NSA

As Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

It’s a familiar enough idea. You see it in both Macbeth and the genesis story of just about every Marvel supervillan. It’s true, I think, not just of people but also of institutions. Like governments.

Just about every time I go to federal court for a sentencing hearing — where it seems the AUSA is fighting for each additional month in prison like it will take a point off his mortgage — I think about this quote from Nietzsche:

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Edward Snowden returned to the news this week when NBC aired an hour-long interview with him, the first on American TV. Anchor Brian Williams met with Snowden in a Moscow hotel. The 30-year-old former computer systems administrator described his motives for releasing an unprecedented payload of classified information about NSA surveillance.

Snowden is vexing. As a person, he seems a mix of likeable and unlikeable traits. He appears earnest, convinced of the rectitude of his choices even if, as he told NBC, “Sometimes, to do the right thing you have to break the law.” Yet he bristles at Obama Administration characterizations of him as a low-level employee, a high-school dropout. (For example, the president told reporters last year, “No, I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”) Even if Snowden is right to resist the connotations of those labels, listening to him defend himself in the interview can be painful. He insists he was “trained as a spy” who lived under an assumed identity and was a powerful operator. He sounds like a young man with a bruised ego. The last thing one wants to have to worry about in a situation of this great national and international importance, though, is one young man’s ego.

Snowden’s case is more important and more vexing. NSA’s surveillance programs are deeply troubling….

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Glenn Greenwald

I have lawyers who are extremely well-connected at the Justice Department who usually can, with one phone call, get [Attorney General Eric] Holder on the phone. And they actually have gotten the people they wanted to get on the phone. And those people have been very unusually unforthcoming about what their thinking is or what’s happening, even to the extent of not being willing to tell them whether there’s already an indictment filed under seal or whether there’s a grand jury investigation…. [T]hey clearly want me to linger in this state of uncertainty.

– Lawyer turned journalist Glenn Greenwald, famous for his reporting on NSA surveillance, discussing with GQ the legal limbo he finds himself in.

(What Greenwald thinks about Hillary Clinton — hint: he’s not a fan — after the jump.)

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‘We’re not Case Western Law.’

* Justice Antonin Scalia isn’t quite ready to publicly weigh in on whether computer data is considered a protected “effect” under the Fourth Amendment. “[T]hat may well come up [before the Supreme Court],” he says. Thanks NSA. [Business Insider]

* “[I]t doesn’t take many bad apples in a barrel to cause a stink.” No matter how hard Biglaw firms try to keep their confidential information locked down, someone’s going trade on it. It looks like STB is learning that the hard way. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* The day after Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by Judge Bernard Friedman, couples who rushed to marry were met with some serious Sixth Circuit sadness. Way to stay and spoil all of the celebrations, judges. [New York Times]

* “We’re not the Cleveland Browns,” says one of Case Western Law’s interim co-deans. With that kind of a glowing endorsement, we don’t see how this law school could possibly fail. [Crain's Cleveland Business]

* Rutgers Law-Newark has a new low-bono fellowship program “believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.” Some other law schools might have a bone to pick about that statement. [New Jersey Star-Ledger]


* We’re getting closer to being able to unlock our phones legally. Soon you can accidentally brick an iPhone without fear of reprisal. [The Guardian]

* The Wall Street Journal thinks law student résumés are nearly identical (?) and recommends cultivating “quirky interests” like serving as a college mascot. Because national law firms just feel safer with Furries on staff. [The Legal Watchdog]

* A judge who already faces overlapping ethics proceedings is about to add a couple more to his plate. This time the allegations include sleeping with a law student, not disclosing when she appeared before him, and “misappropriating” marijuana evidence. He doesn’t seem to get that the whole “What happens in Vegas” thing only works if you’re not living there. [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* Someone tries to fight Larry Lessig on copyright. They lose. [IT-Lex]

* An applicant withdraws his application to a law school because they do not allow gay or lesbian wedding ceremonies on campus. While that’s a noble decision, did he really think a Catholic school was going to be having gay and lesbian weddings? [The Ivy Coach]

* Professors Chris Sprigman and Barry Friedman employed a cool tool called ReplyAll to have a public discussion about the NSA. [Just Security]

* Redeployment (affiliate link) is a new collection of stories by Phil Klay focusing on the transition of Iraq veterans to stateside living. One story focuses on a Marine going to law school. Apparently he wanted to trade one brand of PTSD for another. [New York Times]

* Wow, it looks like San Diego has a real problem policing its police. [Voice of San Diego]

* If you’re in the Boston area next week, check out Disruptive Innovation in the Market for Legal Services, a cool symposium on March 6. [Harvard Law]

George Zimmerman, Esquire?

