Blog Wars

Michigan AAG Andrew Shirvell

Today brings some updates in the ongoing saga of Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan assistant attorney general who writes Chris Armstrong Watch, a blog devoted to attacking the openly gay student body president of the University of Michigan. We’ve covered the story extensively (see here and here).

First, Shirvell’s blog is now “open to invited readers only” — i.e., it’s password-protected.

Second, Chris Armstrong is seeking a restraining order against Shirvell (who has shown up at events attended by Armstrong and also at Armstrong’s home). Judge Nancy Francis declined to issue an immediate restraining order but scheduled a hearing for next week. (Shirvell has already been banned from the Michigan campus, despite his status as a UM alumnus.)

Third, and most notably, Shirvell has taken a personal leave from the Michigan AG’s office. This announcement was made today by a spokesperson for Attorney General Mike Cox — who also mentioned that Shirvell will be the subject of a disciplinary hearing when he returns to work.

The news that Shirvell is out of the Michigan AG’s office, at least temporarily, will be welcome to many. But some observers, including our own Elie Mystal, have called for more: namely, Shirvell’s firing.

Let’s pause and consider: Would it be that easy to fire Andrew Shirvell? As a former government lawyer who once blogged about judges while appearing before them as a prosecutor, I have some thoughts on this….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Michigan Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell Goes On Leave
And: Should AG Mike Cox Fire Shirvell?

Earlier this week, Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, poured a big bottle of haterade all over the legal profession. More specifically, he criticized the way “Ivy League” lawyers are recruited, and the “palpable sense of entitlement” they exhibit even when they don’t take Biglaw bucks and instead work for the government. Here’s the set up:

The details of how elite law and business consulting firms recruit astonish me every time I hear them. Even getting an interview often requires attending an Ivy League professional school or a very few top tier equivalents. Folks who succeed in that round are invited to spend a summer working at the firm, the most sane aspect of the process.

But subsequently, they participate in sell events where they’re plied with food and alcohol in the most lavish settings imaginable: five star resort hotels, fine cigar bars, the priciest restaurants.

And here’s the money shot, one that is careening around the legal blogosphere like Billy Joel trying to get back from the Hamptons before the hurricane hits:

Though it isn’t defensible, it is unsurprising that a lot of people who eschew offers to work at these firms, favoring public sector work instead, imagine that they are making an enormous personal sacrifice by taking government work. The palpable sense of entitlement some of these public sector folks exude is owed partly to how few of “our best and brightest” do eschew the big firm route (due partly to increasing debt levels among today’s graduates, no doubt).

Really? You want to do this now? You want to talk smack about the people on the bottom rung of this totem pole, while willfully ignoring the clients, partners, law schools, and state governments that generate huge sums of wealth off the backs of the palpably entitled?

Fine. Let me take off my glasses, and we’ll step outside…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The World Hates Lawyers: Mainstream Media Manages to Criticize Biglaw Summers AND Public Sector Lawyers in the Same Breath”

Gawker posed a very inflammatory question yesterday: How Did the Owner of a Barely-Legal Teen Gossip Blog Get Into a Prestigious Law School?

The law school in question is USC Gould School of Law, currently ranked #18. Gawker commenters wondered whether this was a misuse of the term “prestigious.”

The gossip blog owner in question is Christopher Stone, 31, who runs Sticky Drama and Sticky Noodz, dedicated to teenage gossip and teens’ nude photos, respectively. It’s a successful blog business model, as you can well imagine. The Sticky Drama site is currently down, but you can check out its tumblr. We sacrificed a few IQ points by looking it over: It’s a mish-mash of cute boys, half-naked girls, and screenshots of Facebook conversations about rape. The site most recently gained notoriety for launching 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter into the public eye, resulting in a cyberbullying frenzy.

Gawker describes it like this:

StickyDrama and its sister porn site, Sticky-n00dz, are two of the worst sites on the Internet, built on exploiting teens and tweens’ insecurities and then publicly humiliating them. Stickydrama is a crowd-sourced gossip blog that chronicles the lives of “E-celebs.” Sticky-n00dz is similar, but focused on nude pictures. E-celebs are kind of like regular, “In Real Life” celebrities, except their fame exists solely on social-networking sites like Myspace, Twitter, and the live webcam community Stickam.com, from which StickyDrama gets its name.

