Politics

I wasn’t surprised at all. I’ve lost so much of my health trying to prove this connection. As a journalist, I felt satisfied. I could finally prove the theories I had put forward. As a man, I felt I had been lied to. I was holding in my hand proof. It was the feeling of a scientist who has proven his theory with evidence.

– Serhi Scherbyna, the editor of The Insider, upon the discovery of documents revealing what he called “irrefutable proof” linking a coal trading enterprise that won billions in government contracts to the company that managed the Ukrainian presidential estate. These documents, discovered in the abandoned residence of the deposed prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka, included an early draft of a Skadden Arps report marked up by Ukrainian officials pushing for even more sympathetic treatment of the trial against Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko.

A few days ago, Elie Mystal wrote about recent allegations of racist student conduct at the UCLA School of Law. I invite readers unfamiliar with the background to catch up by reading Elie’s post and, if you’ve the stomach for it, some of the many comments on his post. (It’s okay. I’ll wait.)

UCLA Dean Rachel Moran called for a police investigation. She alerted the student body. She agreed to meet with student leaders. From all I can see, the law school administration has so far handled the events appropriately. The official response balances the risk of dismissing the allegations or their importance with the risk of over-reacting and potentially polarizing the campus further.

I disagree with much of Elie’s criticism of the law school as a whole, as I disagreed with him about the Team Sanders situation at UCLA last fall.

Still, I didn’t originally want to write about UCLA this week. I drafted a post on another topic, in fact. But something about the UCLA situation, Elie’s post, and, perhaps most of all, the responses from many readers gnawed away at me. It hurt my heart. And when the desiccated husk that passes for my world-weary heart hurts, there’s usually something to it . . . .

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A lawsuit filed earlier this month has raised the ire of several leading lawyers and legal bloggers. Noted First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza — a panelist at our Attorney@Blog conference, by the way — describes the case as “truly disgusting.” Ken White of Popehat, another prominent commentator on the legal profession, calls the suit “despicable” and “thoroughly contemptible,” writing that he “cannot remember a lawsuit that so immediately repulsed and enraged.”

Let’s find out what all the buzz is about. Which law firm filed this controversial complaint, what is the case about, and how bad is it?

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A spectator who dutifully waited in line to gain admission to the Supreme Court’s hearing today just popped up out of his seat and started heckling the Court. It’s times like this that you really wish the Court would join the mid-20th century and install a camera or two so we could see how hard Justice Alito’s eyes roll back into his head when the person he’s listening to isn’t even a Supreme Court justice. I’m guessing it looks like when a Great White bites down.

The cops yanked away the protestor soon after he began. But obviously he succeeded in changing the world before they did.

So what issue got this protestor so riled up that he crashed the Supreme Court?

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If you outlaw guns, then violent, blind, drunks wouldn’t have guns… actually that sounds like a pretty good idea.

* Judge orders guns returned to blind guy. David Sedaris has a great routine where he talks about the few stupid jurisdictions that let the blind participate in gunplay. Well consider Florida stupider: this is a blind guy who previously shot 15 times at his cousin while drunk and has since killed his friend — not only while drunk, but after a “10 a.m. beer run” — and he’s getting his guns back. [Raw Story]

* An intrepid, but hopelessly clueless jailhouse lawyer is taking it upon himself to free Gucci Mane. Fight on, you hero! [Global Grind]

* Area Man Coasting By On Good Looks, Work Ethic, In-Depth Knowledge Of Virginia Real Estate Law. [The Onion]

* It seems Ray Rice took out all the aggression he feels over having Joe Flacco as a quarterback by allegedly knocking his fiancée unconscious. By “allegedly,” I mean, “I’m not saying, but it was in an Atlantic City casino and videotapes show it from every angle.” Anyway, here’s a good primer on the differences between assault, simple assault, and aggravated assault in the state of New Jersey. [The Legal Blitz]

* Speaking of Rutgers players, the merger between Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark into Rutgers-Both Law School is on track for 2015. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* So it’s a great time to go to law school! If you thought 2007 was a great time to go to law school that is. [Gawker]

* Here’s an innovative way to fight illegal music downloads: the band Gridlink is running a contest encouraging users to upload bogus versions of their songs to gum up the works in exchange for a free, official copy of the latest album. [Handshake Inc.]

* The lawyer who may topple Chris Christie is a defense lawyer who stymied the rotund Republican during his tenure as U.S. Attorney. That must be sweet. [Newark Star-Ledger]

* Passionate about public-interest law? Here’s your chance to win a paid one-year fellowship with Save the Children. (Our very own David Lat is one of the contest judges.) [BARBRI]

* The University of Pennsylvania Law School Entertainment and Sports Law Society is hosting the Penn Law Sports Law Symposium presented by the Heisman Trust this Friday, February 28th from 9:30am-6:00pm at the Law School in Philadelphia. Jim Delaney will be there to talk about how the Big Ten would go bankrupt if one cent of their billions in revenue were diverted. Tickets at the link. [ESLS]

Give this man a federal judgeship.’ That sounded as if I were desperate, which I was . . . .

