3rd Circuit

Gerald Ung (left) and Edward DiDonato Jr. (right)

In response to our last story about Gerald Ung — the Temple Law student now on trial for attempted murder and aggravated assault (among other charges), after shooting Eddie DiDonato, a former Villanova lacrosse captain and the son of a prominent Fox Rothschild partner — some commenters expressed the view that our coverage was too favorable to the prosecution.

Look — we have no dog in this fight. It seems that the part of the post readers found most objectionable was a blockquote from a source who attended the trial, which we reprinted simply because it was from someone actually present in the courtroom. Sadly, Above the Law doesn’t have a Philadelphia bureau. If you’ve been attending the trial and would like to share your thoughts with us, we’d love to hear from you.

Another reason why the earlier story might have seemed more pro-prosecution is that it was describing the prosecution’s side of the case and the early prosecution witnesses. Now that the trial has been going on for several days, a fuller version of events has emerged. This will culminate tomorrow, when defendant Gerald Ung is expected to take the stand. This is not typical — it happens more on TV and in the movies than in real life — but then again, this is not the typical case. Ung’s defense lawyer, Jack McMahon, may be betting on the ability of his client — a law student, presumably intelligent and articulate — to win over the jury.

Let’s learn more about what’s been going on at the trial over the past few days — and hear some juicy tidbits about defense counsel McMahon….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Commonwealth v. Ung: The Other Side of the Story”

Judge Marjorie Rendell (former First Lady of Pennsylvania).

There’s lots of law-related news coming out of Philadelphia right now.

The lead story on the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website today is about the latest Villanova Law scandal, regarding falsified admissions data being submitted to the ABA. (The article contains a shout-out to ATL, which we appreciate.)

The trial of Gerald Ung, the Temple Law student accused of shooting another young man, is getting underway in Philly this week. Opening arguments are set for this morning. (If you have any tips on the Ung story, please contact us.)

And then there’s the news that has all tongues wagging in the City of Brotherly Love: the split of a big-time Pennsylvania power couple (and a pair of Villanova Law grads, by the way).

Former Governor Edward Rendell, who left the governor’s mansion just last month, and Judge Marjorie Rendell, a prominent judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, are going their separate ways. They announced their separation, after 40 years of marriage, in an email sent to friends….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Separation of Powers: Governor Rendell and Judge Rendell Split”

Facebook’s lawyers have been looking for a rumble over the company’s responsibility to turn over user account information in legal cases. Now they’ve got one, thanks to a California juror and his grandstanding defense attorney.

The case stems from a gang violence criminal trial. Members of the Killa Mobb were being tried for a 2008 attack on a San Francisco man at a gas station. One of the 12 angry apathetic men in the jury box, Arturo Ramirez, posted to Facebook during the course of the trial that it was “boring.” Now the Killa Mobb’s defense attorneys want to get a hold of those postings, and any responses from Ramirez’s friends, to prove that he may have been biased — so the Mobb members can get a new trial.

Facebook refused to turn over Ramirez’s information, citing a 1986 law that protects Americans’ electronic communications. Ramirez originally told the Sacramento Bee that he was willing to turn the status messages over, but that was before he linked up with his own defense attorney, Ken Rosenfeld, who looks like he might like a little media attention. Rosenfeld’s now planning to fight tooth and nail to keep his client’s Facebook privacy settings high…

Continue reading at The Not-So Private Parts….


Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is a lovely little town (or so Lat tells me — his aunt used to live there). But it’s not bigger than the federal government or the Constitution of the United States of America.

That’s the lesson the Third Circuit handed down today with its decision in the Lozano v. Hazleton case. At issue: Hazleton city ordinances making it illegal for undocumented immigrants to work or even rent a house in Hazleton.

Apparently, the Third Circuit still believes in federal supremacy. From the opinion:

Although our reasoning differs from that of the district court, we agree that the provisions of the ordinances which we have jurisdiction to review are pre-empted by federal immigration law and unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause.

Did you hear that, Arizona? Your quixotic quest to deal with illegal immigrants without consulting the Constitution is almost over…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Third Circuit Respects Supremacy — A Lesson Arizona Will Soon Learn.”

Alyson Kirleis

There’s a serious gender-based wage gap in the legal profession. Female partners make $66K less than male partners on average. If you’re a female partner who has thought about tackling that gap with a lawsuit, you may be interested in the case of Alyson J. Kirleis.

Kirleis, a shareholder at Dickie McCamey in Pennsylvania, has been pursuing a sexual discrimination suit against her firm for the last four years. From the Legal Intelligencer (via The Careerist):

In the suit, Kirleis accused Dickie McCamey of paying female lawyers less than males and alleged she was told by a male partner that a woman with children should relinquish her partnership and work only part-time.