When Gawker is saying you’re a cesspool….

After seeing Stone tweet about law school — “lol @ all the Efagz pissed that I got into law school–ALL that I applied to. And my entire application was based on StickyDrama. So, nyah!” — Adrian Chen at Gawker asked his Twitter followers where Stone was going. Chen then wrote:

Attention, USC law! This man spends his free time harassing teenagers and videotaping live rapes… Admissions officers at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law just admitted him to their 18th-ranked program earlier this week.

We reached out to USC. They say Gawker got it wrong…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Christopher Stone Is Not Actually a Trojan Man”

flame war.jpgInternet message boards tend to be rough-and-tumble places. Enter at your own risk. (This includes Above the Law comments — if you don’t like them, don’t read them.)
There may be employment risks for posters at Top Law Schools (“TLS”), a message board for gunners planning to apply to law school. This is one of those places online where people talk about what to bring to the LSAT and trumpet their acceptances by various law schools. In other words, it’s the place where future law school list-serv psychos cut their teeth.
Yesterday, Top Law Schools claimed that test prep company TestMasters is discriminating against its readers. A TLS moderator wrote a post alleging that a reader’s application to work as an LSAT instructor for TestMasters was rejected based on his being a frequent TLS poster. The moderator posted the rejection email the reader received (we’ve replaced the name of the TestMasters director with a pseudonym):

Dear “John”,
We have decided to cancel your interview and reject your application to work for us as an LSAT instructor. Applications are currently at an all-time high, and we do not have the time or resources to interview TTT candidates whose social lives consist of making thousands of posts on internet discussion boards. TestMasters only hires people who are cool, and unfortunately you do not meet that requirement.
Best regards,
“I-Wish-I-Worked-For-Kaplan”
Programs Director
TestMasters

When we got the first of many emails about this, we thought, “A programs director who actually uses the term ‘TTT’? ‘People who are cool’? C’mon. This is fake.”
But TestMasters is not disowning the email, and it appears that “I-Wish-I-Worked-For-Kaplan” actually waded into the cesspool to defend herself.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Flame War: Testmasters v. Top Law Schools”

ABA Journal Blawg 100 2009 badge.jpgThe legal blogs selected for the ABA Journal Blawg 100 have been announced. In case you’re not familiar with this fine tradition, now in its third year, the Blawg 100 are “the 100 best Web sites by lawyers, for lawyers, as chosen by the editors of the ABA Journal.”
The 100 websites are divided into various categories, and then readers vote for their favorite in each. This year, Above the Law is defending its title in the News category. Although we are up against some excellent competition — check out all the nominees here — we hope you’ll do us the honor of voting for us.
This year the voting process is a little different. You need to be a registered user of the ABA Journal website in order to vote. Registering is free and easy; you can do so here. Voting ends on December 31, 2009.
We have many friends in the legal blogosphere, so we will refrain from making endorsements in the other categories. If you’re looking for voting guidance, though, feel free to check out Marc Randazza’s picks over at The Legal Satyricon.
Congratulations to all the Blawg 100, and good luck to everyone in the reader voting. May the best blog(s) win!
ABA Journal Blawg 100 – News [ABA Journal]
ABA Journal Blawg 100 – All Categories [ABA Journal]

Story competition.JPGThe inherent tension between the old media and the new media boiled over the weekend when Ian Shapira wrote an insightful article for the Washington Post about how Gawker appropriated one of his stories. For people concerned with the so-called “death of journalism,” it is a must read. It is a fairly accurate description of what happens when bloggers repackage stories.
Yesterday, Gawker fired back at the Washington Post. Gabriel Snyder explained how bloggers add original commentary, humor, and sometimes insight. It’s one of the reasons readers keep coming back.
Today, our own Kashmir Hill entered the fray. She points out that some blogs (ahem) actually report and break news, and that news is repackaged by mainstream media sources all the time, often without sufficient attribution or original insight. Over on True/Slant, Kash writes about what happened to her popular story about Fordham’s privacy dossier on Justice Scalia:

I’m a struggling blogger making very little money. I would have been happy to write that story for the New York Times on a freelance basis and get paid for it. (As Washingtonian Magazine invited me to do for its June issue.)
But that’s not how these things usually work. As journalists — the traditional ones and the “new” ones/bloggers — we get stories out into the world, and then they bounce around and gather steam and get read. It’s exciting!
I’m happy my story was covered, regurgitated and repackaged. It’s an important story about a topic -privacy- that I am passionate about.

