Eric Holder

It’s time for the State of the Union again, which means it’s time to gather around the TV and thoughtfully discuss the future of the country play a sophomoric game based on the events that we expect to unfold over the course of the evening.

Remember to follow your Above the Law editors covering the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog@DavidLat@ElieNYC@StaciZaretsky, and @JosephPatrice.

Now, on to the game….

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Christmas came early for folks who are skeptical about the Department of Justice and how it does business.

Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General at the Department of Justice, issued a memorandum to the Attorney General listing his office’s view of the “Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Justice.”

Whether you’re someone with a political axe to grind against a Department of Justice run under a Democratic President, a libertarian who simply doesn’t like the government doing much of anything, or someone in the trenches of the criminal justice system who wants to see the guts of the Department of Justice on display, there’s something for everyone to like in the IG’s memo.

And, of course, the IG’s memo is, institutionally, a bit odd. One would think that Eric Holder, the Attorney General, would be the guy issuing memos about the top issues facing the Department of Justice. But, happily, we have the IG — pulling up the dark parts of the Department and bringing them to the public eye.

So here, just so you don’t have to read it, are the most interesting parts of the Inspector General’s memo for folks in the white-collar world.

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Remember the 80s? Big hair, Dynasty, Huey Lewis was popular for some reason. Well, Judge Jed Rakoff remembers the 80s, and he also remembers the way the federal government used to actually investigate and prosecute people who committed massive financial crimes — Mike Milken, Ivan Boesky, Charles Keating, a bevy of other savings and loans kingpins. Good times.

And Judge Rakoff wants to know what happened to prosecuting financial crimes, specifically the sort of fraud that crippled the economy. So he took to the pages of the New York Review of Books to ponder all the financial prosecutions that could have been. And he has some theories about what happened and how prosecutors could do a better job in the future.

It’s a fascinating look at a bunch of ideas that the government is going to totally ignore…

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* A Texas court overturned Tom DeLay’s conviction on money laundering charges. DeLay immediately thanked Jesus, who played an instrumental role in the three judge panel’s deliberations. [New York Times]

* Eric Holder has eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for those low-level nonviolent drug offenders whose cases are currently pending. In related news, here is a cow riding a razor scooter. [Washington Post]

* This says J.P. Morgan actually did just fine in their settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. I get the hugest boner from underdog stories like this one. [WSJ Law Blog]

* A woman has sued Getty Images after her photo was used in an HIV advertisement. She’s apparently holding out for the herp campaign. [New York Post]

* More from Clarence Thomas in Portland: “Why was a black kid in Georgia reading Ayn Rand?” I don’t know. Because he was dumb? [ABC News]

* The Department of Justice won’t be harshing anyone’s mellow in Washington and Colorado just yet, because Eric Holder has more important things to do than to get involved in people’s pot. [CNN]

* The IRS will now treat all legal gay marriages the same as straight marriages for tax purposes, no matter where the couples live. That’s absolutely fabulous! [Federal Eye / Washington Post]

* Howrey going to deal with all of Allan Diamond’s unfinished business claims made as trustee on behalf of this failed firm? By claiming as a united front that “[c]lients are not property,” even if we secretly think they are. [Am Law Daily]

* In this wonderful post-Windsor world, the parents of a deceased Cozen O’Connor attorney are appealing a judge’s ruling as to the dispensation of their daughter’s death benefits to her wife. [Legal Intelligencer]

* Reduce, re-use, and recycle: environmentally friendly words used to reduce a Biglaw firm’s carbon footprint, not the number of its lawyers. Say hello to the Law Firm Sustainability Network. [Daily Report]

* Disability rights groups are coming forward to defend California’s LSAT anti-flagging law because the amount of extra testing time you receive should be between you and your doctor. [National Law Journal]

* If you thought Charleston School of Law was going to be sold to the InfiLaw System, then think again. The law school is up for grabs on Craigslist. Alas, the “[s]tudent body has been used.” [Red Alert Politics]

If you’re interested in purchasing Charleston School of Law, keep reading to see the ad (click to enlarge)…

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* Even the election law controversies are bigger in Texas. The Department of Justice is currently planning to intervene in one lawsuit and file another against the Lone Star state over its voter identification law and redistricting plans. [National Law Journal]

* Here’s an especially helpful ruling for people who have been living their lives without landlines (so, basically everyone). You can gratefully thank the Third Circuit for allowing you to block those annoying robocalls on your cellphones. [Legal Intelligencer]

* Well, that was quick — a Biglaw pump and dump, if you will. After only a year, David M. Bernick, former general counsel of Philip Morris, is leaving Boies Schiller and will likely be taking a position at Dechert. [DealBook / New York Times]

* “[L]ife got in the way.” Who really needs loyalty in Biglaw these days? More than half of the nearly 500 associates and counsel who made partner in 2013 started their careers at different firms. [Am Law Daily]

* Another one bites the dust. John McGahren, the New Jersey managing partner of Patton Boggs, just resigned from an office he opened himself after some major attorney downsizing. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* “In a community of 98,000 people and 640,000 partners, it isn’t possible to say there will never be wrongdoing.” Comforting. Microsoft is under the microscope of a federal bribery probe. [Corporate Counsel]

* Ronald Motley, a “charismatic master of the courtroom” who founded Motley Rice, RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]

I support radical reform of our nation’s drug laws not despite my conservative political views, but because of them. Decriminalization efforts support at least three values that mean much to me as a conservative. Decriminalization falls in line with the conservative (or at least libertarian-leaning conservative) emphasis on personal liberty and the rights of individuals to make choices about how they govern themselves, so long as their actions don’t directly harm others. Decriminalization makes good moral sense too, by not vilifying addicts and by not needlessly breaking up families through incarcerating non-violent offenders. Perhaps most significantly, radically reforming current drug laws avoids the economic irresponsibility of America’s failed war on drugs.

