‘Warrior Lawyer’ launches Facebook attack

Baltimore’s “Warrior Lawyer” is waging battle a little farther south down I-95.

J. Wyndal Gordon, the “Warrior Lawyer,” unleashed an attack on Washington, D.C., Councilman Michael Brown in a post on Facebook this week.

“I never was much into D.C. politics, but I do know a Rat when I smell one,” the post begins.

Gordon is representing Brown’s former campaign manager, Hakim Sutton. Brown fired Sutton after discovering campaign funds were missing. Gordon wrote the post after Brown held a news conference announcing the $114,000 in missing campaign money.

Gordon went on to accuse Brown of “skulduggery and debauchery,” saying Brown failed to properly pay employees and hinted that Brown himself had taken the missing money.

“It is due to his own laziness, arrogance, narcissism and greed that Brown finds himself in the position he’s in today [with little money], — not some false claim of theft as he would have the public to wholesale believe,” Gordon wrote in the post.

Hoping to hit the (court-ordered) jackpot

Siblings fighting over money is, unfortunately, not news. But a financial dispute between sisters in Connecticut is newsworthy for two reasons:

  1. The money is from a winning Powerball ticket.
  2. The sisters are in their 80s.

Theresa Sokaitis, 84, and Rose Bakaysa, 87, went to court Tuesday for the younger sister’s lawsuit seeking a part of a $500,000 jackpot the older sister won in 2005. The lawsuit is being heard after the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed another lower court’s decision to throw out the case.

Bakaysa and the sisters’ brother won the jackpot, but Sokaitis argues a written contract signed by both sisters to split their gambling winnings entitles her to a piece of the financial windfall. Bakaysa’s lawyer said the sisters had a falling-out a year before the jackpot, effectively tearing up the contract.

The saddest part of the story to me is the sisters haven’t spoken in years and shunned each other in court. Don’t they remember what the Beatles said about money?

A judge is expected to make his ruling by the end of May.

Law blog round-up

Here are some tidbits to take your mind off Maryland’s heartbreaking loss yesterday:

  • Jeffrey Toobin at The New Yorker gives three immediate observations about the legal implications of the health care legislation, including how it might affect the Supreme Court.
  • Above the Law has more on the potential, legal fallout of the bill.
  • Speaking of SCOTUS, an Iowa lawyer provides an interesting take in today’s Baltimore Sun about its upcoming Snyder v. Phelps case.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica files a $250 million lawsuit against Dickstein Shapiro LLP for allegedly botching a patent application. (HT: Law Shucks.)
  • A former Wisconsin state employee has won a discrimination lawsuit against his employer… the State’s Equal Division. (HT and “Dept. of Irony” headline to Overlawyered.)
  • Today’s business tip – prevent profit “leaking” by recording all of your time while in the office.

FDIC’s foreclosure help

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Wednesday released an online toolkit aimed at arming borrowers, banks and others with information to prevent unnecessary foreclosures as well as foreclosure rescue scams.

The kit includes:

  • Is Foreclosure Knocking at Your Door? brochure (available online and in print), which encourages consumers facing financing difficulties to contact their servicer, apply for a loan modification, and talk to a counselor.
  • Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams brochure (available online and in print), which provides information on common scams, tips for detecting fraudulent deals, and resources for reporting criminal activity.
  • Spring 2009 edition of FDIC Consumer News, which features advice for consumers on avoiding foreclosure rescue and loan modification schemes.

The tool kit and other helpful resources are available on the FDIC’s foreclosure prevention Web page at www.fdic.gov/foreclosureprevention.

MDLC’s reports: Budget checkpoint as budget watchdog

Del. Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico and Worcester, readily admits he was the lawmaker who added language to the state’s budget requiring the Maryland Disability Law Center to submit financial documents before receiving funding. (The funding was untied from the reporting requirement in the final version of the budget passed by the General Assembly.)

MDLC was the only legal services organization targeted, raising alarms in the legal services community. Conway, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said MDLC was selected because he had not seen an audit from the organization recently. (Virginia Knowlton, MDLC’s executive director, has noted that her organization undergoes financial audits at both state and federal levels to receive grant money, and Conway has access to those.)

Conway also points out that the documentation requirement is not uncommon. ”Throughout the budget, you’ll see all types of reports that are requested from a list of organizations and state agencies,” he said.

Scanning through the budget (PDF), I discovered more than a dozen similar documentation requirements. The Maryland Higher Education Commission and the state’s historically black institutions, for example, have to submit a report showing the effectiveness of programs to increase graduation and retention rates before receiving $1.5 million for that purpose. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is asked to submit a report on the “proposed closing of state-operated beds” at the Walter P. Carter in Baltimore City before receiving $10 million. And the Maryland Insurance Administration is to report on “an agreed upon practice for forecasting and tracking the premium tax” before receiving $100,000.

An analyst with the Department of Legislative Services confirmed the frequent use of documentation requirements for funding, and said the unusual thing here is that MDLC succeeded in getting them untied .

Conway indicated that the selected organizations are not being accused of or being investigated for wrongdoing. Rather, it’s a way for the legislators to make sure state funds are being used appropriately, particularly in the current economic climate.

“I like to focus on what the activities are,” he said. “The committee needs to understand these different expenditures.”

