Benchslaps

“The People’s Court” is not a court, body, agency, public servant or other person authorized by law to conduct a proceeding and to administer the oath or cause it to be administered… [T]he statements made on the show have no more probative force than the words of an actor reading from a script in a play.

–Brooklyn judge Francois A. Rivera, in an opinion dismissing testimony given in Judge Marilyn Milian’s courtroom.

(Gavel bang: Yale Law & Technology.)

U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett won’t get the publicity of Judge Martin Feldman. Obviously, blocking President Obama’s deep-water drilling moratorium — having already disclosed investments in Transocean and Halliburton — is big news.

But Judge Bennett is making waves of his own in his Iowa courtroom. He’s decided that he wants lawyers to participate in an auction to determine who will get to serve as lead counsel in some consolidated antitrust cases.

And he informed lawyers of this with a curious email. The subject line alone is not something one expects from a federal judge:

Waterman v. VS Holding Co. et al (10cv4038) – consolidated antitrust actions – “going once, twice, sold to the lowest bidder” – ready to rumble?

Not only is this judge “ready to rumble,” he’s also ready to insult lawyers from East Coast law firms…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa Is ‘Underwhelmed’ By East Coast Law Firms”

Our typical Lawyer of the Day is an attorney you’ve never heard of, from a firm you’ve never heard of. It’s highly unusual for LOTD honors to go to a pair of legal titans, two of the nation’s leading litigators: Ted Wells (pictured) and Marty Flumenbaum, the co-chair and former chair, respectively, of the celebrated litigation department at Paul Weiss.

It appears, however, that the honors are deserved. The New York Law Journal reports:

A New Jersey judge has sanctioned two firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Lowenstein Sandler, for pursuing a “frivolous” and “ridiculous” legal claim on behalf of billionaire Ronald Perelman against his 85-year-old ex-father-in-law [Robert Cohen]….

Superior Court Judge Ellen L. Koblitz ruled that Perelman’s attorneys should have known that the claim was unsupportable. “No competent attorney could have missed the frivolous nature of this promise claim once the unhelpful testamentary documents were received,” Koblitz said in ordering the sanctions last Wednesday. “There was no legal or factual basis for the plaintiffs to proceed with their amended complaint given the evidence they had and the state of the law in New Jersey.”

Ouch — quite the stinging benchslap. The Garden State hasn’t seen such a slugging since the first season of Jersey Shore.

And other marquee names got dragged into this mess — a pair of high-powered lady lawyers, in fact….

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kirkland ellis logo.JPGIs the customer always right? In the legal profession, not necessarily. As a lawyer, sometimes your job is to talk some sense into your client — and to refuse to move forward if your client, ignoring your advice, orders you to prosecute frivolous (or borderline frivolous) litigation.

Perhaps this lesson needs to be learned by Kirkland & Ellis. The super-prestigious firm, known for its world-class litigation practice, recently got benchslapped by the Seventh Circuit. From Judge Posner’s opinion:

[T]he defendants’ motion for sanctions should not have been denied. The plaintiffs’ lawyers [at Kirkland] may secretly agree, for they make no attempt to counter the arguments for sanctions made in the defendants’ brief even though the district judge denied the motion without explanation. They follow suit by merely asking us, without explanation, to affirm the denial.

The motion complained that Carr is harassing the defendants with repetitive litigation, including a suit — this suit — that borders on the frivolous, even though he is an immensely successful lawyer represented on appeal by one of the nation’s premier law firms, Kirkland and Ellis, as well as by his son Bruce Carr of the Rex Carr Law Firm, which the plaintiff formed after the break-up of his old firm.

At least Judge Posner referred to K&E as “one of the nation’s premier law firms.” Slap that up on the Kirkland website?

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Daytona Law.jpgDavid W. Glasser, a local attorney in Daytona Florida, received a major benchslap from U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell. It is short, it is sweet, and it appears entirely deserved. Here’s the order from the court. Glasser is the plaintiff’s lawyer:

This matter came before the Court without oral argument upon consideration of Plaintiff’s, Carolyn Nault (“Plaintiff”), Response to this Court’s Order and Motion for Voluntary Dismissal (collectively, the “Motion”) (Docs. 21 and 22). Upon review, it is
ORDERED that the Motion is DENIED without prejudice for failing to comply with
Local Rule 3.01(g), for failing to secure a stipulation of dismissal from Defendant pursuant to FED.R. CIV. 41(a)(ii), and for otherwise being riddled with unprofessional grammatical and typographical errors that nearly render the entire Motion incomprehensible.

Ouch.
Just for good measure, Judge Presnell also ordered Glasser to show the judge’s order to his client:

It is FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s counsel, David W. Glasser, shall re-read the
Local Rules and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in their entirety. Furthermore, Mr. Glasser shall personally hand deliver a copy of this Order, together with the Court’s exhibit attached thereto, to his client, Carolyn Nault, by no later than Monday, September 21, 2009. By no later than Wednesday, September 23, 2009, Mr. Glasser shall file with the Court a “Notice of Compliance,” certifying to the Court that he has fully complied with this Order.
DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, Orlando, Florida on September 15, 2009.

