Feds Open Criminal Probe Into Alcoa
Legal Topics | 2008/03/23 22:28
The U.S. Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation into whether aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. participated in bribery in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain.

In documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors asked a judge to halt a federal civil lawsuit that accused Pittsburgh-based Alcoa of bribing officials through overseas shell companies to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments.

"The United States has a direct and substantial interest in this case, as the subject matter giving rise to this case is also the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation," prosecutors in the Justice Department's fraud section said in court filings.

Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C., also known as Alba, in which the Bahrain government holds a 77 percent stake, is seeking more than $1 billion in damages from Alcoa and other affiliated defendants, according to a federal lawsuit filed last month.

"The Alba complaint alleges numerous facts which, if true, could be relevant to the government's criminal investigation and a potential criminal trial," prosecutors said in court filings.



2 Held in Millionaire Developer's Death
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/23 22:27
A chauffeur and his cousin are being charged in the 2006 stabbing death of a millionaire developer accused of real estate fraud, police said Saturday.

Andrew Kissel, 46, was found tied up and stabbed to death in his Greenwich mansion just days before he was to plead guilty in a multimillion-dollar fraud case.

Carlos Trujillo, who was Kissel's driver, and his cousin, Leonard Trujillo, have been arrested in connection with the developer's death, Greenwich Police Chief David Ridberg said Saturday.

"There is still a lot of information to be gathered and facts to be discerned," Ridberg said in a written statement announcing the arrests.

The arrest warrants are sealed. The chief said more information would be released Monday.

Leonard Trujillo, 21, is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder, police said. Carlos Trujillo, 47, is charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Attorney Lindy Urso, who represented Carlos Trujillo shortly after Kissel's death could not be reached late Saturday. Information was not immediately available on whether Leonard Trujillo had an attorney.



Doubt Arises over Breathalyzer Source Code
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/21 20:22
An attorney for a Minnesota man accused of drunken driving says he doesn't think the manufacturer of a breathalyzer will meet a court-imposed deadline of August 17 to turn over its source code. If that happens, his client could go free.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled late last month that source code for the Intoxilyzer 5000EN, made by a Kentucky-based company called CMI, must be handed to defense attorneys for use in a case involving charges of third-degree DUI against a man named Dale Lee Underdahl.

In this case, the high court concluded that language in the contract between CMI and the state indicates the source code belongs by extension to Minnesota, rejecting the state public safety commissioner's earlier argument that the state was not entitled to the code because of its confidential, copyrighted and proprietary nature. The decision effectively means it's now up to the state to do what it takes to enforce that contract--including suing the company, if necessary.

But as for when the code would be turned over, "I guess the answer is probably never," attorney Jeffrey Sheridan said in a telephone interview Friday. That's because state officials, he added, "haven't given me any indication that the manufacturer has changed its mind."

It remains unclear what steps Minnesota officials plan to take, as representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment. CMI also did not return calls for comment on Friday.



Libby Is Disbarred in Washington
Legal Topics | 2008/03/20 18:03
Former top White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was banned Thursday from practicing law in the nation's capital following his perjury conviction in the case of a CIA operative's leaked identity.

The disbarment order of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had been expected.

"When a member of the bar is convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, disbarment is mandatory," the appeals court ruled.

Last May, a court panel that oversees lawyer ethics recommended that Libby be stripped of his law license in Washington. The Board on Professional Responsibility then found that Libby's conviction for lying to the FBI about the case of former CIA operative Valerie Plame amounted to "crimes that involve moral turpitude."



Settlement talks fail between al-Kidd, feds
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/20 18:03
Court-ordered settlement talks between a man detained in a federal case and the government have failed.

Attorneys on both sides told a U.S. District judge this week that no settlement was reached. That means the lawsuit brought by Abdullah al-Kidd against the United States, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and others will likely go to trial.

Al-Kidd filed the lawsuit in 2005, claiming his civil rights were violated when the government improperly used material witness laws to detain him for two weeks.

The government has maintained it did nothing wrong.

Al-Kidd worked on behalf of the Islamic Assembly of North America, a Michigan-based charitable group federal investigators allege funneled money to activities supporting terrorism.



State bar hears from Supreme Court candidates
Headline Legal News | 2008/03/20 15:03

Four of the five candidates for West Virginia's Supreme Court believe it faces several serious threats to its integrity and reputation.

A declining number of opinions, allegedly unfair treatment of businesses and civility among the justices were among the issues cited at a Wednesday forum hosted by the state's bar association.

Two court seats are up this year. All five hopefuls attended, including Chief Justice Elliott "Spike'' Maynard.

The sole incumbent running, Maynard defended the level of discourse among the court's five justices and the quality and quantity of their opinions.

"I don't know any judge who misbehaved in the conference room,'' Maynard said. "I think the written product is as good as any court's in the land.''

Maynard has made national headlines following the release of photos showing him in Monaco with the chief executive of a coal company with cases pending before the court. He has since disqualified himself from at least three cases involving Massey Energy Co.

Fellow Democrat Menis Ketchum was asked about the court's method for handling recusal requests. A Huntington lawyer, Ketchum advocated an independent panel to resolve such issues.

While court rules require judicial officers to recuse themselves from "a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned,'' it also gives that judge the final say.



Mayor Addresses Philadelphia Bar Association
Legal Business | 2008/03/19 18:05
Philadelphia - Mayor Michael Nutter proved that he could work a room - even a huge one with hundreds of lawyers - at yesterday's Bar Association Quarterly Meeting and Luncheon in the Park Hyatt Hotel's grand ballroom.

The mayor's first address to the 13,000-member association, the oldest bar association in the country, was laced with humor although the mayor insisted that he's not a very good joke teller - he often forgets the punch line. But, he noted, he has impressive skills in sarcastic comebacks.

In a roomful of dignitaries, including Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham and the Honorable Ronald D. Castille, Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the mayor admitted that it was still "quite embarrassing" to listen to laudatory introductions of himself. "I hope soon we can just go with 'He's here!'"

Mayor Nutter acknowledged the awarding of the Bar Association's iconic golden snuff box, its highest honor, to the former Chancellor of the Bar Association, Jane Dalton, whose remarks preceded his. Ms. Dalton spoke of the strides the organization has made over the last year, including the retention and promotion of women attorneys.

Mr. Nutter, who promised no lawyer jokes and stuck to that promise, then addressed some vital issues affecting the city and its law community in his 30 minute remarks.

"Historically, lawyers have played a central role in government, and will hopefully continue to. Your pro bono efforts are critically important and you've handled diversity issues impressively."

The mayor also outlined his determination to change the public's mindset about city government, emphasizing that in some ways, the city is actually a $4 billion corporation with citizens as stockholders who, in his words, "...have the right to expect high quality services and the lowest possible cost."

The mayor's commitment to increase the population of Philadelphia by 75,000 people over the next five years would, he suggested yesterday, inure to the benefit of lawyers as well as other professionals and businesses in the city.

One of the comments that drew loud applause was Mayor Nutter's promise that in his sweeping ethical reforms, the days of "...who you are or who you are connected to are over."

One special plea to the legal community came with the mayor's urging of law firms to help lower the criminal recidivism rate in the city, which is currently a sobering 72 percent, by making efforts to give those who have struggled a break by hiring them. The same urging to the city's legal community concerned reaching out to young people who need mentors and models.


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