Two learned Boalt Hall professors, John Yoo and Jesse Choper, collegially discussed on Thursday night one of today’s most divisive legal questions � whether enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay deserve the right to challenge their imprisonment in a federal court.

Yoo is best known for his time working at the U.S. Department of Justice under the Bush administration, during which he wrote a memo advising that the Geneva Conventions don’t necessarily apply to enemy combatants interrogated in the international fight against terrorism.

He and Choper, an advocate for the right of habeas corpus for combatants, more or less tag-teamed each other at the podium during Thursday’s debate in San Francisco, put on by the local chapter of the Federalist Society.

“I know you were all thinking of going to the John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry lecture tonight,” Yoo said, opening the discussion and garnering big laughs from the 30 or so audience members. The former democratic presidential candidate and his wife were in town discussing their new book on the environment.

Yoo briefly outlined how in the last couple of years, Congress and the Supreme Court have traded figurative blows over whether federal courts have jurisdiction over enemy combatants, many of whom have been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than five years without charges or trials. As of last October, a then-Republican controlled Congress had decreed that federal courts do not have jurisdiction over the detainees’ fates, and codified a system of military tribunals for them.

“I think it’s perfectly within the Congress’ powers to correct mistakes by the Supreme Court,” Yoo said.

Choper, a former dean of Boalt Hall, responded, “It is not that the court needed any correction. The court made the tiny move to � find that Guantanamo was the functional equivalent � of a U.S. territory.”

Yoo and Choper then took on some of the key questions of the habeas-for-detainees debate, such as whether Guantanamo is indeed U.S. soil, the difference between a detainee and a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions, and whether the rules should be different for the war on terror than for previous wars.

Yoo and Choper of course disagreed on all these points. Still, things didn’t get too heated � though at one point Yoo jokingly accused Choper of framing his arguments in terms of “due process, the last refuge of academic scoundrels.”

The two professors are working on a journal article that mimics their debate, which they said began as faculty-room discussions that simply wouldn’t die.

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton special counsel David DeGroot, president of the Federalist Society’s local chapter, said he hoped to post a downloadable recording of the debate soon on the group’s blog,

Jessie Seyfer


Longtime Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman messenger Martin Macy has often been described as a friend to all, spreading cheer and leaving cookies on lawyers’ chairs in the pre-dawn hours when he came to work.

After he was let go by the firm last year, apparently as part of a belt-tightening effort, those whom he touched did not forget him.

More than $230,000 has been raised to put in a trust for the 59-year-old Macy by former and current Pillsbury lawyers and others who have heard his story.

“Martin is one of the most beloved people who was ever associated with Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro,” said Clement Glynn, a former Pillsbury lawyer now at Glynn & Finley in Walnut Creek. “When he lost his job, there was a great deal of support to do something to make clear how much people cared about him.”

Glynn and former Pillsbury partner William Edlund, now with Bartko, Zankel, Tarrant & Miller in San Francisco, spearheaded the fundraising effort, which culminated on March 29 with a celebration at Fior d’Italia in North Beach. About 80 people attended, including California Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard, Glynn said.

Known for his loud and cheerful greetings, Macy’s unique character was a staple in the halls of Pillsbury for four decades. Glynn described Macy as “intensely caring, explosively enthusiastic and unfailingly kind.”

Around 250 people donated to the fundraising effort. As of the end of February, Pillsbury alums had donated around $160,000, current Pillsbury lawyers chipped in $36,000, and widows of alums had put in more than $10,000, with the rest coming from current Pillsbury staff and others who knew or read about Macy, according to a letter sent to donors.

With the trust as well as disability payments from the Social Security Administration (Macy has diabetes), and money coming from his retirement plans, Macy will be receiving more than the $37,000 a year he took home when he worked at Pillsbury, Glynn said.

“Barring the unforeseen, thanks to the generosity of each of you, Martin should be safe for the rest of his life,” Glynn and Edlund wrote in the letter to donors. “We welcome any further donations into the trust, but we can also say, at least for now, there is no emergency that requires them.”

Zusha Elinson


Last week, Los Angeles attorney Pamela Samuels-Young was sitting in a Kansas City mediation room, staring at the vent in the wall, and wondering if her voice could be heard on the other side.

She wasn’t being overly paranoid. She was thinking more in terms of a storyline for her next legal thriller.

“What if there was a mediator who could control the vents?” she said. “I jotted it in my notes for later.”

Samuels-Young, 49, a former O’Melveny & Myers attorney, is now a managing counsel for labor and employment law at Toyota Motor Sales in Torrance. She’s also an author, who this year published her second novel, “In Firm Pursuit.”

As a self-described cross between John Grisham and Terry McMillan, Samuels-Young writes about what she knows best: Being an African-American attorney.

“I would always read Grisham and other stories about lawyers, and there would never be any lawyer in those stories who looked like me,” she said. “I said, ‘One day, I am going to write a legal thriller.’”

She first gave it a try while at O’Melveny, cramming in writing sessions before work, on weekends and on vacation at her time-share in Palm Desert.

When she was finished, she copied it at Kinko’s and shopped around her manuscript to friends, but the reactions were tepid. She recalls showing it to Cheryl Mason, then an O’Melveny partner, and hearing, “I am going to be honest.”

Mason advised Samuels-Young to focus on the first 50 pages of a second novel she had started, and shelve the first one. Samuels-Young followed the advice, and the book turned into “Every Reasonable Doubt,” which was published last year by what was then BET Books. The original, since improved upon, was resurrected and turned into “In Firm Pursuit,” published by Harlequin in January.

The main character, Vernetta Henderson, isn’t quite Samuels-Young � but there are similarities. The plots exaggerate material from her attorney life: There’s a high-profile murder case, a sexual harassment case, even a “jerk” associate. And she transferred some of her lawyering skills � such as the storytelling style she once utilized in front of juries � to the chapters.

Working in house has made it a lot easier to write. Last year she moved to a part-time role as her schedule got busier, making public appearances, leading workshops and promoting the new book.

The company has been very supportive. Several co-workers gave the draft of one novel a first read. And on the day her first novel came out last year, General Counsel Dian Ogilvie put her Web site on the screen in the middle of a staff meeting and told everybody about the book.

From now on, she’s aiming for one book a year, and eventually would like to be a full-time author. Just the other day, she read about an unethical judge in a legal paper and added it to her list.

“I’ve got a drawer full of story ideas.”

Kellie Schmitt