Judicial Divas

U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett won’t get the publicity of Judge Martin Feldman. Obviously, blocking President Obama’s deep-water drilling moratorium — having already disclosed investments in Transocean and Halliburton — is big news.

But Judge Bennett is making waves of his own in his Iowa courtroom. He’s decided that he wants lawyers to participate in an auction to determine who will get to serve as lead counsel in some consolidated antitrust cases.

And he informed lawyers of this with a curious email. The subject line alone is not something one expects from a federal judge:

Waterman v. VS Holding Co. et al (10cv4038) – consolidated antitrust actions – “going once, twice, sold to the lowest bidder” – ready to rumble?

Not only is this judge “ready to rumble,” he’s also ready to insult lawyers from East Coast law firms…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge of the Day: Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa Is ‘Underwhelmed’ By East Coast Law Firms”

Warning to the female readers of Above the Law: the reading of this post may lead to the rending of your inappropriate clothing and pulling out of your questionably-styled hair.

Earlier this month, lady lawyers gathered in Philadelphia for the ABA’s Women in Law Leadership Academy. Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer was in attendance and reported on a session featuring esteemed female judges offering advice to their trial lawyer counterparts (gavel bang: ABA Journal).

U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro criticized women for being too timid in the courtroom. She said that “women lack the confidence that men seem to have.” Apparently the solution is the same one that women employ when they lack enthusiasm and confidence in certain other situations:

“You pretend. You fake it,” Shapiro said, adding that being prepared helps.

If faking confidence in the courtroom is as easy as feigning pleasure in the bedroom, perhaps many more women will soon be coming across as master litigators.

The judges had other advice. When a whole bunch of women get together, they just can’t help but complain about other women’s outfits and hair, after all….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Advice for Women Lawyers: Fake It.”

avatar Frolic and Detour ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by FROLIC & DETOUR, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Frolic & Detour's avatar (at right).]
Many thanks to those who wrote in about their creepy, sadistic, and otherwise entertaining legal bosses.
Skadden employee Skadden Arps Slate Meagher Flom.jpgOur first nominee, Judge Suzanne B. Conlon, earned her place in bossal history by firing a clerk for complying with an evacuation order on Sep. 11, 2001.
Read about her competition, courtesy of some long-suffering ATL readers, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “America’s Worst Legal Boss Strikes Back”

avatar Frolic and Detour ATL Idol.jpg[Ed. note: This post is by FROLIC & DETOUR, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Frolic & Detour's avatar (at right).]
Demanding bosses come with the territory in our line of work. Several less-than-loving legal employers have been profiled here on ATL, and you’ve shared some fine examples of bossal abuse. But until today, we’ve never undertaken a search for the worst boss in the legal profession.
Skadden employee Skadden Arps Slate Meagher Flom.jpgThis week, we want to find the ultimate briefcase-hurling, insult-spewing master of the legal boss’s art. ATL will get the ball rolling by offering the first nominee:
Senior Judge Suzanne B. Conlon, a living legend of the Northern District of Illinois, is a true judicial diva. She even fired a staff member who refused to carry the judge’s lunch up 17 flights of stairs on a day when the elevators weren’t working. But those in the know tell us that Judge Conlon didn’t reach the pinnacle of her achievements in bossery until September 11, 2001.
Judge Conlon is famous for her punctuality and for her ruthless enforcement of deadlines. So when federal marshals evacuated the Dirksen courthouse that sunny morning, she stayed put in her chambers. One clerk began to make made preparations to leave, per the instructions of the guys with guns. Judge Conlon decreed [paraphrasing]: “It is a TUESDAY, you are here till SIX, and if you leave, don’t come back.”
So he left and didn’t come back.
Can you top this, readers? We bet you can. Tell us why your boss (or former boss) deserves the Worst Legal Boss honor at frolicndetour.atl.idol@gmail.com or in the comments. We’ll select the most outstanding candidates and post the full list of nominees on Thursday.

prostitute intern tramp Judge Ann Lokuta Above the Law blog.jpgHow have we not heard of her before? She’s fabulous! And for reasons that will soon become obvious, a Pennsylvania state court jurist, Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta, is today’s Judge of the Day.
From the Citizens Voice:

A former intern of Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta testified tonight the jurist called her a tramp for wearing a sleeveless shirt to work.

Rebecca Sammon took the stand in Lokuta’s misconduct trial and described another incident where Lokuta yelled at her for being nice on the phone.

Awesome. And there’s more:

Prothonotory Jill Moran testified lawyers got yelled at for clicking pens or writing too loudly in Lokuta’s courtroom. Prothonotary clerk Maura Cusick said Lokuta was either a good judge or a wicked judge.

A dichotomy couldn’t be more false: a wicked judge IS a good judge. The Honorable Ann Lokuta is a delicious judicial diva.
[Ed. note: Yes, we just learned what "prothonotary" means too. See here.]
More obscure terms for judicial staff members, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Ann Lokuta: My Intern Is a Tramp”

Up until this point, we had perhaps shaky evidence that Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for NPR, is a diva.

