S.D.N.Y.

By now you’ve probably heard about Duffey v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp (S.D.N.Y.). The plaintiff, actor Todd Duffey, played Brian, aka the “Flair Guy” — the Chotchkie’s waiter adorned with a plethora of “flair,” or colorful, cheesy buttons — in the 1999 cult-classic movie “Office Space.” Duffey sued Twentieth Century Fox and Library Publications, alleging that the defendants improperly used his image to market a spinoff product, the Office Space Box of Flair (affiliate link).

Duffey lost. The fun, stylishly written opinion rejecting his claims has gotten lots of coverage, in outlets ranging from Quartz to Consumerist to Gawker.

But these non-legal outlets didn’t delve into the citations — where it appears that Judge J. Paul Oetken (or his clerks) buried some sly, movie-related jokes….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Judicial Opinion With Lots Of Flair”

There are so many interesting parts of the Dewey criminal charges, it’s hard to count them all.

For starters, there are the emails laid out by the SEC in its complaint, such as:

  • “I don’t see how we’ll get past the auditors another year.”
  • “I assume you [k]new this but just in case. Can you find another clueless auditor for next year?”
  • “I don’t know anything about [the contracts] and I don’t want to cook the books anymore. We need to stop doing that.”
  • “I don’t know. He’s starting to wig a little. Maybe he’s hearing and seeing too much . . . .”

Sadly for people and happily for prosecutors, regrettable emails are simply a fact of modern electronic life. Still, “I don’t want to cook the books anymore” has to be pretty high on the list of things that one is likely to regret putting in an email.

(These emails, and more, are collected in the Bloomberg piece by Matt Levine wonderfully titled “Law Firm Accountants Were Bad at Accounting, Law.”)

But, probably more interesting than these regrettable emails is what the Dewey prosecution can tell us about white-collar prosecutions in New York more generally….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dewey Know Why The D.A., And Not The U.S.A.O., Is Going After Folks From This Former Firm?”

For those of you who haven’t tuned out Jarndyce v. Jarndyce Chevron Corp. v. Donziger, the never-ending litigation between oil giant Chevron and plaintiffs’ lawyer Steven Donziger, today brings some news. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who have been following the case, but Judge Lewis Kaplan (S.D.N.Y.) just ruled in favor of Chevron, enjoining Donziger and his Ecuadorean-villager clients from trying to enforce here in the United States the multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment they secured against Chevron in Ecuador — a judgment that was the result of fraud, according to Judge Kaplan. (Links to coverage and to the parties’ reactions to the ruling appear at the end of this post.)

The Chevron/Ecuador case is one of those matters that’s most interesting to those who are actually involved in it; to the rest of us, it’s a lot of noise. Speaking for myself, I’m interested in only two aspects of it: (1) its impact on the revenue and profit of Gibson Dunn, which has been litigating the case aggressively on behalf of Chevron, and (2) its meaning for the deeply troubled law firm of Patton Boggs, which made the ill-advised decision to align itself with the Ecuadorean village people.

In a media call this afternoon that I joined, Chevron’s general counsel, R. Hewitt Pate, declined to discuss the size of the company’s legal fees in the litigation. So we’ll have to focus on that second item: the bog that is Patton Boggs. Which right now looks like the Lago Agrio oil field, prior to remediation….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Patton Boggs Down In The Dumps, Hires Financial Advisers”

* The Woody Allen-Mia Farrow custody findings were pretty damning. But for legal geeks, the important point is footnote 1, where the opinion shouts out then-clerk, now federal judge Analisa Torres for her role in drafting the opinion. [Huffington Post]

* Um… you shouldn’t do that with a sea anemone. [Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals]

* Judge Stanwood Duval presided over the criminal trial of a BP engineer arising from the BP oil spill. He forgot to mention that he was a plaintiff in a suit against BP arising from the BP oil spill. Oops.[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

* Maybe Harvard needs some new tax lawyers. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Apparently, the Brits aren’t too thorough with their background checks. A lawyer got exposed for lying about having two Harvard degrees. It only took bar authorities 9 years to figure it out. [Legal Cheek]

* Elie weighs in on the McGruff the crime dog story from last week. [ATL Redline]

* And part of the problem with the background check may start at the law school stage — the U.K. doesn’t consider criminal convictions for fraud in the U.S. as “relevant” for future practitioners of law. One tipster wonders if Stephen Glass should try his luck outside America? [New York Times]

* UNLV Professor Nancy Rapoport offers some mixed thoughts on the Santa Clara professor’s “Local Rules.” [Nancy Rapoport's Blogspot]

* Mathew Martoma’s conviction probably doesn’t mean all that much. Except to him, of course. For him it means some quality time in federal prison. [Dealbreaker]

Mathew Martoma

This afternoon, here in Manhattan, a jury found former SAC Capital portfolio manager Mathew Martoma guilty of insider trading. The verdict wasn’t a shock, given the strong evidence against Martoma and the fact that another former SAC trader, Michael Steinberg, got convicted in December on weaker evidence.

