The best law school professors have practical experience that allows them to draw from personal memory to bring a lesson to life for students. One professor who often lectures students on their ethical obligations can now draw from her own experience to tell students about what happens when lawyers lie to federal judges to help clients perpetrate a fraud.
The irony is scrumptious.
You’d think that getting busted for lying to a judge and benchslapped silly would doom a law professor, but that’s premature. She’ll probably lose her job for failing as a professor first….
Lawyer jokes notwithstanding, most lawyers are ethical, honorable, and competent. That’s why we tend to focus on attorney misbehavior in these pages; it’s more newsworthy. If a lawyer complies with the law or serves a client well, that’s not exactly “news”; it’s what lawyers are supposed to do, and what most lawyers do most of the time.
Alas, sometimes lawyers fall short of our profession’s high standards. Today we look at allegations of a high-ranking government lawyer abusing the perks of his office, a tax lawyer engaging in tax fraud, and a real estate lawyer who has people real mad — after taking $4 million from them.
Which of these attorneys deserves to be our Lawyer of the Day? We’ll describe their alleged misdeeds, outline the reasons for and against Lawyer of the Day honors, then let you vote for the winner….
Yesterday, Judge Laura Taylor Swain issued a curious evidentiary decision. In the fraud trial of several aides to Bernie Madoff, the judge ruled that prosecutors will have to Photoshop out a decoration from pictures of Madoff’s office. Lawyers for Daniel Bonventre argued that photos of the decoration, a four-foot statue of a screw, would be unduly prejudicial.
A Ponzi scheme operator flaunting a statue of a giant screw sounds a lot more probative than prejudicial, actually.
In any event, the art is not coming into evidence and is coming out of any pictures of the office. There may not have been a good reason to introduce the piece into evidence, but introducing Photoshop to the legal process creates a whole new wrinkle in the fabric of the “reality” put in front of juries….
You can call notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff many things, but thankfully you can’t call him a lawyer. Although he has gotten to know the law quite well over the years, thanks to his journey through the legal system, Bernie Madoff has no formal legal training law degree.
[UPDATE (6:40 p.m.): As noted in the comments, Madoff briefly attended Brooklyn Law School.]
But Bernie Madoff’s brother, Peter Madoff, is an attorney. Peter graduated from Fordham Law School in 1970 and is a member in good standing of the New York bar, next scheduled to register in October 2014.
Query why Peter Madoff hasn’t been disbarred. In June 2012, he pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges related to his service as “chief compliance officer” of Madoff Securities. In December 2012, he received a sentence of ten years in prison.
Now that Peter Madoff’s in the Big House — FCI Estill, according to the handy BOP Inmate Locator — let’s have a look at the big house he leaves behind. The federal government is trying to sell it for a sizable sum, almost $4.5 million….
* Seven out of nine sitting Supreme Court justices were silent when it came to the passing of Robert Bork. Justice Antonin Scalia, of course, issued a public statement, as did liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (surprise!). [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* No one ever really doubted that it would take an army of Biglaw lawyers from the likes of Sullivan & Cromwell, Shearman & Sterling, and Wachtel Lipton to handle a monumental deal like the proposed $8.2 billion NYSE/ICE merger. [Am Law Daily]
* Can you coach with Nick Saban and be a Miller Canfield partner at the same time? No. But you can sue (and win!) when the firm allegedly forces you out due to its “culture of fear and intimidation.” [Detroit Free Press]
* Peter Madoff was sentenced to ten years in prison for his role in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but the judge will probably let him go to his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah before shipping him to the pokey. [Bloomberg]
* Merry Christmas, now go f**k yourself. A federal judge has given a woman in Louisiana free rein to display holiday lights on her roof in the form of an extended middle finger. God bless America. [CBS 3 Springfield]
* “As a lawyer, this is very sad for me.” Al Togut, the prominent attorney pulling all of the strings behind the curtain of the Dewey & LeBoeuf bankruptcy filings, wishes that there was some way that the firm could’ve been saved. [Am Law Daily]
* Guys at my law school used to break into the registrar’s office to steal transcript paper all the time; it was no big deal. No really, as far as sentencing goes, apparently doing such a thing isn’t that big of a deal in Virginia. [Daily Progress]
* That’s some nice lipstick you’ve got there, pig: Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law is still trying to get ABA accreditation by changing everything it can, including its lax admissions standards. [Knoxville News Sentinel]
* Even though Peter Madoff’s supporters showered the court with with letters filled with compliments ahead of his sentencing, the Ponzi victims aren’t exactly showing him the same kind of love. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* This law firm in Texas is trying to make getting divorced a more pleasurable experience, so they invented something called the “Divorce Resort” — because there’s nothing like a four-star train wreck. [Huffington Post]
Ed. note: This new column is about sports and the law. You can read the introductory installment here.
