Welcome to Elder Law Library


Special veterans courts see little money, little demand

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Special veterans courts see little money, little demand

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Shutterstock

Eric Gonzalez says he doesn’t remember getting pulled over, nor does he remember evading his arrest in Fullerton, California. The only thing he knows is that he woke up very hungover and faced up to nine years in prison for assaulting a police officer, along with five other charges.

Gonzalez, however, was on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps when he was arrested in 2012, and thus eligible for an alternative: a veterans treatment court that helps service members charged with misdemeanors and some felonies avoid incarceration, if the crime is related to a mental health issue or drug dependency.

For nearly a year in the veterans treatment court program, he went to therapy, sobered up and finished his schooling. He’s out of the military and now works as an audio engineer.

“When I say [the program] changed my life,” he said, “I mean it.”

But to take advantage of it, he had to relocate to a neighboring county, away from his friends and family. There was no veterans treatment court near his home in San Bernardino County.

While almost all of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. have established specialized courts for drug addicts and the mentally ill, veterans courts have languished because of a lack of financial support, reliance on volunteer judges and low usage. Only about 500 counties have opened vet courts since the first ones in 2008.

The Marshall Project contacted 35 courts in counties with large concentrations of veterans and found that few see more than a couple of dozen cases a year. One Iowa veterans court has tried 10 cases since 2015.

“In order for this to work, there needs to be a combination of several different things: primarily a judge who’s interested and a county attorney who’s open-minded,” said Jeffrey Paulson, the presiding judge who volunteers once a week to oversee the veterans treatment court in Woodbury, Iowa. “It’s got to be a labor of love.”

Because the courts are newer and there are so few, research on their efficacy is scarce. Anecdotally, among participants, the courts seem to work. But there’s been only a handful of studies done over the past few years that have shown varied results with lowering recidivism among veterans who attend the courts compared with civilians.

“This veterans court model evolved like many of the other specialty courts, just out of [judges who] believed there was a need from what they saw in their courtrooms … and it spread without scientific evaluation,” says Julie Baldwin, associate director for research for justice programs at American University in Washington, D.C. “To say one veterans treatment court works doesn’t mean they all work.”

There are almost 200,000 veterans incarcerated in American prisons and jails, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. A third of those served in Iraq and Afghanistan, two operations that have resulted in what many refer to as “invisible wounds,” such as post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injuries. These cognitive disorders are known to increase drug usage and alcoholism, and tens of thousands of veterans or active members are incarcerated for drug possession or other misdemeanor crimes each year.

For veterans or active service members to qualify for the court they must have a mental health condition related to their deployment in an active battle zone. Prosecutors work with defense attorneys to negotiate whether the case should be heard in the treatment court, and service members go through counseling funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once they are finished with the program, which can last from a few months to years, all charges are dropped.

President Donald Trump last year signed off on $20 million in grant funds through the Bureau of Justice Assistance for treatment courts, and both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush pushed for greater funding as well.

But the veterans treatment courts haven’t disseminated to areas where there might be the most need, especially in rural areas, says Baldwin, who co-wrote a paper calling for the courts to be more critically scrutinized. Nine states have no veterans treatment courts at all, according to the National Center for State Courts, and some have only one, forcing some users to travel hundreds of miles.

In West Virginia, Republican state Sen. Ryan Weld (also an Air Force Reserves captain) pushed for veterans courts statewide in a bill this year. A handful of courts existed in the state’s northern panhandle until last year when the state supreme court abolished them, citing cost concerns.

“I think it’s important that instead of finding these people guilty, convicting them of a crime and incarcerating them, it’s important to try and find a root cause of what brought them to this point,”said Weld, once an assistant prosecutor.

In North Carolina, where there are four courts, Tommy Rieman, a former Army staff sergeant who was charged with driving under the influence, had to travel two hours every week for his court dates near Fort Bragg, 125 miles from where he lived in Charlotte.

“North Carolina is supposed to be this amazing state that is supportive of the military,” Rieman said, adding that the time and travel costs often put him in a financial bind.

But even where the courts have expanded, usually through the initiative of judges, there sometimes is little demand for them.

In Springfield, Missouri, the veterans court has seen 43 cases in the past six years. That’s primarily because the 9,000 veterans who live in the area are almost all retired and older, says Rhonda Ledbetter, the county’s court coordinator.

Even in counties that have a younger population, such as Phoenix or Dallas, few people go through the courts.

