Saturday, June 25, 2011

Houston Lawyers Say South Texas Gas And Oil Boom Has Dark Side: Injury And Illness

A recent news article shows that an oil and gas boom from the south Texas Eagle Ford shale also has its costs, including water contamination and other environmental issues, Houston personal injury and property damage lawyer Kurt Arnold said today.

According to the Associated Press article published this week about the south Texas oil and gas boom, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — also called “fracking” — have created an economic frenzy similar to an Old West-style gold rush in communities around Cotulla, Texas, about 90 miles south of San Antonio.

“While the money and people pouring into these impoverished communities might seem like a good thing at first, experience elsewhere has shown that fracking operations have a very high price tag in terms of illnesses, injuries, reduced quality of life and environmental destruction,” said Arnold, a partner of the Houston law firm of Arnold & Itkin LLP.

Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of pressurized water mixed with sand and a chemical cocktail deep into underground shale formations. The mixture breaks up the rock, making oil and natural gas accessible.

Jason Itkin, also a Houston personal injury and property damage attorney with Arnold & Itkin, said that fracking poses several hazards to the community, including the withdrawal of millions of gallons of drinking water from the water table. He said contamination can also result from the chemicals infiltrating water sources that people use for cooking, cleaning and drinking.

“We have seen cases across the country where this toxic brew of chemicals seeps into the groundwater, making residents’ wells dangerous to drink from. Tap water has become so polluted with methane at some houses that people have set their water on fire,” Itkin said.

An April 2011 study released by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce evaluated some of the substances that companies have used in fracking.

The study identified 29 chemicals that it called “compounds of concern.” Some are proven or possible carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, while the federal government has listed others as hazardous water or air pollutants.

“The companies that use these toxic substances must be held accountable when residents get sick with neurological, gastrointestinal, cancerous and other illnesses from exposure to tainted water,” said Arnold, the Houston personal injury lawyer.

He urged people to contact a qualified Texas attorney if they think that pollutants used in fracking have harmed them.

He also said companies that have polluted a landowner’s water sources or otherwise harmed their property should also seek legal counsel to make sure the companies pay for the property damage they have caused.

Men and women who work at the drilling sites are also vulnerable to injuries related to hydraulic fracturing. Gas and oil workers face well blowouts, explosions and fires, not to mention exposure to harmful chemicals, according to Arnold.

About Arnold & Itkin LLP

The Houston personal injury and property damage attorneys of Arnold & Itkin LLP are committed to helping Texans injured as the result of groundwater contamination and other issues caused by hydraulic fracturing and the extraction of natural gas and oil throughout the state of Texas, including San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Beaumont, Galveston, Corpus Christi, Baytown, Texas City and Port Arthur.

The law firm also represents Texas personal injury and wrongful death victims and their families in cases involving maritime injury, trucking accidents, medical injury, aviation crashes, industrial injury and defective products. H Texas Magazine has named the firm “Top Lawyers for the People” three years in a row. To learn more about the firm, call (877) 399-9820.


Andrew Thomas lawyers seek withdrawal from ethics case

Attorneys representing former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas have asked to withdraw from his ethics disciplinary case, saying county officials have refused to assure them they will be paid.

The motion to withdraw was filed Wednesday with the presiding disciplinary judge of the Supreme Court of Arizona, William O'Neil.

The judge must rule on the motion, and it is unclear when that will occur.

Thomas did not immediately respond to The Arizona Republic's request for comment.

Asked why he filed the motion, Thomas' attorney, Don Wilson, said, "The simplest answer is that we have been trying to get some reassurance from either the Board of Supervisors or the County Attorney that we will be paid on a reasonable basis and we have been unable to get anyone to commit to that."

A spokesman for County Attorney Bill Montgomery had no comment, and spokespeople for the Supervisors did not immediately respond to inquiries.

Thomas and his two former deputies have been charged with ethics violations by an independent investigator on behalf of the State Bar of Arizona. They face possible disbarment.

The trial for all three is supposed to begin Sept. 12 and last 40 days.

The former prosecutors are also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI for their roles in several failed prosecutions of county officials and judges.

Among the accusations that have repeatedly surfaced: Thomas and his staff pursued cases against political foes, they rushed investigations, and they ignored advice from more-experienced attorneys and law-enforcement officers who repeatedly told them the cases were being inappropriately managed.

Days after Thomas was charged, the county Board of Supervisors approved a $100,000 budget to defend him against the charges despite its sharp political and legal differences with him. The funds were charged to Montgomery's budget.

But by mid-May, Thomas had spent $86,000 of the $100,000 in public funds that the Board of Supervisors earmarked for his defense against the Bar complaint, prompting discussion among county officials about whether to allocate more.

In a March 21 e-mail to Montgomery, Thomas asked the county attorney to confirm that his legal bills and "future reasonable bills" would be paid by the County Attorney's Office "so that my representation is no longer adversely and materially affected by the actions of Maricopa County officials. Otherwise, my counsel will withdraw soon, and I will be forced to represent myself in these pending proceedings."

On Wednesday, Wilson told The Republic that he has already had to pay out of his own pocket.

"I can't afford to do that," Wilson said, especially since "Bar counsel has an unlimited budget."

Wilson predicted Thomas will have to defend himself, which other sources said could cause various delays.

Wilson noted that even the deputy county attorneys he has interviewed for discovery have been appointed lawyers.

E-mails obtained by The Republic through a public records request Wednesday indicate county officials discussed spending about $300,000 for Thomas' defense. However, the Board of Supervisors never formally approved the further expenditure of public funds.

"To date, only a portion of the legal bills generated have been paid, a substantial amount remains outstanding and unpaid, and the lawyers have not received any indication or assurances of any kind that the fees and costs presently incurred by Mr. Thomas, and to be incurred in the future, will be paid," the motion to withdraw stated.

By Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Michael Kiefer, The Arizona Republic

Source: The Arizona Republic

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Producer wants daughter to testify at extradition hearing

Lawyers for Bruce Beresford-Redman say they've uncovered new evidence that proves the reality television producer did not murder his wife in Mexico.

Bruce Beresford-Redman is fighting extradition to Mexico. In a rare move, lawyers are asking for the couple's 6-year-old daughter to take the stand in his extradition hearing next month.

The defense team says the former "Survivor" producer has already been convicted through innuendo, false assertions and inept Mexican investigators.

"Clearly, the integrity of the investigation, the integrity of everything that was going on in this case is questionable," said attorney Richard Hirsch.

Beresford-Redman will face a U.S. federal judge who will decide whether he should be handed to the Mexican courts next month. His attorneys plan to present news reports to show that crime is not uncommon at the resorts, and that Mexican officials corrupted by drug cartels have a motive to cover up criminal activity and blame it on outsiders.

Other evidence they want the judge to consider includes statements from daughter Camila, who was 5 years old at the time of her mother's death. She was in the family's resort hotel room when prosecutors allege there were sounds of a violent fight - perhaps the actual murder.

Attorneys acknowledge that getting the girl on the witness stand is a long-shot, but according to the defense, the girl told her therapist that her parents didn't yell at each other and never hit each other.

Lawyers also say they dispute the blood evidence allegedly found in the hotel room.

"None of it matches Monica Beresford-Redman, and none of it has been matched to Bruce Beresford-Redman," said attorney Vicki Podberesky.

The defense team will argue that the commotion in the hotel room was actually the sound of a family game.

Alison Triessl, attorney for Monica Beresford-Redman, said she doesn't buy their argument.

"It is a pretty disturbing game if people hear a woman screaming for help," she said.

