Monday, September 26, 2011

Leading White-Collar Crime Defense Attorney Joins Venable LLP

The law firm of Venable LLP announced in recent days that Jan L. Handzlik, who is recognized as one of the country's leading white-collar crime defense lawyers, has joined the firm as a partner in its Los Angeles office in its national SEC/White-Collar Group.

Handzlik joins from Greenberg Traurig, where he was also a partner. He is a nationally recognized authority on financial frauds, securities enforcement, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and export control matters. He has represented a variety of companies and individuals in the full spectrum of white-collar criminal investigations and prosecutions, including matters regarding allegations of environmental crimes, antitrust violations, tax fraud, financial institution fraud and healthcare fraud, as well as foreign bribery, government contract and export control matters. In addition, he handles complex civil business litigation.

Handzlik also has significant experience with conducting corporate internal investigations, designing law-compliance programs and advising public companies on corporate governance, disclosure and reporting issues. As well, he is an experienced trial attorney, with almost 100 jury trials to verdict. He lectures widely on trial practice, professional ethics and business fraud, and he has also served as independent monitor of a publicly traded company's compliance with the FCPA and U.S. securities laws.

Internationally, Handzlik often leads investigations into allegations of bribery of foreign officials, violations of the export control and foreign asset control laws, and anti-competition matters. On a worldwide basis, he also seeks the recovery of assets stemming from criminal activity. Handzlik deals with all aspects of white-collar crime matters, including internal investigations, grand jury and enforcement investigations, regulatory and parallel civil and administrative proceedings, and representation at trial and on appeal.

Handzlik has been recognized countless times, in all volumes of The Best Lawyers in America and in PLI's The International Who's Who of Business Crime Lawyers; Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers; Euromoney's Guide to the World's Leading Litigation Lawyers; Mondaq's Guide to the World's Leading White Collar Crime Advisors; Lawdragon's Leading Lawyers in America; and in California Lawyer Magazine as one of California's Leading Business Lawyers.

Handzlik is also a prominent member of the California Bar. He has served on several boards and investigative commissions. Notable assignments include serving as Counsel to the Independent Warren Christopher Commission and Deputy General Counsel to the Independent William Webster Commission in investigations of the Los Angeles Police Department; Deputy General Counsel to the Rampart Independent Review Panel's investigation into police corruption and officer-involved shootings; and as a Member of the Rampart After-Action Assessment Panel. In addition, he is also active in pro bono matters in the Los Angeles community.

Venable's Managing Partner, Karl Racine was quoted as saying in a press release at the firm's website: "Jan is one of the country's preeminent white collar defense attorneys, with an enviable trial experience and track record of winning successful outcomes for clients. Not only does he have a superb track record for his clients, but Jan is particularly adept at managing matters that involve intense media scrutiny and reputational risks for clients. Jan is well recognized for his dedication to the Bar, participating heavily in the ABA's National White Collar Crime Committee, of which he is a former Chairman. We look forward to practicing alongside him and to benefitting from his knowledge and experience in complex criminal and civil litigation matters. It is an honor to welcome him to Venable.”

Handzlik was quoted as saying: "Venable has one of the nation's leading litigation and business crime defense practices. Venable lawyers have extensive experience directing sensitive investigations, responding to enforcement actions, defending against criminal prosecutions and handling sophisticated civil litigation matters. I've known and worked with many of the firm's highly respected lawyers for years, and am delighted to join the group"

An American Lawyer Global 100 law firm, Venable LLP was founded in Baltimore in 1900. The firm has seven offices around the country and over 500 attorneys practicing in 70 plus practice and industry areas, including corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and regulatory and government affairs.

By JD Journal

Source: JD Journal

Hankinson Levinger LLP Co-Founders Highlighted in 2011 Texas Super Lawyers Listing

Dallas appellate lawyers Deborah Hankinson and Jeffrey Levinger of Hankinson Levinger LLP once again have earned recognition among the best attorneys in Texas in the annual Texas Super Lawyers list.

Ms. Hankinson earned special recognition this year as one of the Top 10 attorneys in Texas, and Mr. Levinger is featured among the Top 100 attorneys in the state.

This year's Texas Super Lawyers listing is featured in the October 2011 issues of Texas Monthly and Texas Super Lawyers magazines, and is available at

A former Justice on the Fifth District Court of Appeals at Dallas and the Supreme Court of Texas, Ms. Hankinson is one of the state's most respected appellate lawyers. Mr. Levinger has nearly 30 years of appellate and trial experience, and serves as the Vice-Chair of the State Bar of Texas Appellate Section and the Chair of the Pattern Jury Charge Committee on Malpractice, Premises and Products.

Ms. Hankinson and Mr. Levinger routinely are recognized by their peers and the media based on their work in significant legal matters. Both have earned selection to The Best Lawyers in America and Chambers USA's listing of the country's top lawyers, in addition to being featured as two of North Texas' top business defenders in the Dallas Business Journal.

To develop the list of the state's top attorneys, researchers with Thomson Reuters' legal division conducted a statewide survey asking attorneys to nominate their top legal peers. A blue-ribbon panel of lawyers then assisted Texas Super Lawyers staff with final selections, and fewer than 5 percent of all Texas lawyers were named to the list.

Hankinson Levinger, the preeminent civil appellate firm in the Southwest, provides clients with innovative legal insights and judicial perspective in all phases of litigation. The firm's attorneys work with trial teams to develop strategies designed to put a case in the best position before, during, and after trial. Hankinson Levinger represents national clients, regional companies, governmental bodies, and individuals with trial and appellate matters, and offers mediation and arbitration services as well.

Learn more about the firm at

By Hankinson Levinger


Monday, September 19, 2011

Lawyers turn to social media to analyze potential jurors

Facebook pages and Twitter feeds checked in court

As the jury selection process began in the bribery trial of state Sen. Ulysses S. Currie, the names of potential jurors were removed from their questionnaires before the forms were returned to lawyers.

The redacting was done at the request of federal prosecutors - but not for the jurors' safety. It was meant to keep defense lawyers from Googling them before the trial, which is set to begin next week.

If that happened, the court's "supervisory control over the jury selection process would, as a practical matter, be obliterated," prosecutors wrote in a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett.

Many judges, mindful of the potential for mistrial, now regularly remind jurors to steer clear of social media sites along with traditional news outlets when deliberating a case. But the rules are murkier for lawyers, who are increasingly turning to Facebook, Twitter and similar websites to help them make decisions during jury selection, which can make or break a case.

Defense lawyers in the 2009 public corruption trial of Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon performed Internet searches on prospective jurors as they were being questioned in the courtroom. A Texas prosecutor reportedly equipped his staff with iPads so they could research jurors using courthouse wi-fi. And several companies already make jury selection "apps" to help track the information.

A New Jersey appellate court ruled last year that such behavior was permissible if both sides have access to the technology - an unpublished opinion that seems to open the door for other courts to follow suit.

As Maryland's assistant U.S. attorneys noted in their letter - and others have long known - there's a treasure trove of personal information about many individuals available online.

"On Facebook, for example, which is searchable by name, many people post photographs of family and friends, list their political views, share their likes and dislikes in all facets of life, and post comments on a myriad of topics," the federal lawyers wrote.

They should know. Prosecutors routinely use evidence mined from the Internet.

And it can be eye-opening. Baltimore gang members have posted photos of themselves with weapons and wads of cash on MySpace. An alleged Maryland terrorist urged hatred toward "Any 1 who opposes ALLAH" on Facebook. And a Rosedale McDonald's employee posted the violent beating of a transgender woman on YouTube.

The Internet "is a tremendous source of information," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in an interview last week. He just doesn't believe that information about jurors should be accessed before trial.

It's rare that attorneys have the chance to see juror names pre-trial, anyway. It only happens when questionnaires are used in capital cases, he said, or in "high-profile cases," like Currie's. The 74-year-old Prince George's County Democrat is accused of accepting bribes from Shopper's Food Warehouse executives in exchange for legislative favors.

Rosenstein said his office asked for pretrial anonymity for the prospective jurors in the Currie case because of concerns over privacy and to allow the court to control the vetting process. "We don't think anybody should be investigating prospective jurors before they get to the courthouse," he said.

After they arrive, however, the Internet is often fair game. That's part of the appeal in using social media sites to learn people's backgrounds - all sorts of information is often readily accessible in seconds, says Caren Morrison, an assistant professor at the Georgia State University College of Law.

"There's a whole sort of generation of lawyers who used to pay investigators to drive by houses to see if there were kids [in the yard] or [political] bumper stickers on their cars. Now they can do it instantaneously," Morrison said.

William B. Purpura, a criminal defense attorney, says searching social media sites is like "having access to an extra jury consultant" who doesn't charge.

"Do they like dogs? Do they like guns? Do they like girls? Whatever they like, they post," Purpura said. "It's right there in front of you."

Time constraints limit what one can find in a few minutes, he said. And he's more likely to perform Internet searches on a witness than on a potential juror. But he doesn't do much of either in Maryland's federal courthouses, because the reception is terrible.

"We don't have wi-fi in our courtrooms," acknowledged Deborah K. Chasanow, chief judge for the U.S. District Court of Maryland. She hadn't yet heard any discussion of lawyers' using social media during jury selection, though she expects it may become a bigger issue as time goes on.

"It's obviously evolving," she said.

