Benchslaps

* Dewey know how many professional firms have been allowed to stay on as advisers for the largest law firm bankruptcy in U.S. history? Six out of nine firms were permitted to continue services, but Proskauer wasn’t one of them. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* In other defunct firm news, Al Togut will be presenting Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former partners with a proposed settlement on Wednesday. You’ve been warned: prepare yourselves for some Biglaw-style bitching. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Despite reports of the billable hour going the way of the dodo bird, it looks like they’re here to stay. Right now, corporate law departments are still much more excited about alternative billing arrangements than law firms. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Judge Sam Sparks, the King of Benchslaps, dismissed Lance Armstrong’s lawsuit against the USADA in record time. That ruling came too quickly — guess it’s time to investigate judicial doping. [New York Times]

* Marc Dreier’s son, Spencer Dreier, is representing himself pro se in a defamation suit against his former college roommate. Looks like Daddy couldn’t spring for his kid’s lawyer while he was in the clink. [Bloomberg]

* A California woman claims that the Food and Drug Administration’s methods regarding sperm donations are unconstitutional. Why should she have to go to an intermediary to get sperminated? [Huffington Post]

* Do you smell what The Rock is cooking? It’s not exactly something to be proud of. Actor Dwayne Johnson is listed as a “co-conspirator” in a $1.8M fraud lawsuit that’s been filed by a South Florida family. [NBC Miami]

Paul Ceglia’s lawsuit claiming a major ownership stake in Facebook is heating up again. There has been a flurry of court activity over the last couple of weeks, and it looks like things are getting close (we can only hope) to a thrilling conclusion.

In a new, strongly worded ruling, a federal magistrate judge threatened to impose more sanctions on Ceglia and ordered him to produce a letter written by Kasowitz, one of his (many) former law firms, which Facebook’s attorneys say will blow the doors off whatever remains of his case.

Let’s take a ride on the benchslap express….

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This morning saw significant activity at the U.S. Supreme Court. Although we did not get a ruling in the health care reform case (aka Obamacare), SCOTUS did hand down a number of important opinions. Check back later today, when we expect to have color commentary from our Supreme Court correspondent, Matt Kaiser, who attended the proceedings in person.

In the meantime, here’s a quick and dirty summary of what transpired at One First Street this morning, including links to the underlying opinions. The most high-profile case was the Court’s decision on the controversial Arizona immigration law, but there were other major cases that were resolved today as well….

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Judge Martini could probably use a drink right now.

Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit delivered two stinging benchslaps of Judge William J. Martini (D.N.J.). The benchslaps were delivered in two different cases by two separate three-judge panels, but both opinions vacated rulings by Judge Martini and also directed that the cases be reassigned to new judges on remand.

Ouch. As noted by the Newark Star-Ledger, “[i]t amounted to an extremely rare and harsh rebuke of a well-known federal judge who once served in Congress.” (Before he was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2002, Bill Martini served a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives; he ran for re-election but was defeated.)

What did Judge Martini allegedly do to incur the wrath of the Third Circuit? And what did the opinions have to say about His Honor?

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As Brian Tannebaum wrote earlier today, many lawyers (and their cases) live and die by the ticking of the clock. Any attorney — or anyone who’s ever talked with an attorney — has heard about late nights struggling to file a brief by deadline.

So what happens when a litigant files a motion for appeal at 3 a.m. instead of the 12 a.m. deadline, and the judge allows the late filing anyway, then dismisses it on the merits… leading to yet another appeal?

In our Benchslap of the Day, Judge Frank Easterbrook writes, “it does not take a reference to Cinderella to show that midnight marks the end of one day and the start of another.” But maybe the plaintiff in the case does need to remember that he turns into a pumpkin at midnight, not 3 a.m….

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The “It firm” of May 2012 would appear to be Greenberg Traurig. It’s the Biglaw behemoth that’s generating the greatest buzz and the most headlines right now (not counting Dewey & LeBoeuf, which will soon find itself in bankruptcy).

Whenever there’s a big story, GT is there. In the past month, it has appeared in these pages as the possible savior of Dewey, the actual savior of Dewey’s Poland operations, and the victim of some alleged rudeness by a divorce lawyer in Texas.

And, of course, Greenberg Traurig has found itself at the center of the TD Bank controversy. Late last week, Judge Marcia Cooke held a contempt hearing, to decide whether Greenberg should be sanctioned due to a discovery debacle.

The hearing spanned two days and featured some high-powered witnesses. What happened?

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Respondent brandishes his opinion as a battering ram, intentionally offending people. This Panel does not believe these are “slips of the tongue” or inadvertant. Respondent is intentional in his conduct and bull whips people by his words with a zeal. While in private life he may be as rude, offensive and demeaning as he chooses, in his professional life he may not hide behind his First Amendment rights to ignore his sworn responsibilities.

– Presiding Disciplinary Judge William J. O’Neil of the Arizona Supreme Court, in a recent ethics opinion concluding that attorney Meyer L. Ziman should be suspended for one year’s time, with reinstatement on probation.

(So what did Ziman allegedly do that was bad enough to warrant his suspension? Let’s find out, after the jump.)

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Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.

Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.

It’s a cautionary tale for litigators….

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Matthew Powers: 'pimp hands' don't knot neckties.

The renowned IP litigator Matthew Powers, founding partner of Tensegrity Law Group, has a nickname here at Above the Law. We like to call him Matt “Pimp Hand” Powers. Back in 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Powers, former cochair of litigation at Weil, ruled over his domain by alternating between use of the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

Over the years, numerous litigants have felt the sting of Powers’s pimp hand. He has been described, quite accurately, as “one of the most feared, respected, and successful patent litigators in the country.” As noted on his website bio, Matt Powers “is known for taking tough cases to trial and winning them,” on behalf of leading technology companies like Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and Intel.

But now the tables have turned. Powers recently found himself on the receiving end of a benchslap — from a lowly administrative law judge, ick….

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Tim Pori

Time conflicts are an unavoidable part of litigation. Scheduling and re-rescheduling trials and court hearings — it’s simply part of the litigation process. It’s a pain, but most of the time, an attorney shouldn’t get too much flak for a legitimate scheduling conflict.

But this week, one Bay Area criminal defense lawyer has gotten caught between a rock and two murder trials. A local judge was unhappy when he missed a hearing for one murder case because he was in court for another murder case of in another county. Now he’s facing contempt charges and jail time.

This is just another reason why we really should be investing more in teleportation technology….

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