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July 2007
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September 2007

Someone Thought This Lawsuits was a Good Idea?

This video is amusing at time, in a "Is that a banana in your pants?" sort of way.  If you don't think putting a banana in your pants is funny, you probably won't appreciate the humor.  But you will appreciate the humor in this: A&P has sued the performers for over one-million dollars for defamation

As is often the case with defamation suits, people who have never heard the defamatory statements finally do hear those statements - but only after suit is filed.  This is a lesson A&P will soon learn, as I imagine this story will receive an incredible amount of media attention.


The National Counterintelligence Center report, entitled "Counterintelligence at the End Of the 20th Century" is one of the most interesting things I have read - ever.  The report (which seems to be one chapter of a much larger book) details the espionage activities of  American intelligence officers and soldiers.  It is fascinating to me that so many Americans have spied on their own country.  Its also amazing that so many low-level soldiers were involved with espionage.  The stories are amazing, so I encourage you to check out the report.

Bad Prosecutor Award

Here is an award for which most would not wish to receive a nomination.  (Via Lat).

What is interesting, but not surprising, is that most of the prosecutors on the list who did really unethical things are still practicing law.   Lynne Kalina, who did not make the list, lied under oath - no doubt about it.  Yet she was never disciplined and remains a prosecutor.  The truth is that no one but a few wolves howling into the night care about prosecutorial misconduct.  The North Carolina legislature rebuffed even marginal attempts at reforming the same system that gave us Mike Nifong. 

John Edwards' "Two Americas"

You cannot drive SUVs.  But he can.  In a nutshell, that is what John Edwards means he claims that there are "two Americas."

To keep things non-partisan: Mitt Romney's sons (all six of them) have exactly 0 days of military experience among them.  But, according to Romney, their efforts to get their dad elected President is equivalent to getting shot at in Iraq.  I suppose his sons (all six of them) are needed to "fight the war at home."

The Fieger Indictment

The indictment of Geoffrey Fieger and his partner Vernon Johnson is a troubling read. They are accused of using strawmen to break campaign finance laws. Fieger's hired Wyoming legend Gerry Spence, who boasts he has never lost a criminal case. Spence will be put to the test in this case.

Central to the indictment is the claim that the defendants caused employees, the children of employees and vendors to make contributions to Jonathan Edwards' presidential campaign in 2003 and 2004.

Under federal law, individual contributions are limited to $2,000 per person. Fieger, Johnson and their spouses made maximum contribututions in early 2003.

According to the indictment, money was moved in the following ways:

Within days of the partners' making their contributions, 11 of their employees and their spouses -- a total of 19 people in all, made maximum individual contributions as well. Within days, each employee was given a bonus together with payroll taxes; the net amount of the bonus was the amount contributed to the campaign. A couple months later another 11 employees and their spouses, and in some cases their children, maxed out on contributions to Edwards. Within days, these employees, too, were given bonuses that netted the amount of the campaign contribution.

Vendors were then paid for work they didn't perform, writing checks to the Edwards campaign the very day some of them were paid by Fieger's firm. And friends of Fieger's were also given money they apparently rolled over into the campaign. Or so the indictment says.

All told, the feds allege that some $127,000 was rolled into the Edwards campaign by the use of strawmen.

Fieger complains it is all a federal set up, and has filed suits against the Attorney General and those involved in the investigation. Perhaps. But Fieger's ego borders on megalomania; it is always all about him. I doubt that lights burn throughout the night at the Justice Department in a war-room dedicated to cooking up an admissible fantasy about Fieger.

The timing of the contributions and bonuses raises questions. Could Fieger have been so arrogant as to believe he could shuffle money around in such an obvious manner with impunity?

Rumor has it that Spence has been involved in the case for months. It appears from press accounts that Fieger may have testified before the grand jury convened to evaluate the claims against him. I'd love to read that grand jury transcript. What of the timing of the contributions and bonuses? Mere serendipity?

This case may be the biggest challange Spence has faced since the acquittal of Imelda Marcos. Spence would be wise to hire Oliver Stone as an investigator. Making Fieger out to be an innocent victim of a massive Government conspiracy will be about as difficult as identifying the co-conspirators in the Kennedy assassination.

Dog-Fighting A Federal Offense? C'mon!

The latest just flashed across my monitor, courtesy of CNN.

"Michael Vick admits funding a dogfighting operation and that "collective efforts" by him and two others caused the deaths of at least six dogs, his plea agreement states."

I am a dog lover, and spend hours each weeks with my border collies. Frankly, I am so much a dog lover that I look to the dogs to teach me valuable things about loyalty and love.

But for the life of me, I cannot comprehend why Vick's crimes are a federal offense. Can someone enlighten me?

G. Harold Carswell's Connecticut Clone

Stamford Superior Court Judge John Redmond Downey did half of the right thing last week by withdrawing his name from consideration as a nominee to the Appellate Court. If he cares at all for the independence of the judiciary, he will take the next step and turn in his robe. He has no business presiding over litigation of any sort in Connecticut.

