Jed Rakoff

On Tuesday evening, I returned to the offices of Wachtell Lipton, the law firm where I toiled as an associate years ago. Luckily, I wasn’t there to bill hours; instead, I attended a reception marking the launch of a delightful new book, The Mother Court: Tales of Cases that Mattered in America’s Greatest Trial Court (affiliate link).

“The Mother Court” is the nickname for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, regarded by many as the preeminent federal trial court in the nation. In the book of the same name, James Zirin, a leading litigator who’s now senior counsel in the New York office of Sidley Austin, shares with readers the fascinating history of this top tribunal.

In a review that ran yesterday in the New York Law Journal, Thomas E.L. Dewey hailed the book as a “richly textured, immensely readable overview of the modern history of the Southern District of New York.” Last month, in the New York Review of Books, Judge Jed Rakoff praised Zirin’s “fluid prose and eye for detail.”

What fun tidbits and interesting opinions did James Zirin share in his remarks on Tuesday night?

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Judge Richard KopfNine days ago, Judge Richard Kopf wrote an article about the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby that suggested, “[a]s the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu.” It was a good post, but something that seemed of such little controversy that we relegated it to an in-blurb mention within Non-Sequiturs.

And then all manner of shock and hand-wringing commenced.

It’s not the first time a federal judge received criticism for speaking out. Are jurists like Judge Kopf out of control?

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* Jury duty is the only major civic duty that no one ever talks about. Professor Andrew Ferguson would like to change that by encouraging jurors to speak up about their experience. Enjoy learning how the sausage of justice is made! [Huffington Post]

* Verizon threatens to sue Netflix for honestly reporting how bad Verizon’s internet speeds are. [DailyTech]

* Hey, after all those threesomes, Case Western Med School is the one in court over “professionalism” concerns. [Cleveland Plain-Dealer]

* Of course a case about using a chemical weapon on a mistress is named “Bond.” Let’s examine Justice Scalia’s curious concurrence, shall we? [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* Dragons and isolationism. Makes sense. [The Legal Geeks]

* Cybercrime is pretty costly. [Lawfare]

* The emerging schism in the LGBT community on whether the term “Tranny” is empowering or a slur. Of course this is Legal Insurrection coverage, so the conclusion here is everyone who’s not with the straight white male program should just keep quiet, but the issue itself is interesting. [Legal Insurrection]

* Judge Kopf was asked to review Uncertain Justice by Professor Tribe and Joshua Matz. He didn’t want to do it, but thankfully he changed his mind. [Hercules and the Umpire]

* Slate Money discussed the Second Circuit’s reversal of Judge Rakoff last week and cited Above the Law specifically for the word “benchslap.” [Slate Money]

* Congratulations to UC Hastings dean and occasional ATL columnist Frank Wu on his reappointment as chancellor and dean! [UC Hastings]

* Lawyer + Cat = Internet win. Here’s the pic that’s going viral… [Imgur]

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In the past few columns, I’ve talked about the reasons why white-collar trials are hard in federal court. So few of them go to trial and, of those that go to trial, so few have a win for the defense. One reason is how people accused of crimes are treated as witnesses and Rule 608(b). Another reason is that, especially in white-collar cases it seems, folks who are later accused of crimes are chatty with agents, and that seemingly never fails to break bad.

Another reason is that lots of folks cooperate with the government. When many people realize that there’s going to be someone going to prison (see, e.g., the statistics on plea rates), they reason that they’d rather someone else go to prison instead of them.

Snitches are tricky. Often you don’t know what they’ve said before to the government until late in the game. Their statements are Jencks — so a defense lawyer is supposed to get them, but often federal judges only require that they’re turned over very close to trial.

Snitches are also crafty witnesses….

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Johnny Manziel (By: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)

* Sad day for Jonathan Lee Riches. His lawsuit over Johnny Manziel’s penis has been thrown out of court. [Black Sports Online]

* Hot on the heels of yesterday’s item about SCOTUS porn parties, Professor Tribe guest blogs about his new book (affiliate link) and coercion, bribery, and influence. [The Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Former Brooklyn DA and aspiring TV star Charles Hynes is staring down larceny accusations. [Gothamist]

* Texas basically assigns a cop to actively discourage investigate indigent parties seeking assigned counsel. [Socialist Gumshoe]

* The Supreme Court doesn’t like talking about patents — its opinions on the subject are getting shorter and shorter. [Patently-O]

* A lawyer is in hot water for allowing underaged drinking at a post prom party. The point was to keep the kids from driving. But no good deed goes unpunished. [Turn to 10]

