In today’s Morning Docket, we wondered about what Milberg Weiss’s new name would be, now that Mel Weiss is on his way to becoming a convicted felon. The answer came more quickly than expected. From the WSJ Law Blog:
The firm formerly known as Milberg Weiss Bershad & Shulman LLP, then Milberg Weiss Bershad LLP, then Milberg Weiss LLP, will now be known just as Milberg LLP. According to a Milberg insider, the name change was announced at a staff meeting this morning, at which Mel Weiss gave a speech talking about the accomplishments of the firm. The audience reportedly applauded…..
“Hey everyone, I’m going to prison for 18 to 33 months. Give me a big hand!”
The WSJ reported this morning that Mel Weiss has struck a deal to agree to plead guilty in a case alleging improper kickbacks. Other former name partners David Bershad and Steven Schulman had previously pleaded guilty in the case.
* “Are we headed for another Great Depression?” [McClatchy]
* Quelle surprise: Bear Stearns shareholder lawsuit (filed in S.D.N.Y. by Coughlin Stoia). [Bloomberg; WSJ Law Blog (PDF of complaint)]
* Speaking of Bear Stearns, here are some law firms losing out on BSC business. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Tenth Circuit reverses convictions of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio. [AP]
* Harvard Law School will pay the 3L tuition of future students who agree to work for nonprofit organizations or government for five years following graduation. [New York Times via Tax Prof Blog; Harvard Law School (news release)]
* Settlement in Paul McCartney-Heather Mills divorce (more on this later). [Legal Week]
* SCOTUS to hear Second Amendment / D.C. gun control case today (more on this later too). [New York Times; Reuters]
* Hot lawyers make more money. And we needed a study to tell us this? [Legal Blog Watch via ABA Journal; WSJ Law Blog]
* A truly insane murder case. And yes, Debra Opri — who has represented Michael Jackson and Larry Birkhead, among other boldface names — is on the scene. [DealBreaker; HedgeFund.net]
* Ann Althouse wonders: “We’ve already seen every possible permutation of Hillary, haven’t we?” (And this is why we adore HRC — she’s the Madonna of modern American politics, constantly reinventing herself.) [Althouse]
* When it comes to law firm partnership, breaking up is hard to do. Especially when criminal charges are involved. [National Law Journal via Blogonaut]
So it looks like no bail for Stephen Yagman, the colorful and controversial civil rights lawyer who was convicted last year of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering. Yagman will start his three-year prison term later this month.
Yagman asked to remain free on bail while appealing his conviction (to the Ninth Circuit — a court with which Yagman has a long and tortured history). But the district court denied his request.
Perhaps the court didn’t want Yagman out and about, dropping $2,000 on shoes and $262 on dinner — as he allegedly did just hours after filing for bankruptcy, as part of a scheme to avoid paying more than $200,000 in state and federal taxes. High-profile LA lawyer denied bail [Associated Press]
Yesterday the FBI executed a search warrant on the Scruggs Law Firm in Oxford, Mississippi — the shop of high-flying plaintiffs’ lawyer Dickie Scruggs. It wasn’t immediately clear what investigation the search was related to. Here’s some commentary on the situation that we enjoyed, from David Rossmiller (in brackets, following excerpt from news article):
“This is a surprise to everybody connected to the Scruggs Firm,” [lawyer Joey] Langston said, “but I’ve got to tell you people who are very high profile and very successful have to contend with unpleasantries and this is unpleasant, but we’ll contend with it.”
[I like the touch of noblesse oblige here -- as if the FBI descending on one's place of business is the same as, say, getting heckled by drunken lumpenproletariat while showing up in top hat and tails to receive an award for charitable giving.]
Multimillionaire trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs has been indicted on charges of conspiring to bribe a judge in the case involving $26.5-million in attorney fees involving Katrina claims….
According to the indictment, Lafayette County Circuit Judge Henry Lackey cooperated with the FBI in the investigation after reporting a bribery overture to authorities.
According to the indictment, Scruggs and others tried to influence Lackey by giving him $40,000 in cash to resolve the attorney fees’ dispute in favor of Scruggs’ law firm. Some of the conversations between Balducci and Lackey were captured on tape.
Down in Mississippi, there has been speculation of a connection between the FBI search warrant and this week’s surprise resignation of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), Scruggs’s brother-in-law. Lott’s office told the Sun Herald the two events were but a mere coincidence.
