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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

The Avalon Project at Yale

Posted by pbsweeney on June 6, 2007

File this under research and general coolness.

The Avalon Project will mount digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We do not intend to mount only static text but rather to add value to the text by linking to supporting documents expressly referred to in the body of the text.”

There are digitalized documents available for FREE from the pre- 18th to the 21st century including, charters, treaties, summit documents, trade agreements, executive orders, legislation – you name it and you’ll find it. The full 9/11 commission report in pdf is there too. It’s a remarkable archive with amazing linkage within the text. The oldest document I checked out (now there’s a precedent!) was from 123 B.C.!

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Posted in Ethics, Law, Law Lit, Practice Management, Research, work | Leave a Comment »

Informant v Defendant

Posted by pbsweeney on May 22, 2007

Say you’re a criminal defense lawyer with a client facing charges as a result of information provided by an informant who has agreed to work with law enforcement as part of his own plea arrangement in a criminal case. Naturally, you want to know something about this informant in preparing a defense for your client. Armed with the informant’s name and criminal record, you start researching the disposition of his previous arrests. With the ready availability of court records online, wading through files is made somewhat easier. But imagine for a minute, if details of the informant’s plea arrangements were sealed or unavailable – where does that leave you?

The New York Times reports today that “…the Justice Department has begun urging the federal courts to make fundamental changes in public access to electronic court files by removing all plea agreements from them — whether involving cooperating witnesses or not.

“We are witnessing the rise of a new cottage industry engaged in republishing court filings about cooperators on Web sites such as www.whosarat.com for the clear purpose of witness intimidation, retaliation and harassment,” a Justice Department official wrote in a December letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the administrative and policy-making body of the federal court system.”

Could we please solve this problem in a manner that does not trample the civil rights of the entire citizenry by denying access to public record? And by the way, we really wish the Justice Department was as interested in protecting the privacy of the rest of us.

Posted in Ethics, Federal Spotlight, Law, News, Practice Management, Research | Leave a Comment »

Who’s Really a Lawyer & Where

Posted by pbsweeney on May 18, 2007

About 40 states maintain online databases regarding attorney bar status, primarily for consumers who want to find out if an individual they are dealing with is really a lawyer.  But often times, as attorneys, it’s worth a look to see if your opposing counsel is really licensed to practice in a particular court venue. Is He Really a Lawyer is a simple page consolidating links to all the 40 state databases currently available, and it is consistently updated. (While you are there, check that your own status and info is correct!) It saves a great deal of hunting.

Posted in Business, Ethics, internet, Law, Practice Management, Research, work | Leave a Comment »

Ah, the hilarities…

Posted by pbsweeney on May 16, 2007

“When Ravalli County, Montana, fined itself $350 because one of its truck drivers committed a loading violation, it paid the local lawyers hired to prosecute AND defend the county, $1,175.00.”

from Lawyers & Other Reptiles by Jess M. Brallier

Posted in Business, Ethics, Humor, Law, Law Lit, Life | Leave a Comment »

Estate Planning Strategies – Crisis Pending

Posted by pbsweeney on May 9, 2007

At HamptonsLegal we had read in Forbes & various journals, of a trend toward patenting tax loop holes, but we did not realize the extent to which the patent office has apparently been extending its reach in this area. We’d love to hear from our readers about any litigation pending or thoughts on this trend.

“Imagine, before sitting down with your client to advise her about her legal options, having to consult the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site to determine whether someone else already owns the patent to the course of action you want to suggest.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to pay the patent holder so your client can take your advice. But the patent holder also might refuse to sell you the license, limiting your client’s legal options. Then what? Welcome to Dennis Belcher’s world.

In 2004, Belcher—a trust and estate attorney in Richmond, Va., with three decades of experience—learned that patents had been issued on certain estate planning strategies for minimizing taxes. At first, he says, “I thought it was absurd that someone could patent an estate planning strategy.” But now, “I realize how dangerous this matter is, and I follow the topic for professional protection and to keep my clients out of a patent lawsuit.”

For good reason. Since issuing its first patent for a tax strategy in 2003, the Patent and Trademark Office has issued at least 52 patents covering specific tax strategies. Another 84 published applications for tax strategy patents are pending.”

To read this article in its entirety from the ABA Journal, click here….

Posted in Business, Ethics, Law, Practice Management | Leave a Comment »

Concern that the LAPD is for Hire & a Note on NYC

Posted by pbsweeney on April 16, 2007

“Corporations and business groups donated more than $417,000 in cash and equipment in the last year to the Los Angeles Police Department to help pay for investigations and services that directly benefited them, records show.

