Judge rules that Sidney Powell and Lin Wood engaged in 'historic and profound abuse' of legal system, approves punishment

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A US judge has ruled that the pro-Trump attorneys who sued Michigan officials over false claims they broke state election law and manipulated the vote will have to pay the defendants’ legal fees and face sanctions over unethical behavior.

The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, among others, following former President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. President Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 155,000 votes in what state and national officials described as an election that was “the most secure in American history.”

In a scathing ruling issued on Thursday, US District Judge Linda V. Parker said Powell and Wood had engaged in a “historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.” Their claims — made against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the City of Detroit, and state election officials — were not just flimsy and unfounded, alleging a massive and implausible conspiracy to steal the election, Parker said, but actively harmful.

This case “was never about fraud — it was about undermining the People’s faith in our democracy and debasing the judicial process to do so,” the judge wrote.

Thursday’s order grants the defendants’ motion for unspecified sanctions, instructs the attorneys to pay any fees incurred by their litigation, and instructs the lawyers to complete at least 12 hours of legal education within the next six months on election law and pleading standards. The order also refers to them for potentially further disciplinary action, including disbarment.

Parker provided numerous instances of what she termed legal abuse. In one example, the lawyers claimed to have evidence that votes were changed by election workers. Asked for evidence, they presented an affidavit from a woman who said only that “I believe some of these workers were changing votes.” Asked if that woman had actually seen that, “The Court was met with silence.”

In another instance, the judge noted that the lawyers claimed ballots were run through tabulation machine more than once — and that there is no legal reason to do so. “But bafflingly, Plaintiff’s counsel did not offer a cite to the law violated,” the judge wrote. In fact, however, there are a “myriad of reasons” why ballots might be run through a machine several times, such as if the reader is jammed.

The same inability to present evidence presented itself when the lawyers were asked to support the claim that had been an irregular “dump” of votes for Biden. They could not, the court noted, “And speculation, coincidence, and innuendo could never amount to evidence of an ‘illegal vote dump’ — much less, anything else.”

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60,000+ asylum-seekers who had applications rejected by the Trump administration over 'blank spaces' are about to get a second chance

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Immigrants applying for asylum in the United States who had their applications rejected over a “no blank space” policy under the Trump administration will be given a second chance, thanks to a new settlement.

As this reporter noted in a feature for the Guardian, long-time immigration attorneys began complaining in 2019 that asylum cases were being rejected for a novel, pedantic reason: irrelevant lines on the application being left blank.

Some asylum-seekers had their cases rejected because they listed two siblings, for example, but did not write “N/A” in the remaining spaces provided for brothers and sisters they did not have. Spanish speakers had their applications turned away for not spelling out their name, for a second time, in a “native alphabet.”

More than 60,000 applications were rejected for such reasons, according to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which filed a November 2020 lawsuit over the policy change, alleging that was a mere bureaucratic pretext for denying humanitarian relief.

In July 2021, a US federal judge approved a settlement in that case. Under the agreement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will allow provide rejected applicants a chance to apply again by July 20, 2022, with their application backdated to the time their initial claim was rejected.

USCIS said this month it will notify anyone who might be eligible.

“It was an outrageous policy clearly aimed to impede individuals from obtaining the humanitarian benefits that Congress has provided,” Matt Adams, legal director at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said in a statement. “It aptly demonstrates the Trump administration’s utter disregard of the law.”

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Beyond Big Law: Insider's legal industry career guide

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How to land a job at a top tech firm

Tech companies are eager to hire lawyers. Lawyers, in turn, are looking at tech. Big Law associates grappling with burnout have long eyed in-house positions as greener pastures that offer better work-life balance. Tech companies, perceived as high-speed and glamorous, are especially attractive.

But the path to pivoting in-house isn’t straightforward. Insider spoke to 6 lawyers and legal recruiters to learn how to leverage Big Law experience to land a job in tech.

Read the full story here:

How to jump from Big Law to tech, from top feeder firms to the best time for making the switch

How to start your own law firm

Giving up a steady Big Law paycheck to venture off alone can seem like a daunting task, especially for young attorneys with clients who may not follow them to their next venture. But some careful preparations can go a long way. Insider spoke with seven lawyers who have launched their own firms.  

Read the full story here:

How to leave Big Law and start your own legal practice, according to 5 lawyers who made the leap

Insider spoke with Warren T. Allen II, a former Skadden lawyer who recently launched his own practice with another attorney. He broke down the steps he took before he made the leap.

Read the full story here:

This lawyer left Skadden after 12 years to start his own law firm. He walked us through the months of prep and savings he needed to do it.

How to land a clerkship

Federal judicial clerkships are often seen as extra gold stars on a lawyer’s track record. Acting as apprentices to the decision-makers at courts, clerks assist judges with legal research and drafting, reviewing, and editing court decisions and memoranda. From picking a judge to crafting an airtight cover letter, six current and former clerks shared their advice on landing a prestigious federal judicial clerkship.

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How to land a coveted federal judicial clerkship, according to 6 current and former clerks

Supreme Court clerkships are highly competitive: Usually only 36 clerks are picked every term, four for each of the nine justices. Insider spoke with five former clerks about what it takes to land a clerkship on America’s highest court.

