CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

August 2009 Archives

Conviction Reversed in MySpace Hoax Case

Well, it's official: After indicating in early July that he was inclined to toss Lori Drew's conviction for a MySpace hoax that ended with the suicide of 13 year-old Megan Meier, District Court Judge George Wu of the Central District of California has issued his opinion overturning the conviction.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Lori Drew was the mother of one of Megan Meier's classmates.  Mother and daughter decided to torment Megan by creating a bogus MySpace account for a fictional teenage boy, whom they called "Josh Evans."  This creation of a false account violated MySpace's terms of service.

Delaware Sports Gambling? Don't Bet On It

With a narrow exception, Delaware's Sports Lottery violates federal law, a federal appeals court ruled today.

Although it allowed multi-game (a/k/a parlay), high-stakes wagers on NFL games, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled (see below) that "betting on all [other] major professional and college sports" violates a federal law.

Why?  Because Delaware's law allowing for a sports lottery where players could gamble on all professional and college teams violated a federal prohibition against individual and over/under point-spread bets.

Englewood, NJ Sues Libya over Property Construction

It's official: Englewood, New Jersey sued the Libyan government and its contractor, Quattro Construction, for a temporary injunction to enforce stop work orders issued against the current work on the Libya-owned property.

You can read the complete lawsuit and stop work orders here:

I've written about Texas Judge Sharon Keller's disciplinary trial for closing her courthouse to a last-minute death row appeal while meeting with a repairman several times

While there can be an honest divergence of opinion about whether what Judge Keller did was unethical or unprofessional, if the allegations against this other Texas judge prove true, there is no question that he's guilty of some serious professional misconduct and at least a little criminal behavior.

Harris County Criminal Court-at-Law Judge Donald W. Jackson stands accused of official oppression, a misdemeanor, for allegedly offering to obtain a different attorney for a defendant in exchange for sex. 

Englewood, New Jersey's City Attorney Bill Bailey told FindLaw that the city's lawsuit seeking an injunction to halt all construction on the Libyan government's Englewood property  would be filed in approximately one hour -- around 4 p.m. EST / 1 p.m. PST.

Englewood's Mayor, Michael Wildes, also told FindLaw that the city was suing the Libyan government over the property's construction.

After Scotland's release last week of a convicted Lockerbie bomber from Libya, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi reported plans to set up a large tent on the country's Englewood property, creating a firestorm of controversy.

Unless you haven't been watching the news lately (or unless you live in a country that doesn't have an 800-lb. health care problem in the room), you're probably aware that there's a health care debate raging in the United States right now.

Both sides of the debate have accused the other of spreading misinformation about what proposed reforms to the health care system actually entail.  As part of its effort to combat what it perceived as false claims about health care reform, the White House set up an email address where people could report any "fishy" information they came across.

Ex-N.Y. Judge Convicted of Shaking Down Attorney

Thomas Spargo, a former N.Y. State Supreme Court Justice was convicted by a federal jury today in Albany today of attempted extortion and bribery.

According to his original indictment (see below), in 2003 Spargo solicited a $10,000 bribe from any attorney who had cases pending before him. At trial, it federal prosecutors proved that when the attorney refused to pay the bribe, the Judge called the attorney on the telephone and told him that he and another judge in New York's Ulster County were assigned to handle divorce cases, including the attorney's own pending divorce case.

The message was clear: while he was sitting on the bench, then-Justice Spargo suggested that the attorney's failure to pay the bribe could have potentially negative personal and professional repercussions.

Lending Tree, the online mortgage loan aggregator, has been going through a rough time lately.  First, it learned that Google plans to start its own loan information service.  That alone would be bad enough since it's pretty tough to beat Google in the search-for-information game. 

But to make matters worse, Lending Tree also found out that Mortech, its preferred provider of pricing services for its lenders, was throwing its hat in with Google and providing the search giant with information about mortgage offers.

A federal appeals court ruled against the U.S. government today in its ongoing investigation and criminal prosecution of Major League Baseball players accused of illegally using steroids.

Affirming lower court orders quashing subpoenas that sought information about confidential drug tests performed on MLB players, Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski slammed the government for getting names of baseball players who agreed to confidential drug testing, only to have their names seized in a list that federal agents seized on a computer hard drive, but lacked probable cause to obtain under the search warrant.

According to Chris Brown's probation report (see below) revealed in court at his criminal sentencing yesterday, the R&B figure had a history of domestic violence incidents with his former girlfriend Rihanna, even before he pummeled and threatened to kill her while driving a rented Lamborghini in residential area of Los Angeles while on their way to the Grammy Awards in February this year.

