Legal Ethics

Paul Bergrin (via Getty Images)

I have to give Paul Bergrin some credit. This former federal prosecutor, accused of drug dealing, pimping, and murder, has been remarkably successful at eluding conviction for his crimes.

Bergrin was first arrested back in 2009. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey, where Bergrin once worked before becoming a defense lawyer, brought him to trial. That trial, which took place in 2011, ended with a hung jury. Some time was taken up with appellate machinations (in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office prevailed).

A new trial, before a different district judge, got underway this January. And today justice finally caught up with the man that New York magazine famously dubbed “the baddest lawyer in the history of Jersey”….

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It’s not really fair to use the moniker “Judge of the Day” for Judge Wade McCree. With his third appearance in a “Judge of the Day” feature, he’s crossing into Judge of the Decade status.

After sending a compromising picture to a married bailiff and allegedly hooking up with and impregnating a litigant in his courtroom, the state of Michigan has filed a formal complaint against McCree. What’s wrong with Michigan, by the way?

The 21-count complaint includes a number of new allegations against McCree….

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The job market sure is rough right now, but the blow job market is an entirely different playing field. If you really want to be counted as one of those employed nine months after graduation, you’ve got to to put up or shut up — or in this case, put out or get out.

It seems that Scott Steiner, a California judge and adjunct law professor at Chapman University School of Law, allegedly decided to trade sex for job placement opportunities. The woman whom he allegedly entered into an affair with eventually landed a position with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the place where he used to work. Steiner used to work in the DA’s Gang Unit, but given the allegations here, the good judge may as well have worked in the Gang Bang Unit.

Oh, and we should probably mention that this woman may have been a law student….

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* Mary Jo White isn’t the only Debevoise partner who will face high scrutiny while being vetted for the SEC. Andrew Ceresney may be up for co-chief of enforcement. [DealBook / New York Times]

* The Crowell & Moring ethics complaint alleging the firm suggested Appalachians have family circles instead of family trees was chalked up to an “inbreeding memo mishap.” [Am Law Daily]

* A panel of the Appellate Division, Second Department will hold court at St. John’s School of Law next month. Perhaps the students will be a little less embarrassed happier with the school now. [New York Law Journal]

* Patrick Fitzgerald, ex-U.S. attorney and current Skadden partner, will teach a course in national security law at Chicago Law School. Attend his class, lest his “extraordinary brilliance” go to waste. [National Law Journal]

* Looks like somebody forgot about Dre. The rapper’s headphones company, Beats By Dr. Dre, is now going after people for trying to register anything with “beat” or “beats” as trademarks. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Ross Ehlinger, a litigator who died while competing in the Alcatraz triathlon, RIP. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Stroking the gavel of justice?

Don’t come knocking if the jury room is rockin’.

– An instant message that was allegedly sent by Judge Eugenio Mathis to his wife, a court employee, prior to his resignation from the bench.

(The New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission notes that the good judge allegedly engaged in “communications of a sexual nature” with his wife during court proceedings, “including intimations that he had or would be having sexual relations with her during the workday and/or on court premises.” Mathis continues to deny those claims.)

Kevin Ring in happier times.

Full disclosure: Former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, whose criminal conviction was recently upheld by the D.C. Circuit, is a friend of mine.  We grew up in the same town and have known one another for decades. In no way is what follows unbiased or objective in any sense.  That said, I know that I’m right and the case against Kevin Ring was simply, unambiguously wrong.  Not to say that there was no ambiguity as to whether he broke a law — there was a tiny bit of that. But under no sane system of justice would Kevin be going to federal prison. Though he almost certainly is, pending a request for en banc rehearing from the D.C. Circuit followed by a Hail Mary filing for a writ of certiorari.

We can all stipulate that Jack Abramoff is one of the sleaziest and most repellent characters to besmirch the legal profession in decades.  (My favorite Abramoff moment: the time he tried convince his rabbi to bestow upon him  a fake, back-datedScholar of Talmudic Studies” award, so he could get in the Cosmos Club.)

Anyway, Abramoff was Kevin’s boss for three and a half years, during the final period of which they were both partners at Greenberg Traurig.  In the words of the judge at his sentencing hearing, Kevin was a “cog” in the Abramoff operation, a “second-tier level” administrator of the firm’s lobbying team.  I won’t try to spin Kevin’s time as a lobbyist as some honorable endeavor.  I couldn’t. Generally speaking, lobbyists are regarded by most of us as only slightly less distasteful than the politicians whose favor they are trying to curry.  But that does not make them criminals….

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Let me regale you with two recent examples of lawyers disclosing client confidences. There’s a lesson tucked into each.

