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ATA Airlines ATA Airways bankrupt bankruptcy Above the Law blog.jpg* States, cities, environmental groups sue EPA in D.C. Circuit, seeking rules on vehicle emissions. [New York Times]
* Defense lawyers and civil libertarians not cool with “surreptitious sampling” of DNA — e.g., collecting DNA from saliva on discarded cigarettes. (Strikes us as an uphill battle, at least under existing Fourth Amendment law.) [New York Times)]
* DOJ: not cool with girl-on-girl action? Career lawyer at Justice Department may have lost her job due to rumors of lesbianism. [NPR (also noted yesterday in Non-Sequiturs]
* Fifth Circuit oral argument in Jeff Skilling case = snooze-fest. [WSJ Law Blog]
* ATA Airlines files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (again). If you have a ticket for an ATA flight, good luck with that. [AP]
* Elsewhere in airline trouble, FAA inspectors claim Southwest Airlines tried to conceal safety problems. [CNN]

Borat Borat Borat lawsuit law litigation legal Borat Borat Borat.JPGLast year we provided extensive coverage of litigation arising out of Borat, Sasha Baron Cohen’s raunchy hit film. Things have been generally quiet on that front, but now we have some news. Sewell Chan reports over at the City Room:

Was Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 film “Borat” a pure slapstick comedy? Does it have a measure of redeeming value as a societal commentary? A federal judge considered these questions before dismissing a lawsuit filed by a man who was randomly accosted — and touched — by Mr. Cohen on a Midtown street. The judge concluded that the movie “appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers” but does make an effort to offer a critique of American society.

Reached for comment, Borat said: “Dismissal of lawsuit: Is nice! Borat want to meet Judge Preska and make sexytime under her robe.”

In general, the civil rights law prohibits using a private person’s name, portrait or likeness for “advertising purposes or the purposes of trade” without the person’s written permission. But as a judge, Loretta A. Preska of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, noted in a nine-page ruling on Monday, state courts have interpreted the ban narrowly, as “strictly limited to nonconsensual commercial appropriations of the name, portrait or picture of a living person.”

The ban does not apply to “newsworthy events or matters of public interest,” and “newsworthiness” has been taken to include “not only descriptions of actual events, but also articles concerning political happenings, social trends or any subject of public interest.”

Here’s an excerpt from Judge Preska’s opinion:

Of course, the movie employs as its chief medium a brand of humor that appeals to the most childish and vulgar in its viewers. At its core, however, “Borat” attempts an ironic commentary of “modern” American culture, contrasting the backwardness of its protagonist with the social ills [that] afflict supposedly sophisticated society. The movie challenges its viewers to confront not only the bizarre and offensive Borat character himself, but the equally bizarre and offensive reactions he elicits from “ordinary” Americans. Indeed, its message lies in that juxtaposition and the implicit accusation that “the time will come when it will disgust you to look in a mirror.” Such clearly falls within the wide scope of what New York courts have held to be a matter of public interest.

You can read the complete City Room post over here. Did Judge Preska get it right? Feel free to voice your view in the comments.
Judge Dismisses Suit Over ‘Borat’ [New York Times]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Borat litigation (scroll down)

Breuer_Lanny_070502.jpg*Covington & Burling’s Lanny Breuer gets profiled for being the “go-to guy” for Sandy Berger, Roger Clemens, and Charles Prince (not to be confused with Prince Charles). [The Washingtonian]
*If you were disappointed by your law school’s ranking this year in U.S. News and World Report, perhaps you’d prefer a 14-year-long historical perspective. [TaxProf Blog]
*Huh? Yesterday was April Fools’ Day? Okay, yes, Fantasy Baseball post was a joke (more details at the ABA Journal), but sadly our Blackberry post was not. [ABA Journal]
*As we had hoped, cross dressing bankruptcy judge Robert Somma is rethinking his decision to resign. [The Boston Globe]
*The Broward County courts sound like they are ready to host a reality TV show: pot-smoking, insensitivity on the bench, slurs about sexual orientation… Now for some musical chairs. [Daily Business Review]
*DOJ is investigating whether sexual orientation played a part in attorney firings. “To some people, that’s even worse than being a Democrat.” [TPMMuckraker]
*When deciding which law job to take, you may want to factor in the number of opposite sex singles living in the cities you’re considering. [Jezebel]

judge_halverson.jpgJudge Elizabeth Halverson has graced stomped through these pages many times before. But this is her first appearance of 2008. The LA Times recounts some Halverson highlights:

Her former bailiff said he was forced to heat and serve her lunch, check the temperature of her ice water, brush lint from her robe, help her put on her shoes, massage her neck and cover her with a blanket before her nap.
An assistant said Halverson, of the 8th Judicial District Court, made her answer questions — under oath — about courthouse gossip.