The “exhibit attached thereto” is presumably the judge’s corrected copy of Glasser’s memo. Let’s check it out after the jump.

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Andrew Sullivan Andrew M Sullivan Andrew Michael Sullivan.jpgApologies for not getting to this story earlier. Sometimes things fall through the cracks around here. (We were offline for much of Thursday and Friday, attending Lavender Law.)
Last week, a federal magistrate judge questioned the propriety of the U.S. Attorney’s Office moving to dismiss a marijuana possession charge against Andrew Sullivan. Yes, that Andrew Sullivan — the noted political pundit, author, and blogger (and proponent of marijuana legalization).
Judge Collings issued his saucy opinion (PDF) on Thursday. Later that day, the story was broken by The Docket. The case has also been covered by Gawker, Wonkette, and the WSJ Law Blog, among other outlets (links collected below).
So we won’t rehash what you’ve probably already read. But feel free to take our reader poll and to discuss the case in the comments.


Judge angered by special treatment for Andrew Sullivan [The Docket / MLW]
United States v. Sullivan [PDF] [U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts]
Andrew Sullivan’s Federal Pot Favors [Gawker]
Friendly D.A. Saves Andrew Sullivan From Life Sentence In Gitmo, For Smoking Marijuana [Wonkette]
On Marijuana, a Famous Blogger, and One Skeptical Judge [WSJ Law Blog]

Don’t get too comfortable with that shiny new #6 Vault ranking, Weil Gotshal. The firm just got served, Texas-style. The ABA Journal reports:

The Texas judge who ordered Microsoft to pay $290 million for infringing a patent included a $40 million enhancement that he said was partly justified because of alleged trial misconduct by a lawyer from Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis tacked on the $40 million penalty because of evidence of willful infringement. But also “favoring enhancement,” he said in an opinion, was trial conduct by lawyer Matthew Douglas Powers, a Weil Gotshal partner.

Matthew Douglas Powers is a big name in IP circles. And he’s the co-chair of Weil’s litigation department. But he’s not going to comment on Judge Davis’s $40 million critique of his trial performance.

What were the judge’s reasons for admonishing Powers? Check after the jump.

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McDermott Will Emery Above the Law blog.jpgPity the poor partners of McDermott Will & Emery. Sure, their firm is highly regarded and highly profitable. But when they head off to try cases in far-off places, they often get benchslapped silly.
You may recall the case of bankruptcy partner William Smith, who found himself in the deep-fat fryer after telling a judge she was “a few French Fries short of a Happy Meal.” Although the judge was upset, in the end Smith got a slap on the wrist.
Things didn’t end as happily for Terrence McMahon and Vera Elson, MWE partners based in Silicon Valley. Judge Richard P. Matsch — the tough, well-regarded trial judge who presided over the Oklahoma City bombing case — sanctioned McMahon and Elson for “cavalier and abusive” misconduct and a “what can I get away with?” attitude during trial. From the Denver Post:

A federal judge recently got so infuriated by the conduct of two highly regarded trial attorneys that he overturned a jury’s $51 million verdict, then ordered the lawyers to pay the fees and costs of the opposing lawyers, a sum that could total several million dollars.

Ouch. So is that coming out of their partnership draws?
Or maybe the firm will find other ways to cut costs. Read more, after the jump.
Update: Please note that this post has been corrected since it was first published. The correction appears after the jump.

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(And they just canceled their associate retreat, too.)”

* A clever parody of the Clemens hearing. [PrawfsBlawg]

* They have a talent for bench-slappery down in Texas. [Sophistic Miltonian Serbonian Blog; Supreme Court of Texas Blog]

* T-T-T-Trouble for TTT schools? [ABA Journal]

* Lawyer of the Day: White & Case associate Tabber Benedict, fixed up by the matchmaking cabbie. [ABC News]

* One more free legal research site (to add to the ones mentioned yesterday). [AltLaw]

UPDATE: We don’t like having to explain ourselves like this; it’s rather inelegant. But after reading some of the comments, we thought a brief clarification might be in order.

This commenter is right — our use of the term “TTT” is tongue-in-cheek. We intend no disrespect to any particular law schools (or their students or faculty members). Thanks.

Any trial judge with the Gall to benchslap the Supreme Court has a serious set of cojones.
Accordingly, Judge Richard Kopf (D. Neb.) — who sent beer to Professor Doug Berman, as recently noted — is our Judge of the Day. See links collected below.
We agree with Tony Mauro: Judge Kopf’s irreverent “top 10″ list of lessons learned from the high court’s sentencing jurisprudence is “a provocative jaw-dropper that may get Kopf scratched off the holiday card list at the Supreme Court.”
Judge Kopf’s “Top Ten” take on SCOTUS sentencing work [Sentencing Law and Policy]
The Top Ten Things I Learned from Apprendi, Blakely, Booker, Rita, Kimbrough, and Gall (PDF) [Sentencing Law and Policy]
Federal Judge’s ‘Top 10′ List Takes On Supreme Court’s Sentencing Decisions [Legal Times]
Richard G. Kopf bio [Federal Judicial Center]

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