Friday, October 15, 2010

LAW.COM Newswire Highlights October 15, 2010

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Fla. Judge Says States' Health Law Challenge Can Go Forward

The National Law Journal
A federal judge in Florida has rejected the Obama administration's motion to dismiss a challenge to the new health care reform law brought by 20 state attorneys general and four governors. The judge ruled that two key claims could go forward: the states' claim that the individual mandate to purchase coverage exceeds Congress' commerce clause power and violates the Ninth and 10th Amendments, and the claim that the act unconstitutionally coerces and commandeers the states with respect to the Medicaid program.

Government Asks for Stay of Injunction Against 'Don't Ask'

The National Law Journal
The Justice Department has filed a notice of appeal and a motion to stay the enforcement of a worldwide injunction barring enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell," the law that bans open homosexuals from serving in the military. In court filings on Thursday, the Justice Department, citing "serious legal questions," said the military would be "irreparably harmed" if U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips failed to stay her injunction while the government pursues an appeal.

Judge Dismisses Class Action Against Countrywide, Rules BofA Not Obligated to Buy Back Mortgages

The American Lawye
For the second time in three weeks, Bank of America has escaped liability in cases involving the Countrywide mortgage business it acquired in 2008. Last month, a federal judge dismissed claims by two trusts that had bought $43 million of residential mortgage-backed securities from Countrywide. And now BofA has won the dismissal of a high-stakes purported class action brought on behalf of more than 370 trusts that bought securitized mortgages from Countrywide.

2nd Circuit Recognizes Firm's Contribution, but Rebuffs $17 Million Fee Request

New York Law Journal
A law firm that claimed it was "solely responsible" for a $245 million class action settlement has lost its bid to receive an additional $17 million in attorney fees. While the 2nd Circuit agreed that non-lead counsel Chimicles & Tikellis had conferred a substantial benefit on the class, it held that the district court had not erred when it approved the lead counsel's allocation of only $155,610 in attorney fees to the firm. The fee dispute arose from a wave of suits brought against Adelphia Communications.

Calif. Appeals Court Says Fee Arbitrator Should Have Disclosed Clientele

The Recorder
A California appeals court has backed a woman fighting her former law firm over unpaid fees, ruling that the lawyer who acted as chief arbitrator should have disclosed that he regularly represents law firms in fee disputes. The court emphasized that it wasn't suggesting that Howard Rice partner Sean SeLegue harbors bias, but concluded that SeLegue's legal practice might have led the former client to "reasonably entertain a doubt" that he would be able to arbitrate the dispute impartially.

General Counsel's Hiring Sparks Ethics Firestorm

Corporate Counsel
The former general counsel of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has sparked an ethics firestorm after he took a job as assistant GC of Duke Energy Corp.'s Indiana affiliate. Scott Storms allegedly sought the job while he was overseeing hearings and other matters related to the giant electrical company. The parent company has suspended Storms, along with the CEO of its Indiana operations, pending an internal investigation of whether Storms did any favors for the company while he was actively seeking the job.

Judge-cum-Comedian's Appeal Tests N.J. Court System's Sense of Humor

New Jersey Law Journal
New Jersey Judge Vincenzo Sicari -- alias comic "Vince August" -- is in an ethics pickle. Like many stand-up comics, his material is a mix of ranting and self-deprecating jokes about his personal life, racial stereotypes and society, but the Advisory Committee on Extrajudicial Activities said he can't decide cases by day and do shtick by night. His term on the bench ends Dec. 31, but Sicari isn't taking the ultimatum lying down. He's asked the state Supreme Court for review, and the justices have agreed to hear the case.

In Rare Move, AARP Joins Pharma False Claims Act Case as Plaintiff's Co-Counsel

The American Lawyer
The Texas branch of AARP is entering a qui tam case against Abbott Laboratories, Cordis and Boston Scientific as co-counsel for the plaintiff, Kevin Colquitt, a former Guidant sales representative who's now a lawyer at Baron & Budd. An AARP lawyer said AARP has appeared as an amicus in False Claims Act cases, but, to her knowledge, the organization hasn't previously joined as co-counsel. Another of Colquitt's attorneys said it's very unusual for a large, powerful nonprofit to take a prominent position in a qui tam case.

Citigroup Accused of Using Recession as Pretext for Firing Women

The Associated Press
Citigroup was accused in a lawsuit Wednesday of using companywide layoffs during the recent financial turmoil to purge scores of female employees while saving the jobs of less-qualified men and of taking government bailout money even as the company continued a pattern of "pervasive discrimination and retaliation." According to the suit, the company has long been plagued by a "boys club" atmosphere that ensures that middle and senior management positions will be held by men.

CVS to Pay $77 Million for Violating Controls on Methamphetamine Precursor Drug

The National Law Journal
CVS Pharmacy, which operates the largest number of retail pharmacies in the U.S., has agreed to pay more than $77 million to settle charges that it illegally sold pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine traffickers, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Pseudoephedrine, found in over-the-counter cough and cold medications, is used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. CVS will pay $75 million in civil penalties -- the largest civil penalty ever paid under the Controlled Substances Act -- and forfeit $2.6 million in profits.

Fla. Judges Refuse to Lift $250,000 Damages Cap for Med-Mal Case

Daily Business Review
A state appellate decision limiting damages in a medical malpractice case has plaintiffs attorneys contending it will make arbitration a less desirable option for resolving negligence cases. The Florida court concluded a state cap on noneconomic damages in arbitration cases lets victims receive up to $250,000 per claimant, but not per defendant. The panel sided with health care providers, ruling that a dead man's family could not draw more damages than originally awarded by an arbitration panel.

U.S. Building Council GC Kicks Off Green Matters Conference

Law Technology News
Susan Dorn, general counsel of the U.S. Green Building Council and its affiliated Green Building Certification Institute, opened the Green Matters conference in New Orleans with updates on the LEED green building certification program and green schools. The conference addresses government, legal, and architecture issues in going and staying green.

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Report Details Law Firm Earnings for TARP Work

The National Law Journal
The Congressional Oversight Panel on Thursday released a report detailing how much Treasury has paid to 18 law firms that have been awarded contracts since the program began in late 2008. In most cases, the difference between the potential contract value and the amount owed is significant.

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Increasing the Presence of Lawyers With Disabilities

The National Law Journal
Doors are opening more and more for disabled attorneys both through advances in technology and changing attitudes toward the rights and abilities of those with handicaps. But much more can be done, and advocates continue to push for better inclusion of disabled attorneys in the legal field.

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The Careerist: How to Keep Associates Satisfied

The Careerist
Check out some of the latest posts on the blog, The Careerist. How to Keep Them Satisfied: How Paul Hastings jumped from 66th to sixth place on The American Lawyer's midlevel associates survey Plus Bond Like the Big Boys Also Unsexy Jobs, Part 2

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Ex-Legal Aid Attorneys Allege Employer Violated Wiretap Act

Texas Lawyer
Two former attorneys at Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas have sued the organization and two of its executives, alleging the defendants violated the Texas Wiretap Act when a telephone conversation they had at work with a co-worker was intercepted and recorded. Kervyn B. Altaffer Jr. and Sophia Katherine Palat, now practicing together at Altaffer & Palat, each say they resigned from LANWT in September 2009 after they learned of the recording. "I handed in a letter, and I left. This was kind of a big deal," Palat says.

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