Thursday, September 23, 2010

LAW.COM Newswire Highlights September 23, 2010

Source: LAW.COM September 23, 2010. Subscription required for online access:

3rd Circuit Overturns 8-Figure Settlement in Lending Class Action -- Again
The Legal Intelligencer

For a second time, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned an eight-figure settlement in a class action predatory lending suit on the grounds that the trial judge failed to follow the rigorous and precise steps involved in certifying a settlement class. The 3rd Circuit ruling tossing a $47.6 million settlement is a stunning second setback for both the plaintiffs and the defendants. It's a coup for objectors who have now succeeded twice in blocking settlements of claims they say are worth more than $3 billion.

Former Hinshaw Partner Implicated in Fraud Scheme
The American Lawyer

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Todd Duckson, a former capital markets partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson and current CEO of Minneapolis-based specialty finance company True North Finance, with defrauding several hundred investors in a real estate lending fund. The SEC's complaint accuses Duckson and two executives of the Capital Solutions Monthly Income Fund of concealing from investors that the fund had no significant income because of the financial collapse of its sole business partner.

Judge Orders Plaintiffs Firms to Add Minorities and Women to Case
The American Lawyer

When it comes to diversity in the bar, most of the attention is paid to large law firms. But a New York federal judge is shining the light on plaintiffs firms, ordering two firms serving as co-lead counsel in a securities class action -- Labaton Sucharow and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd -- to "make every effort" to assign at least one minority and one woman to the case. The timing of the order is a little strange, since the firms have already submitted an unopposed motion for a preliminary settlement.

Bingham Partner Admits to Altering Document at Heart of McCourt Divorce
The American Lawyer

More than just the future ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers is at stake in the extraordinarily nasty divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt: The reputation of a respected partner at an Am Law 100 firm is on the line, too. The couple's former lawyer, Bingham McCutchen partner Lawrence Silverstein, has come under heavy fire over allegations that he "fraudulently altered" the 2004 marital property agreement at the center of the dispute. Meanwhile, Frank McCourt's lawyers call the change a "drafting error."

Covington Wins Partial Summary Judgment in Discrimination Case
The National Law Journal

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has further reduced the claims Yolanda Young can pursue in her racial discrimination suit against Covington & Burling, where she worked as a staff attorney. Determining that Young lacked standing to pursue the job-assignment portion of her disparate impact claim, the judge granted Covington's motion for partial summary judgment on that count. The decision was the latest victory for Covington in a case that has already amassed what the judge described as a "rich procedural history."

Texas Court Reverses Murder Conviction in Dog Scent Case
The Associated Press

A man convicted of murder after three bloodhounds allegedly matched his scent to the victim should be set free because the evidence against him was not legally sufficient, a Texas appeals court ruled Wednesday. The dogs used in the conviction of Richard Winfrey Sr. belong to former Fort Bend Sheriff's Deputy Keith Pikett, who retired earlier this year after being targeted by the Innocence Project of Texas, a group that claims the ex-lawman passes off junk science as legitimate investigative techniques.

Lawyer Is Suspended Over Forged Car Registration
New York Law Journal

An attorney has been suspended from law practice for three months after driving a car for three years with a registration sticker that he had forged by cutting out numbers from the sticker on his wife's car. Mark S. Pomerantz blamed his wife's illness, "marital turmoil" and financial troubles for his actions. Pomerantz joined Mintz & Gold in Manhattan as a litigation associate in 2008. As of Wednesday, his name, photo and biography had been removed from the firm's website.

Federal Judge Chides SEC in Mark Cuban's Document Dispute
The National Law Journal

A day after the 5th Circuit revived the SEC's insider trading suit against Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a federal judge in Washington on Wednesday sharply criticized the agency over its handling of a public records request related to the investigation. Judge Reggie Walton called some of the SEC's responses to Cuban's documents request "inadequate." He set a hearing for Oct. 22 to determine how much time he will give the SEC to respond to Cuban's request, which involves the review of 107 boxes of documents.

