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

Here are the results of the various reader polls we conducted concerning Adriana Dominguez, the Brooklyn Law School student who appeared nude in a video for Playboy TV:
Adriana Dominguez poll results.JPG
These results make sense to us. Dominguez’s participation in the Playboy really has no bearing upon her character and fitness, with respect to her bar admission. It wasn’t criminal, and we don’t live in the Victorian Age.
As for her legal career, if she’s a talented lawyer, who cares if she has, er, certain other abilities? Sure, one might question her judgment; but this was one mistake, and nobody’s perfect.
(But yeah, maybe she’s not that hot. And just because her doing this nudie video shouldn’t preclude her bar admission doesn’t mean people can’t look down on her for doing so.)
Earlier: Adriana Dominguez: What Do YOU Think?
The Jurisdiction Stripper: Two More Polls

Alberto Gonzales Attorney General Alberto R Gonzales Above the Law blog.JPGWe’re liveblogging Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s desperate fight for his political life testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is just getting underway. Our commentary will be added continuously to this post (until we eventually migrate to a new post). So just refresh your browser for the latest.
9:35: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), SJC Chairman, has been reading a lengthy introductory statement. It’s way harsh on AlGo.
(Nice tie, Senator Leahy — alternating mint and forest green stripes. And a crisp white shirt — not a button-down-collar, thankfully. Politicians dress so much better than judges.)
9:41: Leahy gets in a dig about the White House being content to turn U.S. Attorney’s Offices into outposts of the Bush Administration.
The camera cuts to Gonzales, whose lower lip juts out defiantly — and he shakes his head vigorously, to show disagreement with Leahy’s statement. Will the famously mild-mannered Gonzales actually display some cojones?
More discussion after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Alberto Gonzales: In the Hot Seat (Part 1)”

Stephen Kunian Stephen T Kunian Steven Kunian Steve Kunian Above the Law blog.jpgHere’s a bizarre fact pattern to get your day started right. From the Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly:

A criminal assault-and-battery complaint has been issued against attorney Stephen T. Kunian, a partner at the Boston law firm of Eckert, Seamans, Cherin, Mellott, for an incident in which he allegedly forced open the jacket of a woman during the Dec. 2, 2006, opening of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

But Kunian’s attorney said the allegations are “an attempt at character assassination” by a victim who has demanded $500,000 in damages.

The alleged victim in the case, independent museum curator Gloretta Baynes, filed a police report claiming that Kunian approached her on the night in question and opened up her jacket, exposing her bra. Baynes’ attorney, James S. Dilday of Boston, said she had the jacket zipped up to neck level but was not wearing a shirt underneath at the time.

Baynes is also claiming that Kunian’s hands touched her breasts at the time. Kunian allegedly said after the incident: “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you had a shirt on.”

Bill Maher had some harsh words for graduates of Regent Law School. But Harvard Law School grads get in trouble too.
Complaint Launched Against Law-Firm Partner [Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly]
Stephen T. Kunian bio [Eckert Seamans]


Linda Greenhouse 5 New York Times Above the Law blog.JPGBecause she needs all the help she can get these days. Backlash and insurrection against New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse, the long reigning queen of the Supreme Court press corps, continue to grow.
For years, the courts construed 40 U.S.C. 6134 — which forbids “loud, threatening, or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building” — as prohibiting criticism of Linda Greenhouse. As a result, nobody within the legal or media establishment dared breathe a harsh word about her. But now, after decades of dominance, La Greenhouse is slipping — and increasingly vulnerable to attack.
Fueled by the success of the bestselling, critically acclaimed Supreme Conflict, Jan Crawford Greenburg — ABC News’s young, talented, and utterly gorgeous Supreme Court correspondent — is challenging Greenhouse for the title of America’s top Supreme Court reporter. Last month, a threatened LG tried to mount a snarky counterattack. But rather than damaging Greenburg’s reputation, it merely caused SCOTUS insiders to marvel at Greenhouse’s pettiness.
And now Greenburg’s challenge to Greenhouse is emboldening others. Some dare to claim that the empress has no clothes. Take Adam J. White of Baker Botts, a former Sentelletubby and legal commentator. White had this to say about Linda Greenhouse, in an essay for the Weekly Standard:

The law takes the long view, and so do its chroniclers — none more so than Linda Greenhouse, New York Times reporter and unofficial doyenne of the Supreme Court press corps. But Greenhouse’s recent essay on Chief Justice Roberts exemplifies the risks of racing to write the second draft of history before the first: By attempting to turn a single case into a moment of historic importance, Greenhouse misdescribes the record of one chief justice and severely insults another.

OUCH — and there’s more. You can read the rest of the piece here.
0-for-2: Linda Greenhouse gets both Rehnquist and Roberts wrong [The Weekly Standard via How Appealing]

harriet miers.jpgThere was much speculation about where former White House counsel Harriet Miers, of the ill-fated Supreme Court nomination, would wind up.
Would Miers oversee the George W. Bush Presidential Library at her alma mater, SMU? Would she be nominated to the Fifth Circuit? Would she launch a new line of high-end eye make-up?
The suspense is now over. From the Dallas Morning News:

Ex-White House counsel and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers will rejoin her old law firm, Locke Liddell & Sapp, the firm announced Wednesday.

Ms. Miers had helped run the firm, based in Houston and Dallas, before joining President Bush’s staff in 2001. She will rejoin the firm’s public policy group and litigation group on May 1.

A Locke Liddell official said she will be based in Washington D.C. but also have offices in Dallas and Austin.

Congratulations, Ms. Miers!
(But why is she staying in D.C.? Why not return to her home state of Texas, home to her former lover, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht? As we previously suggested, “If she returns to Texas, she may be able to stir the embers of his passion.”)
Harriet Miers To Rejoin Locke Liddell [Dallas Morning News]

Adriana Dominguez 2 Brooklyn Law School Playboy Above the Law blog.JPGFormer Justice Department official Monica Goodling isn’t the only appealing female who’s hiring lawyers these days. Yet another damsel in distress, who has also been in the headlines lately, has obtained legal representation for herself.
Remember Adriana Dominguez, the Brooklyn Law School student who made a nude video for Playboy TV? If you email Ms. Dominguez with an interview request, you receive this message:

I have no comment at this time. If you have any further questions, you can direct them to my attorney:

Brian Bloom
Cozen & O’Connor
(212) 509-9400
bbloom@cozen.com

Sincerely,
Adriana Dominguez

Why on earth has Adriana Dominguez hired a lawyer? We saw the video, and it was pretty trashy — but not criminal (although reasonable minds can differ).
Here’s the law firm bio of Dominguez’s attorney, Brian Bloom (Cornell 1999, Hofstra Law 2002):

Brian A. Bloom joined the New York Midtown office of Cozen O’Connor in March 2005 as an Associate in the General Litigation Department. He concentrates his practice in commercial litigation and intellectual property matters. Brian has represented various entertainers, musicians, and recording artists, including Eminem and (the Estate of) Tupac Shakur. Prior to joining the firm, he was a litigation associate at Fischbein Badillo Wagner Harding, LLP.

Tupac is probably turning over in his grave right now. Assuming he’s actually in it.
P.S. We’re guessing that Bloom and Dominguez are friends and that he picked up this matter as a favor to her (i.e., allowed her to refer to him as her attorney). But did he clear it with the powers-that-be at Cozen O’Connor, go through the requisite conflicts check, etc.?
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Adriana Dominguez (scroll down)

Blackberry Crackberry Blackberries baby Above the Law blog.JPGAre you a Biglaw associate who left the office early last night, relying upon your trusty Blackberry to keep you posted about what was going on back at work? If so, your reliance was misplaced. From the NYT:

Technical problems at Research in Motion cut off wireless e-mail service to millions of users of its BlackBerry hand-held devices in the United States for more than 10 hours overnight.

Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless, which has the largest BlackBerry customer base in the world, said the service was lost to all carriers in the United States around 8 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. RIM told AT&T Wireless that the problem that caused the shutdown was resolved by 6 a.m. Eastern time today. However, he said that the enormous backlog of e-mail messages that must now be processed would continue to delay or disrupt service for some users.

So if you were out to dinner with friends last night, with a non-buzzing Blackberry, and thought “this is too good to be true,” guess what? You were right.
Now get back to work…
Blackberry Blackout: A Personal Story [DealBreaker]
Service Problems for BlackBerry System [New York Times]
Massive System Failure Affects BlackBerry Users [WNBC]

If you ask former Supreme Court clerks to name the three or four smartest justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg routinely makes the list. Former SCOTUS clerks on both sides of the aisle praise Justice Ginsburg for her intellect. She’s also regularly mentioned as one of the most “self-sufficient” justices (i.e., a justice who could still do her job effectively with little or no law clerk help).
But Justice Ginsburg is not infallible. Here’s an interesting IM conversation we had with a source earlier today (with actual screen names replaced by pseudonyms). Our source, identified below as “tipster,” was reading Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Gonzales v. Carhart (PDF).
tipster: Ooh. Ginsburg is not good at math – see n.10.
Gonzales Carhart Above the Law blog.JPG
ATL: Ha! 1/1 is a fraction…
tipster: “No, sweetie, if the numerator and the denominator are the same, that just equals 1. Now go back to Home Ec and stop trying to learn math.”
ATL: that’s funny — can I use that?
tipster: sure.
ATL: Per standard ATL policy, no attribution (unless you want it).
tipster: DON’T YOU DARE ATTRIBUTE.
ATL: Can I at least identify you as a liberal and an RBG fan when I make fun of her footnote 10? I don’t want to get attacked as a right-wing hack (since this is equal-opportunity snark).
tipster: Yes.
ATL: Thanks.
tipster: Not like anyone will believe you have liberal friends.
ATL: But I do! I have more liberal friends than conservative ones.
tipster: “some of my best friends are *shudder-gag-vomit* liberal”
(That last line by our tipster was sarcastic, for those of you who are sarcasm-impaired. Thank you.)
Earlier: Breaking: Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Partial Birth Abortion Act

Things are getting a little heavy around here, with heated discussion of this morning’s decision in Gonzales v. Carhart (PDF). So it’s time to mix up the programming a little.
Let’s turn our attention from stuff that matters a lot to stuff that matters, well, not terribly much. ATL’s March Madness competition — our quest to crown America’s coolest law school — will conclude tomorrow, Thursday, April 19, at 3 PM (Eastern time). So if you haven’t done so already, please cast your vote :


GOOD LUCK!!!
Earlier: ATL March Madness: The Championship Match

Pregnant Belly 2 Above the Law blog.JPGThis just in from One First Street. The Associated Press reports:

The Supreme Court upheld the nationwide ban on a controversial abortion procedure Wednesday, handing abortion opponents the long- awaited victory they expected from a more conservative bench.

The 5-4 ruling said the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act that Congress passed and President Bush signed into law in 2003 does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The opponents of the act “have not demonstrated that the Act would be unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

The decision pitted the court’s conservatives against its liberals, with President Bush’s two appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, siding with the majority.

This ruling lends support to those who predict — like Jan Crawford Greenburg, in Supreme Conflict — that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito will move the Court significantly to the right in the years ahead. Before Justice Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a decision like this one would have required the conservatives to secure TWO swing votes, AMK and SOC, instead of just one. That frequently doomed the conservatives to defeat in the big-ticket cases.
So Justice Alito, appointed to the Court by President Bush, probably made all the difference here. As Senatrix Barbara Boxer recently observed: “Elections have consequences.”
Update: For more detailed commentary, check out Lyle Denniston’s SCOTUSblog post, which quotes extensively from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent. To read the opinion itself, click here (PDF).
Court Backs Ban on Abortion Procedure [Associated Press]
Court upholds federal abortion ban [SCOTUSblog]
Gonzales v. Carhart (PDF) [SCOTUSblog]
Senator Boxer: Elections Have Consequences [YouTube]

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