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Attorneys & Judges "In the News" for the Previous Week

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October 13, 2012 -- October 16, 2012

GENERAL

Lawyers at top firms give big to Obama

Andrew Ramonas, The National Law Journal    10-16

10-16-12 -- A look at campaign donations by individual attorneys at the biggest NLJ 250 firms shows a 2-1 preference for the president over Republican Mitt Romney. . . . President Barack Obama may not have the election locked up, but he's secured a firm grasp on the checkbooks of lawyers at the nation's biggest law firms. . . . Of the $4.05 million Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney raised from supporters at the top 25 firms based on the 2012 NLJ 250 survey, almost two-thirds went to the president, who received $2.63 million.


Legal Representation Pays Off for Landowners Along US-Mexico Border Fence

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-15-12 -- Some 400 owners of residential and commercial property in Texas and some other states, are affected by an ongoing plan to build a 670-mile fence along the Mexican border. . . . Initial offers for their land were just a starting point, according to U.S. government officials. But for those who lack the sophistication or funding for legal representation, they can also be more or less a final offer, according to the Associated Press. . . . Meanwhile, those represented by lawyers have gotten far more from the eminent domain process. While factors other than simply the amount of land involved can play a role in determining value, and the size of the parcels at issue varies considerably, offers to some individuals have been less than $2,000.


Two law firms strongly object to Finnegan subpoenas in ITC patent case

By Jenna Greene, The National Law Journal 

10-15-12 -- Lawyers from Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner aren't making any friends at other law firms in an ongoing patent fight over smart phones and tablets at the International Trade Commission. . . . Firm lawyers want Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Reed Smith; and Cooley—which are not involved in the case—to turn over reams of documents that Finnegan client Research in Motion thinks might be useful. . . . It's not unusual in ITC cases to ask for information from third parties, but going after law firms is far less common, and the firms are fighting back. . . . To Morgan Lewis partner Michael Lyons, the subpoena is an "overbroad fishing expedition designed to intentionally burden or otherwise harass the firm," he wrote in court papers. Reed Smith partner Mark Wasserman sounded equally indignant, writing that it would take several months and tens of thousands of dollars to comply, and most of the documents would be privileged anyway.


Some Law Firms Are Quoting ‘Suicidal Prices,’ with Possibility of More Dissolutions, Consultant Says

By Debra Cassens Weissm, ABA Journal

10-15-12 -- More law firms are quoting “suicidal prices” for legal work just to get the business, a law firm consultant says. . . . Bruce MacEwen, who writes at Adam Smith, Esq., tells Bloomberg Law that an increasing number of firms are offering cut-rate fees to keep their lawyers occupied. The legal industry has excess capacity, Smith says, and it is facing enormous pricing pressure just to cover fixed costs.


USADA Lawyers Speak Out About Armstrong Probe, Pro Cycling's "Omertà"

By Brian Baxter, The Am Law Daily  

10-12-12 -- Lance Armstrong's reputation—not to mention the reputation of the sport he dominated for the better part of the last decade—took a big hit this week when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) unveiled its 202-page reasoned decision effectively labeling professional cycling's preeminent figure a fraud. . . . Armstrong's long quest to silence claims that he used performance-enhancing drugs—allegations that have dogged him since he won the first of seven Tour de France titles in 1999, just three years after being diagnosed with cancer—suffered a potentially crippling blow with USADA's publication on its website of reams of background materials backing the organization's findings. Among the most damning documents posted are affidavits from 11 former Armstrong teammates accusing him of overseeing a doping program designed to deceive regulators.


CALIFORNIA  

NorCal Prosecutor Fights to Keep His License

By Chris Marshall, Courthouse News Service  

10-15-12 -- A Northern California district attorney claims in court that the state Bar and local officials are trying to disbar him because he is a recovered methamphetamine addict. . . . Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Michael Alexander claims the defendants are pursuing disbarment against him because they discriminate against former drug addicts. . . . Alexander sued the State Bar of California, its Office of the Chief Trial Counsel (OCTC), OCTC Deputy Trial Counsel Cydney Tabor Batchelor, Del Norte County's former District Attorney Michael Donald Riese, its former assistant district attorney Karen Diane Olson, and its former deputy district attorney Mordechai David Pelta, in San Francisco Superior Court. . . . Alexander claims he has been clean and sober since kicking methamphetamine 9 years ago. . . . He was elected district attorney and took office in January 2011. In May this year the California State Bar charged him with four counts of violating Rules of Professional Conduct and three counts of moral turpitude and/or corruption. Alexander says he believes the Bar is trying to have him disbarred.


DA With Checkered Past Accused of Corruption by Bar Prosecutors

By Cheryl Miller, The Recorder  

10-12-12 -- Jon Alexander is scheduled to go on trial in a State Bar court this coming week to determine if he should be punished for professional misconduct or pitied for an incredible string of misfortune and maligning. . . . State Bar prosecutors have charged Alexander, the district attorney of tiny Del Norte County on California's north coast, with seven counts of wrongdoing ranging from corruption to incompetence. They paint a picture of a reckless lawyer with a history of playing fast and loose with ethical canons. . . . Alexander and his lawyers, however, describe a big-hearted man under attack from small-town enemies and prosecutors run amok. . . . "I have a client who I think is being railroaded for no reason," said Alexander's attorney, Nossaman partner Kurt Melchior. "I think he's absolutely innocent of anything that would warrant any kind of discipline upon his license."


Fowl play: Police arrest Cal law students in killing of exotic bird at Flamingo habitat

By Conor Shine, Las Vegas Sun     

10-12-12 -- Two University of California, Berkeley students were arrested Friday morning after allegedly killing an exotic bird at the Flamingo hotel’s Wildlife Habitat, Metro Police said. . . . Eric Cuellar, 24, and Justin Teixeira, 24, were arrested and booked into the Clark County Detention Center on felony charges of conspiracy and the willful, malicious torture or killing of wildlife. Both were carrying University of California, Berkeley identification cards and identified themselves to police as law students at the school.


CONNECTICUT  

Attorney facing disorderly conduct charge

The Darien News      

10-16-12 -- Kathleen M. Bothfeld, 47, of 57 Hale Lane was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct after her neighbor told police Bothfeld threatened to remove her religious sign from her front door. . . . According to the affidavit filed in Stamford Superior Court, Bothfeld and the complainant have had numerous verbal disputes, including two previous incidents in which police were called. . . . The complainant said she pulled into her driveway on Aug. 10 and saw Bothfeld walking her dog. According to the affidavit, Bothfeld yelled to the complainant, "That's your shalom sign outside? I'm going to make sure your shalom sign is coming down, [expletive], your shalom sign is coming down, [expletive]."


DELAWARE  

High court suspends lawyer after thefts reported

Written by James Fisher, The News Journal 

10-15-12 -- An attorney who leads Laurel's school board has been temporarily barred from practicing law after he acknowledged keeping fees paid by clients hidden from other partners in his law firm, the state's highest court says. . . . Patrick E. Vanderslice, 44, of Laurel, was suspended from the bar for a year by the Delaware Supreme Court, a more severe level of discipline than the public reprimand and probation the state’s Board on Professional Responsibility had advised was the proper punishment. The decision came after Vanderslice admitted to his partners at the Georgetown firm Moore & Rutt, P.A., he had stolen $1,780 in client fees from December 2010 to September 2011.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

Justice Department Seeks to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Operation Fast and Furious

By John H. Cushman Jr., New York Times (blog)

10-16-12 -- The Justice Department has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by the House oversight committee seeking to compel the Obama administration to release more internal records involving the botched gun-trafficking case known as Operation Fast and Furious. . . . The judiciary should play no role in a dispute like this one between the executive and legislative branches, the department said — one in which the White House has asserted executive privilege over its internal deliberations, and the House of Representatives has voted to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for refusing to comply with the committee’s demands.


FLORIDA  

Do Lawyers Have a 1st Amendment Right to Be Cross with Judges?

By Joe Palazzolo, Wall Street Journal (blog) 

10-16-12 -- A federal appeals court upheld sanctions against a veteran Florida bankruptcy lawyer who called a judge’s findings “half-baked,” and then sent a bottle of wine to his chambers with a handwritten note. . . . The case raised an interesting question, at least in theory: What First Amendment rights do lawyers have to get sharp with judges? . . . Lawyer Kevin Gleason disagreed with a ruling by Bankruptcy Judge John Olson, and he let the judge know it. . . . “It is sad when a man of your intellectual ability cannot get it right when your own record does not support your half-baked findings,” Mr. Gleason, whose practice is based in Hollywood, Fla., wrote in a brief filed in April 2011. . . . The dispute concerned commissions Mr. Gleason’s client received from a real estate deal. Judge Olson ruled that the commissions had to be turned over to the administrator of the client’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan. Mr. Gleason believed they were exempt.


George Zimmerman's attorneys say Angela Corey's office isn't playing fair

George Zimmerman's attorneys say Angela Corey's office isn't playing fair

Mike Schneider, The Associated Press  | Florida Times-Union      

10-16-12 -- Attorneys for former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman said in a motion Monday that prosecutors are dragging their feet on turning over evidence. . . . Zimmerman’s attorneys said State Attorney Angela Corey’s office isn’t turning over information in a timely manner and is providing some material in a format that’s useless for defense experts to examine. They’re asking for monthly hearings to manage the turnover of evidence from prosecutors to defense lawyers. . . . “The state’s approach to discovery has been to require the defense to figure out what the state has failed to provide and then ask for it rather than fulfilling the state’s legal obligation to provide complete and timely discovery,” attorney Donald West said in the motion.


Law firm hired to vet Digital Domain did not tell WPB it was suing company leader

By Alexandra Clough, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer    

10-16-12 -- A former Greenberg Traurig lawyer, hired by West Palm Beach in 2010 to help the city decide whether to build a digital animation college downtown, issued a glowing nine-page report about the company being considered, Digital Domain, and its leader, John Textor. . . . But the lawyer, New York-based Steven C. Beer, did not disclose that Greenberg Traurig lawyers in Boca Raton had been suing Textor for years on behalf of an unhappy Textor investor. . . . Beer, an entertainment lawyer, wrote an analysis for the city that described Textor as imaginative, concept-driven and experienced within the worlds of corporate finance and banking. . . . The city paid Greenberg Traurig $15,000 for Beer’s work. . . . But Beer did not tell the city that pleadings signed by Greenberg Traurig’s Boca Raton lawyers, led by Marc Sinensky, were using other words to describe Textor, in lawsuits filed in 2004, 2007 and 2010.


ILLINOIS  

Meet The Porn Industry's Favorite Lawyer Who's Currently Suing 20,000 People

Abby Rogers, Business Insider  

10-16-12 -- Who knew being an copyright troll was a good thing.

The title is a badge of honor for the porn industry's most prominent lawyer who's currently attacking about 20,000 people accused of illegal downloading XXX films. . . . “I’m considered the original copyright troll,” attorney John Steele told Forbes almost proudly in a profile published Monday. “At least my wife loves me. When I read about myself on the Internet, I think, ‘Who is this jerk?’” . . . Steele monitors file-sharing sites to find Internet users who are downloading the racy films. He's often content to get somewhat small settlements from the alleged illegal downloaders who prefer to pay up rather than have their names splashed across public court documents, according to Forbes.


IOWA  

Man Accused of Threatening to Kill Attorneys Behind Bars Again

By Vanessa Miller, KCRG Reporter

10-16-12 -- An Illinois man recently out of prison for making death threats against Iowa City attorneys is back behind bars on allegations he contacted a “protected” victim. . . . Daniel S. Jason, 28, faces charges of felony stalking, his third or subsequent offense, and violation of a protective order after police said he continued a course of conduct that has “induced fear of bodily injury or death to the victim.” . . . Jason was arrested this week on a warrant after police said he began contacting the protected victim on June 8 through various forms of communication. The illegal contacts have been through email, Facebook and phone messages, according to a criminal complaint. . . . Police accuse Jason of leaving two messages for the victim on her employer’s voicemail system. . . . In one instance, Jason is accused of sending an email using a fake name in which he talked about recently being released from prison, according to a criminal complaint.


KANSAS  

Lawyer Faces Federal Case, Accused of Handling Client Trust Money in Ponzi-Scheme-Like Manner

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-15-12 -- A Kansas lawyer has been charged in federal court in Topeka with stealing more than $463,000 from his client trust account, which he is accused of handling in a manner equivalent to a Ponzi scheme. . . . Robert M. Telthorst, 52, faces charges of money laundering and wire fraud after prosecutors say he used the money either for his own benefit or to cover up other thefts from clients, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.


