Health Care / Medicine

Some of you have been wondering about the whereabouts of our colleague, Elie Mystal. As several of you have noticed, he hasn’t written for these pages since last Tuesday.

No, Elie’s not still on vacation. Unfortunately, he’s on sick leave: he has been bedridden since Tuesday with tonsillitis and an acute sinus infection.

Either he’ll be back at work soon, or we’ll be reporting on one hell of a med mal suit. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Here in the great state of New York, marriage equality is the order of the day — as it is in five other states, plus D.C.. But due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal tax code does not recognize same-sex unions. As a result, as explained by the law firm of McCarter & English, “the Internal Revenue Code treats the value of employer-provided healthcare benefits for a civil union or domestic partner as ‘imputed income’ to the employee. This means that employees who elect domestic partner benefits must pay income tax on the value of those benefits, which is in direct contrast to employees with different-sex spouses.”

To address this inequality, a number of law firms — including McCarter & English, as of this June — have adopted what we here at Above the Law have dubbed the “gay gross-up.” This benefit consists of “a bump in income such that, post-tax, the employees are in the same position as similarly situated employees electing healthcare benefits for their opposite-sex spouses.”

In addition to McCarter, a number of prominent law firms have adopted this policy since our last report. Let’s find out which ones….

UPDATE (8/25/11): We’ve added to the list since it was originally published. See the updated list below.

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Looks like the joke is on us.

* With a recommendation for dismissal filed, Dominique Strauss-Kahn hopes to bid adieu to his rape charges and say au revoir to our country. [CNN]

* Apparently your law school can still be on the Best Value honor roll even if its bar passage rates suck abysmally. What up CUNY Law. [National Jurist]

* It’ll be awesome if Clarence Thomas speaks during the inevitable Supreme Court oral arguments on Obamacare. Ginni needs to start smacking him around so this happens. [New Yorker]

* Will Booz Allen get hit with a trifecta of gender discrimination lawsuits this summer? Yesterday marked the second one in filed in the past three weeks. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Not sure why trial lawyers are all up in arms about Rick Perry. Is the star of How to Secede from the U.S. Without Really Trying actually going to be a real contender in Election 2012? [POLITICO]

* Living in a complex full of Type A bar examinees (and repeat failures) for five years sounds like a fate worse than death. I’d rather be condemned to the Gulag. [Los Angeles Times]

* Howrey’s pre-Labor Day, everything must go, furniture sale. Don’t miss it. [Am Law Daily]

* CBS settles the case with two women suing Dr. Phil for unleashing a naked dinner guest on them for his show. I’m not sure if this is a case of two really uptight women or one really ugly dude, but I do know that alcohol would have solved this problem better than any counseling Dr. Phil could have provided. [Lowering the Bar]

* This is a touching little profile on life on the inside for Hacksaw McDaniel. [Macon Telegraph]

Obamacare!

* Obama is confident Supreme Court will uphold Obamacare? Did a justice die while I was away and nobody told me? [WSJ Law Blog]

* Do you think any of these new law firm models can use a thousand highly paid yet unskilled associates straight out of law school for a limited time until they go on to do actually interesting things with their lives? Oh, no reason, I was just asking. [Legal Blog Watch]

* This list of organizations who heavily contributed to members of the Deficit Super Committee includes Skadden. Actually, it looks like many lawyers are heavily invested with these politicians. [Maplight]

Aw crap, there go my approval ratings.

The Eleventh Circuit has declared that Obamacare’s individual health care mandate is unconstitutional. Today’s decision will be lauded as a victory for the 26 states, led by Florida, that challenged the law as unconstitutional.

In a 2-1 decision (and the first in which a judge appointed by a Democrat has voted to strike down the mandate), the Eleventh Circuit stated that Congress does not have the power to require all Americans to buy health insurance. The court also ruled, however, that the rest of the law could remain in effect.

The Eleventh Circuit decision comes in the wake of the Sixth Circuit upholding the individual mandate as constitutional (a ruling joined by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a George W. Bush appointee). The Sixth Circuit case has already been appealed to the Supreme Court. We have a feeling that this case will also be appealed to the Supreme Court, setting quite the stage for a ruling within the next year or so.

Click here to read the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion, and read on for some more interesting facts about the case….

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I don't care how it works, just give me my degree.

My wife and I have made this proposal to our Harvard creditors: they forgive our debt, we give the school a baby. A “pure-bred” Harvard baby that Harvard can dress up or perform experiments on or whatever. It will have to be a black baby, which might underwhelm some Harvard officials, but that’s got to be canceled out by the fact that the media won’t much care about what Harvard wants to do to/with a black baby. The “where’s the justice of Caylee????!!!!!” crowd won’t be on their ass.

I think it’s an elegant solution. My wife thinks I’m getting off easy (because my “contribution” to this form of debt repayment would once again be de minimis). And our creditors say: “We only accept straight cash, homey.”

But I’m just ahead of my time. In the U.K., people are already suggesting that indebted students should be given the opportunity to barter down their loans with sacrifices of the flesh….

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As many of you know, here at Above the Law we have been tracking which major law firms offer a non-salary benefit that we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up. As we’ve previously explained, quoting a memo issued by Simpson Thacher, the gay gross-up is “[a] ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.”

Today we are pleased to report that two top firms have joined the club. Kudos to Debevoise & Plimpton and Shearman & Sterling for standing on the side of equality. You can read their announcement memos, issued earlier this month, after the jump.

We have added these firms to our list. By the way, for those firms that would rather appear on a list maintained by the New York Times than one maintained by Above the Law, you should note that the NYT is also monitoring which workplaces provide this perk. The NYT list includes employers of many different types, not just law firms, and features some of the nation’s most innovative companies, such as Google and Facebook and Apple.

With the addition of Debevoise and Shearman, which leading law firms provide this benefit? Let’s take a look….

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Ask the Tooth Fairy, son.

The phone’s been ringing off the hook here at the Circumcision Law Desk all weekend, so I apologize in advance if this post comes off sounding a bit distracted. Oftentimes, the intersection of foreskin and law is a lonely corridor filled with nothing but shattered dreams and crying babies.

A screaming anti-semitism comes across the sky.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article that did a pretty good job of illuminating where we are at in the pitched legal battle over circumcision. As mentioned at the end of the last dispatch from the Circumcision Law Desk, the forces of full-bodied penises have turned their attention to passing legislation that outlaws circumcision.

As Elie pointed out two weeks ago, San Franciscans will be voting this fall on whether to ban circumcision. And they’re not alone.

After the jump, find out what happens when people stop being polite and start trying to pass laws that outlaw circumcision and, in the process, piss off an entire religion (and blogger Andrew Sullivan)….

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Dr. Jack Kevorkian (via Getty Images).

Jack Kevorkian was a Michigan pathologist — but the doctor spent more time in the courtroom than in the operating room. He was a frequent litigant, thanks to his central role in the national controversy over assisted suicide, whose legality he advocated.

Early this morning, “Dr. Death” died, at the age of 83. It’s telling that Kevorkian’s passing was confirmed to the media by his lawyer, Geoffrey Fieger (whose awesome website we’ve previously deconstructed). The exact cause of death was not immediately known, but Kevorkian reportedly suffered from kidney and respiratory problems.

UPDATE (10 AM): According to Mayer Morganroth, another attorney for Kevorkian, Kevorkian suffered a pulmonary thrombosis, when a blood clot in his leg broke free and moved up to his heart. Morganroth was with Kevorkian at the time of his death, according to the Detroit Free Press (via ABA Journal).

The legal system tried to stop Dr. Kevorkian from assisting in suicides for many years, without success….

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The case for same-sex marriage should rest less upon dollars and cents and more upon fundamental principles of fairness (as recently argued by Professor Jaye Cee Whitehead in a New York Times op-ed piece). But it’s certainly the case that money matters should not be overlooked when it comes to marriage equality.

We’ve previously discussed a non-salary benefit that we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. Here’s one concise definition: “A ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.” (Currently gay couples in which partners receive employer-provided health benefits are taxed on the value of those benefits, due to the fact that, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal law — including federal tax law — doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.)

The gross-up is not a perk that affects a huge number of employees, to be sure. But having it sends an important message about a firm’s commitment to equality and inclusion.

Where did we obtain that handy definition of the gross-up? From the benefits page of a top law firm that recently started offering this benefit. It’s one of two elite law firms that recently boarded the gay gross-up bandwagon….

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