October 2014

* I remember the days when wearing a t-shirt with “Porn Star” was considered edgy and ironic. But at least I never thought of my t-shirt as speech; if the principal had reprimanded me, I would have gladly changed into my “Talk Nerdy To Me” back-up tee. [De Novo]
* The guy does deserve some credit for perseverance and creativity, but let’s not overlook the proactive proctor, who also deserves a nod for going way beyond the call of duty. [Legal Profession Blog]
* This struggle should make you tokers grateful for your regular supply. [New York Times]
* With women’s tennis divided between mannish Valkyries (Amelie, Venus, Serena) and hot “’Ova”’s (Maria and her ilk), the women’s game has never been more high profile… So who cares if that extra pay could be construed as compensation for the guys’ extra sets? [Yahoo News]
* The content in question has been removed from, and the lawsuit already added to, the Wiki article. That remark about Tiger Woods, however, is still an unfortunate fact. [Fox Sports]

Larry Seidlin 2 Judge Lawrence Seidlin Above the Law Anna Nicole Smith.JPGJudge Larry Seidlin has awarded custody of Anna Nicole Smith’s (rapidly decomposing) body to attorney Richard Milstein, guardian for Smith’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. From the AP:

Blubbering as he announced his ruling, a judge said Thursday he hopes Anna Nicole Smith will be buried in the Bahamas, but he left the decision up to the guardian of her baby daughter….

The judge choked up frequently and wept as he explained his decision.

Now will someone please give Larry Seidlin his own TV show, so real-life litigants don’t have to put up with him? If breaking down on camera isn’t a recipe for a successful television career, we don’t know what is. Just ask Anderson Cooper.
Update: It looks like Anna Nicole Smith will be buried in the Bahamas, next to her son Daniel Smith. From TMZ.com:

After shredding each other for the past four days, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead simultaneously announced, without any seeming anger toward each other, that Anna Nicole Smith will be buried in the Bahamas.

The announcement came just a few minutes after Judge Larry Seidlin decided that Dannielynn’s court-appointed guardian should mediate the dispute.

The wishes of Stern and Birkhead are relevant because Milstein was directed to make his decision about where to bury Anna Nicole Smith in consultation with the parties to the case.
Judge Gives Smith’s Body to Baby’s Guardian [Associated Press]
Hatchet to Be Buried With Anna? [TMZ.com]

Britney Spears Above the Law.JPGHere’s an update on the Britney Spears-Kevin Federline legal drama. The emergency court hearing that was supposed to take today, requested by K-Fed to discuss custody of their two children, was canceled.
The reason, according to various media and tabloid reports, is that Spears is back in rehab. She has reportedly checked back into Promises rehabilitation center (which she had fled earlier in the day).
Earlier this week, Spears was photographed sporting a shaved head. Here’s some food for thought from a tipster:

So Britney Spears shaved her head. People think it’s because she’s crazy. But some have speculated it is because her ex-husband threatened to subpoena hair samples from her. And hair samples can show drug use going back years. Like backdated blood samples.

Is this comparable to obstruction of justice? Is it like shredding documents when you’re afraid you might be under investigation, or those documents might be subpoened? Is it a form of spoliation of evidence?

Thoughts?
Britney in rehab for 3rd time in a week [Reuters]
Britney Back in Rehab [TMZ.com]
Federline Court Appearance Canceled [Associated Press]


Pillsbury Dough Boy Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman Above the Law.jpgDivorces can get pretty darn ugly, be they personal — e.g., Britney Spears — or professional. Here’s an interesting story about Pillsbury Winthrop, from the Recorder:

At least eight lawyers who left Pillsbury last year are being asked to return a portion or all of their 2006 earnings to the firm within 30 days — but most say they have no intention of paying back anything, even if it means going to court.

The attorneys received letters this month claiming they had been overpaid, demanding repayments of about $30,000 to $100,000. One letter, obtained by The Recorder, explains that the ex-partner in question received a distribution greater than their actual share of the firm’s profits at the time they departed….

Reactions from ex-partners who received the letters ranged from “insulted” to “furious.” Many questioned the firm’s accounting, the fairness and enforceability of the demands, and why they are being singled out, since not all partners who left last year got a letter.

