Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal joined ATL in 2008 by winning the ATL Idol Contest. Prior to joining ATL, Elie wrote about politics and popular culture at City Hall News and the New York Press. Elie received a degree in Government from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He was formerly a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton but quit the legal profession to pursue a career as an online provocateur. He's written editorials for the New York Daily News and the New York Times, and he has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News without having to lie about his politics to either news organization.

Posts by Elie Mystal

In the most Canada news ever, a man has brought a class action suit against the Canadian government for its failure to control the moose population in Newfoundland and Labrador. An appeals court dismissed the claim, but personal injury lawyer Ches Crosbie vows to take his campaign all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court: “The case is unprecedented in many ways… It’s rife with live legal issues for a court of appeal.”

The theory of liability here is that the Canadian government introduced moose to Newfoundland island in 1904 as a source of food. Now their population is out of control, and motorists routinely slam into them and are injured by the large herbivores.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly… the solution is NOT to release an “apex predator” to control the moose population. A prime moose can generally not be messed with by any alpha predator. Top predators will eat some moose calves, but when you get out to check the damage the moose did to your car, the sound of timber wolves closing in around you is not something you are going to want to hear.

Oh, and for the Texans in the audience, shooting them hasn’t really been a successful answer either. Sorry Canada, you have a trophic cascade on your hands, and there is little that can be done about it….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moose Law”

Eventually, we will live in a country where we are all victims of bullying. We will all be victims of cyber-bullying or schoolyard bullying or workplace bullying. Then we can all cry about it over a glass of wine and talk about our feelings. And our evolution into France will be complete.

We’re not there yet, but a new study seems like an important data point on our slow decline into perpetual butthurt. Business Insider reports on a Career Builder survey where people in management were more likely to say that they had been bullied at work (27%) than people in entry-level jobs (26%).

Now sure, some of that is just probably due to career length. On your way up to the top (or to the middle, as it were), you probably have had more opportunities to be bullied than a new worker. But, you know, there was a time in this country when the boss wouldn’t bitch and moan about how mean other people have been to him.

That time is evidently over. My God people, you should just check out what some of these people even count as bullying…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Stop Bullying The Partners You Work For”

Many people who go to Harvard Law School are going to end up in a Biglaw job at some point. The debt is too high, the money is too good, and the path into Biglaw is too easy for most HLS grads to resist, at least for a time.

Everybody has their price, and everybody deals with the reality of selling out for their price in their own way. Most people promise themselves that it’s “only temporary,” as if there is going to be some magical point in their future where making as much money as possible will not be that important. Others drown the better angels of their nature in substances or consumerism. Some people actually love their Biglaw jobs, God bless ‘em. They work hard and are fairly compensated for their efforts.

But then there are the people who rationalize their choices as somehow contributing to the the greater social good. These are the people who tout their pro bono work, as if spending five hours looking at contracts for Habitat for Humanity negates the 70 hours they spent helping real estate moguls build luxury condos. These people aren’t concerned with “doing good” as much as they’re concerned with being judged by do-gooders. You’d think that they could use some of that money and stick it in their ears and say, “La la la, I can’t hear you over the drone of my eight-cylinder HEMI iSprocketdoodle, which you can’t even afford to Google.”

When backed into a moral corner, some people admit defeat and buy an expensive wine, other people fight back with ridiculously self-serving logic. And Harvard Law School excels at self-serving logic…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What Harvard Law Students Tell Themselves When The Demons Come”


We mentioned this morning a National Law Journal report that law schools have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in new buildings even while the market for legal education collapses around them.

I don’t really have much to add to that report, but I just kind of want everybody to internalize that information. Their business model is ON FIRE, yet they’re building new s**t. Emperor Nero had a better grasp on long-term planning than law school deans…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Schools Invest In Very Sturdy Deck Chairs”

As has been reported, everywhere, some law school you’ve never heard of sold its naming rights to some guy you’ve never heard of for a sum of money that will be pissed away before you can blink.

I get why a major corporation would pay to name a stadium. It’s advertising. I just got back from Indiana and, what do you know, turns out Lucas Oil is a thing. I even get it when a law school names a stadium. I mean, it’s stupid, but I get it. Go Lugnuts.

But why would a private citizen pay $50 million to affix his name to an eight-year-old law school he didn’t even attend? There are people grinding out Crucible emblems in Destiny that aren’t as pointlessly vain…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Why Would You Even Want To Name A Law School?”

