Friday, February 28, 2014

Outburst at US Supreme Court would be a violation of decorum rules, but it was mostly ignored.

Ever get mad about a Supreme Court decision? So mad that you want to show the justices how you feel? Well, there's a law against it. 

The federal law against "harangues or orations" and using “loud or threatening or abusive language in the Supreme Court Building,”is seldom (if ever?) violated, but it happened this week when a California man interrupted oral arguments to express his displeasure about the decision in Citizens United.

Article here. (via state bar of Michigan blog).

Shouting "Money is not speech!" and "Corporations are not people!" the man implored the nine justices to "Overturn Citizens United!"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Identity theft allow thieves to steal tax refunds

Filing a tax return is stressful but imagine being stopped from filing your federal income tax return because a con artist beat you to the punch and filed a fake return using your stolen ID.

Article here. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ABA report on 2012 law grads: about 1/2 have full-time legal work

Barely half of all 2012 law school graduates had full time, long-term legal jobs as of Feb. 15, according to employment outcome data released Friday by the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Law schools reported that 56.2 percent of 2012 graduates were in jobs requiring bar passage, the figures show. But that's still a slight improvement over last year, when only 54.9 percent of all 2011 graduates had full-time, long-term legal jobs nine months after graduation.

Article here. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Civil rights and same-gender marriages, will Michigan allow this? Trial starts today.

Michigan’s highly anticipated gay marriage trial gets underway today in Detroit, where a federal judge will hear the pros and cons of children being raised in same-sex families and ultimately decide what the definition of marriage should be and will be in this state.

Michigan has a voter-approved ban on same-gender marriages, that essentially defines marriage in Michigan as between one man and one woman. This was about 10 years ago. 

Article here.  

Michigan’s case involves two Hazel Park nurses who are challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, arguing the bans unlawfully violate their right to get married and adopt each other's children. The plaintiffs, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, filed their suit in January 2012, initially raising only the adoption issue, but then challenging the gay marriage prohibition as well.

My personal take on this: I wrote an article (unpublished, email me for a copy) about equal protection for persons with disabilities. Even if the federal Court in today's trial decides to drop the voter-approved ban on same-gender marriages (which the Supreme Court views in the same category as persons with disabilities), what will happen at the next level? The Supremes have been on this issue for a bit in other cases, but haven't changed the level of constitutional scrutiny for this group.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Attempted suicide by cop? Prosecutor says only injured man knows.

Police were told that 19-year-old James Spivey was distraught, suicidal and would “take out” anyone who tried to help him.

Spivey fled upstairs when police entered his apartment on North Castle Ridge Dr. SE.
Police lost sight of him.

Officer Benjamin Hawkins tried to get Spivey to come back down, with his hands up. Spivey started “yelling and screaming” at police and told them to leave. Incoherent at times, Spivey would not promise Hawkins he wouldn’t hurt himself, and said that “it will get nasty.”

Later, Spivey charged the officers and officers shot him in self-defense, according to the Kent County Prosecutor, William Forsyth.

Article here. 

High School Students' Amicus Brief Accepted at Michigan Supreme Court

High school students from Father Gabriel Richard High submitted an amicus brief to the Michigan Supreme Court. The Court is about to hear oral argument in the case of juvenile lifers. 

A sample of the brief, from the outline of the brief's arguments:


Also: "We believe all persons have the potential capacity to be sorry for their sins, work to repair their wrongs, restore their worth as a member of society, to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. Fundamental to our beliefs as Christians is that all of us have a right and the promise to be redeemed.”

Article here.  (State Bar of Michigan blog). 

And here (freep).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to start your own law practice right out of law school

No, I didn't write this article! It was written by Branigan Robertson, JD, in the Business Insider.

