Thursday, November 25, 2010

Arizona medical-pot law has attorneys in bad spot

Arizonans needing legal help with the new medical-marijuana law could find themselves adrift, unable to hire an attorney.

Patricia Sallen, ethics counsel for the State Bar of Arizona, said it may be a violation of the rules laid out by the state Supreme Court for lawyers to help their clients break the law.

Sallen said the Arizona statute that will formally become law after the Nov. 29 election canvass, does permit individuals with a doctor's recommendation to obtain up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana every two weeks. It also sets up procedures for the state to license non-profit corporations to sell the drug.

But both the sale and possession of marijuana remain illegal under federal law, she added.

That, Sallen said, could keep attorneys from helping Arizona corporations set up a dispensary. And it also could mean no help going to court for any company that believes it was unfairly or unlawfully denied a dispensary license or even for an individual who claims to be entitled to a medical-marijuana card.

Sallen's preliminary opinion is not based just on conjecture of what the Arizona ethics rules require.

She pointed out the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar, that state's counterpart to her organization, issued a formal opinion earlier this year after Maine adopted its own medical-marijuana law.

That opinion specifically says that attorneys, although allowed to provide advice on the law, are not permitted to help their clients break it. The fact that the federal government is not enforcing its own anti-drug laws against those complying with state medical-marijuana statutes is irrelevant, the Maine opinion says.

And Sallen said the ethics rules that regulate Maine attorneys are virtually identical to the ones by which Arizona lawyers must live.

Sallen said a formal opinion for Arizona lawyers will be coming from her office on the issue, although she could not say when. She acknowledged that an opinion warning attorneys to avoid these cases could leave Arizonans without the legal help they need.

Some of the first questions may come from those needing legal assistance to incorporate a firm with the specific purpose of setting up a marijuana dispensary.

But the need for an attorney may become more acute as some of these companies are denied one of the limited number of state licenses to operate a dispensary.

Under the terms of Proposition 203, the state can issue permits equal to 10 percent of the number of pharmacies in Arizona. State Health Director Will Humble said that probably comes out now to 125.

Humble said he is likely to award the licenses based on an examination of each applicant's qualifications. That, in turn, opens the door for appeals and lawsuits by anyone not on the final list.

"A lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct," Sallen said. "Otherwise, how could you find out what is legal and illegal to do?"

But Sallen said the rules also make it clear that attorneys cannot counsel a client to engage in conduct a lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent.

And what of someone who needs an attorney to go to court?

"That's the question we're looking at," she said. "At what point do you cross the line?"

The formal opinion from Maine doesn't provide a bright line of what attorneys can and cannot do. In fact, the Maine board specifically dodged the issue, she added.

"Where the line is drawn between permitted and forbidden activities needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis," that formal opinion reads.

"We cannot determine which specific actions would run afoul of the ethical rules," it says. "We can, however, state that participation in this endeavor by an attorney involves a significant degree of risk which needs to be carefully evaluated."

Sallen said that what attorneys do in California, which has one of the oldest medical-marijuana laws in the nation, is of little guidance, as that state's ethics rules differ from Arizona's and, in fact, from most of the rest of the nation.

The rules in Colorado, however, where a medical-marijuana law was approved in 2000, are identical to Arizona's.

There has been no formal opinion from that state's Bar on the issue. But an article written earlier this year for a Colorado Bar Association newsletter on the issue of helping companies set up marijuana-distribution businesses, which are legal under that state's laws, provides no more guidance on the issue than the Maine opinion.

"Lawyers who assist medical-marijuana dispensaries may well violate (the ethics rule) and should not delude themselves by indulging fine distinctions over the degree of their assistance or knowledge of a client's criminal conduct," attorney Alec Rothrock wrote. "The risk of violation is high and cannot be eliminated."

But Rothrock said that, at least in Colorado, the chances of the state Bar investigating an attorney and specifically imposing a significant penalty is probably minimal.

By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services


Attorneys: Big Tobacco snuffed out deal

Attorneys say Big Tobacco conspired to kill a deal that would have yielded $10 million for flight attendants suing the companies over health problems they attribute to the second-hand smoke they inhaled on the job for years

Soon after lawyers from a tobacco company asked for time to think about a $10 million offer to settle suits filed by thousands of flight attendants, they took the offer off the table.