Read the full story here:

How to land a Supreme Court clerkship, according to clerks for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy

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Shoplifting syndicates are costing retailers billions every year. Industry insiders are pointing to the ease of online reselling for helping crime rings thrive.

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Among well-lit rows of drills, lawn care equipment, and power washers, all still carefully packaged, a small American flag hangs over a shelf of Milwaukee Tools, a Home Depot-exclusive brand.

Without context, it looks like it could have been any Home Depot warehouse. But this video footage, viewed by Insider, doesn’t depict a fulfillment center, or even the stock room of a Home Depot store. It captures a secret California warehouse stocked with goods stolen from the home improvement giant. It was shot by one of Home Depot’s own organized retail crime investigators in 2020, as police served a search warrant on the storage facility. All in all, the warehouse contained millions of dollars in stolen products.

That’s just one snapshot of a crime wave that’s been building for years. Back in 2011, the FBI posited that “organized retail crime” was a $30 billion industry. And industry operators say the problem has only grown since then. A 2020 survey from the National Retail Federation found that organized retail theft has seen a nearly 60% increase from 2015, now averaging $719,548 for every $1 billion in sales.

Retailers are now sounding the alarm on spiking theft statistics and the role of e-commerce platforms as “fences.” Traditionally, fences have taken the form of pawn shops or flea markets, but the rise of online shopping has turned this on its head. Brick-and-mortar retailers complaining that thieves are increasingly hawking pilfered products online, but e-commerce platforms argue that regulating sites will just stifle competition.  

home depot organized retail crime

Retail companies have implemented a number of initiatives to combat these targeted thefts. Recently, Home Depot released power tools that won’t work unless they’re properly scanned and activated at the register via Bluetooth technology. The retailer is also looking to continue to introduce technology to combat theft, rather than locking up products. Stores have experimented with lockable cart wheels that freeze up if a person shoves a cartload of goods outside without paying. Others resort to controversial facial recognition tools, often in addition to other security measures, to assist in identifying thieves. Critics say that, without regulation, this technology could end up violating human rights.

Jason Brewer, the spokesperson for the Buy Safe America Coalition, a lobby group for the retail industry, spoke with Insider about the efficient, intricate shadow businesses of professional shoplifters.

“This is a professional criminal,” Brewer said. “They’re not looking to steal food for dinner, or something they need because they can’t afford it. They are stealing specific items that they know they can resell online.”

Brewer said that organized retail crime rings vary in terms of their size, origin, and specialty. He said that some could be connected to larger organized crime outfits. For those major players, organized retail crime is yet another business in a portfolio that may also include narcotics sales, human trafficking, and gunrunning. Smaller rings could just be a group led by a figure that can convince desperate people — sometimes impoverished, unhoused, and drug-dependent persons — to steal in exchange for a small cut of money. Shoplifting ring “CEOs” will pass down a product list to low-level members, who then must go out and steal those items in order to get paid. 

“The leaders don’t really care what happens to the runners,” Scott Glenn, Home Depot’s vice president of asset protection, told Insider. “They’re just paying them a hundred bucks a day, but the runners will bring back thousands of dollars worth of product that then gets resold for profit.”

But despite their ubiquity, Glenn said it is important not to underestimate shoplifting groups. He said that they can be helmed by “good administrators” and function somewhat akin to shadow businesses. Glenn said that in some cases, these professional shoplifters will steal “right up to that felony threshold” without ever crossing the line.

Most states have a felony theft threshold, meaning that a person who steals money or property valued over a certain amount can be charged with felony, rather than misdemeanor, theft. The NRF notes that these syndicates often look for “a mix of valuable high-end products and cheap but easier to fence everyday necessities.”

“They know that nothing’s going to happen if it doesn’t pass that certain level,” Glenn said. “They’ll steal up to that amount and they’ll go to the next door and they’ll steal up to that amount.”

‘It really hits retailers from multiple directions’ 

Brewer and Glenn said the proliferation of e-commerce has also led to a boom in criminals fencing stolen goods online. Glenn said that not all online sales platforms “have the same level of control and vetting” when it comes to merchants, while Brewer said that no online platform is currently doing enough to combat crime.

And all this means that retailers feel they are battling exponential growth in organized theft that everyday shoppers are likely not aware of. In the 2020 NRF survey, 59% of respondents said they’d spotted stolen merchandise from their company being sold on websites — that’s up 9% from 2018.

Brewer also said that online platforms need to do away with anonymity for sellers in order to combat organized retail crime. The Buy Safe Coalition is backing the INFORM Consumers Act, a bill that would force online platforms to authenticate “high-volume third-party sellers.”

Home Depot organized retail crime

“If the marketplaces have to start verifying the people selling on their platform and providing that information to the public, it’s going to be a lot harder for people to sell stolen goods,” Brewer said. 

Online platforms have pushed back against the idea that they’re allowing thieves to run rampant on their sites. eBay has touted its efforts to remove suspicious listings, as well as its initiatives to protect copyright and trademark owners, community members dealing with unsafe goods, and third-party brands.

