Who knew that zoning law and land use could be so controversial? A proposal to build a Muslim center and mosque just two blocks away from Ground Zero has become a huge issue here in New York — and, in fact, around the country.
Opponents of the project — originally known as Cordoba House, but now more commonly referred to as Park51, a 15-story tower that will contain a mosque, 500-seat auditorium, and swimming pool — had hoped to stop the project by winning landmark status for the building currently on the site. This morning, however, NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 against granting protected status to 45-47 Park Place in lower Manhattan, which will be demolished to make way for the $100 million center.
Of course, this controversy is about so much more than granting landmark status to a random downtown building designed by an unknown architect….
While in journalism school, one of my “assignments” was to hang out at New York’s night court (open until 1 a.m. every night), observe the proceedings, and then write about them. It was less exciting than Judge Harry had led me to believe, but was an interesting night replete with drug addicts, prostitutes, and a cheap-date-loving couple who had stopped in to observe as free post-Chinatown-dinner entertainment.
It also introduced me to a 2006 New York law that requires felons to submit a genetic sample to the state DNA database. When informed of the law, one defendant arraigned on burglary charges resisted giving up his double helixes. “Are you willing to issue a court order to make me do it, sir?” he asked the judge.
“Is my saying it to you not enough?” the judge replied. The defendant said: “If you sign a court order, I’ll do it.” The judge asked for a piece of paper, and the defendant objected, “No, I want an official court order.”
The assistant district attorney then explained, in an annoyed tone, that any paper written and signed by the judge qualifies as a “court order.” The judge issued the order, but the man returned 15 minutes later, still refusing to give the DNA sample. The judge set bail and again reminded the dude that the DNA sample was required by law.
Many states have criminal genetic databases these days. As noted by the Genomics Law Report, the LAPD’s using theirs to catch the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer has resulted in a lot of mediaattention for these databases, despite the fact that they’ve been around for awhile. That’s because, according to GLR, “the case marks the first time in the United States that a DNA search technique known as familial searching has led to an arrest in a homicide case.” The LAPD nabbed the Grim Sleeper after DNA samples from the murders were found to be genetically similar to those of the Sleeper’s son, who had given up his DNA after a felony weapons charge. (Apparently, criminal genes run in that family.)
The attention being paid to the databases is not all positive, though. The ACLU, which has a problem with the way that California compiles its database, filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jerry Brown last year. It’s now before the Ninth Circuit. What’s the ACLU’s problem with California’s compiling genetic information for felons and suspected felons?
Today we remember the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader. Dr. King’s birthday was actually on January 15th, but the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year.
If you’re not at work, we hope that you are enjoying the day off. If you are at work, check in with us from time to time; we are around today (but will be posting less than usual). Feel free to complain in the comments about the evil law firm / partner / client that does not recognize this important holiday.
If you are looking for something to do, we suggest that you use today as an opportunity for public service. You can look up a service project in your area at MLKDay.gov. (A number of today’s service projects are aimed at helping the people of Haiti.)
President Obama recently announced that Guantanamo Bay will not be closing in January – reneging on a promise he had made to close the detention center within a year of his taking office. This did not come as a surprise to the many lawyers who have provided counsel to the detainees in Cuba.
At a panel discussion about the Guantanamo lawyers, Ramzi Kassem — a City University of New York law professor representing one of the current detainees – said: “What matters more than when [the closing] happens is what happens to the  men still there.”
Hundreds of attorneys have been working for years to ensure habeas corpus for the over 800 men who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay. The lawyers who have assembled to represent detainees come from many walks of law, from human rights advocates to law school professors to Biglaw partners. Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux and civil rights attorney Jonathan Hafetz have collected the stories of 113 of the Guantanamo lawyers, law students, and translators for The Guantanamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison, Outside the Law.
There is a rainbow of Biglaw firms involved in Guantanamo. Among the firms working there (with lawyers who contributed to the book) are WilmerHale, King & Spalding, Pillsbury Winthrop, Jenner & Block, Pepper Hamilton, Dorsey & Whitney, Baker Hostetler, Paul Weiss, Perkins Coie, Reed Smith, Mayer Brown, MoFo, Weil Gotshal, Hunton & Williams, Covington, Dechert, Bingham McCutchen, and Shearman & Sterling. A heart-warming tale among the horrors of the book was two Allen & Overy attorneys who fell in love and married after meeting while representing a 17-year-old Yemeni detainee.
Both Denbeaux and Hafetz point to Thomas Wilner of Shearman & Sterling as one of the most important Gitmo lawyers. “He cleared the way for the others,” said Denbeaux. “Shearman was the central [Biglaw] firm in getting it all going.”
More about Wilner, and tales from other Biglaw Guantanamo counsel, after the jump.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Human Rights Campaign has released its annual Best Places to Work list. It shows that law firms are great when it comes to creating a non-discriminatory environment for gays and lesbians. The ABA Journal reports:
In 2006, the first year law firms were included in the Human Rights Campaign survey, 12 got a perfect rating of 100 percent [on the Corporate Equality Index]. This year an unprecedented 88 law firms got perfect ratings, “eclipsing every other industry represented on the index,” according to a press release. The group evaluated 127 law firms in all; 124 of them were among the nation’s largest 200 law firms.
Our industry deserves a large pat on the back. In a time of massive layoffs, it is great that law firms are still committed to equality when it comes to sexual orientation.
Check out the list of firms that are good for gays here (PDF).
