Saturday, May 16, 2009

Violent Altercation Leads To Bar Discipline

The Louisiana Supreme Court revoked the license of an attorney for misconduct both as a lawyer and in private life. The practice-related charges involved neglect of a bankruptcy matter, failure to communicate with the client, failure to return unearned fees and documents, practicing while suspended for non-payment of bar dues and failing to cooperate with the bar's investigation.

The non-practice related incident took place at the drive-up window of a fast food restaurant. He began to argue with his girlfriend, poured beer on her and hit her over the head with an empty beer bottle. She then hit him the head with a beer bottle (he needed three stitches). He failed to appear for the simple battery criminal charges, which are still pending. The court found that this violent criminal conduct adversely reflected on his fitness to practice.

The attorney defaulted on the disciplinary charges. (Mike Frisch)

May 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Disciplinary Probation For Marijuana Possession

A Michigan attorney received two years probation with conditions as a disciplinary sanction for a criminal conviction involving marijuana possession. A stipulated consent disposition in the matter had been accepted by a hearing panel. (Mike Frisch)

May 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cocked Or Not, Disbarment Imposed

The North Dakota Supreme Court has disbarred an attorney for, among other things, a criminal conviction for terrorizing a Fargo police officer with a gun while intoxicated. The court did agree with the attorney that the evidence did not establish that the gun was cocked:

The hearing panel's finding to which Light continues to object--that the handgun he pointed at the Fargo police officer was cocked--is, however, not supported by clear and convincing evidence. As Disciplinary Counsel points out, Light admitted the allegations contained in the Petition for Discipline dated November 30, 2007, but those allegations do not include a description of the handgun. Although Light also admitted the allegations in the Petition for Discipline dated August 23, 2007, relating to the criminal charges, stating that he admits he pleaded guilty to a class C felony as described in the Petition, again, the description of the gun as being cocked was not part of those allegations. Neither is the handgun description part of the criminal judgment found in the record. We do not know whether the gun was described as being cocked in the criminal information by which Light was charged, because that document is not part of the record. Whether the handgun was cocked, however, is not significant for purposes of the finding that Light was convicted of a class C felony under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-17-04, which incurs the consequences set forth in N.D.R. Lawyer Discipl. 4.1.

An earlier article about the case from the Bismarck Tribune is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

May 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Suspension For Escrow Violations

From the web page of the Tennessee Supreme Court:

This is a direct appeal of a trial court judgment that modified a hearing panel’s order suspending an attorney from the practice of law for sixty days. The trial court did not disagree with the hearing panel’s findings regarding the attorney’s misconduct but determined that the punishment was too harsh and, instead, ordered a public censure. After an independent review of the record, we conclude that the hearing panel’s findings that the attorney commingled his personal funds with client funds, paid personal bills out of his trust account, failed to maintain proper trust account records, and failed to timely respond to Board inquiries were supported by substantial and material evidence and that this conduct violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. These violations, coupled with the aggravating factor that in 1998, the attorney was publicly reprimanded for commingling his personal funds with trust account funds and for paying personal expenses from his trust account, warrant the sanctions imposed by the hearing panel which require that the attorney be suspended from the practice of law for sixty days, that his trust account be monitored for a period of one year following reinstatement of his law license, that he submit trust account bank statements and ledger sheets every thirty days during this one-year period, and that he pay all costs of the proceeding. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgment to the extent that it modifies the sanctions imposed by the hearing panel.

The court is clearly correct in determining that a censure is unduly lenient in light of the misconduct.

The decision is linked here. (Mike Frisch)

May 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Breaking News

A majority of the Washington State Supreme Court has held that one of its justices may not be defended or reimbursed for the costs of defending an ethics complaint:

Justice Richard Sanders seeks review of the Court of Appeals decision that the State has no duty to defend him or to reimburse him for attorney fees he incurred in defending himself before the Commission on Judicial Conduct.  At issue is whether the State is required to defend a judge who is alleged to have committed an ethics violation while otherwise within the purview of his or her official duties.  

We affirm the Court of Appeals, holding the State has no duty to defend when a judge knows or should know that the conduct of which he or she is accused is
unethical and therefore not an official act.

There are two dissents linked here and here. The web page of the very colorful justice is linked here.