Kirleis, who has worked at the firm since 1988, also claimed she was told by another male partner that the role of women lawyers was to prepare lawsuits for trials that would be handled by male lawyers. The suit also included allegations that Kirleis has suffered retaliation since her suit was filed, and that Dickie McCamey’s annual Christmas party is effectively closed to women “because of the sexually explicit nature of the entertainment including skits, songs, pornographic materials and props.”

The Legal Intelligencer pointed out that her suit could have broken new legal ground, establishing that “some law firm partners are not equal to their fellow partners and ought to be allowed to pursue employment discrimination claims such as suing for equal pay.”

But the Third Circuit wasn’t on board…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Female Partner’s Discrimination Case”

Thumbnail image for jackpot slot machine casino.jpg* Legal hiring binge? We like the sound of that! [Washington Post via ABA Journal]
* What were the odds? The Third Circuit upholds the U.S. ban on Internet gambling. [Wall Street Journal (subscription) and Las Vegas Review-Journal]
* Marijuana can make you do dumb things. [Gothamist]
* …But Maryland is kind of okay with it. [Washington Post]
* This guy looks like the type to slap a stranger’s child. He looks like Tom Wilkinson’s evil doppelganger. [CNN]
* Maine voters will get to weigh in on same-sex marriage. [Associated Press]
* Polls close tonight in the ATL Douche Madness Final Four. [Above The Law]

Sports and the Law clip art clipart.jpg* A disappointing ruling from the 3rd Circuit for sports gamblers in Delaware. [USA Today]
* L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich wants to make hanging out illegal. [Los Angeles Times]
* Judge Jed Rakoff is becoming a media darling. Another article singing the BofA-bench-slapping judge’s praises. [New York Times]
* Foley & Lardner sued for allegedly revealing trade secrets. [National Law Journal]
* Connecticut prosecutor John H. Durham has been chosen to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into CIA torture of detainees. [Talking Points Memo]
* Four more years for Bernanke. [Washington Post]

Kozinski.jpgSomeone’s July 4th weekend is off to a good start. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has been cleared of misconduct by the panel of Third Circuit judges that was tasked with investigating him. As you may recall, Chief Judge Kozinski called for an investigation of himself, after it was revealed that he had a “website” — which wasn’t really a website, for reasons previously explained by the judge’s wife, Marcy Tiffany — containing some sexually explicit material.

The Third Circuit Judicial Council’s unanimous opinion, authored by Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, is available here (PDF). It was actually filed on June 5, but only made public today. It’s thorough and lengthy, weighing in at 38 pages, and describes in detail the extensive investigation conducted by the council (with the assistance of outside lawyers, from Dechert and Morgan Lewis, and a technology consultant).

To those with a deeper familiarity with the facts of the case, as opposed to just the headlines, Chief Judge Kozinski’s vindication is not surprising. The judge violated no law; rather, the “website” — actually just a private family file server, although imperfectly secured for a period of time, as explained in the opinion — was a personal matter unrelated to his judicial duties. To the extent that the (overblown) public controversy created a problem in an obscenity trial that Judge Kozinski was presiding over at the time, any problem was obviated when the judge recused himself. And let’s not forget that the whole controversy was originally kicked up by a disgruntled litigant, Cyrus Sanai, who tried peddling the story for months before someone finally bit — and who “has been targeting Kozinski for years,” as noted by Ted Frank.

So congratulations, Judge Kozinski, on putting this matter behind you. We look forward to catching up with you at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference later this month.

A few updates and links, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Chief Judge Kozinski Cleared of Misconduct By Judicial Panel”

Kozinski.jpgWe have. So, barring major new developments, we’re cutting back on our coverage of the controversy surrounding Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit. As we suggested yesterday, the story is petering out anyway; but if you’re still interested in following it, check out Patterico’s Pontifications, which has been offering excellent, wall-to-wall coverage.
Before we take our leave of this tale, here are a few notable links:
1. Judges Named To Head Kozinski Inquiry [AP]
This is the only real news to emerge since our last post. Chief Justice John Roberts, responding to Chief Judge Kozinski’s request for an investigation, has named five jurists to the investigatory panel: Chief Judge Anthony Scirica, Judge Marjorie Rendell, and Judge Walter Stapleton, of the Third Circuit; Chief Judge Harvey Bartle III (E.D. Pa.); and Chief Judge Garrett Brown Jr. (D.N.J.). This is a solid group of judges; expect their investigation to be thorough and proper.
2. Cyrus Sanai: Kozinski investigation “is part of a litigation strategy” [Overlawyered]
The Kozinski archenemy who tipped off the Los Angeles Times to the judge’s website — L.A. lawyer Cyrus Sanai, who has been feuding with the judge since 2005 — is a real piece of work. At Overlawyered, Ted Frank chronicles how Sanai has been benchslapped by numerous judges, both federal and state, at the trial and appellate levels. Sanai blames the mountain of adverse on rulings on bias. Frank writes:

One has much sympathy for Cyrus Sanai, who has suffered the extraordinary misfortune of four trial judges in three different jurisdictions who are biased against him, and that does not include the appellate judges like the Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, Gerry Alexander; Washington State Court of Appeals judges Marlin Applewick, Anne Ellington and William Baker; or Judge Kozinski on the Ninth Circuit, all of whom Sanai has accused of bias. We wish that a just result is reached in Sanai’s various appeals, and pray that a just result is reached if a California legal disciplinary body ever decides to investigate what biased judges have been saying about Sanai.

3. Who’s at Fault For the Kozinski Kerfluffle? [Simple Justice]
Scott Greenfield writes:

David Lat, who has feasted on unsubstantiated gossip at Above the Law as well as his blog dedicated to sifting the salacious from the judicious, Underneath Their Robes (where he blogged anonymously as Article III Groupie, or A3G as he came to be known), joins the chorus [of Kozinski defenders]. But does the former AUSA explain his sudden conversion? Isn’t this the guy who is first on line (and online) to publish a smear of any lawyer or judge? In fairness, Lat’s connection to Kozinski is well-known to his long-time followers, but the new reader would be left out in the cold.

As Greenfield suggests, we view our connection to Chief Judge Kozinski as very well-known, and therefore not worth belaboring. But if he wants some sort of formal disclosure, here it is.
Disclosure: We have a great deal of respect and affection for Chief Judge Kozinski, whom we consider a friend. He helped launch our blogging career with his support of our first foray into the blogosphere, Underneath Their Robes (started four years ago this month). Our coverage of him is biased. If you’d like to read harsh personal attacks upon Chief Judge Kozinski, you should look elsewhere.
Above the Law is an independent blog. Unlike MSM-sponsored blogs such as the WSJ or the BLT, ATL makes no claim to “objectivity.” Considering that we opine daily on all sorts of topics, in ways that would be unacceptable for pure news reporters to do, we don’t see how anyone could mistake ATL for an objective news source. But if you want an express disclaimer of objectivity, consider this it.
Finally, we’d like to clarify our views of the “Kozinski Kerfluffle,” as Greenfield aptly dubs it. Consistent with our general antipathy to privacy, we don’t entirely agree with observers who see what Sanai and the L.A. Times did as an egregious privacy violation. On this we agree with Ted Frank:

I don’t think I fully endorse Lessig’s view on this — accessing a directory on a public website may be slightly creepy, but it’s not the same as breaking and entering a house to peer inside the photo albums in the den; it’s not even at the level of obnoxiousness as a guest inspecting the medicine cabinets of a host’s bathroom.

What we do think, however, is that the whole matter has become completely overblown. All it shows is that federal judges enjoy the occasional dirty joke and have risque material on their computers — in other words, “they’re just like us.” Considering that we launched a blog devoted to this very proposition four years ago, we find it hard to get that excited about it now.
4. Defending Judge Kozinski, and Online Privacy [The Lede / NYT]
ATL gets a shout-out from Mike Nizza in the Lede, a New York Times blog, in this concise round-up of the latest developments.
Judges named to head Kozinski inquiry [AP]
Cyrus Sanai: Kozinski investigation “is part of a litigation strategy” [Overlawyered]
Who’s at Fault For the Kozinski Kerfluffle? [Simple Justice]
Defending Judge Kozinski, and Online Privacy [The Lede / New York Times]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (scroll down)

Legal%20Eagle%20Wedding%20Watch%20NYT%20wedding%20announcements%20Above%20the%20Law.jpg
Warmest congratulations to our friends Junko Ozao and Jason Choy, whose lovely wedding was written up in this week’s Vows column. Jason is an associate at Kirkland & Ellis, but Junko is a normal person, and that shortcoming cost them a spot in this week’s Legal Eagle Wedding Watch. The news will likely ruin their three-week honeymoon, but such are the ruthless decisions our readers expect LEWW to make.
Here are the six finalists (all lawyers):

1.) Amanda Trivax and Brian Burnovski
2.) Anna Skotko and Ben Vonwiller
3.) Amy Tovar and Benjamin Horwich

More about these legal eagles, after the jump.

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