Monday, September 22, 2008

Train Crash in Chatsworth. Metrolink Wreck Attorney Jerome Ringler

A jury has ordered Universal Studios to pay $12 million to a woman who was seriously
injured in a 2003 Metrolink crash in Burbank, finding that one of the company's truck
drivers caused the collision.

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Chatsworth Metrolink Train Crash Attorney

A Riverside woman was awarded nearly $9 million Wednesday by an Orange County jury for injuries-primarily psychological-she suffered in a 2002 crash between a Metrolink commuter train and a freight train that killed three people and injured more than 260.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Los Angeles Metro Link Law Suit

Metrolink worker sued Burlington Northern Santa Fe, saying his alcoholism returned after the fatal 2002 Placentia collision.

A metrolink conductor who said his drinking problems resumed after the Placentia train crash in 2002 will receive $8.5 million to settle his lawsuit against one of the nations largest railroads.

Patrick Phillips of Riverside agreed Tuesday to settle his suit against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. The case was set to go to trial next week in Orange County Superior Court.

Phillips, now 52, suffered minor head injuries the morning of April 23, 2002 when a Burlington Northern Freight train crashed into a Metrolink commuter train in Placentia. Three people died and more than 260 were injured in the early morning crash.

Though his injuries were slight, the conductor alleged that the trauma was serious enough to trigger a resurgence of his severe alcoholism, which he said he had controlled since rehabilitation in the early 1990's.

"I have never seen a case like this in 30 years, yet it is indeed what happened here," said Jerome L. Ringler, Phillips' attorney.

"We had extensive medical evaluations by a variety of neurological specialists. All were in accord that his injury, although minor, changed his behavior."

After the train crash, Phillips was hospitalized for evaluation but released about two hours later, Ringler said. In the months after the crash, however, Phillips allegedly resumed his alcohol abuse, resulting in at least two other hospitalizations.

Ringler said his client was finally diagnosed with alcohol-related dementia, a sever mental deficiency.

Phillips, who is now disabled after working 12 years for Metrolink, was unavailable for comment. He is living with a sister in Riverside.

Under terms of the settlement, Phillips will receive $8.5 million, including interest, paid out over 20 years. The amount is worth about $4.5 million in today's dollars.
Officials for Burlington Northern Santa Fe, one of the nations four largest railroads, confirmed the settlement but declined to discuss the case.

Phillips' lawsuit is one of more than 100 Civil cases stemming from the Placentia crash, which federal investigators said was caused by an inattentive Burlington Norther crew that missed a warning signal.

The lawsuits allege the collision could have been prevented by an automatic braking system, long sought by the federal National Transportation Safety Board.
They also contend that the freight train crew was fatigued by overwork and that the Burlington Northern conductor had a history of losing track of signals.

In December, an Orange County jury awarded Pamela Macek, 53, also of Riverside, about $9 million in damages for psychological and physical injuries suffered in the crash. Her case was the first to go to trial.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Surgeon Could Lose License Over Sex With Patient

SAN DIEGO -- A prominent North County surgeon could be in trouble with the state medical board and learned he could lose his license.

Dr. Dennis Nigro is the subject of a hearing at the state building in which he is accused of having sex with a patient.

Nigro admitted to having a brief affair with a woman in 2003, but said she was no longer in his care during their relationship.

Nigro’s Medicare defense attorney, Michael Khouri, said, “The woman does not believe Dr. Nigro was her doctor when the sex occurred.”

“There is documentation required to terminate relationship. It was not done in this case,” said Deputy Attorney General Mary Agnes Matyszewski.

An administrative law judge will issue a proposed decision that will be sent to the state medical board for final disposition.

Nigro’s license could be suspended if discipline is deemed necessary.

On the subject of the "worst five things a doctor can do," Steve Alexander provided the Investigation Team the list of the "worst five" and then commented on each individual item. There were no specific cases or doctors mentioned in the course of this interview. Among the items provided by Mr. Alexander as one of the "worst five things a doctor can do," was a sexual relationship between a doctor and his or her patient. Clearly, in reporting the allegations against Dr. Dennis Nigro there was no intention or effort to tie Alexander’s separate interview specifcally to the Dr. Dennis Nigro case.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fed. judge declares 2nd mistrial in terror case

US District Judge Joan A. Lenard Wednesday declared a second mistrial in a terrorism prosecution of six men charged with conspiring to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in Miami after the jury was unable to reach a verdict after 13 days of deliberations. In December 2007 Lenard declared an initial mistrial when the jury was deadlocked after nine days of deliberations. A seventh man was acquitted in that proceeding.

