Patterico's Pontifications


Sotomayor & Associates

Filed under: Judiciary,Obama — DRJ @ 9:08 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The New York Times addresses Sonia Sotomayor’s legal practice in the 1980’s:

“In her questionnaire, Judge Sotomayor says she was the “owner” of Sotomayor & Associates, which she described as a consulting business she operated on the side from 1983 to 1986. During this period, she also worked, first for the Manhattan district attorney’s office and then as a member of Pavia & Harcourt, a large firm in Manhattan.

As a single practitioner, she told the Senate, she had helped “family and friends in their real estate, business and estate planning decisions.” The only other thing she has said about the practice is that if her clients “required more substantial legal representation, I referred the matter to my firm, Pavia & Harcourt, or to others with appropriate expertise.”

Sotomayor isn’t sure how many people she helped and the DAs office has waffled on whether its attorneys were allowed to do legal work on the side. But it may surprise some that one of the biggest issues in this story is the name Sotomayor chose to practice law: Sotomayor & Associates. The fact she had no associates means the name was incorrect, and the White House has issued this response:

“White House officials disagreed that the use of the name was a misstep, and they offered a written analysis by Hal R. Lieberman, a former disciplinary committee chief counsel in New York.

“Neither bar opinions nor cases to date have held that it was misleading for a sole practitioner to use the name ‘and Associates’ in such private communications,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “In fact, in the early 1980s, no rule prohibited the use of ‘and Associates’ in these circumstances and the only authority regarding the use of ‘and Associates’ in an advertising context was advisory, not mandatory, and thus not readily enforceable.”

Apparently this story was first noticed by Eric Turkewitz, a NY attorney and blogger, and he followed up with a post that suggests why the White House response focused on advisory vs mandatory actions: Because there is a 1973 New York ethics advisory opinion that says it’s misleading for a lawyer to use “& Associates” in a business name unless s/he has 2 or more associates.

Like Beldar, Turkewitz thinks this was a minor mistake but he offers some good advice that I doubt Sonia Sotomayor or the White House will take:

“Americans don’t expect saints on the bench. Humans are fallible. It’s OK to screw up once in awhile.

But don’t trot out lame excuses. Don’t try to lawyer your way out of this with being “advisory.” That is something that people won’t tolerate.”


Obamacare at Recess

Filed under: General — Karl @ 1:04 pm

[Posted by Karl]

How is the government takeover of the US healthcare system going? According to The Politico:

As Congress returns from the Fourth of July recess, negotiators tell us that the die may be cast on health reform over the NEXT TWO WEEKS. If bills are going to be passed off both floors by the end of the month, they’ll need to be in shape by then.

On the other hand, Roll Call reports:

Senate Democratic leaders’ hopes of approving health care reform before adjourning for the August recess appear all but dead, with the prospect of meeting President Barack Obama’s demand for a bill on his desk by Oct. 15 looking increasingly difficult.

Logistical hurdles in the Senate, while significant, are only part of the problem. A major political battle looms over the key components of health care reform — particularly over the role of the federal government — that could stall Democrats even after they gained a filibuster-proof majority with the addition of Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-Minn.).


[P]olitical difficulties abound in Obama’s push to overhaul the nation’s $2.3 trillion health care system this year.

Congressional Republicans and other opponents of Obama’s health care agenda are sure to use next month’s recess to sow doubts about the legislation, particularly the cost of reform and the so-called public option for health insurance.

Even Democratic allies such as organized labor might go on the offensive in August, either to push for a more robust government-run insurance option, or to discourage Obama and Congress from taxing health care benefits to help finance reform, a proposal that remains under serious consideration. In fact, both conservative and liberal advocacy groups actively opposed Senate Democrats during the Fourth of July recess.

“The longer something’s laying out there, it’s a target,” said one downtown operative monitoring the health care debate. “It’s a target for all of the vulnerable folks who are going to have to make a tough call on it.”

