A minor scandal is brewing in Las Vegas. In a city known for its impeccable ethics and strictly above-board dealings, the legal community is astir over suggestions that a nominee to the federal bench earned her nomination by engineering a windfall for her political sponsor, Senator Harry Reid, with conveniently-timed donations from her law partners.
At what point does sucking up to politicians cross into the appearance of impropriety for prospective federal judges, and how much should the rest of us care?
[UPDATE: Hm...well it looks like everyone in D.C. (including Feinstein herself yesterday) was wrong. So she's sticking with her Intelligence chair. This assignment now becomes something of a "what might have been" exercise) Query: what changed? Why would Leahy not take Appropriations? Was he worried about turning Judiciary over to the more conservative Feinstein?]
Daniel Inouye, the second longest serving Senator in history, died on Monday. Inouye had represented the state of Hawaii in Congress as either a Representative or Senator since… well, forever. Inouye took office the day Hawaii became a state and never stopped. He was also an undisputed badass who wasted a German machine gun nest by prying a grenade from his own partially severed arm and throwing it at a guy trying to kill him! This was a more impressive response to having your arm severed that I would have.
But with the loss of Inouye, the Senate has to find a new chair for the powerful Appropriations Committee. Since the Democrats run on strict seniority, noted Batman enthusiast Patrick Leahy of Vermont jumped at that plum assignment.
And here’s where this all comes back to the law. By taking the Appropriations gig, Leahy had to forfeit his role as chair of the Judiciary Committee. Enter Dianne Feinstein, who will take over as the shepherd of the country’s legal policy making for the next Congress.
* In a move to “end the vacancy crisis,” one week after being reelected, and one day after the Senate returned to session, Barack Obama nominated seven people for open seats on federal district courts, including two S.D.N.Y. slots. [Blog of Legal Times]
* Dewey know how much the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to pay the now defunct firm for its work on the team’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case? About $13M — the equivalent of their pitcher’s salary, or 62% of their first baseman’s pay. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Which Biglaw firms in the Am Law 200 are the most LGBT friendly? Overall, of the 145 firms that participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s survey, 71 received perfect scores. Absolutely fabulous! [Am Law Daily]
* The American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education wants to know what should be done about law schools. This is a time to keep it simple, stupid: change EVERYTHING! [National Law Journal]
* The New York Court of Appeals invoked the Major Disaster Rule for the first time ever, allowing out-of-state attorneys to perform pro bono services for Hurricane Sandy victims. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* William Adams, the Texas family court judge who got caught beating his daughter, returned to the bench yesterday after a year-long suspension. At least he won’t get physical abuse cases, anymore. [Fox News]
* John Coffey, Senior Status Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, RIP. [Journal Sentinel]
* What happens if a Supreme Court clerk violates the Code of Conduct and leaks information to the press at the behest of a justice? At worst, he’d probably be forced to wash dirty socks from the SCOTUS morning exercise class. [National Law Journal]
* “[T]he great expectations when he was elected have not come to fruition.” Making judicial nominations wasn’t a high political priority, so President Barack Obama will be ending his term with just 125 lower-court appointments in the federal judiciary. [New York Times]
* If there’s anything that Paul Ryan’s good at, it’s soliciting money from lawyers and Biglaw firms. Alston & Bird tops the list of legal campaign contributors, with Patton Boggs in a close second. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]
* Apparently the female reproduction system shuts down to prevent conception upon rape. This improbable tidbit from a man who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. [Wall Street Journal]
* But a great way to take some of the heat off of the “legitimate rape” dude is to break news about another Congressman’s nude swim in the Sea of Galilee while in Israel. Excellent work on this distraction. [POLITICO]
* What crisis? Despite a steep decline in applicants, the average law school’s tuition will climb by more than double the rate of inflation this fall. It’s really heartwarming how they put students first. [National Law Journal]
* Customs agents in Los Angeles seized 20,457 pairs of faux Christian Louboutins that would’ve been worth approximately $18M. For this heinous crime of fashion, the offending shoes will undergo a trial by fire. [CNN]
* Karma sure is a Blitsch. Matthew Couloute, the alleged lawyerly Lothario who got slammed by his exes on LiarsCheatersRUs.com, is now being slammed by someone else: his soon-to-be ex-wife. [New York Post]
* Beauty school dropout, no pube hair trimming days for you! Seventeen female plaintiffs have alleged that a cosmetology instructor subjected them to less-than-sanitary lessons in a federal suit. [New York Daily News]
[L]aw schools are questioning whether or not they are teaching students the right way, and it seems to me that the bench and the bar can engage in serious discussions with the law schools to advise them whether or not, say for the next 20 years… they have the proper approach for teaching those who will soon be the trustees of the law as active practitioners. That is urgent.
It’s surprising that Watford’s nomination was so contentious, given that he has a number of backers from the right side of the aisle. As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, “[h]is supporters included conservative UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, who has described Watford as brilliant and ideologically moderate, and attorney Jeremy Rosen, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the conservative Federalist Society” (and a noted appellate lawyer, who has appeared before in these pages).
That’s not all. Watford clerked for Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, one of a handful of prominent conservative or libertarian judges on the (generally liberal) Ninth Circuit. If you look at the ranks of former Kozinski clerks, you’ll see many members in good standing of the vast right-wing conspiracy (and some who are not, like Paul Watford — who went on to clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and was nominated to the Ninth Circuit by a Democratic president).
Now that the handsome Watford has joined his superhottie boss on the bench, we have a trivia question: Who is the circuit judge with the most former law clerks to join him on the Court of Appeals during his lifetime?
I’m not sure if everyone has noticed, but right now in America gay people are the only people it’s okay to be openly bigoted against. Think about it, you can’t say that Obama can’t be president because he’s black. You have to dress it up and say crap like “he’s Kenyan,” or “he’s a communist,” or whatever. You can’t say that women’s health isn’t important. You have to say “birth control is for sluts,” or something that means the same thing, but allows you to say that “this isn’t a war on women.”
But with gay people, you can openly discriminate against them, and find a bunch of lawmakers who will applaud you. It’s not going to cost you a job. Nobody is going to pull your funding. Hell, North Carolina just put it in their constitution that it’s okay to deny gay people a basic civil right. How sick is that? A constitutional amendment that one group of people doesn’t have the same rights as other groups of people. Even the president basically said that while he personally didn’t hate gay people, it was still cool for each state to determine its own level of antipathy toward gay people, and legislate accordingly.
In that world, it’s not a huge surprise that the Commonwealth of Virginia just voted against a judicial appointment for an openly gay prosecutor because he is gay. That’s it. Not “he’s gay and also a terrible prosecutor,” not even “he’s gay and nobody likes him.” Just being gay was enough for the Virginia House to deny this man an appointment everybody agreed he was qualified for.
We’re living in a society where “f*** them queers” is an entirely valid political, social, and legal argument….
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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