Monday, September 20, 2010

LAW.COM Newswire Highlights September 20, 2010

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2nd Circuit Rejects Corporate Liability in Alien Tort Act Cases
New York Law Journal

The 2nd Circuit has rejected outright the theory that corporations can be held liable in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Statute for violations of international law in foreign countries. In a sweeping decision rebuffing a suit against Royal Dutch Petroleum and others for allegedly aiding and abetting human rights violations during oil exploration in Nigeria, the court said that "corporate liability is not a discernible -- much less universally recognized -- norm of customary international law that we may apply pursuant to ATS."

E-Mail Fight Ensues in Lawsuit Over Slain Lawyer's Death
The National Law Journal

Arent Fox has been pulled into a $20 million wrongful death suit filed by the wife of a Washington lawyer who was found stabbed to death in the home of one of the firm's former partners. Lawyers for Katherine Wone have asked a D.C. judge to enforce a subpoena for e-mail and other documents that former Arent Fox partner Joseph Price created while at the firm. Price has refused to permit Arent Fox to release those documents, citing various privileges including attorney-client and spousal privilege.

4th Circuit Becomes New Front in Battle Over Judicial Nominees
The National Law Journal

There's a new focus in the sparring over judicial nominees. Albert Diaz, whom President Barack Obama nominated for the 4th Circuit in November 2009, has been waiting longer for Senate confirmation than any other pending appellate nominee. Currently on the North Carolina trial bench, Diaz has awaited a vote since getting the unanimous support of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. Obama, in a speech Wednesday, took what for him is an unusual step -- singling out Diaz by name as a stalled judicial nominee.

First Prop 8 Amicus Brief Raises Issue of Judge's Sexual Orientation
The Recorder

Before gay marriage foes filed their first brief to the 9th Circuit seeking to restore Prop 8, both parties agreed to open up the matter to amicus curiae briefs. The first to weigh in is a man named Robert Wooten, who wastes no time getting personal, at least for Judge Vaughn Walker, who delivered the landmark ruling calling Prop 8 unconstitutional. "If the allegation that Judge Walker is a homosexual is true, [then] he has a personal interest in the outcome of the trial" and should have recused himself, the brief states.

M&A Market Hesitantly Picking Up, Say Corporate Attorneys
The Legal Intelligencer

News of mergers and acquisitions seems to be rolling out at a faster pace these days, but while attorneys say activity is up, reaching the finish line is another story, as regulation and tightness in the credit market lead to intense due diligence and more deals dying on the vine. Dechert CEO-elect Daniel O'Donnell calls it one of the "weirdest" markets he has seen in 35 years as a corporate attorney because there are "great levels of activity" without the confidence typical for a growing deal environment.

N.J. Appeals Court Rebukes Judge Who Cut Fee Award to Discourage Fee-Shifting
New Jersey Law Journal

A New Jersey state appeals court on Thursday had some critical words for a judge who said he routinely trims fee awards to discourage fee-shifting, calling that seat-of-the-pants policy "legally untenable." A judge "may not impose his or her own policy considerations to arbitrarily reduce a litigant's otherwise legally justifiable application," the appeals court said in remanding the case for a fee recalculation.

Judge Tosses Out Charges Against Former Merrill Lynch Executive in Enron Case
The Associated Press

A federal judge has dismissed charges against a third defendant in a problematic Enron-related case marred by overturned convictions and flawed legal theory. But even with the dismissal, former Merrill Lynch executive James A. Brown could still return to prison on two other convictions that were not overturned. In 2004, Brown and two other executives were convicted of conspiracy and wire fraud, accused of helping push through Enron's sham sale to Merrill Lynch of three power barges moored off the Nigerian coast in 1999.

Woman Sues Former Employer Over Gun Policy
Fulton County Daily Report

A former employee of Iron Mountain Information Management has challenged the company to a legal duel over employees' rights to possess guns. The lawyer for Jamie Lunsford -- who was fired for carrying a handgun in her car -- has filed a petition to enjoin the company from enforcing its gun policy, claiming that it violates Georgia law. The company's lawyers contend that the law provides exceptions from gun privileges when employees are on company property or on company business.

Tax Preparer Who Threatened Prosecutor Is Sentenced to 3 to 6 Years
New York Law Journal

A tax preparer who sent threatening letters to a New York assistant DA who had twice prosecuted him was sentenced Friday to three to six years behind bars. Prosecutors arrested Jack Chang last summer after Gilda Mariani, the chief of the money laundering and tax crime unit in the DA's office, received two ominous letters. One was addressed to her husband at her home and contained a white powder that turned out to be cornstarch. Both depicted a tombstone with Mariani's name and threatened violence with a 9 mm gun.

Wash. Justice Awarded 4 E-Mails in Disclosure Case
The Associated Press

The Washington Supreme Court has awarded Justice Richard Sanders four additional documents and additional legal fees in his public records lawsuit against the state. Sanders sued the state in 2005 after he was admonished for talking with residents at the state's center for violent sexual predators at McNeil Island while some residents had pending court cases. But the high court affirmed much of a lower court ruling holding that most of the more than 100 exempt documents Sanders was seeking were properly withheld.

Lawyer Stands by Claim He's LeBron James' Father
The National Law Journal

Washington lawyer Leicester Stovell says a federal judge should not dismiss his lawsuit trying to prove that basketball star LeBron James is his son. In his filing last week, Stovell says a motion to dismiss his suit is partly a "diatribe" accusing him of "crawling out of the woodwork after the child he never gave a thought to became an NBA star." Stovell's filing says the judge in the case is the only one who can give him the final answer he's looking for about paternity -- as well as money for "mental anguish."

Europe's GCs Warn of More Pressure on Law Firm Fees
The American Lawyer

Senior general counsel in Europe are warning law firms to expect a lasting shake-up in how they're retained and paid. Convening for a roundtable at London's College of Law, legal heads from major corporations emphasized their intention to drive changes in billing methods, as the balance of power between clients and their attorneys continues to shift. Said Royal Dutch Shell's legal director, "Law firms have had Christmas every day for decades now, but the party is over."
Visit International News

American LegalNet eDockets Aims to Keep You Up to Date
Legal Tech Newsletter

When a law firm's docketing and calendar workflow is undefined or loosely structured, the firm is vulnerable to missing deadlines, losing track of e-filings, or using out-of-date or unofficial forms. Consultant Curt Meltzer believes American LegalNet eDockets has tackled these challenges.
Visit Legal Technology

The Careerist: More Law Firm Oscars? Yawn ...
The Careerist

Check out some of the latest posts on the lawjobs.com blog, The Careerist. More Law Firm Oscars? Yawn ... Plus Women Partners Get Paid Less -- Duh? And Maybe a Girl's Got to Be Manipulative: What Joan and Peggy of "Mad Men" Can Teach Us
Visit The Careerist

Are the 'U.S. News' Law Firm Rankings Big Law's Next Black Swan?
The American Lawyer

Could the U.S. News law firm rankings, with their focus on assessments of lawyer quality rather than on bottom-line profits, be Big Law's latest Black Swan -- a transformative, history-shaping event? No, according to Steven Harper, an adjunct professor at Northwestern University.

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