Monday, May 31, 2010

A Meditation on Corruption in Our Counties

I've talked a lot about Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, at this point, probably ad nauseum. In Maricopa County we have a modern American county-wide government so dysfunctional that the State of Arizona was moved to enact and enable oversight by a retired Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice.  This, after Arpaio and County Attorney Thomas criminally indicted and civilly sued all other county officials who dared question their notorious terrorist governing practices and more importantly, their self-seeking budget expenditures.  These elected County clowns have spent millions of dollars for BigLaw representation in lawsuits that defy logic. You can read my prior posts on Maricopa County meltdown at the link.  Better yet the ABAJournal and the Arizona New Times have brilliant summary discussions.  The games go on, with contempt proceedings this last week and the County shutting down the Sheriff's credit card accounts.

While Maricopa County represents one extreme, Cuyahoga County, Ohio encompassing Cleveland probably better represents what goes on more traditionallyy here, there and elsewhere.  Cuyahoga County on Lake Erie is a huge metropolitan area surrounding a rust bucket town that has not been able to get traction.  Like Detroit, Cleveland has many attractive natural attributes, i.e. an enormous fresh body of relatively clean and attractive (in a recreational sense) water and shorelines.  At one time, Cleveland--which is believe it or not very beautiful and temperate-- home to international headquarters to many of the largest corporations in the world, including British Petroleum. 

But like Detroit, Cleveland suffers from some of the worst local governments in the United States.   As I reported in my 6 AM post the longtime, Irish-named Cuyahoga CountySheriff has been criminally charged with a few representative counts of theft in office after nearly a half century of collecting a paycheck and benefits from the citizens of Cleveland and the local County.  So it was surprising that over the weekend, my pal Chuck sent me a link to another reporter, Mark Puente article on that wanna-be-president of the United States, Cuyahoga County prosecutor, Bill Mason (pic) who you may remember from an earlier post on Bad Lawyer that talked about Mason's ambitions and the free pass he and a drunk driving buddy got from the local constabulary.

The link from Chuck was to the weekend Cleveland.com article which as I said was reported by Mark Puente about how Prosecutor Mason put the taxpayers on the hook for a part time law job to politically-connected Michael Climaco (pic: happy, he should be!), brother of the famous Ohio lawyer John Climaco (one of the tobacco-litigation big hitters), to enable the younger Climaco to collect not only a paycheck, but a lifetime sinecure in the form of a tax payer-funded pension and gold-plated health insurance.  It is one thing to hire a first-rate lawyer to do first rate law stuff for you and the community, it is quite another to hire a non-specialist, political hack to provide legal services in an area of law requiring expertise--while letting the taxpayers foot the bill for a lifetime of financial obligation which is what Mason did.  You see, Michael Climaco, who needed public employment like Gerry Spence needs more cowboy hats--was hired part time to represent the County in the defense of workeres' compensation matters.  This area of law involves a great deal of specialization and knowledge, which Climaco most assuredly did not have, so when he failed to provide the anticipated expertise the taxpayers got the added exposure to liabilities related to added premium costs.  Mr. Climaco's qualifications to be the prosecutor's workers' compensation attorney stemmed from Mr. Climaco's tenure as a former City of Cleveland councilman and of course his relationship to John Climaco, a local political powerhouse.  John Climaco is so powerful that Vice President Biden went to Climaco's downtown Cleveland office for a little elite fundraiser for the sitting Governor of Ohio.

As I observed the other day, all roads are toll roads, this being both a personal injunction and a larger observation.  One part of our government is busily investigating and indicting another part of our government.  The Feds are investigating the local governments with whole armies of big and little fish marched into federal custody.  Corruption is not new, or particularly shocking although there sure seems to be a level of prosecutions that I don't recall from prior periods in history.  Still, those of you as old as the Bad Lawyer can look back to Spiro Agnew, the former Vice President and nolo contendre, ex-Governor of Maryland. Then there are all of our mayors, city council men and women, county commissioners and public servants of all stripes being prosecuted in stings and bribery.  There are towns like East Chicago, Indiana, Birmingham, Alabama, Detroit, Michigan, well, then there is almost all of Illinois.

So why is this happening? 

Part of what is going on it seems to me is a product of nepotism, part of the corruption is the attitude of entitlement that overwhelms rational and ethical thought.  But really, do you think these people, our public servants come into power thinking to themselves:  I'm going to rip off the public?  Aside from Blago, I doubt it. 

We pride ourselves on the notion of wheeling and dealing, entrepreneurial smarts--make it happen.  We honor the risk takers, the innovators, the people who can "network." We structure our tax laws to incentivize and enable perverse movements of money. 

Here's a for instance: who gets the best stadium and concert and event tickets?  Who eats in the expensive restaurants? Of course, the operators and owners of our large local corporation, BigLaw firms, wealthy contractors, and filthy rich bankers and insurance companies.  Who do they treat to these seats?  Take a wild guess?  Did you guess, those of us who can help them in their businesses: the Commissioner Italian Name, Councilwoman Irish Name? Guess what--these big corporate fish want nothing from local government, and local government offers them nothing in exchange for the munificence.  Just kidding.

From petty favors, larger and dicier corruption flow. 

Should we do away with these little toll roads?  Yes.  But the dining and entertainment venues and service employers and employees will argue that the tax codes and rules create employment.  These restaurateurs and entertainment folks and their lobbyists will argue that we should not reform away jobs and health insurance for servers, cooks, farmers, ushers, carpenters, electricians and so forth.  Every road is a toll road. 

My employer is a wonderful guy, a real decent and generous guy.  The blond super lawyer and I were fortunate to be included in an invitation to attend a lecture by a local Orthodox Rabbi on the subject of adversity (a particularly apt subject), at my employer's beautiful east side home.   After the formal portion of the talk, I spoke to an old friend of mine who objectively dealt with adversity--her charismatic husband of many years having killed himself over unmanageable tax liabilities stemming from the operation of one of OurTown's most popular diners.  She and I talked about the notion of "peace." My friend, Ruthie is an Israeli-born American.  Ruthie said she feared that there would never be peace between Israelis and Palestinians, implying that the vision laid out by the Rabbi who spoke was Utopian.  My take away from the Rabbi's talk was that absolutely nothing in this life is free, or right, or the way it should be, and ultimately the only place we can effect change is on the inside.  Inside me, inside you, inside our families and friends. 

I am sad for corruption and violence and suffering in the world.  If I think too much about it I become overwhelmed and crazy with stress.  But there is much that is right and hopeful, and miraculous.  I'd like to be around to see my daughter get married and have children, my son to graduate from high school and maybe college.  I'd like to see what they become.  I'd like to contribute more.  But my days of freedom may not last, and my options may turn out to be pretty limited.  Still, I see only a little, I have a limited view of the world, and of time, and certainly of space.  Corruption is something I obsess about, corruption in the police, the courts, government, corporations, employers, and especially the church.  While I can point to certain solutions, the only place I can change is in my own heart.  I can root it out.  I can confess it and try day by day to be a better person.  That is my only purpose.

Bill Mason, the Climacos, Arpaio, Thomas, Blago, Pope Benedict, the Israeli-Palestinian violence and the rest are compelling distractions from what really matters.  Which is, what do I do to exemplify for my children a willingness to reform my own angry and corrupt heart?

Note:  Most of my posts are typed and scheduled for posting at a latter date or time, unfortunately my Cat loves me so much she was not able to stay away as I worked on this post, Isabelle stepped on a key that posted this item a day earlier and out of sequence.  There is a reference to a Sheriff that will not make sense until that item runs at its regularly-scheduled moment.  Oh, well.

