In-House Interrogatory

This week is all about rumors and secrets.

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The former general counsel of the National Security Agency talked leaks with NPR recently.

Joel Brenner talked to the news organization about the recent national security leaks the country has been abuzz about this month. Various news organizations, including The New York Times, published stories with hyper-secret information like the country’s drone strike policy, a United States cyberattack against Iran and information about an al-Qaida cell in Yemen.

Here’s what Brenner had to say:

“There are [also] people who leak because the process of being courted by a reporter is so flattering,” Brenner told NPR. “It so increases peoples’ sense of self-importance that they will want to talk.”

So, while your company may not deal in secrets that could affect the security of the entire nation, every corporation has information it wants to keep among employees.

So, here’s our question for you:

How do you and your company deal with leaks and employees telling the press or anyone confidential information?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Continue reading

SCOTUSblog 1, CNN and Fox 0

In the beginning, I hated SCOTUSblog.

About 10 years ago, the then-fledgling online service providing near-instantaneous links and analysis of Supreme Court decisions was a direct competitor to my own nascent email service in which I promised subscribers same-day news articles on every case granted, argued and decided by the justices.

More than one subscriber (and many more would-be subscribers) asked why they should sign up for my service — Cert.ainty Publishing — when they could get SCOTUSblog for free.

My startup company quickly folded.

But I have since learned to love SCOTUSblog — and at 10:08 Thursday morning my affection was requited.

While CNN and Fox were breathlessly — and erroneously — reporting that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate (the essential funding provision of the federal Affordable Care Act), SCOTUSblog correctly noted that “the individual mandate survives as a tax.”

So here’s a tip of the hat to Tom Goldstein, Amy Howe, Lyle Denniston and everyone else at SCOTUSblog who got it right.

UPDATE 1:36 – CNN emailed me a link to their correction.

You couldn’t make this up

A New Jersey woman is suing after being hit in the face two years ago with an errant throw at a Little League baseball game.

Honestly.

The kid who made the throw was 11 years old. He was warming up a pitcher at the time — in a fenced-in bullpen.

Honestly.

The woman, Elizabeth Lloyd, is seeking $150,000 for medical damages and an unspecified amount for pain and suffering.

Honestly.

According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit, which  was filed April 24, alleges the catcher’s errant throw was intentional and reckless, “assaulted and battered” Lloyd and caused “severe, painful and permanent” injuries.

Honestly.

And Little League Baseball is not helping out with the kid’s defense, leaving his father to contemplate settling because of the costs and because he and his wife don’t want to put their son and the other kids on the team through all the questions and depositions a trial would bring.

Honestly.

 

Law blog roundup

You might’ve heard that the U.S. Supreme Court is making a lot of big decisions this week. But on this, the first Monday of the summer, we’ve dug deep to find you other tidbits from the legal blogosphere.

– This 3L might need to take an economics class.

– Never mess with knitters. Ever.

– The Justice Department alleges towns in Arizona and Utah discriminate against residents who are not members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

– The California Supreme Court wants the state Bar to think tougher punishments in disciplinary cases.

In-House Interrogatory

This week it gets a little scandalous as we talk phone-tapping and general counsels.

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

The general counsel everyone is talking about this week is News Corp.’s Gerson Zweifach. Zweifach will be heading the committee investigating the extensive phone-hacking and bribery scandal that has rocked the mass media company the past few years. Since January 2011, 50 people have been arrested in connection with tapping phones, hacking computers and illegal payments for tabloid stories.

Zweifach has been general counsel at the company since February. New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein was heading the committee up until Zweifach took over this week. Klein will now return to his full-time job as executive vice president and CEO of News Corp.’s education division.

Many are wondering, though, if it was the right decision to put a general counsel at the head of a major internal investigation. In the United States, federal regulators often recommend someone independent of the general counsel head up such a committee, according to Corporate Counsel. Others say its an advantage because a general counsel already knows how to operate within the company.

So, here’s our question for you:

Is it the best choice to have a general counsel head a major internal investigation of a company, especially with a scandal as public as News Corp.’s? 

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Jelly Belly Candy Company has a new corporate counsel. John Di Giusto represented the company for five years with a law firm and the candy production company decided to bring him in-house. Hopefully he is sweet on corporate law.
  • PepsiCo is rehiring its former general counsel.
  • SunPower Corporation, which manufactures solar cells, named Lisa Bodensteiner its vice president and general counsel.
  • Find out what it’s like to be the general counsel for Boy Scouts of America.
  • The Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, will be the keynote speaker at a celebration for gay service members and LGBT civilians June 26.
  • Phoenix’s hockey team, the Coyotes, is looking for a new general counsel as it finds itself embroiled in a legal fight over a $300 million arena management deal.
  • Find out from this columnist what you are not taught at “General Counsel School.”
  • To get more in-house counsel news, sign up for our FREE monthly email newsletter, In-House Counsel. The newsletter is a compilation of The Daily Record’s coverage of in-house counsel news as well as job listings, movements within the industry and other resources. Click here to sign up today.
  • Follow us on Twitter for the In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @BenMook@Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

Environmental Law Clinic wins award

It’s awards time for the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

The clinic will receive the 2012 Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy from the American Bar Association.

