Rank Stupidity

box for mailing Above the Law Legal Blog.JPGWe’ve all done it: Use of office resources for personal purposes. Maybe you take the occasional personal call on your office telephone. Maybe you used the work fax machine to receive a one-page tax document from your accountant. Maybe you took some paperwork home with you one night, along with an office-issued ballpoint pen, and later used that pen to take down your mother’s chicken casserole recipe, as she read it to you over the phone.
If it’s de minimis use, then it’s okay. But this might have been, um, de maximus:

According to court records, while an attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Seth Zimmerman used his office’s Federal Express account to send Redskins tickets to eBay bidders….

The FTC says he cost the federal government $1,938. FedEx also says it lost $3,880 due to the discount shipping rate given to the federal government. According to the plea agreement, Zimmerman also profited by charging each buyer an additional $12 fee for the FedEx delivery.

Two grand strikes us as a sizable sum. But there is room for argument. Zimmerman might respond: “Come on, feds, lighten up! Isn’t that just, like, three Pentagon toilet seats — not even the padded kind?”
So how was the fraud detected? Was an elaborate investigation required?

In August 2004, investigators at the Office of Inspector General for the FTC were contacted by people complaining that tickets they bought from Zimmerman on eBay were never delivered.

What could have been some difficult Internet sleuthing was made easier because Zimmerman used his FTC e-mail address to set up his eBay account. The inspector general subpoenaed records from eBay showing that Zimmerman had been buying and selling tickets on the site since 2001.

Seth, it’s called Gmail. Try it, you might like it.
(Yes, we know: even if Zimmerman had used Gmail, if he used it from his work computer, messages could still be traced back to him using his IP address. But at least then the investigators would have WORK a little to uncover his identity, instead of having it served up on a silver platter.)
Penalty Box: FTC Lawyer No ‘Overnight Sensation’ [Legal Times (pass-through link) via NYLawyer.com]

wesley snipes above the law above the law atl atl.GIFAnd aficionados of direct-to-video movies rejoice. UPI reports:

Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes will avoid any time in jail on tax fraud charges as part of a recent settlement with the Internal Revenue Service.

The 44-year-old star of the “Blade” film trilogy had been wanted in connection with his attempt to claim $12 million in tax refunds in 1996 and 1997, but worked out a deal that helped him avoid jail while setting up a payment plan, Daily Variety said.

So if you were hoping to hear about Snipes demonstrating his martial arts abilities on Bernie Ebbers, Jeff Skilling, and Walter Forbes, we’re sorry to disappoint you.
(But Snipes getting off without a prison sentence shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Or at least it doesn’t to Ted Frank, who predicted as much last month.)
Snipes Avoids Jail Time with IRS Settlement [UPI]
Snipes Settles with IRS [Variety]
Snipes Settles Tax Fraud Charges, Will Avoid Jail Time [TaxProf Blog]
Earlier: White Men Can’t Jump — But They Can Nab You for Tax Evasion

beggar with dog.jpgThis is the continuation of an interview horror story that we started earlier. You can read the prior installment here.
When we last left our hero, an applicant for a lateral position at a top Silicon Valley law firm, he had just said a bunch of completely boneheaded things at an interview lunch with two associates. Here’s what happened next:

[C]omfortable with our friendliness, the interviewee asked us whether he should make follow-up contact with the four other Biglaw firms who had interviewed him last month.

Obviously, this question is wrong on so many levels:

1. He’s asking us advice about getting a job with competitors;
2. He’s just informed us that four other BigLaws have passed on him;
3. Those other firms passed on him probably because he acted like this with their interviewers as well, thus showing an inability to learn from his mistakes; and
4. He didn’t have the judgment to realize points 1 through 3.

My friend, a far kinder person than I, attempted to formulate an answer. I told him firmly that he should not, and headed to the restroom.

Frighteningly enough, this isn’t the end of the story. It gets even worse:

When I returned to the table, my friend was repeatedly telling the candidate, “I’m sorry about your situation. I’m really really sorry.” After we drove back to the office and the candidate left, my friend pulled me aside and freaked out.

Apparently, while I was in the restroom, my friend was trying to console the candidate, telling him that it sounded like he got a raw deal. The candidate replied: “Well, YOU can make it right. Please give me a job. Please! Please!”

He literally begged for a position. My friend was trying to calm him down when I returned to the table.

Then Sally Struthers showed up and told the two associates: “All it takes to redeem this associate from a life of public-interest law poverty is $150,000 a year. For the cost of just two venti caramel frappuccinos, you could pay his dry cleaning bill for a day. Your decision about whether to give this applicant a good write-up could determine his tax bracket for the year. Please act now!”
Surprisingly enough, this story has a happy ending:

According to the state bar website, the candidate eventually did get a position at a decent MidLaw. Thus, if there is a silver lining to this, it’s that even begging, pathetic schmos can get hired somewhere so long as they passed the Bar.

Earlier: Interview Horror Stories: Don’t Make Him Beg (Part 1)

beggar with dog.jpgAnother interview horror story from the West Coast (just like our last two). And this one is a real gem. Here you go:

Back when I was a junior associate at a BigLaw in Silicon Valley, a colleague of mine grabbed me to take a candidate to an interview lunch. My colleague had heard through the alumni grapevine that this candidate was, well, a character.