By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Source: The Baltimore Sun

Iowa lawyers pore over a sex assault victim's life

Attorneys defending the University of Northern Iowa are heavily scrutinizing the life of a former student who was sexually assaulted by two football players in 2004 and is now accusing the school in a civil lawsuit of mistreating her and mismanaging its athletics department, court records show.

The Iowa Attorney General's Office has been seeking details of the woman's history on social media sites like Facebook since 2003, years of her cell phone records and personal photos and records detailing her mental health treatment before and after the assault, records show. In addition, the office has repeatedly asked for records about her employment as a dancer at a strip club, a copy of her personal journal, and documentation related to her father's mysterious death when she was a young child.

The woman was an 18-year-old freshman in November 2004 when she reported that UNI player Baylen Laury had sex with her against her wishes in a dorm room and then arranged for teammate Joseph R. Thomas III to do the same. Thomas pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse and testified against Laury, who claimed the sex was consensual but later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault with intent to inflict serious injury after three trials resulted in hung juries. Both men, freshmen recruits from Texas, served prison sentences.

The woman filed a civil lawsuit in 2007 alleging that most university administrators treated her with "great animosity" after the assault. She claimed they failed to make academic accommodations she requested, declined to let her move to another dormitory and did nothing when she reported receiving harassing calls from players. After she quit school weeks later, the university sent her tuition bill to a collection agency and the dean of students told her she was disappointed "she didn't tough it out," according to the lawsuit.

The Associated Press is withholding the name of the 25-year-old Davenport woman under its policy of not identifying sexual assault victims.

The lawsuit seeks damages for the loss of her access to education at UNI, pain and suffering and an order requiring the school to reform policies on assault and harassment to rein in what her attorneys call a culture where football recruits are more likely to show violence toward women. UNI has broadly denied her allegations in court documents.

A judge last week granted a joint request to delay the November trial. No trial date has been set and attorneys reported they were in settlement talks, although no deal appears imminent.

UNI spokesman Jim O'Connor referred questions about the case to the Attorney General's Office, which defends state agencies accused of wrongdoing.

Spokesman Geoff Greenwood defended the attempt to pore through the woman's personal life, saying plaintiffs must substantiate their claims for monetary damages. He said the information requested "is pretty standard" in such cases and noted that a judge ordered her in July to provide most of the records sought, including her Facebook history.

"We're not defending the people who did this. We're defending UNI and ultimately the state," Greenwood said. "We're not blaming the plaintiff. We're gathering information about her claims against UNI and her claims for damages."

Greenwood said the woman has turned over partial information about her medical, employment, educational and social history but missed an Aug. 1 deadline set by the judge to provide additional records.

The woman's attorneys say they have turned over all relevant material and many of the additional records sought either do not exist or are not in her possession. They claim some requests are harassing, irrelevant and overly burdensome.

Her lead attorney, Pressley Henningsen, said he could not comment on the specifics of each evidentiary dispute and acknowledged filing a lawsuit can be an invasive undertaking. But Henningsen said he's been surprised by the state's aggressive stance given that no one disputes she was assaulted and the college should have a strong incentive to fix problems related to campus safety and athletics.

"It just furthers the hostile environment towards my client," he said. "It appears as though they are taking a tactic that has been shunned by pretty much every person on the topic for decades — attack the victim — and I don't understand why."

"My client is resolute that what happened to her shouldn't happen again. Given the fact the university is taking the approach they did nothing wrong, it's clear they have a lesson to learn. We're going to proceed forward."

Assistant Attorney General Joanne Moeller has argued in court documents that the woman's social media history is "fair game" and could show evidence about her activities since the assault. She argued cell phone records are needed to shed light on claims that she received harassing calls and that the assault damaged her ability to interact socially and professionally. And she has defended a longstanding request for personal photos as specific and limited.

Moeller has requested hospital records related to a 2005 "cutting incident" and a 2007 suicide attempt and argued the woman's counseling records from before the assault "would document the plaintiff's mental health prior to the event upon which the petition is based." Moeller also has repeatedly requested documents relating to her employment from 2006 to 2008 as a dancer at Amsterdam Gentleman's Club, records Henningsen has said do not exist.

But perhaps the most unusual request relates to the 1991 death of the woman's father, who she testified during a deposition went missing and was found dead in his car in an area river. Moeller says the state has been unable to substantiate that testimony and has asked for "all documentation" she has supporting the claim. Her attorneys have called the details of her father's death 20 years ago irrelevant to the case.

In a joint motion last week, both sides promised "every good faith effort" to resolve their disputes.

By The Associated Press

Source: Google News

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Critics: DA should prosecute problem lawyers

The office says State Bar standards are different

After a trial late last year, the State Bar Court of California concluded that Carlsbad lawyer Patricia Gregory improperly withdrew more than $112,000 from client trust funds.

A judge recommended Gregory for disbarment in March, and the attorney is fighting the decision. She is not eligible to practice law while the review process runs its course.

Gregory has not been prosecuted, nor have several other attorneys who faced such findings from the bar. Critics say the District Attorney's Office should act in such cases, but the staff says there are many complicating factors, such as different standards of proof and the need to set priorities.

Others who have not been prosecuted:

• Todd Smith, a Carlsbad attorney, wrote checks on a client trust fund for personal use. State Bar records do not specify how much Smith took from his client. He stipulated to the State Bar that he wrote checks on his attorney-client trust account for his own use multiple times.

• Former attorney Steven Weisenberg was disbarred in 2004 after the State Bar Court found that he sent papers that appeared to be a court order to a title company. Weisenberg "engaged in an elaborate and highly deceptive scheme in an effort to obtain for his clients the results they desired, and in doing so, he committed a serious act of fraud," Judge Richard A. Honn wrote.

• San Diego lawyer Todd Hilts took more than $8,800 from one of his clients, according to State Bar records. "By misappropriating at least $8,848.69 belonging to (his clients), respondent committed an act involving moral turpitude, in willful violation" of state law, the bar court found.

Hilts did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment, and Smith did not respond to a note left at his address. Weisenberg did not return a voice-mail message left at his Point Loma home.

Gregory said she had oral agreements with clients giving her access to their money for payment of legal fees, and her mistake was not putting the agreements in writing.

"Every single dollar that was taken was a fee," she said.

Bonnie Russell, an activist from Del Mar who follows the legal system, said such cases should not be limited to licensing penalties.

"I want to know that if someone steals $100,000, they're going to be prosecuted," Russell said. "Otherwise it sends a very clear message to other attorneys that it's a free ride."

The District Attorney's Office rejects any suggestion that it shies away from prosecuting lawyers who commit crimes while performing legal work.

Damon Mosler, who oversees the division that prosecutes lawyers, police officers and public officials, said the standard of proof in State Bar Court is lower than in Superior Court. He said certain cases are better suited to a regulatory venue.

"If there is misconduct by lawyers in their capacities as lawyers, generally we rely on the State Bar to be the investigating agency," he said. "I don't view attorneys any differently than the other types of cases that would come in here."

Mosler said he could not discuss specific investigations or why the office pursues or drops them, but the office pointed to two recent prosecutions of lawyers accused of criminal misconduct.

San Diego attorney Ryan Aulis pleaded guilty to two felonies earlier this year and was recommended for disbarment after forging the signature of a client to falsely obtain property.

Carlsbad foreclosure attorney Michael Pines is fighting a host of charges, including four felony stalking counts and two felony charges of of unauthorized practice of law.

The District Attorney's Office also prosecuted a lawyer who used his cell phone to snap pictures of naked women in tanning salons and another lawyer accused of beating a neighbor.

"Nothing makes us more frustrated than an attorney abusing his or her authority," Mosler said. "But it does not always rise to a criminal charge."

Luwain Ng of Carmel Valley retained Gregory for divorce proceedings and is now suing her former lawyer.

"I tried to file a police report and they did not want to take a report," Ng said. "They said ‘Take it directly to the district attorney.' Then I got a letter saying this is a State Bar matter and they are not going to pursue it."

Gregory maintains a website that urges people who need a lawyer to call her office. "Please give us a call or contact us by email," it states.

Gregory said she is not practicing law while ineligible. She said she is holding the website in place for when she resumes her business, as she expects to prevail in her appeal and resume her practice.

Denise Doll has been homeless off and on since she hired Gregory to perform various legal work in 2007.

She received a pair of settlements in cases Gregory handled and assumed the money was being held in the attorney-client trust fund.

Doll has asked the District Attorney's Office to file criminal charges against Gregory, without success. She has filed a civil complaint against her former lawyer.

"I don't have a political agenda," Doll said. "I just want the district attorney to do her job."

Doll provided The Watchdog a voicemail left for her by prosecutor Jeff Dort, who said he was rejecting the case because he would need police reports, bank records and documents compiled by the bar before he could make a decision about prosecuting Gregory.

Last month, after The Watchdog approached the District Attorney's Office about Gregory's case, Doll said she was contacted by an investigator from the DA's office saying the case was being re-evaluated.

The State Bar refers a small number of cases to the District Attoney's Office for prosecution -- perhaps two a year, Mosler said. A State Bar spokeswoman said the office does not track referrals to county prosecutors.

So far this year, the State Bar referred 253 cases to prosecutors, police and other investigators statewide. Last year, 128 people were disbarred.

By Jeff McDonald


Jefferson's lawyers: Alleged victims started fight

A motion filed by attorneys for suspended LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson contends several alleged victims in a bar brawl involving Tigers players incited the melee with a racial slur and that Jefferson's only role in the fight was to pull teammates away.

