Friday, August 17, 2012

Position Available: Wyoming Law & Ethics Chaired Professorship

This comes from Diane Courselle, the chair of the Appointments Committee at the University of Wyoming College of Law. It's long so most of it follows the break.

University of Wyoming College of Law Clinical Excellence Position The University of Wyoming College of Law seeks to hire a tenured, tenure-track, or distinguished visiting faculty member for the Carl Williams/Excellence Professorship in Law and Ethics beginning in the 2013-2014 academic year. The individual selected for this position will serve as Director of the College’s Legal Services Clinic, teach Professional Responsibility, and an additional doctrinal course. The College of Law encourages expressions of interest from applicants who have established, or are establishing, national reputations as teachers and scholars in clinical education and ethics.

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August 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deification, Demonization, Order, Chaos, Justification, and Rationalization in Legal Education

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

My co-author, Marcia McCormick (left) Mmccor20, a Saint Louis University law professor affected by the recent deanship resignation and replacement debacle, has some wise thoughts about false dichotomies implicit in the current "discussion" over the cost and form of legal education.   

But Marcia was being thoughtful, and judging by some of the comments, no good deed goes unpunished.   Here's some support for her view, and if it's unduly reasonable, I'll just have to take my punishment too.

One of the false dichotomies I've observed over the course of a long career in and out of academia (more out than in - twenty-six years of law firm and in-house, managing, hiring, firing, etc.) is the view that the world divides up neatly into gods and demons.  Marcia's post highlights and critiques the perfect storm of deification and demonization when in the face of increasingly scarce resources (see Jerry's post), (a) there's a good old-fashioned turf war, (b) in law school, (c) at a time when all of the contending protagonists and antagonists feel the warm glow of victimization and justification.

Why turf war?  Marcia refers to warring dualistic tropes, and my take is that each one is tied to a particular fight over turf. To paraphrase James Carville, it's the scarce resources, [pejorative]! Education may not be "business," but it is an institution governed by pretty basic economics, and cash does fuel the engine.  Everybody (including me) has a stake, and when the scarce resources are getter scarcer (corporate legal budgets, good lawyer jobs, raises, summer stipends, full-time tenure track jobs, etc.), it's awfully hard to separate out one's adaptive and atavistic instincts for survival from one's dispassionate assessments.  Campaign rhetoric isn't meant to be subtle; it's meant to rally the troops.  And objectivity is a nice ideal, but don't tell that to somebody in a metaphoric foxhole just trying to survive the battle.  (I'm putting aside real foxholes and their physical equivalents, though even that dichotomy may get blurred.)

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August 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Submission Invitation - Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy

Via e-mail from Breanna Houghton:

The Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy is currently soliciting articles for publication in our upcoming Spring 2013 issue. The issue will focus on the legal, ethical and policy considerations on a variety of important public policy issues currently facing the country. The Journal is unique among legal periodicals because it examines public policy questions within the framework of the Judeo-Christian intellectual and moral tradition. The Journal seeks to create a dialogue of ethical issues that is inclusive of diverse perspectives.  The Journal has a national audience of persons actively involved in the formulation of public policy, and often includes timely pieces from a broad spectrum of prominent scholars and officials.  Past contributors include Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, Justice William J. Brennan, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Judges Richard Posner and Diarmuid O’Scannlain, Senators Bill Bradley and Orrin Hatch, Governor Mario Cuomo, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Father Richard John Neuhaus, and Michael Novak, among others. The Journal’s unique focus is widely recognized, as demonstrated in citations to theJournal by various state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. This edition promises to be an interesting one, including a timely piece by former Governor Jeb Bush.

If you are interested in submitting a piece for publication, please contact me directly at (505) 280-8334, or via e-mail at  Should you wish to examine a prior issue, the Journal would be pleased to provide you with a copy.  On behalf of myself, the Journal, and the University of Notre Dame, thank you for your kind consideration.

[Posted by Jeff Lipshaw]

August 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Midas Touch

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has granted the reinstatement petition of an attorney disbarred on consent in 2003 as a result of a Virginia criminal conviction.

The offense (which the attorney continues to deny) involved an incident in which a jury found he had cut the brake line of his girlfriend's car. As a result, her brakes failed and her car crashed. She was not injured.

The court majority noted that the reinstatement raised an issue of first impression. The petitioner denied his guilt at trial and on appeal. He persisted in that denial in the reinstatement. The court found that the continuing denial did not preclude reinstatement. Rather, the petitioner recognized the seriousness of the misconduct by seeking and responding to therapy.

