Politics

One often hears lawyers, especially at large firms, say something like “if I were a client, I couldn’t afford to hire me.”

The reason is obvious; billable hour rates are high and quality legal work, especially in a tricky area, takes time. Legal fees for middle-class or even upper-middle-class people can easily outpace a client’s ability to pay.

This is a problem in a lot of areas of law, from divorce to employment to routine consumer litigation. In some cases, fee shifting or contingency fees can help make hiring a lawyer more affordable. Still, even for lawyers who aren’t in big firms, clients are often unable to afford the lawyer they need.

Federal employees caught up in Congressional or inspector general investigations are another sad example; they can be hit with massive fees for something they have no control over.

The political climate in Washington is hard on federal employees. Darryl Issa’s Committee on Government Reform and Oversight in the House has been bringing down a reign of terror on executive branch agencies — and the employees who work at them — for years now.

For example, think about Lois Lerner….

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We can help you waste thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to fight for what you sort of believe in.

– “William Hostetler,” the fictional voice of the very real law firm BakerHostetler. BakerHostetler, recently hired by congressional Republicans to spearhead their infamous lawsuit against President Obama, got a send-up on last night’s Tonight Show with a phony ad in the style of every ambulance-chasing firm ever committing to help you, the viewer, work out your frustrations with a frivolous lawsuit against President Obama.

(The whole bit is available after the jump….)

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Professors Tim Wu and Zephyr Teachout

* Sweet billable hours: Congrats to Proskauer Rose on its efforts to keep the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo, New York. It’s the largest deal for the sale of an NFL team in history. [Am Law Daily]

* Your firm brings in billions in verdicts, but that’s not prestigious enough. It needs to be on the inaugural list of America’s Elite Trial Lawyers. See if yours made the cut. [National Law Journal]

* The best way to dodge traps in the LSAT analytical reasoning section is to display your analytical reasoning capabilities by not taking the LSAT in the first place during a time when law schools are in turmoil. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Law professors Zephyr Teachout (Fordham) and Tim Wu (Columbia) were defeated in the Democratic primary election for New York governor and lieutenant governor, but they lost well. [New York Daily News]

* The world wants to know if Ray Rice can be prosecuted for domestic violence, even though he’s enrolled in a pre-trial intervention program. Like the answer to all legal questions, it depends. [WSJ Law Blog]


I’m proud to be an American. I’m ashamed to be an American. And I’m not sure what it means to be an American.

As you know, I’ve been living in London for the past two years. I’m beginning to feel like a local, but I’m still occasionally jolted by my American roots.

When have I felt proud to be an American in London? The first videotaped beheading of an American journalist by a jihadist with a British accent drew some attention over here. But I was dumbstruck to read this sentence in one of the local newspapers: “Scotland Yard warned the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating the video within the UK might constitute a criminal offence under terrorism legislation.”

Viewing the video might be a criminal offense??? Toto, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

In my mind’s eye, I see scores of college kids at Oxford and Cambridge, six drinks into the evening, saying: “Whoa! That dude got his head cut off?! We gotta Google that!”

And now they’ve committed criminal offenses?

Maybe that’s true over here in England, but I’m pretty sure we’d never stand for that in the United States. It makes me proud to be an American.

(I must say that the news of the second beheading of an American journalist dramatically changed the picture in my mind’s eye. Those college kids have now sobered up, and they’re heading off to enlist.)

So much for pride in being an American. Then that nine-year-old girl blew away her shooting instructor with an Uzi. . . .

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* Bob McDonnell, former governor of Virginia, guilty of 11 counts of corruption. Maureen McDonnell guilty of 8. If only they’d gotten that severance motion. [Wonkette]

* The best way to catch drunk drivers is to give them something to crash into. [Legal Juice]

* Chaumtoli Huq, a former general counsel to the New York Public Advocate, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that NYPD officers arrested her for waiting on the sidewalk outside a restaurant. She says she was targeted for being Muslim. [Gawker]

* In somewhat related news, Prawfsblawg pointed me to this interesting Slate piece on the effect that body-worn cams — the en vogue solution to police misconduct pushed by many including Huq’s old boss — really have on policing. [Slate via Prawfsblawg]

* Google paying $19 million to settle the FTC suit over kids making in-app purchases. It was going to be a $5 million settlement, but the FTC told Google that they would let them skip level 410 in Candy Crush if they kicked in another $14 million. [Washington Post]

* Some people have a problem with duct-taping kids to force them to take naps. Kids are growing up soft these days. [Lowering the Bar]

* And guess what? The D.C. Circuit is hearing the Halbig case en banc. Nullifying any argument that the Supreme Court act immediately to resolve a circuit split. Seems like someone predicted this outcome while the mainstream media wet themselves over a Supreme Court showdown. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* Adam Steinbaugh got a DMCA takedown notice for criticizing a company for… overactive DMCA takedown notices. He replies eloquently. [Adam Steinbaugh's Blog]

This week, a Louisiana court became the first federal district court to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor. Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana granted the state’s motion for summary judgment in Robicheaux v. Caldwell. Finding that the claims of same-sex couples did not implicate a fundamental right triggering heightened scrutiny of the state law, he applied rational basis review to the challenge. Judge Feldman rejected arguments that sexual orientation warrants intermediate or heightened scrutiny based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor, as well as Equal Protection arguments against the Louisiana ban based on sex discrimination.

