And now back to a more contentious subject: the death penalty. In three opinions issued today, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions of Texas death row inmates.
Each of the cases involved a problem with the lower appellate courts’ application of prior SCOTUS rulings on special jury instructions in death penalty cases. All three decisions were 5-4, with the usual suspects (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito) in dissent. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Smith v. Texas; Stevens wrote the other two, Abdul-Kamir v. Quarterman and Brewer v. Quarterman, which had been orally argued together.
In one of two rulings Wednesday on death penalty procedures in Texas, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas’ highest state court wrongly put up a new legal barrier to a death row inmate’s challenge to jury instructions in his sentencing. The 5-4 decision came in the case of Smith v. Texas (05-11304), a case that had been before the Court once before.. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority.
The Court reversed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling that reinstated the death sentence of a Dallas man, LaRoyce Smith; the state court had applied a new harmless error standard under state law. That was a misinterpretation of what federal law required, the Court concluded.
In the consolidated cases of Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman (05-11284) and Brewer v. Quarterman (05-11287), the Court in another 5-4 decision found that the Fifth Circuit Court wrongly applied prior rulings on instructions to assure that capital juries give full consideration to any factor that might suggest a death sentence should not be imposed.
I credit Kennedy not so much because he wrote one of the majority opinions, but because he was surely once again the swing vote in what is becoming a heavy trend of 5-4 opinions. So much for Roberts’ goal of a unified court.
How Appealing has links to the opinions here.
It’s a little too early for a full-blown abortion debate, so let’s move on to more pedestrian matters, like partner poaching. A few weeks after Mayer Brown decided it needed to fire or demote 45 partners to drive up its stock price, Gary Friedman, who chaired Mayer’s employment practice, has decided he’s got to get the fudge out.
Friedman has been plucked by Weil for their employment litigation practice. Three other Mayer Brown lawyers are making the move with him: Andrew Kofsky, who will join Weil as counsel, and associates Jonathan Shiffman and Jonathan Sokotch.
From the WSJ Law Blog:
Friedman was not one of the 45 demoted or asked to leave. “I was not looking to leave,” Friedman told the Law Blog. “But for this extraordinary opportunity, I would have remained at Mayer, Brown.”
Sounds like the “right thing to say” to us.
Jeffrey Klein, the chair of Weil’s national employment litigation practice, says he poached Friedman. “He was a reluctant bride.”
Mayer Brown declined to comment.
Friedman specializes in defending employment class actions including discrimination and overtime-pay cases. It’s notable that Weil is beefing up in this area, since some top firms shy away from employment law, concluding that it’s not profitable enough. But Klein and Friedman say that employment cases have grown in volume and complexity, because top plaintiffs lawyers have jumped into the field in the wake of a slowdown in securities class actions. “The plaintiffs’ securities litigation bar has . . . pursued this litigation with a vengeance,” Friedman says.
In what appears to be the first response by a state legislature to last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth abortion ban, North Dakota has passed a bill making abortion illegal if and when the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade. (The N.D. Senate Majority leader claims that the bill was not influenced by the recent decision.) From Jurist:
In the event that the US Supreme Court overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the bill would subject anyone performing an abortion to a prison sentence of up to 5 years, a $5,000 fine, or possibly both. An exception would be made in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother was in danger.
North Dakota has become the second state to pass this type of abortion law; Mississippi approved a similar measure last month.
Isn’t this a little like passing a law explicitly making it legal for police to interrogate suspects without allowing them to ask for an attorney, if and when Miranda v. Arizona is overturned by the Supreme Court? Or like a bill reinstituting segregation immediately upon the Supreme Court’s reversal of Brown v. Board of Education?
