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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 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 (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]

Thelen new Thelen Reid Brown Raysman Steiner LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog tabloid.jpgThe rumor making the rounds of lawyer and staff layoffs at Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner is true. We just spoke to Thelen’s co-chair, Stephen V. O’Neal, who provided confirmation and details.
The firm is in the process of laying off 26 associates and 85 staff members, on a firm-wide basis, “in response to recessionary pressures.” (Unlike President Bush, Mr. O’Neal was not afraid to use the “r” word.) Thelen has approximately 600 lawyers, per its website, so the cuts amount to roughly 4 percent of total headcount.
With respect to the location of the affected lawyers, the cuts affected all major offices. With respect to seniority — one source told us that some first- and second-year associates were fired — Mr. O’Neal said that “some were fairly junior, and some more senior.”
In terms of practice areas, Mr. O’Neal said the layoffs were spread out among groups, but with “some areas more impacted than others,” including certain parts of capital markets and cap-markets-related real estate work. He noted that other practice areas are “thriving and increasing in scope,” including renewable energy, cross-border M&A, China practice, litigation, and workouts / bankruptcy.
With respect to staff layoffs, Mr. O’Neal explained that they are due in part to the economic climate, but in part due to post-merger staff redundancies. The merger of Thelen Reid and Brown Raysman took place in late 2006, making the consolidated firm a little over a year old. But the firm did not do much cutting of staff in 2007.
Last year “was not a year when we tried to make deep cutbacks in anything, even though we had combined two good-sized firms,” explained Mr. O’Neal. “It was a year of building, coordinating, and consolidating. We wanted to understand how best to organize this new entity.” Now that the firm has a better understanding of its staffing needs, and is in the process of consolidating multiple offices in the same cities (e.g., New York), it is reducing staff redundancies.
As for associate severance packages, Mr. O’Neal stated that firm provided a “market-level” package. We floated three to four months as our understanding of market, and he said that the firm is “in that ballpark.”
“We are anticipating a profitable 2008,” said Mr. O’Neal. “We are being prudent businesspeople, and when you are dealing with recessionary pressures, you adjust your business so you will have — and maintain — a strong level of profitability, notwithstanding those pressures.”
We thank the firm for the information and candor with respect to the layoffs (i.e., not casting these departures as “performance-based”). If you have more information, feel free to email us.
Updates: A few additional nuggets:

1. As noted in the comments, total headcount includes partners and counsel, so the percentage of associates laid off is higher than 4 percent. Some of you suggest it’s around 10 percent.

2. We’re a little annoyed at Legal Pad for the lack of an ATL shout-out — in both the blogosphere and the MSM, it’s proper form to credit and/or link to the source that breaks a story first (even if you were working on the same story too) — but we’ll link to them anyway.

They have more on the Thelen layoffs here. Much of the info in their post appeared previously in ours, but they do add that the firm “is also trimming its summer program from eleven to eight weeks and is pushing the start date for first-years from September to January.”

3. A source at the firm tells us that the severance packages were in the two- to three-month range.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of layoffs (scroll down)

* Thoughts on the case of an English prof who posed on an S&M site with one of her students, from law prof Paul Secunda. [Workplace Prof Blog]
* Thoughts on private property, a favorite topic of his, from law prof Richard Epstein (who has a new book out on the subject). [PrawfsBlawg]
* Is the generally well-regarded Judge Barbara Jones (S.D.N.Y.) a judicial slacker? The numbers may mislead. Also, interesting data on average reversal rates in the Southern District. [Judicial Reports]
* Enter the VC’s March Madness pool. You could win a Supreme Court bobblehead doll! [Volokh Conspiracy]
* C’mon, folks — read your ATL. The move to 18 weeks of parental leave has been going on for months now. [National Law Journal via ABA Journal]

Winston Strawn LLP logo Above the Law blog.JPGThe Washington office of Winston & Strawn was the site of a “mystery protest” this afternoon. For more details and a photo, see here. Wonkette’s tipster writes: “What they did to deserve a protest is beyond me.”
Our guess? Fashion-forward feminists, really pissed off about this.
Mystery Protest On Rain-Slicked D.C. Corner! [Wonkette]

sasso_richard copy.jpgTechnically, this New Jersey judge is our Ex-Judge of the Day, since he retired in January for “health reasons.” He is accused of PUI (presiding under the influence), bullying people in his courtroom, and tearing up a go-go bar. Oh, is that unusual behavior for a judge?

The Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct today released a complaint against a former municipal court judge from Somerset County, accusing him of multiple offenses, including presiding while intoxicated, causing a ruckus at a Bound Brook go-go bar and calling a police chief to retrieve him because he was too drunk to drive.

Richard Sasso, 52, retired from the bench earlier this year citing health reasons. He formerly served in Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Warren and Watchung.

You can check out the complaint filed against Sasso here (PDF). There are some great transcripts of Sasso abusing his judicial power. But our favorite line was uttered to a bartender at Torpedo’s Go Go Bar, a “gentleman’s club,” of course:

“Do you know who I am? I’m the Bound Brook judge.”

Not anymore.
Ex-Judge Charged With Drunkenness in Court, Disorderly Conduct in Public [New Jersey Law Journal on]
Ex-judge charged with misconduct [Courier News]
Somerset judge named in 7-count conduct complaint [The Star Ledger]

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