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January 2018 Archives

Court Clerk Fired for Asking Defendant for Money

From the list of things not to do in court, don't ask a criminal defendant for money -- especially if you work for the court.

Wanda Chavarria, a Pennsylvania court clerk, apparently didn't get that memo. But she did give a note to Meek Mill at a probation hearing, asking the rapper for money to help pay for her son's tuition.

Chavarria has been fired over the incident, but the case gets weirder. The defense attorneys claim the judge tried to get a favor from the rapper, too.

While there may be some debate as to what's motivating it, there's been a somewhat surprising increase in law school applicants for the 2018-19 school year. The increase was not unsubstantial either, with the Law School Admissions Council touting a whopping 11 percent increase over last year.

The rise in applicants is posited to be the result of a few different factors, including the so-called "Trump bump." Basically, people want to become lawyers because of the economic growth we're currently seeing and because of the highly political news cycle motivating individuals to pursue careers to effect social change.

Out-of-State Law Students Improve on Dreaded California Bar Exam

Perhaps it was the less-fatigue factor that helped test-takers improve on the California bar exam.

The exam -- once the toughest bar exam in the country with three days of sometimes impossible questions -- slimmed down to a two-day format last July. With that change, the overall pass rate climbed up 6 percent over the previous year.

It was a reprieve for students and California law schools, which were so desperate to improve pass rates they asked the state supreme court to lower the cut score. The latest results show, however, it's good to be an out-of-state law student.

The rare story of the criminal turned lawyer will often turn heads for the tale of redemption and self reflection. However, just as inspiring is the even rarer story of a victim turned lawyer that helps to bring down their former attacker.

For one lawyer, that is part of her story. Rachael Denhollander, at the age of 15, was abused by the now infamous former gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. Sixteen years later, after becoming a mother and an attorney, she became the first victim to step forward to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual abuse. Her public accounting led to countless other victims coming forward.

Did Suge Knight's Lawyers Bribe Witnesses?

There's good and bad to being a celebrity's lawyer.

On the one hand, some of that fame and celebrity status may rub off on you. On the other hand, sometimes infamy and notoriety rub off, too.

Like it did to Suge Knight's ex-lawyers, who were arrested for allegedly bribing witnesses in his murder case. Yeah, that day at the office turned into a day in custody.

Even before Judge Aaron Persky's notoriously light sentencing of the Stanford University athlete, the Brock Turner sexual assault case made national headlines due to the nearly unfathomable facts of the case. Turner was found on top of his unconscious victim, behind a dumpster, by two other students, who held him until police could arrive. He claimed the sex was consensual, while his victim didn't remember it happening.

Despite the fact that prosecutors were seeking six years, Turner was only sentenced to six months. Judge Persky cited Turner's lack of a criminal history, his character, his intoxication, and his remorsefulness as justification for the slap on the wrist sentence.

Lawyer Sues for Valet Giving His Ferrari to Wrong Person

Levi Miles said he was trying to impress his date.

So he asked the valet for the keys to a yellow Ferrari parked at the hotel, and the valet gave them to him. "That's not stealing," Miles told police later in his best Ferris Bueller impression. "The valet gave me the keys."

Miles was charged with grand theft auto, but that was only the beginning of the legal drama. The Ferrari belonged to a lawyer who was stranded at the hotel.

Blind Law Students Settle With BARBRI

BARBRI, the bar exam prep company, has learned a lesson in public accommodations law.

In a legal settlement, the company agreed to make its online bar-review products more accessible to blind and vision-impaired students. The company did not admit wrongdoing in the consent decree filed in Stanley v. Barbri.

It is an important victory for blind students, attorneys said, because society often "fails to recognize the significant challenges that those with disabilities face."

The sentencing of Larry Nassar, the former doctor for Team USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University who pleaded guilty to child pornography and six counts of child molestation, has been making waves throughout social media. However, the 40 to 175 year sentence and 150 plus victim testimonials that made up the week-long sentencing hearing seem to have taken a back seat to Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's rise as a social media hero.

When judges sentence criminals, frequently, there will be a brief lecture prior to the handing down of the sentence, which can come after victims, and sometimes supporters of the convicted, make statements. That lecture usually explains what the conviction is for, then sets forth the basis for the sentence. Judges have quite a bit of latitude when it comes to the tone and tenor of their sentencing lecture. Judge Aquilina's lecture for Nassar, however, was one that many won't soon forget.

Filming Done, Ginsburg Goes on Speaking Tour

With the premiere of RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has transcended the fame of her illustrious legal career.

