Monday, May 3, 2010

Multiple Problems Lead To Supension, Probation

Another recent discipline case summarized in the California Bar Journal:

[An attorney] was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on two years of probation with a two-year actual suspension and until he makes restitution and proves his rehabilitation, and he was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Oct. 17, 2009.

[The attorney] stipulated to misconduct in nine matters. In each matter, he admitted that he failed to perform legal services competently. In addition, he stipulated that he abandoned clients three times and did not cooperate with the bar’s investigation of five matters.

His misconduct resulted in a mistrial in a criminal proceeding where he was defense counsel for a defendant facing a possible life sentence. The defendant’s sister-in-law hired him and paid $10,000 in attorney’s fees and $500 in costs. [He] attended six of eight days of the trial before being found unconscious on the floor of his home. He had voluntarily taken an overdose of prescription medications (for which he did not have a prescription) and other controlled substances.

He failed to appear in another criminal matter, but was informed by a public defender that his client had taken a plea. Although he agreed to refund the client’s advance $3,500 fee, he did not do so.

In 2004, [the attorney] pleaded no contest to driving with a blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent and driving a car that was involved in an accident, both misdemeanors involving moral turpitude. He had fled the scene after sideswiping a car in Long Beach; two blood alcohol tests registered .14 and .15 percent.

In another incident, while stopped at a red light, [the attorney] opened his car door at the moment a motorcycle was passing. The motorcycle struck two other vehicles and the rider was injured. Although [he] was unaware of the motorcycle, he pleaded no contest to opening his car door when it wasn’t safe to do so. His license was suspended at the time, and he also pleaded no contest to driving without a license. Both convictions were misdemeanors.

[The attorney] was arrested in 2006 for shoplifting at a Fry’s Electronics store and pleaded no contest to misdemeanor petty theft, a crime involving moral turpitude. The day after he was released from custody, he was stopped by the CHP and cited for driving without a seatbelt, driving with an expired registration and without proof of insurance, and driving with a suspended license. The counts were dismissed when [he] pleaded no contest to driving without a license, a misdemeanor.

In mitigation, [he] cooperated with the bar by stipulating to extensive facts and the level of discipline, and he has taken steps to address his problems with alcohol addiction.

(Mike Frisch)

May 3, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

In The Green Room

A report on a bar discipline case from the May 2010 online edition of the California Bar Journal:

[An attorney] was suspended for three years, stayed, and actually suspended for two years and until the State Bar Court grants a motion to terminate the suspension and he proves his rehabilitation. He also was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 9.20. The order took effect Oct. 3, 2009.

In 2007, [the attorney] pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance — concentrated cannabis. He had been charged with two felonies in connection with his ownership of the California Green Room, which Reedy claimed was a legal medical marijuana dispensary. The felonies were dropped as part of a plea agreement.

The bar court rejected [his] claims that he ran the Green Room as a non-profit private club with a closed membership of about 100 people and that each of the members had a physician’s marijuana use recommendation.

He did not participate in the State Bar proceedings and his default was entered.

(Mike Frisch)

May 3, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scrivener for Lawyers

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

I don't ever do solicited product endorsements but my son-in-law Simon, IT guru and Mac aficionado, referred me some time ago to a writer's program called Scrivener, which I now use to organize notes and sources on my writing projects.  Simon passed along this link that discusses how Scrivener might be helpful to lawyers.

May 2, 2010 in The Practice, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ghosh on Jeopardy, Part IV: Final Jeopardy (and a parallel to legal education?)

[Our final installment of Shubha's appearance on Jeopardy. And as I promised, here is one other writing you can see from him, perhaps a bit more technical, his coauthoed West casebook, Intellectual Property.   Where we left off, Shubha was about to compete. --Alan.]

