Judge Maryesther Merlo. Who will play her in the movie? Suggestions welcome.
Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Judge Rae Lee Chabot, a state court judge in Michigan. Judge Chabot was accused of taking three-hour lunch breaks and long shopping trips to the Gap, in the middle of the workday.
I wrote in defense of Judge Chabot, whose judicial work was well-regarded despite her, ummm, flexible work schedule. I opined that “[a]s long as a judge is reasonably current with his docket, he should be left alone. There is no face-time requirement for judges.”
But even I would have a hard time defending the latest judicial diva under fire, Judge Maryesther Merlo of Allentown District Court in Pennsylvania. Judge Merlo — or make that ex-judge Merlo, since she just got removed from the bench — allegedly missed 116 days of work, from September 2007 to December 2009. That amounts to over 23 weeks, in a period of about two years.
And that’s not all Maryesther Merlo stands accused of. Her treatment of defendants appearing before her may have strayed beyond the merely tough into the downright rude….
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In some imperceptible yet significant way, the experience of American legal education has reached a new low.
We all feel this. Between tuition that is out of control, deans who don’t tell the truth, and students who are willing to fight other students to the death to get jobs in a market where there aren’t enough to go around, law school feels like less of a good experience than it used to be.
And we feel that in the air even if we can’t put our finger on it. And then we see something like what’s happening at one state law school, and the whole sad experience of getting a legal education in America suddenly has a new mascot.
Today we have a flyer from a group of three 1Ls who want to hold “tryouts” for the other two members of their study group. We’ve seen this type of thing before — remember the study group at a top-ten law school that required a transcript? — but this latest application process takes things to another level.
This study group wants to charge people $20 for the opportunity to try out….
Years ago, I saw a memo written by a law firm partner who was renowned for mistreating junior partners, associates, staff, and lost children who wandered in the front door looking for their parents. But this memo showed a whole different personality. The memo was directed to a practice leader who had solicited comments about how best to expand the practice. (In case you’re wondering, the memo was distributed widely by mistake. The practice leader told his assistant to gather in one document all of the comments about how to improve the practice, so the comments could be shared and everyone could discuss the ideas at an upcoming meeting. The assistant then took all of the unedited inbound memos and assembled them in a single packet that she distributed to the entire group. Voilà! There was the ogre’s memo, for all to read.)
The ogre’s memo was breathtakingly — what’s the right word here? — “solicitous” to the practice leader: “I’ll satisfy your request for suggestions about how to expand this practice area further, but we should first acknowledge what you’ve achieved to date. When you were appointed to lead this practice ten years ago, everyone thought you’d been sent on a fool’s errand. No one thought it was possible for our firm to compete in this space. We had no cases in the area and none of our lawyers had any expertise. But you’ve defied all the odds. You’ve made this practice one of the great success stories in the firm. You deserve endless praise for what you’ve done, and I want you to know how much we respect — indeed, admire — you.” And so on.
Don’t get me wrong: I understand the fine art of sucking up. (I’m not much good at it, but I understand it.) And I appreciate the wisdom of people like the ogre who try to do their sucking up in private. But I don’t understand folks who do these things publicly. Can’t we control at least the public manifestations of unequal treatment being accorded to people who matter to you and people who don’t?
I should have known that we’d end up doing a series of posts about this. “Bragging” about getting an offer is something that everybody does in their own way, and something that rubs a lot of people the wrong way.
And so our next installment of law student puffery involves photos, which is always fun. But in truth we can’t be totally sure if this guy is bragging about getting an offer.
Given the firm the kid is bragging about, he might just be happy to be there…
Judge Wayne Phillips: He likes clerk butt and he cannot lie?
When I learned about this lawsuit out of Montana (via Morning Docket), I thought it might be from The Onion or an old episode of Ally McBeal. Reports the Billings Gazette: “A lawsuit has been filed against Fergus County District Court Judge E. Wayne Phillips by a female law clerk who alleges that the judge slapped her in the buttocks with a legal file.”
If the clerk’s allegation is true, was Judge Phillips’s action inappropriate? Certainly. Was it rude? Most definitely. But should it spawn a civil lawsuit, as well as possible criminal charges? Absolutely not.
And wait until you hear what the clerk is claiming in damages….
Yesterday we received an email with the following subject line: “the problem with tenure.” Now, I actually think that this tip illustrates the problem with law students and the classic awesomeness of tenure, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
What we can at least agree on is that we have a story about a law professor executing a stern, verbal smackdown of a law student who tried to go over the professor’s head to complain.
Let this just be a reminder to everybody that they need to respect the chain of command….
With offer season well under way, some law students may be wondering how to tell the world that they’ve landed summer associate jobs without sounding like complete braggarts. These law students must have read a Miss Manners book or two, because thinking about the feelings of others is the polite thing to do.
Other law students just don’t care about trampling on the self-esteem of classmates. “Sorry about your tiny pink feelings, but I got an offer.” That was way harsh, Tai.
There is just one more category of law student: the law student who feels only slightly guilty bragging about a job offer, so he thinks up a creative way to broach the subject with peers. And one law student at a leading law school has got this method of breaking the news about offers on lock….
Chief Judge Edith Jones: Underneath her robe beats a judicial diva's heart.
Can you enforce civility by being… uncivil? That’s the question being raised, over and over again, by federal judges from Texas these days.
Before we get to the latest ridiculousness, let’s review. Back in August, Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) benchslapped some rude lawyers with a snarky order inviting them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as reasonableness and courtesy.
Ironically enough, some found Judge Sparks’s civility-seeking order to be… rude. Chief Judge Edith Jones (5th Cir.) issued an email reprimand to Judge Sparks, condemning his “caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous” order as “cast[ing] disrespect on the judiciary.” Some observers in turn thought it rude of Chief Judge Jones to call out Judge Sparks in writing, so publicly — she cc’d all of the other Western District of Texas judges on her email — when she could have just made a private phone call.
Chief Judge Jones is a highly regarded conservative jurist and a fixture on Supreme Court short lists, but she might not be the best authority on civility and etiquette these days. Check out the latest craziness — an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit that generated judicial fireworks, culminating in Judge Jones essentially telling a colleague to STFU or GTFO….
Last week, we saw just how powerful everyday citizens can be when they work together. In a highway accident in Utah, motorcyclist Brandon Wright was dragged under a burning vehicle and trapped. Wright could have been killed, but in a triumph for the human spirit, a group of bystanders lifted the car and pulled Wright to safety. The rescue was captured on YouTube.
Well, we should correct that account: almost everyone in the group of bystanders helped to lift the car so Wright could be pulled to safety. One guy, a man who shall forever be known as the “Guy in the Suit,” was standing around and watching. Actually, the Guy in the Suit took a break from standing around to LEAN ON THE CAR that a man was trapped under. Is this guy the worst human being on the planet, or what?
Every couple of years, people need to be reminded not to have private conversations in public spaces. Who could forget Acela Bob, the Pillsbury partner who talked about firing people on a crowded train?
University of Virginia law students, that’s who. Yes, we have another installment of: when popping your collar goes real wrong. On the way back to Charlottesville from New York City, a group of UVA Law students were waiting for their flight out of LaGuardia. They started talking about how their callback interviews went. They started talking loudly.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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