Judicial Notice (11.12.22): What Is A 'Layoff'?
Alex Spiro's growing role at Twitter, the epic implosion of FTX, and other legal news from the week that was.
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Apologies for sending out this edition of Judicial Notice a little later than usual. I’m on my way back from Washington, D.C., where I spoke at the Federalist Society’s 2022 National Lawyers Convention on a panel about judges getting involved in picking their successors. The theme of this year’s conference was “The Current State of the Legal Profession,” and I attended a wide range of panels featuring spirited debate from speakers across the ideological spectrum. (Howard Bashman collected videos from some of the more noteworthy sessions over at How Appealing.)
It was actually my second speaking engagement of the week. On Thursday, I spoke on a panel about First Amendment Jurisprudence at the Practising Law Institute’s Communications Law in the Digital Age conference. Both appearances went well (or so I like to think), but I am definitely… tired.
Zach Sandberg and I also recorded the 30th episode of Movers, Shakers, and Rainmakers. We assessed the current state of the Biglaw market and made predictions about lateral partner movement and associate bonuses.
Now, on to the news.
Lawyer of the Week: Alex Spiro.
The big news story of last week was the midterm elections, in which the “red wave” expected by many people, myself included, failed to materialize. The most important aspect of this for lawyers and judges is that the Democrats retained Senate control, which will allow them to proceed full speed ahead with judicial nominations. But the biggest individual winner was arguably a Republican, as well as a lawyer: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The Harvard Law graduate and former Navy JAG lawyer won reelection by almost 20 points, setting himself up as the strongest competitor to Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. (Aaron Blake of the Washington Post argues that DeSantis has pulled ahead of Trump; Ross Douthat of the New York Times doesn’t go that far, but comes close.)
Lawyer of the Week honors are about folks who made news for their work as lawyers, though, which is why I’m bestowing them upon Alex Spiro, the prominent trial attorney and Quinn Emanuel partner who represents a slew of celebrities, becoming something of a celebrity in his own right. Another major story last week was gazillionaire Elon Musk’s somewhat shambolic effort to remake Twitter—and a major player in that process is the 39-year-old Spiro, described in a Washington Post profile as “one of Musk’s closest lieutenants, confidants, and consiglieres.”
Within hours of Musk closing the deal, Spiro assumed leadership of Twitter’s legal, marketing, and trust and safety teams. In his new role, one of his jobs has been reassuring anxious employees who are worried about running afoul of Twitter’s 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), which resolved allegations of past data misuse by putting the company under a consent order containing various privacy and security requirements. The FTC expressed “deep concern” about recent developments at Twitter, but Spiro isn’t sweating it. According to the New York Times, he colorfully quipped to Twitter team members, “Elon puts rockets into space—he’s not afraid of the FTC.” (For more on Spiro, who gives relatively few media interviews for someone of his stature, check out my recent podcast interview—in which he revealed how little sleep he needs, among other things.)
Jeff Kayes, an energy and finance partner at Orrick (and Baker Botts before that), passed away at 47, while mountain biking in the Bay Area.
James Shellow, a high-profile, high-living criminal defense lawyer, passed away at 95 from Covid-19. His daughter, lawyer Jill Shellow, told the Washington Post, “My father didn’t stop smoking until the day before he died. He liked very good wine and he drank like a fish. And, frankly, he chased anything in a skirt.”
May they rest in peace.
Judge of the Week: Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks.
On Thursday, Judge Donald Middlebrooks (S.D. Fla.) imposed sanctions on four lawyers who filed a frivolous complaint on behalf of former president Trump. In their 193-page amended complaint, the lawyers—Alina Habba, Michael Madaio, Peter Ticktin, and Jamie Alan Sasson—alleged a vast conspiracy, involving everyone from Hillary Clinton to James Comey, aimed at harming Trump’s prospects in the 2016 presidential election by creating a “false narrative” that Trump was colluding with Russia. In his 19-page ruling, Judge Middlebrooks doled out some benchslaps (citation and footnote omitted):
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