(Mike Frisch)

May 14, 2009 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Disregarding Sympathy

The Oklahoma Supreme Court denied reinstatement of an attorney suspended for four years for a tax-related criminal conviction:

The petitioner...was suspended from the practice of law for a period of fours years effective September 20, 2002. The suspension arose from the attorney's criminal conviction in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma for failure to file her 1996 federal income tax return and for contempt for wilfully failing to disclose her fees in a bankruptcy proceeding. The attorney's actions also led to suspensions from the practice of law in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The attorney sought reinstatement which the respondent, Oklahoma Bar Association (Bar Association), opposed. The trial panel of the Professional Responsibility Tribunal found that [she] had failed to meet the burden of proof in establishing that her future conduct would conform to the high standards of a member of the Bar Association and to present stronger proof than an individual seeking first time admission. Upon de novo review, we determine that reinstatement should be denied and impose $1,015.53 in costs.

The court concluded:

We agree with the trial panel that there is no evidence to indicate that the attorney engaged in the unauthorized practice of law during her suspension and that she successfully demonstrated her present ability to competently practice law. Unlike the trial panel and the Bar Association, we also determine that [her] testimony reflects an understanding both of the wrongfulness of her acts and sincere remorse for the injury she caused to her clients, the practicing bar, and the judicial system. However, although there is evidence in support of [her], we cannot equate her having discharged federal income tax obligations with the payment of the same.

In making a reinstatement decision, this Court must disregard feelings of sympathy, recognizing that the petitioner's burden of proof is a heavy one. While we are concerned with any adverse effect reinstatement might have on the practicing bar, our foremost consideration is always to protect the public welfare. After having given due consideration to the evidence contained in this record and the appropriate factors examined in reinstatement proceedings along with relevant jurisprudence, we determine that the petitioner has failed to carry her burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that she is entitled to reinstatement. Therefore, reinstatement is denied and costs of $1,015.53 are imposed.

(Mike Frisch)

May 14, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Option To Sue

The full text (citations omitted) of a decision today from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department:

Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Richard B. Lowe III, J.), entered October 29, 2008, which, in an action alleging legal malpractice, granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, unanimously modified, on the law, the motion denied to the extent it sought to dismiss the cause of action asserted by plaintiff Snorkel Productions, Inc. for damages incurred in connection with an arbitration commenced against it by Barry Manilow and Appoggiatura Music, Inc., and otherwise affirmed, without costs.

In light of plaintiffs' admission that, had defendants properly advised them of the date on which the option to produce a dramatic-musical play written by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, who held his rights through Appoggiatura, would lapse, they would have timely renewed the option and proceeded to invest, willingly assuming the risk that they would be unable to obtain adequate financing and the production would fail, the motion court correctly concluded that, although the incorrect advice may have induced plaintiffs' continuing investment, it was not the proximate cause of their claimed losses, which resulted solely from the failure to obtain financing sufficient to support the production. The only loss proximately caused by defendants' negligent advice was plaintiff Snorkel's loss of its right to produce the play. While there is no nonspeculative basis for valuing that right, Snorkel may seek to recover as damages the expenses it incurred in connection with the arbitration commenced by Manilow and Appoggiatura to recover their rights.

(Mike Frisch) 

May 14, 2009 in Clients | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Resignation No Basis For Reciprocal Discipline

A lawyer who had resigned from the Connecticut Bar while facing disciplinary charges was able to avoid reciprocal discipline in New York. The Appellate Division for the Third Judicial Department held that "neither [his] resignation nor Connecticut's acceptance of the same contained a specific admission or finding of misconduct and, given the paucity of the record in this regard, we are unable to assess [his] culpability for the misconduct alleged." (Mike Frisch)

May 14, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Suit Against Counsel By Opposing Party Dismissed

In a 71 page decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of claims against a law firm that had been instituted by a defendant in a suit that the law firm had filed. The case had its genesis in a dispute between the owner of the Surfrider Beach Club in sea Bright and their across-the-street neighbor. The suit against the neighbor and her daughter was brought by a firm associate after reviewing a memo from a summer associate and conducting supplemental legal research. The complaint alleged defamation, tortious interference with economic opportunities and other causes of action. A jury verdict was returned against some defendants but reversed by the Appellate Division.

