What’s perhaps less obvious to those of us who do white-collar criminal defense but don’t normally practice in state court in New York is that, according to the law as set out in these papers, New York state is a magical Shangri-la of due process compared to federal court.
Insider trading is one of those activities that you should avoid. If you’re a lawyer, it’s an activity you should definitely avoid. It’s not really all that hard to steer clear of insider trading either. Obviously there are some murky cases, but it’s wise to err on the side of caution.
On the other hand, there are also cases where the SEC says a close friend of a company’s executive is emailing you and telling you which days to buy because “[e]arnings are being released on the 30th along with some good news,” and “[l]ooking forward to getting paid back. Good luck…. SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Those are the cases where you probably should walk away.
Put aside the insider trading: what lawyer is using email to have these conversations?
In the federal criminal world, there are certain cases where the government almost always wins.
Illegal reentry for a previously deported person, for example, is pretty close to a lock for a government win — all the government has to show is that the person isn’t a citizen, was previously deported, and is in the United States again. If the dude’s in the courtroom, the government is a third of the way there. For example, in the last fiscal year, there were 20,840 folks charged with illegal reentry. Four of them were acquitted at trial.
Similarly, bank robbery is a high-percentage game for the government. These days, most banks have amazing technology that lets them record pretty much everyone inside. Last fiscal year, 896 people were charged with bank robbery. One lucky guy was acquitted.
These days, federal law enforcement is using wiretaps and, according to the Wall Street Journal, old-school sting operations, to go build white-collar cases (it’s a pretty cool article — very cloak and dagger). The strategies that got the federal government the conviction rate it has in drug and gun cases are being applied to investment fraud and insider trading cases.
This is one reason that insider trading cases have looked like as much of a layup as a bank robbery case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York has secured a record of 85 convictions in either guilty pleas or trials without a single loss.
Conspiracy is probably the most charged offense in the federal courts. At core, its elements are simple (generally). A and B have completed the crime of conspiracy if they (1) have an agreement to do something illegal and (2) some co-conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The overt act does not have to be illegal.
So, if Larry says to Doug, “Let’s lie through email to potential investors about how viable our real estate plan is,” then Doug says “That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” and the two put together a letter they would email to potential investors that contains a number of lies about how viable an investment is, they’ve probably conspired to commit wire fraud.
The tricky bit is that the agreement that’s at the core of a conspiracy charge — like many kinds of contracts — can be implied. It’s rare that folks in a conspiracy negotiate the terms of the conspiracy or memorialize it.
So, if Larry and Doug just sit down and work — together — on a letter that lies to investors, one may (depending on the other facts in the case) think that the two have an implied agreement to commit fraud and that they’re guilty of participating in a fraud conspiracy.
The tricky part is when one person says, in essence, it would be really freaking cool to do X (where X is illegal) but doesn’t really mean that she wants to do X.
For example, some people may think that it would be funny to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly. But just because Doug tells Larry that it would be cool to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly, and Larry then looks up Justice Scalia’s next public appearance, does not necessarily mean that either one of them actually intends to storm Justice Scalia’s security detail just to blow on the Justice’s stomach.
And, of course, a jury is most likely to find that Doug and Larry are guilty the more they’re doing something that the jurors themselves think of as not funny and, in fact, really quite repugnant.
Like kidnapping, killing, and eating women, or trying to foment a jihad….
* The New York Court of Appeals put the hurt on defunct firms seeking unfinished business fees from former partners who left for greener pastures. Sorry, I didn’t follow ATL protocol: “Dewey think firms should collect unfinished business fees?” [WSJ Law Blog]
* We reported on the Tinder lawsuit yesterday. Here’s a collection of all the messed up texts involved. [Valleywag]
* Facebook’s lawyer is now calling the emotional manipulation study it recently conducted “customer service.” Dear Internet: Despite all your rage, you’re still just rats in a cage. [The Atlantic]
It would be hard to overstate the importance of Riley v. California. Now data on cell phones (and, hopefully soon, other electronic media) requires a search warrant for law enforcement to get access to it during an arrest (generally — check your individual situation; exceptions may apply).
It’s so hard to overstate the importance of Riley that I don’t think a single media outlet has done it yet (which is really saying something in light of the current state of Supreme Court coverage).
As you may dimly remember from the criminal procedure class you took in law school, the “search incident to arrest” doctrine is a little screwy and subject to abuse. The general rule is that police can search things on your person or in the area of your arrest to make sure you don’t destroy evidence or hurt them, but nothing else. Later cases have held that the area you can reach while you’re being arrested (where you could destroy evidence or find something to hurt the police) includes the entire interior area of your car, regardless of how far you can reach or how wedged under the seat cushions that currency counterfeiting machine is.
This body of law is a lovely example of how pro-law enforcement results drive any reasonable understanding of how a test should be applied. Reading these cases in law school is a formatively disheartening experience (“really, that’s the kind of junk judges come up with? Why have laws at all?” etc.).
Riley, though, draws a line around your phone. Sure — the police can look into your pocket to see if that square box is a cell phone or a detonating device, and they can look in the back of your van to see if you could have reached a butterfly knife if you had a 20-foot arm span — but they can’t look inside the phone without first getting a warrant.
Of course, the Court could have decided this in a few ways. It could have written a very narrow doctrinal opinion. Or it could have issued a deeply divided set of opinions where there isn’t a clear statement about the development of the law as much as a resolution of one case. But, instead, the Court issued a 9-0 decision, authored by the Chief Justice, which was a celebration of the importance of electronic privacy and recognizes that we’re in a new world — and need new rules to handle it….
There’s a curious case making the rounds today involving a top law school, its LL.M. program, and a convicted con man.
Mauricio Celis was convicted in 2009 for pretending to be a lawyer in Texas. Celis said that he was barred in Mexico but authorities contended that he was not, though Celis maintains his innocence.
In any event, after his conviction for unauthorized practice of law, he went to get an LL.M. After he enrolled, paid money, and spent months in the program, the school found out about his conviction and expelled him before graduation. After expulsion, Celis essentially filed an Adam Sandler-style lawsuit against the school, arguing that this was news that could have been brought to his attention yesterday.
While most of the internet is reacting with antipathy towards Celis, I’m going to defend the man. If schools weren’t so desperate to cash in on foreigners through expensive LL.M programs, they might have noticed the easily available public information about Celis’s past…
As Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
It’s a familiar enough idea. You see it in both Macbeth and the genesis story of just about every Marvel supervillan. It’s true, I think, not just of people but also of institutions. Like governments.
Just about every time I go to federal court for a sentencing hearing — where it seems the AUSA is fighting for each additional month in prison like it will take a point off his mortgage — I think about this quote from Nietzsche:
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
Non-attorneys would think the stress comes from preparing for a big trial, deposing a hostile witness, or crafting the perfect contract for a picky client.
But that’s nothing compared to the constant, nagging, real-life kind, the kind you get from the day-to-day grind of being a law-abiding attorney.
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