A regularly updated guide to random legal news that I find interesting -- and hope you will too. And links! Always links!


Saturday, February 08, 2003

Louis Schwartz, Legal Scholar, Dies at 89

I note this because Professor Schwartz taught me criminal law as a "1L", which happened to include the first class of my first day of law school. I'll never forget him.

I'm glad he got a New York Times obit, as he deserved one. But I am disappointed that the NYT neglected to mention several important things about him. First, in addition to the accomplishments listed by the Times, Prof. Schwartz was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, when still a young lawyer. Second, he taught criminal law for many years at Hastings in San Francisco after "retiring" -- well into his eighties. Third, as a Jew growing up between the wars, he was a pioneer in overcoming anti-Semitism in education and in the legal profession. In short, he was a great scholar and a kind man. I'm glad to have known him.

Fake Attorney Busted by His Own Associate

Con man Harold Goldstein was on supervised release from prison for fraud when he decided to open a law office. An attorney he hired as an associate turned him it after seeing a brief Goldstein had filed to modify the terms of his supervised release. Now he's on the lam, and facing a 10 year sentence, according to this. Apparently, he actually tried a few cases without being discovered. UPDATE: He's just been caught in Las Vegas.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Man Poses as Lawyer to Obtain Sex by False Pretenses, Gets 146 Year Sentence

Richard A. Minsky convinced four different women to perform various sex acts with him by first falsely stating that a loved one of theirs had been jailed; then telling them he was a lawyer who could help and instructing them to meet with a witness or victim of the crime of the loved one; and then posing as the victim or witness and convincing the women to have sex with him in exchange for his promise not to testify against the loved one. He was convicted of numerous counts of rape and other sex crimes and sentenced to 146 years to life. The California Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence in this opinion. This proves the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

"Why A Recent Supreme Court Copyright Ruling May Have Important Implications for Second Amendment Gun Rights As Well"

Recently, in Eldred v. Ashcroft, the Supreme Court declined to strike down Congress' extension of copyright protection for an additional 20 years. Appellants had argued that the extension was contrary to the preamble to the Constitution's Copyright & Patent Clause, which states "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts . . .", Congress can give limited exclusive rights to inventors and artists in their creations. The Supreme Court's decision essentially discounted the limiting function of the preamble.

Problem is, the only other specific part of the Constitution that has a similar preamble is the Second Amendment, which the Court is likely to take up soon because of the recent split between the Ninth and Fifth Circuits on an individual's right to bear arms. That preamble states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State . . . ." If the Supreme Court similarly discounts that limiting language, it is likely to hold that an individual's right to bear arms is absolute -- well regulated militias be damned. Read Michael C. Dorf's original and interesting observations and analysis on the topic here.
Tort Reform Advances In Mississippi, Elsewhere

Mississippi -- once known as a "tort hellhole" famous for producing giant verdicts in its poorer counties -- is starting to feel the effects of its new laws. And "the tort reform juggernaut is rumbling into other states," it says here.
111 Year Old Chicago Law Firm Closing

Peterson & Ross LLC, a 50-lawyer firm concentrating on insurance defense work, is shutting down "after key members of the firm's litigation team left last month to form their own practice." I guess things are bad all over. The Chicago Tribune has the story here, but you'll have to register (for free) to read it.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Jurors Who Convicted Marijuana Grower Seek New Trial

This may be a first. A federal jury in San Francisco convicted Ed Rosenthal of charges of illegally cultivating marijuana, which carry a minimum five-year prison sentence. But the trial judge, Judge Charles Breyer, had not let the jurors hear that Rosenthal was growing the pot under a contract with the City of Oakland, or that it was being used to treat "medical marijuana" patients in accordance with California state law. The jurors now say they would never have convicted Rosenthal if they had known all the facts, and at least five of them are publicly protesting their own verdict. Read all about it here.
Winnie The Pooh's Case Gets Trashy

Disney is being sued for allegedly cheating Pooh's heirs out of millions of dollars in royalties earned by the Pooh franchise. This litigation had already become quite ugly, as WeirdOfTheNews noted earlier.

Now it seems plaintiffs were recently found to be in possession of thousands of pages of documents they shouldn't have had, including many of Disney's confidential legal documents. Disney lawyer Daniel Petrocelli is accusing plaintiffs of sneaking onto Disney's property and stealing the documents from desktops, and he's seeking to have the case dismissed because of it. But plaintiffs' lawyer Bertram Fields says his private investigators legally took the documents from Disney's outdoor trash bins, the L.A. Times reports here. These guys don't mince words.
ABA May Endorse Limits on Asbestos Suits

Though more often aligned with plaintiffs' lawyers, the ABA is considering endorsing a limitation on asbestos suits aimed at allowing recovery for those who are actually sick and suffering, while eliminating the claims of plaintiffs who show signs of asbestos exposure but have no symptoms of disease, the AP reports here.
Gypsies Suing IBM for $12 Billion

They claim IBM knowingly aided the Nazis and helped automate the Holocaust, making it more efficient. A Swiss court has cleared the way for the case to proceed on March 20, the New York Times reports here.
Duke University Student Sues for "Wrongful Seduction"

When her frat-boy boyfriend tried to jump her bones after his fraternity's Christmas party, student Nora Lindsey Kantor told him to stop. Eventually, he did. But that didn't stop her from filing a civil suit against him and his fraternity for "wrongful seduction" -- an outdated tort that was once used by fathers to sue the "despoilers" of their unmarried daughters, or sometimes by single women claiming they were seduced by false promises of marriage. Ironically, the tort she has chosen recalls a time when women were essentially considered the "property" of men. Read about it here.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Courthouse Brawl Send Three to Jail, Two to Hospital

The near-riot started during a hearing in a family law case in Jackson County, Missouri, when fists flew between a husband and wife and the man's ex-wife and her current boyfriend. The judges are pissed about the bailiffs' delayed and inadequate response, the Kansas City Star reports here.
"Academic Performance Is Still an Issue for Gibson Dunn Well After Law School"

The firm recently turned down a 47 year old lateral partner with a $7 million book of business because he had not graduated near the top of his law school class years ago. What an asinine policy! Doesn't a proven track record as a lawyer overcome that? Apparently not where Gibson partners' ridiculous egos and self-images are at play, according to this.
Skjerven Morril Disbands

"For the second time in less than a week, a Bay Area technology law firm is dissolving: Partners at Skjerven Morrill have voted to disband the firm," reports here.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

More Restrictions Against "Practicing Law" By Non-Lawyers?

The ABA is proposing stricter guidelines on who can dispense "legal advice" -- guidelines that "could subject real estate agents, income tax preparers, credit counselors and other laypeople to civil and criminal penalties." The FTC and the DOJ are objecting, saying the proposed guidelines are much too broad, and that their real intent is to protect lawyers' wallets, the New York Times reports here. UPDATE: It looks like doctors are going after the same kind of restrictions at the same time, according to this.
Is Skjerven About To Follow Brobeck?

It is, according to this poster on the SF/SV Greedy Associates board. (But don't believe everything you read . . . .) The firm's homepage is here.

Safe Sex

"In a ruling that might have been pounded out with clubs in some Neolithic cave," writes here, "Sacramento's Third District Court of Appeal held this week that two female corrections officers weren't victims of sexual harassment, despite their boss's penchant for sleeping with -- and then unfairly promoting -- their colleagues."

You can read the court's opinion here (PDF).
New York May Try Alternative to Bar Exam

The proposed test program would allow 200 law grads to gain admittance to the state bar by working for a civil court for three months and then doing 150 hours of pro bono, rather than taking the traditional bar exam, according to the ABA Journal.


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