Villa Belvedere

Welcome to’s new Midweek Recess column, in which we round up some tasty tidbits from the week’s legal news cycle. We’ll be here every Wednesday, so grab a cup of coffee and take a little break. It’s all downhill to the weekend from here.

First up, it’s official: Your house is a dump, and your real estate story is boring. A developer who tried to sell a seven-bedroom, 15,000-square-foot mansion on the San Francisco Bay — complete with waterfall and 2,000-bottle wine cellar — for the bargain price of $33 million is suing two real estate agents for allegedly using “Tom Clancy-esque words and phrases to both hide the identity and build the credibility of their purported buyer” — supposedly an international billionaire with assets conveniently frozen by the CIA. Forget “the check is in the mail.” How about: “The check will be released just as soon the new CIA director takes office. Honest, I just got a call from Langley.” [The Recorder]

In other news, sorry, ladies, in case you haven’t heard, George Clooney is engaged — to a lawyer. Amal Alamuddin is a human rights attorney who studied at Oxford and NYU, has represented Julian Assange and the erstwhile Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, and once worked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor when Sotomayor sat on the Second Circuit. Meanwhile, Alamuddin’s betrothed is, as Slate put it, “an American actor and director who played ‘Kip Howard’ on the television mystery program Murder, She Wrote,” Looks like perennial bachelor Clooney just wanted to find a woman who could make a really good argument for marriage.

It’s a tough job market out there, but a lawyer in Pennsylvania who was convicted for filming “upskirt” videos is apparently still considered qualified to practice. The state supreme court has reinstated Clayton W. Boulware after a six-month suspension due to his conduct, which included filming a 16-year-old girl in a market using a video camera attached to his shoe. Boulware reportedly blamed his actions, in part, on his “open relationship” with a younger woman and his “swinging lifestyle.” A disciplinary board report concluded that Boulware wasn’t at risk for repeating the behavior, while noting that his case was one of first impression. “We could not find a case with facts identical to those presented here,” the board said in its report. Well… that’s something? [The Legal Intelligencer]

U.S. Supreme Court justices have been recusing themselves left and right recently (see the multiple eight person rulings handed down this week) but apparently some of their brethren on the federal appellate bench have no qualms about ruling on cases in which they have a stake. According to a report from the Center for Public Integrity, over 24 judges have ruled on cases involving companies in which they had financial investments in the past three years. The Center informed the judges of its findings, and sixteen of them have since sent letters to the parties in the relevant cases, which may lead to the litigation being reopened. Do check out the CPI’s page on the report. It’s got an interactive data chart, so you can zero right in on those judges in your district. [WSJ Law Blog]

Proving Faulkner’s oft-cited observation that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” the Federal Circuit this week ruled in a contract case that arose out of environmental damage dating to–wait for it–WWII. Here’s the deal: Shell and Texaco, among other companies, provided the government with gas for airplanes as part of the war effort. Byproducts from the refinement of the gas, including “acid sludge,” were dumped on land in Fullerton, Calif. More recently, the U.S. government demanded that the gas companies pay for cleanup of the site, while the companies argued that the war contracts required the government to indemnify them for the cleanup costs. The Federal Circuit opinion provides some interesting historical context for the dispute, beginning with discussion of “the atmosphere of stark determination for victory at all costs” after the Pearl Harbor attack. The panel reversed the Court of Federal Claims’ grant of summary judgment in favor of the government, but the issue of damages has been remanded for trial. Take that, Chevron. Yours is not the only eternal environmental litigation out there. [How Appealing]

Like President Obama and, well, everyone else these days, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has some ideas about how law schools should be doing things differently. In an interview with The American Spectator, Alito calls the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings “an abomination,” despite the fact that his alma mater is sitting pretty at the top. “I really don’t like this categorization of schools as first, second, and third-tier,” said the justice, who regularly hires clerks from non-Ivy League law schools. The justice also pooh-poohs the importance of the almighty LSAT, saying, “What in life is a multiple choice test?” And truthfully, he may have a point. Who needs to know how many clowns can fit in the clown car and in what order? The only thing that matters is counting — to five.

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