Barack Obama

Kourtney and Caleb Ballew, posing for a picture while at the White House for a state dinner with President Obama (with a portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the background).

The White House State Dinner that President Barack Obama hosted on Tuesday night in honor of President François Hollande of France featured quite the convocation of legal eagles. As we mentioned yesterday, attendees included such law-world luminaries as Justice Elena Kagan, Secretary Jeh Johnson, and ATL’s reigning Lawyer of the Year, Roberta Kaplan.

Also in attendance: Caleb Ballew and Kourtney Ballew. They’re a pair of twenty-something, small-firm lawyers from Huntsville, Alabama.

Say what? Did the Obama White House get Salahi’d again?

Actually, no. The Ballews came as honored guests of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Because the Obamas have had so few state dinners, invitations to the ones they do host are in especially high demand. How did two recent law school graduates score one of the most coveted invites in the country? I interviewed the Ballews to find out….

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It’s time for the State of the Union again, which means it’s time to gather around the TV and thoughtfully discuss the future of the country play a sophomoric game based on the events that we expect to unfold over the course of the evening.

Remember to follow your Above the Law editors covering the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog@DavidLat@ElieNYC@StaciZaretsky, and @JosephPatrice.

Now, on to the game….

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The New Yorker recently published a profile of President Barack Obama, written by David Remnick. Eighteen pages and approximately 17,000 words long, it’s the sort of long-form journalism many of us yearn for in a blighted age of listicles and blurbs and click-bait articles the titles of which sound more like threats than topics of meaningful discussion.

In the piece, the President says:

“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues [ . . . ] You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government—that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable—and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments. But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there. And so I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.

When the President draws a connection between contemporary advocates of limited government and the vicious history of American apartheid, the public is wont to think that this connection is accepted truth. He sets a new starting point for discourse, a new baseline for measuring the claims of his political opponents. He leads the average citizen to think that there’s no argument needed for these conclusions . . . even though an actual argument is definitely called for to support accusations of this sort.

Nevertheless, he might be onto something. No. Seriously…

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Jeh Johnson

Last year was a pretty great one for partners of Paul Weiss. And we’re not talking just about profits per partner, although we expect they’ll be robust once again.

In June, Roberta Kaplan scored a big win in the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. Representing Edie Windsor, a widow who got hit with hefty taxes when her wife passed away, Kaplan got section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down. Just yesterday, we declared Robbie Kaplan our 2013 Lawyer of the Year.

But she wasn’t the only PW partner who had an exciting 2013. In December, Jeh Johnson left the firm to become our nation’s fourth Secretary of Homeland Security.

On the morning of December 19, Johnson sent around a wonderful departure memo, which we’d like to share with you now….

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The federal judiciary thanks you.

* Barack Obama is trailing George W. Bush when it comes to leaving his mark on the federal courts, but that’s probably because Senate Democrats didn’t go nuclear quickly enough. [Blog of Legal Times]

* When it comes to 2013, one thing’s for sure: it wasn’t boring. Many of this year’s movers and shakers hailed from top Am Law 100 law firms — like Ted Cruz (formerly of Morgan Lewis). [American Lawyer]

* John Ray III isn’t going to sit back and allow a jury to shut down his discrimination and retaliation case against Ropes & Gray. He filed a notice of appeal last week, and he’s pissed off. [National Law Journal]

* Utah has until the end of January to figure out how it’s going to go about defending its same-sex marriage ban before the Tenth Circuit. Just a thought: the “it’s still gay, even if the balls don’t touch” theory of law isn’t going to cut it. [Deseret News]

* A lawyer for the Texas judge accused of strangling his girlfriend is offering media outlets a superb defense story on behalf of his client. He wasn’t trying to kill her, he was trying to save her! [New York Daily News]

* Here’s some advice on how to submit your law school application on time. If you don’t know how to meet a deadline, you’re going to make a great lawyer. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

We live in a Christian nation ‘Jack.’

Chris Sevier, the Apple Porn plaintiff, channelling his hero, Phil Robertson. According to Sevier’s rambling, 91-page complaint, A&E’s decision to suspend Robertson indefinitely will have a chilling effect on the practice of Christianity. President Obama makes it into the complaint because he’s allegedly in cahoots with the network in an elaborate strategy to further the gay agenda through basic cable.