Whatever Conway’s motives, MDLC and other legal services agencies see it as a shot across their bow, according to this commentary by Legal Aid’s Joe Surkiewicz. What do you think?

Bankruptcy judge hopes he’s bad for business – his own

A federal bankruptcy judge, concerned about the number of young adults in his courtroom, started the Credit Abuse Resistance Education (CARE) Program several years ago to help high-school seniors and college freshmen — and many older adults, as well — appreciate the difference between a credit card and an ATM.

“They’re 18 years old and they’re being bombarded with credit-card offers for the first time,” says Judge John C. Ninfo II, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Western New York, in the April issue of The Third Branch: Newsletter of the Federal Courts. “They’re hungry consumers and they’re getting their first taste of freedom. They’re the ones who are really at risk. They treat a credit card as if it’s an ATM machine on somebody else’s account. They don’t even think of it as debt.”

The CARE Program’s Web site has a “Top 10” list of financial tips for high-school and college students, with some classic bits of advice (pay your bills on time; create a budget) and some that are bit more modern (avoid impulse shopping on the Internet; abusing credit cards can cost you a job or keep you out of graduate school).

With contacts in all 50 states, the program also can help arrange “financial literacy” seminars at high schools and colleges.

“Usually, judges only get involved with social problems after the problems have turned into disasters…,” one fellow jurist writes on the Web site; but the CARE program “allows judges to become part of the solution by helping young persons learn to manage debt before they are in over their heads.”

Sure, it might sound like wishful thinking or preaching to the choir – but do you have a better idea?

STEVE LASH, Legal Affairs Writer

Unexpected victims of the sub-prime mortgage mess

istock_000002498725xsmall.jpgAs owners lose their homes to foreclosure, their pets, too, are losing shelter, the Chicago Tribune reports. The newspaper found several animal shelters that have seen an increase in pets given up for adoption after the owners are forced to find new, un-pet-friendly living situations. In some cases, the animals are left to starve when the owners walk away from a foreclosed property.

The Humane Society even issued a public statement this month about the situation. “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people abandoning their pets,” Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Washington-based humane group, told the Trib. “But with this increase in foreclosures, we’re going to see more of it.”

Some former pets may be lucky enough to end up in the care of people like Robin Moro, a Cincinnati artist who created ForeclosureCats.org after adopting two abandoned cats last spring.


Now you can confess to your (financial) sins

Have you heard about Geezeo? It’s certainly gotten enough press in financial circles. The site – er, “web-based application” – allows users to aggregate all their finances in one location and set monetary goals with other users for support.

And this week, the site launched “Confessions,” a section where users can spill their guts about guilty indiscretions. For example: “I have too much credit card debt” or “I’ve got to stop buying coffee at work.”

And since the site accepts Google logins, you needn’t set up a new registration if you have a Google account.

Do you think it would help you to have community support to reach a shared retirement goal?

Would you feel safe inputting all your financial accounts into one secure site?

JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Scrooge McDuck tops Forbes’ fictional 15 Rich list

250px-scroogemcduck.jpgSoaring gold prices have lifted Duckburg’s Scrooge McDuck to the top of the Forbes’ “fictional 15″ this year.

Even Forbes notes that the duck’s hoard of coins and bullion – estimated at almost $30B – is “more than you can shake a tail feather at.” It’s worth following this link to read the rags-to-riches story of the Scottish-born duck.

Here’s the list:

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“Making it rain” sound financial advice

Rap mogul Russell Simmons is a genius at diversification. After co-founding Def Jam records more than 25 years ago, he’s become quite a businessman. He’s used his entrepreneurial spirit to launch a clothing line (Phat Farm), bring spoken word poetry to HBO and Broadway (Def Poetry), and even held a political reception last year for Maryland Republican U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele.

To say Russell Simmons (pictured at right) wears many hats is an understatement. Over the weekend in Greensboro, N.C., an organization Simmons co-chairs called the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) held a financial investment seminar entitled “Get Your Money Right.”

The organization’s mission statement says, “The network is dedicated to harnessing the cultural relevance of Hip-Hop music to serve as a catalyst for education advocacy and other societal concerns fundamental to the empowerment of youth.”

The summit featured current rap music artists including Jim Jones and Lil’ Mo explaining the benefits of home ownership, investing intelligently and trying to avoid debt.

I wonder if the current real estate crisis couldn’t have been avoided if there were more organizations like Simmons’ talking about the benefits of smart investing or trying to appeal to people through their current favorite celebrities.

Imagine if Madonna did a public service announcement saying: buy a home, settle down, invest your money wisely and retire when you’re 50. Or maybe if Britney Spears did one saying: I really love playing the stock market. Invest your extra pennies and you’ll always be able to take care of yourself.

It’s time we start demanding more from our celebrities and public figures. You wouldn’t expect sound financial advice from rapper Lil’ Mo, but at the summit she made a very sage comment:

“Everybody wants to make it rain, but they never have enough saved up for a rainy day.”

The phrase “make it rain” is taken from rapper Fat Joe’s album entitled “Me, Myself & I” and means to let dollar bills fall from the sky like it’s raining money.

So listen to Lil’ Mo, and hopefully others will follow her lead in offering sound advice for those of us who really want to “make it rain” common financial sense.

What favorite celebrity of yours would you like to see offering financial advice or investment tips?

-TODD ZIMMERMAN, Presentation Editor