Office of Legal Counsel

Washington, DC is often derided as a contemptible swamp full of power-mad squabblers and greedy leeches. And we don’t dispute that. The nation’s capital can be fairly awful when viewed through certain lenses. Still, if you can overlook the pettiness and the posturing, there’s a lot to love about Washington. And a lot of love in Washington, as demonstrated by the newlyweds featured below. All three of these über-impressive couples live and work in and around DC, and we think you’ll agree that any town that’s attracting such gifted, ambitious young people can’t be all bad.

Our finalists:

Jane Kucera and Paul Nitze

Anne Pierson and Robert Allen

Kate Heinzelman and Jonathan Cooper

Read on for more about these legal-eagle lovebirds and their delectable résumés.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch: Potomac (Wedding) Fever”

‘Who’s bad? O’Melveny!’

* U. Penn. Law doesn’t need to toot its own horn about kicking off its visiting jurist program with a Supreme Court justice — we’ll do it on the school’s behalf: toot f-ing toot for Justice Kennedy. [National Law Journal]

* President Obama nominated former OLC attorney and current HLS professor David Barron for a First Circuit vacancy, and a Western New England alum for a district court judgeship. Congrats! [Boston Globe]

* The Senate confirmed Todd Hughes for a seat on the Federal Circuit without any opposition. This is what progress looks like: Hughes will be the first openly gay federal appellate judge in U.S. history. [BuzzFeed]

* Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is pretty pissed that federal budget issues are allowing his office to get outgunned by wealthy financial firms. [DealBook / New York Times]

* “It seems a very coordinated effort of smugness.” As we reported previously, lawyers from the small firm representing Michael Jackson’s family think O’Melveny & Myers is full of d-bags. [Los Angeles Times]

* Sorry, but you can’t bang your clients. Well, that’s not completely true. You can bang your clients, but you have to bang them before there’s a legal relationship to keep banging them ethically. [Daily Report]

The thousands of NYU faithful crowding Washington Square park last night unleashed a torrent of cheers upon seeing plumes of white smoke arising from Furman Hall, signaling the selection of a new dean for the School of Law.

The hiring comes after former Dean Ricky Revesz announced that he was stepping down from the post he held for the last 11 years (though Revesz will remain on faculty at NYU, sort of a Dean Emeritus).

So let’s meet the new dean…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Prep the White Smoke! NYU School of Law Has a New Dean”

Dominique Strauss-Kahn

* Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer has a challenge for you: “I defy you to tell the difference between a naked prostitute and any other naked woman.” [Dealbreaker]

* It’s not often that Cravath partners leave for other firms, but it happens. Jeffrey Smith, former head of the environmental practice at Cravath, recently decamped for Crowell & Moring. [Am Law Daily]

* Former Bush Administration DOJ official John Elwood, now a partner at Vinson & Elkins, breaks down the Office of Legal Counsel’s recently issued opinion on recess appointments. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Blawging, Flawging & the Mathematical Theory of Information. Also: what do laser hair removal in D.C. and lemon law in Wisconsin have in common? [Associate's Mind]

* Are Americans finally waking up to the higher education bubble? [Instapundit]

Professor Ann Althouse: birthday girl.

* It appears that Joseph Rakofsky, whose handling of a criminal case drew critical comment, struggles on the civil side too. Justice Emily Goodman returned a proposed order of his with this notation: “Decline to sign. Papers are incomprehensible.” [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

* If you’re a trusts and estates lawyer or a reader of fiction, consider checking out this well-reviewed new novel by Patrick James O’Connor, which takes the form of an extended last will and testament. [Amazon (affiliate link)]

* Happy Birthday, Professor Althouse! [Althouse]

Virginia Seitz: The Finishing School for the Elect's new headmistress?

* How much would you need to be paid to spend 40 hours in prison? Does $200,000 sound about right? [Maryland Daily Record]

* C’mon, libs, John Yoo isn’t heartless — he opposes slavery, for crying out loud. Meanwhile, Richard Epstein agrees with Yoo that the original Constitution was far from perfect. [Ricochet (Yoo); Ricochet (Epstein)]

* Sidley Austin partner Virginia Seitz — a member of The Elect (Brennan / OT 1986), and descended from Article III aristocracy, as the daughter of the late Judge Collins Seitz (3d Cir.) — is looking like President Obama’s pick for the powerful and prestigious Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). [Main Justice]

* Sen. Arlen Specter recently complained that “the Supreme Court has been eating Congress’ lunch.” If the Sanchez sisters brought gandules y pernil, look under Lady Soto’s robe. [ACSblog]

* Congratulations to the six lawyers selected by incoming New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his front office (including Nancy Hoppock, my fantastic former colleague from the U.S. Attorney’s office). [WSJ Law Blog]

* At some point, all the injuries arising out of the ill-fated Spider-Man Broadway musical have to generate at least one lawsuit, right? [Gothamist]

A Supreme Court clerkship is, in the words of Adam Liptak of the New York Times, “the most coveted credential in American law.” When SCOTUS clerks leave their posts at the Court to join private law firms, they get signing bonuses of as much as $250,000 (on top of normal associate salaries and bonuses).

But typically they join their firms as associates (or maybe counsel, if they have a few extra years of practice in addition to clerking). How many clerks come in to Biglaw as partners?

As reported yesterday — by Tony Mauro in The BLT and by Marisa Kashino in Washingtonian magazine, among others — at least one Supreme Court clerk from the Term just ended, October Term 2009, is going to straight into a partnership at a major law firm.

Meet Elizabeth Papez. She clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas in OT 2009. Now she’s joining the D.C. office of Winston & Strawn, where she will practice in commercial and appellate litigation, with a focus on intellectual property and energy law, as well as government relations.

