Legal Ethics

Some time ago there was an attorney up for United States Attorney General, I believe, and she got stung for having hired illegal aliens as nanny and chauffeur for which she paid no taxes. She had to withdraw from consideration and was fairly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. So was the Clinton Administration. Then, a federal judicial nominee was hit with the same charges – though her employment of the nanny in question was legal at the time it occurred, the court of public opinion ruled the day. I bring up these two examples of ethical dilemmas that lawyers can find themselves in and how relatively easy they are to avoid…

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We’ve received a spate of tips about judges losing their cool lately. Obviously most of them aren’t going around on killing sprees — or maybe they are — but several have plopped themselves into hot water in other ways.

Some argue that judges are overworked, underpaid, and fed up with disrespectful pro se litigants. Maybe, but how does that explain the Vegas judge we recently flagged in Non-Sequiturs for putting a litigant in jail for saying “thank you”? A litigant can’t get much more respectful.

For the judges we’ll profile here, the real culprit might be a potent cocktail of insecurity and a view of the law as their personal plaything….

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* With the capture of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, many legal questions are being asked, like if he’ll be Mirandized, where he’ll be tried, and if he’ll be considered an enemy combatant. [New York Times]

* Thanks for kicking this keg, Mr. Baer: the Department of Justice and Anheuser-Busch InBev have settled their antitrust differences with respect to beer brewery’s planned acquisition of Grupo Modelo. [Legal Times]

* Which firm has a “generous tuition reimbursement” program? And by “generous,” we mean 100% of law school tuition, which is awesome. We may have more on this later today. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Stan Chesley, the “master of disaster,” is retiring — not because he wants to, but because he’s disbarred in Kentucky and surrendered his Ohio license before the state could take it from him. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* California may soon follow in New York’s footsteps when it comes a pro bono mandate before bar admission, but the New Jersey Bar Association has an active hit out on the idea. [National Law Journal]

* In an effort to avoid a trial that would’ve lasted longer than their sham marriage did in the first place, fauxlebrity Kim Kardashian and NBA player Kris Humphries settled their divorce last week. [Reuters]

* Morris Kramer, an M&A pioneer and part of Skadden’s “Fab Four,” RIP. [DealBook / New York Times]

Here’s an idea for an Ethics CLE — tell lawyers they can’t whip out “The Gavel” in front of their clients.

Or in this case, their clients’ mothers.

Now an attorney is facing criminal charges for gross sexual imposition for allegedly exposing himself and fondling a client’s mother. “Gross” is used in the sense of “flagrant,” but the whole story fits the other definition as well….

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* “I don’t believe judges should be filibustered.” Tell that to the rest of your Republican pals, Senator Hatch. D.C. Circuit nom Sri Srinivasan faced little drama at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. [Bloomberg]

* A bipartisan gun regulation deal has been reached in the Senate, and of course the NRA is opposing it — well, except for the parts that expand gun rights. The group really likes those parts. [Washington Post]

* Trolling for patent partners? Bingham recently snagged five IP partners from DLA Piper’s Los Angeles office, including the former co-chair of DLA patent litigation department. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Time well spent: while Detroit hangs on the precipice of bankruptcy, local politicians are worrying about whether retaining Jones Day poses a conflict of interest for their emergency manager (Kevyn Orr, formerly of Jones Day). [Am Law Daily]

* NYLS — or should we say “New York’s law school” — is revamping its clinical program to kill two birds with one stone (e.g., fulfilling pro bono hours and boosting job prospects). [National Law Journal]

* For all the talk of his being a hard ass, Judge Rakoff is a nice guy after all! The judge gave an ex-SAC trader permission to go on a honeymoon after his release from prison. [DealBook / New York Times]

* If you’ve ever wondered how Lat spends his free time, sometimes he’s off writing book reviews for distinguished publications. Check out his review of Mistrial (affiliate link) here. [Wall Street Journal]

* “Lindsay Lohan is the victim.” What the Heller you talking about? LiLo’s lawyer thinks there’s a conspiracy among the prosecutors on her case that’s resulted in leaks of information to TMZ. [CNN]

Attorney John Steele says he has sued more than 20,000 Internet users. Now he's the one in legal trouble.