Judge Patricia Schnegg sentenced Brown yesterday to five years of probation after he pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault in June, fewer felony charges than those that were originally filed against him by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

One Joke Over the Line: Mother-in-Law Sues Comedian for Defamation

Lots of comedians incorporate humor about their in-laws into their acts, but this is the first time I've heard of one ending up embroiled in a lawsuit because of it.

Sunda Croonquist is a longtime comedienne who regularly makes light of the culture clashes that have arisen out of her marriage and her relationship with her husband's family.  Croonquist's father was Swedish, her mother African-American.  She was raised Catholic, but married into a Jewish family from New Jersey. 

Many of her jokes sprang from this fish-out-of-water situation, and Croonquist claims that her husband's family used to enjoy the ribbing they got during Croonquist's stand-up routine. 

Chris Brown's criminal sentencing for his domestic violence assault on former girlfriend Rihanna was moved up to this afternoon at 2 p.m. PST, two days earlier than his recently re-scheduled August 27, 2009 date.

At a previously scheduled sentencing hearing on August 5th, this blog reported that Rihanna's attorney Donald Etra explained that the delay was because L.A. Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg was "awaiting confirmation from Virginia as to what Chris would be doing" during his sentence of community labor.

You know it's an interesting case when attorneys for the United States badmouth the very law they're trying to defend in their motion to dismiss a lawsuit. 

It becomes even more interesting when the motion is successful, and the judge dismisses the case.

It becomes downright intriguing when the judge dismisses the case on an obscure jurisdictional technicality and all but dares the plaintiffs to bring the suit again.

Boy, does the U.S. Marshall have a deal for you! Why buy a 'cash-for-clunkers' car when you can get luxury transportation for land and sea?

The catch: the 61-foot yacht, Audi coupe, and Mercedes sedans were originally bought by Frank DiPascali, the former CFO at Bernie Madoff's investment firm, and the right-hand man of convicted Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff.  According to a new lawsuit filed on Monday (see below), the roughly $2 million worth of toys were illegally paid for using Madoff client funds.

Utah Judge Orders Polygamous Sect's 400-Acre Property Sold

Roughly 400 acres of property held by the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints ('FLDS'), the polygamous sect formerly headed by convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs, must be sold to raise money for the sect's trust to help alleviate some $3 million in debt, according to a Utah judge.

Judge Denise Lindberg, a former law clerk to retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, ruled that the Berry Knolls property in Mohave County, Arizona must be sold.

Snagging tickets to basketball, football, baseball, and hockey games will cost you more than a few pennies.  Some pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for prime seats to watch their favorite team, impress clients, or live large watching their favorite group in concert. 

One guy, according to a federal grand jury indictment (see below), allegedly went to now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Judge Keller Trial All Over Except for the Waiting

The attorney for Judge Sharon Keller, the Texas judge accused of misconduct for closing the courthouse doors to a last-minute death-row appeal while she was at home with a repairman, has wrapped up his closing argument and ended the hearings that will help determine whether Keller will remain on the bench as the presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals

Unfortunately, the waiting game now begins.

Keller has five charges of misconduct before the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct (TSCJC) arising out of the execution of Michael Wayne Richard.  On the day Richard was scheduled to be put to death, Keller went home early to meet a repairman.  While she was at home, the court's general counsel called her with an urgent request from Richard's attorneys to keep the clerk's office open past normal office hours so they could file a last-minute appeal.

Bradley Birkenfeld -- the American former UBS banker who played a central role in breaking the Swiss bank's secrecy and confidentiality in trying to protect its U.S. clients from evading payment of their U.S. taxes -- was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison today.

Birkenfeld helped turn Swiss Bank account secrecy's cachet -- at least for U.S. clients -- into 'cachet-less accounts,' the likes of which heads of state, terrorist leaders, and reputed drug traffickers have benefited from over the years.  The United States settled a lawsuit with UBS this week over the bank's refusal to turnover a list of its U.S. client accounts, and the Swiss government agreed to help them divulge the identities of at least 4,450 clients without breaking Swiss law.

Exactly what did Birkenfeld give the feds in exchange for today's sentence?

Prop 8 Trial Set to Begin Next January

Right on the heels of the New York Times' article on how Bush's Solicitor General, Ted Olson, came to represent the plaintiffs in the constitutional challenge to Proposition 8, the judge in the case made some rulings and set the date for the start of the trial.

