Friday, December 31, 2010

US Judge Resigns Over Bush's Domestic Spying Authorization: Report

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order."
George W. Bush
April 20, 2004 in Buffalo, New York

December 21, 2005
by Agence France Presse
US Judge Resigns Over Bush's Domestic Spying Authorization: Report

A federal judge on a court that oversees intelligence cases has resigned to protest President George W. Bush's authorization of a domestic spying program, The Washington Post said.

US District Judge James Robertson resigned late Monday from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) on which he served for 11 years and which he believes may have been tainted by Bush's 2002 authorization, two associates familiar with his decision told the daily.

The resignation is the latest fallout of Bush's weekend public admission that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) -- the country's super-secret electronic surveillance arm -- to eavesdrop on international telephone calls and electronic mail of US citizens suspected of having links with terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda.

Bush's statement on the weekend that the secret program did not require FISA court orders -- according to his reading of the Patriot Act passed after the September 11 attacks, has angered civil rights groups and lawmakers, some of whom have called for a congressional investigation.

The New York Times first revealed last week the secret NSA program that officials said has likely involved eavesdropping on thousands of people in the United States. Bush said he expected the Justice Department to investigate the leak of such sensitive information...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Feds Scrutinize Cases of Judge Who Hooked Up With Stripper, Drugs

Feds Scrutinize Cases of Judge Who Hooked Up With Stripper, Drugs
Dec. 2, 2010
Allan Lengel
AOL News

There's more fallout from the case of a federal judge in Atlanta who pleaded guilty last month to buying drugs for a stripper who became his mistress after they met at the Goldrush Show Bar.

U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates announced in Atlanta today that her office is investigating whether any of the cases U.S. District Judge Jack Camp handled were influenced by the use of drugs or racial bias.

"From May of 2010 forward, there is evidence that Camp's judicial decision-making process may have been impacted by bias and/or impairment, and it has been established that he was involved in criminal conduct during this period," Yates said in a statement. "Therefore, we will not object to a defendant's request for a resentencing in any case in which the defendant was sentenced during this time."

Yates said a woman -- referred to only as "Witness 1" -- alleged that Camp, 67, used drugs, expressed racial bias about court cases and used a racial epithet in private. Her office declined to confirm that Witness 1 was the stripper Camp had an affair with, though court documents show that the stripper cooperated with investigators, which resulted in Camp's arrest in October and his eventual downfall.

On Nov. 19, Camp pleaded guilty to aiding a felon in possessing illegal drugs, possessing illegal drugs and giving his government-issued laptop to the stripper. He has resigned as a federal judge, which is lifetime presidential appointment. Sentencing is set for March 4.

Authorities said the probe revealed that from May to September, Camp used marijuana, cocaine, Xanax, Roxicontin and other painkillers.

"While Camp's use of these drugs was not limited to weekends, he denies that he used any of these drug contemporaneously with any court business, and we are currently unaware of any demonstrable evidence to the contrary," Yates said. "We have not discovered evidence of illegal drug use prior to May 2010."

Yates said the second area of the Justice Department inquiry involves allegations by the witness that Camp showed racial biases that spilled over into court, an accusation Camp denied when confronted.

The witness alleged that Camp told her that he disliked an African-American man who had a relationship with her, Yates said.

"Camp told her that when African-American men appeared before him, he had a difficult time adjudicating their cases and specifically determining their sentences" because he could not differentiate them from the man he disliked, Yates said.

The cooperating witness also told authorities that Camp sentenced a black male to 30 to 40 years because he had a personal relationship with a white woman, which reminded him of the relationship the African-American man had with the stripper...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Impeachment trial of federal judge gets underway in U.S. Senate

Impeachment trial of federal judge gets underway in U.S. Senate
By the CNN Wire Staff
September 13, 2010

Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. Senate on Monday begins the impeachment trial of federal judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. -- the first such trial since the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton in 1999.

The Senate Impeachment Trial Committee will submit its summary to the full Senate, which is expected to vote later this year. The judge is accused of corruption and accepting kickbacks, as well as lying about his past to the Senate and FBI regarding his nomination to the federal bench.

In March, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to impeach Porteous, making him the nation's 15th federal judge ever impeached.

Porteous is from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Last year, the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Judicial Impeachment held evidentiary hearings that led to unanimous approval of the four articles of impeachment, citing evidence that Porteous "intentionally made material false statements and representations under penalty of perjury, engaged in a corrupt kickback scheme, solicited and accepted unlawful gifts, and intentionally misled the Senate during his confirmation proceedings," a House release said.