However, an insurance industry insider speculated that the August recess could allow policy experts to examine the legislation and recommend changes that strengthen the bill in advance of a presumed fall floor debate.

Or it will be just more time for the more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress to spend $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

But wait, there’s more! If conservative and liberal advocacy groups and stakeholder lobbyists were not enough, there are the wildly competing demands of constituents at town halls when they go home. Moreover, major questions like payment are subject to regional politics on top of party politics. Will blue staters be subsidizing red staters? Or will covering working-class people in high-cost-of-living states drive up the costs Congress is trying to drive down?

Speaking of cost savings, three hospital associations agreed to contribute $155 billion over 10 years toward the cost of insuring the 47 million Americans without health coverage. Too bad that’s less than the $215 billion previously pledged, and a fraction of the $2.2 trillion Pres. Obama promised. About $100 billion would come through lower-than-expected Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals, driving up costs in the private sector. Another $40 billion will get kicked back through a new government-sponsored insurance program, will not pay at Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement rates (until the feds double-cross them later when the money gets tight).

That all presumes there will be a new government-sponsored insurance program. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel now says that Pres. Obama is open to a “public option” with a “trigger,” despite fears on the Left that a “trigger” will gut their takeover attempt.

Obama’s flexibility can be explained in part by the polls, which continue to show that a public plan — and Obamacare generally — is popular… unless people have to pay for it:

Although 69 percent of voters nationwide say Americans should have the option of government- run health insurance, only 28 percent would choose to be covered by it, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Voters say 49 – 45 percent they would pay more to reform health care, but a total of 72 percent don’t want to pay more than $500 a year.

As Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, put it: “[S]even out of ten voters aren’t willing to chip in what amounts to the price of a cheese pizza per week – without extra toppings – in order to finance an overhaul.” In addition, while 55% support limiting tax deductions for those earning more than $250,000 to finance a health-care program, by 46-38 %, they realize the government cannot raise enough to finance healthcare reform that way. Furthermore, when asked, “If a health care overhaul plan lowered your health care costs and insured all Americans, — but limited your choice of doctor, hospital or treatment, would you support or oppose such a plan?”, people oppose it by a 66%-30% landslide.

Given all of the above, you might think the government takeover of healthcare is not going well. But if the Democratic strategy is to move any two bills into a House-Senate conference and strongarm moderate Dems into not filibustering whatever gets drafted in the back room, these are relatively small hurdles to overcome.


Marine Offensive in Afghanistan (Updated)

Filed under: Obama,War — DRJ @ 1:00 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP reports that the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan are fighting an offensive in the Helmland Helmand River Valley in order to cut off a Taliban supply route. More than half the country’s opium is produced in this area and the Marines also hope their presence will disrupt the opium industry “because militants will no longer be able to intimidate farmers into growing poppy.” In addition, they hope to secure the area enough that other U.S. agencies can come in and help farmers grow wheat and other crops.

It sounds like the Marines may be borrowing tactics used in the Iraqi surge by focusing on earning villagers’ trust as much as fighting the enemy. Unfortunately, that means they will lose some battles — and sadly many American lives have already been lost — but hopefully it will help win the war:

“U.S. Marines trapped Taliban fighters in a residential compound and persuaded the insurgents to allow women and children to leave. The troops then moved in – only to discover that the militants had slipped out, dressed in women’s burqa robes.
“We have dislocated them while still protecting the people,” said Col. Eric Mellinger, the operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “Now the key is to prevent militants from coming back in, and the way to do that is to earn their (Afghan villagers’) trust so that they don’t allow them to come back in.”

A declassified version of the guidelines released by Obama’s new U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, reportedly say the U.S. would “rather see militants escape than for civilians to be harmed in battle.”

I hope the U.S. military can successfully reach out to tribes in the area that are willing to help fight the Taliban and that it leads to alliances that will help stabilize Afghanistan.

UPDATE: A former GTMO detainee who was released to the Afghans in 2007 is the Taliban’s senior military commander and leading the fight against the Marines in the Helmland Helmand Province.


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