Bad Ideas

abstract art contemporary art.jpg* Look at us, we’re patrons in training! Our law firms are getting funky with their art. But let’s hope they draw the line at installation art. [New York Observer]
* If you want something dirty, keep up with the Heather Mills / Paul McCartney divorce. The divorce papers were leaked, and everybody’s getting sued. [Daily Telegraph]
(Because, honestly, who the f&*k is Sara Evans, and does she have only one leg?)
* If you want something really dirty, both literally and figuratively, read about the prosecutor who allegedly had sex with a paralegal — in a stadium bathroom stall. [Seattle Times]
* I wonder what happens to puppy killers in jail? [Washington Times]
* I think Elmo has always been on something. Or maybe it’s just an overactive thyroid. [KVBC]

man in suit grabbing cash.jpgYou’re a partner at the Chicago powerhouse law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, which generally ranks as the most profitable non-New York Biglaw firm in the country. But you decide that a six- to seven-figure income isn’t enough for your needs. So you do this:

1. Sell fraudulent certificates of deposit for $1.8 million.
2. Set up a bank account in the name of an LLC in Florida for the money.
3. Hire somebody to use the money to buy cashiers checks.
4. Proceed to blow hundreds of thousands of dollars on a girlfriend, a wedding, a honeymoon, and his Barrington, IL. lifestyle.
5. Leave the money off your tax return.

This is the scheme hatched by former K&E partner Robert Hallock. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work:

A Chicago-area attorney was convicted of tax evasion in federal court Wednesday for attempting to hide more than $1 million from the IRS. Robert W. Hallock, 62, a former partner at Kirkland & Ellis, was convicted in a bench trial of earning some $1.8 million in 1997 from the sale of fraudulent certificates of deposit.

Hallock funneled the money through a Florida bank account and used it to buy two cars, a truck and nearly $145,000 in jewelry, said Atlanta-based U.S. Atty. David Nahmais, whose office handled the case. He also gave $150,000 to his girlfriend and her parents, prosecutors charged.

Hallock sounds like a criminal and a moron. But he does get points for cojones and creativity. Here’s what he argued at trial:

[Hallock] argued that since [he] was obligated under the UCC to repay the money, he did not have any income — in his words, “a good faith belief, even if crazy, negates willfulness.”

Leave it to a tax lawyer to come up with an argument like that.
Former Kirkland & Ellis Partner Convicted of Tax Evasion [TaxProf Blog]
Bad Barrington Barrister Busted [Roth & Company, P.C.]
Chicago-Area Attorney Convicted of Tax Evasion [Chicago Tribune]

wedgie.jpgWe can’t wait for the 1983 action. From the Associated Press:

The principal of Park High School returned to school Tuesday after a six-day suspension for giving a student a “wedgie.” The Livingston School District Board held a special meeting Monday and approved Superintendent Hannibal Anderson’s recommendation that Principal Eric Messerli be allowed to return to work.

“It has been clearly recognized and stated that the behavior is inappropriate, unprofessional and unacceptable,” Anderson said.

Plainly inappropriate. But people may be getting their tighty-whities in a wad over this:

Messerli cried Monday as he read a statement to the board and the public. “I’ve made mistakes in my life, but none have had the impact that this one has had,” he said.

He cried? Wow. That chafing must have been really bad.
Here is Tom Elia’s take:

Unnamed legal sources claim that the suspension would have been at least double if the plain ‘wedgie’ has been accompanied by a ‘pink belly,’ or had risen to the level of ‘atomic wedgie.’

There was some debate about what the penalty for administering ‘noogies’ should be, however.

(And there’s more; check out the full post here.)
Montana Principal Returns After ‘Wedgie’ [Associated Press]
Montana Principal Returns From Suspension After Giving Student ‘Wedgie’ [The New Editor]

sinking ship milberg weiss.jpgWe’re vaguely troubled by the title of this WSJ Law Blog post (’cause it makes us think of this). But it does report on a notable move within the legal profession, so we will plow ahead.
From the aforementioned post:

Matthew Gluck is joining Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman as a senior partner, marking a significant hire for the plaintiffs’ law firm. Gluck had been a litigation partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson since 1973….