– Judge Leslie Southwick, in response to a Washington Post headline during his confirmation struggle.

In The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey, Judge Leslie H. Southwick chronicles the long path to his current seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Southwick is a former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge, former deputy assistant attorney general in the first Bush Administration, and Iraq war veteran. He was recommended by Mississippi senators for a Fifth Circuit vacancy in 1991 and 2004, for a district judgeship in 2004 and 2006, before his final nomination in 2007. He initially appeared to be an uncontroversial nominee. However, a fierce partisan battle in the Senate threatened his eventual success. The Nominee follows Southwick’s tortuous path, relying on the judge’s day-by-day personal notes.

Southwick’s account is fascinating on its face. He drops names on every page, and it’s exciting to trace the earlier steps of those who would become legal luminaries in later years. For those only generally familiar with the way that federal judges get made — a process resembling in unsettling ways how sausage gets made, Southwick notes — the book provides an education in both the official and the unofficial processes. The book will certainly satisfy in excruciating detail the curiosity of anyone who wonders exactly how stubbornly political the judicial confirmation process has become.

Notably, the book shows just how long the process can be. Before he clears the Senate Judiciary Committee vote, before his nomination even reaches the Senate floor, Southwick writes that the day “was a double anniversary of my seeking a position on the Fifth Circuit. In my diary, I wrote, ‘Tuesday, 10 July. Sixteen years today since this started,’ meaning that I learned on July 10, 1991, that Judge Charles Clark was retiring. In addition, the 1991 date was exactly sixteen years after I wrote my July 10, 1975, letter applying to clerk for Judge Clark.” Judges, whether made the right way or not, are not made overnight.

None of this is what makes the book most worth reading, though — and it certainly is worth reading . . . .

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Texas state senator and gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis has been on the defensive recently, ever since a Dallas Morning News piece documented inconsistencies between the story of personal struggle Davis has been using to promote herself in her campaign and . . . well, the facts.

Wendy Davis has since admitted that her campaign’s story included errors and misleading spin. She said in an interview, “My language should have been tighter. I’m learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail.” (Just what we all want: the leader of the second most populous state in the union who admits she struggles with attention to details, starting with those of her own life.)

Davis supporters argue that Wendy’s political ambitions and personal life get judged by a double standard because she’s a woman. They claim male politicians don’t face this high scrutiny and that her critics reveal their misogyny by subjecting her to higher standards.

Of course, that’s a canny political pivot: make criticism work to your advantage by redirecting the negativity back to the critics themselves. What about the underlying question, though? Is Wendy Davis subject to a double standard because she’s a woman?

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Bradley Cooper: a very handsome man, but sadly not a lawyer.

Seemingly random small-firm lawyers from Alabama weren’t the only legal types in attendance at the White House State Dinner on Tuesday evening. Indeed, as we’ve previously noted, numerous legal celebrities attended the festivities as well.

Sure, there were some “celebrity celebrities” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that night. The guest list included such boldface names as J.J. Abrams, Stephen Colbert, Bradley Cooper, Mindy Kaling, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

But who cares about Hollywood? Above the Law readers are more interested in the government lawyers, federal judges, Biglaw partners and law professors who attended this major social event….

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Kourtney and Caleb Ballew, posing for a picture while at the White House for a state dinner with President Obama (with a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the background).

The White House State Dinner that President Barack Obama hosted on Tuesday night in honor of President François Hollande of France featured quite the convocation of legal eagles. As we mentioned yesterday, attendees included such law-world luminaries as Justice Elena Kagan, Secretary Jeh Johnson, and ATL’s reigning Lawyer of the Year, Roberta Kaplan.

Also in attendance: Caleb Ballew and Kourtney Ballew. They’re a pair of twenty-something, small-firm lawyers from Huntsville, Alabama.

Say what? Did the Obama White House get Salahi’d again?

Actually, no. The Ballews came as honored guests of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Because the Obamas have had so few state dinners, invitations to the ones they do host are in especially high demand. How did two recent law school graduates score one of the most coveted invites in the country? I interviewed the Ballews to find out….

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Wendy Davis

I’m not saying there aren’t brilliant people at S.M.U. — I’m sure there are. But I really wanted to finish my experience in this extraordinary academic setting that I’d been in.

– Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, explaining in an interview with Robert Draper of the New York Times Magazine why she chose to remain at Harvard Law School for her final year of school, instead of completing her legal education at Southern Methodist University, where she’d be closer to her children.

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