Divorce Train Wrecks

Jason Smiekel

When we last checked in with Illinois attorney, Jason W. Smiekel, the man accused of taking out a hit on a former client (who also happened to be the ex-husband of Smiekel’s fiancée), he was busy trying to convince a judge to release him on bail. Apparently he didn’t think murder for hire was a “crime of violence.” Needless to say, that was an exercise in futility.

In August, Smiekel pleaded not guilty to seven counts of using interstate facilities in his alleged murder-for-hire scheme. At the time, readers who knew Smiekel assured us that we would “see in the end that he is the victim in this whole fiasco.” They believed that the divorce lawyer’s fiancée — otherwise known as the “hot hot hot blonde” (HHHB) — was to blame.

But based on the plea deal that Smiekel took yesterday, that doesn’t seem to be the case….

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* The billable hour may be far from dead, but last year, 61% of general counsel worked out alternative fee arrangements with outside counsel, including counsel from elite (read: Biglaw) firms. [Wall Street Journal]

* Dewey need to take lessons on revenge from this firm? John Altorelli, the D&L defector who spilled all the beans to the Am Law Daily, was blasted on Page Six this weekend. More on this to come later today. [New York Post]

* CHECK YOU LATERALS: recent Quinn Emanuel hires William Burck, Paul Brinkman, and Andrew Schapiro, as well as name partner John Quinn, have entered appearances on behalf of Megaupload. [Am Law Daily]

* Copyright infringement suits over porn downloading involving some 3,500 defendants were dismissed because the plaintiffs’ attorney, Terik Hasmi, couldn’t get it in legally in Florida. [National Law Journal]

* In England, there’s no such thing as a no-fault divorce, but instead, you can get one for “unreasonable behavior” — behavior like malicious service of tuna casserole, and speaking only in Klingon. [New York Times]

* This gives “I’m a Slave 4 U” some new meaning. Britney Spears’s fiancé, Jason Trawick, is trying to start their impending rocky marriage off on the right foot. He’ll soon be her co-conservator. [New York Daily News]

Steven Simkin: now with neckwear.

Remember Steven Simkin, the prominent Paul Weiss partner who sued his ex-wife for a better divorce deal? Simkin argued that even though he negotiated for and obtained the couple’s investment account with one Bernard Madoff as part of their 2006 separation agreement, his former wife should now pay him more money — since it was subsequently revealed, years later, that Madoff was running a huge Ponzi scheme.

As you may recall, I was not terribly sympathetic to Simkin. In my view, an expert negotiator like Simkin — the head of PW’s real estate practice, who was also represented by separate counsel in the divorce — should be required to live with the bargain he struck. In negotiating for and taking on the Madoff account, he also took on the risks associated with that investment.

An intermediate appeals court sided with Simkin. But now New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has spoken….

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This case is a perfect illustration of what happens when divorce meets recession meets downsizing.

Howard London of Beermann Swerdlove, commenting on the particulars of client David McLauchlan’s case.

(McLaughlan, a former partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, was asked to leave the firm during the height of the recession due to his declining billables. McLaughlan’s income was reduced significantly — so much so that he could no longer afford his alimony payments.)

If you took a professional responsibility course in law school, or even studied for the MPRE, then you’re familiar with the the main takeaway on legal ethics for attorneys. You know that you have to zealously represent your clients without doing anything illegal. (And if you do decide to take a walk on the wild side, you know that you should try not to get caught.)

It looks like an attorney from New Mexico — one who had already been disbarred for cocaine possession — missed the memo on that one. Apparently his definition of zealous representation includes kicking down doors and burglarizing homes.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, we’ve got it on film….

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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and for some people, it represents a time to serenade a sweetheart, pop bottles of champagne, and stare dreamily into the eyes of Mr. or Ms. Right (or Right Now, as the case may be). For others, Valentine’s Day is a time of loneliness and despair — angry, bitter lawyers, we’re looking at you — where only the commiseration of other single friends can lift one’s spirits.

