New Jersey Bytes Archives
Friday, November 16, 2012
Justice Samuel Alito defended the 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission on Thursday night, jabbing at critics of the U.S. Supreme Court's majority opinion but also admitting the success of their public relations campaign.
Alito said arguments can be made for overturning Citizens United, but not the popular one that boils down to one line: Corporations shouldn't get free speech rights like a person.
It is pithy, it fits on a bumper sticker, and in fact a variety of bumper stickers are available, Alito told a crowd of about 1,400 at The Federalist Societys annual dinner. He cited two: End Corporate Personhood, and Life does not begin at incorporation.
Then Alito pointed out the same people do not question the First Amendment rights of media corporations in cases like The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Pentagon papers case. If corporations did not have free speech rights, newspapers would lose such cases, he said.
Alito added that nobody questioned whether First Amendment rights extended to the corporation that broadcast the awards speech during which Nicole Richie swore on air, an episode immortalized in Fox v. Federal Communications Commission.
Alito censored himself when repeating Richies quote to the conservative crowd: Have you ever tried to get cow bleep out of a Prada purse, its not so bleeping simple.
Alito said the real issue is whether free speech rights should be limited to certain preferred corporations, namely those media organizations. And with the proliferation of the Internet and social media, the line is getting more blurry between individuals and media, he said.
The crowd heard a few zingers from Alito about how he learned constitutional law. Alito said Yale assigned him to the class of Charles Reich, a professor who had written several popular books about the decline of society. Reich thought redemption could be found in the college hippie, Alito said.
Reich started asking each student why they wanted to become a lawyer, and then engaged them in an extended debate. This went on for weeks, Alito said. The point he was trying to get across was that there are no livable lives to be lived in the law.
Reich also spent class time telling the students about a law firm at which one partner died during a tirade against an associate and another committed suicide by jumping down the elevator shaft.
One day, someone brought wine into class. He began to chant, Who put the acid in the wine, who put the acid in the wine, and that was the end of the class for the day, Alito said. Soon, there was a note on the class door: I have found it necessary to go to San Francisco, the rest of the classes are cancelled.
That was the end of my instruction in constitutional law, Alito said, to applause from the audience. I was forced to teach myself.
Alito quipped that there were several books about constitutional law to buy and read, but a beginner might start out by actually reading the text of the constitution.
It is hard not to notice that Congress powers are limited, Alito said. And you will see there is an amendment that comes right after the First Amendment, and theres another that comes after the Ninth Amendment. Those are just a couple of examples.
Posted by Todd Ruger at 11:56 AM.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
More than three dozen websites from top law firms were down Thursday morning, apparently for at least several hours.
Gone from the home pages of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Covington & Burling, Baker & McKenzie and other firms were links for attorneys and offices, among other firm details. Instead, there were links that included: "In Pain? Get Relief Now" and "Find Injury Attorneys."
The websites are hosted by One North Interactive LLC, which provides technology services to law firms. The Chicago-based company said in a message to Akin that "a hosting incident" happened at 7:35 a.m. Eastern.
"This incident was caused by an issue with a critical DNS record. The issue with the DNS record has been resolved," One North Interactive said. "However, changes to DNS take time to propagate through the full DNS tree. We will continue to monitor the issue and provide updates as we have them.
Benjamin Harris, an Akin spokesman, said his firm's website wasn't attacked by hackers, noting that the back end of the website is functioning correctly.
Jen Bullett, a One North Interactive spokeswoman, wrote in an email that none of the websites were hacked and security wasn't breached. The company said in a client alert that the incident was the result of an "oversight in renewing a critical domain name" in its transition to an independent business. One North Interactive in August announced its formation and its acquisition of Hubbard One web group from Thomson Reuters. The deal was finalized on Monday.
"One Norths commitment to clients and the market is complete transparency, which must also include errors and mistakes on our end," Bullett wrote. "We acknowledge that this outage puts our clients in a very challenging spot and are working collectively as we speak to address all issues."
Other downed websites included the main pages of Patton Boggs; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr; Hogan Lovells; McDermott Will & Emery; White & Case; Mayer Brown; Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; DLA Piper; Holland & Knight; Baker Botts; Foley & Lardner; Troutman Sanders; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Jones Day; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Reed Smith; Sullivan & Cromwell; Morrison & Foerster; Davis Polk & Wardwell; Ropes & Gray; Shearman & Sterling; Proskauer Rose; Dechert; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Bryan Cave; Katten Muchin Rosenman; Fish & Richardson; Schulte Roth & Zabel; Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner; Dorsey & Whitney; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel; Chadbourne & Parke; and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
As of 2:47 p.m., the websites of the law firms listed appeared to be operating properly.
