Judge 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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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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These are trying times for clerkship applicants. The Law Clerk Hiring Plan is pretty much dead, at least in its strictest version, and it seems like every judge is going his or her own way.

The best applicants can hope for, in the absence of any standardized approach to law clerk hiring, is transparency. Ideally judges should provide clear and comprehensive information about their own particular approaches to hiring clerks. Thanks to this nifty thing called the internet, it’s not that hard.

As in many things, the Southern District of New York provides a model for other courts to follow….

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Judge Jed Rakoff

The trustee… having for more than three years issued empty threats to seek a halt to the attorney general’s suit, has lost his right to complain. Even on the merits, moreover, his bluster proves to be without substance.

– Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), issuing a harsh benchslap to Irving Picard, the trustee involved in the Bernie Madoff case, for trying to block a settlement he wasn’t involved in between J. Ezra Merkin and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

* “I don’t believe judges should be filibustered.” Tell that to the rest of your Republican pals, Senator Hatch. D.C. Circuit nom Sri Srinivasan faced little drama at the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. [Bloomberg]

* A bipartisan gun regulation deal has been reached in the Senate, and of course the NRA is opposing it — well, except for the parts that expand gun rights. The group really likes those parts. [Washington Post]

* Trolling for patent partners? Bingham recently snagged five IP partners from DLA Piper’s Los Angeles office, including the former co-chair of DLA patent litigation department. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Time well spent: while Detroit hangs on the precipice of bankruptcy, local politicians are worrying about whether retaining Jones Day poses a conflict of interest for their emergency manager (Kevyn Orr, formerly of Jones Day). [Am Law Daily]

* NYLS — or should we say “New York’s law school” — is revamping its clinical program to kill two birds with one stone (e.g., fulfilling pro bono hours and boosting job prospects). [National Law Journal]

* For all the talk of his being a hard ass, Judge Rakoff is a nice guy after all! The judge gave an ex-SAC trader permission to go on a honeymoon after his release from prison. [DealBook / New York Times]

* If you’ve ever wondered how Lat spends his free time, sometimes he’s off writing book reviews for distinguished publications. Check out his review of Mistrial (affiliate link) here. [Wall Street Journal]

* “Lindsay Lohan is the victim.” What the Heller you talking about? LiLo’s lawyer thinks there’s a conspiracy among the prosecutors on her case that’s resulted in leaks of information to TMZ. [CNN]

In her bestselling memoir, My Beloved World (affiliate link), Justice Sonia Sotomayor recounts her journey from the projects of the South Bronx to the bench of the United States Supreme Court. Given that background, one would expect Justice Sotomayor to have a weak spot for young women who make it to One First Street from improbable places.

So it makes perfect sense that Justice Sotomayor has hired the first-ever Brooklyn Law School graduate to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk: Sparkle Sooknanan, a 2010 graduate of BLS who is currently an appellate attorney at the Justice Department. We’ve heard Sooknanan described as “an awesome human being” and “brilliant” — and with a name like “Sparkle,” the brilliance must be literal.

Sparkle isn’t the only bright young lawyer to claim a shiny new credential for the résumé. Read on for additional news of Supreme Court clerk hiring….

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* This guy could teach a master class in how to stand by your (wo)man. Mary Jo White’s husband, John White, will relinquish his equity partner status at Cravath upon her confirmation as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. [Am Law Daily]

* Macho, macho man: it looks like we’ll never know if Dechert actually has a “macho culture,” because the FMLA and paternity leave case that questioned the very existence of this Biglaw subculture was settled out of court. [National Law Journal]

* Why you gotta go and ruin Valentine’s Day for everyone at O’Melveny and Akin Gump? Apple’s request to speed up the Greenlight Capital case was approved, with arguments now scheduled for February 19. [CNET]

* Despite her nomination being crapped on by the Senate, Jenny Rivera, the CUNY School of Law professor, was recently confirmed as an associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals. [New York Law Journal]

* Remember the lawyer who sued Westlaw and Lexis for copyright infringement? Judge Jed Rakoff dismissed it for reasons yet to be disclosed, but probably for legal dumbassery. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* “Behold, the instrument of your liberation!” Survivors of the Aurora movie massacre are being harassed by conspiracy theorists, and the DA asked the judge to scrub their names from the record. [Courthouse News]

Now that classes are back in session, I really hope some professor at Cardozo Law School pulls Benula Bensam aside and tells her that her keeping the story about her passing notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) alive is probably not helping her chances of securing a legal job.

You’ll remember Bensam as the student who got reprimanded for passing notes to Judge Rakoff during the Rajat Gupta trial. She went on to sue federal prosecutors and marshals for a number of claims arising out of largely standard courthouse security protocols. As we’ve previously discussed, upon leaving the courthouse Bensam wanted her cell phone back and had problems getting it.

Judge Andrew L. Carter (S.D.N.Y.) kicked most of Bensam’s case today, but he did give her leave to file an amended complaint on one issue.

For her sake, I hope she doesn’t take it…

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It’s time to announce the winner of July’s Lawyer of the Month competition. Last month, we had a potpourri of lawyers allegedly behaving badly for readers to choose from. In the end, there was one clear winner, who stole more than 50 percent of the total vote.

Let’s find out who took home the honorific of Lawyer of the Month — and while we’re at it, let’s pray that she doesn’t sue us. Noticing a trend here, readers? Our LOTM winners sure are overly litigious….

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There are wiser career moves than suing the U.S. Marshals.

Do you remember Benula Bensam? You probably don’t. She was the student at Cardozo Law School who spent part of her summer watching the Rajat Gupta trial. She was reprimanded for sending notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), including some that questioned Rakoff’s rulings. Such behavior could be seen as an attempt to improperly influence a judge, and so Rakoff had the U.S. Marshals bring her before him, and he told her to cut it out.

Yeah, you remember her now. It was a humorous story about a law student who was maybe a little bit overzealous.

But now Bensam is taking things to the next level. Instead of quietly learning her lesson and getting ready for next semester, the Cardozo student has decided to sue a whole slew of people. She claims that U.S. Marshals didn’t return her cell phone — before they returned her cell phone — and so she’s suing the Marshals, courthouse security, the U.S. Attorney for the S.D.N.Y., and several other defendants. In the process of suing, she’s also revealing how she had what I’d call a bit of a nutty outside the courthouse.

This complaint is just going to do wonders for her Google footprint….

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