Benchslaps

Respondent brandishes his opinion as a battering ram, intentionally offending people. This Panel does not believe these are “slips of the tongue” or inadvertant. Respondent is intentional in his conduct and bull whips people by his words with a zeal. While in private life he may be as rude, offensive and demeaning as he chooses, in his professional life he may not hide behind his First Amendment rights to ignore his sworn responsibilities.

– Presiding Disciplinary Judge William J. O’Neil of the Arizona Supreme Court, in a recent ethics opinion concluding that attorney Meyer L. Ziman should be suspended for one year’s time, with reinstatement on probation.

(So what did Ziman allegedly do that was bad enough to warrant his suspension? Let’s find out, after the jump.)

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Female attorneys must be on the same cycle in Illinois, because based on all of the ethics complaints that have come down the pipeline, they’ve been acting a little crazy.

Today’s tale of alleged attorney misconduct comes to us as a result of a former public defender’s behavior in court. It’s nowhere near as juicy as the allegations against Reema Bajaj or Tamara Tanzillo, but it’s certainly a cautionary tale for lawyers everywhere who get a little hot-headed when they’re arguing before the bench.

Before you can say “oh sh*t,” let’s get down to the allegations….

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Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.

Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.

It’s a cautionary tale for litigators….

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Matthew Powers: 'pimp hands' don't knot neckties.

The renowned IP litigator Matthew Powers, founding partner of Tensegrity Law Group, has a nickname here at Above the Law. We like to call him Matt “Pimp Hand” Powers. Back in 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Powers, former cochair of litigation at Weil, ruled over his domain by alternating between use of the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

Over the years, numerous litigants have felt the sting of Powers’s pimp hand. He has been described, quite accurately, as “one of the most feared, respected, and successful patent litigators in the country.” As noted on his website bio, Matt Powers “is known for taking tough cases to trial and winning them,” on behalf of leading technology companies like Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and Intel.

But now the tables have turned. Powers recently found himself on the receiving end of a benchslap — from a lowly administrative law judge, ick….

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Tim Pori

Time conflicts are an unavoidable part of litigation. Scheduling and re-rescheduling trials and court hearings — it’s simply part of the litigation process. It’s a pain, but most of the time, an attorney shouldn’t get too much flak for a legitimate scheduling conflict.

But this week, one Bay Area criminal defense lawyer has gotten caught between a rock and two murder trials. A local judge was unhappy when he missed a hearing for one murder case because he was in court for another murder case of in another county. Now he’s facing contempt charges and jail time.

This is just another reason why we really should be investing more in teleportation technology….

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Judge Bruce Markell

Were there ever a time to use “fail,” as the contemporary vernacular permits, it is now, and in reference to this deplorable display of legal representation: it was an epic fail.

– Judge Bruce Markell, in a recent opinion in a Las Vegas Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding, which concluded that the debtors’ attorneys, Barry Levinson and Jeremy Mondejar, should be sanctioned for their ineffective representation.

(What did these Cooley Law graduates allegedly do to irk Judge Markell in this way? Take a look, after the jump.)

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Majority opinions are hardly sitting ducks for the criticism dissentals may heap on them. If a panel majority finds that a dissental scores some valid points, it can modify its opinion to eliminate the problem, something that happens regularly in the Ninth Circuit. Indeed, fear that internal criticisms will be taken public often causes judges to moderate outlier opinions so as to present a smaller target for public criticism and possible certiorari. One of us (yes, the hot one) is even aware of a case where the panel withdrew its opinion and reversed the result, after winning the en banc vote, in the teeth of a stinging dissental.

– Chief Judge Alex Kozinski (9th Cir.) and his former law clerk, James Burnham of Jones Day, in a Yale Law Journal online essay entitled I Say Dissental, You Say Concurral (defending the practice of filing a dissental, aka dissenting from the denial of rehearing en banc).

(Additional discussion, after the jump.)

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Remember the homework assignment issued by Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit to the U.S. Department of Justice? Earlier this week, Judge Smith ordered the DOJ to file a three-page, single-spaced letter discussing the principles of judicial review, in light of prior comments by President Barack Obama that could be construed as questioning the doctrine.

The response was due today at noon (Houston time) — about 20 minutes ago. It was filed on behalf of the Department by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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'I'm so glad the Justice Department respects judicial review!'

The nation recently received a lesson in constitutional law from President Barack Obama (who famously taught Con Law at the University of Chicago). As we mentioned yesterday, President Obama said on Monday that striking down the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would constitute an “unprecedented, extraordinary step,” amounting to “judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

The problem with this lesson: it wasn’t exactly accurate. Those “unelected” federal judges “overturn … duly constituted and passed law[s]” all the time — well, maybe not all the time, but on occasion, when said laws are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It’s neither “unprecedented” nor “extraordinary,” and it doesn’t amount to judicial activism; rather, it’s called judicial review.

One prominent conservative jurist, Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit, took it upon himself to set the record straight on this matter….

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I feel queasy just looking at this photo of Nutriloaf.

Deliberate withholding of nutritious food or substitution of tainted or otherwise sickening food, with the effect of causing substantial weight loss, vomiting, stomach pains, and maybe an anal fissure (which is no fun at all, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_fissure (visited March 15, 2012)), or other severe hardship, would violate the Eighth Amendment.

– Judge Richard Posner, in Tuesday’s ruling in Prude v. Clarke. The Seventh Circuit reinstated a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who alleged that being fed nutriloaf (a.k.a. Nutraloaf) in the Milwaukee County Jail amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

(Judge Posner had more strong words to say about nutriloaf, as well an in-depth analysis to answer this crucial question: what the heck is nutriloaf?)

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