If the ex-partners stick to their guns, the firm will have a difficult time recovering this money. Given the amounts at stake — relatively modest, by Biglaw standards — it may not be worth (1) the litigation costs and (2) the attendant bad publicity and airing of dirty laundry.
We don’t know the identity of the partners in question. If you do know, or have any other information about this controversy, feel free to share.
Ex-Pillsbury Partners Vow to Fight Firm’s Demand for Money [The Recorder via WSJ Law Blog]

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgIn reacting to our worshipful coverage of Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, some of you have questioned her “diva” status. It has been suggested that while Shanetta Cutlar may have the temperament of a diva, she lacks the talent or ability of one.
We disagree. And we think the latest information we’ve received about SYC establishes that when it comes to office politics and Machiavellian maneuvering, few are the equal of Shanetta Y. Cutlar.
Just like the divine Anna Wintour, Shanetta Cutlar is a shrewd and savvy woman, who knows how to “work it.” She has risen to a position of power and prominence within her profession, through a potent combination of smarts, charm, and good old-fashioned ruthlessness.
From a former employee of the Special Litigation Section:

Shanetta started with the Special Litigation Section (SPL) as a intern. Within ten years she worked her way up, managing to slide, wiggle and charm her way into the prominent position of Section Chief.

As she quickly moved up the ladder, passing one superior and mentor after another, Shanetta kept a mental tab of each and every accounting in which she felt she was wronged and treated unfairly as a line attorney. Upon taking her throne, she instantly placed her strategic plan into motion, and quickly begin to execute her hit list.

She had the current head secretary placed into the file room until she received a new, hand-selected head secretary. Rumor had it that the exiled head secretary treated Shanetta “mean.” Wow…

Our tale continues, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar: A Magnificent Machiavellian”

Paul Hastings Above the Law.JPGWe now have some reliable intelligence about yesterday’s Vague and Unsubstantiated Rumor About Paul Hastings.
Here’s the original rumor:

“Apparently today an entire department at Paul Hastings LA (attorneys, assistants, etc.) got escorted out of the office by security. No concrete details have surfaced yet.”

As it turns out, reality is considerably less exciting than, say, the sacking of a half-dozen U.S. Attorneys. Here’s what actually happened:

“Sources confirm that a group of secretaries was terminated. No attorneys were laid off, and it wasn’t department-wide.”

More detail from a tipster at the firm:

PH went to 4:1 ratio of attorneys to assistants nation-wide; it used to be 3:1. Headcount was eliminated mostly in LA and DC offices. No attorneys were eliminated. Pretty funny rumor though…

The partnership has not explained why they made the switch. Maybe it’s to reduce salary to pay for our bonuses next month? LOL.

The funniest/sickest part was that the announcement came at approximately the same time the memo regarding firm revenue (up 21%) and PPP (up 22%) was distributed.

Crappy timing indeed. And one assistant for four lawyers strikes us as suboptimal, too — at least for private practice.
(When we were at a firm, we shared an assistant with one other lawyer. It wasn’t until we entered government work that we shared an assistant with four other attorneys.)
Earlier: Breaking: Vague and Unsubstantiated Rumor About Paul Hastings!

Larry Seidlin Judge Lawrence Seidlin Above the Law Anna Nicole Smith.jpgWhile we were in line at a coffee shop yesterday, footage from the Anna Nicole Smith case was playing on a television above the counter. The customer in front of us turned around and said: “That judge is CRAZY.”
We agree. Judge Larry Seidlin, of Broward Circuit Court, has to be the most ridiculous judge to preside over celebrity litigation since Judge Lance Ito.
If you haven’t been following the litigation, here’s a good CNN write-up:

Judge Larry Seidlin, with his distinctive Bronx honk, down-to-earth approach and plain language, is as much a part of the show in Broward Circuit Court as the case he is presiding over.

Seidlin is hearing arguments over the status of the earthly remains of recently deceased tabloid fixture Anna Nicole Smith. But arguments over child custody and paternity have made their way into the courtroom.

Some legal observers, and even one of the participants, say Seidlin has allowed the proceedings to become a circus.

E.g., Jeffrey Toobin, of CNN and the New Yorker:

“This may be the most ridiculous legal proceeding I have ever watched,” Toobin said. “This judge is one of the least competent judges I have ever seen. He is letting this thing meander all over creation, mostly because he seems to enjoy being on television.”

Court TV’s Lisa Bloom concurs, observing that it’s all “wearing a little thin.”
But legal affairs reporters aren’t the only ones with low opinions of Judge Seidlin:

According to the Miami Herald, 22 percent of the lawyers responding to the 2004 Broward County Bar poll found Seidlin unqualified.

A blog of the Justice Advocacy Association of Broward concludes that Seidlin is, among other things, a victim of “his inner comedian.”