The defense description of evidence is disputed by Monica Beresford-Redman's sisters, who say she had discovered Bruce Beresford-Redman was having an affair.

"In this incident, there is no other person with motive here other than Bruce Beresford-Redman," Triessl said.

The defense is requesting a chance to dispute that in court.

"We hope the judge, when she reads the entire package of materials, will determine that there's insufficient probable cause," Hirsch said.

Hirsch said he is worried about the producer's safety if he is returned to Mexico, saying the jails in Cancun are dangerous and describing the city and surrounding areas as rife with corruption and drug violence.

The extradition hearing is scheduled for July 12, but Beresford-Redman's attorneys are seeking a delay so that his parents can attend the proceedings. They are required to be in a Los Angeles probate court that day for a hearing on the validity of Monica Beresford-Redman's will, which her family has challenged.

By Miriam Hernandez


KBR accuser put on defense

Attorneys for accused rapists hammer away at Jones' credibility in

Defense attorneys on Tuesday said medical tests found no evidence of date rape drugs in the system of a woman who claims she was drugged and raped while working for KBR in Iraq.

Jamie Leigh Jones, 26, sued KBR in federal court in May 2007, saying she was raped by several Kellogg Brown & Root firefighters in 2005, while stationed at the KBR installation in Baghdad called Camp Hope.

Defense attorneys cross-examining Jones also said she misled KBR by providing false information on company documents, including her resume, employment application and a medical questionnaire required to assess whether she should be deployed to work in Iraq.

KBR attorney Joanne Vorpahl, citing medical records, said Jones neglected to inform KBR that she had a history of complaining of an impaired memory or that she previously had been diagnosed and treated for depression.

"That was a long time before," Jones said of taking the prescription drug Zoloft for anxiety and depression before being deployed to Iraq in 2005. "I thought if (the condition) was resolved I did not need to disclose it."

Vorpahl pointed out that Jones included on the questionnaire that she had experienced nausea after she had the flu as a child.

"You certainly understood that you were to indicate medical conditions from your past because you went to the trouble of marking down something that happened when you were 5 years old," Vorphal said.

Reported harassment

KBR attorneys also said Jones, who testified she had read the company's Code of Business Conduct and taken a two-hour course on its contents after she was hired in 2004, failed to report to the company's legal or human resources departments that she was being harassed by her former Houston supervisor, as required in the policy.

Jones said she attempted to use what she said was the company's "open-door policy" and reported it to a man she thought was her boss, but never followed up with the legal or human resources departments.

"He was there and he always guided and trained me, so I thought he was my superior," she said.

Threatened with firing

During Jones' testimony on Monday, she told jurors she was forced into a sexual relationship with her Houston KBR supervisor prior to her 2005 deployment in Iraq. She said he told her he would fire her if she did not act like his girlfriend.

"The things I had to do keep my job I hate myself for now," Jones said.

Jones also said during her testimony Tuesday that she believed KBR tried to cover up her rape when they seized her computer's hard drive after she left Iraq.

Her attorney, Todd Kelly, showed the jury two sets of email exchanges between Jones and another KBR employee; one set was supplied by KBR and the other by Jones' legal team.

Difference in times

KBR attorneys said Jones joked with then later confided to a KBR employee in emails that she was experiencing problems with female KBR employees after drinking with company firefighters the night before. According to the company documents, the emails were sent the morning after Jones said she was drugged and raped.

Jones said she had no memory of sending the emails that morning. Time stamps on documents supplied by her lawyers showed the emails were sent the night before Jones said was drugged and raped.

Defense attorney Andrew McKinney also said Tuesday that tests by an Army doctor after the alleged rape found no evidence of date rape drugs in Jones' system.

McKinney represents defendant Charles Boartz, the only alleged assailant identified in the suit. Boartz has denied raping Jones, saying sex between the two was consentual.

The trial resumes today in U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison's court.

By Jessica Priest, Houston Chronicle

Source: Houston Chronicle

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obama's John Yoo Momen t-- Cherry Picking Lawyers to Break a Major Law

Bush and Cheney searched around until they found an attorney who would vet torture.

Now we have the news that Obama did the same thing to start an illegal war in Libya. He rejected the legal advice of the DOJ's office of legal counsel and Pentagon attorneys and cherry picked lawyers who would tell him what he wanted to hear. Pentagon General Counsel Jeh C. Johnson and acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel Caroline D. Krass advised Obama against invading Libya without congressional permission.

Instead, president Obama, following in the footsteps of Bush and Cheney, when they depended upon the legal counsel of John Yoo, went to White House counsel Robert Bauer and State Department legal adviser Harold H. Koh, the NY Times reported.

Now, there is a bi-partisan effort in the house to confront Obama's alleged violation of the War Powers act.

Obama continues to walk in the footsteps of Bush. It was bad for Bush to justify torture by finding an integrity-challenged attorney to cover his ass. Now, we have Obama starting a war with the help of lawyers who say it's okay. Obama again embraces and extends a precedent set by Bush. What's worse, torture or starting a war without the authorization of the "people's" congress.

Ironically, John Yoo criticized Republicans, who have traditionally opposed the war powers act and supported allowing Presidents to take the nation to war, Politico reported. Yoo said, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed,
By accusing President Barack Obama of violating the War Powers Resolution, House Republicans are abandoning their party's longstanding position that the Constitution allows the executive to use force abroad, subject to Congress's control over funding. Sadly, they've fallen victim to the siren song of short-term political gain ..

The thin veils are dropping away. The smoke is clearing. The chimera of democracy is eroding.

There is a bi-partisan effort to challenge Obama. Too bad the Republicans aren't impeaching him for his violation of the war powers act. lawyers can't just say it's okay and that makes it okay. I say impeach Obama. Force a primary or get him off the ballot altogether. My choice for the Democratic candidate-- Elizabeth Warren.

By Rob Kall

Source: OpEdNews

James Arthur Ray's defense lawyers wrap up case

Self-help entrepreneur James Arthur Ray's defense attorneys wrapped up their six-hour final argument in his sweat-lodge manslaughter trial Friday, systematically walking jurors through the state's investigation and witnesses to argue that reasonable doubts remain that Ray is to blame.

"This was an accident," said Luis Li, Ray's lead attorney, pounding his hands on the rail separating him from the jurors. "But this was not a crime."

Li pounded away at prosecutors, too, saying they failed to adequately investigate clues that an unknown toxicant, such as organophosphates, chemicals found in pesticides, could have helped cause the three deaths in October 2009. Li said such problems as the state's failure to test blood samples until a year later, when it was too late to get useful results, made it impossible to rule out that cause. He also said jurors should be skeptical of some state witnesses, especially Michael and Amayra Hamilton, the owners of Angel Valley resort where Ray held the sweat-lodge ceremony, and who said they rarely used pesticides. He suggested their testimony might be colored by civil suits they face in the deaths.

"The government repeatedly ignored the possibility toxins were involved. They didn't look for them, and they didn't care," Li told jurors. Comparing prosecutors to everything from Communist commissars to fighter pilots crashing their jet into an aircraft carrier because they weren't careful enough, Li repeatedly exhorted jurors that it was up to them to hold the government to the highest standard.

Li also insisted that there wasn't sufficient clinical evidence to be sure that heatstroke caused the deaths; and he argued that even if, as the state maintained, heat was the cause, Ray could not have foreseen the deaths of Kirby Brown, 39; James Shore, 40; and Liz Neuman, 49. "There were 55 reasonable people inside that sweat lodge, and they didn't know" any of the three were dying, he said. Li argued that failure by anyone to realize what was happening shows that Ray couldn't be expected to recognize that there was an unjustifiable risk of death.

