Suicide

* An interesting interview with Professor Benjamin H. Barton about his new book, The Lawyer-Judge Bias in the American Legal System, which demonstrates what many laypeople suspect: namely, that the legal system is rigged to benefit lawyers over the public. Professors Barton and Reynolds discuss why this might be the case and also compare the legal to the medical profession in this respect. [Instavision with Glenn Reynolds / PJTV]

* Eric Turkewitz channeling Mayor Michael Bloomberg: “Look, let’s be blunt here. Who is in a better position to pay the costs of an injury if a city bus injures people? Our strapped city budget, or the victims?” [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

* Obama says drug legalization is worth a debate. For those scoring at home: we can talk about legalizing drugs, but we can’t talk about controlling guns. [Huffington Post]

* Meanwhile, Florida criminalizes… bath salts? Bonobo Bro has the winning blurb: “Check out this example of the brocist nanny state trying to get in the way of spring break, bath salts that have cocaine like effects and a few other of the principals this great nation was founded on.” [WJHG]

Fred Thompson

* Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana won’t seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. [Politico]

* Speaking of former Republican presidential hopefuls, Fred Thompson prepares to lobby on behalf of trial lawyers. Seriously. Cancel Law & Order and the universe starts breaking down. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The number eight proves lucky for one taker of the New Hampshire bar exam — and the number $140,000, not so lucky. After passing the NH bar exam on his eighth try, the debt-laden lad gets dinged on character and fitness — a familiar tale by now. [Legal Profession Blog via ABA Journal]

* Gotta love it when Jamie Dimon gets catty. [Dealbreaker]

* A corporate partner in the Moscow office of Baker Botts apparently took his own life. John Sheedy, R.I.P. [Am Law Daily]

Tyler Clementi

I’m pretty sure we all saw this coming. The parents of Tyler Clementi — the Rutgers freshman who killed himself after his roommate taped and broadcast Tyler’s gay hook-up — have declared their intent preserved their right to sue the university. The Clementis suggest that the university failed to protect their son, articulating various tort claims against the school and even a breach of contract claim (Rutgers broke its agreement with Clementi by not preventing what happened to him). Damages are unspecified, but Clementi’s family is claiming pain and suffering, as well as loss of companionship.

(UPDATE: As Kash noted over at Forbes, the Clementi family just issued a statement “clarifying that they have not yet decided whether they will sue, but filed notice with the university today to preserve their right to sue in the future.” Hence the edit in the preceding paragraph.)

A lawsuit by the Clementis should surprise no one. Rutgers has much deeper pockets than Dharun Ravi, the roommate who used a webcam to broadcast Clementi’s affair, or Molly Wei, the girl who was in the room while Ravi messed with his roommate. Ravi and Wei have already been charged with invasion of privacy, and prosecutors are still trying to figure out if they can bootstrap hate crime charges against Ravi and Wei. But when it came to the civil lawsuits, this was always going to come down to the parents versus Rutgers.

Because when your kid jumps off a bridge, there just has to be somebody to blame….

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Late last night, Congress passed a compromise tax bill that will, among other things, cap the estate tax at 35% (with a $5 million exemption). If not for this compromise, the estate tax would have returned in 2011, at rates as high as 55 percent (with a $1 million exemption).

Hallelujah. Anytime you can save wealthy dead people millions of dollars during a time of crushing federal deficits, that’s something you just have to do. Way to go, Obama. When I voted for you in 2008, really I was just trying to vote for four more years of Bush’s ruinous fiscal policies.

Obama isn’t just saving money for all the dauphins eager to get their hands on their inheritances; he could be saving lives. Duke Law professor Richard Schmalbeck apparently thinks that rich old people might have killed themselves in droves over the next two weeks. Schmalbeck suggests that after spending a lifetime working hard and earning money, hundreds “or even a few thousand” of the aging rich might have committed suicide in the waning days of 2010, in order to pass on as much of their money to their children as they can before the estate tax returns in 2011.

I shudder to think that somebody would commodify their own life in such a way. But then again, I’m not rich. Maybe you only get rich in this country by being the kind of person who would gladly kill yourself if the price is right…

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Mark Madoff, R.I.P.

Mark Madoff, the oldest of Bernard Madoff’s two sons, committed suicide on Saturday, by hanging himself in his Manhattan apartment. Saturday was a significant day: the second anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s arrest for running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Mark Madoff’s lawyer, prominent Paul Weiss partner Martin Flumenbaum, issued a statement yesterday: “Mark Madoff took his own life today. This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy…. [Mark Madoff was] an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.”

Flumenbaum wasn’t the only powerful Paul Weiss personage named “Martin” with involvement in this case. Mark Madoff’s body was actually found by legendary litigator Martin London, a longtime partner at the firm who is now of counsel at PW.

As noted on his Paul Weiss website bio, “[t]he gamut of Mr. London’s successes is vast.” But his experience is primarily on the civil side, with occasional forays into white-collar criminal work. His docket generally doesn’t include violence and death; he’s not the kind of lawyer who sees dead people (e.g., a homicide prosecutor).

So how did Marty London come to find Mark Madoff’s body?

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Megyn Kelly of Fox News

I had the opportunity to take my surprisingly controversial argument that bullies shouldn’t be thrown in jail to a television audience. Megyn Kelly, the host of America Live on Fox News and a former litigator at Jones Day, invited me on her program and gave my argument a fair hearing.