Hear, hear. The old media simply doesn’t have a monopoly on original reporting anymore.
In case you are interested, Above the Law has a very consistent policy that we follow when it comes to attribution. Let’s discuss it after the jump, and you can weigh in with your thoughts.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Attribution in the Internet Age: When Does ‘Repackaging’ Become Stealing?”

frumpy hls parody.jpgOver at f/k/a, David Giacalone wonders why few people have taken a stand on Harvey Silverglate’s outrageous contention that the “Harvard Factor” has somehow killed satire in the legal profession.
Stand at my wall and start screaming “Hektor,” why don’t you?
Professor Silverglate reminds me of the guy, Dr. Pritchard I believe, who wrote the poetry textbook in Dead Poets Society. He tries to make objective the subjective art of “comedy,” despite the fact that he is not funny.
Silverglate is annoyed that so many people reacted poorly to the New Yorker cover of Barack Obama dressed up in so-called “muslin” attire. His reasoning for the backlash over the cover is that “elites” — like Obama — have become so stifled in their thinking that they can no longer take a joke.
He specifically calls out the HLS Parody (full disclosure: I was part of the show each of my three years). He states that none of the humor approaches the frankness or “brutality” of previous incarnations.
Excuse me while I stand on my desk and shout “yawp.”
Maybe back in Silverglate’s day, all the good ‘ol boys could sit around and tell watermelon jokes with impunity. Today, at Harvard and I’d imagine most anywhere else, you can still make fun of racial and gender stereotypes, you just have to be a little bit more intelligent and creative about it. Why? Because “Gee golly, them girls sure can’t drive,” just isn’t funny anymore. It’s called progress.
More ad hominem attacks on Silverglate, after the jump.

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ATL Idol Above the Law Idol AboveTheLaw Idol medium.jpg
Apologies for the delay. We had to wait for Vizu to certify the poll results as anomaly-free, which they just did.
avatar Sophist ATL Idol.jpgCongratulations to the winner of our ATL Idol “reality blogging” competition, who will become Above the Law’s new editor-in-chief: SOPHIST!!! With almost 1900 votes cast, SOPHIST (avatar at right) prevailed over your other finalist, FROLIC AND DETOUR, by a 60-40 margin.
In a subsequent post, Sophist will introduce himself to the readership in more detail. The handover of day-to-day editorial duties will take place sometime later this month.
Based on some of your comments, we’d like to clarify two things.
First, we will continue to write for Above the Law and to play an active role in its development. As reported in the Legal Times and FishbowlNY, among other places, we’re moving into the position of Managing Editor for Breaking Media, ATL’s parent company. Part of our new job includes overseeing Above the Law. So we’ll be working closely with Sophist to take Above the Law to ever greater heights (or lows, as appropriate). We will continue to blog for ATL, perhaps in a column of some sort, as well as on other occasions (e.g., coverage of events we attend; additional support during busy news periods; filling in for Sophist when he goes on vacation).
Second, your faithful Associate Editor, Kashmir Hill, will also still write for the site. Although she did not wish to be considered for the EIC position — for more on why, see her personal blog — she will remain as an active presence here. The same is true of ATL’s other contributors, including our surveys guru, Justin Bernold, and our Legal Eagle Wedding Watcher, Laurie Lin. Many of the things you enjoy about ATL will remain unchanged.
As we previously mentioned, the ATL Idol contest was a huge hit here at ATL, by a variety of measures (including traffic / pageviews, reader comments, and revenue). We thank our six finalists for their excellent efforts, as well as everyone else who expressed interest in the position; our three guest judges, Ann Althouse, Tom Goldstein, and Dahlia Lithwick; and you, our readers, who enlivened the contest with your commentary — and who picked the winner, with your votes.
Once again, congratulations to SOPHIST. He survived three weeks of grueling guest blogging, including tough love from the celebrity judges, hard knocks from the commenters, and formidable competition from the other finalists. He is clearly ready for the challenge of taking ATL into a new and even more glorious era. (And since you picked him, you are estopped from criticizing him in the comments.)
Please extend a warm welcome to SOPHIST — and to Above the Law 2.0!
Earlier: Prior ATL Idol coverage (scroll down)

