health care reform

On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit ruled against Matt Sissel, the Iowa artist and entrepreneur who challenged the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate on the grounds that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s Origination Clause. Article I, § 7, clause 1 requires that “all bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.” Obamacare raises government revenue by billions of dollars, but it was drafted in the Senate. Judge Judith Rogers wrote the opinion in Sissel v. HHS for a panel including two newly minted Obama appointees, Judge Nina Pillard and Judge Robert Wilkins.

This ruling comes in the wake of last week’s dueling decisions in Halbig v. Burwell and King v. Burwell. Another D.C. Circuit panel found that Obamacare subsidies were illegal in the 36 states that refused to set up state healthcare exchanges. On the same day, the Fourth Circuit disagreed. In court battles, Obamacare opponents are winning some and losing some.

What should we make of their track record so far?

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* Professor Ann Althouse’s analysis of today’s Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood arguments before SCOTUS. [Althouse]

* Professor Nelson Tebbe’s take on the proceedings. [Balkinization]

* Finally, a very Jezebel assessment: “Supreme Court Prepares to F**k Up This Birth Control Thing.” [Jezebel]

* “JUDGE TO PORN TROLLS: IP Addresses Aren’t People.” [Instapundit]

* YouTube videos and text messages surface in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. [IT-Lex]

* “Her” was an excellent movie — and it might contain lessons for lawyers and the legal profession, as John Hellerman argues. [Hellerman Baretz]

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Did Two Young Lawyers Get To Have Dinner With The Obamas?”


“Hey, kids! Just keep clicking the ‘Mommy’s Credit Card’ button!”

* The feds say that Apple has agreed to pay “at least $32.5 million in refunds” to people who didn’t realize their children were racking up huge bills in FarmVille and the like. It’s good to see parents won’t actually have to pay for their absentee parenting. [Washington Post]

* It’s a good day for successful — kinda rapey — pop songs, as the family of Marvin Gaye decided that they “Got to Give It Up” and settled with Sony over alleged copyright infringement by the Robin Thicke song, Blurred Lines. [Rolling Stone]

* Apparently the Florida Bar Association took a look at the state of the judicial system and decided to screw it and start selling baking utensils. Or it was hacked. But probably they just gave up. [IT-Lex]

* Tailgating at the Yale-Harvard game is way more dangerous than I’d realized — a clutch of Yale frat bros (what is the proper collective noun for Elis) have been sued over an incident where a U-Haul loaded down with kegs struck and killed one person. [Jezebel]

* A hearing was cut short in New Orleans when an inmate arrived from the prison high as a kite on illicit drugs he procured in custody. Way to run a tight ship, New Orleans. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on them. After all, they just got their “inmates unintentionally set free due to clerical oversight” statistic back down to zero. [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

* A rundown of high-profile cases that turned on expert witnesses. Good to see that everyone’s favorite “affluenza” made the list. [The Expert Institute]

* Cable news has really botched their coverage of Little Sisters. For example, if you think Obamacare requires religious institutions to offer coverage for contraception, then you’ve been duped. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* To shake things up, let’s check out a defense of stop-and-frisk policies. If a society isn’t prepared to pay for police protection, it’s likely to find cops resorting to these sorts of short cuts. [Voice of San Diego]

* Musings on Staci’s recent piece on law firm client service and/or arrogance. [Law and More]

* A Little League coach is suing one of his players for $600,000. Something tells me a reboot of Bad News Bears would end exactly like this. Video of the story from local news channel KCRA embedded below…. [Deadspin]

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* Downton Abbey has inspired a new bill making its way through the House of Lords, who apparently watched the show and figured out for the first time that women get screwed by the law of entail. Now if they can just pass a law that would keep Bates out of prison in the first place. [The Atlantic]

* Ben Adlin reminisces about the era when the Supreme Court actually cared about oral arguments. [Summary Judgments]

* An interesting infographic on where Superlawyers went to school. Finally a ranking where NYU can top Yale. [Online Paralegal Programs]

* Another installment of classic ads ruined by lawyers. [Vice]

* Fifth Circuit judges aren’t the only ones to tell their colleagues to shut up; here’s some fun news from the Philippines. [Manila Times]

* French cities have banned performances of a comedian with a history of racking up hate speech fines. I mean, since when has anti-Semitism been a problem in Europe? [Al Jazeera]

* If you think conservative arguments against the Affordable Care Act are dumb, check out liberal columnists arguing that Obama screwed up by not pushing for single-payer. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

A couple of weeks ago, as Obamacare was just stumbling out of the gate, we asked our readers to tell us about the state of their own health insurance plans through their firms. Since the Recession, we have heard anecdotal evidence that some firms have been using health care cost clawbacks as a stealth expense-cutting tactic and de facto pay cut. We wondered how widespread a phenomenon this practice had become. Well, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. We had a strong feeling that, in this time of layoffs and all the rest of the Biglaw belt-tightening measures, that no category of expenses would be immune. And our survey results resoundingly confirm those suspicions: 89% of you tell us that your health insurance premiums have gone up since you started work at your firm.