* There was a time when a TV writer strike meant something, but if recently, you’ve found yourself watching the Pussycat Dolls reality show, you too might welcome a return to more scripted programs. [Los Angeles Times]
* I’d pay for license plates that read “God is Dead”–Nietzsche (front) and “Nietzsche is Dead”–God (back). [Indy Star]
* CBS just defended itself by claiming it can’t be racist since Les Moonves’s wife is Asian. And that they’re upholding free speech or something. [New York Times]
* I would totally convert for non-decrepit, hot media mogul Edgar Bronfman Jr. I wouldn’t even care that he was just an entitled dabbler before he was handed the reins of the Seagram Company and pummeled Napster into submission. [CNN Money]
No one has been quite sure why Justice Clarence Thomas has been recusing himself from Wachovia cases. The mystery is apparently solved; Thomas’s son works at Wachovia Securities. From The Blog of Legal Times:
For the last two years, Justice Clarence Thomas has consistently recused himself in cases in which Wachovia Bank is a party — most notably the landmark decision last week in Watters v. Wachovia Bank, a win for federal regulation of national bank subsidiaries. On Monday, Thomas stepped aside in the denial of review of yet another Wachovia case — as well as in Turnbaugh v. National City Bank of Indiana, which did not involve Wachovia directly but raised the same issue at the Watters case.
Thomas’s financial disclosure form reveals no ownership of Wachovia stock, so what gives? Thomas does not reveal his reasons for recusal in public, but we have just confirmed that Thomas’s son Jamal works at Wachovia Securities, a part of Wachovia Corporation, at its headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. We haven’t been able to learn his title or what area he works in, but that is almost certainly the explanation for his father’s recusal.
Oh, we long for the days before products liability suits took away our lawn darts and all the rest of our fun. Professor Bill Childs, professor at Western New England School of Law and author of TortsProf Blog, has this post, about receiving as a gift from a student a “Golfing Gizmo.”
[It's a] device from the 1960s and 1970s that is the subject of the Hauter v. Zogarts case (534 P.2d 377 (Cal. 1975)) in David Owen et al.’s Products Liability and Safety casebook and possibly others. And they even found the same model and manual as is in the case, including the almost-blank-verse notation on the front: “COMPLETELY SAFE BALL WILL NOT HIT THE PLAYER.”
The device was such that you drove a golf ball attached to a cord, which of course made the golf ball come back at you. If it came back to the left, you had a slice; to the right, you had a hook. If your shot was perfect, you got zinged in the head and won a lawsuit. Perfectly safe. The Golfing Gizmo in All Its Glory [TortsProf Blog]
Apparently the one guy that counts was satisfied with Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before Congress last week. From the New York Times:
President Bush said Monday that the Congressional testimony of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, roundly panned by members of both parties, had “increased my confidence in his ability to do the job.”
Speaking during a short question-and-answer session in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Gonzales’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “The attorney general went up and gave a very candid assessment, and answered every question he could possibly answer, honestly answer.”
Really, Prez? Because what we saw in the hearings was someone who either has the memory of a raisin or is a liar on the scale of James Frey. Either way, these are not characteristics of the ideal head of the Department of Justice.
Is the President showing the same kind of support that he showed for Donald Rumsfeld right before he was sent packing? There are some important differences, of course, in the two cases. Rumsfeld’s performance was directly related to the war in Iraq, which many perceived to be the driving issue in the November election that handed Congress to the Democrats; Gonzales, on the other hand, seems to mostly have a terrible memory and bad sense of PR when it comes to handling a situation in which many feel that nothing wrong was actually done. Also, and perhaps more importantly, there is now not very much time left in the Bush Administration; there may not therefore be the political will to force him out, replace him, and then have to replace the replacement within a fairly short period of time.
Still, not getting rid of him and making the above comments are two different things. So I say again, really President Bush?
It appears that the salary wars have made their way to London. With London salaries rising into the neighborhood of £65,000, and with the current exchange rate over two $/£, the gap between New York and London salaries is narrowing considerably. This from the London Times Online:
City sources said newly-qualified lawyers at A&O would be offered salaries of £65,200 – above its magic circle and other UK rivals.
The latest pay rise pushes Allen & Overy into the territory of US law firms that typically offer between 20 and 40 per cent more than UK firms in an attempt to lure away skilled lawyers.
