Judge and Girlfriend in Court on Assault Charges

MEMPHIS — A Memphis civil court judge and his girl friend were both charged with domestic assault this past weekend and are set to go to court today.

Judge Lonnie Thompson and Rachel Hart had an argument at Thompson’s Cordova home. According to Thompson, they got into an argument and Hart hit him in the face. She also may have had a knife. Hart says Thompson pulled her hair and then sat on her. Hart says Thompson was the one to attack her and not the other way around.

When police arrived, they were not able to determine who was responsible and arrested both parties.

Thompson’s court date has been reset unitil November 7th, while Hart will appear before a judge on October 24th.

Judge Lonnie Thomson is back at work and hearing cases this afternoon.

Details here from WREG-TV Memphis.


L.A. Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Felony

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles attorney admitted he illegally accepted money from a top class-action law firm that was indicted last week on charges of secretly paying more than $11 million in kickbacks to get people to take part in shareholder lawsuits.

Richard R. Purtich, 53, agreed Monday to plead guilty to a felony tax offense in connection with his participation in a scheme prosecutors say involved New York-based Milberg Weiss, Bershad & Schulman, and top partners David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman.

Federal prosecutors say that the secret kickback arrangement often allowed the firm to be among the first to file a lawsuit on behalf of shareholders. The indictment alleges that Milberg Weiss’s lawsuits against major corporations generated hundreds of millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees. The firm denies any wrongdoing.

In court papers filed Monday, prosecutors alleged that Purtich received more than $2.5 million from Milberg Weiss for the financial benefit of Steven G. Cooperman, a former client of his who served as a plaintiff in several class action lawsuits.

Cooperman, 64, was convicted of insurance fraud and other crimes in 1999 in an unrelated case and has been cooperating with the government’s ongoing investigation into the secret kickbacks scheme, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

This shit is getting ugly. Details here from the AP via the New York Times.


A Judge Tests China’s Courts, Making History

LUOYANG, China – Judge Li Huijuan happened to be in the courthouse file room when clerks, acting on urgent orders, began searching for a ruling on a mundane case about seed prices. “I handled that case,” Judge Li told the clerks, surprised that anyone would be interested.

But within days, the Luoyang Middle Court’s discipline committee contacted her. Provincial officials had angrily complained that the ruling contained a serious political error. Faced with a conflict between national and provincial law, Judge Li had declared the provincial law invalid. In doing so, she unwittingly made legal history, setting in motion a national debate about judicial independence in China’s closed political system.


Gulf Coast Isn’t the Only Thing Left in Tatters; Bush’s Status With Blacks Takes Hit

From the political perspective of the White House, Hurricane Katrina destroyed more than an enormous swath of the Gulf Coast. The storm also appears to have damaged the carefully laid plans of Karl Rove, President Bush’s political adviser, to make inroads among black voters and expand the reach of the Republican Party for decades to come.

Many African-Americans across the country said they seethed as they watched the television pictures of the largely poor and black victims of Hurricane Katrina dying for food and water in the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center. A poll released last week by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center bore out that reaction as well as a deep racial divide: Two-thirds of African-Americans said the government’s response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the victims had been white, while 77 percent of whites disagreed.

Details here from the New York Times.


Microsoft Accuses College Student of Illegal Software Sales

Threatens to Seize His 2002 Ford Escort Over $143.50 In eBay Profit

This is too much. Kent State undergrad David Zamos enrolled in a course at the University of Akron and bought Microsoft Windows and Office XP Pro for $60 at UA’s bookstore with his student discount.

But when he got home, “he realized that he’d have to reformat his hard drive to install it. Rather than lose years of term papers and mp3s, he decided to stick with his old operating system.”

When the store wouldn’t take it back, he decided to sell the unopened software he’d bought at UA on eBay.

Microsoft found out, and came after him with both guns blazing, filing an 18-page complaint against Zamos, accusing him of unfair competition and “irreparable injury to its business reputation and goodwill.”

