S.D.N.Y.

Mindy Kaling and Preet Bharara at the Harvard Law School commencement.

The legal world doesn’t have too many “crossover celebrities,” figures who are big enough to be known outside our little corner of the world. We can all think of a few — Alan Dershowitz, Judge Judy, Supreme Court justices (arguably) — and not all of them are awesome (cough cough, Nancy Grace).

One of the youngest crossover celebrities is Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He’s been on the cover of Time magazine. He’s attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party.

Bharara is best known for his crackdown on Wall Street abuses and insider trading, but he’s a fun person underneath the prosecutor’s dark suit. Yesterday the New York Times ran an interesting profile of Bharara. Here are some highlights….

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On Tuesday evening, I returned to the offices of Wachtell Lipton, the law firm where I toiled as an associate years ago. Luckily, I wasn’t there to bill hours; instead, I attended a reception marking the launch of a delightful new book, The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court (affiliate link).

“The Mother Court” is the nickname for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, regarded by many as the preeminent federal trial court in the nation. In the book of the same name, James Zirin, a leading litigator who’s now senior counsel in the New York office of Sidley Austin, shares with readers the fascinating history of this top tribunal.

In a review that ran yesterday in the New York Law Journal, Thomas E.L. Dewey hailed the book as a “richly textured, immensely readable overview of the modern history of the Southern District of New York.” Last month, in the New York Review of Books, Judge Jed Rakoff praised Zirin’s “fluid prose and eye for detail.”

What fun tidbits and interesting opinions did James Zirin share in his remarks on Tuesday night?

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Chief Judge Loretta Preska

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link), a judicial diva is “a particularly confident, skilled, and physically attractive female judge.” By this definition, Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) is a judicial diva. She is highly regarded, as both a judge and an administrator, and she never looks anything short of fabulous.

I’ve been fascinated by Judge Preska for years. I had this to say about her back in 2004 at my first website, Underneath Their Robes: “Magnificent. Tall, thin, elegant. Great bone structure, perfectly coiffed silver hair. Note to self: nominate for superhotties contest next year?”

This gorgeous judge now owns a gorgeous apartment. Chief Judge Preska and her husband, a partner at one of the nation’s most profitable law firms, just paid almost $9 million for a penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side….

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There are (many) legitimate criticisms of President Obama to be made, from both the right and the left. But reasonable people can agree that there are also many ridiculous ones.

He’s a Communist! He’s not a U.S. citizen! He’s a closet Muslim who wants to institute sharia law in the United States!

How about: he’s a plagiarist!

It’s true of Vice President Joe Biden. Is it true of President Obama?

(Please note the UPDATE added below.)

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Time Magazine cover boy Preet Bharara

In the federal criminal world, there are certain cases where the government almost always wins.

Illegal reentry for a previously deported person, for example, is pretty close to a lock for a government win — all the government has to show is that the person isn’t a citizen, was previously deported, and is in the United States again. If the dude’s in the courtroom, the government is a third of the way there. For example, in the last fiscal year, there were 20,840 folks charged with illegal reentry.  Four of them were acquitted at trial.

Similarly, bank robbery is a high-percentage game for the government. These days, most banks have amazing technology that lets them record pretty much everyone inside. Last fiscal year, 896 people were charged with bank robbery. One lucky guy was acquitted.

These days, federal law enforcement is using wiretaps and, according to the Wall Street Journal, old-school sting operations, to go build white-collar cases (it’s a pretty cool article — very cloak and dagger). The strategies that got the federal government the conviction rate it has in drug and gun cases are being applied to investment fraud and insider trading cases.

This is one reason that insider trading cases have looked like as much of a layup as a bank robbery case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York has secured a record of 85 convictions in either guilty pleas or trials without a single loss.

Until this week….

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* Alan Jacobs, Dewey’s bankruptcy trustee, says his clawback suit shouldn’t be stayed during the defendants’ criminal cases — after all, he doesn’t want their assets to dry up while they “scramble to defend themselves.” [New York Law Journal]

* Rengan Rajaratnam, Raj Rajaratnam’s little brother, was acquitted in his insider trading conspiracy case. It’s the first defeat in Preet Bharara’s financial crackdown against hedge funds. Tough break, dude. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Sore loser? Andrew J. Weinstock, the public defender who got into a fight with Judge John “I’ll Just Beat Your Ass” Murphy, resigned from his position in protest of the judge’s return to the bench. [WSJ Law Blog]

* There are many things nontraditional applicants should ask before going to law school, including, but not limited to, whether they’ll ever be able to find employment after graduation. [U.S. News & World Report]

* Oscar Pistorius’s attorney closed his defense of his client in the ongoing murder trial, and Judge Thokozile Masipa has adjourned all arguments in the controversial case until next month. [Bloomberg]

Conspiracy is probably the most charged offense in the federal courts. At core, its elements are simple (generally). A and B have completed the crime of conspiracy if they (1) have an agreement to do something illegal and (2) some co-conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The overt act does not have to be illegal.

