Judge Frank H. Easterbrook has long told his law students, only half in jest he says, that he wishes he had a button on his courtroom bench that he could push to open a trapdoor beneath the feet of attorneys not properly prepared for court, sending them sliding down a chute to the street outside.

So far, he has no plans to install such an apparatus when he becomes chief judge of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November.