Good morning. President Joe Biden’s choices for federal court judgeships are far more diverse than his predecessors’, according to a new ABA analysis. And Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas isn’t coming back to teach at George Washington University Law School this fall. Plus, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye isn’t running for reelection, and the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is considering whether to create an MDL for lawsuits over recalled baby formula. We’ve already seen our first pumpkin ads – pumpkin spice season comes earlier every year.
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A new American Bar Association analysis of President Joe Biden’s federal court appointments reveals the scope of his administration’s drive to add diversity to the U.S. judiciary.
As of July 1, 68% of the 68 federal judges nominated by Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate are Black, Hispanic or Asian American, and just three are white men, according to the ABA’s study. By contrast, 16% of the judges installed on the federal bench by former President Donald Trump are non-white, our colleague Karen Sloan writes.
After Biden, the Obama administration appointed the second highest amount of non-white federal judges, at 36%, followed by the Clinton White House at 24%. The late President Ronald Reagan had the lowest percentage of non-white federal judges at 6%, according to the ABA’s figures. Biden has also appointed a larger percentage of women than recent presidents. More than three-quarters (77%) of his appointments are women. That figure was 24% for Trump and 42% for Obama.
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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas won’t be returning to George Washington University Law School to teach this fall.
A university spokesperson said in a statement that Thomas told the school he was unavailable to co-teach an upcoming constitutional law seminar. The law school last month said it was refusing to cut ties with Thomas despite mounting public pressure over his concurring opinion after the high court voted to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion,
Thomas has co-taught a seminar at GW Law since 2011, according to GW Hatchet, the student newspaper, which first reported that the justice would not return this fall.
The school won’t say if Thomas will teach there in the future.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye will not seek re-election this year, bringing a three-decade judicial career to a close on January 1 after 12 years as the largest U.S. state's top judge. The tenure of Cantil-Sakauye, 62, was marked by her vocal advocacy for diversity in the legal profession, increased court funding and expanded access to the courts for low-income people. (Reuters)
The DOJ got a warrant to search the phone of former President Donald Trump's election attorney, John Eastman, who spoke at a rally before the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol. The DOJ disclosed the warrant in filings in a lawsuit Eastman brought asking a judge to order the agency to return the phone, destroy records and block investigators from accessing the phone. (Reuters)
A patent holding company that sued Netflix over its streaming technology must pay the online movie giant $400,000 in legal fees as sanction for "blatant gamesmanship" in its switching of courts to avoid an adverse ruling, the Federal Circuit said in a new decision in the case. Lawyers from Fenwick are representing Netflix. (Reuters)
Former O’Melveny appellate partner Brad Garcia, a Biden White House nominee to the D.C. Circuit, defended his legal career and pro bono work at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing. The 36-year-old Justice Department lawyer would be the first Latino judge on the D.C. Circuit. (Reuters)
—That’s the overall employment rate for 2021 law school graduates according to new data released today by the National Association for Law Placement. Demand for legal talent at large law firms drove employment and salary figures for the law school class of 2021 to historic peaks, Sara Merken writes. The 2021 figure represents a 3.5 percentage-point increase from a pandemic-related dip to the employment rate for the class of 2020, which stood at 88.4%. The strong employment rates were driven by the largest law firms' hiring activity, said James Leipold, executive director of NALP.
A 3M subsidiary that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday portrayed the multidistrict litigation of claims that its military-issued earplugs caused hearing loss as a toxic morass of unvetted, unwarranted suits and tainted bellwether trials. The earplug MDL, it said, has become a poster child for everything that’s wrong with these sprawling cases — which is why 3M and its subsidiary are turning to bankruptcy court to restore order to the chaos. Alison Frankel asks whether other mass tort MDL defendants will follow 3M’s retreat to bankruptcy court, which itself comes soon after J&J pulled a similar maneuver to wall off liability for its talc products. But, as Frankel recounts, the earplug MDL judge and lead plaintiffs lawyers vehemently dispute 3M’s portrayal of the MDL process as “broken beyond repair.”