In San Diego and Seattle, both hubs for the U.S. Navy, only 200 cases have been heard in the past seven years—combined.

Some court administrators point to limitations on what cases can be heard, which vary from county to county. A felony that might make someone eligible in one jurisdiction, for example, would disqualify them in another.

Terree Schmidt-Whelan, executive director of Pierce County Alliance, which keeps records for the district court in Tacoma, Washington, said that because their program only takes on certain misdemeanors—the low-hanging fruit, essentially—the total number of service members their court sees is drastically fewer than what they want.

In Bell County, Texas, north of Austin, the veteran population accounts for 9 percent of those who come into contact with the criminal justice system and 18 percent of probationers.

“That’s double the national average,” according to Todd Jermstadt, director of community supervision for Bell County’s Department of Corrections. He also works with the county’s veterans treatment court, which has tried 177 cases in the last three years.

The number shocked him.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “Those numbers are just so low, I can’t fathom. Why aren’t we seeing these people? They’re out there. It’s not that hard to find veterans in Bell County.”

This article was originally published by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for the newsletter, or follow the Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.


Go to Source

Takedown order for union’s giant inflatable rat didn’t violate First Amendment, 7th Circuit rules

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Takedown order for union’s giant inflatable rat didn’t violate First Amendment, 7th Circuit rules

First Amendment

Scabby the Rat court document image

Image via Chief Circuit Judge Diane Wood’s decision.

A Wisconsin town did not violate a local union’s First Amendment rights by requiring it to take down a giant inflatable rat erected on a highway median, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago ruled last week that the town of Grand Chute’s 2014 sign ordinance, which banned private signs on the public way, did not discriminate on the basis of content in violation of the First Amendment. The court also said the city code enforcement officer did not selectively enforce the ordinance.

Chief Circuit Judge Diane Wood wrote the Feb. 14 decision that included an ad with pictures of the rat balloons, How Appealing notes. Bloomberg Law and the Cook County Record have coverage.

The local union had sued after the town’s code enforcement officer ordered the takedown of a 12-foot balloon known as Scabby the Rat in 2014. Construction and General Laborers’ Local Union No. 330 had erected the balloon across from a Toyota dealership employing a masonry company that allegedly was not paying standard wages and benefits.

The appeals court affirmed a federal judge’s decision that the town did not discriminate under a 2014 ordinance then in effect. The town passed a new ordinance in 2015, but any dispute over that law was not yet ripe for review, the appeals court said.

According to Bloomberg Law, other federal appeals courts have analyzed the First Amendment issues differently, making it possible that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually be asked to rule.


Go to Source

Parole process puts too many people back behind bars, Missouri lawsuit says

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Parole process puts too many people back behind bars, Missouri lawsuit says

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The state of Missouri doesn’t provide parolees with lawyers they’re entitled to, according to an ongoing lawsuit. Shutterstock photo.

Stephanie Gasca was eight months pregnant when Missouri parole officials took her to jail. She had recently left a drug rehab program early, but she says she didn’t know there was a rule against that. She says she didn’t know she had the right to an attorney. She did know she was desperate not to have her baby in jail and wanted to go home. So when days later her parole officer handed her a form to waive the first of two hearings, she signed it, thinking it would speed the process. It didn’t. Instead, she was transferred to prison.

When she gave birth to her son Noah in July 2017, she was still in state custody. Noah went to Gasca’s mom, and Gasca went back to prison, where she stayed for five more months, only to come out and be sent back again last summer on yet another parole violation, her sixth. She’s locked up still, waiting to see the parole board again.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that jailing someone for a parole violation requires certain minimum standards of due process. Gasca is the lead plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit in Missouri which argues that the state’s parole violation process meets almost none of them. The suit, which a judge last month certified as a class action, says the state has “created a procedural vortex from which people on parole cannot escape and are at continual risk of being rearrested and reentered into the prison system.”

The state pressures people to waive hearings, doesn’t provide them with lawyers they’re entitled to and presents them with paperwork that is so confusing sometimes they don’t even know what they’re accused of, the suit said. The parole board sends too many people to prison for petty violations and holds them there for too long, it argued.

“If the goal of prisons is to try to prevent crime, I don’t think this is doing that, when people are being locked up for things other than committing crimes,” said Amy Breihan of the MacArthur Justice Center in St. Louis, one of the attorneys who brought the suit.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation, but referred the Marshall Project to a criminal justice reform package the state enacted last year. The law includes some changes to the parole revocation process, including requiring the board “preserve finite prison capacity” and “develop effective strategies for responding to violation behaviors.”

