Pro Se Litigants

Albeit a ridiculous pro se one filed by a prisoner in South Carolina.
There’s nothing like the free time that prison provides and obviously severe mental problems a vivid imagination as a recipe for hilarious, hand-written, pro se complaints. Exhibit A:
Michael Vick Pro Se 1 Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg
Where to begin? Well, first of all, as far as we know Vick is not a federal agent of any kind, so this can’t possibly be an action filed pursuant to Bivens. But of all of the problems with this complaint, that may be the least. Continued discussion and the rest of the complaint after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: Vick’s A Defendant In A Federal Civil Suit, Too”

Madonna at Supreme Court SCOTUS Aisha Goodison Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgIn addition to handing down some big opinions, yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a number of cases. As noted by SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston, the Court denied certiorari in a significant antitrust case, as well as a pair of test cases raising constitutional issues in the immigration context.
But the most important cert denial was surely Aisha v. Madonna, No. 06-1389. A blurb about this battle of the mono-monikered musicians, from a reader:

Why nothing about this crazy diva? Her case is discussed by Marty Lederman over at SCOTUSblog.

Aisha Goodison seems right up your alley. She’s more than a little nutty, “strong,” fearless, and with a bad attitude. (Gotta love the pictures of Madonna and Gwen Stefani on her website).

I glanced over her cert petition and she’s pro se. Does that mean she wrote her own complaint? If not, who is helping her out? Just how crazy is she?

Plenty crazy. More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: Aisha v. Madonna”

University of Virginia School of Law UVA Law School Above the Law blog.jpg* These guys get a case at the Supreme Court before they even graduate. They really are the coolest law school! [The Daily Progress via How Appealing]
* Cho loophole supposedly now closed. [CNN]
* Bush telling Texas it has to comply with international law? Seems a little ironic… [Jurist]
* A fool for a client… [WSJ Law Blog]
* Yes, what’s going in Darfur is genocide, ok people? Geez. [The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo!]


Patek Philippe watch timepiece Above the Law.JPGWe sure do love pro se litigants. Like the guy who filed this notice of appeal. Or the loon who filed this lawsuit against Arm & Hammer. And, of course, there’s Aaron Charney (although he now has counsel).
Today we introduce you to Michael Melnitzky, who served as the principal art conservator at Sotheby’s for almost three decades. From the NYT:

[W]hen his wife filed for divorce in 1994, Mr. Melnitzky became something else: a litigator. A prolific one. And although he has no law degree and only himself as a client, he has never been busier.

Through a series of self-fashioned lawsuits and appeals, issues that might have been settled with his divorce have gone on for 13 years, 3 years longer than his marriage.

He has sued virtually everyone involved: one of his former lawyers, his wife’s lawyer, three banks, five judges and a psychiatrist appointed by the court to evaluate his mental health. In unrelated cases, he has sued a neighbor, a thrift shop, the city and his former employer. And he has almost always lost.

Unlike so many pro se litigants, Melnitzky is neither incarcerated nor impecunious. But in terms of his psychology, he fits the pro se profile:

At a recent hearing, an opposing lawyer called him a “serial litigator” who was turning the legal system into a “hobby” at the expense of the people he sued.

Mr. Melnitzky takes exception to such characterizations, as he does to the mention of obsession.

“It’s not an obsession; it’s a cause,” he said. “Would you call the fight against Nazis an obsession?”

Melnitzky is a Holocaust survivor. But despite that fact, we respectfully question whether it’s appropriate to compare the worldwide struggle against Fascism and genocide to litigation over a watch collection (even a very nice one — it includes timepieces by Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin).
The Marriage Lasted 10 Years. The Lawsuits? 13 Years, and Counting. [New York Times]