Unable to afford an intellectual property lawyer, and convinced that he was in the right, Zamos went to the law library and went to work.

Although he ultimately got no money from Microsoft, Zamos did get them to drop their suit and apologize. And Microsoft got some really bad PR, including what you’re reading now.

The entertaining details are here from the Cleveland Scene. (via The Obscure Store)


Schiavo Appeal to Reconnect Tube Denied

ATLANTA – A federal appeals court refused early Wednesday to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, denying an emergency request by the severely brain-damaged woman’s parents.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to deny the request, a day after a federal judge in Florida also refused a similar appeal.

Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, vowed yet another appeal Wednesday.

That was quick. Details here from the AP. Or read the Court’s 2-1 Opinion here.

The majority opinion concludes with this:

There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo. We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law. In the end, and no matter how much we wish Mrs. Schiavo had never suffered such a horrible accident, we are a nation of laws, and if we are to continue to be so, the pre-existing and well-established federal law governing injunctions as well as Pub. L. No. 109-3 must be applied to her case. While the position of our dissenting colleague has emotional appeal, we as judges must decide this case on the law.


Ugliness Surrounding Jackson Allegations Going Full Steam

CNN reports:

The boy who accuses singer Michael Jackson of molesting him grew up in a turbulent family where violence “was a daily occurrence,” according to court documents filed by the boy’s mother two years ago upon her divorce from the boy’s father. . . .

[T]he court documents, filed October 16, 2001, with the Los Angeles Superior Court, included the filing of a temporary restraining order by the boy’s mother against her husband in which she alleged that he “has assaulted or attempted to assault me or another member of my household … caused, threatened or attempted bodily injury to me or another member of my household” and “made me or another member of my household afraid of physical or emotional harm. . . .”

[H.] Russell Halpern, who represented the father during the divorce, said the father pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor domestic abuse charges. At the same time, the attorney said the mother is “very vindictive” and “deceitful” . . . .

“[T]he father has told me in the past that his children will say and do whatever their mother tells them to do,” the lawyer told CNN.

This is going to get much worse before it gets better. Details here from CNN.


Group Contends Record Labels Have Wrong Guy

An online civil rights group has adopted the cause of a Playa del Rey man who believes he has been mistakenly accused of improper file trading by the record industry, setting up a possible showdown over the music business’ methods for identifying suspected pirates.

The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation on Monday asked lawyers for three record labels to drop their suit against 35-year-old Web site designer Ross Plank, asserting that he is the second target of 261 high-profile suits who is the victim of mistaken identity.

Sounds to me like Mr. Plank my be correct, and a further embarrassment to the record industry. Details here from the L.A. Times.


Abandoned By the Bill of Rights?

Washington Times columnist Nat Hentoff thinks that’s what happened to Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen arrested in Afgahnistan and now held indefinitely on American soil without access to an attorney and without having been charged. The Fourth Circuit gave its blessing, and Mr. Hentoff thinks we should be alarmed, he writes here. The Fourth Circuit’s opinion is here.


Judicial Independence Remains Under Fire

Efforts to curb judges’ independence suffered some Election Day setbacks, but supporters pledged to keep fighting against a judiciary they say has lost touch with America. The problem, critics say, is that judges too often make laws rather than interpret them. On Tuesday’s ballots, the possible solutions ranged from term limits to prison time. All failed, most by wide margins.

Judges say such efforts threaten their autonomy and some legal scholars see them as part of an organized campaign to persuade voters that judges, like legislators, governors and presidents, are policymakers who need political oversight.

The frontier of the movement was South Dakota, where voters considered allowing judges to face lawsuits or jail time for their opinions.

”People are not going to allow judges to take over this county,” said Ron Branson, who conceived the South Dakota measure and is promoting it nationwide. ”They talk about judicial independence but they’re getting involved in things they have no power to order.”

Nine out of 10 voters rejected the idea but Branson predicted it would take hold in one of several states with active chapters in the ”Jail4Judges” campaign.

Details here from the AP via the New York Times.