5th Circuit

* Fed cuts fed funds rate by 0.75%, but stocks are still lower. [AP; New York Times; Washington Post]
* Clinton and Obama get snippy with each other in debate, raising questions about each other’s legal work. [Washington Post; New York Times; WSJ Law Blog]
* SCOTUS denies review in gigantic Enron-related investors’ lawsuit. [SCOTUSblog via How Appealing]
* Statutory interpretation makes for strange bedfellows in 5-4 ruling in Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons. [SCOTUSblog (PDF) via How Appealing]
* New York City revisits the issue of forced disclosure of calorie counts by restaurants. [AP via Drudge]

Samuel Kent Judge Samuel B Kent Above the Law blog.jpgAs regular ATL readers will recall, Judge Samuel B. Kent (S.D. Texas) is currently on leave from the bench (although still collecting his $165,200 salary). The Fifth Circuit suspended him after allegations of what it described as sexual harassment.
But Judge Kent’s troubles may not be over yet. From the Galveston County Daily News (via How Appealing):

A woman who has accused U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of unwanted sexual touching will have her case reheard by a disciplinary panel of the 5th Judicial Circuit, her attorney, Rusty Hardin, said late Monday.

Late that afternoon, Hardin gave the panel summaries of interviews his team did of 20 people who have had contact with Kent. Hardin claims those interviews show that Kent has misbehaved toward women since shortly after he was named to the federal bench in Galveston in the early 1990s.

Hardin said he and his client are asking that the panel refer the matter to the Judicial Council of the United States with a recommendation that Kent be impeached.

Additional discussion, plus a reader poll, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Samuel Kent: A Bigger Horndog Than Bill Clinton?”

Samuel Kent Judge Samuel B Kent Above the Law blog.jpgLast week we honored Judge Samuel B. Kent with our prestigious Judge of the Day award, based on his alleged sexual harassment of a court employee. Now the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council has also recognized Judge Kent. From Texas Lawyer:

The Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [on Friday] issued an order reprimanding and admonishing U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Galveston. The order relates to a complaint of judicial misconduct lodged against the judge on May 21 alleging sexual harassment toward an employee of the federal judicial system.

A former case manager for Kent, Cathy McBroom, confirms she filed a complaint against the judge. She declines further comment. McBroom currently works in the clerk’s office in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

You can access the order here (PDF). But as a tipster notes, “All the juicy stuff will ‘not be disclosed.’ No fun at all.”
Fear not, judicial gossip aficionados. The Houston Chronicle has more details:

Kent is accused of harassing and inappropriately touching his 49-year-old case manager in his chambers in March….

On the day of the incident, other employees saw McBroom crying and visibly upset, according to interviews. A few weeks later, McBroom transferred to another federal court job in Houston. McBroom was so shaken by the encounter, “She (was) a basket case,” an acquaintance said.

McBroom has retained Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who would not comment for now on the particulars of the case.

Not good news for Judge Kent. Hardin is one of Houston’s top trial lawyers.
And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Additional allegations against Judge Kent, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fifth Circuit Benchslaps the Naughty Judge Kent”

Fifth Circuit interior designer Abovethelaw Above the Law tabloid blog.JPGAre you a Texas law firm associate who is sick of tired of working long hours for low pay? Are you looking for a more creative position, one that would offer you more “hands-on” experience?
Then you might be interested in working for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — still for low pay, but probably for better hours. And we’re not talking about some run-of-the-mill law clerk gig.
The circuit is looking for an in-house interior designer. How fabulous! And no, we’re not joking. Check out the job posting by clicking here (PDF).
Okay, so you don’t have the requested “bachelor’s degree in interior design.” But surely a J.D. from an accredited U.S. law school, plus the requested ability “to move light furniture,” would be just as good.
Yeah, you’d have to move to New Orleans, but that’s not too far — still within the Fifth Circuit. In terms of specific job responsibilities, the most difficult one is probably “procuring furniture and furnishings utilizing federal procurement guidelines.”
That should be construed as “decorating courthouse spaces in halfway decent fashion, using furniture manufactured by federal prison inmates.” And remember — Martha checked out of the Big House a long time ago.
If that’s not worthy of an episode of Top Design, we don’t know what is.
Interior Designer / Space Planner (PDF) [U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit]