We interview Papez about her interesting career path, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: From Supreme Court Clerk to Winston & Strawn Partner”

Jay Bybee

* An interesting look at the role played by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and his S.D.N.Y. colleagues in the recent Russian spy swap. [New York Times]

* The government’s obscenity case against porn purveyor John Stagliano has climaxed… in a dismissal. [Politico via First One @ One First]

* Now that the damn hole is plugged, at least for the time being, all eyes are on BP compensation fund czar Kenneth Feinberg. [New York Times]

* The Justice Department has launched the largest health-care fraud sting in U.S. history. [Washington Post]

* Still on the DOJ, here’s the interesting backstory on how Jay Bybee came to head the Office of Legal Counsel. [Main Justice]

We took a muscular view of presidential authority. We were offering a bottom line to a client who wanted to know what he could do and what he couldn’t do. I wasn’t running a debating society, and I wasn’t running a law school.

– Ninth Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee about his authorization of aggressive interrogation methods as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Department of Justice seal DOJ seal Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgPresident Barack Obama has hit the ground running. Even before President Obama was done flubbing taking the oath of office, the revamped White House website was launched. You can check the WH website, including the new “Briefing Room” blog, for news of notable nominations and appointments.

We’ll also follow personnel news here on Above the Law, at least with respect to leading lawyers (most of them bound for the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s office). We’ve covered some notable nominations already. E.g, Eric Holder for attorney general; Elena Kagan for solicitrix general; Cass Sunstein for regulatory czar; and Kathy Ruemmler for PADAG.

A few more names have surfaced since then. Some of them pertain to the Office of Legal Counsel, the most prestigious DOJ component to work for other than the Solicitor General’s office (and arguably more powerful). We once dubbed OLC the Finishing School for the Elect:

If you don’t land a Supreme Court clerkship that immediately follows your feeder judge clerkship, cool your heels at the OLC, then reapply to the Court. Success is practically guaranteed!

Dawn Johnsen Indiana University Bloomington OLC.jpgAs previously reported, with the Senate’s consent, the headmistress of the Finishing School will be Dawn Johnsen (pictured). Professor Johnsen teaches law at Indiana University – Bloomington and served at OLC during the Clinton Administration, as Acting Assistant Attorney General and Deputy Assistant Attorney General, so she is well-prepared for the job. When we spoke at IU almost two years ago, students we met were already speculating that Professor Johnsen — described as a “brilliant” scholar, even if not the clearest or most effective classroom teacher — might someday return to government.

Professor Johnson will be joined by two more academics: Professor David Barron, of Harvard Law School, and Professor Marty Lederman, of Georgetown Law School. To learn more about their appointments, see Politico and Balkinization, respectively. Professor Lederman may be familiar to many of you as an active contributor in the legal blogosphere, having blogged for Balkinization and SCOTUSblog.

neal katyal Above the Law Legal Blog Above the Law David Lat.JPGSince President Obama is a former legal academic, it should come as no surprise that he’s recruiting so many law profs to join the upper echelons of his administration. The marquee names of Kagan, Sunstein, Johnsen, Barron and Lederman will also be joined by one of the brightest young stars of the legal firmament: Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal (pictured), of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld fame. As reported by the Legal Times (via the WSJ Law Blog), wunderkind Katyal has been tapped to serve as Elena Kagan’s right-hand man, principal deputy solicitor general.

For a comprehensive listing of the top legal eagles in the Obama Administration, see this handy round-up over at the BLT. As you can see, these are big, boldface names — gods and goddesses of our profession. Congratulations and good luck to all of them (not that they’ll need it).

We’ll have more hiring news — including items about less celestial beings, more junior lawyers, people you might actually know — in subsequent posts. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks.

Update: Add Harvard’s Einer Elhauge to the list of legal academics bound for the Obama Administration. Details via Brian Leiter.

Marty Lederman joins the Office of Legal Counsel [Balkinization]

Katyal Tapped as Principal Deputy in SG’s Office [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

DOJ in Flux [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

Georgetown to Lose Lederman and Katyal to OLC, SG’s Office [WSJ Law Blog]

Another Bush critic to OLC [Politico]

More Departures from Academia to the Obama Administration: Lederman from Georgetown, Barron from Harvard [Leiter's Law School Reports]

New attorneys for the next administration.JPGNew lawyers to lead the nation are sending in their résumés. Already, UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley has received a choice position as part of Obama’s transition advisory board. (I wonder if he’s accepting resumes from his students?)

Here’s an interesting choice for Edley and the rest of the transition team that will be picking the next Solicitor General. According to the Legal Times:

No woman has ever served as solicitor general, but a number have been mentioned as candidates for the job in an Obama administration. Stanford Law School professors Kathleen Sullivan and Pamela Karlan and Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan are possibilities, as well as Morrison & Foerster partner Beth Brinkmann and MetLife litigation counsel Teresa Wynn Roseborough.

They could also be considered to lead of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which produces legal opinions on complex matters for the attorney general and the president. Lawyers who have held both positions have gone on to become Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Justices Stanley Reed and Thurgood Marshall were solicitors general. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist and current Justice Antonin Scalia once headed the Office of Legal Counsel. That experience could come in handy should one or more Supreme Court justices step down in the next four years.

Speculation has also centered on prominent African-American attorneys who may be ready to step forward:

Valerie Jarrett (Stanford, Michigan Law): Jarrett is a longtime Obama adviser, who’s now one of three people heading his transition team. She told the WSJ that blacks won’t be pigeonholed into “historically conventional” roles, such as secretary of housing and urban development or assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Other high profile positions after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Stars of the New Administration”