 minutes.

Liberty Law Talk

The Liberty Fund's Online Library of Law and Liberty focuses on the relationship between law and liberty, first principles of a free society, and includes discussions and debates about these things. Its podcast, Liberty Law Talk, features a discussion of books of recent interest on these matters.

Frequency: twice a month.

Typical length: 60 minutes.

Oral Argument

The newest podcast of the bunch, Oral Argument features mostly University of Georgia professors discussing topics of interest in law. Discussions vary from substantive law to legal education (including a recent and useful discussion on law school textbooks). I confess it's a bit more meandering than the others, perhaps because it's the newest of the group (one could pretty easily skip the first ten minutes and miss virtually nothing), but I've found it worthwhile and enjoyable.

Frequency: about twice a month.

Typical length: 90 minutes.

Ranking law prof blogs by digital privacy

I recently posted an "annual disclosure," which describes things like hits, costs, and privacy. Of note, this blog is not monetized in any way. At the moment, I have a fairly strong hostility to the notion that legal academics should monetize their blogs--not that I begrudge or hold it against any who do, but that I am not convinced it would do anything but pressure my blog toward a reduction in quality or an increase in real or apparent corruption. (For more on that, see my site disclosure.)

I thought it might be useful to rank the blogs of law professors based upon digital privacy. I used 66 blogs for this sample: the top 50 law professor blogs from a recent TaxProf ranking based on site traffic, and 16 other blogs of note (including my own), some of which are not law professor blogs but law-related blogs.

Every time you visit a site, you transmit information to that site. Presumably, the owner of the site (and anyone responsible for hosting the site) has access to that information. But sites may contain a number of items that may disclose your information to third parties--frequently, without disclosing it, and without your knowledge.

So, I used Ghostery to determine the "cookies, tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons" that are invisible to a site visitor, but that may (and frequently do) disclose information to third parties. It treats each tracking item as equal; it counts multiple tracking items from the same site (e.g., Twitter Badge and Twitter Button) as separate items.

In a sense, Ghostery is underinclusive. A site may internally collect data but does not need a tracker, because, well, the information is routed directly through the site itself, and there is no need to install a third-party tracking device. So, of course, you should assume that all sites contain at least one tracking device: the site itself. What the site collects and how it uses it varies from site to site.

Further, Ghostery is, alas, but one imperfect measure. When I recently did this test, I saw that some sites had different third-party trackers depending on when I visited, or from where. These rankings, accordingly, should be taken with a grain of salt.

One curious item is that utter lack of transparency on most sites--and some, ironically, operated by law professors who specifically write in the area of digital and online privacy. I'm hard-pressed to find on most of these sites a privacy policy or disclosure that your information is being shared with third parties, or that the site operators may profit from your activity on the site. Perhaps that disclosure is not the kind of thing one should expect--but it's one that I would hope to see more of in the future.

Among these 66 blogs, 87 different kinds of devices were used. The most popular include the following (with links to the Ghostery identification of the service and the information collected by the service, such as whether the information is anonymous, pseudonymous, or personally-identifiable information, and data retention policies, if available). Where available, I've included a link to the site's opt-out options.

Google Analytics (used by 56 sites) (opt-out options)

SiteMeter (48) (opt-out cookie)

Specific Media (46) (opt-out cookie)

Vindicio Group (46) (opt-out cookie)

Quantcast (40) (opt-out cookie)

ScoreCard Research Beacon (40) (opt-out cookie)

Typepad Stats (31)

The sites below are ranked based on the number of trackers. The lower the number, the fewer trackers. Rounding out the top three: Non Curat Lex, operated by Professor Kyle Graham, who bravely has not a single tracking device (and who, alas, has just retired from blogging); my own blog, which uses Google Analytics (as disclosed); Professor Lawrence Lessig's blog, which uses just Google Analytics and the Typekit by Adobe (which only collects anonymous information about the serving domain).

The rankings below are based on the total number of Ghostery items identified on the site; higher numbers mean more items. There are, I'm sure, other ways of calculating "digital privacy"; please let me know if you have thoughts in the comments.