The seven were indicted last year on charges of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the United States. The indictment alleged that ringleader Narseal Batiste recruited the six other defendants to "organize and train for a mission to wage war against the United States government," and that they pledged an oath to al Qaeda in an attempt to secure financial and logistical backing. Lawyers for some of the men said that their clients were entrapped by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. If the men had been convicted, they would have faced up to 70 years in prison.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Closing Arguments at 50-Shot NYPD Trial

Three detectives charged in a 50-shot barrage that killed an unarmed man on his wedding day were framed by street thugs, including two survivors seeking millions of dollars from the city, defense attorneys said Monday.

Prosecutors built their case on the unreliable testimony of friends of the victim, "a parade of convicted felons, crack dealers and men who were not strangers to weapons," James Culleton, a lawyer for one of the detectives, said in his closing argument.

Sean Bell, 23, was killed Nov. 25, 2006 - which would have been his wedding day - outside a bar where he had a bachelor party. Two friends with him in a car were wounded.

Detective Gescard Isnora fired 11 shots, Michael Oliver fired 31 times and Marc Cooper fired five times, all believing amid the chaos that they were under fire from the car, their lawyers said. Two other officers who fired were not charged.

Isnora and Oliver pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in what prosecutors have portrayed as a botched undercover operation by trigger-happy officers. Cooper pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment.

Several friends of Bell who attended his party testified that police accounts of an argument outside the club, where police were investigating prostitution allegations, were exaggerated. Police say they overheard one of them, Joseph Guzman, say "Yo, go get my gun."

Defense attorney Paul Martin portrayed Guzman as "the catalyst of the event. He's the reason we're here today."

In grand jury testimony, Isnora said he followed Bell, Guzman and Trent Benefield to their car because he believed they were going to get a gun.

Guzman denied saying anything about a gun. He and Benefield, who both were wounded, also testified that they never heard the officers yell warnings before opening fire, and said they tried to drive away because they feared for their lives.

Isnora maintains he only resorted to deadly force after Bell bumped him with the car and smashed into an unmarked police van, and after he saw Guzman make a sudden move as though he were going for a gun.

"He used enormous restraint," a third defense attorney, Anthony Ricco, told the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pepper Pike man accused of threatening high court

Columbus, OH-A Pepper Pike man was indicted Wednesday on charges that he threatened to blow up the U.S. Supreme Court building and attack an associate justice.

David Tuason, 46, targeted black men known to affiliate with white women, well-known white women who had relationships with black men, and children of mixed-race parents, federal authorities said.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed that Justice Clarence Thomas, the only black justice, was threatened in the case but she declined to comment further.

According to the indictment, Tuason sent a letter to the Supreme Court building in July 2003 addressed to an associate justice of the court referred to as "CT."

In the letter, which contained several racially charged remarks, he threatened to blow up the building, and claimed "CT" would be "castrated, shot or set on fire. . . . I want him killed," the indictment says.

According to the indictment, one of the letters referred to an "LN" and mentions the Cleveland Cavaliers and was sent last year to Revere High School in Richfield, where the daughter of former Cavaliers star, Larry Nance, is a student and accomplished athlete.

Also targeted was a well-known black singer who performed at Cleveland's Severance Hall, home of the city's orchestra, about the time a February letter was sent, U.S. Attorney William J. Edwards said.

The letter sent Feb. 4 addressed an "AJ," according to the indictment, and Grammy-award winning jazz and R&B artist Al Jarreau was on the schedule on Feb. 8.

FBI spokesman Scott Wilson declined to name those targeted, citing privacy issues.

He said the threats began in Cleveland and branched out across the nation. He would not specify whether Tuason attempted to carry out attacks, but said he acted alone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Former aide to Cheney disbarred after conviction

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was stripped of his ability to practice law on Thursday as a result of his conviction in the CIA leak case.

The former White House aide was found guilty a year ago of obstruction of justice and lying. Those are considered crimes involving "moral turpitude" that under the law require disbarment, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled.

The court had previously suspended Libby from the practice of law in Washington. President George W. Bush in July commuted Libby's 2-1/2-year prison sentence, enraging Democrats who accused Bush of abusing his power.