The motion, filed Friday afternoon, asks a judge to rule police had insufficient evidence to arrest Jefferson for second-degree battery last month. It also says the injuries to Andrew Lowery, who accuses Jefferson of kicking him in the face, were not serious enough to warrant a felony arrest.

Defense attorney Lewis Unglesby said 25 witnesses - including several LSU football players - have provided statements for the motion.

Another man involved in the fight had three fractured vertebrae, but no one has been arrested for his injuries.

Unglesby said he filed the motion in hopes of salvaging what is left of Jefferson's senior season. Jefferson, who before the season was a projected starter, has so far missed three games, all victories, for third-ranked LSU.

"Jordan is paying a great price by losing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity every week that he can't ever recapture, no matter what a judge later decides, and that's not fair," Unglesby said.

Dane Ciolino, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, said Unglesby's request is "highly unusual" and seems more like a public relations ploy than a legal maneuver.

"There is no way to get a pretrial, much less pre-charge, dismissal based on inadequacy of evidence under Louisiana law," he said.

Michael Bienvenu, a lawyer representing Lowery and the three other alleged victims whose names have not been released, has said Lowery's injuries included a fractured bone in his upper jaw, called the maxilla, along with fractured teeth and a concussion. Unglesby's motion notes that Lowery returned to his job at a downtown Baton Rouge bar within 48 hours of the fight.

Bienvenu also represents three other alleged victims, including the man with three fractured vertebrae. Bienvenu has said that man had been knocked unconscious and concussed, and also had fractured teeth.

Bienvenu has said the man was pulled from his pickup truck. By contrast, Unglesby's motion said witnesses saw the driver of the truck open his door and curse people blocking his way, and that either he or two other people in his truck used a racial epithet moments before the fight started.

The motion also contends that Lowery, who was in the parking lot but not with the three men in the truck, started a nearby fight with an LSU player in the crowd surrounding the truck. The motion did not name the LSU player.

Bienvenu did not return a phone message on Friday seeking comment on Unglesby's latest motion. Police declined to comment, as did East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hiller Moore, who has not yet decided whether to prosecute the case.

Unglesby said many of the witnesses in his motion have given sworn statements, but he is not releasing their names at this time.

The fight occurred Aug. 19 at a bar called Shady's near LSU's campus. Police later searched Jefferson's apartment, seizing shoes that they have said they are testing for DNA evidence.

Reserve linebacker Josh Johns also has been booked with second-degree battery in connection with Lowery's injuries. He and Jefferson both turned themselves in on Aug. 26, after which LSU head coach Les Miles suspended them indefinitely.

By Brett Martel, AP Sports Writer

Source: Houston Chronicle

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

State's attorney not among five nominated for Harford circuit judgeship

The names of three assistant state's attorneys for Harford County are among four lawyers and a district court judge who have been recommended to Gov. Martin O'Malley for appointment to the vacancy on the Harford County Circuit.

But the county's chief prosecutor, Joseph Cassilly, who also applied for the judgeship, did not make the final cut when the Judicial Nominating Commission for District 4-Harford County sent its five nominees to O'Malley Thursday.

There are five circuit court judgeships in Harford County. The vacancy resulted from the retirement earlier this year of Judge Thomas E. Marshall.

The five nominees from the 11 who applied for the judgeship are Melba Elizabeth Bowen, District Judge Victor Kuras Butanis, Melissa Lazarich Lambert, Kerwin Anthony Miller Sr. and Diane Adkins Tobin.

Bowen, Lambert and Tobin all work for Cassilly in the state's attorney's office; in fact, all three have worked for Cassilly for a number of years. Cassilly is the longest serving county state's attorney in Maryland. He was elected to his eighth consecutive four-year term last November.

The committee's decision to pass over Cassilly in its nominations immediately raised many eyebrows in local legal and political circles, although Cassilly is a Republican and the governor is a Democrat, as are most of the members of the nominating panel, since they also are chosen by the governor.

Still, several people in politics and the Harford legal community said they found it difficult to understand why Cassilly's name wasn't at least sent to the governor.

Cassilly has been Harford's chief prosecutor since 1982, and based on election results alone, he's been one of the most popular officeholders in Harford County in the last 25 years. He's received a number of state and national honors for his work and has served as president of the National District Attorneys Association.

Last month, Cassilly was honored by the Disabled American Veterans as its Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year for 2011. An ex-Army Ranger, Cassilly broke his neck in a fall from a helicopter while serving in combat in Vietnam. He cannot walk and uses a wheelchair and has limited use of his arms and hands.

Shortly after he was re-elected this fall, Cassilly said this latest term would be his last and he would be looking for something else to do. He's been with the state's attorney's office, first as a deputy and then as the head of the office, since the days when it consisted of two lawyers. Today he has 28 lawyers working for him.

Among the trio of Cassilly's assistants who were nominated, Tobin is the most visible. She is one of two assistants who work in the Child Advocacy Center, which investigates and prosecutes crimes involving child abuse, sexual molestation and exploitation. This has been a major focus of Cassilly's administration in the state's attorney's office.

Bowen supervises six lawyers who work in the state's attorney's district court division. Lambert is one of 11 assistants assigned to the circuit court division.

H. Scott Lewis, one of Cassilly's two deputies, also was among the 11 who applied for the judgeship and, like his boss, was passed over by the nominating commission.

Miller, a resident of Belcamp, is the deputy state's attorney in neighboring Cecil County. He's also listed as chief homicide prosecutor on the office's website. He's also been working for a new boss for the past 10 months — Cecil State's Attorney Ellis Rollins III, who was swept into office last November on a Republican tide that captured all the local offices in the county.

Several sources said Miller came highly recommended from judges in Cecil County, among others.

Butanis was appointed to the district court in 1996 by then-governor Parris Glendening. He became the local court's chief administrative judge in 1999 and served in that capacity until 2010 when Maryland District Court Chief Judge Ben Clyburn demoted him. The reasons for the demotion have never been made public. Prior to becoming a judge, Butanis also served as the chief legal counsel to Harford County government.

If Butanis were selected for the judicial vacancy, it would create a vacancy for the governor to fill on Harford's District Court.

Under a decades old practice, the governor is bound by executive order to make his circuit court appointment from among the five people submitted by the nominating commission.

The governor may, however, request that the commission "reconvene for further deliberations, or re-advertise a vacancy to new applicants." That gives him an out and a way to signify to the commission he wants other choices, a practice that has been used on occasion over the years.

By The Baltimore Sun

Source: The Baltimore Sun

John Edwards' ex-aide might face contempt charges

Andrew Young, the former aide for John Edwards who wrote a tell-all book about the 2008 presidential campaign, his wife and his attorneys could find themselves in criminal trouble.

A judge in Orange County Superior Court ruled Monday that lawyers for Rielle Hunter, the videographer with whom Edwards had an extramarital affair and a child, had presented enough evidence to pursue criminal contempt charges against the Youngs and their attorneys.

At issue is whether the Youngs and their attorneys violated a court order when they slipped information to federal prosecutors that had been placed under seal in Orange County Superior Court.

Judge Mike Morgan stressed in his ruling that he was not deciding the core issue, he simply found enough evidence to warrant another hearing on the matter.

The Youngs are involved in a legal tussle with Hunter over ownership of a videotape that purportedly shows Edwards and Hunter having sex, and other items that Hunter claims are hers. She sued the Youngs in 2010 in Orange County, where the former Edwards aide and his wife live.

The Youngs say they found the items in a house they once shared with Hunter while they were helping her hide from National Enquirer reporters.

As lawyers gathered information for the civil matter in state courts, federal prosecutors were looking into allegations that Edwards had violated federal campaign finance law.

This summer, federal prosecutors charged Edwards, 58, with violating campaign finance laws by using contributions from two wealthy supporters to hide his relationship with Hunter and her pregnancy during his unsuccessful 2008 bid for president.

Edwards has said he did not break the law, and his attorneys filed a flurry of documents in federal court last week asking for the case to be dismissed.

Though the federal case and state case are in two different court systems and are about different allegations, they are linked.

Andrew Young is expected to be a key witness for federal prosecutors in their case against Edwards.

In the state civil case, attorneys for the Youngs deposed Edwards for nearly six hours in February while he was under oath – a question-and-answer session from which any videotapes and transcripts were supposed to be sealed from public scrutiny.

But Hunter’s attorneys contend the Youngs and their lawyers violated that protective order when they handed over that information to federal investigators. Hunter’s attorneys argue they should be held in criminal contempt of court for giving that information without the former videographer's "knowledge, input or consent."

Lawyers for the Youngs argued Monday that they provided information to federal prosecutors in compliance with a federal court order.

But Hunter's lawyers argued that even though the federal order was under seal, Young's lawyers should have raised the issue in the state courts so their client could have a chance to review what was at stake.

The Youngs and Hunter were not at the hearing this week.

By Anne Blythe, McClatchy Newspapers

Source: Boston Herald

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Norwood case appears headed for October trial

Lawyers for Brittany Norwood, the 29-year-old accused of killing her co-worker inside a Bethesda yoga store, did not file an insanity plea in the case on Monday, the day a judge had set as a deadline.

Over the past month, Norwood's counsel appeared to be leaning toward an insanity defense in the high-profile case. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg had imposed a deadline of Monday for her lawyers to file such a plea. But nothing was submitted in the Montgomery Circuit courthouse by the close of business, according to online filings and courthouse sources.

"No papers were filed today," added another source close to the defense. The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending, said that no papers would be filed later in the evening.

