Federal Judges

ACS.gifWe’re quite talented at bringing you last week’s news. See, e.g., our ridiculously extensive coverage of the Battle of the Law Firm Bands.
The main reason for our D.C. visit was not the Battle of the Bands, but the national convention of the American Constitution Society (ACS) — the left’s answer to the Federalist Society. With the Democrats in control of both Congress and the White House, this year’s conference was well-attended and celebratory. There was even an upgrade in venue, from the Hyatt Regency to the Mayflower Renaissance.
(Was Eliot Spitzer on the program committee? Or did ACS go with the Mayflower because it’s the traditional venue for the annual conference of the Federalist Society?)
The first plenary panel of this year’s ACS conference featured a star-studded cast:

  • Judge Rosemary Barkett, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • Thomas C. Goldstein (moderator), Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Pamela Harris, O’Melveny & Myers LLP
  • Pamela S. Karlan, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School
  • Goodwin A. Liu, Associate Dean and Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley School of Law
  • John Payton, President and Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
    Read our write-up, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “At the ACS National Convention: Keeping Faith With the Constitution”

  • Here’s interesting information about the personal finances of Judge Sonia Sotomayor (2d Cir.), nominated last month to the U.S. Supreme Court. A tipster directed our attention to this post from the NYT’s Caucus blog, observing: “You can’t spend most of your professional life as a judge and get rich. Maybe Biglaw is the way to go.”

    This excerpt hits the highlights:

    [Judge Sotomayor] disclosed few assets other than her home in New York. After 17 years on the federal bench, Judge Sotomayor reported having just $31,985 in cash and no stocks, bonds or securities. She has a $381,775 mortgage on her home, valued at $1 million, and owes $15,000 in dentist bills and another $15,000 in credit card bills.

    Fifteen grand in dentist’s bills? Well, she does have a nice smile.

    In defense of Judge Sotomayor’s financial state, she’s a single woman, no kids, with a six-figure income ($179,500), high job security, and generous retirement benefits. For competing assessments of Her Honor’s finances, see TaxProf Blog.

    New Documents Reveal Sotomayor’s White House Contacts [The Caucus / New York Times]
    Judge Sotomayor’s Savings [TaxProf Blog]

    New Orleans courthouse.jpgThere are a lot of things you can do in New Orleans that you can’t do anywhere else. But cursing out a judge is apparently not one of them.
    Ashton O’Dwyer has made a bit of a name for himself in the post-Katrina universe. A tipster provides some backstory on this former lawyer:

    Ashton O’Dwyer has become a bit of a nuisance in Louisiana post Katrina. I am pretty sure that at one point, he actually seceded from the union in an attempt to get financial foreign aid following Katrina. He has been disbarred for abusive language and disrespect of the legal system. He does have several cases where he represents himself pro se.

    Recently, Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle (E.D. La.) held O’Dwyer in contempt of court for saying “screw you” and hanging up, at the conclusion of a status conference.
    O’Dwyer fired off a (handwritten) response to the contempt order, defending his conduct:

    [A]t the time he told Ivan L. R. Lemelle (as a man, not as a Judge): “screw you,” and hung up the telephone during the referenced status conference by telephone, the business of the Court had already been concluded.

    Actually, that is not a terrible argument, if the court’s business was actually concluded before O’Dwyer made his remark.
    But O’Dwyer doesn’t leave well enough alone. Did you know that both O’Dwyer and Lemelle are Judge Lemellle is black? That fact becomes important — at least in O’Dwyer’s mind.
    More details after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How To Curse Out A Judge in New Orleans”

    Thumbnail image for Judge Kent.jpgThe Not-So-Honorable Samuel Kent — the first federal judge to be charged with a sex crime, and now a convicted felon, after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice — is leaving the bench.
    But he’s taking his sweet time about it:

    U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent on Tuesday submitted his ”unconditional resignation,” which will take effect June 1, 2010.

    Kent’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, says the judge decided to resign to avoid the ”spectacle” of an impeachment process by Congress. The House Judiciary Committee had scheduled a hearing on the matter for Wednesday.