“eBay is fully committed to providing a safe and secure online shopping experience to millions of people globally and we have zero tolerance for criminal activity on our platform,” an eBay spokesperson told Insider. “We believe collaboration and cooperation between law enforcement, retailers and marketplaces is the best way to combat fraud and organized retail crime.” 

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider that the company in 2020 invested $700 million and a workforce of 10,000 to “prevent fraud and abuse in our store.”

“Amazon does not allow third-party sellers to list stolen goods in our store, and we work closely with law enforcement, retailers, and brands to stop bad actors and hold them accountable, including withholding funds, terminating accounts, and making law enforcement referrals,” an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. 

Home Depot organized retail crime

The Makers and Merchants Coalition, a trade group that represents third-party online sellers, has come out against the INFORM Act. It argues that there “is no need to require private citizens to disclose their personal information to the public to sell a small number of products online.”

“The true mission of the INFORM Act is to eliminate big-box retail’s competition by hurting small sellers,” spokesperson Katie Wright said in a statement sent to Insider. “The Act does nothing to stop stolen goods at their main source, brick and mortar retail stores, but does threaten to compromise the safety and personal information of small online sellers who use larger marketplaces to sell their products.”

Wright said that online marketplaces already “collect personal information from sellers as one of the many measures taken to prevent the sale of millions of stolen and counterfeit products every year.”

But Glenn and Brewer stressed the threat that organized retail crime posed. Both said that, when desperate, professional shoplifters could pose a physical threat to shoppers and retail employees. Glenn said if left unchecked, mass theft could push higher prices onto consumers, while Brewer said that smaller stores could shutter.

“Not only is the retailer having the merchandise stolen from them, but then somebody is competing with them online by selling the same product for half the price because it’s stolen,” he said. “So it really hits retailers from multiple directions.”

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Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejects bid to halt construction of Obama presidential library

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Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Friday rejected a bid to halt construction of the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago’s historic Jackson Park.

A nonprofit organization called Protect Our Parks, which has long opposed the library being built on the site, asked the Supreme Court to temporarily bar construction.

The library’s opponents filed an emergency motion directed at Barrett, who is assigned to such handle matters for much of the Midwest.

Barrett, who was appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump in 2020, denied the motion without comment.

The suit asked that a writ of injunction be issued to block any additional groundbreaking for the center, as well as preventing trees from being cut in Jackson Park for the facility. 

The organization’s website states that they support an Obama Presidential Center on the city’s South Side, preferably in the Washington Park neighborhood located west of the Jackson Park, but stress that the site should be “outside of a dedicated public park.”

Read more: We’ve got your guidebook to the wealth — and potential ethical conflicts —of 31 top Biden appointees

The applicants argued that the groundbreaking should be stopped because the trees in Jackson Park, which was designed in 1871 by the famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, are important for migratory birds, in addition to raising concerns about noise and air pollution.

With Barrett’s decision, the Supreme Court will let construction of the presidential center proceed as planned.

After a four-year federal review process, the Obama Presidential Center released their plans to break ground at the site earlier this year.

“The project serves as a catalyst for long-overdue investment in and around historic Jackson Park — creating a new destination to move visitors from hope to action, breathing new life into the park, and delivering amenities and economic benefits to the community the Obamas called home,” the Obama Foundation said in a February release.

Obama, who lived in the nearby Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago when he served as a US Senator, praised the progress of his library in a videotaped statement at the time.

“Michelle and I want to thank you for making this project even better — a space for the community, built in partnership with the community,” he said. “We know that by working together, we can unlock the South Side’s fullest potential — and help set up our city, our country, and our world for even better years still to come.”

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California judge rules Prop 22 unconstitutional, dealing blow to gig worker initiative backed by Uber and Lyft

Rideshare driver Jorge Vargas raises his No on 22 sign in support as app based gig workers held a driving demonstration with 60-70 vehicles blocking Spring Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall urging voters to vote no on Proposition 22, a November ballot measure that would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents, providing them with an exemption from Californias AB 5.

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In a huge setback for Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled Friday that Proposition 22, a measure that allowed gig companies to classify their app-based drivers as independent contractors rather than employees, is unconstitutional.

In a lawsuit filed by the Service Employees International Union, Roesch ruled that Prop 22 is “unenforceable” because several sections are unconstitutional under California law. That included a requirement that a seven-eighths majority of the legislature approve amendments, creating a “near impossibility” that any changes could be made.

Roesch also found that Prop 22’s ban on workers’ ability to collectively bargain violated California’s requirement that ballot measures be limited to a single subject with provisions related to that subject.

“A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it protect work flexibility, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety and pay standards for those workers,” Roesch wrote, adding: “It appears only to protect the economic interest of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation.”

Geoff Vetter, spokesperson for the Protect App-Based Drivers & Services Coalition (PADS), a political action committee (PAC) organized by gig companies to support the ballot initiative, said an appeal would be filed immediately to stay the decision.

