Friday, June 27, 2008

"The Insider" lawyer sentenced to five years for trying to bribe a judge

The thing that bothers me about this case is that I suspect it's the tip of an iceberg. Something must have made these people think that judges could be bribed. The sentencing judge noted that Scruggs picked the wrong judge to try to bribe. But how many times had he picked a judge who willingly accepted a bribe?

Attorney Gets 5 Years in Bribery Case

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who became one of the wealthiest civil lawsuit attorneys in the country by taking on tobacco, asbestos and insurance companies, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison for conspiring to bribe a judge.

U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. called Scruggs' conduct "reprehensible" and fined him $250,000, plus the cost of his incarceration...

Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, an attorney who gained wealth and fame through a series of high-profile and successful cases against corporate America, was sentenced Friday to five years in prison...

The judge said that after reviewing evidence in the case, including secretly recorded conversations, "it made me think perhaps this was not the first time you did this because you did it so easily. And there is evidence before the court that you have done it before."

Scruggs gained fame in the 1990s by using a corporate insider against tobacco companies in lawsuits that resulted in a $206 billion settlement. That case was portrayed in the 1999 film "The Insider."

...Scruggs initially denied wrongdoing. But in March, Scruggs and former law partner Sidney Backstrom pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge Henry Lackey with $50,000...

Scruggs' son, Zach Scruggs, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, meaning he knew a crime was committed but didn't report it. He is to be sentenced next week...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Remembering Wenatchee: Washington's version of the Dale Akiki case

Jury finds city, county negligent in child sex ring case
Couple awarded $3 million

Wednesday, August 1, 2001


A Spokane County jury yesterday found the city of Wenatchee and Douglas County negligent in the now-discredited 1994-1995 Wenatchee child sex ring investigations, awarding $3 million to a couple who had been wrongly accused in the inquiry.

In the first test of a landmark state Supreme Court decision in September that ruled police can be sued for conducting negligent child-abuse investigations, Honnah and Jonathan Sims were awarded the money after a three-week civil trial before Superior Court Judge Michael Donohue...

The jury, which deliberated all day Monday and most of yesterday, also found that both the city and county were negligent in the investigations of East Wenatchee pastor Roby Roberson and his wife, Connie, key figures accused in the case.

...The jury also found that Wenatchee's investigation of Donna Rodriguez was negligent but decided against a monetary award.

The Robersons and Honnah Sims, who had been a Sunday school teacher at Roberson's church, were acquitted of child rape and molestation charges in 1995. Charges against Rodriguez, a parishioner in the church, were dismissed in 1996 when four of her five accusers recanted.

Two children who made most of the accusations -- tales of mass sex rings involving dozens of children and adults operating out of Roberson's church -- were under foster care and living in Perez's home.
..."To me the closure point was actually 1998. With ...everybody being freed from jail. Finally our character and reputations were restored and these people (police and prosecutors) were exposed."

In 1994 and 1995, Perez and Child Protective Services caseworkers initiated a series of investigations in Wenatchee that resulted in 43 people charged with 27,726 counts of child rape and molestation against 60 children.

Roberson came under investigation in 1995 after he began criticizing Perez's investigations and the arrests of two parishioners, Harold and Idella Everett, a poor, developmentally disabled couple. The Everetts, parents to the two foster children making accusations while living under in Perez's supervision, served five years in prison before they were released when their case was overturned in September 1998...

All 18 people convicted in the investigations he initiated have since been released, their convictions overturned or agreements made to plead guilty to lesser and usually unrelated charges.

In February 1998, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published "The Power to Harm," a series of articles exploring the conduct of police, lawyers, social workers and others involved in the investigations.

...Perez's investigations began to unravel amid evidence of bungling by police and prosecutors, conflicts of interest involving a judge, and inept defense counsel.

No free speech in Singapore; thank goodness judges can't do this in the US

This case reminds me that the founders of the United States bequeathed a tremendous gift to those of us who live in this country. Thanks to Harvard University's Citizen Media Law Project, those who wish to erode our freedoms are not able to attack in secret. Here is CMLP's report on what happens to those who speak out against judges in Singapore:

Singapore v. Nair
Posted June 18th, 2008 by Arthur Bright
Threat type: CriminalDate: 05/31/2008
Subject Area(s): Criminal, Libel
Party Issuing Threat:
Party Receiving Threat:
Gopalan Nair
Type of Threatening Party:
Type of Threatened Party:

Gopalan Nair, a U.S. citizen who blogs from Fremont, California, was arrested in Singapore for publishing insulting comments on his blog, Singapore Dissident, and in an email about two Singaporean judges.

In May 2008, Nair, a former Singapore lawyer, attended a hearing in a defamation suit brought against members of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew's son. On May 29, Nair wrote in his blog that the trial judge, Belinda Ang, "prostitut[ed] herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders." In another blog entry, Nair also challenged the government to prosecute him, writing, "I am now within your jurisdiction.... What are you going to do about it?"

On May 31, Singaporean police arrested Nair for insulting Ang in an email, a crime under Section 13D (1)(a) of the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order & Nuisance) Act. Nair was jailed until June 5, when he was released on bail. On June 12, the police filed a second charge against Nair under Section 228 of Singapore's Penal Code, which criminalizes "[i]ntentional insult or interruption to a public servant sitting in any stage of a judicial proceeding," for comments in an email he allegedly sent to Judge Lai Siu Chiu in March 2006. On June 16, the police amended the original charge against Nair to also fall under Section 228 of the Penal Code and to specify that the offense was written in Nair's blog, not in an email.