Legal experts Adam Winkler, of UCLA Law School, and John Donohue, of Stanford Law, analyze the new law's features and whether it can stand up to judicial scrutiny. Watch the video.
"We've got a tension that's developed between this proceeding and the MDL, and it is very corrosive."
–David Bernick of Kirkland & Ellis, counsel for 3M subsidiary Aearo Technologies, who told an Indiana bankruptcy judge that the company needs a pause in the MDL over its military earplugs to make progress in its restructuring. Bernick said the judge who is overseeing the MDL – the largest in history – had already questioned whether the bankruptcy was filed in good faith, which could prevent progress in bankruptcy court. Read more about the conflict, which is playing out across multiple federal courts.
Welcome back to the Penalty Box, where The Daily Docket highlights new and notable attorney and judicial discipline orders, hearings, articles and more. We’re looking out for cases and issues of importance, so please do share any observations with us.
Los Angeles attorney John Littrell, a partner at Bienert Katzman Littrell Williams, is facing possible sanctions from a federal judge about the propriety of his closing argument in defending former U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican. U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld ordered Littrell to show cause as to why he shouldn't be sanctioned for straying beyond evidence introduced at trial. Littrell has acknowledged his statement to the jury was not "carefully worded" and "could have been interpreted as arguing facts not in the record." Fortenberry is appealing his March conviction for lying to the FBI about illegal contributions to his 2016 re-election campaign.
A Washington, D.C., ethics panel has recommended that a court deny a bid by Theresa Squillacote, a former lawyer at the U.S. Defense Department who was arrested in a 1997 sting operation and prosecuted on espionage claims, to be reinstated to the bar. She was imprisoned for more than a decade before her release in 2015. Squillacote last year apologized during an ethics hearing at which she argued she was fit to return as a member of the legal profession.
A Federal Trade Commission team led by Abby Dennis asked a California federal judge to temporarily stop Facebook parent Meta Platforms from buying virtual reality content maker Within Unlimited. Weil Gotshal represents Meta, and Hogan Lovells is defending the VR company. Meta said in a statement "the FTC's case is based on ideology and speculation, not evidence.” (Reuters)
Grubhub food-delivery drivers must arbitrate their claims that they were misclassified as independent contractors rather than suing in court, Massachusetts' top state court said in a new ruling. The Supreme Judicial Court found the drivers are not engaged in interstate commerce when they make deliveries and are not then exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act. (Reuters)
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington, D.C., rejected a request to acquit Donald Trump's former presidential adviser Steve Bannon on two misdemeanor contempt charges for defying a subpoena from a congressional committee investigating the 2021 Capitol attack. But Nichols opened a new door to his reconsideration of dismissing the charges instead. (Reuters)
Squire added data-privacy and cybersecurity partner Julia Jacobson in the firm’s New York office. She formerly practiced at ArentFox Schiff. (Squire)
Greenberg Traurig said Jasmine Martin joined the firm’s San Francisco office as a real estate partner. She formerly practiced at Orrick. (Greenberg Traurig)
O’Melveny added Houston-based mergers and acquisitions partner Garrett Johnston, who joins the firm from McGuireWoods. (O’Melveny)
Saul Ewing brought on Peter Murphy as a cannabis industry partner based in the firm’s Wilmington, Delaware, office. He arrives at the firm from cannabis company American Fiber. (Saul Ewing)
Loeb & Loeb brought on Jason Kim as a real estate partner in the firm’s New York office. He joins the firm from White and Williams. (Loeb & Loeb)
Littler added William Anthony as a shareholder in its New York office. He formerly practiced at Blank Rome. (Littler)
Holland & Hart hired partner J. William Callison in the firm’s Denver office as a real estate, finance and development partner. He was previously at Faegre Baker Daniels. (Holland & Hart)
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