Uber and DoorDash, in separate statements sent to Insider, both pushed back on the ruling. Lyft and Instacart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“This ruling ignores the will of the overwhelming majority of California voters and defies both logic and the law. You don’t have to take our word for it: California’s Attorney General strongly defended Prop 22’s constitutionality in this very case,” Uber said in their statement, adding: “We will appeal and we expect to win. Meanwhile, Prop 22 remains in effect, including all of the protections and benefits it provides independent workers across the state.” 

The ballot measure, which was on California ballots during the November 2020 election, was approved by 59% of voters. Written and funded by gig companies, Prop 22 exempted ride-hailing and food delivery companies from complying with state labor laws that would have required them to reclassify their workers as employees and provide them with benefits like a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, and health care.

Instead, the gig companies would provide them with limited benefits, such as minimum earnings, healthcare subsidies, and vehicle insurance under Prop 22.

“Prop 22 is not just harmful for gig workers — it is also dangerous for our democracy. This fight is not over until all gig workers receive the living wages, benefits, and voice on the job they have earned,” said Shona Clarkson, a lead organizer for Gig Workers Rising, a community of app- and platform-based workers organizing for better wages, working conditions, and jobs.

Gig companies have already started to push copycat bills in other states

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Elite law firms have defended fossil fuel companies in hundreds of lawsuits. These 5 lawyers led the way.

Headshots of Ted Wells, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., and Phil Goldberg against an orange background with the logos of Chevron and Exxon

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The world’s largest fossil-fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, are facing a spate of lawsuits brought by US states and municipalities looking to hold them financially accountable for the effects of the climate crisis. 

To defend themselves in court, the companies have turned to a small but elite group of Big Law lawyers.

And oil and gas companies have continued to be big business for some of the most prestigious US firms. Top law firms facilitated $1.36 trillion in fossil fuel transactions over the last five years, according to new data from Law Students for Climate Accountability. The top firms also litigated 358 cases from 2016 to 2020, according to the group’s August report. The students cited Akin Gump, Allen & Overy, and Paul Weiss as the firms doing the most work for fossil fuel companies.

So far, most of the current round of lawsuits have been stuck in procedural fights. But the cases have still picked up plenty of publicity. 

Representing big oil companies has become an increasingly sensitive topic over the years, with progressives sharply criticizing Davis Polk’s Neil MacBride, a nominee of President Joe Biden, and Kellogg Hansen’s David Frederick, who was reportedly considered for Solicitor General, for their representation of Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell, respectively.

A group of students from some of the country’s top law schools recently started a campaign to shun the Big Law firms defending oil and gas companies in climate-crisis lawsuits. Tim Hirschel-Burns, a Yale Law School student and cofounder of Law Students for Climate Accountability, said the group believes lawyers shouldn’t get a reputational free pass for working on these cases. 

“There’s a growing sentiment among law students that we don’t want to go use our legal skills to further climate change,” he said. 

But Ted Boutrous, a partner at Gibson Dunn who represents Chevron in climate-crisis lawsuits, said working these cases was an easy decision, calling Chevron a “really terrific client” and citing important constitutional questions at the heart of these cases.

In court and in the battle for public opinion, these top law lawyers are, generally, arguing that climate-crisis disputes do not belong in the courts at all. They say plaintiffs are trying to use lawsuits as a back door to bypass lawmakers and regulate emissions. 

Attorneys for several plaintiffs in climate-crisis litigation strongly pushed back on these claims in recent interviews with Insider, saying they are trying to hold energy companies accountable for the damage local communities are already seeing from the climate crisis. 

Insider identified the top lawyers leading the defense for major oil companies, according to insiders and experts. 

Ted Boutrous and Joshua Dick, Gibson Dunn

Both partners at Los Angeles-based Gibson Dunn, Ted Boutrous and Joshua Dick are representing Chevron in a slew of climate-crisis lawsuits. Boutrous said he’s been involved in this work since about 2005. 

Boutrous has made headlines for much of his work, including in 2018, when he represented CNN and Jim Acosta in a lawsuit against then-President Donald Trump. He also successfully represented Walmart in a 2011 landmark Supreme Court case that raised new barriers to bringing class-action employment-discrimination cases.

Dick represented Walgreens in a lawsuit San Francisco filed against the company, according to Reuters

“I care very much about climate change,” Boutrous told Insider. “I’m supportive of very serious massive efforts to address it — as a policy matter.” 

But Boutrous said he doesn’t believe courts are the right venue to address the climate crisis. 

He made similar arguments when he represented a group of car manufacturers in lawsuits over their emissions. 

“Our bottom-line point is that global warming presents exceedingly complex policy issues that must be addressed at the national and international levels by Congress and the president, not through lawsuits seeking damages in the federal courts,” he told The New York Times in 2007.

Phil Goldberg, Shook

In the climate-crisis cases, Phil Goldberg is more active in the court of public opinion than he is before any judges.

Goldberg, the office managing partner of Shook and cochair of the firm’s public-policy practice group, helps counsel businesses and trade associations on emerging liability issues, according to the firm’s website. 