BL

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

Happy Memorial Day, when I was a young man, I did not understand this holiday.  It is a holiday of remembrance and while I am a proud Army veteran and my brother and father are Air Force veterans we were fortunate and lost neither life nor limb in a foreign war or engagement.  Nonetheless both my brother and I served during the closing years of the Viet Nam war, my brother served in Thailand and I served with guys who had "cycled-back from Vietnam,"with the armored division I was assigned to that ended up in Augsburg, West Germany. 

As I have grown older and days and time seem finite, I understand loss and genuine grieving.  Once upon a time, Memorial Day was about picnics, and an extra day off of work.  The launch of the Summer vacation--to me, today, I am very sad and pensive.  I think of my relatives and friends who are passed, and the men and women in uniform. 

I am grateful for this life with all of its uncertainties and the freedom to talk about how the world should be and a vision of justice and integrity and peace, if only in my heart. 

God bless you and your family this Memorial Day weekend.  Regular posting will resume on Tuesday.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Killer Cop, Tax Cheat Gets 10 Years!

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has this jaw-dropping report on a really bad cop, a crooked cop.  Douglas Earl Leiter is going to jail for 10 years after being caught in running an elaborate tax scam that ensnared a number of co-defendants who are also going to prison for some time.  If this were just about tax cheats, it wouldn't be "blawg"-worthy, but Leiter was a real Bad Cop.  Here's the account by Paul Walsh:

"Mark David Maxwell, 54, of Minneapolis, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in St. Paul to five years and nine months in prison on one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

The sentences for the others: the former officer, Douglas Earl Leiter, 42, of Minneapolis, 10 years, one month; Brian Keith Scott, 44, of Zimmerman, six years, six months; Christopher Craig Robinson, 37, of Plymouth, one year, eight months; Timothy Paul McCarthy, 63, of Minneapolis, four years, four months; and Laurie Therese Brausen, 53, of Little Canada, six months.

Leiter was regarded as the lead defendant in the case. He and several others founded a group called Common Law Venue, which the IRS said ran schemes that taught clients how to evade taxes by filing bogus trust tax returns or claiming phony "miscellaneous" deductions or setting up shadow corporations and nonprofit 'clubs.'

In 2003, the IRS moved to collect $10,000 in back taxes and fees from Leiter. A federal grand jury indicted him and several others in August 2008.  In a 1998 high-speed chase, Leiter's squad car struck a pickup truck and killed two people. He was charged with two misdemeanors but not convicted. The victims' families each received a $300,000 settlement from the city.

In 2001, Leiter was suspended for 60 hours in connection with an off-duty search for records regarding co-defendant McCarthy, his one-time housemate and former priest who had been accused of criminal sexual contact with an inmate at the Hennepin County juvenile jail.
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This ex-cop should be out and about by the time he marks his 50th birthday.  Plenty of time for more mayhem.

Years ago I represented a bunch of working stiffs who had were ripped off by a tax preparer.  This was near the end of the day and age when manufacturing jobs abounded.  As this tax preparer went through the financial information of these blue collar guys he would tell them that he could save them money on their taxes based on charitable deductions these guys had not made, then he would tap the top of a file cabinet in his office and would wink at these schmoes and say--"I have all your receipts in here."  Worse, he'd see their 1099s and suggest that they move their saving to his Gold Mine investments.  It sounds ludicrous now, but this tax thief took these guys for hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

After I got involved, it turned out that this guy had been at it for many years and had robbed many of these auto workers of their life savings.  My clients kept asking me how come I couldn't attach "his gold mines."  They were incredulous when I told them that there was not gold mines.  It seems unreal even after all these years that these men fell for this fraud, but there's a lovely intelligent woman in the office where I currently work who fell for a Ponzi-scheme that is just as absurd on its face.  The Ponzi schemer took in $8 million dollars from working class folks working in and around OurTown for investment in "real estate deed trusts" for properties allegedly being built in and around Phoenix, AZ.  These victims were taken in by a member of their church.  Nice.

Loser Lawyer Loses License

Andrew Lockshin is a goofball with the emotional maturity of a 14 year old as reflected it the disciplinary case from the Ohio Supremes stripping him of his law license "indefinitely."  In essence my Ohio colleagues tell me he can reapply for admission after two years but he's going to have to demonstrate that he's grown up.  This is from Kristin Smith Horn story at the Port Clinton News Herald  (link):

 "The [Ohio Supreme Court], in a 7-0 decision, suspended Andrew Lockshin's license to practice law in Ohio indefinitely to protect the public from him, according to the court's decision.

'This has been a challenging, disturbing and sensitive case, particularly for those who have been victimized by Mr. Lockshin's inappropriate conduct,' said Cathleen Bolek, trial counsel for the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, which pursued disciplinary action against Lockshin. 'Throughout this case, Mr. Lockshin has failed to demonstrate a sincere commitment to pursuing treatment. His failure has caused concern that he will re-offend.'

During a phone interview Tuesday, Lockshin apologized for the harm he caused people involved in his case and said he hopes they can move on with their lives. 'I'm relieved that this chapter of my life is over and look forward to moving on with the next chapter,' he said.

Lockshin, however, said he plans to leave the Fremont area and pursue a career in sales. He declined to comment further. Lockshin, 33, has been an attorney since 2002 and handled court-appointed criminal cases and other matters in Sandusky, Ottawa and other area county courts.  Since November, Lockshin has been in and out of jail on various charges, including drunken driving and falsification. He has a hearing Friday in Fremont Municipal Court on his latest case, a probation violation charge.  The charge resulted after police found him in a local tavern last month -- four days after he was put on probation. Per his probation, he was not allowed to go to bars, according to court records.  The Supreme Court's decision brought forth new details regarding Lockshin's mental state, and allegations made by former clients.

After an August hearing, the court's Board of Commissioners on Grievance and Discipline determined Lockshin acted inappropriately with clients -- all women and a 17-year-old girl -- a sheriff's deputy and a witness and missed the deadline to appeal a male client's criminal conviction. The board recommended in January the court indefinitely suspend his license.  During his testimony before the board, Lockshin admitted to having inappropriate conversation and contact with the women but denied some allegations. One client accused him of touching her breast and another said he told her he wanted to perform a sexual act on her and wanted to see her breasts.

Some clients said he asked to meet them at hotels. The 17-year-old girl said when he visited her in jail, he touched her leg and told her he was aroused. The sheriff's deputy said he discussed the size of his genitals with her.  Lockshin, however, showed a pattern in lying in depositions regarding his case, the justices wrote. Instead of taking full responsibility for his behavior, he made excuses and blamed some of the women, according to the court's decision.

The bar association and Lockshin [negotiated] a two-year license suspension with 18 months stayed, meaning [Lockshin] would actually be suspended six months.  The suspension would have included certain conditions, including a requirement he seek treatment for his behavior, Bolek said.  After the bar learned more about Lockshin's medical state and lack of treatment at the hearing, it learned a harsher punishment was necessary to protect the public, she said."
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Can you say:  A-l-c-o-h-o-l-i-c?  Seriously the universe is telling this guy that he needs to fix a big problem.  He needs to get sober, and grow up.  Amazingly, Mr. Lockshin still has a law career and a life out there, if (big IF) he can get help.  I envy him!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Look at Kiddie Porn, Jeff Anderson Will Sue You!

The great Jeff Anderson, clergy sex abuse attorney par excellence is threatening to use a new federal statute--Masha's law, to go after you if you are looking at child porn according to a report at the Pioneer Press website.  This is an excerpt from the report by Emily Gurnon:

"A St. Paul attorney has vowed to track down and expose people who so much as open a computer file with child pornography as part of a new initiative designed to stop the sexual exploitation of children at its source. Jeff Anderson said he filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court this morning against former St. Paul schoolteacher and foster parent Gregg Alan Larsen and 100 as-yet-unnamed child pornography downloaders. Larsen, 49, of Minneapolis was indicted May 19 and charged with production, distribution and possession of child porn.

