Akron attorney sanctioned again by Ohio Supreme Court
Legal Topics | 2008/03/07 03:07

Akron attorney Edward P. Markovich, who is already serving a suspension has been sanctioned again by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court today suspended Markovich, 53, from the practice of law for one-year, citing multiple violations of state attorney rules.

The court, following the recommendation of it's Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline voted 5-2, to sanction Markovich for one-year with six months stayed. The board found Markovich had committed professional misconduct involving seven different cases.

In January, the Supreme Court placed Markovich on a one-year interim suspension, with six-months stayed, stemming from additional new charges of misconduct, including fraud and corrupt activity. That suspension went into effective immediately at the time, prior to a board hearing being held because of the previous complaints against Markovich. The court's decision today were based on charges filed in October, 2007.

Jonathan W. Marshall, secretary of the court's grievances and discipline board, said that today's decision will be in addition to Markovich's January sanction. The court has yet to make a ruling on the latest charges.

Both complaints against Markovich were filed by the Akron Bar Association.



Minnesota Bars Beat Smoking Ban
Headline Legal News | 2008/03/07 02:50
All the world's a stage at some of Minnesota's bars. A new state ban on smoking in restaurants and other nightspots contains an exception for performers in theatrical productions. So some bars are getting around the ban by printing up playbills, encouraging customers to come in costume, and pronouncing them "actors."

The customers are playing right along, merrily puffing away — and sometimes speaking in funny accents and doing a little improvisation, too.

The state Health Department is threatening to bring the curtain down on these sham productions. But for now, it's on with the show.

At The Rock, a hard-rock and heavy-metal bar in suburban St. Paul, the "actors" during "theater night" do little more than sit around, drink, smoke and listen to the earsplitting music.

"They're playing themselves before Oct. 1. You know, before there was a smoking ban," owner Brian Bauman explained. Shaping the words in the air with his hands, like a producer envisioning the marquee, he said: "We call the production, `Before the Ban!'"

The smoking ban, passed by the Legislature last year, allows actors to light up in character during theatrical performances as long as patrons are notified in advance.

About 30 bars in Minnesota have been exploiting the loophole by staging the faux theater productions and pronouncing cigarettes props, according to an anti-smoking group.

"It's too bad they didn't put as much effort into protecting their employees from smoking," grumbled Jeanne Weigum, executive director of the Association for Nonsmokers.

The Health Department this week vowed to begin cracking down on theater nights with fines of as much as $10,000.

"The law was enacted to protect Minnesotans from the serious health effects of secondhand smoke," Minnesota Health Commissioner Sanne Magnan said. "It is time for the curtain to fall on these theatrics."

At The Rock earlier this week, a black stage curtain covered part of the entrance, and a sign next to it with an arrow read, "Stage Entrance." Along the opposite wall, below a sign saying "Props Dept.," was a stack of the only props needed: black ashtrays.

At the door was a printed playbill for that night's program, with a list of names of the people portraying bartenders and security guards. Playing the owner: "Brian."

Courtney Conk paid $1 for a button that said "Act Now" and pinned it to her shirt. That made her an actor for the night, entitling her to smoke. She turned in an understated, minimalist performance, sitting with cigarette in hand and talking to a bass player with the band.

"I thought it was funny that they found a loophole," Conk said. "I'm more of an activist-actor tonight, you could say. I think it's kind of this way of saying what we think about the ban."

While The Rock asks nothing of its actors by way of creativity, a few other bars have been a little more theatrical.

At Barnacles Resort and Campground along Lake Mille Lacs, a "traveling tobacco troupe" dressed in medieval costume on the first theater night. Mark Benjamin, a lawyer who pushed bars to exploit the loophole, wore tights, a feathered cap and black boots.

"Hey, I'm a child of the '60s. I can do a little improv," he said. His improv amounted to speaking in medieval character to other patrons.

In Hill City, Mike's Uptown owner Lisa Anderson has been offering theater night once a week. The bar had a Mardi Gras theme last Saturday, attracting about 30 patrons, most of them in costume.

"I was dressed in a Victorian dress with the old fluffy thing that weighs 500 pounds," she said. "We had some fairies and some pirates and a group of girls — I'm not sure what they were, but they had big boas and flashy makeup."

Though there were no skits, Anderson said some people "start talking with different accents." She added: "It's turned into the funnest thing I can imagine."

One bar on northern Minnesota's Iron Range, the Queen City Sports Place, calls its nightly smokefest "The Tobacco Monologues."

Proving anew there's no business like show business, Anderson said her theater-night receipts have averaged $2,000 — up from $500 right after the ban kicked in. Similarly, Bauman said revenue at The Rock dropped off 30 percent after the ban took effect, then shot back up to normal once the bar began allowing smoking again.