KENTUCKY  

Lawyer Blasted by Ky. Judge Who Called Case ‘Ridiculous,’ Client a ‘Carcass’ Now Seeks His Removal

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-16-12 -- A lawyer who was blasted by a senior Kentucky judge during a videotaped hearing that has generated much comment from observers has now filed a removal motion seeking a new jurist to oversee his client's motion for a new trial in a capital murder case. . . . “It is my opinion that throughout the proceeding, Judge [Martin] McDonald expressed his personal disgust and disdain for me and made clear he harbors a bias towards me and my client,” said attorney David Barron in a motion and affidavit he filed Monday. The filing asks state Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. to take McDonald off the Jefferson Circuit Court case, the Courier-Journal reports. Barron is seeking a new trial for death-row inmate Roger Dale Epperson, contending that his trial counsel was ineffective.


MINNESOTA   

Debt Collection Law Firm Responds to Horrific Allegations in Lawsuit

Patrick Lunsford, InsideARM       

10-16-12 -- A debt collection law firm and agency in Minnesota has posted a response to allegations that one of its representatives used extremely harsh language and tactics with a disabled veteran. The allegations were made public when a story about the consumer’s lawsuit went viral. . . . Details of the lawsuit surfaced Friday when the web site Courthouse News Service posted an article about a U.S. veteran’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawsuit titled “The Worst Debt Collector in the World?” The article spread very quickly on the Internet over the weekend. . . . The lawsuit was filed by Michael Collier, an Army veteran that had been declared “100 percent disabled” due to head and spine injuries, and his wife. In it, they claim that law firm and debt collector Gurstel Chargo failed to obey a court order to unfreeze exempt funds in the Colliers’ bank account. The law firm had initially won a garnishment order from Collier over his wife’s unpaid student loans, prompting his credit union to freeze a savings account. But a judge later determined that the funds were exempt from garnishment and ordered the credit union to unfreeze the account and for Gurstel to release the money.


NEW JERSEY  

Judge orders N.J. man who allegedly duped inmates into buying legal services to pay $2.2M

By Christopher Baxter/Statehouse Bureau, The Star-Ledger - NJ.com   

10-16-12 -- A judge has ordered a West Orange man and his non-profit legal assistance organization to pay $2.2 million for misleading prison inmates into paying for legal services and then pocketing much of the money without doing work, state authorities said today. . . . The order, entered Oct. 9 in Superior Court in Essex County, also bars Bruce Buccolo and the organization, The Project Freedom Fund, from offering legal services in New Jersey, the state Attorney General's Office said in a news release. . . . The order was entered after Buccolo and the organization failed to respond to the state's original complaint filed last year alleging they charged inmates and their families a $350 consulting fee for legal services but rarely gave them anything of value in return, the office said.


NEW YORK  

Attorney Is Suspended Over Theft Allegations

By Brendan Pierson, New York Law Journal  

10-16-12 -- Robert Alan Schachter, a former partner at Robinson Brog Leinwand Greene Genovese & Gluck, has been suspended pending an investigation into allegations that he stole from the firm. Schachter consented to the Oct. 14 suspension by a unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, on a motion by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee. . . . The committee began investigating Schachter after receiving a letter from Ronald Goodman, Robinson Brog's managing partner, saying that Schachter had misappropriated at least $96,000 in firm funds for his own use and had admitted to having acted inappropriately when confronted.


Firm's Dissolution Leaves Subtenants Facing Eviction, Lost Services

By Christine Simmons, New York Law Journal 

10-15-12 -- Gersten Savage, once a 20-attorney litigation and transactional firm, presented an "aura of success" with its display of contemporary art adorning the walls of its Midtown offices; pricey Knoll and Bertoia chairs and personalized Gersten Savage cups and napkins; and its hiring of office managers and on-site IT staff, said lawyers who sublet space from the firm. . . . But only four months after settling in at 600 Lexington Ave., sublessee Grant + Appelbaum, a four-attorney matrimonial firm, was told by 35-year-old Gersten Savage that it was defaulting on its lease, its partners were departing and the subtenants would have to leave or be evicted, according to a lawsuit against Gersten Savage. . . . "It is difficult to convey to the Court my astonishment at these declarations. Not only was I being told that our firm would be forced to relocate a scant four months after we had moved in, with all the attendant disruption and expense, but none of this was set forth with any sense of apology or contrition," Patricia Grant says in the suit.


Cops: Greenport man charged with forgery & grand larceny

By Tim Kelly, The Suffolk Times 

10-12-12 -- A Greenport man who worked as a paralegal for a Southampton law firm faces felony grand larceny and forgery charges for allegedly embezzling more than $250,000 over a three-year period, according to the Southampton Village Police Department. . . . Police arrested Joseph W. Abramski, 63, on Oct. 10 on charges of second-degree grand larceny and second-degree forgery.


NORTH DAKOTA  

Grand Forks attorney reprimanded for misconduct

Associated Press | Jamestown Sun  

10-16-12 -- North Dakota's Supreme Court has reprimanded a Grand Forks attorney for representing a defendant accused of aggravated assault and terrorizing — and the person who was allegedly attacked. . . . The high court says Blake Hankey had a conflict of interest, because he represented someone accused of crimes and the person's alleged victim.


OREGON  

Lawyer Reprimanded for Continued Use of Westlaw After Leaving Prosecutor Job

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-16-12 -- In a case of reciprocal discipline, the Oregon Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded a lawyer who continued to use a government-paid Westlaw account after he left his job as a prosecutor. . . . Everett Walton used the account for about 14 months when he became a legal aid lawyer in Hawaii, according to the Oregon opinion (PDF). He had tried without success to cancel the three-year, flat-rate contract negotiated when he worked as a special prosecutor for the Republic of Palau. The Legal Profession Blog and the National Law Journal have stories.


PENNSYLVANIA  

A legion of big-time lawyers got start under Specter

Philadelphia Business Journal   

10-16-12 -- A legion of some of Philadelphia's top lawyers worked for Arlen Specter, who passed away Sunday, when he was Philadelphia District Attorney between 1965 and 1973. . . . That class included a future chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association and president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (Clifford Haines), U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Michael Stiles), Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (Ronald D. Castille) and two Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court president judges (Bonnie Leadbetter and James Gardner Colins).


TEXAS  

Ex-Client Awarded $867K Against Lawyer Who Stole $75K and Law Firm That Referred Her to Him

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-16-12 -- A woman whose lawyer misappropriated most of the $100,000 she was supposed to get in a probate case has had her day in court and was teary-eyed after a $867,000 jury verdict Monday in Bexar County, Texas. . . . “I am very pleased. The jury believed in me," Isabel Sloan told the San Antonio Express-News. . . . The award includes $377,000 against now-disbarred attorney Eric Turton, who gave Sloan $25,000 of a $100,000 probate settlement she was supposed to get and admittedly kept the rest, as well as another attorney, Oscar C. Gonzalez, who referred her to Turton. An additional $200,000 was awarded against Gonzalez and his law firm, plus the verdict includes attorney's fees for Kolb of a little over $290,000.


Former Attorney Pleads Guilty to $7 Million Ponzi Scheme

Written by FBI | Imperial Valley News 

10-16-12 -- Houston, Texas - Billy Frank Davis, aka Bill F. Davis, a former attorney residing in Houston, has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with his investment fraud scheme that victimized more than 20 investors of approximately $7.8 million, United States Attorney Ken Magidson announced today. . . . During the past 10 years, Davis, 67, held himself out to friends and potential investors as being involved in the real estate investment business. While Davis did conduct some legitimate business activity during this time period, a substantial portion of the funds he solicited were simply part of a Ponzi scheme Davis was operating in an effort to satisfy old debts and to fund his personal lifestyle.


Fraud suit against lawyers nets $867,000

Guillermo Contrera, San Antonio Express 

10-15-12 -- A Bexar County jury on Monday awarded a woman more than $867,000 in her lawsuit against two attorneys, including one who once served on a board that takes up complaints against lawyers. . . . Jurors found attorney Oscar C. Gonzalez, his law firm and former lawyer Eric Turton committed malice, fraud and theft by misappropriating $75,000 from the settlement of a client, Isabel Sloan. Part of the verdict hammered Gonzalez and his firm for gross negligence and false, misleading and deceptive acts and practices.


A Yellow T-Shirt Helps Lawyer Tell How Organ Donation Saved Her Life

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-15-12 -- Lawyer Nefeterius McPherson wasn’t trying to rile University of Texas fans when she wore the bright yellow T-shirt of the opposing team at a recent football game. . . . Instead McPherson was honoring the West Virginia girl who saved her life, according to Texas Lawyer’s Tex Parte Blog. McPherson suffers from a rare bile duct and liver disease called secondary sclerosing cholangitis. Last November she received a liver from 12-year-old Taitlyn Shae Hughes, who died suddenly after suffering a brain hemorrhage. . . . McPherson learned the name of her donor from Facebook and met the family, the story says. McPherson gave family members engraved necklaces, and they gave McPherson the girl’s yellow West Virginia shirt.


VERMONT  

Defense Lawyer Moves to Dismiss 20 Cases, Says Prosecutor Not Lawfully Appointed By Vt. Governor

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-16-12 -- A criminal defense attorney has filed a motion seeking the dismissal of 20 criminal cases, contending that the state lacks authority to prosecute the defendants because the Orleans County state's attorney was unlawfully appointed by the Vermont governor. . . . Attorney David Sleigh says State's Attorney Alan Franklin does not hold a valid appointment from Gov. Peter Shumlin because a special election should have been held to fill the prosecutor's job, according to the Associated Press.


WASHINGTON   

Spokane Diocese Sues Law Firm That Handled Its Bankruptcy, Seeks $12M Legal Fee Clawback and Damages

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-15-12 -- Updated: The Catholic Diocese of Spokane has filed a malpractice suit against the law firm that handled its $50 million bankruptcy, contending that the church was ill-served by the strategy Paine Hamblen developed to deal with priest sex-abuse issues. . . . The suit, which was spearheaded by Bishop Blase Cupich after he took office two years ago, also questions the law firm's timing in filing for bankruptcy at a time when that filing shielded the then-bishop from testifying in a civil case, reports the Spokesman-Review. The law firm represented both the church and its then-bishop at a time when he was named as an individual defendant, concerning his role as an administrator, in litigation against the diocese.


WISCONSIN    

Michael Best Attorney's Obama Comment Prompts Apology from Wisconsin Senate Campaign

By Brian Baxter, The Am Law Daily 

10-15-12 -- Aides to Republican Tommy Thompson—the former Wisconsin governor, onetime Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner, and current candidate for the U.S. senate—said Monday that Thompson's son, Jason, an attorney at Milwaukee-based Michael Best & Friedrich, "said something he should not have" when he remarked that voters should send President Barack Obama back to Kenya. . . . The controversial comment, which was caught on camera, came at a Sunday brunch held by the Kenosha County Republican Party in Wisconsin. At one point during the event, Jason Thompson tells potential voters that they "have the opportunity to send President Obama back to Chicago—or Kenya." . . . The remark, which Jason Thompson appears to make in jest, prompted one person in the crowd to respond that "we are taking donations for that Kenya trip," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


October 10, 2012 -- October 12, 2012

GENERAL

Attorneys Are Billing at $1,200/Hour, To No One's Surprise

By Andrew Lu, FindLaw

10-11-12 -- A strange result to have come from the recent Apple Samsung lawsuit has nothing to do with patents. Instead, it's been the debate over attorney fees. . . . After Apple successfully defended its patents in federal court, news and rumors started to trickle out as to how much Apple paid its attorneys to litigate its case. Guesses ranged from Apple paying its attorneys as little as $30 million to as much as $500 million. . . . In addition, reports like "Apple Patent Battles Create Lawyer Boon at $1,200 an Hour"  gave notice to these apparently exorbitant fees. However, these attorney fees articles also led to a mini-backlash and then the defense of attorneys cashing in.


