Prosecutors

It must be tough to leave an apartment like this one, with great views of Central Park, to go work in a drab federal office building.

Being a federal prosecutor is an amazing legal job, but it doesn’t pay particularly well. When I worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I earned well under six figures. An assistant U.S. attorney can break the $100,000 mark after a sufficient number of years in practice, but AUSAs generally don’t earn Biglaw money.

(People who work as special AUSAs on secondment from better-paying parts of the federal government, such as Main Justice or the SEC, earn significantly more than regular AUSAs on the “AD” — Administratively Determined, aka Awfully Depressing — pay scale. But even these SAUSAs, not to be confused with the completely unpaid SAUSAs, make less than they would in comparable private practice positions.)

This brings us to the question du jour: how can a federal prosecutor afford to live in an apartment that is worth more than twice as much as the most expensive lawyer home in Washington, D.C.? We’re talking about a $25 million apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, in one of Fifth Avenue’s finest prewar buildings, with amazing views of Central Park.

Come up with some guesses, then keep reading….

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If you’ve ever wandered over to Backpage.com and spent a few minutes reviewing the classified ads there, you probably realized that you had just discovered the seedy underbelly of the internet. Rife with ads for adult services — which is arguably just an elegant way of saying prostitution — the website, owned by Village Voice Media, has come under fire for its association with human trafficking.

Leave it to the company’s general counsel, Elizabeth McDougall, to take a stand for these scandalous online ads. After all, it’s great business! Backpage reportedly has a 70% market share for prostitution ads in the United States, generating millions in revenue.

This week, McDougall is taking additional heat from state attorneys general for her statements in an off-color op-ed column published in the Seattle Times. What could she have said that was so controversial?

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Yesterday brought some big news out of Chicago. Renowned federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — who successfully prosecuted such figures as Governor George Ryan, Governor Rod Blagojevich, White House adviser Scooter Libby, and media mogul Conrad Black — announced that he will be stepping down as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Fitzgerald’s resignation will take effect on June 30.

I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Fitzgerald in October 2007, when he spoke at our alma mater, Regis High School (which he graduated from before going on to Amherst College and Harvard Law School). During the question-and-answer session for his talk, I alluded to his celebrity status and asked him: “What’s next for Patrick Fitzgerald?” I tossed out several possibilities, such as running for political office or working as a male model (in light of his 2005 designation by People magazine as one of the sexiest men alive).

The straight-laced, self-effacing Fitzgerald — who spent his entire talk discussing cases, saying practically nothing about himself — seemed slightly uncomfortable at having the spotlight on him in such a personal way. He diplomatically dodged my question, saying something about how he was just focused on doing the best job possible as U.S. Attorney. This was very proper of him, even if a bit boring.

My question to him, posed back in 2007, was just a hypothetical. But now it has turned actual: What is Pat Fitzgerald going to do next?

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Of course HRH - 'Her Royal Hillaryness' - made the list.

Earlier this week, Time magazine released its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, the Time 100. For lawyers, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

The good news: lawyers represent over 10 percent of the Time 100. The bad news: many of the law-degree-holding honorees were not recognized for their work as lawyers.

So which legal eagles soared into the Time 100 this year?

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Judge Jessica Recksiedler

* Judge Jessica Recksiedler has disqualified herself from overseeing George Zimmerman’s murder trial. Stepping up to fill in as ringmaster for this media circus is Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. [Washington Post]

* Oh joy, new fee hikes associated with law school! Administrations of the LSAT are going down, down, down, so of course the price to take the test no one wants to take anymore is going up, up, up. [National Law Journal]

* Trying to win at all costs has its consequences. Just ask the New Orleans prosecutors who are now facing bar complaints for allegedly railroading defendants into harsh convictions. [Slate Magazine]

* Hopefully this lawsuit’s descriptions of the rotten chicken that was allegedly served to customers are enough to make you never eat at Kentucky Fried Salmonella again. [Huffington Post]

* “Housekeeping, you want me jerk you off?” Ex-MLB player and housekeeper aficionado Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to 270 days in jail after a conviction for lewd conduct and assault. [Bloomberg]

* Instead of gold, everything Charlie Sheen touches turns into a lawsuit. The producer for his FX comeback series, “Anger Management,” has been sued by another show producer for $50M. [New York Daily News]

* G’day, mates! This just in: if you’re on a business trip down under, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation for any sexual injuries that may occur “during the course of employment.” [Daily Telegraph]

He’s going to try the case in court, not in the press, and I admire that.