Time for a few updates on a subject near and dear to our heart, which we’ve been neglecting as of late: federal judicial nominations. Here’s the latest news:
Jennifer Elrod Judge Jennifer W Elrod Above the Law blog.jpg1. Texas state court judge Jennifer Elrod (at right), whom we previously identified as a possible nominee to the Fifth Circuit (and compared to Jennifer Aniston), has been officially nominated to that court. We’ve heard good things about Judge Elrod and wish her the best of luck in the confirmation process.
2. Connecticut state court judge Vanessa Bryant, discussed previously here, has been confirmed to the District of Connecticut.
3. Earlier this month, the White House sent a raft of judicial nominations over to the Senate. Nothing terribly exciting.
The two most controversial nominees in the bunch: state court judge Janet Neff (D. Mich.), and trial lawyer Richard Honaker (D. Wyo.). They may generate opposition on opposite sides of the aisle. Neff got a lot of grief from the conservative Sen. Sam Brownback for having attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. Honaker may be targeted by liberals for his record of strong opposition to abortion.
Here’s a random bit of trivia about Honaker: he was a Harvard classmate of Al Franken. If Honaker runs into opposition from liberals (despite being a trial lawyer and card-carrying member of ATLA), will Franken testify in his defense before the Senate Judiciary Committee?
(The article also mentions Billy Crystal, but we don’t believe Billy Crystal went to Harvard.)
Update: HA! The Billy Crystal mystery is revealed. Check out this comment.
Nomination Sent to the Senate [WhiteHouse.gov]
Nominations Confirmed [Senate.gov via How Appealing]
Nominations Sent to the Senate [WhiteHouse.gov]
Harris County civil judge nominated to federal bench [Houston Chronicle]
Bush renominates five Michiganians to federal judgeships [Detroit News]
Thomas announces judgeship nomination for Rock Springs lawyer [Casper Star-Tribune via How Appealing]

Vanessa Gilmore Vanessa D Gilmore Judge Above the Law Above the Law judicial diva.jpgIf you’re getting tired of our stories about the DOJ’s Shanetta Cutlar and S&C’s Alexandra Korry, we have a new name to add to our rotation of delightfully high-powered, imperious females. Meet Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (at right), of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Whisper her name out loud: “Vanessa Gilmore.” Doesn’t it even SOUND diva-licious? If she weren’t a federal judge, couldn’t she be a character on “Dynasty”?

But we have reasons other than the sound of her name for declaring this rather attractive jurist to be a judicial diva. From a helpful tipster:

I’d like to bring another judicial diva to your attention: Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. You probably have already read about Judge Gilmore’s ruling in the Enron broadband case vacating Howard’s conviction. I’m not sure she’s a match for Shanetta Cutlar, but she’s no slouch either when it comes to divadom.

[R]umors about her include:

* She has thrown her keys in open court at an attorney (I believe it might have been an AUSA) for calling her “ma’am”;

* She ordered an AUSA to have John Ashcroft personally write her a letter explaining the DOJ’s reasons for seeking the death penalty against one defendant but not others [the Williams case, discussed in more detail below];

* When she didn’t like the particular font counsel used, she told him that she threw his motion in the trash without reading it, and then she ruled against him;

* During trial she is happy to make findings contrary to stipulations of the parties; and

* She encourages ex parte contact with the court and attempts to prevent record-making: any discovery “motions” must be way of a one-page letter to the court. She will then have a hearing which she considers an “oral motion to compel.” She will happily rule without actually seeing any of the discovery propounded.

More about Judge Gilmore, including a discussion of how she got benchslapped by the Fifth Circuit, after the jump.

P.S. We welcome colorful anecdotes about strong personalities within the legal profession regardless of their race, gender, etc. It just so happens that lately we’ve been getting information about women. If you want to tell us about your workplace abuse at the hands of a man — e.g., Eric Krautheimer, of Brokeback Lawfirm infamy — we’re all ears.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Honorable Vanessa Gilmore: A Delicious Judicial Diva”

Terrence Boyle Terry Boyle Terence Boyle Terrence W Boyle Judge.jpgHere is some late-breaking judicial nomination news:
1. An update to our prior coverage of the withdrawal of the “Radioactive Four.” As one of you points out, it seems that Judge Terrence Boyle (E.D.N.C.), nominated to the Fourth Circuit, wanted to continue fighting.
From the latest version of the AP story:

William Haynes, William G. Myers III and Michael Wallace all asked to have their appointments withdrawn, these officials said. Judge Terrence Boyle was informed of the White House’s decision, according to an ally….

Lars H. Liebeler, a Washington lawyer, said in a telephone interview that Boyle, unlike Wallace, Haynes and Myers, did not submitted a letter asking to be withdrawn but was told of the president’s intentions.

This makes some sense. Considering that Judge Boyle (above right) is (1) 61 years old and (2) already a sitting federal judge, he’s not really going anywhere — and he doesn’t have much to lose from further fighting. But the White House apparently decided that continuing to push his nomination, in a Senate controlled by the Democrats, wasn’t worth the possible loss of face (or expenditure of political capital).
2. The White House released two more slates of judicial nominees today. See here and here.
The most notable and/or controversial nominees:

(a) Judge Thomas Hardiman (W.D. Pa.), renominated to the Third Circuit, who is the subject of a tempest in a teapot (item #3);

(b) Peter Keisler (OT 1988/Kennedy), renominated to the D.C. Circuit, who isn’t problematic personally, but has a “seat issue” (for years Republicans were saying that the last seat on the D.C. Circuit is unnecessary);

(c) Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant, renominated to the District of Connecticut, who received an “unqualified” rating from the ABA; and

(d) James Rogan, renominated to the Central District of California, who once served as a floor manager in the Clinton impeachment fight, back when he was in the House of Representatives.

