Sunday, November 25, 2012

Attorneys ask California Supreme Court to force Pomona hospital to release medical records

Lawyers for a Rancho Cucamonga woman suing Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center are asking the state Supreme Court to require the hospital's review board to release medical records they say will help them prove their case.

The patient, April Cabana, alleges that the hospital subjected her to an experimental procedure without her knowledge or consent. The hospital claims state law does not require it to release the documents.

Cabana's attorneys filed their request earlier this month.

The court is expected to determine within 60 to 90 days if it will hear the matter, said Cabana's attorney, Bijan Esfandiari.

The state's highest court only reviews 5 percent to 10 percent of the cases sent its way, said Esfandiari, who expects to be granted a hearing.

"I think (we) have a good chance," he said.

Cabana's lawyers are seeking documents from the hospital's internal review board. The board would have had to approve Cabana's procedure, Esfandiari said.

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center
Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center
A trial court ruled the hospital must release the documents, but the hospital's lawyers attorneys appealed and won that case.

"Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center is pleased that the Appellate Court ruled in our favor in this law suit," said Kathy Roche, a hospital spokeswoman. "We don't believe the plaintiff's petition to a higher court has any merit."

Some hospital records are protected, especially if they involve physicians' reviews of their colleagues' performance, Esfandiari acknowledged.

He plans to argue, however, that Cabana is seeking records related to medical research that are not subjected to confidentiality law but those being sought involve research, Esfandiari said.

Cabana's lawyers filed the lawsuit in July 2011. The suit names Dr. Ali Mesiwala, who treated Cabana, the hospital and a medical device manufacturer.

The case is expected to go to trial in May 2013.

By Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writer,, 909-483-9336, Twitter @PomonaNow

Source: The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

Solyndra lawyers reap green, but not energy

Bankrupt solar-panel company Solyndra LLC and the criminal investigation into its downfall have faded from public view, but the law firm representing the company in a grand jury probe quietly has stayed busy, racking up nearly a half-million dollars in legal fees over the past year, records show.

Aside from documenting the personal fortunes of lawyers making up to $660 per hour, the fees are significant because of why the law firm was hired in the first place.

California solar firm Solyndra
California solar firm Solyndra
Weeks after Solyndra went bankrupt last year, having burned through more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan money, the company hired the K&L Gates LLC law firm for what lawyers called a "federal criminal investigation."

Now the firm wants to get paid.

Its final bill: $479,885, reflecting nearly 1,200 hours of work, according a review by The Washington Times of law firm invoices. About half of the money included in the firm’s final bill already has been paid out, according to the firm's fee application filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

Based on a review of earlier invoices filed by K&L Gates, The Times first reported last year on the existence of a grand jury probe in the wake of Solyndra's downfall.

Attorneys did not respond immediately to messages Wednesday. But Jeffrey Bornstein, a K&L Gates partner and former federal prosecutor who earned $640 to $660 per hour for his Solyndra legal work, previously told The Times in an email that the solar-panel maker was cooperating with federal authorities.

With no clear sign of pending charges, the size and scope of the firm's legal work shed at least some light on the secretive criminal probe into Solyndra, which government officials still will neither confirm nor deny publicly.

Asked Wednesday whether the grand jury probe into Solyndra has concluded or remains active, Jack Gillund, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco, replied, "We have no comment."

In the firm's latest fee application, however, K&L Gates stated its lawyers had been communicating among the company, the U.S. attorney, the FBI and congressional staffers, as well as responding to subpoenas and other law enforcement requests.

Invoices provide a more detailed look at how attorneys spent their time. A bill reflecting legal work performed earlier this year shows a K&L Gates employee drafting a letter to "AUSA," which refers to assistant U.S. attorney, concerning "laptop documents."

Another entry refers to a conference with the Justice Department "regarding response to document request." Yet another entry describes meeting with an unnamed vendor regarding "copying computer image for production to DOJ."

An earlier bill from last year refers to a meeting between Mr. Bornstein and an assistant U.S. attorney identified as "J. Nedrow."

Jeffrey Nedrow is a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California. He was a prosecutor in the criminal trial against former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds.

The firm's fee application, filed this week, also refers to an exhibit containing an hour-by-hour explanation of the firm's work in recent months, including November, but that exhibit could not be located on the public docket. But another law firm hired to represent the company in its bankruptcy listed an entry in a separate legal bill "Confer with Jeff Bornstein re: update on criminal" as recently as August.

When contacted by The Times about the missing entry, a bankruptcy clerk referred the issue to attorneys in the case, who did not respond by deadline Wednesday.

Despite the hundreds of hours spent representing Solyndra in connection with various investigations, K&L Gates' work is hardly a clear sign that the Justice Department will file charges.

