Corruption Scandal Shakes Brooklyn Court

After 14 years on the bench, Judge Victor Barron spoke with authority at a sentencing last year when he declared, “No one is above the law.”

The sentencing, after all, was his own.

The silver-haired Brooklyn judge was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs to begin a three- to nine-year prison term for taking thousands of dollars in bribes perhaps the most troubling scene so far in a judicial corruption scandal that one watchdog group calls the worst in the nation.

Since Barron’s conviction, authorities have arrested a second Brooklyn judge for allegedly accepting gifts from a corrupt lawyer, kicked a third off the bench for breaking rules on rental property and scrutinized a fourth for his handling of his elderly aunt’s life savings.

District Attorney Charles Hynes has launched a grand jury investigation into the cozy relationships between Brooklyn’s elected judges, lawyers and politicians in response to allegations that civil judgeships with annual salaries $125,000 or more are for sale.

The AP reports on this little judicial nightmare here.



A Case of Judicial Plagiarism?

The attorneys who battled Big Tobacco and won a $145 billion judgment three years ago now accuse the Florida judges who threw out that award of “judicial plagiarism.” On May 21, the judges decertified the class of 700,000-plus smokers in Florida and threw out the landmark judgment. Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, who represent the smokers, allege the three-member panel lifted their opinion from Big Tobacco�s own briefs.

Claiming the court violated their clients� due process rights, the Rosenblatts are calling for an en banc review by the 11-member 3rd District Court of Appeal.

“[More than] 86 percent of the panel opinion was authored by the tobacco industry, representing approximately 59 pages of the 68-page opinion through an almost verbatim replication of tobacco�s appellate briefs, without a single attribution,” the Rosenblatts stated in a motion for rehearing filed July 17.

This interesting story, and the differing viewpoints it presents, is here from the ABA Journal. (via How Appealing)


Liberal Lawyers Organize To Oppose Federalist Society

Liberals watched anxiously as the Federalist Society rose from a loosely organized conservative legal organization on a few law school campuses to become a Washington powerhouse with influence in the White House, Congress and various federal agencies.

Now they are fighting back.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is having a coming-out party this week. For three days starting Friday, law students and attorneys will hear speeches by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.; attend discussions on the environment, abortion, gay rights, government surveillance, human rights and other subjects; and mingle with dozens of top legal scholars and judges.

Umm, more power to ’em.


Palo Alto’s VLG Narrows Merger Options to Three

Palo Alto’s Venture Law Group is conducting parallel merger discussions with as many as three Bay Area firms, according to a person close to the situation.

In addition to VLG’s previously reported talks with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the 64-attorney corporate boutique is also in ongoing merger talks with Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe and Morrison & Foerster.

The news comes a little more than two months after VLG was first reported to be in merger discussions with Orrick, which recently broke off talks with Cooley Godward over a possible merger that would have created one of the nation’s largest firms.

You need a subscription to The Recorder to read the whole thing, but you can read a free preview here.


PETA Activist Changes Her Name to “GoVeg.com”

That’s “go-veg-dot-com.” Got that?

It might sound more than a little odd – but it’s true. A young animal rights activist from Indiana once known as Karin Robertson has legally changed her name to that of a Web site run by her employer, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

It’s not a first name or a last name – just one name. And don’t call her “Veg” or “Dot,” as some have tried to do.

“I like the whole name together,” says the 23-year-old woman who is a youth educator for PETA and living in Norfolk, Virginia, where the organization is based.

It just begs the question: What is more “radical chic”? Living in a tree for a year, or changing your name to “go-veg-dot-com”? Try figuring it out for yourself here, from the AP via Findlaw.



Suit Over Litigation Tactics Revived

A federal appeals court has revived an abuse of process suit against a law firm and lawyer that allegedly used unfair tactics in litigation — including hiding documents, obstructing discovery and fabricating privilege claims — after finding that a lower court improperly determined that such conduct was immune from suit under the doctrine of judicial privilege.

In General Refractories Co. v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., a unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that U.S. District Judge John R. Padova of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania had “interpreted the judicial privilege too broadly” when he dismissed claims against the law firm of Gilberg & Kiernan in Washington, D.C., and one of its attorneys, Andrew Butz.

While most litigation is ugly, the underlying litigation here was really ugly. The Legal Intelligencer reports the story here via Law.com.


Managing Partner Faces $450 Million Malpractice Suit

The managing shareholder of Carlton Fields� Tampa office is facing one of a trial lawyer�s worst nightmares.

The owner of a Naples herbal products company contends that Luis Prats of Carlton Fields botched his breach of contract lawsuit against the co-chief executive of a major drugstore chain by mistakenly turning over confidential legal strategy documents to the other side during discovery.

This unfortunate tale is every litigator’s worst nightmare, and worth the read. Find it here from New York Lawyer.


ACLU Files Lawsuit Against Patriot Act

The American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday filed the first lawsuit against the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law passed after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The lawsuit claims one section of the law authorizing searches of records, including those of businesses, libraries and bookstores, is unconstitutional.

“This lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which vastly expands the power of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain records and other ‘tangible things’ of people not suspected of criminal activity,” the lawsuit states.

Go ACLU!!! (I’m a “card carrying member,” and proud of it.) While I all for fighting terrorism, if we give up our civil rights in the battle, I think to some extent that means the terrorists have already won. CNN has a story about the lawsuit here.