To convict Ray of manslaughter, jurors must find that his actions caused the deaths; that he was aware - or that a reasonable person should have been aware - that his actions posed a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death; and that he consciously disregarded that risk. To convict Ray of negligent homicide, which is included as an alternate lesser charge, jurors must find that he caused the deaths and that he failed to recognize, rather than consciously disregarded, that same risk of death.

In her closing argument Thursday, Sheila Polk, Yavapai County prosecutor, told jurors that common sense and the evidence point to searing heat and high humidity, not unknown toxicants, as the cause of death. Ray's conduct in running an excessively long "heat-endurance challenge," as Polk called it, and in ignoring the clear signs that people were passing out and having serious problems, make him responsible for the deaths, she said.

The prosecution will offer its rebuttal argument on Tuesday, allowing the jury to begin deliberations.

By Bob Ortega, The Arizona Republic

Source: The Arizona Republic

Monday, June 13, 2011

Judge: Gov. Riley can't be subpoenaed for trial

A judge on Sunday blocked efforts by casino owner Milton McGregor to subpoena former Gov. Bob Riley to testify in the government corruption against him and eight others.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Moorer ruled McGregor's lawyers failed to show the relevancy of Riley's testimony. The judge also blocked McGregor's efforts to subpoena three high-ranking state police officials from Riley's administration.

The ex-governor's attorney, Matt Lemke, said the ruling cleared the way for Riley to leave, as planned, on Monday for a motorcycle trip from Alabama to Alaska.

Lembke argued in a court hearing Saturday that there was no reason to subpoena Riley. He said the judge's order Sunday night confirmed that.

"Governor Riley had nothing to do with the Obama Justice Department's investigation of this alleged bribery case," he said.

Defense lawyer Joe Espy told the judge Saturday that he wanted to question Riley about whether there was a connection between the federal investigation and efforts by the ex-governor's gambling task force to shut down McGregor's electronic bingo casino in Shorter last year.

The judge said McGregor's lawyers never showed why the testimony by Riley and state police officials was necessary for his defense. He said the lawyers had not talked to or tried to question Riley and the Department of Public Safety officials and did not know what information they might possess.

The judge left open the possibility that McGregor could try to subpoena the four again later if testimony in the trial shows they might be relevant witnesses.

Prosecuting and defense attorneys chose a jury for the trial Thursday and gave opening statements Friday. Prosecutor Louis Franklin said testimony will begin Monday with Republican state Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, who wore a recording device for the FBI while talking to some of the defendants.

By The Associated Press

Source: Dothan Eagle

New Bar Association president hopes to do more with less

Finding a way for lawyers to do more with less -- or even just keep up -- in a struggling economy will top the agenda for attorney Robert Mulhall when he takes over as president of The Richmond County Bar Association this week.

Mulhall, 66, of Castleton Corners, whose practice focuses on personal injury law, will be installed as the association's next president Thursday at Richmond County Supreme Court.

The association plays a role in selecting judges, handles grievances filed against attorneys, and sponsors educational, civic and social functions.

They also work to assist those who cannot afford legal representation on Staten Island -- but time to spare and money to run the programs are harder to come by lately, Mulhall said.

In response to the foreclosure crisis, the association launched the Volunteer Lawyers Project, which provides pro bono legal work to families facing foreclosure.

Many of the people they help have lost a job and their health insurance, and racked up debt due to a sudden illness.


"It adds up very quickly," said Mulhall, who is chairman of the project. "These are middle-class people that never had a financial problem, and all of a sudden -- poof -- it's all gone."

The program formerly received some state funding, from the interest on certain real estate transactions that are held by the state and parceled out to legal groups. This year, the association didn't get any help.

"Richmond County got nothing," Mulhall said.

While the lawyers donate their time, the funding covers the overhead of the project, Mulhall said. So he and newly elected treasurer Daniel Marotta have been searching for ways to make up for the money.

"We're already working on it,' he said.

Lawyers face many new challenges dealing with recently announced budget cuts and layoffs in the New York state court system, Mulhall said.

Most courts will now close at 4:30 p.m., which could draw out trials, and night small claims court will meet just once a month on Staten Island. "It's all the result of the economy," he said.

One way he hopes to help lawyers on the Island is through education about new technology, which can make legal processes more efficient. They have a technology committee to help keep up, he said, and a Website full of resources for lawyers.

"I think all of these things will assist attorneys in serving the clients, the people of Staten Island, more professionally and to the fullest extent," he said.


The association is also known for the annual Law Day events they put on each year, and its internship program, run with the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association.

Mulhall is a former Chief Court Attorney of the Supreme Court, Richmond County, and past-president of the Court Attorneys Association of the City of New York. He is also a director with the Staten Island Trial Lawyers Association; is a life member of the Staten Island Council of the Knights of Columbus, is a member of the Capital Campaign Finance Committee of St. Teresa's Church and the County Committee of the Democratic Party of Staten Island.

He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Manhattan College and a law degree from Fordham University Law. He and his wife, Lorraine Mulhall, have two sons, Robert and Daniel.

By Jillian Jorgensen


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Payment by attorney general in MCI case at issue

A group of lawyers awarded $14 million for their work to collect more than $100 million for the state has told the Mississippi Supreme Court that no attorney would work for the state if they had to depend on the Legislature for compensation.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that attacks a law that allows the attorney general to hire lawyers from outside his office to handle legal cases.

A Hinds County judge in 2010 upheld $14 million in fees paid to two attorneys for handling a state lawsuit against telecommunications giant MCI.

Fred Krutz of Jackson, who represents the group of attorneys, told the justices that the lawyers would have been entitled to $17 million and plans to pursue that amount if the court sides with the state auditor.

"Mississippi got a lot more (in the settlement) than any of the 17 other states," he said.

He compared the $14 million to an "attorney lien."

"The $14 million in attorney fees was never the property of the state," he said.

Ridgeland attorney Arthur Jernigan Jr., representing State Auditor Stacey Pickering, said the money the attorneys received for pursuing the MCI case on behalf of the state is public funds and only can be appropriated by the Legislature.

"The Legislature holds the purse strings," he said and should have a say in the size of the fees paid attorneys.

Krutz said, however, that the state "could get the benefit of the contract (with the private attorney) and then renege on paying all the fees."

The lawsuit over the legal fees was originally filed by Phil Bryant, a Republican now lieutenant governor and a candidate for governor. Pickering, also a Republican, picked up the fight after succeeding Bryant as state auditor in 2008.

Joey Langston and Timothy Balducci in 2005 negotiated the legal fees separate from a settlement with MCI in a lawsuit they filed on behalf of the state. They were later disbarred after pleading guilty in an unrelated judicial bribery investigation.

A Hinds County judge said state law allows the attorney general to hire outside lawyers. He said the lawyers received no funds from the state and the legal fees are "separate and apart" from what the state received in the MCI settlement.

The political feud over using private attorneys to represent the state in high-profile cases is nothing new. During the 1990s, then-Attorney General Mike Moore used several private attorneys, including his law school friend Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, to sue tobacco companies to recover the costs of treating sick smokers.

Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, hired Langston and Balducci to try to recoup unpaid taxes and interest stemming from the collapse of Clinton-based WorldCom, which emerged from bankruptcy as MCI in 2004 after a massive accounting fraud. In 2005, MCI agreed to pay the state $100 million and hand over real estate valued at several million.

