Judge delights Moraga Movers lunch event
Legal Topics | 2008/03/09 03:27
Moragan Judge John Minney educated and entertained a full house at the Moraga Movers lunch at St. Mary's College Soda Center.

Born and raised in the East Bay, he went on from Castlewood High to Yale, then to Cal Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law. Admitted to the California Bar in 1958, he served as attorney for the Franchise Tax Board in Sacramento before private practice in Oakland until January 1975.

That's when Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Walnut Creek-Danville Municipal Court where he became chairman of the County Municipal Court Judges' Association and an officer of the California Judges' Association. In August 1987, Judge Minney was appointed to the Contra Costa Superior Court by Gov. George Deukmejian, where he'd advanced to presiding judge in 1996, and Supervising Criminal Judge from 1998-2005.

He retired in May 2005 (sort of), as he's been working since then as part of the statewide retired judges' program on assignment to courts in need of assistance due to vacations or illness.

"A hundred years ago we had Justice Courts in California: you didn't have to be a lawyer and the court justice's wages were a percent of the fines," the speaker revealed. "When a city reached 40,000 population, you could convert to Municipal Court."



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.



James E. Felman Speaks to Senate on Drugs
Legal Topics | 2008/02/28 00:58
The crack-powder disparity is simply wrong and the time to fix it is now," stated James E. Felman in his remarks on behalf of the American Bar Association before the Senate Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs Subcommittee, earlier today. The ABA is part of a broad consensus that finds disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses "unjustifiable and plainly unjust."

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 enacted the 100-to-1 quantity sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, which are pharmacologically identical drugs.  Reports by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2002 and 2007 opposed the sentencing disparity.  In December 2007, the commission – which had in May 2007 voted to adjust downward the sentencing guidelines relative to crack cocaine offenses and had urged Congress to end the 100-1 disparity – voted unanimously to make the guidelines change retroactive.

Felman, co-chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section Committee on Sentencing, appeared at the hearing, Federal Cocaine Sentencing Laws: Reforming the 100:1 Crack Powder Disparity.  Speaking to the vastness of the disparity, Felman stated, "Crimes involving just five grams of crack, 10 to 50 doses, receive the same five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence as crimes involving 500 grams of powder cocaine, 2,500 to 5,000 doses."

Citing the 2007 Sentencing Commission report, Felman also highlighted the disparity's effect on African Americans, saying that, while African Americans constituted 82 percent of those sentenced under federal crack cocaine laws, "66 percent of those who use crack cocaine are Caucasian or Hispanic." Because of the disparity, "African Americans [spend] substantially more time in federal prisons for drug offenses than Caucasian offenders."

Felman concluded by urging Congress to act to correct the disparity, citing legislation introduced by Sen. Joe Biden, a member of the Judiciary Committee. “Enactment of S.1711 would restore fairness and a sound foundation to federal sentencing policy regarding cocaine offenses by ending the disparate treatment of crack versus cocaine offenses and by refocusing federal policy toward major drug traffickers involved with weapons and violence.”

You may read the full prepared remarks by Mr. Felman http://www.abanet.org/poladv/letters/crimlaw/2008feb12_crackdisparity_t.pdf

For the last ten years, Felman has organized and moderated the Annual National Seminar on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which is jointly sponsored by the Federal Bar Association and the United States Sentencing Commission.  In addition to being the co-chair of the Committee on Sentencing of the ABA, Felman also served as former co-chair of the ABA’s Committee on Corrections and Sentencing.

With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.  As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.


ABA House of Delegates Challenges Old Ways
Legal Topics | 2008/02/28 00:50
In the midst of pitched primary battles and the looming 2008 election,  the American Bar Association House of Delegates challenged the traditional way states handle congressional and legislative redistricting, calling for a new process further removed from the politically charged atmosphere of state legislatures. In a vote by its policy-making body, the ABA urged each state to assign the process to an independent commission, leaving it to the states to configure the commissions and set suitable redistricting criteria.

“The ABA is continually identifying areas where current legal systems are not working, and suggesting sensible approaches for fixing them,” said ABA President William H. Neukom. “The new policy on redistricting reform is an example of the association’s dedication to the rule of law and its efforts to serve the American public.”

The resolution was one of nearly 30 new policy measures passed by the ABA House of Delegates, including two high-profile proposals relating to legal education and admission to the bar.

The House of Delegates concurred with the ABA’s legal education arm in adopting an interpretation of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools concerning law schools’ bar passage rates. The result of more than a year of debate and revision by the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the interpretation is designed to clarify the various standards by which law schools can comply with ABA standards for minimum bar passage rates.

Additionally, the House adopted a model rule on conditional admission to practice law that offers guidance on bar admission for law students with substance abuse problems or mental illness.  Such students are encouraged to seek proper treatment without fear that it will end their legal careers.

The ABA also spoke out forcefully on the continuing unrest in Pakistan, where many lawyers and judges remain under house arrest. A House resolution expressed solidarity with the Pakistani bar and bench, calling on the president of Pakistan to restore the country’s constitution, reinstate fired judges and justices, and release those wrongly arrested during the state of emergency.

“The constitution which Pervez Musharraf propped up in late December has been stripped of essential provisions, many judges remain under house arrest and protesters remain in jail,” said Neukom. “Without the rule of law, Pakistan is destabilized, more vulnerable to terrorism, and its economy is suffering.  Under these conditions, we are concerned about whether free and fair elections are possible.”

The ABA also established new policy outlining legal approaches to the problem of climate change and environmental threats. The ABA will urge the U.S. government to take a leadership role in addressing climate change, and press federal, state and local governments to better protect and enhance ecosystems when approving new laws, regulations and policies.

Other proposals passed by the House call for strengthened legal representation on behalf of veterans of the U.S. military, special prosecution units to pursue crimes of elder abuse and new efforts by bar associations to assist identity theft victims.

The ABA also addressed cutting-edge areas of the law by endorsing a Model Act that governs assisted reproductive technology, by adopting standards on prosecutorial investigations, and through an amendment to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The latter amendment clarifies a prosecutor’s obligation to act on new evidence that makes it reasonably likely that a convicted defendant did not commit the offense for which he was convicted.

Following the action at the Midyear Meeting, watch videos of prominent speakers and events, hear views of members attending and more at the Midyear Meeting Online Web site at http://www.abavideonews.org/ABA496/.

With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.  As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.


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