Income-Based Repayment: Lifeline for Law Graduates, Certain Loser for Government

By Matt Leichter, The Am Law Daily 

10-11-12 -- "Your education loan debt represents a serious financial commitment which must be repaid. A default on any loan engenders serious consequences, including possible legal action against you by the lender, the government, or both." (ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA Law Schools, 2013 edition (37) [PDF] . . . Contrary to the Official Guide's dire warnings, law school debt repayment is no longer a simple "pay-or-else" proposition. The likelihood that a recent law school debtor will default on his or her loans is now very low thanks to the Department of Education's new repayment option for paying off federal guaranteed and direct student loans: Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and its 10-year public service complement, Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR). IBR is somewhat complicated, and revisions to the rules will go into effect in 2014 if not sooner. Here is a brief explanation of how the new repayment plan works:


Bank of America Request for Legal Fee Credit Raises Ethical Questions

By Sue Reisinger, Corporate Counsel   

10-11-12 -- The Bank of America Corporation (BAC) is asking certain of its select outside law firms to give it a credit on its annual legal fees, based on the amount of customer business—such as loans—sent to the law firms. Some experts say that practice is highly unusual and ethically suspect. . . . A form prepared by Bank of America and given to preferred provider law firms calls for a one-year deal between the bank and the firm. It states that the law firm “will give BAC a credit equal to $_____ [blank] to be applied toward bank paid legal services provided to GBAM [global banking and markets division] during the one-year arrangement period.” . . . The credit is on top of other discounts the bank already receives from its preferred providers. . . . One source who received the form and asked not to be named, said BAC indicated that the credit is calculated based on the total amount of legal fees passed on to third-party customers. For example, BAC may send a customer’s business, such as a large construction loan, to an outside law firm to handle, and the bank would pass on the legal fees to the borrower as part of the cost of the loan. But the credit BAC is requesting wouldn’t go to the customer who pays the legal fees—it would go to the bank.


Former Patton Boggs Client Accuses Firm of Marketing Competitor's Products

Posted by Zoe Tillman, The BLT, The Blog of the Legal Times  

10-10-12 -- Patton Boggs is facing a breach of contract lawsuit filed yesterday by a former client who has accused the firm of marketing a competitor's products when it was supposed to be marketing the client for potential business with the federal government. . . . MB Industries LLC, or MBI, a Louisiana-based company that builds blast-resistant buildings, hired Patton Boggs in December 2008 to help the company "become a major player" with agencies within the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and to otherwise expand its business, according to the complaint (PDF) filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.


FTC alleges scammers preyed on distressed homeowners with false offers of legal help

By Jenna Greene, The National Law Journal  

10-09-12 -- Targeting scam artists offering bogus legal services to distressed homeowners, the Federal Trade Commission on October 9 announced three suits against mortgage relief operations that allegedly victimized thousands of consumers. . . . In suits filed in federal court in Florida, California and Ohio, the FTC charged the companies with violating the Federal Trade Act and the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services rule by falsely claiming they could help homeowners avoid foreclosure. In some instances, the scammers allegedly promised but failed to deliver assistance from a "network" of lawyers, or falsely passed themselves off as attorneys. . . . "With many homeowners still struggling to hold onto their homes, the FTC takes a hard line against con artists who are seeking their next victim," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz at a press conference at the Justice Department touting the accomplishments in the past year of a multi-agency financial fraud enforcement task force effort.


CALIFORNIA  

Law Blog Fireside: The Lawyer Protecting Oakland’s Medical Pot

By Joe Palazzolo. Wall Street Journal (blog)  

10-12-12 -- Oakland, Calif., is trying to keep the federal government from seizing its biggest medical-marijuana dispensary. . . . On Wednesday, the city took a bold step: It sued the feds, arguing that the U.S. attorney for Northern California is barred from seizing the property by the five-year statute of limitations on civil forfeiture. . . . Sure, it’s illegal to sell medical marijuana under federal law, but President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have said publicly they wouldn’t pursue people who are in compliance with state law. A 2009 Justice Department memo gave the same guidance to U.S. attorneys.


Steven Tyler Lawyer Sued for Allegedly Botching 'American Idol' Deal

Management company Kovac Media Group claims attorney Dina LaPolt cost Tyler a rich 'Idol' contract.

by Matthew Belloni, Hollywood Reporter 

10-11-12 -- Steven Tyler's former management company sued his current lawyer on Thursday claiming she botched his contract negotiation and cost Tyler a $6 million- $8 million deal to return to American Idol. . . . In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Kovac Media Group claims that West Hollywood entertainment lawyer Dina LaPolt was brought in to help the Aerosmith frontman negotiate a new Idol deal at the end of last season, his second on the hit Fox singing competition.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

Federal Court Dismisses Attorney General Holder’s Wild Accusations of Racism

by AuthorJustin Danhof, Amy Ridenour's National Center Blog (blog)   

10-12-12 -- A couple of Justice Department attorneys walk into court and cry racism over a voter photo ID law.  . . . Stop me if you’ve heard this before. . . . For months, Attorney General Eric Holder and his minions have been traveling the country – declaring that state-level voter ID laws are, in so many words, racist attempts to suppress black votes.  In those instances, Holder is wrong, but he nonetheless has left-leaning advocacy groups (such as the Brennan Center for Justice, the ACLU and the NAACP) back up this abhorrent assertion. . . . In a case that was decided on Wednesday, however, Holder and his cronies claimed that South Carolina’s new voter ID law was racist for a different reason. . . . DOJ officials claimed that South Carolina passed its new voter ID law (Act R54) in retaliation to President Barack Obama’s election.  You read that right.  Holder had the U.S. government argue in a court of law that South Carolina’s elected officials are such bigots that they are passing laws over their angst of being governed by a black man. . . . The problem for the Attorney General is that state and federal courts are not buying his radical racial rhetoric.


FLORIDA  

Judge scolds attorneys in Lt. Gov. Carroll info leak case

Bill Cotterell, The Florida Current   

10-11-12 -- A stern circuit judge complained that the case of embarrassing leaks from Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's office "is getting way out of hand" Thursday and bluntly told attorneys on both sides he won't let them air the lurid allegations in the news media. . . . Judge Frank Sheffield said he would decide on a witness-by-witness basis whether attorneys for Carletha Cole can take testimony from Carroll and other officers of Gov. Rick Scott's administration. He told defense attorney Stephen Webster to submit lists of potential witnesses -- so Cole's lawyers can't "go on a fishing expedition" for irrelevant information -- but also told Jesse Panuccio, the governor's general counsel, he won't exclude pertinent witnesses just because they might make some high-level government officials uncomfortable.


Conflict questions arise about law firms representing HOAs, banks

By Mary Shanklin, Orlando Sentinel 

10-11-12 -- Disputes pitting community associations against banks have left some questioning whether law firms should represent both sides. . . . Disputes pitting homeowners associations against banks that owe fees on foreclosed houses have left some questioning whether the same law firms should represent parties on both sides of the fight. . . . Jan Bergemann, president of the Cyber Citizens for Justice association watchdog group, said this week that law firms should not represent both groups. . . . "That should be a conflict of interest,'' Bergemann said. "Banks normally like to postpone as long as possible the moment they are the deeded owner. The homeowner association, meanwhile, has an interest to foreclose as soon as possible.''


GEORGIA  

Lawyer is dog's best friend in U.S. attack case

by David Beasley, Reuters

10-12-12 -- A judge in Georgia has appointed a lawyer to defend a pit bull that could be euthanized for attacking a neighbor's 5-year-old child, a court official said on Friday. . . . The dog's owner surrendered the animal, named Kno, to Effingham County, north of Savannah, last summer after it was accused of severely injuring the child, assistant county attorney Elizabeth Pavlis told Reuters. . . . Lawyer Claude Kicklighter, appointed by Superior Court Judge William Woodrum Jr to represent the dog, said he was still learning details of the case. . . . "All I can tell you is that the judge appointed me," he said. "I really don't know what the issues are."


ILLINOIS  

Drew Peterson backs longtime attorney

By Christy Gutowski, Chicago Tribune reporter   

10-12-12 -- Drew Peterson backed his longtime attorney in court today after a legal skirmish by another defense team to intervene in his post-trial motions. . . . Lead counsel Joel Brodsky and attorneys John Paul Carroll and Michelle Gonzalez clashed over who will represent Peterson as he appeals his conviction for the 2004 murder of third wife, Kathleen Savio. . . . In a recent court filing seeking a new trial, Carroll accused Brodsky of lying about his courtroom prowess, forcing the defendant into pretrial publicity and myriad legal errors. . . . Carroll insisted Peterson gave him the green light but a stunned Brodsky said Carroll had authority to handle issues related only to the defendant's police pension.


Outside Lawyer Files Motion for New Murder Trial for Drew Peterson; Lead Counsel Calls It ‘Insanity’

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-10-12 -- In the latest bizarre twist in a high-profile murder conviction against a former suburban Chicago police officer for the death of his third wife, a lawyer not previously involved in the case has filed a motion seeking a new trial for Drew Peterson. . . . Attorney John Paul Carroll said in his motion that Peterson's lawyers did not provide him with adequate representation. It was filed Tuesday in Will County, reports the Southtown Star. . . . However, Carroll, who is also a former police officer, isn't representing Peterson concerning his criminal case, says his lead trial lawyer. Attorney Joel Brodsky tells the newspaper that Carroll was brought in only for the limited purpose of advising Peterson about his pension rights. His client, Brodsky says, repeatedly confirmed that Carroll is only a consultant and described himself as "boggled" by the Naperville lawyer's new-trial motion.


KANSAS  

Women file federal lawsuit against Shawnee County D.A. Taylor

Former employees claim gender and race discrimination led to wrongful firing

By Aly Van Dyke, The Capital-Journal  

10-09-12 -- Two women have filed a federal lawsuit against District Attorney Chad Taylor, claiming race and gender discrimination — as well as a host of other issues in the office — led to their wrongful termination more than two years ago. . . . Krystal L. Boxum-Debolt, of Lawrence, and Lisa Anne Moore, of Rio Rancho, N.M., filed the civil suit on Oct. 1 in the District Court of Kansas alleging six counts. The charges include gender discrimination for lack of providing breast-feeding stations and race discrimination relating to the women’s supervisor, who allegedly used her position to coerce Hispanic employees and clients to clean her home.


LOUISIANA   

Florida escort tried extorting $100,000 from New Orleans lawyer, Orlando newspaper reports

By Ramon Antonio Vargas, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

10-12-12 -- A male escort from Florida nicknamed "Dream" allegedly tried to extort $100,000 from a New Orleans lawyer he slept with in California, a newspaper in Orlando, Fla., is reporting. Terrill Lewis, 25, of Titusville, Fla., threatened the unidentified lawyer with releasing compromising video footage and pictures of the night they spent together in a California hotel to the victim's family, friends and business associates in New Orleans, authorities told the Orlando Sentinel. . . . According to the Sentinel's report, the victim says he was in California in late August when Hurricane Isaac struck the New Orleans area, stranding him. The victim -- described only as a prominent attorney -- hired Lewis from an erotic website; and the two drank wine and talked. . . . The next morning, the Sentinel reports, Lewis was gone, and the lawyer awoke with a hangover. He found two used condoms in the bathroom. There was a text message on his phone to "Dream" saying: "Thanks it was a great time."


MICHIGAN  

Former Bashara attorney David Griem admits he wrongly shared evidence

By Gina Damron, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

10-12-12 -- The former attorney for Bob Bashara — the Grosse Pointe Park man who has been called a suspect in his wife's murder — today admitted responsibility to civil contempt of court charges. . . . David Griem was accused of improperly sharing evidence with Bashara's family and issuing unauthorized subpoenas. He was initially facing criminal contempt of court charges but pleaded responsibility to civil contempt of court. . . . Griem is due back in court Nov. 26 for a hearing about possible sanctions.


MINNESOTA   

Minn. Judge Disqualifies Covington from Representing State In Big Enviro Case Against Ex-Client 3M

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-11-12 -- Agreeing that 3M Co. had been betrayed by a major law firm's decision to help the Minnesota attorney general pursue an environmental suit against its former longtime corporate client, a judge has disqualified Covington & Burling from continuing to represent the state in the litigation against 3M. . . . In a Thursday order and opinion (PDF), Hennepin County District Court Judge Robert A. Blaeser wrote: “Covington has exhibited a conscious disregard for its duties of confidentiality, candor, full disclosure, and loyalty to 3M by failing to raise its conflicts arising from the fact that it previously advised and represented 3M on FC [fluorochemical] matters. Additionally, Covington is disqualified in order to protect 3M's confidential information Covington obtained during its representation of 3M, which is relevant to the issues at the heart of the state's case." . . . Fundamental to the disqualification issue, the judge states, is the fact that Covington & Burling failed to obtain required informed written consent to the conflicts from its former client, as required under Minn. Rule Prof. Conduct 1.9.


NEBRASKA  

Senator sues bar association over dues

By Kevin O'Hanlon, Lincoln Journal Star     

10-10-12 -- Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha took his ongoing fight with the Nebraska State Bar Association to federal court Wednesday, filing a lawsuit alleging it is unconstitutional to force lawyers to pay dues to the association. . . . The class action lawsuit seeks to prevent the bar association from collecting mandatory dues from members who object to the money being used for political, ideological and other non-germane activities until the association adopts procedures that properly safeguard its members’ civil rights. . . . Lautenbaugh, a lawyer, has said the bar "frequently gets involved in issues on which its members have divergent views and which have nothing to do with the limited issues a mandatory bar association is allowed to weigh in on."


