Recusals

Several years back, the Washington Post uncovered multiple instances of federal judges committing basic ethical breaches related to ruling on cases despite holding significant financial stakes in one party. It was an embarrassing black eye for the federal judiciary and the legal system altogether. It forced the bench to develop a comprehensive financial reporting system and an automated computer check to avoid any further ethical lapses. Sounded reasonable at the time.

Well, it turns out the computer system doesn’t work.

Or at least it doesn’t work as well as anyone would have hoped. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) just released a report this morning reflecting their efforts to manually review a sampling of federal court decisions and cross-check those with financial disclosure forms. The report found multiple lapses. The most egregious involved a judge with as much as $100,000 in Johnson & Johnson when he ruled in their favor on an appeal regarding a malfunctioning implant.

But by and large the legal world’s responses to these findings vary from tone-deaf to downright hypocritical….

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Would you believe a state supreme court justice received a $50,000 trip to Italy from a lawyer who routinely appears before the court representing major clients?

Oh, it happened. And it could be happening a lot more often than you’d think because most states make it exceedingly difficult to discover. Every now and again someone will do important work pointing out that electing judges in an era of unfettered campaign contributions poses a significant risk to judicial integrity, and everyone will cluck their tongues, stroke their beards and wonder, “What’s to be done with this state court system?” A new study goes further and looks at the financial wheelings and dealings — and the lack of oversight they receive — of judges outside of election season.

How does your state court system fare?

Spoiler alert: Badly…

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Lana Landis: Give her all your money.

* It’s Alito time, bitch! If you were wondering about any of the cases in which the justice recused himself last year, his latest financial disclosure report is quite telling. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Yet another appellate court has ruled that Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional. Alright, we get it, just wait for the Supreme Court to rule. [TPM LiveWire]

* Hey baby, nice package: With stock awards soaring, general counsel at some of the world’s largest companies had a great year in 2012 in terms of compensation. [Corporate Counsel]

* NYU professors want Martin Lipton of Wachtell Lipton to swallow a poison pill and step down from the school’s board of trustees over his ties to the University’s unpopular president. [Am Law Daily]

* Now that they’ve stopped acting like the doll they were arguing about in court, MGA has put aside its differences with Orrick to amicably settle a fee dispute in the Bratz case. [National Law Journal]

* Who needs to go on a post-bar vacation when you can take a vacation while you’re studying for the bar? This is apparently a trend right now among recent law school graduates. Lucky! [New York Times]

* A man puts assets into his pin-up wife’s name on advice of counsel, she files for divorce, and the firm allegedly takes her as a client. This obviously happened in Florida. [Daily Business Review (sub. req.)]

* David Schubert, the deputy DA who prosecuted Paris Hilton and Bruno Mars, RIP. [Las Vegas Sun]

Judge Lynn N. Hughes

Being a federal judge is like being a professional boxer: you have to know when it’s time to hang up the robe. (Yes, pare, I’m talking to you, Congressman Pacquiao.)

How does a federal judge know when it’s time to retire (not just senior status, but complete and total retirement)? Well, how about when he starts making bizarre, offensive, and racially charged comments — on the record?

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Judge Lorna Schofield (S.D.N.Y.) looks like my mom. Is she as divalicious? Let’s hope!

* How much could going over the fiscal cliff cost midlevel to senior associates whose bonuses get paid in January? Here’s an estimate. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Congratulations to the newest member of the S.D.N.Y. bench: former Debevoise partner Lorna Schofield, the first person of Filipino descent to be confirmed as an Article III judge. [AABANY]

* Judges in my home state of New Jersey are always so fair-minded. Here’s a great recusal motion, directed at Judge Carol Higbee in the New Jersey Accutane mass tort case. [Reed Smith via Drug and Device Law.]

* Make sure you don’t murder any babies before signing up to meet Nancy Grace. [Charity Buzz]

* Check out Advisable, an innovative new service for helping lawyers connect with clients; it’s free and easy to join. [Advisable (description); Advisable (application form)]

* If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer (affiliate link) for a young lawyer in your life, look no further; Dan Hull has a great recommendation. [What About Clients?]

If you’re interested in Judaism, Supreme Court clerks, or both, there’s a video for you after the jump….

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The ‘very, very pretty’ Cristina Fierro.

* Covington, Skadden, and Proskauer really like representing professional sports leagues: from 2010 to 2011, the NHL paid a combined total of $8.8M to all three, and Covington received $16.3M from the NFL over the last three years. [Am Law Daily]

* The Department of Justice sued Bank of America yesterday for doing the “hustle.” No, not the popular disco disco dance, but rather, a supposed elaborate scheme to defraud the government out of billions of dollars. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Rajat Gupta was sentenced to a whole two years behind bars for insider trading, but my colleague Elie Mystal thinks that the more appropriate punishment would’ve been to force him to reenact the seminal 80s film, Trading Places. [HuffPost Live]

* Unfortunately, Siri wasn’t able to be helpful with this one. A federal judge had to recuse himself in a patent case involving the Siri voice assistant app because of his “interest” in Apple (likely stock ownership). [CNET]

* Was Wednesday the day of departing deans? NYU’s Richard Revesz said farewell, and so did Sydney Beckman of Duncan Law, but the latter flat out quit amid accreditation uncertainty. [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* “We’ll fight another day. This is not over.” While a jury found that Teresa Wagner’s First Amendment rights weren’t violated by the University of Iowa College of Law, the judge declared a mistrial on her equal protection claim against the school. [Huffington Post]

* Somebody really should’ve told Lawrence Taylor that when testifying in an underage sex trafficking case, it’s probably not a good idea to mention that your accuser was “very, very pretty” and “very sexy.” [Associated Press]

Each spring, our fine country is besieged by little girls on a mission to sell the most cookies or else risk being the embarrassment of their troop. Of course, I’m talking about the Girl Scouts of the USA, a program that indoctrinates young women to “be prepared” for adulthood by earning patches in first aid, sportsmanship, and other important life skills, like cooking and makeup application. (Yes, seriously.)

Anyway, Girl Scout cookies used to be pimped by door-to-door sales when mothers still allowed their children to walk around unattended (except for where I grew up in Hillsdale, NJ, the town where Joan’s Law originated). These days, parents tend to do all the work for their kids, and force their coworkers to buy box upon box of delicious cookies.

Now, it’s very rare that one wouldn’t succumb to the pressure to buy a box of Girl Scout cookies — seriously, have you ever eaten a Thin Mint? — but you can’t convince everyone to be a customer, and not everyone will care that they might be crushing a little girl’s hopes and dreams of earning a cookie patch. In extreme cases, not even a judge can allegedly foist these cookies upon an unwilling customer….

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Bullseye!

The last time we wrote about a partner from Cozen O’Connor, he ended up with a “huge [bleep]hole” after sending a string of allegedly abusive emails to opposing counsel. Today, we’ve got another Cozen partner whose tale of woe with the New York court system may be liable for giving a New York judge a “huge [bleep]hole” of his own.

John McDonough, the Cozen partner in question, has accused Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack of some pretty untoward actions, and has filed papers to get the judge to recuse himself from a $100 million civil case against Duane Reade.

But what could have been so offensive that it would warrant calls for a judge’s recusal? Apparently McDonough isn’t a fan of being referred to as a “piece of sh*t”….

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