* Mayer Brown issued a response in the wake of its NSA scandal, saying there’s “no indication” spying happened “at the firm.” Spying “of the firm” is another question, but don’t worry, clients, your information is totally secure. [Chicago Tribune]

* “He is almost treating the clients as chattel.” Lateraling may have just gotten harder, because a judge in the Howrey case expects you to kiss your book of business goodbye as soon as you ditch your firm. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Law school applications have plummeted, but some schools are really struggling. Which had the largest drops in enrollment? Take a wild guess. We’ll have more on this later today. [National Jurist]

* You can’t just sit back and relax after you’ve sent off your law school applications. You need to gun your way to enrollment and be as appropriately annoying as possible. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* George Zimmerman, who says God is “the only judge that [he] has to answer to,” hopes that he’ll eventually become a lawyer. We imagine that kind of an attitude will earn him a sanction or two. [CNN]

Ed. note: Due to the Presidents’ Day holiday, we will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will still be publishing, but less frequently than usual. We will be back in full force tomorrow.

* With a perfect record for equality post-Windsor and four appellate courts soon set to rule, it looks like the Supreme Court will get a second bite at the gay marriage apple by 2015. [National Law Journal]

* Per Am Law, Mayer Brown just posted its highest profits ever. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the NSA’s thunder from down under, the Australian Signals Directorate, was spying on it. [New York Times]

* For Asian American women, Biglaw’s “bamboo ceiling” may be just as tough to crack as its glass ceiling. What’s that? Find out by reading Helen Wan’s book, The Partner Track (affiliate link). [Washington Post]

* Haller Jackson, the law clerk accused of attempted aggravated rape of a minor, has been in and out of court. His defense team filed a motion to suppress a purported confession. MOAR info, plz! [Slabbed]

* Controversy alert: Michael Dunn was convicted of four out of five charges, including three counts of attempted murder, in Florida’s “loud music” trial, but the jury was hung on the murder charge. Lame. [CNN]

It’s time for the State of the Union again, which means it’s time to gather around the TV and thoughtfully discuss the future of the country play a sophomoric game based on the events that we expect to unfold over the course of the evening.

Remember to follow your Above the Law editors covering the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog@DavidLat@ElieNYC@StaciZaretsky, and @JosephPatrice.

Now, on to the game….

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Got a pedigree problem?

* The Supreme Court isn’t sure how to address restitution in this child pornography case, but the justices agreed that they didn’t like the “50 percent fudge factor” offered by a government attorney. [New York Times]

* No, stupid, you can’t strike a juror just because he’s gay. By expanding juror protections to sexual orientation, the Ninth Circuit recently added a new notch on the gay rights bedpost. Progress! [Los Angeles Times]

* The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board says the NSA’s domestic surveillance program is illegal and should be stopped. Sorry, Edward Snowden beat you to the punch on that one. [New York Times]

* While Blank Rome was busy denying a possible merger with Nixon Peabody, it picked up 21 attorneys from two small firms in California to open a San Francisco office. Sneaky. [Philadelphia Business Journal]

* Dennis T. O’Riordan, the ex-Paul Hastings partner who faked his credentials, was disbarred — not in New York, where he claimed he was admitted, but across the pond in the United Kingdom. [Am Law Daily]

* The ABA Journal wants to know if your law firm considers law school pedigree during its hiring process. Please consider the law schools your firm shuts out from OCI, and respond accordingly. [ABA Journal]

* Word on the street is UALR School of Law is trying to push an affirmative action program that’s “likely unconstitutional.” It might also be insulting to prospective minority students, so there’s that. [Daily Caller]

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