This is the third post in our post-hearing coverage of Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney. Our prior posts are available here and here.
In this post, we collect our favorite quotations from our morning at 60 Centre Street, New York Supreme Court. Here they are:
Before the hearing:
“Uh-oh, it’s the big guy!”
– Daniel Alterman of Alterman & Boop (Charney’s counsel), greeting Charles Stillman, counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell (and an eminence grise of the New York bar)
“You — you — you f***ed up!”
– Dan Alterman, greeting your undersigned blogger
Presumably he didn’t like this post very much. But he said the remark in good-natured fashion.
A few seconds later, after he had walked past us, he turned around and said (jokingly and within the earshot of about half a dozen people, so we feel okay in reporting it):
“And that was on background. Deep background!”
He also defended his fashion choices, pointing out the monogramming on his sleeve:
“My tie is clean. My wife dressed me this morning. My initials are on my shirt!”
Quotes from during and after the hearing, after the jump.
During the hearing:
There were eight lawyers in the well of court, and multiple attorneys were often speaking at the same time. Like a schoolteacher presiding over a rowdy classroom, Justice Bernard Fried frequently had to assert control over the proceedings:
“NO INTERRUPTIONS. This is not a jury trial. I have all the time in the world to give to this matter. We will deal with this in an orderly fashion.”
He also got a little snarky at times. Here’s what he said to Herbert Eisenberg, counsel to Charney, concerning certain S&C documents Justice Fried ordered returned to the firm (with photocopies to be made and then filed with the Court, under seal):
“If you have concerns about spoliation [i.e., document tampering], you can walk with the documents [over to Sullivan & Cromwell], and stand by the photocopier as they are being duplicated.”
Eisenberg did not take Justice Fried up on that offer to babysit the documents during duplicating.
Like any good plaintiffs’ lawyer, Daniel Alterman managed to work comments about the merits of the case into procedural and discovery-related discussions:
“After he complained, [Aaron Charney] went from being the greatest fourth-year associate in the world to a bum, and they made him do things I don’t even want to say.”
Maybe you don’t want to talk about them, Dan. But we’re happy to listen!
As noted, Charles Stillman of Stillman Friedman & Shechtman, who represents S&C in this matter, is a distinguished elder statesman of the New York bar. But he can get pretty snide when he wants to:
“I tried to reach [one of Herb Eisenberg's colleagues], who was on a very nice vacation….”
Maybe Charles Stillman could use “a very nice vacation” of his own. Is he getting burned out? Later on in the hearing, he had a “senior moment,” referring to Dan Alterman as follows:
“This gentleman, whose name just flashed out of my mind…”
By the way, we like that Dan Alterman. We interpret this quote of his, explaining his skittishness at talking about the most recent settlement discussions between the parties, as a shout-out to Above the Law:
“There are members of the community who may be reporting on this, and I don’t want to violate the non-disclosure agreement [with respect to the "secret settlement meeting"].”
“Members of the community”? Might that be us?
All the talk about Aaron Charney’s hard drive brought out the “unfrozen caveman judge” in Justice Fried. When the issue Charney / S&C emails sitting on Hotmail and/or RCN servers was raised, he declared:
“My six-year-old granddaughter is more computer literate than I am.”
Discovery can be tricky for the parties, too. C’mon, Mr. Alterman — tell us what you want, what you really really want:
“Can we deal with discovery AFTER the dispositive motions?”
[Confers with Herb Eisenberg and Laura Schnell, who have been fidgeting conspicuously, then returns to address Justice Fried.]
“Now I’m told that I DON’T want discovery stayed.”
No worries, folks. Justice Fried has a solution to all your discovery problems:
“I have a form. You like my form? You can use my form.”
(Okay, maybe this is one of those “you had to be there” moments.)
Finally, here’s a moment that almost brought us to our feet, cheering. From Justice Fried, denying Charles Stillman’s oral motion for entry of a gag order forbidding the parties or their counsel from talking to the media:
“I never issue a gag order unless it is fully briefed and on notice to the other party.”
WHACK!!! You may be one of New York’s most distinguished lawyers, Mr. Stillman. But it sounds like you got bench-slapped!
After the hearing:
We were approached by Zachary Fasman of Paul Hastings (S&C’s counsel), who cordially introduced himself, then said:
“I won’t answer any of your emails. But they do make me laugh.”
As the gathering was breaking up, we overheard this proclamation from Dan Alterman:
“I’ve come up with a ballpark figure for the billable hours spent here. About $47,000.”
This struck us as an attempt by Alterman to send a message to S&C: “C’mon, guys, let’s just settle this thing — so we can get back to representing our other clients.”
We view Alterman’s fee estimate as a bit high. We counted about ten lawyers for S&C and four for Aaron Charney. The hearing ran for about an hour. Even assuming that every lawyer was billing $1,000 an hour, we don’t get anywhere close to $47K.
(But pehaps Alterman was factoring in preparation time, travel time, etc. He was clearly offering just a “back of the napkin” guesstimate.)