H Rodgin Cohen 2 Chairman Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney Sullivan Cromwell Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law ATL legal tabloid legal blog.JPGWe just got back from dinner with lawyer friends, where everyone mourned the apparent passing of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell. Earlier today, it seemed that this lawsuit — which has riveted legal gossip circles — was on the brink of settlement.
As we pointed out this afternoon, something was definitely going on in the case. Aaron Charney was no longer listed on the S&C website. He wasn’t returning our emails, and when we finally reached him by phone, the usually chatty plaintiff refused to speak to us. When we contacted Sullivan & Cromwell partner Theodore Rogers, he was also quite cagey.
In short, the parties were acting weird — very weird. We felt a great deal of tension in the air. Something was definitely not “normal” (to the extent that anything about this lawsuit could be called “normal”).
We suspected a settlement was in the works (and even asked you to vote in a reader poll about the amount). But it turns out that nothing could have been further from the truth.
Reports of this lawsuit’s death have been greatly exaggerated (largely by yours truly). The legal warfare between Aaron Charney and Sullivan & Cromwell, far from going away, is actually ESCALATING. WOW!!!
Check out the fantastic comments to our last post. Or read this concise summary, emailed to us by a reader:

Sullivan & Cromwell filed its own action against Charney [yesterday] — and it was started by an order to show cause seeking a preliminary injunction!!!!

The case is on for next Thursday, February 8, before Judge Bernard Fried.

I think this means the case is far from settling, if S&C started their own lawsuit. I will try to get my hands on the complaint.

Mr. Charney, S&C is playing hardball — and you’re the ball. Biglaw is about to get medieval on your ass.
You’re going to be bending over for Messrs. Sullivan and Cromwell. And this time around, they won’t ask nicely.
ATL readers: Please email us with any information, tips, or rumors about the litigation. We are ESPECIALLY interested in getting our hands on S&C’s moving papers, which apparently were filed yesterday (February 1).
Treat this post as the open thread for all things Charney-licious. We will add, update, and tinker with it throughout the weekend. Refresh your browser for the latest — and check out the comments, too.
Fasten your seatbelts, everyone. For fans of Biglaw gossip, it’s going to be a bumpy — but hopefully entertaining — little ride.
Update (12:58 AM): Hey, guess what? You don’t need to read all 60+ comments to our most recent Aaron Charney post.
We’ve prepared a handy little digest of these comments. It appears after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell — Or Should We Say, Sullivan & Cromwell v. Charney?”

Aaron Charney 2 headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett CharneyWe’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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell: Morning Newswrap”

Aaron Charney 2 headshot Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett CharneyIf you haven’t already done so, you can still vote in our poll asking you whether you support Aaron Charney or Sullivan & Cromwell in Charney v. S&C. Click here to vote in that poll (or to view the results if you’ve already voted).
After we posted Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell: The $15 Million Question, a number of you started to debate in the comments:

How much is Aaron Charney’s lawsuit really worth?

Here are some of your thoughts:

“5-10 mil seems like a fair sum to ask for in this matter.”

“I’d let partners say much more degrading things to me for $5M. I’d also allow myself to be left out of the summer mentoring program. ABP’s sandwiches are not bad at all. Esp. that chicken mozzarella one.”

“Does anyone have statistics on the average employment discrimination award in NYC? Include not just the cases that won millions, but also the cases we never hear about.”

“$15 million? Sheesh. I’d take it up the butt for $15 million, much less tolerate a few comments about bending over.”

We realize that what we’re about to do is completely unscientific and unreliable. We don’t know all the facts of the case. Nor do we have any data concerning the average size of employment discrimination awards in New York City (as one of you expressed an interest in seeing). So we don’t have any solid basis for comparisons.
But please, humor us; we’re curious. For what it’s worth — and we admit it may not be worth much — please take our latest poll:


Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell

cocaine crack drugs.jpgWhen we write about pro se litigants, it’s usually because they have done something ridiculous. But some folks who represent themselves — and we’re not just talking about Aaron Charney — can be reasonably effective as advocates.
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

In March 2004, police arrested Muhammad Dye on Central Avenue. They found him carrying an electric scale, two cellular phones, five empty sandwich bags with cocaine residue and $1,063 in cash.

Dye was charged with drug possession and possession of criminal tools, but after a weeklong trial in November 2005, a jury cleared him of the charges. Dye even argued successfully that all the items seized should be returned to him, right down to the sandwich bags.

This guy sounds AWESOME. Here’s more from the article:

Common Pleas Judge Lillian Greene declined to discuss the case because Dye has three more cases pending before her. Courtroom observers, though, said Dye is surprisingly charming. While he sometimes mangles his words, he gets his point across to the jury.