The Justice Department also has been investigating the high-profile collapse of MF Global Holdings Ltd., a brokerage headed by former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, a big Democratic Party fundraiser. So far, nobody has been charged in that investigation, and media reports have suggested that charges are unlikely.

What's more, R. Todd Neilson, the former FBI agent hired by Solyndra to pore over the company's financial books, spent months investigating the company's collapse but ultimately said he couldn't come up with any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Serving as Solyndra's chief restructuring officer, Mr. Neilson found no wrongdoing by the company. Still, he concluded that investors and lenders, including the U.S. government, knew the company faced big risks, such as falling solar-panel prices and a global recession that cut demand sharply.

Mr. Neilson's detailed report in March concluded that "no material funds were diverted from their original use."

But weeks after Mr. Neilson made his findings public, K&L Gates invoices showed the federal probe remained unsettled with investigators busy looking for their own answers.

By Jim McElhatton

Source: The Washington Times

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lawyers interested in striking deal in porn case; man faces up to 20 years in prison, $250K fine

A Happy Valley man indicted on child pornography charges and who reportedly expressed an interest in torturing and eating children may never get to trial.

Attorneys in the federal child porn case are reviewing computer evidence with an interest in negotiating a resolution to avoid going to trial, according to court documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Jason B. Scarcello
Jason B. Scarcello
A status conference scheduled Friday for Jason B. Scarcello, 42, was put off until Jan. 11 at the request of both the prosecutor and defense attorney, a spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney's office said.

If convicted, Scarcello, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, faces five to 20 years in prison, as well as a $250,000 fine.

He was arrested in July after federal agents executed a search warrant at his Happy Valley residence and discovered CDs and DVDs containing violent and sexually explicit images and videos of children.

Authorities also have said he engaged in online chats in which he discussed torturing and eating children.

Scarcello's attorney, Thomas A. Johnson, has admitted the chats were "disturbing and bizarre," but claims that they were also only fantasy, not reality.

Scarcello was one of 43 people arrested as part of an international child pornography investigation after authorities said they found violent child pornography on his computers.

According to a search warrant affidavit, suspicions about Scarcello arose after investigators determined he had engaged in computer chats with a previously charged suspect in Kansas, Michael Arnett.

From August 2010 through March, Scarcello and Arnett allegedly discussed the abuse of child victims via computer chats.

According to the indictment, Scarcello also used a file-sharing program between April and June to download movies depicting the sexual exploitation of children.

Porn stopped
He was indicted and charged with receipt of child pornography. The case is part of an ongoing Homeland Security-led investigation that originated in Boston and spread worldwide. So far the investigation has resulted in the arrest of 43 people and the rescue of 140 children.

Scarcello remains in Sacramento County jail without bail.

By Jim Schultz

Source: The Record-Searchlight

St. Louis officials enlist Bar Association in problem property crackdown

City officials plan to enlist private lawyers for added legal muscle in their fight against problem and nuisance properties.

The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis is organizing a group of lawyers who will work for free with city attorneys on the Problem Properties Task Force, officials announced Friday.

The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis
The task force was formed more than a decade ago to crack down on dilapidated properties or those that otherwise cause or attract trouble in their neighborhoods.

A team of seven attorneys from the city counselor's office has led the effort to date. City officials are hoping the new partnership will bring in dozens of lawyers, who can help bring resistant property owners to court and review and strengthen the city's ordinances.

"Rundown properties and nuisance properties can bring down a whole block," Mayor Francis Slay said at a news conference in his office.

The task force, he added, has "played a key role in the renaissance of our city, but we know there's a lot more to do."

Last year, the task force sent out just more than 2,000 cease-and-desist letters to landlords for nuisance issues, said Matthew Moak, an associate city counselor. The problems can range from loud parties to overcrowding - things that bring down the quality of life in a neighborhood.

Police issued about 1,800 nuisance summons to those who ignored the initial letter.

And the task force held more than 2,500 meetings with property owners, Moak said.

Every year, he said, the task force brings about 1,000 run-down properties into compliance with the city's health and public safety codes.

The private lawyers will be helping with the most resistant property owners - those whom the city decides to take to court.

Private lawyers
The work mostly pertains to ordinance violations brought in municipal court, but the city can also bring public nuisance actions in St. Louis Circuit Court for stubborn cases, said City Counselor Patti Hageman.

Heather Hays, president of the bar association, said the city's private attorneys "want to make their neighborhoods better, and want to make their community better."

In response to a question, Slay rejected any notion that the partnership might be a breeding ground for political favors.

Tom Minogue of the Thompson Coburn firm, which has already signed on some of its lawyers, said pro bono work is just part of the job, and here, the lawyers get to help better the city.

