President Obama has directed the Department of Justice to stop defending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Attorney General Eric Holder’s letter explaining the decision to Speaker of the House John Boehner appears here.
In other marriage-equality-related news, the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) — the organization represented by Ted Olson and Davis Boies inthe Prop 8 litigation — has filed a motion in the Ninth Circuit, asking that court to lift its stay on same-sex marriage in California.
Read more at the links below.
UPDATE: For some reactions to this news, see, e.g., the ACLU (pleased) and Ted Frank (displeased).
Exciting news. Starbucks has just launched its new However-You-Want-It Frappuccino® product, “allowing customers to create a blended beverage that is uniquely their own…. the same way they customize their favorite Starbucks espresso beverage.”
Sounds delicious! But if you order your Frappuccino with extra ice, and then experience brain freeze, don’t turn around and sue Starbucks.
Or maybe do turn around and sue Starbucks? Even though lawsuits based on allegedly unreasonable beverage temperatures have become national jokes, memorialized in popular culture (e.g., Seinfeld episodes), they still keep getting filed — and, presumably, settled.
The latest lawsuit has been filed against Starbucks, for excessively hot tea….
Some class action settlements are highly questionable. Think of a case where, say, the victimized consumers get a stupid coupon, so they can purchase even more goods or services from the company that victimized them — while the lawyers representing the plaintiffs walk away with a big payday.
One man is out to change all that. Ted Frank — lawyer and blogger extraordinaire, from Overlawyered and Point of Law (and also Above the Law) — has left his perch as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He’s starting a new public interest law firm that specializes in pro bono representation of consumers unhappy with class action settlements. Ted is already handling two class actions in California.
We caught up with Ted to discuss his new gig. Read more, after the jump.
[Ed. note: Yesterday's guest post about how Barack Obama's tax plan might affect Biglaw associates, authored by Ted Frank, generated a record number of comments on ATL: 564 (and counting). It also generated lots of reaction throughout the blogosphere (links collected below). So we thought we'd invite Ted to do a follow-up.]
Here it is. Ted wrote it in response to the following reader email, which makes many of the arguments that surfaced in the 564+ comments. From an Obama defender:
I’m sorry, but you are losing your credibility by posting this false propaganda on Obama. Look at Obama’s website. It clearly states, “Asked About Raising the Cap, Obama said, ‘You Might Have the Equivalent of a Doughnut Hole’–NOT That He Would Completely Remove the Cap.” Obama “has stated in various venues that ‘his inclination… has been for a ‘donut’ where the uncapping would take place above some threshold income level — probably around $200,000 or $250,000′ his economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said in an email. A donut would protect a certain portion of income (e.g., between $100,000 and $200,000) from the payroll tax and could be phased in over decades.”
In addition, that “$34,000 paycut” in the post title is misleading. Even if all your assumptions were correct (which they weren’t), the after tax pay cut under Obama is < $20,000. I love your site, but please correct this ridiculous false article before you lose all credibility.
And now, without further ado, Ted Frank.
* * * * * * * * * *
First, as I show in the spreadsheet, a $20,000 tax increase is the equivalent of a $34,000 before-tax paycut for a New York City resident, which would have the same after-tax effect. The $34,000 figure is accurate: that’s just math. The Obama tax plan would have the same effect on a NYC fifth-year associate being paid market as a $34,000 paycut.
Obama has never said he will have a doughnut-hole, only that his SS tax could include a doughnut-hole. When Hillary Clinton attacked Obama at the November 15 Nevada debate for wanting to eliminate the cap, Obama didn’t say that the attack was incorrect; he defended the policy because eliminating the cap would only affect what he called the “upper class.” The press has accurately reported that Obama has also proposed eliminating the cap; even Obama’s own website links to a thinktank’s analysis of the benefits of a cap elimination.
It would be really easy for Obama to promise to include a “doughnut-hole” or to not eliminate the SS-tax cap. He certainly hasn’t been afraid to promise drastically expensive programs of new spending or even tax giveaways to large swaths of the population who aren’t paying much tax now.
But when it comes to Social Security, Obama is suddenly vague; when he does discuss details, it is to cite examples (e.g., Warren Buffett) that could not be accomplished without eliminating the cap entirely. And the only reason a politician acts that way is because he supports the more drastic, politically unpopular plan, but doesn’t want to get tagged with it before the election, and will say after the election “I only said I would ‘consider’ a doughnut-hole.” How Barack Obama’s Tax Plan Will Affect You [Microsoft Excel file]
Additional discussion and links, after the jump.
[Ed. note: Today we bring you some "news you can use": a practical look at how political choices might affect your personal finances. This post is by Ted Frank, who blogs at Overlawyered.com and PointofLaw.com, and who has guest edited ATL in the past. Take it away, Ted.]
BigLaw lawyers love Obama. If one searches by law firm various databases on-line for campaign contributions, one sees an overwhelming sea of blue, and most of it to Obama.
