AutoAdmit defendant sues Yalies
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/07 03:32

When three Yale Law School students were targeted by sexually explicit and derogatory posts in the online legal chatroom AutoAdmit in 2005, two of them took their case to court. Now the people they sued are firing back.

Anthony Ciolli, a former AutoAdmit director, filed a lawsuit against those two students and their lawyers on Tuesday in a Philadelphia state court, seeking at least $50,000 in damages for abuse of process, libel and false light that he alleges cost him a job offer at a Boston law firm.

Ciolli was originally named a defendant in the students’ suit, filed last June in a federal court in New Haven. But he was dropped from the suit in November when the plaintiffs decided to focus on pursuing the 39 authors of the allegedly defamatory posts.

Ciolli declined to comment Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, in the original suit, one of the unnamed defendants — whose identities are still unknown — moved last week to quash the subpoenas a federal judge issued to their Internet service providers in January in the hopes of unmasking them. That motion is still pending.

Ciolli’s lawsuit contends that he was improperly sued for those comments when he was not liable for them, said his attorney, Mark Jakubik.

“This case is not about defending or exonerating anyone for the absolutely reprehensible comments that were made about the female law students on AutoAdmit,” Jakubik said. “It’s about what are the appropriate boundaries for seeking redress for those comments, and we think those boundaries were crossed to Anthony’s great detriment.”

Marc Randazza, who represented Ciolli when he was still a defendant in the Connecticut suit, said while everyone can agree the targeted students were wronged, suing Ciolli was not the proper legal remedy.

“It exceeded the boundary of what the law is there for,” he said.

Federal law immunizes Web site administrators from liability for content posted by others, Daniel Solove LAW ’97 — a law professor at The George Washington University and author of “The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet” — wrote in an e-mail to the News.

David Rosen LAW ’69, an attorney for the Yale students and now a defendant in Ciolli’s suit, could not be reached for comment Wednesday because he is out of the country. Mark Lemley, the other attorney-turned-defendant, also could not be reached for comment. The two law students did not reply to e-mails.

Both wrongful initiation and libel claims are typically very hard to win, said Robert Post LAW ’77, a professor at Yale Law School. A very stringent test applies to proving that any harm the plaintiff sustained was a direct consequence of being sued, he said.

But people who allege they have been libeled or wrongfully prosecuted often sue as a way of vindicating their reputation by demonstrating they believe in their innocence, whether they win or not in the end, he said

Ciolli, who graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in May 2007, worked at Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge in the summer of 2006 and had been offered a full-time job there after graduation, according to the complaint he filed.

But in late March 2007, the firm’s hiring partner called him about several accusations leveled against Ciolli related to the AutoAdmit case, such as that Ciolli was responsible for starting a Web site that ranked the physical appearance of female law students at the nation’s top 14 law schools. The complaint denies Ciolli had any involvement with that site. The following month, the firm rescinded his job offer, the suit says.

The complaint alleges that the law students and their lawyers wrongfully initiated civil proceeding against Ciolli, that the students and a Web site they solicited to help restore their reputations libeled and slandered him and that the publicity they directed toward him placed him in a false light, with the result that he lost his job offer.

The two law students, who were anonymous as the plaintiffs in the Connecticut suit, were named in the Pennsylvania case.

“There was no real big secret about who they were,” Randazza said.

Unlike the original suit, Ciolli’s complaint contains nothing that would be considered scandalous or would justify withholding the students’ names, Jakubik said.

“When folks engage in the kind of conduct that is outlined in the complaint, I’m not sure they should be given the cloak of anonymity,” he said.



Prospective Lawyers May Face Higher Bar Exam Fees
Court News | 2008/03/07 03:18

New lawyers in Maryland could be paying a lot more to take the bar exam.

The Maryland Senate is debating whether bar exam fees should increase from $150 to $325 or as high as $400. The proposal has sparked a fiery debate among lawmakers, many of whom are lawyers.

Some say bar exam fees are too low and that the current fee doesn't cover state expenses. They also say doctors pay a lot more than lawyers to cover licensing.

But some lawmakers insist young lawyers are fresh out of school and don't have hundreds of dollars laying around to cover the higher costs.

The debate continues Thursday in the Senate.



State Bar of Arizona to move Tucson regional office
Headline Legal News | 2008/03/07 03:13

The State Bar of Arizona is moving its southern regional office in Tucson. The new 5,300-square-foot office is at 270 N. Church Ave., next door to the Z Mansion.

The increased space will allow the office to hold meetings and educational training to better serve the 3,000 attorneys practicing in southern Arizona. The move is projected for the third quarter of this year after building renovations are complete.

The state Bar's current office at 310 S. Convent Ave. will remain open until the move.
 
Attorney Jeffrey Hursh represented the bar in the purchase of the Tucson building, with Lawyers Title Agency handling the escrow.



Judge to let Qualcomm outside lawyers speak out
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/07 03:09

Qualcomm Inc's outside lawyers, who may face disciplinary action for discovery violations, can defend themselves in court even if it means revealing information Qualcomm previously resisted disclosing, according to a ruling by a U.S. judge.

In January, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major referred six of Qualcomm's outside attorneys to the State Bar of California for possible disciplinary action after Qualcomm did not turn over about 46,000 documents in a patent infringement case it lost against rival Broadcom Corp last year.

The attorneys appealed the sanctions to U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster, who presided over the patent infringement lawsuit in San Diego federal court.

Brewster on Wednesday vacated Major's sanctions against the six outside lawyers and ruled that Qualcomm's attorney-client privilege should not stop them from defending themselves in an appeal.

Brewster said the six lawyers identified as Batchelder, Bier, Leung, Mammen, Patch and Young, could exercise a "self-defense exception" to the attorney-client privilege previously asserted by Qualcomm in a sanctions hearing.

Brewster sent the case back to Major for a rehearing on the lawyer sanctions, but shielded Qualcomm and its employees from exposure to further punishment in the discovery violations.

On Jan. 7, Major had ordered Qualcomm to pay $8.6 million to Broadcom after citing a "monumental and intentional discovery violation" in the case involving patents for high-definition video compression technology.

Qualcomm representatives were not immediately available to comment on the ruling on Thursday afternoon.

San Diego-based Qualcomm has been embroiled in multiple legal disputes with Broadcom including a case which involved the U.S. government banning Qualcomm from importing chips that infringed on Broadcom patents.



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.



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