The film industry helped fund a crackdown on pirated movies. Shopping malls paid for extra traffic control, security and a tracking system able to recover cars stolen from their parking lots.

And next week, the City Council will consider accepting $50,000 from Philip Morris USA to aid an investigation into the sale and counterfeiting of the company’s cigarettes.

Supporters of the practice say it helps a cash-strapped department fight crime. But some skeptics are concerned about the appearance of pay-to-play law enforcement in which the rich can afford to buy better protection than the poor.” Read the full story in the LA Times here…

The NYC Police Department has its own Police Foundation through which all such donations are channeled, totalling some 5.5 million through the fiscal year ending July 2005. And the latest available list of Major Donors makes for interesting reading, such as the Four Star (big bucks) status designation of the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the UN, for example. And nearly every bank in the city is represented plus a good share of the fashion industry. The NYC Police Dept has a division devoted exclusively to fashion trademark infringement too, interestingly enough. But unlike LA, NYC does not as a matter of policy solicit donations from corporations for contemplated enforcement projects in specific industries, which is part of the LA worry.

Posted in blogging, Ethics, Law, News | 1 Comment »

$11,000 an Hour? I’m Worth It

Posted by pbsweeney on April 12, 2007

“Willie Gary, a Florida attorney whose personal Boeing 737 has an 18-carat gold bathroom sink, claims Motorola owes him at least $11,000 an hour for work on a lawsuit against the company.

But he’s pushing for more — twice as much — because Motorola violated a court order in defending the suit. And today a Fort Lauderdale judge will decide whether he gets his wish. ”

Gary petitioned Circuit Judge Leroy Moe to approve the fees that will total some 24.3 million dollars. To read the Bloomberg story in full, click here. We’ll keep you posted on this one!  And the next time a client complains about the bill, we can say, “Just be glad you didn’t hire Willie Gary.”

Posted in Business, Ethics, Law, News | Leave a Comment »

Spitzer Bags a Big Gun for Medicaid Fraud

Posted by pbsweeney on April 9, 2007

sheehan.jpgGovernor Eliot Spitzer announced the nomination of James G. Sheehan to serve as New York State Medicaid Inspector General, overseeing the fraud and abuse enforcement activities of New York’s $50 billion Medicaid program.

“As a career prosecutor specializing in complex health care enforcement and recovery matters, Mr. Sheehan has experience rooting out fraud that dramatically drives up costs and severely threatens the efficiency and delivery of health care services,” said Governor Spitzer.

While serving in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Philadelphia office, Mr. Sheehan personally handled over 500 health care fraud matters, including the Medco Health Solutions case, which resulted in a $155 million recovery, and the SmithKline Beecham Clinical Labs case, which resulted in a $332 million recovery.

Welcome to New York, Mr. Sheehan.

Posted in Ethics, Featured Attorney, Law, News | Leave a Comment »

08 Candidates Still Milking the Money Cow Behind the Barn Door

Posted by pbsweeney on February 2, 2007

Fascinating post on The Politico blog by Ken Vogel on how early candidates for the ’08 election are bypassing federal campaign law with state based committees. So you thought the McCain Feingold law was actually gonna work, huh? Apparently, if a candidate is officially undeclared, his soft money PACS can rake in the dough, in some states without individual or corporate limits. So who is availing themselves of this strategy? Among others, our own former Governor Pataki. Read the whole story – it’s clear that there’s work to be done on campaign finance reform on the state level.

Posted in Ethics, Law, News, Politics | Leave a Comment »

AOL Fraud Trial Finale

Posted by pbsweeney on January 31, 2007

The vastly under-reported AOL fraud trial in federal court is finally drawing to an end, with closing arguments begining yesterday, and arguments for the defendants set for today.

As the dot-com economy collapsed in 2001, executives at America Online allegedly conspired with a now-defunct technology firm in Las Vegas to inflate revenue, using secret side deals and backdated contracts to deceive investors, prosecutors said.

The government made its closing argument Tuesday at the trial of two midlevel AOL executives and a senior officer at Las Vegas-based PurchasePro. The trial has stretched more than three months, one of the longest trials in the history of the federal courthouse in Alexandria, known as the “rocket docket” for its dispatch in handling cases. For a great trial notebook 101 story filed by Matthe Barakat, click here… A fascinating tale of the mind boggling mechanics of corporate fraud.

Posted in blogging, Business, Ethics, Federal Spotlight, internet, Law, News | 1 Comment »

Will the Supremes Go Live?

Posted by pbsweeney on January 30, 2007

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation that will require the Supreme Court to permit television coverage of open Supreme Court proceedings, unless a majority of the Justices determine that the due process rights of one or more litigant would be violated.