This week, of course, Attorney General Eric Holder announced new Justice Department policies for drug prosecutions, while addressing the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. In his speech, Holder proposed tinkering with the application of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes; modifying the Justice Department’s charging policies “so that certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences”; and “taking steps to identify and share best practices for enhancing the use of diversion programs – such as drug treatment and community service initiatives – that can serve as effective alternatives to incarceration.”

I commend Holder’s effort. But as a conservative considering the economics of the drug war, I’m concerned that this new policy neglects one of the most significant reasons why we need much more radical reform than this . . . .

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I didn’t go to Eric Holder’s big speech at the ABA annual meeting on Monday. I kind of halfheartedly tried to go, but there were a lot of people who wanted to see Holder say something they could’ve read about online hours earlier.

If the ABA had invited Secretary of Education Arne Duncan over to speak about the horrendous abuse of federal funds by purveyors of higher education, I’d have smashed my way in. But in the crush of people trying to get a look at the Attorney General trying to dismantle a big part of the United States “War On Drugs,” I was reminded that regulating legal education is a small part of what the ABA does — and a part that isn’t of great institutional importance to the organization. The ABA wants a seat at the policy table when it comes to big sexy issues of justice and legal services. Preventing member institutions from price-gouging young people doesn’t get its logo splashed across all the major news networks.

So, Eric Holder delivered a big policy address. And later, by which point I was on a plane, Hillary Clinton spoke about how she’ll be speaking about other things as she doesn’t run for president just yet. Holder! Hillary! Marvel at the ABA’s relevance in national policy debates!

Except, they’re not relevant. Holder did make an important speech on Monday, and he couldn’t have found a more supportive group for his take-down of mandatory minimums had he been speaking to potheads in Golden Gate Park. But really, the ABA isn’t going to be any more helpful when it comes to actually convincing Congress than a meeting of the 4:20 club…

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* Whitey Bulger was convicted on 31 of the 32 counts he faced. [NBC News]

* Eric Holder announced that the federal government will stop charging certain drug offenders with crimes that carry draconian mandatory minimum sentences. Apparently, he just now realized the prison system is riddled with non-violent offenders. The last horses are finally crossing the finish line, folks! [Washington Post]

* Johnny Manziel has hired counsel for his upcoming NCAA probe. Surprise, surprise, it’s Champ Kind from Anchorman. [Jim Darnell]

* As a follow-up, the lawyer who filed suit against his ex-wife for bad mothering is facing ethics charges in an unrelated matter where he wrote a will giving his own kids 40 percent of his client’s estate. It take something special to try and slip that one past the goalie. [ABA Journal]

* The former escort behind the nom de plume Belle de Jour, whose exploits gave rise to a TV show, is being sued for defamation by an old boyfriend who claims her sexploits are a lie. If you can’t trust a detailed diary of sexual experiences, what can you trust? [Jezebel]

* Here are the top energy law priorities facing Congress after they return from summer recess. Repealing Obamacare, Congress’s only priority, is not an energy policy. [Breaking Energy]

* For IP attorney LOLZ, here’s a fun Tumblr. [IP Attorney]

* A law student at Wisconsin has developed a system that allows easy stalking of someone’s smartphone. While this makes him sound like a jerk, his intention is to prove how unacceptable this lack of privacy really is. It’s not stalking if it’s proving a point! [Ars Technica]

* The Sixth Circuit thinks the emergency manager law in Michigan may violate the state’s constitution. This could throw the whole Detroit bankruptcy into doubt. There’s a lot of talk about how this could help city pensioners, but let’s focus on the victims it could cause — what would happen to Jones Day’s billings? [Constitutional Law Prof Blog]

Howard Dean

* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the legal wrangling: Eric Holder’s use of the VRA’s “bail in” provision to circumvent the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby may prove to be trouble. [National Law Journal]

* The Fifth Circuit upheld warrantless cellphone tracking yesterday, noting that it was “not per se unconstitutional.” We suppose that a per se victory for law enforcement is better than nothing. [New York Times]

* The pretty people at Davis Polk are fighting a $1.4 million suit over a headhunter’s fee with some pretty ugly words, alleging that the filing “fails both as a matter of law and common sense.” [Am Law Daily]

* Howard Dean is rather annoyed that he’s had to go on the defensive about his work for McKenna Long & Aldridge after railing against Obamacare. Ideally, he’d just like to scream and shout about it. [TIME]

* The ABA is concerned about Florida A&M, and sent a second warning about the school’s imminent failure to meet accreditation standards. Well, I’ll be damned, the ABA actually cares. [Orlando Sentinel]

* Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is suing to prevent a clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A silly little lawsuit won’t stop this guy from doing what he thinks is right. [Legal Intelligencer]

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