Ginsburg is more than a pioneer of women's rights. She is more than the most famous sitting-member of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Notorious RBG is, in the words of many fans, an "icon" and a "rock star."

Following her documentary's showing at the Sundance Film Festival, now Ginsburg is on a speaking tour. It comes at a time when women are speaking out like never before.

For most law students, it is no surprise that the moral character and fitness examiners might take a look at their social media. And depending on what's found, it could actually matter significantly.

One prominent example involved a prospective Maryland lawyer who, in addition to having a criminal record, also had made numerous posts on social media that would make one wonder if he wasn't just some rude online teenage troll. However, one prospective lawyer's failure might just be what saves you from failing your moral character exam, if you heed the lesson here.

There's no doubt that the legal job market is already saturated with experienced lawyers seeking jobs. For new law grads, this means that the competition for the jobs out there is rather fierce, especially for the "good jobs."

According to a recent survey detailed in the ABA Journal, when it comes to those "good jobs," less than half of recent law grads were able to get one right after graduation. Notably, the survey explained that over a quarter of recent law grads have to spend over a year to get a "good job."

Judge Says God Told Him to Do It

Judge Jack Robison apparently had second thoughts about denying the defendant's motion for a directed verdict.

As the jurors deliberated in the criminal case, the judge interrupted them. He said that God told him the defendant was not guilty.

"When God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it," Robison explained. But for the defendant and the judge, it was too late.

It's not uncommon for law firms, or any type of business for that matter, to just ignore their employees' career development. So long as a law firm is profitable, the status quo is maintained, and employee retention is not a big problem, then businesses have very little incentive to invest in career development.

If you're in a firm that doesn't seem to care whether or not your career develops or stagnates, you may want to heed the advice of the experts over at the Harvard Business Review and take control of your own career development. Below, you can read about three of the most important tips the experts discuss.

The Judge Who Stole Cocaine From Evidence Locker

Nobody knew the demons that followed Paul Michael Pozonsky to the bench.

Outwardly, Pozonsky was an exceptional county judge. He served on the ethics committee; he founded the drug court for people with substance abuse issues.

But the judge had his own drug problems, and they had started long ago. They finally came out when he was caught stealing cocaine from the evidence file in this courtroom.

If you are considering dropping out of law school, or, worse, you're on the verge of failing out, you might be wondering about all that student loan debt you took on.

Unfortunately, unlike just about every other kind of debt, student loans cannot be discharged via bankruptcy. This means that, like your family, student loans are basically forever. However, there is a counterintuitive silver lining for law students: the more you take out in loans, the less likely you are to default. This is generally due to the fact that the student debt a person accrues corresponds to education that person has received, and generally, the more educated a person is, the more earning capacity that person has.

If you haven't failed out, you might want to seriously second guess dropping out.

Was Your JD Worth the Cost? Survey Says 'No'

If law school debt left you with that sinking feeling, you are not alone.

According to a new poll, a majority of recent law school graduates think their degree wasn't worth it. Higher debt and fewer jobs are to blame.

The economy created a perfect storm, and the new lawyers fell into it. Yeah, that sinking feeling.

If TV has taught us anything, when lawyers date or marry each other, it rarely doesn't entail sensational drama. One real life case out of Chicago is a stark, but surprisingly gentle, reminder of that fact.

Married attorneys maintained a joint practice, however, when one got disbarred as a result of embezzling over $2 million from clients, trouble for the other was not far behind. Though the name of the practice changed, the disbarred wife continued to maintain a presence in the office. According to the allegations, she met with clients and continued to do legal work, and even used the law firm's resources, including staff. And due to being permissive in his wife's unauthorized practice of law, the Illinois bar believed the husband had earned himself a public censure.

Judge Accused of Stealing Almost $100,000 From a Dead Client

The jury may be out but the judge is in -- in trouble, that is.

Judge Diane Vettori-Caraballo is in deep deliberations after being charged with stealing at least $96,200 from a former client. She announced her resignation by voicemail to the Mahoning County presiding judge.

In a press release, federal prosecutors said Vettori-Caraballo faces charges of fraud, making false statements to law enforcement, and other allegations. The release also said the charges are not evidence of guilt -- as if that matters at this point.

There's no doubt about the fact that law school is expensive. Most law students have to take out student loans in order to afford it. To reduce the financial burden, most students will seek out summer work, and many students will also explore working during the school year.

Although going to law school full-time leaves very little time for anything else, working a part-time job, particularly a legal job, is possible, and even good for your resume, especially if you can keep your grades up too. If going to law school part-time is out of the question for you, then working full-time during the school year should be, too.

Below are three tips to help you work while attending law school.