Attorneys for the flight attendants -- who spent years working on smoke-filled planes -- say they can prove that Big Tobacco banded together to thwart the deal.

Three tobacco companies offered to help a fourth pay for future judgments and attorneys' fees if it rejected the settlement, according to a motion filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court this month.

``It is quite an outrageous circumstance that we discovered,'' said Miami Beach attorney Marvin Weinstein, who represents many of the flight attendants. ``It's the justice process they've interfered with here.''

He said the company that wanted to settle in 2000, Lorillard, was convinced by R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and Brown & Williamson to forgo the deal. For one thing, it would have given the flight attendants a ``war chest'' to use to continue fighting against the remaining companies.

In exchange, the three companies would help pay future judgments if Lorillard abandoned the settlement.

Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson did not return messages seeking comment. Philip Morris could not be reached.

Weinstein is demanding the companies pay $30 million -- three times what the original settlement would have yielded, or $12,000 for each of the 2,500 flight attendants suing.

It has been nearly two decades since more than 60,000 nonsmoking flight attendants hurt by exposure to second-hand smoke while working in airline cabins filed their class-action lawsuit. The companies settled for more than $300 million years later. The money went to establishing a research foundation.

From there, about 3,000 flight attendants chose to pursue individual cases against the tobacco companies. About 10 cases have gone to trial, with one winning her case.

The deal with Lorillard was worked out after the original settlement.

``We wanted to get at least one tobacco company out of it,'' Weinstein said. ``We didn't want to deal with four armies of lawyers.''

But since that fell through, he and other lawyers for the flight attendants have dug up documents showing Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Brown & Williamson put their offer to pay portions of future judgments against Lorillard on paper in 2001.

``They actually reduced their conspiracy to writing,'' Weinstein said.

More evidence of the tobacco companies' deal emerged during the deposition of a Lorillard attorney, who asked what occurred as his company weighed the settlement offer.

``I said, `Did you have any conversations with other lawyers of the other defendants?' and one of the lawyers from the other companies says `Don't answer that,' '' Weinstein said.

He is awaiting a date he can present that and other information about a possible backroom deal to a judge.

Flight attendant Suzette Janoff, who worked for American Airlines for 13 years, has asthma, chronic sinusitis and has had surgery because of the smoky cabins in which she attended to airline passengers, she said.

Hers was one of the few cases to go to trial, but it ended in a mistrial after the judge found the tobacco companies mislead the jury. She has put off a second trial, afraid she will have to pay court costs and attorneys fees if she loses.

``To hear that the tobacco companies conspired with each other to avoid any settlement in our cases would not surprise me at all,'' said Janoff, who lives in Arizona. ``They do whatever they can to avoid paying out a penny, particularly to the flight attendants who had to work in their toxic stew for decades.''

By Nirvi Shah,

Source: The Miami Herald

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Twenty-One Ruden McClosky Attorneys Named “Best Lawyers in America” 2011

Florida-based law firm Ruden McClosky announces that 21 of its attorneys have been selected as top legal practitioners by The Best Lawyers in America 2011

Florida-based law firm Ruden McClosky announces that 21 of its attorneys have been selected as top legal practitioners by The Best Lawyers in America 2011. Published by Woodward/White Inc., The Best Lawyers in America is the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession and listings are based on an exhaustive year-long survey of members within the legal profession. The current, 17th edition of The Best Lawyers in America is based on more than 3.1 million detailed evaluations of lawyers by other lawyers.

Following are the Ruden McClosky attorneys listed in the 2011 edition of The Best Lawyers in America, along with the area(s) of concentration for which they were selected:

• Michael R. Bakst, Shareholder: Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights, Insolvency and Reorganization Law
• Debra L. Boje, Shareholder: Trusts and Estates
• Scott J. Fuerst, Shareholder: Land Use & Zoning Law, Real Estate Law
• Bruce D. Goorland, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• Mark F. Grant, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• Margaret-Ray Kemper, Shareholder: Land Use & Zoning Law
• Michael H. Krul, Shareholder: Corporate Law
• Bruce D. Lamb, Shareholder: Health Care Law
• Donald C. McClosky, Shareholder: Environmental Law, Land Use & Zoning Law, Real Estate Law
• Dennis D. Mele, Shareholder: Environmental Law, Land Use & Zoning Law
• Steven R. Parson, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• John H. Pelzer, Shareholder: Appellate Practice
• Marvin S. Rosen, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• Carl Schuster, Shareholder: Trusts and Estates
• Stephen H. Siegel, Of Counsel: Health Care Law
• John L. Shiekman, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• Peter D. Slavis, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• Harry B. Smith, Of Counsel: Real Estate Law
• Barry E. Somerstein, Shareholder: Real Estate Law
• Mark K. Somerstein, Shareholder: Banking and Finance Law, Real Estate Law
• Ernest Lee Worsham, Shareholder: Environmental Law