But how will Obama affect BigLaw wallets? On Above the Law, we regularly see commenters threaten to abandon law firms for falling $5,000/year short of market. I therefore thought it worthwhile to examine the effects of Obama’s tax and spending plans on take-home pay.
We all know that Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts. That is a 3% bump across the board to the bad old days when associates faced a marginal federal tax rate of 36%.
But the real hidden tax is that Obama plans to end the social-security tax cap. Right now, you may notice, sometime during the summer or early fall, your take-home pay suddenly goes up because they stop deducting FICA. Current law caps social security taxes: in 2008, the cap is at $102,000. Obama proposes to abolish this. That mid-summer bump will be no more: add about several thousand dollars to your annual tax bill.
But social-security taxes are not only on employees. The government also charges 6.2% to employers that you never see on your W-2s. But rest assured the partners see this, and will notice that the expense of keeping an associate has risen several thousand dollars a year when FICA taxes double and triple. Will they swallow that additional expense, or take it out of your bonus?
Find out, after the jump (or click here).
* Jose Padilla gets 17 years. [New York Times; Washington Post]
* A merger between Anderson Kill and Reed Smith? Maybe not. But 55 of Anderson Kill’s 126 lawyers have decamped for Reed Smith. [WSJ Law Blog; WSJ Law Blog]
* Ted Frank on yesterday’s Enron cert denial: Extortion, interrupted? [New York Sun]
* China shuts down “real-time” porn site, as part of its crackdown on online porn. [Reuters]
* Law tie (however tenuous) to Heath Ledger story: “Nicole Vaughan, 24, a law student at New York University, was in a seminar about Jesus when someone sent her a message about Mr. Ledger. She checked the Web, then walked to the apartment ‘because of the way our generation is; we sort of feel we’re a part of each other’s lives.’” [New York Times]
* Apparently Bill Clinton enjoys the Yale Law / Harvard Law rivalry: “I kind of like to see Barack and Hillary fight.” [NYDN via Drudge]
* How much will various law-related search terms cost you on Google? Adam Liptak has collected some interesting examples: “Asbestos attorney” = $51.68, “Pro bono lawyer” = $2.89. [NYT via WSJ Law Blog]
* Another day, another Republican politician in a gay sex scandal. [Green Bay Press-Gazette]
* Not law-related, but interesting to those who follow the blogosphere: Vanessa Grigoriadis’s detailed profile of Gawker Media. [New York Magazine]
* Blawg Review #130, presented on two attorney/mediator law blogs — a Southern Hemisphere edition from New Zealand, and a Northern Hemisphere edition from the USA — recognizes Blog Action Day and International Conflict Resolution Day. [mediator blah... blah... and Online Guide to Mediation, via Blawg Review]
Jessica Cutler, the former Senate aide whose online sex diary landed her a book deal and a Playboy photo spread but got her kicked off Capitol Hill, has filed for bankruptcy….
Cutler has spent much of her time [recently] fending off a lawsuit by ex-boyfriend and fellow DeWine staffer Robert Steinbuch, who claims Cutler’s blog publicly humiliated him. He is seeking more than $20 million in damages.
In court documents filed in the case Thursday, however, Cutler says she can’t even pay her American Express bill, legal fees and student loans. She submitted to the judge a copy of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition filed in New York dated Wednesday.
The lawsuit is being closely watched by online privacy groups and bloggers because the case could help establish whether people who keep online diaries are obligated to protect the privacy of the people they interact with offline.
Our advice to Jessica: retain William P. Smith to represent you in bankruptcy court. You can pay his fees in “Happy Meals.”
On a more serious note: How did the Washingtonienne wind up in this financial predicament?
We’re not so good with math, so please help us out. We run some numbers, after the jump.
When President Bush delivered the State of the Union last night, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not one of the four Supreme Court justices in attendance.
Oddly enough, however, Justice Ginsburg and President Bush aren’t as far apart as one might think. They share something in common:
Both Justice Ginsburg and President Bush were cheerleaders!!!
President Bush’s career as a college cheerleader is well-known. But did you know that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a cheerleader too, at Madison High School, in Brooklyn, New York?
We are not kidding. More details available from Ted Frank. It goes without saying that we would LOVE a copy of that yearbook photo.
UPDATE: Alas, the link to Ted Frank’s blog no longer works. But you can read about Justice Ginsburg’s cheerleading career, as well as her other high school activities, over here.
Look, anything is possible. If little Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) can be a beauty pageant contestant, in Little Miss Sunshine — which just snagged Oscar nominations for Best Picture and for Breslin’s performance, among others — then surely RBG can be a cheerleader.
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: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Are you challenged by the costs and logistics of maintaining your office, distracting you from the practice of law?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
Social Media is a communications tool that can deeply educate you about the needs and wants of your clients and prospects when used in conjunction social media monitoring and sharing tools.
Take this quick quiz and see if you know how to use Social to help you engage more with your clients or to better service the ones you have.