Legal Briefing: Can Former Enron Exec Skilling Get a New Trial?


A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Skilling Asks the Supreme Court to Strike Down Fraud Statute, and Grant Him a New Trial
As reported by Scotus Blog, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday about whether the frequently used "honest services" fraud statute should be struck down and whether former Enron executive, Jeffrey Skilling, should get a new trial in a venue other than Houston, where his first trial took place. Skilling's legal team claims that holding the first trial in Enron-devastated Houston was inherently unfair. For Skilling, holding a retrial in another venue has the potential to wipe out all of his convictions. However, the more important legal issue is his challenge to the statute that makes it illegal to deprive another of the "intangible right of honest services." That statute is a favorite of prosecutors, and ironically was passed by Congress in 1987 in order to overturn a different Supreme Court decision. If the Justices strike down this one, it'll be interesting to see if Congress wants to take a third crack at passing this kind of anti-corruption law.

So How Hot Are Toyota's Ex-In House Counsel's Docs?
A few days ago, I noted that Congress had subpoenaed Dimitrios Biller's Toyota (TM) documents and wondered if he was a real whistleblower with damaging documents, or just a disgruntled ex-employee crusading to bring his former employer down. Committee Chairman Adolphus Towns's reaction suggests Biller's a bona fide whistleblower. Towns wrote to Toyota claiming the documents show "a systematic disregard for the law". The information that caught Towns's eye most were references to Toyota's "Books of Knowledge", a database of design and testing information, including information about problems and Toyota's technical responses to those problems. Still, how juicy Biller's documents turn out to be depends on whether Congress or anyone else ever gets to read the actual Books of Knowledge, and if so, do the Books show Toyota had advance, actionable information about its cars' myriad problems?

When Lehman Brothers' Party Ended, So Did China Club

The China Club, located around the corner from Lehman's old offices, claimed it filed for bankruptcy in part because it lost a chunk of its regular customers, Lehman Brothers' investment bankers. While it's true that New York's economic dependence on Wall Street is so great that each investment banker keeps three other people employed, I'm not sure if China Club's demise says more about Lehman and its ripple effects or about the tastes of Barclays Capital workers, since they took over Lehman's space and yet chose not to become sufficiently loyal regulars at the nearby hot spot.

And in the Business of Law:
Dewey & LeBoeuf turned its plummeting revenue into a solid 6.7% increase in revenue per lawyer by laying off over 200 lawyers last year. Dewey even managed a modest increase in profits per partner by shedding 20 equity partners.

And a jury told a plaintiff's lawyer his case was extinct after defense attorneys laid bare his "reptile" strategy at closing.

Editor's Note:
The story has been updated to correct Dewey & LeBoeuf's reported revenue change .