* What is up with Georgia judges? Another one bites the dust: Judge Douglas Pullen leaves the bench, terminating an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Can gay marriage be stopped? Professor Tribe thinks not.
* Professor Laurence Tribe on “the constitutional inevitability of same-sex marriage.” [SCOTUSblog]
* You can sleep when you’re dead — and you can prevail against the IRS in litigation, too (as the late Ken Lay just did). [TaxProf Blog]
* Speaking of the dead, just because someone is burglarizing your business doesn’t mean you can kill them. [Jonathan Turley via WSJ Law Blog]
* Professor Daniel Hamermesh asks: “Why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?” [New York Times via ABA Journal]
* “Dominique Strauss-Kahn Gets Off, As Did Everyone Else Who Stayed In His Room At The Sofitel.” Or: what you don’t want to know about your high-end hotel room. [Dealbreaker]
* F**k yeah — trademark law! Or: some reflections on the “immoral or scandalous” bar to trademark registration, by fashion lawyer Chuck Colman. [Law of Fashion]
* The New Jersey Supreme Court just issued a major new decision calling for changes in the way that courts handle eyewitness identifications — an issue that will also be going before SCOTUS in the coming Term. [The Innocence Project]
* Congratulations to Professor Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general, who’s apparently headed to Hogan Lovells. [Am Law Daily]
Here in the great state of New York, marriage equality is the order of the day — as it is in five other states, plus D.C.. But due to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal tax code does not recognize same-sex unions. As a result, as explained by the law firm of McCarter & English, “the Internal Revenue Code treats the value of employer-provided healthcare benefits for a civil union or domestic partner as ‘imputed income’ to the employee. This means that employees who elect domestic partner benefits must pay income tax on the value of those benefits, which is in direct contrast to employees with different-sex spouses.”
To address this inequality, a number of law firms — including McCarter & English, as of this June — have adopted what we here at Above the Law have dubbed the “gay gross-up.” This benefit consists of “a bump in income such that, post-tax, the employees are in the same position as similarly situated employees electing healthcare benefits for their opposite-sex spouses.”
In addition to McCarter, a number of prominent law firms have adopted this policy since our last report. Let’s find out which ones….
UPDATE (8/25/11): We’ve added to the list since it was originally published. See the updated list below.
We all know Michele Bachmann as the Tea Party darling running for the Republican presidential nomination. Before that, Bachmann the Congresswoman became famous for making some of the most truly ignorant statements in modern American politics.
But few people know that before Bachmann became a crazy-eyed, anti-tax standard bearer, Bachmann was a lawyer. A tax lawyer. Working for the IRS. That’s right, as a lawyer Bachmann helped the government collect taxes.
But I wouldn’t call her a hypocrite. It seems she wasn’t all that good at collecting taxes….
Remember John J. O’Brien? Back in April 2009, we wrote about the mysterious departure of John O’Brien from Sullivan & Cromwell, where he was a well-regarded and well-liked partner in the M&A department. In a follow-up post in December 2009, we noted : “When partners leave a place like Sullivan & Cromwell, there’s often a story behind the departure.”
In our December 2009 post, we reported that John O’Brien “left Sullivan & Cromwell due to an issue relating to his taxes.” We added that the problem was personal, i.e., that it did not implicate S&C or any of its clients (unlike the fraud of another former SullCrom partner, Carlos Spinelli-Noseda, who defrauded the firm and its clients of more than $500K).
Some readers pushed back on this reporting. They claimed that John O’Brien left voluntarily and for perfectly innocent reasons. They told us to leave O’Brien alone. They accused us of harboring ill-will towards Sullivan & Cromwell (even though, to be honest, large law firms are somewhat interchangeable for us here at ATL; they’re all just potential sources of news to write about).
In light of all the flak we took for our John O’Brien coverage — similar to the criticism we received for covering Theodore Freedman’sdeparture from Kirkland & Ellis, a few months before Freedman got indicted by the feds — please forgive us for gloating a little. (This gloating is directed at our critics, not at John O’Brien; we have nothing against O’Brien and wish him the best of luck in moving on with his life.)
Today brings news that John J. O’Brien has been hit with federal criminal charges. Like Ted Freedman, John O’Brien has been hit with tax-related charges. But the numbers involved are larger — a lot larger….
UPDATE (7 PM): O’Brien pleaded guilty. See the update appended to the end of this post.
* J. Paul Oetken was confirmed to the S.D.N.Y. yesterday by the Senate, making him the first openly gay man appointed to the federal bench. I think it’s great that Chuck Grassley announced shortly before the vote that he would be supporting the nomination, but I also think it was unnecessary and offensive that he ended his announcement with “nohomo.” [Poliglot]
* Rupert Murdoch’s testifying before Parliament this morning which promises to be the Super Bowl for anglophile nerds. Will the old man survive? [Bloomberg]
* The News Corp. phone-hacking scandal has led to plenty of work for attorneys on “both sides of the pond.” This case is like the BP oil spill of dead girls’ phones being hacked. [Am Law Daily]
As we mentioned in the story, our coverage of Freedman’s departure was prompted by “interesting rumors.” We hoped that our post would result in additional corroboration of what we were hearing. Alas, our write-up just prompted the usual attacks from Kirkland Kool-Aid drinkers, who accused us in the comments of harboring ill-will toward K&E and engaging in shoddy journalism.
Well, this time we’ll enjoy the last laugh (not because we have anything against K&E — we don’t — but because we like being proven correct). We can share what we know about Ted Freedman, because the rumors are now embodied in a federal criminal indictment….
As many of you know, here at Above the Law we have been tracking which major law firms offer a non-salary benefit that we’ve dubbed the gay gross-up. As we’ve previously explained, quoting a memo issued by Simpson Thacher, the gay gross-up is “[a] ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.”
Today we are pleased to report that two top firms have joined the club. Kudos to Debevoise & Plimpton and Shearman & Sterling for standing on the side of equality. You can read their announcement memos, issued earlier this month, after the jump.
We have added these firms to our list. By the way, for those firms that would rather appear on a list maintained by the New York Times than one maintained by Above the Law, you should note that the NYT is also monitoring which workplaces provide this perk. The NYT list includes employers of many different types, not just law firms, and features some of the nation’s most innovative companies, such as Google and Facebook and Apple.
With the addition of Debevoise and Shearman, which leading law firms provide this benefit? Let’s take a look….
The case for same-sex marriage should rest less upon dollars and cents and more upon fundamental principles of fairness (as recently argued by Professor Jaye Cee Whitehead in a New York Times op-ed piece). But it’s certainly the case that money matters should not be overlooked when it comes to marriage equality.
We’ve previously discussed a non-salary benefit that we’ve nicknamed the gay gross-up. Here’s one concise definition: “A ‘gross-up’ for employees who enroll same-sex partners in the Firm’s health benefits plans to offset any federal, state and local income taxes paid on the value of the partners’ benefits which heterosexual spouses are not subject to.” (Currently gay couples in which partners receive employer-provided health benefits are taxed on the value of those benefits, due to the fact that, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), federal law — including federal tax law — doesn’t recognize same-sex unions.)
The gross-up is not a perk that affects a huge number of employees, to be sure. But having it sends an important message about a firm’s commitment to equality and inclusion.
Where did we obtain that handy definition of the gross-up? From the benefits page of a top law firm that recently started offering this benefit. It’s one of two elite law firms that recently boarded the gay gross-up bandwagon….
When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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