Iowa

Judge Emily Dean

Here at Above the Law, we write about judges who bring shame to the judiciary all the time, but the subject of today’s foray into judicial misconduct is a wicked pisser — literally. We know things must get boring out in flyover country, Iowa specifically, but this is just crazy (and sad, but mostly crazy).

Let’s meet a judge who once got so wasted as she attempted to report to work at the courthouse that she later spent three days in an intensive care unit for severe alcohol intoxication…

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“The future is already here — it is just not evenly distributed.” If this William Gibson aphorism is true, then there was an extra heavy concentration of the future of the legal profession in Tribeca last Wednesday at the inaugural meeting of a new organization, the Forum on Legal Evolution. (The Forum is spearheaded by some names familiar to ATL readers, Bill Henderson (Indiana-Maurer/Lawyer Metrics), Bruce MacEwen (Adam Smith Esq/JDMatch), and Dan Katz (Michigan State Law/ReInvent Law).

While the rest of the business world has embraced off-shoring, Six Sigma, right-sizing, and what-have-you in pursuit of efficiencies and greater productivity, we are still waiting for the long-promised technology-driven transformation of the legal profession. When compared to other industries, actual changes thus far amount to so much fiddling around the margins. The Forum is premised on the idea that a way must be found to propel earlier and wider adoption of innovations.

The invitation-only Forum is intended as both a high-level networking community and as a resource for briefings on new technologies and trends. Think TED talks, but for senior in-house lawyers, law firm leaders, tech entrepreneurs, and academics. In other words, the entire legal supply chain. Without identifying them, we can confirm the room was sprinkled with the legal world’s equivalent of bold-faced names, including current and former Biglaw managing partners and Fortune 100 corporate counsel.

For such a forward-looking gathering, it was a little surprising then that it began by harkening back to Iowa cornfields during the Great Depression…

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This isn’t what I meant when I said law students need a helping hand.

I know, that’s not really a fair question. In most cases, you have to submit yourself to three expensive years of law school before they will even allow you to cram for six weeks in order to pass the bar. I just wanted to highlight that the expensive part of becoming a lawyer is the three years — the last of which is completely useless — not that sprint at the end to pass the bar exam.

That’s why it doesn’t make sense for a state to sell a “no bar exam for in-state students” option as a cost savings for students. You want to help students? Get rid of the third year of law school. You want to incentivize students to remain in-state for law school during a highly competitive market for law applications? Then you follow Wisconsin’s path and offer to ignore your own bar exam if people would just please, please, please go to an in-state school.

Another Midwestern state is considering doing just that, because it helps the schools, not because it helps students….

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Ted Olson’s hourly rate.

* While we’re celebrating recently anointed Biglaw partner classes, let’s take a minute to call out the firms that haven’t bestowed the honor upon a single woman this year. Cheers, jerks. [Am Law Daily]

* The results of the NLJ’s Law Firm Billing Survey are out, and lo and behold, one of the top partners in the country is pushing $2,000 an hour for his services. Congrats, Ted! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* Everyone’s buzzing about the federal law clerk who’s been accused of attempted aggravated rape and solicitation of a minor under 13. Don’t let that legendary 4.0 GPA go to waste. [Times-Picayune]

* Congratulations to Gerchen Keller Capital, the litigation finance firm founded by former SCOTUS clerks and hedge-fund alumni, on raising $260 million for its new fund. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Iowa is thinking about allowing law grads to practice ASAP instead of having to pass a bar exam. Paired with its recent tuition cuts, the Hawkeye State is looking better and better. [Des Moines Register]

* If you’re in the unfortunate situation of still having to look for a law job once OCI has ended, then you might want to start considering applying for some of the other law jobs that don’t want you. [Mashable]

* The incarceration of a blogger known for making salacious allegations against federal judges raises First Amendment concerns. [New York Times]

Except, apparently, one lawyer in Iowa.

Which is worse: to be unethical or to be stupid — really, really stupid?

Who says you have to choose? That’s the lesson of today’s story about a lawyer who fell for a Nigerian inheritance scam, dragged his clients into the mess as well, and just got his law license suspended by the Iowa Supreme Court.