He and other bar owners said they plan to continue putting on theater nights.

"There's no question we were struggling," he said. "And we are extremely nervous that this is going to go away, and we will be back to the way it was."



Four local lawyers face discipline
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/06 18:51

The Florida Supreme Court has disciplined 30 attorneys, including four in Tampa Bay.

Terence John Daly of Tampa was suspended for two years retroactive to June 7, according to a Jan. 10 court order. Daly allegedly did not communicate with clients, failed to diligently pursue their cases, failed to competently represent them, failed to protect their interests when ending representation, engaged in misconduct and criminal misconduct, and violated rules regarding trust accounts, a Florida Bar release said. He was admitted to practice in 1987.

Kevin J. Hubbart of Clearwater is to receive a public reprimand and was ordered to attend Ethics School pursuant to a Jan. 17 court order. He allegedly advised clients without notifying them of a conflict of interest while he was administratively suspended for not completing continuing education requirements. He was also charged with failure to properly maintain a trust account. He was admitted to practice in 1996.

Warren Thomas LaFray of Clearwater was suspended for 36 months, effective 30 days from a Jan. 10 court order. Upon reinstatement, LaFray will be on probation for two years. Allegedly LaFray misused client trust funds, commingling them with other funds, and failed to comply with basic trust accounting practices and procedures. He neglected client matters in two cases and refused to refund fees owed to a client, the release said. He was admitted to practice in 1976.

Jessica Kathleen Miller of Holiday was suspended until further order of the court pursuant to a Jan. 15 court order. In its petition for emergency suspension, the Bar stated that Miller "has engaged in an escalating pattern of neglect that has resulted in effective abandonment of her law practice and a failure to account for and deliver funds belonging to clients and third parties," the release said. In the past two years, approximately 25 clients and other individuals have filed complaints with the Bar against Miller. She was admitted to practice in 2003.

As an official agency of the Florida Supreme Court, The Florida Bar and its Department of Lawyer Regulation are charged with administering a statewide disciplinary system to enforce Supreme Court rules of professional conduct for the more than 80,000 lawyers admitted to practice law in Florida.



S.C. giving 1st bar exam since test ruled flawed
Court News | 2008/03/06 03:18
Warren Westbrook "Brook" Wills was in Paris on an international law internship in October when he saw the disappointing news on the S.C. Judicial Department's Web site.

He hadn't passed the July bar exam, which meant he couldn't practice law in South Carolina.

But a week later, he learned the Supreme Court had announced that 20 others, including Wills, had passed after the court threw out one essay section.

"So now I've gone from the depths of despair to the height of joy in a week," recalled Wills, 39, now a lawyer in Atlanta.

As a new group of law students sits for the bar exam today, two of the 20 people whose grades were changed talked publicly for the first time to The State newspaper about the exam and how the court handled the matter.

The group includes eight Charleston School of Law graduates and two USC School of Law graduates.

Another group of law school graduates is scheduled to take the seven-section bar exam over three days starting today. As of Friday, 245 people had signed up to take the test, said Dan Shearouse, clerk of the Supreme Court.

More than 380 people who passed the July exam were sworn in to the S.C. Bar in November.

They included the daughters of Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and longtime Circuit Judge Paul Burch of Pageland. Catherine Harrison and Kendall Burch were among the 20 who passed the July test after the Supreme Court's intervention.

Jim Harrison and Paul Burch earlier told The State they had contacted court officials after learning their daughters had failed the exam. Harrison, an attorney, stressed that he was inquiring about the unusually high number of examinees who had flunked the wills, trusts and estates essay section.

Chief Justice Jean Toal -- and the Supreme Court in prepared statements on their Web site -- have said justices didn't know the identities of the 20 before they threw out the wills, trusts and estates section on Nov. 2.

"I don't think what those fathers of those two girls did was wrong," one of the 20 said. "There have been other dads in the past who have done this."

Still, he didn't believe that Harrison's and Burch's contact with court officials -- which might have violated court rules -- influenced the high court's decision, noting, "I have faith that the system wasn't going to lay down for these two dads."



DC Young Lawyers in for Bar Exam Sticker Shock
Court News | 2008/03/06 03:16

An attempt to save young lawyers from higher bar exam fees has failed in the Maryland Senate, meaning prospective attorneys could pay hundreds more to pass the bar. A bill headed for approval in the Senate would increase bar exam fees from $150 up to a possible $400. The move comes as officials say current fees don't cover the cost of administering and grading the exams.

The bill was put off while one lawyer in the Senate tried to amend the bill to lower bar exam fees for young lawyers. But the amendment was rejected 36-11 Thursday after another senator asked why the state should pick up the tab for people who flunk the bar exam.

