campaign finance

220px-Eric_Holder_official_portrait* Eric Holder gave millions to Nazis! Or at least that’s how Darrell Issa will put it. But seriously, the Department of Justice has a long-standing policy of allowing Nazi war criminals to collect Social Security payments if they agree to get the hell out of the U.S. [Associated Press via New Europe]

* A Cleveland attorney, Peter Pattakos, is not worried about contracting Ebola, even though he was in a room with a current Ebola patient, because Pattakos is neither a crazy person nor a cable news producer and realizes that he never exchanged bodily fluids with the patient. As he points out, “I’m much more likely to be mistakenly killed by a police officer in this country than to be killed by Ebola, even if you were in the same bridal shop.” [Cleveland.com]

* Chanel is suing What About Yves for trademark infringement. The question Professor Colman asks is whether “we really want a trademark ‘protection’ regime in which mark ‘owners’ can prevent creative, non-confusing uses of ‘their property.'” [Law of Fashion]

* One for the career alternatives file: Miami lawyer who ranks local restaurants opens his own restaurant. At ATL we rank law schools, maybe we should open our own law school. [Southern District of Florida Blog]

* Academic publishers fighting the war on common sense by charging an arm and a leg for access to research that is written and peer reviewed by other people for free scored a victory on Friday when the Eleventh Circuit rejected the lower court’s articulation of educational fair use in the digital age. [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Balancing parenthood and the “jealous mistress” that is the practice of law. [Jed Cain]

* An amazing symposium on campaign finance reform from the NYU Law Review and the Brennan Center for Justice. It’s a wealth of content. [NYU Law Review]

* Josh Gilliland from The Legal Geeks gave a presentation on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Law at the San Diego Comic Fest, which sounds much more fun than any “and the Law” class I ever took. He’s provided his slideshow presentation…

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, explaining the reasons why she thinks Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of recent times, after being asked her opinion in a wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic.

(What do you think is the worst SCOTUS ruling in recent memory? Tell us.)

Dinesh D’Souza

* The United States is launching air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but some have been compelled to wonder whether it’s legal under international law. Of course it’s legal, under the Rule of ‘MERICA, F*CK YEAH! [BBC]

* Dewey know whether this failed firm’s former COO can get out of paying $9.3M to its bankruptcy trustee? Dewey know whether we’ll ever be able to stop using this pun? Sadly, the answer to both questions is no. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Marc Dreier of the defunct Dreier LLP has been ordered to testify in person in his firm’s bankruptcy case in Manhattan, but he’d rather stay in the comforts of his prison home in Minnesota. Aww. [Bloomberg]

* Dinesh D’Souza won’t have to do hard prison time for his campaign-finance violations. Instead, he’ll be spending eight months in a “community confinement center,” which sounds just peachy. [New York Times]

* Northwestern Law is launching a campaign to fundraise $150M to be spent on an endless supply of Chick-fil-A sandwiches financial aid for students and curriculum improvements. [National Law Journal]


There are lots of forms of purchase and exchange that we criminalize, for example, buying sex. We don’t say if someone wants to purchase the services of a prostitute, well that is just an expression of their speech.

– Professor Jamie Raskin of American Law dropping logic bombs all over Citizens United. Professor Raskin — who is also a politician himself — goes on to explain that the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence offers zero explanation why bribery is illegal but unlimited donations are not.

This is the latest in a new series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes.

Last month, ATL hosted a well-attended event previewing the current Supreme Court Term. Our special guest was preeminent Supreme Court advocate and analyst Tom Goldstein. Our own David Lat conducted a lively interview with Goldstein, covering the major cases on this Term’s docket as well as Goldstein’s insights into Supreme Court advocacy generally. It was an educational evening for all, and, in the words of one attendee, “funny and brilliant is always a fantastic and rare mix in a speaker.”

Today’s infographic distills some of the evening’s observations and insights into a SCOTUS “cheat sheet.” Thanks to AccessData for sponsoring this free event, and look for upcoming events in your area….

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This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. In McCutcheon, the Court will rule on whether certain campaign finance restrictions violate the First Amendment. ATL’s Joe Patrice offered his thoughts on the oral arguments yesterday. Today, I offer an alternative perspective.