'If you choose to download images of child pornography, we will find you, we will track you and we will expose you,' Anderson said.

[Anderson] said his office is working with police, specifically the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children task force, to trail the digital footprints of downloaded material — whether it is viewed on a computer or a phone. He promised to send out press releases as the names of offenders who view and trade images are revealed and add their names to the lawsuit."
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People curious about this evil garbage need to know that the digital fingerprint of this stuff can not be scrubbed from their hard drives.  Worse, once seen it can not be unseen.  As I said I bumped into some of these images as part of child sex abuse civil prosecutions in police files.  Child porn is sick, disturbing, and soul destroying.  Never forget the face of Sean O'Toole, an attorney, who killed himself when Sean came to recognize who he became and what he contributed to when he downloaded kiddie porn.

Getting Paid, Ayeeeee!

There's a story from the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press about a well-known long-time criminal defense attorney who's been charged with embezzlement and theft.  John Watts, (pic) an Allegan, Michigan attorney of 37 years has been charged in a case that originally began as a lawyer's disciplinary charge resulting in a reprimand and probation but has now evolved into criminal charges. Read the report for yourself, but it sounds to me like Mr. Watts is getting whacked for getting paid, albeit in an unorthodox manner.  Here's an excerpt from John Tunison's account:

Court records show Watts is charged with two counts of false pretenses to obtain $1,000 to $20,000, embezzlement of $1,000 to $20,000, unlawfully driving away an automobile and possessing a false vehicle title. The alleged offenses date to 2007. Sheriff's Lt. Scott Matice said the embezzlement allegation is related to business associates as victims, and the false title charge is related to someone Watts once represented.

Van Buren County prosecutors are handling the case because of the potential conflict, given Watts' work history in Allegan County. A warrant was issued for Watts' arrest Tuesday.  In one of the criminal cases, a woman is listed as an embezzlement victim. According to a recent complaint before the Attorney Discipline Board, Watts represented her in a 2004 divorce case. Watts claimed an attorney's lien on her interest of the couple's property.

Her ex-husband vacated the property, declared bankruptcy and the house fell into foreclosure. He gave his ex-wife the property in a quit-claim drafted by Watts, records said. From 2005 to 2008, Watts allegedly rented the property, which had a $96,000 mortgage, records said. He did not pay the woman, records said, and claimed he actually owned the property, the complaint said. At one point, he sued the renters for back rent, records showed.

The Attorney Grievance Commission alleged he became involved in the couple's bankruptcy proceedings 'solely to benefit (Watts), himself, by attempting to obtain monies and/or property.' In 2007, Watts was put on probation by the state Attorney Discipline Board for two years after he pleaded no contest to allegations he failed to communicate his fee, failed to hold client funds in a proper account and failed to disclose all facts in his answer to a request for an investigation, records showed.
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I said at the beginning of this blawg that I'd help you read between the lines, this story is about a lawyer who did legal work for a couple of clients and in order to get paid had to go some lengths, because the clients could not pay him with cash at hand.  I know this sounds strange if you think lawyers are these nicely tailored souls who send out invoices and clients timely pay the bill.  Dream on. 

A follow up article provides some much needed balance and possible insight into the tenuousness of the claim against Mr. Watts.  I'm not saying that this guy was some sort of paragon of lawyer billing ethics, he clearly was not--but, I also feel some real empathy for where he finds himself in his efforts to get paid and pay his bills. 

Don't you just love it how the media dragged his wife's name into their article?  What did she do?

It's Great Being King, er, Judge

Following up on the story yesterday about the foul-mouthed Georgia Judge who couldn't keep her law license current we have the story of the Georgia Judge who spent $25,000 of the taxpayers' money for travel and conference expenses over the last three years.  I report this by way of further evidence of just how great it is to be a Judge and why it really sucks to be a solo practitioner, in other words paying your own way. 

Dekalb County, Georgia Judge Barbara Mobley (pic) has been roaming the world on the taxpayer's dime, keeping it real!  At least her continuing legal education credits are current from all appearances.  In addition to the money spent her Honor also was out of the courthouse some 84 days for travel and attendance at these events.   Here's a look at some of Judge Mobley's expenses courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website:

$2,643 for a National Judicial conference in Seattle in 2009

$2,213 for a National Bar Association conference in the Virgin Islands in 2008
$2,185 for an International Association of Women Judges conference in Panama in 2008
$1,926 for a National Bar Association conference in San Diego in 2009
$1,795 for a National Association of Women Judges conference in Philadelphia in 2007
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A couple of Judge Mobley's colleagues have over $10,000 in expenses over the same period.  Nice.

I may have mentioned this some time ago, but years ago I was trying a lawsuit in OurCounty Court that should have taken 2 days maximum, but the Judge, who didn't come onto the bench until after 10 AM would announce to the jury every morning that after lunch he had this or that "bar association or judge's conference" necessitating his absence.  We lawyers knew Judge Italianname actually had a  "tee time." As I said, it's great to be a Judge. 

Seriously, being a judge is one of the most difficult and troubling jobs in the world, especially if the person holding the job is conscientious.  Unfortunately, the capacity for the Judge who does little while costing the public, lawyers and litigants alot, remains troubling and no one really knows that these abuses are happening--I guess unless you live in the metropolitan Atlanta area.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Porn-Watching Trucker Guilty of Vehicular Homicide

The Batavia (NY) Daily News Online reports that the Ohio trucker who was streaming porn in to the cab of his truck when he slammed into the disabled car of Julie Stratton who had hit a deer, plead guilty to manslaughter.

Thomas Wallace, 45, of Brook Park, Ohio faces a 15 year prison term.  In addition to the porn, Wallace was in violation of the ICC regulations having slept only 4 hours of the preceding 27.   The accident happened Decdember 12, 2009 and it capped a year of reports about distracted driving usually texting.

It makes me crazy just thinking about driving on as little sleep as Mr. Wallace was operating on.

Georgia Judge, Inactive Law License, and Foul Mouth--Gets Reprimanded

The Georgia Judge, Kristina Cook Connelly Graham, daughter of famous Georgia Trial Attorney Bobby Lee Cook (purportedly the model for "Matlock," don't miss reading a terrific ABAJournal profile at the link), --was reprimanded in an Order of the Georgia Supreme Court.  Apparently Judge Choose-a-Last-Name is an arrogant and obnoxious jurist in person.  She is spectacularly disrespectful to other lawyers, law enforcement and public servants.  Not news, folks--this is pretty common.  What's not common is when the Judge lets his or her law license lapse and continues to act as a Judge! 

That's amazing!  What's really unusual is that the various states make it easy as pie for Judges to obtain their continuing legal education requirements while lawyers have to go to considerable  inconvenience.  Judges get paid while attending these "cle" classes.  Usually cle coursework is free to our public servants.  Lawyers on the other hand use their own time and money to get into compliance.  While you can see how someone could inadvertently let a deadline slip, in OurState, a computer kicks out your name and you are publically suspended unitl you pay a small penalty and bring yourself into compliance.  That this Georgia situation could happen really raises some startling issues--like:  are the matters for which Judge Choose-a-Last-Name issued orders, valid?  Five years! 

This made me reflect on double standards in OurTown.  Here there is a major courthouse named after a famous politician who ended his career on the local bench despite being busted on one or more occasions for shop-lifting.  There is also a Law School named after another famous lawyer/rainmaker who notably forgot to bring his license into compliance.  Some lawyers pay, some lawyers pay more, and some lawyers get buildings named after them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Captain America With a Burrito In His Pants, Will Not Go to Jail

That's right, the Brevard County Florida doctor who groped a female patron in a bar where a medical society gathering had cocktails will not be going to jail according to the report at WFTV-Channel 9.  Doctor, Raymond Adamcik will attend a diversion program instead--and, of course, have to deal with the snickering and looks for the rest of his natural life.