NEW HAMPSHIRE  

McLeod's attorney sees victory for fantasy sports

By Julie Hanson, Union Leader Correspondent  

10-09-12 -- The attorney general’s decision not to pursue gambling charges against Ross McLeod, a selectman and former Hillsborough County prosecutor, may be a victory for fantasy football. . . . Attorney General Michael Delaney released a statement Monday stating that the Department of Justice had concluded its investigation into allegations of illegal gambling, electioneering and witness tampering, and would not pursue charges against McLeod. . . . “Ross was engaging in playing fantasy football with a half-dozen old friends, doing nothing different than what millions of Americans across the country do on a day-to-day basis, especially at this time of the year,” said James Rosenberg, attorney for McLeod. “Simply stated, fantasy football is not gambling.” . . . The federal criminal code specifically exempts fantasy sports in its legal definition of gambling. . . . Meanwhile, McLeod’s former boss, Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan, said the findings by the attorney general prove he was right in saying little about the case.


NEW JERSEY  

International Hacking Scheme Accesses Rutgers CLE Data

By Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal  

10-10-12 -- Hackers who broke into 100 university websites worldwide posted personal data on 1,560 lawyers from the continuing legal education program at Rutgers' two law schools. . . . In an email on Tuesday to those lawyers, the university's Institute for Professional Education said "it appears that hackers were able to access some information, including names, addresses and encrypted passwords" from its site, www.rutgerscle.com. . . . The hackers also obtained telephone numbers and email addresses — but no credit card information — of people who registered online for Rutgers CLE classes, says Michael Sepanic, a spokesman for Rutgers Law School-Camden.


OHIO  

Sixth Circuit imposes sanctions on plaintiff's lawyer for 'meritless appeal'

By Sheri Qualters, The National Law Journal 

10-10-12 -- An Ohio lawyer's "meritless appeal" warrants sanctions, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled. . . . On October 10, a unanimous panel issued a per curiam decision affirming a summary judgment ruling in favor of defendant Graphic Packaging in a wrongful discharge case. The Sixth Circuit, which ruled on the briefs and did not hold oral argument, also granted Graphic Packaging's sanctions motion. It ruled that the company could collect costs and attorney fees related to the appeal from the plaintiffs' lawyer, Eric Hall, who was earlier this year suspended from the practice of law in Ohio. The company has 30 days to file an affidavit with the amount it seeks. . . . Tamie Seifert worked at Graphic Packaging from July to December 2009, when she was fired for alleged poor performance.


TENNESSEE  

Ex-administrator at Vanderbilt Law gets 22 years for theft, statutory rape

By Karen Sloan, The National Law Journal  

10-10-12 -- A former administrative manager at Vanderbilt University Law School was sentenced to 22 years in prison on October 9 after pleading guilty to 17 counts of fraud, theft and statutory rape. . . . Jason Hunt, who performed various financial duties at the law school from 2005 to 2011, stole at least $535,962 from Vanderbilt using a school-issued credit card and through check fraud. He forged check approval requests and e-mail correspondence involving goods and services that were never provided to the law school, according to Davidson County, Tenn., District Attorney's office in Nashville. The thefts occurred between April 2010 and October 2011, prosecutors said.


TEXAS  

Lawyer Seeks $25M From Insurer, Says He Was Set Up in Criminal Case That Destroyed His Legal Career

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-11-12 -- A jury trial is beginning this week for a Texas lawyer seeking $25 million in a tortious interference suit against an insurance company with which he formerly had dealings while representing plaintiffs in asbestos cases. . . . Warren Todd Hoeffner, 48, contends that Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. set him up to face criminal prosecution, without appropriate basis, in order to conceal the involvement of two of its own claims processors in a $3 million extortion from him, reports Bloomberg in a lengthy article about the case. He argues that the insurer protected the two employees to preclude their telling regulators about a lack of reserved funds at the time of the scheme to cover asbestos-related claims.


WISCONSIN    

’Forest Voice’ attorneys fined

Richmond-News 

10-12-12 -- Attorneys who helped the Forest Voice citizen organization file a lawsuit that included developer Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, LLC, as a defendant have been fined. . . . In a decision dated Sept. 30, District Judge William M. Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the claims against EEW by leaders of the Forest Voice, and attorneys Glenn Stoddard and Patricia Keahna, were “frivolous.” . . . The judge noted that a private company could not be held accountable for alleged violations of open meeting laws, and that only public officials have the responsibility to ensure that proper procedures are followed. . . . “We have been completely transparent through this entire process as we’ve tried to bring clean, renewable energy to St. Croix County,” said Jay Mundinger, founding principal of Emerging Energies. “Some very responsible town officials lost their jobs after initially approving our Highland Wind Farm project two years ago, and we’ve been fighting ever since. We feel a level of vindication here.”


October 6, 2012 -- October 9, 2012

GENERAL

Did Obama Violate the Take Care Clause by Staying Some Deportations? John Yoo Weighs In

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-09-12 -- President Barack Obama effectively wrote into law the failed DREAM Act when his administration announced in June that it would not deport many illegal aliens under 30 who came to this country as children, two law professors say. . . . The president also breached his constitutional duty to enforce the laws under the take care clause, according to a working paper posted at SSRN by law professors John Yoo of the University of California at Berkeley and Robert Delahunty of the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. . . . “The Constitution confers no express or implied power or authority not to enforce the laws,” they write. “On the face of it, the Obama administration breached its constitutional duty by refusing to enforce the immigration law in (up to) 1.7 million cases.”


Attorney Fired From Pat Robertson's Legal Group for Relationships With Young Men

By Michelle Garcia, Advocate.com  

10-09-12 -- A senior attorney has been fired from the conservative American Center for Law and Justice for reportedly having multiple relationships with younger men. . . . Metro Weekly reports that James Henderson was fired September 25, one day after two blogs, Exposed Politics and The Patriot-Ombudsman, posted reports that Henderson may be gay. The reports showed that Henderson created a Facebook account solely to communicate with at least two men he was involved with. . . . While it is unclear whether the men are at the age of consent or old enough to consume alcohol, it appears that Henderson provided them with alcohol and marijuana. One of the reports alleges that one of the men was 17 when he began communicating with Henderson in 2010.


The Ties That Bind

More than other firms, Wilmer has filled the Obama administration with high-profile alums.

By Jenna Greene, The National Law Journal    October 8, 2012

10-08-12 -- From the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to the Treasury Department, the Central Intelligence Agency to the Federal Communications Commission, lawyers in top positions across the federal government have something in common — they're from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. . . . More than any other law firm, Wilmer has populated the Obama administration with high-profile alums. At least 20 partners have left the firm since 2009 for senior government posts. A handful have come back, but 17 others, including U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen Jr., Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, Internal Revenue Service chief counsel William Wilkins and SEC Division of Corporation Finance head Meredith Cross, are still on the job.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

Federal Judge Slams D.C. Lawyers for 'Orwellian' Worldview

Posted by Zoe Tillman, The BLT, The Blog of the Legal Times      on October 05, 2012

10-05-12 -- Criticizing the D.C. Office of the Attorney General's "dilatory, wasteful action," U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth published an opinion yesterday blasting city attorneys for violating a discovery order. . . . According to the opinion (PDF), Lamberth had authorized limited discovery by plaintiffs in a constitutional fight over the right to post signs on lampposts in Washington. Lamberth wrote that even though he didn't give the city permission to do discovery, the attorney general's office went ahead with interrogatories and a request for documents. The plaintiffs requested a protective order to stop the city, which he granted.


GEORGIA  

Court disbars Marietta lawyer

By Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  

10-09-12 -- The Georgia Supreme Court recently disbarred Marietta lawyer Wendel Lawrence Bowie from the practice of law, noting an investigative panel found his conduct had been egregious.


ILLINOIS  

Carpentersville man in hot water for suing judges, insulting court

By Harry Hitzeman, Chicago Daily Herald 

10-08-12 -- A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Carpentersville man against Kane County judges, attorneys and the Kane County Bar Association after he was sanctioned for attempting to practice law without a license. . . . Now, Robert Sperlazzo, 62, faces contempt of court charges for filing a rash of lawsuits and supposed court orders and calling the 16th Judicial Circuit a “kangaroo court,” according to court documents. . . . Sperlazzo is due in court on Oct. 18 before Val Gunnarrson, a judge brought in from another circuit because Sperlazzo has sued several judges in Kane County. . . . If found guilty, fines and jail time are possible for Sperlazzo, who was chairman of the Fox Valley Citizen for Legal Immigration, a group that supports cracking down on illegal immigrants living in Carpentersville.


KENTUCKY  

See the Video: Angry Judge Blasts ‘Backseat Driver’ Appellate Counsel in High-Profile Murder Case

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-09-12 -- In an action-packed Sept. 28 hearing, a Kentucky senior judge blasts an appellate lawyer seeking a new trial for his client in a high-profile murder case. . . . As the camera rolls, retired Jefferson Circuit Judge Martin McDonald repeatedly criticizes assistant public advocate David Barron and cuts him off as he tries to offer a few thoughts in response to claims that the attorney is "unethical" and a "backseat driver" who is "making a mountain out of a molehill" rather than a "real" trial lawyer. . . . At a couple of points, as portrayed in video clips linked to a Louisville Courier-Journal article, the judge also speaks directly to Barron's client, Roger Dale Epperson.


MAINE   

Justice berates prosecutors in Kennebunk prostitution case as accused plead not guilty

By Seth Koenig, Bangor Daily News Staff  

10-09-12 -- A Superior Court justice scolded state prosecutors Tuesday for disorganized and inaccessible evidence — including what a prosecutor said were indications of child pornography — against Mark Strong and his alleged associate Alexis Wright. The two are being accused of running a prostitution business out of Wright’s Kennebunk fitness studio. . . . The admonition from Justice Nancy Mills came during a Cumberland County Superior Court hearing in Portland. . . . Both Wright and Strong pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges tied to the alleged prostitution during their arraignments Tuesday, which took place concurrently in Portland. . . . Daniel Lilley, the attorney representing Strong, told Mills during the hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court that a “mish-mash” of documents piled into boxes, as well as a computer hard drive, had been delivered to his office as evidence against his client by prosecutors. But he said he and his associates have struggled to correlate the documents in the boxes with an accompanying index, and have further been unable to access the videos, photographs and other incriminating evidence prosecutors allege are on the hard drive.


MISSOURI  

Social Security Administration lawyer admits guilt

The Associated Press | Sacramento Bee  

10-09-12 -- A lawyer who worked for the Social Security Administration in St. Louis has admitted that he defrauded the agency. . . . Federal prosecutors say 37-year-old Robert Brauker of St. Louis pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony counts of theft of government property. . . . Brauker received disability benefits beginning in 1993 due to vision problems. Prosecutors say Brauker was supposed to report any income he made but didn't do so in 2003 and 2010.


NEVADA  

1 in 5 would-be lawyers in Nevada has had substance-abuse problems

By Cy Ryan, Las Vegas Sun         

10-08-12 -- Based on evidence that shows higher-than-average alcohol and drug abuse among lawyers, the State Bar of Nevada is seeking greater awareness among its ranks. . . . In the past two years, almost 23 percent of those applying to practice law in Nevada disclosed a history of substance abuse. . . . And almost 33 percent of the disciplinary cases against lawyers "involve underlying abuse, addiction or mental health problems," says the board of governors of the State Bar. . . . It has petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court to require attorneys to take one hour of education each year "in substance abuse, addictive disorders and or mental health issues that impair professional competence."


NEW YORK  

Both Sides Take Heat in Jacoby & Meyers' Suit Over Ban on Law Firm Investors

By Mark Hamblett, New York Law Journal   

10-09-12 -- Attorneys pressing Jacoby & Meyers' attack on New York State's ban on law firms accepting outside investment from non-lawyers may have gotten a ray of hope Oct. 5 during oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. . . . Attorney James Denlea, after getting hammered by the panel for insisting he had standing to challenge Rule 5.4 of New York's Rules of Professional Conduct, sat back and watched with pleasure as Judge John Walker Jr. asked Assistant Solicitor General Won Shin why the case shouldn't just be remanded with instructions to amend the complaint and solve the standing problem. . . . Calling the merits of the case "probably pretty easy," Judge Gerard Lynch said, "It's kind of a mystery to me why we are debating these rather arcane issues of standing."


OHIO  

Geauga County Bar Association: Judicial candidate guilty of misconduct

By Tracey Read, News-Herald.com  

10-09-12 -- A candidate for Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court judge is guilty of professional misconduct, according to the Geauga County Bar Association. . . . The Bar filed a complaint last year against Timothy H. Snyder, who is challenging Judge Tim Grendell on Nov. 6. . . . The association now wants a Hearing Panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievance and Discipline of the Supreme Court to find Snyder violated 11 rules of conduct. The panel heard the case on Aug. 24. . . . The Geauga association is also asking the board to make an appropriate recommendation to the Supreme Court to discipline Snyder, who could possibly face having his law license suspended.


