David Lat

David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, New York magazine, Washingtonian magazine, and the New York Observer. Prior to ATL, he launched Underneath Their Robes, a blog about federal judges. Before entering the journalism world, he worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in New York; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. David graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as one of the American Lawyer’s Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years; one of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels, a group of pioneers within the legal profession; and one of the Fastcase 50, "the fifty most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology." His first book, Supreme Ambitions: A Novel, will be published in 2015. You can connect with David on Twitter and Facebook.

Posts by David Lat

Whole Lesbian Sex Book Felice Newman Above the Law blog.jpgWe realize this news broke last week. But we were on vacation — and it’s just too good to omit from these pages. From Metro.co.uk:

A father in Arkansas is looking for $20,000 in compensation for his teenage sons, after they found a book in a public library called The Whole Lesbian Sex Book.

According to Earl Adams, his sons – aged 14 and 16 – were ‘greatly disturbed’ by Felice Newman’s classic lesbian sex manual, described by its publishers as ‘the most comprehensive sex guide available for lesbians.’

And now he is demanding $10,000 from the city of Bentonville for each boy. The volume has already been withdrawn from the library shelves, and the director of the library has resigned – although she is adamant she left for personal reasons, not in response to the complaints.

So what’s the basis for the $20,000 damages claim? Per Overlawyered:

[This incident] happened, Adams said, while [his sons] were browsing for material on military academies (titter ye not!). The shock to their sensibilities from exposure to the “immoral” volume resulted in the boys being “greatly disturbed” and undergoing “many sleepless nights in our house.”

Simply ridiculous. Ask these boys in five years whether they still find lesbians “greatly disturb[ing].”
Also, The Whole Lesbian Sex Book has been critically acclaimed. Check out this review:

Cure for cancer? End to world hunger? What’s left to do after the publication of Felice Newman’s definitive guide to lesbian sex? Drawing on a wide range of published sources as well as her own notoriously graphic questionnaire circulated by e-mail… Newman has compiled an exhaustively thorough how-to guide for practices as exotic as play piercings and as pedestrian as oral sex.

Umm, who describes oral sex as “pedestrian”? Sounds like mistakes are being made in this reviewer’s household.
(Also, why are we not surprised that The Whole Lesbian Sex Book has been effusively praised on, of all websites, Amazon?)
Saw sex book by mistake; $10K apiece demanded [Overlawyered]
Man seeks compensation for lesbian trauma [Metro.co.uk]
The Whole Lesbian Sex Book [Amazon.com]

(We suspect that Justice Scalia’s daughter handled herself much better during her recent DUI incident.)
DUI suspect does $1,100 worth of damage with his head [KSTP.com]

necktie sex Above the Law blog.jpgThe delightful site Overheard in New York, which collects humorous bits of overheard conversation, has a collection of law-related “overheards” up today. Here’s our favorite:

Ditzy Chinese chick: So, I went on this job interview with this law firm, right? And this lawyer who was interviewing me was really cute, ya know? So at the end of the interview he stood up, and I wasn’t sure what to say so I said, ‘Well, I don’t know whether you’re going to hire me or not, but I’d really like to f**k you.’

So he came to my apartment after work and f**ked me. Then I get a letter two days later telling me I didn’t get the f**king job! Do you think that’s sexual harassment?

1. YES. He should totally sue.
2. So she “didn’t get the f**king job.” Guess he didn’t like her “audition” for the position.
(Or maybe, just maybe, he thought she had bad judgment. What on earth would have given him that idea?)
3. She should stop complaining — at least she got something out of the interview process. Most of the time, all you have to show for a half-day of boredom is a bunch of business cards. And maybe a nice lunch, if you’re lucky.
The rest of the funny, legally-themed “overheards” — although none as good as this one — are available here. Enjoy!
Wednesday One-Liners, Esq. [Overheard in New York]

forgery Faegre Benson signature forge judge Above the Law blog.JPGThe typical ATL “Lawyer of the Day” is a solo practitioner or small-firm lawyer. But today’s lawyer of the day hails from a large law firm, one that you’ve probably heard of — and one that gets the definite-article treatment in the New York Times wedding pages.
Meet Mark Fischer, from the Denver office of Faegre & Benson, the well-known Minneapolis law firm. Here’s what Fischer did to earn a place in the pages of ATL. From the Rocky Mountain News:

A prominent Denver law firm is being sued after one of its attorneys forged a federal judge’s signature on a legal document.

The forgery allowed one of Faegre & Benson’s clients to obtain a loan and pay the firm for work, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S District Court in Colorado.

The attorney, Mark W. Fischer, admitted in a two-page letter that on April 25, 2005, that he “fabricated a false document which purported to be an order” signed by Judge Philip Figa to release a lien against his client’s property.

Fischer was suspended by the state supreme court on April 11. His ultimate fate will be decided at an upcoming disciplinary hearing.
One of the tipsters who brought this to our attention wrote: “I can’t believe it backfired; it seems like such a good idea to forged a federal judge’s signature. I’m guessing the firm’s collections department was really hounding that attorney about those unpaid fees.”
So what did the powers-that-be at Faegre & Benson think of all this?

“What Mr. Fischer described in his letter is inconsistent with the way Faegre & Benson has practiced law for over 100 years,” [partner Dave] Stark said.

Thanks for the clarification, Dave. We’re glad to jear that forging federal judges’ signatures isn’t usual policy or practice at Faegre & Benson.
Interestingly enough, even though the firm is now being sued by the client for failure to “supervise” Fischer, it turns out that he was a PARTNER at the firm — not some wet-behind-the-ears associate. From his Martindale-Hubbell bio:

Mark W. Fischer (Partner) born Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1956; admitted to bar, 1991, Colorado. Education: Grinnell College (B.A. 1978); University of Colorado (J.D. 1991). Practice Areas: Commercial Litigation; Intellectual Property Litigation.

It’s nice to see some innovative thinking from a lawyer who has been practicing for over 15 years. Good work, Mr. Fischer!
Law firm sued over forgery by attorney [Rocky Mountain News]
Faegre & Benson sued over forged document [Minnesota Lawyer Blog]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIn case any of you were wondering, last Friday’s news about Weil Gotshal clerkship bonuses has been officially confirmed. Here’s a statement from a firm spokesperson:

“Weil will pay $50K for a one-year state or Federal clerkship and $70K (i.e., the current amount) for a two-year clerkship.”

So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. And there’s the answer to this commenter’s question: “Is that flat, or does Weil still double for two years?”
Okay, so Weil won’t give you $100K for two years of clerking experience. But $70,000 is still, as far as we know, the top of the market for two clerkships or years of clerking. Three cheers for Weil — and Cravath, which also pays $70,000 for two clerkships.
Does anyone know what S&C, Simpson, Paul Weiss, and Cleary Gottlieb — the other members of the $50K Club — pay for multiple clerkships or years of clerking? If so, please email us. Thanks.

Supreme Court 6 Above the Law blog.jpgCheck out this posting, currently on the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist:

My words come to you by ‘Writ of Certiorari’ from my heart. I have an ‘Opinion’: You are without a doubt the most perfect girl on the Hill. I look forward to argument days just so I can see your smile and say hello as you pass me in the Courtroom hall.

Some days you are in your Clerk uniform tails and some days you are not, but you always look stunning. When I see you across the way during arguments it is hard to concentrate on keeping the record.

Now that this session of Oral arguments is over I am bummed because I never really had the chance to talk with you. So here on Craigslist I am bringing an ‘Appeal’ to take you out to coffee sometime?

On ‘habeas review’, my heart is doing time and you have been found guilty.:0)


Pamela Talkin Pam Talkin Supreme Court Marshal Marshall Above the Law blog.jpgBut this CL poster is not in search of a Supreme Court law clerk, since the object of his desire wears a “Clerk uniform — tails.” The law clerks generally wear standard business attire.
So which SCOTUS employees show up to oral argument in tails? A knowledgeable source tells us:

The reference may be to the Marshal of the Court Pamela Talkin, who does wear tails to oral argument. See here (Talkin describing her uniform as “a formal morning suit with tails, pinstriped slacks, and a vest”).

The Clerk of the Court is William Suter. He also wears tails to oral argument.

But Bill Suter is a man. And our lovesick poster is an “m4w” (man seeking woman).
Oyez, oyez! Pam Talkin, it seems that you have a secret — and considerably younger (30) — admirer. And he’s very interested in “drawing near” and “giving attention” to you, at a neighborhood cafe.
Update: One commenter wonders whether the woman in question might work in the Solicitor General’s office, since the morning coat is the official uniform of that office. But we’re not so sure, since (1) there are very few women in the SG’s office right now, and (2) our understanding is that female members of the SG’s office generally wear dark suits to oral argument (as opposed to the full-blown morning coat outfit of their male colleagues).
But look, we can’t rule out this possibility. Does anyone familiar with the current membership of the SG’s office have thoughts on this matter?
Further Update: Check out this excellent comment:

Denise McNerney, the Merits Clerk, is often in the courtroom in tails. And she’s very attractive. It is highly unlikely that Deanne Maynard, Patricia Millett, or Lisa Blatt from the SG’s Office is the object of the Craigslist poster’s affection. None wears tails. All are married.

The Supreme Court Clerk of my heart – m4w – 30 [Craigslist]

Monica Goodling 5 Monica M Goodling Monica Gooding Alberto Gonzales Above the Law blog.jpgVia the Volokh Conspiracy, we came across this intriguing piece, by Murray Waas for the National Journal, about how Attorney General Alberto Gonzales delegated exceptionally broad powers to his two youthful underlings: D. Kyle Sampson and the Magnificent Monica Goodling.
Here’s the lede:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides — who have since resigned because of their central roles in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys — extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department….

In the order, Gonzales delegated to his then-chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, and his White House liaison “the authority, with the approval of the Attorney General, to take final action in matters pertaining to the appointment, employment, pay, separation, and general administration” of virtually all non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department, including all of the department’s political appointees who do not require Senate confirmation. Monica Goodling became White House liaison in April 2006, the month after Gonzales signed the order.

Professor Orin Kerr’s take:

Remarkable. And assuming this story checks out, it certainly explains why Gonzales seemed so clueless about the U.S. Attorney firings. It seems that Gonzales had taken himself completely out of the loop of all DOJ political appointee hiring. He had delegated that role completely to two 30-somethings, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling; his only role was a formality, required just so that OLC would find the practice constitutional.

We take issue with Professor Kerr’s dismissive reference to the Magnificent Monica Goodling as a mere “30-something.” And now that she has been granted immunity, we can’t wait for Goodling to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
All mysteries will be revealed, and this entire U.S. Attorney mess will be straightened out, after Monica Goodling appears before the House Judiciary Committee in all her radiance. She will dazzle the Committee, as well as the American people, with her command performance, the likes of which have never been seen on Capitol Hill.
Goodling’s crisp and cogent answers to even the most challenging queries from legislators will cause jaws to drop. Her command of both the facts and the law concerning the U.S. Attorney firings will amaze the nation. It will be just like the final courtroom scene in “Legally Blonde,” in which another plucky, underestimated blonde triumphed against all odds.
At the end of her testimony, Rep. John Conyers will publicly apologize to Monica Goodling for dragging her good name through the mud. Faith in the U.S. Department of Justice will be restored. Truth, justice, and the American way will be vindicated.
And then President Bush will dispatch Monica Goodling to Iraq, as head of a special mission designed to fix the debacle over there. There is nothing that our Monica can’t do!!!
Secret Order By Gonzales Delegated Extraordinary Powers To Aides [National Journal]
Did Sampson and Goodling Have Total Control of DOJ Political Hiring? [Volokh Conspiracy]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGThe various comments added to our last post, stating that Cleary Gottlieb has joined the elite ranks of law firms paying $50,000 clerkship bonuses, are correct. Here’s the email, from CGSH partner David Leinwand:

From: David LEINWAND
Time: 2:01 pm

I am very pleased to announce that the firm will be increasing its judicial clerkship bonus for U.S. associates who complete one or more clerkships to $50,000. The increased bonus will be paid to associates who accept an offer to join the firm or complete a clerkship after January 1, 2007.

Please do not hesitate to contact me or Norma Cirincione if you have any questions.

David Leinwand,
on behalf of the Recruiting Committee

So who’s next? By conventional prestige standrads, we’d say Davis Polk. By profits per partner, it would be Cadwalader. According to the just-released AmLaw 100 rankings, Cadwalader is the most profitable NYC-based firm — excluding Wachtell Lipton, which pays no clerkship bonus, but compensates with a ridiculous year-end bonus — that has not yet joined the $50K club.
But don’t hold your breath for Cadwalader. Based on Anthony Lin’s fascinating profile of the firm, published back in February, it seems that CWT isn’t a big fan of “clerky” types:

Whereas [rival] firms lavish attention on Ivy League law graduates with prestigious judicial clerkships, [Cadwalader Chairman Robert] Link wants lawyers who want to be in the business and want to work hard in it. He said his ideal candidate would probably be someone slightly older with previous work experience, maybe on Wall Street.

He has no use for Yale Law School.

“I don’t think we even recruit there anymore,” he said of the law school often regarded as the nation’s most intellectual. “They don’t seem to produce the kind of lawyer we want.”

Ouch. And Yale, which sends a sizable percentage of graduates directly into judicial clerkships each year, is the most “clerky” of law schools.
Does the Future Belong To Cadwalader? [New York Law Journal]

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGToday brings more happy tidings for law clerks, emanating from The Death Star.
Check out the Cravath website (navigate through Career Information: Law Students, Life at Cravath, and Associate Life):

Incoming associates, in fall 2007, who have completed a U.S. Federal district court, Federal appellate court, or state highest court clerkship receive a bonus of $50,000 and credit for a one-year clerkship.

What about for two clerkships or two years of clerking? Or clerkships that don’t fit one of the foregoing categories?

Those associates who complete a clerkship of two years or two one-year clerkships will receive (in lieu of the $50,000 bonus described previously) a bonus of $70,000 and class credit for each year of a clerkship, up to two years. Credit and bonuses for a magistrate, a state lower court or a clerkship outside of the U.S. are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Good stuff. We commend Cravath for its transparency with respect to these matters. And we congratulate them on joining Weil Gotshal at the top of the bonus market for two clerkships: $70,000. (More on Weil in a later post.)
So now the $50K Club has five members (in order of their joining): Sullivan & Cromwell, Simpson Thacher, Paul Weiss, Weil Gotshal, and Cravath.
Correction: The paragraph below, which now appears in strikethrough text, was based on erroneous information. We were previously advised that Cravath paid different clerkship bonuses for district and circuit court clerkships. That was incorrect. The old Cravath clerkship bonus structure was $15K across the board, up to a maximum of $30K.
One other observation on the Cravath news. It removes the firm’s former two-tier system with respect to clerkship bonuses ($15K for district court clerkships, $35K for circuit court clerkships). This makes sense to us. While circuit court clerks may have, on the whole or as a general matter, more impressive credentials than district court clerks, a district court clerkship is usually a more educational experience (at least viewed from the perspective of a future litigator).

Magician Tarot Card Above the Law blog.jpgFrivolous litigation: it’s an international epidemic. Yesterday, the Canadians; today the Japanese.
From the AP:

A group of Japanese magicians sued TV broadcasters on Tuesday for revealing closely guarded secrets behind a series of coin tricks, a news report said.

Forty-nine magicians are seeking $16,000 in damages from Nippon Television Network Corp. and TV Asahi Corp. for airing shows last year that revealed how magicians perform tricks involving coins…

Personally we have our doubts about these “magicians.” If they’re truly so magical, why must they resort to judicial process?
Why not just cast spells? Like a tongue-shutting curse, which could have stopped the secrets from being divulged in the first place?
Magicians Sue Over Revealed Tricks [Associated Press via Drudge]

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