Hood has said he enters into such contracts with private attorneys when his office does not have the expertise, resources or manpower to pursue a case. He said he awards such contracts to the attorney who presents the case to him.

Source: San Antonio Express-News

Lawyers try new specialties

Contrary to the belief that lawyers thrive in troubled times, law firms across the country have laid off thousands of associates and staff members since the beginning of 2009, and entry-level positions for recent law-school grads have become far more scarce and difficult to obtain.

As a result, many attorneys in Arizona and elsewhere have opened small practices, either alone or with a partner or two, with most focusing on topical areas of law such as bankruptcy and foreclosure prevention.

With that in mind, Phoenix attorney Karen Clark, a lead instructor at the State Bar of Arizona's 78th annual convention, scheduled this week in Tucson, has chosen a seminar topic fit for the times.

Clark, a partner in law firm Adams & Clark PC, whose specialties include legal malpractice, said there are a number of ethical concerns Arizona lawyers must consider when striking out on their own for the first time or changing specialties to meet the needs of today's clients.

Clark was scheduled to lead a seminar on Wednesday, the convention's opening day, called "Changing times, changing practices: Ethical and malpractice considerations when practicing in a new area of law."

Clark said she chose that topic because it is especially relevant at a time when many attorneys are taking on clients whose needs fall outside their areas of expertise. In the legal profession, it's known as "dabbling," she said.

It's not unusual for lawyers to change specialties multiple times throughout their careers. But venturing into unfamiliar territory without adequate preparation can be detrimental to an attorney's clients and career, Clark said.

"They have to educate themselves before venturing into new areas of law," Clark said.

Five other Arizona attorneys involved in legal ethics, bankruptcy and criminal law were scheduled to participate in the seminar, including Clark's law-firm partner, Ralph Adams.

According to Clark and Adams, Arizona's courts have little patience or sympathy for lawyers who are clearly in over their heads because of inexperience, especially if that inexperience leads to mistakes that jeopardize their clients' interests.

If a judge has reason to believe that an attorney lacks adequate understanding of the relevant legal principles and procedures to effectively represent a client, they said, that attorney can be ordered to appear at a special hearing set up to evaluate the lawyer's level of knowledge.

If there is probable cause to believe a lawyer is incompetent or cannot represent a client properly, Adams said, the lawyer could be removed from the case and face additional sanctions such as a warning, fines, temporary suspension from practicing law or even disbarment - meaning that attorney would not be able to practice for a minimum of five years and would then have to reapply to become an attorney again.

Clark said dabbling raises other ethical issues in addition to basic questions about competency.

For instance, lawyers operating outside their fields of expertise cannot charge clients for the time it takes to learn a new specialty.

As the attorney who oversees solo and small firms for the State Bar of Arizona, Clark said she is trying to tackle that issue from a second angle, in addition to teaching ethics.

In an economic slump, it's more difficult for young or inexperienced lawyers to connect with experienced mentors who can pass on what they know to the next generation.

Legal-industry analysts have expressed concern over a potential disruption in the traditional flow of knowledge from senior partners to young associates that could result from the deep cutbacks law firms have enacted during the past few years.

In Arizona, Clark said, the Bar association is working to strengthen and expand mentorship opportunities.

In general, legal experts say professional and trade-association gatherings take on greater importance amid a tight job market, often becoming a vital source of guidance and opportunities to meet potential mentors and employers.

State Bar of Arizona spokesman Rick DeBruhl said it is practically a given that many of the attendees at this year's event will be looking for more than simply an opportunity to be educated.

"A prime reason to go to the convention is to get continuing legal education," DeBruhl said. "I would guess the next most popular reason is networking."

By J. Craig Anderson, The Arizona Republic

Source: The Arizona Republic

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Attorneys who filed lawsuit alleging profiling by Arpaio's office are awarded attorney fees

A judge Wednesday awarded $94,000 in fees and other costs to lawyers representing a handful of Latinos in a lawsuit that alleges racial profiling in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration patrols.

The lawyers argued that Arpaio's office should pay the costs of reopening depositions in the case after it was discovered in earlier testimony that the police agency had destroyed records sought in the lawsuit. They say they wouldn't have had to reopen the depositions had they had gotten the records earlier.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow issued a ruling Wednesday awarding $70,000 to a California law firm, $2,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and an additional $22,000 for court reporter and videographer services.

Arpaio's lawyers didn't object to some of the costs but disputed some of the attorney fees.

The judge didn't grant all the fees that attorneys requested.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Justin Griffin said the money will come from the county's self-insurance pool.

Snow issued a ruling last year finding grounds to sanction the agency for having shredded officers' records of traffic stops made during the patrols, but he held off on issuing the punishment.

Later, some immigration-patrol-related emails that were thought to have been deleted by the sheriff's office turned out to have been saved by the county as part of an unrelated lawsuit.

During the patrols, deputies flood an area of a city — in some cases, heavily Latino areas — over several days to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders.

Critics say Arpaio's deputies target people for minor traffic infractions based on their skin color so they can ask for proof of citizenship.

Arpaio has denied allegations of racial profiling, saying people are stopped if deputies have probable cause to believe they've committed crimes, and that deputies later find many of them are illegal immigrants.

By Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press

Source: The Republic

Harris-Moore's guilty plea expected soon

Lawyers for the Barefoot Bandit expect to make an announcement within 10 days

Lawyers for the Barefoot Bandit expect to announce within 10 days whether the Camano Island man will enter a guilty plea to six federal charges or proceed to trial.

Negotiations between the federal government and attorneys for Colton Harris-Moore have narrowed in on money that may be earned should Harris-Moore sell his story.

That doesn't mean the talks have stopped.

"Federal plea negotiation have not hit a snag at this point," said Emma Scanlon, Harris-Moore's defense attorney. "We are moving forward."

The complex legal case against the 20-year-old Camano Island man is proceeding and some resolution is likely soon, Scanlon said.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors balked at a provision in the plea agreement that would allow Harris-Moore to sell his story to help pay restitution, said John Henry Browne, Scanlon's law partner.

"Colton has been talking about this since the day I met him, that he'd like to make restitution to victims," Browne said.

Harris-Moore said he's not interested in personally profiting, or his family profiting, by telling his account of years on the run.

Government representatives on Wednesday refused to share details of the plea negotiations with reporters.

"We have no comment. It is the policy of the U.S. Attorney's Office that we do not discuss plea negotiations in any case," said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.

Harris-Moore is said to be seeking up to $400,000 in exchange for sharing the tale of how he piloted planes and evaded capture, sources said. He's likely responsible for more than $3 million in losses.

Both individual victims and insurance companies are due restitution, Browne said.

"They have a right to be made whole," Browne said. He said a plan was drafted that would appoint a special master, likely a retired judge or prosecutor, who would supervise victim repayment.

That plan is part of the ongoing negotiations with the government.

Lawyers' fees are not part of the deal, Browne said. The high-profile Seattle attorney and others at his law practice are working pro-bono for Harris-Moore, Browne said. If Browne's practice were to bill at $125 per hour, the rate compensated to court-appointed defense attorneys, the total cost to represent Harris-Moore likely far exceeds $100,000. The case has proved more complex and difficult than anticipated, Browne said.

Meanwhile, Harris-Moore's legal woes continue to build as an anticipated plea deal nears.

On May 25, a federal grand jury handed down a new charge accusing him of a 2009 bank burglary in Eastsound on Orcas Island.

The latest federal indictment also requires that Harris-Moore forfeit all proceeds from selling his story to the federal government. Browne has said he typically would challenge such a forfeiture clause, but has agreed to the forfeiture to settle Harris-Moore's case.

