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* A defense of feds’ tactics in Spitzer investigation. [New York Times]
* Justice O’Connor, sitting by designation on Fourth Circuit, hears city council prayer case. [Washington Post]
* Paramount head Brad Grey gives (apparently boring) testimony at Pellicano trial. [Deadline Hollywood Daily via Drudge]
* Hearing to be held on recusal request in Massey Energy case. [AP via How Appealing]
* Michigan lawmakers fail to act on bill to authorize new Democratic primary. [New York Times]
* They got a crush on Obama? Curiosity killed the cat — and cost two State Department contractors their jobs. [Washington Post]

  • 20 Mar 2008 at 5:00 PM
  • Uncategorized

Musical Chairs: Anne Alstott to Harvard Law School

Anne Alstott Professor Anne L Alstott Ann Alstott Above the Law blog.jpgWe now know the identity of Dean Elena Kagan’s mystery hire at Harvard Law School. From the HLS press release:

Anne Alstott, an expert on federal income taxation, corporate taxation and tax policy as well as on social welfare policy, family policy, and feminism and economic justice, will join the Harvard Law School faculty as a tenured professor, Dean Elena Kagan ’86 announced today.

Alstott is presently the Jacquin D. Bierman Professor of Taxation at Yale Law School, where she has held a tenured professorship since 1997 and the Bierman chair since 2004. At Yale, she has taught federal income taxation, corporate taxation, and subjects related to taxation and social policy. She has won three awards for outstanding teaching.

We took two courses from Professor Alstott (Tax and Advanced Tax), and she truly is an amazing teacher. Sadly, this can’t be said of every professor at YLS. Great scholars, yes; great teachers, not necessarily. (Of course, this complaint is not unique to Yale; it can be said of many leading law schools.)
In addition to being admired for her scholarship and teaching, the rather attractive Professor Alstott was the object of many law student crushes. Interestingly enough, Harvard and Yale seem to have traded comely young profs. In 2006, Professor Christine Jolls left HLS for YLS.
Random tidbit: Rumor has it that Professor Alstott, known today for her liberal, pro-redistribution views, was once a staunch conservative. She was previously married to L. Gordon Crovitz, the uber-conservative former publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
Congratulations to Professor Alstott on her new appointment, and to Dean Kagan and Harvard Law School on their exciting hire!
Update: While we’re on the subject of Harvard Law School, if you have any thoughts on their new public service initiative, pursuant to which the school “will pay the third year of tuition for all future students who commit to work in public service for five years following graduation,” feel free to opine in the comments.
We mentioned the program in Morning Docket earlier this week. But based on how many emails we’ve received about it, it seems some of you missed the shout-out.
Further Update: Professor Brian Leiter analyzes Professor Alstott’s move, and its significance for the HLS tax faculty, over here.
Anne Alstott, expert on tax law and social welfare, will join HLS faculty [Harvard Law School]
Alstott From Yale to Harvard [Leiter's Law School Reports]
Earlier: Another Hiring Coup for Harvard Law School?

* Please don’t outlaw online poker. It’s educational! [Reasonable Doubts]
* What will Eliot Spitzer’s downfall mean for… medical malpractice reform? [Law and More]
* Presumptuous? Perhaps. But that’s what you get for not having peer-edited law reviews. [Anonymous Articles Editor]
* News you can use: collected rankings of tax preparation software. [TaxProf Blog]
* Obama’s other preacher? [YouTube]

This must be the most profanity-laced piece of transcript since Aaron Wider’s deposition. It’s the transcript of the sentencing hearing before Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.) at which Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Pokorny was attacked by the defendant, before the court reporter and defense counsel tackled the assailant.

The transcript was prepared by Ron Tolkin, the court reporter involved in the incident, from an audio recording. Even the heroic Mr. Tolkin can’t simultaneously (1) kick the a** of a kid decades his junior and (2) transcribe the proceedings for posterity.

Excerpts appear below. For the full transcript, see the link at the end of this post.

Victor Wright transcript Above the Law blog.jpg

UPDATE: Another choice excerpt, pointed out by several of you in the comments:

Victor Wright Ron Tolkin Carolyn Pokorny Eastern District New York ATL.jpg

To read the full transcript, click here (PDF). If you do, the “press it in” discussion might be confusing (and sound completely filthy). An E.D.N.Y. source clarifies:

["Pressing it in" refers] to the CSO, Marshalls and Deputy discussing how to activate the panic button. In the old E.D.N.Y. courthouse, you push in, but in the new one, you pull out.

