Attorney Misconduct

Paul Bergrin

This case is about a lawyer who used his law license to disguise the fact that he was a drug dealer, a pimp, and a murderer.

– Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gay, describing defendant Paul Bergrin during opening statements in the New Jersey criminal defense attorney’s murder-racketeering trial.

Earlier this week, we wrote about a pair of prominent partners at Skadden Arps who got hit with a big-time benchslap. A federal judge in Chicago issued an order to show cause, requiring the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned for failing to cite a highly relevant (arguably dispositive) Seventh Circuit case when briefing a motion to dismiss. The judge also set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.”

The Skadden partners filed a contrite response. They apologized profusely to the court, explained why they viewed the Seventh Circuit as distinguishable, and argued that even though they erred, their conduct didn’t merit sanctions. They announced to the court that they had settled the case in question, with Skadden “contributing to the settlement amount in order to personally redress plaintiffs’ counsel for responding to the motion to dismiss.” (In a classy move, they also extracted their associate from under the bus, explaining that he played no substantive role in the briefing.)

Despite the apology and the settlement, the status hearing went forward as scheduled yesterday. What happened?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap Update: Skadden Partners Learn Their Fates”

* The early numbers for the Am Law 100 are in, and it looks like Husch Blackwell’s gross revenue grew by six percent in 2012 after a two-year decline. Hmm… perhaps the firm is saving money by cutting back on its rejection letter proofreaders. [Am Law Daily]

* “If I can’t settle with any of those parties, I will sue them.” Howrey’s trustee, Allan Diamond, plans to sue former partners of the failed firm with a vengeance — and quite “quickly” — if they refuse to cooperate with him. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Speaking of bankrupt law firms, former Dewey partner Steven Otillar may proceed with his various claims against Citibank over the repayment of his $209K capital contribution loan. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Anyone remember Amy McTeer, the attorney who doubled as an apparent model for “faces of meth”? She resigned from the bar after allegedly helping her boyfriend escape from jail. Classy! [National Law Journal]

* Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney whose name was dragged through the mud after Aaron Swartz’s suicide, claims she intended to recommend only a six-month sentence for the deceased internet hero. [Bloomberg]


On the transactional side, things seem to be going gangbusters for Skadden Arps. As we noted yesterday, the firm took the top spot in three separate rankings of 2012 M&A work. In 2011, a different firm sat atop each set of rankings, but in 2012, Skadden ruled them all.

On the litigation side, though, the new year has brought new headaches for Skadden. Earlier this month, a high-profile partner at the firm, along with another partner and an associate, got hit with a big benchslap. A federal judge issued an order to show cause, asking the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned, and set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.” Ouch.

Skadden recently filed its response to the OSC. Let’s review the benchslap, then see what the Skadden lawyers had to say for themselves….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Skadden, Smacked, Eats Crow”

It’s the last day of December, so it’s a good time to look back on the year that was. We’ll do what we’ve done for the past three years (wrap-up posts from 2009, 2010, and 2011 can be found here, here, and here) and identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2012, based on traffic (as represented by pageviews).

By the way, for the third year in a row, the most popular category page on Above the Law was Law Schools. People have now been intensely focused on the declining value proposition of going to law school for as long as it takes to earn a Juris Doctor degree. Isn’t it time that we graduate from the current educational model?

The second and third most-popular categories on ATL in 2012 were Biglaw and Bonuses. Although this year brought us the largest law firm failure ever, nearly all other firms indiscriminately doled out offers to summer associates, and bonus season looked better for the first time in years. While the legal profession is still in transition, things are certainly looking up, and through the highs and the lows, we’ve been there to cover it all.

So what were the ten most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2012? Let’s find out….

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The year is quickly drawing to a close, but we have unfinished business to conduct here at Above the Law. Come on, people, we still have to crown our Lawyer of the Year for 2012.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for nominations, in the comments or via email. We’ve narrowed down the nominees to a field of nine (although you’ll see only eight options in the poll because one is a joint nomination). As in past years, the contenders run the gamut from distinguished to despicable.

And the nominees are….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Above the Law’s 2012 Lawyer of the Year Competition: The Finalists!”

* “To do nothing in the face of pending disaster is to be complicit. It’s time to act. It’s time to vote.” What a convenient time to discover that the Department of Justice tabled new gun control proposals in favor of an upcoming election campaign. [New York Times]

* Rumor has it that the president will nominate Senator John Kerry to be secretary of state for his second term. Upon hearing the news, Hillary Clinton updated her Tumblr page before she caught a case of the vapors, fainted, and got herself all concussed. [CNN]

* “If you don’t know, then you have to plan for the worst.” Everyone’s pissed off about the possibility of being pushed off the fiscal cliff, but on the bright side, it’s creating a mountain of billables. [National Law Journal]

* Remember the judge who resigned after he accidentally showed a colleague a picture of the “judicial penis”? He was removed from office by a judicial ethics panel. How very effective. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

* And for the talent portion of the competition, Alicia Guastaferro, the pageant princess who was picked up for prostitution after getting caught with an attorney, will have her hooking charges dropped. [Huffington Post]

Judge Wade McCree

Remember Judge Wade McCree? How could you not! He’s the Michigan jurist who received our Judge of the Day honors back in April for sending nearly-nude photos of himself to one of his female bailiffs via sext message. When confronted with the issue, McCree told a Fox Detroit reporter he had “no shame in [his] game.” When confronted by the Michigan Supreme Court, McCree was issued a censure for bringing shame to the judiciary, if not himself.

Now, you’d think that the good judge would clean up his act after a brush with the law, but of course, you’d be wrong. We wonder if he’s got any shame in his game now that his alleged affair with a litigant has been exposed for all the world to see.

And you really won’t believe where this woman claims they got it on, repeatedly….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: A State Judge’s Alleged Affair and Baby Mama Drama Exposed — Via Incriminating Texts”

I’d like this story a lot better if it was about an associate busted for using a fake disability to get extra time, instead of just about an associate getting busted for not actually having whatever BS affliction the kids are using these days. But I guess this is a start.

A Hastings Law graduate and former summer associate at Morrison & Foerster was nailed for faking an unnamed disability to get more time on the California bar exam.

In related news, I’ll now be marketing myself as a disability-faker detector. I have a simple methodology for determining fakers, and I’m not afraid to share it. My system is: if you can fake it so well that I can’t tell the difference, then it’s not a real disability that requires extra time in the first place!

I’ll be coming to a bar testing center near you to show my proven method in action…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Former Summer Associate Busted For Lying About Disability To Get Extra Time On The Bar Exam”

Back in July, we brought our readers a story about an Illinois judge who had allegedly been using his courthouse computer to view hardcore pornography while in chambers. Most would’ve lodged an objection to the judge’s alleged behavior, because after all, he could’ve waited until he got home to sate his supposed desire for untoward viewing pleasures, just like everyone else.

After the inception of a judicial ethics inquiry, some of the porn sites the judge visited were revealed by a Chicago-area newspaper (and based on his pervy predilections, it seems the good jurist is a chubby chaser). But alas, the only thing the judge is chasing now are his hopes of keeping himself on the bench.

Late last week, the alleged porn procurer found himself before the Illinois Courts Commission (ICC) to defend his honor and his livelihood. During the hearing, the judge confessed to many of his sins, and revealed the reason why he couldn’t wait until he was within the comforts of his own home to visit his favorite XXX sites….

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