Now, this was during the Tech Bubble Burst, when certain BigLaws were laying off associates but calling it “thinning the herd.” The candidate was from one of those firms, which usually would’ve been a death knell. But apparently he did well enough with my other colleagues that they gave him a lukewarm approval, and he had a pretty good resume.

Generally, I try to be friendly during interviews — candidates tend to let down their guard that way. It’s a good thing that I was.

After engaging in small talk, I mentioned that he had a lot of case management and motion experience for a junior associate according to his resume. Instead of hitting that soft pitch out of the park, he proceeded to tell my friend and me that his firm stuck him with a “dinosaur of a partner” that the firm didn’t know what to do with. This partner let him run with the case because it was pro bono and he “didn’t really care what happened.”

Things went really downhill from there. My friend asked him if he knew one of her friends that worked at the candidate’s current firm. He informed us that he didn’t because he kept mostly to himself at lunch.

Over the next hour, he proceeded to tell us that a certain partner at his firm was “a bitch,” that other associates stole his books, that he could take as long as he wanted for lunch because no one would miss him, and that he was leaving his current firm because he “didn’t have a future there.” My friend and I were stunned, feeling a mixture of pity and horror.

Pretty awful, eh? But it actually gets worse, and worse still.
Check back in later today, for the sequel to this sorry tale (wherein the meaning of the post title will be made clear).
Update: You can read the sequel by clicking here.
(Have an interview horror story of your own that you’d like to share? Please send it to us, by email. We will keep you anonymous, unless you request otherwise.)

breasts cleavage angelina jolie jennifer aniston topless nude breasts.jpgLook, if you’re going to be an exhibitionist, you need to OWN THAT S**T. No regrets; no looking back. And absolutely no lawsuits:

Once again, second thoughts prove unavailing after modesty is cast to the winds:

“A magazine that published a photograph of a woman baring her breasts at a pig roast for motorcycle enthusiasts did not intrude on her privacy, a federal judge has ruled. Tonya Barnhart sued Paisano Publications LLC, publisher of Easyriders magazine, after it ran the picture of her in its March 2005 issue, claiming unreasonable intrusion, false light invasion of privacy and appropriation of her likeness.”

But U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz of Maryland* ruled against Barnhart on summary judgment. Her behavior “cannot reasonably be said to have constituted a private act,” Motz wrote. “She exposed herself at an outdoor fundraising event open to any members of the public who purchased a ticket.”

Yes, “Tonya” with an “o.” Are you honestly surprised?
Judge Motz rejected Barnhart’s other claims as well:

Her claim that the image presented her in a false light also failed because she never claimed that the picture distorted “her true appearance,” but only that it created the impression she was the sort of person who would consent to posing topless for a magazine, Motz ruled.

Finally, Motz held that Barnhart’s claim for appropriation of her likeness failed because her image has no commercial value.**

No commercial value? That’s way harsh, Tai. Guess they’re real, but not so spectacular.**
* Judge Motz, by the way, is married to Fourth Circuit Judge Diana Motz. Overheard at the Motz house: “Honey, please take out the trash. Don’t make me mandamus you.”
** Yeah, we know: “Maryland courts have held that someone whose picture is taken in a public place at a newsworthy event does not have an appropriation claim.”
So Judge Motz’s ruling does not reflect in any way upon the size or quality of Barnhart’s breasts. And there was no in camera examination of the plaintiff.
Another flasher’s-remorse case loses [Overlawyered]
Judge: Photo of woman baring her breasts didn’t violate privacy [Associated Press

wesley snipes.jpgWesley Snipes — remember him?
Okay, so you don’t (and we can’t fault you). But even if you’ve forgotten all about Mr. Snipes, the IRS hasn’t. From CNN:

Movie actor Wesley Snipes was indicted Tuesday on eight counts of tax fraud accusing him of trying to cheat the government of $12 million in false refund claims.

Snipes, 44, also failed to file tax returns for six years, according to an indictment unsealed in Tampa, Florida.

Federal prosecutors said that Snipes fraudulently claimed refunds totaling nearly $12 million in 1996 and 1997 on income taxes already paid.

The indictment also charged him with failure to file returns between 1999 and 2004.

Our reaction to this news is the same as it was to the tax case brought against “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch: How could you be so stupid?
The incomes of these men are a matter of public record: in Hatch’s case, because he won $1 million on a nationally-televised reality show, and in Snipes’s case, because it’s published in Variety each time he makes a new movie.
And the IRS is like a big talent agency: they always get their cut.
(Actually, that may be a poorly chosen reference for Snipes. This past August, he was sued for $1.5 million by United Talent Agency, “for his alleged failure to pay the agreed percentage for four film roles it helped him win.”)
Update: If you’d like to learn how much Snipes has earned for some really crappy movies, TaxProf Blog has the 411. Click here, then scroll down.
Indictment: Wesley Snipes a $12M tax cheat [CNN]
Maybe We Should All Quit Worrying About The $12 Million In False Refund Claims And Start Worrying About Blade II And That Guest Appearance On ‘Bernie Mac’ [DealBreaker]
Wesley Snipes bio [IMDb]
Wesley Snipes [celebritywonder.com]