'The Post' Reminds Us That the President Is Not King

If you have ever waited anxiously for a court decision, then you know what it felt like to be at the Washington Post on June 30, 1971.

That moment also serves as the climax for the "The Post," a movie about how the newspaper survived court scrutiny to publish the Pentagon Papers. President Richard Nixon tried to stop publication of the classified documents, which exposed how the United States muddied itself in the Vietnam War.

"In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the founders hoped and trusted they would do," Justice Harry Blackmun said. "[T]he press was to serve the governed, not the governors."

For many law students, particularly (but not just) 1Ls, finally seeing your grades can be a jarring experience. Being primarily graded based upon a final exam alone is a new experience for most law students (if you have midterms, consider yourself lucky).

Due to the law school grading system, if you didn't do as well as you expected, it can be difficult to determine what actually went wrong. Usually, it's one of the big four problems:

Life Sentence for Lawyer's Date From Hell?

A life sentence was the last thing Lindy Lou Layman was thinking when she destroyed valuable artwork at her date's house.

Actually, Layman wasn't thinking much at all when she trashed attorney Anthony Buzbee's collection in a kind-of drunken clearance sale. She was charged with felony criminal mischief, and a judge released her on $30,000 bond.

The estimated value of the artwork went up a lot since then, however, and now Layman is looking at a possible life sentence? Looks like two Andy Warhols could cost her more than 15 minutes of fame.

You'd think that after making partner, you wouldn't have to pretend to be working when another partner walks by. However, for one New York attorney facing public censure, he's learning the hard lesson that there's a big difference between juggling content around on a computer monitor and falsifying your billing logs, even if you're not sending the padded bills on to your clients.

The lawyer admitted to the fact that he falsified almost 95 hours in order to show his partners that he was busier than he actually was, but fortunately the court believe that he never intended to send, and never did send, those falsified hours on to any clients.

Lawyer Charged With Attempted Bank Robbery

Richard Evan Kriger walked into a bank with a fake beard, dark glasses, and baseball cap. He walked out in handcuffs.

Kriger, a Washington state attorney, wanted to rob the bank. He demanded $50,000 and said his nephew was waiting outside with a gun to shoot anybody who tried to stop him.

Fortunately, police were waiting outside and arrested Kriger at the scene. That's what happens sometimes when lawyers think they can get away with anything.

What's Going on With Arizona Summit Law School?

Arizona Summit Law School has been to the top, but it's going down fast.

The American Bar Association has given the struggling law school until Feb. 1 to explain its financial predicament. The school is "significantly out of compliance," the ABA says, with requirements it have enough money to continue operating.

Don Lively, president of the law school, says they are working on it. For a law school that once had 1,000 students, that may not be enough for the 200 who are still there.

Congratulations are certainly in order for Justice Adrienne C. Nelson, who, last week, was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court. Rather surprisingly, throughout the history of the Oregon Supreme Court, there has never been an African American justice before Judge Nelson. In fact, the same holds true for all of Oregon's appellate court system as well.

Judge Nelson is rather happy to be breaking barriers, making history, and providing a positive role model to the minority children in the state. Being a civil rights advocate, she is grateful to have the opportunity, but cautioned that she would not be an "activist" judge, but rather a bridge.

An amici brief, written by more than a baker's dozen of law school professors, was filed in support of Take 2 and Rockstar Games in the appeal filed by Lindsay Lohan over the use of her likeness/image without her permission in Grand Theft Auto V.

The case, which was filed back in 2014, has a rather storied past. Basically, Lohan and Karen Gravano claim that characters in the popular video game are based on them. Unfortunately for the pair, the New York state trial court did not agree that it mattered, and dismissed their claims. Their appeal followed.

Top Military-Friendly Law Schools Recognized

In the world of law school rankings, William & Mary Law School has earned its stripes as the top military-friendly law school in the nation.

William & Mary is one of three law schools this year to be named among the top 10 military-friendly schools in a survey of more than 1,300 institutions. Victory Media publishes the annual rankings primarily to make life better for veterans and their families.

At the Wyoming Supreme Court building, a new art exhibition, located in the aptly named Equality Hall, is set to debut in early February. The exhibition celebrates the contributions of women to the law and honors many of Wyoming's women who broke new legal ground. Notably, Wyoming, which adopted the nickname the Equality State, was the first state to pass women's suffrage, as well as actually allow women to vote, serve on juries, and hold public office.

On the North side of Equality Hall, portraits of some of the most influential women in the state's history will hang, including the first woman admitted to the state's bar, the first woman judge, as well as the first woman governor (who was elected back in 1925). On the South side of the hall, there will be facts about, and shadowboxes depicting artifacts of, the first women in the legal field that made significant contributions.

