* While Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts made a plea to keep funding for the federal judiciary intact, we learned that student loan default cases have fallen since 2011. You really gotta love that income-based repayment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Introducing the Asia 50, a list of the largest firms in the Asia-Pacific region. When it comes to the firms with the biggest footprints, only one American Biglaw shop made the cut. Go ahead and take a wild guess on which one it was. [Asian Lawyer]

* Congratulations are in order, because after almost a year of stalling, Arnold & Porter partner William Baer was finally confirmed by the Senate as the chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. [Bloomberg]

* Our elected officials might not have allowed the country to fall off the fiscal cliff, but the American Invents Act was put on hold, so if you’re a patent nerd, you can still be mad about something. [National Law Journal]

* Remember when Rutgers-Camden Law said “many top students” were making bank after graduation? Yeah, about that: Law School Transparency just filed an ABA complaint. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Here are some law school trends to look out for in 2013. FYI, the applicant pool is smaller because no one wants to foolishly gamble on their careers anymore. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* In the latest NYC subway shoving death, a woman was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, and allegedly bragged about other hate crimes she’s committed to police. Lovely. [New York Times]

* Next time you’re trapped on a plane that’s literally filled with other people’s crap for 11 hours, don’t bother suing over your hellish experience — you’re going to be preempted by federal law. [New York Law Journal]

* Justice Sonia Sotomayor just ruined Hobby Lobby’s new year by refusing to block the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptives mandate. All of the members of the company’s legal team will have to scrapbook and crochet for hours to get over this loss. [Reuters]

* Harvard Law graduate Barack Obama is being feted as CNN’s “Most Intriguing Person of 2012,” but he’s currently trailing in fourth place in the most important year-end poll of all: Above the Law’s Lawyer of the Year competition. Get out there and vote! [CNN]

* Federal district court judges aren’t being confirmed as quickly as they once were, and it’s partly because our president isn’t submitting nominees as quickly as those who came before him. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* But even if the president nominated judges more quickly, he’d continue to face harsh opposition from the NRA, which matters because the gun group has an entire party in its pocket. [Opinionator / New York Times]

* A legal problem and a journalism problem wrapped up in a little pretty bow: David Gregory of NBC’s “Meet the Press” is being investigated for displaying an alleged 30-round magazine on the air. [Washington Post]

* One of New York’s most prestigious private schools agreed to settle the sex abuse suit brought against it by former students. Simpson Thacher partner Phil Culhane must be doing a victory dance. [New York Daily News]

* You got a fast car, and now this case will pay all our bills. Toyota settled a class action suit over unintended acceleration, and it’s touted as one of the largest product-liability settlements in history. [New York Times]

* Ay dios mio! You know that you’re never going to enjoy another vacation when you catch a hotel employee spreading his seed all over your clothes. But what did you expect? It’s Mexico. [Courthouse News Service]

* Politicians are barred from speaking at this year’s memorial ceremony at Ground Zero, but will this ever be a day without politics? That still remains to be seen, but it will always be a day of remembrance. Never forget. [ABC News]

* What could possibly be more important than a resolution in the South Carolina voter ID case? Prejudice by font size. The Department of Justice is arguing over the alleged 12-point font size used by the state in a brief. Yes, seriously. [National Law Journal]

* Stephanie Rose was confirmed by the Senate as the first female federal judge in Iowa’s Southern District by a margin of 89-1. Damn, the one guy who voted against her better have a good reason. [Des Moines Register]

* “[He's] still trying to exculpate himself from one of the biggest blunders in the history of jurisprudence.” O.J.’s Dream Team denied allegations that Johnnie Cochran tampered with the bloody glove. [Los Angeles Times]

* Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the Obama “Hope” poster — you know, the one that Paul Ryan says is fading on your wall — has been sentenced to two years’ probation for tampering with evidence. [CNN]

* What are some of the advantages of applying to law school on an early decision basis? If anything at all, you’ll find out earlier that you won’t be getting any scholarship money. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

Justice Elena Kagan

Sounds like a dumb law.

– Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, commenting during her confirmation hearings on Senator Tom Coburn’s attempt to compare the Affordable Care Act to a hypothetical law requiring consumption of fruits and vegetables.

(Senator Coburn wondered if such a law would violate the Commerce Clause. In response, Kagan noted that “whether it’s a dumb law is different from … the question of whether it’s constitutional.”)

halloween pumpkin.jpgWe hope that you’ve recovered from any Halloween festivities you attended last night. For those of you who took your children trick-or-treating, we hope the kids have come down from their sugar highs.
We didn’t receive much in response to our request for funny, law-related Halloween stories. But we can offer you a few random links (some Halloween-related, and some not):
* Check out Denise Howell’s frighteningly witty, delightfully seasonal Blawg Review. [Bag and Baggage, via Blawg Review]
*A little bit of Halloween “issue spotting.” Yes, T-Ping your neighbor’s mailbox could get you in trouble. [WSJ Law Blog]
* More Halloween “issue spotting” — with some not-so-veiled lawyer advertising thrown in. [Animal New York]
* Costumes: they’re not just for kids anymore. In this case, the government has filed a motion for its witnesses to wear “light disguises.” [Southern District of Florida Blog]
* Something sure to strike fear in the hearts of the Elect: You can clerk on the Supreme Court, build a career as a successful litigator, make partner at a top law firm in your state, and STILL be declared “unqualified” for the federal bench. BOO!!! [Mississippi Sun-Herald via How Appealing]
* Something sure to strike fear in the hearts of conservatives: A new law review for the legal left. [Harvard Law & Policy Review]
* Not explicitly Halloween-themed, but scary. [Craigslist]
* Very scary: the childlike font the Fifth Circuit employs for its captions. It makes you want to ask the Clerk of Court if he was happy with last night’s candy haul. Oh, and the opinion is interesting too. [Fifth Circuit (PDF) via How Appealing]
Earlier: A Happy Halloween from ATL

ken wainstein kenneth wainstein kenneth l wainstein.jpgOkay, so he’s no Alice Fisher — the ball-busting, badass blonde, recently confirmed to head the DOJ’s Criminal Division, who has white-collar criminals shaking in their boots. But he’s still a highly regarded attorney — and pretty cute, too.
So ATL sends its congratulations to Kenneth L. Wainstein, just confirmed by the Senate as assistant attorney general for the Department’s brand-new National Security Division (NSD). Previously Wainstein served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
The Wall Street Journal — which criticized the Democrats for holding up Wainstein’s nomination 4-evah — describes Ken Wainstein’s new job as follows:

Mr. Wainstein is waiting to fill a new post recommended in last year’s Robb-Silberman report to further break down the “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement. The new post would bring Justice’s counterespionage, counterintelligence and wiretapping units under one Assistant AG. Mr. Wainstein would also be the law enforcement world’s primary liaison with the intelligence community.

President Bush approved the change, Congress authorized it while renewing the Patriot Act earlier this year, and Mr. Wainstein’s offices are humming with computers. All that’s missing is a leader.

Letting Wainstein go through was a smart move for the Democrats. We’re no political strategists, but we do know this much: With an election just a few weeks away, it’s unwise for the Democrats to hold up the nomination of someone with the words “National Security” in his title.
Wainstein, by the way, is putting together a real A-team of legal talent over at the NSD, including several members of the Elect. As we previously reported, one of them is conservative legal superstar Brett Gerry — the Silbermaniac and former Kennedy clerk, who was associate general counsel to the Robb-Silberman commission. Also onboard: John Demers (O’Scannlain/Scalia), the affable legal genius who previously did a tour of duty with the Office of Legal Counsel (which works on many national security issues).
So congrats again to Ken Wainstein. And best of luck to his band of brainiacs, as they tackle some of the toughest issues facing our nation.
Kenneth Wainstein bio []
Gonzales Statement on Confirmation of Ken Wainstein as Assistant Attorney General for National Security Division [DOJ Press Release]
Security Holdup [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]
Earlier: Congratulations to Alice Fisher!
The White House Counsel’s Office: Here Comes the Cavalry

