Judicial Notice (11.18.23): So Long, Farewell
David Boies goes out on top, Donna Adelson goes to jail, a Sidley Austin associate goes viral (and gets fired), and other legal news from the week that was.
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Is everyone ready for Thanksgiving? We’re staying local, going to my parents’ place in Bergen County, 45 minutes to the north. I expect to do some writing over the next few days, but given the upcoming holiday and shortened week, it might be lighter than usual (and I might skip next weekend’s Judicial Notice).
Now, on to the news.
Lawyer of the Week: David Boies.
Many founders find it difficult to step away from leading what they founded, not wanting to entrust someone else with their “baby.” I had this challenge with the modest enterprise of Above the Law, which I founded in 2006 and didn’t leave until 2019—and looking back now, perhaps I should have left earlier than I did.
So I can understand why superstar litigator David Boies has had a hard time relinquishing leadership at the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller Flexner (where I spoke this past May for AAPI Heritage Month—my policy is to disclose paid speaking engagements if they’re within the past year). Boies has led BSF since launching it in 1997 after leaving Cravath, and his unwillingness to give up the helm contributed to the departures of rainmakers who were likely future leaders—including Karen Dunn, now litigation co-chair at Paul, Weiss (and my latest podcast guest); Nick Gravante, now litigation co-chair at Cadwalader; and Natasha Harrison, now founding and managing partner of Pallas Partners. Boies’s leadership proved especially problematic after his personal brand, burnished by celebrated cases like the Microsoft antitrust battle and the fight for marriage equality in California, got tarnished by his controversial representations of convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein and defunct blood-testing company Theranos.
Finally, after several unsuccessful transition attempts, the 82-year-old Boies has announced that he’ll step down as chair at the end of 2024, as reported by Erin Mulvaney of the Wall Street Journal. It’s a good time for a changing of the guard because Boies Schiller has found its footing again, after several rocky years (especially 2020, when its revenue and headcount shrank dramatically amid massive partner departures). In the coming months, the firm will collect $200 million in fees from three blockbuster cases alone: the Blue Cross Blue Shield antitrust litigation, which yielded a $2.7 billion settlement, and cases against JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking victims, which produced settlements of $290 million and $75 million, respectively.
Who will succeed David Boies? According to Justin Wise of Bloomberg Law, the frontrunners are Matthew Schwartz, a white-collar defense lawyer who handled the Bernie Madoff case as a federal prosecutor, and Sigrid McCawley, a civil litigator most well-known for her work on behalf of Epstein victims (both pro bono and paid). The firm will elect its next chair at its annual retreat next month, allowing the incoming chair—or co-chairs, if two-thirds of the BSF executive committee agrees to that—to overlap for a year with Boies, facilitating transition. As for Boies himself, he is stepping down as chair but will continue to litigate landmark cases, including one that could effectively legalize intrastate cannabis commerce. Don’t bogart that joint, David!
Other lawyers in the news:
The latest judicial nominee to get tripped up by tricky questions from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) was Sara Hill (N.D. Okla.), former attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, who struggled to explain collateral estoppel or the difference between a stay and an injunction. (For a good primer on collateral estoppel and a fun citation of Eminem, check out Judge Jerry Smith’s dissent in Lartigue v. Northside Independent School District.)
Juicy video interviews of lawyers Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, and Kenneth Chesebro, all cooperating in the election-interference case against Donald Trump in Fulton County, Georgia, wound up getting leaked—and small-town lawyer Jonathan Miller III confessed to leaking them. Surprisingly enough, there was no protective order in place at the time—but now there is.
Congratulations to Marc Wolinsky of Wachtell Lipton and Richard Emery and Debbie Greenberger of Emery Celli, Ross Todd’s latest Litigators of the Week, for their work on behalf of George Bell, a wrongfully imprisoned man for whom they obtained $22 million in judgments. And congratulations to deputy solicitor general Malcolm Stewart on his 100th argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judges of the Week: the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
As mentioned earlier this week, the nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States issued the Court’s first-ever Code of Conduct—and yes, I have some thoughts. In addition to the reflections below, I’ll share my views in a webinar tomorrow at 4 p.m. Eastern with Professor Arthur Hellman, moderated by Judge Jennifer Perkins, so please register and join us.
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