The state filed a brief in Gasca’s case last month, conceding that it hadn’t been providing parolees with a constitutional process. In court documents, the state said it is changing its policies and procedures, including developing a system to provide parolees lawyers and simplifying forms and notices. Federal Judge Stephen Bough is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether the board’s fixes are good enough.

Across the country, tens of thousands of people are returned to prison each year from parole—some for committing new crimes, but many for missteps like missing appointments, not having a job or failing a drug test. About 19 percent of the 600,000 people entering the nation’s prisons in 2016 were there for violating their parole, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In Missouri that year, parole violators accounted for a third of new prison admissions, or about 6,000 people.

Probation and parole—originally designed as an alternative to incarceration—have instead become “a significant contributor to mass incarceration,” said 35 probation and parole officials in a statement last year. They cite overlong lists of rules and excessive lengths of time under supervision as contributors to the problem.

PAROLEES SENT BACK TO PRISON FOR TECHNICAL VIOLATIONS

Of the 13,000 adults in Missouri who left parole in 2016, more than a quarter were returned to prison for a parole violation rather than a new sentence. Nationwide, 16.3 percent of those ending parole were imprisoned for parole violations.

Many of the problems in Missouri’s system are replicated across the country, said several experts interviewed for this article. “These are such kangaroo courts,” said Vincent Schiraldi, a Columbia University research scientist and former New York City probation commissioner. “It’s an ugly world largely devoid of due process.”

In a pair of 1970s-era cases, the Supreme Court said parolees are entitled to some key rights if they’re accused of a violation, such as a preliminary and a final revocation hearing. The preliminary hearing is meant to give parole officials a chance to stop the process early if there isn’t enough evidence. Both the preliminary and final hearings should happen relatively quickly, the court said, and the parolee should be able to see the evidence against them, present a defense and cross-examine witnesses. In many cases, the person is entitled to a lawyer.

One of the plaintiffs in the Missouri suit was in prison for almost a year before he got a clear explanation of why his parole was violated. When Gasca arrived in jail, her parole officer told her she was being charged with missing one of their meetings, according to court papers. Weeks later, Gasca learned she was being charged with failing to complete drug treatment. Gasca said she had checked herself into drug treatment voluntarily, so she thought it was unfair to be penalized for checking out. But without a hearing or an attorney, she couldn’t push back on the charge or argue why it didn’t warrant prison time.

Missouri parole processes “certainly are not in very good shape,” said Carl Wicklund, who recently stepped down as the longtime executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association, an industry group. Wicklund reviewed court documents from this case for the Marshall Project and called the information “damning.” “It looks like their system needs a total evaluation and overhaul.”

More than 90 percent of parolees in Missouri waive their hearings, according to court papers. The suit argues they don’t do it willingly or knowingly.

Jesse Neely, another plaintiff in the suit, had his parole violated when he was caught breaking into an abandoned house to use heroin. Neely remained in jail for almost a year—including for four months after he pleaded guilty to the break-in and was sentenced to time served—signing whatever seemingly contradictory forms his parole officer handed him, according to the lawsuit. “Mr. Neely remains utterly befuddled about the procedural posture of his parole revocation matter,” the suit says.

In Missouri, as in most states, parole revocations are handled by the parole board, which is exempt from state open meetings and public records laws. Missouri is one of 14 states in which meetings and records are closed to the public, according to a 2015 Marshall Project investigation.

In 2016, the state correction department’s inspector general discovered that a board member and a staffer were making a game of parole board hearings: They would choose a “word of the day” like “hootenanny” or “armadillo” and earn points by making unsuspecting inmates repeat it. The board member ultimately resigned. One of the plaintiffs in the suit wrote the board to ask whether that board member conducted his review, and the board refused to tell him.

“We’ve seen how the Missouri parole board operates when there’s no oversight,” said Breihan, the parolees’ attorney. “Part of what’s required here is a change in culture.” Breihan said they will ask the judge for an independent monitor to oversee whatever reforms are ordered.

Gasca is waiting to learn how long the parole board plans to keep her on her latest violation. Deep into a decadelong addiction, Gasca is rarely out more than six months before she’s back again—for sleeping in abandoned buildings, missing appointments or other petty violations. “I have an illness,” she said in a phone call from prison. “That’s not going to go away by sticking me in prison and then letting me out.”

