Lawyer says imprisoned man innocent
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/11 16:58
A lawyer says a man imprisoned for killing another man at a Chicago McDonald's 26 years ago is innocent and he may get a new trial.

Alton Logan was sentenced to life in prison as an accomplice in the 1982 killing. The alleged shooter, Edward Hope, received the death penalty.

Hope told his lawyer, Marc Miller, he had never seen Logan in his life, telling him to relay to Logan's attorney that he is "representing an innocent man," The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Career criminal Andrew Wilson admitted to the crime, but Hope's attorney's were bound by attorney-client privilege and only came forward with the new information following Wilson's death in November. Wilson was never charged in the McDonald's shooting.

Three attorneys representing defendants in the case signed an affidavit in 1982 that Hope was innocent but could not reveal it because of attorney-client privilege. The affidavit sat in a lock box under a bed for 26 years.

Logan, now 54, could get a new trial, but that all depends on whether or not Miller's testimony in a Cook County court about Wilson's confession is admissible or not.


Justice often slow for elder crimes
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/09 16:42
So far, Mary Morris has spent three years and $73,000 to get back just part of the $475,000 that was withdrawn from her mother's accounts by the relative who was overseeing the elderly woman's affairs.

Morris' mother agreed, three years before she died at age 96 in 2004, to give legal power of attorney to a grandnephew. It's a step that many advocates for older people say should be considered when people begin to show signs they are having difficulty managing finances, selling property, making acquisitions and buying insurance.

But a caution always accompanies that advice: Be careful whom you trust, and be careful about giving total authority to one person.

"You need to make sure that you either thoroughly trust your agent or you have some kind of controls on the agent's abilities to move assets," said Bob Mason, an Asheboro lawyer and vice chairman of the elder law section of the N.C. Bar Association.

Legal experts project a massive increase in lawsuits and prosecutions involving older Americans in decades to come as baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond. Already, substantiated instances of elder abuse are rising nationally at the rate of 15 percent a year, according to the American Bar Association. ABA members recently adopted a resolution urging that prosecutors be given more resources to fight elder crime.

Last year, North Carolina adult protective services sent county district attorneys written notices of 1,451 cases involving abuse, neglect or exploitation of adults. The numbers represent a 15 percent increase in cases since 2004.

Advocates say civil and criminal legal protections for older people are at the stage where domestic violence and child abuse safeguards were two decades ago -- in need of reform.

"As we have an aging population, there are reasons to say prosecutors should be paying more attention and using more resources to deal with what's going to be an increasing problem," said Stephen Salzburg, a Georgetown University law professor and co-author of the ABA resolution.



D.C. Gun Case Draws Crowd of High Court 'Friends'
Areas of Focus | 2008/03/09 03:35

With the Supreme Court examining for the first time in 70 years the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment, a group of gay and transgender gun owners called the Pink Pistols could not miss out on a chance to tell the justices about its special needs. With the opaque and oddly punctuated 27 words of 18th-century prose at last under the microscope, linguistic professors wanted the court to know that "the Second Amendment's absolute construction functions as a sentence modifier."

With the intentions of the Framers in question and modern social policy at stake, justices considering whether the District of Columbia's ban on handguns violates the Constitution have received an avalanche of advice from professors, doctors, social scientists, district attorneys, historians, religious groups, members of Congress and, of course, Vice President Cheney. They may be nothing more than an ego boost for a client or provide the argument that wins the case, but such amicus curiae briefs have become an essential part of high-stakes Supreme Court cases.



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.



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.



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.



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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