"It's a higher calling to be a lawyer, and that's part of our calling," he said.

By Jennifer Mann,, 314-621-5804

Source: The Stltoday

Sunday, November 11, 2012

BP, plaintiffs seek approval of $7.8 billion spill accord

BP Plc (BP/) and the lead lawyers representing victims of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill urged a judge to approve a proposed $7.8 billion partial settlement of claims, while attorneys for thousands of plaintiffs sought rejection or modification of the agreement.

In a separate courtroom in New Orleans, a second federal judge yesterday rejected a bid by a former BP engineer to dismiss one of two criminal charges related to estimates on the size of the spill. Kurt Mix, who has pleaded not guilty, was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting text- message strings from his mobile phone.

BP, based in London, reached the $7.8 billion settlement in March to resolve most private plaintiffs' claims for economic loss, property damage and injuries related to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and subsequent spill. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who granted preliminary approval to the settlement in May, is considering arguments on the agreement at a fairness hearing that started yesterday in New Orleans.
A visual image of the BP oil spill
A visual image of the BP oil spill

The BP settlement underpays some claimants and unfairly excludes others, lawyers for the objectors said in court papers before yesterday's hearing. Lawyers representing more than 13,000 spill victims have attacked the settlement's fairness, BP said in a filing last month seeking approval from the judge.

"Two identical businesses across the street from each other received dramatically different" settlement offers based on the deal's terms, Stuart Smith, a lawyer for Florida business owners objecting to the accord, said at yesterday's hearing. "It doesn't make any sense and it isn't fair."

Not Affected'

Barbier began yesterday's hearing by noting many objectors to the settlement don't have the right to challenge the accord.

"If you are excluded from the settlements, your rights are not affected," the judge said at the hearing yesterday. Barbier said spill victims not covered by the accord can press ahead with their claims in court. "If you are excluded, you have no legal standing to object to the settlement."

The accord will resolve more than 100,000 damage claims tied to the spill, plaintiffs' attorney James Roy told the judge yesterday while urging him to approve the agreement.

The claims process set up after the settlement was announced has already paid out more than $1 billion, before final approval, said Roy, co-lead attorney on the plaintiffs' steering committee, which has pursued the litigation against BP.

The BP settlement "was a hard-fought negotiation. Nothing was easy," Roy said. "This is not a group of insurance adjusters trying to save money for BP."

Settlement Familiarity

Given Barbier's familiarity with the spill settlement and the requirements of U.S. maritime law, he'll probably approve the accord after giving people a chance to have their say about it, said Carl Tobias, who teaches complex litigation law at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

"I'd say the chances are pretty good that the settlement will win the judge's final approval," Tobias said in a phone interview. "He's lived with this case for more than two years and he's familiar with all the intricacies of this deal."

After Barbier gives the settlement his stamp of approval, spill victims who aren't included in the settlement probably will appeal, Tobias said. There's little chance that a federal appeals court in New Orleans will find fault with Barbier's handling of the spill settlement, he added.

Appellate judges often show great deference to their colleagues assigned to oversee complicated class-action cases spawned by disasters like the Deepwater Horizon spill, he said.
Experience, Expertise

"These judges have been appointed because of their great experience and expertise with the type of case they are handling," Tobias said. "The appeals courts are generally loathe to overturn the decisions they've made."

The blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 killed 11 workers and started millions of barrels of crude leaking into the gulf. The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits against BP; Transocean Ltd. (RIG), the Vernier, Switzerland-based owner and operator of the rig; and Halliburton Co. (HAL), which provided cementing services.

BP's proposed partial settlement of private claims was reached March 2, days before a trial on liability for the spill. The settlement establishes two separate classes, one for economic loss and the other for physical injuries related to the spill or the cleanup. BP estimates the settlement, which is uncapped, is worth about $7.8 billion.

Claims Excluded

The settlement excluded claims of financial institutions, casinos, private plaintiffs in parts of Florida and Texas, and residents and businesses claiming harm from the Obama administration's moratorium on deep-water drilling prompted by the spill. It also doesn't cover federal government claims and those of Gulf Coast states Louisiana and Alabama, or lawsuits against co-defendants.
The worst maritime oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico
The worst maritime oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico
The U.S. sued BP, Transocean and BP's partners in the well, Mitsui & Co. (8031)'s MOEX Offshore 2007 and The Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), alleging violations of federal pollution laws. MOEX has settled the federal claims.

BP has been in negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department to settle the federal claims as well, the company said in an Oct. 30 regulatory filing. BP has provisioned about $38.1 billion for spill costs and has paid more than $8 billion in compensation to individuals, businesses and government entities so far.

