Archive for the 'Lawyers' Category

California Lawyer Proposes to Kill All Homosexuals

Matt McLaughlin’s anti-gay ballot measure proposal is so extreme it almost seems like a parody of same-sex marriage proponents. At least, I hope it’s a parody. The idea that McLaughlin’s proposal might be serious is terrifying.

california lawyer proposes killing all gaysMcLaughlin‘s first decree is that homosexuals “be put to death by bullets to the head – or by any other convenient method.” Moreover, the “general public is empowered and deputized to execute all the provisions hereunder extra-judicially.” Murder of homosexuals, mass murder in fact, would be a public duty. The proposal would allow anyone to kill anyone else, provided that the victim was homosexual. Since the dead can’t talk, the proposal is a public license to kill.

As if legalized genocide wasn’t enough, McLaughlin’s proposal has two other outrageous provisions. The second provision is that it would be illegal to distribute information aimed at promoting acceptance of homosexual relations, a clear violation of the First Amendment’s free speech right. The third provision is that homosexuals can’t serve in public office, hold a government job, or receive public benefits.

The proposal is over the top, but there’s a subtlety in the design. The proposal also prohibits any court from hearing a case on the proposed law before the California Supreme Court hears the case.  This last provision is a response to Proposition 8, the California proposition that made same-sex marriage illegal, but was overturned by the courts. The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 though, making the proposal’s choice of court logical (even if no judge would vote to uphold this). The limit on jurisdiction indicates that the proposal was written with more care than mere disdain of homosexuality.

McLaughlin Should Be Suspended from the Bar for This Stunt

Why am I taking the time to dissect a proposal that probably wouldn’t even get enough signatures to get on the ballot? Some people are calling for McLaughlin’s disbarment. I wouldn’t go that far, but I think the state bar should suspend McLaughlin for this stunt.

It’s obvious that McLaughlin applied his knowledge of the law when he drafted this excuse for a proposal. A lay person who wanted to kill homosexuals wouldn’t take the time to limit the courts’ ability to hear the case or select the court which upheld the previous proposition that prohibited same-sex marriage. McLaughlin actually did research on this and it’s research on the type of questions that most non-lawyers wouldn’t even think about. This proposal is only possible because McLaughlin is a lawyer.

Since McLaughlin’s legal knowledge and skills were used to advance this farce, McLaughlin was acting as a lawyer when he submitted his bogus proposal. Lawyers cannot file frivolous papers to the courts. A proposal that advocates for a license to murder is frivolous because the proposal has no chance of passing and has no chance of being upheld even if the public lost its collective minds.

Granted, submitting a ballot submission is not the same as filing a paper with a court. However, the ballot initiative system is still a public forum and lawyers like McLaughlin should not be wasting taxpayer money on jokes like this. McLaughlin should be suspended for abusing a state resource by filing a frivolous document.

Despite what the homosexual community and its advocates think, I don’t think McLaughlin should be disbarred. In addition to all the typical concerns about free speech, McLaughlin is a lawyer. Lawyers have the ability – the power- to advocate for a change in the law. The public and the state bar expect that the changes advocated will be positive changes, like desegregation, rather than advocating for murder. The fact is though there is no rule that the changes lawyers propose have to be positive changes in the law.

The problem is that McLaughlin’s proposed legal change would destroy the very law it would be changing. The proposal would throw people in jail for promoting acceptance of homosexual relations. It’s obvious that would be unconstitutional even to the most legally illiterate among us. The proposal advocates for murder. It’s obvious that’s immoral even to the most depraved persons. McLaughlin wouldn’t be changing course in the ship of state; he would be sinking the ship entirely.

I’ve treated McLaughlin’s proposal like he’s 100 percent serious about this scheme, when in fact this is probably just a crazy parody (I hope). I appreciate that he could be making a point by parodying the other side, or that he’s advocating for a change in the state initiative system by showing that even the craziest of propositions could make it to the ballot. However, McLaughlin could do that without abusing his profession, a profession that many already see as amoral at best.

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If Justice Scalia Is Right, Then Let’s Make Law School 7 Years

Earning a law degree takes three years. The only thing worse than the absurd cost of law school is the fact that the third year is generally regarded as a waste of time. Many legal academics and even President Obama have contended that law school should be shortened to two years.

justice scalia law schoolThe Honorable Justice Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court recently spoke on this issue. Convinced that law school should remain three years, he states that law school isn’t a trade school, but something more. To quote: “[Law school] is a school preparing men and women not for a trade but for a profession—the profession of law.”

