Justice Department

Eric Cuellar (left) and Justin Teixeira (right). Image via Gawker (click to enlarge).

Think of this as like the law school version of The Hangover — except that an animal apparently was harmed in the making of this movie.

Over the weekend, we covered the sad and disturbing story of two Boalt Hall law students who stand accused of killing a helmeted guinea fowl. This allegedly went down in a wildlife habitat at the (unfortunately named) Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

As we noted in an update, the bird was exotic rather than endangered (well, at least not endangered outside the Flamingo Hotel). But killing such a bird can still be charged as a felony, thanks to a 2011 amendment to Nevada law. And the Berkeley law students in question, Eric Cuellar and Justin Teixeira, have in fact been charged with felonies — conspiracy and the willful, malicious torture or killing of wildlife.

Let’s take a closer at the two men at the center of this flap. We’ve heard from some Above the Law tipsters who know them….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Closer Look at the Alleged Berkeley Bird Murderers”

Nothing pisses off a lawyer more than uncertainty. Uncertainty gives rise to the risk of undermining the facade of perfect knowledge that attorneys prefer to convey to their clients. Given this character trait, it’s no surprise that the collective white-collar and corporate counsel community is freaking the hell out about every scrap of information it can glean from the Justice Department about its new Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement policy.

So what exactly has these observant lawyers in a tizzy?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Reading Tea Leaves: Defense Bar Freaking Out About the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act”

Things continue looking up for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom. A few weeks ago, he finally got some of his assets unfrozen so he could throw some dollars in John Quinn’s direction.

Yesterday, he unveiled the teaser for his new music product, known as Megabox. And this morning, he earned an extensive personal apology from New Zealand’s prime minister. Apparently the Kiwi equivalent of the American National Security Administration had unlawfully spied on Dotcom, and Prime Minister John Key said the “basic errors” involved in the mistake were appalling.

Huh, so that’s what it sounds like when a government isn’t “acting as a proxy for private commercial interests”….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “MegaMeltdown: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Apologizes to Kim Dotcom”

After months of living under house arrest and frozen assets, Megaupload leader Kim Dotcom has finally won a multimillion dollar victory in New Zealand court — one that will unfreeze some of his money and allow him to sell off some of his luxury cars so he can pay his attorneys.

Not a glamorous win, by any means, but it is what it is.

The Justice Department’s prosecution has been riddled with problems almost from the case’s beginning, back in January. This is another setback in their attempts to curb file-sharing.

So how much of his money will Dotcom now be able to fork right over to his lawyers? And which cars can he sell?

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Last time we checked in with the crumbling prosecution of Megaupload, the massive cyber locker, and its similarly massive leader, Kim Dotcom, a New Zealand court had declared the search warrant served against Dotcom unconstitutional.

This week, the same judge has ruled that the United States government needs to let New Zealand see why exactly they want to extradite Dotcom. You know, so the country can decide if it’s really a good idea to turn over someone to a foreign government.

What a shocking request! Let’s keep reading to see the details of the ruling, as well as additional updates as to what Dotcom is doing to try to pay his lawyers, who thus far have not received a dime for their services….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The DOJ Wishes Megaupload Would Just Die Already”

Erika Awakening

Sometimes attorneys are desperate to find a way out of the legal profession. Sometimes that desperation will lead them down a strange road to an entirely new career — and not just a new career, but a new way of life.

Meet Erika Frick, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School. After graduating from HLS, Frick worked for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice and for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. But if you’re a member of the pickup artist community, you know Frick better as Erika Awakening, a New Age life coach and self-proclaimed guru of the seduction community. How frickin’ fabulous is that?

What would cause a Harvard-educated attorney on a rather prestigious career track to turn her focus to the Law of Attraction? Let’s find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Life and Times of Erika Awakening, Professional Pickup Artist and Harvard Law Grad”

Yesterday brought some big news out of Chicago. Renowned federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — who successfully prosecuted such figures as Governor George Ryan, Governor Rod Blagojevich, White House adviser Scooter Libby, and media mogul Conrad Black — announced that he will be stepping down as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Fitzgerald’s resignation will take effect on June 30.

I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Fitzgerald in October 2007, when he spoke at our alma mater, Regis High School (which he graduated from before going on to Amherst College and Harvard Law School). During the question-and-answer session for his talk, I alluded to his celebrity status and asked him: “What’s next for Patrick Fitzgerald?” I tossed out several possibilities, such as running for political office or working as a male model (in light of his 2005 designation by People magazine as one of the sexiest men alive).

The straight-laced, self-effacing Fitzgerald — who spent his entire talk discussing cases, saying practically nothing about himself — seemed slightly uncomfortable at having the spotlight on him in such a personal way. He diplomatically dodged my question, saying something about how he was just focused on doing the best job possible as U.S. Attorney. This was very proper of him, even if a bit boring.

My question to him, posed back in 2007, was just a hypothetical. But now it has turned actual: What is Pat Fitzgerald going to do next?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Patrick Fitzgerald Steps Down As U.S. Attorney”

Judge Jerry Smith

Above the Law readers weren’t particularly fond of Judge Jerry E. Smith’s “homework assignment” for the U.S. Department of Justice. In a reader poll, about two-thirds of you expressed disapproval of the Fifth Circuit ordering the DOJ to submit a three-page letter discussing judicial review. (The order came in the wake of, and in apparent response to, unfortunate comments on the subject by President Obama.)

But let’s say that you’re among the one-third of readers who view Judge Smith as courageous for calling out a former Con Law professor for making misleading statements about judicial review (statements that, in fairness to the president, he subsequently clarified). Let’s say that you’d like nothing better than to clerk on the Fifth Circuit for Judge Smith.

Well, aspiring law clerks to Judge Smith, there’s something you should know….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Want to Clerk for the Judge Who Took on Obama?”

Remember the homework assignment issued by Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit to the U.S. Department of Justice? Earlier this week, Judge Smith ordered the DOJ to file a three-page, single-spaced letter discussing the principles of judicial review, in light of prior comments by President Barack Obama that could be construed as questioning the doctrine.

The response was due today at noon (Houston time) — about 20 minutes ago. It was filed on behalf of the Department by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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'I'm so glad the Justice Department respects judicial review!'

The nation recently received a lesson in constitutional law from President Barack Obama (who famously taught Con Law at the University of Chicago). As we mentioned yesterday, President Obama said on Monday that striking down the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would constitute an “unprecedented, extraordinary step,” amounting to “judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

The problem with this lesson: it wasn’t exactly accurate. Those “unelected” federal judges “overturn … duly constituted and passed law[s]” all the time — well, maybe not all the time, but on occasion, when said laws are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It’s neither “unprecedented” nor “extraordinary,” and it doesn’t amount to judicial activism; rather, it’s called judicial review.

One prominent conservative jurist, Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit, took it upon himself to set the record straight on this matter….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap of the Day: Fifth Circuit Orders DOJ To Write ‘We Respect Judicial Review’ in Three-Page Letter”

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