She’s been stripped of her criminal cases. She has been suspended with pay. She has a hearing this month that may result in her being removed from the bench. But she’s STILL running for reelection. We apologize to Halverson fans out there, but we will not be running a “Re-Elect Halverson” campaign, even if she does provide great blog fodder…

Halverson also referred to her husband as “Evil Ed,” her former bailiff testified, and told Jordan to “pull out your gun and shoot him.”
“I’ll dispose of the body,” Jordan quoted the judge as saying.
Halverson’s newer staffers told commissioners she acted respectfully and professionally. But commissioners said that didn’t excuse her treating Jordan and others in a “truly bizarre and inappropriate manner.”
Two people are challenging the suspended judge in the August election. Halverson said she entered the race because community members encouraged her to hold onto her judgeship.
“Do I think the public will see the truth about me?” she said. “Yes, I do.”

The truth is out there. I mean, seriously, how could she dispose of her husband’s body? She is a LARGE woman, with an oxygen tank, who can’t even get her own nap-time blanket. She was making a joke. Obviously.
Update: A commenter sent us to this bizarre kid-sploitation reelection video.
Judge Elizabeth Halverson courts trouble in Las Vegas [Los Angeles Times]

butting heads.jpgWe don’t get nearly enough news from the west coast, so we are happy to anoint two Oregonian attorneys our Lawyers of the Day.
At first, the idea of landlord-tenant lawyers duking it out struck us as awesome. But apparently their fight involved slapping, running away, and a “talking-to” from a judge. Not so awesome.
From the Oregonian:

[J]aws dropped last week when two attorneys duked it out in a first-floor hallway in front of a crowd of spectators, including a few county sheriff’s deputies and Portland traffic cops.
Attorneys David Lawrence and Aaron Matusick had been in landlord-tenant court Thursday for a hearing and began shouting at each other when they left the courtroom, according to witnesses and officials who investigated the fight.
People in three nearby courtrooms spilled into the hallway to see what was going on, some just in time to see the two men literally butt heads. Although it’s not clear exactly who did what, witnesses said one man slapped the other and the other responded with a punch to the forehead.
Then one of the attorneys dashed out of the courthouse. He was called back on his cell phone, and both men were summoned to Judge Pro-Tem Lewis Lawrence’s chambers for a talking-to.

We wonder whether the deputies and traffic cops were just standing around cheering and taking cell phone photos. That’s probably what we would have done. But we’re not responsible for, like, keeping the peace and stuff.
Court fight! Lawyers trade blows in hall [The Oregonian]

For LEWW, one of the best things about spring is the return of a reliable stream of lawyer-lawyer couples to the NYT wedding pages. Soon we’ll even be seeing SCOTUS clerks! This week five out of our six newlyweds sports a JD. Here they are:

1.) Michelle Lieberman and Daniel Lubetzky
2.) Michelle Davidowitz and Jed Schwartz
3.) Jessica Zeldin and Johnston Whitman Jr.

More about our finalists, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 3.9 and 3.16: Deposing Marriage”

money.jpgCovington & Burling is a bit late to the holiday bonus party, but as a spokesperson told us, their bonus announcements for non-NYC offices come in April. A tipster from the Washington, D.C. office wrote us today:

Max bonus in the DC office was $75k. Minimum was zero. Average bonus ranged, by class year, from $16k for 2nd years to $55k for 7th years. Bonuses are all merit-based — while hours are the main factor, there is no set scale or cutoff. About 2/3 of eligible associates (i.e. those at the firm before August 1) got bonuses.

We reported yesterday that in Covington’s San Francisco office, bonuses ranged from $5K to $65K.
Should you have other late-breaking bonus news, please email us (subject line: “Associate Bonus Watch”).
Earlier: Associate Bonus Watch: Covington & Burling (New York)
Associate Bonus Watch: A Few More Updates
Associate Bonus Watch: Covington & Burling? (non-NYC)

We realize we are a bit late on March Madness. Given that all the #1-seeded teams are headed to the Final Four for the first time in NCAA basketball history, we assume your brackets are rubbish and you are open to distraction. Last year, we held a March Madness contest for law schools. UVA Law School came out on top.

This year, we give you ATL March April Madness for Law Firms!!!!

Brackets are based on Vault rankings. We wonder if Vault seeds will be as accurate as those by the NCAA tournament selection committee.
March Madness copy.jpg
Here’s how the tournament will work. Law firms will advance to the next round based on reader polls, in which we ask you which law firm is “cooler.” You can define that however you choose.
The polls are available after the jump. Polls close at the end of the day!

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL March April Madness for Law Firms, Round 1: The Sweet Sixteen”

stripper.jpgThe legislative and judicial branches are going head to head in Texas, over a “pole tax.” Sounds noble, right?
Not exactly… since the referenced “poles” are those found in strip clubs. Texas State Rep. Ellen Cohen wants to charge strip club patrons a $5 tax, with proceeds funding programs for the betterment of society. Don’t strippers do enough for society already?

