Judicial Notice (07.30.22): The Real Justice of New Jersey
A prison-bound partner, the latest Biglaw rankings, and other legal news from the week that was.
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This week, I learned a new lesson as a suburban homeowner: if you don’t clean your gutters for more than a year, the results are… not pretty. We wound up with four garbage bags full of “gutter sludge”—dirt, leaves, twigs, acorns, and maybe a small appliance or two (because the bags felt that heavy). But at least now the water can flow.
I recorded a new episode of Movers, Shakers, and Rainmakers. My co-host Zach Sandberg and I interviewed Gloria Sandrino of Lateral Link about the state of the lateral partner market. Even if a recession hits (or is already here), expect partner movement to remain brisk (as it did during the Great Recession).
Now, on to the news.
Lawyer of the Week: Jay Kurland.
Alas, I did not win Friday’s $1.3 billion Mega Millions jackpot. A single winning ticket was purchased in the state of Illinois. Congratulations to the lucky winner, who should end up with around $470.8 million—after federal but before state taxes, and assuming they opt for a lump-sum payment, as most winners do.
Lottery winners should assemble a team of professionals to protect their interests, including a lawyer, an accountant, and a financial advisor. But they must make sure these professionals are ethical—unlike our latest Lawyer of the Week.
On Tuesday, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Jason Kurland, the former Rivkin Radler partner who called himself the “lottery lawyer,” of defrauding his clients out of $107 million. Kurland developed a thriving practice representing jackpot winners, and prosecutors estimated that his clients won a total of $3 billion. But apparently the legal fees from this weren’t enough for Kurland.
According to Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, Kurland “steer[ed] his clients to invest millions of dollars in companies that he secretly owned and took illegal kickbacks based on his clients’ investments without their knowledge.” Kurland’s lawyers, Telemachus Kasulis and Dennis Dillon of Morvillo Abramowitz, argued that their client was actually deceived by his business partners, who used his client connections to bring money into their illegal schemes. But the jury saw Kurland as a co-conspirator rather than a dupe, convicting him after six and a half hours of deliberation. (The case was handled by Manhattan rather than Brooklyn prosecutors because Kasulis’s wife—Jacquelyn Kasulis, the prosecutor who put Martin Shkreli aka “pharma bro” behind bars—served as acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York for several months during the pendency of the case, leading to the recusal of the entire office.) [UPDATE (3:45 p.m.): A reader advises me that at least one assistant U.S. attorney from the E.D.N.Y., Brian Morris, remained on the case, and recent docket entries reflect his participation in the trial.]
Other lawyers in the news:
Bill Savitt of Wachtell Lipton, currently representing Twitter in Twitter v. Musk, was profiled by Sujeet Indap of the Financial Times (fun facts: Savitt plays the electric guitar and once worked as a taxi driver)
Brad Karp, chair of Paul, Weiss since 2008, was profiled by Casey Sullivan of Business Insider (not-so-fun fact: Karp bills 3,000-4,000 hours a year); and
Bloomberg Law named its latest class of “40 Under 40,” rising stars of the private bar.
Judge of the Week: Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
The Supreme Court is off for the summer, but the justices continue to make headlines. The justice making the most waves this week was Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who delivered the keynote address at Notre Dame Law School’s 2022 Religious Liberty Summit in Rome. Justice Alito clapped back at some critics of his opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overruled Roe v. Wade and sent abortion back to the states. From Robert Barnes in the Washington Post:
“I had the honor this term of writing I think the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said.
“One of these was former [United Kingdom] prime minister Boris Johnson. But he paid the price,” Alito joked, to applause from the crowd. Johnson has been embroiled in scandal and this month announced plans to step down….
“Come at me, Bo!” Justice Alito is reminding us of his New Jersey roots. And wait, there’s more:
“But what really wounded me—what really wounded me—was when [Prince Harry aka] the Duke of Sussex addressed the United Nations and seemed to compare the decision whose name may not be spoken with the Russian attack on Ukraine.”
Being in-your-face is how we roll here in the Garden State, where Justice Alito spent most of his pre-SCOTUS life, and his snarky asides generated buzz. But so did Jersey Shore and Real Housewives of New Jersey, and I don’t know that a Supreme Court justice would want to be associated with either.
Also troubling: Justice Alito’s patchy beard, which was rather ill-advised (unless he was trying to win a Steven Spielberg lookalike contest). According to Professor Josh Blackman’s impressive history of facial hair at 1 First Street, we haven’t seen a beard on the bench since Justice Antonin Scalia tried it in 1996—for good reason. When contacted for comment on Justice Alito’s new look, Article III Groupie, the ultimate arbiter of judicial style, had only this to say: “The horror, the horror!”
Speaking of the public standing of the Court post-Dobbs, here’s a quick update on last week’s discussion of Justice Elena Kagan’s remarks at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, which are more complex and nuanced than news reports (and her critics) suggested. She acknowledged the countermajoritarian nature of the Court and argued that it retains its legitimacy by “acting like a Court” and “doing law,” identifying three things that “doing law” entails: (1) respecting precedent absent “extraordinary justification”; (2) consistently applying “methodologies that constrain and discipline judges”; and (3) deciding no more than is necessary in a given case. You can listen to the relevant portion of her remarks here, starting at 9:21 and ending at 21:40 (where she received a rousing ovation).
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