CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

January 2014 Archives

Disgraced ex-journalist Stephen Glass, who fabricated articles for major magazines in the 1990s, is not fit to practice law and has been denied a law license, the California Supreme Court has ruled.

In a unanimous opinion (attached below), California's highest court concluded Glass has not overcome the stain of his tarnished and infamous past as a journalist who fabricated stories for prominent publications in the late 1990s.

Glass was a magazine journalism wunderkind with articles appearing in Rolling Stone, Harper's and The New Republic. Eventually, he acknowledged that 42 articles were partially or wholly fabricated, according to a filing prepared by Glass's lawyers.

Glass's actions were called the most sustained fraud in modern journalism and led to the critically-acclaimed movie "Shattered Glass."

After his journalism career ended, Glass attended law school and spent the past six years pursuing admission to the California State Bar. Concerns about Glass' character kept him from being admitted to the New York Bar in 2004.

A lawyer for Glass, Jon Eisenberg, told Reuters that Glass "appreciates the court's consideration of his application and respects the court's decision."

A reputed captain of New York's Bonanno organized crime family has been charged with the infamous "Goodfellas" Lufthansa heist at JFK airport in 1978.

The indictment (attached below) reads like a mafia hit list and charges Vincent Asaro, 78, with participating in the $6 million Lufthansa heist. It also charges Asaro's son Jerome and three other alleged Bonanno family associates with murder, robbery, extortion, arson and bookmaking.

The single-biggest robbery in U.S. history at the time, the Lufthansa heist was dramatized in the Martin Scorsese film "Goodfellas." The holdup took place on Dec. 11, 1978, after untraceable cash was flown in from West Germany and stashed in a JFK vault.

The crime stumped investigators for more than 30 years, but a break in the case came last summer when human remains were found buried at the former home James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke.

Burke was the suspected mastermind behind the Lufthansa heist and the inspiration for the character played by Robert DeNiro in "Goodfellas." Burke went on a killing spree after the holdup to eliminate anyone who might tie him to the case. He died in prison in 1996 while serving time for an unrelated case.

The indictment also charges Vincent Asaro with the 1969 murder of Paul Katz, whose remains were found last June at a home still owned by Burke's family.

Burke owned Robert's Lounge, the bar that the late Henry Hill described as Burke's private cemetery. "Jimmy buried over a dozen bodies ... under the bocce courts," Hill wrote in his book, "A Goodfella's Guide to New York."

Justin Bieber Arrest Report: DUI, Drag Racing in Miami Beach

Pop star Justin Bieber was charged with drunken driving, resisting arrest and driving without a valid license after drag racing through a residential area, Miami Beach police said.

"What the f- did I do? Why did you stop me?" Bieber told the police officer who pulled him over just after 4 a.m., according to the attached arrest report.

Bieber, 19, was booked into a Miami jail after failing a sobriety test, Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez told reporters Thursday morning.

Bieber repeatedly cursed and at the arresting officer while refusing to keep his hands on the yellow Lamborghini and out of his pockets. Bieber kept asking the officer: "Why the f- are you doing this?" ... "What the f*** is this about?"

Bieber's entourage reportedly used their two or three cars to block traffic on Pine Tree Drive to create a drag strip for the young star.

In fact, gossip website TMZ reports that Bieber's father "helped facilitate" the crimes that landed Justin in jail.

Jeremy Bieber, 38, was one of the people who helped block off the residential street so his son could race, according to TMZ.

Bob McDonnell Indictment: Ex VA Gov., Wife Charged With Corruption

The former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife have been indicted on corruption charges shortly after the Republican left office earlier this month.

The 14-count indictment (attached below) details the vast array of favors political donor Jonnie Williams lavished upon the McDonnell family, including:

  • the use of Williams' private aircraft and vacation home, 
  • a nearly $20,000 shopping spree for Maureen McDonnell, 
  • a Rolex watch for the governor; and 
  • catering fees for the wedding of the McDonnells' daughter.

A federal investigation hung over the final months in office for the once-rising star of the Republican Party.

