5th Circuit

Judge Sam Sparks: Probably not smiling now.

The benchslapper has become the benchslapped. Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just got smacked around by a higher authority: Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Last month, Judge Sparks issued a sharply worded order in which he compared the counsel appearing before him to squabbling schoolchildren — and invited them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as “how to telephone and communicate with a lawyer” and “how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates.” In the end, Judge Sparks ended up canceling the party, after the publicly shamed lawyers worked out their issues — but not before his infamous order received national attention within the legal community.

Many observers were amused by Judge Sparks’s order — which was not the first time His Honor has gotten saucy with lawyers in recent weeks (or in his judicial career, for that matter). But a minority felt that the order was over the top and gratuitously nasty.

Among the unamused: Edith Jones, who oversees the federal courts of Texas in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit. What did she have to say to Sam Sparks?

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We've got spirt! Yes we do! We've got spirt! How about you?

Give me an S! Give me a T! Give me an F! Give me a U! What does that spell? STFU!

Just in case you’re not aware, cheerleading is a pretty big deal in Texas. Everyone wants to be a cheerleader because it has some awesome perks. Cheerleaders get the rare privilege of ruling the school while they parade around spreading “spirt” throughout the halls. Cheerleaders hope and pray that they’ll land a football stud who will be their ticket out of town to work at the downtown dollar store.

And last, but certainly not least, alumnae cheerleader moms get to live vicariously through their daughters. And sometimes when former cheerleader moms don’t get what they want, they’ll — Fight! Fight! Fight with all their might! — sue over it.

Girls in my high school used to call each other names and claim Title IX sexual harassment and retaliation all the time. It was no big deal….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Shouldn’t Cheerleaders Know How to Spell?”

Judge Fred Biery

Three years ago, we bestowed Judge of the Day honors upon the Honorable Fred Biery, a federal judge in the Western District of Texas. Back in 2008, Judge Biery rejected a religious school’s attempt to join an influential statewide extracurricular organization. In the process of ruling against Cornerstone Christian Schools, Judge Biery took the Bible and turned it around on them, in a snarky opinion quoting religious texts to refute a religious school.

(His Honor apparently enjoys colorful writing. See also this amusing ruling, with shout-outs in the footnotes to such fabulous creatures as Barbra Streisand and Stephen Sondheim.)

Well, it seems that Judge Biery — make that Chief Judge Biery, as of last June — continues to antagonize organized religion. Let’s read about the latest controversy he’s incited, this time involving an imminent high school graduation ceremony….

UPDATE: Judge Biery’s ruling in the case discussed below was overturned on Friday afternoon by the Fifth Circuit. Details and links appear in the update at the end of this post.

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Jeff Skilling

* Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling’s appeal was denied by the Fifth Circuit. While he remains the smartest guy in the room, the room consists of him and a half-wit cellmate whose only discernible talent is making Prune-o. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Bruce Fein, an attorney who worked on Clinton’s impeachment and called for Bush’s impeachment as well, has drafted articles of impeachment for Barack Obama. His high crime and misdemeanor? Time theft. [Politico]

* An Ohio man has been charged with a misdemeanor for barking at a police dog. When asked why he was barking at the female dog, the man calmly replied, “Bitch owes me money.” [CBS News]

Raj Rajaratnam

* The government rested its case in the Raj Rajaratnam trial yesterday. Of additional note is the fact that Rajabba sits ten feet behind his defense table, partially obstructed from the jury box. You can’t completely block Rajabba from view. You can only wish to contain him. [New York Times]

* The government has warned attorneys for former Madoff employees not to use money that might be associated with Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. That includes, for their own health, any ass pennies. [ABA Journal]

* The Fourth Circuit rules in favor of a pundit-professor, in a case about the free speech rights of faculty members at public universities. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Charlie Sheen is trying to trademark his catchphrases now. He’s overexposed like a frostbitten penis — is there anything funny left to say about him at this point? (We might try; check in later.) [Forbes]

Two people from my high school got into the same college I did. We were all in the top 10 of our class, but none of us were in the top 5. One was a white guy who was a brilliant piano player. The other was a white girl who excelled at sports. Then there was me. I had the “does lots of activities” application. You know the type of d-bag kid I’m talking about: debate this, mock trial that, sports, school plays, bands.

Also, I’m black. Do you think that might have had something to do with it? I hope it did, since it seems to me that my race is at least as much of a factor in what I may add to an incoming college class as whether I could play the piano or dominate in field hockey.

Of course, saying race can be a factor in college admissions is controversial. A certain segment of the population gets all bent out of sorts when a “deserving” white student potentially gets “passed over” because a college official gave a person of color “extra points” when making up the entering class of students.

I find these arguments totally irrational. If the top five students from my high school were passed over — three Jews and two Asians (you know, the real victims of affirmative action, if there are any) — then who exactly “took” their spots? Me, or the sports chick? And if an Asian guy “takes” my spot, but I bump down the piano player who didn’t score as well as I did, and the piano player takes the spot of some poor Hispanic kid who has never seen a piano in real life, would everybody say that we all got what we deserved?