This article was originally published by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system. Sign up for the newsletter, or follow the Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.


Go to Source

Federal prosecutors’ secret plea deal with politically connected sex abuser broke law, judge says

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Federal prosecutors’ secret plea deal with politically connected sex abuser broke law, judge says

Prosecutors

judge and gavel

Photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com.

Federal prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act when they failed to notify a sex offender’s underage victims about a secret plea deal, a federal judge in Florida has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled Thursday on the conduct of prosecutors in the office of then-U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta of the Southern District of Florida. The defendant, Jeffrey Epstein, was a wealthy and politically connected money manager. Acosta is currently the U.S. labor secretary.

Marra said prosecutors never conferred with victims about a nonprosecution agreement and misled them in a letter requesting their patience with the investigation even as they were negotiating the deal. Nor did prosecutors disclose that the federal case would be dropped if Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges, Marra said.

Epstein sexually abused more than 30 minor girls at his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion between about 1999 and 2007, Marra said. Because he traveled in interstate commerce to abuse the girls, he committed federal crimes, according to the judge.

Marra ruled in a 2008 suit filed by two of Epstein’s victims. Epstein’s friends included former President Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump. The Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Courthouse News Service and the Daily Business Review covered the decision. The Miami Herald had investigated Epstein’s case last year.

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to two prostitution charges in state court and served 13 months in jail.

Jeffrey_Epstein_mug_shotJeffrey Epstein in 2006. Photo from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office via Wikimedia Commons.

Acosta issued this statement: “For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”

The remedy for the victims is unclear because the Crime Victims’ Rights Act doesn’t establish the punishment for a violation, according to former federal prosecutor Francey Hakes, who spoke with the Miami Herald. One issue is whether the plea agreement can be overturned.

“Epstein will surely argue he complied with the agreement, relied upon it, and pled guilty under it so it can’t be overturned in fairness to him,’’ she said. “Ultimately, it is simply shocking the government went to the lengths they did to keep the victims in the dark in order to make a serious predator’s high-priced defense team happy. Justice should not, and does not, look like this.”


Go to Source

Appeals court says judge’s Facebook friendship with child-custody litigant could show bias

Posted by on Feb 23, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Appeals court says judge’s Facebook friendship with child-custody litigant could show bias

Internet Law

A Wisconsin judge created the appearance of partiality when he accepted a Facebook friend request from a woman before giving her sole custody of her son, a state appeals court has ruled.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the woman’s request to modify custody should be relitigated before a different judge, report the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press.

Judge Michael Bitney accepted the friend request after a June 2017 evidentiary hearing in which the woman introduced evidence that the child’s father had abused her, the appeals court said. The father denied the claim.

Bitney accepted the woman’s Facebook request without disclosing the connection to the father or his lawyer, the appeals court said. Before he ruled on her case, the woman liked 18 of the judge’s Facebook posts and commented on two of them. She also shared a photo from a third party that related to domestic violence.

Bitney did not like or comment on any of the woman’s posts. He ruled for the woman July 14, 2017, awarding her sole legal custody and primary physical placement of the boy. After the Facebook connection was discovered, Bitney said it didn’t affect his decision because he already had decided how he was going to rule.

The opinion noted a 2013 ABA ethics opinion that said judges may participate in electronic social networking—but they must avoid contacts that would undermine impartiality or create an appearance of impropriety.

The appeals court said that the timing of Bitney’s acceptance of the friend request could cause a reasonable person to question the judge’s impartiality. Failure to disclose the Facebook friendship heightened the appearance of partiality and created concerns about one-sided ex parte communications, the court said.


Go to Source

Lawyer told prosecutor she ‘doesn’t know how to act like a young lady,’ ethics complaint says

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Lawyer told prosecutor she ‘doesn’t know how to act like a young lady,’ ethics complaint says

Legal Ethics

A Michigan lawyer called a prosecutor a “little girl” who “doesn’t know how to act like a young lady” and then misrepresented his behavior on Facebook, according to allegations in an ethics complaint filed last month.

It’s not the first time that lawyer Clifford Woodards II has run into ethics trouble, the Detroit Free Press reports. He was reprimanded in October 2017 after telling a probation agent that she had “angry black woman’s syndrome” and “that’s why you don’t have a husband.”

In the latest incident, Woodards wrote on Facebook that the prosecutor “went straight into rat mode.”