That means Norwood's murder trial remains on schedule to begin Oct. 24, according to online court records.

Detectives say that on a Friday night in March, Norwood murdered her coworker, Jayna Murray, 30, inside the Lululemon Athletica store, then injured herself, tied herself up and told the police it was all the work of two masked men.

In court papers last month, Norwood's lawyers, Christopher Griffiths and Douglas Wood, wrote that they were exploring an insanity defense, known in Maryland as NCR, or Not Criminally Responsible.

"Counsel believe that an NCR defense is warranted, and an NCR plea is likely," the lawyers wrote.

Other attorneys who are not involved in the case but have followed it closely have said that NCR would be a challenge. Under Maryland rules, NCR holds that because of a mental disorder or mental retardation, a suspect may lack the capacity to appreciate that his or her conduct was illegal or may lack the capacity to "conform that conduct to the requirements of law," according to statutory definitions. If a defendant is found Not Criminally Responsible, he or she may be committed to a secure, psychiatric institution.

Norwood went to college, and Greenberg himself remarked in court this month how intelligent she is.

Additionally, the whole case against her revolves around a cover-up that police and prosecutors say Norwood concocted, which is seen by observers as an indication that she knew she'd done something illegal.

By Dan Morse and Ruben Castaneda

Source: The Washington Post

Two lawyers charged in overbilling scheme

Two state attorneys face federal wire fraud charges for allegedly overbilling for defense work in criminal matters.

Jeremy Vickers, 36, of Point Pleasant and Christopher Bledsoe, 33, of Pineville, were each charged with one count of wire fraud while handling cases for the state Public Defender Service, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.

Both lawyers have agreed to plead guilty to the charges, according to the release.

Vickers billed more than 24 hours for one day's work on 173 occasions, the release states. He submitted the false bills to the Public Defender Service through an unnamed third-party vendor, which was also ultimately reimbursed by the service, the release states.

In a similar but unrelated charge, Bledsoe forged a circuit court judge's signature on payment vouchers and other court documents so he could submit falsely inflated invoices to a different, unnamed third party, the release states.

Last year, Mingo County lawyer Bill Duty was sentenced to six months in federal prison after admitting to netting more than $120,000 in false invoices he sent to yet another third-party.

"Lawyers take an oath to uphold the law," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. "That's why I knew that other members of this profession will agree with me that it is alarming to have three lawyers prosecuted in this district over the last year for breaking the law in the course of performing their duties."

The charges against Bledsoe and Vickers arose out of a West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations probe into fraudulent billings submitted by attorneys for services in appointed criminal cases.

By Charleston Gazette

Source: Charleston Gazette

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rod Underhill joins race for Multnomah County district attorney

Rod Underhill, a chief deputy district attorney for Multnomah County, announced Thursday evening that he will be running for the position of district attorney in the 2012 election.

He is seeking to replace his boss, Michael Schrunk, who has been the district attorney since January 1981. Schrunk said on Tuesday that he was not planning on running for re-election, and that he would endorse Underhill.

Underhill said he wants to build on Schrunk's legacy and outlined three of his priorities -- addressing gang violence, family violence and empowering crime victims.

About gang violence, he said that as district attorney, "I will continue to aggressively prosecute violent crime, but we must all recognize the need to intervene before a violent act destroys lives. I will be a leader in fostering a coordinated response that focuses attention and resources on at-risk youth and their families."

Underhill is one of only two people who have announced their candidacies so far -- although neither had made it official with the Secretary of State's office by end of business on Thursday, the first day for filing.

Kellie Johnson, a former Multnomah County deputy district attorney, announced in July that she plans to run for the seat. She works as an attorney for the Oregon State Bar, handling disciplinary cases against attorneys accused of ethical violations. She is also a former president of Oregon Women Lawyers.

In a statement, Johnson credited Schrunk for teaching her "how to be a prosecutor and a leader during my time in the office."

"The next district attorney faces real public safety challenges in our community: gang violence, human trafficking of girls and young women, juvenile justice reform and the treatment of the mentally impaired in our justice system. Each of these areas will require creativity and a fresh perspective to identify new solutions that can be adopted under our current tight budget constraints."
Underhill has worked as a deputy district attorney for 23 years, with four years as a chief deputy. He has prosecuted gang and drug cases among others, and chairs the CARES NW Governing Board. He is also the secretary of the Oregon State Bar’s Bar-Press Broadcasters Council, and a member of the Multnomah County Equity Council.

In fundraising, Underhill currently has the edge. He has raised more than $51,000 from contributors including $5,000 from entrepreneur Junki Yoshida and $500 from Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Several lawyers from the district attorney's office also have made contributions to his campaign.

Johnson has raised almost $16,000. Contributors include attorneys from several law firms in the Portland area and $100 from Cyreena Boston Ashby, a 2008 candidate for the Oregon House and a deputy director for Gov. John Kitzhaber's Economic and Business Equity initiative.

By Helen Jung, The Oregonian


Outside attorneys cost state millions in 5 years

Lawyers will get up to $275 per hour in a case involving unemployment office closings

Iowa's state government has spent almost $6 million during the past five years to pay for work by attorneys not on the state's payroll.

The majority of expenses come from lawyers charging $200 or more an hour, which is at least 2? times the state's intended rate, a Des Moines Register review of public records shows.

"I am concerned," said Kelli Soyer, executive director of the Iowa chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "They continue to say we don't have money for essential services for families in need, but we have money for outside legal fees?"

The issue surfaced last week when Republican Gov. Terry Branstad successfully urged the state's Executive Committee to hire outside attorneys to represent him in a case challenging the constitutionality of his line-item budget veto and consequent closure of 36 unemployment offices. He said the lawyers' expertise is crucial to provide him adequate counsel in the case.

Officials from the Iowa Attorney General's Office ultimately recommended the Executive Council agree to Branstad's request. But they acknowledged they could have handled the case with attorneys already on staff. Instead, the state hired individual lawyers from the Nyemaster Law Firm that will cost taxpayers up to $275 an hour. The firm has Republican ties.

Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, a Democrat, voted against hiring outside counsel and publicly complained about the rates. But Branstad's staff later noted that Fitzgerald executed a $440-an-hour work order earlier this year to hire attorneys from the Dorsey and Whitney law firm, which has Democratic ties.

Fitzgerald insisted a key difference in the cases is that the Attorney General's Office said it did not have staff on hand with the expertise to handle Fitzgerald's bond-related legal matters, which public records confirm.

Both sides, nonetheless, agree they're concerned about the costs of outside counsel.

"From our perspective, it seems rather high," Tim Albrecht, a Branstad spokesman, said about the five-year total.

But Albrecht also said that in some cases such expenses are necessary.

"When our office is sued and challenged on the constitutional powers of the office of the governor, we have no choice but to vigorously defend not just ourselves, but the office of the Iowa governor as a whole in order to preserve these powers for future governors," Albrecht said.

The Executive Council has a general cap of $80 an hour for outside attorneys but routinely approves higher fees when deemed necessary. The council waived the cap at least 18 instances in the past five years. In 14 of those, firms were paid $200 or more an hour, ultimately costing almost $4.8 million.

Leaders in other states and cities also have wrestled with outside attorney costs recently. In Rhode Island this year, the state cut the wages paid to private lawyers doing contract work by 15 percent, saving the state an estimated $445,000 a year.

City officials in Glendale, Ariz., were left to defend spending $23.3 million in legal fees in the past five years, including $10.5 million in outside costs.

Eric Tabor, chief of staff to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, noted that the case generating the highest outside attorney fees, roughly $1.7 million, involved the battle with tobacco manufacturers. That case helped Iowa collect hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for harm tobacco products did to Iowans, he noted.

The second most expensive case, costing the state almost $1.2 million for outside attorneys, involved a lawsuit regarding Medicaid payments. The state won the case and expects to claim a significant amount of the attorney costs from the plaintiffs, Tabor said.

The Iowa Attorney General's office handles the majority of cases for the state. However, sometimes outside counsel is needed because of either a conflict of interest or lack of staff with expertise in certain areas of law, such as the tobacco case, Tabor said.

The Attorney General's Office gets almost $7.8 million of its funding from the general fund, the state's chief operating account. If the tobacco and Medicaid lawsuits were excluded, the average annual cost to the state for outside attorneys is around $600,000 a year, which Tabor described as reasonable.

"It certainly is a lot of money, but when you look at the kinds of things the state is involved with, that seems fairly reasonable," Tabor said.

By Jason Clayworth


Sunday, September 11, 2011

UM School of Law centennial discussion looks into next century of legal system

Attorney rates, court system funding, the higher number of litigants choosing to represent themselves, decreasing civic knowledge and the increasing lack of civility are trends that threaten the American legal profession.

Throw globalization, outsourcing and technology into the mix, and the next century is a bit unclear.

The University of Montana School of Law celebrated its centennial this week with a host of events, including a panel discussion on Friday that examined lawyers' roles over the next 100 years.

The panel featured some of the leading legal professionals in the country, including American Bar Association president Bill Robinson; Montana's ABA delegate, Bob Carlson of Butte; Montana Supreme Court Justice Patricia Cotter; Washington D.C.-based attorney Robert Bennett; state Rep. Michele Reinhart, D-Missoula, and third-year law student; UM regents professor and former law school dean Martin Burke; and 2008 UM law school graduate Erica Grinde, who practices in Missoula.

Panel members drew from the lessons of John Adams, one of America's first prominent attorneys and a founding father, and expressed hope that those same principles will guide the next generation of attorneys.

