Politics

Fear not, Republicans!

The terror you experienced when Senator Harry Reid crafted his clumsily constructed nuclear solution to the logjam over judicial nominations can marginally subside. Brave Americans like Senator Marco *pauses… takes sip of water* Rubio have managed to single-handedly stand up for your right to not allow a qualified black, gay guy to preside over federal trials.

Huzzah! Just what the Framers never intended. Well, actually keeping blacks and gays off the bench is probably exactly what the Framers intended, but I mean they never intended a Senator to be unilaterally blocking judicial nominees. Enjoy one more arcane senatorial rule that has no basis in the Constitution, but nonetheless hamstrings our nation….

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* Downton Abbey has inspired a new bill making its way through the House of Lords, who apparently watched the show and figured out for the first time that women get screwed by the law of entail. Now if they can just pass a law that would keep Bates out of prison in the first place. [The Atlantic]

* Ben Adlin reminisces about the era when the Supreme Court actually cared about oral arguments. [Summary Judgments]

* An interesting infographic on where Superlawyers went to school. Finally a ranking where NYU can top Yale. [Online Paralegal Programs]

* Another installment of classic ads ruined by lawyers. [Vice]

* Fifth Circuit judges aren’t the only ones to tell their colleagues to shut up; here’s some fun news from the Philippines. [Manila Times]

* French cities have banned performances of a comedian with a history of racking up hate speech fines. I mean, since when has anti-Semitism been a problem in Europe? [Al Jazeera]

* If you think conservative arguments against the Affordable Care Act are dumb, check out liberal columnists arguing that Obama screwed up by not pushing for single-payer. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

Jeh Johnson

Last year was a pretty great one for partners of Paul Weiss. And we’re not talking just about profits per partner, although we expect they’ll be robust once again.

In June, Roberta Kaplan scored a big win in the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. Representing Edie Windsor, a widow who got hit with hefty taxes when her wife passed away, Kaplan got section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down. Just yesterday, we declared Robbie Kaplan our 2013 Lawyer of the Year.

But she wasn’t the only PW partner who had an exciting 2013. In December, Jeh Johnson left the firm to become our nation’s fourth Secretary of Homeland Security.

On the morning of December 19, Johnson sent around a wonderful departure memo, which we’d like to share with you now….

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Our ten nominees for 2013 Lawyer of the Year honors were a distinguished and diverse group. They included a Supreme Court justice, a U.S. Attorney, a governor, a law school dean, and some of Biglaw’s brightest stars. They also included a plaintiffs’ lawyer accused of awful acts, a shameless self-promoter fond of letting it all hang out, and a young attorney with a problematic sideline. We cover it all here at Above the Law.

Our prior winners have come from the savory rather than salacious side of the ledger. Here are ATL’s past Lawyers of the Year:

For 2013, who will join their distinguished ranks? Let’s find out….

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In too many ways, 2013 was a year that vindicated the long-standing paranoia of many Americans, particularly the more conservative. A bewildering number of stories littered the news that seemed to confirm exactly the sort of gross government overreach that previously sounded like a delusion of someone whose eyes were scanning the skies for black helicopters. In spring 2013, for example, we learned that the IRS had been targeting the 501(c)(3) applications of conservative and libertarian organizations, apparently based solely on their political and philosophical affiliations. Nothing in 2013, though, fanned the flames of political paranoia quite like revelations of the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.

In Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, decided in February, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed Amnesty International’s constitutional challenge to a portion of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. In its 5-4 opinion, the Court found that Amnesty lacked Article III standing, in part because the plaintiffs could not show that they had necessarily been targeted for surveillance. When Edward Snowden later disclosed details of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, civil libertarians experienced something of a Pyrrhic victory. Standing would not be a problem in many future lawsuits because the revelation of PRISM established that millions of Americans had been subject to some NSA spying. The only question was whether that surveillance amounted to a violation of the law.

As we leave 2013 and 2014 dawns, some new developments have emerged . . . .

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The year is quickly drawing to a close, but we have unfinished business to conduct here at Above the Law. We still have to crown our Lawyer of the Year for 2013.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for nominations, in the comments or via email. We’ve narrowed down the nominees to a field of ten. As in past years, the contenders run the gamut from distinguished to despicable.

And the nominees are…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Contest: The Finalists!”

The media has toppled a barrel of digital ink on the issue of Justice Ginsburg’s insistence on retaining her seat on the Supreme Court. Above the Law has even mentioned it once or twice or thrice. Like any other conventional wisdom story emanating from inside the Beltway, someone raised the issue, Justice Ginsburg said “no,” and then scores of pages were written explaining how she was wrong. And now, as that’s played itself out, scores of pages are going to be written taking the stance that maybe Justice Ginsburg… isn’t wrong?

Well, she is wrong, and bucking the trend of conventional wisdom makes for fun thought experiments, but isn’t as helpful when it comes to discrete, short-term decision-making. The thinking is all too clever by half and should be heaved onto the bonfire of civil liberties Scalia has cooking in his mind….

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The Michigan Legislature recently passed the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act” into law. Under the new law, women and employers must buy an optional insurance rider for abortion coverage. Abortions will only be covered without a rider if the mother’s life is in medical danger. The law also specifically allows for the treatment of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.

Detractors referred to the bill as requiring “rape insurance.” Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D – East Lansing) said, “This tells women that were raped and became pregnant that they should have thought ahead and planned for it.”

If there were such a thing as rape insurance, I surely would buy it. What woman (or likely future prison inmate) wouldn’t? No, this is abortion insurance, not rape insurance.

What the opponents of the new Michigan law seem to conveniently overlook when choosing their inflammatory and misleading rhetoric: (1) Abortion does not fully, meaningfully address the harms of rape. (2) Rape does not necessarily, or even usually, involve abortion. (3) Foreseeing an individual need for abortion insurance does not require extraordinary foresight. But let’s look a little more closely at what’s going on in Michigan . . . .

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Retiring to a stately manor in the countryside and spending your remaining days drinking scotch and smoking cigars. A quaint life away from it all, secluded from the hustle and bustle of all those people in the big city. That sounds like a lovely retirement plan. Or the ambition of an Austen protagonist. In any event, one young lawyer out there wants this retirement to become his reality, and he’s taken to the Internet seeking donations to fund his early retirement. He’s only seeking $5 million. That’s some expensive scotch.

If you want to help out this lawyer with a small donation, I guess there’s just one more tidbit of pertinent information you should know:

He has kinda run a designated hate group before….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer Seeks Handouts To Help Him Retire. There’s Just One Teensy Thing From His Past You Might Want To Know.”

“What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection . . . But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.”

Katz v. United States

“’But who wants to be watched all the time?’

‘I do. I want to be seen. I want proof I existed [ . . . ] Most people do. Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know — they’d trade it all to know they’ve been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know we die. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.”

The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The Circle (affiliate link), the latest novel by Dave Eggers, is a work of speculative fiction centering on a hypothetical technology company called the Circle. Eggers sets the story on a glossy, mythical Silicon-Valley internet campus that unapologetically resembles some famous not-so-mythical ones. At the start of the tale, the Circle has recently overtaken Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Its TruYou technology has created unified accounts for its users’ online presences, linking all social media profiles and bank information, tying it to users’ actual offline identities. TruYou is a convenience, a means of better connecting online, but it also changes the tenor of Internet conversation. Since TruYou eliminates pseudonyms and anonymous activity, it also restores real-life accountability to online comments and interactions. People are nicer. Shopping is easier. Communicating is quicker. People send “zings.” They respond with “smiles” or “frowns.” The reader need not decode much in order to recognize this world….

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