Harris-Moore made international headlines for a two-year crime spree that included five stolen planes, stolen boats and dozens of burglaries. He prowled homes on Camano Island for years before expanding his turf to include the San Juan Island, and eventually nine states and three countries.

He was arrested on July 11 in the Bahamas.

Scanlon said negotiations also are under way with prosecutors in Island, San Juan and Skagit counties, where Harris-Moore faces dozens of charges for theft and burglary, among other property crimes.

Resolution of the state charges will follow either a federal plea agreement or a trial, she said.

Harris-Moore is scheduled to be arraigned on freshly filed charges Thursday in federal court in Seattle.

He is expected to enter a not-guilty plea, Browne said.

By Jackson Holtz, Herald Writer, 425-339-3447,


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lawyers say cannot reach detained Bahrain medics

Bahraini doctors and nurses arrested over the civil protests that rocked the kingdom earlier this year have been denied access to their lawyers, their attorneys and relatives said late on Monday

All of those charged are from the majority Shi'ite Muslim population and opposition activists say the charges are part of a crackdown against professionals who took part in pro-democracy protests against the Gulf Arab state's Sunni-led government.

The medical workers face charges ranging from incitement against the government to storing weapons and seizing control of a major hospital during the unrest, part of a series of protests that have swept North African and Gulf states this year.

Bahraini forces quashed demonstrations in March after calling in troops from nearby Sunni Gulf countries to restore order in the non-Opec oil producer that is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Some lawyers told Reuters they had not been granted access to detained defendants before a hearing on Monday in Bahrain's military court, and argued those in custody should be released until their trial.

A government official said the lawyers would be allowed to see their clients before their next hearing next Monday when their charges will be read.

"They will be guaranteed a meeting with their attorney after the defense has a chance to look over their file and determine the direction of their case for the next hearing," he said.

All but 10 of the 48 doctors and nurses who have been charged are in detention.

The trial of the medical workers has angered many among the Shi'ite population, as tensions simmer in the tiny island kingdom after an emergency law was revoked on June 1 and sporadic protests broke out.

"You can't figure out these charges. They are using it to try to hide their mistakes during the crackdown," a member of the leading Shi'ite group, Wefaq, said.

Torture Accusation

Some relatives of the detained defendants, who were allowed a visit after the hearing, told Reuters that the detainees had complained to them of torture.

"He said they made him stand for days and they also tied his hands and feet together and beat him while saying humiliating things," the relative of one detainee told Reuters.

The government has "zero tolerance" for torture and would investigate any allegations immediately, said Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, senior international counselor at Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority.

"We are very disturbed by these allegations and we refute them totally," he said.

The government has said previously it would investigate any claims of abuse for which there is concrete evidence.

Defendants and relatives said they believed their case would depend on the outcome of a national debate expected in July that was offered by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and accepted by Wefaq and other political groups.

"We all believe the solution is political, that we are a card to use to pressure the opposition for concessions," one of the defendants, released from custody last month, told Reuters.

The defendants are due to be sentenced at a hearing to be scheduled later this month. It is unclear what punishment they may face, though some defendants said their lawyers expected jail terms of 10 to 20 years.

"If there's a solution, we expect to be released. If dialogue stalls maybe we will stay in jail," one defendant said.

By Erika Solomon

Source: Reuters

Lawyers get more time to finish foreclosures

Federal mortgage giant Fannie Mae more than doubled the amount of time Florida attorneys have to complete a foreclosure, acknowledging the reality of the state's overwhelmed court system and problems with foreclosure paperwork.

Law firms now have 450 days (about 15 months), up from 185 (six months), to move a foreclosure from the first referral to an attorney to a foreclosure auction before fines can be levied.

As of the end of 2010, Fannie Mae had $184 billion in unpaid home loan principal in Florida with a seriously delinquent rate of 12 percent.

According to the new deadlines announced Monday, New York City has the longest time frame to complete a foreclosure at 570 days. Florida and New Jersey are tied for the second-longest.

Monday's change is the second time in less than a year that Fannie Mae has adjusted Florida's foreclosure deadline. It was last increased in August, jumping from 150 days to 185.

"We review them periodically and come up with a time frame that best reflects the existing conditions in that state," Fannie Mae spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus said.

If law firms don't meet the time frames, they can be fined on a case-by-case basis and depending on the amount remaining on the loan in foreclosure.

Whether the longer deadline will have any impact in Florida remains to be seen. RealtyTrac, a California-based company that monitors foreclosures, estimated last month that the average Florida foreclosure takes 619 days from the initial court filing to bank repossession.

"They can't get foreclosures done in 185 days and I don't think they can get them done in 450 right now," said Boca Raton-based foreclosure defense attorney Ron Kaniuk. "They can tell the bank attorneys whatever they want, but without funding, the courts are going to grind to a slow, pathetic halt."

Florida lawmakers decided against extending a one-time $6 million fund this year to hire more judges, case managers and clerical assistants to clear the state's foreclosure backlog.

The additional help allowed the courts to process 16,972 Palm Beach County cases between June 2010 and February of this year, reducing a backlog of 46,438 cases to 29,466. Statewide, the 462,339-case backlog in June 2010 was reduced by 139,615 cases.

Palm Beach County Chief Judge Peter Blanc is working on a new schedule for his judges to manage the foreclosure cases. He had an additional $640,000 to work with from last year's extra stipend, which runs out at the end of the fiscal year June 30.

"We'll be able to handle it, but I think it will be a little slower," Blanc said about the workload.

Palm Beach County is also still sorting through an estimated 9,000 foreclosure cases previously handled by the Plantation-based Law Offices of David J. Stern.

The company collapsed after being fired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the fall. The two entities cut ties with the firm following the announcement of an investigation by the Florida attorney general's office and allegations of wrongdoing.

Former Stern employees interviewed by attorney general investigators mentioned the intense pressure to meet lender foreclosure deadlines. One paralegal said screaming matches would erupt between Stern and a top firm employee about the speed at which foreclosures were being processed.

Attorney Gerald Richman, who is representing the Boca Raton-based foreclosure law firm Shapiro & Fishman, said the extended foreclosure deadline may take some of the pressure off processing files quickly.

But he added that a tight timeline "doesn't justify anyone cutting corners."

By Kimberly Miller, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Source: Palm Beach Post

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

County might cut public defender staff

Lake County officials may sacrifice the jobs of at least 25 defense attorneys to trim more than $600,000 from the public cost of representing indigent criminal defendants.

County Councilman Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, said that is one proposal a committee of council members and County Attorney John Dull are studying under a plan to merge and reduce the support staffs of five Lake Superior Court County and Lake Juvenile Division judges.

"We don't want to curtail justice," Dernulc said, "But we are diligently working on savings of costs and a reduction of risk on our insurance plan," he said.

Dull said they want to replace 32 part-time defense attorneys, who represent juveniles and adults who cannot afford private lawyers, with seven full-time attorneys who would represent the same number of clients for less.

He said they also want to pare the number of court bailiffs by two.

Dull said he hopes the County Council takes the first step June 14 by debating a proposed ordinance to transfer control over the current 32 public defenders from the five judges who now hire them to a bipartisan body that would establish job qualifications and the number of lawyers needed.

Dull said those five courts are among the few in the country where judges hire the lawyers who must practice before them. The county's four felony court judges surrendered hiring authority over their 26 defense lawyers more than a decade ago.