When it comes to judicial clerkships, none are so coveted as those at the United States Supreme Court. According to a recent report on Above the Law, all the new 2018 fall term SCOTUS clerks have been hired. Although there are some names missing from the unofficial list, it's only a matter of time before it is updated to include all the new hires (assuming the rumors are true).

In addition to the 2018 term clerks being all-but-decided, it looks like Justices Ginsberg, Roberts, Breyer, and Gorsuch have selected some clerks through 2019 as well. Reportedly Gorsuch has even hired one clerk for the 2020 term. One significant conclusion the ATL writer draws from Justice Kennedy hiring clerks for the October 2018 term: He's not planning on retiring before the fall term.

'Hybrid' Law Program Graduates First Students

The 'hybrid' law school experiment at Mitchell Hamline School of Law has proved to be a success for its first graduating class.

Launched three years ago, the hybrid program allows students to do half of their work online. Each semester includes 11 or 12 weeks of online coursework and one intensive "capstone" week on campus.

Approved by the American Bar Association, it was the first program of its kind. And for its first graduates, it was a "no-brainer."

Law Schools Learn Lessons in Campus Safety After Shootings

In a way, law school administrators could see it coming.

Two months before Matthew Riehl killed a sheriff's deputy in a mass shooting, he had posted on Facebook that he dreamed about raping a former professor at his law school.

Ten years earlier, when he attended the University of Wyoming law school, faculty had noted he was a good but "troubled" student. Their attention and precautions may have saved lives.

Quitting law school is not an easy decision. The debt quickly becomes so insurmountable that most students are left with few career options that provide enough earning power to actually enable them to pay back the crushing debt. Or at least so it seems despite the fact that the legal job market isn't all that promising for recent grads.

Noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki quit law school after only two weeks. For Kawasaki, the decision did not seem too difficult. He was pushed toward law school by his parents, and he simply wasn't interested in it. And if you're in law school right now, or made it through already, you know well enough that there's no way anyone can make it through without actually being into it.

Struggling With Addiction? Lawyers Assistance Programs Can Help

Peter was a successful patent lawyer and also a drug addict.

But no one, except perhaps his junkies, knew about his drug problem -- until the day he died. His ex-wife found crystal meth, cocaine, Xanax, Adderall, Vicodin, and a potpourri of other pills in his house.

Like most drug-addicted lawyers, Peter wouldn't get help for his problem. But there is help, if they stop running from it.

There's no doubt that law school is stressful and that pets are great for reducing stress. It would seem that the two are a perfect pair.

However, pets require a certain level of attention and care that might be too much for some law students. Depending on the pet and the law student's living situation, it can be really beneficial or an additional stressor, especially if the pet is not suited to the environment, or solely dependent on the law student for care and attention.

Below you'll find three very important questions to ask yourself when deciding to get a pet while you're in law school.

Murder-Suicide at Long Beach Law Firm

John Alexander Mendoza was struggling as a lawyer.

For years, clients had complained about his workers' compensation practice. He joined a bigger firm, but eventually the partners decided to fire him.

That was before the holiday party, when Mendoza walked into the office and murdered a managing partner before killing himself.

Prosecutor Caught in Love Triangle Gets Disbarred

Love hurts, especially when it costs attorneys their license to practice law.

Tara Lenich knows this from personal experience. She even knew the pain was coming when she forged wiretap orders to spy on her ex-lover.

"I knew my conduct was illegal," Lenich told a federal judge. It was an ill-fated love triangle and fall for the former prosecutor, and it is a reminder that some love stories are tragedies.

How to Clerk for a Jerk

One big drawback for law students is the fact that most legal jobs for students involve working for lawyers and a surprisingly large number of those lawyers that employ law students are just jerks to work for, with, or around.

Unfortunately for law students, with the legal job market still being rather cut-throat, most will not have the luxury of being able to quit a job because their boss is a jerk. After all, getting legal experience is almost as important for getting a lawyer job as graduating law school and passing the bar. Below, you'll find a few tips to help you work, or clerk, for a jerk.

Martin Shkreli's Ex-Lawyer Is Convicted of Fraud

People feel a range of emotions when a defendant leaves the courtroom in handcuffs.

Victims may feel a sense of justice. Jurors, perhaps, feel relief because their job is done. Maybe one attorney revels in victory while another is shamed in defeat.

But every lawyer should be mindful about the conviction of attorney Evan Greebel, formerly with Kaye Scholer. As one observer famously said during a parade of prisoners, "There, but by the grace of God, go I."