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Russell Feingold (D-Wiss.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

This is Spector’s third attempt at getting this legislation through. In 2005 his bill never made it to the floor for a vote. At the time he was quoted as saying: “In the context where the Supreme Court decides, really, the cutting-edge questions of our day, it’s very much, in my view, in our interest to have the Supreme Court televised.” In 2000 the Senator co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) that went nowhere as well.

With more than half the Justices on the record opposing the idea, it should be interesting to see how the debate unfolds, particularly surrounding questions on the separation of power between the the Legislative & Judicial branches of government.

Posted in blogging, Ethics, Federal Spotlight, Law, News, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Cats Are Paroled

Posted by pbsweeney on January 29, 2007

Well, I’m not sure paroled is the right word. Maybe evicted is the proper legal term. All we know is, we didn’t serve the papers.  A new wardon has decided that these useful prison farm cats must get the boot. Is that a howl of protest we’re hearing? The following is a quote from the AP story via CNN.

WINDSOR, Vermont (AP) — At the Southeast State Correctional Facility, inmates are subjected to head counts several times a day. But not Ziggy, Marmalade, Smokey and Shane — they come and go as they please. They’re prison cats — but only for now. They are being involuntarily paroled by the new superintendent of Vermont’s largest women’s prison, to the chagrin of inmates who feed them, pay for their care and cherish them.

“It is not a physical plant that is conducive to a pet program,” said Superintendent Anita Carbonell. “I know a lot of the inmates consider them pets, but they aren’t really.”

View the complete story today on CNN here…

Posted in blogging, Ethics, Law, Local Cases of Interest, News | Leave a Comment »

Beware the Pettifogger

Posted by pbsweeney on January 24, 2007

Merriam Webster’s word of the day yesterday was pettifogger – how delightful! I can’t wait to use it in a sentence.

“pettifogger • \PET-ee-fog-ur\ • noun
1 : a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable 2 : one given to quibbling over trifles
Example Sentence:
Charles Dickens’s Uriah Heep was a complete pettifogger, an unctuous villain whose name became a byword for a falsely humble hypocrite.
Did you know?
In its earliest English uses, “pettifogger” was two separate words:…” more

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New York’s Data Security Breach Law

Posted by pbsweeney on November 30, 2006

It seems that every time you turn around in the news these days, there has been a security breach in personal data stored electronically. Laptops go missing, systems get hacked, data literally falls off the back of a truck – you name it. There’s a data mining free for all going on out there. Little publicized though, have been the smaller sized heists of private data in the hands of accountants, attorneys and other professionals who lose laptops go missing as lost or stolen items.

An opportune follow up to the our post about client contact, a strong reason to reach out to all your business clients is to let them know about this important recent law. The statute mandates that anyone who holds private data must notify those individuals whose information has been compromised, and provides for serious consequences for noncompliance. For a detailed discussion on the law and its implications and consequences, click here…

Posted in Business, Ethics, Law, Practice Management | Leave a Comment »

Is the Constitution Dead in Southampton?

Posted by pbsweeney on November 25, 2006

Last week’s Southampton Press carried a front page story that proudly announced that the Village would adopt a resolution to permit groups involved as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the Village, to march in future Fourth of July parades without issue. The suit came about because various local groups opposed to the war in Iraq had not been issued permits to march in the 2006 parade. The committee that runs the parade for the Village had decided that peace banners were inappropriate to the spirit of the day, a puzzling decision for a celebration of our independence and constitutionally provided freedoms.

The groups, with the help of attorney Jim Henry of Sag Harbor, rushed to the courthouse at the end of the day on the Friday before the parade and managed to get a federal judge to consider that the issue was serious enough to open the court for a special session on July third. After a hastily convened teleconference between the parties, the judge issued an order that basically reaffirmed the groups’ constitutional rights, permitting them to march with their banners in the parade. What a concept!

The lawsuit continues. In an end run move, the Village has adopted the above-mentioned resolution, but in doing so has once again attempted to define who may participate in the parade and with what kind of speech. The guarantee of free speech and participation only applies to the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, not to the rest of us, thus creating a special class of people with a pre-determined “privilege” to a constitutional right.

This writer does not get it. How is it that a municipality is able to imagine it may make such a determination? Village officials are concerned that anyone might then find a place in the parade, even neo-nazis for example. They claim that they are just trying to preserve the spirit of a family event. Again, this issue has been ruled upon in the courts ad nauseum. Here’s hoping that the lesson to our children on Independence Day will be one of true citizenship with constitutionally guaranteed rights for all, not just those whom the Village of Southampton deems appropriate and deserving.

Posted in Ethics, Federal Spotlight, Law, Local Cases of Interest, News, Outrage | 1 Comment »