The Best Lawyers in America includes attorneys in 78 specialties, covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For more than 25 years, Best Lawyers lists have earned the respect of the profession, the media, and the public, as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

About Ruden McClosky

Ruden McClosky, one of Florida’s most established full-service law firms, represents regional, national, and international clients with business interests throughout the state. With offices across Florida, Ruden McClosky is fueled by strong client relationships, a roster of experienced attorneys, and a commitment to delivering superior client service with a focus on results. Among the most respected law firms in the state for more than 50 years, Ruden McClosky’s culture is grounded in excellence, professionalism, diversity, and civic involvement. For more information please visit

Source: PRLog.Org

FTC gets tougher on fees collected by firms, lawyers for mortgage relief

Client trust accounts will be necessary under new rule

Hoping to cut down on fraud and scams tied to the mortgage crisis, the Federal Trade Commission is tightening rules for companies and attorneys who perform loan-modification and foreclosure-rescue services.

On Friday the FTC announced a rule that would prevent mortgage-relief companies from collecting fees from consumers until a homeowner has a written offer from a lender and decides the offer is acceptable.

Loan-modification and rescue schemes have flourished as the financial and mortgage crisis squeezes consumers. Unscrupulous companies often collect fees from consumers, yet fail to do any work.

Illinois banned upfront fees for loan modifications in 2006, but the federal law will allow the FTC to police the industry too.

The FTC also passed a rule Friday that attempts to rein in attorneys who are often exempt from bans on upfront fees.

In September the Tribune wrote about a loophole in state and federal law that allowed attorneys to collect upfront fees for modifying mortgages. Often, instead of negotiating with a lender, some attorneys or the companies they worked for just kept the client's cash and didn't complete the job.

Under the new FTC rule, attorneys will be required to place advance fees into what is known as a client trust account. The accounts are an attempt to keep client funds separate from an attorney's personal or business funds until the attorney has earned the money.

The FTC and state attorneys general offices would be able to enforce the federal rules by issuing injunctions, civil penalties and trying to recover money for consumers.

The Illinois State Bar Association and the American Bar Association have opposed the rule, arguing that, among other reasons, it interferes with state courts' regulation of lawyers. The federal rule could be challenged by attorneys.

Tom Pahl, with the FTC, said the new federal rules provide another layer of enforcement because attorneys can be sued by the federal government in addition to facing discipline by their state bar and action by the attorney general's office.

Federal investigators also will proactively review advertisements and Web sites, as opposed to lawyer regulatory groups that usually wait for consumer complaints, he said.

Mark D. Hassakis, president of the Illinois State Bar Association, said lawyers who take money from clients without performing any work are committing fraud and would be dealt with by the state's lawyer regulatory board.

"Stealing is wrong," he said. "This is just another version of stealing."

David Berenbaum, chief program officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, said the new federal rules should help crack down on some mortgage scams, but attorneys are a growing concern. They are "not following through on commitments made to consumers," he said.

In California, the legislature passed a law last year that bars anyone, including attorneys, from collecting upfront fees for loan modifications.

In Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said it is reviewing whether additional legislation is necessary.

By Ellen Gabler,, Tribune reporter

Source: Chicago Tribune

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lawyers look ahead in tangled Minnesota gov race

Competing lawyers involved in Minnesota's tangled race for governor maneuvered Friday for a potentially protracted struggle, with Republicans suing for faster access to election data and Democrats challenging whether Gov. Tim Pawlenty should stay in office if the battle drags into next year.

With a recount set to begin by month's end, attorneys for Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton demonstrated how each side is readying for a fight that could push through December. The new governor is supposed to take his oath on Jan. 3.

For now, Dayton holds an 8,755-vote lead over Emmer, who is entitled to an automatic hand recount of all 2.1 million ballots. The recount phase is scheduled to end in mid-December, but Emmer and the state GOP haven't ruled out a court challenge after that.