Here, the court notes that suits brought against counsel by opposing parties are disfavored: "Generally, there is a reluctance to permit a nonclient to sue an adversary's attorney because of the concerns that such lawsuits can chill the zealous advocacy an attorney owes his or her client." The court concluded that the record left no doubt that the client's disclosures to the lawyers were full and fair and that the opposing party could not demonstrate that the law firm actions were malicious or for an improper purpose. (Mike Frisch)

May 14, 2009 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From Utah With Advice

A Utah law firm may not provide credit counseling services to South Carolina residents without complying with statutory licensing requirements. The South Carolina Supreme Court held that an exemption in the statute for attorneys at law applies only to attorneys licensed to practice in the state and rejected a variety of claims by the Utah law firm:

Lexington Law Firm’s final argument is that the providing of credit counseling services does not constitute the practice of law, and as such, its actions cannot constitute the unauthorized practice of law.  The untenable dichotomy Lexington Law Firm advances is they fall under the attorney exemption but do not commit the unauthorized practice of law in South Carolina because they are conducting a business.  Lexington Law Firm cannot have it both ways.  As discussed, the statutory scheme limits the listed exemptions to those professions or businesses “when acting in the regular course of their respective businesses and professions.”  S.C. Code Ann. § 37-7-101(2)(b) (Supp. 2008).  If Lexington Law Firm is, in fact, acting in the regular course of the practice of law in South Carolina, then it is engaging in the unlawful unauthorized practice of law.  Conversely, if Lexington Law Firm is merely conducting a credit counseling business, then it may not gain relief from the statutory compliance requirements through the “attorneys at law” exemption.

In sum, we are not barring Lexington Law Firm from providing credit counseling services to South Carolinians, we are simply requiring Lexington Law Firm comply with the statutes enacted by our Legislature.  Lexington Law Firm may not avail itself of an exemption for which it is not statutorily entitled.

(Mike Frisch)

May 13, 2009 in Law & Business | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Mitigation For Self-Suspension

The Oklahoma Supreme Court imposed a twelve month suspension of a relatively inexperienced attorney who had falsified billing and travel records, resulting in client payments in excess of the appropriate amounts. The attorney explained:

...[the attorney] stated that she did not dispute any facts in the grievance, that she takes full responsibility for her improper actions, and that she wanted to provide background information for a better understanding of her situation. [She] explained that she is a perfectionist with high expectations of herself and that she encountered various stress-generating circumstances during the time she made false billing and travel claims to the Paul Law Firm. Those stressful circumstances included her job as an associate attorney, her children (a kindergartner and an infant), her family's need to change residences (move to a larger residence), her husband's unexpected loss of employment, and her need for personal time.

The court determined that a significant suspension was required:

There are a myriad of disciplinary cases involving patterns of misrepresentation and deceit, but none directly on point. In many cases we have suspended the lawyer for misrepresentation, often for two years and a day where there is a pattern of deceit. Here, the PRT recommended a twelve-month suspension to begin in November of 2008 and the Bar Association suggested a six-month to twelve-month suspension to begin February 1, 2008. Under the circumstances in this case, we think a twelve-month suspension with no retroactive application is sufficient to deter [her] and other lawyers from similar misconduct in the future and to accomplish the goals of discipline. Accordingly, [the attorney's] license to practice law shall be suspended for a period of twelve months from the date this opinion becomes final.

The court rejected the attorney's asserted voluntary self-suspension as a basis to mitigate the otherwise appropriate sanction. (Mike Frisch)

May 13, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Semper Fi

An Illinois hearing board has recommended a one year suspension with reinstatement conditioned on further court order in a case where the attorney had refused to participate in the disciplinary case. One of the counts involved the following conduct:

United States Marine Corps Sergeant Michael McNulty owned a 2002 BMW automobile that had U.S. Marine Corps license plates and a U.S. Marine Corps bumper sticker. On December 1, 2007, Respondent intentionally scraped a metal object along the passenger side of Sgt. McNulty’s vehicle while it was parked. At that same time, Respondent made the following remark to Sgt. McNulty: "Just because you are in the military you don’t run the roost!" Respondent’s actions caused approximately $2,500 in damage to Sgt. McNulty’s vehicle.

Respondent was subsequently arrested in connection with this incident and charged with criminal damage to property in violation of 720 ILCS 5.0/21-1-1-A. People of the State of Illinois v. Jay Grodner, Cook County Circuit Court Docket No. 071318441. On January 18, 2008, in a proceeding before the Honorable William P. O’Malley, Respondent stipulated to a set of facts, including the fact that he "knowingly damaged" Sgt. McNulty’s vehicle when he "without consent rubbed along the passenger side of the vehicle causing scratches." Based on the stipulation, Judge O’Malley found Respondent guilty of criminal damage to property, a Class A Misdemeanor. Respondent was sentenced to one year of supervision, ordered to pay $600 in restitution, and required to complete 30 hours of community service.

