Bybee Takes Aim at Fan of Metal, Meth

October 24, 2006

Could there be a greater temperamental — and ideological — canyon than the one between Ninth Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Jay Bybee? The former was being called a liberal activist judge before Bybee was done with law school — and, one would hope, years before Bybee even considered signing the now-infamous 2002 Bush administration torture memo.

Combine those differences with some methamphetamine, heavy metal and murder, and you’ve got the makings of a good case (court .pdf).

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CPAs Grill Prosecutor, Partner on Backdating

October 24, 2006

Can you think of a more intimidating crowd than a roomful of accountants? They know all the issues, understand all the details, and can assail you with a stumper at any point in the question-and-answer session.

Still, Melinda Haag and Michael Wang — a defense lawyer and federal prosecutor, respectively — made an admirable showing Tuesday surrounded by the panoramic windows of the Carnelian Room, where they talked about stock option backdating before a group of CPAs. And while there’s been no shortage of verbiage on the subject of backdating over the past six months, the event put on by the California Society of Certified Public Accountants’ litigation section brought up some new questions, perhaps because of the crowd.

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In-House Counsel Take on Outside Expenses

October 24, 2006

Nothing irks in-house counsel more than unreasonable expenses in outside counsel bills. But what’s considered unreasonable? A couple of in-housers offered their thoughts Tuesday at an Association of Corporate Counsel seminar in San Diego. (Technically, the subject was “Leading Edge Processes for Selecting Outside Counsel.” But an important first step toward selecting would appear to be eliminating past overbillers.) Read the rest of this entry »

SEC to GCs: Disclose … or Else

October 23, 2006

In a roomful of in-house counsel, an SEC lawyer is a 600-pound gorilla. Everyone’s keenly aware of him, and nobody wants to draw his attention.

At an “SEC Update” seminar Monday at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s annual meeting in San Diego, SEC Deputy Director Martin Dunn did about 70 percent of the talking, and his fellow panelists — two in-house attorneys and a Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner — weren’t about to shut him down. At one point Dunn jokingly referred to a report he’d written as “a work of genius” — but none of the 200 or so lawyers in the audience dared laugh. Which, of course, drew a rebuke from Dunn.

Substantively speaking, though, Dunn had an important message for every public company lawyer:

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Kline’s Strange Route to Gay-Marriage Panel

October 23, 2006

When the First District handed down its ruling in California’s marriage cases a few weeks back, more than a few cynics marveled at the (relative) good fortune of the pro-gay-marriage folks. After all, Justice J. Anthony Kline only wound up hearing the case after two of the justices who normally would have been tapped recused themselves. Then Kline turned out to be the only champion on the panel — and a particularly vociferous one at that — for the notion that the state should be forced to allow same-sex marriage.

Kind of curious ourselves, we put in a few calls to the AOC to find out how Kline got in on the case. Turns out, he wasn’t the first choice for a sub.

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City’s Strategy: Settle for a Cheaper Loss

October 20, 2006

Just imagine the outrage San Francisco taxpayers would direct at city leaders if they believed the city handed off a couple hundred thousand dollars to Macy’s Department Stores. There’d be picketing, long rants at the next Board of Supervisors hearing, maybe even calls for impeachment.

Well, Macy’s is likely to get a nice six-figure payment from the city sometime soon, a move that will finally end a long-running dispute over taxes the retailer paid in the late 1990s. Depending on how you read it, that payment is either a slick move by city lawyers to avoid losing millions or a failure to fight for every last dollar.

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Wilson’s Hits Just Keep On Coming

October 20, 2006

When a report on stock option backdating says there is no evidence your law firm did anything illegal or hid anything from investors — much less that your shop invented the practice — you might breathe a little easier.

For Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, though, those positives resembled a disclaimer in a probing publication issued by The Corporate Library, an investor advocate and research firm based in Portland, Maine. (You can get the report online, but it’ll cost ya.)

The report says that Wilson’s multiple roles at companies under backdating scrutiny — i.e. serving as outside counsel while Wilson partners simultaneously sat on the board that awarded stock options to the law firm — could spell trouble for their clients.

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Kevin Ryan: Cheap or Mean?

October 20, 2006

Got a big event on an important issue? Want the media there to get your message out? Well, here’s a statement you probably shouldn’t include in your press release: “Please arrive at 8:30 a.m. for set-up. Please bring valid press credentials. Lunch will be not be available for members of the press.”

Those are the closing words of an e-mail sent to journalists by a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, announcing a Northern California Gang Summit on Monday. And while the event sounds exciting — who wouldn’t want to wake up early to hear Sen. Dianne Feinstein bloviate on how to stop gang violence? — the absence of food for the hacks at an eight-hour event is a bit of a slight. Or, given Ryan’s prickly relationship with the press, a less-than-subtle way to discourage the Fourth Estate.

If there were food, you’d be able to read about the collected wisdom of would-be gang stoppers such as Feinstein, Ryan and Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries. We’re sorry not to provide full coverage — we just couldn’t stomach it.

Justin Scheck

Ninth Circuit More Receptive Than Angry Alsup

October 19, 2006

It’s not saying much that San Francisco federal prosecutors’ arguments in a big gang case got a better reception before a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel Thursday than they did this summer from U.S. District Judge William Alsup.

At a withering July hearing, Alsup pulled up about two invectives short of a full-out conniption as he harangued prosecutors for violating his ruling to turn over discovery material under a protective order — and suggesting he sanction them by precluding the death penalty against some of the gaggle of defendants. Read the rest of this entry »

Sex-case Lawyer Claims Cops Were Johns

October 17, 2006

While a sensational sex-trafficking case seems to have lost some of its salacious appeal, the attorney for a defendant in the case is trying to put some sizzle back in — by suggesting the cops were also customers at an alleged brothel connected to the case.

For San Francisco federal prosecutors, the press release last summer announcing 29 arrests seems to have been the high point for Operation Gilded Cage. Since then, what started out as a massive alien smuggling/sex trafficking prosecution has been reduced — through a series of dismissals and guilty pleas to lesser charges — to a prostitution ring case garnished with some alien harboring charges.

If Steven Gruel has his way, the lofty language of that July 1, 2005, press release (the prosecution “is a testament to the FBI’s commitment in investigating sophisticated human trafficking cases. These alleged illicit activities erode our social fabric and feed the coffers of many criminal enterprises,” FBI Special Agent Arthur Balizan is quoted as saying) will come back to haunt the government.

Gruel represents Anthony Lau, a defendant in the case, and he’s attached the press statement as an exhibit to his latest pleading, which calls into question a government search warrant with a verve rarely seen in court papers.

Gruel calls into question the government’s evidence to justify the search, and says its investigative work was limited to figuring out where Lau lived. “That’s it!” Gruel wrote.

But the most interesting point he makes in the filing comes later on. As support for his request for a hearing to determine whether investigators acted improperly in getting their warrant, Gruel writes that “Law enforcement were ‘customers’ at the Golden Flower,” Lau’s alleged brothel.

“According to the prosecution’s witness reports, individuals employed in law enforcement were ‘customers’ at the Golden Flower. The Lau defense is investigating these government reports to determine what impact this shocking information has on [FBI] Agent Rhea’s representations, and/or omissions, from his master affidavit,” Gruel wrote. But that’s all he says on the point. Reached by phone Tuesday, Gruel said he couldn’t make the discovery public, but is continuing to look into the matter.

Justin Scheck