There's a lot at stake for both sides in the next moves. Republicans risk a public backlash if they're seen as stringing out an inevitable outcome simply to make legislative gains by keeping a Republican governor in office longer. Pawlenty, a 2012 presidential hopeful, could be damaged if he's seen as part of such an effort. For Dayton and Democrats, delay means lost time in power and a more difficult transition.

Emmer's attorneys sued election administrators in Pine and St. Louis counties, saying they haven't been quick enough to turn over voter rolls, absentee ballot data, background on poll judges and paper trails from voting equipment. They cited the urgency of the upcoming recount — and noted the potential of a lawsuit contesting the election later.

"Given the expedited timelines for election contests under Minnesota law, as well as the fact that Minnesota has 4,136 precincts, time is of the essence," wrote attorney Eric Magnuson, the former chief justice of Minnesota's Supreme Court.

The Emmer campaign wants a court injunction forcing counties to turn over all requested information within five days. The legal brief says the campaign needs the information to assess whether all valid votes were counted and the underlying tabulations are accurate.

Dayton attorney David Lillehaug criticized the wide-ranging data requests and said Emmer's lawyers have "embarked on one of the biggest legal fishing expeditions in Minnesota history." Dayton's legal team argues that the other side is raising concerns about the election without many facts to back them up.

Republicans have said they are still in the process of investigating reports of voter fraud, machine malfunctions and other irregularities. If the 2008 deadlocked Minnesota Senate race is any guide, those issues won't be fodder for the recount but could be argued in a subsequent lawsuit.

A lawsuit could delay seating of a new governor. A candidate or any registered voter has seven days after a recount to file an election contest, and a trial wouldn't commence for 20 days after that. The schedule for resolving a challenge could push the race far into January, with fresh GOP majorities set to take over the Legislature.

Under the Minnesota Constitution, the term of a governor runs "four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified." Many, including Pawlenty, read the clause to mean Pawlenty would stay on longer.

Dayton attorney Charlie Nauen said he sees a gray area.

"If the numbers show that Mark Dayton has more votes, he's 'chosen' certainly by the people and 'qualified,'" Nauen said.

Dayton's lawyers said their are looking into their options and stopped short of saying they would seek clarity in court. In 2008, the state Supreme Court refused to order an election certificate issued to Al Franken in his Senate race until the lawsuit was complete.

The GOP didn't make its attorneys available to comment on the Dayton legal theory. Party chairman Tony Sutton declined comment on whether there is ambiguity in the constitution.

"The Democrats would like this to be about some scheme to extend Governor Pawlenty's term. That's not what we're trying to do here," Sutton said. "We're trying to make sure every vote is counted."

Democrats fear that if Pawlenty stays on, the Republican majorities would advance legislation that Dayton opposes. A key Jan. 15 deadline looms for Minnesota to apply for more than $1 billion in federal health funding, which Pawlenty opposes.

By The Associated Press

Source: Google News

Attorneys Named To 2011 Connecticut Super Lawyers And Rising Stars Lists

Eighteen attorneys from Pullman & Comley, LLC, were recently named to the Connecticut Super Lawyers list for 2011, the law firm reported today. In addition, six of the firm's attorneys were named to Super Lawyers "Connecticut Rising Stars 2011" list.

The Pullman & Comley attorneys on the Connecticut Super Lawyers 2011 list include the following, listed with their cited practice areas: David P. Atkins, Professional Liability: Defense; Collin P. Baron, Health Care; Deborah S. Breck, Estate Planning and Probate; Eliot B. Gersten, Business Litigation; Andrew C. Glassman, Business/Corporate; Irve J. Goldman, Bankruptcy and Creditor/Debtor Rights; Joshua A. Hawks-Ladds, Employment and Labor; Lee D. Hoffman, Environmental; Christopher P. McCormack, Environmental Litigation; Jonathan B. Orleans, Employment and Labor; Alan S. Parker, Estate Planning and Probate; Michael G. Proctor, Real Estate; Richard C. Robinson, Business Litigation; Daniel A. Schwartz, Employment and Labor; James T. Shearin, Business Litigation; Alan J. Sobol, Criminal Defense; James P. White Jr., Real Estate; and Diane W. Whitney, Environmental. Those named to the Rising Stars list include Adam J. Cohen, Business Litigation; T. Scott Cowperthwait, Business Litigation; Carrianna K. Field, Bonds/Government Finance; Jessica Grossarth, Bankruptcy and Creditor/Debtor Rights; Carrie L. Larson, Utilities; and Jessica A. Slippen, Business Litigation.