Although Justice Scalia’s sincerity is touching, and although the high regard he holds for the law is inspiring, his words fail to address the issue at hand: can someone learn to be a successful lawyer in two years? If the answer is “yes,” then what is the actual value of the third year of law school?

I agree that education is important. However, at the end of the day, education is a means to an end. The purpose of law school isn’t something mystical. The purpose of law school is to learn to be a lawyer.

If Justice Scalia is right—that is, if law school is meant to be something more than a “trade school”—then why settle for three years? Why not stretch it out to five? People with Ph.D.’s in medieval studies often go to school for that long—or even longer. Why not elevate the J.D. to the status of the M.D. and keep law students in school for seven years?

It would be one thing if an extra year was just an extra year. A little more education never hurt anyone. However, in the case of law school, an extra year means an extra $50,000+ of debt.

 

Authored by Peter Clarke, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Content Manager. Peter Clarke is also a freelance writer and curates Screenplay Lists.

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“Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers”

Going paperless is not only a trendy movement, it’s also a highly practical step to achieving an efficient law office. Many large law firms are already there. However, if you are a sole practitioner and you don’t have your own IT department to carry out the technicalities, then going paperless probably sounds more like a hassle than a revolution.

paperless in one hour for lawyersPaperless in One Hour for Lawyers” by Sheila M. Blackford and Donna S. M. Neff provides a quick and easy guide that is specifically intended for solo practitioners and small firms. Ms. Blackford, a paperless attorney in Oregon as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Law Practice magazine, clearly explains the benefits of going paperless. For example: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is an enormous loss of productivity when you spend even fifteen minutes a day searching for a specific document. If your billable rate is $200 an hour, the cost of fifteen minutes of unproductive time is $50 a day…or $13,000 a year.”

Important information found in “Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers” includes a guide to the essential hardware and software you will need, a review of the apps that are available, and an overview of the business practices that should be implemented. The sections are easy to follow and graciously concise. Read the book in one sitting—in one hour—and you’ll be good to go.

Authored by Peter ClarkeLegalMatch Content Manager 

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Berkeley Law Students Allegedly Decapitate Exotic Bird At Las Vegas Casino

Despite what you’ve been told, whatever happens in Las Vegas does not simply stay within the confines of the city’s limits.  In fact, the exact opposite usually happens.  Whether it’s cheating on your spouse or losing your life savings at a craps table, the repercussions often spread to the rest of your life.  Nothing stays in Las Vegas.  Actually, that’s too strong of a statement.  If you commit a crime in the city, jurisdiction will usually remain within Sin City.  Just ask these guys.

By now you’ve probably seen this story in the news rounds, but in case you’ve yet to hear this fascinating tale of law students and animal cruelty intrigue, here’s a quick review.  Eric Cuellar, 24, and Justin Teixeira, 24, are law students at the University of California, Berkeley.  The two were on a trip in Las Vegas when a witness allegedly saw them emerge from bushes inside the Flamingo hotel and casino’s Wildlife Habitat.  Not too strange by Las Vegas standards.  After all, as The Hangover has taught us, people can end up in weird places while staying in Vegas.

But apparently the duo took their hijinks too far.  Teixeira was allegedly holding the decapitated body of a 14-year-old helmeted guinea fowl, an exotic bird in the hotel’s Wildlife Habitat.  Teixeria allegedly threw the dead fowl at Cuellar while stating, “I f—ing killed wildlife.”

Doesn’t sound like very lawyerly behavior, huh?  Nor for that matter, very humane either.  A witness certainly didn’t think so.  She called the cops and the two were arrested.  And like any good aspiring attorney, both men refused to talk to police and instead asked for a lawyer.  Guess they were paying attention in criminal procedure class.

The bird, whose name is Turk, was valued between $150 to $175.  Both men were jailed for suspicion of conspiracy and willful malicious torture/killing of wildlife.  Surveillance video on the scene apparently shows a third male suspect, but police have yet to locate him.

In case you’re wondering, no, this is definitely not the way one should endeavor to start their legal career.  While this story may sound a little silly, the charges these men face are no joke.  Conspiracy and animal cruelty are serious felony offenses.  If convicted, the pair could face potential five-figure fines and more than a year in prison.  And so far, the evidence seems pretty damning.

Malicious torture or killing of wildlife is the intentional harm or destruction of an animal without any purpose.  In Teixeria and Cuellar’s case, the dead bird speaks for itself.  But this isn’t quite an open-and-shut case.  The pair may have a possible reprieve regarding whether they actually possessed the necessary mental intent to kill the bird.

