Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fashion news: Professional bags for female lawyers

Another great article from the Lawyerist on the delicate "balance between professional, functional, and not too frumpy or too sexy" bag for female lawyers.

 . . . .  (this balance) makes it a challenge to find a briefcase or bag. The recommendations from the lawyers I surveyed were mostly a variation on the traditional briefcase or tote. There were also many suggestions for rolling bags, which are especially helpful if you have to carry a lot of weight and negotiate high heels at the same time.

Free speech ruling at US Supreme Court: anti-President protestors can't claim viewpoint discrimination

Presidential protestors can't claim that Secret Service agents used viewpoint discrimination, and thus caused a violation of free speech.

Article here.(via WSJ Law Blog).

Or, in other words, the safety of the president comes above the free speech rights of those protesting against him (or her), and the agents who are protecting that president are shielded by immunity from a free-speech claim.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2 students sue GVSU over alleged cheating and discrimination

Two students are suing Grand Valley State University, saying they were falsely convicted of academic dishonesty and discriminated against by a professor.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that Erin Jurek and Ashley Short were found guilty of academic dishonesty in the summer of 2013 for allegedly using an unapproved Internet message board and collaborating on a take-home exam for a math class.

Article here. And more fully reported on  here. 

Former inmate gets law degree after settling wrongful conviction suit for $3.4 million

A New York man who was convicted of killing his parents in 1990 achieved two milestones this year: He obtained a nearly $3.4 million settlement in a suit alleging wrongful conviction, and he graduated from law school.

Article here. 

Martin Tankleff will take the bar exam in August and the next month he will become executive director of a group that works to free wrongfully convicted inmates.

“I look forward to being able to work with people who have been wrongfully convicted,” Tankleff said, according to the New York Post account. “I think I understand the system better than anyone else, any lawyer, any judge.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Should courthouses be "off limits" to immigration authorities?

Rosario Socope, a Guatemalan immigrant in the country illegally, had an unwelcome surprise waiting for her when she attended a pretrial hearing on a felony charge at a courthouse in Brooklyn this month. As she stepped out of the courtroom into a public hallway, she was approached by immigration agents seeking to deport her.

Article here (via WSJ Law Blog). 

Professor sues former student over online comments, claims defamation

Who doesn't hate to be criticized on how they do their job? Professors, however, have a special beef about this, since websites like "" and others allow students to rank professors.

But one student took it too far. In a civil suit filed in a Wisconsin circuit court, a tenured University of Wisconsin professor says that a former student’s extensive online commentary about her teaching amounts to defamation -- not protected speech. She says the student, after being dismissed from the university, “engaged in an intentional, malicious and unprivileged campaign” throughout 2013 to besmirch her reputation. She says it resulted in “substantial economic, reputational and emotional injuries,” and she’s seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Article here (via taxprofblog). 

Capital punishment and IQ: what's in a number?

The US Supreme Court held that states can't assign an IQ score to when an intellectually disabled person can be executed.

The states, the five-to-four majority ruled, cannot use a fixed IQ score as the measure of incapacity to be put to death.  “Intellectual incapacity,” the Court said, “is a condition, not a number.”

Article here (from scotusblog). 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tennessee revives electric chair for executions when lethal drugs unavailable

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday signed a bill into law allowing the state to electrocute death row inmates in the event the state is unable to obtain drugs used for lethal injections.

Article here. 
Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the electric chair legislation in April, with the Senate voting 23-3 and the House 68-13 in favor of the bill.

In the "deplorable defenses" file: Man claims toddler initiated sexual contact

APPLETON, WIS. — A man who claimed his 3-year-old daughter initiated sexual contact with him in 2012 was sentenced Thursday to 12 years in prison after a judge ordered he remain behind bars long enough for his child to grow up without being re-victimized.

Article here. 

The 39-year-old man also was sentenced to eight years of extended supervision and ordered to have no contact with the girl or minors without prior approval. In June 2013, he pleaded no contest to first-degree child sex assault, a felony punishable by up to 60 years in prison.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Taser death could get US Supreme Court review

Is taser use by police officers safe or unsafe? The US Supreme Court might decide.