Goldberg is special counsel to the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, an effort by manufacturers to push back on climate-change litigation. He often writes op-eds or appears on panels or in news stories when climate lawsuits are filed or a case advances. Goldberg says climate-litigation plaintiffs are trying to harm companies politically to prevent them from having a seat at the table. 

Goldberg said something must be done to fight climate change, but it should be done through innovation and new technologies. 

“This litigation won’t help that at all,” he said. 

Ted Wells and Kannon K. Shanmugam, Paul Weiss

Key parts of Exxon Mobil’s defense are Ted Wells and Kannon Shanmugam, both partners at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Wells, cochair of the firm’s litigation department, has been at the forefront of Exxon’s legal team over the past several years. 

Wells’ recent work includes the Wells Report, which was his investigation into the controversy known as Deflategate, after allegations that then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had footballs improperly deflated. He has also represented former New York governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson — for possible violations of federal statutes and possible ethics violations, respectively — as well as Sen. Robert Torricelli in a campaign-finance investigation by the Justice Department.

Shanmugam, the chair of Paul Weiss’ Supreme Court and appellate-practice group, is one of the most prolific litigators before the Supreme Court. He has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court and made arguments in all 13 federal courts of appeals, according to his law-firm biography. He has represented clients like AstraZeneca and Bank of America.

He is also part of the defense team in Baltimore’s lawsuit against 26 oil and gas companies. Many attorneys from high-profile firms are on the case, but it was Shanmugam who delivered oral arguments on behalf of Exxon and other companies in a January Supreme Court hearing this year. He won that argument, giving the companies another chance to make their case in their preferred venue: federal courts. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that David Frederick was a Biden nominee. He was reportedly considered for a position but not nominated.

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I quit my Big Law job to start my own law firm. Here's how I did it.

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To demystify how to leave a Big Law job to launch your own firm, Insider spoke with Warren T. Allen II, a former Skadden lawyer who recently launched his own practice with another attorney. The following is how he did it, as told to Insider and edited for length and clarity.

I had always thought about building my own law practice, even back to when I was a junior associate and reading books on how to do it. It got more serious in 2018, and I started approaching friends to see whether they’d be interested in joining. But for a while, it didn’t look as though anyone would come. 

So in fall of that year, I hired a coach, who told me the only thing that was stopping me was fear — and by December, I was ready to pull the trigger. But I had months of preparation ahead. 

This meant I was still doing my full-time job at Skadden, but on nights and weekends, I was chipping away at a three-page to-do list I made. It included items like planning how to notify clients, listing what office equipment would be needed, registering entities with state bars, and filing an IRS form. One of the first steps was to get a Post Office box, so I could actually have a business address when applying for credit cards. I registered a professional limited liability company in Virginia, and a separate bar registration had a delayed start date so there were no even perceived conflicts. 

Around February, I believe, I told my bosses what my plans were, and they were as gracious and understanding as possible. I was going to keep working there until the end of May.

I kept my personal and business finances separate, so I decided early on what I was going to invest in the initial financial accounts. My whole career I had been a big saver, so I didn’t have to scramble for it. The goal was to have 18 months of runway, also aided by a bank loan and multiple credit lines.

Before we actually started taking clients on June 1, 2019, I had spent about $40,000 on the firm — and a big chunk of that was in technology. I spent about $10,000 on items like office equipment, computers, iPads, and phones. Office space was a major expense as well as, somewhat surprisingly, legal-service subscriptions. We went with Lexis, the Anti-Corruption Report, and Law360, which especially gave us the most bang for our buck.

But frankly, like so many others trying to launch small businesses, you have to lean on your family and friends. One of my wife’s best friends designed a logo and business cards. My wife, who is much smarter than I am, taught herself how to build a website for the new firm. 

And around this point of spring, Ray D. McKenzie, who was then an assistant US attorney in the Justice Department and had previously been an associate at Skadden, said he was going to come along. I believe I literally jumped up and down in my kitchen when he told me he was in. 

And when you’re about to launch your own business, you have to get really in the weeds in logistical matters you likely never thought about before. We didn’t have any training videos for how to pick billing software or timekeeping records. I had to be really thoughtful about what would work best for us and just do a ton of research. We landed on Practice Panther and QuickBooks.

We obviously didn’t take on any clients when we were still working other jobs, but we did want to plan some marketing. So on our website, about a week before our launch day and the full thing went live, we started a countdown clock, going down until June 1. We made the announcement all over social media. 

When that clock hit zero, shortly after I left my last day at Skadden, it actually broke our website. But that was an easy fix the next morning — and then we were off running. 

Now some two years later, the firm, WTAII, which focuses on assisting companies and individuals with government enforcement, compliance, and litigation needs, has added a third member, and we’re in a much more comfortable spot. The operating costs for the first year, not including compensation, were just north of $100,000. My pay did not ramp up as fast as I had hoped and is a big pay cut compared to Big Law salaries, but it’s not really about the money. 

It’s about prioritizing personal relationships inside and outside the firm over trying to make as much money as possible.

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These 12 lawyers are Trump's chief line of defense as his legal woes keep on mounting

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Between rallies and rounds of golf, Donald Trump this summer has suffered a string of legal setbacks.

