Heath Ledger Heath A Ledger Heathcliff Andrew Ledger death overdose suicide Above the Law blog.jpgWe wish we knew how to quit… finding legal angles to every story under the sun. One such story is the recent, tragic death of Heath Ledger, the celebrated young actor.
We’ve noted the news in passing. Now we offer more substantive, law-related discussion (beyond fleeting references to NYU law students who went from their seminars about Jesus to join the crowd of gawkers assembled outside Ledger’s apartment).
1. Rights to remains. Sometimes this can become an issue, as it did in the case of Anna Nicole Smith. Earlier this week, the Ohio Supreme Court heard a case about a law providing that body parts removed during an autopsy are classified as medical waste (which usually results in the incineration, rather than burial with the body).
It fortunately appears this won’t be an issue in Ledger’s case. Although additional blood and tissue testing still needs to be done, his family will be taking custody of his body, according to the NYT’s City Room blog.
2. Pending projects. Heath Ledger’s sudden passing raises issues with respect to projects he was involved with. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Of particular importance to Hollywood will be the future of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which had very recently begun shooting. After dealing with the shock of losing Ledger to unfortunate circumstances, the film’s producers and lawyers will have to consult with their production lawyers and the insurance firm that indemnified the film to decide whether to recast, restage and/or rewrite the film to work around Ledger’s absence, or whether Ledger’s death presents an irresolvable barrier to completion of the film.

More analysis, including discussion of insurance recovery issues, over here.
3. Funeral protestors. Exact funeral plans for Heath Ledger are not yet known. But when it does happen, it could get ugly. A tipster raises a legal question:

Check out this story [about how members of the antigay Westboro Baptist Church plan to protest at Heath Ledger's funeral, because of his work in "Brokeback Mountain"].

Here’s my question. These [SOBs] are saying horrible, offensive, disgusting things. When does the fighting words doctrine come into play, and does the fighting words doctrine protect me if I punch out one of these bastards? Because I would really like to.

Feel free to opine in the comments.
Update: More about that Jesus seminar, from the WSJ Law Blog.
Heath Ledger’s Death Leaves Big Legal Question [THR, ESQ. / Hollywood Reporter]
Anti-Gay Church to Protest Ledger Funeral [ABC News]
What Are They Teaching at NYU Law These Days? [Traditional Notions]
Where Were You When? [Concurring Opinions]
The Passion of the Christ: The Trial of Jesus [NYU School of Law]

Hillary The Movie Above the Law blog.jpg* Actually, Judge Lamberth, calling a presidential candidate as “a European socialist” constitutes an endorsement — at least at most American law schools. [AP via WSJ Law Blog]

* News you can use: under the “Free File” program, opening tomorrow, the IRS and its private-sector partners will provide free tax preparation and electronic filing services to qualifying taxpayers (AGI of $54,000 or less — sorry, Biglaw denizens). [TaxProf Blog]

* The law school essay question: an unrecognized art form? [PrawfsBlawg]

* Practice pointer: don’t “recreate” correspondence to use as evidence in your case. Dramatic reenactments belong on television, not in court. [Feminist Law Professors]

* We just got called “the Matt Drudge of the legal world.” Our thanks to Neil Squillante for making our day. Now where did we put our animated siren GIF? [TechnoLawyer]

* So, it’s gonna be illegal now, which means the CIA can’t do it, right? [Washington Post via How Appealing]
* New Jersey gets rid of the death penalty; now if they could just tackle that disgusting odor. [BBC]
* Prosecutors go 0-1-6 in Sears Tower trial. [CNN]
* Hey, look everybody! International law! They’ve got a court with judges and lawyers and stuff, and they even issue rulings! Just like it’s real! That’s cute. ICJ upholds treaty giving islands to Colombia. [Jurist]
* Hollywood writers take this strike thing up a notch. [AP via Reno Gazette-Journal]

George Clooney 3 Michael Clayton senior associate special counsel Above the Law blog.JPGCadwalader isn’t the only New York law firm with a sideline in serving as a film location. As previously reported in the ABA Journal, the recent George Clooney film, Michael Clayton, was filmed in the offices of what was then Dewey Ballantine (now Dewey & LeBoeuf).
But did Davis Polk & Wardwell also get a piece of the action? This email was recently sent to an internal email group at the firm:

“A couple of friends of mine saw ‘Michael Clayton’ last night and said they saw a credit to Davis Polk at the end. Any idea why?”

Find out, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Davis Polk: It Ought To Be in Pictures?”

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Abovethelaw Above the Law legal tabloid blog.JPGIn our latest column for the New York Observer, we shine the spotlight on a firm that has figured prominently in these pages lately:

Founded in 1792, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft is “the oldest continuing Wall Street law practice in the United States,” as its website proudly notes. Name partner George Wickersham was attorney general under President Taft, and name partner Henry Taft was the president’s brother.

In addition to being one of New York’s oldest firms, Cadwalader is also one of the most lucrative. Last year, it was the city’s third-most-profitable law firm, behind perennial leaders Wachtell and Cravath.

But in the past few months, CWT has hosted some rather surprising visitors—at least by the standards of a prestigious, white-shoe law firm.