Attorneys Gersten, Glassman, Hawks-Ladds, Hoffman, Parker, Robinson, Schwartz, Sobol, Whitney, Field and Larson practice in the firm's Hartford office.

The list of attorneys selected to Connecticut Super Lawyers appears in the November 2010 issue of New England Super Lawyers, and the special section appearing in the February 2011 issue of Connecticut magazine.

Super Lawyers recognizes attorneys in more than 70 areas of practice using a multiphase selection process that considers 15 separate indicators of peer recognition, professional achievement and ethical standards. The final selection for 2011 was made from a pool of 3,611 Connecticut attorneys, producing the final 2011 Connecticut Super Lawyers list of 869 attorneys. The Rising Stars selection process is the Super Lawyers selection process except that candidates must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for ten years or less, and the selection process does not include peer evaluation by practice area.

Founded in 1990, Law & Politics has been publishing the annual Super Lawyers lists since 1991. Super Lawyers is published in 50 states and the District of Columbia by Law & Politics, a division of Key Professional Media, Inc. For more information on the selection process and a complete list of attorneys selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers, visit For more about the standards for inclusion in Connecticut Super Lawyers, please see

Pullman & Comley, LLC provides a wide range of legal services. For more information, please visit

By Biz Buzz


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hutaree lawyers: Talk was just talk, not a plot

In an effort to bust up the government's case, defense lawyers in the Hutaree militia case this week disclosed some of the government's secret recordings, including a conversation at a wedding in which an undercover agent and two Hutaree members discussed alleged roadside bombs.

The defense disclosed the recording as part of an effort to show that just because militia members were talking about alleged roadside bombs doesn't mean there was any actual plan to build them, use them or violently overthrow the government.

In court documents filed Tuesday in federal court in Detroit, defense attorneys Richard Helfrick and Todd Shanker cited the wedding conversation that took place March 13 -- two weeks before nine Hutaree members were arrested in FBI raids.

During the conversation, an undercover agent urges Hutaree leader David Stone Sr. to obtain road signs so that he can begin constructing alleged improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Agent: "OK. Once we get everything, how fast do you want those?"

Joshua Stone: "We'll have lots of money probably."

David Stone Sr.: "Well, let's do a forecast."

Agent: "As soon as I get (to) it."

David Stone: "Uh, as far as any kind of mass order? ... Uh, early fall."

Undercover agent: "Really? Wow. OK."

The agent then repeatedly asks David Stone whether there is a specific target, in reference to the alleged plot against local officers outlined in the group's indictment.

David Stone: "No.... It's just like when we were talking earlier, we could be anywhere."

Defense lawyers argued the conversation doesn't reveal any real plan to use the weapons, nor does it show a plot to harm local police, as alleged in the indictment.

Helfrick and Shanker are representing David Stone Jr., 20, of Adrian, the adopted son of Hutaree leader David Stone Sr. They are seeking to dismiss Stone Jr.'s case and are requesting a special pretrial hearing where the government must prove that a conspiracy existed and that the defendants were part of it.

The government, however, has argued in court documents that a special hearing would be "burdensome, time-consuming and uneconomical" and that the facts and the indictment "returned by a legally constituted and unbiased grand jury are enough" to proceed to trial.

By Tresa Baldas, Free Press Staff Writer


Harris May Injury Lawyers Opens New Offices to Provide Aggressive Legal Representation for California's Central Coast

Renowned trial attorneys Ryan Harris and Robert May have opened Harris May Injury Lawyers to provide a fresh perspective and proven results to individuals along California's Central Coast.

Harris and May believe there is a real need for quality legal representation on the Central Coast of California. With the launch of their San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, and Ventura law offices, the attorneys at Harris May Injury Lawyers will bring unparalleled representation for injured persons and their families.

"We each have extensive experience in the field and together have successfully litigated more than 1,500 cases for clients across the state," said May. "Whether clients have suffered injuries as a result of auto accidents, defective products or any other forms of negligence, we get the results and compensation they deserve."

Both Ryan Harris and Robert May have gained a reputation for being aggressive trial lawyers.

