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Don't Be a Partner in Shelter Tax Crime

This tax season, don't be a partner in shelter tax crime like the attorneys at Nix, Patterson & Roach in Texas.

In NPR Investments v. United States, the Fifth Circuit frowned upon the law firm partners' investment scheme to generate $65 million in artificial losses, so they could ultimately create a tax shelter for their huge litigation fees.

So what happened in this case?

A lot of people are rightfully enraged at the moment. A drunk 16-year-old, with two people riding in his truck bed, slammed into three people who had stopped to help a stranded motorist. Those four people died, one of the individuals who was riding in the pickup truck bed can now only communicate by blinking, and who knows how many people were injured between the truck's other passengers and the oncoming car that collided with the wreckage.

Three hours after the accident, the kid's blood alcohol content was 0.24, three times the limit for someone of legal drinking age, an age he won't reach for five more years, reports the Star-Telegram.

Any other defendant would have spent at least some time in a juvenile incarceration facility, and maybe even an adult facility. Prosecutors were seeking a twenty-year term. His punishment? Ten years of probation, and treatment at a $450,000 per year rehabilitation facility in Newport Beach, California.

Why? Quite literally, because he is rich.

Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, has its merits, and the most important one may be the great debate that has stirred up at water coolers around the country. For every woman who wants to lean in, there's one that wants to lean out, and thus the latest iteration of the mommy wars continues.

Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article about Sara Uttech, a woman, mother, and employee, who is not so much concerned with "leaning in," as trying to have a good balance in her life. The snarky tone of the article insinuates that Sandberg is off-base by telling women to lean in, because according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute not everyone wants more responsibility. For working women that percentage is at 37.

What the article failed to grasp, however, is that the very acts they laud by Ms. Uttech, such as asking to work from home on Fridays, are actions that Sandberg would suggest. Not only that, had Uttech's female supervisors not leaned in, they may not have been amenable to her request for a flexible work schedule.

But we're not keeping score, right? Right?

Most of us, even lawyers, are unfamiliar with the military justice system. So, when soldiers are in need of an outside attorney, they seek out someone with very specialized experience.

Reuters calls Private First Class Bradley Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs a “low-profile” lawyer. That may be true, at least in private practice. To be fair, he has only been a sole practitioner for a little more than a year, which is hardly enough time to raise one’s profile.

Before entering private practice, he spent more than a decade serving in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps, first as a prosecutor, then as a defense attorney. He also served as a professor at the Judge Advocate General’s School and the Roger Williams School of Law.

DUI Defenders Pick Your Poison: Probable Cause or Plea Bargain

In September, the Supreme Court agreed to address whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream.

We say address, rather than decide, because the split opinions the Court issued today don’t quite make for a clear-cut decision that will help DUI defense attorneys.

'The Defendant Doesn't Normally Wear Eyeglasses' Jury Instruction

If you advise clients to dress professionally for court you may want to draw the line at suggesting they wear glasses since that might become the subject of a jury instruction.

Criminal defendant Donnell Harris wore glasses to his second-degree murder trial and the prosecution noticed that it wasn't his typical style. Something about the glasses was so different that they suspected he'd made the change just to trip up witnesses trying to identify him at trial.

Over the defense's objection, the judge issued an instruction to the jury that they could consider Harris's change of appearance as potential evidence of personal feelings of guilt. That instruction then became the basis for an appeal of Harris's conviction.

Who said depositions were no fun? As rapper Lil Wayne's viral deposition videos show us, the typically stoic question-and-answer format can sometimes turn into a rollicking game of cat and mouse.

If you haven't seen the depo videos yet, clear your schedule (at least for a few minutes) because you're in for a treat.

Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., is suing producer Quincy Jones III over an allegedly "scandalous portrayal" of the rapper in a documentary, gossip website TMZ reports.

Enter Jones' lawyer, Peter Ross.

Creative Lawyer Files Cartoon Amicus Brief Due to 5-Page Limit

When his brief was limited to only five pages, Bob Kohn made it a cartoon to save space.

Kohn submitted the brief as part of a suit filed by the Justice Department against Apple and five publishers of E-Books. The complaint alleged price-fixing and three of the publishers settled the case, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Kohn isn't a party to the case but he asked the judge if he could submit an amicus brief. The judge agreed but cut Kohn's proposed 25-page brief down to only 5 pages.

To make the page limit, Kohn took some drastic steps.

Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.

Attorneys may use social media websites to research jurors as long as they do not have any communication with the juror, the New York City Bar Association recently announced in its ethics opinion 2012-2.

Social media can be a great tool for attorneys. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites can reveal information about potential jurors. It can also help you monitor for signs of misconduct during trials.

The key is that no ex parte "communication" can occur as a result of your research. There are some obvious no-no's, like requesting to "friend" a juror on Facebook or chatting or messaging with jurors. But a "communication" has a much broader definition through social media, as the opinion points out.

You can conduct Internet research but you have to make sure that jurors don't know you are doing it. So how does the NY Bar Opinion suggest you check on jurors via social media without violating your ethical duty?

Do Private Lawyers Hired by Gov't Get Immunity?

If you work with municipal governments, listen up. The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Filarsky v. Delia, and its pending decision may affect the way you do your job.

The justices were asked to decide whether a private lawyer hired to conduct a municipality's internal affairs investigation is entitled to the same immunity as government employees.

The Court's reception to the premise was mixed.