alice fisher alice s fisher.jpgATL extends its warmest congratulations to Alice S. Fisher, who was just confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division — one of the most important and high-ranking posts at the Department of Justice. The vote was 61-35, with 7 Democrats crossing the aisle to support her.*
The Senate sure took its sweet time in confirming Alice Fisher. Back in August 2005, the White Collar Crime Prof Blog asked: When Will the Senate Confirm Alice Fisher to Lead the Criminal Division? It noted that Fisher was nominated as Crim Div AAG back in April — of 2005, mind you — and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2005.
We’re delighted by this news, ’cause we can’t get enough of the brassy, blonde, tough-talking Fisher. In Washingtonian magazine’s July 2006 list of “40 Top Lawyers Under 40,” Fisher came in second (behind Solicitor General Paul Clement). The magazine quoted lawyers who described Fisher — a 1992 graduate of Catholic University Law School, and a protege of DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff — as a “tornado” during her time at Latham & Watkins (where she was a partner before joining the Justice Department).**
Fisher is a native of Kentucky — but based on her bad-ass demeanor, you’d guess she emerged from the mean streets of Brooklyn (pre-Yuppification). We can still recall Fisher’s press conference announcing charges against disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Fisher held forth like a sheriff from the Old West, making clear to Capitol Hill criminals that she would hunt them down and bring them to justice.
During her remarks, Fisher mispronounced Abramoff’s name — maybe she said something like “uh-BRAM-off” — over and over again. This led some Beltway insiders to snicker; tout le monde knew Jack Abramoff and the proper pronunciation of his name.
But we were loving it. Why? Rumor has it that this DOJ diva knew full well how to pronounce “Abramoff,” but mangled it on purpose — to send him a message. That message: “Congressmen have been kissing your ass for years. Everywhere you go in this town, people treat you like royalty. But to me, Mr. uh-BRAM-off, you’re just another common criminal — and I’m going to treat you like one. Bite me!”
* The seven Democrats who supported Fisher were Evan Bayh, Byron Dorgan, Russell Feingold, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor, Kenneth Salazar. One Republican, Norm Coleman, did not vote.
** Michael Chertoff has a long and distinguished list of high-powered proteges. See here.
Gonzales Statement on Confirmation of Alice S. Fisher as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division [DOJ press release]
President Pleased by Senate Confirmation of Alice S. Fisher []
When Will the Senate Confirm Alice Fisher to Lead the Criminal Division? [White Collar Crime Prof Blog]
Alice S. Fisher [National Law Journal]

jerome holmes judge tenth circuit.jpgHow Appealing reports that the Senate has just confirmed Jerome A. Holmes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, by a vote of 67-30. The Tenth Circuit, a moderate and quasi-boring appellate court, hears appeals from six underpopulated states in the heart of flyover country.
So why is the Holmes confirmation newsworthy? For those of you who haven’t been following this story, Holmes is a highly respected, exceptionally well-credentialed attorney. Who happens to be extremely conservative. Who happens to be African-American. And who happens to be quite outspoken on a number of issues, including affirmative action — which he strongly opposes.
One of our Hill sources describes Holmes as “the next Clarence Thomas,” who has liberals running scared. Our source opines: “They [Senate Democrats] would have loved to have stopped the Holmes confirmation. But given his credentials, and the fact that he’s black, there was nothing they could do. [Sen. Arlen] Specter scheduled several hours of floor debate, basically daring the Democrats to speak out against him. This is a fight the Republicans wanted to pick.”
And in the end, it’s a fight that they won. We’ll be keeping an eye on Judge Holmes. At the young age of 45, he has at least a decade left of possible viability as a Supreme Court nominee.
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Jerome A. Holmes [How Appealing]

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