Woodards had challenged the prosecutor, Heather Washington, in March 2018 when she told him she could not offer a plea deal in his client’s traffic case without seeing the client’s driving record, according to the ethics complaint.

Woodards “became aggressive” as he asserted that the prosecutor was wrong about the Detroit Law Department’s policy, the complaint says. He demanded to know how long the prosecutor had worked there (she started the previous August), and he said he knew the policy because he had been working downtown for 15 years.

As he was leaving the office, Woodards said something to the effect of: “These kids think they know everything and always want to argue with people,” the complaint alleges.

Woodards then returned and pointed a finger in the prosecutor’s face, the ethics complaint says. According to the allegations, he said something to the effect of: “Little girl, don’t talk to me and move out of my face,” and/or “You need to back up, little girl, and know your place.”

He also allegedly said the prosecutor “doesn’t know how to act like a young lady, acting immature.”

A supervisor who heard raised voices entered the office and separated Woodards from the prosecutor.

In his Facebook post, Woodards said it was the prosecutor who had spoken aggressively when he returned to the office. After he had told the prosecutor he wasn’t there to speak with her, “she lost all maturity and professionalism,” Woodards wrote. “She went straight into rat mode, stepped into my personal space, and derisively started waving papers directly in my face.”

Woodards removed the post several days later. Woodards told the Detroit Free Press he could not comment while the ethics complaint is still active.


Go to Source

Should defendants be forcibly medicated to be competent for trial?

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Should defendants be forcibly medicated to be competent for trial?

Question of the Week

When a defendant shows signs of mental instability, their competency to stand trial comes into question. The Supreme Court case Sell v. United States sets guidelines for when defendants should be forcibly medicated so that a trial can proceed. The ruling recommends that a judge order medication in select situations in which the government’s interest in adjudicating the crime is substantial. But competency expert Susan A. McMahon recently cautioned that the Sell decision is vague and that judges tend to “default” to forced medication.

Such cases can linger in legal limbo, as with Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. He remains at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, waiting for the judge to rule him competent or for charges to be dismissed.

This week, we’d like to ask: Should defendants be forcibly medicated to be competent for trial? When mental stability is at issue, how can the interests of the government and the rights of the defendant be balanced?

Answer in the comments and on social media via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read the answers to last week’s question and vote for your favorite in our poll: If lawyers made candy hearts, what would yours say?

Featured answers:

Posted by Wiggymore on ABAJournal.com: “You’re appealing in every case.”

Posted by Pete Maloney on Facebook: “This candy heart is a nonbinding expression of a future intent.”

Posted by Boris Milter on Facebook: “Our love has no statute of limitations.”

Posted by @nth_gnz on Instagram: “I love you beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Posted by @SonyaOldsSom on Twitter: “I want to spend all my nonbillable hours with you.”

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


Go to Source

Innocence Project sues museum for access to archives on ‘tragically flawed’ bite-mark evidence

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Innocence Project sues museum for access to archives on ‘tragically flawed’ bite-mark evidence

Criminal Justice

bite mark

The Innocence Project has sued the federal government’s National Museum of Health and Medicine for denying it access to archival information on the history of bite-mark analysis.

The Feb. 20 suit, filed in federal court in New York City, says access to information on the “tragically flawed forensic science” could help exonerate the wrongfully convicted. A press release on the lawsuit is here, and coverage by the New York Law Journal is here.

The material is in the archives of the American Board of Forensic Odontology, an organization that certifies dentists as forensic bite-mark experts. The organization has provided testimony and evidence leading to the conviction of defendants “in a plethora of criminal cases,” the suit says.

At least 30 known wrongful convictions and indictments stem from bite-mark evidence, the Innocence Project says.

A recent study “showed that forensic odontologists could not even reliably determine which injuries were bite marks, let alone match a mark to a unique individual’s teeth,” the suit says. “Untold numbers of people have been falsely convicted as a result of this faulty science.”

The museum is part of the U.S. Department of Defense. The suit claims that the museum violated the Innocence Project’s First Amendment rights by denying the information because of the group’s viewpoint and by retaliating because of its critical stance.

“The museum evidently sided with the ABFO—which has been hostile to the work of the Innocence Project and other critics—to prevent the Innocence Project from conducting research that could have produced unwelcome results and which could have further embarrassed the ABFO and its members,” the suit says.

The suit also alleges a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The Innocence Project says it used FOIA to request the archival information and to seek correspondence between the museum and the odontology group. But the Innocence Project has received no meaningful response, the suit says.