Harris has tried cases resulting in jury verdicts ranging from $30,000 to $13,300,000.

May, a Central Coast native, attended Righetti High School and Cal Poly SLO before attending California Western School of Law. During the course of his career, May has resolved numerous six and seven figure cases.

Harris and May's most recent litigation successes include settling a personal injury case for $2.3 million and receiving a $13,284,363 jury verdict in the case of Rogers v. Storms, which was tried in Visalia, California.

"We are dedicated to protecting the rights of those who have been injured from negligence - and we know what it takes to get results," said Harris. "Our firm is founded on the belief that large insurance companies should not be the only ones with access to quality legal representation."

Unlike many other personal injury firms, the attorneys at Harris May have mastered the art of focusing on their clients and handling cases to successful conclusion. Through their unique process of information gathering, negotiation, and litigation, Harris May Injury Lawyers aim to bring a higher standard of personal injury law to the Central Coast of California.

True to their assurance of providing quality legal representation, Harris May Injury Lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis.

Harris May Personal Injury Lawyers:
Attorneys Ryan Harris and Robert May founded Harris May Injury Lawyers on the belief that large insurance companies should not be the only ones with access to quality legal representation. Harris May Injury Lawyers takes pride in providing unparalleled representation to injured persons and their families.

The attorneys at Harris May have experience in litigating a variety of personal injury cases - clients have suffered from auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, bicycle accidents, dog attacks, injuries from defective products, and injuries from many other forms of negligence.

Harris May Injury Lawyers serves the people of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties, and all other areas throughout the Central Coast of California. In addition, the firm has Spanish-speaking personal injury lawyers.


By PRWeb,


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Florida Bar pushes to freeze jailed lawyer's funds, license

It says he used his power as an attorney to falsify mortgage forms

The Florida Bar is trying to freeze a Jacksonville lawyer's finances and suspend his license as he answers to an organized fraud charge after authorities unraveled a mortgage scheme.

Jay Clifton Halsema, 38, has been held in the Duval County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail since his Oct. 20 arrest.

In court records, the State Attorney's Office says Halsema had worked on the financing paperwork for at least two fraudulent real estate deals worth a total of $1.7 million.

Friday, the Bar filed an eight-page petition in the Florida Supreme Court that, if granted, would prevent him from dipping into any accounts related to his law practice and would suspend his law license.

Court papers filed to support the Bar's argument say Halsema used his leverage and savvy as an attorney to falsify mortgage papers.

The scheme dates to at least 2005, in which he stuck a former client with a nearly $290,000 debt on a Ponte Vedra Beach condo.

Duval County court records show he qualified to be represented by a public defender. In November 2008, Halsema declared bankruptcy.

The Florida Bankers Association put out an alert last month for anyone who may have done business with Halsema.

Bar records show that he has amassed a number of complaints, but has not responded to any of them. The Supreme Court petition also alleges that Halsema had forged his wife's signature on the financing paperwork for property on Greenridge Road in Jacksonville the couple bought in 2005.

By David Hunt,, (904) 359-4025


Lawyer says call proves contractor wasn’t at fault for Hyde Park explosion

A lawyer for the contactor blamed for Wednesday’s gas explosion that leveled a house in Hyde Park said yesterday that a recorded phone call proves his client followed safety procedures and casts blame on NStar for failing to mark all the gas lines in the area.

No one was injured in the blast, which occurred about 8:45 a.m. and shattered windows and cracked walls in nearby houses.

Andrew Daniels, a Boston lawyer for Defelice Corp., said his client placed several calls to Dig Safe Systems, including one on Oct. 1 and one a day before the explosion, to ensure that utility lines, especially gas lines, were marked around 17 Danny Road, where the company was doing work.

In the recording, a copy of which was provided to the Globe, Bob Savage, Defelice general manager, called Dig Safe asking that the gas lines in the neighborhood be remarked:

Dig Safe: Did you want everybody back out?

Savage: No, just the gas company.

Dig Safe: OK, I’ll send that right out. They do have up to 24 hours to respond.

Daniels said the explosion occurred one day plus 10 minutes after that call. The phone call was reported by WCVB-TV Friday night.

According to Daniels, the gas line 45 feet down Danny Road was marked, but a line 12 feet from Danny and Reynold roads was not marked.

