Benchslaps

Call it RICO not so suave. One of the nation’s biggest legal headhunting firms, Major, Lindsey & Africa, is withdrawing its RICO action against a former employee — after a federal judge offered a somewhat snarky assessment of the merits of MLA’s case.

As reported by Leigh Jones over at the National Law Journal, on Thursday attorneys for MLA submitted a notice of dismissal to Judge Colleen McMahon (S.D.N.Y.). The notice declared Major Lindsey’s intent to withdraw its claims against former Sharon Mahn, a former managing director at MLA, without prejudice, in order to bring such claims in arbitration and/or state court.

Perhaps MLA read the writing on the courtroom wall. The move to dismiss came after Judge McMahon ladled out some judicial sauce….

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Back in June, we bestowed Lawyer of the Day honors upon two of the nation’s top litigators: Ted Wells and Martin Flumenbaum, the co-chair and former chair, respectively, of the renowned litigation department at Paul Weiss. Given the sterling reputations of the two lawyers and their firm, it was a surprising development.

We recognized Messrs. Wells and Flumenbaum after a New Jersey judge sanctioned Paul Weiss and its co-counsel — Lowenstein Sandler, one of the Garden State’s leading law firms, and Wells’s former home (before he jumped across the Hudson) — for pursuing a “frivolous” and “ridiculous” legal claim on behalf of billionaire Ronald Perelman against his ex-father-in-law, Robert Cohen.

In June, Judge Ellen Koblitz ordered Paul Weiss and Lowenstein Sandler to pay Cohen’s fees and costs for opposing the claim; she scheduled a hearing to determine the amount. The hearing took place last month, and now we know the amount.

It’s nothing to sneeze at, even for firms as well-heeled as Paul Weiss and Lowenstein. And to add insult to (financial) injury, Judge Koblitz got super-snarky in the opinion setting forth her reasoning….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Jersey Judge Benchslaps Paul Weiss and Lowenstein Sandler — Hard”

I am not the Maytag repairman of federal judges desperately hoping for something to do.

– Nevada Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, explaining why it took her so long to issue a scathing sanction [PDF] of defense counsel.

(Gavel bang: Las Vegas Review-Journal via ABA Journal.)

I don’t believe you when you say just about anything anymore because I know that you will lie to a court any time it helps you. I know that. I saw you do it. I know you will do that. You have proven that to me beyond a reasonable doubt.

– Chief Judge James Holderman (N.D. Ill.) of Chicago, berating government lawyers — before a unanimous panel of the Seventh Circuit removed him from the case, in the middle of trial. Judge Richard Posner’s opinion cited Judge Holderman’s abuse of discretion and “unreasonable fury toward the prosecutors.”

“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…

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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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Benchslap for Kirkland & Ellis, from Judge Posner and the Seventh Circuit”

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap: Judge Orders Local Attorney to ‘Re-Read … FRCP’”

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]

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