Jeff Ashton, speaking about Mark O’Mara, who is defending George Zimmerman against murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. For his part, Ashton is no stranger to the spotlight. The former Florida Assistant State Attorney was the prosecutor in charge of the Casey Anthony case.

People always ask the Above the Law editors, “What kinds of people leave such horrible comments on your website?” And we always say, “Regular people, the ones you work with or socialize with.”

Most internet commenters are regular people who, under the Invisibility Cloak of cyberspace, feel free to say whatever disgusting/ridiculous/illogical thing that pops into their heads.

Lest anyone think the phenomenon is unique to our website, please think again. For better or worse, trolling is an inevitable part of online media. Most of the time, it’s best to just ignore it. Once a while, however, anonymous online commenting may signify something larger and more pernicious.

Case in point: our inbox was flooded over the weekend with the emerging scandal of a prosecommenter (yeah, you read that right) in New Orleans. This is what happens when a federal prosecutor takes his case to the interwebs instead of the court. Bad times…

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Judge Carlos Bea

Judge Carlos Bea is one of my favorite members of the Ninth Circuit. He’s refreshingly conservative, on a famously (or infamously) liberal court. He has a fascinating personal history; how many federal judges can claim they were almost deported? He has an ancestral home — some call it a castle — in Spain, which he sometimes makes available to vacationing law clerks. And he tools about town in a vintage Rolls-Royce (which, rumor has it, he received as payment for legal work before he took the bench).

Well, it looks like one assistant U.S. attorney has some expensive tire marks on his back. Check out the epic benchslap that Judge Bea just dished out — not just to the poor prosecutor, but to the United States Department of Justice….

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Despite the media echo chamber saying that the economy is improving, it’s obviously still tough to find work. Especially for lawyers. Everyone says you’re supposed to have a can-do attitude, but we sometimes prefer to think about all the things that you can’t do as an attorney.

Included in that list is getting a paying job at the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ has had a hiring freeze in place for a year now. We’ve heard reports of some thawing — i.e., selected parts of the DOJ receiving authorization to fill a handful of priority positions — but, for the most part, there are hardly any paying lawyer jobs to be had in that division of government.

Instead, U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country have been posting unpaid Special Assistant United States Attorney positions for some time now. We covered them last May. My colleague (and former assistant U.S. attorney) David Lat defended the SAUSA gigs somewhat, arguing that the nonpaying jobs might not be as bad as they seem. It’s fun, exciting work, and it provides valuable experience and serious professional credibility.

There is a crucial, ominous difference between then and now, though. Previous SAUSA jobs were generally aimed at entry-level or fairly junior attorneys. Now we’ve got a recent opening that’s asking for more.…

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Judge Matz

[T]his Court is compelled to find that the Government team allowed a key FBI agent to testify untruthfully before the grand jury, inserted material falsehoods into affidavits submitted to magistrate judges in support of applications for search warrants and seizure warrants, improperly reviewed e-mail communications between one Defendant and her lawyer, recklessly failed to comply with its discovery obligations, posed questions to certain witnesses in violation of the Court’s rulings, engaged in questionable behavior during closing argument and even made misrepresentations to the Court.

– Judge A. Howard Matz of the Central District of California, benchslapping federal prosecutors — and vacating the convictions, and dismissing the indictment — in a high-profile Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prosecution. (Gavel bang: Daniel Fisher.)

(Additional links and information about this case — if you do FCPA or white-collar criminal work, this may be of interest to you — after the jump.)

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