RHODE ISLAND  

Court upholds RI lawyer's corruption conviction

Associated Press | Boston.com       

10-08-12 -- A federal appeals court has upheld the corruption conviction of a former North Providence town attorney who facilitated bribes to three town councilmen. . . . Robert Ciresi was convicted in April 2011 of bribery, extortion and conspiracy charges. The jury found he arranged and delivered a $25,000 bribe to then-Councilman John Zambarano after the town council rezoned a plot of land so a supermarket could be built there. Ciresi also helped put Zambarano in touch with a middleman on a separate $75,000 bribe related to a mill development.


TEXAS  

Attorneys ask to bypass security at Victoria County courthouse; sheriff says no

Melissa Crowe, Victoria Advocate   

10-08-12 -- Although a second security station is expected to shorten wait time at the Victoria County Courthouse, local attorneys say the best solution is security bypass badges. . . . However, Victoria commissioners are heeding the sheriff's recommendation and subjecting all attorneys - save for the district attorney's office - to security checks just like all other courthouse visitors. . . . Luther Easley, of the Victoria County District Attorney's Office, addressed the commissioners court on behalf of the Victoria County Bar Association on Monday. . . . Attorneys, unlike any other professional in the community, need the ability to get in and out of the courthouse quickly with large volumes of materials and without hassle, Easley said.


WISCONSIN    

Lawyer who padded hours for bonus seeks break from high court

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel  

10-08-12 -- A lawyer accused of ripping off his own partners by inflating his billings to win bonuses could become a barometer of the Wisconsin Supreme Court's feelings about lawyers' duties to each other. . . . A referee has recommended the court suspend Matthew Siderits' license for 18 months, a term his attorney said would amount to a career killer. Siderits disputes the finding that he knowingly engaged in fraud or deceit. Even if the court agrees he did, he argues that a reprimand or much shorter suspension is the proper sanction because he cooperated with the ethics investigation, has no prior discipline and has paid back his former partners. . . . But the Office of Lawyer Regulation argues even lawyers who defraud their own partners deserve significant punishment to deter others, and that Siderits' claim that he had insufficient notice of his fiduciary duty should be ignored.


"If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send 150 lawyers,

whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, & talk by the hour? That 150 lawyers should do business together ought not to be expected."
--Thomas Jefferson, autobiography, 1821


 EVIDENCE OF MISCONDUCT

Specials / Evidence Of Misconduct

By David Boeri, A WBUR Series

02-19-10 -- When Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn joined Boston’s war on organized crime, he turned his focus to an up-and-coming mobster named Vincent Ferrara. The operation was called “Tunnel Vision,” fitting for a case in which prosecutors were willing to break the rules to bring down their target. Auerhahn thought he had a smoking gun in a witness who testified that Ferrara ordered a hit. Problem is, the witness lied. Worse, a judge ruled Auerhahn knew he lied — and covered it up. . . . The case raises troubling questions from critics — including judges — who worry that withholding evidence has become a tactic of some federal prosecutors. Those critics question whether Justice can police itself. In three parts, WBUR’s David Boeri examines the case, the actions of the Boston prosecutor and how it was handled by the Department of Justice.


Part I: A Prosecutor, Mobster, A Witness Who Lied

In 2003, a judge found that a federal prosecutor for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, Jeffrey Auerhahn, intentionally withheld evidence that could have cleared two men charged in a murder case. In the first report, we consider the crucial evidence that Auerhahn never turned over. Full story »

Part II: ‘The Smokingest Gun’

The Department of Justice has never taken public action to discipline Auerhahn. Now the chief federal judge here has set local proceedings in motion to do what Justice hasn’t: publicly punish him. In the second report, we dive into the misconduct case against Auerhahn. Full story »

Part III: The Judges’ Rebellion

In the third report, we consider how the Department of Justice dealt with Auerhahn, and how it’s come to the point that federal judges in Boston could suspend or even disbar him. Full story »

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Judiciary in the News

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UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT

SCOTUS 2012 News & Views

SCOTUS  Session 2011-12 Decisions


October 13, 2012 -- October 16, 2012

FEDERAL COURTS

US District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf steps aside; will assume senior judge status

By Milton J. Valencia, Boston Globe Staff  

10-16-12 -- US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf, known for bringing a keen legal mind to bear in a number of high-profile cases, announced this morning that he will retire from full-time status on after 27 years. . . . Wolf said in a letter to President Obama that he will take senior status at the beginning of 2013, when his rotating tenure as chief judge for the Massachusetts district ends. US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris is slated to become the next chief. . . . Federal law allows judges to retire or take senior status after reaching a certain age and having served a set number of years on the bench. Wolf will be 66 when he steps down. By taking senior status, he can still preside over cases, though he can limit himself to a certain number and type, such as hearing criminal trials only.


Bankruptcy debtor can't escape attorney fees from child-support case

By Sheri Qualters, The National Law Journal   

10-12-12 -- A bankruptcy filing doesn't wipe out the debtor's obligation to pay attorney fees in a child-custody case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled. . . . On October 10, a unanimous panel of the court affirmed a ruling by Judge Stephen Murphy III of the Eastern District of Michigan that Patrick Rugiero pay $100,000 in fees to Antonietta DiNardo. The appeals court determined that the fee award was a domestic support obligation. Also, a result, the attorney fees are not dischargeable. . . . The litigants are the unmarried parents of two children. In their child-custody case, the Wayne County Circuit Court issued two orders for Rugiero to pay DiNardo's attorney fees. The court ordered Rugiero to pay $20,000 in May 2010 and $80,000 in November 2010. By the time of the second award, DiNardo had racked up $184,697 in attorney fees in the case.


FLORIDA  

Judge: schizophrenic man can be put to death because his Jesus vision is basically the same as all Christians

By Alex Moore, Death and Taxes  

10-15-12 -- A judge in Florida has ruled that John Ferguson, who has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic by various mental health experts over the last four decades, can be put to death by lethal injection Thursday for murders he committed in the 70s. Though this would seem to violate the Constitutional Amendment barring the death penalty for crimes committed by those mentally incapable of grasping reality, incredibly Judge David Glant has ruled that in this particular case the criminal’s schizophrenic delusion about the afterlife and his role on Earth is basically the same as the worldview held by mainstream Christians, and implied it should be judged by the same standards. . . . The Guardian notes Ferguson was first diagnosed with mental instability ih the 60s and was deemed dangerous by a psychiatrist in 1975. Two years later he committed his first murder, and was sentenced to death in 1978.


GEORGIA  

No warrants for heat detectors

Ga. Supreme Court: Thermal detection doesn't meet state requirement for 'tangible' evidence to issue a warrant

By Alyson M. Palmer, Daily Report 

10-16-12 -- Georgia law doesn't allow warrants for police to use special heat-detecting equipment to spy on illegal activity in people's homes, the state Supreme Court ruled on Monday. . . . But the unanimous decision was a loss for the defendant accused of illegally growing marijuana inside his Athens garage. The justices found that even without evidence from a thermal imaging device, prosecutors had sufficient probable cause to get a warrant to search the house for marijuana. . . . So although Monday's decision—one of 27 the court issued—takes thermal imaging devices out of the police toolbox, it also raises questions about whether police need such powers at all.


LOUISIANA   

Louisiana high court rules Johnson will be chief justice

Associated Press | The Daily Advertiser  

10-16-12 -- The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Bernette Johnson will be the court's next chief justice, resolving a racially tinged power struggle that wound up in federal court. . . . The court's unanimous ruling said Johnson's years of appointed and elected service on the court give her the seniority that entitles her to succeed Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty" Kimball early next year and become the court's first black chief justice. . . . Justice Jeffrey Victory of Shreveport had argued he had more seniority than his New Orleans colleague and deserved the position. The court sided with Johnson, saying its ruling was based strictly on the law, "without passion or prejudice."


MAINE   

Judge releases names of 21 johns in Kennebunk hooker scandal

From Associated Press | New York Post    

10-16-12 -- The first batch of more than 100 men accused of paying a fitness instructor for sex were laying low after police began releasing their names in a small New England town where rumors have run rampant for weeks. . . . Police on Monday released 21 names of men who were issued summons for engaging in prostitution with a 29-year-old Zumba instructor who's charged with turning her dance studio into a brothel in this seaside community and secretly videotaping her encounters. . . . Residents watched the news flash on their local evening TV news, and people could be heard discussing who was on the list as they walked through a supermarket parking lot and stood in line at a convenience store shortly after the names were made public.


NEW JERSEY  

Millville man's family waits 5 years for justice as murder case continues to be postponed

By Don E. Woods/South Jersey Times The News of Cumberland County, NJ.com

10-15-12 -- James Penn III, 31, was found dead in the doorway of his city home on Sept. 11, 2007. . . . Five years later, Penn’s family is still waiting for the case against his accused killers to go to trial. . . . Five years later, the family is still looking for justice. . . . “I can’t understand how they can keep prolonging having a trial when you are ready to have closure in your life,” said Malvese Penn, James’ mother. . . . Police believe that the incident was a robbery that turned into a homicide. . . . James Penn was born in Vineland and only lived in Millville for less than a year after he moved from Pittsgrove Township. . . . He attended Cumberland County College and DeVry University and was planning on earning his commercial drivers license. . . . Two bullets ended those dreams.


NJ asks Supreme Court to hear gift card case

Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press | WPVI    

10-13-12 -- New Jersey has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case that could help the government claim at least $15 million a year in unspent gift card revenue from retailers to help balance the state budget. . . . The high court is expected to decide within weeks whether to accept the case that could rewrite the law on unclaimed property by clarifying which state has priority over forgotten gift cards - and whether it matters where the card was bought. . . . The dispute between New Jersey and retailers around the country arose in 2010 when the state expanded its abandoned property law to include gift cards, a revenue source projected to generate $4.34 billion in sales statewide in this fiscal year. Cash-strapped New Jersey and other states, including Maine, New York and Texas, see a potential jackpot in laying claim to even a fraction of the card balances that will be forgotten - $114 million will go unspent in New Jersey alone this year, according to legislative estimates.


N.J. appeals court upholds dismissal of ex-girlfriend's lawsuit against Nets CEO

By  Kibret Markos, The Record Staff Writer    

10-12-12 -- A Bergen County judge was right in dismissing a lawsuit by an Upper Saddle River woman who claimed that Nets CEO Brett Yormark deceived her into having an abortion, a state appeals court ruled Friday. . . . Reyna Purcell said in her lawsuit filed last year in Superior Court in Hackensack that she became pregnant shortly after she started dating Yormark in 2010. She said she wanted to have the child but Yormark threatened to end the relationship if she gave birth. She also claimed Yormark promised to take her on a vacation if she got an abortion. Purcell said she got the abortion, but Yormark ended the relationship shortly afterward.


Town Owes $10M To Pupil Paralyzed In School Beating

By David Gialanella, New Jersey Law Journal 

10-12-12 -- An Essex County jury on Friday awarded $16.3 million to an Irvington High School student who was left paralyzed from a bathroom beating. . . . Due to a high-low agreement, Anwar Patterson's recovery will be capped at $10 million in Patterson v. Irvington Board of Education, ESX-L-1093-09. . . . Patterson and his assailant, Danzell Ebron, were in the summer-school program at the high school in 2008. On July 14, Ebron was involved in an off-campus, after-school dustup with Patterson's friends and possibly Patterson himself, according to attorneys in the case.


NORTH CAROLINA  

Judge Rumbottom’ photos amuse legal community

By Laura Moore, StarNews Correspondent    

10-16-12 -- Judge Gil Burnett has spent much of his life vacillating between reality and fantasy. From carnival boy to chief judge, from sailing the oceans to trying cases of racial injustice, Burnett has been able to find a healthy balance of working hard and playing hard. . . . His playfulness and penchant for fantasy have found an outlet in his photography. . . . In his youth, Burnett spent summers working in the fantastical world of the Carolina Beach carnival, selling snow cones to sun-dazzled tourists and locals. . . . As a teen, it was Burnett’s dream to be a pilot in the military during World War II, but he was rejected twice because he did not weigh enough. The third time he volunteered, he finally weighed enough. He trained, but never saw action.


