Was law prof part of a lawsuit-plotting ‘cabal’? State ridicules ‘imagined conspiracy’

Internet Law

A cable provider sued by the state of New York for allegedly overpromising internet speeds has notified the judge that it intends to claim the state of New York conspired with a law professor and technology companies to bring the lawsuit.

A Latham & Watkins lawyer representing Charter Communications, Christopher Clark, told the New York judge overseeing the case in a May 22 letter that Charter plans to present an unclean hands defense. The Hollywood Reporter has a story.

Charter will allege that Columbia law professor Tim Wu worked with officials from private companies, including Google, to help New York’s attorney general investigate and sue. According to the letter, New York “delegated what should have been an objective law enforcement investigation to third parties whose pecuniary and political interests are adverse” to those of Charter Communications.

The letter refers to an email sent to a colleague by a Google official that said she had spoken with Wu about the New York lawsuit. “This is all really confidential, obvs, but you’re in the cabal,” the email said.

Charter is seeking a search of Wu’s personal emails related to the litigation and to unredacted witness interview notes about meetings of “cabal” members. “The importance of these notes has only increased as Charter has learned of the literal, self-described ‘cabal’ Mr. Wu formed” with individuals from Google, another company and a think tank, according to the letter.

The New York Attorney General’s office responded in a May 29 letter that it has already produced or logged hundreds of relevant emails from Wu, and it has fulfilled its discovery obligations. It also provided interview notes for the court’s review.

“OAG vehemently disputes Charter’s innuendo that the witness interviews could bear on an imagined conspiracy involving Professor Wu,” the Attorney General’s office said in its letter.

A spokesperson for the New York Attorney General’s office told the Hollywood Reporter the claims by Charter officials are a “cute but desperate ploy to distract people from their yearslong fraud and deception.”

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Forcibly separating families ‘violates basic standards of human decency,’ ABA president says

Immigration Law

Child's hands gripping fence

Separating immigrant children from their parents at the southern border is “unnecessarily cruel” and the ABA “strongly opposes” the policy, ABA President Hilarie Bass said in a statement Wednesday. “Separating children from their parents not only violates due process, it is antithetical to the very human values on which this country was founded and sets a terrible example for the rest of the world,” the statement says. “It should be stopped immediately.”

Bass also notes that the policy has overwhelmed both the criminal justice system and the immigration courts. Children as young as toddlers are being forced to appear in immigration courts on their own, with no right to appointed counsel, Bass said. Children should stay with parents whenever possible and be kept in the least restrictive setting possible, the statement says.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy May 7, implying that such parents would be treated as human traffickers.

“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law,” he said at a speech in Scottsdale, Arizona. As the ABA Journal reported at the time, his prepared remarks did not include the word “probably.”

In fact, the Washington Post reports, advocates for immigrants say many of these families are asylum seekers, whose treatment is governed by federal law and international treaty.

To apply for asylum in the United States, a person must be physically in the United States or its territories, so crossing the border is a prerequisite. Non-citizens may file for asylum within one year of arriving in the country. Such people, with or without children, are generally interviewed about conditions in their home countries and either released or kept in custody pending an immigration court hearing.

According to the New York Times, the family separation policy was started months before the May 7 announcement and has resulted in at least 700 children being taken from their parents since October. That includes more than 100 children under the age of four. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing the Trump administration over the practice. That case, Ms. L v. ICE, concerns an asylum-seeking mother from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was separated from her 7-year-old daughter.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Immigrant Rights Project, echoed Bass’s condemnation in remarks to the ABA Journal.

“I have been doing immigration civil rights work for 25-plus years and this is the worst practice I’ve ever seen,” he says. “It is both illegal and inhumane to tear little children away from their parents. The children are literally screaming and begging not to be taken away.”

President Donald Trump tweeted last week that the family separation policy is a result of a “horrible law” passed by Democrats. In fact, as NBC reported, there is no such law and the policy is the work of Trump’s own administration. NBC says the family separation policy is a result of the Justice Department’s new policy of “zero tolerance” for immigrants who enter the United States without authorization, which is a misdemeanor on first offense.

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Has pro bono work helped you professionally?