Here, on Bad Lawyer, I do my part to contribute to the humiliation.

Swat Raids Gone Wrong

Following up on the Detroit Swat raid resulting in the homicide by the Detroit police of sleeping 7 year old,   Aiyana Stanley-Jones--the Cato Institute has compiled a report and an interactive map showing SWAT raids nationally that have gone wrong.  If the abuse of police power concerns you even a little bit, this is a tremendous visual aid for appreciating the extent of the problem.

Nepotism

Nepotism is the practice by public officials of hiring their relatives by blood or marriage.  By the way, there are broader definitions but the definition I'm providing is a paraphrase of Black's Law Dictionary's entry for the term.  In light of my recent post on the Bread of Shame it's timely that a controversy surfaces in Ohio as reported at the Dayton Daily News, where 13 elected officials in the Montgomery County public offices have family members also hired and working for the county.  The picture of the attractive Judge and court reporter could be the family photo for next year's Christmas Card from the husband-wife Caprizzis.

The way it works in OurTown, corrupt politicians (most of whom seem to be under indictment or named in the current indictments of others), hire one another's relatives so that no specific officeholder employs his own direct relations.  In OurTown when you run into an incompetent governmental official, the question is:  who's this guy related to?

Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but the reason this is such a big problem is that young people get out of school with out an even chance at employment based on merit or academic achievement.  Because the children of pols get a leg up on part time and summer employment ultimate career hiring is biased and skewed in favor of the relatives because of their so-called "experience.".  It's ridiculous and discouraging. 

It's good to see that in some places in Ohio the local media is exposing the charade and travesty.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Google's Age Bias Problem

In 2002 the then little-known company, Google hired Brian Reid a computer engineer with a Zelig-like Silicon-valley resume.  Reid had worked on Appollo 17, AltaVista (remember them?) and the company that became Adobe Systems.  Two years into his tenure at Google, the 54 year old Reid was fired.  Howard Mintz at the San Jose Mercury reports that the California Supreme Court will now decide whether Reid's age discrimination complaint can be heard by a California jury.  An excerpt from Mintz's story on the case follows:

"[W]ithin two years, Google decided that the 54-year-old Reid was not a 'cultural fit' for the company and fired him, allegedly after co-workers had described him as 'an old man,' 'slow,' 'sluggish' and 'an old fuddy-duddy.' Reid responded with an age discrimination lawsuit blasting Google's 20-something culture for shunning his generation in the workplace.


Now, Reid's long-running legal feud with Google has reached the California Supreme Court, which this week will hear arguments that will determine if the age discrimination allegations will ever be aired to a jury."
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Google argues that Reid was not discriminated against based on age and that the language cited by Reid's lawyer in briefs was "stray remarks."   One commentator observes that Reid's age was like 60 or 70 in "internet dog years!"  Think Google has a problem?  I do.

Man Sucked Into Sausage Seasoning Machine

My pal Chris worked variously at advertising, public relations, film making, and a variety of glamorous sounding professions including newspapers.  To honor his experience, I customarily send along links to some of my favorite news headlines from the local news websites with the subject line, Bad Headline Alert.  Usually, the stories are not germane to what I write about at Bad Lawyer, so these items never make it onto my blawg, until this morning.  Over the weekend I came across the above-headline at the New York Daily News! I would have begun this post on a different note had this truly been some sort of tragic tale of industrial accident-woe, but it appears from the account at the Daily News that the worker at the DiLiugi Sausage Company was only partially "sucked" into the machine and that this Sausage Company maintenance worker suffered no real injury from the experience. 

It is amazing how often serious injuries do occur in workplaces, sometimes in the seemingly most innocuous situations while frightening accidents happen to people with little or no injury in other cases.  Despite some horrifying examples in recent weeks of fatal industrial accidents with a mine disaster and the oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico workers' compensation laws and OSHA safety rules have made the world a safer place.  Sometimes the rules and laws seen ridiculous but from the perspective of hindsight you can see that the work place has become less and less a place of disease, dismemberment and death.

Oh, Detroit!

From the Mouthpiece Hall of Infamy, Geoffrey Fieger surfaces again as counsel for the grieving relatives of the Detroit child, 7 year old, Aiyana Stanley-Jones gunned down by the Detroit police who mistakenly stormed a Detroit home while being filmed for a A & E reality television program, The First 48

This tragic tale is being reported thoroughly at MLive.com and nationally because the story lies at the intersection of all these awful truths that we have talked about since the inception of Bad Lawyer: children, poverty, guns, and abuse of police power.  Fieger's involvement with a picture (above) in the New York Times Saturday that looks like a study for the Last Supper, caps another nightmare for Detroit, again of Detroit's making. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Bread of Shame or Every Road Is a Toll Road

The guy in the picture is Melbourne Mills, the Kentucky Supreme Court permanently disbarred him despite an acquittal on fraud charges stemming from his participation in the theft of millions of dollars stolen from clients involved in fen-phen settlements and verdicts. Two of his close colleagues are doing +20 year prison terms for their roles in the theft of millions of dollars from clients.  The story is a nearly perfect example of the concept, Bread of Shame which can be expressed another way:  every road is a toll road.  The following is an excerpt from Andrew Wolfson's article at the Courier-Journal's website:

In a unanimous opinion, the Kentucky Supreme Court said it was stripping Mills of his license for violating 17 ethics rules, including taking more than $100 million in fees, with Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion, from Kentucky's $200 million settlement of the state diet-drug case.

Cunningham and Gallion were permanently disbarred in 2008.

Lexington attorney Angela Ford, who won a $42 million civil judgment against the three lawyers on behalf of their former clients, said in a phone interview that she would have been surprised if the court imposed a sanction of less than permanent disbarment for Mills.  But she said the court, by holding Mills accountable for failing to step in and stop the other two lawyers, sent 'a strong message on the duties of co-counsel -- you can't protect yourself by turning your head.' He was found not guilty after claiming at a criminal trial that he was too drunk to have joined in the conspiracy of co-defendants Gallion and Cunningham.

But a Kentucky Bar Association hearing officer found that [Mills] was cogent enough to have understood his duties, and the Supreme Court said that while [Mills] had misgivings about the propriety of the settlement, [Mills] took no immediate steps to stop it.

Under their contingency-fee contracts, Mills, Cunningham and Gallion should have been paid about $60 million of the $200 million settlement. Instead, they took $94.6 million for themselves and others, including consultants, administrators and lawyers, and put another $20 million into the foundation, which Cunningham and Gallion and others paid themselves to manage.

Cunningham and Gallion were convicted of fraud and sentenced last August to 20 and 25 years in prison, respectively. Cunningham, who is at a federal minimum-security prison in Yazoo, Miss., is eligible for release Aug. 15, 2025. Gallion, who is in a medium-security prison in Glenville, W.Va., has a release date of Dec. 8, 2029.
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Get this, these attorneys obtained a settlement entitling them to $60 million dollars, but that was not enough.  They wanted and they took $34.6 million dollars more.  

The idea of Bread of Shame relates to the unmerited receipt of value or wealth.  In the broadest possible sense this is seen with inheritance by the children of wealthy families from those who earned wealth to those who do not or did not earn the wealth.  The concept Bread of Shame holds that those who obtain their "bread" without earning it feel shame and can not enjoy or appreciate the value of what they obtain.  The sense of shame is a form of payment, because the other concept as suggested by my rowdy friends--is that every road is a toll road. 

This latter idea was suggested when were talking about he stolen artwork from the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris that occurred toward the end of last week.   Works by Picasso, Monet, Modigliani and Nevadomi were targeted or taken. Some genius, moi, was saying the only possible sane buyer for these famous works of stolen art is the insurers.  An admirer of this art who obtained them under false pretenses, could not possibly enjoy the art knowing that they were stolen and that anyone else who shared an admiration for the works would also know that the works were stolen.  Where is the feeling of joy that comes with possession of something so corrupt or logically so inherently dangerous to mere proximity? 