The other charges related to neglect of client matters and non-cooperation with the bar investigation. The attorney had previously been disciplined for misconduct that had taken place in 1978:

Respondent was previously censured by the Court in 1983 for misconduct that occurred in 1978 in a matter entitled In re Armentrout, 99 Ill.2d 242, 457 N.E.2d 1262 (1983). That case, which involved a number of different respondents, arose out of a scheme orchestrated by Eugene Armentrout, then the State’s Attorney of Kane County, to gather the signatures necessary to place a state-wide advisory referendum on the ballot in an upcoming election by forging voters’ signatures on the required petitions. The plan was implemented through a procedure referred to as "roundtabling," whereby a group of people gathers and circulates petitions to one another and, using names obtained from the phone book or voter registration lists, forges signatures on the petitions. Respondent was one of a number of attorneys who took part in several of these roundtabling sessions.

At the time that this misconduct took place, Respondent was 26 years old and had been licensed to practice law for only three months. He was working as an assistant state’s attorney in Kane County for Armentrout and was recruited to participate in the scheme by another assistant state’s attorney who was acting at Armentrout’s direction. In a criminal proceeding against the various parties involved, Respondent pled guilty to one count of violation of the Election Code. He was sentenced to 6 months of supervision, fined $1,000 and later had his record expunged.

The hearing board did not accord significant weight to the prior misconduct. (Mike Frisch)

May 13, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Honor Among Fee-Sharers

The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department has held that an oral fee-sharing agreement between non-affiliated lawyers is enforceable in the courts:

Plaintiff attorney alleges that he assisted defendants in a contingency fee case for which they paid him 20% of the fee they realized on settlement, in breach of an oral agreement calling for a division of the fee as the parties "had done in the past," and that in all previous contingency-fee cases procured by defendants on which plaintiff had worked, they had paid him 50% of the fee. Contrary to the motion court's ruling, the complaint alleges a course of dealing sufficient to establish the terms of the parties' oral contract. Equally unavailing is defendants' argument that the parties' alleged fee-sharing agreement would be void under Code of Professional Responsibility DR 2-107(a)(2) (22 NYCRR 1200.12[a][2]). Defendants are also bound by the Code of Professional Responsibility, and cannot avoid a fee-sharing agreement on ethical grounds if they freely agreed to be bound by and received the benefit of same. (citations omitted)

(Mike Frisch)

May 12, 2009 in Economics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

GPS Installation Requires Warrant

The New York Court of Appeals has held that "the installation and use of a GPS device to monitor an individual's whereabouts requires a warrant supported by probable cause." The court found that the Appellate Division majority had erred in admitting evidence from the GPS in a criminal trial:

One need only consider what the police may learn, practically effortlessly, from planting a single device. The whole of a person's progress through the world, into both the public and private spatial spheres, can be charted and recorded over lengthy periods possibly limited only by the need to change the transmitting unit's batteries. Disclosed in the data retrieved from the transmitting unit, nearly instantaneously with the press of a button on the highly portable receiving unit, will be trips the indisputably private nature of which takes little imagination to conjure: trips to the psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip club, the criminal defense attorney, the by-the-hour motel, the union meeting, the mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on and on. What the technology yields and records with breathtaking quality and quantity, is a highly detailed profile, not simply of where we go, but by easy inference, of our associations- - political, religious, amicable and amorous, to name only a few--and of the pattern of our professional and avocational pursuits.

There is a lengthy dissent that notes: "The attempt to find in the Constitution a line between ordinary, acceptable means of observation and more efficient, high-tech ones that cannot be used without a warrant seems to me illogical, and doomed to failure."

Why did the court insert a trip to the defense lawyer between visits to a strip club and a by-the-hour motel? 

Chicagotribune.com reports on a contrary decision of a Wisconsin Court of Appeals. (Mike Frisch)

May 12, 2009 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Moral Turpitude

The District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility issued a report last week recommending that David Safavian be disbarred for his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. Under D.C. case law established in the disciplinary case against Charles Colson, a felony conviction for an offense (here one of the counts involved obstruction of justice) that inherently involves moral turpitude results in automatic disbarment.