Dear Friend: Please permit me to make your acquaintance in so informal a manner. This is necessitated by my urgent need to reach a dependable and trust wordy partner. We do not know each other, it does not matter.

My tale will not cause discomfort or embarrassment in whatever form, except to a monumentally moronic lawyer — who got cleared on some (but not all) of the ethics charges against him because he genuinely believed that a trunk full of money was going to magically show up on his office doorstep….

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Whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction.

No one. The Iowa Supreme Court revisited its December opinion in the case of Melissa Nelson’s firing for being too attractive and removed the above language. The new opinion limits the holding to the narrow facts of the case in order to prevent gender-based firings masquerading as “irresistible attraction” claims.

* An Iowa lawyer is disciplined for billing a mentally ill vet for attending his birthday party. In his defense, I wouldn’t want to go to a client’s birthday without getting paid either. [Omaha World-Herald]

* A new book tackles working in Biglaw by comparing it to Greek myth. Theseus (affiliate link) envisions the Athenian hero as a corporate securities lawyer. The partner with a bull’s head should watch his back, if you know what I mean. [Grayson Stevens]

* Rick Hasen explains that today’s decision in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council actually gave states way more power to disenfranchise voters than it appeared at first blush. So that’s how Scalia got in the majority. [The Daily Beast]

* Massive open online courses (MOOCs) may replace some law schools because getting a J.D. should be a lot more like unlocking an XBox achievement. [Legal Ethics Forum]

* Associates should hold themselves accountable more often. Honestly this article had me when it cast Littlefinger as a positive role model for working in Biglaw. [Associate's Mind]

* Looking for a cooking blog with legal puns? Then here you go! I’m going to go have a “Brownie v. Board of Education.” [Corpus Delicti-ble]

* The Federal Bar Association is hosting an event tomorrow asking, “Is Our Federal Justice System Being Dismantled?” [Federal Bar Association]

Some of his best friends were ‘takers.’

In 1920, Lydia C. Chamberlain, a woman from Des Moines who moved to Manhattan, donated her $500,000 estate to create a fellowship at Columbia University. The fellowship had a few restrictions. Notably, recipients were not allowed to study “law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary surgery or theology.” Ha. Seems reasonable. Oh, and the recipients had to be from Iowa and had to move back to Iowa after completing their studies.

This kind of dead-hand control should really not be allowed in our modern, global society, but that’s not why the “Lydia C. Roberts graduate and traveling fellowships” is making news today. It’s making news because the other restriction is that recipients of the fellowship have to be white. “Of the Caucasian race” is the exact formulation.

This isn’t just a story about racism, it’s a story about institutional advantages white people have that some of them pretend to not even be aware of…

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A fireable offense in Iowa.

Probably.

Melissa Nelson, the dental hygienist who was fired for being too hot (aka an “irresistible attraction”), in response to Daniel Tosh’s question — “Did you walk out real slutty?” — posed during this week’s episode of Tosh.0 on Comedy Central.

(Nelson, who lost her gender discrimination suit at the Iowa Supreme Court, received a Web Redemption on Tosh.0, where she dressed as a sexy dental assistant. Continue reading to see the clip.)

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You’ve got a pretty mouth.

So, as many of you have heard by now, Iowa’s Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous opinion which disguises lecherous workplace behavior as a valid legal avenue to terminate employees. You see, bosses can now fire employees whom they deem to be “irresistible attractions,” regardless of whether the employee has ever engaged in flirtatious behavior. In Iowa, it’s now completely acceptable for bosses to fire employees simply for having sex organs that they, in their managerial roles, are unable to use as they see fit. Dear God, you’ve got breasts? You’re so fired. Your ass looks good in slacks? Don’t even bother going back to the office.

This seems a bit sexist, but we suppose these kinds of things do happen when your state’s highest court is a huge sausage fest. And before you start whining about how unfair and discriminatory this is, don’t even bother, because it’s not. Iowa’s Supreme Frat House has decided that this is sort of behavior is controlled by feelings and emotions, not gender. This can’t possibly be gender discrimination, because bosses that want to bone their female employees shouldn’t be expected to control their feelings and emotions.

And it doesn’t matter if that same boss wouldn’t feel the same way about a male employee because of his gender, because the bros on Iowa’s most important bench don’t even care if this opinion makes sense….

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