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Archive for the ‘Law’ 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….

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Educating the New Litigation Client

Posted by pbsweeney on May 2, 2007

Often, one of the most challenging jobs of any attorney is to educate a new litigation client in being a client of a law firm. Many clients appear for the first time as the result of crisis situation for which they need assistance, and in many cases are hiring an attorney for the first time in their lives. Clients come in completely unaware of the extent of their roll in their own matter, how fees work, how a case is managed, and what are reasonable expectations. Clarity on these issues is very important not only to overall success, but also as it relates to retaining that client for the future.

Spending time on these issues during an initial consultation and during regular follow up thereafter, promotes a sense of partnership for the road ahead. The better your fundamental work here, the easier it will be to create movement in the case through client cooperation, and the happier your client will be even if the inevitable outcome is not in their favor.

The first thing a client needs during an initial consultation once rapport and confidence have been established, is fee sensitizing, as we like to call it. Litigation is expensive in a way that many clients cannot seem to fathom. It makes no sense to them that a 25K rip off will likely cost them the same amount of money to recover, and is simply not worth it. There is little understanding that 50K is a starting point for serious work, so that often even an exaggeration on the costs is a better approach than talking minimal numbers. If this realistic communication about fees is not adequately established, there’s really no point in taking this client on. You’ll only end up spending valuable billable time sorting it out later, or lose the client in the long term, neither of which helps to grow a practice.

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Does the 2nd Amendment Prevent Gun Control?

Posted by pbsweeney on April 18, 2007

Thought provoking discussion on the challenges faced in our collective response and urgency to act, in the aftermath of this week’s nightmare at Virginia Tech, on the excellent legal/political blog Balkinization.

Posted in blogging, Federal Spotlight, Law, News | 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 »

The 100 Million Dollar Screw Up

Posted by pbsweeney on March 28, 2007

So you think you screw up sometimes? I bet you never screwed up to the tune of 100 million dollars by citing the wrong statute. And I bet it was not during the biggest federal tax prosecution EVER. This one goes under the dual categories of “I’m glad that wasn’t me,” and “damn it!”

Here it is from AP & MSNBC: WASHINGTON – Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in what was supposed to have been the crowning moment of the biggest tax prosecution ever.

Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn’t order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department’s binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute. Read more…

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

H2-B Visa Cap Reached for 2nd Half 2007

Posted by pbsweeney on March 27, 2007

USCIS announced on March 23 that the H2-B visa cap for the second half of 2007 has been reached. If your petition is dated after March 16, 2007, you are out of luck. To read the full press release, click here.

Posted in Business, Federal Spotlight, Immigration, Law, Practice Management | Leave a Comment »

Monkey Scribe

Posted by pbsweeney on March 27, 2007

We came across this fairly hilarious site of professionals acting unprofessionally, with funny gifts for the litigator in your life or you office. Monkey Scribe gave us a good laugh at the end of a long day, particularly when we listened to the infamous voice mail from whence they derived their name. It’s a killer.

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Bong Hits for Jesus Case Oral Arguments

Posted by pbsweeney on March 14, 2007

We can’t wait for Monday, March 19, when Morse v. Frederick oral arguments will be heard in Supreme Court, starring pro bono attorney for the plaintiff Ken Starr. (Glad you’ve found something to occupy yourself with, Ken.) In case you haven’t heard of this case, the following digest from Cornell is required reading:

Morse v. Frederick (06-278)
Oral argument: March 19, 2007

“Joseph Frederick, an 18-year-old high school student,
displayed a banner with the message “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”
across the street from his school, during the Olympic torch
relay in Juneau, Alaska. School administrators had released
students to watch the Olympic torch, and Frederick’s banner
was in plain view of the students. Deborah Morse, the high
school principal, suspended him for violating the school’s
policy against displaying offensive materials promoting
illegal drug use. Frederick and Morse disagree on the
issues of whether Frederick had First Amendment protection
(because he was not on school premises) and whether, if he
did, Morse’s judgment to the contrary was reasonable and
should thereby entitle her to qualified immunity from
liability.”

For the entire digest and discussion, click here…

Posted in Federal Spotlight, Humor, Law, Life, News | Leave a Comment »

Supreme Lit Clinics Hungry for Cases

Posted by pbsweeney on March 6, 2007

Here’s an interesting bit of information gleaned from the popular Legal Times column “Courtside” that sometimes reads like a Supreme court gossip column but most often provides interesting sidebars on all things Supreme. Three years ago Stanford Law opened the first Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and the idea was so hot that Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, and others are quickly following suit. Last week alone saw three cases before the court with clinic participation, and the list is growing. Already the very popular litigation clinics have to fight harder to find cert-worthy cases, and have been filing more amicus briefs as a result.

The clinics are an amazing resource! To read more click here…

Links to a few of the clinics are as follows: Stanford, Harvard Supreme & Appellate clinics scheduled to open in the fall of 2007, and Yale which openly invites representation inquiries on the site.

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