Posted by Jenna Greene and Matthew Huisman at 03:11 PM.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Both of Gov. Chris Christies recently rejected nominees to the state Supreme Court Bruce Harris and Phillip Kwon have been hired to fill two public sector jobs.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority on Tuesday hired Harris as its new general counsel. The move comes after last weeks decision by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to hire Kwon, the former first assistant attorney general, to be its deputy general counsel.
Harris is being paid $165,000 a year and Kwons post pays a salary of $215,000.
Had they been appointed to the Supreme Court, they would have been paid $185,482 a year.
The Senate Judiciary Committee declined to confirm the nominations, Harris on May 31 and Kwon on March 22, in 7-6 votes.
Democrats, who make up the majority, cited Harris' lack of legal experience and the fact that he had not made partner at either firm where he worked, Greenberg Traurig in Florham Part and before that Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti in Morristown.
As for Kwon, they were concerned about his mother's liquor-store business having paid $160,000 to settle federal government claims of improper cash deposits.
Christie has said the two were spurned for political reasons and that Democrats are still angry over his decision to not nominate Justice John Wallace Jr., a Democrat, for tenure.
Harris, the Republican mayor of Chatham, would have become the court's first openly gay justice. Kwon, an independent formerly registered as a Republican in New York State, would have become the courts first Asian-American justice.
At Port Authority, Kwon is replacing former Attorney General Paula Dow, who held the deputy general counsel post for several months before being appointed to the Superior Court bench in Burlington County.
Posted by Michael Booth at 03:45 PM.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
During the past five years there has been a steady increase in the number of lawsuits filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to research by Seyfarth Shaw.
Using data confirmed by the Federal Judicial Center, the firm counted 7,064 cases during the 12 months ending on March 12 of this year. Since 2008, there has been a steady increase in the number of cases filed per year.
Richard Alfred, Seyfarth partner and chair of the firm's national wage and hour litigation practice group, attributes the recent spike in cases over the past few years partially to a slumping economy. People who lost their jobs during the economic downturn, Alfred said, explored their legal options.
"Whether or not they had a wrongful termination case, they went to seek legal advice on that subject," Alfred said. He said some plaintiffs lawyers will often steer potential clients away from a wrongful termination suit in favor of a wage and hour suit because the law is often difficult to interpret. He added that these were generally not intentional violations on the part of employers.
From the mid 90's through the early 2000's, wage and hour lawsuits hovered a little less than 2,000 cases per year. Since then the number of cases have increased more than threefold.
Alfred attributes the sharp rise in the number of cases, beginning in 2003, to a few enterprising lawyers who won large settlements and attorney fee awards.
"That led to a realization by other plaintiffs lawyers that the wage and hour laws, because of the way they are written and the changes in the workplace, were relatively easy claims to bring against employers on a class basis," Alfred said.
And he doesn't see the number of wage and hour suits declining any time soon. He said that it would ultimately rely on lawmakers to update the 74-year-old law.
"I see a continuing increase in these claims brought in federal court and in state courts," Alfred said. "I think that ultimately Congress and state legislatures need to change the laws so that they more closely fit the modern day economy."
Posted by Matthew Huisman at 03:45 PM.
Monday, June 18, 2012
There has been an increase in the number of complaints against non-lawyers preparing bankruptcy filings for a fee, according to a report the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released Monday.
Federal law allows bankruptcy filers to use an attorney or go it alone as pro se filers. Those who elect to file themselves can use the help of non-lawyer, bankruptcy petition preparers who often charge a fee to help prepare the filing.
The increase in the abuse is due in part to the mortgage crisis that has gripped much of the country, the AOC concluded.
"The increase in 'foreclosure rescue' and 'loan modification' services seems to be the source in the past three years," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Maureen Tighe in the Central District of California said in the report. "The homeowners are desperate and take advice from the most questionable sources."
Between fiscal years 2005 through the 2011 fiscal year, complainants filed 2,529 formal actions against bankruptcy petition preparers. In 98.5 percent of the formal actions, the court granted some form of relief. Common infractions include the unauthorized practice of law or collecting more than the petition-preparation fee. In other instances preparers who have been barred from filing bankruptcy petitions prepare the paperwork but advise the pro se filer to sign the bankruptcy petition.
Posted by Matthew Huisman at 02:41 PM.