Judicial Notice (01.29.22): Breyer, Retired
A supremely stupid tweet, a generous gesture from a Biglaw firm, and other legal news from the week that was.
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Greetings from Simi Valley, California, where I spoke this weekend at the 2022 Annual Western Chapters Conference of the Federalist Society. This was my first in-person conference since the start of the pandemic, and it was wonderful to see old friends and to make new ones. I’m looking forward to traveling more for conferences and speaking engagements as the pandemic abates (crossing fingers and knocking wood).
The big news of the week: Justice Stephen Breyer finally announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, igniting intense speculation over his possible successor. I offered my thoughts on some potential nominees in an interview with Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic and at greater length in a detailed story for these pages.
But there was other interesting news as well—so let’s get right to it.
Lawyers of the Week: Vanessa Avery, Trina Higgins, Jesse Laslovich, Lane Tucker, Alexander Uballez, and Jane Young.
We spend so much time focusing on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, but let’s not forget all the other important legal positions he has to fill, including prosecutorial posts. On Thursday, he announced six new nominees to serve as U.S. Attorneys:
Vanessa Avery, currently the chief of the Division of Enforcement and Public Protection at the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, for the District of Connecticut;
Trina Higgins, an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Utah since 2002, to lead that office;
Jesse Laslovich, a regional vice president for the hospital company SCL Health, for the District of Montana;
Lane Tucker, a partner in the Anchorage office of Stoel Rives, for the District of Alaska;
Alexander Uballez, an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of New Mexico since 2016, to lead that office; and
Jane Young, the deputy attorney general for the New Hampshire Department of Justice since 2018, for the District of New Hampshire.
As noted by Law360, all six have prosecutorial experience, five as state prosecutors and five as federal prosecutors in the offices they’re being nominated to lead. Congratulations to them on their nominations, and good luck to them in the confirmation process.
Other attorneys in the headlines, but for less positive reasons:
Michael Avenatti: The disgraced lawyer, already sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison for attempting to extort Nike, is now on trial for charges that he defrauded his ex-client, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. After sidelining the federal defenders assigned to represent him—a move that Judge Jesse Furman told him was
completely boneheadedunwise—Avenatti is defending himself in the colorful trial, producing charming exchanges like this one:
Avenatti: Wasn't it true I was typically nice and respectful to you?
Daniels: No. You lied to me.
Avenatti: Didn't you tell the government I was nice and respectful?
Daniels: I was wrong.
Avenatti: Move to strike.
Ilya Shapiro: The prominent conservative legal commentator, recently hired by Georgetown Law to serve as executive director of its Center for the Constitution, found himself in hot water over this Twitter hot take: “Objectively best pick for Biden is [D.C. Circuit Chief Judge] Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog[ressive] & v smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser Black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?”
Shapiro has apologized for his “inartful” and “recklessly framed tweets” that don’t advance the mission of educating students, informing the public, and engaging “in the battle of legal ideas.” But there’s now a movement afoot to get Georgetown Law to fire him—and Dean William Treanor, who publicly denounced Shapiro’s tweets as “appalling,” appears to be considering it.
People disagree strongly on this issue—see Mark Joseph Stern for the prosecution, Dan McLaughlin for the defense [UPDATE (3:18 p.m.): Mark Joseph Stern actually has not called for Shapiro to be fired]. But my personal view is that Shapiro should not be fired. I’m not sure that people are interpreting his tweet correctly (or there's at least an argument as to how to read it), and the punishment of losing one’s job is out of proportion to the crime: tweeting something supremely stupid, which almost all of us on Twitter have done at one point or another. But again, I realize that folks hold divergent and deeply felt views, which they should feel free to share in the comments to this post.
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