ATL Idol Above the Law Idol AboveTheLaw Idol medium.jpg
Six lawyers, currently or formerly at large law firms, hoping to make the jump to the writing life (read: working in pajamas). One leading legal tabloid, in need of its next lead editor. A mass of angry anonymous commenters, looking for someone new with whom to have a love-hate relationship.
“THIS…. is ATL Idol.”
It’s a reality-show-style competition, in which site readers will pick the new editor in chief of AboveTheLaw.com — the recipient of some 3 million page views a month, described by the Washington Post as “a must-read legal blog.” We believe it to be the first time that a full-time blogging gig — one with a salary you can live on, health insurance, and even a 401(k) — has been awarded through a “reality blogging” contest.
Back in May, we posted a help wanted ad for a new full-time writer here at Above the Law. Over the weeks that followed, we received a slew of excellent applications. We also located additional prospects through personal networking. All in all, we probably considered almost 100 talented candidates.
We narrowed the list down to six highly impressive finalists. But we found the prospect of choosing just one of them to be agonizing.
So we’ve decided to outsource this task to you, the readership of Above the Law. Over the next three weeks, the finalists will blog on ATL, for your consideration. Just as they would on a true reality TV show, the “assignments” will vary from week to week (details about them to follow).
Each Friday, we will open the polls, allowing you to vote for your favorite — the blogger you’d like to see take the helm at this venerable legal tabloid. At the end of week one, the bottom two out of six finalists — the pair of contestants with the fewest votes — will be eliminated. Next week, the reader vote will take four finalists down to two. In the third and final week, the two finalists will go head to head, in a legal blogging deathmatch. Your votes will determine the winner, Above the Law’s new leader.
ATL readers are an opinionated bunch, so we expect you to have strong views about the contestants (which you should feel free to share in the comments). But to those of you who need more guidance when voting, fear not. Just like American Idol, ATL Idol will provide you with three “celebrity judges,” to offer their expert opinions of the contestants’ blogging, and to inform and guide the electorate.
Our judges, who are all leading legal bloggers in their own right, need no introduction. But we’ll introduce them anyway, briefly. They are (in alphabetical order):

  • Ann Althouse, Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and author of her eponymous blog, Althouse;
  • Tom Goldstein, head of the D.C. litigation practice and co-head of the firm-wide Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump, and founder of SCOTUSblog; and
  • Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor of Slate (where she blogged at Convictions), author of two books, and a contributor to the New York Times and the Washington Post (among many other publications).
    Our impressive panel is well-balanced, featuring representatives from three major groups of legal bloggers: one law professor, one practicing lawyer, and one professional journalist. We’ll leave it to you to decide — perhaps based on how caustic their commentary is — who’s Simon, who’s Randy, and who’s Paula.
    Update: Professor Althouse emphatically rejects any suggestion that she’ll be the Paula Abdul of this contest. This is just as well; when we invited Dahlia Lithwick to serve as a judge, she called “dibs” on Paula.
    Check back later today, when we’ll post brief bios of the six finalists. And check back throughout this week – and, of course, over the next three weeks – to figure out which writers you love, and which you’d leave. The identity of ATL’s next editor rests in your hands.
    We’re expecting this contest to be fun and exciting. Please spread the word to your friends and colleagues. And once the polls are open, we pass along to you the exhortation of Ryan Seacrest: “America, don’t forget to vote!”
    Update: The bios of the finalists are now posted over here.
    Earlier: Help Wanted: ATL Seeks A New Writer

  • The time has come, and the crowning of ATL’s Lawyer of the Year and Second Favorite Blog After ATL, both of which are sponsored by ATL and Lateral Link, is at last upon us.
    In all, a whopping 4,186 votes were cast, with 2,683 of you voting for Lawyer of the Year and 1,503 weighing in on which blog you like second-most after this one. Find out how it all turned out after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Featured Survey Results: And The Winners Are . . .”

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