Currently, byzantine election laws restrict the total political contributions that a person can make in a two-year period, as well as the number of candidates a person can contribute the maximum amount to. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is a suburban Alabama businessman, the owner and founder of an electrical engineering firm. McCutcheon wanted to contribute $1,776 (a very patriotic sum, indeed) to 27 candidates across the country. Each of those individual contributions in isolation was legal, falling below the $2,600 maximum amount allowed for individual contributions. Yet, had McCutcheon done so, his total contributions would have run afoul of the maximum total allowed, currently $48,600.

Supporting political causes and candidates of your choice is an exercise of your First Amendment rights. Like all constitutional rights, though, it is subject to an overriding compelling governmental interest. In the case of campaign finance restrictions, your speech rights are trumped by the government’s interest in preventing political corruption or the appearance of political corruption.

Here, McCutcheon was expressing his political values, innocently — even laudably — participating in the democratic electoral process as he contributed up to 2600 bucks to individual candidates . . . until he supported one candidate too many. Suddenly, the First Amendment no longer safeguards his political expression. Suddenly, the threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption is so great that democracy just cannot stand if Shaun McCutcheon is allowed to give a penny more to support a candidate who shares his values….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Rumors Of Democracy’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated: Why McCutcheon Can Be A Good Thing”

Supreme Court arguments are off and running, and the Supremes wasted no time in getting to the fun stuff. In this instance, it’s McCutcheon v. FEC, the case billed as Citizens United II: Electric Boogaloo. The conservative wing of the Court is expected to side with McCutcheon in its continuing war to make American elections safe for multi-millionaires.

Anyway, the oral argument was marked by the usual humorous sniping amongst the justices and lots of fun exchanges where counsel and the conservative justices worked overtime to subordinate reality to ideology. Up to and including Justice Scalia arguing that $3.5 million isn’t that much money for one individual to spend on an election.

Here are 3 immediate, largely stream-of-consciousness thoughts based on reading the transcript (available at the end of the post) coming out of this oral argument:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “McCutcheon Oral Argument: Or, Justice Scalia Explains How $3.5 Million Isn’t That Much Money”

Oyez, oyez, oyez! It’s the first week of October.

* Say what you will about Justice Scalia, but the man is hilarious — more funny than his four liberal colleagues combined, according to a statistical analysis of oral argument recordings. [New York Times]

* The government shutdown is slowing down the judicial confirmation process, already famous for its speed and efficiency. [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]

* More about news for Steven Donziger in his long-running battle with Chevron. Maybe it’s time to surrender, Steve? I hear Ecuador is a great place to retire. [New York Law Journal]

* Law firm merger mania continues, as Carlton Fields combines with Jorden Burt. [Carlton Fields (press release)]

* Herbert Smith Freehills says “you’re hired” to Scott Balber, the lawyer for Donald Trump who got mocked by Bill Maher on national television. [The Lawyer]

* You might see your dog as harmless and cuddly, but the law might see your dog as a weapon (and rightfully so, in my opinion). [New York Times via ABA Journal]

* Congratulations to all the winners of the FT’s Innovative Lawyers awards. [Financial Times]

* And congratulations to Heidi Wendel and Deirdre McEvoy, high-ranking government lawyers headed to Jones Day and Patterson Belknap, respectively. [New York Law Journal]

* Today the Supreme Court will hear argument in McCutcheon v. FEC, a major campaign finance case that some are calling “the next Citizens United.” Check out an interview with one of the lawyers behind it, after the jump. [UCTV]

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The most tragically stupid decision was greenlighting a reality show about lawyers. No one cares about watching real-life lawyering. That’s why Nancy Grace exists — to boil salacious cases down to sound bites so viewers don’t have to watch real lawyers.

But almost as stupid was greenlighting a show about a district attorney on the eve of an election and not expecting to run afoul of campaign finance laws.

Imagine running against an incumbent armed with a glossy, major network reality show constantly hyping his effectiveness in office. In the context of a district attorney election, imagine having to run against Adam Schiff after everyone watched a Law & Order marathon.

If that seems unfair, one challenger agrees with you…

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A minor scandal is brewing in Las Vegas. In a city known for its impeccable ethics and strictly above-board dealings, the legal community is astir over suggestions that a nominee to the federal bench earned her nomination by engineering a windfall for her political sponsor, Senator Harry Reid, with conveniently-timed donations from her law partners.

At what point does sucking up to politicians cross into the appearance of impropriety for prospective federal judges, and how much should the rest of us care?

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