Like most judicial clerks (and, for that matter, judges) we found writing dissents more fun than writing majority opinions. Dissents free one from the need to articulate a consensus. Moreover, since a dissent does not establish a precedent that others must at least pretend to follow, the dissent’s author can be less precise and can let the rhetorical fireworks fly. To reverse the Spider Man rubric, with lack of responsibility comes great power to write colorfully.
We clerked on the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit is often unjustly maligned. And yet the fact is that the Ninth Circuit more often than not gets things right. Put another way, not every Ninth Circuit dissent hits the mark. We certainly do not agree with the dissent to the denial of rehearing en banc in California Chamber of Commerce v. Council for Education and Research on Toxics, 2022 WL 14725243 (9th Cir. Oct. 26, 2022). But it is a fun read.
The underlying Ninth Circuit decision enjoined certain Proposition 65 litigation on first amendment grounds, and we discussed that decision last May. Here is a brief refresher: Proposition 65 requires postings of warnings about substances “known to the state [of California] to cause cancer.” You see those warnings pretty much everywhere in California. In truth, the warnings are so ubiquitous as to be useless.