The Good Government Initiative, an efficiency drive by the county's largest corporate taxpayers, first recommended moving to a full-time joint public defender staff in a 2007 study.

But consolidation stalled because of an ethical reluctance to mix employees from the county division courts, steeped in party politics, with those of the nonpartisan juvenile, felony and civil courts.

The state legislature removed that obstacle earlier this year by taking the county division judges out of partisan elections. Dull said the legislators were sold on the idea because of the potential savings.

Some of the 32 part-time lawyers are paid less than $9,000 a year, but all cost taxpayers $15,000 a year in insurance coverage.

The proposed full-time lawyers would receive a salary of $50,000 a year.

By Bill Dolan,, (219) 662-5328


Ex-IMF chief case: Lawyers set for "humdinger"

The former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was to be arraigned in a New York courtroom Monday on charges of sexually assaulting a housekeeper in a hotel last month.

Strauss-Kahn faces seven criminal counts. If convicted, he could face a 25-year prison sentence.

On "The Early Show" Monday, CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian reported Strauss-Kahn pleaded not guilty.

Keteyian said the defense is going to attack the credibility of the woman who has accused Strauss-Kahn.

"That is the time-tested legal strategy," Keteyian said. "If they can paint her as a gold-digger, if they can undermine her personal history, that's the strategy. The big question, obviously, is whether they can do it."

DSK's DNA found on accuser's shirt

The people versus Dominique Strauss-Kahn is playing out like a real-life episode of "Law and Order," Keteyian remarked. The defendant is a 62-year-old political power broker and aspiring French president with a wealthy American wife. His accuser is a 32-year-old single mother from a tiny African village with an "unblemished" history of employment.

Peter Ward, president of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Counsel, said of the accuser, "She's a person of tremendous character, a very diligent, hard working, cheerful person with an unblemished record."

The trial is setting up as a classic "he said/she said" case. Sources have confirmed to CBS News that DNA found on the hotel attendant's blouse matches that of Strauss-Kahn. His attorneys countered that any sexual contact was consensual while, at the same time, have hired a global security firm called Guidepost Solutions to dig into the background of the accuser.

Robert Gottlieb, a New York City defense attorney, said, "Digging into the background of the accuser, the alleged victim, is not only the right strategy, it's the essential strategy, it's the only strategy for any competent, good defense attorney."

The case also features a cast of high-powered lawyers. The Manhattan district attorney recently added two of his most experienced prosecutors to the case. They'll square off against two of the city's most prominent defense attorneys.

"This is going to be a humdinger," Gottlieb said. "This is going to be a very vigorously-fought trial, and let a jury make the final decision."

In keeping with the sensational storyline, Keteyian observed, following the alleged incident at Sofitel Hotel in Manhattan on May 19, Strauss-Kahn was freed on a $1 million cash bail and $5 million bond. He's now holed up in a $50,000 a month, 6,800-square foot luxury rental in New York's trendy Tribeca neighborhood. The residence is currently on the market for $14 million. Keteyian added Strauss-Kahn is also paying a reported $200,000 a month for 24-hour surveillance and security.

Source: CBS News

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lawyers for Norwich accountant get delay in fraud case

Attorneys for former Norwich accountant F. Robert LaSaracina have once again postponed a planned hearing date in an ongoing federal fraud and money-laundering case.

Originally scheduled for June 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez has confirmed a meeting for July 15, allowing time, according to court records, “to permit a negotiated resolution and guilty plea.”

“A negotiated resolution and guilty plea will serve the ends of justice and outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial,” Martinez wrote. “Any further motions to continue shall include a more detailed showing of good cause.”

Federal charges were lodged against LaSaracina after an FBI investigation that stemmed from his alleged mishandling of a group’s trust fund accounts outlined in Norwich Probate Court proceedings. He faces one count each of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

The outcome of probate proceedings was allegations of fraud and an order for LaSaracina to pay back more than $4 million to the trust fund. He has appealed that decision.
But it remains only a part of LaSaracina’s troubles.

Investors suing

Lawsuits were filed from investors who claimed LaSaracina had taken advantage of them and used their investment money for his own purposes. Those cases are pending in civil court in New London.

The state Department of Revenue Services joined the fray and on Nov. 10 charged LaSaracina with eight counts of violating state income tax requirements by failing to file and pay withholding taxes for his own business, F. Robert LaSaracina CPA LLC, of West Town Street in Norwich, according to a statement issued by the state. He is due to appear June 27 in Hartford Superior Court to answer those charges.

LaSaracina is free on $500,000 bond in the federal case, but it is unclear how close to a resolution the case may be. It will be the third continuance request by LaSaracina’s attorneys from the law firm of Santos & Seeley P.C. of Hartford.

While the judge has indicated a July 15 hearing date, LaSaracina’s motion for continuance indicates a June 14 meeting to continue discussions with state prosecutors. There has not been an open hearing on the case yet.

By Greg Smith, The Bulletin

Source: The Bulletin

Lawyers in Alabama State House vote-buying case may ask potential jurors: Is gambling a sin?

As jury selection begins today in the State House vote-buying case, lawyers for defendant Milton McGregor want to know whether the prospective jurors think gambling is a sin.

The dog track magnate, Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb; Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery; two former state senators, a casino spokesman, a former legislative employee and two of Montgomery's most influential lobbyists -- Tom Coker and Bob Geddie -- will stand trial beginning today on charges of buying and selling votes for a gambling bill last year.

Prospective jurors already have turned in questionnaires that probe their views and background. But defense lawyers are seeking to ask additional questions about their beliefs on politics, gambling and law enforcement.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors have submitted additional proposed voir dire questions to the judge to try to ferret out any prejudices of potential jurors that could have an impact on how they interpret the high-profile case.

McGregor's proposed questions include asking the prospective jurors whether they think gambling is a sin and whether they have ever gambled themselves. Staunch beliefs that gambling is morally wrong could be a reason to excuse a prospective juror.

Lawyers for the self-made millionaire also want to ask the potential jurors whether they are offended or troubled by someone who has made a lot of money over the course of their business career.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson will decide which questions he will ask and how far he will let the lawyers go in questioning the panel.

Prosecutors said they want to ask potential jurors about any views they may hold on whether members of the Legislature and their staff should be allowed to solicit or accept payments and other things of value from private interests for doing their government jobs.

The case centers on the efforts last year by McGregor and Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley, who has struck a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty, to pass a bill that would hold a statewide referendum on allowing electronic bingo machines at their casinos and in other locations. The defendants in the case are accused of using offers of campaign contributions, a $1 million-a-year public relations job and polls and other campaign assistance to buy and sell votes for the bingo bill.

A lawyer for Smith said he wants to ask potential jurors about their knowledge of how political action committees work.

Thompson has said in intends to select several alternates for the trial, which is expected to last about two months. The jurors are being pulled from the northern division of the Middle District of Alabama. The counties do not include Macon and Houston, where Gilley and McGregor operated their bingo halls.

The jury selection process is estimated to last two days.

By Kim Chandler, The Birmingham News


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer John Demas Selected as a Northern California Super Lawyer

John N. Demas, one of the partners and one of the founding members of the law firm of Demas & Rosenthal, whose URL can be found at, has been serving as a Sacramento personal injury lawyer with the firm for nearly 20 years. The law firm hereby announces that Attorney Demas has been chosen as a Northern California Super Lawyer for 2011, which is an honor that's reserved for attorneys who have upheld high standards for their profession and who have earned reputations that precede them in the legal industry.