The trial involved a number of boldface names of the legal profession. The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (S.D.N.Y.), one of our 2013 Lawyer of the Year nominees, was represented by assistant U.S. attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown, one of the office’s most prominent prosecutors (and a star of the college debate circuit, for those of you who used to do debate). Martoma was defended by a team from Goodwin Procter that included Richard Strassberg, an S.D.N.Y. alumnus, and Roberto Braceras, another former federal prosecutor — and the son-in-law of Judge José Cabranes. The prosecution’s lead witness, Dr. Sidney Gilman, was represented by Bracewell & Giuliani’s Marc L. Mukasey — son of former S.D.N.Y. judge and U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

And some of our readers might know Mathew Martoma. He was a student at Harvard Law School back in the 90s, before he got expelled for fabricating his transcript while applying for clerkships.

Here are some notable numbers relating to the Mathew Martoma mess:

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Mathew Martoma Case, By The Numbers”

It’s Harvard Law School’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.

1999: ARLO DEVLIN-BROWN writes that you never know where you’ll run into a classmate. He is prosecuting MATHEW MARTOMA (née Ajai Mathew Thomas) on insider trading charges in Lower Manhattan. Devlin-Brown has asked U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe (unfortunately Penn ’79, Columbia ’82) for permission to talk about Matt’s expulsion from Harvard for doctoring his transcript, so get ready for fireworks! The trial is expected to last several weeks, so for anyone who missed WILLIAM PULLMAN and Lisa Frank’s (Yale ’03, NYU Law ’08, NYU Stern ’08) Christmas Eve nuptials, it would be a great opportunity for a mini-reunion!

That is Bess Levin’s imagined entry for the next edition of Harvard Law School alumni news, offered over at our sister site Dealbreaker. It’s based on a New York Times piece marveling at the many HLS folks involved in this major insider trading trial (which also include Martoma’s lawyer, Richard Strassberg of Goodwin Procter, and Lorin Reisner, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office).

A takeaway from the Martoma matter: HLS students are the best! At forgery and fraud, that is.

Years before he allegedly cheated on Wall Street, Mathew Martoma, then known as “Ajai Mathew Thomas,” cheated at Harvard Law School by fabricating his transcript when applying for clerkships. It was a sophisticated effort that fooled multiple jurists. Which D.C. Circuit judges came thisclose to hiring him as a law clerk?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Harvard Law Students Are The Best — At Making Up Fake Transcripts”

Chief Judge Loretta Preska

Black people are not N—, even if they call themselves [that]… on occasion. It is not a term of endearment.

– Muhammad Ibn Bashir, the lawyer for Bronx Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, in the latter’s public corruption trial. The disagreement over the term arose when Chief Judge Loretta Preska (S.D.N.Y.) denied a request to play a recorded conversation that Bashir contends would prove that Stevenson’s alleged accomplice was really his enemy. Judge Preska countered that the word can function as a term of endearment in certain situations, invoking Bashir’s quotable retort.

Our ten nominees for 2013 Lawyer of the Year honors were a distinguished and diverse group. They included a Supreme Court justice, a U.S. Attorney, a governor, a law school dean, and some of Biglaw’s brightest stars. They also included a plaintiffs’ lawyer accused of awful acts, a shameless self-promoter fond of letting it all hang out, and a young attorney with a problematic sideline. We cover it all here at Above the Law.

Our prior winners have come from the savory rather than salacious side of the ledger. Here are ATL’s past Lawyers of the Year:

For 2013, who will join their distinguished ranks? Let’s find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Competition: The Winner!”

The year is quickly drawing to a close, but we have unfinished business to conduct here at Above the Law. We still have to crown our Lawyer of the Year for 2013.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for nominations, in the comments or via email. We’ve narrowed down the nominees to a field of ten. As in past years, the contenders run the gamut from distinguished to despicable.

And the nominees are…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Above the Law’s 2013 Lawyer of the Year Contest: The Finalists!”

Edward Snowden

* People have “greatly underestimated how powerful a jurist Justice Sotomayor would be,” and now that one of her concurrences flies directly in the face of Obama’s NSA tactics, we’ll get to see how powerful she really is. [MSNBC]

* Here’s a fun end-of-the-year roundup: President Obama’s Top 10 Constitutional Violations of 2013. Fifty internet points shall be awarded to the first person who correctly guesses how many are related to Obamacare without looking. [Forbes]

* Following Judge Shira Scheindlin’s stop-and-frisk spanking, the Southern District of New York changed its rules on case assignments in order to increase transparency. Related-case judge-shopping just got a whole lot harder. [New York Times]

* Wiley Rein is defending its fee request in the Voting Rights Act case, and says the Department of Justice is “[tying] itself in knots” trying to find a way to get out of paying the piper. Harsh. [Blog of Legal Times]

* These are four ways you can overcome a low GPA when applying to law school, but really, the best way to overcome a low GPA is to not apply at all. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA.” Now that he’s unleashed all of America’s deep dark secrets, Edward Snowden just wants to Google like a regular guy. [Washington Post]

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