The story going around the legal internet today is about the creative advertisements from lawyer Svitlana Sangary. Nobody really knows what kind of “lawyer” she is, but it doesn’t matter. Sangary was nailed with an ethics violation and license suspension by the State Bar of California. The Recorder reports that Sangary photoshopped herself into pictures with famous celebrities.

Bill Clinton, Barack Obama (curious that I named them in that order), George Clooney, Magic Johnson — the list goes on. Protip, Svitlana: People with the kind of “access” you suggest you have don’t like to get their pictures taken.

That this amounts to deceptive lawyer advertising efforts is obvious. You can see the pics below. But if you read the ethics ruling against her, Sangary’s statements do not look to me like a charlatan attorney looking to pull a fast one on unsuspecting clients. Instead, Sangary presents to me as a sympathetic immigrant who bought a bill of goods we call the “American Dream” without bothering to read the fine print. She’s like a person who learned about business from The Apprentice and learned law from Legally Blonde.

Actually, I don’t know how she graduated from law school. I’d ask her, but she’d assert her “first amendment right to remain silent.”…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The American Dream, As Told Through A Photoshop Ethics Violation”

Today is Constitution Day. Today we celebrate a group of racist, white, male landowners finalizing a brilliant document that could be changed to overcome their parochial limitations.

I’m not the kind of guy to chestily proclaim that America is the greatest country on Earth, but I’ll put our organizing legal document up there with anyone’s. I’ve read a lot of constitutions (3L Comparative Constitutional Law finally paying off), and I’m always impressed by our document’s ability to allow for so many different and fractious opinions on how the country should operate. Whether or not you believe in a “living” constitution in the Brandies sense of the word, that our constitution is still alive is damn impressive. As written, our president and our presidential front-runner couldn’t even vote. Half the country went to WAR to get out of the constitution, and when they lost, we didn’t even say, “Okay, let’s start over so this never happens again.” We fixed the constitution after the Civil War, but we didn’t bother to fix the South. Amazingballs.

One of the main strengths of our constitution lies in its amendment process. The thing can be changed, quite easily actually, so long as everybody agrees. And it turns out that we don’t agree very much.

To honor this document, some of us at Above the Law wanted to look at the surprising instances since 1787 when we all agreed. The Bill of Rights doesn’t count. And the Civil War amendments don’t count because, well, we didn’t really all “agree” so much as half of us got their asses kicked and had to eat it. So let’s go with any amendment after the first 15. You could make a compelling case that American political thought can be explained by which of those first 15 Amendments are the most important to you or to your life (and if you read that and thought “the 8th,” I feel so goddamn sorry for you).

But while the latter amendments aren’t likely to show up on a 1L’s list of “amendments I know by number,” they define our modern polity almost as much as the first ten. Let’s talk about them. Let’s talk about our moddable constitution…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Constitution Day Special: Our Favorite Unheralded Amendments”

When being judged by a jury of your peers, is it necessary that some of those peers be members of your ethnic or racial group? Hold on, white people, I’m not asking you. You might talk tough on the internet, but if you were the defendant in a trial and you walked in and saw the entire Wu-Tang Clan sitting in the jury box you’d have a freaking conniption. And… it would NEVER happen to you. A white person would never have to face an “all-other” jury. Your opinions on how you’d feel about a situation that would never happen to you matters less to me.

For the rest of us, being judged by zero people from your peer racial or ethnic group is a legitimate possibility. Is that fair? Almost certainly not. Is it presumptively unfair? That’s kind of a different question. Can we presume that 12 white people can’t give a black person a fair trial? Should a judge stop a trial once he sees that a person is about to face a jury devoid of any of her racial peers?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “When Is An All-White Jury Not Okay?”

Good news, another law school has cut its tuition. For all of the… creative ways some schools are trying to cope with decreasing law school applications, tuition cuts still seem like the only thing that is likely to help.

But even as some schools start to cut, you wonder if tuition can ever be rolled back to the point where law school is cost-effective for the current generation of prospective law students. Law schools have been raising tuition, every year, for decades. Is cutting tuition now just like putting on perfume instead of taking a shower?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School Cuts Tuition, But We Still Have A Long Way To Go”

The Daily Business Review has a nice article up on the declining number of applications to law schools in Florida. You are familiar with the gist, if not the details. Applications are down at all but one Florida law school. The money quote is from George Dawson, dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law: “If any law school dean told you he or she wasn’t concerned, you shouldn’t believe it…We had a significant problem this past year … with applications down 20 percent.”

Well, that’s the money quote from a news perspective. From a comedy perspective, we’ve got to check in on a different law school…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Candy Crush Law School”

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