"Our investigation found that Judge Porteous participated in a pattern of corrupt conduct for years," U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Judicial Impeachment, said in March.

"Litigants have the right to expect a judge hearing their case will be fair and impartial, and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Regrettably, no one can have that expectation in Judge Porteous' courtroom."

In a statement at the time, Porteous' lawyer Richard W. Westling said the Justice Department had decided not to prosecute because it did not have credible evidence.

"Unfortunately, the House has decided to disregard the Justice Department's decision and to move forward with impeachment," he said. "As a result, we will now turn to the Senate to seek a full and fair hearing of all of the evidence."

Porteous was appointed to the federal bench in 1994.

In 2007, after an FBI and federal grand jury investigation, the Justice Department alleged "pervasive misconduct" by Porteous and mentioned evidence "that Judge Porteous may have violated federal and state criminal laws, controlling canons of judicial conduct, rules of professional responsibility, and conducted himself in a manner antithetical to the constitutional standard of good behavior required of all federal judges."

The complaint said the department had opted not to seek criminal charges for reasons including statute-of-limitations issues.

But Westling said the statute of limitations was not applicable.

The impeachment task force held hearings late last year that focused on allegations of misconduct by Porteous, including:

-- Involvement in a corrupt kickback scheme;

-- Failure to recuse himself from a case he was involved in;

-- Allegations that Porteous made false and misleading statements, including concealing debts and gambling losses;

-- Allegations that Porteous asked for and accepted "numerous things of value, including meals, trips, home and car repairs, for his personal use and benefit" while taking official actions on behalf of his benefactors; and

-- Allegations that Porteous lied about his past to the Senate and to the FBI about his nomination to the federal bench "in order to conceal corrupt relationships," Schiff prepared statement said.

Porteous was invited to testify, but he declined to do so, Schiff said.

"His long-standing pattern of corrupt activity, so utterly lacking in honesty and integrity, demonstrates his unfitness to serve as a United States District Court judge," he said.

Porteous, 63, has not worked as a judge since he was suspended with pay in the fall of 2008, Westling said.

The last impeachment of a federal judge occurred last year, when Judge Samuel B. Kent of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas resigned after being impeached on charges of sexual assault, obstructing and impeding an official proceeding and making false and misleading statements, according to the website of the Federal Judicial Center.

The Senate, sitting as a court of impeachment, dismissed the articles.

Before then, Judge Walter L. Nixon of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi was impeached in 1989 on charges of perjury before a federal grand jury. The Senate convicted him and removed him from office that year...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

He must have been doing something right: San Diego's Bill Lerach was a man who inspired fear and loathing in corporate boardrooms

Fear and Loathing in the Boardroom
Bill Lerach built a behemoth securities class-action law business
March 24, 2010.

San Diego's Bill Lerach was a man who inspired fear and loathing in corporate boardrooms across America. Lerach ran the West Coast operations of Milberg Weiss and was for many years the foremost class-action securities lawyer in America.

He extracted settlements in the millions, even tens of millions of dollars. That earned him powerful enemies. Congress tried to rein him in by overriding a presidential veto in 1995 to pass what became known as the "Get Lerach Act." But he went on to lead the biggest class-action lawsuit in history, the University of California's $7.2 billion judgment against Enron Corp.

In 2008, Lerach was sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to conceal kickbacks paid to plaintiffs. The 64-year-old Lerach spoke with us not long after he finished serving his prison sentence, part of which was spent in home confinement at his La Jolla mansion.

You cooperated with the authors of Circle of Greed, the book that chronicles your rise and fall. How fairly did the book portray you?

The book is tough on me. It's hard to write a book as long as that book is and not have some mistakes in it. I know and respect the authors very much and thought it was a very legitimate effort. Overall, I'm satisfied with it. Everyone wishes every book written about them portrayed them uniformly but I guess in my case that's not possible.

What's missing?

The book should have pointed out the work we did without expectation of compensation. We represented victims of the Holocaust in major, difficult lawsuits against major companies that cooperated with the Nazis. The book didn't talk about the work we did on behalf of workers, young women, brought to the Mariana Islands by Hong Kong businessmen and were exploited and had their civil rights and personal rights destroyed.

California's biggest law firms are in San Francisco or LA. What were the advantages or disadvantages of practicing in San Diego?

