Mafia

Julia Papazian Law

Last May, a 26-year-old paralegal by the name of Julia Papazian Law was found dead in the bathtub of her boss and boyfriend, prominent Philadelphia defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr. The news set tongues wagging in Philly. It had all the elements of a tabloid tale: a beautiful young woman, a wealthy and successful lawyer, and possible organized-crime connections. (Peruto has represented such prominent alleged Mob figures as Joey Merlino and Nicodemo Scarfo.)

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams convened a grand jury to investigate Julia Law’s death. This decision did not sit well with Charles Peruto, who claimed that it placed him under a cloud of suspicion that harmed his reputation and his legal practice.

With the grand jury probe concluded, District Attorney Williams made an announcement about its findings. What did he have to say?

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Elite law firms and the Mafia would appear to be worlds apart. Biglaw firms represent all sorts of unsavory characters, but these clients tend to steal using computers rather than cudgels. When you wear white shoes, you don’t want to get them splattered with blood.

But there are commonalities. Both Biglaw and Big Crime are large and lucrative enterprises. They’re intensely hierarchical and often ruthless.

There are cultural similarities as well. As noted in these pages by lawyer turned therapist Will Meyerhofer, “Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid ‘ugliness.’” Instead, there’s a lot of indirection and passive-aggressiveness.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a leading defense lawyer to Mob figures has joined “the family” — the Biglaw family, that is….

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Julia Papazian Law

We’ve got some sad news today out of Philadelphia, where Julia Law, a young paralegal, was found dead in her employer’s bathtub. That may seem odd, but as it turns out, Law had been dating her boss, well-known defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr., for a month or two, and she had a key to his condo.

Law was supposed to be celebrating her 27th birthday today, but instead, we’re awaiting her autopsy results. Law was reportedly texting with coworkers until 1 a.m. on the day of her death, lamenting the lack of “scented bubble bath” at Peruto’s home. That was apparently enough to invoke police suspicion.

At this time, the cause of Law’s death is unknown, but some observers wonder if the beautiful young woman may have been murdered….

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Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.)

It’s hard out here for authors of judicial memoirs who are not named Sonia Sotomayor. Just ask Judge Frederic Block (E.D.N.Y.), a federal trial judge in Brooklyn since 1994 and the author of an appealing new book, Disrobed: An Inside Look at the Life and Work of a Federal Trial Judge (affiliate link). In Disrobed, Judge Block describes his surprising rise from small-town Long Island lawyer to Article III aristocracy, where he has presided over cases involving the Crown Heights riots, Kitty Genovese, mob boss Peter Gotti, and other headline-making subjects.

The book has received several favorable notices. Writing in the New York Times, Sam Roberts described Disrobed as an “engaging” book that provides “a rare look behind decision-making on the federal bench.” Over at Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield called the memoir a “well-written,” “easy and quick read,” by a “quite well-regarded” judge. I’ve read the book myself, and I concur with Roberts and Greenfield.

But even though the book has sold well, exceeding the expectations of its publisher, Thomson Reuters, Disrobed hasn’t attained the bestselling status of Justice Sotomayor’s My Beloved World (affiliate link). And this makes Judge Block a little sad, as he confessed to me when I recently visited him in chambers.

Especially because Judge Block came painfully close to what would have been a big, big break….

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Dewey & LeBoeuf's sign at 1301 Avenue of the Americas. (Photo by David Lat. Feel free to use.)

Let’s take a step back from the hurly-burly of day-to-day, hour-by-hour coverage of Dewey & LeBoeuf, the once-powerful law firm that could soon find itself in bankruptcy or dissolution. We will return to bringing you the latest Dewey news in tomorrow’s Morning Docket. (Of course, as you may have noticed, we added many updates to Tuesday night’s story; refresh that post for the newest developments.)

Let’s take a step back, and ask ourselves: Who is to blame for this sad state of affairs? And what lessons can be learned from the Dewey debacle?

Multiple UPDATES, including a short bio of Stephen DiCarmine, after the jump.

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Edward Hayes (on The Charlie Rose Show)

What draws people to the practice of law? Some do it for the paycheck, some do it for the prestige, and some do it for the excitement and fun of it all.

Veteran New York litigator Edward Hayes belongs firmly in the final camp. Although he has amassed fame and fortune over almost four decades of practicing law, his legal career reflects a quest for adventure.

And what adventures Hayes has had. After graduating from the University of Virginia and Columbia Law School, he joined the Bronx District Attorney’s office, where he prosecuted homicides (which there was no shortage of in the Bronx in the 1970s). He then launched his own practice, handling civil and criminal matters for such clients as the estate of Andy Warhol, notorious “Mafia cop” Stephen Caracappa, acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind, actor Robert De Niro, celebrity editrices Anna Wintour and Tina Brown, billionaire publisher Si Newhouse, and then-paramours Sean Combs and Jennifer Lopez (after they were arrested together back in 1999).

Eddie Hayes has even found his way into literature. He served as the basis for Tommy Killian, Sherman McCoy’s defense lawyer in Tom Wolfe’s great novel, Bonfire of the Vanities. Wolfe dedicated the book to Hayes, a close friend of his for many years.

This past summer, I enjoyed the privilege of spending a day with Ed Hayes. We met up at Penn Station and took the train out to his vacation home in Bellport, Long Island, where we enjoyed a leisurely lunch, dining outdoors and overlooking the water. (There are Lawyerly Lairs-style photos of his house, after the jump.)

During our time together, Hayes reminisced about his extraordinary life in the law, offered career advice for fellow lawyers, and showed me how to properly prepare a caprese salad….

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The Penthouse Club is no Bada Bing.

* The legal sector lost 1,300 jobs in September. And because that’s not depressing enough, lawyers now have to compete for jobs with computers. Guess it’s time to learn binary. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week kicked off yesterday in West Virginia. Too bad this campaign isn’t in Michigan, where a woman is suing over a misleading movie trailer. [Washington Post]

* Think you had it rough on the bar exam? Try being in active labor during the MBE. Our congratulations go out to Elana Nightingale Dawson for passing the Illinois bar! [Daily Herald]

* What’s the point of being in witness protection when you’re getting sued over dueling nudie bars in Texas? You may be the real life Tony, but you’re disrespecting the Bing. [New York Post]

* Pants on the ground / Pants on the ground / Lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground. A judge in New York finally took General Larry Platt’s words of wisdom to heart. [Daily Mail]