Full Compensation'

BP faces a potential $17 billion fine by the U.S. under Clean Water Act provisions, should it be found grossly negligent for the spill. The issue of gross negligence will be determined at a nonjury trial over liability for the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling and the subsequent oil spill now set for Feb. 25 before Barbier in New Orleans.

BP has urged Barbier to grant final approval to the settlement, arguing in a court filing last month that the agreement "will bring full compensation to all class members, including those on the Gulf Coast, while resolving a major component of the Deepwater Horizon litigation."

The objectors represent "only a small fraction of the total class members," the company said.
Many of the objections to the settlement have been brought by people or businesses that were excluded from the agreement reached in March, Stephen Herman and Roy, lawyers for the plaintiffs, said in a separate filing last month.

Even if claims were brought to trial and BP was found to be grossly negligent, pursuing individual lawsuits instead of resolving them through a mass settlement would take years, Herman and Roy said.

Take Decades'

"No one can deny that these could take decades to resolve conclusively through litigation," they wrote.

Smith, who represents business owners in Destin, Florida, argued yesterday that the zones created to assess economic damages are "flawed and inherently unfair" and should be redrawn.

"The economic loss zones were hotly debated," Richard Godfrey, a lawyer representing BP, told Barbier. The zones were based on where businesses and properties were located in relationship to the Gulf's beaches, Godfrey said. Local experts were drafted to review zone-placement decisions, he added.

Barbier noted that he doesn't have the legal power to alter the settlement, but only has authority to "approve or disapprove" the deal.

The judge also questioned objectors' claims that attorneys who helped craft the settlement colluded with BP to hold down the value of accord. Barbier said those allegations "strike me as incredible."

Commercial Fishermen

Joe Waltzer, a lawyer representing commercial fishermen damaged by the spill, said the $2.3 billion set aside to compensate his clients is not being paid out fairly.

Fishermen, crabbers and oystermen are getting "very little in the way of income-replacement payments," Waltzer told Barbier. "We want to make sure there is adequate compensation" for all who make a living harvesting fish from the gulf, he added.

Other objectors focused on problems with the medical- benefits portion of the settlement.

The state of Louisiana has also objected to the agreement, contending in a filing in September that the terms "fail to fully compensate victims for the extensive damages already suffered as a result of the spill, and for the damages that are likely to occur in the future."

Louisiana's lawyers won't be speaking at the hearing because the state wasn't part of the settlement.

Criminal Case

In the criminal case, the only one so far arising from the incident, the defendant asked U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval yesterday to dismiss one of the counts.

The former engineer worked on internal BP efforts to estimate the amount of oil leaking from the Macondo well. The government alleges that Mix destroyed evidence the U.S. was seeking for its investigation of the spill.

The two counts of the indictment concern text messages between him and a contractor and another string with his supervisor. Mix asked Duval to dismiss the second count, covering 182 messages to the contractor, before trial as a matter of law because the content of the texts was "patently innocuous."

The issue should be determined by a jury, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said at a hearing in New Orleans yesterday. Many of the texts appeared innocuous, while "others might have meaning which the court can't divine now." Duval said.

Last Person'

Mix, who has pleaded not guilty, faces a Feb. 25 trial. Duval said yesterday he may change the date.

"He's the last person who deserves to be sitting in this courtroom on obstruction of justice charges," McPhee told the judge at yesterday's hearing. "Count two can and should be dismissed now."

Mix knew he wasn't supposed to delete anything as the U.S. investigated the 2010 incident, prosecutor Richard Pickens told the court yesterday.

"The only issue before the court is whether he had a wrongful purpose," Pickens said. "Simply denying a grand jury the opportunity to examine whether or not material was relevant -- that's obstruction. It's just that simple."

The civil case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). The criminal case is U.S. v. Mix, 12-cr-00171, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

By Margaret Cronin Fisk, and Jef Feeley,

Source: The Businessweek

Tennis referee's DNA not found on presumed murder weapon

Investigators have found no DNA link between a professional tennis referee charged with killing her husband and the coffee mug police say she used to bludgeon him to death, the woman's attorney said on Thursday.

Lois Goodman, 70, was arrested in August while she was preparing to officiate at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships and accused of killing her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, at their home in Los Angeles on April 17.
Lois Ann Goodman has been arrested in New York
Lois Ann Goodman has been arrested in New York
"The DNA on the coffee cup came back solely to the husband and not to Ms. Goodman, which supports our theory that the husband was holding the cup and then he fell on the cup, and that accounts for the shattered pieces of the cup being embedded in the right side of his head," attorney Robert Sheahen said.

The DNA testing results were included in exchanges of materials between defense attorneys and prosecutors as part of the pre-trial discovery process, Sheahen said.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, declined to comment on Sheahen's statements.