A relevant tip showed up in the ATL inbox this week. An attorney at a prominent (V25) law firm sent us a memo outlining new changes to the firm’s health plan. Here’s an excerpt: “The deductible for the CIGNA PPO plan will change from $250 single/$750 family to $500 single/$1,000 family. Also, the PPO prescription copays [will all increase]. These changes bring our PPO plan design in line with market
practice for large law firms
(emphasis added)”…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Health Insurance Costs: The ATL Survey Results”

* President Obama defends Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act), saying that the dysfunctional HealthCare.gov website will get fixed. [Washington Post]

* “Calling All Unemployed Law Grads: Greenberg Traurig Is Hiring.” But there’s a catch. We’ll have more on this later today. [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case regarding how to determine mental disability in death-penalty cases. [National Law Journal]

* If you’re thinking of selling legal services over Groupon, proceed with care. [ABA via WSJ Law Blog]

* Want to get out of jury duty? Try flipping the bird at the defendant (which is what this Biglaw partner allegedly did). [ABA Journal]

* Chris Geidner takes a closer look at Chris Christie’s decision not to keep fighting marriage equality in New Jersey. Is it all about 2016? [BuzzFeed]

* More details on the circumstances surrounding a Reed Smith partner’s profane and ill-advised tweet. Expect Steven Regan to be sent back to “Tweet School.” [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]

* How Jamie Dimon (and Stephen Cutler and Rodge Cohen) reached JPMorgan Chase’s tentative $13 billion settlement with Eric Holder and the Department of Justice. [DealBook / New York Times; Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Congratulations to all the New Jersey couples who got married since midnight, in the wake of the state supreme court’s decision not to stay a lower-court ruling in favor of marriage equality. [Newark Star-Ledger]

* Additional insight into all the partner departures from Weil Gotshal in Texas. [Dallas Morning News]

* Lawyers aren’t the only folks who know how to overbill; defense contractors do too, according to federal prosecutors who allege that a company provided prostitutes and kickbacks to Navy personnel. [Washington Post via The BLT]

* The legal battle over Obamacare rages on. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Judge Oing, this really isn’t that hard. Here’s a draft opinion for you in the long-running litigation between Macy’s and J.C. Penney over the right to sell Martha Stewart merchandise (by James Stewart, no relation to Martha). [New York Times]

* If you’d like to run with the bulls without schlepping to Spain, former lawyers Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder can help. Presumably their legal training helped them draft ironclad waivers. [BuzzFeed]

* Another interesting but very different event, taking place this Wednesday: “Healing the U.S. Lawsuit System.” [U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (one of our advertisers)]

* Referees go on a power trip and get arrested. [Legal Juice]

* Lawyers enjoy LinkedIn. They may not like it as much if these allegations are true. [IT-Lex]

* A New York lawyer is using Twitter to complain about Obamacare. This is what happens when there aren’t enough billable hours to go around. [New York Post]

* TSA lets 9-year-old through without a ticket or adult help. Our security is top-notch in this country. [Lowering the Bar]

* New York attorney Bradley Dizik is the working to save Detroit’s Masonic temple from its financial woes. How screwed is Detroit? Even the international Freemason conspiracy can’t help. [Detroit News]

* Interested in national security — and getting CLE credit? [Lawfare]

* A Georgetown Law student was killed over the weekend. On a personal note, I knew Mark and he was truly great guy and my thoughts go out to his family and friends. [Washington Post]

With the continuing partial government shutdown and the shaky rollout of Obamacare, the issue of health insurance has never been such a central and divisive topic in the national conversation. Surely there are thousands of unemployed or temping JDs who are entering the brave new world of insurance exchanges and its attendant “hiccups.” In a development that perhaps should alarm the lowest-paid support staffers at law firms, some corporations appear poised to drop “bare bones” health-care benefits altogether for low-wage employees in favor of directing such employees to the new state exchanges.

Of course, for the lawyers at firms, such developments concerning the exchanges are essentially an abstract issue. That is not to say that attorney benefits packages are not subject to “new normal” economic pressures, or that the ultimate effect of the Affordable Care Act on private health insurance packages is unknowable. As noted here way back in 2009, some firms have added health care cost clawbacks to their expense-cutting repertoire of layoffs and pay cuts. Many associates have found themselves, post-Recession, with higher premiums and deductibles and thus, a de facto salary cut. Comparing salaries and bonuses across law firms overlooks the element of health insurance costs, about which there is no equivalent transparency. Undoubtedly there are significant variations across firms in this area, and some firms that appear to pay “market” aren’t quite doing so in light of their requiring a larger fraction of health care premiums. These variations inevitably distort direct comparisons.

We’d like to bring some transparency to this topic — but we need your help….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Are Biglaw Health Insurance Premium Increases Really Stealth Pay Cuts?”

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