Vicious Infighting

Clean-up efforts are underway at Dewey & LeBoeuf — and we’re not talking about the work of the janitors (at least not the ones who were allegedly stiffed on $300,000). Rather, we’re talking about the work being done by Dewey as debtor, aided by its high-priced advisory team, to put its affairs in order and to maximize the recovery for its creditors.

One of the biggest messes: how to deal with the firm’s hundreds of former partners. Dewey’s lead lawyer, Albert Togut of Togut Segal & Segal, has already made clear his plans to seek some funds from them.

In a conference call yesterday afternoon, Dewey’s bankruptcy advisers informed ex-partners about the contours of a possible global settlement….

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It has been a few days since our last detailed story about the largest law firm bankruptcy in history. So let’s check in on the Chapter 11 proceedings of Dewey & LeBoeuf, currently pending in bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York.

There have been a few recent developments. For example, as we mentioned in Morning Docket, Dewey is being counseled in bankruptcy by some pretty pricey advisers.

How expensive are we talking?

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How would you like to be pursued by the Angel of Death? It doesn’t sound like much fun, right?

But it’s the latest plague to be visited upon certain former leaders of the now-bankrupt law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Former D&L partner Henry C. Bunsow — nicknamed the Angel of Death by Alison Frankel of Thomson Reuters, due to his status as an ex-partner of three failed firms (Brobeck, Howrey, and Dewey) — has sued former leaders of Dewey, alleging that they misrepresented the firm’s finances.

Let’s learn about his allegations, as well as catch up on the latest wranglings in the Dewey bankruptcy case….

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There’s something special about racism that comes out of Cambridge. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s almost like a stylized racism. Like, if it happened at Duke you’d just say “racism at Duke,” but when it happens at Harvard, you feel like saying, “A racial hypothetical puzzles the HLS community; stay tuned to see which professor makes it worse.”

Today we’ve got another weird racial story covered in crimson. It’s set against the backdrop of the student government elections at Harvard Law School that may take place later today — an event that I can’t imagine more than ten people on campus truly care about. But there are minority-on-minority accusations of racism, and the one white guy is just running to prove that he shouldn’t be allowed to run.

And, clear as I can tell, the catalyst was one breathless Harvard Law School Record article that kind of threw around allegations of racism just for the heck of it.

Are we going to tell you a little bit about the issues, so you can then vote on Above the Law for the next SBA president at HLS, in the hope that your votes might influence the election? Of course we are!

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Last month, we brought you the story of a student bar association dust up at NYU Law School.

The NYU SBA Treasurer, whom we called “Cashing Out,” resigned her position. The SBA President, “Party Law,” wrote an email to the entire student body, accusing the treasurer of making a lot of errors. The treasurer responded, accusing the SBA President of misappropriating funds.

OH MY GOD, WHAT’S THAT BEHIND YOU????

Just kidding. Just trying to keep you awake during this riveting retelling of accounting inconsistencies by two self-important NYU kids who should be preparing for callbacks now.

You’d think something of this magnitude would just kind of fade into the background, but the NYU administration decided to give this thing new life. The administration conducted an investigation into the dispute.

And the administration is coming down on the side of Party Law….

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Chief Judge Edith Jones: Underneath her robe beats a judicial diva's heart.

Can you enforce civility by being… uncivil? That’s the question being raised, over and over again, by federal judges from Texas these days.

Before we get to the latest ridiculousness, let’s review. Back in August, Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.) benchslapped some rude lawyers with a snarky order inviting them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as reasonableness and courtesy.

Ironically enough, some found Judge Sparks’s civility-seeking order to be… rude. Chief Judge Edith Jones (5th Cir.) issued an email reprimand to Judge Sparks, condemning his “caustic, demeaning, and gratuitous” order as “cast[ing] disrespect on the judiciary.” Some observers in turn thought it rude of Chief Judge Jones to call out Judge Sparks in writing, so publicly — she cc’d all of the other Western District of Texas judges on her email — when she could have just made a private phone call.

Chief Judge Jones is a highly regarded conservative jurist and a fixture on Supreme Court short lists, but she might not be the best authority on civility and etiquette these days. Check out the latest craziness — an en banc hearing before the Fifth Circuit that generated judicial fireworks, culminating in Judge Jones essentially telling a colleague to STFU or GTFO….

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Judge Sam Sparks: Probably not smiling now.

The benchslapper has become the benchslapped. Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, just got smacked around by a higher authority: Chief Judge Edith Jones, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Last month, Judge Sparks issued a sharply worded order in which he compared the counsel appearing before him to squabbling schoolchildren — and invited them to a “kindergarten party,” where they would learn such lessons as “how to telephone and communicate with a lawyer” and “how to enter into reasonable agreements about deposition dates.” In the end, Judge Sparks ended up canceling the party, after the publicly shamed lawyers worked out their issues — but not before his infamous order received national attention within the legal community.

Many observers were amused by Judge Sparks’s order — which was not the first time His Honor has gotten saucy with lawyers in recent weeks (or in his judicial career, for that matter). But a minority felt that the order was over the top and gratuitously nasty.

Among the unamused: Edith Jones, who oversees the federal courts of Texas in her capacity as Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit. What did she have to say to Sam Sparks?

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Judge Sam Sparks

You do not want to mess with Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. We recently wrote about Judge Sparks accusing a lawyer appearing before him of incompetence — in a harshly worded order that pulled no punches.

Judge Sparks has been doling out stinging benchslaps for years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. In particular, His Honor has little patience for discovery disputes. In 2007, for example, he smacked down some lawyers squabbling over a deposition — in rhymed couplets, no less.

Last week, Judge Sparks lit more lawyers on fire….

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GULC students go way over the line.

You might think that watching law students play sports would be like watching U. Conn. and Butler play basketball. You know, undersized, intense people playing in an ugly and painful style. You’d think that watching law students play a pick-up game of 21 would be indistinguishable from watching Butler unsuccessfully try to throw a ball in the ocean.

But you’d be wrong. Because at some point in the athletic competition, law students would undoubtedly halt competition and begin arguing over rules and regulations. Granted, halfway through the second half of the National Championship game, I wanted somebody to file an injunction on behalf of the rims in Houston that were being murdered. But in general I like my athletic competitions to be devoid of brief writing.

Which means it’s a good thing I didn’t go to Georgetown University Law Center….

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There must be no more of this childish abuse…. No more or there will be sanctions. In more than 29 years as a judge, I have never encountered such bickering, quarrelsome lawyers. You are wasting my time and your clients’ money.

– Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, sitting by designation as a district judge (N.D. Ill.), ruling on motions in limine in Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Lear Corp. (PDF).

(The context of this quotation, which contains additional benchslappery, appears below.)

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