Faulting 'Woefully Deficient' Counsel, Court Vacates Assault Verdict
New York Law Journal

A New York judge has tossed out the conviction of a defendant whose trial attorney was "thoroughly unprepared" and had a "woefully deficient" understanding of criminal defense practice and trial techniques. Granting Benedict Araka's motion to vacate his conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel grounds, the judge blasted Noel Nafiu Akinsola for his "incompetence," including his rambling opening statement and "virtually non-existent" cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses.

Process Begun to Oust District Attorney for 'Sexting' Abuse Victim
The Associated Press

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle took initial steps Wednesday to remove a prosecutor accused of abusing his power to seek relationships with women, including sending racy text messages to a domestic abuse victim and a law student seeking a pardon. Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz has acknowledged sending 30 text messages over three days to the abuse victim while he was prosecuting her ex-boyfriend. In one, he asked if the woman was "the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA."

Joining Trend, 3rd Circuit Upholds Jails' Blanket Strip-Search Policy
The Legal Intelligencer

For decades, it was well settled in federal law that jails cannot use a blanket strip-search policy that includes even those arrested on minor offenses whose behavior would not trigger any reasonable suspicion of the need for such an intrusive search. Those days are over. The pendulum is now swinging in the other direction and the law is very much in flux, as shown by this week's 3rd Circuit decision upholding blanket strip-search policies in two New Jersey counties.

Ethics Panel to Judges: Grooming Discussion OK; Product Endorsements, No
New York Law Journal

A judge may not be permitted to discuss pending cases, but he or she is free to expatiate on his or her hairstyle, a New York state court system ethics panel has concluded. The Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics cleared the way for judicial cooperation with the author of an article "intended to be an 'inspirational story' about members of the judiciary who had made certain personal grooming decisions." But the panel cautioned that they should not endorse "any particular hair care product or process."

Arnold & Porter Adds 2 Sonnenschein Partners
New York Law Journal

A two-partner corporate group that Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal picked up from Thacher Proffitt & Wood less than two years ago has left for Arnold & Porter. Robert Azarow and W. Edward Bright will join Arnold & Portner as partners. Bright said the financial reform legislation passed by Congress in July provided a "compelling reason" to join Washington, D.C.-based Arnold & Porter, which has a strong presence in the regulatory sector.

Year 18 of Ecuador vs. Chevron Pollution Dispute
The American Lawyer

On Friday, Ecuadorean Judge Leonardo Ordonez, who currently presides over the case where indigenous plaintiffs seek to hold Chevron Corp. liable for pollution of the Amazon River Basin, closed the evidentiary phase of the trial, as plaintiffs released a new damages recommendation of $90 billion to $113 billion. Chevron has sought to discredit the damages figure previously embraced by plaintiffs -- up to $27 billion -- by attacking the credibility of the court-appointed expert who recommended the figure.
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Settlement Videos Are Powerful Mediation Tools
The Connecticut Law Tribune

Lawyers who forgo the use of videos to settle personal injury cases should brace themselves for the prospect of smaller settlements, says attorney Salvatore J. Zambri. Settlement videos invite the viewer to see, hear and feel the whole story of a case in a compelling and accurate manner.
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What Cognitive Theory Can Teach Corporate Counsel
Texas Lawyer

How can the latest in cognitive theory help corporate counsel get their jobs done? Attorney Michael P. Maslanka discusses the lessons in-house lawyers can learn from various studies and papers on human behavior, which can help them in litigation and even more in their advisory role.
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The Careerist: Law School Puppy Mills -- Part 2
The Careerist

Check out some of the latest posts on the blog, The Careerist. Law School Puppy Mills -- Part 2 Plus A Guide for Lawyers Who Lust Also You've Failed the Bar, and You Want a Job?! Career coach Elizabeth Munnell advises on making the best of a bad situation® 120 Broadway, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10271-1101, Customer Service Phone: (877) 256-CIRC

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