Chris Hickey, a legal recruiter at Robert Walters, predicted that several large US firms, whose London offices are enjoying a significant boom on the back of strong private equity and mergers and acquisitions markets, would also be forced to revise their salaries upwards.
With, as the article points out, U.S. firms typically paying 20-40% more than UK firms in London, the U.S. firms may soon be paying their associates in London more than their associates in New York. This will in turn likely force the NY salaries even higher. Could we soon hit $200,000 for first year associates?
Time for another installment in ATL’s ongoing obsession with law students/lawyers posing nude for Playboy. This time it’s Kristine Lefebvre, a loser from The Apprentice: Los Angeles.
From AP via CNN:
Lefebvre will appear on the cover of the June issue of the magazine and is featured in nude photographs inside, her publicist, Howard Bragman, said Friday.
An attorney, Lefebvre had previously negotiated Playboy appearance deals for clients including Pamela Anderson and Deborah Gibson, Bragman said.
Lefebvre, 37, is a cancer survivor who wanted to use the magazine opportunity to send a message of support to others with the disease, he said. She’s married to prominent Los Angeles chef Ludovic Lefebvre.
The message she’s sending to cancer survivors? You don’t have to let cancer keep you from getting naked for money.
Incidentally, the season finale of The Apprentice: LA was Sunday, and the candidate hired by the Don is also an attorney, Stefani Schaeffer (at right).
Wow! No offense to Lefebvre, but we think the wrong apprentice is posing for Playboy. Ex-’Apprentice’ contestant poses for Playboy [Associated Press] Stefani Schaeffer bio [The Apprentice]
What’s that you say? You’re a major international political figure, and you’re embroiled in a scandal that could cost your job? What should you do? Why, hire a rock star lawyer of course!
Paul Wolfowitz has done just that, hiring Robert Bennett to represent him in his fight to save his job as president of the World Bank. Bennett, who represented Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones case, is a partner at Skadden Arps.
From the New York Times:
Robert S. Bennett, the lawyer selected by Mr. Wolfowitz, said in an interview that before the bank’s board acted on charges of ethical lapses, he and Mr. Wolfowitz wanted more time to prepare a case showing that the bank president had acted properly on all matters that the board is investigating.
“I am very worried about the rush to judgment,” Mr. Bennett said. “We just had a wonderful example of that in the Duke lacrosse case. I have reviewed the essential documents, and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Mr. Wolfowitz exercised good faith and that everything he did was in the best interests of the bank.”
Interesting that Wolfowitz would choose an attorney known for representing Clinton. Then again, the allegations do involve a female staffer, so maybe Bennett’s experience with Clinton makes him the perfect choice.
Still, though, is there much Bennett can do for Wolfowitz? What exactly is Wolfowitz’s recourse if the Bank fires him unfairly? Isn’t Bennett basically being hired as a PR guy on this one? Which is not to say that attorneys acting as PR reps is anything new, but it usually takes place within the context of criminal or civil litigation.
Anyway, we’re kind of rooting for the Wolfman. I mean, what’s the point of a job like president of the World Bank if you can’t give you preferential treatment to your girlfriend?
Wow, that’s quite a ways to go just to get your way on a motion to suppress. A 57-year-old Douglas County, Colorado judge and a 29-year-old female prosecutor in the same county have admitted to having sex on multiple occasions in the courthouse. From the Rocky Mountain News (via How Appealing):
As rumors of their romance became fodder for courthouse gossip, the complaint said, [Judge Grafton Minot] Biddle encouraged [prosecutor Laurie] Steinman to permanently delete messages they exchanged using their e-mail accounts at work.
“If people read this stuff, we’re dead,” Biddle told Steinman, according to the complaint.
The pair is accused of other ethical lapses, including Steinman prosecuting two cases in Biddle’s court without disclosing their relationship. Biddle gave Steinman feedback following one of the trials, which ended in an acquittal, the complaint said.
The judge resigned, the prosecutor was fired, and both face disciplinary action from the Bar. Here’s hoping that was some good, worth-losing-my-career-over lovemaking.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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