Sentencing Law

Andrew “weev” Auernheimer

A famed hacker, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, was sentenced to 41 months in prison yesterday. A jury convicted Auernheimer of conspiracy and identity theft back in November stemming from his role in a scheme to snag the personal email addresses of over 114,000 iPad users, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Diane Sawyer, and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

Auernheimer argued that he acted as an uninvited “gray hat” hacker, grabbing the email addresses of customers for the sole purpose of exposing the flaws in AT&T’s security.

The sentence, at the upper end of the Guidelines range, is a far cry from the non-custodial slap on the wrist Auernheimer’s attorneys sought. There are two broad categories of response to the sentence. First, that Auernheimer is a completely terrible human being, but that his being a dick does not justify the harsh sentence. Second, that Auernheimer did not commit a real crime because he never intended to steal anyone’s identity and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is a bad law.

To these arguments, I reply “yes it does,” and “who cares?”

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Kevin Ring in happier times.

Full disclosure: Former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, whose criminal conviction was recently upheld by the D.C. Circuit, is a friend of mine.  We grew up in the same town and have known one another for decades. In no way is what follows unbiased or objective in any sense.  That said, I know that I’m right and the case against Kevin Ring was simply, unambiguously wrong.  Not to say that there was no ambiguity as to whether he broke a law — there was a tiny bit of that. But under no sane system of justice would Kevin be going to federal prison. Though he almost certainly is, pending a request for en banc rehearing from the D.C. Circuit followed by a Hail Mary filing for a writ of certiorari.

We can all stipulate that Jack Abramoff is one of the sleaziest and most repellent characters to besmirch the legal profession in decades.  (My favorite Abramoff moment: the time he tried convince his rabbi to bestow upon him  a fake, back-datedScholar of Talmudic Studies” award, so he could get in the Cosmos Club.)

Anyway, Abramoff was Kevin’s boss for three and a half years, during the final period of which they were both partners at Greenberg Traurig.  In the words of the judge at his sentencing hearing, Kevin was a “cog” in the Abramoff operation, a “second-tier level” administrator of the firm’s lobbying team.  I won’t try to spin Kevin’s time as a lobbyist as some honorable endeavor.  I couldn’t. Generally speaking, lobbyists are regarded by most of us as only slightly less distasteful than the politicians whose favor they are trying to curry.  But that does not make them criminals….

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Imagine you’re in a negotiation to buy a used car. You use the Blue Book — the Kelley Blue Book, not the legal Bluebook — to set the starting point on the price. You do your research at home based on the blue book that’s online, which says the starting point for the car you want is $10,000.

Then, when you get to the used car dealer, you find out that they have a new blue book, one that just came out that day. It says that the starting point for the car you want is really $12,000.

You’d probably be annoyed, maybe angry. The whole starting point for your conversation about the price of the car changed.

Yet, the dealer could tell you, and you could still agree with him to pay any amount you’d like for the car. The starting point doesn’t necessarily set the ending point.

This was, basically, the situation the Supreme Court was called in to referee in this morning’s oral argument in Peugh v. United States….

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* What to do when your federal agency’s website has been hacked by Anonymous and you’re unable to post a major report online for public dissemination? Well, just ask a law professor to do it for you on his blog; that’s not embarrassing, not at all. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The many victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster can now rejoice, because yesterday, Transocean pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, and will pay the second-largest environmental fine in United States history to the tune of $400 million. [CNN]

* Money takes flight: eleventy billion Biglaw firms are behind the beast that is this awful airline merger, but taking the lead are lawyers from Weil Gotshal for AMR and Latham & Watkins for US Airways. [Am Law Daily]

* After questioning the validity of one of the NBA players union’s contracts, Paul Weiss is withholding details about it thanks to the government’s intrusion. Way to block nepotism’s alleged slam dunk. [New York Times]

* “When is the last time you took the biggest financial institutions on Wall Street to trial?” Elizabeth Warren took the Socratic method to the Senate Banking Committee and she was applauded for it. [National Law Journal]

* If you liked it, then perhaps you should’ve put a ring on it, but not a Tiffany’s diamond engagement ring that you’ve purchased from Costco, because according to this trademark lawsuit, it may be a knockoff. [Bloomberg]

* “We feel very badly for Megan Thode.” A Pennsylvania judge ruled against the Lehigh student who sued over her grade of C+ because let’s be serious, did ANYONE AT ALL really think he wouldn’t do that?! [Morning Call]

In the movie Malice, Jack Donaghy is asked during a deposition (by Sandy Cohen) if he has a “God Complex” and proceeds to deliver a classic meltdown: “I *AM* God.”

There’s a legal equivalent to Baldwin’s doctor, and it’s not a judge or even a senior partner. For the biggest “God Complexes” (“God Complii?”) look to your friendly neighborhood prosecutors. Imbued with extraordinary power through the charging process and the investigatory resources of the government, prosecutors can get used to getting their way and indifferent to the plight of defendants, witnesses, and counsel. And nothing can raise their ire more than someone unwilling to cooperate. “How dare they defy me?”

