Judicial Notice: December 11, 2020

Notable legal news from the week that was.

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Welcome to the latest installment of Judicial Notice, my weekly update, in which I take note of important legal news developments and render my judgments. It has been an eventful week, so let’s jump right in.

Weekly Awards

Lawyer of the Week: L. Lin Wood.

Why? Because:

Yes, that’s right. In his rather strange (to put it charitably) filing in Texas v. Pennsylvania, the latest election litigation to make its way to the Supreme Court, the prominent Georgia lawyer misspelled his own name — among a number of other embarrassing mistakes.

Runners-up: Bryan Garner, the renowned legal lexicographer, who made his debut argument before the Supreme Court this week (and left the justices a bit “starstruck”); and Doug Emhoff, the outgoing DLA Piper partner and incoming “second gentleman,” who just landed a nice teaching gig at Georgetown Law. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Emhoff won widespread praise for his unstinting support of his wife, Senator (and now vice president-elect) Kamala Harris.

Judge of the Week: Judge Ralph K. Winter Jr.

Judge Winter, a leading light of the federal judiciary, recently passed away at the age of 85, following a long illness. Here’s what one of his former clerks, Wachtell Lipton partner turned Trump antagonist George T. Conway III, had to say about his old boss:

For additional remembrances, see also this Facebook post by Gregory Chernack, another former RKW clerk, which does a beautiful job of capturing the essence of Judge Winter — his brilliance (he was a distinguished Yale law professor before taking the bench), his sense of humor, and his commitment to justice.

Ruling of the Week: Judge Nicholas Garaufis’s restoration of DACA.

Last Friday — so it actually happened last week, but not until after I had sent out my update, so I’m considering it for this week — Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis (E.D.N.Y.) ordered the Trump Administration to bring back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals aka “DACA” program. Judge Garaufis’s ruling could allow an estimated 300,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to obtain protection from deportation, allowing them to live and work in the United States legally, at least for a time.

It’s not a long-term solution; for that, president-elect Joe Biden and Congress will need to hammer out some comprehensive immigration reform (and I’m not holding my breath). But it’s good news for the Dreamers for now.

Litigation of the Week: Texas v. Pennsylvania.

This was an easy choice. First, Texas’s effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn pro-Biden election results in four states that are not Texas — to wit, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and Wisconsin — is clearly the big case of the week. It definitely has tongues wagging — but not in a good way. Here’s what the ubiquitous George Conway has to say, writing in the Washington Post:

Brought by Texas’s ethically challenged attorney general, Ken Paxton, the case is legally preposterous. By Texas’s own admission, it’s “challenging” the other states’ “administration of the 2020 election.” No constitutional provision, no statute and no principle of law gives one state the standing to challenge another state’s handling of an election. In our system, Texas isn’t the boss of Pennsylvania. Allowing such suits would invite a multistate free-for-all every time a presidential election is held.

Second, Texas is trying to invoke the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, the Court’s (rarely exercised) power to decide a case in the first instance, rather than on appeal. So thank you, Texas, for putting “original jurisdiction” in the spotlight!

Deals of the Week: Uber’s unloading of unprofitable units.

Uber is demonstrating to Wall Street that it wants to become something other than uber-unprofitable. It’s ditching two units that haven’t delivered on their early promises of profit, although in a well-designed way where it will keep some portion of any upside.

On Monday, Uber announced that it would be handing over its self-driving car operation to Aurora Innovation Inc., the Silicon Valley startup. As part of the deal, Uber will invest $400 million in cash into Aurora, giving Uber a 26 percent stake in Aurora after the transaction closes.

On Tuesday, Uber announced that it would be turning over its flying-car project, Uber Elevate, to the air taxi start-up Joby Aviation. As in the autonomous-vehicle deal with Aurora, Uber will invest an additional $75 million into Joby, and the two companies will become partners when the flying car lands in the market.

Runner-up (for the sheer coolness factor): Bob Dylan selling his songwriting catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group, for a sum north of $300 million. Dylan has controlled his own copyrights for decades — but the times, they are a-changin’.

(By the way, I couldn’t locate the lawyers and law firms on these three deals. If you happen to know their identities, please email me, at davidlat@substack.com; I’ll update this post on the Original Jurisdiction website to note them.)

Law Firm of the Week: Norton Rose Fulbright.

Congratulations to Norton Rose Fulbright and its incoming leader, labor and employment partner Shauna Clark, who will take over as Global and U.S. Chair as of January 1. As noted by Gerry Pecht, NRF’s Global Chief Executive, “Shauna is the first woman of color to hold either of these important positions at our firm, as well as the only woman of color to be Chair of an Am Law 200 firm. Our people and clients will benefit from both her legal prowess and excellent judgment in the courtroom and the boardroom, as well as her invaluable perspective on diversity and inclusion issues.”

Runner-up: last week’s firm of the week, Boies Schiller Flexner. The firm remains in the headlines, for good reasons. Yesterday, as expected, it announced associate bonuses that went as high as $450,000. But it also announced “welcoming bonuses” of $20,000 each for incoming associates, which came as a welcome surprise.

Lateral Move of the Week: White & Case hiring Keith Wofford and Stephen Moeller-Sally.

In the first half of 2020, bankruptcy was booming from a lateral recruiting perspective, as top partners and practice chairs played a game of musical chairs. The activity seems to be abating, at least in my anecdotal observation — but it’s not yet over.

On Monday, White & Case announced its hiring of veteran restructuring lawyers Keith Wofford and Stephen Moeller-Sally, who joined from Ropes & Gray. The duo, who focus on creditor-side work for funds, had been a prominent presence at Ropes: Wofford served as co-managing partner of the New York office and co-chair of its restructuring practice, and Moeller-Sally had been at Ropes for almost 20 years.

They are the newest but by no means only additions to White & Case’s restructuring practice this year. Back in October, the firm brought aboard three bankruptcy partners from Sidley Austin — Jessica Boelter and Bojan Guzina, who were global co-chairs of restructuring at Sidley, and Michael Andolina, who was deputy group head of the firm’s Chicago litigation group.

Keith Wofford, by the way, is a fascinating figure. As noted in this profile and interview by Vivia Chen, he’s a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, a former Wachtell Lipton associate, a black Republican who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and the GOP’s candidate for New York Attorney General in 2018. Wofford didn’t prevail in that race — one of the few times in his life that he hasn’t succeeded at something — but being a Republican candidate in the State of New York is nothing short of masochistic.

Runner-up in the lateral hiring category: Dentons devouring Davis Brown, an 80-lawyer Iowa firm, as part of “Project Golden Spike,” its ongoing effort to grow its U.S. presence.

Non Sequiturs

Here are some quick links that are worth your time and attention. Inclusion here doesn’t necessarily signify my agreement, but just means I think the piece is noteworthy. (Thanks to Howard Bashman of How Appealing for a number of these.)

That’s a wrap; court is adjourned. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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