Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, a day to remember a great American with a dream. Here are some news items to get the week started.

Martin Luther King Jr.– The suicide rate among lawyers is alarming.

– Documentary on legal opposition to same-sex marriage ban opens at Sundance.

– Does Hollywood have an edge before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals?

– Litigation does not survive plaintiffs’ deaths in Minnesota.

Attorneys’ fees now at issue in Leopold harassment lawsuit

leopoldA former assistant to former Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold settled her sexual harassment lawsuit against Leopold for $110,000 last month. But the legal battle in the case continues over attorneys’ fees.

John M. Singleton, the lawyer for Karla Hamner, is seeking more than $176,000 in attorney’s fees, according to a motion filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court. Singleton said he, an associate and a paralegal spent approximately 376 hours on the case, at $495 per hour for Singleton’s time.

Anne Arundel County’s response, filed Thursday? Not so fast. It calculates Singleton has only “proven allowable times” totaling about 28 hours.

“A review of the records suggests that they were not made contemporaneous with the reporting as required but, instead, have been cobbled together for the sole purpose of this petition,” wrote Jay H. Creech, a senior assistant county attorney.

The county also rejected Singleton’s argument of the case’s novelty, calling Hamner’s lawsuit a “de facto firing and a hostile work environment.”

Singleton called the case the “most contentious and controversial case” of his entire 30-plus year legal career and wrote it took a “tremendous toll” on his family and his employees.

“There are very few attorneys in the legal community who would have taken this case,” Singleton wrote.
Countered Creech: “There is no suggestion that this case was undesirable within the legal community other than counsel’s one line conclusion.”
As for his $495 hourly rate, Singleton pointed out the county paid $450 per hour to Linda Hitt Thatcher, a Greenbelt solo practitioner hired to represent Leopold.
“Comparing her total fees for the same period of time and dealing with the same legal issues, her bill to the county was manytimes more than that requested herein for essentially the same work,” Singleton wrote.

Creech was not convinced.

“The Plaintiff has not produced one iota of evidence as to the prevailing market rate in the Baltimore or Annapolis legal community for employment law cases,” he wrote.

ABA moves back law school graduate employment survey

law schoolThe American Bar Association wrapped up its annual meeting Tuesday in San Francisco. During the meeting, the ABA’s legal education section voted to change the graduation employment reports to 10 months out of law school from nine months.

The change was requested by law deans in California and New York who said “delayed bar exam results and admissions in their states put them at a disadvantage in jobs reporting,” according to the National Law Journal.

The measure was passed by only one vote and the controversy has already begun. (The new rule will go into effect for the Class of 2014.)
Above the Law has more from critics of the decision. It steps back from the vote to look at the bigger picture:

We are living through a crisis in legal education. Tuition is skyrocketing, people can’t get jobs, law school applications are cratering. And here the regulating body for American legal education has responded by changing the reporting date for entry-level employment from February 15th to March 15th.

What do you think about the ABA’s decision?

Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday and a hoped-for end to the recent heat wave. Here are some news items to get the week started.

– Justice has not been delayed, merely sequestered.

– The George Zimmerman case is not over for its prosecutors.

– “Re-segregation” trial opens in North Carolina federal court.

– Lawyers rank below business executives — and journalists — in Pew Research Center poll.



Law blog roundup

Maryland JudiciaryWelcome to another Monday and we hope you had a lovely holiday weekend. Here are some links to check out while you ponder whether you’d like to throw your hat in the ring for New York City comptroller:

– The Maryland Judiciary debuts a spiffy new website. (Let us know what you think about it in the comments section)

– When you hear “bear arms” in terms of the Second Amendment, do you think one gun or multiple guns? Why this might become very important in Illinois tomorrow.

– Ron Miller on why the first settlement offer from an insurance company is usually a bad one.

Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg too old to be a Supreme Court justice?

Judges, feeling the pressure

judgeJudges who are fed up with crowded dockets, low pay and inexperienced lawyers or pro se litigants are taking their frustration out in court, according to a recent story in The National Law Journal.

The paper reports a Florida judge was disciplined for screaming at an attorney because of the lawyer’s alleged bad attitude and a West Virginia family court judge was punished for telling a litigant to “shut up” or face jail time.

While not defending a judge losing his or her cool, legal observers said the immense pressure judges face has made these types of outburts almost inevitable.

“A fair number of judges are sitting at a low boiling point,” said Michael Downey, a partner at Armstrong Teasdalein in St. Louis who specializes in legal ethics.