Question of the Week

Gavel and file with document titled Pro Bono.

hafakot / Shutterstock.com

Can pro bono pay off?

An article in the June ABA Journal magazine features three lawyers whose volunteer work—in aviation, employment and intellectual property law—has ended up sending paid work their way.

Lawyer Richard Roth says his pro bono copyright and trademark work for authors, lyricists and songwriters can really pay off if a client ends up making it big. “Some of them become successful and famous later, and they remember the work I did when they were struggling.”

This week, we’d like to ask you: Has your pro bono work helped you professionally? Did pro bono work ever lead to paid work? Did it give you valuable work experience you otherwise never would have had? Did it send you on a new career path? Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Do you believe you are fairly compensated for your work?

Featured answer:

Posted by Fed JD: “A first-year associate at D.C. BigLaw makes $30K more than I do as a 15th-year fed with a JD/LLM and a tribal appellate judgeship. A Holland & Knight partner’s financial disclosure revealed he was making $830K prior to taking a federal political position as an attorney. No, I’m not fairly compensated for my work.”

Do you have an idea for a question of the week? If so, contact us.

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Law firms hire company to send ads to ER patients’ cellphones; is it a HIPAA violation?

Legal Marketing


ESB Professional / Shutterstock.com

Some personal injury law firms plan to use a technology called “geofencing” to send ads to cellphones of patients in emergency rooms, pain clinics and chiropractor offices.

The Philadelphia-area firms hired a company called Tell All Digital to target patients using geofencing, NPR reports. The technology identifies people using cellphones within a certain location and then targets them with ads. Law firms in California and Tennessee are also testing the technology.

University of Minnesota law professor Bill McGeveran told NPR that the marketing technique may feel intrusive, but it’s not a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a medical privacy law known as HIPAA.

The law applies to hospitals, clinics, doctors and insurance companies, but not to lawyers and marketers, he said. “There’s lots of digital marketing and record-keeping that’s outside of HIPAA,” he said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey expressed misgivings about law firms using such marketing to exploit private medical information. She reached an agreement with a different digital marketing company last year that prevented it from using geofencing to target Massachusetts women entering Planned Parenthood clinics.

The company had been hired by a Christian counseling organization that offered “choices” and “pregnancy help” to people entering the reproductive health clinics. Healey contended the ads would violate the state’s consumer protection law by intruding on private health and medical status.

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Trump reportedly asked Sessions to unrecuse himself; special counsel is said to be investigating

Attorney General

Jeff Sessions

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

President Donald Trump reportedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself in the investigation of Russian influence in March 2017 during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s request—rejected by Sessions—is being investigated by the special counsel, along with Trump’s efforts to get the attorney general to resign, the New York Times reports in a story based on anonymous current and former administration officials.

Sessions had met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in hopes he could persuade the president to withdraw and revise his first travel ban after it was blocked by a federal judge.

According to the Times, special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in the incidents demonstrates that Sessions has an “overlooked role as a key witness” into whether Trump tried to obstruct the special counsel inquiry.

Before Sessions recused himself, Trump reportedly asked White House counsel Don McGahn to lobby Sessions to retain control of the Russia probe. Sessions told McGahn he planned to follow the advice of Justice Department lawyers who said he should recuse himself.

After the recusal, Trump asked his then chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to get Sessions to resign, an anonymous source tells the Times. Priebus called Sessions’ chief of staff, Jody Hunt, who told Priebus that Trump would have to make the request. “Unsure how to proceed,” the Times reports, Priebus “simply waited out the president, who never called Mr. Sessions but did attack him that week on Twitter.”

Priebus was ousted from his position days later.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times that he hadn’t discussed the matter with Trump. But Giuliani said the president would have the authority to ask Sessions to take back control of the Russia investigation.

“‘Unrecuse’ doesn’t say, ‘Bury the investigation.’ It says on the face of it: Take responsibility for it and handle it correctly,” Giuliani said.

On Wednesday, Trump attacked Sessions in a tweet picking up on a statement by Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina during a television appearance. Trump quoted Gowdy as saying the president had plenty of good lawyers to choose from when he named the attorney general. “And I wish I did!” Trump tweeted.

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