Cohen’s law — some dubbed it the “pole tax” — was expected to raise millions of dollars, with the money dedicated to sexual assault programs and health care for the uninsured.
Gov. Perry signed the law last June and it went into effect this year.
Jenkins ruled the law unconstitutional, writing that erotic dancing is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. Laws regulating expression must pass strict constitutional tests.
Jenkins focused on the dedication of the fee revenues to the uninsured, writing that he saw no evidence linking the activity of nude, erotic dancing to a lack of health insurance among the dancers.

We wonder if Travis County District Judge Scott Jenkins was listening to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” when he made his ruling.
Cohen vows to revive $5-per-patron strip club fee [Houston Chronicle via TaxProf]

We received 1,036 responses to last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey on where you’d most want to work, which, in turn, was based on your nominations last month.
Here’s how it turned out:
Survey Results: Which Firm Would You Most Want To Work For?
Overall, Latham & Watkins dominated the field, pulling in almost one fifth of all votes. Latham was the most popular choice among voters in L.A., the Bay Area, and Washington, DC, and was particularly favored by tax lawyers and litigators.
Runner-up Wachtell was actually the top choice of respondents in New York, narrowly besting Davis Polk and Latham. It was also, by far, the most popular pick among M&A lawyers, with roughly 30% of their vote.
Kirkland placed third overall, but was the top choice of Chicago respondents and patent lawyers, with almost twice as many votes as the next most popular firm in Chicago (Latham) and almost as many patent votes as the next two firms combined (Latham and Quinn).
Williams & Connolly, Ropes & Gray, and Davis Polk tied for fourth, with Ropes & Gray dominating the Boston vote, Williams & Connolly pwning DC (and gaining the second highest vote from litigators after Latham), and Davis Polk rocking the investment management scene (with Ropes & Gray running second best in that field).
Paul Hastings was the clear winner among labor & employment attorneys, winning almost 70% of the vote, and was also the most popular choice among real estate attorneys and lawyers in Atlanta.
On the Magic Circle front, Linklaters proved more popular than Allen & Overy, and was actually the most popular choice among securities lawyers. Allen & Overy was the most popular choice among structured finance attorneys.

third grade.jpg
Yesterday, Georgia brought us our judge of the day and news from our favorite pro se litigant. Today, it brings us murderous third graders. From CNN:

A group of third-graders plotted to attack their teacher, bringing a broken steak knife, handcuffs, duct tape and other items for the job and assigning children tasks including covering the windows and cleaning up afterward, police said Tuesday.

Photos of the assembled weapons are here.
We realize there is a tenuous legal connection here… but authorities at the school are citing privacy law and there will be charges!

The children, ages 8 to 10, were apparently mad at the teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, Tanner said.
Two of the students were arrested on juvenile charges Tuesday and a third arrest was expected. District Attorney Rick Currie said other students told investigators they didn’t take the plot seriously or insisted they had decided not to participate.
“Some of the kids said, `We thought they were just kidding,”‘ Currie said. “Another child was supposed to bring a toy pistol, and he told a detective he didn’t bring it because he thought he would get in trouble.”
Currie said the children are too young to be charged as adults, and probably too young to be sentenced to a youth detention center.
Police seized a steak knife, steel handcuffs, duct tape, electrical and transparent tape, ribbons and the paperweight from the students, Tanner said.
Currie said he decided to seek juvenile charges against two girls, ages 9 and 10, who brought the knife and paperweight and an 8-year-old boy who brought tape. He said all three students faced charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and both girls were being charged with bringing weapons to school.

How the world has changed. When we were in the third grade, we sang the variation on “Joy to the World” that celebrated the teacher being dead, but we didn’t actually mean it!
11 Students Plotted To Kill Third-Grade Teacher [Local 6 News via Drudge]
Police Release Photos of Weapons in Waycross Plot [First Coast News]
Cops: Third-graders arrested in teacher attack plot [CNN]
Third-graders grilled on plot to kill teacher [The Florida Times-Union]

* A 2003 memo shows that the Justice Department greenlighted aggressive interrogation methods (including poking; Facebook, holla). Maybe those Yalies suing John Yoo need to amend their complaint. [New York Times; Washington Post]
* Speaking of Yalies, here are a Yale 1L’s thoughts on the U.S. News rankings controversy. [Hartford Courant]
* A bipartisan effort to protect homeowners at risk of foreclosure. [New York Times]
* Despite the grim economy, partner poaching continues — and even extends to finance and securitization lawyers. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Hey Mon — please don’t try to board a flight with apparent bomb-making materials. [CNN]
* Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano may have offered clients more than just investigative services. [New York Times]

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