Sacramento personal injury attorney, John Demas, has been selected as a Northern California Super Lawyer for the third year in a row, and this honor is far from his only professional distinction. During his nearly 20 years serving as a Sacramento personal injury lawyer, he has:

* Earned an "AV" rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest possible rating and one that's derived from confidential surveys and opinions of other attorneys and judges;
* Won the Trial Lawyer/Advocate of the Year Award that is presented by the Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association in recognition for his extraordinary trial results;
* Has been granted membership in to The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), a respected professional organization with exclusive membership limited only to the most impressive trial attorneys. ABOTA is working to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and courtesy in the legal profession.
* Won the largest verdicts ever in Tuolumne County and against Sacramento County. (The case of Hueso v. Diestel Turkey Ranch, (case number CV 53193 consolidated with CV 53202) which was tried in the Tuolumne County Superior Court in Sonora California.)

About Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is a listing of renowned attorneys who work in approximately 70 different practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer respect and recognition as well as those who have earned a long professional track record of results for their clients. Overall, fewer than 5 percent of attorneys in general and less than 1 percent of plaintiffs' personal injury attorneys are honored with this distinction.

About Demas & Rosenthal

Demas & Rosenthal is a law firm comprised of Sacramento personal injury lawyers who have been serving the legal needs and interests of consumers for nearly 20 years. The firm's attorneys handle cases that include personal injury, auto accidents, defective products and medical malpractice cases.

For the original version on PRWeb visit:


Judge orders lawyers in Crescent Bar suit to hold on

A lawsuit filed by condo and RV-space leaseholders fighting eviction from Crescent Bar Island is still alive, after a federal judge Thursday declined a Grant County PUD motion to dismiss the case.

But U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush ordered attorneys for both sides to consider postponing the case until federal dam authorities issue their own ruling on whether the islanders can stay — a process that could take years.

Attorneys have until “high noon” June 17 to issue their opinions on the proposed postponement, the judge said during a conference call with attorneys.

The World, and some Crescent Bar islanders listened by phone.

The judge said that if he agrees to postpone, he would order that the islanders’ eviction be halted until their lawsuit is resolved.

The judge repeatedly told attorneys that he would not issue any ruling that would conflict with a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The judge said FERC has the final say on whether the leaseholders can remain on the Columbia River island, although the islanders could appeal a FERC ruling.

The FERC is currently studying a “shoreline master plan” the PUD has filed that doesn’t include island condos or year-round RVs. Islanders have asked FERC to let them stay.

The proposal to postpone came after attorneys for the PUD and co-defendant Port of Quincy observed a predicament: Future litigation of the present suit hinges on FERC’s still undecided ruling about the islanders’ eviction.

The judge said he and his staff had spent “countless hours” studying the attorneys’ arguments, and it seems to him that:

• Both the PUD and port had expressed written agreement in the 1970s to extend the lease, given FERC approval, to 2023.

• That the PUD and port intended to make a “good-faith effort” to work with federal authorities to extend the lease, but then both changed their positions.

• That the islanders may have relied on these and other assurances to invest in their RV homes on leased lots and leased condos.

• The islanders could make a “pretty good Fifth Amendment claim” against the PUD and port.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.

“In fairness to everyone, it would seem to me that the extension of this long-term lease for another 11 years would resolve innumerable problems arising from the port district’s extending the lease to 2023,” the judge said. “... the defendants on the fact of the complaint made innumerable commitments to lessees to obtain FERC approval. It would appear from the face of the complaint that the defendant port district and PUD may well have breached commitments.”

The owners of 110 island condominiums and 305 RV spaces filed suit in January demanding the PUD honor their leases through 2023 or pay damages for their eviction.

Their own lease agreements, which show expiration dates in 2012, come under a sublease from the PUD to the Port of Quincy to develop the island for recreation and then from the port to private developer Crescent Bar Inc. to administer the island.

The port sought a lease extension in the 1970s because the private developer said it needed a longer lease term to get financing for the condos it built there.

The islanders’ suit doesn’t mention a damage amount, but in early efforts to settle with the PUD, they demanded new leases or $90 million.

In their motion to dismiss, the PUD and Port of Quincy, had claimed district court was the wrong venue for a dispute linked to a federal license to operate hydroelectric dams.

The PUD owns Crescent Bar as part of the lands affected by the water levels behind its Columbia River dams, Priest Rapids and Wanapum.

The PUD contends that FERC no longer approves of residential use of PUD lands, so the islanders have to go.

Crescent Bar is about 30 miles southeast of Wenatchee, near the town of Trinidad.

By Christine Pratt, World staff writer,, 665-1173


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lawyers for NFL, players make their arguments

An hour of legal arguments, complete with references to obscure court cases and wrangling over terminology, gave way to the defining moment of Friday's showdown between the NFL and players in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

The three-judge panel could make a ruling that will help decide when, and if, the 2011 season begins.

But before the session ended, presiding judge Kermit Bye made clear that doesn't have to be the case.

"We will take this case and render a decision in due course,'' he said. "We won't, I might also say, be all that hurt if you're leaving us out and if you should go out and settle the case.''

For now, however, the issue of the lockout's legality is left in the hands of Bye and fellow judges Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, who heard arguments by attorneys for the two sides at the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse.

More than 20 players attended the hearing along with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. Commissioner Roger Goodell did not make an appearance.

By adding seats, the court also was able to accommodate a national media contingent and squeeze in more than 30 members of the public. Judge Bye acknowledged the rarity of a 'standing-room only" crowd.

They listened to NFL attorney Paul Clement and players attorney Ted Olson spend a good deal of their allotted 30 minutes grappling with the issue of antitrust law vs. labor law in light of the NFLPA's decision to decertify in March.

The league was appealing a decision rendered by the district court, which sided with the players to end the lockout. However, the 8th Circuit granted the NFL two stays to extend the lockout until it can issue a ruling on its legality.

The NFL continued to argue that the Norris-LaGuardia Act prohibits the injunction that was delivered by district judge Susan Richard Nelson.

"What we hope the rest of the world takes home is that the fastest way to get football back on the field is to get extraneous antitrust law considerations out of this and get back to the bargaining table," Clement said on the steps of the courthouse.

Clement argued repeatedly that the league would not have instituted a lockout if it didn't think an agreement was on the horizon, calling it "a self-inflicted wound" and 'suicide." He emphasized the belief that this is a labor dispute.

Olson contended that because the players' union took steps to decertify, they now fall under antitrust laws. He said he knows of 15 cases in which the league has been found in violation of those laws. Clement said the league should be protected from antitrust lawsuits for a year.

"The league desperately wants these employees to be part of a union so they can violate the antitrust laws," Olson said during his argument. He added, "The players are perfectly happy to be protected by the antitrust laws, which the laws of the United States give them that choice.''

Meanwhile, Clement said that his claim that a lockout is a tool used to gain a settlement is based on law.

"A lockout, by its nature, doesn't make any economic sense unless it's designed to be a labor-law tool to get people to reach a collective bargaining agreement,'' he said.

Colloton, who is from Des Moines, Iowa, and Benton (Kansas City) spent considerable time asking questions of the two attorneys while Bye (Fargo, N.D.) remained mostly quiet. Bye cast the lone dissenting vote on the two stays that extended the lockout.

He did inquire of Clement in the final minutes if he would concede that the players are suffering irreparable harm as a result of the lockout. Clement disagreed and added an anecdote.

"We have reports that come in virtually on a daily basis," he said, "where players say 'This is the best thing that ever happened to me. I'm enjoying my summer. I have more time with my family than ever before.'"