Corporate investors, public ignorance about the legal profession and campaign finance create pressures on the legal profession. Remembering the foundation of the legal profession - to ensure all individual rights are protected - helps lawyers maintain the proper focus amidst these pressures and others yet to arise, panel members said.

Community involvement by legal professionals helped shape our country and communities, the lawyers noted. It's essential that educators continue to encourage and stress to future generations of lawyers their responsibility to use their expertise to give back.

"This is the hallmark of our profession," Robinson said.

"Don't let the legal profession be captured by business principles, but rather, by moral principles," added Carlson.

Through involvement and philanthropy, lawyers can begin to educate the public about civics and the legal system in general. Civics has not been sufficiently taught and understood by the past two generations, Robinson said. There are people, he said, who think the three branches of government include Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Some are more likely to know the judges on "American Idol" than the members of the U.S. Supreme Court, including the chief justice, he said. Without that understanding, it's hard for a constitutional democracy to function effectively.


In addition, the diversity of media influences people's perception of the legal system. Lawmakers try to pass unconstitutional laws and don't understand the role of the judiciary and the meaning of shared powers. That can be dangerous, said Reinhart, who said she witnessed that firsthand at the 2011 Montana Legislature, when she read the Supremacy Clause on floor of the House of Representatives.

One of the greatest threats to the legal system is access and affordability, Bennett said. People can't afford to hire counsel. That, in part, is leading to more pro se litigants, which creates challenges for the judicial system, Cotter said.

The picture is further complicated by the heavy debts students acquire in law school. New lawyers are forced to get jobs at big firms rather than public interest jobs in order to pay back enormous loans.

Providing legal expertise at cheaper rates may lead to outsourcing, which has both pros and cons. Plus, with increased globalization, clients have the opportunity to seek advice elsewhere, which enhances the competition among firms and also affects rates. How globalization will ultimately affect the legal system is unknown.

"How it will play out only a prophet would know," Robinson said.

There are ways to encourage young lawyers into lower-paying public interest jobs. Some large firms invest in young lawyers who work on smaller, public service cases as a philanthropic endeavor.

There are strides being made to address the ever-increasing changes in the profession, but the panel stressed the need to maintain a strong sense of the founding principles in the years to come.

By Chelsi Moy, 523-5260,

Source: The Missoulian

Lawyers, Listen Up: Rural South Dakota Wants You

It’s been a tough time to be a law school graduate, with constant reports about the lousy job market and never-ending questions about the value of a law degree.

But it's not all doom and gloom. There is at least one region of the country actively seeking more lawyers: rural South Dakota.

According to this piece in the Argus Leader, the State Bar of South Dakota is launching Project Rural Practice to try to lure more attorneys to the state's less populated regions.

"A lot of our rural attorneys are nearing retirement and looking for someone to carry on the practice," state bar president Pat Goetzinger told the Argus Leader.

During this year's State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice David Gilbertson of the South Dakota Supreme Court said: "We face the very real possibility of whole sections of the state being without access to legal services."

The South Dakota bar plans to work with communities to come up with financial incentives to lure lawyers to rural areas, according to the Argus Leader. But what those incentives might entail remains to be fleshed out, as Project Rural Practice is still in its early stages.

This is not the first time that young lawyers have been exhorted to go rural in search of work. Last year, we blogged about a piece in Lawyerist that also hit on the need for country lawyers and advised urban-centric attorneys to give country living a chance.

"Fears of cultural isolation may be just that - fears," the piece notes. "Many people in the city think nothing of traveling three hours each way in the summer to go up to the family cabin; rural residents just do a 'reverse commute' to attend sporting events, concerts, and other big city attractions."

By Nathan Koppel

Source: Wall Street Journal

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lawyers: Racism at trial violated killer's rights

Attorneys for a Texas man who was sentenced to death after a state witness relied on race in his testimony are fighting to get his sentence changed, or at least get him a new hearing.

When Duane Edward Buck was on trial for capital murder in 1997, a psychologist told jurors that because Buck was black, he was more likely to be violent in the future. His case was one of seven that former Texas Attorney General John Cornyn wanted reviewed because of the state's unconstitutional reliance on race.

New punishment hearings were ordered for the other cases, which were at the federal appellate stage. But because Buck's case was still in state court, it slipped through the cracks. He was never given a retrial and is scheduled to die Sept. 15 for the murders of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler.

He also shot Phyllis Taylor, who survived, and is now asking for Buck's life to be spared.

Attorneys for Buck call his case another in a series of chronic mishandlings of the death penalty in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.

"This case is an affront to justice," Kate Black, a lawyer for Buck, said at a Capitol news conference Wednesday. "This is just another shocking example of the fundamental flaws in the Texas death penalty. Racism played an intolerable role in a life-or-death decision."

Cornyn filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 admitting the state's wrongful use of race in the case of Victor Hugo Saldano, one of the other men who had been given the death sentence in part based on the psychologist's racially charged testimony.

Buck's attorneys filed an appeal in federal court. They are seeking to have his sentence reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or for a stay of execution so courts can grant him a new sentencing trial.

By Sommer Ingram, Dallas Morning News

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Cox Smith Attorneys Named 2012 Best Lawyers in America; Firm is Top Ranked in El Paso in Immigration Law and International Trade & Finance Law

Cox Smith Matthews Incorporated (“Cox Smith") today announced that Kathleen Campbell Walker, Mark Walker and Edward Rios were recently selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2012 (Copyright 2011 by Woodward/White, Inc., of Aiken, S.C.). The firm was top ranked by Best Lawyers in El Paso in Immigration Law and in International Trade and Finance Law.

To help employers better understand immigration reform and its challenges, Kathleen Campbell Walker and Edward Rios will conduct a workshop on immigration and the workplace in San Antonio on September 15, 2011. The workshop's goal is to provide a roadmap for employers facing immigration potholes and to assist them in reducing exposure when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) of the Department of Justice are bearing down on employers. Click here for registration information or visit for more information.

Since its inception in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Because Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey in which more than 41,000 leading attorneys cast almost 3.9 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas, and because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

Kathleen Campbell Walker and Edward Rios focus on immigration and international trade law. Kathleen Campbell Walker, who was recognized by Best Lawyers for Immigration Law, is internationally recognized for her experience handling the complex issues related to business immigration, consular processing, admissibility and immigration security issues. Her immigration law practice primarily focuses on business and family-based immigration, consular processing, employer sanctions/worksite enforcement, immigration audits, security checks, waivers, admissibility, and citizenship and naturalization. Edward Rios, recognized by Best Lawyers in Immigration Law and International Trade and Finance Law, counsels clients on immigration strategies for multinational companies, healthcare, research, and academic institutions, as well as sports and entertainment agencies seeking to transfer key personnel to the U.S.

Litigator Mark Walker was recognized by Best Lawyers for Personal Injury Litigation-Defendants. He has 25 years of experience handling trials, appeals, administrative matters, and helping clients resolve complex legal issues. His practice includes a broad array of business, commercial, product liability, tort and negligence cases, and insurance defense litigation.

"Being recognized by their peers for the fine work they do is a great honor, and one that is certainly well-deserved," said Jamie Smith, managing director of Cox Smith. "I applaud all of our Best Lawyers for the outstanding client service they continually provide to their clients."

About Cox Smith
Cox Smith is one of the leading business law firms in Texas and the largest law firm in San Antonio. From its dominant position in San Antonio with a growing presence in key markets, Cox Smith's attorneys help regional, national and international businesses with a wide variety of matters involving all aspects of business law and litigation. The firm is also regularly recognized for its commitment to the communities in which it works. For more information, visit

By El Paso, TX (Prweb)

Source: Digital Journal

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Iowans to spend up to $435 an hour for Branstad's lawyers

Iowa taxpayers will spend as much as $275 an hour – nearly 3,5 times the going rate - for individual lawyers with Republican ties to defend Gov. Terry Branstad against a lawsuit challenging the closure of 36 state unemployment offices as unconstitutional.

Typically the state's attorney general handles litigation for the state.

However, when outside attorney assistance is necessary the going rate is usually around $80 an hour, Iowa Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald said.

Branstad Tuesday successfully urged other state officials to allow him to hire two lawyers from the Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O'Brien law firm in Des Moines. Their experience would better serve the state, he said.

Attorney Richard Sapp will cost taxpayers $275 an hour for his work while Ryan Koopmans will cost $160 an hour. Both have GOP ties and have donated money to key Republican leader campaigns, public records show.

The state's Executive Council voted 3 to 1 to allow the hiring. Fitzgerald, the lone Democrat on the council, was the no vote. Branstad, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and State Auditor David Vaudt - all Republicans - voted yes. Secretary of State Matt Schultz was absent.

Northey and Vaudt both said they voted yes largely because the attorney general's office agreed to step aside to allow outside attorneys handle the case but Fitzgerald said the extra costs are unacceptable.

"This is way over the top," Fitzgerald said. "This is costing the taxpayer outrageously over what the executive council generally approves for outside counsel."

He continued: "It's politics and we're asking the taxpayers to pay a huge cost for a political argument that he (Branstad) wants to make in court."

The lawsuit filed last month by union leader Danny Homan and four Democratic leaders alleges that Branstad violated the state's constitution when he vetoed portions of Senate File 517 that would have prohibited closure of the 36 Iowa Workforce Development offices across the state.