The order by Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the Northern District of California turned down requests to intervene in the suit by groups on both sides of the issue (he did let the City of San Francisco join the suit, though).  The timing of that ruling is slightly ironic when considered next to the Times article (which detailed how Olson became involved in a case that most conservatives strongly oppose) since the pro-gay-marriage groups came late to the party after expressing skepticism about Olson's motives and the strategic wisdom of bringing the suit now. 

Ex-Giant Plaxico Burress Pleads Guilty in N.Y.C. Gun Case

Former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty today to the attempted criminal possession of a weapon in a plea agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Burress' high-profile criminal defense lawyer, Benjamin Brafman told the court when his client pleaded guilty, that "unfortunately, there is no legal defense we can offer," John Wolfstaetter was the D.A.'s lead prosecutor in the case,

Here is Plaxico Burress's original criminal indictment in the case

The sole defendant convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Lockerbie bombing terrorist attack was released by Scotland's Secretary of Justice and sent home to Libya today, a free man.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was convicted for his role in the December 21, 1988 bombing of a packed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 passengers and crew.  A three-judge panel from Scotland's High Court of Justiciary convicted al-Megrahi on January 31, 2001, just 7� before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,

At the conclusion of their 82-page verdict (see below) rendered after lengthy trial, the judges pronounced al-Megrahi guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, for deliberately placing the bomb on Flight 103 that blew up the plane and killed everyone on board:

The Supreme Court, Peeled by the Onion

No website causes me to guffaw at my desk (much to the bewilderment and consternation of my officemates) like the Onion, and they've recently posted a video that I am totally unafraid to declare an instant classic right here and now.

If you love the Supreme Court, that is.  And humor.  And humor about the Supreme Court. 

I do.  Oh, I most certainly do, Onion News Network.  Thank you for this.  (The courtroom drawings were genius, too, by the way.)

So go ahead and click on the link below, but before you do, you might want to warn the people around you that you'll be laughing like a crazy person for about three minutes straight.

(Oh, and as a warning to you, the viewer: the video contains language that some might find inappropriate, but that most will just find ridiculously hysterical.)

Supreme Court Rules Death Penalty Is 'Totally Badass' (The Onion)

The Softer Side of Ted Olson

I have to admit: based on my own personal political leanings and my memories of the arguments that Ted Olson made in front of the Supreme Court as Solicitor General during the Bush II years and as Bush's counsel for Bush v. Gore, I was pretty sure when I first heard of the Olson-Boies Prop 8 lawsuit that he had only signed on to somehow sabotage the whole affair at just the right moment.

I wasn't the only one.  Many gay rights groups kept out of the lawsuit until they were certain that the odd-couple pair of lawyers running the show wasn't up to anything, only to meet with resistance when they finally did try to intervene.

Now, the NYTimes has a good article out that explores this seeming contradiction between Olson's image as the Bush administration's legal defender and his decision to champion a lawsuit that gives the vast majority of Bush supporters the heebie-jeebies. 

In another blow to Swiss bank privacy and secrecy laws, UBS agreed to identify 4,450 of its U.S. clients sought by the IRS for allegedly hiding assets abroad illegally in order to avoid U.S. tax penalties.  The identities of these now 'cachet-less' Swiss bank accounts and their holders will be revealed.

Acting as an intermediary of sorts, the Swiss government agreed, under a written agreement with the U.S. to respond to treaty requests concerning tax information on UBS clients, by transmitting such requests to the Swiss bank, and ordering UBS to comply with the request covered under the countries' tax treaty.

Judge Sharon Keller, the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is known for being tough on crime.  Her reputation's so strong, she's even earned the nickname "Killer" Keller over the years.

Well, "Killer" may want to put across a meeker image for the next few days.  Keller is currently facing a special trial in front of the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct on charges related to her refusal to keep the court clerk's office open past 5pm in order to receive a last-minute appeal from a prisoner on Death Row. 

The appeal didn't make it, and the state put the prisoner, convicted killer Michael Wayne Richard, to death later that evening.

Hackers' Indictment Alleges Theft of 130M Credit Cards

Alberto Gonzalez, a hacker previously charged in at least 3 other federal cases, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey yesterday on charges alleging that he and two co-conspirators located in Russia, hacked and stole the credit and debit card information of 130 million people.

The indictment alleges that people affected had their transactions processed by Heartland Payment Systems, Inc., one of the largest credit and debit card processing companies in the world, and 7-Eleven,, and Hannaford Brothers supermarkets.