Take the case of Kevin Ring, a Jack Abramoff acolyte sentenced to almost two years of prison time, whose conviction was just upheld by the D.C. Circuit (opinion available here). I’m not a huge fan of lobbyists, but the transgressions proved at Ring’s trial look way too small to justify his sentence.

Instead, it looks like his primary crime was not cooperating with the almighty government….

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Judge Lynn Hughes

* Above the Law promotes real-world change! Complaint filed against a Texas judge after we call him out for being RACEIST! [ABA Journal]

* If you were thinking of calling your friend from the Philippines a “skank” on Facebook, you may want to reconsider. [Philippine Inquirer]

* If you’re a powerful financial executive, lay off the bath salts. [DealBreaker]

* Judicial throwdown at the Second Circuit! Short version: Judge Raagi thinks Judge Jacobs should care way more about punishing guys sexting underage girls. Judge Jacobs thinks Judge Raagi watches too much Dexter. [Second Circuit / FindLaw]

* Federal District Judge John Lungstrum calls out a couple trial teams for terrible trial work. Biglaw litigators may not be the best trial attorneys? You don’t say. [New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog]

* Kenneth Anderson describes the U.S. government’s longstanding love affair with “imminence” in the context of the Obama drone strike white paper. To borrow from Rev. Lovejoy’s sermon: “Imminence…sweet imminence.” [Lawfare]

* Judges: If you’re going to base a decision on a particular fact… don’t include pictures in the opinion that directly contradict that finding. Check out page six, line two and Appendix 2 [Court of Appeals, State of Oregon]

* SCOTUSBlog and Bloomberg Law have a competition for law students. Beat your peers AND the SCOTUSBlog team and win $5000. [SCOTUSBlog]

A critically acclaimed television drama, Breaking Bad, tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher who turns to a life of crime: making and selling methamphetamine. The show’s premise suggests that criminals and drug dealers come from all walks of life.

That apparently includes the legal profession. Last night brought word of a promising young law student who just got sentenced to four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to selling meth. Better call Saul?

And this student didn’t turn to drug dealing because he was terrified about his post-graduation employment prospects. They were probably fairly bright, since he had an above-average GPA at a so-called top 14 or “T14″ law school….

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‘Please explain why I should take money away from widows and orphans.’

Looking for some feedback on this one:

Should judges be allowed to impose fines for the benefit of unrelated third parties outside the jurisdiction?

I touched on this tangentially in my earlier story about Pennsylvania’s pending lawsuit against the NCAA because one of the claims against the NCAA challenged the provision of the settlement that ordered Penn State University, as an institution supported by Pennsylvania taxpayers, to pay a fine that would partially benefit victims of sexual abuse outside Pennsylvania.

But settlements provide more flexibility than judicially imposed fines.

Who could possibly object to forcing criminals to send money to charity? Oh, we can find a guy….

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Where good decisions go to die.

I just got back from a weekend in New Orleans. Let’s just say that I’ve been freshly reminded of how alcohol can lead to some questionable decision making. Dear God, what a town.

Of course, I’m not the first person to wake up in a gutter on Bourbon Street thinking, “How did it come to this?,” and tracing it all to a drink of some kind, the “one drink too many.” All joking aside, only people who work for beer companies act like alcohol isn’t a huge factor in many serious crimes in this country. Assaults, domestic violence, rapes, even murders are often fueled by excessive consumption.

That said, very few people are abducted, unknowingly saturated with alcohol, and then set loose on an unsuspecting public. Lots of people consume alcohol responsibly. Many people consume alcohol irresponsibly without hurting anyone else, and a few irresponsible individuals consume to excess and then commit heinous acts. What are we going to do, sue the beer companies because some individuals get liquored up before they commit crimes?

Well, for some criminals in Idaho, that’s exactly what they’re doing….

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* Seven out of nine sitting Supreme Court justices were silent when it came to the passing of Robert Bork. Justice Antonin Scalia, of course, issued a public statement, as did liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (surprise!). [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* No one ever really doubted that it would take an army of Biglaw lawyers from the likes of Sullivan & Cromwell, Shearman & Sterling, and Wachtel Lipton to handle a monumental deal like the proposed $8.2 billion NYSE/ICE merger. [Am Law Daily]

* Can you coach with Nick Saban and be a Miller Canfield partner at the same time? No. But you can sue (and win!) when the firm allegedly forces you out due to its “culture of fear and intimidation.” [Detroit Free Press]

* Justice Rolando Acosta, who wrote the opinion upholding the dismissal of the class action case against NYLS, rates well among his peers as a nominee for the New York Court of Appeals. [New York Law Journal]

* Peter Madoff was sentenced to ten years in prison for his role in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, but the judge will probably let him go to his granddaughter’s bat mitzvah before shipping him to the pokey. [Bloomberg]

* Merry Christmas, now go f**k yourself. A federal judge has given a woman in Louisiana free rein to display holiday lights on her roof in the form of an extended middle finger. God bless America. [CBS 3 Springfield]

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