Loretta Preska

Chief Judge Loretta Preska

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link), a judicial diva is “a particularly confident, skilled, and physically attractive female judge.” By this definition, Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) is a judicial diva. She is highly regarded, as both a judge and an administrator, and she never looks anything short of fabulous.

I’ve been fascinated by Judge Preska for years. I had this to say about her back in 2004 at my first website, Underneath Their Robes: “Magnificent. Tall, thin, elegant. Great bone structure, perfectly coiffed silver hair. Note to self: nominate for superhotties contest next year?”

This gorgeous judge now owns a gorgeous apartment. Chief Judge Preska and her husband, a partner at one of the nation’s most profitable law firms, just paid almost $9 million for a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side….

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Chief Judge Loretta Preska

Black people are not N—, even if they call themselves [that]… on occasion. It is not a term of endearment.

– Muhammad Ibn Bashir, the lawyer for Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, in the latter’s public corruption trial. The disagreement over the term arose when Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) denied a request to play a recorded conversation that Bashir contends would prove that Stevenson’s alleged accomplice was really his enemy. Judge Preska countered that the word can function as a term of endearment in certain situations, invoking Bashir’s quotable retort.

Judge Jed Rakoff: A bank's nightmare?

Since Judge Denny Chin is moving on up to the Second Circuit, the S.D.N.Y. cases pending before him have to be redistributed. Lawyers for Bank of America, which has 15 civil shareholder lawsuits on Chin’s docket, sent the chief judge a letter requesting that the cases be reassigned using a lottery system. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Cleary Gottlieb, Davis Polk, and Wachtell Lipton all signed the letter.

Why did they need to send this special letter? Because they were scared of B of A landing again in the lap of Judge Jed Rakoff, says the Wall Street Journal:

Judge Rakoff disappointed bank executives last year when he rejected a $30 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had charged the bank with misleading shareholders about bonuses paid prior to the Merrill merger. The New York judge reluctantly approved a new $150 million agreement in February but called it “half-baked justice at best.”

One of the pending shareholder cases accuses the bank of failing to “disclose billions in Merrill losses before shareholders approved the deal in December 2008.”

Apparently, the lawyers debated whether or not to name Judge Rakoff in their letter, thus making it clear that he was the particular judge they hoped to avoid. They ultimately decided to name names.

They were successful in steering their cases clear of Rakoff, though the chief judge claims the letter wasn’t a factor in her decision to assign the cases to Judge Kevin Castel (aka the John Gotti judge). How did she decide?

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alice fisher alice s fisher.jpgThe problem with being a government lawyer is that you don’t have a lot of control over which “government” you are working for. Even if you have a non-partisan, non-patronage position, anytime a new administration takes power there is the possibility of turmoil.
Like the swallows of Capistrano, now is the season we expect public sector birds to leave their mission and return to their Biglaw vacation grounds.
Yesterday Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher announced that she would be rejoining Latham & Watkins. You might remember Ms. Fisher from our former editor’s open crush on the “brassy, blonde, tough-talking Fisher.” I’m staring right now at the 3 golden locks of Fisher’s hair ATL has “acquired” under questionable circumstances.
Fisher’s new position at Latham will be “global co-chair of the white-collar and government investigations practice group.” It’s good work if you can get it.
More new hires after the jump.

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Loretta Preska small Judge Loretta K Preska Southern District of New York Above the Law blog.JPGJudge Loretta K. Preska (S.D.N.Y.) has it all: a lifetime appointment to the federal bench, a rich husband, and killer shoes.
As well as, it appears, no patience for lawyers who play fast and loose with the rules. From the WSJ Law Blog:

Cleary Gottlieb conjures images of Ivy League bookishness and international savoir faire, not bare-knuckled litigation tactics. But last week a federal judge sanctioned the firm and found them to have acted in bad faith. “Civil litigation is not always civil,” began a ruling by Loretta Preska, a federal judge in Manhattan. Here’s the opinion (PDF).

The judge concluded that Cleary tried to dissuade a witness from attending a deposition, in part because of a concern the witness would testify adverse to the firm’s client. Preska ordered Cleary to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees and costs ─ an amount to be determined ─ and ruled that “the sanction is imposed as a formal reprimand and should be circulated to all attorneys at Cleary.”

And Cleary partner Jean-Pierre Vignaud was ordered to write “I will not interfere improperly with the discovery process,” five hundred times, on a dry-erase board in a firm conference room.
Cleary Gottlieb — which, by the way, picked fellow white-shoe law firm Simpson Thacher to represent it — said in a statement that it intends to appeal.
Judge Sanctions Cleary: “Civil Litigation Is Not Always Civil” [WSJ Law Blog]
Kensington Intl., Ltd. v. Republic of Congo [WSJ Law Blog (PDF)]

Kimba Wood Judge Kimba M Wood Frank Richardson Above the Law blog.jpgAs we previously mentioned, and as Lawrence Hurley of the Daily Journal reports here, Congress is considering a proposal that would raise federal judges’ salaries by a significant margin. Here’s what the new scale would look like (with current salaries indicated parenthetically):

District Court Judges: $247,800 (up from $165,200)
Court of Appeals Judges: $262,700 ($175,100)
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court: $304,500 ($203,000)
Chief Justice of the United States: $318,200 ($212,100)

This proposal would cost millions in taxpayer dollars. So we have a better solution to the problem of federal judicial pay, which Chief Justice John Roberts has dubbed a “constitutional crisis.”

Here’s our brilliant idea: Require all federal judges to marry rich!

Don’t you just love couples in which one spouse is a judge, with all the power and prestige of judicial office, and the other spouse is rolling in dough? Off the top of our head, we can name a number of federal judges who have married well — or at least wealthy. (Like Judge Kimba Wood, above right, with her well-heeled hubby, Frank Richardson.)

We list some judges who have married into money, and we invite additional examples from you, after the jump.

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