Strategist: December 2010 Archives
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

December 2010 Archives

Jury Acquits Attorney Leo Flynn On Child Porn Charges

After six hours of deliberation, a South Dakota jury found attorney Leo Flynn not guilty on child pornography charges. The 62-year-old lawyer was known to take on sex offenders as a main part of his practice and according to the defense, that is how an innocent man got caught up in a child exploitation and porn investigation.

Leo Flynn was charged with two counts of distribution and one count each for receipt, possession and access with intent to view child pornography, reports the Argus Leader. Flynn's defense team convinced the jury that Flynn had a professional, not a personal interest in the images which he viewed in order to advise clients. Evidence against Flynn was found in 2009, when area Internet Crimes Against Children detectives downloaded videos from Flynn's computer using the file-sharing software Limewire. Flynn later said he was not aware that Limewire would automatically share files.

FindLaw's Top Legal Issues of 2011 Revealed

Each year, FindLaw.com asks its in-house legal team for predictions on the big legal issues for the up-coming year. This year, we considered the issues that legal consumers and professionals have asked about, read about and searched for, all year long. Here then, in descending order, is this year's FindLaw Top Ten List of Hot Legal Topics for 2011.

10. Immigration: In 2010, the passage of Arizona's SB 1070 heated up the debate over illegal immigration. Next year will continue to be a time of discussion about immigration, with President Obama is still pressing for the passage of the Dream Act, the recent ruling by the California Supreme Court on in-state tuition for illegal aliens and SB 1070 itself still in the courts.

Top 5 Ways to Avoid Legal Malpractice

Legal malpractice occurs when an attorney fails to meet the professional and ethical standards of being a lawyer. The harm can be to the court, a client, opposing counsel or a party unrelated to the action. Ultimately legal malpractice's biggest victim is the lawyer who perpetrates the wrong.

As unique as the cases themselves, legal malpractice can come in a variety of forms. Avoiding legal malpractice, whenever possible, will not only help preserve your professional reputation but also allow you to concentrate on what you are good at -- being a lawyer. Here are some ways to avoid legal malpractice.

Are Parrot's Cries Admissible Evidence in Elder Abuse Case?

On FindLaw's Blotter, we recently told the story of alleged elder abuse and the death of the woman involved, Anne Copeland. EMTs and police were called to Copeland's home the second week in December to find the 98-year-old wounded and lying in a soiled bed. Her daughter, 60-year-old Gloria Park Clark, was charged with abuse and neglect resulting in death of a vulnerable adult, under South Carolina's elder abuse statues.

The story is sadly all too typical. With the exception of one extraordinary detail.

Upon arriving at the home of the late Ms. Copeland, the police investigator on scene told The Post and Courier that there was one bit of evidence that helped convince them they might be dealing with a unusually bad case of elder abuse.

There was a pet parrot in the house, and what the parrot had to say gave police Lt. Eric Bonnette a chill.

Lawyer Who Helped Copyright Defendants with Self Help Forms Sued

The U.S. Copyright Group, through Dunlap, Grubb, & Weaver, has sued individuals for downloading movies online.

The law firm represented the producers of several big films, including Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker." They sued thousands of copyright defendants for using BitTorrent to download copyrighted materials and demanded settlements.

In response, attorney Graham Syfert set up a series of self-help forms designed to assist those who were being sued. The self-help forms were sold for $19.99 and included a do-it-yourself legal defense for those sued for copyright infringement.

The U.S. Copyright Group is now suing Syfert and demanding sanctions, alleging that his forms are assisting in the filing of "frivolous" and "procedurally defective" motions.

Federal Trial Delayed so Attorney can Attend BCS Championship

Law isn't the civil profession it once was. Comments are more personal, physical confrontation is not uncommon. But in one Alabama courtroom, civility rules, or at least it does until the trial starts. Or until Auburn plays in the BCS Championship game.

An Alabama attorney as asked for, and received, "grace and mercy" from the court and found civility from opposing counsel as well. Recall please our recent post on a New York attorney who asked for a delay in the middle of a federal trial so he could attend the bris of his grandson, should such child be born a boy.

In a similar circumstance, according to The Birmingham News, Alabama attorney Michael Mulvaney, lead counsel for Hartford Fire Insurance Co. in a civil case in federal court in Mobile, asked District Court Judge Kristi DuBose to schedule the upcoming trial for after the BCS championship game on January 10. Mulvaney sought a trial date set for either Jan. 17 or be continued until February.

E-Filing Briefs: Do Judges Read Online Pleadings Differently?

A new trend is sweeping the world of legal writing. Like most developments in legal technology you can fight it, you can ignore it, you can criticize its flaws. But at the end of the day, you're probably going to be waging a battle that is already over.