“The line that was hit was not marked,’’ Daniels said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino banned Defelice on Friday from doing any more work with city agencies until a state Department of Public Utilities investigation into Wednesday’s explosion is complete.

Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for Menino, declined to comment yesterday, saying the mayor’s office would await the results of the investigation. Menino lives about a block away from the site of the explosion, on Chesterfield Street.

By John M. Guilfoil,

Source: The Boston Globe

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Houston Maritime Lawyers Say Revelations About ‘Cement’ in BP Disaster Not Surprising

Kurt Arnold and Jason Itkin of Houston’s Arnold & Itkin LLP react to findings of presidential commission investigating Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Houston maritime attorneys Kurt Arnold and Jason Itkin say that last week’s news that cement used to seal the doomed Deepwater Horizon oil well before its blowout last April was known to be faulty fits the evolving track record of BP and Halliburton in the deadly incident.

“The negligence of BP and Halliburton that led to 11 deaths and the economic destruction of countless other lives in the Deepwater Horizon disaster is increasingly clear," Arnold says.

Arnold, a founding partner of Arnold & Itkin LLP, was reacting to a report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which is investigating the mammoth oil spill.

The commission said on October 28 that it had found that the mixture called “cement” that was meant to temporarily seal the Deepwater Horizon well repeatedly failed lab tests before the April 20 blowout. BP operated the oil well owned by Transocean Ltd. Halliburton was BP’s cementing contractor.

The presidential commission said representatives of BP and Halliburton communicated about testing that showed the cement mixture would be “unstable,” but they proceeded with drilling anyway.

The oil rig exploded, killing 11 offshore workers, and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting spill of millions of gallons of oil closed commercial fishing waters for several weeks.

“This was the failure of managers from BP and Halliburton who knew of the danger that existed and proceeded in what can only be described as a reckless manner," says Jason Itkin, another founding partner of Arnold & Itkin LLP.

Arnold and Itkin have shared their maritime law expertise and insights about the incident with national and local media in the aftermath of the disaster, including National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” the Houston Chronicle and Houston’s ABC television affiliate, among others.

About Arnold & Itkin LLP

The maritime accident lawyers at Arnold & Itkin LLP, a personal injury law firm based in Houston, Texas, understand the complexities and legalities of maritime law and have a successful track record of verdicts and settlements in favor of maritime workers. The law firm provides legal guidance on all aspects of maritime law and the benefits offshore workers are entitled to under the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, the principle of maintenance and cure, or the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

Arnold & Itkin LLP handles maritime claims at port cities along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The firm can be contacted toll free at (866) 222-2606 or through its website -


Lawyers cite mitigating factors in Conn. deaths

A Connecticut man convicted of a deadly home invasion should be spared the death penalty because he was in a "state of intense rage, despair and confusion" during the crimes and is deeply remorseful for what he did, his attorneys said Wednesday.

Steven Hayes was convicted last month of murdering Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in a horrific home invasion in Cheshire in 2007.

His attorneys filed a list of mitigating factors in New Haven Superior Court on Wednesday. The same jury that convicted Hayes must now weigh those factors against aggravating factors cited by prosecutors, including the heinous and cruel nature of the deaths, in deciding whether to sentence Hayes to death or life in prison.

The defense said Hayes fears life more than death and cited his abusive childhood and history of drug addiction. Deliberations are tentatively expected to begin Friday following closing arguments on Thursday.

Defense lawyers have depicted Hayes as a follower, while asserting that his co-defendant, Joshua Komisarjevsky, was the mastermind who escalated the violence.

"Steven Hayes has responded subsequent to the crime with shame, humiliation, depression, suicidality and empathy for the victims. His response is sharp in contrast to the co-defendant's, who has glorified in writing the exercise of violent criminal power and sexual abuse over the Petit family," defense attorney Tom Ullmann wrote in the court documents filed Wednesday.

Prosecutors say both men are equally responsible. Komisarjevsky will be tried next year.

The defense also noted that Hayes accepted responsibility for his crimes early on and offered to plead guilty before the trial in exchange for a life sentence.

"Steven Hayes has a conscience and is remorseful," Ullmann wrote.

Hayes' attorneys also say his prison conditions in which he is kept isolated 24 hours per day and his guilty feelings "make his life nearly unbearable and worse than any fear or dread of death."

By John Christoffersen, The Associated Press

Source: The Washington Post