PENNSYLVANIA  

Inquirer Editorial: Judges behaving badly are too common

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial  

10-16-12 -- Under the "laugh lest you cry" doctrine, a healthy sense of humor is practically a prerequisite for anyone undertaking the quixotic task of policing Pennsylvania's motley judiciary. And, sure enough, the state's Court of Judicial Discipline has shown it's as well equipped in that regard as an infamous ex-judge seems to believe he is in another. . . . Ruling last week on the case of former Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge Willie Singletary, who showed photographs of his eponymous extremity to a young woman working for the court, the disciplinary panel struck just the right note of jurisprudential solemnity leavened with absurdist understatement: "We think that the public - even those members of the public who register the lowest scores on the sensitivity index - do not expect their judges to be conducting photo sessions featuring the judicial penis."


Judge sets trial date for suspended Pa. SC Justice Orie Melvin

By Jon Campisi, Legal Newsline 

10-12-12 -- A Pennsylvania judge has set a trial start date in the case of suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin. . . . Court records show that Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge Lester Nauhaus, who has taken over the case from Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, set Jan. 23 at the first day in the corruption trial of Orie Melvin, who stands accused of using her former Superior Court staff to work on her campaign for a seat on the high court, to which she was subsequently elected. . . . Orie Melvin, 56, was charged this spring with various counts of public corruption.


State representative Wheatley sued over cake-baking contest prize

By Adam BrandolphTrib Live

10-12-12 -- A Manchester woman and her daughter filed a small claims lawsuit against state Rep. Jake Wheatley over a $200 prize for winning a cake-baking competition. . . . Denise Robinson, 55, and her daughter LaShae Robinson, 21, said Wheatley awarded them $100 for LaShae Robinson’s homemade pineapple upside down cake at the 10th annual Community Appreciation Day at Kennard Field in the Hill District. A flier for the Sept. 8 event said the winner would receive $200. . . . “It’s not about the money,” said Denise Robinson, a paralegal who is a registered Democrat. “He is my state representative. I own my house. I pay taxes and I vote. That was just a smack in the face. If my state rep will breach a contract for $200, then what is he doing for $200,000?”


TEXAS  

Judge Dismisses Case Challenging County's Invocation And "In God We Trust" Motto

Liberty Institute Applauds Summary Judgment Ruling Supporting Wood County's Right to Open Sessions in Prayer and to Display National Motto "In God We Trust"

PRNewswire-USNewswire | The Herald | HeraldOnline.com 

10-16-12 -- Today, Liberty Institute and its local counsel Bryan Hughes on behalf of the Wood County Commissioner's Court applauds the ruling of a state district judge who granted a summary judgment, dismissing the lawsuit against the County for opening its sessions in prayer and for displaying in its courtroom America's national motto "In God We Trust." The ruling was made during a summary judgment hearing at the Wood County Courthouse in Quitman, Texas. . . . "We are very thankful that the district court today followed clearly established precedent recognizing the constitutionality of displaying the national motto and having prayer before the county's meetings," said Jeff Mateer, Liberty Institute general counsel.Hughes, a local attorney, added, "I am so glad that we live in a country that still honors the traditions of our founders—the importance of prayer and displaying "In God We Trust" in the courtroom."


UTAH  

No proof man wanted to be dad, justices say

Decisions are based on state laws that vary across the country.

By Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune      

10-12-12 -- A man who preserved semen while he battled cancer — a disease that eventually took his life — and bequeathed it to his wife did not necessarily intend to become a parent and qualify his offspring for Social Security benefits , the Utah Supreme Court said Friday. . . . A federal court judge asked the state’s high court to answer the question of whether, under Utah law, Michael Burns’ signed agreement to donate the frozen sperm to his wife in the event of his death constituted consent to being the parent of any child she later conceived by artificial means. Now that the state court has answered the question, the case will return to federal court.


WISCONSIN    

Court voids settlement parties made behind their lawyers' backs

By Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog)

10-16-12 -- Frustrated parties entangled in certain consumer litigation can't just cut deals behind their lawyers' backs, a court ruled Tuesday. . . . The state Court of Appeals threw out the settlement a car dealer worked out with its disgruntled customer, and reinstated the lawsuit a Milwaukee circuit judge had dismissed. . . . "The parties are now back to square one — they can settle if they wish, or try the case if they wish," the court wrote. . . . "This is a good decision for consumers," said Vince Megna, a noted lemon law lawyer who represented the buyer in the case, and stood to lose his fee under the private settlement. . . . Randy L. Betz of Milwaukee bought a 1999 Cadillac Escalade from Diamond Jim's Auto Sales in October 2009. He had constant engine problems and hired Megna in 2010, who sued for misrepresentation, claiming the dealer knew of the problems and failed to disclose them. . . . If Betz prevailed, Megna would have been paid by Diamond Jim's, under the fee-shifting provisions of the applicable consumer laws.


Appeals Court OKs Extra One-Year Sentence for Inmate’s Profanity-Laced Courtroom Tirade

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-15-12 -- Wisconsin’s court of appeals didn’t agree with an inmate who argued he deserved no more than one contempt citation for 11 profane statements and one act of spitting in the courtroom. . . . The Oct. 10 appeals court opinion (PDF) included a transcript of the exchange between inmate Cesar Deleon and Judge Sue Bischel of Brown County, who has since retired, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog Proof & Hearsay. Deleon is in prison serving a sentence that ends in 2058. Bischel imposed a 30-day sentence for each act of contempt, to be served at the end of Deleon's 2058 sentence.


October 10, 2012 -- October 12, 2012

FEDERAL COURTS

Fed. Circuit Says Trial Judge Abused Discretion in Smartphone Sales Ban, Aligns with Posner View

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-12-12 -- In a Thursday ruling in one of several recent patent cases related to smartphone technology, a federal appeals court said a U.S. District Court judge in California abused her discretion by granting a pretrial injunction sought by Apple Inc. that banned sales of the Galaxy Nexus marketed by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. . . . While the appellate decision by the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit isn't likely to have a major impact on the parties, since the Nexus is no longer considered cutting-edge by buyers, it could have a major impact on corporations seeking pretrial relief in other patent cases, Reuters reports.


Website ordered to pay $6.6 million for posting song lyrics

By Leigh Jones, The National Law Journal  

10-11-12 -- A group of music publishers has won $6.6 million in a copyright infringement case over song lyrics posted on websites owned by a co-founder of MySpace. Although a default judgment, it was the first of its kind involving lyrics on the Internet, according to plaintiffs attorneys. . . . U.S. District Judge George Wu of the Central District of California on October 9 ordered LiveUniverse Inc., owned by Brad Greenspan, to pay the amount for willfully violating copyright laws. The case centered on lyrics to 528 songs posted on LiveUniverse's websites.


Judge Closes Court to Mull U.S. Request to Seal Records

By John Caher, New York Law Journal  

10-10-12 -- A federal judge considering whether to unseal documents from a 14-year-old criminal case yesterday barred the public from a hearing where prosecutors apparently argued to keep some records secret and possibly to seal others that are already in the public domain. . . . Eastern District Judge I. Leo Glasser closed the courtroom to everyone other than representatives of the U.S. attorney's office, including two lawyers who are seeking to open the files and who contend the records in play include documents they wrote and which have already been publicly disseminated. Among those records, the attorneys say, are documents discussing topics as mundane as 14th- and 15th-century judicial impeachments. . . . The dispute centers on the 1998 conviction of Felix Sater, who pleaded guilty to a $40 million stock swindle in exchange for a sentence of probation, a $25,000 fine and a promise that his file would be sealed.


The Hidden Stakes of the Election

Cass R. Sunstein, the blog of The New York Review of Books  

10-09-12 -- It is not exactly news that there are big differences between judges chosen by Republican presidents and judges chosen by Democratic presidents. Of course the most visible differences involve constitutional law. For all the high-flown talk about the Constitution’s original meaning, the role of precedent, and the virtues and vices of the “living Constitution” (the idea that the meaning of the Constitution changes over time), the fact is that the views of Republican and Democratic appointees on questions of constitutional law tend to overlap with the views of Republican and Democratic presidents on questions of public policy. . . . In predictable ways, Republican judicial appointees differ from Democratic judicial appointees on all of the great constitutional questions of the day, including affirmative action, campaign finance regulation, gun control, abortion, and sex discrimination. On many issues, the positions of Republican and Democratic judicial appointees look uncomfortably close to their respective party platforms. . . . However fundamental, the debate over the Constitution misses a problem that may well be even more important in American life. Many of the most significant judicial decisions do not involve the Constitution at all. Most people never hear about those decisions. But they determine the fate of countless regulations, issued by federal agencies, that are indispensable to implementing important laws—including those designed to reform the health care system, promote financial stability, protect consumers, ensure clean air and water, protect civil rights, keep the food supply safe, reduce deaths from tobacco, promote energy efficiency, maintain safe workplaces, and much more.


FDA Seeks Reconsideration of U.S. Cigarette Label Ruling

By Tom Schoenberg, Bloomberg News -

10-09-12 -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked for a full-court review of a decision by a three-judge appeals panel that threw out rules forcing cigarette packaging and advertising to display images such as diseased lungs. . . . The agency in a filing today in the U.S Court of Appeals in Washington said the court’s 2-1 ruling finding the regulations violated the free speech rights of tobacco companies under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was wrong and conflicts with a ruling by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati. . . . The majority on the three-judge panel said in August that the government failed to present any data showing the warnings would cut smoking rates.


STATE COURTS

2012 Spending on Judicial Advertisements Surpasses $7 Million, With Michigan Leading the Way

Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake  

10-11-12 -- Television ad spending for judicial races has already surpassed $7 million this year, with more than $2.6 million spent since September, according to data released by the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake. . . . Michigan has seen more than $1.4 million in TV spending since the general election season began and is on track to be the highest-spending state this year. Special interest money has also hit the judicial retention races in Iowa and Florida, with national political figures playing an outsized role in these state judicial races. Meanwhile, while overall spending is down in Alabama, the race for chief justice may see high spending as the Democratic candidate seeks support within traditional Republican circles in his race against a controversial Republican nominee. . . . “Around the country, we are continuing to see heavy spending, partisan politics and special interest pressure in judicial races,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake. “With judges increasingly forced to act like politicians, the public’s trust in the courts is threatened.” . . . National TV spending data for judicial races, as well as links to ads, are available at “Judicial Elections 2012,” a web page jointly hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake. Additional analysis is also available at the Brennan Center’s "Buying Time 2012" web page.

READ ENTIRE NEWS RELEASE


Would You Trust These State Justices to Review Your Case?

By Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic     Oct 11 2012, 11:53 AM ET

10-11-12 -- In Texas, judges campaign like politicians, with predictable consequences for judicial integrity, independence, and equal justice under a rule of law. (Third in a three-part series)

Disciplining judges for making an unpopular decision can only undermine their duty to apply the law impartially. Indeed, as Sir Matthew Hale, a respected English judge, explained centuries ago, the duty to be impartial and to be indifferent to popularity is an essential attribute of the judicial office.

-- Retired United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, "Should We Have a New Constitutional Convention?", New York Review of Books, October 11, 2012. . . . Judicial elections, races where sitting judges or judicial candidates beg for votes from past, present, and future litigants, are now sadly the norm in America. They occur, to varying degrees, in 39 states, undermining justice, prejudicing litigants, and generating genuine alarm among old-school conservatives. "When you enter one of those courtrooms," retired United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first Reagan appointee, wrote in an op-ed piece in 2010, "the last thing you want to worry about is whether the judge is more accountable to a campaign contributor or an ideological group than to the law." . . . Yet litigants everywhere might reasonably have such worries. Supporters of judicial elections claim they are necessary to ensure that the judiciary is more accountable to its constituents. But the whole premise of Western law, and the underpinning of the our justice system, is that judges must maintain objectivity and independence -- and avoid even the appearance of impropriety -- if they are to sustain the judiciary's role in law and governance. The juxtaposition is irreconcilable, of course; the more judges talk and act like politicians, they less able they are to generate faith and confidence in the authority and accuracy of their rulings.


CALIFORNIA  

Queried at LAX re Legal Body Armor, Arrested Passenger Is Denied Bail Based on Computer Contents

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

10-12-12 -- The hatchet in a checked bag for an airline passenger traveling through Los Angeles from Japan last week, en route to Boston, was legal, according to authorities. Ditto the gas mask, biohazard suit, handcuffs, leg irons and a number of other items obviously likely to catch a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer's attention that also reportedly were found in luggage for Yongda Huang Harris. . . . It likewise appears that the bulletproof vest, flameproof pants and kneepads the 28-year-old was wearing as traveling attire under a trench coat, and which initially led to his questioning by the feds at the Los Angeles airport, didn't violate any laws either, the Daily Mail reports.