If convicted, Nair faces a fine of 5,000 Singapore dollars and up to one year in jail. Nair has said he will fight the charges.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kids better not criticize this Indiana principal

State of Indiana v. A.B.
Posted June 6th, 2008 by Matt C. Sanchez
Threat type: Criminal
Date: 03/02/2006
Subject Area(s): Free Speech, Identity, Student Speech
PartiesParty Issuing Threat:
State of Indiana
Party Receiving Threat:
A.B. (a minor)
Type of Threatening Party:
Type of Threatened Party:
Location of Party:
Location of Party:
Verdict (defendant)

The State of Indiana filed a delinquency petition against a Greencastle Middle School student who had posted derogatory and "vulgar" criticism of the school's anti-body-piercing policy on the social networking site MySpace. The student, referred to in court documents as A.B., critized administrators and created a publicly accessible group entitled "Fuck Mr. Gobert and GC Schools." The state's claims included harassment and identity deception, the latter arising from A.B.'s creation of a fake MySpace account for Gobert, the principal of Greencastle Middle School.

On June 27, 2006, the juvenile court declared A.B. a "delinquent child" and placed her on nine months probation. The court found that A.B.'s MySpace postings, if committed by an adult, would constitute the criminal offense of harassment. A.B. appealed, and the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed the juvenile court's decision. The appeals court concluded that A.B.'s postings were political speech protected by the Indiana Constitution and that her conviction for harassment thus contravened her right to speak.

On May 13, 2008, the Indiana Supreme Court declined to adopt the appeals court's rationale and instead reversed the juvenile court on another ground. The court ruled that the dilenquency finding could not stand because the state had failed to prove the statutory elements of criminal harasssment. Specifically, the court determined that the state had not shown beyond a reasonable doubt that A.B. posted with the intent "to harass, annoy, or alarm" Gobert with "no intent of legitimate communication." It found that certain comments were not actionable because A.B. had posted them on her personal MySpace page, to which Gobert did not have access. With regard to other comments on the pubicly accessible group page, the court held that she had posted the comments as a legitimate expression of her anger and criticism of Gobert and the school, rather than with an intent to harass, annoy, or alarm.

Legal opinions for sale; those who control San Diego schools pay millions of tax dollars for them

At last, someone with a high profile has spoken out about character and integrity among lawyers. I have done this, but the unethical lawyers at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz that I have written about believe that they can intimidate me into silence.

San Diego County Office of Education has continued to cover up Daniel Shinoff and Stutz law firm's criminal actions on behalf of school district officials. SDCOE-JPA executive director Diane Crosier (above photo), not the board, controls the legal representation of SDCOE and most county schools.

Fortune Magazine has published a great article on the subject:

Fortune Magazine
May 30, 2008
Blowing the whistle on unethical lawyers
By Roger Parloff, senior editor

"In August 2001, when in-house accountant Sherron Watkins warned Enron CEO Ken Lay that the company might "implode in a wave of accounting scandals," Lay asked the firm's regular law firm, Vinson & Elkins, to do a "preliminary investigation." Though V&E had worked on the very transactions Watkins was questioning, it took the assignment and reported back on Oct. 15 that there was no cause for concern. About a month and a half later Enron filed for bankruptcy, having, in fact, imploded in a wave of accounting scandals.

"When V&E was summoned before a congressional committee to account for the breathtaking shallowness of its probe, it produced a letter blessing its performance from one of the nation's most highly credentialed experts on legal ethics: Charles Wolfram of Cornell University Law School. Wolfram opined that it is "customary and appropriate" for a company to conduct a "preliminary investigation" before undertaking a "full-scale" one, and that the firm had not violated conflict-of-interest rules because Watkins had raised "business and accounting" issues, not issues regarding V&E's "own legal services."

"In a forthcoming Stanford Law Review article titled "The Market for Bad Legal Advice," Columbia Law School professor William Simon cites Wolfram's opinion as just one example of patently bad advice offered in exchange for lucrative compensation by academics whom he contends are becoming "enablers of pernicious... practices."

"...Simon isn't talking only about V&E and Enron. He cites the example of lawyers at another law firm who "gave hundreds of opinions to taxpayers to the effect that bizarrely complex and economically substanceless transactions... were acceptable ways to reduce taxes. Some of them were virtually copies of transactions that the IRS had specifically condemned."

"Or of Department of Justice luminaries advising that "various statutory and international law constraints on the President in the 'war on terror' were un-constitutional or otherwise not binding" in opinions that "exaggerated the authority for the conclusions and omitted inconsistent arguments and precedent."

"Simon's article seeks not just to diagnose the problem but also to prescribe and administer remedies. The most controversial will surely be the measure he calls "shaming." That process consists of having other academic ethics experts - like Simon - write law review articles brutally critiquing the opinions that their colleagues have offered while under retainer. This, he believes, will help deter the delivery of bad advice.

"Like most ethics experts contacted for this article, New York University School of Law's Stephen Gillers declines to share his thoughts on the ethics disputes that Simon discusses, observing that he socializes with all the experts named, including Simon. But he does venture this: Simon's article is "unique in my 30 years as a law teacher. It's unique for law professors to so aggressively criticize the behavior of other law professors - not their intellectual positions. This is about character and integrity..."