Sentencing Hearing Transcript: United States v. Victor Wright (PDF)

Earlier: Lawyer of the Day: Harry Batchelder (And Court Reporter of the Day: Ron Tolkin)

thompson.jpgThis Florida attorney pops up in our pages often enough to have his own category. We’re only a few months into 2008, but Jack Thompson is already on the shortlist for Lawyer of the Year.
We’re awarding him a second Lawyer of the Day distinction for today’s sanction [PDF] from the Supreme Court of Florida. But we’re placing him in the Hall of Fame, making him ineligible for consideration in the future, out of fairness to competitors.
The court is requiring him to get “qualified counsel” in the Florida Bar’s case against him. The court directs the Clerk of Court to reject any future filings “submitted by John Bruce Thompson, unless signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar other than himself.”
In addition to poor judgment in filing coloring books and gay porn with the court, Thompson lacks the the art of sweet talk:

In one of these filings, he references the “children’s picture book for adults” and reiterates that he “sent a pleading chocked full of pictures to illustrate his verbal points, since the Court seemed unable to grasp the words.”

ATL practice pointer: Don’t insult the intelligence of your judges. In writing. In a filing to the court. Also, do not model your legal language on dialogue from the movie Dirty Harry.

In the conclusion to his latest response, Thompson states, “This Court has been foolish indeed. It’s [sic] bizarre, idiotic show cause order indicates that it is not done being foolish. Fine. Enter the order you want. Make my day.”

Thank you for making ATL’s day, Jack Thompson.

Milberg 2 Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes Learch Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.GIFIn today’s Morning Docket, we wondered about what Milberg Weiss’s new name would be, now that Mel Weiss is on his way to becoming a convicted felon. The answer came more quickly than expected. From the WSJ Law Blog:

The firm formerly known as Milberg Weiss Bershad & Shulman LLP, then Milberg Weiss Bershad LLP, then Milberg Weiss LLP, will now be known just as Milberg LLP. According to a Milberg insider, the name change was announced at a staff meeting this morning, at which Mel Weiss gave a speech talking about the accomplishments of the firm. The audience reportedly applauded…..

“Hey everyone, I’m going to prison for 18 to 33 months. Give me a big hand!”

The WSJ reported this morning that Mel Weiss has struck a deal to agree to plead guilty in a case alleging improper kickbacks. Other former name partners David Bershad and Steven Schulman had previously pleaded guilty in the case.

The beauty of naming the firm after Larry Milberg? He dead.
More Milberg Weiss coverage, including a statement from Mel Weiss, at the WSJ Law Blog.
Introducing . . . Milberg LLP [WSJ Law Blog]

ravis.jpgThe long-running NBC TV show, Law and Order, promotes its shows with claims of “ripped from the headlines,” but always includes a disclaimer within each episode that the story and characters are fictional. Questionable.
Well, one attorney is not happy about having his likeness ripped from the headlines of this New York Times story from 2003. And he’s been given the go-ahead to proceed with his $15 million libel suit against the show. From the New York Law Journal:

Attorney Ravi Batra can proceed with a $15 million libel suit against the creators of “Law & Order” for airing an episode depicting a “bald Indian-American” lawyer who bribes a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge, a Manhattan court has ruled.

The lawyer filed the defamation action in 2004 against 35 defendants, including producer Dick Wolf and NBC Universal, claiming that an episode was based on a corruption scandal involving Justice Gerald Garson, matrimonial lawyer Paul Siminovsky and Batra.

In what she deemed the first “libel-in-fiction” claim to survive a summary motion in nearly 25 years, Acting Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Shafer held that viewers “would identify” a fictional lawyer character dubbed “Ravi Patel” with Batra “because of the uniqueness of [Batra's] name, ethnicity and appearance.”

Batra has probably never been so happy to be a bald man. It seems this shared feature with the “Law and Order” character is a big part of the case. And their both being Indian:

The episode, entitled “Floater,” centered around the husband of a woman who turns up dead in the Hudson River. The husband’s alibi leads police to uncover a corruption scandal involving a divorce lawyer and a judge at the courthouse where his wife worked.

The episode portrayed a bald Indian-American matrimonial attorney called “Ravi Patel,” played by India-born actor Erick Avari, bribing a female Brooklyn Supreme Court justice.

Batra was never charged with corruption or bribery, but his reputation was hurt by the bad press.
We’ve tracked down photos of Ravi Batra and the actor who played “Ravi Patel” (Erick Avari, better known as genetics doctor Chandra Suresh from NBC’s straight-up awesome show Heroes). Judge the similarities for yourselves!
Update: More from from the NYT’s City Room (which actually wrote up the case before the NYLJ):

Mr. Batra demonstrated that at the time the episode aired, he was one of only six lawyers in New York City with the given name Ravi and the only one of the six with the same age and physical description as the Patel character.