The bill must clear one more vote in the Senate before heading to the House.



NJ State pays $250K to settle lawsuit
Headline Legal News | 2008/03/06 03:14

The state quietly agreed to settle a little-known lawsuit that claimed Public Defender Yvonne Segars improperly fired a deputy for political reasons, three weeks before Gov. Jon S. Corzine announced plans to nominate Segars to be a Superior Court judge.

The state has agreed to pay $250,000 to former deputy public defender Christine Leone-Zwillinger, who was a supervisor in a unit that represented children who were abused and neglected, until Segars became public defender under Gov. James E. McGreevey in September 2002.

Within a month, Leone-Zwillinger, 57, of Cherry Hill, who had run for Camden County sheriff as a Republican in 1997, was fired by Segars, even though her position did not involve policy-making or require her to be of the same party as the governor, the 2004 federal suit claims.

"Upon information and belief, defendant Segars made the decision to terminate plaintiff at the request of defendant McGreevey, or those acting on his behalf, on account of plaintiff's affiliation with the Republican party and to do a "political favor' for the governor in order to make room for John (Doran), Esq., who is a Democrat," the suit says.

The suit also claims Leone-Zwillinger got an "exceptional" rating — 28 of 30 points — on her last performance review and that Doran's qualifications were "vastly inferior."

In April 2007, U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson dismissed McGreevey and the Office of Public Defender from the suit, leaving Segars as the sole defendant. Court records indicate the case was settled Feb. 1 — 20 days before Corzine filed a notice of intent to nominate Segars, 52, of Ridgewood, for the Superior Court in Bergen County.

Both Segars and Doran declined comment through a spokesman, who referred all questions to Corzine's office, which citing confidentiality reasons refused to say whether Segars disclosed the matter on her nomination questionnaire or whether she was deemed qualified by a panel of the New Jersey State Bar Association.

The chairman of that review panel, Ralph J. Lamparello, said the committee cannot discuss its confidential reviews of potential judges and prosecutors. Even members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve appointments, don't learn whether a candidate is deemed qualified unless the bar association chooses to testify against a candidate a governor nominated despite being deemed unfit by the bar association.

Corzine spokesman Jim Gardner said the administration was aware of the lawsuit but unconcerned about it.

"The office is well aware of this legal matter because it is a matter of public record and is being handled by (the Department of) Law and Public Safety," Gardner said.

Asked why the state would settle the suit as it neared trial after more than three years in litigation, David Wald, a spokesman for the Department of Law and Public Safety, said "We thought this was a fair and reasonable settlement."

Chris Farella, the state-paid private lawyer retained to represent Segars, did not return calls for comment. The state has paid his firm $31,301 to defend the suit in 2005 and 2006. The Office of the Attorney General could not provide cost figures for 2004 and for 2007 through the present.

Richard M. Schall, Leone-Zwillinger's lawyer, declined comment until the settlement is signed, which he expected to happen in a week.



Legal Services Are Available To Disaster Applicants
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/06 03:13
Through an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ), the American Bar Association's Young Lawyer Division and the State Bar of Kentucky, free legal services are available to low-income disaster victims who have insufficient resources to secure adequate legal services.

Persons who were affected by the February 5-6 storm and tornadoes in Allen, Christian, Fayette, Hardin, Hart, Meade, Mercer, Monroe and Muhlenberg counties can call 877-245-7200 for legal services. All callers are asked to leave a voicemail message with their contact information, county of residence, and the nature of their legal problem. Messages will be checked Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Upon receipt, the caller's information will go to a volunteering attorney or one of the following legal organizations in Kentucky:

Kentucky Bar Association
American Bar Association's Young Lawyer Division
The Legal Aid Organization ( Kentucky's Volunteer Lawyer Program )
"Sometimes after a disaster, residents face complex issues and need legal advice," said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch. "FEMA is committed to helping persons in the commonwealth of Kentucky get the help they need to fully recover."

Available services include:

Help with insurance claims
Counseling on landlord-tenant and other housing issues
Assistance with home repair contracts
Assistance in consumer protection matters, remedies and procedures
Counseling on mortgage foreclosure problems
Replacement of wills and other important documents
Drafting of powers of attorney and other estate administration issues
Referring individuals to state or local agencies that may be of further assistance
Legal services are available to disaster victims in a fair, nondiscriminatory and equitable way.

Those who suffered damage from the storm and tornadoes are encouraged to register with FEMA by calling 800-621-FEMA ( 3362 ) or 800-462-7585 ( TTY ) for those with speech or hearing impairment. Individuals may also register online at www.fema.gov.

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.


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