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Legal Jerkdom Awards

Vivia Chen

August 7, 2016


You can use the law to further social justice, defend your rights or show off what a big jerk you can be. Of course, I'm most intrigued by that last category.

Here are my top nominations for legal jerkdom in the last month:

1. Let Colbert be Colbert. How dare those evil corporate lawyers mess with my favorite comedian? During his recent coverage of the Republican National Convention on his show on CBS, Colbert revived his alter ego (remember Stephen Colbert, the arch conservative?) from his Comedy Central days. And guess what? The legal stiffs from Comedy Central were not amused; they wrote a little note of warning to CBS's lawyer.

As Colbert described it on TV the other night: "Immediately after that show, CBS’s top lawyer was contacted by the top lawyer from another company to say that the character ‘Stephen Colbert’ is their intellectual property, which is surprising, because I never considered that guy much of an intellectual.”

So what did Colbert do? He expressed bemusement that he owned neither his own name or likeness. Then he poked the warning in the eye and replayed the character in another skit—this time, reincarnated as his identical cousin, also named Stephen Colbert.

I don't know whether Colbert got the nod from the CBS legal team to go rogue, but I'm all for defying this type of intimidation. Stephen Colbert is the one and only Stephen Colbert. I mean, what does Comedy Central plan to do with the right-wing Colbert character anyway? Revive him with a new actor?

You go, Stephen. Tell those lawyers where to stick it.

2. Donald Trump sues his ghostwriter. Remember Trump's 1987 best seller, The Art of the Deal? Well, it was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz, who's now come out to say how much he regrets writing a book that made the billionaire look like a decent guy. He expresses his remorse in New Yorker and on Good Morning America.

You can guess the next chapter: Trump is threatening him with a lawsuit. Trump Organization's general counsel Jason Greenblatt fired off a cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz. Greenblatt accuses Schwartz of defaming Trump and demands that he return all royalties he's earned and the advance. Plus, Trump's lawyer commands that Schwartz make "a written statement retracting your defamatory statements,” and not issue other “baseless accusations” about Trump. Yada. Yada.

According to an interview Schwartz gave in Fortune magazine, he wasn't even bound by a non-disclosure agreement.

Apparently, Trump deploys his lawyers to do the bullying. What a job.

3. Beware of what you wear to court in Ohio. Talk about judicial overreach. The ABA blog reports that a municipal judge in Youngstown, Ohio sentence a lawyer to five days in jail for refusing to take off a Black Lives Matter pin in court. The lawyer Andrea Burton was handcuffed, but released after the NAACP was granted a stay.

The judge said he was merely following the law, citing a case that let stand a decision that allowed judges to ban political buttons in court. (The judge added that religious and American flag pins are not political.)

Yeah, I'm sure he just wanted to abide by the law.

Contact: vchen@alm.com  On Twitter: lawcareerist



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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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