From the article: (I'd have linked directly to the article, but Business Insider wants users to subscribe. )
Here is a list of the essential things you must do to succeed in starting your own law firm right out of school:
  1. Ignore the People Who Say You Can’t
  2. Plan Ahead
  3. Pick Only One Area of Law
  4. Pick the Right Area of Law
  5. Build a Referral Network
  6. Build a Website Immediately
  7. Join Organizations and Listservs
  8. Remember That Clients Don’t Care About Your GPA, Law Review, or Age.
Personal note: #5 is more important than #6. Your website should be built, sure, but it's not going to be what draws clients to you. Clients will use it to call you, but only once they've heard your name from someone else. #1 is also very important. Even if you're not sure you can, keep going, and the work will start coming.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

NSA, Homeland Security settle lawsuit over parodies of their logos

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged in a settlement made public Tuesday that they were wrong to ban a leading custom-merchandise retailer from selling t-shirts, mugs, and posters that poked fun at the agencies.

The agreement puts to rest a First Amendment lawsuit against the federal government brought last year by a t-shirt designer, Dan McCall, who hawked merchandise on that parodied the official seal of the NSA with jokes referencing the spy program disclosures. Another design imprinted on mugs featured a look-alike Homeland Security logo for a “Department of Homeland Stupidity.”

Article here. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

George Zimmerman (remember him?) plans to become a lawyer

His past encounters with law enforcement and the justice system have inspired him.

Now, the man who once aspired to become a police officer tells CNN he's hoping to go back to school and pursue a career as a lawyer "to stop the miscarriage of justice."

"I'd like to professionally ... continue my education and hopefully become an attorney," he said. "I think that's the best way to stop the miscarriage of justice that happened to me from happening to somebody else. I don't think it should ever happen to anyone ever again, not one person."

Article here.

Michigan State Bar's 2014 Law Day contest: Still time to enter!

The State Bar of Michigan's third annual Law Day creative contest is now open for entries. Participants should submit a creative entry illustrating the 2014 Law Day Theme, "Democracy: Why Every Vote Matters," using content from one or more Michigan Legal Milestones.

Article here. 

Being drunk and annoying isn't a crime, says court.

Indiana’s public-intoxication law makes a criminal of someone who, while drunk in a public place, “harasses, annoys, or alarms another person.”

Or at least it did.

Rodregus Morgan, who was arrested in 2012 for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, challenged the law in court as too vague.

Article here. 

Mr. Morgan argued both in trial court and in the Indiana Court of Appeals that the state legislature couldn’t have possibly intended to allow police officers to make an arrest for any behavior they find annoying. (Imagine the possibilities.)

On Thursday, the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with Mr. Morgan. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Philadelphia woman, 19, admits to role in craigslist murder, to be investigated in 20 other killings

Miranda Barbour said in a jailhouse interview with the Daily Item in Sunbury that she had killed at least 22 people across the country as part of her involvement in a satanic cult.

Barbour and her husband are charged with killing a stranger they allegedly lured through a Craigslist ad.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Barbour and her husband, Elytte Barbour, 22. Authorities said Miranda Barbour, a petite woman with long brown hair, told investigators she met the 6-foot-2, 278-pound victim after he responded to her Craigslist ad offering companionship for money.

“I feel it is time to get all of this out. I don’t care if people believe me. I just want to get it out,” Barbour told the newspaper for a story published Saturday night.

Article here.

Still time to enter: legal fiction contest

Submission Guidelines

Entries must be original works of fiction of no more than 5,000 words that feature a lawyer as a prominent character. Entries must be submitted by email to no later than May 1, 2014.

Article here. 

Personally, I am trying writing fiction for the first time. There are two projects: One is a series of short stories with a female attorney as the main character, and the clients, judges, and attorneys she encounters. The other is a fictionalized account of a forger (just starting this one). 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Advice for a happy marriage from the Pope: Three things to say

Pope Francis has offered some Valentine’s Day advice for a lasting marriage, saying the recipe for success lies in saying three simple words: “Please, thanks and sorry.”

Article here. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Taking the Bar exam before graduation? It can happen in New York.