* An interesting profile of one of my favorite professors, Ken Feinberg, labeling him “the lawyer who decides what a life is worth.” Yikes. [KDVR]

* The business strategy of just telling clients what they want to hear deflates. [Dealbreaker]

* Who says no one reads law reviews? The porn industry does and they really like this student Note. [XBiz]

* This is why we can’t have nice things. Second Circuit explains that if a revolving door agency of sycophants says it’s OK, it’s OK. Full opinion below…. [New York Times]

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The criminal justice system has all sorts of problems. Far, far, far too many people are in prison. Hell, lots of them are downright innocent. Most of those inmates are drawn disproportionately from the poor and minority population while the more affluent and white receive better treatment for the same crimes. And the wealthy, mostly white people who caused widespread economic pain not only avoided prosecution, but made healthy sums.

But one big problem with the criminal justice system that we’ve harped on before is the broad, largely unchecked power of federal prosecutors to bully the accused.

A prominent federal judge thinks it’s gone too far and he’s got a proposed solution.

Too bad it’s far too sensible for anyone in a position of power to actually adopt….

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* Fatwa against Fat. Wha? Saudi cleric issues Fatwa against all you can eat buffets. Old Country Buffet reeling from the blow to expansion plans. [International Business Times]

* Legislature close to disbanding speed trap town. [Lowering the Bar]

* Federal district judge who thought he was one of the Hardy Boys gets a benchslap from Judge Rakoff. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* The dean of the DePaul College of Law, Gregory Mark, is stepping down at the end of the academic year. Administration issues are never fun, but this is better than another story about Augustus Sol Invictus. [Chicago Sun-Times]

* Respect is a two-way street. That’s why you don’t disrespectfully interrupt judges and judges shouldn’t berate lawyers for doing nothing wrong. [Katz Justice]

* The most overrated and underrated law schools. Go Ducks! [TaxProf Blog]

Probably the most interesting question in white-collar crime these days is why there were no prosecutions arising out of the financial meltdown a few years ago.

As with most interesting questions, there are two polarized sides — one side wants to take up pitchforks and torches and head to Wall Street now, and the other side thinks that perhaps we should be a bit more circumspect about throwing people in prison (from that description, you can probably guess which side I’m on).

Judge Rakoff — a man we should all listen to one almost any subject — has weighed in with a thoughtful piece in the New York Review of Books called “The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?

How does Judge Rakoff answer the question?

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Remember the 80s? Big hair, Dynasty, Huey Lewis was popular for some reason. Well, Judge Jed Rakoff remembers the 80s, and he also remembers the way the federal government used to actually investigate and prosecute people who committed massive financial crimes — Mike Milken, Ivan Boesky, Charles Keating, a bevy of other savings and loans kingpins. Good times.

And Judge Rakoff wants to know what happened to prosecuting financial crimes, specifically the sort of fraud that crippled the economy. So he took to the pages of the New York Review of Books to ponder all the financial prosecutions that could have been. And he has some theories about what happened and how prosecutors could do a better job in the future.

It’s a fascinating look at a bunch of ideas that the government is going to totally ignore…

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Three cheers for “cultural capital.”

* Despite his hatred of 3L classes like “Law and Unicorns,” Justice Scalia believes that the third year of law school is necessary — perhaps a necessary evil, but still necessary. [Memphis Daily News]

* “[T]his excuse — sometimes labeled the ‘too big to jail’ excuse — is disturbing, frankly….” The eminently quotable Judge Rakoff is at it again, this time with harsh words for the DOJ. [New York Times]

* According to the latest survey from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, managing partners think that 2014 will be better than 2013. This means bonuses will be the same next year. [Am Law Daily]

* Attorneys from Wiley Rein are fighting for $2 million in fees in the wake of their SCOTUS win in the Shelby County Voting Rights Act case. The firm’s quest has been called “absurd.” [National Law Journal]

* “The record is utterly devoid of any evidence of criminal intent or intentional misconduct.” It turns out the attorneys accused of malpractice by the Miccosukee Indians weren’t bad after all. [Daily Business Review]

* Rather than pegging its value at $1 million, a professor from a fourth-tier law school is promoting the “non-economic value” of a law degree. Can “cultural capital” repay your loans? [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* “[N]o law school in Canada should be allowed to weed out gay students.” Too bad. Trinity Western University, the law school that bans gay “sexual intimacy,” received preliminary approval. [Globe and Mail]

* Law school specialization and you: follow these three simple steps to help you decide which niche you’ll be unable to find a job in after you graduate. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

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