    Kent’s resignation announcement comes a week after denial of his request to retire on disability due to depression — which would have allowed him to continue receiving his full salary for the rest of his life.

    Yes, that’s right — June 2010. What’s going on? Professor Jonathan Turley explains (gavel bang: commenter):

    The date is designed to milk the system of as much benefits as possible — only to resign shortly before any completion of impeachment. Absent a voluntary resignation or impeachment, Kent can continue to receive his judicial salary.

    Pretty pretty clever. Count on a federal judge to work the legal loopholes.
    Judge Kent Resigns On Eve of Impeachment Hearing — Effective One Year From Now [Jonathan Turley]
    Convicted Federal Judge Submits Resignation Letter [Associated Press]
    Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Judge Samuel B. Kent

    sonia sotomayor above the law.jpgThis morning we covered the announcement by President Barack Obama of his intention to nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, of the New York-based Second Circuit, to serve as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. This afternoon, we participated in a conference call between a senior Administration official and several reporters, to discuss the Sotomayor nomination. Here’s a quick write-up of the call.
    “Obviously it’s an historic day here at the White House,” the official noted, referencing the fact that Judge Sotomayor, if confirmed, will be the first Hispanic (and only the third woman) to serve on the SCOTUS. He stressed that the president took the choice “very seriously,” and read “literally thousands of pages” of judicial opinions and academic writings by the potential nominees. (Of course, as a former law professor, Obama is used to such intellectual heavy lifting.)
    Obama interviewed four candidates personally (and Vice President Joe Biden also talked to the final four): Judge Sotomayor; Judge Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit; Solicitor General Elena Kagan; and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. He picked Judge Sotomayor based on three factors: (1) her overall level of intellectual capacity and legal acumen, reflected in her academic record, her work as a lawyer, and her judicial service; (2) her approach to judging, including her legal craftsmanship and her ability to win over colleagues on the Second Circuit; and (3) her compelling personal story, which was placed front and center at this morning’s press conference.
    Then the floor was opened up to questions. Read more, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Sotomayor Nomination: A Bit of Backstory”

    golf ball.jpgMay 2009 must be a month of mixed emotions for Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York mayor (and unsuccessful presidential candidate) Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani the younger sued Duke University for kicking him off the golf team.

    On the positive side, he graduated from Duke this month (even if he did miss the graduation ceremony). On the negative side, he lost he’s one step closer to losing his breach of contract case against Duke — and now, thanks to the humorous opinion by a little-known North Carolina judge, he’s being subjected to a quadruple bogey of humiliation.

    CORRECTION: Giuliani hasn’t lost his lawsuit yet. The magistrate judge has merely recommended dismissal to the district judge.

    Magistrate Judge Wallace Dixon dismissed recommended dismissal of Giuliani’s suit, with golf references playing through the whole 12-page opinion.

    Here’s a sampling of leads from various news sources:

    ESPN: Suffice it to say that in U.S. Magistrate Judge Wallace Dixon’s opinion, ousted Duke University golfer Andrew Giuliani’s lawsuit against the school did not make par.
    New York Daily News: Andrew Giuliani’s bid to sue Duke University for kicking him off its golf team ended in the rough this week.
    New York Times: A federal magistrate judge with a taste for sports metaphors has found that Andrew Giuliani’s lawsuit against Duke University for letting a coach push him off the university’s golf team is “a swing and a miss.”
    San Jose Mercury News: A judge treated Andrew Giuliani’s lawsuit with all the gravitas it deserved — which is to say, there’s a legal document in North Carolina that was inspired by “Caddyshack.”
    The News and Observer: The son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to make a federal case against Duke University for kicking him off the golf team. But a federal magistrate says Andrew Giuliani’s case belongs in the drink.

