Rudeness

Lynette Scavo Felicity Huffman cancer bald Above the Law blog.jpgA recent trend: judges who are touchy about courtroom attire. Last week we wrote about Judge William Sosnay, who is no fan of ascots. Now meet Judge Holly Hollenbeck:

Bev Williams of Richland wears a knitted beanie cap to cover her hairless head everywhere she goes, but not in Judge Holly Hollenbeck’s courtroom.

The District Court judge told Williams, 43, to take her cap off or leave his court in the Benton County Justice Center on Friday morning.

“I was embarrassed. It made me cry,” said Williams, who recently underwent six months of chemotherapy for cancer.

But Judge Holly Hollenbeck — who’s a man, by the way, so he ain’t no Hollenbeck girl [FN1] — has a rebuttal:

“I ask everybody to remove hats,” he said, noting the only reason he has allowed one — once — was for a religious reason.

Hollenbeck said, “I am very understanding with people who battle with cancer. My own mother died from cancer. I’ve had hundreds of cancer victims come through my court, and I’ve never had one not remove their hat, ever.”

He added, “Refusal to remove shows contempt for the court and for the judge.”

So what do you think? Is Judge Hollenbeck’s position reasonable? Or is this s**t bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s?


By the way, with respect to our earlier poll, almost 55 percent of you don’t think an ascot is appropriate courtroom attire.
[FN1] Nor should Judge Holly A. Hollenbeck be confused with motivational speaker Holly H. Hollenbeck, author of Sex Lives of Wives: Reigniting the Passion, and proprietress of PassionSeekers.com.
Judge’s strict no-hat rule upsets cancer patient [Seattle Times]

runaway groom trial lawyer Above the Law blog.jpgLast week, our friends over at the WSJ Law Blog asked: “Why do ‘trial lawyers’ have such a bad name?”
One possible answer: Because they abandon their brides at the altar. From the Miami Herald:

Walk-away groom: Jim Ferraro, multimillionaire trial lawyer.

Ferraro, set to marry prominent real estate broker Patricia Delinois on Friday in a formal ceremony at Fisher Island’s Vanderbilt Mansion, jilted her — at the altar — as they were about to exchange vows before 75 to 80 guests….

After five years of dating, the couple were to finally tie the knot. But, says Ferraro: ‘When it was time to say `I do,’ I just said, ‘I love her but I just can’t do this.’ ” He walked away, flanked by sons James, 21, Andrew, 18, and daughter Alexis, 14.

The audience gasped. Delinois’ sister, Ingrid Long, told off Ferraro — loudly. Some say she yelled, ”You dog!” Not so, Long says. “I called him a snake. I think I even called him a few other things. I was trying very hard not to curse, but I think a few curse words came out.”

Says Ferraro: “It was dramatic.”

Trial lawyers can be such drama queens. Maybe they get addicted to making audiences gasp — you know, that whole “Perry Mason” thing. It appears that finances weren’t behind the cancellation:

The issue, [Ferraro] says, was not money. ”We did have a prenup.” She is CEO of Century 21 Premier Elite Realty. He has law offices in Miami and Cleveland, owns the Cleveland Gladiators arena football team, has a private jet, and built a 21,000-square-foot compound in Martha’s Vineyard — with 14 bedrooms, tennis court, basketball court, nine-hole putting green, movie theater, and weight and cardio gyms.

This time, Ferraro figures, their romance is done for good. “She probably doesn’t ever want to talk to me again.”

Update: All’s well that ends well. In February 2008, Ferraro and Delinois got married, in a secret seaside ceremony in St. Bart’s.
Power couple’s wedding ends with `I don’t’ [Miami Herald]
Why Do “Trial Lawyers” Have Such a Bad Name? [WSJ Law Blog]

gavel judge Above the Law blog.jpgToday we bring you not one, but two Judges of the Day. We can’t decide who is more deserving of the honor. From the Florida Times-Union:

Twelve days before Christmas, Circuit Judge Aaron Bowden fired his 17-year judicial assistant, who had been on leave since August with cancer. The Jacksonville judge said he feared her prolonged illness would leave him without an assistant at a time when the state had implemented a hiring freeze.

But his decision left Christine Birch, 54, with no medical, life or disability insurance and has created a firestorm at the courthouse.

Chief Circuit Judge Donald Moran responded by calling Bowden “a no-good son of a bitch,” prompting Bowden to respond with a blistering e-mail (PDF) defending his decision and calling Moran’s criticism irresponsible, unprofessional and unseemly.

Other judges’ assistants were also appalled by Birch’s firing. They raised money to pay her rent this month….

Birch declined comment Thursday. But she thanked Moran in a handwritten note last week for putting her back on the courthouse payroll in a rotating judicial assistant’s position. Birch was paid about $3,275 a month in her old job, and the state paid her health insurance premium. Her new rotating position pays $750 less a month and requires her to pay her own premiums.

Our tipster writes:

Best quote from the article: “He said if she died while on the payroll, he would have been without an assistant for two months, ‘not an ideal situation for a judge.’” I guess dying wouldn’t have been an ideal situation for her, either.