DOJ Lawyers Call the Defense of Marriage Act "Discriminatory," Say It Should Be Repealed

The Obama administration has received heated criticism from supporters of gay rights over its perceived inaction on issues central to the gay rights debate, such as don't-ask-don't-tell.  This has been particularly damaging for the administration since most members of the gay community were vociferous Obama supporters during the 2008 election.

One of the administration's moves that has angered gay rights activists is its motion to dismiss a case, Smelt v. US, challenging the Defense of Marriage Act.  Aware of the political dangers inherent in the suit, the administration has made a conciliatory gesture to gay rights groups in its latest filing in the case, although the move is entirely symbolic and the administration is still pushing to have the case dismissed.

A Broward County, Florida jury delivered a verdict against tobacco company Philip Morris over the death of a woman who smoked two packs of cigarettes each day from the time she was 16 years-old until she died in her late 70's.

The jury rendered a damages verdict in favor of Barbanell for $5.34 million, but apportioned liability between defendant Philip Morris (36.5%) and the late Shirley Barbanell (67.5%).

Judges Gone Wild

Judges, for the most part, are good people who have worked hard to get where they are and believe in a concept known as "Justice" that underlies the laws they interpret and apply in their courtrooms.

There are also those judges, however, who pursue seats on the bench in order to sate their desire for authority and prestige.  These judges can go a little crazy with power sometimes and behave a little unprofessionally, even criminally.

Personally, I love seeing judges act like the insane human creatures that they really are instead of trying to pretend that they're somehow above the petty neuroses and quirks that define the rest of us.  It makes them seem more accessible, more understandable and even - to use a loaded word here - more empathetic. 

UBS, the Swiss government, and the U.S federal government reportedly agreed to resolve their legal dispute over the identity of UBS clients whom the I.R.S. alleged were helped by the Swiss Bank to shield taxable income and assets.

The Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police emphasized that the agreement was an "out-of-court settlement" to resolve the dispute, but declined to release further details.

Swiss bank accounts are the stuff of legend. Heads of state like former Russian President Vladimir Putin, architects of genocide like former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, terrorist figureheads like Osama bin Laden, and reputed drug traffickers reportedly all benefited from Swiss financial privacy laws that have kept the identities of account holders secret.

Switzerland's bank secrecy laws were once thought to be least until the UBS scandal came along. What happened?

A federal jury in Atlanta convicted Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, a 23-year-old Georgia man of conspiring with his previously convicted friend, Syed Haris Ahmed, of giving material support to terrorists by sending videos of Washington, D.C. landmarks like the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol, World Bank, and fuel storage tanks to supporters of 'violent jihad' and terrorist activities overseas.


As everyone knows, these are historic days for the Supreme Court.  Sonia Sotomayor has become the first Latino justice on the Court and only its third woman, a fact noted by both Sotomayor and President Barack Obama during the new justice's visit to the White House today.

But are there other changes coming to the Court?  Some observers think that the circumstances of Sotomayor's swearing-in ceremony indicate an important shift in attitudes at One First Street.

Madoff CFO DiPascali Pleads Guilty to Criminal Charges

Frank DePascali, the former CFO for Bernie Madoff's company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC, was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, ten criminal counts in federal court this afternoon for his lengthy role in helping Madoff carry out his criminal acts and conspiracy against investors, evading federal income taxes and perjuring himself in testimony before the S.E.C, and a host of other charges.

The 47-pages of criminal charges allege a host of conspiracy, fraud, and other illegal activity, including that DiPascali:

Fla. Grand Jury Indicts 7 For Billings Family Murders

A grand jury in Escambia County Florida just indicted seven (7) suspects on charges of murdering Melanie and Byrd Billings, the husband and wife who adopted a host of special needs children into their family.

The seven indicted suspects (shown below), who were arrested last month, are:

Update: Frank DiPascali, Bernard Madoff's former Chief Finance Officer, pleaded guilty to ten felony counts detailed in 47-pages of criminal charges. Read more here. (8:24 p.m. EST)

Frank DiPascali, the former CFO for convicted Ponzi scheme investment manager Bernard 'Bernie' Madoff's company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC, is expected to plead guilty today to ten criminal counts in the investment debacle.

According to a filing by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, DiPascali's charges will include the following:

Court Rules A 'Fixie' Bike With a Single Hand-Brake Is Legal

A German court ruled that a fixed gear bike with a single hand-brake is not illegal, and should be considered the same as a bike with two regular hand brakes, or a brake sytem that works by pedaling backwards.