The report may be found through the following link.  (Mike Frisch)

May 12, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 11, 2009

First Signs of a New Equilibrium in Entry-Level Salaries

[posted by Bill Henderson, crossposted to ELS Blog]

DrinkerAccording to today's Am Law Daily, Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle announced that instead of deferring its 37 incoming associates for six months to a year, it is going to institute an intensive training programs run by its partners, professional development personnel, and various firm clients.  To pay for this program, it is going to cut entry level salaries to $105,000 (from $145,000 to $160,000 depending upon the market).  Thereafter, the salaries will go to the "prevailing rate" in the spring 2010. [Query: what will that rate be?  Even it is higher than $105K, maybe Drinker is better off getting associates who self-select into its more training-intensive model.]

FutureFirm Frankly, this is the first sign I have witnessed of a sensible medium term strategy by an Am Law 200 law firm.  Further, this approach is very close to the associate pay models hammered out by the four FutureFirm 1.0 teams.  Remarkably, all four teams (each with four partners, three in-house lawyers, and three associates/law students) traded away the $160K pay scale for a entry level job that guaranteed meaningful training, client contact, and other perks, such as greater job security (e.g., a 3-year contract at $80,000 per year) and loan payback programs.

There are several reasons why Drinker Biddle's move could set the stage for a new equilibrium:

  • Making "Better Lawyers Faster."  The real problem with the $160K pay structure is that associates become too expensive to train, at least on the client's dime.  $105,000 is more than the $60,000 to $75,000 one-year hiatus offered by several firms.  But think about it.  A firm can bill out the associates at rates below a paralegal and easily recoup the difference.   Further, the associates are learning the clients' businesses and observing partners and senior associates.  In the fall of 2010,  Drinker Biddle associates will be worth a lot more to clients than associates who took the year off.  This training is akin to the original Cravath system, which was designed to make "better lawyers faster."
  • Continued Soft Entry Level Market.   With zero voluntary attrition at most Am Law 200 firms and the go-go days of Silicon Valley (97-00) and Wall Street (04-07) gone for the foreseeable future, the entry level supply pipeline is going to back up into the 2010 and 2011.   Thus, there is a decent chance that Drinker Biddle will enjoy a few years of sensible $105,000 salary structure.  In a world where revenues are unlikely to climb anytime soon, reducing costs is the only viable road to profitability.   More significantly, the lower costs and better trained workforce could become a source of long-term competitive advantage.
  • Owning your Market Space.  Up until 2009, virtually every law firm in the Am Law 200 was a market follower.  Drinker Biddle lacks to the cachet to be market leader, even in Philadelphia ($605,000 in FY 2008 PPP, which is #92 in the Am Law 100).  Thus, why not be a first mover where many competitors are likely to be too snobbish and bull-headed to follow your lead?  Based on upon my observations from FutureFirm, and my discussions with Indiana 1Ls, I predict that $105K + training will be magnet for many law students.  Keep in mind, more elite firms cannot even offer a firm start date. 
  • Reality is Underrated.  To my mind, it is preferable to be a so-called "middle-market" firm with a sensible cost-structure and a contented client base than an so-called top-market firm with a bloated cost-structure and clients who don't want your junior associates to work on their matters.  Am Law 200 firms can and do sometimes implode, especially when the partnership goes into denial.  Drinker Biddle, to it credit, appears to have a plan.
  • $105,000 and the Six-Figure Barrier.   It is unclear to me whether $105,000 is the optimal entry level salary for a lawyer who wants the very best training opportunities to launch one's career.  I suspect the optimal figure may be lower (e.g., $80,000 per year moving up to $120,000 to $200,000 within three years).  But I do think that dropping under the $100,000 barrier may have created perceptions problems for Drinker Biddle that may outweigh any short-term financial gains--e.g., Philly rivals mimicking Drinker's strategy, but coming in above the psychologically powerful six-figure barrier.  Yet, now, if some firms dicker around at $115,000, Drinker can move to that number next year with zero lost in market credibility, said figure being the so-called "prevailing rate."

Arguably, Drinker Biddle is the first Am Law 200 firm to not "waste a crisis."  It will be interesting to see how other firms respond.

May 11, 2009 in Law Firms | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pets As Property, Not Family

Claims brought by pet owners after two cats who were being treated for hypertension died shortly after taking prescribed medication were dismissed by the Vermont Supreme Court:

This case presents two questions: first, whether noneconomic damages are available when a pet dies due to negligent or wanton acts of veterinarians and a pharmaceutical company; second, whether a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress lies for the death of a pet when its human companion was not within any so-called zone of danger at the time of the mishap.  We answer both questions in the negative and affirm the superior court’s order of dismissal. 

