There are two schools of thought on drafting a benchslap. One method involves laying out the most egregious behavior of the target right up front to set the tone for the scathing punishment to follow. The other, subtler method involves slow-playing the transgressions in a glorious crescendo of suspect conduct.
Senior Judge Victor Musleh of the 5th Judicial Circuit in Lake County, Florida ascribes to the latter school. When his February 28th order in Wells Fargo v. Granger hit the ATL tips inbox, I thought it was a mild story. But this page-turner of an order raised the stakes with each paragraph….
Whenever a decision opens with the line, “[y]ou don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch,” you know you’re in for some fun.
In this case, the always colorful Judge Kozinski provides an entire opinion about piracy months before International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This time the pirates are whaling protestors from the Animal Planet series Whale Wars, and the Ninth Circuit thinks they need to leave some poor Japanese whalers alone.
In the process, Judge Kozinski delivers a scathing benchslap to the lower court judge who just so happens to have a much more famous brother (and niece).
Who is it? Batten down the hatches and let’s find out….
But you need to stay on her good side; if you tick her off, woe unto you. Let’s check out the Beloved World (affiliate link) — of pain — that Her Honor just inflicted on a federal prosecutor down in Texas….
* Our own Elie Mystal isn’t the only one who’s capable of fanning the flames of race baiting — it seems that Supreme Court justices can do it, too! We’ll probably have more on Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s benchslap later today. [The Two-Way / NPR]
* Patience is obviously one of this judge’s virtues, because this took a looooong time. After waiting more than a year for people to put their petty political pandering aside, the Senate confirmed Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Mary Jo White, the nominee to lead the SEC, will probably face her confirmation hearing in March. Her legal wranglings at Debevoise may be of interest to some, but really, who cares? She’s so cute and tiny! [Reuters]
* Mayer Brown and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year: gross revenue is up overall at most Biglaw firms, but not this one. In 2012, Mayer Brown’s revenue dipped 3.7 percent for a six-year low. [Am Law Daily]
* Kirkland & Ellis, now the fifth-largest Biglaw firm in the nation, is leading the market in terms of top dollar merger-and-acquisition deals. Now, if only the firm could get some bananas. [Crain's Chicago Business]
* Orderly liquidation authority may be a legitimate exercise of power under the Bankruptcy Clause, but as far as these states are concerned, it’s just another reason to hate the Dodd-Frank Act. [DealBook / New York Times]
* An “astronomically stupid” legal loophole? Unpossible! Gun trusts are seeing the limelight because Chris Dorner claims he used one to purchase his paraphernalia without a background check. [New York Times]
You can do so much with a law degree: securities litigation, real estate, executive compensation, porn production…wait, what?
The Internet, one of the greatest technological achievements in human history, is mostly for porn distribution (not really, but that’s the popular misconception). And if the Internet is littered with copyrightable pornographic material, there’s an opening for attorneys to make some money helping clients go after those who steal that material.
But what if a law firm, operating through shell companies, started making its own porn in order to concoct its own causes of action? I mean, that couldn’t happen, right?
Well, Judge Otis Wright of the Central District of California suspects that may have just happened in his courtroom, and he’s not happy….
Earlier this week, we wrote about a pair of prominent partners at Skadden Arps who got hit with a big-time benchslap. A federal judge in Chicago issued an order to show cause, requiring the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned for failing to cite a highly relevant (arguably dispositive) Seventh Circuit case when briefing a motion to dismiss. The judge also set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.”
The Skadden partners filed a contrite response. They apologized profusely to the court, explained why they viewed the Seventh Circuit as distinguishable, and argued that even though they erred, their conduct didn’t merit sanctions. They announced to the court that they had settled the case in question, with Skadden “contributing to the settlement amount in order to personally redress plaintiffs’ counsel for responding to the motion to dismiss.” (In a classy move, they also extracted their associate from under the bus, explaining that he played no substantive role in the briefing.)
Despite the apology and the settlement, the status hearing went forward as scheduled yesterday. What happened?
On the transactional side, things seem to be going gangbusters for Skadden Arps. As we noted yesterday, the firm took the top spot in three separate rankings of 2012 M&A work. In 2011, a different firm sat atop each set of rankings, but in 2012, Skadden ruled them all.
On the litigation side, though, the new year has brought new headaches for Skadden. Earlier this month, a high-profile partner at the firm, along with another partner and an associate, got hit with a big benchslap. A federal judge issued an order to show cause, asking the Skadden lawyers to explain why they should not be sanctioned, and set “a status hearing in open court…. [at which the attorneys] are all directed to appear in person.” Ouch.
Skadden recently filed its response to the OSC. Let’s review the benchslap, then see what the Skadden lawyers had to say for themselves….
We now have judicial notice that making jokes about the president and fried chicken is probably racist.
Granted, “all these years, I thought I liked chicken because it was delicious.” But living up north, it’s pretty well-established that suggesting black people have a predisposition for eating chicken is prima facie racist and likely to start a fight. That’s not because I’m “sensitive” or “playing the race card.” It’s because generalizing about the foods black people eat has been used as a tool for racial stigmatization for a long time in this country.
We’ve written about Hughes before. He’s a guy who can throw a benchslap. He’s also a guy who has been described as “[u]nquestionably the single worst judge in the Southern District of Texas” on The Robing Room (where lawyers can post anonymously about judges).
But one of his flippant remarks to an African-American plaintiff drew the ire of the Fifth Circuit, even as they were affirming his ultimate result.
You know that you have strayed a little too far from the flock when the Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) is schooling you on racial sensitivity….
There’s no love lost between cops and guys in wheelchairs.
You know things are not going well for the police when a judge uses the citation “U.S. Const. amend. IV.” Not a case interpreting the Fourth Amendment, not a scholarly analysis of search and seizure law, just a straight-up shout-out to the plain text of the constitutional prohibition. It kind of tells you where the judge is going.
Today’s installment of “Why Can’t You Just Get A Warrant” comes out of the Montgomery County courthouse near Dayton, Ohio. According to the judge’s order granting a suppression motion, the police subdued a wheelchair-bound paraplegic and searched his home. And by “subdued,” I of course mean: tackled a man in a wheelchair, handcuffed him, then pretended to be worried about the man’s grabbable area.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, from Ross Guberman, a look at lawyers’ ethical breaches and their consequences.
Quick: List all the ways you can get into ethical hot water while writing a brief, and then list all the things judges can do to you in return.
Sometimes lawyers go too far, but do judges ever overreact?
In your short and fascinating book, we meet all sorts of wayward attorneys who are in some way punished by courts for something they’ve done in a brief. One attorney called the members of an administrative board “monkeys” and compared their pronouncements to the “grunts and groans of an ape.” Another attorney neglected to mention an unfavorable case even though he himself was counsel in that case. Yet another referred to opposing counsel as “Nazis and redneck pepper-woods.” And various other attorneys drafted a proposed order with a first sentence that’s nearly four pages long, filed a complaint that the court called a “hideous sprawling mess,” cited a dissent as controlling authority, or copied another lawyer’s brief.
When you compare all these alleged ethical breaches with the penalties they provoked, what are a few of the behaviors that seem to irk judges most?
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.