"We're not going to try this case outside of court and we're not going to comment on the evidence until it's actually testified to in the court of law," Gibbons said.

The defense discussion of the DNA testing came one month after Goodman's lawyers said she had passed a lie detector test set up by her attorneys in which she denied killing her husband.

Sheahen said the polygraph results had been shared with prosecutors. But under California law, the test cannot be presented in court unless both prosecutors and defense attorneys agree, which Sheahen acknowledged is unlikely.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for December 7.

Prosecutor John Lewin of the major crimes division has been assigned to the case. Lewin has prosecuted a number of complex, high-profile trials, including one in 2007 where a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was convicted in the 1991 murder of his wife, even though her body was never found.

Lois Ann Goodman a professional tennis referee
Lois Ann Goodman a professional tennis referee
Police said Goodman called authorities to report finding her husband dead in their home, with no sign of forced entry, and surmised he had fallen down some stairs after suffering a heart attack.

But details of her account aroused suspicions, and investigators found that the coffee cup was broken in a way that roughly matched the injuries on Alan Goodman's head.
Sheahen said Goodman was likely holding the mug and that, at the end of a fall down the stairs, he would have smashed his head against the cup.

Goodman is well known in tennis circles and had worked at the annual U.S. Open in recent years, serving most often as a line judge. A judge has allowed her to remain confined at home while the case proceeds.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

Source: The Reuters

Monday, November 5, 2012

Neb. crash lawsuit invokes fetal death law

A Nebraska law that extends legal protections to fetuses at any stage of development is being invoked for the first time in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of a family killed in a fiery September car wreck, according to lawyers involved in the case.

Legal protections to fetuses
The federal lawsuit on behalf of a Maryland couple, their two children and unborn son is the first civil claim to cite the 2003 Nebraska state law, and the latest in a series of court battles in Utah, Alabama and other states. Though still in district court, similar laws have led to appeals-court battles in other states and could bring the debate into Nebraska.

"I think it allows for the expansion of victims' rights in these cases," said James Chalat, a Denver attorney who is representing the family. "There's no case law about it in Nebraska that I've seen."

Numerous people involved with passing the Nebraska law - abortion opponents, religious groups, attorneys and the bill's original sponsor - said they were unaware of it being used in court before. A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Attorney General's office said agency lawyers did not know of any civil cases, although prosecutors have used a criminal version of the law to charge motorists who contributed to fatal accidents.

"I don't know if there's any precedent for it, but it seemed to me at the time I got the bill enacted that inevitably there would be such a case," said Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley, a former Republican lawmaker who introduced the measure.

Last year, a divided Utah Supreme Court ruled that an unborn child qualifies as a minor child, thus allowing wrongful death lawsuits for those who die before birth. In February, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in a medical malpractice suit that a case could proceed even if the fetus at issue couldn't have been viable outside the womb.

The Nebraska lawsuit was filed by the parents of Christopher and Diana Schmidt, a Gaithersburg, Md., couple who were killed in western Nebraska on Sept. 9 along their two young children and unborn son. The Schmidts were in separate cars shortly before 5 a.m., waiting in standstill traffic on Interstate 80 when truck driver Josef Slezak slammed into the back of Christopher Schmidt's car. The force of the crash pushed Schmidt's car into his wife's which was rammed under another semi. The couple's children were in the car with their pregnant mother. The family died instantly.

Traffic on the interstate was stopped because of an earlier crash involving two trucks, but investigators say Slezak struck the car at 75 mph without hitting his brakes. Slezak is charged with four counts of manslaughter, four counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular homicide of an unborn child. He is awaiting trial in Cheyenne County District Court.

The Schmidts were moving back to their native California to be closer to family. Christopher, a U.S. Air Force veteran who worked for the Department of Energy in Washington, had landed a new job with the U.S. Social Security Administration in California. The lawsuit was filed by Diana's parents, Bradley and Nancy Bauman of Rocklin, Calif., and Christopher's mother, Donna Costley, of Antelope, Calif.

The lawsuit alleges that Slezak violated federal highway safety rules by staying on the road far longer than the maximum time allowed for truckers. Federal rules require truckers to be off-duty for at least 10 hours before they can drive, sets a 14-hour maximum of windshield time, and then mandates that they take another 10 hours off-duty. Slezak exceeded the maximum by at least three hours, according to the lawsuit.

The suit names Slezak, his employer and the two other truckers involved in the accident the initially caused the backup and their employers. It claims negligence, vicarious liability from the trucking companies and wrongful death. The lawsuit doesn't seek a specific dollar amount.

By Grant Schulte, The Associated Press

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

OKC attorneys share passion for profession despite different styles

Oklahoma County prosecutor Adam Kallsnick and defense attorneys Kent Bridge and David Slane have traveled different roads, but protecting their clients tops the list of priorities.