We’ve all seen judges like this (and we’ve all laughed, with exaggerated loudness, at their jokes). CNN suggests a motive for Judge Seidlin’s hamming it up in the Anna Nicole Smith proceedings:

The judge’s offbeat folksiness combines the directness of a Judge Judy with the touchy-feely common sense of a Dr. Phil. He could be auditioning for his own television show….

“He’s very entertaining, there’s no question about it,” [said Court TV's Lisa Bloom]. “But it’s not about entertainment. At Court TV we keep in mind that these are real people here.”

This is confirmed by TMZ.com, which reports that “Judge Larry Seidlin’s dream is to become a judge on a TV courtroom show” — and notes that his surname “is extremely similar to Judge Judy Sheindlin.”
Here’s a telling fact: Judge Seidlin is a former New York cabbie. You know when you climb in a cab, with a splitting headache, and just want to sit back with your eyes closed — but the cabbie insists on talking your ear off? Judge Seidlin sounds like he was one of THOSE cabbies, back in the day.
Please, Your Honor — spare us. We’re not interested in your thoughts on the war in Iraq (referenced in a lengthy spiel on Wednesday).
Just drive. Thank you.
P.S. Not all taxicab drivers turned judges are so problematic. See, e.g., Thomas Hardiman (W.D. Pa.) — who drove a cab before going to law school. But Hardiman, of course, is a federal rather than state judge.
If Anna Nicole Smith Case Is a Circus, Judge Is Ringmaster [CNN]
All Rise!!! Judge Seidlin Says He’s Ready for TV [TMZ.com]

More legal troubles for controversial celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton, aka Mario Lavandeira. The latest lawsuit against him, filed by Universal City Studios, asserts copyright infringement, arising out of Lavandeira’s publication of a topless photograph of Jennifer Aniston (taken from allegedly stolen footage from “The Break-Up”).
The complaint is fairly straightforward. The most amusing part of the filing is an exhibit to the complaint: the topless Jennifer Aniston pic, with a strategically situated “Redacted” stamp:
Jennifer Aniston pic photo Above the Law.gif
During our time in commercial litigation, we got to know the “Redacted” stamp very well — perhaps too well. But we never saw the “Redacted” stamp used in quite such an interesting way.
We suspect that the Court will order an in camera examination of the unredacted photograph. Especially if the case winds up before Judge Manuel Real.
Lawsuit Over Topless Aniston Photo [The Smoking Gun via Drudge Report]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGWe have to step away for a bit. In the meantime, here’s an open thread to talk about a topic that never gets tired: associate compensation.
We can’t keep track of the different “lists of shame” that have been developed. But if you can, please propound them in the comments.
To provide some fodder for additional discussion, we reprint an interesting email from a tipster about Seyfarth Shaw. Check it out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Skaddenfreude: More on Seyfarth Shaw; Open Thread”

Michael Richards 2 Kramer n word nigger Above the Law.JPGWhen we first posted about a Fulbright & Jaworski partner using “the n word” in a recruiting event at Duke Law School, we left open this possibility:

[U]nless the story was about, say, the partner’s pro bono representation, in a civil action for damages, of a hate crime or police brutality victim who was attacked and called “the n word,” it was hugely inappropriate….

We’re glad we left ourselves that escape hatch. We now have more context about the incident, thanks to an email from the Fulbright & Jaworski executive committee:

Dear Colleagues:

Because you may hear about or be asked about a recent situation at a law school where attorneys participated in training interviews of students, we want to bring it to your attention. One of our lawyers recounted a story about Leon Jaworski’s defense of an African-American man in a murder trial in Waco, Texas in the 1920s. During the retelling, in an effort to display the depth of racial hostility that Jaworski and his client faced, the attorney used a racial term that characterized what the district attorney in the case said about the defendant. After review of the situation, all involved concluded that such terms, although recounted without ill intentions, are inappropriate for our firm, which values diversity and strives for inclusiveness.

We are addressing the situation, and Steve Pfeiffer and other senior partners are en route to meet with the students. One of the other attorneys who participated in the training session acted immediately when the incident was called to his attention and responded with an electronic letter of explanation and appropriate apology. Any inquiries should be directed to the firm’s Hiring Partner, Gerry Lowry.

Executive Committee

Here’s some further evidence suggesting that the Duke law school community may be overreacting. Per a current law student at Duke:

This partner was relating what another person said in the context of telling a story. Now everyone is piling on him. The student [who voiced the complaint] has been goaded on by some super liberal professors.

Interesting. As we’ve previously stated, we welcome any and all information about this incident. Thanks.
Earlier: Breaking: Fulbright & Jaworski Partner Drops the N-Bomb During A Recruiting Interview!
Stepping in Deep Duke-y: More Details, Please

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