The Chief Judge of New York's top court is letting third-year law students take the bar exam before graduation if they choose to devote their final semester to pro bono legal services.

Article here. (via State Bar of Michigan blog.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One way to pick a jury (unethically)

Without the Court’s permission, and without telling plaintiff what it was planning to do, [the defendant] had its lawyer quietly enter the room with the veniremen, unannounced, alone among all counsel in the case. Notepad in hand, the [the defendant's] lawyer remained in the jury room watching and critiquing the veniremen for 90 minutes, while they assembled, interacted, and filled out the jury questionnaire. The lawyer only left after court personnel found out she was present, identified her as a lawyer with no business being there, and told her to leave.

article here. 

Bar passers in 2000: 24 percent are not practicing law

This is the result of a study done on JDs who passed the bar in 2000, taken at different times. In 2003, only 9 percent weren't practicing law. Now, 24 percent are not practicing law.

article here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

4 Michigan cities are among the nation's snowiest

Nationally, Grand Rapids, Mich. ranks third with 92.2 inches, while Rochester, N.Y., at 71. 8 inches, rounds out the top five nationally. Ann Arbor, Flint, and Detroit are also on the list.

Article here. 

Man sues Jimmy Kimmel, ABC over death joke

An Edison, N.J., man is taking ABC host Jimmy Kimmel and the network's parent company, Disney, to court over a skit in which a 6-year-old boy suggested killing everyone in China as a solution to the U.S. debt problem.

article here. 

The Oct. 16 segment led China's Foreign Ministry to demand an apology, which the network and Kimmel did at least three times. Even the White House weighed in, condemning the segment but defending freedom of speech, after more than 100,000 people signed an online petition asking for "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" to be taken off the air. . . .
The Plaintiff's complaint says that he "was deeply shocked, offended, and outraged at the comment to kill all everyone in China since that is his home country and Jimmy Kimmel failed to suppress such a hateful and offensive remark."

Attorney - client communication intercepted by the NSA - What happens?

When the National Security Agency realizes it has intercepted an attorney-client communication through its monitoring program it "minimizes" the impact by stopping the monitoring of that communication and "identifying it as an attorney-client communication in a log maintained for that purpose if the client is someone known to be under criminal indictment in the United States. Otherwise, it is read.

Story here, via State Bar of Michigan blog.

From the article: [the guidelines don’t] apply to all attorney-client calls. It provides only for the minimization (and protection) of the calls of “a person who is known to be under criminal indictment in the United States”—someone who has already been charged under US law. This is because indicted persons have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel. People who aren’t indicted don’t have this right, and so their calls are not minimized.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Something exciting is happening for the next Michigan senate race.

This is not really law-related, but is still exciting news. An independent is running for Michigan senate (who happens to have been a law professor of mine).

Link here.

Petition drive to make Michigan legislature part-time

Petition drives to transform Michigan to a part-time Legislature and reform the way petition drives are conducted were approved Thursday by the state Board of Canvassers.
The part-time Legislature petition would cut legislative sessions to 60 days a year and cut lawmakers pay in about half to $35,000 a year.

Article here. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

After almost 37 years after prison escape, Michigan woman found in California

On Monday, police arrested 60-year-old Judy Lynn Hayman in San Diego, 36 years after she escaped from a Michigan prison.

In June 1976, she was sentenced to 16 months to two years for attempted larceny. She escaped from the Detroit House of Corrections on April 14, 1977, according to state records.

Article here. 

Taxes and Solo Law practice: Yes, you have to pay.

In case you didn’t already know this, I’ve got some bad news: small business owners have to withhold and pay their own taxes. Solo attorneys are considered self-employed, which means you need to pay estimated taxes throughout the year, or take a penalty and write a big check at the end of the year (disclaimer: I am not an accountant or a tax attorney).

article here. From the Lawyerist- a good series of articles on the business aspect of running a solo or small practice.