The lawsuit contends Branstad cannot constitutionally veto the provision to keep the offices open unless he also vetoes the money the Legislature designated for that purpose. The legislation passed by lawmakers had used $3 million left over from a business incentive program to run the offices.

"You could keep those offices open for quite a while for $435 an hour," said Rep. Bruce Hunter, D-Des Moines and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against closing the unemployment offices.

Sapp represented Republican leaders in 2003 when they successfully challenged line-item vetoes by then governor Tom Vilsack to an economic stimulus package. Branstad wanted that "proven track record" back on his team, said Tim Albrecht, the governor's spokesman.

"We wanted to go with a firm that has had success with these kind of cases in the past," Albrecht said.

Koopmans was appointed by Branstad earlier this year to a panel that helps select district court judges. That appointment came under fire when the group "Justice Not Politics" said Koopmans has advocated against Iowa's merit system for selecting judges as vice president of the Iowa Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society. Instead, he supports a system that would give the governor power to select judges, eliminating the commission process, the group said.

Homan declined to comment today.

Iowa Attorney General spokesman Geoff Greenwood said their office would have taken the case.

"We were prepared to defend the case but the governor specifically requested outside counsel and Attorney General Miller agreed to step aside and let the governor choose his own outside counsel," Greenwood said.

By Jason Clayworth

Source: Des Moines Register Staff Blogs

John Edwards's lawyers: prosecution is political

Lawyers for former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards filed motions with a federal court in North Carolina Tuesday seeking dismissal of the criminal case against him and charging that the prosecution amounts to a political crusade.

"This case is about politics," attorneys Abbe Lowell, Jim Cooney and Wade Smith argued in one of five motions filed Tuesday. "A Republican U.S. Attorney with political ambitions of his own has used this high-profile case to his personal benefit," the defense team wrote, referring to former U.S. Attorney George Holding, who announced his resignation just a week after Edwards was indicted in June.

Edwards, who ran for president twice and was the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2004, was charged with campaign finance violations, making a false statement and conspiracy relating to an alleged scheme to transfer $925,000-worth of funds, goods and services from two campaign supporters to Rielle Hunter. Edwards secretly had an affair with Hunter and fathered her child.

The motion accusing Holding of "vindictive prosecution" alleges that he was a biased partisan intent on embarrassing Edwards and other Democrats. The motion notes that Holding worked for Judge Terrence Boyle, whose appeals court nomination Edwards blocked in 2001.

Holding is now running for Congress as a Republican. An e-mail sent to his campaign was not immediately responded to Tuesday night.

Other motions filed Tuesday argue that the prosecution is unfair and unprecedented. One contends:

While much can be said in questioning how Mr. Edwards conducted himself throughout this saga, the allegations in the Indictment that he violated campaign finance laws should not be among them. The distinction between a wrong and a crime is at the heart of this case. The government acknowledges that neither Mr. Edwards nor his campaign improperly received any money directly and that the campaign did not misspend any of the money it raised, including federal matching funds. Nor is there any allegation that the money was spent on anything people would ordinarily think of as campaign activities, such as buying advertising or funding campaign events

A key defense claim is that the indictment in the case doesn't specify whether the government is alleging that the payments made to Hunter were illegal contributions to Edwards's campaign, illegal third-party expenditures under campaign finance laws, or improper conversions of campaign funds to personal use. Edwards's defense team, now led by Abbe Lowell, Jim Cooney and Wade Smith (after the sudden departure of Greg Craig), argues that any payments to and for Hunter had no connection to Edwards's campaign and that they continued after his 2008 campaign ended.

By Josh Gerstein

Source: Politico

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Denver lawyers help Haitian counterparts work on justice system

Even before a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Haitian attorneys faced a number of challenges: An outdated and inconsistent legal system, high crime rates, widespread corruption.

Today, efforts are underway to help Haiti create a more sound and consistent legal system - something supporters say is critical to any rebuilding or development initiatives.

"You can have the best roads, the nicest cars, the biggest power plants," said Denver attorney T. Markus Funk. "If you don't have a justice system that brings justice to the people, whatever gains you make will be wasted."

Funk, a partner at Denver's Perkins Coie, recently co-authored a handbook for Haitian attorneys with fellow partner Douglas Sawyer and associate Zane Gilmer.

The pro bono project was done in collaboration with the American Bar Association, which has been working with its counterpart in Haiti to implement reforms.

Haiti's current legal system is based on the French Napoleonic system. It is notoriously inefficient, Funk said, with the level of justice varying from judge to judge and city to city.

The system also varies greatly from what is seen in U.S. courts. For example in Haiti, prosecutors assist judges in much the way a law clerk would in the United States. Judges, not lawyers, question witnesses.

The Haiti Trial Skills Handbook is intended to give lawyers some basic, time-tested advocacy skills to assist them as their current system changes. Among the topics covered are pre-trial preparation, such as how to prepare an exhibit list, opening statements and direct examination.

The book is similar to one that Funk authored while serving from 2004 to 2006 as the Department of Justice resident legal adviser for Kosovo, which at the time was in the process of reshaping its justice system. Today, that book is the most cited source in Kosovo law.

Last weekend, the Haiti handbook was used for the first time during a training session in Haiti with Haitian attorneys as well as U.S. judges and attorneys. Another round of training is scheduled in coming months.

Funk is hopeful that just as he saw in Kosovo, a stabilized, more efficient legal system will help foreign companies feel more secure about doing business in Haiti, and provide Haitian people more social stability and democracy.

"It's a nice, tangible way of giving (lawyers) something they can use," he added. "It's very much direct aid."

By Sara Burnett, The Denver Post

Source: The Denver Post

Sara Burnett: 303-954-1661 or

Attorneys for Jackson doctor file emergency appeal

In an 11th hour appeal, lawyers for Michael Jackson's doctor sought to overturn a judge's refusal to sequester jurors, arguing they would be "poisoned" by publicity unless they were kept in isolation during the involuntary manslaughter trial.

Attorneys late Friday also asked to halt the start of jury selection on Sept. 8 until the issue of sequestration is decided by California's 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Dr. Conrad Murray is accused of giving Jackson an overdose of the anesthetic propofol in his home just before the pop star's 2009 death. Jackson was said to be suffering from insomnia and was desperate for sleep. Murray has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and could face up to four years in prison if convicted.

In a 28-page petition filed just before the long Labor Day weekend, lawyers challenged a recent ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor in which he expressed faith in jurors' ability to ignore publicity about the high profile case.

Attorneys Nareg Gourjian and Edward Chernoff said in their petition that it would be impossible for jurors to avoid media reports and commentary unless they were placed in a hotel during Murray's trial. They acknowledged that their request was extraordinary, but said Jackson's legacy as one of the biggest celebrities in the world would feed extensive news coverage of the trial.

They predicted that jurors will be inundated with reports in supermarkets, bars, gyms and coffee shops and on the Internet.

"News organizations have planned sets overlooking the courthouse as if they were preparing for the Rose Bowl," the attorneys said in the petition.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said they would have no comment on the petition.

Four pages of the appeal were devoted to the recently concluded Casey Anthony trial in Florida and the CNN commentary of Nancy Grace, who attorneys said campaigned for Anthony's conviction. Defense attorneys predicted similarly opinionated commentary on the Murray trial.

"There is sincere danger that a well-meaning juror will be more impressed with an `expert' on television than one presented by the parties at trial," the petition said.

By Linda Deutsch, AP Special Corresponde


Monday, September 5, 2011

Online Classified Site Asked to Help Fight Human Trafficking

Letter points to more than 50 cases in 22 states over three years involving the trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors.

Topeka, KS - infoZine - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked for information from the online classified site describing its procedures for removing advertising for sex trafficking, especially ads that could involve minors.

In a letter to the site's lawyers, Schmidt along with 45 other attorneys general said that while claims it has strict policies to prevent use of its site for illegal activity, a review by several attorneys general offices found hundreds of advertisements on's regional sites clearly offering illegal services. The letter states that the site is a magnet for those seeking to exploit minors and points to more than 50 cases in 22 states over three years involving the trafficking or attempted trafficking of minors through

"It does not require forensic training to understand that these advertisements are for prostitution," the attorneys general wrote. "These are only the stories that made it into the news; many more instances likely exist."

While has increased its effort to screen some ads for minors, the attorneys general in today's letter wrote that " sets a minimal bar for content review in an effort to temper public condemnation, while ensuring that the revenue spigot provided by prostitution advertising remains intact."

In 2008, 42 attorneys general reached an agreement with Craigslist to crack down on illegal listings in an effort to reduce crimes like human trafficking. Craigslist ultimately removed its "erotic services" section altogether in May 2009. In September 2010, 21 attorneys general wrote to request that the adult services section be closed., owned by Village Voice Media, LLC, is the top provider of "adult services" advertisements. Industry analysts suggest that Village Voice's stake in adult services advertisements is worth about $22.7 million in annual revenue.

By Staff infoZine

Source: infoZine

Facebook Lawyers Disclosed E-Mail Passwords in Court Filing, Ceglia Says

Paul Ceglia, who claims a 2003 contract with Mark Zuckerberg made him a partner in Facebook Inc., said the company's lawyers committed an "egregious and massive violation" of his privacy by publishing his e-mail passwords.

Facebook's lawyers, from the 1,000-lawyer firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, included passwords to Ceglia's Web-based e-mail accounts in a court document filed Sept. 1 in federal court in Buffalo, New York, according to a filing by Ceglia. The papers were removed from the public file the next day and Ceglia, in Ireland, changed the passwords, according to his lawyers.