   When my turn to compete came up, I had watched four previous tapings and felt relatively confident.  But standing behind the podium is, needless to say, different from sitting down, spouting out answers, and being entertained. I was now the entertainment; people would tune in to be enthralled by a real contest.  Cameras rolled. Theme music filled the silence of the sound stage. Holy shit, I said to myself quietly, mindful of the FCC. At that moment, whatever the tallest water fall in the world might be, it did not match the cascade of facts that was emptying from my brain. [Angel falls? -- Alan] Game play is twenty-two minutes, which strikes me now as an overestimate. Time was demarcated by the flash of questions and the ding of buzzers, which by the way took a real effort to control. My biggest fear was going into the red and at one point I could have gone either way.  My reaction when I got the question right was used in the promo for the week’s broadcast.  There were times when I felt on a roll.  Obama Successors was amazingly enough a category. Other times though I knew I was spouting the wrong answer when the right one was starting at me.  Should it ever be useful, the difference between a capital theta and capital phi is now permanently imprinted.  At one point, the judges stopped the game for an interminable period of time to see if my answer “prehistorical” was close enough to what they wanted “prehistory.”  What the…?  There were also several moments when I was sure that the answer I gave was the correct one.

But this game is not about analytical prowess.  Knowledge may be power but in the heat of Jeopardy battle, facts are money. At the end of it all, a dollar separated me from a tie with first place. The result was satisfactory intellectually: a respectable showing that allowed me to go home with an interesting set of experiences.  But that rationalized a terrible sense of disappointment which combined regret at not making a big money payoff (second place gets $ 2000 and third, $ 1000) with a feeling that I could have done better.  No robot can be programmed to replicate the feelings I had at the exact moment when the game was over.

As they tape the end credits, the contestants stand on the stage next to Alex Trebek and engage in banter.  Alex asked me what kind of law I was involved with, and I said intellectual property. “That must be really interesting with the Internet and all, “ he said.  “Yes, the Internet and other things,” I replied, launching into a law professor shtick on the reasons intellectual property is interesting. He interrupted me: “Well, I think all you need to protect intellectual property is a good gun.”  I stared back at him: “Yes, well, that seems to be how the rap industry operates.”  Blank stare back.  Last of the end credits. Usual disclaimers. Copyright notice. Jeopardy theme crescendo. And that was a wrap.

The contestant coordinators now had the job of escorting us out of the studio. More forms were signed. We were told we would get out checks four months after the show’s airdate. A canvas Jeopardy tote bag was handed to each of us as we were told where we could meet our cab to wherever we were going. Outside, the late afternoon sun nearly blinded me. I thanked the contestant coordinator for inviting me on, and he nodded cordially. Sequestration over, I was reunited with my spouse as we made our way off the lot with two other contestants.  There was a crowd of people outside the sound stage.  A bunch of young kids shouted out my name. “Shubha, you should have bet two more dollars.” I shouted back: “I didn’t have it!” and then added some platitude about studying hard.  My spouse explained that they were students at Culver City High School.  The Jeopardy announcer, during one of the breaks between tapings, introduced them as part of a special educational program the show had with local schools. My spouse had spoken to one of the kids who told her that attending the tapings was part of his community service.  I laughed, “What next?  Will the State of California have convicts compete to get time off for good behavior.” I resisted punning on “Double Jeopardy.” [Which would have been funny to anyone except Alex? -- Alan] As I said good bye to two of my fellow contestants, who were also headed back home, I realized  that the show would never lack for people to compete on whatever promise the show offered.

There are in your face parallels between being on a game show and being in legal education: the promise of monetary success, the piling on of information and its regurgitation in countless exams, the winner take all structure of the contest. But of course they are just trite analogies which the patient reader can indulge. Legal education, of course, serves a higher purpose and has real impact. Gameshows are true lotteries; junk food for the educated. At the end of my experience on Jeopardy, I have to say, to quote a literary character some may recognize, I didn’t learn a damn thing. [Jeff, who said that? --Alan] I did have a fun time in the process though. Yet, when thinking about all the facts I acquired during the day, about make-up artists, about game show rules and regulations, about Watson, about my fellow competitors, I wonder if I am not missing some cohesive lesson into which all these clues assemble. If I strain hard enough and think quickly, maybe I can come up with the right response.
    What is an entertaining diversion from what really matters, Alex?

[Editor's note:  I watched this show Friday and Shubha does not say, but he should be very proud.  He did extremely well, and Alex commented much the same.  Shubha answered some unbelievable questions, in one case to his own obvious surprise.  I am not sure of his epilog, since for some people game shows are what really matters--but there is no doubt in my mind that Shubha competed admirably and well represented the U. of Wisconsin.]