DELAWARE  

Proposed $123 Mil. Accord Is Reached in Bradley Abuse Suit

By Gina Passarella and Jeff Mordock, The Legal Intelligencer 

10-11-12 -- Insurance companies and the hospital where convicted serial child sex offender Dr. Earl Bradley worked have reached a proposed settlement of $123.15 million to create a fund for the reported hundreds of victims assaulted by the doctor. . . . Word that a $100 million-plus settlement was in the works has been out there for some time, but the parties, including Beebe Medical Center, officially announced the final number Wednesday. A November 13 hearing before Delaware Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Slights III is set to determine the fairness of the settlement. . . . According to the statement released Wednesday by Beebe, the hospital said it wanted to avoid costly litigation that could bankrupt the institution and be painful for the victims. Beebe said that for the first time anywhere, a class action was agreed upon to deal with sexual abuse. . . . According to the statement, the $123.15 million is a combination of insurance coverage and a donation from Beebe.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

In Jerusalem Case, DOJ Tells Court to Respect President's Authority

Posted by Mike Scarcella, The BLT, The Blog of the Legal Times  

10-11-12 -- The U.S. Justice Department is urging a federal appeals court in Washington to shut down a suit the government contends has the potential to frustrate foreign relations in the Middle East. . . . The litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is rooted in a tiff over the place of birth designation on an American boy's passport. The boy, Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem in 2002, wants "Israel" included on his U.S. passport. The boy's parents unsuccessfully sued the U.S. State Department in 2003 over the government's refusal to oblige his request. . . . A provision in federal law allows American citizens born in Jerusalem to designate the place of birth as "Jerusalem, Israel." But here's the problem: The United States doesn't officially recognize any state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. DOJ lawyers, representing the U.S. State Department, said in a court brief filed yesterday—asking the court to uphold the dismissal of the suit—that the ultimate determination of the city is a "sensitive matter" that must be resolved through negotiation.


FLORIDA  

Hillsborough judge vows to send prospective juror to jail

John BarryTampa Bay Times Writer      

10-11-12 -- A prospective juror may have picked the worst possible judge to defy by ignoring the judge's written warning not to research a death-penalty murder trial getting started this week and not to talk about the case with other jurors. . . . Would-be juror Vishnu P. Singh did all that. And when Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente found out Wednesday, he clearly was out of patience and out of leniency. He angrily told Singh to leave a valid address with the bailiffs and prepare to go to jail when he is called back. . . . He then ordered Singh thrown out of the courthouse.


IDAHO  

Kandi Hall details her relationship with attorney who was killed

by Jamie Grey, KTVB.COM 

10-12-12 -- The wife of a Meridian man on trial for murder took the stand Thursday in Ada County Court. . . . Kandi Hall has been married to Rob Hall for 19 years. Rob Hall is accused of murdering the man his wife was having an affair with. . . . Prosecutors claim Rob Hall waited for that man, Emmett Corrigan, in a Meridian Walgreens parking lot, and then shot him in the forehead and heart in March of 2011. . . . Hall was the only eyewitness to the crime, and she was in a relationship with both the suspect and the victim at the time. 


ILLINOIS  

Pregnant Woman Tased, Sues for Miscarriage

By Deanne Katz, Esq., FindLaw Injured Blog  

10-12-12 -- Chicago-resident Cherese Morris was only two months pregnant when police arrested her so forcefully she claims it caused a miscarriage. . . . Morris says she was talking on her cell phone on the night of the arrest back in 2011. The police treated her roughly during the arrest, 'violently' put her face-down in the back of the squad car and tased her until she passed out, according to the complaint. . . . Two weeks later, Morris lost her baby. Now she's turned to the legal system for justice. . . . The claim against the police department alleges excessive force and wanton misconduct against the two arresting officers. It also includes a third officer in claims of conspiracy and cover up.


2 others claim gardener's $150K crop of lettuce

Finder could yet be keeper; court may rule next year

By Amanda Marrazzo, Special to the Tribune      

10-12-12 -- After finding $150,000 stashed in a black bag in his vegetable garden, Wayne Sabaj had to wait a year before he could begin the process of legally claiming the money for himself. . . . Now a year has passed, but the garden plot has thickened. . . . Two other parties have made claims to the dough, which Sabaj said he found in August 2011 amid some broccoli plants and reported to police. One is a woman who lives in Sabaj's neighborhood near the far northwest suburb of Johnsburg; the other is the owner of a Naperville liquor store who said he was robbed of the same amount of money two years ago, authorities said.


Man Facing Cocaine Charges Brings Cocaine to Court

By Andrew Lu, FindLaw Legal Curiousities Blog  

10-11-12 -- An Illinois man facing a court date for cocaine charges decided to bring some cocaine with him to the courthouse. . . . Alex Robinson was previously arrested for cocaine delivery in 2006 and was due in court for a probation hearing on a drug charge earlier this week. . . . When the 37-year-old man showed up at the courtroom, he had to go through security screening. That's when he allegedly put a baggie containing three grams of cocaine onto a security tray, reports the Huffington Post. . . . Immediately realizing his error, Robinson allegedly tried to flee the scene. Given the number of cops and security personnel at the courthouse, the man was quickly apprehended and arrested, reports the Huffington Post.


INDIANA  

Judge to sentence Ind. doctor who hid for 5 years

By Tom Coyne, Associated Press | Bloomberg  Businessweek        

10-12-12 -- A federal judge is scheduled to decide how long a former Indiana surgeon captured in Italy after five years on the run will spend in prison after pleading guilty to 22 counts of health care fraud. . . . The sentencing Friday in Hammond is Mark Weinberger's second attempt at a plea deal. U.S. District Judge Philip Simon rejected a plea deal in April 2011 that called for a four-year prison sentence, saying he was not confident it took into account the scope of Weinberger's crimes. . . . Weinberger once ran a nose and sinus clinic in Merrillville, where prosecutors say he billed insurers and patients for procedures he didn't perform. He was arrested on a mountain in Italy in December 2009, more than five years after he disappeared during a vacation.


MAINE   

Judge to release names of men tied to Zumba dance studio prostitution ring in Maine

A search of the studio in Kennebunk turned up videos showing clients having sex, billing info and notes about the prostitution ring's alleged johns. A lawyer for two of the men has moved to block the release of the names.

The Associated Press | New York Daily News

10-12-12 -- A state judge declined to block the release of names of men accused of giving business to a fitness instructor charged with running a prostitution operation out of her Zumba fitness studio, and police in this seaside town prepared Friday to reveal the first batch of identities. . . . Alexis Wright, a 29-year-old fitness instructor from Wells, has pleaded not guilty to 106 counts of prostitution, invasion of privacy, tax evasion and other charges for allegedly accepting money for sex and secretly videotaping her encounters. . . . Her business partner, Mark Strong Sr., a 57-year-old insurance agent and private investigator from Thomaston, has pleaded not guilty to 59 misdemeanor charges for his alleged role.


MARYLAND   

Baltimore man, imprisoned for bullets found in antique gun, fights case on appeal

By Mike Scarcella, The National Law Journal   

10-09-12 -- When Baltimore police arrested Thomas Royal during a traffic stop one winter morning in 2009, he was carrying a loaded revolver. . . . Not just any pistol, however. An antique Iver Johnson model handgun made in 1895. As a convicted felon, the pistol could have landed Royal in legal trouble. But federal law defines a firearm as a gun made in or after 1898. . . . Yet Royal wasn't off the hook. Prosecutors got him on the charge of a felon in possession of ammunition—the five .32-caliber bullets found inside the antique gun. Royal was indicted in August 2009. He was later convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. . . . Royal's lawyers, including Venable litigation partner James Fraser, now are trying to convince the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to erase the conviction. Royal's attorneys argue prosecutors didn't present evidence that the bullets were designed for use in a non-antique firearm. The appeals court will hear the case October 26.


MASSACHUSETTS   

Top judge irate over judicial jam

By Matt Stout, Boston Herald     

10-12-12 -- Federal prosecutors and lawyers are preparing to tackle hundreds of cases, including as many as 200 in which former state chemist Annie Dookhan directly handled samples, in what the state’s top federal judge called an “unprecedented” scandal that highlights how small-time local cases have jammed up a federal system better suited for the drug game’s big hitters. . . . “I find it disturbing we have to devote scarce judicial resources to cases with evidence that has been polluted because of improper work by the state Department of Public Health,” U.S. District Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf said in a telephone interview yesterday. “I think it’s fair to say in the district of Massachusetts, at least, this is unprecedented.” . . . Wolf said anywhere from 100 to 200 cases have been identified as possibly affected by the state drug lab crisis in which Dookhan allegedly admitted to mishandling samples. But he warned there is a “large universe of defendants” who received enhanced sentences under federal guidelines based on past convictions that now could be altered in the wake of the scandal.


NEW YORK  

Purported Expert on Sengalese Spells Is Barred from Testifying in Murder Trial

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-12-12 -- A purported expert on Sengalese spells and curses won’t be allowed to testify in the trial of a murder defendant who claimed he was influenced by evil spirits. . . . Judge Juan Merchan of Manhattan found that the defense had failed to prove the witness, Cheikh Ndao, had expertise in witchcraft, the New York Times reports. The testimony was offered on behalf of Bakary Camara, who claimed he was under the influence of evil spirits when his girlfriend was murdered.


PENNSYLVANIA  

Court Finds Picture of 'Judicial Penis' Matter of Disrepute

By Amaris Elliott-Engel, The Legal Intelligencer 

10-10-12 -- Even though a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge contends that he did not intend to show photographs of his genitals on his phone to a Philadelphia Parking Authority contractor, the Court of Judicial Discipline found that he did intentionally show the images. . . . By doing so, Willie F. Singletary brought the judicial office into disrepute in violation of the state constitution, said Judge Timothy F. McCune, writing for the panel of President Judge Robert E.J. Curran and Judges Bernard L. McGinley, Charles A. Clement Jr. and John R. Cellucci. . . . "We think that the public — even those members of the public who register the lowest scores on the sensitivity index — do not expect their judges to be conducting photo sessions featuring the judicial penis and then to be sending the photos over the electronic airwaves to another person," the opinion said.


SOUTH CAROLINA   

Judge relents: Clover “junk man” avoids more jail time

By Andrew Dys, HeraldOnline.com

10-12-12 -- A judge ruled Friday afternoon that Johnny Ramsey, the disabled 79-year-old Korean War veteran who fought the Town of Clover over keeping junk on his property to sell, will not have to go back to jail.Clover Town Judge Melvin Howell suspended the 30-day jail sentence to be served on weekends that was imposed Oct. 4, said Toni Johnson, Ramsey’s lawyer. The change came after Ramsey cleaned up some of his yard this week after his time in jail.During three days in jail last weekend, Ramsey was York County’s oldest inmate. His long battle against the town has attracted support from people locally and around the nation. Others have taken the side of the town, but the more vocal and outspoken have sided with Ramsey as seeing the town’s enforcement against an old man as far too strong-armed.


TEXAS  

Woman convicted of bribing judge sentenced to 30 days in prison

By Bill Conrad, Star Community Newspapers  

10-12-12 -- A University Park woman has been sentenced to 30 days in jail for her role in the bribery case that led to the resignation of former Collin County District Court Judge Suzanne Wooten. . . . Stacy Stine Cary, 54, was convicted in June of eight felonies, including six counts of bribery, one count of money laundering and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity. In addition to her jail time, Cary must also serve 10 years probation and pay a $10,000 fine. . . . Prosecutors accused Cary and her husband, David, of funneling six payments totaling $150,000 into Wooten's campaign account. The state alleges the payments were made in an attempt to gain favor with Wooten in a pending child custody case.


Texas Mom Faces Life After Gluing Toddler's Hands to Wall

By Maryam K. Ansari, Esq., The Houston Family Law Blog   

10-09-12 -- This week, Dallas courts are hearing testimony in the sentencing hearing of a woman who pleaded guilty to a horrific case of child abuse against her two year old child, reports The Associated Press. . . . Elizabeth Escalona pleaded guilty in July to child abuse. She was accused of beating her daughter and gluing her hands to the wall, after the toddler was having trouble potty training. . . . In addition to gluing her hands to the wall, Escalona reportedly kicked her daughter in the stomach and hit her with a milk jug, writes The Dallas News. . . . The child, Jocelyn Cedillo, spent one week in the hospital after the attack with bleeding to the brain, a fractured rib and other bruises, reports the AP.


October 6, 2012 -- October 9, 2012

FEDERAL COURTS

2 suspects appear before NY judge in terror case

By Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

10-08-12 -- Two men brought from England to face terrorism charges made their first appearance Tuesday before the New York judge who will oversee their trial next year. . . . Khaled al-Fawwaz and Adel Abdul Bary are charged with participating in the bombings of embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. They were indicted in a case that also charged Osama bin Laden. Both pleaded not guilty on Saturday. The judge on Tuesday set their trial date for October 2013. . . . Another Manhattan judge will conduct a hearing for Egyptian-born preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri.


