Spring Issue, April 1, 2014
OUR LEAD STORY:
OUR NEW FIRM NAME
It’s official now. Our new firm name is Seubert French Frimel & Warner LLP. You can now find us on the Web at www.sffwlaw.com
Our email addresses have changed:
Here’s the back story. Brian Heffernan, our venerable and unflappable founding partner, has taken an indefinite leave of absence to “pursue other interests”. These three seemingly simple words can mean many things when someone announces a job departure, ranging anywhere from a federal fraud indictment to winning the lottery. In this case, fortunately for Brian, those “other interests” include primarily the irresistible lure of managing the many successful startups that Brian’s very entrepreneurial wife, Mary, has created over the past few years.
Effective January 1st, Brian became Co-CEO with Mary of H&H Company, which owns and operates a rapidly-growing family of businesses http://thehandh.com/our-businesses/ Brian’s other personal interests, which he may now find more time to pursue, include his beloved solo high-altitude bow-hunting for large game, line dancing and, yes, bowling.
Some of our readers may have encountered some tasteless rumor-mongering by a few of our feckless competitors. They feebly tried to suggest that Brian’s departure was an indicator of major internal turmoil within the firm. Regrettably, hurtful phrases such as “serious addiction issues”, “heavy financial irregularities” and “lurid love triangle” were tossed about thoughtlessly, and lacked any foundation whatsoever.
Don’t believe a word of it. It’s nothing but plain old envy at work. And Satan’s got a hand in it. You can be sure of that.
In The News
IT’S ALL ABOUT US
The Daily Journal, a newspaper that caters primarily to California’s over 180,000 lawyers, recently asked us if they could do a profile on the firm. We approached this opportunity with understandable caution, but gave in when we were told there would be a group photo.
It worked out alright. No major body blows were landed, our names were spelled right and the photo’s not bad. Click here to view it.
THE LITERATURE OF SILICON VALLEY:
Author Dan Seligson Knocks One Out Of The Park
Newly-Released Novel, Moby Dx, Is Whale of a Tale
Breaks New Ground By Offering Serialization To e-Readers
Run, don’t walk, to www.mobydx.com That’s where you can preview and even buy the new e-book novel about Silicon Valley, Moby Dx, by Dan Seligson, a brilliant scientist, hardened semiconductor executive and startup veteran. It’s available in serialized form, a unique business model that Dan pioneered. You can also go to www.amazon.com.
Dan agreed to sit down for an interview recently with our senior partner and Aubergines Editor, Thelonious Buckminster Weinstein. Buck, as he is known to most, is no slouch in the literary sector himself. He is a thrice-nominated Whitebread Prize candidate, the Isle of Man’s equivalent of the Pulitzer, and twice was a co-third runner-up in the Vegemite Multilingual Poetry And Limerick Competition held bi-annually in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Dan and Buck’s conversation follows: Click to read
Dan: Well, Buck, after our friend [redacted] told me that you’d entered senility, I’m surprised that you’re capable of doing an interview. I guess I shouldn’t believe everything he says.
Buck: No, not even that he’s still a friend. Shall we begin? Tell me, Dan, what made you want to write a novel about Silicon Valley?
Dan: Several things, but first and foremost it was the fact that I’ve always wanted to read a novel about Silicon Valley. There are some, sure, but none big and ambitious. I wrote the book I wanted to read.
Buck: And what is it about Silicon Valley that’s so interesting, for a novel, for a reader?
Dan: This area combines the best and the worst in America, so it makes a great substrate for writing about America. And because it’s California, and the Hollywood of venture capital, people come from all over the world. In most cases their origins are at most a generation away from them, so the characters, the people who live here, are rich with variety. You don’t have to look very far to find amazing origin stories.
Buck: So, you’ve written the great American novel?