There was the (now closed) ATL reader poll, in which 30 percent of you declared La Totenberg to be a true diva. There were various stories of diva-like behavior. There was her recent, diva-licious appearance on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, in which she gave Scooter Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald a piece of her mind. (Click here, select “Not My Job: Patrick Fitzgerald,” and skip ahead to the 7:30 mark.)

But now it’s official: Nina Totenberg really IS a diva, narrowly defined as “[a] female opera star of great rank or pretension.” Click here, and listen to her operatically trill the four finalists for a new “All Things Considered” jingle.

Although some of the notes in Nina’s upper register sound a little thin, on the whole she’s in fine voice. We’re very impressed!

From one tipster: “Can I suggest a barbershop quartet, consisting of Nina Totenberg, Joan Biskupic, Jan Crawford Greenburg, and Linda Greenhouse?” Or maybe a sing-off between Nina Totenberg and Judge Marjorie Rendell (3d Cir.), another diva in the figurative and literal senses of the word?

Now if only we can get Nina Totenberg to sing Everyone’s A Winner at Nixon Peabody

Vote for ‘All Things Considered’ Theme Song Lyrics [NPR]
Not My Job: Patrick Fitzgerald (around 7:30 mark) [Wait Wait Don't Tell Me / NPR]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Nina Totenberg (scroll down)

Marian Shelton Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgLast week we described the Honorable Marian Shelton, of Bronx Family Court, as “a true judicial diva.” Here’s more about her, from the New York Post:

A Bronx judge had a court clerk’s wife handcuffed and tossed in a cell for contempt – because she whispered “a**hole” after her husband was kept late at work, a state panel has charged.

Family Court Judge Marian Shelton screamed at the woman, “He’ll leave when he’s finished his work, not when you tell him!” before ordering court officers to take her to a holding cell for the weekend….

Pretty awesome. Should we be surprised to learn that Judge Shelton’s wedding was presided over by another colorful and cantankerous New Yorker, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani?
Interesting enough, Judge Shelton is being eyed for elevation — but not to an appellate court. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Judge Marian Shelton: A Judge Judy in Waiting?”

Marian Shelton Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, she looks like a cross between Chelsea Clinton and your fourth-grade English teacher. But make no mistake about it: Judge Marian Shelton is a true judicial diva, and not to be messed with.
From the New York Daily News:

Bronx Family Court Judge Marian Shelton allegedly yelled at a lawyer to “shut up,” tossed a woman from court for wearing “inappropriate” clothing, told a Caribbean man to “take those stupid things out of your hair” and said a lawyer had “mental health issues.”…

“Go to therapy, but don’t act out in my courtroom,” Shelton allegedly snapped at one law guardian in a 2005 case.

In another instance, she allegedly mocked the accent of lawyer Mariana Toledo-Hermina.

“How is Toledo-Hermina an attorney when you cannot understand what she is saying?” Shelton allegedly said.

But Judge Shelton has her defenders. Like her husband:

In May, anticipating the [disciplinary] charges, Shelton’s husband, wealthy former Proskauer Rose lawyer Saul Cohen, took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to bash the commission.

Full-page NYT ads aren’t cheap. But then again, neither is chivalry.
Bronx judge scorn to be wild? [New York Daily News via Gothamist]

Chambermaid 2 Saira Rao Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg(And if you’re REALLY good, we’ll reward you with more Nina Totenberg stories. Ask and you shall receive!)
Another day, another blog post about Chambermaid, the controversial clerkship novel by lawyer-turned-writer Saira Rao. The latest post is by Professor Scott Burris, who clerked for Third Circuit Judge Dolores K. Sloviter — Rao’s former boss, widely rumored to be the basis for the central villain of Chambermaid, the tyrannical Judge Helga Friedman.
But Burris — unlike, say, fellow law prof and ex-Sloviter clerk Mike Rappaport — takes issue with the scuttlebutt equating Sloviter and Friedman:

What I really object to in the whole affair is the way Rao and some of her blogging readers have negotiated the delicate question of Judge Friedman’s correspondence with Judge Sloviter, and the rationale offered in several quarters for “outing” mean judicial bosses….

Aside from a couple of tics, Helga Friendman is not a portrait, nor even a recognizable caricature, of Dolores Sloviter. Hell, I didn’t even recognize Rao’s Center City Philadelphia.

Additional discussion — if this issue doesn’t interest you, just stop reading here — appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Chambermaid: ‘Cause We Know You Want Another Post About This”

Elizabeth Halverson small Judge Elizabeth Halverson Liz Halverson Above the Law blog.JPG* Can you invoke the Fifth Amendment if you’re a juror being voir dired? [Southern District of Florida Blog]
* When it comes to the administrative state, you can run but you can’t hide. [DealBreaker]
* The Elizabeth Halverson saga rolls on — and social studies teachers are grateful for the judicial soap opera: “My high school students have never read the newspaper with such genuine excitement before… So please, let Judge Halverson stay on the bench, just a little bit longer.” [ABA Journal]
* Who’s up for an Italian sausage grinder? [New York Post]

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