Their styles and career paths differ, but Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyers Kent Bridge and David Slane and Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Adam Kallsnick share a desire to serve their clients.Kallsnick could have followed in his older brother's footsteps and become a doctor.

But he didn't care much for the hours his brother kept during his residency.

"I'm not a morning person," said Kallsnick, a prosecutor in the Oklahoma County district attorney's office. "There's not a courtroom that's open at 4 a.m."

Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyer
The Tulsa native decided instead to become a lawyer like his father, a federal administrative law judge.

Growing up, Kallsnick peppered his dad with legal questions.

Kallsnick said his father tried to talk him out of being a lawyer, but it didn't deter him from choosing the profession.

"I've always kind of been fascinated by the law," he said. "In my mind that's kind of what keeps society functioning."

Now in his fourth year as a prosecutor, Kallsnick, 29, handles everything from property crimes and DUIs to assaults and murders.

"I think the variety makes it nice; it kind of keeps you on your toes," he said.

"It's always entertaining."

Kallsnick considers himself to be an advocate for crime victims and finds it rewarding to gain a conviction or reach or plea deal that is favorable to the state.

"I think it's very important," he said. "I definitely want to seek justice for victims and make sure other people don't suffer the crimes, as well."

The price of success

David Slane also loves what he does. But for the first time in 20 years, he is getting hate mail.

A caller recently told the Oklahoma City defense attorney he was sick for trying to get a judge to overturn the state's age of consent law.

Slane is representing a former high school basketball coach accused of raping a female student.

"Sometimes it makes me feel bad because people hate me for doing my job," he said.

Scorn comes with the territory when your client list includes about 400 sex offenders.

"One of my neighbors said the only thing worse than a sex offender is someone who helps them," Slane said. "I said ‘Good morning to you, too.'"

Slane, 46, makes no apologies for whom he helps.

"Representing the popular guy is easy, it's representing the unpopular client that's difficult," he said. "No one cares. The media is against you, the public is against you, hell, half the courthouse is against you. But it doesn't mean their side's always wrong."

There was a time when Slane, a legal analyst for KOKH-TV, shunned the media because he didn't trust them.

"An old lawyer told me, ‘Never be afraid to reinvent yourself,' so I agreed to start talking to the media," he said. "Maybe it would be good for business."

Four years ago, Slane's wife, Susan, 38, died suddenly, leaving him to raise their two boys alone.

"I went through a life transformation when my wife died," he said. "I thought about quitting all together … because I had to be mom and dad."

Business has never been better for the Oklahoma City native, who is paid as much as $400 an hour for his services.

"I have a passion for what I do," Slane said. "I like the law because I get to help people."

Contrasting styles

While Slane comes across as polished, criminal defense attorney Kent Bridge wears long hair and suits that need pressing.

Even his ties are wrinkled.

Bridge, 42, of Edmond, prefers to let his work do the talking.

Before leaving the Oklahoma County public defender's office in January to go into private practice with his wife, Bridge put together an impressive winning streak.

During a four-month period, Bridge tried five murder trials and finished with three acquittals and two hung juries.

"At the end of the day, what I'm really good at is being in trial," he said. "It's the biggest reason I'm a criminal attorney, because the criminal practice is where people actually go to trial."

But the workload - 300 cases a year - was getting to be too much.

"It felt like it was all the same … like Groundhog Day," Bridge said.

"It was like I got up and talked to the same 10 people in front of the same two judges and did it over and over."

The pace has slowed considerably since Bridge left the public defender's office, where he said he felt like an emergency room surgeon.

"What I do now is like being a doctor in real practice, where things are slower and more organized," he said.

Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Lavenue recently tried a sexual abuse case against a man represented by Bridge and called him a consummate professional.

"He's one of the most honorable defense attorneys I know," she said.

What hasn't changed for Bridge since leaving the public defender's office is the satisfaction he gets from making a difference in the lives of people he represents.

"There's nothing abstract about my job," he said. "I shake their hands and look in the eyes of the family members I help.

"I see them, I get Christmas cards from them, I visit them. I know who they are and that means a lot to me."

By Tim Willert


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Texas comptroller committed state funds to MotoGP race

The Formula One money was to come from the Major Events Trust Fund, a state economic development fund administered by her office that has been used to attract events such as Super Bowls and NCAA basketball Final Four tournaments.

Schwantz's legal team has issued a subpoena for Combs to appear for a December deposition as part of a lawsuit Schwantz filed in September in Travis County District Court against the Circuit of the Americas and circuit President Steve Sexton.