For Teixeria, it’s definitely not a good thing that a witness claims to have heard him admit to beheading the bird.  However, as we all know, witness testimony doesn’t always necessarily lead to a person’s conviction.  Credibility plays a big role in determining whether to believe a witness’ statement.  This case is no different.

But assuming the statement is believed, the duo could always fall back on an intoxication defense.  Remember, the animal cruelty law they’re accused of breaking requires an intentional action.  And courts have long held that being drunk can prohibit a person from developing the necessary mindset for an intentional crime.  This, it would seem, would be Teixeria and Cuellar’s best bet to dismiss or reduce their charge to a lesser offense.

For now though, there haven’t been enough facts released about the story to make a proper guess as to the case’s outcome.  The two are due to return to court soon.  Both men have clean criminal records.  However, that might not be the situation for long.

A felony conviction is an ugly blemish to have on one’s record, but for law students, the negative effects are far worse.  Don’t forget, to become a lawyer one has to also pass a moral character examination.  And there’s no better way to fail these background checks than by having a felony conviction on your record.  For Teixeria and Cuellar, the outcome of their criminal investigation could be what decides whether they become lawyers or be forced to find new careers.

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Covington & Burling Law Firm Gets Disqualified For Violating Duty To 3M

Lawyers often get a bad rap for being greedy amoral people who care more about securing their next paying client rather than protecting their current and past ones.  Nowadays this reputation is mostly undeserved.  However, it’s all the more unfortunate when stories like this one emerge to prove that bad apples still exist.

Legal powerhouse Covington & Burling LLP was recently disqualified from a case by a Minnesota judge.  Covington was representing Minnesota at the behest of the state’s attorney general in an environmental lawsuit again 3M Co., as in the company that makes the majority of your company’s office supplies.

In big cases like these, it’s not unheard of for a government prosecutor’s office to feel overwhelmed and turn to the private sector for help.  This case is no different.  So what’s the problem with a major law firm helping to prosecute a major corporation?  Nothing.  Except when the major law firm used to represent the major corporation currently being prosecuted.

Apparently 3M was a former client of Covington in the past.  But somehow the big firm lawyers failed to inform the court of this pertinent fact.  And that’s exactly why the judge decided to kick Covington to the curb.

You can probably guess the problems that could arise in a situation like this.  Imagine you’re in high school and you have a friend that you confide all your deepest and darkest secrets to.  Now imagine if you had a falling out with this friend who then suddenly buddies up with your sworn enemy.  What do you think the chances are that the whole school will know you wet yourself in terror whenever you see donuts?  Wait, hold that thought, the entire student body is clearing out every bakery in town.

And that’s why attorneys aren’t supposed to go against their old clients.

You may also be surprised to learn that there are actually ethical rules against this sort of behavior, too.  Every state’s bar association has their own version of lawyer conduct rules, but they all generally fall in line with the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility.  Basically, it’s a code of conduct that tells lawyers how to handle various professional moral dilemmas.  And chief among these rules is protecting your client’s confidences and secrets, which Covington allegedly failed to do by taking arms against its old client, 3M.

Like doctors, lawyers are entrusted with highly sensitive information from their clients.  It’s a necessity in order for the attorney to give the best representation possible.  The problem is that this same information, if misused, could be turned against those very same clients.  To prevent this, Courts and bar associations impose a duty on attorneys to protect their clients’ secrets.  And in the case of a conflict of interest between representing a new client against an old client, most state rules of professional responsibility only allow the lawyer to do so if they get an informed written consent from their old client first.  Some state bar associations go even further by requiring consent from both parties and the court.  And even still, a lawyer can be disqualified if the information they possess about the old client is directly relevant to the heart of the new lawsuit against them.

Unfortunately for Covington, the judge found the firm failed on all accounts.  The court held Covington “exhibited a conscious disregard for its duties of confidentiality, candor, full disclosure, and loyalty to 3M by failing to raise its conflicts” stemming from its previous representation.  Short of being disbarred, it doesn’t get more embarrassing than that for a renowned international law firm.

In practice, conflicts like these can lead to all sorts of problems for the new client, too.  Not only do they have to find a new lawyer, but sometimes their case can even be dismissed.

As for 3M, the company can breathe a temporary sigh of relief as the prosecution regroups.  But as horror movies have taught us, one must always be wary of the proverbial hand emerging from the lake.

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