"Counsel's baffling misconduct resulted in Ceglia's e-mail accounts being accessible to the world for 12 hours," his lawyers said in court papers. They said they intend to ask the court for sanctions and attorneys fees. The lawyers, Paul Argentieri and Jeffrey Lake, didn't immediately return voice- mail messages today seeking comment on the matter. Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, declined to comment.

The dispute over Ceglia's e-mails came as Facebook and Ceglia battle over the exchange of evidence relating to the 2003 contract. In a court hearing in Buffalo last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio ordered Ceglia, 38, to give Facebook access to his Web-based e-mails, which he has said he used to communicate with Zuckerberg in 2003 and 2004.

Zuckerberg has said he signed a contract with Ceglia in 2003 to do work on StreetFax, a business Ceglia was trying to start at the time. The contract made no reference to Facebook, which he started in 2004, according to Zuckerberg.
Facebook Claim

Facebook, which operates the biggest social-network website, has called Ceglia's claim to a share in the company a fraud on the court. Closely held Facebook, based in Palo Alto, California, may be valued at $71.2 billion, according to, which tracks non-public companies.

At the Buffalo hearing, Gibson Dunn partner Orin Snyder told Foschio that Facebook's outside computer experts had found an image of the genuine contract signed by Zuckerberg on one of Ceglia's computers. That contract, which the company filed with the court, refers only to StreetFax and makes no mention of Facebook.

The case is Ceglia v. Zuckerberg, 1:10-cv-00569, U.S. District Court, Western District of New York (Buffalo).

By Bob Van Voris,

Source: Bloomberg

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Drew Peterson's lawyers push for release from jail

Drew Peterson's attorneys have asked the Illinois State Supreme Court to order the former police officer released from jail where he's been held for more than two years on charges of murdering his third wife, saying prosecutors' appeal to the same court over hearsay evidence has violated his right to a speedy trial.

"It's a matter of fundamental fairness," said the 57-year-old Peterson's lead attorney Joel Brodsky, who said he mailed the appeal to the court on Monday night.

Peterson, a retired Bolingbrook police sergeant, has been in jail since 2009. His trial in the drowning death of ex-wife Kathleen Savio, originally scheduled to begin in July of last year, has been on hold since prosecutors appealed a judge's decision to bar them from presenting statements Savio allegedly made about him before her body was discovered in a dry bathtub in 2004.

After prosecutors announced the appeal, Will County Circuit Judge Stephen White ruled there were "compelling reasons" not to reduce Peterson's $20 million bond. Though he would not elaborate, prosecutors have suggested White was swayed by evidence they presented that Peterson killed Savio to silence her and then killed fourth wife, Stacy Peterson in 2007 for the same reason. Peterson has been named a suspect in Stacy Peterson's disappearance but has not been charged.

But Brodsky said things have changed since then. Prosecutors, he said, have acknowledged in their appeal to the state Supreme Court that their case against Peterson has been "substantially impaired" by the appellate court's decision. As a result, he said, Peterson should not have to remain in custody while this latest legal battle, which could last for months, plays out.

And Steven Greenberg, another Peterson attorney, the latest appeal has the effect of holding Peterson "hostage."

"He can't get to trial even if he wants to," Greenberg said. "They won't let him have his day in court by pursuing this frivolous appeal."

Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow has dismissed the suggestion that the case against Peterson can't be won without the hearsay - or second hand - statements that he wants allowed, saying that there remain statements that White has, in fact, ruled admissible. And he said that even if he loses the latest appeal, he will still take the case to trial.

On Tuesday, Glasgow's spokesman Charles Pelkie said Peterson's attorneys have lost previous attempts to have Peterson's bond reduced - including a decision by the state Supreme Court not to even hear the appeal - and that there remain the same "compelling reasons" to keep Peterson in jail that White found.

"Nothing's changed," he said.

By Don Babwin, Associated Press

Source: Houston Chronicle

City attorney: Marijuana collectives must close 'immediately'

The City Attorney's Office last week reiterated its stance that every medical marijuana collective in the city of San Diego is violating local zoning laws and therefore must shut down immediately.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith met Thursday with nine lawyers representing many of the estimated 187 medical marijuana dispensaries or their property owners, but declined to discuss details of the meeting.

"All parties agreed that our discussions are ‘in the course of planned litigation' and the substance should, therefore, not be discussed publicly," Goldsmith said in a statement. "We had a meeting that was helpful and professional."

The meeting was prompted by an exchange of correspondence between Deputy City Attorney Gabriela Brannan and attorney Lance Rogers. In an Aug. 10 letter to Brennan, Rogers said hundreds of notices of violation have been sent to medical marijuana dispensaries.

"Our clients are extremely concerned that lawsuits filed against them by the City Attorney's Office will result in a considerable drain on public resources during a time of financial crisis and will cause thousands of seriously ill San Diegans to be denied access to medical cannabis, a medicine lawfully distributed under California law."

Rogers continued that he and five other attorneys named in the letter wanted to work with the city to "avoid unnecessary and costly litigation."

In her Aug. 18 reply, Brannan said the city's position remained unchanged.

"Medical marijuana dispensaries are not a permitted use within any zone in the city of San Diego," Brannan wrote. "Therefore, all medical marijuana dispensaries operating within the city of San Diego are in violation of the law and must cease operating immediately."

In July, the San Diego City Council rescinded restrictions on the businesses rather than pay up to $1 million for a public vote. The council was forced to take action after a coalition of medical marijuana advocates collected enough signatures to place a repeal on the ballot.

Cooperative directors and medical marijuana patients had objected to the repealed rules as being too strict, even though they would have for the first time created a path to legitimacy for the dispensaries.

Since the repeal, the number of dispensaries in the city has increased to an estimated 187 from 160, according to the city.

The Development Services Department is responsible for interpreting and applying the city's zoning ordinances. Department officials determined that medical marijuana dispensaries don't fit within any of the existing zones.

"We will enforce the zoning laws as interpreted by our city's Development Services Department, but we recognize that the ultimate decision will be with the courts," Goldsmith said.

In an interview, Rogers said dispensaries could fit within zones relating to pharmacies, medical offices, commercial distribution centers, wholesale distributions centers and agriculture. And, even if they do not, the city cannot ban or prohibit them under state law.

"We don't believe that cities can ban medical marijuana, and basically the city's position is a de facto ban," said John Murphy, another attorney representing patients' associations.

Since August 2010, some 31 medical marijuana dispensaries were shut down as a result of involvement by the City Attorney's Office. Five court actions were filed against property owners resulting in permanent injunctions.

Eugene Davidovich, the local chapter coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, said instead of stepping up enforcement the city should focus on crafting a more reasonable ordinance.

"San Diego Americans for Safe Access presented a more reasonable approach to this through the rules committee process months ago," Davidovich said. "That ordinance should be presented before the full council. It provides strict, reasonable regulations, keeping both patient interests as well as the community in mind. At the least the alternative deserves a vote."

Representatives from the Patient Care Association, Citizens for Patient Rights and the California Cannabis Coalition -- the groups successful in overturning the ordinance -- said they were also working to draft regulations that wouldn't limit dispensaries to far-flung industrial areas.

By Christopher Cadelago,, (619) 293-1334


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Judges to fast-track Texas redistricting case

A panel of federal judges made clear Thursday that they want to fast-track the highly political Texas redistricting case before them.

At a pretrial hearing on the legal challenge to Texas' new congressional and legislative district boundaries, the three judges emphasized to a handful of the state's attorneys and about a dozen plaintiffs' lawyers, most of whom represent African American and Hispanic interests , that they intend to limit testimony in the complex case. The judges also said they anticipate that the trial would last only nine days.

About 10 years ago, when another federal panel of judges heard a redistricting case, the trial lasted 3,5 weeks, lawyers said in the courtroom Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez of San Antonio, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio and Judge Jerry E. Smith, of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will preside over the trial that is set to begin Tuesday.

At the root of the case are the maps with redrawn congressional and legislative districts adopted by the Legislature in June to reflect population changes, as reflected by the 2010 U.S. Census.

Some of the plaintiffs' lawyers - including those representing the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the League of United Latin American Cities, several democratic members of the Texas House and Travis County - argue that the new Texas House district boundaries dilute minority populations' votes.

Other plaintiffs' lawyers contend that the Legislature should have created more congressional minority opportunity districts to reflect the growing Hispanic population in Texas, because Texas will gain four U.S. House seats from its population growth.

Lawyers from Attorney General Greg Abbott's office have said that the GOP-majority Legislature passed nondiscriminatory maps and that the plaintiffs' case is unwarranted.

One of the plaintiffs, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said a quick resolution is important for the political process. This November, voters will go to the polls to pass judgment on several proposed constitutional amendments. But those who will run in the March 2012 primaries have begun announcing their candidacies and in some cases are already campaigning. For example, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, already are wooing voters in the proposed District 35 seat.

"People want to know what their district will look like," Rodriguez said. "They want to know who they'll be voting for."

The San Antonio case is just one step of the review process. A court in Washington will decide if the maps can be "pre-cleared" by the U.S. Department of Justice as not violating the federal Voting Rights Act. There is no date scheduled yet for the case.

By By Tim Eaton, American-statesman Staff,; 445-3631

Source: Austin American-Statesman

Ill AG, No Lawyers and No Skills

September 2, 2011. Chicago. That was the message delivered to seven Illinois Democratic US Congressmen yesterday. As reported in yesterday's Chicago Sun Times, "Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office doesn't think it has the lawyers or skills needed to defend the state's new Democrat-drawn Congressional map on its own." Therefore, Illinois taxpayers will have to underwrite the hiring of outside legal teams.