The award is given out every year for leadership in environmental protection.

The clinic was created in 1987 and provides free legal services for environmental protection of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  Students participate in the clinic over two semesters.

The clinic has been involved in a lawsuit against Perdue farms and a Maryland poultry producer over the past couple years. Students and faculty in the clinic represent an environmental nonprofit called Waterkeepers Alliance in the lawsuit, which claims Perdue and the poultry producer violated the Clean Water Act by polluting the Chesapeake Bay. The clinic has been representing the group since 2010 and the case is supposed to go to court in October this year.

There has been controversy surrounding the lawsuit, with Gov. Martin O’Malley protesting the school’s involvement to Dean Phoebe Haddon. Eastern Shore lawmakers upset by the lawsuit also pushed for a provision in budget bills that would require law school clinics to disclose the names of their clients over the past five years.

SaveFarmFamilies.org also issued a statement Tuesday condemning the decision by the ABA to award the law clinic. The group assists farm families who have environmental lawsuits brought against them.

The clinic’s director, Professor Jane F. Barrett, will accept the award for the group at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Chicago in August.

Family law that is not rated G

I don’t know much about family law, but I do know a good double entendre when I hear one. And there were plenty heard Friday during the Family and Juvenile Law Section’s program at the Maryland State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City.

The theme for the session was exploring custody issues through parodies of the “Real Housewives” reality TV series. Only these episodes took place in Hagerstown, Dundalk and Salisbury, the latter of which featured the man pictured wearing a chicken on his head (naturally).

Each sketch featured some not-for-courtroom words, caricatures, some risque dialogue and, particularly in the case of the Dundalk sketch, some great accents.

(I filmed the two Hagerstown sketches as well as the Dundalk scene. Apologies for the video and audio quality, but I hope you can get the gist.)

The sketches were followed by a brief discussion by “erudite panel members” (really, that’s what it says in the program) on issues raised in the sketches. Here’s what I gleaned from the panel:

If a custody case involves the possibility of a child moving, the lawyer should remember the child “is going to lose one of their parents,” said Keith N. Schiszik of Day & Schiszik in Frederick. “You have to look very-fact specific as to how the kid is going to be hurt or not.”

When it comes to comity and where cases should be tried, the “good manners rule” should be followed, said Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Callahan.

“If they did it right in [another] state, we’re not going to run them over,” she said.

Judges do pick up the phone and talk about who should hear the case, according to Court of Special Appeals Judge Patrick L. Woodward.

“Most judges are practical. [They think,]‘One less case in my court is better,’” he said.

When working on custody agreements, Schiszik has made it practice to include a clause seeking the status quo in the child’s school, medical providers and religious activities unless both parties agree to a change.

The panel, plus the lawyers in attendance, all agreed the longer a lawyer waits to seek an emergency hearing, the less of an “emergency” it appears to be to the judge.

How Scalia thinks you should interpret the law

When Supreme Court justices aren’t interpreting our nation’s laws or deciding on the fate of health-care reform, they aren’t just kicking back and watching marathons of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” after work.

Well, maybe they are, but they are also writing books. And in Justice Antonin Scalia’s newest book (which he co-authored), he is throwing a few punches, The National Law Journal reports.

Scalia, along with co-author, legal writing expert Bryan Garner, writes that he thinks the law is too loosely interpreted by many judges, including some of his fellow Supreme Court colleagues.

The book titled, “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts,” lays out how Scalia and Garner think attorneys and judges should interpret the law. It advocates purely ruling according to texts and the Constitution and ignoring other reasoning like previous court decisions.

The 567-page book will be out June 19 and is the second collaboration between Scalia and Garner, who co-wrote “Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges” in 2008.

Scalia, however, does recognize in the book that he himself has not always adhered to his own rules. He writes in the book that he “knows there are some, and fears that there may be many opinions, that he has joined or written over the past 30 years that contradict what is written here – whether because of the demands of stare decisis or because wisdom has come late.”

Judges talk contested elections

Not the judge in the photo, however. I really just wanted to share with you the sartorial splendor of Chief Judge Robert M. Bell on Thursday morning during the reception for new judges at the MSBA’s Annual meeting in Ocean City. (He wore a hat, he said, in honor of outgoing MSBA President Henry Dugan).

Four other judges and people involved in the judicial nominating process talked judicial elections in a session called “So you want to be a judge?”

Ted Staples, the panel moderator and co-chair of the MSBA’s Judicial Appointments Committee, said the real possibility of having to campaign “has got to be at the top of your list” when considering if you want a seat on the circuit court.

Montgomery County Administrative Judge John W. Debelius had to run in 2002 after just a year on the bench. He and his fellow sitting judges were out every night “campaigning,”meaning all they could really do was show up at events.

Debelius said the key is to be involved in the community to build up support.

“The only way to carry off an election is to have people,” he said, adding the sitting judges, with the help of the Montgomery County Bar, were able to have supporters at every polling place in the county and win their elections.

Despite the criticism, efforts to abolish judicial elections are “almost going backwards,” according to Richard Montgomery, MSBA’s legislative director for nine years.

“It’s going to take a constitutional amendment,” added Andy Radding, who has served on several judicial nominating commissions. “I don’t think [the General Assembly] has the guts.”

Continue reading