Legal Ethics

Judge Frank Easterbrook

Let’s play a game of circuit-court word association.

D.C. Circuit? Prestigious.

Ninth Circuit? Wacky.

Sixth Circuit? Vicious.

Seventh Circuit? Benchslappy.

If you question this assessment, please consider the latest benchslaps emanating from 219 South Dearborn Street….

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could just hang out in the venire assembly room and observe all the potential jurors? You could make note of conversations they have, what they’re wearing, books they’re reading, and generally get a head start on the opposition when it comes to evaluating preemptive strikes. If your firm hired a jury consultant, they could get a jump on working out the psychological profiles of the potential jurors.

That’s probably why courts don’t let lawyers hang out in the venire room.

But that didn’t stop one partner from sending his associate on a fact-finding mission against the court’s express rules. And now the whole Biglaw defense team faces a motion from a cranky adversary….

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* The Woody Allen-Mia Farrow custody findings were pretty damning. But for legal geeks, the important point is footnote 1, where the opinion shouts out then-clerk, now federal judge Analisa Torres for her role in drafting the opinion. [Huffington Post]

* Um… you shouldn’t do that with a sea anemone. [Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals]

* Judge Stanwood Duval presided over the criminal trial of a BP engineer arising from the BP oil spill. He forgot to mention that he was a plaintiff in a suit against BP arising from the BP oil spill. Oops.[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

* Maybe Harvard needs some new tax lawyers. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Apparently, the Brits aren’t too thorough with their background checks. A lawyer got exposed for lying about having two Harvard degrees. It only took bar authorities 9 years to figure it out. [Legal Cheek]

* Elie weighs in on the McGruff the crime dog story from last week. [ATL Redline]

* And part of the problem with the background check may start at the law school stage — the U.K. doesn’t consider criminal convictions for fraud in the U.S. as “relevant” for future practitioners of law. One tipster wonders if Stephen Glass should try his luck outside America? [New York Times]

* UNLV Professor Nancy Rapoport offers some mixed thoughts on the Santa Clara professor’s “Local Rules.” [Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot]

* Mathew Martoma’s conviction probably doesn’t mean all that much. Except to him, of course. For him it means some quality time in federal prison. [Dealbreaker]

Judge Ito? Have some of my burrito!

None of what happened in this unusual case would ever have occurred if this law clerk had done his job of minding the jury with proper care, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy downtown diner.

F. Anthony Lubkin, an attorney who was jailed for contempt of court for five days after saying the words “guilty,” “not guilty,” and “innocent” in the presence of an impaneled jury in a murder case he was not associated with. The Michigan Court of Appeals later vacated the contempt order.

Note: This is not using proper, Catalyst-branded rolling papers.

* A lawyer who sold 2200 pounds of marijuana can’t practice in Minnesota any more. That’s a metric tonne, by the way. Jeez, now I sound like Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]

* If you can use Craigslist to commit crime, you can use it to solve crime. Awesome. Now, if you can use Craigslist to spark a race to the bottom in legal wages, can you use it to reverse that trend. No. [Legal Juice]

* And if you think it’s tough for young lawyers to find a job here, then was a U.K. firm really asking prospective lawyers to invest money in the firm in exchange for a job? [Legal Cheek]

* McGruff the Crime Dog wanted to take a bite out of crime… with a grenade launcher. [CBS Houston]

* How to keep yourself productive. I’m very intrigued by this browser add-on she mentions… [Corporette]

* This may come as a shock, but Glenn Greenwald is troubled by the Obama administration’s legal justification for killing American citizens overseas via drone. [The Guardian]

* The Careerist’s Vivia Chen interviewed David during LegalTech. You can watch it at this link. [Law Technology News]

* Did you see The Daily Show take on a recent trend in election law? Professor Rick Hasen did. And the video is embedded below… [Election Law Blog]

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‘So it’s decided – we’ll be Cravath, Swaine, Moore, & Doritos.’

All those professional responsibility lectures, and bar prep, and boring CLEs that I attended after becoming a lawyer, and all the boring CLEs I dutifully watched on the Internet after I escaped the probationary period, consistently preached the evils of non-lawyer ownership of law firms.

It raises ethical concerns! It dilutes what it means to be a lawyer! This is a profession, not a business! All the usual complaints from a profession convinced that it’s made up of beautiful and unique snowflakes with unimpeachable judgment.

But with the rest of the world embracing new structures to permit non-lawyer ownership — and empirical evidence suggesting that those models raise fewer ethical concerns than the alternative — some argue that the U.S. firm model stifles innovation and cripples international competitiveness.

But the better question is, “Don’t non-lawyers own law firms already?” And to the extent the answer is “of course,” shouldn’t the profession be bending over backwards to approve ownership models that better serve the firms and their clients than the status quo?

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Not what the image of lawyers that the California Supreme Court wants to support.

A former journalist turned law school graduate went to the state of California and asked to be admitted to the practice of law.

California said no.

The problem was his practice of “making up stories” for a few years while working at The New Republic.

A well-documented history of lying is not a great testament to the moral fitness of a prospective lawyer, but does this particular transgression really justify denying Stephen Glass’s application?

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Kudos to this guy.

Not only did he rack up a hefty $300,000 sanctions bill for tactics that enraged multiple courts over the years and then fail to pay up, but he also solicited clients with a video vowing to never pay the sanctions against him. In the circles he rolled in, standing up to the government was a big deal.

When a federal district judge came calling for the $80,000 chunk of sanctions this lawyer owed, he cried poverty with a straight face.

Unfortunately, his efforts to shield his million dollar income and profligate spending didn’t hold up…

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Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr.

Judicial misconduct comes from all across the ideological spectrum. Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, who reportedly spewed out racist emails like an ATM dispensing twenties, was an anti-Obama conservative. Meanwhile, Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr., whose ethical troubles we alluded to yesterday, was a prominent progressive on the Sixth Circuit.

Judge Martin was appointed to the court in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and wrote major opinions attacking the death penalty and defending affirmative action. He also penned fun opinions that included references to The Simpsons and Austin Powers.

Alas, this liberal lion has roared his last. Did an investigation into possible judicial misconduct help drive Judge Martin from the bench?

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How many racist emails does it take to brand someone a racist? My personal rule is “one.” If you send one horribly racist email that actually manages to leak out into public discourse, it’s probably not your only one. Seeing a racist email from someone is like seeing a mouse in your apartment: there’s never just one. I believe in temporary insanity, but I don’t believe in sudden onset racism that magically appears once and only once and then disappears forever.

Of course, whenever anybody gets caught in a racist email scandal, they always say that it’s the only one. It’s always “Whoops, that email was racist, but I’m not racist.” The racist email is always allegedly “out of character,” and the person always claims to have shown “poor judgment.” And that person always has some apologists, as if sending one or two racist emails is just something that “happens” in the normal course of business to non-racist people.

That’s what Judge Richard Cebull claimed. In 2012, he was busted sending around a racist email about President Obama. He claimed that he didn’t mean to be “racist” — he just meant to voice his displeasure with the president (as if it wasn’t bad enough for the judge to be taking public opinions about the sitting president).

Some people bought the Cebulls**t. Not me. And Cebull eventually retired. But the investigation into his misconduct continued, and now that investigation has been made public.

Surprise, Richard Cebull sent a ton of racist, sexist, and otherwise inappropriate emails….

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