Major victory – and pay raises – for U.S. judges

Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog      (Oct. 7, 2012, 12:48 PM),

10-07-12 -- After battling for years to get a pay raise that they say Congress had once promised them, six federal judges finally won in a specialized federal court on Friday.  If the ruling withstands a likely trip to the Supreme Court, those judges – and presumably others – will get annual cost-of-living increases that have been specifically vetoed by Congress.   The ten-to-two decision by the Federal Circuit is here. . . . The Court ruled that, in a 1989 law upon which the judges have been relying, Congress triggered the judges’ right under the Constitution not to have their pay level diminished.  The Compensation Clause itself, the decision said, creates “basic expectations and protections” on judges’ pay. . . . Thus, it concluded, “in the unique context of the 1989 act, the Constitution prevents Congress from abrogating that statute’s precise and definite commitment to automatic yearly cost of living adjustments for sitting members of the judiciary.”


ALABAMA  

Roy Moore, Alabama Chief Justice Candidate, Calls Gay Marriage 'Ultimate Destruction Of Our Country' (VIDEO)

By Meredith Bennett-Smith, The Huffington Post

10-09-12 -- Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a conservative judge whose fight to preserve a Ten Commandments statue in the state courthouse garnered national headlines, is campaigning to get his old job back with some decidedly anti-LGBT, pro-Christianity rhetoric. . . . Speaking to about a hundred members of the DeKalb County Tea Party on Saturday, Moore told the crowd that gay marriage would be "the ultimate destruction of our country," Queerty reports. . . . Warning that "we will suffer the consequences," Moore emphasized the destructive nature of the Democratic party's same-sex marriage platform.


ARKANSAS  

Judge's fistfight in Wal-Mart leads to suspension

By Leigh Jones, The National Law Journal   

10-05-12 -- The Arkansas Supreme Court has suspended a trial judge for 30 days after police had to intervene in an apparent love-triangle brawl at a Wal-Mart. . . . The state's high court on October 4 approved a disciplinary commission's finding about a fistfight in April between state Circuit Judge Sam Pope of Hamburg, Ark., and his estranged wife's male companion. Besides the suspension, the justices ordered Pope to attend anger management classes. He had acknowledged his misconduct and agreed with the commission's findings, the court said.


FLORIDA  

Florida Justices Say Fair Court System Threatened

Written by Bill Kaczor, Associated Press | The South Florida Times 

10-09-12 -- Three state Supreme Court justices being targeted by Republicans and other conservatives said Friday that such partisan and special interest attacks are threatening the independence and fairness of Florida's judicial system. . . . The Florida Republican Party this year broke with a nonpartisan tradition in merit-retention elections by opposing the three justices who will be on the Nov. 6 ballot for up-or-down votes. . . . They also have drawn opposition from Americans for Prosperity, a group formed by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, as well as a small, grass-roots organization that also unsuccessfully campaigned against two other justices in 2010.


IOWA  

High-profile vote for Iowa Supreme Court

By Bill Turque, The Washington Post     

10-08-12 -- Judicial elections were once sedate, bottom-of-the-ballot affairs, frequently overlooked by voters focused on the bigger-name races. . . . But there was nothing low-key about the message on a bus that toured Iowa recently, bearing the face of state Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins and a giant “NO.” Nor was there anything decorous about the contingent of lawyers that trailed with a smaller truck urging “Yes Iowa Judges.” . . . A Christian conservative group, Iowa for Freedom, is campaigning to remove Wiggins from the bench because of his vote in a unanimous 2009 decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The cause has drawn two figures not normally interested in the workings of a state court system: former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), winner of the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — both possible Republican presidential contenders in 2016.


Wiggins 63% retention rating lowest Iowa bar association score in 50 years for Supreme Court justice

By James Q. Lynch, Lee-Gazette Des Moines Bureau | Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier  

10-08-12 -- Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins’ 63 percent favorability rating from fellow attorneys is the lowest score earned by a member of the court in 50 years of judicial retention elections, according to a group calling for his ouster. . . . Since the Iowa State Bar Association helped put the retention process in place in 1962, no Supreme Court justice has earned less than a 72 percent retention score until this year, according to Iowans for Freedom, a project of the conservative Christian group The Family Leader. . . . Former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus earned that 72 percent ranking in 2010. She and two other justices, who, like Wiggins, were part of the unanimous 2009 Varnum vs. Brien decision striking down a state law banning same-sex marriage, were voted off the court in 2010. About 54 percent of Iowa voters opposed their retention. . . . Wiggins is one of four Iowa Supreme Court judges up for retention this year. He is the only one on the ballot who participated in the Varnum decision.


KANSAS  

Kansas now among states upholding cap on med-mal damages

By Leigh Jones, The National Law Journal  

10-08-12 -- Kansas has become the latest state to uphold limits on damages in medical malpractice cases. On October 5, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's $250,000 limit on pain and suffering damages did not violate the Kansas Constitution. . . . The case involved plaintiff Amy Miller, who sued Dr. Carol Johnson for removing the wrong ovary. A jury had awarded Miller about $760,000 in 2006, but a trial judge reduced that amount by more than half, mainly citing the damages cap passed by the Kansas Legislature in 1988. . . . The Kansas Supreme Court ruled, 5-2, in a109-page decision that the limit on damages did not violate the separation of powers doctrine. The court, in an opinion written by Justice Dan Biles, said the Legislature's failure to raise the cap since 1988 was a concern, but that lawmakers' inaction did not mean that the statute was unconstitutional.


KENTUCKY  

Questions linger about judge's death

Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press | SF Gate  

10-08-12 -- In the weeks since a standing-room-only crowd paid final respects to a longtime Kentucky judge, his death remains shrouded in mystery for his grieving family members — who wonder whether the cause was a routine steroid treatment now linked to a rare form of meningitis. . . . Eddie C. Lovelace, a circuit judge for 20 years in southern Kentucky, received the steroid at a Tennessee clinic to treat neck pain stemming from an auto accident. He later developed stroke-like symptoms and died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Sept. 17. . . . But it wasn't until recent news reports surfaced about the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak that his family began wondering whether his three rounds of pain-relieving steroid injections were linked to the 78-year-old's death.


LOUISIANA   

New Orleans' criminal justice system is 'fragmented,' outdated, consultants say

By Claire Galofaro, The Times-Picayune        

10-09-12 -- An independent study, commissioned by the city of New Orleans to scrutinize its embattled criminal justice system, found "highly fragmented" and low-tech coordination among the dozen agencies under the public safety umbrella. The report, "A 21st Century Criminal Justice System for the City of New Orleans," was released Tuesday afternoon by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office. . . . "In a world of Microsoft Outlook, the New Orleans criminal justice system is functioning in a bygone era," the report notes of the court system's reliance on hard-copy calendars and handwritten summonses. . . . The antiquated organization system, the report notes, creates poor communication between agencies and scheduling conflicts that bog down the entire system.


MARYLAND   

McDonald's employees sue co-worker, alleging lottery fraud

FoxNews.com 

10-09-12 -- A group of McDonald’s employees last month filed a civil lawsuit against a co-worker they say defrauded the Maryland Lottery to avoid having to split the $656 million fortune with them, The Baltimore Sun reported. . . . Mirlande Wilson, 37, became something of an overnight celebrity when she held a press conference last April claiming to be the winner of the huge jackpot. She told reporters that she hid the ticket at the McDonald’s where she worked, but later said she lost it. . . . McDonald's workers at the time said they had pooled their money together and put Wilson in charge of purchasing the tickets. To be sure, the complaint says Wilson even told a few co-workers that "we won," Courhousenews.com reported, citing the complaint.


NEW YORK  

Bogus Coin Peddler Accused of Arranging a ‘Hit’ on Judge

By Dan Strumpf, Wall Street Journal (blog)   

10-09-12 -- A Long Island man convicted of running a “boiler room” earlier this year was charged Tuesday with attempting to arrange the murder of the judge and prosecutor who handled his case. . . . Authorities accused Joseph Romano, 49, as well as a business associate, of attempting to hire hit men to kill the judge and the prosecutor. In fact, the “hit men” were undercover police officers who recorded meetings with the men, authorities said. . . . A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which handled the case, declined to name the judge or the prosecutor targeted. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco handled Mr. Romano’s earlier case. A phone call to his chambers in Brooklyn wasn’t immediately returned. . . . “Romano thought he was buying revenge,” said Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a an emailed statement. “Instead, he bought the full force of the law, along with a possible life sentence.”


Inmates held off on lawyer bid for access to dental floss

Judge: Group must prove dental fight has a chance

Written by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, The Journal News | LoHud.com  

10-09-12 -- A group of Westchester County Jail inmates will have to fight their own legal battle for access to dental floss, a federal judge has ruled. . . . U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams ruled in Manhattan that the 11 Westchester inmates, who sued the county Sept. 10 for $500 million because they were denied access to dental floss, will have to convince him their case has a shot before he gives them a court-appointed lawyer. . . . “As a threshold matter, in order to qualify for appointment of counsel plaintiffs must demonstrate that their claims have substance or likelihood of success,” Abrams wrote in an Oct. 4 order. “In addition, in reviewing a request of appointment of counsel, the court must be cognizant of the fact that volunteer attorney time is a precious commodity, and thus, should not grant appointment of counsel indiscriminately.”


OKLAHOMA  

‘Flame Arrester’ at Issue in Gas Can Litigation; Was It Lawsuit Abuse?

By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal

10-09-12 -- Abusive lawsuits are blamed for the shutdown of gas can manufacturer Blitz USA in an ad by the Institute for Legal Reform. . . . The ad shows plant employees in Oklahoma who lost their jobs and invites viewers to visit FacesofLawsuitAbuse.com to learn how in-house lawyers ranked states for their business legal climate. The Institute is the lobbying arm for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. . . . The New York Times examines the suits. Generally the plaintiffs sought compensation for burn injuries or deaths suffered when gasoline vapors ignited outside the gas can, traveled back to the container, and caused flashback explosions. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say a “flame arrester” shield at the mouth of the container would have prevented the problem; the company says the most serious injuries could have been avoided if consumers had not poured gasoline on fires or otherwise misused the gas cans.


PENNSYLVANIA  

Sandusky gets 30-60 years prison for child abuse

By Ian Simpson and Dave Warner, Reuters    

10-09-12 -- Serial child molester Jerry Sandusky, a former Pennsylvania State University football coach, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison on Tuesday for abusing young, at-risk boys for more than a decade. . . . The sentence by Judge John Cleland in Centre County Court could put the 68-year-old retired defensive coordinator in prison for the rest of his life. . . . Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse for molesting 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team's showers on campus. . . . "Your crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but your assault on their psyche and their souls," the judge told him. "The tragedy of this story is it is a story of betrayal. Some of your victims had a genuine affection for you.


TEXAS  

Swisher County justice of the peace confesses she issued illegal order

Texas Rangers arrested Priscilla Ann Sanders on a charge of tampering with government records, a third-degree felony

By Russell Anglin, Morris News Service | Lubbock Online  

10-09-12 -- Swisher County justice of the peace confesses she issued illegal order. . . . A Swisher County justice of the peace gave Texas Rangers an audio-recorded confession in which she said she issued an illegal protective order for a relative embroiled in a custody dispute, improperly granting the man custody of an 8-year-old girl, court documents show. . . . Texas Rangers arrested Priscilla Ann Sanders, 44, Friday on a charge of tampering with a government record, a third-degree felony, Texas Department of Public Safety officials said.


Judges to wear pink robes, ribbons each Monday in October to promote breast cancer awareness

By Michelle Villarreal, Corpus Christi Caller Times       

10-09-12 -- State district and county court-at-law judges greeted men and women, promoting for jury duty Monday to spread breast cancer awareness. . . . The judges will show up early at the Nueces County Courthouse each Monday in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to pass out pink ribbon stickers to the more than 500 people who report to jury duty. . . . The female judges wore pink robes early Monday while male judges wore ribbons attached to their black robes. The judges will not wear the pink robes in the courtroom.


Judge stays execution of young girl's killer

By Mike Tolson, Houston Chronicle   

10-08-12 -- A federal district judge on Monday blocked the execution of Jonathan Green, two days before he was set to die for the 2000 murder of a 12-year-old Montgomery County girl. . . . U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas ruled that a state mental competency hearing violated due process standards and that the judge who conducted it applied incorrect standards for determining competency for execution. . . . "The inadequacies of the state court's process and the resulting constitutional violations require this court to stay Green's execution," Atlas said in her 17-page order.


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