May 2, 2010 in Lawyers & Popular Culture, Television | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Ghosh on Jeopardy, Part III

[Third in a series on Prof. Ghosh's appearance Friday, April 30, at least in TV time that is, on the grueling quiz show, in his own words. A Legal Profession Blog exclusive.  -- Alan]

      That morning the Jeopardy crew was testing out a prototype for Watson, a robot created by IBM  to play Jeopardy against human contestants.  The first game with Watson is scheduled for later this year or perhaps in early 2011.  I really could not make out what the director, cameramen, and other technicians were doing with Watson, perhaps whatever passes for make-up in the robot world.  ["Only its hairdresser knows for sure." -- Alan]  We were asked to sit patiently as Watson was tamed and then escorted off stage like so many other contestants past and future. Then the real fun began: learning how to use the game equipment. The director had us up on stage, three at a time, to try out the buzzer and learn what it felt like to be behind the podium. We saw how the Board was set and  reset, where the videoclues were displayed, how the sidelights came on and off indicating when we could buzz in, and the nifty, but not so-futuristic, sliding doors through which Alex entered. Platforms behind each podium raised and lowered contestants so that they would all appear to be the same height for the home viewers. We practiced a game with easy questions, some involving Sony products, to get used to the feel of the buzzer, the flash of lights, the cadence of the questions as they filled the sound stage. I fumbled with the buzzer, kicked myself for not getting “what is a walkman?,” and ever so briefly worried whether I had on too much make-up. I felt ready to go, but inside thought of all the million ways I could screw up, many of which I executed perfectly later on.

       I wasn’t picked in the first group of contestants which consisted of the returning champion from the previous day’s taping, or last Friday’s show as it would be referred to, and two of the newbies.  I figured I would be the last one selected and I was, but that gave the whole day to watch the behind the scene action and mingle with my fellow contestants. Under the terms of our sequestration, the contestants sat together on the side bleachers of the studio audience and are not allowed to communicate, even look at, friends and family sitting across the aisle. We were told not to speak out any answers, even in a whisper.   Conversation among the contestants was limited to how the last game went, experiences with the audition and other games. One just had a baby. Another mentioned that the family car broke down on the day she got the invite call; the money would help out.  A graduate student in art history from New York, a researcher on the mathematics of earthquake prediction from California, a high school teacher and quiz bowl coach from Arkansas—all brought together by the promise of being on TV for twenty minutes and earn several thousands in prize money.  [part 4, the last, is next.]

May 2, 2010 in Television, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Second Chance Given, Attorney Reprimanded

A Virginia attorney was reprimanded for failure to supervise a legal secretary who embezzled from his law firm. The employee was on probation for theft when the attorney hired her at the suggestion of his father, who had founded the law firm and transferred responsibility to the son.

A report from the Bristol Herald Courier provides some details:

In June 2007, an Abingdon law firm hired a longtime legal secretary who had just pleaded guilty to embezzlement to be its bookkeeper.

Charles Jessee Sr., the firm’s founding partner and sole shareholder, hired Anna Howell to give her a “new start,” according to a Virginia State Bar report released Thursday. Jessee Sr. had recently transferred his shares and managerial responsibilities to his son, John Jessee Jr. The father told his son that Howell “would be an extremely loyal and devoted employee.”

But she wasn’t.

On Thursday, the Virginia State Bar reprimanded Jessee Jr. for neglecting to adequately supervise Howell and exercise his managerial duties as the firm’s sole shareholder.

Jessee Sr. transferred his ownership interest in the law firm to his son in March 2007. But Jessee Jr. did not realize that he simultaneously inherited managerial responsibility for “what always had been, and in his eyes, what still was, his father’s firm,” according to a State Bar disciplinary report.

Before becoming the firm’s sole shareholder, Jessee Jr. had not had any managerial authority in the firm, the State Bar report notes.

Howell, while employed by the firm, hijacked outstanding checks from a real estate escrow account by having the bank issue stop-payment orders and reissue the checks as money orders. Howell then used the money orders to pay her own debts, according to the State Bar and federal court documents.

Howell is serving a three-year federal sentence, and faces an additional 2½ years in state prison upon her release.

(Mike Frisch)

May 2, 2010 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)