* The U.S. government may force GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy to ensure re-payment of the $17.4 billion bailout to taxpayers. [Bloomberg]
* A hearing today before the Ninth circuit in San Francisco will provide insight in to the administration’s views on extraordinary rendition–the secret transfer of a terror suspect from one state to another. [ABC]
* When will the baseball steroid scandal ever end? Sportsfans are up in arms about reports that Alex Rodriguez used steroids in 2003. [Reuters]
* A new book “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” sheds light on a forgotten hero in the civil rights movement and the legal fight to de-segregate busses. [The Associated Press]
* Need a job? Attorney Michael D. Hausfeld, who once represented Holocaust victims against Swiss banks, started a law firm that focuses on protecting businesses against global cartels. [The Washington Post]
Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader. If you’re not at work, we hope that you are enjoying the day off. (We are around, but will be posting less than usual.)
If you are at work, be proud. We’re pretty sure that equal opportunities to be productive cogs in the capitalist machine, regardless of race color or creed, were part of Dr. King’s dream.
If you are looking for something to do, we suggest that you treat today as an opportunity for public service. You can look up a service project in your area at MLKDay.gov or you can join the incoming president.
* Change you can believe in? It looks like Obama has recruited a few “washington insiders”: 8 of the 10 top lawyers he has hired for his transition team are veterans of the Clinton administration. [Bloomberg.com]
* After his hunt yesterday, Justice Antonin Scalia told a room full of big-time Texas lawyers that he disagreed with judges who used foreign law to interpret the constitution. [Houston Chronicle]
* “Protesters galvanized by a dragging death that has stirred memories of the notorious James Byrd case rallied twice outside an eastern Texas courthouse to speak out against a judicial system they consider racist.” [Associated Press]
* Are you ready for your close-up Mr. Rehnquist? The Hoover institution released files documenting Rehnquist’s first three years on the Court, years filled with land-mark cases like Roe v. Wade and United States vs. Nixon. [New York Times]
* California Attorney general is pushing the Supreme Court to decide the legality of Prop. 8. The Court could begin to act as soon as Wednesday, when they have their weekly conference. [San Jose Mercury News]
* Say it ain’t so! Washington regulators have finally opened up the doors on Belgian-based beer company InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser Busch, which monopolizes
50% of the US beer market. The merger will make InBev the largest beer company in the world. [Courthouse News Service]
* Sorry Ohio…President-elect Obama is probably going to wait a while before overhauling NAFTA. [Bloomberg.com]
If you’ve been reading ATL for a while, you may recall our copious coverage of Shanetta Cutlar. She’s the high-powered chief of the Justice Department’s Special Litigation Section, and she has a reputation — perhaps deserved, perhaps not — for being challenging to work for.
In case you don’t remember Ms. Cutlar, this message from a former underling, not previously published, sums things up nicely:
I laughed when I saw Shanetta on your blog. Of all the bosses that I have ever had, I probably could not remember any of their names — except for Shanetta. On the first day, [one female intern] got on the elevator with several people, including Shanetta. She had not yet been introduced to anybody except for the intern superivisors. When she got back to her cubicle/office, she was called to Shanetta’s office, where she was thoroughly reamed out by Shanetta for not acknowledging her presence in the elevator. The poor girl was practically traumatized and afterwards was crying at her desk….
The entire office — and it was a large one — had a childish atmosphere that was similar to an elementary school playground. Shanetta was the bully/popular girl who was constantly surrounded by her clique, and who was constantly embarrassing other people merely for her own amusement. She called an entire staff meeting in order to publicly reprimand one person for going shopping during their lunch break.
She called [another intern] into her office once in order to berate him about not filling out a form correctly in preparation for an out-of-state trip…. Is it really necessary for the Section Chief to micromanage intern travel forms? All-in-all, Shanetta has something akin to the “little man syndrome,” only it would be more aptly named entitled “big-mean-ass-woman syndrome.”
Anyway, in response to reader requests for updates on SYC, we finally have some news to report. Shanetta Cutlar has been sued by one former DOJ employee, Ty Clevenger, in federal court (D.D.C.).
Clevenger’s pro se lawsuit, filed against Cutlar and several other current and former Justice Department employees, makes claims under Bivens, the Rehabilitation Act (disability discrimination), RICO (a DOJ section as a RICO enterprise = awesomeness), invasion of privacy, libel, and civil conspiracy.
Our favorite part is this tidbit from paragraph 15: “Defendant Cutlar publicly berated a new attorney…. [because that attorney] used a paperclip on a document instead of a binder clip.” You can check out the full complaint via the link below.
If you’re in New York today (Sunday) and looking for something to do in the afternoon, consider checking out Thurgood. It’s a one-man show about the life of Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), starring Laurence Fishburne (best known as Morpheus of The Matrix, but with a long list of other film and theater credits).
It’s an entertaining and educational production, and Laurence Fishburne turns in a superb performance. As one friend of ours, an ex-theater major, put it, “Fishburne was able to make the audience forget that this is a one-man show.”
As one might expect from a play based on the life of a heroic historical figure, Thurgood occasionally verges on the pedantic and preachy (“one person can make a difference”; “we know how far we’ve come — but we also know how far we still have to go”). Law nerds might find feel patronized by the more expository parts of the play, like the mini-reviews of Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. You can often sense the “message” button being pushed.
But hey, everyone needs a refresher course every now and then. And there are enough interesting bits of biographical trivia — as well as ample entertainment, in the form of humorous anecdotes from Marshall’s life, well-told by Fishburne — to make you forgive the more didactic or heavy-handed elements.
If you’d like to see Thurgood, you need to act fast; it’s closing today. The 3 p.m. matinee is the final performance. You can probably get discounted tickets at the TKTS booth (since Thurgood was there last week, and there were definitely a few empty seats at the performance we attended yesterday).
Additional thoughts — if you’re planning on seeing the play, save these for later, so you can form your own opinions free of taint — after the jump.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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