Dorna Sports and the circuit recently signed a deal to host races beginning next year that didn't include Schwantz, the 1993 MotoGP world champion. Schwantz's case claims circuit officials undermined his relationship with Dorna, the Spanish rights-holder for MotoGP, a global series that is motorcycling's equivalent of Formula One.

Formula 1
"We believe the comptroller's testimony will further establish that Mr. Schwantz was key to COTA getting state funds, for both MotoGP and F1," Austin Tighe, an attorney for Schwantz and his company, said in a statement. "We are pleased that the comptroller will be the first state official to testify under oath regarding the use of taxpayer money for COTA projects."

In a letter dated Feb. 3, 2011, to Schwantz and Dorna chief Caremelo Ezpeleta, Combs wrote: "I hereby certify the following: With the understanding that the first MotoGP United States Grand Prix will be held in Texas in 2013, I confirm that this event is statutorily eligible for and will be included in the Events Trust Fund. Our initial analysis suggests a minimum of $4.6 million for each year the event is held, beginning in 2013 and ending in 2022."

According to the letter, Schwantz's company was to be paid the money 30 days after the completion of the event.

Attempts to reach Combs were not successful Saturday.

In a May 2010 letter, Combs told organizers "full funding on the entire sanction for 2012 will be paid to Formula OneWorld Championship Limited (‘FOWC') no later than July 31st, 2011." Combs later said that organizers for the F1 race, planned for Nov. 16-18, would have to apply for the money after the race and that the figures would be analyzed to determine the benefit.

An August opinion by state Attorney General Greg Abbott didn't settle whether Combs is managing the fund appropriately with regard to Formula One.

By John Maher, American-Statesman Staff

Source: The Austin American-Statesman

Lawyers present commemorative bible to Chautauqua County Court

Attorney Daryl Brautigam of Fredonia presented a replica of the Harlan Bible to Chautauqua County Judge John Ward recently before an audience of Chautauqua County attorneys meeting for continuing education at the Robert H. Jackson Center. Jackson, a Jamestown native, who after serving as the prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, following World War II, served with distinction as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Brautigam of Fredonia presented a replica of the Harlan Bible
According to Brautigam, the commemorative Harlan Bibles are being distributed to courts throughout the United States to preserve a tradition begun more than 100 years ago by the Supreme Court of the United States when one of the more admired justice, John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) I donated a bible to the Court. In response to Harlan's gift at the time, each Justice signed the flyleaf of that bible. Since then, every Supreme Court Justice has signed what is now known as the Harlan Bible.

The American Judicial Alliance (AJA), a national organization headquartered in Louisiana, is working to dedicate and distribute replicas of the Harlan Bible to courts in the United States. The AJA and its related organization, Retired Judges of America (RJA) are led by Retired Judge Darrell White and Jason Stern. Both men share a vision for "reawakening in the conscience of One Nation under God" and for highlighting the link between the Bible and America's Constitution and laws.

The Honorable John Ward accepted the Bible on behalf of Chautauqua County Court. "On behalf of our County Court," Ward said. "I accept this replica of the Harlan Bible and I will sign the flyleaf and encourage all succeeding County Court judges to do likewise in the same way that the U. S. Supreme Court Justices sign the original Bible today."

Present members of the U.S. Supreme Court have acknowledged the importance of the Harlan Bible tradition. Justice Samuel Alito wrote what a "thrilling and awe-inspiring moment" it was when I signed my name alongside all the justices for the past 100 years. Justice Sonia Sotomayor acknowledged that taking her Judicial Oath on the Harlan Bible was among the "most symbolically meaningful" activities of her investiture. Former Justice David Souter has said that signing the Harlan Bible was the "most humbling thing he ever did."

The Harlan Bible is maintained by the Supreme Court Curator. After each new Justice receives the oath of office, the Harland Bible is offered to the Justice to sign. So far, none of the more than 60 justices since 1906 have declined the invitation to sign the flyleaf, so the tradition endures to the present.

Justice Harlan served for 33 years on the Supreme Court, the longest serving justice. Named for former Justice John Marshall and born to a family who owned household slaves, as a Supreme Court Justice, Harlan stood against segregation. His decisions earned him the nickname of the "Great Dissenter." One of his grandsons, John Marshall Harlan II, followed him to the Supreme Court.

By The Observer

Source: The Observer

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How to judge a business attorney

When looking for a great lawyer, one of the best sources is a business referral. Entrepreneurs often depend on a variety of professional support services, including accountants, bankers and real estate brokers, to run their businesses. These service providers are the best resources for lawyer referrals.

Lawyers have become more specialized over the years and business owners will benefit from hiring lawyers who specialize in the specific problems that they are likely to face. Entrepreneurs should examine the business law resources for ideas regarding the types of services that they might need. They have an assortment of articles related to bankruptcy, workers compensation, medical malpractice, personal injury, labor and employment.