(Look, if cable television stations were the locus of a vast conspiracy to enforce a gay agenda, shouldn’t Sevier be suing over the existence of Bravo?)

Edward Snowden

* People have “greatly underestimated how powerful a jurist Justice Sotomayor would be,” and now that one of her concurrences flies directly in the face of Obama’s NSA tactics, we’ll get to see how powerful she really is. [MSNBC]

* Here’s a fun end-of-the-year roundup: President Obama’s Top 10 Constitutional Violations of 2013. Fifty internet points shall be awarded to the first person who correctly guesses how many are related to Obamacare without looking. [Forbes]

* Following Judge Shira Scheindlin’s stop-and-frisk spanking, the Southern District of New York changed its rules on case assignments in order to increase transparency. Related-case judge-shopping just got a whole lot harder. [New York Times]

* Wiley Rein is defending its fee request in the Voting Rights Act case, and says the Department of Justice is “[tying] itself in knots” trying to find a way to get out of paying the piper. Harsh. [Blog of Legal Times]

* These are four ways you can overcome a low GPA when applying to law school, but really, the best way to overcome a low GPA is to not apply at all. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA.” Now that he’s unleashed all of America’s deep dark secrets, Edward Snowden just wants to Google like a regular guy. [Washington Post]

The last time someone willingly entered New Jersey.

* New Jersey continues to mint lawyers despite terrible market conditions. Lat told me I should come up with a good Jersey joke. I said that was fairly well-worn territory and I would feel a bit like #498 at the Houston 500. Lat said, “            ” [Newark Star-Ledger]

* The Obama uncle we mentioned earlier this week? Obama’s roommate before Harvard Law. Why won’t Obama produce his rent deposit!? [CNN]

* The men who stole parts of the Porsche Paul Walker died in were arrested yesterday. They will be charged with felony grand theft, tampering with evidence, and living perhaps too fast… too curious? [TMZ]

* Regulators are having a tough time figuring out what to do with the burgeoning Bitcoin market. Numismatists are equally puzzled by this rarest of rare coin markets. [New York Times]

* Jos. A. Bank, the most prestigious clothier in the United States and/or Canada, has been subpoenaed by the Ohio Attorney General. If the Ohio AG deposes one executive, he gets to depose three additional executives for free. [Washington Post]

* A Q&A with Nelson Mandela’s lawyer. Very cool story, indeed, bro. [Al Jazeera America]

And as an added bonus, after the jump are pictures from last night’s ATL holiday party…

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The Donald

I assure you I have many more important things to talk to the president about than the fact that we busted this penny-ante fraud…. [Trump] seems to be the kind of person who goes to the Super Bowl and thinks the people in the huddle are talking about him.

– New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, speaking to Vanity Fair about Schneiderman’s lawsuit against Trump University. According to Vanity Fair, “Trump claims that Schneiderman cooked up the lawsuit after visiting with President Obama.”

* Law professors testify to Congress that President Obama is abusing his power by circumventing Congress. Is this the Congress that takes 239 days of vacation each year and set a record for being the least productive in history? I wonder why any chief executive would circumvent them… [The Blog of the Legal Times]

* Magic Circle firms raise their rates, with partners billing around $1375.56/hour. Blimey! [The Careerist]

* A law firm paid for a nativity scene in a state capitol building. Sound the litigation alarm! [ABA Journal]

* Supreme Court seems hesitant to help out a guy who lost his frequent flyer miles for constantly complaining to his airline. On the one hand, customers shouldn’t be penalized for voicing their concerns. On the other hand, this guy’s “complaints” included his luggage taking too long to come out on the carousel. Chill the hell out. [Associated Press via Daily Finance]

* A SAC Capital employee carefully weighed the “risk-reward” of complying with the “law.” [Dealbreaker]

* Former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski is getting paroled. Now I feel old because I represented a witness in that trial. [Dealbook / New York Times]

* A middle school principal in Texas is placed on administrative leave for banning students from conversing in Spanish at school. What a puta. [Associated Press via Business Insider]

* The rules to the self-proclaimed greatest law school drinking game of all time. Or a look at what Australian law school guys do instead of study. Video after the jump… [YouTube]

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