You're probably asking wondering what the heck is a 'fixie' bike, and why is this such a big deal?

Can't bicyclists opt to do foolish things, and bring a world of hurt and pain upon themselves if they're so inclined?

A wire story last week reported that a Florida man blamed his cat for downloading child pornography onto his computer.

Yes, the 48-year-old Sears salesman Keith Griffin reportedly told Sheriff's deputies that sometimes "his cat would jump on the keyboard and he would came [sic] back to the computer and find strange things on this computer,"

But there is more information contained in the detective's affidavit in support of a warrant for Griffin's arrest (inset, right)...much, much more.

A federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling in a case involving parents' ability to make decisions about their child's healthcare, and a state's interest in protecting the child's welfare.

The decision in Mueller v. Rogers highlights a government actor's defense of 'qualified immunity' that would free a government worker of being liable for simply doing their job.

9th Circuit Puts CAN-SPAM Lawsuit in the Junk Folder

We all hate spam.  It clogs our inboxes and increases the likelihood of accidentally deleting a legitimate message that gets lumped in with the ads for penis enlargement methods, free worldwide shipping and online pharmaceuticals.  Most of us suffer through the problem in silence and accept it as an unavoidable consequence of life in the digital era, though.

One man, however, tried to turn his hatred of spam into a going concern.  James Gordon attempted to sue spam distributors under the private right of action created by the CAN-SPAM Act after Gordon began receiving unsolicited commercial emails on several email accounts on the domain he leased from

Dog Owner Indicted For Throwing Year-Old Pet Off 6-Story Roof

A 19 year-old Brooklyn man was indicted by a grand jury on animal cruelty charges (see below) for throwing his one-year-old dog off the roof of a public housing project, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office.

Fabian Henderson faces criminal charges of aggravated cruelty to animals, criminal trespass in the third degree and overdriving, torturing and injuring Animals.

Former New York Governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer may be celebrating this weekend after today's ruling by a federal appeals court that The New York Times lacked a First Amendment right to access sealed government wiretaps in the prostitution case that led to his resignation from office.

Reversing a lower court decision in favor of the Times, Judge Jos� Cabranes wrote that:

...there is no First Amendment right of access under the attendance-at-judicial-proceedings approach because the underlying proceedings--held before grand juries and judicial officers in camera--are not public.

D.C. Handgun Lawsuit: Suing For Carry Permits

Handgun owners sued the District of Columbia yesterday, charging that although D.C. requires "a permit to carry a handgun in public," it regularly refuses "to issue such permits and refuses" to allow the possession of any handgun that would be carried in public."

Two plaintiffs in the case initially had their applications to carry their handguns initially denied by D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier, but these were later approved.  The lawsuit did not explain the subsequent reversals of their initial 'carry permit' denials.

Senate Confirms Sotomayor As Next Supreme Court Justice

In a 68 to 31 vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

The historic confirmation means that Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, the third woman to hold the judicial honor, and the 111th justice to serve on America's highest court.

Sotomayor will fill the vacancy left by former Justice David Souter who retired from the court in June 2009 after nearly nineteen years on the Court.

Maurice Greenberg, the former American International Group ('AIG') Chairman and CEO, and Howard Smith, the company's ex-CFO and former Vice Chairman, were sued by the S.E.C. for their alleged roles in "improper accounting transactions that inflated AIG's reported financial results between 2000 and 2005."

While there are numerous allegations of wrongdoing in the complaint, the S.E.C. simultaneously settled all charges against the two, requiring them to pay fines, penalties, and more.

A federal appeals court rejected a host of legal challenges to the sale of nearly all of Chrysler's assets to let the carmaker emerge from bankruptcy.

In a 53-page opinion, judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unanimously ruled that all of the objections raised by investors and tort lawyers to prevent Chrysler's sale were all "without merit."

William Jefferson, the former Congressman who represented New Orleans, Louisiana, was convicted by a jury today of 11 of 16 criminal counts that included federal bribery, racketeering and money laundering charges.

The scandalous 95-page criminal indictment filed in 2007 charged Jefferson with conspiring to enrich him "and his family members by corruptly seeking, soliciting, and directing" that he and his family member members be paid "things of value" in exchange for performing official acts while in office that would favor those whom he sought to bribe.

But perhaps the thing that this case will be most remembered for is the FBI's discovery of $90,000 in frozen, bundled cash inside then Congressman Jefferson's Washington, D.C. home freezer, money that the government charged Jefferson was going to use to bribe Nigeria's Vice President at the time.

