Reunion 2012 Panel Focuses on Politicization of Litigation

Winter 2012

As part of the Reunion 2012 weekend, several graduates gathered to discuss how rising political and public pressures can impact the course of litigation and present an array of challenges for trial lawyers. In an increasingly polarized political landscape, heavy media attention and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle can influence a trial or a decision in ways not anticipated in the past, according to participants.

“The problem is the atmosphere we live in generally,” said Roberta A. Kaplan ’91, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. “We live in a world of instantaneous news, of Twitter, of cable news that, in my opinion, is not really news. It’s not unbiased.”

Judge Paul G. Gardephe ’82 of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York moderated the panel, which also included Andrew J. Levander ’77 and Edward Soto ’78.

According to Levander, who is chairman of Dechert, the increased presence of politicization can impact many different aspects of the judicial process. And as the media and the general public become more involved in the day-to-day progression of litigation, he noted, judges and litigators may find themselves being influenced by the same pressures as everyone else. They are “only human,” Levander said.

While the panelists agreed that the impact of politicization on litigation is usually not a positive one, Soto, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, warned that lawyers cannot ignore its potential impacts.

“This is a factor that any good litigator needs to take into account,” he said. “There are a number of consultants at major law firms whose job it is to give you the background information you need to be able to—for lack of a better phrase—understand or play that piece of the puzzle.”