These nominees aren’t THAT controversial, at least compared to the Radioactive Four. We think that they ultimately can (and should) make it through the Senate Judiciary Committee, then win confirmation by the full Senate.
But the ascendant Democrats may want to flex their muscles. And one way to do so would be by delaying, or defeating, one of these nominations.
3. Here’s an AP article about Leslie Southwick, nominated to the Fifth Circuit seat formerly held by Judge Charles Pickering Sr. (the seat that Michael Wallace was up for, before he withdrew).
Southwick is a former state appellate judge in Mississippi. As Howard Bashman notes, maybe the third time will be the charm for this hard-to-fill seat.
Bush Judicial Nominees Ask to Withdraw [Associated Press]
Senators say Bush nominating Southwick for 5th Circuit [Associated Press]
Nominations Sent to the Senate for the Judiciary [White House via How Appealing]
Nominations Sent to the Senate [White House via How Appealing]
Earlier: And They Will Back Down

Rachel Brand Rachel Brand Rachel Brand Above the Law.jpg* Some interesting comments about Harriet Miers getting a Fifth Circuit nomination, as well as speculation about who might replace her as White House counsel. [ConfirmThem]
(We second the suggestion of Rachel Brand (at right). Brand previously worked in the White House counsel’s office, before her appointment to head the Office of Legal Policy at the Justice Department.)
* From an Instpaundit correspondent: “I’m no law prof, but isn’t the presumption of innocence most useful before a pile of facts come out indicating that the accused are, in fact, innocent?” [Instapundit]
* Speaking of which, check out Best Defense, which “seeks to place the presumption of innocence front and center.” [Bag and Baggage]
* Jeez, he’s even more of a tool than we thought. Can someone please talk some sense into him about 2008? [Althouse]
* Backlash to the backlash against (allegedly) excessive executive pay. [Point of Law via Dealbreaker]
* Amen. With the exception of news aggregators, blogs are by their nature idiosyncratic, rather than comprehensive. So don’t get your briefs in a wad when we fail to write about your pet topic. [Volokh Conspiracy; Althouse]

Harriet Miers Harriet E Miers Harriet Ellan Miers Harriet Elan Miers Above the Law.JPGAs previously reported, Harriet Miers — she of the ill-fated Supreme Court nomination* — has submitted her resignation as White House Counsel. It will take effect at the end of this month, on January 31. The search for her replacement has begun.
From White House spokesman Tony Snow:

“Basically, she has been here six years. As somebody said earlier today, ‘She put 12 years of service into six years.’ Harriet is one of the most beloved people here at the White House.”

Indeed, the work ethic of the 61-year-old Miers lies beyond question. At night, her car is typically the last one left in the senior staff parking lot, between the Old Executive Office Building and the West Wing. Her dedication to President Bush is also unimpeachable.
(The New York Times, referring to Miers’s withdrawn SCOTUS nomination, states that “no one doubted her intellect, [but] some doubted her credentials to be a justice.” We disagree with the first proposition. In certain super-snobby quarters of the legal elite, her intellect was definitely questioned — even if few would do so publicly.)
We hear that Miers’s resignation, which she announced at this morning’s White House counsel staff meeting, came as a surprise to much of her staff. There’s also precious little information about her replacement.
* A well-established rule of English usage: With respect to Harriet Miers, the words “Supreme Court nomination” must always be preceded by “ill-fated.”
Additional commentary appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Harriet Miers: Farewell My Concubine Counsel”

celebrity celebrities Above the Law legal tabloid legal blog.JPGWe love lists: the Forbes 400, the U.S. News college and law school rankings, or Washingtonian magazine’s list of 40 top lawyers under 40. We love lawyers — which is good, since we spend all day writing about them. And we love fabulous things.
So you can imagine our delight upon seeing this feature from The American Lawyer: The Young Litigators Fab Fifty. It’s a list of 50 top litigators from around the country, all under the age of 45, whom the magazine “expect[s] to see leading the field for years to come.”
You can check out the list here. Regular readers of ATL will recognize many of these youthful luminaries. Here are some highlights:

– Latham & Watkins partner Sean Berkowitz,* the former prosecutor who rose to fame durring the Enron case;

Paul Clement, the U.S. Solicitor General (who was very nice to us);

– Weil Gotshal partner Gregory Coleman and Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz, two top Texas lawyers (and possible Fifth Circuit nominees);

– Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, the delectable DOJ diva;

Jeffrey Fisher, of Davis Wright & Tremaine, SCOTUS lefty litigator extraordinaire (he’s a Bleeding Reinhardt and former JPS clerk);

– Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, Chief Justice Roberts’s former l’il buddy (from his Hogan & Hartson days);

Professor Neal Katyal of Georgetown Law, the “Paris Hilton of the Legal Elite”;

– Alabama’s Solicitor General, Kevin Newsom (amusing story about him here); and

Eugene Scalia, the Gibson Dunn partner and fabled ERISA hottie (and son of Nino).

On the whole, it’s an excellent list. We can think of a few questionable omissions (and a few dubious selections). But with something this subjective, reasonable minds will differ.
Congrats again to the Fab Fifty!
* Does anyone know if Sean Berkowitz and Bethany McLean, the Fortune reporter who covered Enron, are still an item?
The Young Litigators Fab Fifty [American Lawyer]

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