Once again, I think my core principles here are sound: children shouldn’t kill themselves, children shouldn’t be incarcerated because other children kill themselves, and children should learn appropriate coping mechanisms when faced with embarrassment and humiliation.

As we all know, I have an insatiable appetite to offend and then devour fresh souls, but I become particularly strong when I can drink the tears of children. Kelly did everything she could to keep me from sounding like a raving lunatic who likes putting babies on spikes, but some people will come away convinced that I’m a heartless sociopath.

What do you think? Take a look at the clip, and let me know just how bad karma will eventually bite me on the backside…

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This zone... does not exist.

They had to set the Karate Kid remake in China. If they had set it in modern-day America, Daniel-san would have been mercilessly bullied by the kids from Cobra Kai, he would have killed himself, and the rest of the movie would have been a courtroom drama where Daniel’s parents sought to bring the evil sensei to justice in the form of a multi-million dollar civil suit.

You see, American children apparently have become so fragile, and Americans parents so litigious, that schoolyard bullying is as likely to be settled in a court of law as it is behind a dumpster out back where boys used to handle their disagreements. I used to tell my mother that nobody ever died from embarrassment, but apparently I was wrong. The ABA Journal reports that there’s been a veritable outbreak of children committing suicide in Ohio because they were hounded by mean kids. And that story doesn’t even take into account the Tyler Clementi situation.

And when kids kill themselves, parents are increasingly turning to the courts to stand up to the bullies in a way that used to be accomplished via a flush crane-kick to the face.

It needs to stop. No, not the bullying — which is unavoidable when more than one male competes for whatever status/prestige/sex is on offer — but the tragic overreactions to the bullying, and the accompanying rush to the courthouse steps.

I say this not as an alpha-male with a caviler attitude towards the feelings of others. I say this as a former omega-male who got the crap beat out of me like I stole something from the age of 7 through the point I realized that no girl would ever mate with a guy who couldn’t basically stand up for himself….

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Molly Wei didn't stop her friend for using her computer; now she could end up in jail.

Prosecutors looking into Tyler Clementi suicide indicated yesterday that they might not be able to charge Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei with a hate crime. Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan told the Newark Star-Ledger that his office was trying to see if they could charge Ravi and Wei with a second degree bias crime, but so far they don’t have enough evidence to support such a charge.

Right now, Ravi and Wei are charged with invasion of privacy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Given that some people have pushed for prosecution that goes all the way up to homicide charges, the possibility that Ravi and Wei won’t be charged with a hate crime (or burned at the stake, or whatever the hell will satisfy people’s revenge impulse) will disappoint many — perhaps including prosecutor Kaplan, who said: “Sometimes the laws don’t always adequately address the situation. That may come to pass here.”

And sometimes the public’s outrage completely outstrips the actual crime committed. I’ve already shared my thoughts about Dharun Ravi’s crime. Now let’s take a closer look at Molly Wei — a girl who, as far as we know, is guilty of letting a high school buddy use her computer…

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Tyler Clementi

Over the past few days, we’ve learned a lot about Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers college student and talented violinist who killed himself after his roommate streamed, live on the internet, a hidden webcam video of Tyler hooking up with another man. On September 22, a few days after the incident, Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Former ATL editor Kashmir Hill has learned even more. She’s been tracking Clementi’s digital footprints, and found that he went to a message board for gay men seeking counsel after he learned of his roommate’s prank.

I used the word “prank” because that’s how I see the actions of Tyler Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi. Ravi is an 18-year-old kid in his first semester at college. Along with a friend, Molly Wei, Ravi pulled a prank on his new roommate — one that went horribly wrong.

Because Clementi killed himself, the media has worked itself into a rabid lather over Ravi’s and Wei’s actions. The story was all over the New York Times yesterday. Michael Daly criticized Ravi so harshly I thought I was reading about some kind of modern day Billy Zabka in the New York Daily News this morning. Some gay rights groups want Ravi to be charged with a hate crime.

Before we crucify this college freshman, I have a couple of questions…

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Apparently, Angelina Jolie doesn't have a lot of friends. Aww. Would you be her friend?

* The 9/11 health care bill finally passed the House. Too bad. Not about the bill, the bill looks good. I was just kind of hoping for another epic meltdown from Anthony Weiner. [Salon]

* Could an MBA be even more worthless than a J.D.? [Out of the Storm]

* Real Wall Street types opine on Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I’m using their input for the screenplay I’m working on, Wall Street: Money Flees America. [Hellerman Baretz]

* Let’s be clear: we need more lawyers. We just need them to work for poor or lower-middle-class clients. Wouldn’t it be awesome if law school tuition came down so that more people could do this work? Otherwise, we might just have to find a way to obviate the need for lawyers altogether. [Truth on the Market]

* Are successful women lonely? [Psychology Today]

* The laws surrounding suicide notes. The subject matter is so depressing that few people, even lawyers and journalists, actually know how to treat these documents. [Legal Satyricon]

We really don’t like writing about murders, suicides, and murder suicides here on Above the Law. They are always sad, the loss of human life is always tragic, and it’s really hard to be funny/snarky/edgy when people have died.

That said, we have to go where the news takes us, and so we press on today with a roundup of people in the legal community who recently met untimely ends. A Department of Justice lawyer took his own life, and an office manager for Townsend and Townsend and Crew allegedly killed her estranged husband, before turning the gun on herself…

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