‘Law & Order’ Faces a Libel Case [City Room / New York Times]
Attorney’s $15 Million Libel Lawsuit Against ‘Law & Order’ Creators, NBC Goes Forward [New York Law Journal on Law.com via The BLT]
FRIEND OF THE COURT: One Lawyer’s Inside Track; Cozying Up to Judges, and Reaping Opportunity [The New York Times]

E train New York City subway car Above the Law blog.jpgConfidentiality. Lawyers get lectured about it all the time. Despite all the warnings, attorneys young and old routinely get themselves in trouble through indiscretion (not just Eliot Spitzer).
Sometimes Supreme Court clerks are overheard talking about their cases. Sometimes law firm partners are overheard talking about firm business. An in-house tipster provides this account of a morning subway ride:

I was sitting on the E train at approximately 9 AM today. Next to me was a tall, older woman with a short (obviously dyed) blond hair cut. A younger (I would guess in his 40s) man saw her and made some comment about how funny it was to see her. She made a face, said she was in a rather bad mood, and showed him an email on her blackberry.

Now this conversation only lasted from the 7th Avenue stop on the E to the 5th Avenue one where Male (I’m assuming Partner) got off in order to attend a meeting, and Female (I’m assuming Partner) got off at the Lexington/Third Avenue stop [at 53rd Street].

Note: Thelen’s offices are at 875 and 900 Third Avenue, around 53rd Street….

The conversation continued to express FP’s concern regarding the person in the email. That FP would “talk to her” as soon as she got in. MP seemed somewhat unconcerned as he “suspected something like this would happen.”

Talk to Her — the title of a critically acclaimed Almodovar film. In this context, however, we’re guessing that FP’s secretary or assistant got laid off (or is about to get laid off) — and FP needs to discuss the situation with her.

Then MP mentioned your piece in AboveTheLaw.com (which is how I figured out what they were talking about), stating that the firm was reflected fairly well all things considered, and how the piece could have been worse. FP made a comment about how it only got bad when you read the comments, where it seems a lot of information was given out that made her very unhappy.

Ah, the comments. Sometimes they make us “very unhappy” too — although, for the most part, we are grateful for the insight and humor contained therein.
Welcome to the internets, FP. And exercise greater discretion next time — you never know who might be listening.
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner

I had been planning to share the results from last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on which other firm you would want to go to today, but in light of recent events at Thelen Reid and Edwards Angell, let’s just leave that survey open for a bit longer. Let’s talk about whether the slowdown is going to hit your firm as well, and how you might cushion the impact.
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this survey.

libby.jpgCNN reports that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been disbarred in the District of Columbia:

The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was convicted last year of lying to a grand jury and federal agents probing the leak of the identity of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson.

“When a member of the Bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, disbarment is mandatory,” the District of Columbia Court of Appeals wrote in its opinion, which is posted on its Web site.

“When convictions on more than one count are involved, disbarment is mandated if any one of them involves moral turpitude,” the court added.

The D.C. Court of Appeals opinion is posted [PDF]. POTUS commuted Libby’s 30-month prison term last year. So Scooter may be disbarred, but at least he’s not behind bars.
Good editorial cartoon of “Scooter” flying off cliff while Cheney looks on, by Steve Breen of Copley News Service, available here (click on thumbnail to enlarge).
Cheney’s former chief of staff disbarred [CNN]

lincoln town car dewey leboeuf above the law blog.jpgLast week, our colleagues over at Dealbreaker reported on changes to the “Evening Meals and Taxis” policy of Goldman Sachs in London. The upshot: the firm’s dining@mydesk service — okay, that doesn’t sound fun, but it’s still a perk of sorts — and a GS-covered taxi home will kick in at 10 PM instead of 9 PM, the old cutoff. Memo here.
Similar changes to car and dinner policies appear to be happening on this side of the pond. For example, we hear through the grapevine that Mayer Brown’s New York office recently pushed the free-car cutoff back to 9:30 PM.
At your law firm, when do you get a free dinner and / or transportation home? Has the firm changed its policy recently? Any thoughts on what the cutoff ought to be? Some firms have deadlines that vary by season. E.g., Debevoise (9 p.m. during the summer).
Please weigh in, on these and related matters — e.g., stories about crazy and/or incompetent car service drivers — in the comments.
Update: According to this comment, “MBRM has always moved cars back to 9:30 once the clocks change.”
Unacceptable [Dealbreaker]

* Another prominent plaintiffs’ lawyer pleads. Today it’s Mel Weiss of Milberg Weiss, to plead guilty in an alleged kickback scheme. Any guesses as to the new firm name? Milberg LLP? [WSJ Law Blog]
* SCOTUS overturns conviction of Louisiana death row inmate, due to improper exclusion of African-Americans from jury. Vote was 7-2, opinion by Alito. [SCOTUSblog; How Appealing (linkwrap)]
* Exciting times for commodities investors spell scary times for regulators. [New York Times]
* SEC investigating Bear Stearns options trading. [Reuters]
* Charges filed in girlfriend-on-toilet case. [AP]

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