Federal Government

Court sends Obama back to the drawing board.

It’s been so long since Obama lost something I was beginning to forget what it looked like.

In a reminder that just because the Senate is a dysfunctional band of elderly people doesn’t mean you can put them in a home and wait for them to die, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit knocked down some of the president’s recess appointments.

In January 2012, Obama made some recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board when the Senate wasn’t really in recess. The D.C. Circuit today says that he can’t do that.

Which might, you know, throw out a year’s worth of NLRB work. And it might be bad precedent for the big recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…

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It looks like a silly marginal tax increase on the personal incomes of the top 2 percent is the last thing the barons of Wall Street need to worry about. President Obama is sending a new sheriff into the regulatory fray.

Dealbook reports that Obama will nominate former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sending in White to the SEC is a little bit like calling the Wolf to drive home your blood-soaked vehicle. It’s a bold move for an agency that is often overwhelmed by the impressive lawyers marshaled on behalf of the financial industry in defense of their most complex transactions.

Unlike Elizabeth Warren (bless her heart), Mary Jo White is no academic, she’s a hard-nosed litigator. And she might be exactly what the SEC needs…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Obama Throws Down The Gauntlet With New Pick To Head The SEC”

* Wait, are we really going to have to debate the legal merits of this platinum coin thing? Really? Can’t Congress just not hold the country hostage so we don’t have to start messing around with crazy coins and the Fourteenth Amendment? Like, you don’t have to start doing bats**t crazy Carrie Mathison things if you don’t let terrorists take Nicholas Brody in the first place. [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* There was another school shooting today. It just makes you wonder if the terrible reign ushered in by Grand Theft Auto will ever end. At least, in this case, the teacher was armed to the teeth WITH WORDS to TALK DOWN the shooter. [Huffington Post]

* “Illegal” trades don’t mean the same thing to bankers as they do to everybody else. Well, that’s not true. Maybe the disconnect is more with the word “consequences.” [Dealbreaker]

* Yeah, I’m going to go on and say that I’m not going to believe anything coming out of the Trayvon Martin police report. Just like I wasn’t considering anything coming out of racist ass Mark Fuhrman. [Tampa Bay Times]

* There’s a lot to lose if Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act gets struck down. [Slate]

* I suppose it’s good that lawyers don’t have “I’m going to do a half-assed job here” fees. [Underdog]


* “To do nothing in the face of pending disaster is to be complicit. It’s time to act. It’s time to vote.” What a convenient time to discover that the Department of Justice tabled new gun control proposals in favor of an upcoming election campaign. [New York Times]

* Rumor has it that the president will nominate Senator John Kerry to be secretary of state for his second term. Upon hearing the news, Hillary Clinton updated her Tumblr page before she caught a case of the vapors, fainted, and got herself all concussed. [CNN]

* “If you don’t know, then you have to plan for the worst.” Everyone’s pissed off about the possibility of being pushed off the fiscal cliff, but on the bright side, it’s creating a mountain of billables. [National Law Journal]

* Remember the judge who resigned after he accidentally showed a colleague a picture of the “judicial penis”? He was removed from office by a judicial ethics panel. How very effective. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

* And for the talent portion of the competition, Alicia Guastaferro, the pageant princess who was picked up for prostitution after getting caught with an attorney, will have her hooking charges dropped. [Huffington Post]

* “The people who are paying us say this is what we want.” When it comes to cross-border mergers, law firms aren’t becoming behemoths for the hell of it. The end goal is to be able to edge out the rest of the competition. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* It’s been six weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, and “[e]verybody wants to go back downtown,” but some Biglaw firms in New York City — firms like Harris Beach and Cahill Gordon — are still stuck in their temporary offices. [New York Law Journal]

* Following Jeh Johnson’s adieu to the DoD, drone-loving Harold Koh will be packing up his office at the State Department and returning to Yale Law to resume his professorship next month. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector is employing 5,800 more people than it was at this time last year. We’d be in good shape if 40,000 people hadn’t graduated law school in May. [Am Law Daily]

* Another day, another wrist slap: Villanova Law has been placed on probation for by the Association of American Law Schools over its grade-inflation scandal. Does that even mean anything? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* The Lanier Law Firm, known for its spectacular Christmas parties, hosted some country superstars at this year’s event. Guess we know where Faith Hill and Tim McGraw go for legal assistance. [Houston Chronicle]

* A slim majority of American adults think that federal government employees should just sit back, relax, and smoke a bowl instead of enforcing federal laws against marijuana use. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* “I’m sorry they are confused in the White House.” Puerto Rico’s statehood referendum received a majority of votes, but lawmakers say the results of the two-part plebiscite are too confusing to add a 51st state. [CNN]

FIRST! Assistant United States Attorney.

