Prosecutors

Last week I attended an interesting talk by Preet Bharara, currently serving as the U.S. Attorney for the (extremely powerful and prestigious) Southern District of New York. I had heard great things about Bharara from many people, including current and former colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s office and people who previously worked with him on Capitol Hill, where he served as chief counsel to Senator Chuck Schumer. So I was eager to hear his remarks, which he delivered to the New York Financial Writers Association, a group of business and finance journalists here in New York.

Here’s my report on what he had to say — including, for those of you who aspire to be assistant U.S. attorneys, what he expects from the prosecutors who work for him….

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Another summer, another reason to never go to Brooklyn.

Yes, my friends, the bedbugs are back in the King’s County District Attorney’s Office. Last summer, bedbugs invaded the KCDA’s office — and emails started flying around from concerned employees on the verge of having anxiety attacks.

You’d think that given all the coverage and stress, the city would have spent the winter figuring out some way of protecting public employees that have to work in Brooklyn.

But maybe there’s just no cure for bedbugs….

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Being a federal prosecutor, an assistant United States attorney (AUSA), is a great legal job. The work is interesting and challenging, you’re serving the public, and you’re paid decently — maybe not Biglaw bucks, but reasonably well when compared to many state government or public interest positions. And if you want to earn more money later, perhaps as your kids approach college age, you can walk through the revolving door into the world of private practice, which values AUSA experience.

I worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in my home state of New Jersey from 2003 to 2006 (under then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie). My colleagues enjoyed their work. I remember that when I interviewed for my position, I met one AUSA who told me, “I love my job so much, I’d do it for free!”

Well… would you? Because that’s what some U.S. attorney’s offices are offering: the opportunity to work there, for no pay, with a minimum commitment as to time period.

And apparently lawyers are lining up for the opportunity….

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Andrew Shirvell (far right) and Chris Armstrong

Here’s a quick update on a past Lawsuit of the Day. Last month, Chris Armstrong, the openly gay ex-president of the University of Michigan student body, sued Andrew Shirvell, the former Michigan assistant attorney general and outspoken opponent of homosexuality. As you may recall, Shirvell criticized Armstrong in a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch, making allegations that according to Armstrong were false, and Shirvell also followed Armstrong around Ann Arbor. So Armstrong sued Shirvell for stalking, invasion of privacy, and defamation (among other claims).

Now Andrew Shirvell is firing back. Last week, Shirvell, proceeding pro se [FN1], moved to dismiss Chris Armstrong’s lawsuit.

Not surprisingly, Shirvell claimed in his motion to be a victim: “Plaintiff’s course of conduct was politically motivated and intended to make an example out of Defendant in order to deter others from criticizing Plaintiff’s homosexual activist agenda.” More specifically, Shirvell argued that certain counts of the Armstrong complaint fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted, that Shirvell’s criticism of Armstrong was protected by the First Amendment, and that Shirvell never had direct contact with Armstrong (e.g., by email or by phone).

In addition, Shirvell lodged some counterclaims against Armstrong. What is the basis for Shirvell suing Armstrong?

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Don't sucker punch David Prater.

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater: you, sir, are poised to receive the coveted “everybody now knows you’re a bad ass” award. Expect your phone call from Badass-in-Chief President Obama shortly.

The story from the Oklahoman (gavel bang: ABA Journal) starts off in scary fashion. A defendant, Emanuel “E Man” Mitchell, took a swing at prosecutor Prater, after the jury found E-Man guilty of felony murder. Prater never saw the punch coming.

But that wasn’t the end of the fight….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Sucker-Punched D.A. Puts Criminal In The Hospital”

Former Michigan prosecutor Andrew Shirvell might be gone from the Michigan attorney general’s office, but he has not been forgotten. Shirvell, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, has just been hit with a lawsuit — by Chris Armstrong, the ex-president of the University of Michigan student body.

Armstrong is suing Shirvell in Michigan state court for stalking, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and abuse of process. His lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and injunctive relief (to enjoin Shirvell from, well, being such a creep).