Milberg Weiss was indicted in May on fraud charges based on allegations that it paid plaintiffs to file cases. It pleaded not guilty and has vowed to fight the charges. Since the indictment, the firm has lost a significant number of partners and associates.

Gluck’s move continues the trend of breaking down the barrier between plaintiffs’ firms and Biglaw. Sometimes Biglaw associates might, after a few years of practice, move over to the plaintiffs’ side; but such moves at the partner level were much less common. Biglaw was Biglaw, plaintiffs’ firms were plaintiffs’ firms, and never the twain shall meet.
This may be changing. Gluck’s move, from Fried Frank to Milberg Weiss, comes not long after former Milberg Weiss name partner Patricia Hynes moved in the opposite direction — from Milberg Weiss to the New York office of Allen & Overy, the defense-oriented British firm.*
So why did Gluck make the move?

Gluck, 64 years old, is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Cornell University. He told the WSJ’s Nathan Koppel he was soon facing retirement age at Fried Frank and wanted a new challenge.

Attempting to turn around a class-action-complaint mill under federal indictment would indeed qualify as a “challenge.” But the undaunted Gluck is surprisingly sanguine about Milberg’s future:

“I don’t know why people have left [the firm] except for panic,” he says. “It doesn’t strike me as rational.”

Not “rational”? Clients defecting en masse, partners fleeing in droves, courts taking the firm off cases, or refusing to appoint them in new ones… Call us Debbie Downer, but this doesn’t sound too promising.
Even if you question the original decisions of clients, partners, and courts to abandon Milberg in the first instance, here’s the problem: the prophecy of doom has turned self-fulfilling. Does the name “Arthur Andersen” ring a bell? Even though the accounting firm was ultimately vindicated in the Supreme Court, that vindication came too late.
But hey, Matt Gluck’s arrival is undoubtedly a good thing for Milberg. In addition to being an experienced litigator, Gluck has — as noted by Milberg Weiss managing partner Sanford Dumain — “superb credentials in the area of bankruptcy law.”
* Yes, Allen & Overy is one of the “Magic Circle” firms. There, we said it. Now wasn’t that fun?
Fried Frank Partner Comes In Through Milberg’s Out Door [WSJ Law Blog]
Milberg Gets Fried Frank Veteran [Wall Street Journal]
Against Tide, Lawyer Joins Milberg Weiss [New York Times]
Matthew Gluck bio [Martindale-Hubbell]

beer alcohol drinking.jpg* “I’m not as think as you guilty I am, occifer.” [Kansas City Star via How Appealing; New York Times]
* If she’s caffeine, I’ll be having decaf with my French Toast Fantasy this morning. [WSJ Law Blog]
* I’m not necessarily saying that taking a bus to a college town, pitching a tent, and hacking up a bunch of coeds in an attempt to become a “criminal superstar” was a “bad” idea; let’s just say it suffered from poor execution. []
* Ok, when I said I wasn’t going to run for President, what I meant was, yeah, I’m probably going to run for President. [Washington Post; New York Times; Associated Press]
* I say that the bar owners are negligent. I mean, they’ve got the colleges and the rivers sitting right there. Can’t they see what’s gonna happen when they have $3 pitcher “drown your sorrows” night? [AP via Online Athens]

bully video game.jpgHere at Above the Law, we’re not all about silliness. We have a serious and more practical side, too.
Last month, in honor of fall recruiting season, we shared with you our Top Ten Interview Tips. This is what’s known in the trade as “service journalism,” or what U.S. News and World Report calls “news you can use.”
We now bring you the first post in an occasional series of ATL Practice Pointers. You’ve landed the legal job of your dreams. Now, what do you have to do in order to keep it?
Today’s tip is about being a good loser. Even the most talented attorneys lose sometimes. Superstar litigator David Boies, for example, lost a little case called Bush v. Gore. So what’s the best way to handle professional setbacks?
Practice Pointer #1: Don’t send the judge nasty, ad hominem letters after he renders a decision against you.
The ACS Blog brings us this news:

Florida attorney Jack Thompson recently lost a case seeking to enjoin the sale of “Bully”, a video game which puts the player in the shoes of a high school ruffian. In response to his loss, Thompson delivered a letter to the judge in the case:

Dear Judge Friedman:

Now that you have consigned innumerable children to skull fractures, eye injuries from slingshots, and beatings with baseball bats, without a hearing as to the danger, let me tell you a few things, with all respect for your office and with no respect for the arbitrary way in which you handled this matter. I can handle an adverse ruling by a judge. I’ve had plenty of those in my lifetime, and that’s fine. But the way you conducted yourself today helps explain why a great Dade County Judge, the late Rhea Pincus Grossman, could not abide you. She was not the only one….

Luckily for Thompson, Judge Grossman is no longer around. She probably wouldn’t have appreciated being ratted out like that.*
The letter goes on for a while, before concluding as follows:

Next time you promise a “hearing,” I’ll bring a parent with me whose kid is in the ground because of a kid who trained to kill him or her on a violent video game. Try mocking that person, I dare you.

Which brings us to Practice Pointer #2: Don’t threaten a judge, either — even a mere state court judge.
* We’re assuming this enmity between the judges was not open and notorious; but maybe it was.
How Not To Speak To a Judge [ACSBlog]
Judge Gives Bully Game the Go Ahead [Tech Law Prof Blog]
“Bully” Case Document Dump [GamePolitics]
Letter from John Thompson to Judge Ronald Friedman [ (Word document)]
Earlier: A PSA from ATL: Top Ten Interview Tips

cameroon cameroun.jpgOkay, so he’s actually a law student (as a number of you nitpickers would surely point out). Anyway, here’s the story:

A 26-year-old law school standout was arrested for pretending to be a New Jersey congressman, so he could obtain visas for relatives and others in his native Cameroon, said a federal prosecutor.

Njock Eyong is charged with impersonating a federal official, possession of fraudulent visa documents, and fraud by wire scheme, according to an Oct. 11 indictment in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C….

While in Washington, he worked as an intern for New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald M. Payne. In summer 2003, Eyong used the congressman’s signature machines and official stationery to demand that visas be issued, said Barbara Kittay of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.

Was Eyong’s fraud hard to detect? Well, the feds knew something was up when letters like this one started emanating from Rep. Payne’s office:

Dearest BELOVED:

I am BARRISTER NJOCK EYONG, Solicitor. I am the Personal Attorney to ENGR: J.M. PEDRO a national of your country, who used to work with shell development company in Bakassi CAMEROUN, who is seeking a VISA…

Student Accused Of Impersonating N.J. Congressman [CBS/AP]

anna nicole smith.jpgProfessor Laura Appleman, who teaches at Willamette University College of Law and blogs at Legal Ethics Forum, has just written a fascinating and fun piece about the Anna Nicole Smith saga. Appleman examines the relationship between Smith and her attorney-cum-paramour, Howard K. Stern, from a legal ethics perspective.
Even those of you whose recollections of legal ethics are fuzzy have probably thought there was something fishy about Stern’s conduct. Well, you thought right. Appleman offers a laundry list of legal ethics rules that Stern may have violated.
We commend the entire piece to you. But those of you who sitting for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam on November 4 will especially appreciate this excerpt:

[H]ere’s our first problem: Assuming, as we are, that our fictional lawyer is sleeping with his fictional client, that said fictional lawyer has allegedly impregnated said client, and that there are some competing paternity claims, what is the best course for the lawyer to pursue?