“It should be clear by now that this court’s focus has shifted from protecting intellectual property rights to attorney misconduct.” — U.S. District Judge Otis Wright

John Steele, the lawyer who told me he’d made “millions” going after people who illegally download pornographic movies, is experiencing some legal trouble of his own. A district judge in Los Angeles has questions about the way in which Steele and his colleagues have conducted their litigation. Ars Technica and Popehat have been providing detailed (and often gleeful) coverage of a series of hearings that may lead to the unraveling of hundreds of lawsuits filed by Steele and his colleagues at Prenda Law against alleged XXX-movie lovers whose IP addresses were caught downloading the films online.

Steele and his colleagues have been pursuing “John Does” who download XXX films without paying for them for copyright violations. When I interviewed him last year, he told me he had filed over 350 of these suits, and that he was at that time suing approximately 20,000 people. The tactic is similar to the one employed by the recording industry years ago, but where RIAA wanted to scare people out of illegal downloads by getting massive, scary judgments in highly publicized cases against individual Napster users, Steele and the lawyers like him are content to get relatively small settlements — deal letters often ask for $3000 or so — from individuals who pay up quietly to avoid being named in public court filings for allegedly watching a film such as “Illegal Ass 2.”

But now Steele and his firm are starting to run into serious problems.

Continue reading at Forbes.com….

Judge Wade McCree

You must remember Judge Wade McCree. Not only is he the son of the first African-American to be appointed to the Sixth Circuit, but he’s also the man who sent sext messages to his bailiff and had an affair with one of the litigants who appeared before him while he was on the bench. Note that we’re no longer using the word “allegedly” in that sentence.

We now know for sure that McCree — who’s been referred to as Judge McCreep since the media caught wind of his sexual derring-do — was getting down and dirty with the woman who he claimed had been stalking and extorting him, the same woman who shouted from the rooftops that she’d banged McCree’s gavel “[o]n his desk, in the chair, the couch, you name it.”

We know with relative certainty that McCree did all of these things because he just admitted it all in his response to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission’s (MJTC) formal complaint.

Let’s see if he’s got any “shame in [his] game” now….

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‘Churn that bill, baby? Dear Lord…’

* With SCOTUS justices questioning standing in the Prop 8 case, and one even stating that gay marriage is newer than cell phones and the internet, you can guess where the decision is headed. [New York Times]

* “This badge of inequality must be extinguished.” With men like Ted Olson and David Boies representing the plaintiffs in Prop 8, at least we can say that they fought the good fight. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* OMG, remember when DLA Piper allegedly overbilled a client and got dragged through the mud over scandalous emails? Now the firm says they were totally joking. So cray. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Less than a month after handing out pink slips across multiple offices, Patton Boggs named a new managing partner in New York who just so happens to be a Dewey defector. Ominous. [Am Law Daily]

* These are great tips on negotiating financial aid, but try this: tell admissions you’ll happily enroll elsewhere, and watch them throw cash at you. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* It looks like Paul Ceglia’s zany misadventures in being fired as a client by Biglaw firms and suing Facebook may finally be at an end thanks this scathing 155-page recommendation of dismissal. [CNET]

Opening a legal bill from DLA Piper?

Here at Above the Law, we ❤ DLA Piper. The firm makes for great copy; there’s always something funny, ridiculous, or salacious going down over there.

In fairness to DLA Piper, the craziness might not be that high on a per capita basis. DLA Piper is one of the largest law firms in the world. In the most recent Global 100 rankings, DLA took second place in both total revenue and attorney headcount.

Many of the DLA Piper stories are on the lighter side. But this latest one — involving serious allegations of overbilling, apparently supported by internal DLA emails saying things like “churn that bill, baby!” — is no laughing matter….

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Stanley M. Chesley

Has the “master of disaster” been mastered by disaster? Has a class-action king been stripped of his crown?

It would seem so. One of the nation’s most famous and successful plaintiffs’ lawyers, Stanley M. Chesley, just got disbarred.

Cue the schadenfreude. We heard about the news from numerous tipsters. “Time to downgrade your Maybach and jet,” gloated one.

What makes it even better, of course, is that Stan Chesley is married to a federal judge, the Honorable Susan J. Dlott (S.D. Ohio). What’s that old saying about Caesar’s wife?

So what got this high-flying class-action lawyer grounded? Hint: it’s all about the benjamins….

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