Other than getting out of bed a little early to fly to San Francisco and LA, I don't think there were any disadvantages and there were even some advantages. It's a great city, you're able to attract talent because people wanted to live here, and I found the defense bar, with a few exceptions, to be excellent. The local newspaper was horrid. So that was a disadvantage. It's the worst big city newspaper in America.

You've said that payments to plaintiffs that landed you in prison were standard practice among firms specializing in securities lawsuits. Why don't we see more prosecutions of securities lawyers?

I don't think we should have been prosecuted. I am only pointing out that as often the case, practices in an industry, whether they are good practices or bad practices, are industry practices. We would not have voluntarily shared our legal fees unless it was an absolute necessity to do so. We were in a competitive industry. Adam Smith's invisible hand is still at work. You don't give away money unless you have to.

You were a big Democratic supporter and you went after politically connected firms like Enron and Halliburton. Did politics play a role in your prosecution?

How can I say that? I wasn't the prosecutor and I wasn't sitting with Karl Rove. The facts are what the facts are and you've listed some of those facts. We were a terrible big sharp thorn in the accounting firms and investment banks that worship in the Republican temple. You make your own decision.

What's your take on what caused the financial crisis?

Don't focus on 2008. Go back and focus on 2000 where you had not as much of a systemically threatening crisis but you had a gigantic fraud by the dot-com companies. Trillions of dollars were lost by investors in financial markets. Then you had the most recent financial crisis.

These meltdowns are due to insufficient regulation of free-market capitalism. There is a lack of civil and criminal legal accountability on the part of powerful corporate and Wall Street actors who take the risks and engage in conduct that cause these ultimate meltdowns to occur. As night follows day, when the consequences for fraudulent behavior were reduced you got -- guess what -- more fraud...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Three more lawyers prohibited from practice due to loan modification activities

Three more lawyers prohibited from practice due to loan modification activities
California Bar Journal
July 2010

Continuing its effort to protect the public from lawyers who take advantage of distressed homeowners, the State Bar prosecutor’s office has secured orders of involuntary inactive enrollment for three Southern California attorneys: Eric Douglas Johnson of Los Angeles, Mark Alan Shoemaker of Long Beach and Brian Colombana of Lake Forest.

Besides the three involuntary inactive enrollments, the bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel has obtained the resignations of 13 attorneys involved in foreclosure misconduct since creation of the Loan Modification Task Force in April 2009. Five loan modification trials are pending and another 2,000 related investigations are underway.

“The Chief Trial Counsel’s office continues to send the message that attorneys guilty of misconduct — especially toward homeowners who are at their most vulnerable when facing the loss of their homes — will be prosecuted and disciplined,” said Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner.

In a June 17 ruling, State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn said Colombana’s conduct “poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public.” He cited 13 declarations by clients from California, South Carolina, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, Utah and New York who paid upfront fees to one of the loan modification companies with which Colombana [#238272] was affiliated, including Loan Negotiators of America, Housing Law Center and Mortgage Relief Law Center.

In most cases, clients never even met the attorney but dealt with non-lawyer representatives of the loan modification companies...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Judge Who Nixed Drilling Ban Had Oil Investments

Why didn't Judge Martin Feldman recuse himself? Apparently because he wanted to make this decision.

Judge Who Nixed Drilling Ban Had Oil Investments
Curt Anderson and Michael Kunzelman
June 23, 2010

The Louisiana judge who struck down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has reported extensive investments in the oil and gas industry, according to financial disclosure reports. He's also a new member of a secret national security court.

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, a 1983 appointee of President Ronald Reagan, reported owning less than $15,000 in stock in 2008 in Transocean Ltd., the company that owned the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Feldman overturned the ban Tuesday, saying the government simply assumed that because one rig exploded, the others pose an imminent danger, too...

Feldman's 2008 financial disclosure report - the most recent available - also showed investments in Ocean Energy, a Houston-based company, as well as Quicksilver Resources, Prospect Energy, Peabody Energy, Halliburton, Pengrowth Energy Trust, Atlas Energy Resources, Parker Drilling and others. Halliburton was also involved in the doomed Deepwater Horizon project.

Feldman did not respond to requests for comment and to clarify whether he still holds some or all of these investments.

