Judicial Notice (09.17.22): Laying The Smackdown
A Biglaw firm gets benchslapped, an attorney gets slap-slapped, and other legal news from the week that was.
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I hope everyone had a wonderful Constitution Day yesterday. If you’re looking for good reading material for the occasion, check out this excellent Washington Post op-ed by Judges Bernice Donald (6th Cir.) and Don Willett, in which they offer five suggestions for what we can all do to help form “a more perfect union.” I mentioned their piece in this Twitter thread along with reflections by former Fourth Circuit judge J. Michael Luttig, shared in his Constitution Day address at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
On the personal front, I’m happy to report that I have nothing to report this week about my health—other than how I’m feeling good. And my gallbladder ordeal, as painful as it was, allowed me to shed those stubborn last five pounds.
I do regret that my hospital stay prevented me from joining Zach Sandberg and Proskauer corporate partner Chris Ahn for the latest episode of Movers, Shakers, and Rainmakers. But as you can see (or hear), they did a great job without me, putting together an insightful episode full of useful market analysis and career advice.
Now, on to the news.
Lawyer of the Week: Geoffrey S. Berman.
On Monday, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Committee would be investigating allegations of misconduct at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”). The source of those allegations? Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent U.S. Attorney's Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department, the juicy new memoir by Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2018 to 2020. The book’s official publication date was Tuesday, but the allegations were covered the week before by Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times, who obtained an advance copy.
The overall gist of the allegations shouldn’t shock anyone who knows Donald Trump: Trump’s DOJ, according to Berman, pressured him and his office to prosecute enemies and protect allies of the former president. But the specifics—involving such figures as former Secretary of State John Kerry, former White House Counsel Greg Craig, and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen—are still deeply disturbing. Assuming the allegations are accurate (which at least one former DOJ official denies), Berman should be commended for trying to pursue impartial justice while trying not to get fired—or as Berman puts it, for “walk[ing] this tightrope for two and a half years.”
Runner-up for Lawyer of the Week: Connecticut attorney Robert Serafinowicz, who was caught on video slapping a fellow lawyer, Edward Gavin, outside a courthouse. Serafinowicz told the ABA Journal that he extended Gavin the courtesy of asking him to apologize for various perceived slights before smacking him upside the head. Alas, that didn’t prevent Serafinowicz from being charged with third-degree assault on an elderly person and breach of the peace.
Returning to Trumpworld, as we inevitably do, we now know at least one reason why Chris Kise, the well-respected former solicitor general of Florida, agreed to represent Trump in the Mar-a-Lago mess—or make that three million reasons. Learning from the past experience of former Trump lawyers who got stiffed (or offered horses as payment), Kise requested—and received—a $3 million retainer for his work, per Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush of the New York Times. But note that the money didn’t come from the former president’s personal pockets: it was ponied up by Trump’s Save America PAC, per Betsy Woodruff Swan of Politico.
Ken Starr—former D.C. Circuit judge, U.S. solicitor general, and most famously, the independent counsel whose investigation uncovered Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky—passed away at 76, from surgical complications.
Page Pate, the prominent Georgia trial lawyer, passed away at 55, in a drowning accident.
May they rest in peace.
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