Dan: I wrote a book. It’s not for me to say whether it deserves that status. You know, Herman Melville wrote about emptiness, conquest, the exotic, men sharing beds, and the mindful but doomed pursuit of the impossible, and he cast it in lead type about whaling, a great but short-lived industry of his day. I wanted to update that story for today’s readers. Instead of a worldwide chase for a whale called Moby Dick, people come from all over the world to form a company called Moby Dx. Rather than whaling, I chose a modern industry that’s incredibly exciting, genomics.
Buck: Really, genomics?
Dan: The history of genomics is amazing, and very accessible if explained right. Public interest in it has been building since the publication of the first human genome about a decade ago.
Buck: Like the recent implosion of 23andMe?
Dan: They haven’t imploded yet, but the founder is from here. Her mother teaches at Palo Alto High School, and the founder’s husband is legendary, and so on. But the FDA shut them down in January and that makes an interesting story. Then there’s the Supreme Court cases about whether genes are patentable, and Angela Jolie’s proactive double mastectomy which is all about state of the art molecular diagnostics. Large care-providers are embarking on genomics studies of their patients, not one or two at a time, but tens of thousands at a time, soon to be hundreds of thousands at a time. And pre-natal diagnostics, which is amazing, and fraught with ethical issues, in the minds of some, anyway.
Buck: There’s something I don’t get, Dan. Is this fiction?
Dan: I use Melville’s template as a point of departure. Lakshmi, the narrator, thinks you can’t understand the company’s doings if you don’t understand its industry, just as Melville did with his chapters on Cetology and so forth. So she explains as she goes along. And as my early readers have pointed out, they can’t tell where the fact and the fiction divide. My guidance to readers is this. If the name is fictitious, it’s fiction. If the name is the name of living person or a real company, then it’s also fiction.
Buck: Dan, you have to give me more than that.
Dan: OK. Let’s take the Rosewood Hotel on Sand Hill Rd. Some events take place there. And yet, the characters experiencing it are fictitious.
Buck: So the settings are realistic?
Dan: Buck, I didn’t write Dune. This takes place on Earth. I didn’t make up Palo Alto or Cambridge or Paris. I put fictitious people there, and anchor them whenever possible with real people who were there at the time events in the book were supposed to take place. And those real people behave as they do in real life. That’s the source of the confusion, intended on my part, between what is fact and what is fiction. It’s all fiction, but it should feel very, very real.
Buck: Like Bonfire of the Vanities?
Dan: And I didn’t even have to pay you to say that. Yes, Bonfire, another book I admire. This is Bonfire of the Vallities, or something. A story of society’s extremes and inequities.
Buck: But a novel?
Dan: A big fat novel of Silicon Valley? One literary friend says that if I knew what I was undertaking, I wouldn’t have tried. Are you familiar with the Feynman Method?
Buck: Somewhat. You mean his diagrams or the path integrals?
Dan: Surely you’re joking, Buck. Neither. According to Murray Gellman, who conceived quarks, a colleague goes to Feynman and asks him about an unsolved problem. Feynman puts his knuckles on his forehead and then after a moment of firm pressure, he tells the colleague the answer. That’s the Feynman Method. It doesn’t work for most people, but that’s the method I used for this novel.
Buck: Let me get to something specific about the book. One of the people in my office asked “why isn’t the narrator a 59 year old straight white male from MIT? “
Dan: (LOL) I hope you explained that the narrator is not me.
Buck: Yes, that didn’t work.
Dan: People will react to your book in ways beyond your control. I think the question you’re asking is, “Why is the narrator a 30 year old lesbian Indian woman from Princeton?” I see you nodding. It’s simple, really simple. First of all, in Silicon Valley, there are lots of Indians. Lots and lots of Indians. In biotech, go to any conference, go to any company, and you’ll see lots of South Asian faces, and more than half of them women. Larry Summers may have been wrong about why women don’t populate math and physics and engineering, but he wasn’t wrong in saying that they don’t. They’re all in biology, and suffering in their third postdoc, but that’s a different story. The point is, a brainy Indian woman is a very likely candidate to be in Lakshmi’s position, a key early employee of a biotech company. And lesbian? Surely, you don’t need me to explain that, too?