You see, you never get away with any bad act--even willful blindness as in the case of Melbourne Mills and the theft of millions of dollars in attorney fees; or, as in my case, with my blindness to my law office and tax obligations.   As my friends say, every road has its toll.  You will pay the toll whether you think you blew by the booth and no one noticed or not.  Perhaps it is a sense of shame, knowing that you have what you did not earn, or that you will pay a rate that is even more dear than you dreamed. 

There are times when the price paid for Bread of Shame has no known proximate relationship to the cost incurred like health and damage to reputation.  In the Hebrew story of King David, the King, God's favorite, paid a painful price for his sin with Bathsheba, and his crime against Uriah the Hittite.  You can be King and not enjoy the Bread of Shame.

Too Aggressive Arizona Lawyers?!



The Spanish speaking guy in the commercial is Jeffrey Phillips of the Phillips law firm.  The Arizona Supreme Court just affirmed short suspensions for him and his partner, Robert Arentz after a bar association investigation confirmed 22 violations of the state ethics regulations.  Essentially, Phillips and his partners operate a law practice on a business model that is not unlike the local carpet operation.  Their high pressure client intake  practices focus on getting clients "signed up" with as much money up front as possible according to the report at the Arizona Republic online.   These guys advertise non-stop on local television and radio.  Their non-lawyer staff received "bonus" payments for bringing in the sheep, which probably crosses the line into "fee splitting" with non-lawyers as an ethics no-no.

The Arizona Supreme Court and disciplinary authorities believe that the legal profession is, um, a profession and not a carpet store--so Phillips and his partner are getting a little timeout.  The problems for these guys are enormous--they will be required to let everyone of their current clients know in writing that they are serving suspensions and to get reinstated they will be required to go through hoops that may be difficult if not impossible to jump-through.   

Check out some of their other advertisements, these characters abound in the profession--these are the folks who are interested in dinero, not your legal problems.  They are the Mal Lawyers.  Hasta Luego, muchachos.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Florida Lifts Statute of Limitations for Arising Out of Child Abuse

Florida's Govenor, Charlie Crist has signed into law a bill (HB 525) lifting all limitations on civil and criminal actions arising out child sex abuse.  The organized opposition came from the Florida Catholic Conference.  The stated reason, the removal of the statute of limitations would create uncertainty for organizations like the Roman Catholic Church, according the reports in the Flordia press.  Here's a novel idea, don't abuse childrern, don't tolerate abuse of children, report all abuse of children.  Uncertainty vanishes, like the stain on the Church's clerical robes. 

Okay, We Won't Prosecute You for Double Murder, That'll Be $5 Million

Alabama Online is reporting on the Coosa County Assistant prosecutor and a local Gadsden, Alabama lawyer who took the chance of a lifetime and appear to have lost.  They collected a $1 million dollar check and were looking for a lot more in an extortion scheme in which they were promising not to indict an extortion target for double murder.  This Gothic tale has all the attributes of a Southern murder mystery, the following is from the Alabama Online account:

"The assistant district attorney for Coosa County and a Gadsden attorney were arrested Wednesday night on charges they used the threat of a capital murder indictment in a 1995 double homicide to extort $5 million.Assistant D.A. Frank Selman Teel (pic, left) and lawyer Frank Wayne Bailey (pic, right) are charged with extortion, bribery and ethics violations, according to a statement from the state attorney general's office. The men were arrested at the law office of attorney Jay Stover around 5 p.m., according to authorities.

Stover was hired by another victim, Carl Weaver, who believed he was the target of an extortion scheme.The Gadsden Times reported Bailey, 58, represented a third man who survived the 1995 incident, Roger Darrell Firestone, of Hokes Bluff, in a potential lawsuit. Teel, 59, of Sylacauga was associated with the case. 'That was the source of their bargaining,' Chris Bence, spokesman for Attorney General Troy King, told The Birmingham News.  Charles Thomas Amberson Jr., 41, and Darrell Thomas Coleman, 39, both of Gadsden, died after suffering severe burns in a fire and explosion on May 16, 1995, in the Unity community, the Times reported. . . According to warrants provided by the attorney general's office, the extortion scheme began March 24, when Teel, aided by Bailey, tried to get Weaver to write a $1 million check.
Other court documents state Teel agreed to accept a $5 million check in exchange for using "his position to prevent the indictment of Carl Weaver.  Teel was being held Thursday at the Etowah County Jail on bonds totaling $10,000; Bailey on bonds totaling $11,000.   Teel is charged with second-degree extortion, accepting a bribe, and intentional use of his public position for unlawful personal gain. Bailey is charged with second-degree extortion, accepting a bribe, aiding and abetting Teel in the intentional misuse of Teel's public position, and carrying a concealed pistol without a permit, according to the Etowah County Jail log.
'It's unfortunate. You hate to see folks alleged to be involved in anything unethical,' Murphy said."
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No kidding!

The Gadsden Times account provides details of the assault on the three men resulting in the two homicides for which our two unfortunate lawyers allegedly sought to extort $5 mil.  In the underlying 1995 crime the three assault victims had been trussed, and set on fire on a property that held a hunting and fishing lodge.  Over 100 marijuana plants were also discovered.  It seems that the crime victims were either involved in or stumbled upon a major drug operation. 


Lawyers are ethically prohibited from threatening criminal prosecution for the purpose of effecting a civil settlement.   In other words, extortion.  It's pretty rare that you can get a prosecutor's active participation, though.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Needs Professional Help

As I've said on Bad Lawyer, previously the Big Story is not my story, but sometimes the Big Story pedals into my bailiwick and I feel obligated to comment. 

Floyd Landis, former disqualified 2006 Tour de France champion opened his big mouth and confirmed what I said less than two weeks ago about the utter corruption in the beautiful sport of professional cycling.  It would hardly be noteworthy except that in admitting that he's a big liar, fraud and doper, Landis implicates much of US cycling including Lance Armstrong. 

It's ironic that this comment comes on the same day that I'm writing about not self-representing yourself when you are in legal peril, because as we know, Landis contended that he was "not a doper" and he raised beau coup dollars from friends in and out of cycling to advance his defense.  By doing this based on the published premise that he was "not a doper" certain issues of potential criminal fraud, wire fraud, and mail fraud come to mind. 

I found the most amusing remark, worth passing along, came from Johan Bruyneel, Landis' former US Postal Service team director, currently associated with Radio Shack aka "the Shack" which is led by Armstrong.  Quoted in the NYT this AM, Bruyneel said Landis tried to shake him down for a bunch of money and, or a job in exchange for silence--apparently about performance enhancing drug usage by Armstrong et al.  "[H]e should seek professional help, and by that I don't mean lawyers," Bruyneel told the Times.

Johan Bruyneel, is right,. . . still, I think Floyd Landis will be needing lawyers soon enough.

Postscript:  The Wall Street Journal blawg is speculating about a defamation action from Lance Armstrong, the implication being--not filing one means Lance is a doper.  Wrong.  At least I'm not passing judgment on the question--frankly, I don't care. Folks, Lance is a "public figure" in US Courts, need I remind you of the obstacle that very status presents to just being able to file a defamation action against Landis.  Impossible. Ain't gonna happen, regardless.

Bungling Self-Representation

The New York Times reports on Robert Camarano, a criminal defendant who ill-advisedly chosen to self-represent.  As I have said repeatedly at Bad Lawyer, this is a bad strategy, but check out what the Justice Carol Berkman had to say:
“You don’t know how to ask a question,” Justice Berkman told him in State Supreme Court. “You don’t know how to offer things into evidence. You keep making stupid speeches. You keep saying you are good at this. You are not. I do not say this to insult you.”
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John Eligon's article at the link is not to be missed.  

