Media and Journalism

In our recent post about Nina Totenberg’s poorly received graduation speech at Georgetown University Law Center, we solicited your anecdotes about her. La Nina is the Great Diva of the Supreme Court press corps, and colorful stories about her are legion.
We received a few submissions. Here’s one to get the ball rolling:

My county bar colleagues and I got sworn in to the SCOTUS bar back in [the late 1990s]. It was a real thrill. We got to meet the Clerk of Court and had a private coffee-and-danish session with Justice Ginsburg.

The thrill of it was almost ruined by seeing Nina Totenberg chewing gum in court while a couple of decisions were handed down. We’re talking chewing it like cud, Britney Spears style. I was not impressed.

And later that day, Totenberg was spotted driving down Constitution Avenue… with a baby in her lap!
We recognize, of course, that Nina Totenberg has many defenders and devoted fans — groupies, even. After all, “[d]ue of extremely high demand,” this NPR gift item — the Nina Totin’ Bag — is out of stock:
Nina Totenberg Nina Totin Bag Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
Troubling. Deeply, deeply troubling.
Have a Nina Totenberg tale to tell? Send it to us by email (subject line: “Nina Totenberg”). Thanks.
The Nina Totin’ Bag [NPR Shop]
Earlier: Worst Graduation Gift: Nina Totenberg as Your Commencement Speaker

* American Lawyer Media: Going, going, gone. Sold, for $630 million, to Incisive Media of the U.K. [Fishbowl NY; WSJ Law Blog]
* When animals crazy bearded men attack. [Breitbart TV (video) via Drudge Report]
* A Biglaw partner is not like a store clerk at the local convenience store. Or is he? [National Law Journal (subscription)]
* More about the late Tom Heftler, former managing partner of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. [New York Observer]

100 dollar bills clerk clerkship bonuses Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid.jpgIn our recent New York Times op-ed piece praising lavish signing bonuses for Supreme Court clerks, we wrote that the bonuses “are expected to reach $250,000 this year — paid on top of starting salaries approaching $200,000.”

Some people have inquired into the factual basis for our statement. As it turns out, we did some actual reporting to support it. The reporting never made it into the final op-ed piece, but we’re happy to provide the details here.

If you’re curious, read the rest of this post, after the jump.

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Rachel Brand Rachel L Brand Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, working at the U.S. Department of Justice may not be a party these days. But the recently announced, imminent departure of Assistant Attorney General Rachel L. Brand — her last day at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy is July 9 — had nothing to do with recent controversies (contrary to some insinuations).
As tout le monde in D.C. legal circles knows, the fabulous Brand — known to some as the Prom Queen — was planning to step down for some time. The reason? She and her husband, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Cohn, are expecting a baby boy next month.
The lede of this Reuters report, while technically accurate, is therefore misleading. Thankfully, the Washington Post was more accurate:

[T]he Justice Department announced that Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy, is resigning….

Justice officials said she plans to leave July 9 and stay at home with her first child, due this summer.

Brand, who worked on the renewal of the USA Patriot Act last year and the confirmation of two Supreme Court justices in 2005, is not known to have played a direct role in the U.S. attorneys’ removal.

“[N]ot known to have played a direct role” — maybe because she didn’t? If she had, rest assured that Chuck & Friends would have invited her over to Capitol Hill for a televised chat.

[D]epartment officials have said that Gonzales’s former chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson, asked her whether she might want to replace a Michigan prosecutor who was forced out. Though interested at first, Brand did not apply for the job.

Yes, Brand shrewdly did not throw her hat into that ring. As we previously noted:

In declining to be considered, Rachel Brand showed the excellent judgment that has taken her so far, so fast. Had Rachel Brand replaced Margaret Chiara, she would have been the victim of a mainstream media pile-on. The New York Times editorial board would have derided her as a Bush Administration political hack with no prosecutorial experience (albeit a hack with impeccable academic credentials, including Harvard Law School and a Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Kennedy).

So what’s next for Rachel Brand (in addition to a bouncing baby boy)? She’s rumored to be meeting with various private law firms — and any of them would be lucky to snag this young legal superstar.
Brand has devoted the past six and a half years of her career to government service. She leaves the Bush Administration even more highly esteemed, on both sides of the aisle, than when she came in. This is no small feat, given the controversies that have shaken the DOJ, as well as the highly partisan atmosphere currently prevailing here in Washington.
We congratulate Rachel Brand on her successful leadership of the Office of Legal Policy, and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors — including motherhood!
(Disclosure: We’d mention that we are friendly with Rachel Brand, but we know from past experience that many of you don’t like such disclaimers, which come across as shameless name-dropping. So we won’t.)
Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously identified Jonathan Cohn as Deputy Attorney General, rather than Deputy Assistant Attorney General (his correct title).
Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand Announces Departure [U.S. Dept. of Justice (press release)]
Bush Is Told to Justify Executive Privilege [Washington Post]
DOJ Loses Brand [The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times]
Seventh official quits Justice Department [Reuters]
Justice Department Official Resigns [Associated Press]
Earlier: Rachel Brand: The Prom Queen Stays Out of Trouble

Oona O'Connell redacted balcony 3 small Playboy Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPG
Our email correspondence with the super-hot lawyer turned Playboy model, Oona O’Connell, continues.
A brief question-and-answer session, plus an uncropped version of this Oonalicious photo, after the jump.