Another cause of action alleges that the museum’s decision was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Out of the blue”

ABA Journal: “Bite-mark evidence loses teeth”

ABAJournal.com: “Bite-mark expert’s flip-flop is cited in death-row inmate’s new appeal”

ABAJournal.com: “Judges frees man imprisoned for 28 years; discredited bite-mark evidence is cited”

ABAJournal.com: “Top state court vacates murder conviction, based on now-discredited bite-mark evidence and new law”

ABAJournal.com: “Bite-mark evidence should be allowed in murder case, says state judge”

ABAJournal.com: “Validity of forensic analysis routinely used in criminal trials is called into question”

Modern Law Library: “Dark tale of ‘The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist’ brings false convictions to light (podcast)”


Go to Source

Firings and lawsuits follow discovery of secret bugging devices at law firm; ‘It’s very John Grisham’

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on Firings and lawsuits follow discovery of secret bugging devices at law firm; ‘It’s very John Grisham’

Law Firms

A suspicious finance director who found drywall debris in her law firm office asked a maintenance man to investigate. Her request eventually led to the discovery of wires running to cameras, microphones and recording equipment.

By the time police were called two days later, on Sept. 12, some wires had been cut and a video recording device was missing, according to lawyer Michael Pike, who is representing the firm in an invasion of privacy lawsuit filed Feb. 8. “It’s very John Grisham,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

It’s not the only lawsuit that was filed after discovery of the devices at Steinger, Iscoe & Greene in Palm Beach County, Florida, the article reports. Two associates who were fired in October also have sued the firm. Also gone is name partner Gary Iscoe, who reportedly received an undisclosed amount of money as part of a confidential agreement.

Steinger Iscoe is a personal injury law firm known for TV ads with the slogan, “We know money matters!”

The associates deny they had anything to do with the recording devices. Their lawyer, who is a friend of Iscoe’s, also denied any involvement by Iscoe, saying he “had zero to do with it.”

One of the associates, Lee Levenson, said he thinks they were fired as part of an ongoing war between Iscoe and law firm founder Michael Steinger. The associates were thought to be on Iscoe’s side, Levenson said.

In their nearly identical lawsuits, the associates claim they were fired because of their hostility to practices they considered unethical. One alleged practice they identified was a “no surgery, no case” policy. They say the policy encouraged clients to have expensive surgery to increase settlement amounts.

The suit also alleged the firm paid runners to find clients and used staff members to do work that should be done by lawyers.

Steinger “vehemently denied” any wrongdoing, the Palm Beach Post reported.

The recording devices were discovered mainly in Steinger Iscoe’s finance, marketing and human resources departments. When police investigated, they looked at security camera tapes and noticed two people entering the law firm at about 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, the evening before the finance director found debris on her floor.

One of the intruders was identified as a 26-year-old man who worked as an investigator for Levenson at the law firm. Steinger told the Palm Beach Post that Levenson had advised the investigator he should hire a lawyer and decline to cooperate with police. Steinger said that’s why he fired Levenson.

Levenson wouldn’t comment on the situation but said hypothetically it would be malpractice to tell someone to speak to police without a lawyer.

The investigator is the defendant in the invasion of privacy lawsuit filed on the firm’s behalf by Pike. “We have to publicly address the issue through litigation so Michael [Steinger’s] name is cleared and the person who did it is held responsible for his actions,” Pike said. “This suit will lead us to the discovery of any other people involved.”


Go to Source

These 14 black lawyers broke down barriers and made history (gallery)

Posted by on Feb 22, 2019 in Elder Care | Comments Off on These 14 black lawyers broke down barriers and made history (gallery)

Legal History

Statue of a man standing in front of a wall that says equal justice.

Graphic by Sara Wadford.

February is Black History Month, a time to honor the heritage and triumphs of African-American people from the past to the present. From abolitionists to modern social justice advocates, the list of African-American trailblazers is extensive.

As a tribute to Black History Month, the ABA Journal decided to narrow our focus and honor 14 groundbreaking black lawyers—including two past ABA presidents, Dennis Archer and Paulette Brown. Archer was the first black president and a recipient of the 2016 ABA Medal, the association’s highest award; Brown was the ABA’s first female black president.

With JDs in hand, these 14 attorneys defied adversity to become pioneers in their fields. Check out the gallery below to discover how each of these black lawyers made history.

14 Groundbreaking Black Lawyers


Go to Source

Comments are closed.