Holed up at his members-only golf club in New Jersey, the former president has seen his business indicted on criminal charges in Manhattan and his financial records opened up to House Democrats after a yearslong legal fight. 

And the Biden-era Justice Department has greenlighted former Trump administration officials to testify about the January 6 insurrection and the events leading up to it, including Trump’s ill-fated efforts to overturn his electoral defeat and hold onto the White House.

Trump being Trump, he isn’t backing down. And that’s where his army of lawyers comes into the mix. His team is constantly evolving as the legal woes grow, with some members themselves now facing scrutiny. 

Meet them here:

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Former Rep. Doug Collins

In early August, when Trump communicated that he would not go to court to block former Justice Department officials from testifying before Congress, it was a former House ally who signed the letter.

Collins, a Georgia Republican, left Congress earlier this year after running unsuccessfully for Senate in a special election last year. In that race, Collins took on the incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whom Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed to fill the seat after the resignation of former Sen. Johnny Isakson. Loeffler later lost to now-Sen. Raphael Warnock.

As a top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, Collins emerged as a vocal defender of Trump during his first impeachment. After leaving the House, Collins joined the law firm Oliver & Weidner in Clarkesville, Georgia. Its website: NorthGeorgiaLawyers.com.

Read more: How Donald Trump is defunding police, charities, and Rudy

In his letter to one of the former Justice Department officials, Jeff Rosen, Collins asserted that Biden officials had unlawfully waived executive privilege in clearing the onetime Trump appointees to sit for transcribed interviews. 

But, he wrote, “to avoid further distraction and without in any way otherwise waiving the executive privilege associated with the matters the committees are purporting to investigate, President Trump will agree not to seek judicial intervention to prevent your testimony” and the testimony of five other former Justice Department officials “so long as the committees do not seek privileged information from any other Trump administration officials or advisors.”

“If the committees do seek such information, however, we will take all necessary and appropriate steps on President Trump’s behalf to defend the office of the presidency,” Collins added.

Ronald Fischetti and Donald Trump

Ronald Fischetti

As the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance closed in on the Trump Organization earlier this year, the former president turned to an 85-year-old defense lawyer who once worked at the same firm as a top prosecutor involved in the investigation.

In the 1980s, Fischetti was a law partner of Mark Pomerantz, a respected former prosecutor who took a leave of absence from the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in February to join Vance’s team. The hiring of Pomerantz added a formidable lawyer to Vance’s team as it investigated the Trump Organization and eventually brought charges, in early July, against the company and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

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After Pomerantz’s hiring, Fischetti told the New York Law Journal that his former partner was the “best lawyer I’ve ever worked with or against.”

As Insider’s Jacob Shamsian reported, Fischetti has years of experience defending high-profile mobsters, along with politicians accused of corruption. Among his past clients is former South Carolina state Sen. Albert Carmichael Jr., who was found guilty of buying votes during a 1980 Democratic primary.

William Consovoy

William Consovoy

A former clerk of Justice Clarence Thomas, Consovoy rose to prominence in the Trump administration defending the then-president against House Democrats’ efforts to obtain his personal financial records. 

In early August, House Democrats scored a partial victory as Judge Amit Mehta granted them access to Trump’s tax returns from 2017 and 2018 but ruled that a broader set of financial records — dating back to 2011 — were not necessary for their stated aim of fixing “glaring weaknesses in current ethics legislation.”

In a 53-page opinion, Mehta raised concerns that the breadth of the House Democrats’ request would impose on the separation of powers.

“The more Congress can invade the personal sphere of a former President,” he wrote, “the greater the leverage Congress would have on a sitting president.”

Read more: Trumpworld is being tormented by this tiny legal office that almost nobody’s heard of

The ruling left both sides unsatisfied, prompting House Democrats and Trump’s legal teams to challenge the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Consovoy also joined with Trump’s defense lawyers in New York to head off the Manhattan district attorney’s pursuit of the former president’s tax returns. The case reached the US Supreme Court, which in a 7-2 ruling cleared the way for Vance to gain access to Trump’s closely held financial records.

Ahead of the 2020 election, Consovoy was among the lawyers for Trump who challenged a Nevada law that called for registered voters in the state to automatically receive mail-in ballots and set a minimum number of polling places for in-person voters.

The court challenge, like many filed on Trump’s behalf after the election, was dismissed.

Alan Futerfas

Alan Futerfas

A Juilliard-trained trombonist, Futerfas made a name for himself as a criminal-defense lawyer representing mobsters. 

More recently, he represented the former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after the revelation that he met with a Russian lawyer in 2016 who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Now Futerfas is defending the Trump Organization as it faces tax-fraud charges. Prosecutors in Manhattan have accused the Trump Organization of giving Weisselberg, the longtime executive, more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation.

Read more: Steve Bannon sought taxpayer money to pay for $1 million in legal fees he racked up from the Russia probe. We’ve got the receipts.

Futerfas appeared in court on behalf of the Trump Organization as the company pleaded not guilty. Weisselberg, represented by the criminal-defense lawyer Mary Mulligan, has also denied wrongdoing.