Plaintiffs, the owners of two cats who allegedly died from treatment and medication supplied by defendants, appeal from the superior court’s grant of partial judgment on the pleadings for defendants.  The trial court’s order dismissed plaintiffs’ claims for loss of companionship and society and severe emotional distress, as well as their complaint for negligent infliction of emotional distress.  The first two counts are for noneconomic damages claimed by plaintiffs as part of their causes of action for breach of implied warranty of merchantability, breach of express warranty of merchantability, breach of implied warranty of merchantability for a particular purpose, negligence and wantonness, breach of the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act, and breach of contract.  Initially, plaintiffs received the superior court’s permission to take an interlocutory appeal from the order, but defendants opposed the appeal, and this Court dismissed it as improvidently granted.  Plaintiffs then voluntarily dismissed their remaining claims for economic damages so that they could proceed with a direct appeal of the superior court’s partial judgment on the pleadings.

The court rejected the argument that pets should be treated as family members rather than property. The court noted that wrongful death claims do not extend to all close family members under Vermont law. As to claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress:

...plaintiffs cannot recover for NIED [negligent infliction of emotional distress] because they were never the objects of the allegedly negligent acts of the veterinarians and pharmacy, and thus were neither in physical danger themselves, nor had any reason to fear for their own physical well-being.  To make a prima facie case for NIED, plaintiffs must first make a “threshold showing that [they] or someone close to [them] faced physical peril.”  We will assume, without deciding, that the pets qualified as “someone” close to plaintiffs who faced physical peril by virtue of defendants’ negligence.  After this threshold showing, where plaintiffs did not themselves suffer an actual “physical impact from an external force,” the remaining elements of NIED require that: (1) plaintiffs must have been within the “zone of danger” of the acts imperiling their cats; (2) plaintiffs were subjected to “a reasonable fear of immediate personal injury;” and (3) as a result of such imminent danger to their persons, plaintiffs “suffered substantial bodily injury or illness.”  Even if plaintiffs in this case can show that they suffered an emotional injury with physical manifestations as a result of their cats’ deaths, they cannot establish either of the first two elements necessary for NIED. (citations omitted)

(Mike Frisch)

May 11, 2009 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tulane Ranks #2 Among U.S. Law Schools In Only Rankings Done By Student Surveys

Posted by Alan Childress
So obviously the methodology is more valid than that of U.S. News & World Reports, which ignores consumer satisfaction and instead surveys the ... competitors' chair of their hiring committee???  What kind of statistical method is that? Who are the ad wizards behind that sort of academic ranking?  Maybe there's a reason you never see the infamous Coke-Pepsi taste test done by asking the head of Pepsi's personnel department what she thinks about drinking a Coke.  (She is against it. She candidly ranks Coke's taste as way lower than that of the radioactive barium milkshake they give you to gulp just before you take abdominal xrays.  Pepsi now ranked as number one soft drink.)

Tulane is the Number Two Party Law School in the country.  Woo hoo. See this site, as tipped by TaxProf.  Which begs the question, how fun must Arizona State be, to outrank us?

May 11, 2009 in Hot Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Better Late Than Never

An Arizona hearing officer has recommended a public censure and probation in a matter where the attorney had engaged in a sexual relationship with a criminal client without advising to seek new counsel or disclosing the nature of the potential and actual conflict of interest. The relationship began when lawyer and client met at a bar for drinks. The criminal case was resolved by plea and the client served jail time. The lawyer and client are now married.

The attorney did not initially respond to the bar's investigation but eventually responded to emails from the disciplinary counsel. Noting that a more severe sanction (i.e. suspension) would have been imposed had the attorney not participated, the hearing officer commended disciplinary counsel for the efforts to reach out to the accused attorney. (Mike Frisch)

May 11, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

From This Moment On

An attorney who has been on interim suspension since April 1999 was prospectively disbarred by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He had been suspended as a result of criminal charges involving multiple victims. In 2001, he was convicted of one count of rape, five counts of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault, two counts of false imprisonment and simple assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. He was released from prison in February 2008 after serving a nine year prison sentence. In response to the bar charges, he refused to appear and asserted his innocence. The Disciplinary Board declined to recommend that he receive any credit for the decade of time served on interim suspension, and the court agreed. (Mike Frisch)

May 10, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)