One more time, do not represent yourself in court when you are in legal peril, even if you are an attorney.  Get a helping hand or have a fool for a client and a fool for a lawyer--your choice.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Meyer Kruglik, M.D.--Psychiatrist Who Developed Profile Leading to Identifiication of Serial Killer Richard Speck

Famed Chicago forensic psychiatrist, Meyer Krugelik, M.D. who developed the profile that Chicago police used to snare serial killer Richard Speck, has died at age 95.  This is from Joan Giangrasse Kate's Chicago Tribune obit:

"After eight student nurses were brutally tortured and murdered in a dormitory near South Chicago Community Hospital in Chicago on July 14, 1966, detectives turned to Dr. Meyer Kruglik, a leader in forensic psychiatry, to develop a psychological and physical profile of the unknown killer. With the help of Dr. Kruglik, the chief of psychiatry at Stateville, the Illinois state penitentiary near Joliet, Chicago police arrested Richard Speck, an Illinois-born drifter who was raised in Texas and had committed a series of smaller crimes. Speck later was convicted of the murders.

'He was one of the first people called when the news of the murders hit,' said his daughter, Sally Bauer, who was in her teens at the time. Dr. Kruglik provided occasional counseling to Speck, who was sent to Stateville and died there in 1991. Over the years, he also maintained a thriving practice on Michigan Avenue, where his patients included people from all walks of life.
'He was a very probing individual — both professionally and personally,' recalled his daughter, with a soft laugh. 'When I was young, my boyfriends would beg me to be ready on time. Otherwise they'd sit with my dad and be interrogated!'

Dr. Kruglik, 95, a former longtime resident of Evanston and Chicago who provided expert testimony on countless criminal cases, died Sunday, May 9, at his home at Classic Residence by Hyatt at the Glen in Glenview from complications related to a brain infection.

Dr. Kruglik retired from his practice and as chief of psychiatry at Stateville in 1994 at age 80.

'He never wrote his professional memoir, in part because of doctor-patient privilege,' his daughter said. 'But I think it had more to do with not wanting to look back — at the horrific crime committed by Speck or any of the others he'd worked on.'

The son of Russian immigrants, Dr. Kruglik was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Instead of pursuing plumbing or carpentry as his father wanted, he took pre-med classes at Buffalo's Canisius College after graduating at age 16 from Hutchinson Tech, a rigorous Buffalo high school. In 1934, Dr. Kruglik moved to Chicago and attended the University of Illinois Medical School, living with the family of his father's distant cousin, Harry Ginsburg. He fell in love with Harry's daughter Gertrude, and the two wed after he graduated medical school in 1938. They were married for 71 years until Gertrude's death in 2009.

While serving on a Zuni Indian reservation in New Mexico, Dr. Kruglik was drafted by the Army after Pearl Harbor and worked for the psychiatry service at the Veterans Administration hospital in Chillicothe, Ohio, until 1945. He then returned to Chicago to teach psychiatry at Chicago Medical School for two years, before embarking on a 47-year career at Stateville, where he started by conducting interviews with prisoners in their cells. 'He was once taken hostage by an inmate, but was released unharmed,' his daughter said. 'That night he got home very, very late.'

n his retirement, Dr. Kruglik gained a reputation at the Classic Residence as a memoir and sonnet writer, singer, and playwright of works performed by residents."
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Imagine, a psychiatrist unwilling to exploit a famous connection for gain and fame.  Nowadays, so-called "doctors," like Drs. Phil and Drew who come to mind, use their television programs to expose celebrity secrets and humiliations for syndicated ratings.  The prototype being the blood-sucker, Eugene Landy a psychotherapist who exploited Beach Boy Brian Wilson destroying a decade or more of Wilson's creative life.

On the pyschological profiling aspect, I'm sure Dr. Kruglik was able to help the Chicago police re-focus their thinking about suspects in the famous murders and that this ultimately helped in the capture of Richard Speck, but you should bear in mind that "confirmation bias" is at work in what is now known as "criminal profiling."  That is, you only hear about the successful guesses of "criminal profilers" while the great majority of such efforts are off the mark by miles according to empirical assessment of the practices which are in wide use by law enforcement.  At the same time, forensic psychiatry and psychology is an interesting subject that we should explore at some point in the not too distant future.

Dayton Ohio-area Judge Removes Self From Capital Case Because the Death Penalty is Morally Indefensible

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge AJ Wagner (pic) removed himself from the capital case of Cody Henderson because of his conviction as a practicing Roman Catholic that the death penalty is morally repugnant.  The folllowing is from Lou Greico's article:

"In his recusal, Wagner cited both his opinion that capital punishment is unconstitutional as well as his spiritual beliefs as a Catholic.  'I adhere to a belief that an individual’s temporal life begins at conception and ends when we are reclaimed by God,' Wagner wrote. 'It is not for man to determine that end time, but for the creator. God was very clear about this when he gave the law [the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, celebrating this event is today] to Moses, 'Thou shall not kill.’
Wagner noted that the American Law Institute, which developed the model penal code used across the country in death penalty statutes, including Ohio, withdrew that code in October. The original version was written in 1962, and the model code was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court as a way to 'avoid the unconstitutional, unfettered discretion found in the implementation of capital punishment,' Wagner wrote.

Now, the ALI, a group of lawyers, judges and legal scholars, say they cannot devise a standard that would remove the arbitrary nature of capital punishment. 'Further, believing it impossible, they have given up on even finding a standard that will work.'

Wagner noted other concerns, including that, as of 2008, 62 percent of death row inmates had killed a white victim, while only 32 percent had killed a black person. He also wrote that, since 1973, 139 defendants nationwide have been released from death row after evidence showed they were actually innocent. Five of those were in Ohio, and another seven Ohio inmates were removed from death row after they were found to be mentally retarded, Wagner wrote."
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Judge Wagner sounds like he should be a contributing writer at Bad Lawyer.  At the link you can see Judge Wagner's official profile from the Montgomery Common Pleas Court website.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dickhead Lawyer Has Foul-Mouth

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video.



Richard Shackleton, a New Jersey Township Lawyer went out for a little Gun Range live pigeon shoot and just couldn't let the nearby protestors, alone.  Shakleton, after having his way with the birds cruised into the crowd of protestors and according to the ABAJournal website unleashed a vile rant including:

"'Go f--- yourself, you rotten c---,'

Shackleton’s invective was caught on videotape, as was his later refusal to apologize when confronted during the public comment period of a township meeting, the story says. 'I meant every word of it,' Shackleton said.  An employee of the group, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (shortened to SHARK) filed the ethics grievance, while the Pennsylvania lawyer he addressed, Marianne Bessey, filed the private criminal complaint after police did not file charges."
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Shackleton now faces ethics charges and misdemeanor disorderly public allegations for his behavior and use of anglo-saxons.  It sounds like the New Jersey ethics authorities are going to use their First Amendment rights to reprimand Mr. Shakleton at some point in the not too distant future.  When the ethics police do this, it will be a victory for political correctness or courtesy. 

I remember the first time I heard lawyers use this kind of language with one another--even as an ex-Army tank commander from the, . . . er, Viet Nam "era," I was pretty surprised and shocked.  Really, there are rules of conduct applicable to this sort of language and conduct.  I really don't get this language coming from a lawyer particularly a public servant in public.  It's not illegal to talk this way, but it's not living up to the aspirational ideals of the "profession."  It's also not an ethics issue. 

Goodbye, Arlen

I've never particularly cared for Arlen Specter, and I confess I will not miss him.  He represents the hectoring political class, like Lieberman, that imagines that they represent higher principles.  In reality the fact that this guy is still trying to hold on to power at 80 tells me that even after all these years he imagines himself too important to allow another generation to step forward.  He's wrong. 