In public statements, Futerfas has called the case against the Trump Organization as “unprecedented” and politically motivated. 

“If the name of the company was something else, I don’t think these charges would’ve been brought. In fact, I am fairly certain they would not have been brought if the name was a different name,” he said.

Jay Sekulow

Jay Sekulow

Sekulow played a leading role defending Trump during his first impeachment trial and remains a key figure in Trump’s post-presidency orbit of lawyers.

Last year, as Trump made baseless claims of electoral fraud, Sekulow argued on behalf of the then-president in a challenge to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that granted three extra days for the receipt of mail-in votes. The US Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the case.

Ahead of Trump’s second impeachment, over remarks that were seen as inciting a violent mob to storm the Capitol, Sekulow warned that it would be a “gigantic mistake” to seek Trump’s removal and disbarment from holding future office.

“Why divide the country so significantly when the president in fact is going to be out of office in 12 days?” Sekulow asked on his daily radio show.

Read more: The longtime prosecutor leading the Georgia investigation into Trump has gone silent

But, like other members of Trump’s first impeachment defense team, Sekulow was notably absent from the second Senate impeachment trial. One former Trump administration official told Insider that Sekulow had been “stiff-arming” the former president.

“He didn’t participate in the impeachment. He didn’t do a lot of things I know the president would have preferred to have him in — some things that he skillfully avoided,” the former administration official said.

Sekulow was among the lawyers representing Trump as the Manhattan district attorney and New York state attorney general mount investigations into him and the Trump Organization.

On Tuesday, Sekulow told Insider that his “legal work is complete.”

On his radio show, Sekulow has featured prominent Trump appointees — including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Rick Grenell, the former acting director of US National Intelligence — as he has remained firmly in Trumpworld.


Jesse Binnall

A once little-known lawyer in Alexandria, Virginia, Binnall joined with the right-wing lawyer Sidney Powell to defend Trump’s former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

The Justice Department ultimately moved to drop the prosecution of Flynn, drawing scrutiny from a federal judge in Washington who questioned the unusual abandonment of a case in which the former Trump advisor twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his past communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States. Trump pardoned Flynn along with several other close associates in the waning weeks of his presidency.

Binnall more recently stepped in to defend Trump against lawsuits brought by House Democrats alleging that he incited the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. Five people died in the melee.

In a separate case, Binnall is defending Trump against claims that he violated the Voting Rights Act with his efforts to overturn the election results.

Until recently, Binnall had also been defending Powell’s group Defending The Republic against a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems. In a court filing Tuesday, the group said Binnall was in the process of withdrawing from the case.

In early August, Judge Carl Nichols, a 2019 appointee to the federal trial court in Washington, ruled that Dominion’s defamation lawsuit could proceed against Powell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the MyPillow founder Mike Lindell.

Alex Cannon

As a top lawyer for the Trump campaign, Cannon was tasked with the unwinding of the 2020 Trump reelection operation. He is likely to figure prominently in preparations for a possible 2024 Trump presidential campaign, which Trump has increasingly teased in public remarks since leaving the White House.

“You do have hope, that I can tell you. You do have hope,” Trump said earlier this year on his daughter-in-law Lara Trump’s podcast, when asked whether his supporters had hope of another presidential run.

Formerly a top deputy to Trump’s son, Eric Trump, Cannon was closely involved in the creation of a Trump campaign shell company that helped hide $617 million in 2020 presidential-campaign spending.

Justin Clark

Clark, a former Trump deputy campaign manager, continued to coordinate the former president’s legal efforts after the 2020 election, according to Trump advisors. 

But multiple Trump advisors have criticized Clark over his handling of court fights across battleground states that fizzled as Trump and his supporters made meritless claims of rampant electoral fraud.

Clark has long been a member of Trump’s political operation, starting from his work on the 2016 campaign and continuing into Trump’s post-presidency.

In the intervening years, he worked closely with Trump’s former White House political director and 2020 campaign manager, Bill Stepien. The pair continue to form an influential power center in Trump’s orbit.

attorney Pat Cipollone

Trump administration alumni

While viewed with suspicion among some of Trump’s most loyal supporters, the former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and other lawyers from the past administration have remained in contact with the 45th president — or at least his papers.

Trump picked Cipollone, along with the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the former National Security Council legal advisor John Eisenberg, to serve as gatekeepers to records from his presidency. Those papers are now the property of the National Archives and Records Administration, and they could become available to the Biden administration, although Trump and his lawyers can try to withhold them by claiming executive privilege.

Also on the records team is Steven Engel, who signed off on a number of legal opinions supportive of Trump while leading the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under the last administration. Trump also picked three former deputy White House counsels for the team, including Patrick Philbin, Michael Purpura and Scott Gast.

Purpura, Philbin, and Cipollone all represented Trump during his first impeachment trial. 

Eisenberg found himself at the center of the first impeachment after having a transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president moved to a highly classified server. Two witnesses in the impeachment proceedings, then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and National Security Council advisor Fiona Hill, had also raised concerns with Eisenberg about comments Trump and the former ambassador to the European Union made to Ukrainian officials.

