Benchslaps

I feel queasy just looking at this photo of Nutriloaf.

Deliberate withholding of nutritious food or substitution of tainted or otherwise sickening food, with the effect of causing substantial weight loss, vomiting, stomach pains, and maybe an anal fissure (which is no fun at all, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_fissure (visited March 15, 2012)), or other severe hardship, would violate the Eighth Amendment.

– Judge Richard Posner, in Tuesday’s ruling in Prude v. Clarke. The Seventh Circuit reinstated a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who alleged that being fed nutriloaf (a.k.a. Nutraloaf) in the Milwaukee County Jail amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

(Judge Posner had more strong words to say about nutriloaf, as well an in-depth analysis to answer this crucial question: what the heck is nutriloaf?)

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There is no better way to head into the weekend feeling good about yourself than with a little bit of schadenfreude.

To that end, we have a nice, swift benchslap to the pants from a federal court in California. Even more fun, the receiving attorneys work for a Biglaw firm.

Let’s check out one judge’s reaction to the latest in discovery shenanigans…

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Judge Jed Rakoff

It is commonplace for settlements to include no binding admission of liability. A settlement is by definition a compromise. We know of no precedent that supports the proposition that a settlement will not be found to be fair, adequate, reasonable, or in the public interest unless liability has been conceded or proved and is embodied in the judgment. We doubt whether it lies within a court’s proper discretion to reject a settlement on the basis that liability has not been conclusively determined.

Having considered the various explanations given by the district court for its refusal to permit the settlement, we conclude that the S.E.C. and Citigroup have a strong likelihood of success in their joint effort to overturn the district court’s ruling.

– A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a per curiam opinion granting a stay pending appeal in the SEC’s case against Citigroup.

(A quick refresher on this case, after the jump.)

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Periodically, we catch wind of bizarre lawsuit filings, usually pro se, and seemingly from the the minds of people with serious mental problems. We don’t write about these lawsuits, because presumably they never go anywhere. They are not newsworthy; they are just sad.

Thus, it is quite unusual to come across a 30-page district court ruling devoted entirely to addressing far-fetched Da Vinci Code-style conspiracy allegations.

The judges handling this case must go home every night and weep while drinking Jameson from the bottle. I do not envy them.

In our Benchslap of the Day, let’s watch a federal magistrate judge shoot down complaints that his judicial colleague is part of a “large, amorphous conspiracy” — like a boss…

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CHECK YOU PRECEDENT.

The issues presented in this appeal have been previously decided. Counsel were given an opportunity to distinguish our prior cases but Appellant’s counsel used that opportunity to criticize, rather than distinguish, them. There is nothing more to say. AFFIRMED.

– A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in a non-precedential order disposing of the appeal in Commonwealth Property Advocates v. U.S. Bank National Association.

(This unpublished order reminded me of two prior benchslaps, discussed below.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: You Can’t Fight City Hall (or Adverse Precedent)”

Law is not like baseball. A lawyer cannot play for one team, make a name for himself, build a local following, and then jump ship and join the New York Yankees, only to come back next season to destroy his old teammates.

In law, once you represent a client for a significant amount of time, you can’t simply oppose them down the road, even if they are no longer your client and you now work at a new firm. Obvious, right?

Unfortunately for several former DLA Piper attorneys, something there got lost in translation. A federal judge in San Francisco booted the lawyers, now at the litigation boutique of Feinberg Day, from a patent dispute involving Toshiba and Talon Research. It turned out that the attorneys, who represented Talon Research, had logged more than 3,000 hours for Toshiba when they were still at DLA. Not good.

Let’s look more closely at our benchslap of the day

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Some people, once they have been defeated, simply give up and fade into the cold, dark night. But others refuse to lie down and be devoured by wolves. Like Liam Neeson, they tape broken bottles to their fingers and strap their hunting knives to their frostbitten hands and fight until there’s nothing left.

A now ex-lawyer from Maryland seems to fall under that second category. She seems to have tried every trick in the book (and several not in the book) to fight getting disbarred.

It didn’t work. And now she’s on the receiving end of an absolutely vicious benchslap.

Was our ex-lawyer of the day unethical? Perhaps. Unprofessional? Maybe. But you can’t say she didn’t try…

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Judge Jeffrey White

At the administrative appeal from the denial of benefits, Chief Judge Kozinski found that the FEHB statute confers on the OPM [Office of Personnel Management] the discretion to extend health benefits to same-sex couples by interpreting the terms “family members” and “member of the family” to set a floor, not a ceiling, to coverage eligibility…. The Court finds this reasoning unpersuasive.

– Judge Jeffrey S. White, in his recent order in Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management, which concluded that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

(Context and commentary, after the jump.)

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Chris Christie has an idea for Warren Buffett.

* How can you tout your achievements in a cover letter without sounding like a tool? Here are some pointers from Professor Eugene Volokh. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* The “unbundling” of legal services is a big buzzword when talking about the direction of the profession. But Jordan Furlong has a question: should lawyers and law firms start thinking about “rebundling”? [Law21.ca]

* Benchslap of the day earlier this month: the Fourth Circuit smacks around some saucy AUSAs. [Legal Blog Watch]

* “[P]ublic drunkenness is not illegal in NYC.” (Elie will be glad to hear this.) [Gothamist]

* How will SCOTUS rule on the Stolen Valor Act? Mike Sacks reads the oral argument tea leaves. [Huffington Post]

* Chris Christie to Warren Buffett: if you want to pay more in taxes, “just write a check and shut up.” [Dealbreaker]

* A Harvard Law School student, Matthew Schoenfeld, stands up for a good cause. [Harvard Law School News]

Judge Carlos Bea

Judge Carlos Bea is one of my favorite members of the Ninth Circuit. He’s refreshingly conservative, on a famously (or infamously) liberal court. He has a fascinating personal history; how many federal judges can claim they were almost deported? He has an ancestral home — some call it a castle — in Spain, which he sometimes makes available to vacationing law clerks. And he tools about town in a vintage Rolls-Royce (which, rumor has it, he received as payment for legal work before he took the bench).

Well, it looks like one assistant U.S. attorney has some expensive tire marks on his back. Check out the epic benchslap that Judge Bea just dished out — not just to the poor prosecutor, but to the United States Department of Justice….

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