Monday, June 29, 2009

Drinks At Shanghi Red's Leads To Judge's Resignation reports on a judicial misconduct matter:

Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita says State Supreme Court Judge Joseph Makowski and local attorney Anne Adams conspired to try and make a DWI case against Adams go away.

Last September, Makowski and Adams met for drinks at Shanghai Red's on the Buffalo waterfront.

Afterwards, Adams was driving home through Hamburg, with Makowski following behind her, when Adams was spotted driving erratically and was pulled over by police.

A breathalyzer test showed her blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Despite that, Makowski in attempt to cover up the case, submitted a sworn statement to a judge saying that Adams' driving had been fine. He also stated that she had had only two drinks.

The following day, Adams, in her attempt to have the case against her dismissed, had her blood drawn.

By then, it showed just a trace amount of alcohol in her system, but Adams then claimed in a statement to the court that the blood had been drawn the night of her arrest.

Late Friday afternoon, Adams pled guilty to the DWI charge, as well another two charges related to her tampering with evidence (the blood test).

"Her conduct was disgraceful and she is now being held accountable for that conduct," said Sedita.

Makowski recanted his statement and resigned from the bench.

He will not face any criminal charges.

Scott Brown: "Knowing that Judge Makowski lied in his sworn statement, why not prosecute him?"

Sedita: "Under the law, if Judge Makowski chose to come before the grand jury and recant, there would be no criminal charges against him, so we fashioned a result where he recanted before the grand jury met, he must resign from the bench, and that means his reputation is disgraced."

Adams is scheduled to be sentenced in April, that sentence can range from probation, to two years in prison.

There's a chance that both Adams and Makowski could lose their licenses to practice law.

The bottom line says Sedita, "They tried to fix a case Scott, and they got caught."

This situation isn't sitting well with the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization.

Elizabeth Obad, The president of the Erie County M.A.D.D. chapter, calls this situation a disgrace and wants to see a stiff penalty for Adams when she is sentenced in April.

"We look up to our attorneys and our judges and expect them to enforce the law and I think it's horrible when someone who could have possibly been sitting on the bench and someone who was on the bench to do something like this," said Obad. "I think it's absolutely horrible and I would like to see some still penalties in this matter."

The proceedings before the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct leading to the judge's resignation from the bench are linked here and here. reports that the attorney was a former prosecutor and was sentenced to imprisonment for the driving incident. (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2009 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The End of an Era: the Bi-Modal Distribution for the Class of 2008

[posted by Bill Henderson, crossposted to ELS Blog]

NALP has just posted its entry-level starting salary for class of 2008--i.e., the lawyers who started their jobs just as Bear Sterns and Lehman Bros unraveled and the credit markets completely froze up. 
Of the 22,305 law school graduates, a remarkable 23% (5,130 members of the class of 2008) reported an entry-level salary of $160,000.  In contrast, 42% of entry level lawyers reported salaries in the $40,000 to $65,000 range.  Once again, the central tendencies are a poor guide to the distribution as a whole: whereas the mean salary is a $92,000, the median salary was $72,000.   Further, the two modes ($50,000 and $160,000) are separated by $110,000.

Amidst all the layoffs, deferrals, salary cuts, and apprenticeship programs announced in 2009, it is safe to venture that the bi-modal era has peaked.  Every law school class for the foreseeable future will graduate to a much different economic landscape.  Although many students will regret the opportunity to earn such a big payday upon graduation, it brought with it intense billing pressure, client resentment, heavy leverage, and very little substantive training for new hires.  I would argue that profession as a whole (including current and future graduating classes) is better off with a lower entry level salary. 

Admittedly that is a long-term view for the profession as a whole.  In the short term, current students and recent graduates are in a world of hurt.  Specifically, law school debt loads continue to climb.  Thus, law schools are (rightfully) going to be under increased pressure to deliver value to our students.  I don't think most law professors and law school administrators fully appreciate the difficult times ahead.  For a provocative take on the current state of legal education, see Paul Lippe, Welcome to the Future: Time for Law School 4.0.

For some perspective on how this crazy market evolved, see:

After the jump are the distributions from 1991, 2006, and 2007.  The primary takeaway is that the bi-modal did not exist in the early 1990s.  It first emerged in 2000 (with the salary wars) and became progressively more extreme as the decade unfolded.  On Wednesday, I have an article coming out in the NALP Bulletin, entitled "The Bursting of the Pedigree Bubble," which will provide some additional analysis.

Continue reading

June 29, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

No Reciprocal Discipline

Adhering to the reasoning of a recent opinion that we posted, the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed a reciprocal discipline matter involving the suspension of an attorney in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. The court majority holds that "the State Bar is not authorized to utilize the reciprocal discipline process when the disciplinary action at issue was taken by a federal district court."  The court dismissed a second matter on the same grounds. (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Trucking To Suspension

An attorney who engaged in multiple instances of driving under the influence exacerbated by flight from the scene and a false claim that his car was being driven by a stripper was suspended for three years by the Louisiana Supreme Court. He had endangered his young daughter by holding her in his arms as he vandalized the truck of his estranged wife's boyfriend with a shovel, breaking the truck's windows and doing body damage as well (which he also had falsely denied).

He also "...most significantly...attempted to disrupt the ODC's investigation by unjustifiably invoking constitutional protections and offering false testimony" in the bar proceedings. (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Louisiana Disbarment

The Louisiana Supreme Court Court disbarred and revoked the license of an attorney for misconduct in several matters. In one case the attorney made a false representation to a court in the course of representing her sister in a domestic relations matter. In another, she made "obscene hand gestures" to opposing counsel and said "f*** you" to counsel. In a third matter, she continued to file pleadings after discharged by her client, accusing the client of perjury and opposing counsel of child molestation, perjury , and destruction of evidence. Another count involved the failure to return artwork that was held by the attorney in trust pursuant to a court order.

Disbarment was deemed appropriate because "a common thread running through [the] misconduct is that it is knowing and intentional [and] has caused significant actual harm." (Mike Frisch)

June 29, 2009 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)