 Article here.
The Supreme Court is being asked to review [ a 21- year -old- victim's] case as part of a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of his young son against a former Winnfield police officer. If the justices agree to hear the case, it would be the court's first look at police use of stun guns after turning away appeals from both recipients of the high-voltage shocks and from police officers.

A decision on taking up the issue (in other words, the decision of whether the court will hear the case or not) could come as soon as Monday.

Related article here. 

Judge rules against Michigan retailer over critical online review

Mr. and Mrs. Palmer posted an online review at RipoffReport . com when the product Mr. Palmer ordered for his wife never arrived. But then they were threatened by the Michigan manufacturer.

 From the Article:
Michigan-based told the Palmers in 2012 that they had 72 hours to remove the negative review or pay $3,500 because they violated a “non-disparagement clause” in its terms of use with customers, the lawsuit said.

The couple refused, saying the clause was not in effect when the items were purchased and the terms violated the First Amendment. They also note has a policy of not removing posted reviews.
 The retailer then reported the Palmers to a credit reporting agency for their "failure to pay" which resulted in credit difficulties for the couple.
Judge Benson, in his order, said the retailer is liable to the Palmers for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Here they go again: Grand Rapids seeks to re-write panhandling ordinance

From an article on mlive: 

Though a federal court has ruled that panhandling is a First Amendment right, the city plans to restrict the activity by making it illegal to ask for money from motorists.

A proposed law up for Grand Rapids City Commission review on Tuesday, May 13, also would prohibit panhandling in certain locations and ban certain tactics deemed too aggressive.

Among the rules:
• no solicitation in an “accosting” manner, or by continuing to beg after a person has refused the request
• no solicitation within 15 feet of a public restroom
• no solicitation within 15 feet of an ATM machine, or a building that has an ATM in it
• no solicitation on a public bus or within 15 feet of a bus stop
• no solicitation from anybody waiting in line to enter a building, like at Van Andel Arena
• no solicitation from any driver or passenger on a public street

Although the City Attorney Catherine Mish supports the proposed ordinance by comparing it to Kentwood's, it remains to be seen how this is different from the earlier ordinance that was declared unconstitutional.

This is a probably an attempt by the city to make the ordinance fall under what's called "Time, Place, and Manner," guidelines. In other words, it's OK for a city to restrict some exercise of free speech, if they only attempt to do it by restricting the time, place, or manner that the exercise happens. To make an example, if protestors want to gather, that's fine, but they can't impede pedestrian traffic (place and manner); or the protests can't happen after 8:30 at night (time). The US Supreme Court has said that these restrictions are OK because they are reasonable (impeding pedestrian traffic would be unsafe, or after 8:30 at night would be infringing another's right to quiet, etc.)

And lastly, in an aside to the City Commissioners and the others behind this ordinance, you can't clean a city by getting rid of panhandlers. If you (Commissioners) think this is a problem, go to another city, where it's really a problem.

Fugitive from justice allegedly found 37 years later in Zeeland

From an article on mlive:

When a fugitive task force showed up at his door in Zeeland, Dallas Smallwood stuck with the story he’s told the last 37 years: His name is Waylon Wilson.

Asked if his real name was Dallas, he didn’t miss a beat.

“No, but I’ve been to Dallas.”

Police say the man allegedly escaped the Anderson County, S.C., Stockade on Oct. 3, 1977. He had been sentenced in April 1977 to five years in prison for housebreaking, grand larceny and receiving stolen goods.

Earned Income Tax credit (EITC) has a lot of fraud connected with it, maybe $16 billion per year.

In this article from taxprof blog: 

For the third consecutive year, the IRS did not publish annual reduction targets or report an improper payment rate of less than 10 percent for the EITC . . . although risk assessments were performed for each of the programs that the Department of the Treasury required the IRS to assess, the risk assessment process still may not provide a valid assessment of improper payments in tax administration. As such, the EITC remains the only revenue program fund to be considered at high risk for improper payments.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Want to lose your case? Here's how.

Another great article from the Lawyerist (I love that blog!)

How to Lose, tip #1: Forget about citing relevant authority. If you want to lose, you don’t need to support your arguments with authority. Your judge has hired law clerks to research authority and to figure out whether it is relevant to the disputed issues. And your court has already paid for a subscription to LexisNexis or Westlaw. As an economics major, I highly value efficient research and understand why you wouldn’t want to duplicate the efforts of the clerks. After all, efficiency beats winning any day.