He's one of many federal judges across the Gulf Coast region with money in oil and gas. Several have disqualified themselves from hearing spill-related lawsuits and others have sold their holdings so they can preside over some of the 200-plus cases...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

San Diego Lawyers Club to Honor 3 Attorneys

Lawyers Club to Honor 3 Attorneys
San Diego Metropolitan Magazine
Daily Business Report — April 30, 2010

San Diego attorneys Jay Jeffcoat, Elizabeth Balfour and Betty Boone will receive major awards from the Lawyers Club of San Diego at its May 26 annual dinner, “Catalyst for Change,” at the U.S. Grant Hotel in Downtown San Diego. The club also will pay tribute to the late Midge Costanza, a former White House aide who died last month. The keynote address will be by Roberta Liebenberg, chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession and a senior partner at Fine, Kaplan and Black, R.P.C. in Philadelphia

Jeffcoat, partner with DLA Piper US, will receive the Belva Lockwood Award, the club’s highest honor, for his contributions to the organization. He helped found the first National Organization of Women chapter in El Centro years ago and is active with the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, United Way, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, the New Children’s Museum and other organizations.

Balfour, a partner at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, is to receive the Community Service Award, given to an individual whose activities have improved the status of women and promoted equality. Balfour co-chaired the 2007-08 Women’s Resource Fair Task Force and has received the 2007 San Diego County Bar Association’s Service to the Bar Award, among others, and serves as a board member of the San Diego County Bar Association and the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.

Boone, retired chief deputy county counsel, is to receive the Icon Award, which recognizes her lifelong commitment to improving the status of women. It will be only the second time the Lawyers Club has given the award. It was initially presented to White House press correspondent Helen Thomas in 2008. Boone, who has been a member of Lawyers Club since its formation in 1972, was the second female graduate of the University of San Diego School of Law. She currently serves as Lawyers Club’s historian and archivist.

The annual dinner includes a VIP reception at 5 p.m., cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. and dinner and program at 6:30 p.m. Lawyers Club president Catherine Kowalewski, a partner at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, will preside over the event and will pass the gavel to 2010-11 president Wendy Behan, senior associate at Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield, who begins her term as president July 1.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bobby DeLaughter, the lawyer who helped convict the killer of Medgar Evers, got caught up in the abuse of justice system by the wealthy and powerful

Disgraced Miss. judge reports to federal prison

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. – Bobby DeLaughter, a former Mississippi prosecutor and judge whose legal conquests became the subject of books and a movie, reported to federal prison Monday for lying to the FBI in a judicial bribery investigation.

The next chapter of DeLaughter's life, as inmate No. 12930-042, marks a long fall from the height of his legal career in 1994 when he was a prosecutor who helped convict a civil rights-era assassin for the 30-year-old murder of NAACP leader Medgar Evers...

DeLaughter was sentenced to 18 months in November after pleading guilty to lying about secret conversations he had with a lawyer while presiding over a dispute between wealthy attorneys over legal fees. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

DeLaughter made a name for himself as an assistant district attorney when he helped put away Byron de la Beckwith for Evers' 1963 murder. The case was the basis for the 1996 movie "Ghosts of Mississippi," with Alec Baldwin playing DeLaughter...

His storied career ended with the same bribery scandal that toppled Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, chief architect of the multibillion-dollar tobacco litigation of the 1990s — which was depicted in the movie "The Insider," starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.

DeLaughter was presiding over a lawsuit in which a lawyer sued Scruggs for a bigger cut of millions in legal fees from asbestos litigation. Prosecutors said DeLaughter ruled in Scruggs' favor in exchange for a promise that he'd be considered for a federal judgeship, with help from Scruggs' high-powered connections...

DeLaughter pleaded guilty only to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with his old boss, former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters. Peters was accused of receiving $1 million to influence DeLaughter, but he cooperated in the investigation and was not charged.

Four Candidates, All Rated ‘Not Qualified,’ Battle It Out

Four Candidates, All Rated ‘Not Qualified,’ Battle It Out
Metropolitan News-Enterprise
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
JUDICIAL ELECTIONS: Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 84

All four of the contenders for Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 84, an open seat, have been proclaimed “not qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. The candidates and their ballot designations are Pat Connolly, “Criminal Gang Prosecutor”; John “Johnny” Gutierrez, “Administrative Law Judge”; Bob Henry, “Prosecutor Deputy Attorney-General”; and Lori-Ann C. Jones, “Superior Court Commissioner.”

They will compete for the seat presently held by Judge Gibson Lee, who opted not to run to succeed himself.