Buck: And how did you put yourself in her head?
Dan: I’m expecting a lot of criticism about this, that is, about how close I came to my goal, but all I can say is that I did the best I could, and if I did a good job, or a respectable job, it’s a result of conversations I’ve been having since I first … Buck, as you know, I don’t talk about my personal life. So, I have to stop there. I will say this, while immersed in the writing, I read several classics by Jeanette Winterson, Leslie Feinberg, and many others, watched movies, boned up on my history. Anyway, I’ve been doing my research for a long time.
Buck: When is the movie coming out?
Dan: TV series, I hope. I’ll be working on the proposal for that as soon as the serialization is complete, and the print edition is out.
Buck: We’ve run out of time, and we haven’t even gotten to why you’ve chosen to serialize this, or why there’s so much sex in it. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Dan: Buy this book now, and tell your friends. It’s long, and some sections are simply not going to be to your taste, so skip them and move on. The story holds together without the most technical aspects. It’s better with them, but they may not make the cut for Netflix. Buy the book, read the book, post on social media about it, link to my site, tell your friends.
LAWYERS WITH ISSUES:
Birther Attorney Enrages Supreme Court
Phillip Berg is a most unusual lawyer. He’s currently suspended from practicing law in his home state of Pennsylvania. His professional failings include failing to properly represent the wife of a Hell’s Angels member in her claims against the Lancaster, PA police department. The claims arose out of property damage to her home resulting from a warrantless and apparently rough search and seizure that occurred while investigating her husband for knifing a rival motorcycle gang member. Berg’s client eventually became suspicious when she couldn’t get any responses from Berg about the case’s status. So, she did what any outraged and frustrated citizen in America does: she Googled her case, and found that it had been dismissed months earlier. Berg had failed to mention that part.
Berg might have escaped a full two-year suspension had he been a bit more cooperative with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s disciplinary board, which found that he:
- Continually denigrated the merits of the case against him
- Showed no remorse whatsoever
- Filed numerous frivolous motions to stop or delay the proceeding
- Had a prior history of commingling personal funds with those of his clients
- Had failed to advise the Hells Angel spouse-client that her claim had been dismissed due to Berg’s failure to respond to a motion to dismiss.
If it’s occurring to you that were Berg to have exerted anywhere near as much diligence and industry in pursuing his Hell’s Angel momma’s claim than he did in pursuing his own defense, he might not be suspended today, you’re not alone.
In his defense, Berg, a volunteer fireman, cited a positive character reference from his local volunteer fire department’s chief, who vouched for his truthfulness and his reputation as a law-abiding person.
Berg is also a birther. That is, someone who believes, or claims they believe, that President Obama was not born in the United States, and thus is not qualified to be President.
Berg also likes to bring birther lawsuits, which seek to bar President Obama from office, based on claims that the President’s Hawaiian birth certificate was fraudulently falsified. In this area, Berg displays an energy and persistence that is, to put it mildly, remarkable.
Berg filed one of the first birther lawsuits in 2008, which asked a federal judge to bar President Obama from serving as President based on allegations that his Hawaiian birth certificate was fraudulent.
Berg’s 2008 suit was dismissed by the federal district court. He appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. It upheld the lower court’s dismissal. Berg then filed petitions seeking U.S. Supreme Court intervention by filing pleas with Justices Souter (who denied it), Kennedy (who also denied it) and Scalia (who referred it to the Court as a whole). The Supreme Court convened and unanimously denied any relief to Berg’s appeal of the dismissal of his birther lawsuit.
But matters didn’t stop there.
When the U.S. Supreme Court, whose patience had already been tested by Berg’s persistence, learned about Berg’s checkered disciplinary history while practicing in Pennsylvania, including its discovery that he had filed his petitions with the Supreme Court while he was suspended from the practice of law, the court took the additional step of asking Berg to show cause why he should not be disbarred from practicing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Berg then responded by merely resigning from the Supreme Court bar.