Is it (a) withdraw from the representation of the client and advise her to seek objective counsel; (b) withdraw from the representation and engage counsel of his own to litigate the paternity claim; (c) withdraw from the representation, engage his own counsel, and appoint a guardian pro tem for the child; or (d) all of the above, while also retaining complete confidentiality of the client’s information, including any client information that affects his personal interests?

Apparently, Stern instead chose (e) continued representation of the client, failure to retain counsel for himself or the child, and disregard for the confidentiality of the client’s information. Stern, an overachiever, decided to accomplish this last goal in most dramatic fashion by outing himself as the putative father on “Larry King Live.” And although there is no specific Rule 1.6 prohibition on “Larry King Live” appearances (not even in the Comments—trust me, I looked), I think we can safely assume that flaunting your client’s secrets on national television is verboten.

And you thought WE were snarky…
(Disclosure: We went to law school with Appleman. And yes, she was hilarious back then, too.)
Please Don’t Squeeze the Client []

fat person eating.jpg* Does fat = lazy or lazy = fat? Becker and Posner discuss the “Fat Law” and causation, but do not explain why there are so many fat people at Disneyland and on the Jerry Springer show. [Becker-Posner Blog (Posner); Becker-Posner Blog (Becker)]
* If we’ve committed genocide, you’ve committed genocide. French-Armenian crooner Charles Aznavour would have some profound words, or perhaps a melody, about this legislative controversy. [Jurist]
* Since when is political incorrectness a crime? I think the only crime here is this girl’s overplucked eyebrows. [Daily Mail]
* We know that law school + Texas = limited party options, but please, no one does “Pimps and Hos” anymore. [In the Pink Texas]

naked man with keyboard.JPGWe’ve blogged a fair amount about Scott Blauvelt, the Ohio prosecutor charged with public indecency for walking around his office in the nude. His lawyer, Michael Gmoser, seems to be laying the groundwork for an insanity defense. In a statement issued yesterday, Gmoser said that his client was seriously injured in a 2005 car accident, suffers from mental illness, and is “an American with a disability.”*
But Orin Kerr, blogger and criminal law professor extraordinaire, offers a more persuasive defense:

Was Blauvelt’s conduct actually a crime? Let’s assume Blauvelt was conscious and not having some sort of seizure that might raise voluntary act or mens rea issues. Here’s what I gather is the relevant text of the Ohio public indency statute, R.C. § 2907.09(a):

No person shall recklessly do any of the following, under circumstances in which the person’s conduct is likely to be viewed by and affront others who are in the person’s physical proximity and who are not members of the person’s household . . . Expose his or her private parts.

There are some interesting ambiguities in the statute, but it seems to me that the key question is whether Blauvelt was naked “under circumstances in which the person’s conduct is likely to be viewed by and affront others who are in the person’s physical proximity.”

We don’t know a lot of the facts here, but based on the story it doesn’t seem like this element has been satisfied. As best we know, the only person who saw Blauvelt was the security guard, who saw him at night via a remote security camera. If the courthouse was closed and no one else was expected to be physically nearby, I would think that the statute probably wasn’t violated.

Good stuff. Professor Kerr is one academic who actually knows his way around the real world of law. (This should come as no surprise. Before joining the ranks of the Elect, by clerking for Justice Kennedy, he was an Honors Program trial attorney in the Justice Department’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property section.)
We have offered some irreverent commentary on Scott Blauvelt’s case. But for the record, we are all in favor of working in the buff. Isn’t that one of the best aspects of working from home?
* Query: Might it be a “reasonable accommodation” under the ADA to let Blauvelt walk around naked?
The Strange Case of the Naked Prosecutor [Volokh Conspiracy]
Earlier: The Case of the Naked Prosecutor, and A Brief Note on Owning It
Scott Blauvelt Needs a New Office Chair

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