“Many states have democratically chosen to recognize same-sex marriage,” he writes. “But until recent years, it had no place at all in this nation’s history and tradition. Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.”

American attitudes about LGBT people have changed. The fight for same-sex marriage has come far, fast. African Americans, women, disabled people, and members of other disenfranchised groups should envy the speed with which the LGBT community has achieved so much success. Not only have laws changed, but popular moral sensibilities have changed as well. In 2008, opposing marriage equality would put you in the company of most California voters. In 2014, expressing moral opposition to homosexuality can get you in big trouble. You can even face retroactive stigma — Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla who was ousted in 2014 because of his support of California’s Prop 8 in 2008, can attest to that.

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As you’ve likely heard, there’s a Southern governor on trial for public corruption.

Shockingly, he’s not from Louisiana.

Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen are on trial for, in essence, taking gifts from a guy named Johnnie Williams in exchange for doing things in the governor’s mansion (there are also some bank fraud charges and obstruction charges, but frankly, in comparison to the public corruption stuff the bank fraud is terribly dreary). After five weeks of trial and testimony, the case just went to the jury.

UPDATE (5:40 p.m.): And the McDonnells got convicted.

There has been a lot of commentary on the McDonnell trial (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here). One thing that hasn’t been talked about during the trial much: the defense severance motion that was denied at the very start.

And, as the trial has continued, that motion looks more and more important in hindsight….

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Professor Tim Wu

* Could Columbia law professor Tim Wu become New York’s next lieutenant governor? He has a shot, according to the Times. [New York Times]

* Which same-sex-marriage case is the best vehicle for Supreme Court review? [BuzzFeed]

* A federal judge takes the wheel in steering Detroit into the future. [American Lawyer]

* Is it “shameful” of the ALS Association to attempt to trademark the phrase “ice bucket challenge”? [ABA Journal]

* Jury deliberations are expected to begin today in the corruption trial of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. [Washington Post]

* Voter ID laws are back on trial, this time in Texas. [New York Times]

* Speaking of Texas, the state seeks to stay a recent ruling that struck down the requirement that abortion clinics comply with standards for ambulatory surgical centers. [ABA Journal]

Professor John Yoo, who deemed waterboarding wasn’t torture.

Among the many, many, many problems with running a torture program (beyond being morally problematic and with no history of effectiveness) is the fact that it makes it easier for others to justify torture programs as well. It’s now come out that ISIS has been waterboarding prisoners, including reporter James Foley whom they recently beheaded. Waterboarding, of course, was one of the CIA’s favorite torture techniques. And, of course, people had warned for years that having the CIA waterboard people would only encourage others to use the technique against Americans. Hell, even Senator Dianne Feinstein condemned waterboarding a few years ago, because it would lead others to do it against the US:

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A Sixth Circuit ruling earlier this week is a victory for critics of federal hate crime legislation, as well as the defendants in the case, a group of Amish men and women who forcibly cut the hair and sheared the beards of their Amish victims. The defendants, members of the Bergholz Amish community, admitted to a series of attacks against other Amish with whom the defendants had longstanding feuds. In the Amish community, men wear long beards and women grow long hair as signs of piety and view voluntarily cutting one’s own hair as a sign of contrition. Cutting another person’s hair is a forceful condemnation of the victim. Prosecutors had argued that the defendants assaulted their victims because of their religious identity. The case is the first appellate case involving a religious hate crime brought under The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The statute prohibits “willfully caus[ing] bodily injury to any person . . . because of the actual or perceived . . . religion . . . of [that] person.”

In one of the instances at issue, Martin and Barbara Miller’s children and their children’s spouses cut Barbara’s hair and sheared Martin’s beard. The children insisted at trial that they attacked their parents to punish them for “bad parenting.” The kids thought Martin and Barbara were cruel, punitive, and spiteful as a father and mother. The kids did not argue that Martin and Barbara’s “bad parenting” justified assaulting them. The kids only argued that they didn’t attack their parents because their parents were Amish, or even because they believed that their parents’ bad parenting was a sign of them being lousy at being Amish. Rather, they attacked their parents because they believed that their parents were lousy at being parents.

Assaulting your parents in a way that is particularly hurtful to their religious values is a good way to make clear that you won’t be attending the next family picnic, but is it a good way to commit a federal hate crime?

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