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Oona O'Connell South Beach Miami 2 small Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPG
[Thumbnail image. Click to enlarge. Photograph courtesy of Oona O'Connell.]
There should be a law — against this kind of hotness in a U.S. law school classroom!
As you may recall, lawyer cum Playboy model Oona O’Connell was not pleased by our prior coverage of her. She recently sent us an angry email, taking us to task for publishing malicious gossip.
Our response to Oona O’Connell, followed by her reply, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL’s New Pen Pal: Oona O’Connell, Lawyer Turned Playboy Model (Part 2)”

Oona O'Connell South Beach Miami 1 small Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPG
[Thumbnail image. Click to enlarge. Photograph courtesy of Oona O'Connell.]
WOW. Wouldn’t sitting next to this hottie in Torts class be just a wee bit distracting?
We rarely hear from people about whom we’ve written. This is generally a good thing.
But every now and then, one of them drops us a line. And sometimes they’re none too pleased. Like Oona O’Connell, the superhottie lawyer who posed for Playboy, as discussed back in this post.
You can read Ms. O’Connell’s email, which we reprint with her permission, after the jump.

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Ed. note: Today we’re pleased to present a guest post by John Carney. He’s the editor of our sibling site, DealBreaker, and a non-practicing attorney.
Please note that the views expressed in this post are those of John (and John alone). Unlike John, we HAVE met Dahlia Lithwick, and think she’s fabulous — one of the sharpest and funniest writers about the Supreme Court working today. We admire many members of the SCOTUS press corps — e.g., Jan Crawford Greenburg, Tony Mauro, Lyle Denniston — but we don’t know of another writer who marries insight and humor the way that Lithwick does. As you can see from our Facebook profile, we are proud members of the We Love Dahlia Lithwick group.
Okay, enough disclaimers. John has a different view — and since we value viewpoint diversity here at ATL, here it is. Enjoy.
dahlia lithwick headshot.jpg*****************
Slate has been running its usual end of term round-up, a back-and-forth between Dahlia Lithwick (at right) and Walter Dellinger. Except for Dellinger’s defense of political speech against the slippery opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts, it’s a deeply disappointing discussion. Lithwick, who I have never met, comes off as a deeply frivolous person.
It’s almost hard to write about Lithwick’s view of the school speech case, Morse v. Frederick, without sounding foolish. The case arose when a student unfurled a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” Lithwick chastises Roberts for reading this as “clearly advocacy of a ‘pro-drug’ message.”
“In Morse, Roberts goes to great lengths to insert meaning into the silliness of the words on the student banner. He insists the phrase ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’can be read as ‘celebrating drug use’; indeed to get there he needed only insert the imaginary words, ‘bong hits [are a good thing].’ When did we enter into the era of constitutional interpretation through inserting pretend words? The sign could have as easily been read to say ‘bong hits [will kill you],’” Lithwick writes.
The most difficult question raised by Lithwick here is whether she’s a liar or a fool. That sounds a bit harsh. But I can’t come come up with any other credible explanation for that paragraph. Anyone of normal intelligence understands that “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” is drug advocacy. The only question is whether it’s a command that would mean “Do Bong Hits For Jesus” or a confession meaning “I Do Bong Hits For Jesus” or even an offer, as in “I Have Bong Hits Available For Jesus.” In any case, it’s undoubtedly pro-drug.
Read the rest, after the jump.

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And we’re not speaking metaphorically, about the remaining decisions from October Term 2006.
We’re talking about the shoes of celebrated Supreme Court reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg, of ABC News. Will a pair of Manolos fall from the sky?
So, what happened to JCG’s footwear? Was it a case of sabotage, by an increasingly threatened rival?
Jan Crawford Greenburg 2 shoeless without shoes Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.JPG
Go Home Already: Missed Connections [DCist]

Linda Mason CBS Abovethelaw Above the Law online legal tabloid.jpgThe plummeting ratings of Katie Couric aren’t the only problem for CBS these days. The network just got slapped with a $50 million lawsuit alleging sexual orientation discrimination and retaliation. From Towleroad (pronounced “toll road,” for those of you not familiar with it):

Dick Jefferson, the CBS News producer who was gay bashed with a group of friends in St. Maarten in April 2006, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against CBS, according to Kenneth Walsh of Kenneth in the 212.

Jefferson says that after the incident he was warned by CBS News Senior Vice President Linda Mason not to speak out about the incident because it was too controversial. After Jefferson suggested to Mason that she was violating the network’s anti-discrimination policies, by “controlling what he wrote in his e-mail messages from his personal account, requiring him to ask for permission to testify in open court against his attackers (they were eventually caught and convicted) and banning him from having contact with his friend and colleague, Ryan Smith, who was still hospitalized from the attack,” he says she engaged in a systematic campaign of retaliation which eventually led to his being fired.

We’re surprised that Linda Mason (above right) isn’t more sympathetic to gay rights. Guess you can’t judge a book by its cover.
For those of you who are interested, a little more on this story appears after the jump.

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