Last night, I was having trouble coming up with something to say in this space that begins the post. I think it’s called an introduction. I called up the only woman who doesn’t screen my calls and asked for her help.
Mama Juggs: Are you in trouble? Juggs: No, mom. Christ, why would you ask me that? No, I’m finding it difficult to think up a story only tenuously related to sports that I can open my column with. MJ: I don’t understand a word of what you just said. J: My column, mom. On Above The Law. You said you’ve been reading it? MJ: *silence* J: Whatever. Mom, can you think of a sports-related story that’s mildly funny and has little-to-no point? MJ: Do you remember how your father used to shoot free throws? God, you’d stand out there for hours rebounding for him. How many did he make in a row? J: Something over 100. I don’t remember. Mom, that’s not a ripping yarn, you’d have to agree. MJ: You were too young to remember this, but the way his teams ran defense at Lucky High. Oh God, it was poetry. Every motion had an order, but it was so fluid and graceful. It was intuitive, y’know? Your father was so proud of those boys. J: This isn’t going anywhere, is it? MJ: The team that took second at state was great, but it was actually the team after that that your father always claimed was the best he coached. I can still see him walking out onto the court with the boutonnière and he looked so impressive. Just striding onto that court with all the confidence in the world. I’ll have to see if I can find a picture. I know I have one around here. He looked so handsome, your dad did. J: Didn’t he get kicked out of a lot of games for arguing with refs?
* Joe Amendola has filed a motion to dismiss the child sex abuse charges against his client, Jerry Sandusky. And if he actually thinks that’s going to happen, then he definitely needs to call 1-800-REALITY. [Associated Press]
* @AllenStanford’s motion for a #newtrial has been denied. The Ponzi schemer’s “conviction by journo tweet” argument has failed. Major props to Judge David Hittner for issuing a ruling in less than 140 characters. [Bloomberg]
* Everyone’s obsessed with the U.S. News law school rankings, but here’s a ranking that people should actually be paying attention to: the law schools that lead to the most debt. [The Short List / U.S. News and World Report]
* St. John’s Law is planning to launch two new LL.M. programs, neither of which is in tax. This is newsworthy because people will apply anyway, and then bitch about the “value” of their degree. [National Law Journal]
* John Payton, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, RIP. [NAACP LDF]
* Here’s a reason why Proskauer Rose and Chadbourne & Parke might skip out on spring bonuses this year: millions of dollars worth of blowback from Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
* And speaking of spring bonuses, a lot of people noticed that Sullivan & Cromwell seems to have misled associates. “Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t.” Yeah, right. [Am Law Daily]
* Next up in the war on women: a senator from Idaho thinks that women are such strumpets that they might be lying their way into abortions by claiming rape. Because that’s not incredibly insensitive. [Washington Post]
* Apparently George Zimmerman, the man accused of fatally shooting a boy armed with a pack of Skittles, wanted to become a police officer. Looks like it’s time to kiss that dream goodbye. [Los Angeles Times]
* Give me your lunch money, kid! Teachers aren’t supposed to be bullying students, but that’s what one Baltimore mother is alleging in a $200K lawsuit against the city’s school board. [New York Daily News]
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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