So, if Larry says to Doug, “Let’s lie through email to potential investors about how viable our real estate plan is,” then Doug says “That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” and the two put together a letter they would email to potential investors that contains a number of lies about how viable an investment is, they’ve probably conspired to commit wire fraud.

The tricky bit is that the agreement that’s at the core of a conspiracy charge — like many kinds of contracts — can be implied. It’s rare that folks in a conspiracy negotiate the terms of the conspiracy or memorialize it.

So, if Larry and Doug just sit down and work — together — on a letter that lies to investors, one may (depending on the other facts in the case) think that the two have an implied agreement to commit fraud and that they’re guilty of participating in a fraud conspiracy.

The tricky part is when one person says, in essence, it would be really freaking cool to do X (where X is illegal) but doesn’t really mean that she wants to do X.

For example, some people may think that it would be funny to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly. But just because Doug tells Larry that it would be cool to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly, and Larry then looks up Justice Scalia’s next public appearance, does not necessarily mean that either one of them actually intends to storm Justice Scalia’s security detail just to blow on the Justice’s stomach.

And, of course, a jury is most likely to find that Doug and Larry are guilty the more they’re doing something that the jurors themselves think of as not funny and, in fact, really quite repugnant.

Like kidnapping, killing, and eating women, or trying to foment a jihad….

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Exploding courthouse toilet = products liability attorney’s dream.

* Funny that SCOTUS just struck down a law imposing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, yet it heavily enforces its own buffer zone. Some call it “supreme irony.” [WSJ Law Blog]

* Despite the slacking demand for legal services — down by 8.8 percent in terms of billable hours — members of the Am Law 100 still managed to keep their heads above water. [Am Law Daily]

* Lorin Reisner, chief of the criminal division of S.D.N.Y.’s USAO and Preet Bharara’s right-hand man on Wall Street convictions, is leaving for greener pastures at Paul Weiss. Congrats! [Reuters]

* New York State’s highest court has rejected New York City’s ban on gigantic drinks that was previously proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Go on, have yourself a nice Quadruple Big Gulp. [Bloomberg]

* When the long arm of the law flushes the toilet, it sometimes explodes, raining down jagged shards of justice. But on a more serious note, we’re happy no one was hurt at this courthouse. [Billings Gazette]

Mindy Kaling and Preet Bharara at the Harvard Law School commencement (via Kaling’s Twitter feed).

Yesterday my colleague Staci Zaretsky wrote about Mindy Kaling’s hilarious Harvard Law School commencement speech. If you haven’t already read about or heard Kaling’s remarks, which have gone viral, check them out here.

But Kaling’s commencement speech wasn’t the only entertaining one delivered at HLS — or even the best one, in some people’s estimation. Another speaker managed to combine humor and wisdom, in magnificent fashion.

“Yo Mindy, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but Preet Bharara had one of the best HLS commencement speeches of all time… of all time!”

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* In sad news, Judge Harold Baer Jr. died last night. A giant of the Southern District of New York, Judge Baer will be remembered for his sound judicial temperament and his biting wit. [New York Law Journal]

* Paris Hilton hit with $2 million lawsuit for breaching a footwear deal. Does anyone still care enough about Paris Hilton to sign her to multi-million dollar sponsorship deals? [Radar Online]

* Kamala Harris may have a bright future, but her present has some issues. She started a task force to go after foreclosure consultant fraud and managed to pursue only 10 cases, fewer than her colleagues in other states despite California’s foreclosure crisis. Part of having a prestigious job is actually doing it. [East Bay Express]

* A Texas woman has filed suit claiming she was forced to give birth in solitary confinement, begging for — and not receiving — medical care. The baby died. But, hey, the baby came out of her, so it’s not a problem whether it lives any more in conservative Texas. [Feministing]

* Judge allows Bank of America to continue foreclosing on the home of Burt Reynolds. And somewhere Alex Trebek smiles. [WPEC]

* More on the female brain drain at law firms and how to fix it. [She Negotiates]

* 5 awesome charts that prove that patent litigation is officially out of hand. [Vox]

* Ray Rice’s lawyer offers a hypothetical of the videotaped altercation between Rice and his now-wife. This is why lawyers shouldn’t use hypotheticals. [Sports World News]

* Is there really a “third way” when it comes to Net Neutrality? This article makes a good case for rules allowing providers to take reasonable actions to address the different needs of Skype vs. email. [The Hill]

* Law firms are starting to think like media companies. Next thing you know, Biglaw will be all Hollywood. Video after the jump…. [Mimesis Law]

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