To get both sides of the story, check out the email from Judge Bowden in which he defends his actions (and rips Chief Judge Moran a new one). You can access his message — in which he benchslaps Chief Judge Moran for his “effrontery” and his “irresponsible” comments, made “precipitously [and] without authority” — by clicking here (PDF).
P.S. Speaking of cancer, here’s a PSA from ATL, and bad news for Biglaw associates and paralegals: according to cancer researchers, overnight work and sleep deprivation may raise your cancer risk.
Judge fires his assistant, draws criticism [Florida Times-Union]
Email from Judge Aaron Bowden (PDF) [Florida Times-Union]

The firm of Dewey Ballantine was never known for being particularly PC. From a 2004 article by Anthony Lin, for the New York Law Journal:

Nearly one year after lawyers at Dewey Ballantine infuriated members of the Asian-American community by performing a stereotype-laden parody song at their annual dinner, the law firm is again dealing with allegations of racial insensitivity….

On Monday, an employee sent a firmwide e-mail advertising the availability of some puppies for adoption. Douglas Getter, a London-based American who heads Dewey Ballantine’s European mergers and acquisitions practice then sent a firmwide reply.

“Please don’t let these puppies go to a Chinese restaurant!” Getter wrote in his e-mail.

Adolf Hitler Dewey LeBoeuf Zieg Heil Sieg Heil Above the Law blog.jpgNow Dewey has merged with LeBoeuf Lamb. Happily, it appears their firm cultures are a good match. Check out this email exchange appearing below — and note that Partner X came from the LeBoeuf Lamb side of the marriage….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dewey & LeBoeuf: A Bunch of Nazis?”

Charlene Morisseau 2 Charlene Morrisseau Charlene Morriseau DLA Piper Harvard Law School Southern Center for Human Rights.JPGFormer DLA Piper associate Charlene Morisseau isn’t just our Lawyer of the Day. This high-powered litigatrix — a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and a former editor of the Harvard Law Review — should be hailed as a heroine by Biglaw associates everywhere.

From a most engaging article by Anthony Lin, in the New York Law Journal:

A Manhattan federal judge has thrown out a race discrimination suit brought against DLA Piper by a former associate who claimed the firm’s New York office was a hostile work environment.

Charlene Morisseau, a 2001 graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was a law review editor, joined DLA Piper as a litigation associate in April 2003 but was asked to leave less than a year later. In a lawsuit filed last year, Ms. Morisseau, who is black, claimed her firing was retaliation for complaints she had made about discriminatory treatment.

She requested almost $250 million in damages from the firm and the 11 partners she individually named in the suit.

Now, we’re all in favor of giving associates more money. But $250 million may be a bit much, even for a Harvard Law grad. It’s about 90 percent of DLA Piper’s total firm profits for 2006 ($280 million).

But it looks like Morisseau won’t be seeing a dime:

Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan granted summary judgment to the firm Monday, finding that DLA Piper had put forth a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff’s termination.”

“Here, the uncontradicted evidence demonstrates that plaintiff did not perform in a manner satisfactory to Piper notwithstanding her academic credentials,” the judge wrote. “She was a confrontational, stubborn, and insubordinate employee in an environment in which professional personal relations, flexibility and a willingness to accept supervision were essential.”

Now we’ve reached the good part. Here’s why Charlene Morisseau should be every associate’s idol:

[I]n court filings, DLA Piper denied treating Ms. Morisseau differently and said the firm had taken action because the ex-associate had exhibited a pattern of unacceptable behavior, including yelling at partners and throwing one out of her office.

The firm said Ms. Morisseau ordered former partner Marilla Ochis to “back up” out of her office after Ms. Ochis had come to discuss an e-mail exchange Ms. Morisseau had apparently taken offense to.

Have you ever fantasized about telling off your partner oppressors? Well, Charlene Morisseau has lived your dream — and then some.

Read the rest, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Charlene Morisseau”

It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. The stock market is now closed — and so are we. We’ll be back with new posts on Monday, barring a surprise weekend announcement of “NY to 190.”
In the meantime, here’s some fodder for possible discussion, for the unfortunate few who are at work today (or were at work yesterday). From a reader:

cranberry cranberries Above the Law blog.jpgI thought it might be interesting to get the best/worst stories from associates that had to work over the Thanksgiving holiday. I fortunately don’t have a terrible story to share that happened to me personally, but I have heard of bad things happening to others. For example, I heard of opposing counsel on the East Coast that scheduled a deposition on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, knowing that the counsel from California will likely have Thanksgiving plans torpedoed.

I also heard of a partner who told an associate that a party was moving for a TRO on the Monday following Thanksgiving. The associate worked on the case on Thanksgiving and the weekend. The associate later found out that the partner learned on Wednesday that the TRO was off-calendar, but the partner neglected to tell the associate — because the partner was preoccupied with getting out of the office for his own Thanksgiving plans.

These aren’t the greatest stories I realize, but I’m sure plenty of readers have some.

Have a tale of your own to tell? Please share it in the comments.
Happy Black Friday! And enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend.