Federal court rules motorist have 1st Amendment right to flash headlights

A federal judge in Missouri ruled this week held that drivers have a First Amendment right to flash their headlights to warn other motorists of nearby police and speed traps.

Article here.

I lived in Colorado for a while, and this was a common practice. I have hoped it would catch on in Michigan, but I haven't seen any sign of it.

Olympics coverage: Journalists at Sochi are live-tweeting their (gross) hotel experiences

Amid continued debate over whether or not Sochi is prepared to host the 2014 Olympics (here are 15 alarming signs that Russia might not be ready) reporters from around the world are starting to check into local hotels — to their apparent grief. Some journalists arriving in Sochi are describing appalling conditions in the housing there, where only six of nine media hotels are ready for guests. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable.

Article here.

via State Bar of Michigan blog.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kent County Circuit Judge Redford to run for MI Supreme Court

Judge James Redford served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan and worked in private practice before his election to Circuit Court in 2002 and he was re-elected in 2010 to a term set to expire in 2016.

Article here. 

Future lawyering skills: Be agile, be flexible

Permanent full-time salaried employment, according to this white paper by Jordan Furlong, is vanishing across all industries and workplaces, and may even have been a Boomer phenomenon that is fading with that generation.  Competent, ethical, hard-working lawyers will still need to solve problems and create value for clients, he says, but the successful lawyer will need to be:

  • Agile, requiring flexible availability and multiple short-term engagements.
  • Technology-enabled, using tools that automate or streamline repetitive processes.
  • Multidisciplinary, delivered in conjunction with other professionals and trades.
  • Creative, invoking rarely used skills and talents that, as it turns out, we actually have in abundance.
article here (via State Bar of Michigan blog).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

There's a lot of it about: Murderer escaped Ionia prison by blending in with snow.

The 40-year-old, who was behind bars for two decades, was captured in a stolen car in rural La Porte County, Indiana.

Michael David Elliot escaped wearing a white kitchen uniform, helping him to blend in with the snow as he avoided detection by a guard who drove past him at least twice, coming within 20 feet at one point.

Article here. 

Detroit area Woman will hear formal charges against her in dismemberment case

A metro Detroit woman was expected to hear the formal charges against her yesterday for allegedly killing and dismembering her son, then throwing the body parts (in 4 trash bags) from her car as she drove.

Monday, Donna Kay Scrivo is expected to be formally charged with killing and dismembering her son, then discarding the bagged up body parts in rural China and St. Clair townships in St. Clair County.
“It just seems so out of character,” said Thomas Odren, who lives next door to Donna Scrivo on Rosedale Street in Macomb County’s St. Clair Shores. “That’s what makes this so hard to process. She had such a good relationship with Ramsay. I would never expect anyone to (dismember their child)."

article here. 

Medical Marijuana: two bills stalled in Michigan legislature

Supporters of medical marijuana were thrilled last year when two bills making it easier for people to buy a variety of medicinal cannabis — including edibles — passed the House of Representative with large bipartisan majorities.
But those cheers may turn to frustration as the two bills have stalled in the state Senate with no visible sign that they’ll move anytime soon.

Article here. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Judge removed from divorce case after sending one party facebook friend request.

A Florida judge who sent a Facebook friend request—which was rebuffed—to a litigant in a divorce she was presiding over has been removed from the case, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.
Judge Linda D. Schoonover reached out to litigant Sandra Chace ex parte with the friend request, according to a Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal opinion (PDF). Chace did not accept the request after her lawyer advised her not to.

Article here. 

Want to grow your legal business? Focus on service.

By exemplifying the best of client service, firms can accelerate their market visibility, please their clients, and drive referrals and repeat business. If you think that sounds too simple, remember this: poor client-attorney communication and substandard service are problems that have dogged the profession for decades.

Article here.

Are you a lawyer who writes fiction? Enter this.

Who doesn't want to write a book about all the weird clients and courts there are? Now's your chance. Be like Grisham!

Article here.