Chavez Leaving Virtual Law

One of the co-founders of Virtual Law Partners, Andrea Chavez, is leaving the firm to form Aragorn Law with another VLP partner, Emily Gavin.

Her decision came six weeks after the sudden death of visionary Craig Johnson, who joined Chavez and RoseAnne Rotandaro in establishing VLP just a year ago.

Chavez served as executive partner of VLP, which she said she joined for the opportunity to work with Johnson. After Johnson’s death, the now 40-attorney firm decided to expand the executive committee and form an outside advisory board. Before joining Rotandaro and Johnson in founding Virtual Law, Chavez had her own virtual firm, Lion Tech Law.

Rotandaro said Chavez’ departure would not impact the firm, which she will continue as Johnson’s legacy.

(Virtual Law has also been in the tech news headlines this week because of the upcoming marriage of another of its partners, Zach Bogue, to Google vice president Marissa Mayer


Justice Stevens & The Dublin Marathon

Spencer Waller, a professor at Loyola University School of Law in Chicago,, recently wrote about his experience running the Dublin Marathon.

His choice of audio motivation was interesting. Rather than the expected “Get On Your Boots” or “It’s a Beautiful Day” by hometown favorites U2, he turned to a download of an interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens around Mile 11. Among Stevens’ recollections was his most memorable experience, throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley field before a Cubs game at the age of 85. Here’s another article on Stevens, which notes that he still plays tennis three times a week and regularly swims in the ocean when he is at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Waller finished the marathon in 5:38:12. Stevens is still going strong, 34 years after he was appointed to the bench.

You Can Fight City Hall … and Win

There’s been a doozy of a trial going on in New Orleans, where lawyer James Garner has led a charge against a Mayor Ray Nagin’s City Hall, which conspired with Dell Computers to shut two local businesses out of a hefty contract for security cameras. Earlier this week, a jury awarded $16.3 million, including $10 million for conspiracy to unfairly compete with the two local companies, Southern Electronics and Action Solutions.

The Times-Picayune has the story about the verdict A federal criminal investigation is still underway into the allegations, which include the Mayor’s use of a credit card from a city vendor on a series of trips as well as the receipt by Nagin’s top aide, Greg Meffert, of $67,000 in payments from the vendor when he left office.

Garner, of Sher Garner,
 is one of the leading lights of the New Orleans trial bar (and a member of the Lawdragon 500 He hoped a large verdict would send a strong message about corruption in procurement practices. His partner Leopold Sher
, who attended court each day, said “we are so proud of Jim and the entire legal team for validating our clients’ claims and for helping New Orleans continue to move forward post Hurricane Katrina”. (Sher is also a Lawdragon 500

Defending the case was Phil Wittmann of Stone Pigman and Michael Kenny of Alston & Bird

John O’Quinn, 68, Dies in Car Crash

Legendary Texas trial lawyer John O’Quinn died last week following a car crash that also claimed the life of Johnny Lee Cutliff, who worked at The O’Quinn Law Firm

He rose to the heights of legal fame and wealth after a hardscrabble beginning. Like many plaintiff lawyers of what increasingly feels like a golden era, his personality was outsized – which matched his successes, including $20 billion for smokers as well as huge wins against Dow Corning for faulty breast implants and Halliburton. The Texas press, in particular, has written many fine stories about O’Quinn, including the troubles and lawsuits that haunted part of his career. The Houston Chronicle is here, the New York Times here and his friend and law school classmate Gerald Treece weighs in with a nice remembrance The blog Tex Parte is keeping up on his will and the future of the firm

O’Quinn, who was among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America, told the Texas Monthly about his view of plaintiff work in 1995:  “When the bad guys come, who do you want? You don’t want some namby-pamby son of a bitch. If companies obeyed the law, I’d be the Maytag repairman.”


Jackson’s Mom Hires Adam Streisand

Adam Streisand, is easily one of the best trust and estate litigators in the country. So news that Michael Jackson’s mother, Katherine, has hired him seems to show the battle over his estate is heating up.

Among the estates of celebrities the truly fabulous litigator has worked on are Ray Charles, Marlon Brando and Barry White. He authored legislation in conjunction with the Marilyn Monroe estate protecting the right of publicity of dead celebrities, which became law in California. Recently, he represented Britney Spears in her conservatorship proceeding and is representing Larry Birkhead in the Estate of Anna Nicole Smith.

(And yes, he’s a second cousin to Barbra. Talent seems to run in the family.)

It’s A Good Year for Women at Sullivan

The vaunted Sullivan & Cromwell has promoted five associates to partnership – four women and one Asian-American man.

The New York Law Journal broke the story, talking to legendary chairman H. Rodgin Cohen He attributed the rise in female partners to policies the firm adopted to promote workplace equality, including maternity leave and flex-time.

“I think hopefully as we have more and more women joining us it will be the new normal,” Cohen said. The firm now has 172 partners, of which 30 are women. The WSJ Law Blog also has a nice piece

The new partners are: Whitney Chatterjee; Marion Leydier; Zena Yoslov; Sarah Payne; and S. Eric Wang

Global Warming Claims Gathering Strength

The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has given the greenlight to a lawsuit claiming Hurricane Katrina was fueled by global warming caused by emissions from 26 oil and 121 chemical companies.

The case was brought by New Orleans attorney F. Gerald Maples,, who has spent the past 30 years bringing asbestos injury and toxic tort claims and in recent years has led the cause of global warming litigation. He represents Mississippi landlowners who claim the greenhouse gas emissions caused a rise in sea level that fueled Katrina’s fury, leading to the destruction of their property.

District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. granted the oil and chemical companies’ motion to dismiss, saying the debate over global warming had “no place in the court,” until Congress acted.

However, the 5th Circuit overturned that decision. As the Wall Street Journal reported,,  the main question the 5th Circuit faced was whether the plaintiffs had standing, or whether they could demonstrate that their injuries were “fairly traceable” to the defendant’s actions. The defendants claimed any link between the emissions and the destruction was “too attenuated.”

The decision by Judges Eugene Davis, Carl Stewart and James Dennis was written by Dennis.

The 5th Circuit decision relied in part on a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. EPA, which found that Massachusetts had standing to challenge the EPA’s decision not to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases, finding plausible the link between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. That 5-4 decision was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, with the dissenters led by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Legal experts are predicting a surge in climate change litigation following the decision. Skadden partner J. Russell Jackson provided a good analysis noted by the WSJ.