Because of the rough economy, Downey said more litigants are deciding to represent themselves, while others are hiring less expensive but more inexperienced attorneys.

“People are coming in unprepared or with borderline arguments, at best,” Downey said.

And when a judge loses it, social media outlets like Twitter and YouTube allow the world to instantly see the outburst.

Sanctions against judges for poor demeanor, however, are not the only reason for an increase in judicial discipline. In 2012, sanctions that range from public admonition to removal from the bench went up by 5.7 percent compared with 2011, according to numbers from the American Judicature Society Center for Judicial Ethics.

Maryland’s Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which investigates complaints of judicial misconduct and imposes discipline when it finds that judges have acted improperly, has experienced a small increase in the number of complaints in recent years, according to their annual reports. The commission received 132 written complaints in 2012, in contrast to the 108 in 2006.

So what say you, On the Record readers? Have you seen a judge lose his or her cool or commit other acts of misconduct?

Legal news roundup

Happy (rainy) Friday to all! It’s been a while since I last posted but I am back and rearing to go. So without further delay, here is your Friday legal news roundup:

– South Dakota has become the first state to offers lawyers an annual subsidy to live and work in rural areas.

– A well-known Nashville attorney has been temporarily suspended from practicing law after it was discovered that he paid himself $50,440 from the estate of a ward in a nursing home without a judge’s approval.

- Here is a list of the 20 law schools that had the highest percentage of their 2012 class who were still looking for jobs and still had not secured employment nine months after graduating.

- Conversely, here are the 20 law schools that have the highest rate of placing graduates in government and public interest jobs.

Parent appeals suspension of 7-year-old who made pastry into shape of gun

Bethesda-based attorney and noted basketball heckler Robin Ficker seems to be building quite a nice niche for himself.

Ficker is representing the father of a 7-year-old who was suspended from his Anne Arundel County school for transforming his breakfast pastry into the shape a gun.

The father filed a formal appeal Thursday, requesting that the second-grader’s school record not reflect the offense.

“The chewed pastry was not capable of harming anybody, even if thrown,” said the appeal, which was addressed to Anne Arundel Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell and Park Elementary School Principal Sandy Blondell. “It could not fire any missile whatsoever.”

William “B.J.” Welch’s son was suspended March 1 for two days after eating his breakfast pastry, which was similar to a Pop-Tart, and yelling, “Look I made a gun,” according to the appeal. He pointed the gun-shaped pastry at students in a hallway and at kids at nearby desks, the appeal also states.

“It was harmless,” Welch told The Washington Post. “It was a danish.”

After the suspension, Welch requested that his son’s record be cleared of words such as “gun” but school officials rejected the request.

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Friday legal news roundup

Happy Friday! Without further ado, here is your Friday legal news round up:

- A former lawyer for Drew Peterson is suing his current attorney, alleging that the current attorney is to blame for the suburban Chicago police officer’s murder conviction.

- A Michigan lawyer is giving someone a free divorce on Valentine’s Day.

- A  high profile Palm Beach land use lawyer has decided not to try to get his felony conviction overturned.

- A former Boy Scout explains his decision to legally challenge the Boy Scout’s anti-gay policy.

Lawyer captures win over speed camera ticket

Local attorney and noted sports heckler Robin Ficker took on, yet again, what many would consider an impossible case.

The Bethesda attorney argued against a speeding ticket he received from a Montgomery County speeding camera and won, The Washington Post reported.

Ficker was driving down Jones Bridge Road in Bethesda in September when the camera’s bulb flashed on him. Ficker argued the speed camera violated the county’s speed camera policy, which is to slow traffic in residential areas and near schools. The speed camera that caught him, he said, was at least 270 yards from the nearest house.

After District Court Judge John C. Moffett ruled in favor of Ficker, the attorney called for any drivers caught by that particular speeding camera to be refunded the $40 fine. Police, however, responded that Ficker’s case did not set a precedent in the county.

Ficker was most recently in the news for representing a Montgomery County student suspended for making a gun gesture at an elementary school.

The attorney, however, is best-known as a heckler at Washington Bullets (now Wizards) basketball games, yelling at opposing players from the front row.

Ficker also made several unsuccessful runs for public office, including Montgomery County executive and seats in the state House of Delegates.

Ficker was indefinitely suspended in 2007 but was later reinstated.

(Photo from The Washington Post.)