Berg has announced that once his two-year suspension from the Pennsylvania state bar ends, he will appeal his disbarment from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Proving, once again, you just can’t keep a good man down.
Atherton Police Blotter Draws National Giggles
The town of Atherton, which has a population of approximately 8,000, is known for its leafy, quiet streets where the lots are enormous and the homes are humongous. Many properties there are gated. Many of Silicon Valley’s biggest names in tech and venture capital call it home.
Atherton has little serious crime. But its residents enjoy a reputation for calling the police frequently, and often for some of the strangest reasons. The Palo Alto-based free daily, The Daily Post, publishes the police blotters of Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto, Portola Valley and a few other neighboring suburbs.
Atherton appears to have the highest citizen-per-call rate of any nearby community. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but many suspect that its residents view the town police more like the servants of Downton Abbey: always ready to tend to the needs of their masters and mistresses at the ring of a bell.
Many national media gossip sites such as Gawker.com, Reddit.com and Cheezburger.com have discovered the Atherton police blotter, and have found it to be an irresistible hoot. Here are some of the recent blotter entries that they shared with their readers:
Coglan Lane, 7:33pm Friday - A woman told police someone was at her door and that when she asked who it was, no one answered. Police responded and determined the stranger outside had delivered a package.
Heritage Court, 12:44am, Thursday – A woman whose finger got stuck in a drain was reported to be conscious and breathing.
El Camino Real and Selby Lane, 12:19am Friday – A pedestrian was reported not to be doing anything strange other than wearing black pants and a white dress shirt while waiting at an odd hour.
Queens Court, 4:24am, Tuesday – a resident told police that a vehicle passed her house two times within the past five minutes.
Euclid Avenue, 4:24pm, Sunday – Police assisted a male who stepped out onto a balcony and had the door close behind him.
Rebecca Lane, 10:57am, Monday – Someone dug a hole in the street.
Irving Avenue, 7:47am, Tuesday – A landlord-tenant dispute involving “assault with frozen food” was reported,
200 Block of Oak Grove Avenue, 3:04pm – A male was reported to be lying on the ground, possibly writing.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Senator Ted Cruz Writes
Shame, shame, shame on you
You are nothing but a miserable cockatoo
You know just what I mean, jelly bean
And it’s the most maddest I’ve ever been
Michelle Bachmann is my very close friend.
Why did you have to spoil her career end?
You so photo-shopped her picture
That she looked just like Hannibal Lecter
This is not journalism I can respect
It’s garbage and incorrect and makes me suspect
You are a sniveling communist and a cowering cad
With nothing but silly nonsense filling your head
Once I get Congress to dismantle the New York Times
I’ll turn my big guns on you, you unspeakable agent of slime
Sincerely Yours, Under God, Dr. Seuss And The Tea Party
Senator Ted Cruz, United States Senate
P.S. I’m sending you my official photo portrait
Don’t you dare try to mess around with it
Or you’ll soon have delivered a big cat in a hat
My rabid pet cougar who much prefers human flesh, whether meat, bone or fat.
Aubergines is a quarterly review of borderline-authentic news which publishes about twice per year. Nothing contained in Aubergines may be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Don’t even think about suing us. What few assets we have are securely lodged in the Cook Islands, which do not recognize and will not enforce judgments of the United States, or any jurisdiction, for that matter. If you are fond of reading materials where annoying words like milieu, ennui, selfie or meme are in frequent use, you won’t be happy here. While there are widely reported accounts that by regularly reading Aubergines one might achieve lower blood pressure, arrest male pattern baldness, reverse gluten and lactose intolerance, relieve menstrual cramps, bleeding gums or bed-wetting, bring an end to stammering, thwart incontinence or impotence or cure post-traumatic stress disorder, no such guarantee or warranty of any kind is applicable. All rights are waived in perpetuity and forever thereafter. No representations or warranties, express, implied, inferred or deferred, shall apply whatsoever. This disclaimer is fully valid and enforceable even in jurisdictions where it might otherwise be invalid, including outer space and beyond.