For reasons only Freud can fathom, Governor Rip Van Rell nominated Downey to a spot on the Appellate Court, proving once again that her office's idea of evaluating judicial candidates resembles a drunken game of spin the bottle.

Consider first Downey's use of his office to prattle about the likes of Strom Thurmond. Downey told a captive audience of defendants at an arraignment that Thurmond was a "great American" remembered for his "contributions to society."

Thurmond never recovered from the South's defeat in the Civil War. Until the end of his life, he was a states' rights man; for a good part of his life, he was also a racist.

The one-time governor of South Carolina ran for president of the United States as a segregationist Dixiecrat. In one speech, he proclaimed: "I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."

More troubling is Downey's apparent xenophobia. On more than one occasion, he has let it be known that, in his crabbed universe, only citizens and legal residents of the United States have legal rights in this state.

The judge is reported to have quipped in one pretrial that a case should be dismissed because one of the parties was an illegal alien. In another case, Downey appears to have ruled that he would not hear a case if one of the litigants could not produce documentation proving they were in the country legally.

Listen to this man who coveted a seat on the Appellate Court: "Only people who are legally here in the United States, in my [opinion] are entitled to the rights and privileges that we extend to U.S. citizens. Why should a person become a U.S. citizen if they can otherwise enjoy the same rights as the rest of us, especially after 9/11?"

The judge believes that it is an unsettled area of law whether illegal aliens can use the Connecticut courts. Perhaps the judge has been too busy frying turkeys in peanut oil — a Deep South treat — to read up on the Fourteenth Amendment. All persons are entitled to equal protection of the law. And that includes access to the courts.

Judge Downey told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing he now realizes it was wrong to eulogize Thurmond from the bench. He won't do it again, he promised. Damn, all that and no illegal aliens to tend his lawn!

In his pusillanimous tripe of a letter withdrawing his name from Appellate Court consideration, the judge claims he now knows aliens have rights in our courts, too. He didn't go on to explain whether he thought the 13th Amendment, banning slavery, was good law in Connecticut.

Downey may be a man of honor. If so, he should step down. He's brought a boat load of G. Harrold Carswell sleaze to the state. Why not retire him to a swamp in Mississippi?

Printed with permission of The Connecticut Law Tribune.

Lawyer, Protect Thyself

Did the Connecticut Supreme Court recently hold ajar a door that might permit lawyers who win grievances filed against them to sue losing grievants? I certainly hope so. There is no reason why the bar needs to bend and spread before the altar of rage.

A tantalizing footnote in Rioux v. Barry suggests that the Supreme Court is prepared to reconsider the absolute immunity grievants now enjoy. There simply is no reason why a legal system premised on holding people accountable for their actions grants blanket immunity to those who take aim at a lawyer's license.

I am aware of the argument that claims for vexatious litigation arising from failed grievances might chill people from filing claims against lawyers. That could undermine confidence in the legal profession.Perhaps. But last I checked, lawyers ranked near the bottom of those in whom the public places its trust. Absolute immunity hasn't improved our image.

The vast majority of what we do as lawyers, at least insofar as litigation is concerned, is sort out the consequences of other people's mental health issues. We are singularly unprepared for our role as gladiator-therapists. It is small wonder that many litigants turn on their lawyers. Litigation is a zero-sum game. There will always be unhappy litigants.

Below are several reforms to the grievance process that will assure that lawyers are policed and that grievants don't abuse the process of filing cost-free actions against others:

• The process of filing a grievance should not be free. There should be a flat fee that can be waived on an affidavit of indigency. I am not suggesting a prohibitive fee. We make plaintiffs post a $500 bond in the federal courts. Why not do likewise for complaints to the Statewide Grievance Committee?

The presence of a bond would give a grievant a financial stake in the process. Rather than simply spouting off steam, a grievant would be required to conduct a minimal cost-benefit analysis about the value of their time. The way things now stand, many grievants file meritless claims that merely cost their former lawyers time and expense to answer.

• Second, when a grievant loses a claim, the lawyer ought to be permitted to move for a finding that the grievance was frivolous. A claim in which probable cause was found by a reviewing committee should not be granted such a finding. But when clients grieve their lawyers merely because they are angry about the raw deal life has dealt them, there is no reason why such a finding ought not to enter.

• If a claim is found frivolous, give the lawyer a choice: He can either move to have the grievant's bond remitted to him, or he can elect to file a vexatious litigation claim. No lawyer should be able to do both. Indigent clients relieved of the requirement to file bond would be exempt from suit, unless the lawyer proved in the course of the underlying proceeding that the grievant lied about his or her assets.

The vast majority of grievances are dismissed because they lack merit. Yet each grievance must be answered on pain of further disciplinary proceedings. We submit to all this without even so much the power to request an independent medical examination of the grievant when there is reason to believe they are driven by sociopathy.

Public confidence in the profession will not be undermined by requiring that those filing grievances be accountable for their acts. With sensible reform, we can have a system that works. As things now stand, lawyers are sitting ducks without means to recoup lost time and expense. The result is higher legal fees for all, and a decision by most lawyers to avoid clients who look like too much trouble. •

Reprinted with permission of The Connecticut Law Tribune.