Coming up with an effective way to balance all of the relevant factors in college admissions is hard. But when race is involved, people don’t want to deal with “hard,” and they don’t want to hear “complicated.” They want simple rules and a few platitudes they can recite on television. After yesterday’s Fifth Circuit decision upholding affirmative action at the University of Texas, the only question is whether the Supreme Court has the will and intellectual rigor to think through something hard, or whether the majority will want to fall back on truisms and clichés…

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Dominos vs Papa Johns.jpgDomino’s Pizza is willing to admit that its pizza used to suck. In fact, it has posted a video documentary about how bad it used to be, and claims to have reinvented itself “from the crust up.”
Stephen Colbert did a segment on the company’s reinvention; he tried a piece on his show, proclaiming it a success: “Is that pizza or did an angel just give birth in my mouth?”
Domino’s is not just reinventing its pizza; it’s also taking on its main competitor, head on. For years, Papa John’s has advertised itself with the motto, “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” But that’s just puffery, says Domino. And puffery is not as delicious as it sounds:

Actually, Domino’s wasn’t even involved in the case that led to that Fifth Circuit ruling. What’s the legal story behind the ad?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “‘Taste the Truthery.’
Fifth Circuit Stars in a Domino’s Ad.

John Yoo Philadelphia.JPG* It sounds like very few protesters greeted John Yoo at Berkeley Law School. Only four were tenacious enough to get arrested. [Associated Press]
* Fen-phen lawyers sentenced to 20 and 25 years, respectively. The judge wants their sentences to deter other lawyers tempted to steal from settlement funds. [Bloomberg]
* Proskauer Rose probably likes this headline. [New York Daily News]
* Nino leads one to believe that empathy is not an important quality in a judge. [New York Times via Daily Beast]
* The 5th Circuit agrees with a Texas school district that has banned “shirts with words.” Are shirts with numbers okay? [Courthouse News Service]
* Michael Jackson’s children have lawyered up. [CNN]
* Nationwide salary cut watch: LA County judges. [Los Angeles Times]
* Why has there been no litigation surge in the recession? [National Law Journal]

financial crime.jpg

* Lawyers are winning in the long rivalry between lawyers and bankers. Endless financial fraud cases make lawyers look ethical. There is another fraud charge in Philadelphia against money manager Joseph Forte. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]

* The SEC is investigating Apple’s disclosures about CEO Steve Jobs’ health, to make sure the company did not mislead investors. [Bloomberg]

* The point man for Madoff’s investor Frank DiPascali will now be the go-to guy for prosecutors investigating the scheme. [The Wall Street Journal]

* Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Apeals to review his 19 convictions. [The Houston Chronicle]

* A Czech businessman settled a suit filed against him by hedge fund Omega advisors, after he alegedly bribed government officials in Azerbaijan, defrauding investors hundreds of millions. [The New York Times]

* In the aftermath of India’s Enron–the Satyam scandal, the Indian government will likely rescue Satyam’s workers from losing their jobs. [Time.com]

* SEC chairman Christopher Cox resigned in the wake of scrutiny of the SEC for failing to investigate allegations in the Madoff scandal. [The Associated Press]

Palin Vogue.JPG* Lehman’s lawyer fees “could reach a record $1.4 billion.”[Bloomberg]

* The RNC spent more than a first-year associate’s salary on clothes for Sarah Palin. So, when you are reading mind-numbing legal documents at midnight tonight and your friends are out partying, just dream of all the snappy red jackets you can buy. [Los Angeles Times]

* Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe was bad, but it could be worse. A Philadelphia state senator spent roughly 3.5 million dollars of tax payers money to pay personal assistants who “spied on his ex-lovers, chauffeured his children, oversaw mansion renovations, and permormed a myriad of other chores.” [Associated Press]

* The IRS withdrew a $319 million tax assessment on FedEx. [Associated Press]

* Milberg has hired NYU professor Arthur Miller to run its appellate practice. [Bloomberg]

* Recent developments in the U.S. District Court Judge Edward “Naughty” Nottingham may stop him from practicing law in Colorado. [The Rocky Mountain News]

* A former administrative law judge is still trying to sue his dry cleaner for 54 million because they lost his pants. [ABC]

Samuel Kent Judge Samuel B Kent Above the Law blog.jpgMethinks the judge doth protest too much? From the Houston Chronicle:

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent stood before a fellow federal judge this morning and vehemently proclaimed his innocence of three federal sexual crimes in his indictment.

“I plead absolutely, unequivocally not guilty and look very much forward to a trial on the merits of what I consider flagrant, scurrilous charges,” Kent stated with force to U.S. 5th Circuit Judge Edward Prado.

“For the record I absolutely intend to testify, and we are going to bring a horde of witnesses,” Kent said.

He also promised “a killer alibi,” “a s**tload of exculpatory evidence,” and an exonerating sex tape.
Is it necessary to Mirandize a longtime judge? Better be on the safe side:

Prado frequently said things such as “You pretty well know the routine,” and “As you know, you have the right to remain silent.”

The defendant’s status as a sitting federal judge led to some other, lighter moments. More below the fold.

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