Eric Herschmann

Eric Herschmann

Herschmann advocated against the first impeachment of Trump before joining the White House as a senior advisor later in 2020. 

At the Senate impeachment trial, which centered on Trump’s bid to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into now-President Joe Biden and his family, Herschmann’s arguments featured claims about Hunter Biden’s membership on the board of one of Ukraine’s largest natural-gas companies.

“You can pay family members from our highest government officials and no one is allowed to  ask questions?” Herschmann said during the proceedings. “What was going on?”

Herschmann’s White House role put him at the center of a contentious meeting that, as Axios reported in February, pit election “conspiracists against a handful of White House lawyers and advisers determined to keep the president from giving in to temptation to invoke emergency national security powers, seize voting machines and disable the primary levers of American democracy.”

During the meeting, Trump supporters accused Herschmann of being a “quitter.” Among them: Powell, former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, who wanted more aggressive action to overturn Biden’s electoral victory.

When Byrne accused him of “interfering with everything” and “cutting us off,” Herschmann reportedly snapped: “Do you even know who the f— I am, you idiot?” 

“Yeah, you’re Patrick Cipollone,” Byrne replied, according to Axios.

“Wrong! Wrong, you idiot!” Herschmann said.

Before joining the White House, Herschmann was a partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres, a law firm closely associated with Trump.

sidney powell trump giuliani election

The Outcasts

In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s electoral defeat, Giuliani and Powell emerged as the faces of the then-president’s campaign to overturn or otherwise cast doubt on the results.

Their efforts backfired in a multitude of ways, leaving both of them now cut out of Trumpworld — and facing potentially dire consequences.

Powell is facing the threat of a formal sanction in Michigan over her unfounded claims of voter fraud. In Washington, DC, she is facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from the election-infrastructure company Dominion Voting Systems. 

The litigation has brought more embarrassment upon Powell, who said in a recent court filing that “reasonable people would not accept” her claims of widespread election fraud “as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

Giuliani, meanwhile, has seen his law license suspended in New York and Washington. In New York, a court found in June that Giuliani made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” while contesting the 2020 election results on Trump’s behalf.

Some Trump advisors told Insider that Giuliani’s diminished status could also be linked to the former New York City mayor’s own legal jeopardy as his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and his extensive dealings in Ukraine come under scrutiny. 

In a separate case, a group of 10 House Democrats joined a lawsuit accusing Giuliani and Trump of conspiring to incite the violent riot at the Capitol. The lawsuit, originally filed by the NAACP on behalf of US Rep. Bennie Thompson, alleges that Trump and Giuliani violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, a 19th century law that includes protections against violent conspiracies aimed at disrupting Congress’ constitutional duties.

The lawsuit initially named the Oath Keepers militia group and the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group, as defendants. But, with the dissolution of the Proud Boys organization in February, House Democrats have amended the lawsuit to name new defendants, including the Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and Warboys LLC, which it describes as a successor group.

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Home Depot told an employee to remove a BLM logo or quit, according to a labor board complaint

A bright orange sign for Home Depot stands tall against a blue sky with clouds.

Summary List Placement

A Minneapolis Home Depot employee who wore a Black Lives Matter logo on his apron and spoke to other workers about racial discrimination was suspended after he refused to remove the logo, according to a labor board complaint.

The Minneapolis branch of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said in the complaint that the worker started wearing the “BLM” lettering on his apron in August 2020. Sometime this year, the company told the employee to either remove the logo or leave the store, the complaint said. This led to him being suspended, it said.

The Home Depot store then gave the worker an ultimatum: stop wearing the logo or quit, the complaint said. In a statement on August 18, The NLRB accused the hardware giant of constructive discharge because the employee eventually left his job. Home Depot “unlawfully enforced its otherwise lawful dress code” and “threatened employees not to engage in activity regarding racial harassment,” it said.

The unnamed worker had “various conversations with coworkers, supervisors, and managers about subjects such as ongoing discrimination and harassment” at the store in Minneapolis, the complaint said, although it did not provide further details.  

Home Depot told Insider that the complaint “misrepresents the relevant facts.”

“The Home Depot does not tolerate workplace harassment of any kind and takes all reports of discrimination or harassment seriously, as we did in this case,” a spokeswoman said.

“We disagree with the characterization of this situation and look forward to sharing the facts during the NLRB’s process,” she said.

Read more: America should make racial justice part of our official foreign policy and take Black Lives Matter global

While the hardware store’s dress code prohibits displays of “causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters,” the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows workers to bring attention to discrimination they may be facing in the workplace, the NLRB said.

“Issues of racial harassment directly impact the working conditions of employees,” Jennifer Hadsall, NLRB’s regional director in Minneapolis, said in a statement.

“The NLRA protects employees’ rights to raise these issues with the goal of improving their working conditions,” she said.

Many companies were vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Craig Menear, Home Depot’s CEO, said in a statement at the time that “we must stand with all who are committed to change that will bring us closer to realizing an end to discrimination and hatred.”

The complaint said that a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge would happen in October, unless Home Depot and the worker reach a settlement before that.

The NLRB did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

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