Chris Brown's Sentencing in Rihanna Assault Case Delayed

L.A. Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg, who presides over the Chris Brown assault-on-Rihanna case, postponed his sentencing today until August 27.

"The judge wants to know if Virginia has similar work programs like Caltrans where he will do community labor," according to Jane Robison, a press secretary in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

Donald Etra, Rihanna's attorney, said that "the judge is awaiting confirmation from Virginia as to what Chris would be doing."

But why will Chris Brown serve his sentence in Virginia instead of California?

It's All Over but the Shouting

While Democratic senators busied themselves hanging streamers and blowing up balloons for the impending confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, another Republican senator tried to secure an invite to the party. 

Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) announced his plans to vote in favor of Sotomayor's nomination, joining six other GOP senators who have also declared their support.  As part of the announcement, Bond said that, while he has some reservations about her statements and decisions, "I will support her, I'll be proud for her, the community she represents, and the American dream she shows is possible." 

Ruth Madoff Agrees to Show Trustee The Money

Ruth Madoff, the wife of convicted and imprisoned Ponzi schemer Bernard 'Bernie' Madoff, just agreed (read the agreement below) to show Trustee Irving Picard the money she spends each month if it's more than $100. She acted in response to the Madoff bankruptcy trustee's lawsuit over $44 million that Ruth Madoff allegedly received over a six year period before Bernie was caught stealing other people's money, forcing his investment firm into bankruptcy.


Judges Order California to Reduce State Prisoner Population

A panel of three federal judges ordered the State of California to reduce its inmate population because of prison overcrowding, resulting in the release of approximately 43,000 prisoners during the next two years so that the state's prisons can operate at 137.5% of their design capacity.

The 4th Circuit ruled today that the forced grooming of a Rastafarian man's dreadlocks by South Carolina correctional officers violated his rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.  The court simultaneously ruled that the officials had not used excessive force to restrain him, however.

Devotees of the Rastafari movement, or Rastas, typically allow their hair to grow naturally into matted clusters known as dreadlocks.  Dreadlocks have many important meanings for Rastafarians, but they generally demonstrate an individual's dedication to the faith.  Conversely, Rastas associate shaved heads with Western culture, or "Babylon", and the oppression of their spiritual lives and political freedoms.

N.C. Terror Case: Court Hears FBI Wiretaps, 8th Suspect Named

The FBI played revealing tapes at a bond hearing in federal court for the Raleigh, North Carolina terror case involving seven suspects arrested in the state last week.

FBI agents played a numbe of tapes with statements reportedly made by alleged ringleader Daniel Patrick Boyd, and testified about apprehending Boyd and his son Daniel last week. FBI Agent Michael Sutton said that when they were arrested, father Daniel Boyd had an FN-57 semiautomatic handgun in his possession, while son Dylan Body had a 9mm handgun on him at the time.

Pez Museum Gets Lawyers -- Sweet!

The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia has a team of lawyers to defend against the PEZ lawsuit filed by U.S.-based PEZ Candy, Inc. and Patrafico AG, the Swiss candymaker's parent company,

Litigators at Fenwick & West, LLP in Mountain View, California rose to defend the 14-year-old musem and its founders.

Plaxico Burress Indictment on Gun Charges

Plaxico Burress was indicted by a New York City grand jury on two gun possession charges, a 'violent' Class C felony under New York law, and another charge of reckless endangerment, the latest embarassing legal chapter in the former N.Y. Giants wide receiver's fall from Super Bowl stardom less than two years ago.

Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau's office obtained a grand jury indictment against Burress after the Giant accidentally shot himself with a .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol at the New York City nightclub LQ in November 2008.  NYPD and DA investigators subsquently found Burress's unregistered Glock at his Totowa, New Jersey home before Christmas less than a month later.

SEC Sues Bank of America Over Merrill Lynch Bonus Payments

The S.E.C. sued the Bank of America on charges that it misled investors about billions of dollars in bonuses that were being paid to Merrill Lynch & Co. executives when it acquired the Wall Street firm for $50 billion. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Bank of America agreed to settle the SEC's charges and pay a penalty of $33 million.

Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants Wide Receiver, was indicted by a Manhattan Grand Jury in New York City, FindLaw just confirmed.

The grand jury indictment is the result of an ongoing NYPD and Manhattan, D.A. investigation after Burress accidentally shot himself with a Glock pistol at a NYC nightclub last November.