* The war on punitive damages continues. [USA Today via How Appealing]
* Suspect from Burning Man burning to burn something else. [Reno Gazette-Journal]
* Senators want clarification from Mukasey on waterboarding. [Jurist]
* Lerach pleads guilty. [Los Angeles Times]
* Do we have a de facto moratorium on executions pending this term’s SCOTUS lethal injection case? We should find out today. [New York Times]
* Didn’t they just execute somebody with an electric chair? And this is what gets them in trouble with the Constitution? [Jurist]
* Mel Weiss to be indicted. [New York Times]
* Oh, Al Sharpton, you’re incorrigible. [CNN]
* Judge withdraws jury instruction in Spector case; has he set up an easy appeal if there’s a conviction? [CNN]
As we mentioned in passing yesterday, infamous plaintiffs’ lawyer William Learch will be pleading to a federal conspiracy charge, related to his involvement in Milberg Weiss’s secret scheme to make payments to name plaintiffs in class-action cases. Under the deal that was so skillfully cut by Lerach’s lawyer, John Keker of Keker & Van Nest, Lerach will cough up $8 million in forfeiture and fines and serve one to two years in federal prison.
Is Bill Lerach getting off easy? Quite possibly. But a judge still has to sign off on the deal.
Not surprisingly, Lerach spread his cash around liberally among several Democratic candidates for president. But his favorite was fellow plaintiffs’ lawyer John Edwards. From Ben Smith over at Politico:
Edwards and Biden each gave away money from Lerach; no word yet on whether Hillary will give back the money he gave her 2006 Senate campaign.
Edwards, though, is particularly tied to him. Though he’s giving away the $4,600 from Lerach, Lerach is also listed as a bundler, and employees of the lawyer’s firm are his third-largest group of donors, mostly giving in the first quarter.
We fondly remember this episode of 90210: “Brenda gets into a car accident. The woman involved in the accident claims she has whiplash and threatens to sue the Walsh family.”
But then, when Brenda visits the woman at home to apologize, she looks through the living room window — and sees the woman jazzercising in front of her TV!
We were reminded of it by this AP story:
An appeals court judge was indicted on charges of scamming $440,000 from insurers by claiming he suffered debilitating injuries in a car crash, even while he golfed, skated and went scuba diving, federal prosecutors said….
“The bodily injury he says he sustained we believe was fraudulent,” U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said.
According to the indictment, Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael Thomas Joyce “received $390,000 from his insurer, Erie Insurance Group, and $50,000 from State Farm Insurance, which insured the other driver.” But maybe the insurers should have been a little suspicious:
Prosecutors said Joyce’s car was rear-ended at about 5 mph in August 2001, and no police or medical personnel were called…. [Yet] Joyce complained of debilitating injuries, anxiety and difficulty sleeping and claimed they prevented him from pursuing higher judicial office, prosecutors said.
We run ATL on a shoestring budget, so we can’t exactly afford to send reporters across the country. Taking the train up to New York, to cover a hearing in L’Affaire Charney, is already a big deal for us.
So we’re delighted when tipsters give us eyewitness reports on breaking news. Today we had a correspondent in the courtroom when the jury returned with its verdict in the stock options backdating prosecution of Gregory Reyes, the former CEO of Brocade Communications.
Our source filed this report:
Jury verdict: Guilty on all counts. Not really a scoop, since it’s all over themedia. But we were there and wanted to share.
Courtroom was two rows of press, armed with laptops and blackberries, and three rows of N.D. Cal. externs, armed with nothing else to do during the last week of their externships. And miscellaneous district court clerks, hangers-on, and family.
Reyes’s family was sobbing when the deputy read off the verdict. It was pretty rough. Then a couple of jurors broke out in tears too. Can’t say I envy them.
Or, for that matter, Gregory Reyes. The former member of the Forbes 400 — which he first appeared on at age 37, with a net worth of $1 billion — is presumably headed for federal prison. Update: ATL’s San Francisco correspondent had this to add:
Judge Breyer [Charles R. Breyer, li'l brother of Justice Breyer] gave the defense one week to file a motion for new trial, partly because he wants to be able to rule on it while the case is fresh in his mind, but also because he’s confident that both sides will be able to staff it on that schedule, or something to that effect. I love it when judges basically tell big firms, “You’ve got enough manpower to throw at this.”
Sentencing is set for November 21. Reyes gets to remain free until then.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
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• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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