As you may recall, Shirvell seemed obsessed with the young, beauteous, and openly gay Armstrong, devoting an entire blog to criticism of Armstrong and following Armstrong around, day and night. As explained by Armstrong’s lawyer, Deborah Gordon, Shirvell demonstrated a “bizarre personal obsession” with Armstrong, reflected in numerous blog and Facebook postings in which Shirvell asserted that Armstrong was advancing a “radical homosexual agenda.” [FN1]

Let’s take a closer look at the complaint….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: Chris Armstrong v. Andrew Shirvell”

Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the colorful figure of Shanetta Cutlar. She was a high-powered Department of Justice lawyer who was known for her high-handed treatment of DOJ subordinates and colleagues.

(Read the blockquote in this post to get a sense of her antics, or read this juicy letter to former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, in which ex-Cutlar underling Ty Clevenger describes the “atmosphere of fear and paranoia” created by Shanetta.)

We haven’t covered Shanetta Cutlar since March 2010, when she stepped down from her post as chief of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”). After she left SPL, she took a post in the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Office of Justice Programs (“OJP”). This move was interpreted by some DOJ insiders as a form of exile for the controversial Cutlar.

We haven’t heard anything about her since her move to OJP — until now….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shanetta Cutlar, Back in the News”

On what basis can one be confident that law schools acquaint students with prosecutors’ unique obligation under Brady? Whittaker told the jury he did not recall covering Brady in his criminal procedure class in law school. Dubelier’s alma mater, like most other law faculties, does not make criminal procedure a required course. [FN21]

[FN21] See Tulane University Law School, Curriculum, http://www.law.tulane.edu (select “Academics”; select “Curriculum”) (as visited Mar. 21, 2011, and in Clerk of Court’s case file).

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting, in Connick v. Thompson (via Josh Blackman, who provides additional context and excerpts from the opinions; there’s also discussion of the case at Gawker).

* I hate crappy customer service as much as the next guy; I just hope UCLA law students from “third world s**tholes” aren’t offended. [Professor Bainbridge]

* Forgive my ignorance, but I don’t see why the right has a problem with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. They know you don’t catch “the gay” from working with gays. I mean, I’m still as straight as an arrow. [Bilerico]

* A very thorough Wal-Mart v. Dukes linkwrap — big enough to be discounted at Wal-Mart. [How Appealing]

* As long as we’re thinking of giving prosecutors bonuses, let’s also grant them the right of prima nocta over the wives of any men they convict. The latter idea is just as stupid as the former. [Overlawyered]

* While law students suffer in unemployment and tuition continues to spiral upwards, law professors have decided to draw a line in the sand over tenure. In related news, 18 law professors have been hospitalized after attempting to wedge their heads up their own asses. [TaxProf Blog]

* Law school valedictorians are so socially awkward that they need this advice. [Law Riot]

* What lessons can we learn from the demise of Howrey? [Law 360 (via Hellerman Baretz)]

* Who are the top plaintiffs firms in securities class-action litigation, ranked by 2010 total settlement value? [RiskMetrics / SCAS via WSJ Law Blog]

* Protip: if you go to a meeting at Deutsche Bank’s New York offices, avoid the men’s room. [Dealbreaker]

* This lawyer has an assistant with an unusual name. [Abuse of Discretion]

* We were impressed by the University of Chicago Law School’s new loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) — and we’re not alone. [The Belly of the Beast]

* Dov Charney’s latest accuser, Kimbra Lo, has an interesting past. Yes, there are pics. [Fashionista]

* You know the whole “anti-bullying” trend has gone too far when plaintiffs’ firms are setting up practice areas for it. [Constitutional Daily]

* Career alternatives for attorneys: meet Akila McConnell, traveler and writer. [Thrillable Hours / Legal Nomads]

* Is the “mommy track” a form of gender bias? [Lawyerist]

* Are prosecutors working on commission in one Colorado district? [ABA Journal]

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