Or:  do a variation on #1, which is to create relevant authority. I mean, c'mon, as an attorney you've read enough appellate level opinions to be able to write them in your sleep, so why not give it a try? (Tempting, I know, but wrong! See MRPC Rule 3.3)

(please note: for those of you who've lost a sense of humor after 3 or more years of law school, this column is intended as satire! It's a joke, so loosen up!)

Michigan Bar Exam Results - February 2014

List of certified passers from the State Board of Law Examiners website.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"Good" online legal YouTube advertising: it doesn't exist.

The best ones are the intentionally cheesy ads. And that seems to be all there are, really.

Article here from the Lawyerist.

Name mix-up on reality show leads to West Michigan man's lawsuit.

Todd Keith. Keith Todd. Producers of a reality show on MSNBC mixed up a name, and now they are facing a lawsuit.

Article here. 

From the article:
The video was featured on a national reality TV show, but there was a problem: Keith Todd, a construction worker from western Michigan, was identified instead of the perpetrator's name, Todd Keith.

Todd's uncle had been watching “Caught on Camera: Dash Cam Diaries” on MSNBC when he saw Todd’s name and face connected to the perpetrator, identified as a habitual criminal.
Misery ensued, as outlined in a lawsuit that Todd, 32, of Wyoming filed in April against NBC Universal, the Eastpointe Police Department and A One Limousine. Public humiliation, crying spells, loss of employment income and more are described in the complaint filed in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thinking about working as a free-lance attorney? Get your agreement in writing.

Get it in writing (when you can) is the gist of this article from the Lawyerist.

From the article:
The question of whether the work of a freelance attorney requires a written agreement seems obvious at first glance — “get it in writing” is the golden rule, after all. In practice it is not always that simple. There may be situations, depending on the client, project, or timetable, where getting a written freelance work agreement is not possible or necessary.

Yours truly worked for a law firm on the other side of the state after taking the Bar exam & before getting licensed and starting my own firm. It was a great way to get exposed to a "real life" practice and away from Bar exam questions. But we didn't have any agreement in writing for what we were doing, which I regret.

I really enjoyed doing freelance work. It was mostly legal research and some drafting of pleadings. I had a bit of experience, but I didn't have as much risk as the attorney who was taking in the work. On the downside, it was very come and go. When I got a new bit of work, it was red hot, and I'd work over the weekend to get it done. But once it was done I might go for three weeks without any new work.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Michigan Bar Exam Results - released for February 2014

Exam takers of the February 2014 Michigan Bar Exam were notified by mail on May 7, 2014. Results can also be seen here (Michigan Board of Law Examiners) and here (list of passers by seat number). More detailed results to be released on May 13, 2014.
Sending good vibes to all takers! If not a passer this time, then try try again!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Former Detroit Mayor Archer to lead ABA Task Force on Legal - Ed Financing

The task force is charged with looking at the cost of legal education for students, the financing of law schools, student loans and educational debt. It will also consider current practices of law schools regarding the use of merit scholarships, tuition discounting and need-based aid.

Article here (via TaxProf blog). 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Don't want to be "followed" online? Try these tips.

You probably already know this, but lots of people are tracking your activity online. Advertisers, social networks, content providers, the NSA. It’s actually kind of creepy how many people know what you are doing.

Article here (via the Lawyerist blog). 

How much easier is it for a top-tier law school grad to find work? A lot.

The unemployment rate for graduates from the top 50 law schools in the US is more than 60% lower than the unemployment rate for everybody else, according to a study by the ABA. (article here, via Wall Street Journal law blog).

About 5% of class of 2013 graduates from a top 50 school were still looking for work in February, about nine months after spring 2013 graduation. Meanwhile, 14% of graduates of schools below the top 50 were searching for a job.

Monday, May 5, 2014

CEOs and companies who reside in US, but are not being taxed by the US.

Randall Hogan chairs the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Sandy Cutler ran the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Tony Petrello donated $5 million to the Texas Children’s Hospital.
They’re all chief executive officers who have given back to their communities. They oversee thousands of American workers. And they run companies that have opted out of the U.S. tax system.

article here.(thanks to TaxProf blog).