Friday, September 17, 2010

LAW.COM Newswire Highlights September 17, 2010

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Toyota Moves to Dismiss MDL Claims
The National Law Journal

Toyota has moved to dismiss hundreds of lawsuits seeking damages associated with its recalls related to sudden unintended acceleration. Part of the multidistrict litigation against the automaker, the suits seek economic damages for consumers and businesses plus damages for individuals who were injured or died in accidents attributed to sudden acceleration. This week, Toyota moved to dismiss the master consolidated complaint, calling it "replete with hyperbole, misleading statistics, anecdotes, and legal conclusions."

No En Banc Review of 9th Circuit Ruling in HIV Disclosure Case
The Recorder

Eight judges sounded the alarm Thursday about a 9th Circuit sovereign immunity case they say could open the floodgates for claims against the government. The judges issued a dissent after failing to secure enough votes to force en banc review of a ruling that a pilot could sue the government for sharing his HIV status among several federal agencies. "The effect of today's order is to open wide the United States Treasury to a whole new class of claims without warrant," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote in the dissent.

Informant in Major FCPA Case Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
The National Law Journal

A former executive for a military equipment company pleaded guilty to conspiracy Thursday, three years after he began cooperating with prosecutors in what has become the largest prosecution of alleged foreign corruption payments. Richard Bistrong, formerly of Armor Holdings, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other statutes. He faces up to five years in prison, and as part of his plea, he agreed not to request a downward departure from federal sentencing guidelines.

Lawyer Facing Divorce Gets Suspended for Sending 'Hostile' Messages
New York Law Journal

An attorney who hurled "hostile, obscene and derogatory" missives at his wife and professionals involved in their divorce has been suspended for two years by a New York appeals court, which rejected a three-year censure requested by the court's disciplinary staff. At one point, Anthony Chiofalo "threatened to cut off one attorney's pinkie and send it to his wife," the court said. Chiofalo also questioned the judge's integrity and accused his wife's attorney of exploitation of the couple's children to obtain excessive fees.

Stay Denied in Malpractice Case Against Wolf Block
The Legal Intelligencer

Despite arguing that case law clearly required a legal malpractice case against Wolf Block to be stayed pending the outcome of the underlying suit at issue, a Philadelphia judge has denied the defunct law firm's preliminary objections. Alan Potamkin sued Wolf Block and several former partners for allegedly drafting an ineffective prenuptial agreement that has so far not held up in the underlying litigation. Wolf Block argued that Potamkin's true damages can't be known until the divorce action is final.

Lawyer Dismissed From Kid Rock Lawsuit
Fulton County Daily Report

Ending an odd detour of his legal career, a New Orleans lawyer has been dismissed as a defendant from a suit brought by Harlen Akins, a music promoter who claimed Kid Rock and his entourage beat him up. After hearing the judge drop him from the case, George P. Vourvoulias III hugged Kid Rock and left the courtroom. The moment ended what started three years ago as Vourvoulias spent time with an old friend who'd become a famous musician and was on a concert tour in Atlanta.

State Cap on Non-Economic Damages a No-Go in Eastern District of Texas Case
Texas Lawyer

A U.S. magistrate judge has concluded the cap the Texas Legislature set on non-economic damages in health care liability suits is constitutional. The Eastern District judge concluded the defendant health care providers and the state are entitled to summary judgment that the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003 does not violate plaintiffs' right of access to the courts and the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The judge's report goes to U.S. District Judge T. John Ward for a final ruling.

Inmate's Attorneys Awarded $1.50 in Fees
The Associated Press

A federal judge has awarded $1.50 in fees to attorneys for an Arkansas prison inmate who won a civil rights lawsuit against the state prison system after she was shackled while giving birth. The attorneys had asked for about $140,000 in fees -- but the judge said they are limited by state law to 150 percent of damages, which amounted to $1.00.

Court Backs Arbitration of Former Partner's Claim Against Epstein Becker
New York Law Journal

A former Epstein Becker & Green partner who sued the law firm in California state court over his capital contribution will have to arbitrate the dispute. Southern District of New York Judge Laura Taylor Swain granted Epstein Becker's motion to compel arbitration for claims initiated by Thomas Brown, an attorney who left the law firm in 2006. Brown claims Epstein Becker committed fraud and balked on an agreement to return his capital contribution when he quit.

Businessman Gets 23 Years for $77 Million Ponzi Scheme
The Associated Press

Frank Castaldi, convicted of a $77 million Ponzi scheme that targeted hundreds of often working-class members of his own Chicago-area community, including the elderly, widows and immigrants from Italy, has been handed a maximum 23-year prison term. Federal Judge John Darrah rejected prosecutors' recommendation of a 12 1/2 year sentence for Castaldi -- recommended in part because he had reported the two-decade scam himself -- saying that would let the businessman off too easy, given the lives he ruined.

Attorney Suspended for Assisting in Unauthorized Practice of Law
The National Law Journal

Massachusetts' highest court has stripped a prominent Boston attorney of his law license for a year and a day after finding that he assisted in the unauthorized practice of law. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled last week that criminal defense attorney Stephen Hrones violated ethics rules by operating a practice with an unlicensed law graduate who was handling discrimination cases.

Be Careful How Your Brand Travels on Social Networks
The American Lawyer

When Facebook announced it would let users create vanity URLs for their profiles, the news touched off a frenzy among brand owners fearing their names could get hijacked. There was no mass brand-jacking: Was the threat of social networks overblown? No, say lawyers in the field.
Visit Legal Technology

Two More Partners Leave Nixon Peabody for DLA Piper
The National Law Journal

DLA Piper has brought aboard two more partners from Nixon Peabody, this time Paul Hall and Todd Toral to its litigation practice in San Francisco. Eleven Nixon Peabody partners have moved to DLA Piper since May. Hall was the co-chairman of Nixon Peabody's national class action team.
Visit News & Views

A Lesson From 'Mad Men': Predicting Law Firm Stars and Major Clients
The Legal Intelligencer

How can a law firm ascertain who may be its major clients in the future and what lawyers may be its breakout stars? Getting inspiration from a "Mad Men" episode, consultant Frank D'Amore warns against overlooking future MVPs, and presents some strategies for figuring out who they'll be.
Visit News & Views

How an Expensive Office Lease Helped Kill a Venerable IP Boutique
The American Lawyer

When New York-based intellectual property specialty shop Darby & Darby announced in March that it was shutting its doors, many observers quickly lumped the firm in with other dead IP boutiques as another example of the notion that the boutique model no longer has legs. But in some ways, the firm's death represents something beyond the story of a struggling IP boutique. It's also a classic tale of how the burden of boom-time loans helped crush a company once tough times hit.
Visit Small Firm Business

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