First: An acquaintance sent me the résumé of, and asked me to speak to, a young lawyer. The idea was to give some general career advice, rather than necessarily to hire the person.

I’m a pushover, so I agreed to have a cup of coffee with the relatively new lawyer. Over coffee, he (or she, but I’ll use the masculine) explained that what he liked least about the job he’d just left (which was identified on his résumé) was being asked to do unethical things. My curiosity piqued, I asked for an example. He explained that he’d been asked to draft a contract that committed his employer to violating the law as part of the contractual relationship. (Think along the lines of, “We will ship the illegal weapons to you in New York.”) My young acquaintance said that he’d gone to the general counsel, who had instructed him to draft whatever contract the business wanted. The earnest young lawyer had solved the ethical problem by drafting a contract that, when read carefully, would prohibit the illegal conduct. (Think: “Under no circumstance will any weapons of any type be shipped pursuant to this contract.”)

I’m afraid I won’t be recommending this person for any jobs. . . .

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Some say that models and bottles should be included in a lawyer’s employment benefits package, but failing that, VIP treatment at the local strip club comes in a close second. You just have to make sure you’re getting these perks on the down low, or else you might find yourself in the unemployment line.

That said, if you’re interested in potentially having to fish dollar bills out of your g-string as an alternative career due to your sudden joblessness, then perhaps you should consult with Ari Pregen, an assistant state attorney from Florida. Well, actually, that was his job before he got fired.

You see, when you walk into a strip club and expect to be treated like a king just because you’re a lawyer, you’re going to get yourself into some trouble when your superiors find out about it….

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‘They stole [accreditation] from us. Sneaky little ABA. Wicked, tricksy, false!’ — FAMU Law

Ed. note: Due to the Presidents’ Day holiday, we will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full swing tomorrow. We hope you enjoy your day off (or feel free to lament your lack thereof in the comments).

* “[T]hey don’t want to hear nothing.” Vedel Browne, the man accused of robbing Stephen Breyer at machete-point while the justice was vacationing in his home in the Caribbean, now claims that he’s innocent, mon. [St. Kitts-Nevis Observer]

* You know what, the farmer in the Super Bowl commercial probably didn’t have to deal with bullsh*t like Monsanto’s seed patents, but today’s farmers do, and they’ll argue their case before the Supreme Court this week. [New York Times]

* “I’m a betting man. And I would bet and give odds that Sullivan & Cromwell has never said that publicly.” Who dares question S&C’s stance in the hot mess that is Herbalife? None other than Carl Icahn. [Am Law Daily]

* Here’s an important Biglaw math lesson that’s been provided to us via California-based firms like Irell & Manella, Munger Tolles, and Orrick: a little revenue minus a lot of partners equals profitability. [Recorder]

* Amid a flurry of filings on Valentine’s Day, love must’ve been a battlefield for the embattled Dewey & LeBoeuf refugees who were in desperate search of their once promised 2011 bonuses. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* From the department of things that suck: having to defend your office’s alleged “underhanded tactics” in a $150 million wrongful conviction case while you’re trying to get re-elected as district attorney. [New York Times]

* We got bitches in the office lawyerin’ on, and they ain’t leavin’ till six in the mornin’ — unless they want to be fired. An ex-Travers Smith trainee claims she was canned for leaving the firm “early”… at 6:30 a.m. [Telegraph]

* If it weren’t for Cosmo, this woman wouldn’t have known her landlord was an alleged creeper. A Maryland lawyer now faces criminal charges for allegedly filming his female tenants in the nude. [Washington Post]

* “We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious!” The ABA officially put Florida A&M on notice that its law school accreditation may be in jeopardy if they don’t shape up in terms of bar passage. [Orlando Sentinel]

* What do you do the second you step off a cruise ship that’s been described as “a floating toilet, a floating petri dish, a floating hell”? You grab the very first lawyers you see, and sue! [Nation Now / Los Angeles Times]

Another busted barrister: Archie Leach (John Cleese).

People can argue about whether or not Indians — of the South Asian variety, not the Native American variety — are or are not “Caucasian.” I take no position on that issue, having been burned before (see the comments to this post).

I will say this, though: in my opinion, South Asians share in common with East Asians the ability to pass for much younger than they really are. (It’s generally a blessing, although not always; in a discussion at the recent Penn APALSA conference, some panelists talked about how looking young can complicate dealing with clients and opposing counsel.)

So how much younger can South Asians claim to be? One India-born lawyer, who graduated from a top 14 law school, finds herself in litigation for allegedly lying about her age — amongst many, many other things.

And the whole thing smells worse than Ghazipur landfill….

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