Nonetheless it would be a mistake not to acknowledge Specter's out sized impact on Justice issues and the judiciary in the United States, good and bad.  PennLive had a nice summary:

"Perhaps the most famous defeat of any Supreme Court nominee in history was Robert Bork’s in 1987. Many blame — or credit — Arlen Specter, who criticized Bork intensely and was the only Republican on the Judiciary Committee to vote against him. The Senate rejected Bork’s nomination and created a new Washington verb in the process: to Bork — that is, to defeat a nominee through attacks on his or her character.

While Specter blocked one divisive Supreme Court nominee, he helped elevate another amid an even greater firestorm. Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill made national headlines when she accused nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and Hill’s testimony riveted the nation.

As Hill, who had worked for Thomas, described in lurid detail alleged comments, unwanted advances and pornography on nationwide television, she brought the subject of sexual harassment into the spotlight for the first time. Women nationwide hailed her as a hero and came forth with their own tales of harassment in the workplace.

As a former prosecutor, Specter drew the job of aggressively grilling Hill. He even accused her of  'flat-out perjury.' Thomas was approved, but women’s groups went after Specter with a vengeance in the 1992 election"
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After the Clarence Thomas confirmation and in subsequent years as Thomas has supplied consistent votes upholding death penalties, despite Thomas' good moral Catholic upbringing--I held Specter responsible.  If you ever want to see a shameful, phony, grand standing, and disgusting performance by a US Senator, Specter's cross-examination of Anita Hill is right up with the best of Joe McCarthy. 

And yet, Specter's a complex guy and Clarence Thomas is not the sum-all, there have been moments I'd point to and say, thank God for Arlen Specter.  Specter was a voice for common sense on many issues, especially Clinton's impeachment.  Hard to believe that at the end of the day, Arlen Specter was too "librul" for the Republican party.

Disciplinary Rules Are Made On the Backs of Small Law

The ABAJournal is reporting on the suspension of two NYC law partners who were victimized by their managing partner.  Anthony Bellettieri who was in charge of the trust account, stole money from the firm trust account ripping off his two partners and the small firm's clients.  The Legal Profession Blog had the story on Friday and I planned to talk about it, then, but did not get around to it.

This is from Martha Neil's tidy summary of the story from the ABAJournal.com:

"Two lawyers who themselves were victims of a former partner's $17 million fraud have been suspended for failing to do enough to catch Anthony Bellettieri in wrongdoing as he stole from client trust accounts.  Although Bellettieri, who is now disbarred and serving a prison sentence, oversaw the Bellettieri Fonte and Laundonio escrow accounts, partners Robert Fonte and Tara Anne Laundonio were both signatories and should have paid more attention to red flags, held a New York Supreme Court Appellate Division panel in separate opinions last week.

The appellate panel found that the two violated their "nonwaivable fiduciary duty" to protect the firm's escrow funds, and suspended Fonte for three years and Laundonio for six months, reports the New York Law Journal[. . . . ] Fonte and Laundonio, who were admitted to the state bar in 1986 and 1998, respectively, never even saw bank statements for the firm's escrow and operating accounts, according to a report by special referee Steven Krane. '[W]hen it comes to safekeeping of funds ... the proper approach is 'trust but verify,' ' he wrote.

Given the commingling of personal and client funds by Bellettieri of which they were aware and Bellettieri's refusal to timely provide documents for one account that had been requested by Fonte, he and Laundonio should have asked more questions, the Second Department panel said. Attorney Neil Comer, who represented Fonte and Laudonio, didn't respond to a request by the legal publication for comment.
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Look, there may be extenuating circumstances justifying the suspension of these lawyers, but having been suspended for 2 years in a similar situation you will pardon my yap about how disciplinary rules are made on the backs of small law while much more egregious acts in BigLaw are ignored.  For instance, in Chicago we had the Greenberg Traurig partner who stole a million dollars or more from a greater Chicago suburb;  and, I guarantee you that there will be no disciplinary consequences for the managing partners of this mammoth BigLaw firm.  This happens all the time--it's the natural course of things. 

If Cheryl, my secretary had opened her Home Depot and furniture rental accounts in a BigLaw firm escrow account there would have been no disciplinary action against the partners.  Errors on my level do not become disciplinary suspensions when your law firm is big enough to maintain an accounts payable, payroll, and accounting departments and host the local and state judiciary for brunch, lunch, cocktails and, or sporting events. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Horny Law Enforcement Officers of Clackamas County, Oregon

Rick Bella at the Oregonian has a comprehensive and jaw-dropping report on the many law enforcement officers, mostly corrections officers from Clackamas County, Oregon who have been caught in sexual misconduct allegations and scandals dating back over several years. 

Clackamas County, Oregon is where Oregon City is located.  Clackamas is part of the greater-Portland area.  It is named after the indigenous Clackamas Indian tribe. 

This is from Bella's report:

Over the past decade, county corrections deputies have been convicted of sexual and official misconduct, drug abuse and assault, resulting in jail sentences, firings and civil lawsuits against the sheriff's office.  The most recent investigation began in July 2009, when allegations surfaced that Deputy Alan Dean Randol had sexual contact with female inmates on home detention. Randol pleaded guilty in October to sexual misconduct and was sentenced to eight days in jail.

A woman who says Randol fondled her during a home visit subsequently filed a $400,000 lawsuit against Clackamas County. The lawsuit remains pending in Clackamas County Circuit Court.

During the investigation into Randol, Detective Debbie Calhoun discovered similar allegations against Deputy Darin L. Fox, involving female inmates both housed in the jail and under electronic monitoring in their homes. After a grand jury indicted Fox on charges of sexual and official misconduct, Fox voluntarily surrendered at the jail last week. He is scheduled to be arraigned June 10.
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According to a sidebar at the link, 11 corrections and patrol officers have been involved in prohibited if not illegal sexual misconduct, including sexual exploitation of teenagers in the law enforcement cadet program.

The question is why?  Is this an unusual problem in Clackamas County, Oregon only?  Doubtful.  Perhaps what is happening in Clackamas County is structural in onset and astonishing because the current leadership is willing to confront the problem headlong, to their credit.  The real question is, what's happening elsewhere--including in your community, that is not being addressed by law enforcement leadership? 

Twisted Traveler

Jack Sporich, the wealthy, serial child molester is back in custody after pleading guilty to molesting two more children, this time as a emigre` resident of Southeast Asia.  Sporich, 75, is said to have molested as many as 500 children over his long life, according to the report at the Sacramento Bee.  Sporich, an engineer, moved to Cambodia after beating a pedophile rap (he had served 9 years in prison for various child molestation crimes thought ot have begun in the 1960s) in the United States.  Sporich was building a million dollar-plus home in Southeast Asia. It was determined that Sporich molested two 12 year old boys that he had lured onto the property he was developing.  It is alleged in court documents that Sporich was seen dropping currency from a motorbike in areas where youngsters congregate. Nice guy.

Sporich faces 10 years in the federal penitentiary following  guilty pleas in federal court in Los Angeles after extradition pursuant to Opeation "Twisted Traveler," and the sex tourism statutes targeted at "sex tourism."

The Face of Evil and Their Friends, Your Legislators!

This guy, Michael Frederick Schmidt of Hastings, Minnesota raped a 9 month old baby, according to charges filed by the Hastings Police.  You can read some details at the Minneapolis Star Tribune if you have the stomach.  I tell you this awful, terrible story by way of prefacing a true experience that nearly 18 years later, still causes me to howl in psychic pain.