Non Curat Lex 0

Excess of Democracy 1 2

ACS Blog 3

Feminist Law Professors 3

How Appealing 3

Word on the Streeterville 3

Balkinization 4

California Appellate Report 4

Freakonomics 4

Point of Law 4 5

Dorf on Law 5

Election Law Blog 5

Harvard Law Corp Gov 5

Lawfare 5

The Incidental Economist 5

Constitutional Law Prof Blog 6

Federalist Society Blog 6

IntLawGrrls 6

Legal History Blog 6

Turtle Talk 6

Sentencing Law & Policy 7

Sports Law Blog 7

Althouse 8

Antitrust & Comp. Policy Blog 8

ContractsProf 8

CrimProf Blog 8

EvidenceProf Blog 8

Instapundit 8

Legal Profession Blog 8

Legal Skills 8

Legal Theory Blog 8

Legal Whiteboard 8

Legal Writing Prof Blog 8

M&A Law Prof Blog 8

PrawfsBlawg 8

PropertyProf Blog 8


White Collar Crime Prof Blog 8

Workplace Prof Blog 8

Credit Slips 9

ImmigrationProf Blog 9

Leiter's Law School Reports 9

Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog 9

Josh Blackman's Blog 10

Legal Ethics Forum 10

Leiter Reports: Philosophy 10

Religion Clause 10

Conglomerate 11

Hugh Hewitt 11

Patently-O 11

TaxProf Blog 11

Witnesseth 11

Concurring Opinions 12

Nonprofit Law Prof Blog 12

Volokh Conspiracy 12

College Insurrection 13

Faculty Lounge 13

The Right Coast 14

Jack Bog's Blog 15

Opinio Juris 15

Legal Insurrection 16

Professor Bainbridge 20

Above the Law 22

Mirror of Justice 29

Obituaries from 2013 by Margalit Fox

I like reading obituaries. They're small biographies of people who may not have been the most famous, or whose achievements have been forgotten, and it offers an opportunity to read and learn and reflect.

One of my favorite obituary writers is Margalit Fox at the New York Times. Here are a few of her obituaries from 2013, and excerpts of language I enjoyed from each.

Allan Calhamer, inventor of Diplomacy: "He almost certainly took pleasure, too — for this thought was doubtless not lost on him — in the idea that on any given day, slung unobtrusively over his shoulder, there might lurk a letter from one Great Power to another, filled with all the threats, blandishments and cunning hollow promises Diplomacy entails, awaiting delivery by its creator."

Garry Davis, world citizen: "He periodically ran for president of the world, always unopposed."

Seamus Heaney, poet: "Throughout his work, Mr. Heaney was consumed with morality. In his hands, a peat bog is not merely an emblematic feature of the Irish landscape; it is also a spiritual quagmire, evoking the deep ethical conundrums that have long pervaded the place."

Larry Lujack, disc jockey: "Frequent targets of his opprobrium included the very albums he was playing, the very stations he was working for and various rival D.J.s. (Mr. Lujack once stormed a competitor’s show and threatened, on the air, to ram the man’s head through a wall.)"

George Beverly Shea, gospel singer: "Mr. Shea’s vocal style, by contrast, was characterized by a resonant bass-baritone, impeccable diction, sensitive musical phrasing and an unshowmanlike delivery that nonetheless conveyed his ardent religious conviction."

Marc Simont, children's book illustrator: "Even before he received the Caldecott Medal, Mr. Simont contributed valiantly to the success of another Caldecott winner, Robert McCloskey’s 'Make Way for Ducklings,' published in 1941. The time was the late 1930s, and the place was Manhattan, where he and Mr. McCloskey, friends from the design academy, were roommates. Wanting to study ducklings deeply for his book-in-progress, Mr. McCloskey acquired a flock and brought it home. For some months to come, with Mr. Simont’s sympathetic assent, the ducks lived in the bathtub of their Greenwich Village apartment."

Manson Whitlock, typewriter repairman: "In recent years, however, until he closed the shop in June, Mr. Whitlock was its entire staff, working with only a bust of Mark Twain for company. He reported each day in a suit and tie, as he had from the beginning. On Sundays he sometimes cheated and dispensed with the tie."

Gift idea: Supreme Court justice figures

The Marx Toy Company was an extremely popular toy company in the United States in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. Its toy collection included a series of the presidents of the United States. These little figures, just under 3 inches high, are a nice little toy for political junkies everywhere.

But what if you want other historical political figures? Or supreme court justices? Enter Patric Verrone. (For background, see this 2009 Wired interview here.) Mr. Verrone has developed a number of Marx-like historical figures, including a remarkable feat: every justice in the history of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Marx figures: George Washington, James Madison, Calvin Coolidge; Verrone figures: James Wilson, Elbridge Gerry, Joseph Story, Robert Jackson.

The Verrone figurines are in a similar style to the Marx figures. Each figure is just under 3 inches in height and includes a gold-colored base with name. My collection is above: three Marx presidents; three Supreme Court justices; and Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts, James Madison's vice president, staunch anti-federalist, and the inspiration for the name and styling of this blog.

Mr. Verrone includes baseball cards with a brief biographical sketch of each justice. (For instance, I didn't know that Justice Story argued Fletcher v. Peck in the United States Supreme Court.)

For a loved one with a penchant for history or law, I would highly recommend these little toys as a holiday gift. They look great on my desk, and they serve as an inspiration when reading or writing.

Disclosure: I have received no financial benefit, direct or indirect, for this post.