The court agreed with Bar Counsel that reinstatement was appropriate notwithstanding his denial of culpability in the criminal case and an "regrettable" incident at Home Depot in 2009 that resulted in an arrest.

Judge Steadman dissented and agees with the Board on Professional Responsibility that reinstatement is premature. (Mike Frisch)

August 16, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

All In The Family

The New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department has ordered the disbarment of an attorney on these facts:

On August 12, 2010, the respondent pleaded guilty before the Honorable Bonnie Wittner, in Supreme Court, New York County, to attempted grand larceny in the second degree, in violation of Penal Laws §§ 110.00 and 155.40, a class D felony. On December 21, 2010, the respondent was sentenced to five years' probation, and directed to pay a $300 surcharge, a $50 DNA fee, and a $25 crime victim assessment fee, with an order of protection and other conditions. As revealed in the plea minutes, between the period from approximately June 20, 2008, through August 21, 2008, the respondent and another, acting together, attempted to extort in excess of $10 million from David Blitzer, the respondent's son-in-law.

New York Criminal Law Bolg reorted on the underlying criminal case:

Onetime Smurfs owner, lawyer Stuart Ross is in jail because of an alleged plot to extort over $11 million from his wealthy son-in-law David Blitzer. New York Daily News reports that his New York criminal defense attorney, Mr. Matthew Myers has said that Stuart Ross can't afford his $200,000 bail.

Stuart Ross allegedly thought he could get some money from his son-in-law by threatening to ruin his reputation. We all know that in-laws can sometimes be considered outlaws, but this father in law's alleged actions are a little obscene.

His New York criminal defense lawyer will have his work cut out for him because according to court documents, Stuart Ross didn't even spare his own daughter, Allison Blitzer. He allegedly told her that he hoped that her fetus dies while she was pregnant. His daughter also claims that he told her that the tombstone "should be carved with a vile obscenity."

I don't think Papa Smurf can salvage that relationship with his wisdom or magical brews.

It is claimed that when the threats against both the son-in-law and daughter got worse, Ross offered to leave them alone if they gave him $5.5 million. New York Daily News says that Judge Bonnie Wittner wrote: "These threats escalated to a point where Ross, through his attorney, defendant Jackson, told Blitzer's attorney, Roger Stavis, that for $5.5 million, Ross would not try to visit his daughter or grandchildren and would stop harassing Blitzer and contacting his business."

The Wall Street Journal had this story. (Mike Frisch)

August 16, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sniffen Scratched

The Maryland Court of Appeals has accepted the consent to disbarment of attorney Kevin Sniffen.

The United States Attorney's Office described his criminal plea:

Baltimore, Maryland - Kevin Sniffen, age 50, of Phoenix, Maryland, an attorney licensed in Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud arising from an investment fraud scheme.

 The plea agreement was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Acting Special Agent in Charge Eric C. Hylton of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.

 "People should seek independent advice before investing their money," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

 "Promoters of investment fraud schemes like this one prey upon trusting investors and then steal their hard earned money,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Eric Hylton. "IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating these schemes in an effort to protect the financial well being of the American public.”

According to his plea agreement, Sniffen’s co-conspirators targeted individuals seeking investment opportunities or commercial real estate development lending in Maryland and elsewhere, including a Bowie, Maryland hotel project. Victim investors were instructed that in order to obtain loans for commercial real estate projects, and in exchange for a high rate of return, the purported lenders required that large sums of money be deposited in an escrow bank account to show “liquidity,” and that Sniffen was the only attorney assigned as escrow agent. All of the escrow agreements used to defraud the lender-investors provided that no person other than the victims had the ability to remove the escrowed funds without the victims’ permission.

 From at least August 2009 to August 2011, Sniffen and his co-conspirators defrauded investors by fraudulently removing the escrowed funds. Typically within one or two weeks after the deposit by the investor, Sniffen and his co-conspirators withdrew the victim’s funds from the escrow accounts to pay the co-conspirators’ business and personal debts or to make “lulling” payments to other victim investors.

 Sniffen and his co-conspirators attempted to cover up the fraud by: issuing false verifications of deposits and false bank statements regarding the amount of escrowed funds; falsely representing in emails and by phone the balance of escrow funds and the date when the investors’ money would be returned; and returning part of the victim’s investment using funds fraudulently obtained from other investors. 

