Prosecutors

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a blood pressure raising article about hundreds of District Attorneys offices that allow debt collectors to use their stationery to chase down folks who write bad checks.

Why does anyone give a damn about prosecutors who help businesses to bully people into ponying up cash under threat of prosecution, before a lawyer ever looks over the case? Well, for starters, the DAs get a little somethin’-somethin’ from the deal, too….

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Ideally, prosecutors can afford a bed instead of just a park bench.

Did you hear the one about prosecutors going on strike? No? Me either, until now. A county DA’s office in the San Francisco suburbs announced this week they are considering striking to protest new, unpopular labor contract.

As David Lat said when I told him about the story, “Wow, that’s wild.” The idea of prosecutors going on strike struck Lat as comparable to the prospect of police officers going on strike.

Why exactly does the prosecutor’s office feel like a walkout might be justified? Maybe being “the most understaffed, overworked prosecutorial unit in the Bay Area” has something to do with it…

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Why do so many people who might want to harm someone else love to post about it online ahead of time? Not only is it a dumb strategic move — it alerts others to your allegedly nefarious plans, so a potential victim can escape the situation — it also makes it infinitely easier for law enforcement to, like, arrest and prosecute you.

We’ve heard this in various forms before, in regards to a possible mall shooting and laptop thief. But you would think a former prosecutor would know better than to allegedly threaten, via Facebook, to give his boss a whuppin’…

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Judge Martini could probably use a drink right now.

Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit delivered two stinging benchslaps of Judge William J. Martini (D.N.J.). The benchslaps were delivered in two different cases by two separate three-judge panels, but both opinions vacated rulings by Judge Martini and also directed that the cases be reassigned to new judges on remand.

Ouch. As noted by the Newark Star-Ledger, “[i]t amounted to an extremely rare and harsh rebuke of a well-known federal judge who once served in Congress.” (Before he was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2002, Bill Martini served a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives; he ran for re-election but was defeated.)

What did Judge Martini allegedly do to incur the wrath of the Third Circuit? And what did the opinions have to say about His Honor?

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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.

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