In July, McDonnell apologized and said he had returned more than $120,000 in loans and other gifts from Johnnie Williams, the CEO of pharmaceutical company Star Scientific. On Tuesday he again told The Associated Press reports that he had done nothing illegal on behalf of Star Scientific.

Is Snowboarding Protected by the Constitution?

Does a ski resort's ban on snowboarding violate the 14th Amendment?

A group of snowboarders believes so. They have sued the Alta Ski Lifts Company, which operates the Alta ski resort in Utah, for banning snowboarders and only allowing skiers on the slopes.

The snowboarders' lawsuit (attached below) claims Alta, which operates on federally owned land, violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

"Discrimination without any rational basis perpetuates inequality by creating, fostering, and encouraging skier-versus-snowboarder attitudes that are hostile and divisive," argues the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.

The lawsuit asks for Alta's snowboard ban to be lifted, and for skiers to be forced to share the mountain. Only a handful of ski resorts ban snowboarders, including Deer Valley in Utah and Mad River Glen in Vermont.

FCC's Net Neutrality Rules Struck Down by D.C. Circuit

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the FCC’s open Internet rules, in a ruling that could give broadband providers more room to charge content companies for faster speeds.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled (see full opinion below) that the FCC lacked the authority to impose anti-discrimination rules because it had failed to classify broadband Internet as a common-carrier service.

The ruling is a blow to the concept of net neutrality, and opens the door for Verizon (and other Internet service providers) to offer managed services or other arrangements where content providers could pay to increase the speed to their content. The Wall Street Journal reports that Verizon (the plaintiff in this case) has indicated it would pursue such an arrangement if it was permitted to do so.

The FCC rules were designed to ensure Internet service providers treat similar content on broadband pipes equally. By enforcing net neutrality, the court found, the agency was imposing rules that didn’t apply to carriers.

Insane Clown Posse Sues FBI: 'Juggalo' Fans Not a Gang

Rap group Insane Clown Posse has sued the FBI for labeling fans of the band as criminal gang members, leading to their harassment by law enforcement.

FBI analysts, using law enforcement and media reports of crimes committed by people wearing “Juggalo” tattoos and clothing, concluded in the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment that they are a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal District Court in Detroit by lawyers for the band and for the ACLU of Michigan. Plaintiffs include the Insane Clown Posse founders Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, who perform as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope.

Also listed as plaintiffs are four Juggalos (as fans of the band are called) from Nevada, California, North Carolina and Iowa. They offered details of incidents in which they said they had been subjected to police harassment or other punishments for identifying with Insane Clown Posse.

“Juggalos are a ‘family’ of people who love and help one another, enjoy one another’s company, and bond over the music and a philosophy of life,” the complaint, filed Wednesday, states. “Organized crime is by no means part of the Juggalo culture.”

The gang designation violates fans’ constitutional rights, including free speech, freedom of association and the right to due process, the complaint argues.

“Among the supporters of almost any group — whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization or religion — there will be some people who violate the law,” the suit said. “However, it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here.”

The FBI has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Undocumented Immigrant Granted California Law License

The California Supreme Court granted a law license Thursday to an undocumented immigrant, a first-of-its-kind ruling that allows the man brought to the U.S. as a toddler to practice law in the state.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Sergio Garcia's undocumented status does not disqualify him from becoming a lawyer, and that the final obstacle was removed when the Legislature passed a law allowing otherwise-qualified applicants to join the bar regardless of their immigration status.

"There is no state law or state public policy that would justify precluding undocumented immigrants, as a class, from obtaining a law license," Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the ruling.

Garcia was brought to the United States as a toddler, put himself through law school and has waited nearly two decades for legal residency.

But will he be able to find work as an attorney?

Federal law would still prohibit Garcia from working for a law firm or any other paying employer. Still, state officials say he could represent clients as an independent contractor, and Garcia plans to do so despite arguments by Obama administration officials that he would be working illegally.

The U.S. Department of Justice had opposed Garcia's application, while California Attorney General Kamala Harris supported it.