    The News & Observer wins the contest for wonkiest golf metaphor. Excerpts from the opinion, after the jump.

    double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Opinion of the Day: Giuliani v. Duke University”


    * SCOTUS will look at the separation of church and state when they decide whether “a cross to honor fallen soldiers can stand in a national preserve in California.” [The Los Angeles Times]

    * Lawyers say Madoff must have had help with his Ponzi scheme. [Bloomberg]

    * Attorney General Eric Holder visited Guantanamo yesterday to see what is needed to close the prison. [The Associated Press]

    * Meanwhile, a Pentagon official who inspected Guantanamo at Obama’s request is under fire from human rights activists for filing a report (which declares Gitmo humane) that is little more than good public relations for the administration. [The New York Times]

    * What do you do when your boss gets indicted for securities fraud? You get another job. A team of seven bankruptcy lawyers left Dreier LLP for Epstein Becker Green. [EBG]

    * A federal judge encouraged the Obama administration to decide whether to keep pursuing a case against 11 Vietnam War Veterans accused of trying to overthrow Laos’s communist government. [The Associated Press]

    * Judge says: UBS must respond to the U.S. lawsuit seeking disclosure of 52,000 names of people who allegedly used Swiss accounts for tax evasion. [Bloomberg]

    Thumbnail image for Judge Kent.jpgOn Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent lost a motion to have his obstruction of justice charge dropped or moved to a different trial.

    Today, he copped a plea and announced his intent to retire. According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

    The jurist pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice today and retired from the bench, avoiding a trial on several charges that he sexually abused two female employees….

    “Judge Kent believes that this settlement is in the best interest of all involved,” his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said after this morning’s hearing. “A trial would have been long, embarrassing and difficult for all involved.”

    Long and difficult? Sounds about right.

    Update: Read more about Judge Kent’s fate over here.

    Breaking News: Judge Kent Cops Plea, Resigns [WSJ Law Blog]

    Judge Kent accepts plea deal and retires from bench [Houston Chronicle]


    * Legal experts write a letter to Congress suggesting term limits for Supreme Court justices. [The Washington Post]

    * SCOTUS will discuss whether judges should excuse themselves from voting in cases involving big campaign contributors when they hear a case involving a West Virginia judge. [Detroit Free Press]

    * 3 jurors who convicted Alfred Trenkler of a bombing that killed a Boston Police officer wrote letters begging the judge for a new trial, after a book about the case convinced them of his innocence. [The Boston Globe]

    * Today in Houston, U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent will go on trial, facing accusations that he fondled two female court employees. [The Associated Press]

    * Madoff‘s investors wont have an easy time in court; securities law is not on their side. [The Washington Post]

    Michael Mukasey small Chief Judge Michael B Mukasey SDNY Above the Law blog.jpgThe revolving door between government and private practice is in full swing. This morning brought the news that Judith Kaye, former chief judge of New York State, has joined Skadden Arps as counsel.

    And this afternoon brings more news: Michael Mukasey, fresh off his stint as U.S. Attorney General, will be joining the partnership of Debevoise & Plimpton. Before his service as AG, Mukasey was a partner at Patterson Belknap (and was a Patterson associate before becoming a federal judge in the S.D.N.Y.).

    Why didn’t Mukasey return to Patterson? Perhaps Debevoise offered more dough. Fueled by a series of large internal investigations, including the international Siemens matter, the firm has seen its partner profits skyrocket in recent years. In 2007, profits per partner at Debevoise hit $2.3 million.

    Says a Debevoise tipster: “Now I get to find out if waterboarding is torture.”

    Update (3:05 PM): The Debevoise press release is now available here.

    Update (4 PM): Mukasey gave a short interview to the WSJ Law Blog, in which he explained his decision to join Debevoise: “It’s particularly strong in litigation and in conducting major corporate investigations and preparing reports to boards. Also, it has many former government lawyers, including Mary Jo [White].”

    Update (5:30 PM): More praise from Mukasey for Debevoise, over at Am Law Daily.

    Michael B. Mukasey to Join Debevoise & Plimpton (press release)

    A Law Blog Q&A With Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey [WSJ Law Blog]

    Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye Joins Skadden, Arps (press release)

    Former NYS Chief Judge Judith Kaye Joins Skadden [Am Law Daily]

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