Samuel Kent Judge Samuel B Kent Above the Law blog.jpgJudge Samuel B. Kent (S.D. Texas) joins Judge Elizabeth Halverson and Chief Judge Edward Nottingham in our Judge of the Day Hall of Fame. He will no longer be eligible for recognition as a Judge of the Day, having transcended this award.
Why is Judge Kent deserving of induction? In the Houston Chronicle, Lise Olsen offers a detailed report of the allegations against Judge Kent (which we previously discussed here and here). The money quote:

[Case manager Cathy] McBroom was summoned to the judge’s chambers on Friday, March 23, at about 3 p.m.

Her hands were full of legal papers when the judge — a former high school athlete who is more than 6 inches taller and at least 100 pounds heavier — asked for a hug.

She told him she didn’t think that was appropriate, but reluctantly approached.

The judge grabbed Mc-Broom, pulled up her blouse and her bra and put his mouth on her breast. Then, Kent forced her head down toward his crotch.

As McBroom struggled, Kent kept telling the married mother of three what he wanted to do to her in words too graphic to publish. The papers fell to the floor. The pet bulldog Kent kept in his chambers began to bark.

The incident was interrupted by the sound of footsteps from another staff member in the corridor, and the judge loosened his grip. As she left, the judge said McBroom was a good case manager and then made suggestions about engaging in a sexual act.

McBroom ran out crying.

Review additional allegations, including a claim by a different ex-employee that Judge Kent once told her he could “service me when my husband was being treated for prostate cancer,” by clicking here.
How far did this federal judge go? [Houston Chronicle]

We enjoy keeping track of law firm screw-ups during the recruiting process. See, e.g., here and here.
But not everything that’s embarrassing is accidental; some tackiness is intentional. From a tipster:

“A friend of mine was recently rejected by Nixon Peabody. They broke the news by sending her the attached notice printed on an envelope-sized piece of cardboard.”

(Thumbnail image; click to enlarge.)

Nixon Peabody 2 rejection card AboveTheLaw Above the Law blog.JPG
Makes sense to us. Why waste perfectly good letterhead on personalized rejection letters? Save the money for your theme song (mp3).
P.S. Speaking of the Nixon Peabody theme song controversy, we hear there’s a shout-out to it (and Above the Law) in the December 2007 issue of Playboy (p. 61).
Now, we haven’t seen this for ourselves, ’cause Playboy isn’t our cup of tea, you see. But if somebody would like to send us a scan of the relevant page, we’d be most grateful.
ATL has been mentioned in such publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post (which dubbed it “a must-read legal blog”). But an appearance in Playboy? This is our proudest moment.
Earlier: Public Humiliation, Courtesy of Your Friends at Wilson Sonsini
Fall Recruiting Snafu Watch: You Know They Really Don’t Want You When…

Anthony Ciolli Anthony Cioli AutoAdmit xoxohth Above the Law blog.jpgThere’s news to report in the lawsuit filed by two female Yale Law School students over various allegedly defamatory and threatening comments posted about them on AutoAdmit.com. The amended complaint, which was delayed in arriving, has finally been filed. You can check it out here.
For some thoughts on the amended complaint by Professor Dave Hoffman, who has established himself as the expert on all things AutoAdmit-related, see here. As Hoffman notes, the most significant change is the dropping of Anthony Ciolli as a defendant.
In response to this news, Ciolli issued this statement:

I am pleased to see that the Plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed me from this suit. Including me in the suit in the first place was legally unsupportable. I never posted a single defamatory or invasive statement. I told the plaintiffs that from the start, and I provided them with a sworn declaration to that effect.

Had I remained as a defendant, the only theory could have been rooted in a desire to overturn Section 230. As I was merely an employee of AutoAdmit, leaving me in the suit would have been akin to suing a Google employee for anything found on a web page hosted by that company – even if Google was not responsible for the content. The weakness of that theory was apparent to me from the beginning, as were the ramifications of its unlikely success — an explosion of liability for every internet service provider in America.

You can read the whole thing over at Professor Marc Randazza’s blog, The Legal Satyricon. Congratulations to Ciolli and to Professor Randazza, who was representing him, on the good news.
Former Penn Law Student Dropped from Autoadmit Lawsuit [Concurring Opinions]
Anthony Ciolli Dropped from Auto Admit Lawsuit [The Legal Satyricon]
Doe v. pauliewalnuts et al. [Amended Complaint (PDF)]
Earlier: What the Heck Is Going on with Doe v. Ciolli?
Has AutoAdmit Been Pwn3d?

Over at Bear Stearns, the powers-that-be have blocked employees from reading our sibling site, DealBreaker. This is not surprising. Given the mass layoffs, Bear needs to keep the survivors busy.
The good news, however, is that Bear Stearns employees can still read Above the Law (although query why they’d want to). See here.
We must confess that we’re kind of jealous. Why hasn’t any law firm blocked ATL? The prospect is hard to fathom, but could it be that we’re insufficiently trashy around here?
Bear Stearns Doesn’t Hate DealBreaker, Just DealBreaker Commenters/People Talking About The Sex Going On In The Bear Stearns 14th Floor Men’s Room [DealBreaker]

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