First amongst weird creation myths is that of the Mbombo god, who is said to have vomited up pretty much all of our world. Similarly, the story of how this website has been… thrown up is worthy of retelling. At its essence, it goes like this: A boy blogs about very sober legal issues in an incredibly earnest way and then the governor of New Jersey tells him to start Above the Law, The End. I may have missed some crucial details and got others flat-out wrong, but I think the kernel of truth is still in there somewhere.

At any rate, that boy was working for the United States Attorney’s office in Newark at the time. Doing anything on the internet, even if it was super-serious and incredibly sincere, could be considered controversial because of the position. The lawyers tasked with working in such a high-profile prosecutorial role must be seen as impartial, lest the cases they take on get tainted by their online presence.

Which is what makes it all the more surprising that history is repeating itself down in New Orleans, where two assistant United States attorneys have become embroiled in scandal after being caught commenting on not just the law in general (like our own dear leader), but the specific cases that came through their office.

It’s almost as if the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s office is trying to outdo David Lat in some way. Which, I mean, trick please…

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This Thanksgiving, five brilliant young lawyers will have something special to give thanks for. Earlier this month, they learned of their selection as the 2013 Bristow Fellows.

Bristow Fellowships, one-year fellowships in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, go to recent law school graduates with outstanding academic records and top clerkships. They are generally regarded as second only to Supreme Court clerkships in prestige — and often lead to SCOTUS clerkships as well. You can read more about the Bristow Fellowship, including the job responsibilities and application process, on the Justice Department website.

One of the newest Bristow Fellows is an Above the Law celebrity, whom many of you will recognize. Yes, that’s right — you can appear in the pages of ATL and go on to enjoy great career success in the law….

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* BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 charges and pay $4.5B in fines, but before going through with it, several Biglaw firms helped the company sell off assets to fund litigation- and spill-related costs. [Am Law Daily]

* According to HBR Consulting, compensation for in-house attorneys has risen over the past year — including bonuses, which went up to $62,500. Sorry, but Biglaw isn’t following suit. [Corporate Counsel]

* It’s better to leave well enough alone: Pryor Cashman was ordered to pay more than $21K in legal fees for filing a frivolous motion over its repeated attempts to dismiss a case. [New York Law Journal]

* Judge Susan McDunn, who claimed that her “life [was] being ruined” by the secret lawsuits of many powerful Chicagoans, has resigned. Looks like her $182K salary wasn’t enough to buy crazy pills. [Chicago Tribune]

* James T. Hayes Jr., the ICE agent who accused his superior of subjecting male employees to her “sexually offensive behavior,” settled his discrimination lawsuit against the government for $175,000. [Washington Post]

Flooding in Wildwood, New Jersey.

As we mentioned earlier today, we’ll be operating normally here at Above the Law, notwithstanding Hurricane Sandy. Our physical offices, at the corner of Broadway and Houston in Manhattan, are closed. But your four editors — Elie, Staci, Chris, and myself — will be working diligently from our homes to keep you informed and entertained during Frankenstorm.

It seems that we won’t be alone in telecommuting today. Encouraging (or even ordering) employees to stay home, but suggesting that they work remotely if they can, seems to be a common response to the storm.

Here is information — including many UPDATES — about how various courts, government offices, law firms, and law schools are responding to Hurricane Sandy….

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I didn’t mean to interrupt, you were saying something about ‘clean’ coal?

Hurricane Sandy — a.k.a. “Frankenstorm”, because it’s greater than the sum of its parts (and there’s the suggestion that storms like this are growing bigger and stronger because of man messing around with forces he doesn’t fully understand) — is coming. It’s basically a hurricane that’s merging with a Nor’easter that will make it rain, and not in the fun way. The federal government is closed. The New York Stock Exchange is closed. The McDonald’s next to my apartment is closed — Sandy has already cost me a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.

Don’t worry about me, I’ve got a three-day supply of alcohol and hot pockets. Hopefully you are all similarly prepared for 36 hours of sustained hype wind and rain. Size does matter with Sandy (if “Sandy” sounds a bit mundane, know that the next one will be “Tony”). We might not get a lot of CGI worthy images out of this storm, but the length of this storm could cause a lot of damage.

One thing that is still open: the Supreme Court of the United States. Yes, because the nation might be able to survive without mass transit or the stock exchange, but old men don’t take a day off from sitting in judgment. Reuters reports that the Court prides itself on working when everybody else takes shelter from a storm: “In 1996, when a major snowstorm closed the federal government and brought Washington, D.C., to a near standstill, court arguments went on. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Wisconsin native undeterred by snow and ruled by a strong sense of punctuality, made sure business that January 8 began on schedule.”

UPDATE (12:00 PM): According to SCOTUSblog (based on a press release from the Court), the Court has now cancelled arguments for Tuesday. So, the case of Sandy v. SCOTUS has been decided 9-0 in favor of the people who might have had to put their lives at risk to cover the proceedings.

Let’s look at some of the other things in and around the legal world that are still open along the Eastern seaboard….

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