Sniffen and his co-conspirators improperly obtained funds from investor victims in excess of $14 million.

(Mike Frisch)

August 15, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Attorney Charged With Evading Service

The Illinois Administrator has filed a three-count complaint alleging ethical misconduct by an attorney.

Counts One and Two allege that the attorney converted estate funds and made misrepresentations to new counsel.

Count Three involves allegations that the attorney evaded service of a court order:

 On September 17, 2010, a Lake County sheriff’s deputy went to Respondent’s law office in Grayslake, Illinois, to serve the order and rule to show cause. At that time, the deputy sheriff told Respondent that he had a rule to show cause order to serve on Michael Caithamer. Respondent falsely identified himself as "Mark Penner" and told the deputy sheriff that Michel Caithamer was not in the office. After the sheriff’s deputy told Respondent that a vehicle registered to Michael Caithamer was parked in front of the office, Respondent stated that Michael Caithamer was on vacation and would be back some time the next week. Respondent stated that he leased office space from Michael Caithamer and that he would give him a copy of the order, but the sheriff’s deputy told him that rule to show cause had to be personally served.

On September 17, 2010, the sheriff’s deputy left Respondent’s office and used the Illinois Secretary of State image retrieval system to obtain a driver’s license photo of Michael Caithamer. After the sheriff’s deputy learned that the person who identified himself as Mark Prenner was Michael Caithamer, he returned to the office and he placed Respondent under arrest for obstructing service of process. At that time, Respondent stated that he was sorry and promised to appear in court.

On or before October 4, 2010, as a result of the acts described...above, the State’s Attorney of Lake County, Illinois, charged Respondent with the offense of obstructing service of process, in that he knowingly obstructed the authorized service, being a court order and rule to
show cause, on Respondent by a Lake County sheriff’s deputy by providing the sheriff’s deputy a false name, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/31-3...

On May 9, 2012, as a result of a negotiated plea, the court...found Respondent guilty of attempt obstructing service of process, sentenced him to one year of court supervision and ordered him to pay court costs and a monitored court supervision fee of $50.

(Mike Frisch)

August 15, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conditional Admission

The Louisiana Supreme Court has conditionally admitted an applicant for bar admission.

The court had directed that a character and fitness inquiry be conducted in light of an honor board proceeding that had taken place while the applicant was in law school. The investigation revealed that the applicant had defaulted on a debt owed to his bank.

The conditional admission is for two years. During the two year period, the newly-admitted attorney will be reqwuired to submit quarterly reports demonstating his financial responsibility. (Mike Frisch)

August 15, 2012 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bizzaro World

The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed a decision of the Appellate Division and reinstated a criminal conviction, concluding that the prosecutor's comments during summation did not require a mistrial.

The comments at issue involved the conduct of Officer Wayne Bizzaro. The defense had, in its closing argument, focused on the officer's conduct and suggested that the defendant was misidentified as the perpetrator.

In rebuttal, the prosecutor responded by discussing Officer Bizzaro's suspension without pay, that the officer was "being sued for a million dollars" and that the defendant "wants to be a millionare."

The court found that the remarks were improper and extraneous but grounded in the evidence. Further, timely limiting instructions by the trial court sufficiently cured any prejudice to the defendant. (Mike Frisch)

August 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No Hermits Need Apply

The Washington State Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in a matter in light of the (undisclosed on the record) relationship between the judge and opposing counsel.

The case involved the end of a nine year intimate relationship between the parties. The opposing counsel and judge had been in a two-attorney partnership and had other ties.

A dissent noted that the relationship was known to the attorney for the dissatisfied litigant and would impute that knowledge to the client.

This appeal came about because a disgruntled litigant, unhappy with ending up with three times as much property as his former partner, decided to attack the decision- maker. Unable to find the "dirt" he assumed he would find, the litigant then focused on the judge's former relationship with opposing counsel and ignored his own counsel's relationship with the judge. Unless a judge in a small community was a hermit or a newcomer to the region (neither of which is a good foundation for the position) before assuming the bench, the judge will necessarily have had relationships -- business or personal -- with most of the attorneys in the community. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Those relationships will also be known to most members of the bar, either through direct experience or from disclosure in other cases. It is not inappropriate for a trial judge to consider those facts -- whether raised by the litigant or not -- when ruling on a motion to recuse.

(Mike Frisch)

August 14, 2012 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)