U.S. Attorneys Offices

Last week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged two former stockbrokers, Thomas Conradt and David Weishaus, with insider trading. There is a legal angle here (aside from the criminal charges and the civil case being brought by the SEC): Conradt is a lawyer, a member of the Maryland and Colorado bars, and Weishaus graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law a year after Conradt.

To be honest, though, we’re not intensely interested in Conradt and Weishaus. Their alleged misdeeds occurred while they were working in finance, not law; the contours of Conradt’s legal career are somewhat unclear; and as for Weishaus, it’s not clear that he ever passed the bar or practiced as a lawyer.

As regular readers of Above the Law know, we have a weakness for prestige around these parts. So we’re far more interested in the former Cravath associate who, according to law enforceent allegations, made their misdeeds possible….

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FIRST! Assistant United States Attorney.

First amongst weird creation myths is that of the Mbombo god, who is said to have vomited up pretty much all of our world. Similarly, the story of how this website has been… thrown up is worthy of retelling. At its essence, it goes like this: A boy blogs about very sober legal issues in an incredibly earnest way and then the governor of New Jersey tells him to start Above the Law, The End. I may have missed some crucial details and got others flat-out wrong, but I think the kernel of truth is still in there somewhere.

At any rate, that boy was working for the United States Attorney’s office in Newark at the time. Doing anything on the internet, even if it was super-serious and incredibly sincere, could be considered controversial because of the position. The lawyers tasked with working in such a high-profile prosecutorial role must be seen as impartial, lest the cases they take on get tainted by their online presence.

Which is what makes it all the more surprising that history is repeating itself down in New Orleans, where two assistant United States attorneys have become embroiled in scandal after being caught commenting on not just the law in general (like our own dear leader), but the specific cases that came through their office.

It’s almost as if the New Orleans U.S. Attorney’s office is trying to outdo David Lat in some way. Which, I mean, trick please…

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Ed. note: Lat here. This post is by lawyer turned novelist Allison Leotta, whom I previously profiled. I recently read Leotta’s newest book, Discretion, which I highly recommend. Not only is it a gripping thriller, but it’s legally realistic too, reflecting Leotta’s experience as a federal prosecutor and her research into the escort business.

As a former sex-crimes prosecutor who just wrote a novel about the escort business, I keep getting the same question from my Biglaw buddies: “I already feel like a high-end prostitute. Shouldn’t I get paid like one?”

It’s an old saw that lawyers are already prostitutes. Face it, we care deeply for our clients because we’re paid to care about them. If we’re good, we start by convincing ourselves that the side of the legal dispute we more or less randomly ended up on happens to be the right side. You think a hooker’s job is that different? Forget it. The infamous D.C. Madam — an inspiration for my latest book, Discretion (affiliate link) — was a woman who dropped out of law school and opened an escort agency.

You’re good-looking, you like people, you know how to bill by the hour — you could totally do this. But is being a high-class escort really a better job than the one you’ve got now? The answer will be familiar to every memo-writing associate: It depends. Before you go trading in those Christian Louboutins for five-inch-stilettos, check out these side-to-side comparisons of the trades….

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Patrick Fitzgerald

When renowned federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stepped down as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, he reacted skeptically to the suggestion that he join the dark side jump over to private practice and become a defense lawyer. When asked about this at a press conference regarding his departure, he quipped, “Can you see me as a defense attorney?”

Well, pooh-poohing something isn’t the same as rejecting it out of hand. Yesterday brought news that Pat Fitzgerald will be entering private practice after all.

So which Biglaw firm just landed this big fish?

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We’ve been carving out a little dinosaur law beat over the last several months, thanks to the contentious auctioning off of a Mongolian Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton. The auction was interrupted when the Mongolian president’s attorney stood up and shouted, “I’m sorry, I need to interrupt this auction. I have a judge on the phone,” in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the sale.

Unfortunately for the anonymous million-dollar winning bidder, the dinosaur bones are stuck in limbo a little longer. Lawsuits have been flying around in the aftermath of the auction, and yesterday, New York police arrested the archaeologist who allegedly brought the bones to the U.S.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are leaving Jurassic Park and entering DaVinci Code Land. Please keep your hands and legs inside the vehicle…

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What is wrong with Trenton?

In the chilly late night hours of Christmas 1776, General George Washington crossed the Delaware River to liberate Trenton from Hessians forces serving the British. It was a remarkable display of leadership that Trenton has not witnessed since.

Earlier this week, the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a 31-page criminal complaint charging Tony Mack, Mayor of Trenton, in connection with an alleged bribery scheme worth around $119,000, relating to the sale of city-owned land to private investors….

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Now that classes are back in session, I really hope some professor at Cardozo Law School pulls Benula Bensam aside and tells her that her keeping the story about her passing notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) alive is probably not helping her chances of securing a legal job.

You’ll remember Bensam as the student who got reprimanded for passing notes to Judge Rakoff during the Rajat Gupta trial. She went on to sue federal prosecutors and marshals for a number of claims arising out of largely standard courthouse security protocols. As we’ve previously discussed, upon leaving the courthouse Bensam wanted her cell phone back and had problems getting it.

Judge Andrew L. Carter (S.D.N.Y.) kicked most of Bensam’s case today, but he did give her leave to file an amended complaint on one issue.

For her sake, I hope she doesn’t take it…

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There are wiser career moves than suing the U.S. Marshals.

Do you remember Benula Bensam? You probably don’t. She was the student at Cardozo Law School who spent part of her summer watching the Rajat Gupta trial. She was reprimanded for sending notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.), including some that questioned Rakoff’s rulings. Such behavior could be seen as an attempt to improperly influence a judge, and so Rakoff had the U.S. Marshals bring her before him, and he told her to cut it out.

Yeah, you remember her now. It was a humorous story about a law student who was maybe a little bit overzealous.

But now Bensam is taking things to the next level. Instead of quietly learning her lesson and getting ready for next semester, the Cardozo student has decided to sue a whole slew of people. She claims that U.S. Marshals didn’t return her cell phone — before they returned her cell phone — and so she’s suing the Marshals, courthouse security, the U.S. Attorney for the S.D.N.Y., and several other defendants. In the process of suing, she’s also revealing how she had what I’d call a bit of a nutty outside the courthouse.

This complaint is just going to do wonders for her Google footprint….

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

It’s a certain violation of the cultural norms — that you don’t violate people’s psychological and physical space the way [Chris] Christie does. He violates their sense of space.

Baruch College Professor Douglas A. Muzzio, in a New York Times piece commenting on prosecutors-turned-politicians who use “bullying” in office. We’ve previously covered Governor Christie’s aggressive tendencies time and again.

Erika Awakening

Sometimes attorneys are desperate to find a way out of the legal profession. Sometimes that desperation will lead them down a strange road to an entirely new career — and not just a new career, but a new way of life.

Meet Erika Frick, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School. After graduating from HLS, Frick worked for the antitrust division of the Department of Justice and for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. But if you’re a member of the pickup artist community, you know Frick better as Erika Awakening, a New Age life coach and self-proclaimed guru of the seduction community. How frickin’ fabulous is that?

What would cause a Harvard-educated attorney on a rather prestigious career track to turn her focus to the Law of Attraction? Let’s find out….

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