For others still, Valentine’s Day is a time to ponder how their spouse got so fat, and why they decided to marry such an obnoxious, sniveling idiot. For the last category of those who will be celebrating lamenting Valentine’s Day this year, we’ve got a possible salve for your marital woes.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, those who hope to dodge Cupid’s arrows this year can enter a contest in the hopes of winning a free divorce. There’s just one catch….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Valentine’s Day, Give the Everlasting Gift of Love Divorce”

Jennifer Hudson

* At least two firms probably won’t be handing out spring bonuses like candy this year. While gross revenue remained steady at Dickstein Shapiro and Crowell & Moring, PPP dropped at both firms. [Legal Times]

* Not-so breaking news: the Thirteenth Amendment applies only to humans. It seems like the only people who didn’t already know that were the lawyers PETA hired for their orca whale slavery case. [Washington Post]

* Washington has approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, and Governor Gregoire has vowed to sign it. Wedding planners can prepare for a fabulous summer season, and divorce practitioners can create a new niche. [CNN]

* In China, lawyers are allowed to name their firms after imaginary people. Here in the United States, we’ve got laws against that, and for good reason. Because knowing Americans, we’d probably end up with a bunch of dueling Dewey, Cheatem & Howes. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Jennifer Hudson says, “And I am telling you, I’m not going — to speak to your lawyers.” William Balfour’s defense team wants to meet with her prior to his murder trial. [Chicago Sun-Times]

* Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and if you’re still trying to find the best present for your crappy spouse, then look no further. This law firm is giving away a free divorce. [Charleston Daily Mail]

In Machiavelli’s masterpiece, The Prince, chapter 19 — “That One Should Avoid Being Despised And Hated” — contains Machaivelli’s only suggested restrictions on the Prince’s absolute power. Machiavelli essentially argues that the Prince must not take the people’s sheep (“sheep” being a metaphor for the ability of peasants to have enough food) or their women (“women” being a metaphor for women). He writes: “It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain. And when neither their property nor honour is touched, the majority of men live content, and he has only to contend with the ambition of a few, whom he can curb with ease in many ways.”

These are good restrictions for all who find themselves in positions of inscrutable power. Most men will suffer any other form of servitude so long as they have enough to eat and are allowed exclusive access to their own wives. The 1% will be just fine, so long as they don’t institute some kind of system of polygamy that allows the wealthy to marry-up all of the available women.

Machaivelli’s advice applies just as easily to a totalitarian ruler of a country as it does to a managing partner of a law firm. Managing partners, ignore Machiavelli at your peril. You could end up with a full-scale revolt on your hands — or, at the very least, an embarrassing lawsuit from a former, allegedly cuckolded partner….

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You made a fool of me… and got me in huge trouble with the feds.

For a long time, I have been a staunch advocate of putting passwords on all electronic devices — laptops, phones, tablets, etc. There’s no reason to leave your private life or sensitive business data accessible to any schmo who might have access to your phone, just because you’re too lazy to spend three seconds typing in a password. This is especially true for lawyers, given the client confidences that they handle.

At least personally, however, I’m more lax about sharing some access passwords with close friends or family. My girlfriend knows my iPhone and computer passwords. (I know hers too.) Usually I don’t stress about potentially catastrophic consequences of her knowing that information. But every once in awhile I read something that makes me seriously wonder if you can trust anybody.

My current crisis of trust arises from the prosecution of a man accused of conspiring to export millions of dollars of electronic equipment from the U.S. to Iran. Prosecutors found “incredibly blatant admissions of criminal wrongdoing and philandering” on the defendant’s iPhone. But the man says his wife — who he is currently trying to divorce — stole the phone and forged the incriminating evidence.

Talk about emasculating. Let’s read more about this not-so-happy couple.…

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Todd Remis and Milena Grzibovska (his ex-wife)

Remember Todd Remis? How couldn’t you? He’s the disgruntled groom with a Biglaw daddy whose ridiculous lawsuit against his wedding photographer made national news when it hit the New York Times. Why so ridiculous? Because he decided to sue six years after the wedding and one year prior to his divorce being finalized (and he continued to prosecute the suit even after the divorce).

At first glance, Remis’s suit seemed like a simple contract dispute. But thanks to Above the Law, he acquired the title of “groomzilla,” due to deposition testimony where he stated:

“I need to have the wedding recreated exactly as it was so that the remaining 15 percent of the wedding that was not shot can be shot.”

Many publications took our “groomzilla” title and ran with it, leaving Remis as the butt of many jokes. But now, more than two months after the story first broke, Remis has emerged from hiding to combat the New York Times version of his lawsuit. Remis wants to tell his side of the story, and he’s got a website to prove it….

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