Olson said the day before the hearing that he wouldn't predict victory and indicated that he was willing to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

After being on the losing side of the two stay decisions, he remained confident.

"We believe the arguments we presented in the briefs and in the oral arguments will be persuasive," he said as he left the courthouse.

Among the players on hand were Rams offensive tackle and player representative Adam Goldberg, Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Kansas City guard Brian Waters.

Nobody was willing to comment on the meetings that took place between the league and players this week in Chicago. They were seen as a sign that some movement might take place before the judges can rule on the appeal, a decision that is expected to take at least two weeks.

"We're here today to try to lift the lockout so players can play football," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said. "That doesn't mean that settlement negotiations can't continue. You've seen that over the last couple of days."

By Stu Durando,, 314-340-8232


Lawyers to client: Show us the money!

Ahhh, nothing will sour you on a client like working really hard and not getting paid.

Apparently that is what happened at San Francisco-based Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, a firm with more than 1,100 attorneys.

Lawyers at Orrick, which helped win an $88.5 million jury verdict for MGA Entertainment Inc. in a dispute over the rights to the highly profitable Bratz doll line, have asked for permission to fire the firm's client in a related dispute on the ground that the company owes more than $1.2 million in attorney fees, according to the National Law Journal.

Orrick filed a motion to withdraw from the second case on May 27, several days after its lawyers argued in California that MGA should be awarded $129 million in attorney fees after winning the verdict against Mattel Inc., maker of the Barbie doll. Mattel’s attorneys disputed that amount, the legal newspaper reported.

U.S. District Judge David Carter, who is hearing the Mattel matter in Santa Ana, Calif., has not yet ruled on the fees.

Orrick lawyer Annette Hurst, who was co-lead trial counsel in the Mattel matter, wrote that she advised MGA General Counsel Jeanine Pisoni on May 12 that Orrick would move to withdraw from the New York case due to MGA’s failure to meet its financial obligations, the National Law Journal reported. She wrote that MGA has paid the firm for only two months of work since the case was filed in October 2009.

By Eric Young, San Francisco Business Times


Friday, June 3, 2011

Florida attorney general acknowledges errors in Tampa baby's death

The office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi admitted Thursday it erred in blocking the removal of a year-old baby from his Tampa home before the boy was beaten to death last month.

In a review of how numerous child protection officials failed to prevent Ezekiel Mathis' death, Bondi's office said it applied the law too narrowly and was cut out of the loop on continuing dangers to the child in the days leading up to his death on May 18.

It also said the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office could have removed Ezekiel without its permission, but sheriff's investigators misunderstood their authority.

The bottom line: The Attorney General's Office became too wrapped up in narrow legal issues. Ezekiel's safety should have come before anything else. Legal mistakes could have been corrected later.

"Both the law and common sense dictated that Ezekiel should also have been removed from a dangerous home environment," Bondi said in a statement. She said her Tampa legal office will probably be restructured.

Her report said that "the safety of a child exposed to physical violence must be, and is, paramount. Investigators and attorneys must act as a team and maintain the safety of a child as paramount to anything else, including strict adherence to the law."

Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan, who clashed with the Attorney General's Office on removing Ezekiel, said the report concluded what any parent would know intuitively. "Do we have a common-sensical approach? Do we have a smell test? Sometimes those things get lost in applying the law."

"We erred on the side of the law rather than the side of caution," said Nick Cox, Bondi's statewide prosecutor. He co-wrote the review with Bondi's inspector general, James Varnado.

The attorney general's findings were released simultaneously with a report by the state Department of Children and Families that reached most of the same conclusions. The Attorney General's Office works under contract with the DCF to handle all the child protection legal work in Hillsborough County. Neither agency recommended a parting of the ways, but rather more training and communication.

Most of the missteps, large and small, could be traced to miscommunications and misunderstandings among multiple levels of bureaucracy.

Much of that confusion revolved around the man accused of killing Ezekiel — Damarcus Kirkland-Williams, the mother's boyfriend. He has been charged with first-degree murder. Detectives said he admitted throwing Ezekiel against a dresser and pounding on the baby's back to make him stop crying.

One example of the missteps cited by the DCF: On May 10, a therapist visiting Ezekiel relied on e-mail rather than a phone call to alert a sheriff's child protection investigator to the continued presence of Kirkland-Williams in the home after Judge Sheehan had barred the boyfriend from going there.

The e-mail went to the wrong address. It was resent May 13, but the investigator didn't open it until May 19, the day after Ezekiel died.

Another example: The Attorney General's Office remained unaware of an April incident at a park where Kirkland-Williams was questioned by a sheriff's deputy and caught on a surveillance camera striking the mother's 2-year-old daughter.

Beginning on May 3, child protectors knew there was trouble in Ezekiel's home. His sister had been taken to a hospital with bruises all over her body. The mother, Swazikki Davis, blamed the bruises on the girl's clumsiness. But other family members blamed them on Davis' boyfriend, who they knew only as "Slim."

The Attorney General's Office decided the 2-year-old's bruises were ample cause to remove her from her mother.

The Sheriff's Office found a "high risk" to Ezekiel's safety as well, but the Attorney General's Office said it lacked enough probable cause to remove him.

That was a mistake, the report concluded.

First, it said, "This review finds that probable cause did exist as to both children."

It said the Attorney General's Office failed to look at the "whole picture."

The boyfriend was "an unknown potential perpetrator of abuse, and they relied too much on the mother's assurances that he was kicked out of the home," the report said.

Second, it said, even if the legal issues were murky, the child should have been taken anyway. It said its lawyers "required that definitive, conclusive evidence of abuse be presented to support a removal, rather than probable cause. Their focus should have been on whether reason existed to believe the children had been abused, or were at risk of abuse."

It also said the lawyers didn't listen hard enough to the workers who visited the home.

"While the attorney is certainly schooled and experienced in factual child welfare decisions, they are not the expert, nor the 'feet on the ground' in the investigation."

The report said there was a mistaken impression in Hillsborough that "the lawyer is the person who makes the final decisions on factual, social work decisions, as opposed to be being the case legal adviser and advocate."

Cox, the co-author of the report, said Thursday that no one he knows of has been fired or disciplined.

By John Barry, Times Staff Writer, or (813) 226-3383

Source: St. Petersburg Times

Judge denies Loughner attorneys' request regarding drug treatment

A federal judge on Thursday denied a request by Jared Lee Loughner’s lawyers to be notified before doctors give him any anti-psychotic medication.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said he was confident that doctors at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. – where Loughner is being held while undergoing treatment – would adhere to federal law, which only allows them to administer drugs to Loughner if he voluntarily decides to take them.

If Loughner, who was deemed unfit to stand trial last week, refuses to take the anti-psychotic medication, then prosecutors may seek to gain a request by doctors for the court’s approval to forcibly administer the drugs. In that case, Burns said, Loughner’s lawyers would be notified.

“The Court is confident that the trained medical staff at the Federal Medical Facility are aware the defendant may not be forcibly medicated absent a suitability determination and authorization from this Court,” Burns wrote in an order denying the request.

Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the head during a shooting rampage at the Congresswoman's constituent event in Tuscon, Ariz. on Jan. 8.

Loughner is being treated at the Missouri medical center, in the prosecution’s hope that he will be rehabilitated and fit to stand trial by Sept. 21, when he is due back in court. Loughner's lawyers petitioned Burns last week to be notified before any drugs were given to him.

Burns said that if Loughner's lawyers wanted to be notified before he was administered any drugs which he voluntarily agreed to take, they must resubmit a more detailed request outlining their stipulations.

By Jordy Yager