The Attorney General's office sent letters to the Congressional Democrats asking the delegation to raise $500,000 of its own money to pay the bills. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) was one of the first to send his $10,000 donation to the legal fund for the Party.

The lawsuit is in response to Illinois' Congressional redistricting map. Illinois Republicans, along with the League of Women Voters, sued the Illinois Board of Elections for allowing an unfair and dysfunctional district map. While the map was drawn by Democratic Party bosses Michael Madigan (Illinois House Speaker) and John Cullerton (Illinois Senate President) for the benefit of the Party, the taxpayers are the ones being sued.

In a reminder of just how embarrassingly dysfunctional the state of Illinois is, consider the following:

- Rahm Emanuel runs for Chicago Mayor from Washington DC. Michael Madigan's good friend and lawyer, Mike Kasper, defends Emanuel. Emanuel and Kasper win.

- Mike Madigan and John Cullerton redraw Illinois' Congressional districts to eliminate as many Republican seats as possible. Accused of Gerrymandering, Illinois Republicans and the League of Women voters sue the Illinois Board of Elections for allowing a political party to steal the redistricting process and abuse it for their own gain.

- US House Speaker comes to Illinois to help state Republicans raise money to pay for the lawsuit against the Board of Elections. Illinois House Speaker Madigan attends the GOP fundraiser and helps raise money to sue himself and his own Party. Read this column from last week titeled, 'IL Dem Chair Caught Fundraising for GOP' for more details.

- Mike Kasper's wife, Laura Liu, announces her intention to run for a Judgeship. Backed by her close friends - the Madigan family, Emanuel's attorneys, the plaintiff's attorney Burt Odelson, and even the case's Judge, Mark Ballard - all immediately donate various amounts of money to Liu.

- Laura Liu, Mike Kasper's wife, raises $144,000 in just the first reporting period, more than any other judicial candidate in the state.

- Michael Madigan's daughter, Lisa Madigan, just happens to be the Illinois Attorney General and charged with defending her dad's actions in court at the taxpayers' expense. Announcing that her office isn't qualified or experienced enough to handle a simple redistricting challenge, Lisa Madigan hires her dad's lawyer to represent the Illinois Democratic Party, the very same Mike Kasper.

This chain of events isn't anything unusual for the state of Illinois. For that reason, the details didn't even warrant a mention on the local news. But in the other 49 states, it's indicative of why Illinois continues to be the laughing stock of the nation.

By Mark Wachtler, Chicago Independent Examiner

Source: Chicago Independent Examiner

Friday, September 2, 2011

Florida AG under fire for terminating employees

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has emerged in her short time on the job as a fierce critic of the federal health care overhaul and a tenacious opponent of illegal prescription drug sales.

But the telegenic former prosecutor also is battling questions about her commitment to consumers amid firings and resignations that have rocked her department. Bondi already has agreed to an outside probe of the dismissals of two attorneys who were leading foreclosure fraud investigations. And another employee resigned in August after suggesting there were cases that weren't being pursued due to politics.

Bondi and some of her aides have brushed aside the criticism as the complaints of disgruntled employees. She said she's restructuring her office to bring in lawyers willing and ready to go to court. The move includes recruiting former prosecutors to crack down on fraud in Florida.

"The philosophy of this office is to put the strongest lawyers in place to protect the consumers of the state of Florida and to get the consumers the absolute most maximum restitution," Bondi said in a recent interview.

Bondi, who never ran for elected office before, has one of the most prominent jobs in state government other than the governor.

Bondi took over Florida's ongoing lawsuit to block the federal health care overhaul from former Attorney General Bill McCollum. But she also inherited investigations launched by McCollum including a probe into several for-profit colleges.

Bondi says her economic crimes division has launched some 60 investigations since her swearing-in last January. Bondi has also filed a lawsuit that accused a New York bank of overcharging the state pension fund by millions of dollars.

"There's a tremendous amount of fraud out there in the state right now," Bondi said.

But in some instances she has seemed more cautious that McCollum.

She has yet to challenge any proposed utility rate hikes. Bondi also decided against having Florida join with several other Gulf states in a federal lawsuit against the owner of an offshore rig that exploded and led to a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It's Bondi's dealings, however, with those involved in foreclosures that has generated the most controversy.

Bondi spoke out against a proposed national settlement between 50 state attorneys general and lenders that would have cut the principal owed by homeowners. She said she was opposed to any across-the-board reductions because she didn't want to help people "who just don't want to pay their mortgage payments."

Then two attorneys - Theresa Edwards and her colleague June Clarkson - were forced out of their jobs in late May despite positive job reviews. Both women had been involved with investigations into law firms handling foreclosures on behalf of banks.

The dismissals came months after an attorney representing one of the companies under investigation - Lender Processing Services - complained that both had made "irresponsible" statements and had already "tainted the investigation" due to a presentation they had made to court clerks.

That same company wound up hiring a former top aide to McCollum who had a lead role in helping with the state's lawsuit against the federal health care overhaul that has earned Bondi national exposure. Joe Jacquot, who worked in the office until May, has pointed out that he did not supervise the unit the two women worked in. He also sent a memo to McCollum as far back as October where he asked that he not be involved in any discussions involving the company.

Carlos Muniz, the chief of staff for Bondi, has insisted that Clarkson and Edwards were forced to resign due to their "shortcomings" on the job and that they warned ahead of time.

"That's a lie," said Clarkson, who along with Edwards, is now defending homeowners.

An Associated Press request for public records related to their job performance found little internal correspondence but it did turn up the LPS letter as well as a March letter from well-known Tallahassee attorney Barry Richard complaining about a probe into a company that buys gold.

Richard, who represented George W. Bush in the court battle over the 2000 presidential recount, complained the two women had a "single-minded determination to make a case against my client that began with a pre-judgment that my client was engaged in some type of wrongdoing."

After Bondi came under fire from Democrats about the terminations she turned to fellow Republican and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to head an investigation into the firings. That review by Atwater's inspector general is ongoing.

Bondi insists she is aggressively investigating those involved with foreclosures. She says she has as many as 19 employees that are charged with investigating 10 different companies. Her office won a $2 million settlement from one law firm in March.

"We are focused on these foreclosure cases like crazy, we have done everything we can to strengthen them," she said.

But Bondi's office has conceded that it has not issued any new subpoenas to any law firms handling foreclosures since an appeals court back in April ruled that the attorney general lacked the authority to investigate. Bondi's office decided against appealing the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court.

Tom Ice, a West Palm Beach lawyer who defends homeowners in foreclosure cases, said he hasn't seen "any evidence" that Bondi is pushing ahead with investigations.

"She's worried more about the banks that the homeowners," Ice said.

By Gary Fineout, Associated Press


Pitch for more diversity of skills in Congress swipes at attorneys

RE "A Hill crawling with lawyers" (Op-ed, Aug. 29): We were dismayed to see that in John E. Sununu's attempt to argue for a Congress with diverse skill sets - including legislators with technical backgrounds - he felt the need to lob grenades at lawyers. Massachusetts is fortunate to have lawyers in its congressional delegation.

Particularly offensive is the notion that being able to argue either side of an argument is a detriment. The ability to see all sides of an issue, from ground level to 20,000 feet up, allows lawyers to craft solutions. Skilled negotiators, legislators who are lawyers are often asked to find common ground amid deadlock. Contrary to Sununu's suggestion, lawyers are trained problem solvers.

By virtue of their legal training, lawyers will scrutinize even the most crowd-pleasing, headline-grabbing legislative proposals through the lens of our Constitution. They have a heightened vigilance that laws must not only pass constitutional muster, but work in practice.

In addition, in citing the famous line "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," Sununu misses Shakespeare's point, which was that killing all the lawyers is the first step toward tyranny. Having good lawyers in government is vital to the preservation of liberty.

Lisa C. Goodheart
President Boston Bar Association Boston

Elected officials ought to be able to break down these ballooning budgets REGARDING JOHN E. Sununu's Aug. 29 op-ed "A Hill crawling with lawyers," in which he bemoaned the relative lack of engineers and the abundance of attorneys in Congress: Very, very true. Our elected officials are dealing with numbers that we, the public, do not much care about. Trillions of dollars means what?

Now, if they would just explain little parts of the budget, and break it down for us. Here's an example. Explain the cost of owning and operating an aircraft carrier, including its support fleet. We have 11 of these. China has one (it is now in sea trials). Russia has one. Much of the world has none. And what is the mortgage on the 11 carriers? Or is there a mortgage? If there is a mortgage, when does it end? When does it get paid off?

Richard F. Herbold

Lawyers as persuaders, not problem-solvers? Objection! RE "A Hill crawling with lawyers" (Op-ed, Aug. 29): While I agree with John E. Sununu's general point that our country would be best served by a Congress that reflects a diversity of backgrounds, I take sharp issue with his characterization of lawyers as persuaders but not problem-solvers.

Sununu's focus on "courtroom impresarios" plays into common stereotypes but ignores the significant portion of lawyers who do not appear in court. Many lawyers devote their practices to counseling our nation's business owners and governmental leaders on how to solve problems and get deals done. The best business lawyers are transaction-cost engineers trying to accomplish their clients' goals in the most efficient and effective way possible within the legal confines of our economic system.

By Jeffrey W. Sacks

Source: The Boston Globe