Considering that Dye prevailed in getting his cocaine-dusted Ziplocs returned to him, he’s got to be good.
Update: From someone who has witnessed Muhammad Dye in action:

He’s not great, I’ll be honest, but he’s not bad. His cross of a codefendant who flipped was decent — he got his point across. Having clerked in a federal district court, I’ve seen lots worse from retained defense attorneys.

Accused drug kingpin defending himself [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

H Rodgin Cohen Chairman Aaron B Charney Aaron Brett Charney Sullivan Cromwell Above the Law Above the Law Above the Law ATL legal tabloid legal blog.JPGLots of great reader comments concerning Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell. It’s getting hard to keep track of them.
If we get the chance, we may put together a “Best of” or “Top 10″ list for comments (as one of you suggested). This comment thread, appended to yesterday’s post about Aaron Charney’s interview on Canadian television, is especially interesting.
If you’re having a slow Friday, and if you haven’t already done so, we urge you to read the entire Complaint (PDF). We have no background in this area of law, so we won’t opine on the merits of Charney’s case. But his complaint seems fairly well-written, at least by pro se standards, and it’s full of fun gossip about S&C.
As a legal matter, as well as a matter of professional development — i.e., not burning every last one of your bridges, including those to your mentors and allies — it may have been unwise for Charney to lard his complaint with so much (arguably gratuitous) scuttlebutt. But as connoisseurs of Biglaw gossip, we’re grateful to him for dishing all that dirt about S&C.
For now, we’d like to share with you this amusing message from a reader, about specific allegations from the Charney Complaint:

Not being included in the Mentor Program. That HAD to be the breaking point. See paragraphs 60-61 (“Pagnani’s Mentor List did not include Plaintiff”).

Oh the horror. If there is one bright ray of sunshine in a young associate’s life, it’s the opportunity to take summers out for a $200 lunch once a week. How can any third year get out of bed knowing that they’ll be eating an $6 sandwich from Au Bon Pain, while everyone else is out at a mentor-mentee lunch?

At first we thought this message was facetious. But now we’re not so sure. If being forced to dine at ABP while your colleagues go to Nobu isn’t actionable, we don’t know what is.
P.S. Yes, we know: Chief Justice John Roberts eats at Au Bon Pain (and also gets take-out from Cosi). But he makes less than a fourth-year associate — and can’t stop bitching about it.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell (scroll down)

David Braff David H Braff Sullivan Cromwell.jpgMove over, Fire Island. See ya later, Provincetown. Rehoboth Beach, you’re all washed up.
The gay destination of choice for summer 2007? This may come as a surprise to you, but it’s 125 Broad Street, New York, New York — home of the estimable law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell (plus the ACLU’s LGBT Rights Project).
From Aaron Charney, the plaintiff in Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell:

I am informed by numerous sources that David Braff (at right), on behalf of certain gay S&C partners, circulated a memorandum stating that such partners are pleased with the work environment at S&C.

Big Gay Al South Park Comedy Central.jpgWhat exactly makes Sullivan such a fabulous workplace for gays? Is it the subsidized gym? The proximity to S&C client Goldman Sachs, home to countless cute banker boys with seven-figure incomes? The complimentary cosmos served in the firm cafeteria?
If you have a copy of this memo, please send it our way, by email.
We’re looking forward to seeing it. But Charney seems less than impressed:

Braff’s memo directly misses the point. My complaint concerns the discrimination and retaliation perpetrated by S&C against me. S&C clearly has no defense against the allegations enumerated in my Complaint and instead seeks to muddy the waters by trying to divert people’s attention away from the issue at hand. S&C’s campaign of diversion is the latest example of S&C’s unwilling[ness] to enforce the firm office manual’s anti-discrimination policy and confirms why I was left with no choice but to pursue this legal matter.

Charney’s willingness to speak freely about the case — or to try it in the court of public opinion, as his critics claim — may explain why he seems to be winning the PR war, at least at the current time. In our reader poll, which is still ongoing, about two-thirds of respondents support him over S&C.
(But that is down somewhat from the 75 percent support that Charney enjoyed earlier in the afternoon. Could an anti-Aaron backlash be developing?)
Update: One of you has posted what appears to be the gay partners’ memo in the comments. Thanks!
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell (scroll down)

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