Years ago when my then colleauge Lou and I were nearly alone, here, in OurState filing child sex abuse civil cases against perpetrators, two wonderful female OurState legislators sponsored a bill to expand the statute of limitations.  It had become apparent that this step was necessary because in OurState the statute of limitations was 1 year (after their 18th birthday), no exceptions!  Amazingly, despite laws that provided for tolling of the statute of limitations based on "disability," the OurState courts nearly uniformly declined to see exceptions.  We argued unsuccessfully that perpetrators incapacitated their victims and that children often abused "pre-verbally" could hardly be expected to file an action within one year of their 18th birthday.  So while we viewed the new law as being too limited, we supported it as a good first step.  What a joke!

I drove down to the OurState capitol to testify as part of a panel of child abuse survivors.  I'll never forget being asked by some open-mouthed-breathing moron law maker: "Can you tell me how a grown man is gonna be turned on by a little bitty baby?"  I was stunned.  I think my answer was something along the lines of --no, look at the statistics, child abuse of this sort happens regularly.  The coup de grace, was when a OurTown local mayor who was, in fact, a child molester showed up as a "surprise" witness and described how he was a victim of "false allegations." Mayor Molester claimed those false allegations destroyed his family (two daughters had been deposed and swore under oath the Mayor had moleted them.)  The mayor described how the false charges had caused his heart attack, how the "false" allegations destroyed his marriage (in actuality he had left his wife of many years to screw his young secretary,) and how over his objections his insurance company had paid a substantial settlement.  The deeply moved, OurState legislature declined to expand the statute of limitations. 

In ensuing years, the courts kept the doors slammed tightly shut. 

I know that I've related this story previously, but the account in the Minneapolis Star-Trib reminds me that evil has friends.  They wear suits and ties and have nifty little patriotic lapel pins and these friends are members of the Jaycees, Chambers of Commerce, and the local political parites.  Sometimes the perpetrators are actually members of all these wonderful community organizations.  Readers of Bad Lawyer, know the perpetrators can be Judges, Lawyers, Doctors, Psychologists, Cops, Sheriffs, Corrections workes, social workers, Dads, and Moms.  Perpetrators and enablers, belong in the same circle of Hell. 

Oh, by the way, grown men do rape and molest "little bitty babies."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Throw Away the Key-An Update!

Early in November of last year I reported on Bad Lawyer about Graham v. Florida.   I am happy to provide you with the update, that the US Supreme Court today held that life sentences for children in non-murder cases violates the 8th amendment prohibition against "cruel and unusual" punishment.   Since the US Supreme Court so rarely finds anything "cruel and unusual," this is an encouraging sign that the 8th amendment still means something. 

Harry "the Hook" Is Dead

Harry "the Hook" Aleman, a legendary Chicago hit man is dead at 69.  Aleman died in an Illinois prison while serving a 100 year sentence for the 1973 shotgun murder of Teamster union official William Logan. At the link you'll find the Wikipedia entry on Aleman.  Aleman may have murdered more than a dozen victims, but he wasn't saying.

The Chicago Tribune article on Aleman's death is at the second link. 

The most interesting aspect of the notice of Aleman's death is the connection to the public corruption in Chicago.  You see at one time you could buy your way out of a murder rap, and in fact Aleman bribed the trial judge, Cook County Judge Frank Wilson for the grand sum of $10,000. He was acquitted after a bench trial (meaning the case was tried without a jury.)  The defense lawyer, Charles Cooley turned snitch, and Judge Wilson blew his brains out while awaiting federal charges.  Since Aleman beat the rap on a bribe, his second trial, a jury trial, was not deemed "double jeopardy." 

Aleman was until May 15, a survivor of a wild era of union and public corruption in the Second City.

Why Vigilantism Is a Bad Idea

Vigilantism (taking the law into your own hands) is a bad idea and if you needed this story  from the Orlando Sentinetal  should do the trick.  The following is from Bianca Prieto account of the homicide of an elderly Floridian beaten to death because he was wrongly suspected of molesting a child:

An elderly Bithlo resident was beaten to death with a black Louisville Slugger baseball bat because the killer mistakenly thought the man was a sex offender, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

Deputies arrested 20-year-old Robert Pascale on Thursday on a charge of first-degree murder with a weapon after deputies with dogs tracked him to a muddy pond near Sixth Street in Bithlo, where he was hiding. Pascale was submerged in the water, only his face exposed.  The dead man, Hugh Edwards, 78, had no criminal history. It's unclear why anyone thought he was a sexual offender.  Details about Edwards' killing became public in the arrest report for Pascale's friend, 32-year-old Michael Garay, charged with accessory to murder.

Deputies were alerted to a possible homicide when Christa Limerick called 911 early Wednesday and said she thought her acquaintances had killed a man inside a trailer, reports show. Officers were dispatched to Fifth Avenue in Bithlo around 4:24 a.m. and found Edwards dead in a pool of blood. Officers noted signs of a struggle.  Limerick told deputies she was drinking with a group of friends when Pascale asked her what she would do if she had kids and lived next door to a sex offender, the report shows. Limerick said she would kill the person, according to the report.  Shortly after that conversation, Limerick said, she watched Pascale and Garay walk into the elderly man's fenced yard and return a short while later.

Garay later told deputies they returned to the home to get a baseball bat. Then they walked back over to the man's trailer, and Pascale "jimmied" the lock open, the report says. Garay told deputies he waited outside while Pascale went inside.  Garay told deputies that he heard several "thumping" sounds come from the trailer.  After the beating, Garay, Pascale, Limerick and another woman, Amber Baker, got into Limerick's car. The group drove to a nearby retention pond where Pascale dumped the baseball bat, according to the report.  Next, the group drove to Pascale's mother's house so Pascale could change clothes. Once back in the car, they drove over to an area known as "Dead Man's Trail" where the two men got out of the car, reports show.  Garay told deputies he and Pascale walked along a dirt path and Pascale walked into the woods to ditch the bloody clothing. Garay's jacket, which also had blood on it, was discarded, according to the affidavit.  The men then met up with the women at a nearby Circle K convenience store about 20 minutes later.

Deputies have recovered the bat and the clothing, the report says.

Records show Garay's criminal history includes arrests on charges of battery of a law-enforcement officer. Pascale has a violent criminal past and spent two years in a state prison for stealing a car, burglary, robbery with a deadly weapon and battery on a detention-facility staff member, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
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There's a lot of darkeness in the world.

Vigilantism is actually the very act described in the killing of Hugh Edwards, the summary punishment of someone for a perceived crime.   Purely evil stuff.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Judge Turner's a Creepy AV-Rated Jurist

Judge N. James Turner, a family law Judge for the Ninth Circuit in Osceola, Florida has been removed because his Honor thinks massaging, hugging and kissing staff is appropriate and his court staff and the presiding Judicial authorities disagree.  This is from the report at the Orlando Sentinel:
"The state agency that polices judges Friday expanded its case against Orange-Osceola Circuit Judge N. James Turner, accusing him of massaging, hugging and kissing the women in his office. The new allegations also accuse Turner of taking cell phone calls while on the bench, checking his Facebook page during court proceedings and unexpectedly getting up and walking out while court was in session.
Those allegations are tacked onto another set that were filed against him in July. They accuse him of a series of campaign violations, including being an open supporter of Democratic candidates in other races in 2008 while conducting what was supposed to be a nonpartisan campaign for judge.  Those charges are pending.Turner hasn't been on the bench since Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. last month ordered him to stop working. Perry did not explain his actions at the time. Neither would Turner. m Friday's disclosure, though, provides a general explanation.  Although he has been on the bench just 16 months, Turner has had four secretaries, called judicial assistants. Some judges can have one judicial assistant throughout a career."
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The publication, Matindale-Hubbell is a lawyer listing and rating service that pre-dates "Super Lawyers." Turner describes himself as a "A-V rated" lawyer and jurist.  This ought to tell you how reliable lawyer ratings are.  He also lists himself as an author of two articles on Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment in the workplace in the Florida Bar Journal