hp logo revised.gifWe are guilty of dereliction of duty. We’ve neglected to write about the Hewlett-Packard leak investigation scandal, now unfolding in all of its glory before Congress. (Yes, that Congress: a body that knows all about unethical behavior, illegal conduct, and mind-blowing stupidity.)
We’ve been avoiding this scandal for two main reasons. First, it’s a story that Peter Lattman and the WSJ Law Blog have really owned from the get-go. In fact, today Lattman is hanging out in Washington — our usual base of operations — to cover the House committee hearings on Capitol Hill. (Guess we’ve traded places; we’re up here in New York, a few blocks away from Lattman’s office.)
Second, L’Affaire HP has been such a total s**t show — from the very start, but somehow managing to get worse each day — that blogging about it presents no challenge. There’s very little opportunity for us to add value. Reading wire reports about the scandal is already pretty mortifying (and entertaining). Do you really need a side order of obnoxious commentary when the entree itself is so rich?
But HP is the big news story of the day. It’s one that our big brother is covering extensively. And we’ve received a bunch of emails asking for our thoughts on it. So fine, we will write about the HP spying scandal.
Actually, guess what? We just did. Fancy that!
DealBreaker’s HP coverage
WSJ Law Blog’s HP coverage
House Pursues Inquiry as H.P. Counsel Quits [New York Times]

mahmoud ahmadinejad.JPGIn yesterday’s Lawsuit of the Day post, we wondered where on earth Martha Louise Piggee, former part-time instructor of cosmetology at Carl Sandburg College, dug up the anti-gay comics she foisted on her gay students. One of you enlightened us:

These are the cartoon “tracts” of Jack Chick. He has them all online, in case you’d like to see the cartoons that Ms. Piggie included. Click here.

Check ‘em out for yourself; they’re pretty wild. In Doom Town (above right), a man who looks suspiciously like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sets out on a quest to “rescue” homosexuals from the “horrible judgment” awaiting them.
In Sin City (below), “Reverend Ray” — a gay clergyman preaching tolerance for gays — comes to discover that he’s actually on an express train to Hell. But he repents just in time:
Apparently he was a bottom.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on gay rights, gay marriage, etc. We’re not here to debate such weighty issues. We just find it hilarious that Martha Piggee was mounting a one-woman campaign against homosexuality AT A COSMETOLOGY SCHOOL…
(C’mon, Ms. Piggee — challenge yourself. Take your proselytizing to a Kathy Griffin show!)
Earlier: Lawsuit of the Day: What Kind of Noodles Were They?

white suit.jpgTomorrow is the first day for clerkship interviews under the official Law Clerk Hiring Plan (which some judges follow, and some judges don’t). So it’s fitting and proper that our next interview anecdote relates to a clerkship interview with a federal judge:

I clerked for a federal court of appeals judge. The judge’s chambers were located in a converted local post office in a suburb, so the judge permitted us to dress casually. (Very casually, including the judge — sweatshirts and tee shirts were not out of the question, especially given the antiquated HVAC system). This was usually a big selling point among clerkship applicants, who of course arrived for their interviews dressed in business suits.

One day, after a nicely dressed, well-credentialed law student came through on an interview, the judge came out of her office with a rather amused look on her face. She recounted that, sitting in her office during the private interview, the applicant asked about the dress code. She gave her usual spiel that casual dress was fine, joking about the poor ventilation.

The student then asked her earnestly if it would be ok if he wore a suit to work if he were hired. Puzzled, she said sure, but asked why. He said, with a straight face, that he thought it was “more professional.”

Needless to say, an offer was not forthcoming.

It’s amazing how so many brilliant law students — and lawyers — can be so tone-deaf socially.
Earlier: Interview Horror Stories: Sports Night
Interview Horror Stories: The Roll Recycler

cold sesame noodles.jpgVia How Appealing, we learn of the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in Piggee v. Carl Sandburg College (pdf). The opinion, authored by liberal judicial hottie Diane P. Wood, begins as follows:

In September 2002, Martha Louise Piggee, who was then a part-time instructor of cosmetology at Carl Sandburg College, gave a gay student two religious pamphlets on the sinfulness of homosexuality. The student was offended and complained to college officials. After the college looked into the matter, it found that Piggee had sexually harassed the student. It admonished her in a letter to cease such behavior, and the following semester it chose not to retain her.

Thereafter, Piggee filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the college, the members of its board of trustees, and various college administrators (including one person who directed the mortuary science program, whose offense was to clean out Piggee’s refrigerator and throw away her noodles at some point during the spring of 2003) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Question Presented: Can throwing away someone’s old noodles constitute a civil rights violation?
Answer: No, unless they’re cold sesame noodles. Those things are like crack!
It’s also worth noting that Ms. Piggee — no, we won’t make the Muppets joke — is an instructor in COSMETOLOGY. If she has something against gay people, she sure picked the wrong field.
More excerpts from this delightful opinion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: What Kind of Noodles Were They?”

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