Some of these visitors will be familiar to ATL readers, but one will not. You can read the whole piece — and view a rather odd photo of Cameron Diaz and CWT litigation chair Gregory Markel — over here.
Update: If you’re wondering about the identity of the Pimp, the mystery has been solved! Peter Lattman has the scoop over at the WSJ Law Blog.
Cadwalader’s Strange Visitors [New York Observer]

Jacques Vergès Jacques Verges Terror's Advocate Above the Law blog.jpgWe always get excited about law-related movies. E.g., Michael Clayton; A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar. If you hear of any in the pipeline, please let us know.
Today we’re pleased to present an exclusive clip for the upcoming release by Magnolia Pictures, Terror’s Advocate, which opens in theaters tomorrow. Here’s a brief blurb about this legally-themed film:

TERROR’S ADVOCATE is a controversial documentary that explores the legal practices of the charismatic and devious-until-proven-innocent French lawyer Jacques Vergès. He is best known for defending Carlos the Jackal and members of the Nazi party. In addition, TERROR’S ADVOCATE features the recently arrested former Khmer Rouge Second in Command, Nuon Chea.

“Jaw-dropping and all the more amazing for being true.” A.O. Scott – NY Times

“A riveting drama. This fascinating drama is fresh and epic” – Time Magazine

An Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival.

You can check out the ATL exclusive clip, an interview with this rather charming defender of terrorists, by clicking here. Additional information, including the official trailer, is available at the film’s website.
Terror’s Advocate [film clip]
Terror’s Advocate [official website]
L’Avocat de la terreur [IMDb]

George Clooney 2 Michael Clayton senior associate special counsel Above the Law blog.jpgIn our column for this week’s New York Observer, we take Michael Clayton, the new legal thriller starring George Clooney, and use it as a jumping-off point for a discussion of the senior associate. Here’s an excerpt:

“Who is this guy?”

That’s what an icy general counsel (Tilda Swinton) wants to know about George Clooney—of all people—in the new legal thriller Michael Clayton. At the prestigious New York law firm of Kenner, Bach & Ledeen, Mr. Clooney’s title character has the nifty-sounding job of “Special Counsel,” as well as a snazzy corner office overlooking Sixth Avenue. But while he’s been at the firm for 17 years, he’s never made partner. As a salaried employee, with no management role or equity stake in the firm (as he bitterly notes more than once), Michael Clayton is what we politely call a senior associate.

So, who are these guys? Senior associates are typically associates who didn’t make partner. They’re generally viewed by their colleagues as perfectly competent worker bees, but not superstar material. They’re no longer in junior-associate hell, and they’re very well paid, but their predicament within the legal profession’s prestige-obsessed precincts is difficult: They’re indefinitely trapped in the purgatory of nonpartnership, with its attendant lack of dignity.

But is the “plight” of senior associates overstated? Read the rest of the piece by clicking here.

Hollywood Hugs Beta Males of Law [New York Observer]

lawyer walks into bar 2 Above the Law blog.jpgOver the past few months, a number of you have written to us about A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar. It’s a critically acclaimed, independent documentary film about lawyers and the legal profession.
The movie made the rounds on the film festival circuit earlier this year, and now it’s out on DVD. Here’s a brief synopsis:

A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar… is a celebration of the law and triumph over adversity that follows 6 future lawyers of all ages and backgrounds as they undertake the rigorous and excruciating California Bar Exam while also dealing thematically with certain hot button issues in our profession. The [themes of the film] include, among other things, stress, big firm economics, substance abuse, law as a calling, frivolous litigation, bar exam economics, women in the law and other threads that you can likely intuit.

These subjects are all near and dear to the hearts of ATL readers. And there’s stuff in the film that ties into this week’s special theme, non-top-tier law school graduates:

The cast members run the gamut, from a former Marine who has taken and failed the California Bar Exam 41 times, to top and middle graduates of the Loyola and UCLA Law Schools, to a Latina activist from East L.A. who attended a non-accredited law school, to other diverse and interesting people.

Sadly, the film was produced before the rise to fame of Loyola 2L. But it features other legal celebrities, such as Alan Dershowitz, Scott Turow, and Nancy Grace — all of whom appear in this short clip:

Some of our favorite films are documentaries — e.g., Spellbound, Capturing the Friedmans — and some of our favorite people are lawyers. We haven’t seen A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar yet, but we intend to; it looks like it’s right up our alley. Exciting stuff!
A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar [official website]
A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar [trailer]
A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar [Amazon]

Cameron Diaz Cadwalader Wickersham Taft CWT Above the Law blog.jpgAre you in the New York office of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft? If so, then please rush up to the 39th floor — and take your camera phone!

Cameron Diaz is on the 39th floor of Cadwalader’s New York office, using a conference room for some movie being made on South End Ave. Don’t know what the movie is, do you?

Might it be What Happens in Vegas, starring both Diaz and Kutcher, and currently listed as “filming”?

Rumor from the secretaries has it that Ashton [Kutcher] and Demi [Moore] might be up there too. Apparently Greg Markel, chair of the litigation department, said the firm let them use the conference room. He was supposed to take his picture with her — and didn’t know who she was until minutes before!

Wow. Are Biglaw partners even more cloistered than federal judges?

It’s no Michael Jackson sighting, but maybe you still care to know. Does that make CWT an “it” firm now?

Sorry, not quite. But it does make up for the bedbug infestation!
Update: “Someone here also saw them setting up a ‘stars buffet’ outside of the conference room. LOL!”

Last night we watched Transformers: The Movie. In our defense, it was enthusiastically recommended to us by a friend with a very high-powered legal job.
While the special effects and action-sequence set-pieces were impressive — after all, it’s a Michael Bay film — we were disappointed on the whole. The movie is about an hour too long.
The most thrilling part for us? During the epic battle at the film’s end, in which the Autobots and the Decepticons fight to the death in downtown Los Angeles, you get a very clear shot of this building:
Paul Hastings Tower Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
The camera lingers on the Paul Hastings Tower. The law firm’s name and logo are clearly visible.
Pure coincidence? Or law firm product placement?
Transformers [IMDb]

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