Time for a few updates on a subject near and dear to our heart, which we’ve been neglecting as of late: federal judicial nominations. Here’s the latest news:
1. Texas state court judge Jennifer Elrod (at right), whom we previously identified as a possible nominee to the Fifth Circuit (and compared to Jennifer Aniston), has been officially nominated to that court. We’ve heard good things about Judge Elrod and wish her the best of luck in the confirmation process.
2. Connecticut state court judge Vanessa Bryant, discussed previously here, has been confirmed to the District of Connecticut.
3. Earlier this month, the White House sent a raft of judicial nominations over to the Senate. Nothing terribly exciting.
The two most controversial nominees in the bunch: state court judge Janet Neff (D. Mich.), and trial lawyer Richard Honaker (D. Wyo.). They may generate opposition on opposite sides of the aisle. Neff got a lot of grief from the conservative Sen. Sam Brownback for having attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. Honaker may be targeted by liberals for his record of strong opposition to abortion.
Here’s a random bit of trivia about Honaker: he was a Harvard classmate of Al Franken. If Honaker runs into opposition from liberals (despite being a trial lawyer and card-carrying member of ATLA), will Franken testify in his defense before the Senate Judiciary Committee?
(The article also mentions Billy Crystal, but we don’t believe Billy Crystal went to Harvard.)
Update: HA! The Billy Crystal mystery is revealed. Check out this comment.
Nomination Sent to the Senate [WhiteHouse.gov]
Nominations Confirmed [Senate.gov via How Appealing]
Nominations Sent to the Senate [WhiteHouse.gov]
Harris County civil judge nominated to federal bench [Houston Chronicle]
Bush renominates five Michiganians to federal judgeships [Detroit News]
Thomas announces judgeship nomination for Rock Springs lawyer [Casper Star-Tribune via How Appealing]
- 5th Circuit, Janet Neff, Jennifer Elrod, Judicial Nominations, Lesbians, Plaintiffs Firms, Politics, Senate Judiciary Committee, State Judges, Vanessa Bryant
Time for a few updates on a subject near and dear to our heart, which we’ve been neglecting as of late: federal judicial nominations. Here’s the latest news:
That’s how Professor Arthur Leonard is scoring the match, at least in our humble opinion.
Now, the good professor is too evenhanded and judicious to be this blunt. But check out his excellent analysis of the latest filings in the Aaron Charney/Sullivan & Cromwell litigation. Reading between the lines, it’s fairly clear that Professor Leonard is far more impressed with the work product and advocacy of Charney’s scrappy plaintiffs’ lawyers than those of the Biglaw behemoths on the other side: Paul Hastings and, in a secondary role, Sullivan & Cromwell.
We are inclined to agree with him. But you don’t have to take our word for it. You can download and review the court documents yourself, using the handy instructions set forth here.
New filings in the Charney/Sullivan & Cromwell litigation [Leonard Link]
Earlier: Brokeback Lawfirm: Self-Serve Charney Documents
Remember that editorial cartoon from “Bench & Bar,” the journal of the Kentucky Bar Association? Some lawyers objected to the cartoon as offensive and inappropriate for the Association’s journal.
We viewed it as non-offensive, but only moderately humorous (capable of inducing a chuckle, but not a belly laugh). You seem to agree, according to the poll results shown at right.
We’re pleased by these results. Delicate sensibilities can be a liability for lawyers — and blog readers, too.
Some additional thoughts on the cartoon from Walter Olson, with whom we recently had lunch, are available here.
Earlier: Trial Lawyers Need To Lighten Up a Little
What do you think of this cartoon, by cartoonist Jim Herrick, which appeared in last month’s Kentucky Bar Association magazine — and is now the subject of significant controversy?
We chuckled over the cartoon (although we didn’t quite guffaw). We don’t find it offensive in the least, and we think it was perfectly fine for the Kentucky Bar Assocation to run it.
But considering that we find almost nothing offensive, we may not be the best people to ask. What are your thoughts?
Trial lawyers find nothing funny in cartoon [Louisville Courier-Journal]
This is the third post in our post-hearing coverage of Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney. Our prior posts are available here and here.
In this post, we collect our favorite quotations from our morning at 60 Centre Street, New York Supreme Court. Here they are:
Before the hearing:
“Uh-oh, it’s the big guy!”
– Daniel Alterman of Alterman & Boop (Charney’s counsel), greeting Charles Stillman, counsel to Sullivan & Cromwell (and an eminence grise of the New York bar)
“You — you — you f***ed up!”
– Dan Alterman, greeting your undersigned blogger
Presumably he didn’t like this post very much. But he said the remark in good-natured fashion.
A few seconds later, after he had walked past us, he turned around and said (jokingly and within the earshot of about half a dozen people, so we feel okay in reporting it):
“And that was on background. Deep background!”
He also defended his fashion choices, pointing out the monogramming on his sleeve:
“My tie is clean. My wife dressed me this morning. My initials are on my shirt!”
Quotes from during and after the hearing, after the jump.
Yesterday we invited those of you with firsthand knowledge of Aaron Charney to share what you know with us — whether pro- or anti-Aaron. We received some absolutely intriguing responses.
Neither of these comments is “firsthand firsthand,” so please file them under “rumor” rather than “news.” But they are both extremely interesting.
Both are somewhat negative about Charney. But, interestingly enough, they support different responses to this question:
Who is the real Aaron Charney: a crusader for justice with a sincere belief in his cause, or a money-hungry opportunist seeking to shake down his former (and deep-pocketed) employer?
The first comment we received:
I have a friend who knows Aaron Charney — and could not STAND him. Aaron is one of those people who is very opinionated, to a fault, and unnecessarily combative.
Once Aaron almost got into a fight with someone over — get this — a seat at a CLE presentation. Aaron was firmly convinced that the other guy had stolen “his” chair. The argument almost escalated into fisticuffs. Over a f***ing seat at a CLE seminar.
I’ll spare you the stupid details. But you get the picture. Aaron is easily offended, firmly convinced that he is right in all things, and willing to go to the mat for them.
Although negative, this comment does support a picture of Charney as someone with a genuine (some might say narcissistic) belief in his cause. It suggests that Charney truly thinks that he has been wronged — and that S&C must be brought to justice.
Here’s the second, even more juicy comment:
Here’s the reason Aaron went pro se. Aaron retained a lawyer initially and had bargained with S&C for a settlement, but he wasn’t happy with the amount of money they were offering him. So he fired the lawyer, thinking that a small amount of money would be bigger if didn’t have to split it.
But apparently, after Aaron fired the lawyer, S&C withdrew the offer. That’s when Aaron decided to escalate things by going public.
WOW — this is FASCINATING!!! If you can provide further confirmation, please email us. At this point, it’s just rumor.
But we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s true. It would explain a lot:
(1) the mysterious period in between the initial incident of alleged harassment, in May 2006, and Aaron’s filing a pro se Complaint in New York Supreme Court, in January 2007;
(2) Aaron’s general skittishness about discussing his prior representation (and the circumstances of its termination); and
(3) S&C’s initial statement that it rejected his demand for a “multi-million dollar” settlement (i.e., they were willing to fork over a few hundred grand, but not seven figures).
Let’s say that the “small amount of money” was a few hundred grand — which, after you take a third of it out for fees, doesn’t go very far. This is especially true if it results in you leaving your firm under mysterious circumstances, thereby impairing your ability to land another Biglaw gig. So perhaps Aaron thought that he could go it alone, “cut out the middleman,” and save himself some dough (maybe $100,000 on a $300,000 settlement offer).
Unfortunately for him, Aaron may have miscalculated. After he dropped his counsel, S&C yanked its settlement offer. So it was erroneous for him to assume that he could have gotten an identical settlement offer without being represented by counsel (and coughing up fees to said counsel).
Then, after going
commando pro se, Aaron arguably erred again. He played his cards too quickly, launching a public relations blitzkrieg. He broadcast his allegations against S&C, down to the tiniest detail, to the largest audience possible. Obviously that pissed off the S&C partners, presumably hardening them against settlement.
Now Charney finds himself in a difficult position. Because S&C has filed a countersuit, he’s a defendant as well as a plaintiff. He could end up paying a settlement rather than receiving one.
And once again, Charney has lawyers — a whole team of them, at two different firms. His net recovery, if any, will be reduced substantially to pay their fees. His original goal, eliminating the middleman, has clearly been frustrated (unless they’re handling the case pro bono — and we have no reason to believe they are).
So today Aaron Charney is arguably worse off than before, when he first hired a lawyer. Now he faces an angry and antagonized defendant — one of the nation’s biggest and richest law firms, with nothing to lose at this point.
Charney has spread his dirt about Sullivan & Cromwell far and wide. He no longer can
engage in blackmail derive leverage from potential disclosure of that information; he has shot his proverbial wad. At this point, having been reduced to a Biglaw “Punchline of the Month,” S&C may have decided that it needs to fight back, take this thing to trial, and steamroll Aaron Charney.
To put it another way, in terms of his S&C scuttlebutt, which was his main bargaining chip, Aaron Charney may have “opened the kimono” prematurely. In fact, he arguably went much further:
“Aaron Charney opened the proverbial kimono, then flung it to the ground. He gave the world of Biglaw an enthusiastic, multimedia lapdance. Finally, he ‘bent over,’ and closed his act by dramatically producing a Lionel train set from his ‘special hiding place.’”
Aaron Charney, you got greedy. Then you made S&C mad — very mad. And now they will make you pay.
(Caveat: That preceding sentence — included for stylistic reasons, to give this post the requisite punchy conclusion — assumes the truth of rumor #2. As noted at the outset of this post, however, at this point the story is only an allegation. It’s just hearsay, mere rumor. You can believe or disbelieve it; it’s your choice. We’re just passing it along to you for your consideration, as we have previously passed along a great deal of pro-Aaron information.)
Update (12:28 PM): The WSJ Law Blog has an interesting post up about Aaron Charney’s ability to land another Biglaw gig.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell (scroll down)
- Aaron Charney, Alexandra Korry, Biglaw, Eric Krautheimer, Gay, Law Professors, Media and Journalism, Plaintiffs Firms, Pro Se Litigants
We’ll get back to the subject of pay raises for law firm associates in a minute. For now, here’s a quick update on the other story that Biglaw is abuzz about: Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, the case filed against S&C by associate Aaron Charney, alleging anti-gay discrimination and retaliation.
We’re monitoring coverage of this lawsuit through a news feed. Here are links to, and excerpts from, the latest stories:
1. Maple Grief [TheLawyer.com]
[O]ne charge [in the Charney Complaint] strikes [us] as particularly heinous. And that is that partners at the firm said the prevailing attitude internally was that “S&C considers all Canadians to be irrelevant”.
Given that the firm’s M&A lawyers spent most of last year defending Canadian nickel producer Inco on a £9.3bn hostile bid, we would be keen to hear Sullivan’s arguments played out in a tribunal.
2. Fake-Lawyer Jokes Better Than Real-Lawyer Jokes [New York Magazine / Daily Intelligencer]
A very brief mention — but with a shout-out to ATL:
Aaron Charney, the gay associate suing his former firm for discrimination, hasn’t gotten the support he expected from New York’s Lesbian and Gay Law Association. [Above the Law]
3. The Tough Road Ahead in the Lawsuit against S&C for Anti-Gay Discrimination: The Plain Truth about Plaintiffs [FindLaw]
Those of you who have been hungering for a dissection of Aaron Charney’s case by an employment lawyer will appreciate this excellent article. It’s by Professor Scott Moss, who teaches employment discrimination law at Marquette. Before entering academia, he practiced plaintiff-side employment law for several years, at Outten & Golden LLP in New York City.
It’s quite interesting. Highlights and our commentary, after the jump.
- Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Fabulosity, Harvard Law School, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Plaintiffs Firms, Politics, Shameless Plugs, Videos, Yale Law School, You Go Girl
The big news of the weekend: the announcement by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton that she’s opening a presidential exploratory committee. This is, of course, the first step towards a (now inevitable) White House bid.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Senator Clinton’s videotaped announcement. It’s excellent.
Senator Clinton’s intelligence, work ethic, experience and toughness all lie beyond the dispute. But the video highlights her charm, conviviality, and sense of humor. Regardless of whether you’re a Hillary fan or Hillary hater, we think you’ll be impressed by the video.
It’s very well-produced. The nice touches include the lovely side table, featuring pink roses and a discreet photo of her and Bill; Senator Clinton’s deft invocation of her Midwestern roots, replete with a Midwestern accent (listen to how she says “part”); and, of course, her flawless make-up. She looks great even in extreme close-up — which can’t be said for most of us. Can you believe she’s 59 years old?
There is a legal angle to this paean to Hillary (Yale Law School class of 1973). Discussion continues after the jump.
- Deaths, Feminism, Gender, Judith Vladeck, Law Professors, Litigatrix, Marsha Berzon, Plaintiffs Firms, Stephen Vladeck
Proud of her courtroom contentiousness, Ms. Vladeck brought a combination of showmanship and detailed analysis of salary histories and job performance to her cases. She took on potent opponents like major Wall Street investment firms, the Union Carbide Corporation and the City University of New York — and usually won, or settled for millions.
A chain-smoker known for working 11-hour days well into her 70s, Ms. Vladeck was a partner in Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, the Manhattan law firm that her husband, Stephen, helped start in 1948 and she joined in 1957.
Judith Vladeck was a colorful character. Check out these excerpts from her obituary at the WSJ Law Blog.
She is survived by several highly accomplished descendants. One of her sons is Dr. Bruce Vladeck, interim president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (and owner of a nice Manhattan apartment). Another son, David Vladeck, is a law professor at Georgetown. Daughter Anne Vladeck, a partner in the Vladeck law firm, has been recognized as one of the best labor lawyers in New York.
Judith Vladeck is also survived by five grandchildren. One of them is a fellow legal blogger: Professor Stephen I. Vladeck, of the University of Miami School of Law, who blogs at PrawfsBlawg.
ATL sends its sympathies and condolences to Professor Stephen Vladeck and the entire Vladeck family.
P.S. Interestingly enough, Steve Vladeck clerked for She Who Must Not Be Named. This is an example of a great fit between judge and law clerk. Just like his high-powered grandmother, Steve Vladeck’s former boss was a leading labor litigatrix, who argued several cases in the Supreme Court before being appointed to the Ninth Circuit.
Judith Vladeck, 83, Who Fought for Women’s Rights, Dies [New York Times via WSJ Law Blog]
Some people, like the Overlawyered crew, can’t stop bitching about our ridiculously litigious society. They complain that here in the United States, people sue at the drop of a hat, for the most stupid or frivolous of reasons.
But there may be an upside to our culture of litigation. From the AFP:
The leading association of US fashion designers said it would issue guidelines this week on the issue of skinny models. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) will issue its findings to designers, modeling agencies and production companies by the end of the week ahead of castings for fashion week, which begins on February 2….
The former president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Stan Herman, last year ruled out a ban on skinny models in New York, saying such rules would expose the organizers to possible legal action.
“It would be the same as banning somebody who’s too fat,” he told AFP in September. “Those people could sue… I wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.”
Indeed. And who’d want to be on the receiving end of such a class action, filed on behalf of every runway model with a sub-18 BMI? If liability is established, damages could be astronomical. As Linda Evangelista famously quipped, those girls “don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
So when Anna Wintour says her bedtime prayers tonight, she should thank God for the trial lawyers. They’re the only ones standing between her and a bevy of big-boned beauties.
Update: And models aren’t afraid of going to court to vindicate their rights. Check out this lawsuit, the subject of a recent Second Circuit ruling.
Doctors Fault Designers’ Stance Over Thin Models [New York Times]
New York fashion group to issue guidelines on skinny models [AFP]
NYC Fashion Week to Ban Twig Girls? [Gawker]