The trend is e-filing online pleadings and briefs. Paper motions have already gone the way of the do-do in all federal courthouses. So it's fair to assume judges are increasingly reading your pleadings on a computer screen.

It's time to start considering this fact when you file online pleadings.

Judges Among 10 High-Paying Careers With No Future

Being in a high-paying career is something to be proud of. Being in a high-paying career with no future is something to be concerned about.

Unfortunately for judges, they rank at the top of this list. Many solo and small-firm attorneys aspire to ultimately become judges partly for job and pay security reasons. That rationale is being shaken for a variety of reasons as life as a lawyer may actually be a much more secure place to be.

The list, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, was based on projected growth (or lack thereof) in the coming years for high-paying professions.

Budget cuts are the main culprit when it comes to judges. The Wall Street Journal reports that there were 700 fewer jobs for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates than there were in 2008. Tenure is another issue for judges as the turnover for the profession is incredibly slow. "Years ago, some left to become general counsel in the private sector, where they could triple their salary, but since the economic downturn, they're staying longer on the bench," The Journal quotes BLS researcher Tamara Dillon.

Convicted Lawyer Blames DUI on His Toothpaste

Can toothpaste cause you to test positive for alcohol?

Anthony Galluccio, a former Massachusetts state senator, tested positive for alcohol three days after being sentenced to six months of home confinement for leaving the scene of an accident. The judge revoked Galluccio's probation for violating a no-alcohol provision of his sentence. Galluccio says that the only explanation he can think of is that toothpaste was the culprit.

That's because the toothpaste he was using contained sorbitol, an artificial sweetener used in toothpaste that contains sugar alcohol. So did the court buy that argument?

Bed Bug Lawyer: Attorney Finds Unique Practice Niche

For a solo practitioner or a small firm, finding your niche and making a name for yourself in that area is one of the best ways to grow a thriving practice. One man in Maryland has done that, in a rather odd way. 

In fact, he has surprised no one as much as himself, now that he is becoming known as the "bed bug lawyer." Daniel Whitney will be the first to say, "I never thought I'd become known as the bed bug attorney."

As Whitney tells The Washington Post, his practice is thriving on bed bug lawsuits to the point where he is considering taking his phone number off the firm website. As the news of bed bug infestations not just in hotels, but apartment complexes and dorms spreads like the bugs themselves, people are increasingly turning to legal action to get some relief from the harm they say they suffer.

Despite Big Risks, Firms Settle Massive Ground Zero Workers Case

At least 95% of the Ground Zero plaintiffs in the World Trade Center settlement had to agree to the settlement reached back in June. Now, six months later, it happened. Individual compensation will be determined based on the severity of the illness claimed and the likelihood that the illness is, in fact, linked to activities at ground zero.

Another impressive aspect of the World Trade Center settlement concerns the legal team that made the class action fund possible. The plaintiffs' lawyers undertook a huge risk by taking these cases on, and had to borrow millions of dollars to do it. While critics in the past have looked only at the fees these plaintiff's firms will earn, few ever look at the risks of failure. "It has been my personal and professional mission to ensure that we negotiate a settlement that is fair and reasonable to all sides and I am extremely heartened that the overwhelming majority of plaintiffs have decided that is exactly what we achieved," said Christine LaSala, President and CEO of the WTC Captive Insurance Company. "I hope that this settlement will bring closure to the heroes on both sides of this litigation who did their best to repair this City and restore this community in those difficult days and months following 9/11."

Attorney Convinces Judge to Pause Jury Trial to Attend Bris

Is Bennett Epstein of New York a particularly persuasive advocate, or is District Court Judge Kimba Wood simply a particularly reasonable jurist? You see, Mr. Epstein requested, and was granted, a day off by Judge Wood. During a jury trial. In addition, Bennett Epstein, Esq. only wanted the day off if his grandchild was born a boy.

Bennett Epstein was in the process of defending his client before a jury for mortgage fraud, according to the New York Daily News. To make matters even more delicate, the birth of his third grandchild was expected on December 3, during the proceedings. Mr. Epstein, with foresight, asked Judge Wood for a day off from trial to attend the bris, should the child be born a boy.

Should Undocumented UCLA Law Grad be Able to Practice Law?

Luis Perez has just graduated from UCLA Law (ranked No. 15 in the nation). He is hard-working, optimistic, articulate. Would you hire him? Would it make a difference if you found out he was the first undocumented immigrant to graduate from UCLA Law? He is, and he hopes that status will change so he can pursue the life in law he has worked so hard for. But, as with everything else in Perez's life, there are no guarantees.

Perez has "done everything right" according to the report about his accomplishments in The Los Angeles Times. However, since he crossed the border from Mexico with his parents as an 8-year-old, he has no assurances that he will be able to pursue a career that includes anything more than the construction job he currently works to pay off his law school debt.