One of the first considerations for a business is the type of organization that the business owner has. When forming a corporation or a limited liability corporation, it is sometimes a good idea to contact a reputable business attorney specialized in the formation of corporations. When a business develops a new product or believes that it is the victim of copyright infringement, it might want to hire a copyright lawyer. Most businesses would benefit from hiring a lawyer that can help them write contracts.

Complaints directed toward lawyers
One way to weed out prospective lawyers is to locate the state agency that is responsible for processing complaints directed toward lawyers. Lawyers often receive public reprimands when they are found to behave unethically. Business owners should research prospective lawyers to make sure that they are not involved in any controversies that could indicate that the lawyer may be disreputable.

Once a business has narrowed the list of lawyers down, the next step is to begin the interview process. The business owner and lawyer should establish an ideal chemistry off the bat. The lawyer should also demonstrate early on that he or she communicates promptly. Many of the complaint logs filed at lawyers show that they are often terrible communicators. Phone calls and emails often go unanswered. Businesses often need questions answered yesterday and cannot afford to wait a week or longer for a response. The initial promptness of the lawyer’s response should be the first indicator.

Many business owners cannot afford to continually pay their lawyers hourly rates for services. The lawyer should be willing to educate his or her client so that the client can do at least some of the work on his or her own. By educating the client, the lawyer also shows that he or she as the client’s best interests at heart.

By Sam Peters

Utah AG tells state judge he can't pay judgment

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was put under oath Friday and ordered to explain why he is refusing to pay $5.6 million owed to managers appointed by a court to break up a polygamist community.

Shurtleff and the judge described the moment as extraordinary - lawyers are seldom forced to testify under oath.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
The state's top lawman took the witness stand over his objections, underscoring a simmering separation-of-powers dispute. State attorneys argue no state court can force elected officials to pay any money, but the Utah Supreme Court upheld the judgment in August.

Third District Court Judge Denise Lindberg could have thrown Shurtleff in jail for refusing to pay the bill by a deadline months ago. It didn't get that far Friday, but Shurtleff was "worried she may decide to put me in jail. I'm glad that didn't happen."

Shurtleff seemed visibly angry but held his composure on the witness stand. He argued that his agency doesn't have $5.6 million and that it would take months to get the money from legislators, who aren't certain they want to pay.

"Everyone associated with this has egg on their face," said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, who sits on the Legislature's budgeting-writing committee. "The big question is how much if any of the money will be appropriated by the Legislature. I have no idea."

The $5.6 million is owed to Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan, his attorneys and other firms hired to liquidate assets of a communal land trust once run by jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs.

A string of lawsuits have frozen the assets, however, leaving no money to pay the professionals. That's why Lindberg ordered the state to pay the bill and recover its money later.

Shurtleff said he doesn't want to pay any bills until a federal appeals court rules on a challenge to the takeover of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Utah says it would have no way to recover the money if the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rules the takeover was unconstitutional. A ruling from the Denver-based appeals court isn't expected for months.

Lindberg issued no orders Friday. Instead, she urged Shurtleff to "take every step to use your best efforts" to persuade Utah legislators to free up some cash.

Utah Supreme Court
Shurtleff pledged to redouble his efforts but said the money probably wouldn't come until the budget year rolls around next July.

Lindberg also indicated she will order the attorneys general of Utah and Arizona to take over some of the duties of lawyers working for the court-appointed takeover team who are threatening to quit for lack of payment.

In the move backed by Arizona, Utah seized control of the FLDS trust in 2005 amid allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other church leaders.

The charitable trust holds the land and homes of members in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., and in Bountiful, British Columbia.

"There's plenty of money there, valuable property, well over $100 million," said Shurtleff, adding that buyers are lining up for a major farm on the Utah-Arizona border.

Shurtleff said he tried to negotiate a settlement in 2008 that was rejected by the court-appointed fiduciary and obstructed by members of the faith who alleged they were getting shortchanged.

A liquidation would involve selling homes and businesses held by the trust to individual residents of the towns. Under Shurtleff's plan, terms of sales and ownership disputes would be resolved by an advisory board. That became a sticking point for the faith's adherents, who fear the board will be stacked against them, he said.

Because the FLDS is a major shareowner of the trust, it has to agree to any settlement, but it isn't clear which members are representing the church, Shurtleff said.

Jeffs may be behind the obstruction effort, he said, with members arguing over things like who gets to be buried at a local cemetery.

"We never dreamed we'd be here seven years and $5.6 million later," Shurtleff said Friday in a court hallway. "For crying out loud, we need to resolve this."

By Paul Foy, The Associated Press

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle