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 Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, Washingtonian magazine, and New York magazine. 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." You can connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Posts by David Lat

Shanetta Cutlar 2 Shanetta Y Cutlar Shanetta Brown Cutlar DOJ SPL Special Litigation Section Civil Rights Division.jpgSome of you have wondered about the drop-off in ATL coverage of our favorite DOJ diva: Shanetta Y. Cutlar, Chief of the Special Litigation Section at the U.S. Department of Justice (“SPL”). Cutlar has been previously described in these pages as “deliciously imperious” and “a great diva,” and we’ve published a number of colorful stories about her.
We haven’t written much about Shanetta Cutlar lately because we haven’t gotten many new tips about her. Perhaps she’s keeping a low profile these days?
Fortunately, more grist for the SYC mill may be on its way, courtesy of Capitol Hill. From a tipster:

House Judiciary has an oversight hearing for Civil Rights next week. Not sure what day, but I’m trying to find out. I think SPL may be discussed.

And from another source:

The “scandal” of the firing of the US Attys will be the camel’s nose — a way to have full blown congressional hearings on DOJ, especially Civil Rights.

Oooh, exciting! We do hope that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees start sniffing around the Special Litigation Section. Maybe Chuck Schumer will become our truffle pig, unearthing tasty morsels about Shanetta Cutlar and her reign over SPL.
If you have any info about the upcoming oversight hearing — or, for that matter, any updates on what Shanetta Cutlar has been up to lately — please email us. Thanks.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Shanetta Cutlar (scroll down)

Janet Reno hairstyles Above the Law blog.jpgA friendly warning to Peter Lattman and the WSJ Law Blog: “Hey guys, step off our turf!”
In a post this morning comparing President Bush’s purge of U.S. Attorneys with President Clinton’s, the WSJ Law Blog includes the graphic at right, showing three different WSJ “hedcuts” of former Attorney General Janet Reno. They pose the following “Law Blog Bonus Question”: “Which of Reno’s three dot-drawings do you prefer?”
Despite the attempt to mask the inquiry as focused on “dot-drawings,” we see this post for what it really is. It’s a clear incursion into our blogging territory: evolving hairstyles of legal celebrities (e.g., Judge Janice Rogers Brown).
So back off, guys! We leave the options backdating and Vioxx litigation to you. Why can’t you leave the hair and make-up of former AGs to us?
WSJ Law Blog readers agree with us. Right now there are a ton of comments to the post, but only two address the “Bonus Question” — which one of them criticizes as “rather inappropriate.”
Inappropriate for an MSM blog about “law and business, and the business of law”? Sure. But certainly not inappropriate for an online legal tabloid.
Time for a poll. We know that ATL readers are very knowledgeable about hair. But just to be perfectly clear, in the graphic at right, the hairstyles are (left to right) Janet With a Perm, Janet With a Part, and Janet With Bangs.

Bush’s U.S. Attorney Purge Vs. President Clinton’s . . . Discuss [WSJ Law Blog]

Lewis Libby Scooter Libby I Lewis Scooter Libby Above the Law Blog.jpgOkay, ‘fess up. You didn’t follow the Scooter Libby trial that closely. It struck you as kinda confusing, kinda boring.
You didn’t read that much about the trial while it was going on — maybe an article on the day of opening arguments, and an article or two after the verdict. Whenever the Libby case came up at cocktail parties, you tried to steer the talk towards Britney’s shaved head, afraid of your ignorance being exposed.
Live in fear no longer. Just read this excellent Talk of the Town piece by Jeffrey Toobin, which tells you all you need to know about the case, in clear and concise fashion.
(We heart the MSM! They write about stuff like the Libby trial, so we don’t have to.)
Talk of the Town: Verdicts [New Yorker]

Lawdragon Lawdragon lawyer rankings Above the Law blog.jpgThis is interesting. Here’s the explanation, from Lawdragon:

Where did the nation’s leading lawyers and judges go to law school?

Here is the Lawdragon 25 Leading Law Schools, based on where members of the Lawdragon [rankings of top lawyers and judges] graduated law school….

Lawdragon reports on lawyers nationwide, with a heavy emphasis on the states where there are the most practicing lawyers: California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Washington, D.C., Florida and Massachusetts. Schools that produce the leading practitioners in those states thus show up in our ranking more prominently than in other assessments. That still shouldn’t obscure the significant impact the University of Texas, Georgetown and UC Berkeley/Boalt Hall have in their markets. And while Columbia and NYU get plenty of recognition for the excellent legal education they provide, they have enormous impact in the nation’s most important legal market, New York.

Finally, the plaintiffs’ lawyers and judges. We’ve got a philosophy that they count too, which explains in part the placement of regional juggernauts like Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, University of Miami, UC Hastings and Fordham Law School in the Lawdragon 25. Bottom line: if you want to get great training to actually go practice law, you have a range of choices, some of which might surprise you.

No set of law school rankings would be complete without quibbles over methodology. Check ‘em out over at Leiter’s Law School Reports.
Top Law Schools [Lawdragon]
Top 25 Law Schools Based on… [Brian Leiter's Law School Reports]
Top 25 Law Schools by Graduates Among Top 500 Lawyers & Judges [TaxProf Blog]

Aaron Charney 2 headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett CharneyLavi Soloway’s eyewitness account is available here. Good stuff!!! There are a number of juicy new revelations, which we’ll have more to say about in a subsequent post.
In the meantime, feel free to discuss the case and developments from the hearing in this open thread. Our main reaction: We’re disappointed to learn that Edward Gallion is no longer involved in this matter (and might find himself in a bit of hot water, too).
Messrs. Gallion & Spielvogel, you will be missed.
What Happened to the Notes Taken at the Settlement Conference? [Soloway]

Ann Banaszewski Ann S Banaszewski Justice Antonin Scalia drunk driver drunk driving Above the Law.jpgHer high-profile father continues to criss-cross the country, preaching the gospel of originalism.
But Ann S. Banaszewski, daughter of Justice Antonin Scalia, probably won’t be doing much traveling in the next six months. Unless someone else is at the wheel.
(Justice Scalia, as far as we know, hasn’t gotten any traffic tickets lately. But rumor has it that he can be an impatient driver himself.)
Scalia Daughter Won’t Fight Driver’s License Suspension [Chicago Tribune]
Judicial SIGHT-ation: The Wheels of Justice Scalia [UTR]

D Kyle Sampson Kyle Sampson Kyle D Sampson Kyle Samson Above the Law blog.jpgThe U.S. Attorneys firing scandal has claimed its first victim (other than the fired U.S. Attorneys): D. Kyle Sampson
Sampson, who served as chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, tendered his resignation on Monday. It was reported that Sampson failed to keep AG Gonzales and other top Justice Department officials in the loop about his discussions with former White House Counsel Harriet Miers concerning possible U.S. Attorney firings.
An interesting profile of Sampson, written by Eric Lipton, appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. It includes good detail about Sampson’s meteoric rise through conservative legal circles, as well as some backstory about Sampson’s own desire to serve as U.S. Attorney for Utah.
It’s a serious and sober portrait. If you’re in the mood for something on the lighter side, replete with discussion of Sampson’s skills on the basketball court, check out what we received from a helpful tipster. It appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kyle Sampson Has A Streaky Three-Point Shot”

Yeah, we know — quelle surprise. Or, less delicately, “No s**t, Sherlock.”
Anyway, here’s the data, from a poll in which almost 1500 votes were tallied:
ATL poll results Clarence Thomas Justice Clarence Thomas Above the Law blog.JPG
As one of you noted, the results basically form an inverted bell curve. Over 56 percent of respondents clustered at the extremes: “Very Unfavorable” (30.6 percent) was the most popular choice, followed by “Very Favorable” (25.9 percent).
Speaking of SCOTUS-related polls, there’s still time left for you to vote on whether $200,000 bonuses for Supreme Court clerks are too high, too low, or just right. To vote, click here.
Earlier: Justice Thomas: The Sphinx Breaks His Silence

100 dollar bill Above the Law Above the Law law firm salary legal blog legal tabloid Above the Law.JPGIn a recent post about those gargantuan Supreme Court clerkship bonuses, we mentioned Kellogg Huber, the super-elite D.C. litigation boutique.
The firm’s SCOTUS bonuses are said to hover around market — which is about $200,000 these days. But if you missed out on a Supreme Court clerkship, but managed to land a federal appeals court clerkship, the firm is worth looking into. It pays a bonus of $100,000 to federal circuit court clerks, which is the largest non-SCOTUS clerkship bonus that we’re aware of.
The rest of Kellogg’s compensation package is nothing to sneeze at. The firm pays its associates a base salary of $180,000, plus huge year-end bonuses — closer to Wachtell Lipton bonuses than regular Biglaw bonuses.
(It should be noted, though, that Kellogg associates work hard for the money. The firm can be a bit of a sweatshop.)
With such a compensation scheme in place, Kellogg Huber sat at the top of the Washington legal market for years. But now we’re hearing that, in light of recent pay raises, the firm may not be what it once was.
From a tipster (although not a source currently at the firm, so this may be off in some respects):

The associates [at Kellogg Huber] are utterly mystified because the base salaries at all levels are still $180,000. [T]his is barely even a third-year associate salary elsewhere.

It used to be that the year-end bonuses at Kellogg were out of this world. But now all the other firms have come pretty close to catching up.

In short, Kellogg has not changed its salary structure in years. What used to be top of the market is now actually bottom. Senior associates make more money at pretty much any other firm in Washington than they do at Kellogg.

Is this true? And if so, does the firm have any plans of addressing the situation? If you’re in a position to know, please drop us a line. Thanks.
Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel [official website]
Earlier: Supreme Court Clerks: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco Eumi Choi Eumi Choi Above the Law.jpgOne of the eight fired U.S. Attorneys was Kevin Ryan, of the Northern District of California (San Francisco). As noted by the Legal Pad, his firing appears to be one of the less high-profile or controversial ones.
But it’s important to us, since it raises a question about our favorite federal prosecutor:


Eumi Choi served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney under Kevin Ryan. As noted here, a previous paean to her, Choi is “a tough, smart, no-nonsense prosecutrix.”
We’re not the only ones wondering about Choi’s fate. Again, from the Legal Pad:

What’s the deal with Eumi Choi, the No. 2 to ousted U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan?

We’re hearing that the first assistant U.S. attorney has been sent down to be a line prosecutor. Not surprising, given that a new U.S. attorney such as recently appointed interim Scott Schools usually shakes up the top, especially in an office where prosecutors have frequently complained about management.

But Choi didn’t have much to say today when asked whether her job description had changed. She said she’d talk with office spokesman Luke Macaulay about getting us an answer.

This post was from March 5, and we see no subsequent posts about Choi over at the Legal Pad. So does anyone know what Choi is up to these days?
Is it true that she has been demoted? If so, we condemn such a move. Why are people so afraid of strong leadership?
And what about Choi’s search for private sector employment — is it still ongoing? Back in January, The Recorder reported that Choi “has had her resume floating around Silicon Valley for weeks.”
If you have any information about Eumi Choi and what she’s up to these days, please email us. Thanks.
Shred of Truth to Demotion of Ryan’s Sidekick? [Legal Pad]
E-Mails Paint Picture of Ryan’s Firing [Legal Pad]
Direction of Apple Probe Clouded by Shakeups in U.S. Attorney’s Office [The Recorder]
Earlier: How Yummy Is Eumi?
What Part of “Fabulous” Do You Not Understand?

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