A federal jury in Washington convicted Libby of lying and obstructing an investigation into who blew the cover of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had criticized the Iraq war.

Libby had not been charged with leaking Plame's identity to the news media. But Plame said the unmasking destroyed her career and was retaliation after her husband accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to build its case for the Iraq war.

The local Board on Professional Responsibility had recommended that Libby be disbarred, the court said in its brief order. It said Libby has not opposed his disbarment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Joke

After successfully passing the bar exam, a young man opened his own law office.

One day he was sitting idle at his desk when his secretary announced that a Mr. Jones had arrived to see him.

"Show him right in!" the lawyer replied.

As Mr. Jones was being ushered in the lawyer had an idea. He quickly picked up the phone and shouted into it "…and you tell them that we won`t accept less than fifty thousand dollars, and don`t even call me until you agree to that amount!"

Slamming the phone down he stood up and greeted Mr. Jones, "Good morning, Mr. Jones, what can I do for you?"

"I`m from the telphone company," Mr. Jones replied. "I`m here to connect that phone."

Monday, April 7, 2008


A bent solicitor was jailed for 10 years today after enjoying a life of ``obscene extravagance'' on £1.2 million he stole from a disabled client.

``Arrogant and greedy'' Thomas McGoldrick, 59, stole the money from Keith Anderson, who was paid £1.8 million damages after being left a quadriplegic following a road crash.

He forged a letter claiming Mr Anderson ``gifted'' him the money, and used the cash to live the high life of exotic holidays, fine wines, fast cars, private education for his children and a £750,000 family home.

The victim was ``wrecked and devastated'' after finding out his money had been stolen - and was left in debt.

McGoldrick also created false accounts for his firm, McGoldricks, based in Croydon and Altrincham, ``grossly exaggerating'' his profits to get money on 13 credit cards and 33 loans.
He was convicted of 59 counts of fraud in February after, the judge said, lying his way through a six-week trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester.

Passing sentence Judge Roger Thomas QC, said it was the ``very worst breach of trust'' for a solicitor to steal from his client.

He added, ``It is right to point out you did not stint yourself on your lifestyle.

``Mr Anderson was living in limited circumstances, while you, with his money, were content to live the sort of life you had lived before.''

McGoldrick ran up debts totalling £3 million, but saw his chance when his firm took on the case of Mr Anderson, a van driver from Jamaica.

He was left paralysed from the chest down and quadriplegic after the accident in Croydon in November 1996.

When he was awarded the damages in May 2001, McGoldrick drew up a forged letter allegedly from his client which ``gifted'' him half the money.

Belfast-born McGoldrick, who qualified at the University of London in 1973, in fact went on to take around £1.2 million of the cash.

In December 2004 Mr Anderson went to withdraw money to pay for a bicycle as a Christmas present for his six-year-old son and for his mother and sister to fly over from Jamaica for the holidays.

It was, he said, the first Christmas he had ever had any money.

He expected around £1.1 million to be in his account - but his balance was £224.64. The bike had to be sent back and his relatives told not to come over.

``My whole world just stopped,'' Mr Anderson said. I had been brought up to believe solicitors were people you could trust. I felt helpless.``

Meanwhile as McGoldrick's firm was going under he continued to live the high life.

Paying himself a £120,000-a-year salary, pension and motoring package, he drove a red Jaguar, while his much younger wife, Cheryl, drove a silver Mercedes. Both had private registration plates. His wife was paid £1,500-a-month for two days' work a week at his firm.

They lived in a £750,000 house in leafy Mobberley, Cheshire, paying £1,600-a-month for his two children to attend the private Hale Prep school in Cheshire.

He also splashed £15,000 on a new kitchen and £1,600 on a children's climbing frame so large it can be seen on Google Earth. Among his expenses were £80-a-month on wild-bird seed for his garden.

The family enjoyed four foreign holidays a year, jetting to Barbados, Portugal and Spain, and McGoldrick joined a £3,600-a-year golf club.

By 2004 his mounting debts had reached £65,000 in repayments each month - hence his theft of Mr Anderson's money.

Mr Anderson, a father-of-three from Croydon, told the court he would have been ``crazy'' to give away half his money.

The thefts came to light after the Law Society called in police and McGoldrick was arrested. Mr Anderson's losses were repaid by a lawyers' compensation fund.

Dorian Lovell-Pank QC, mitigating, conceded the defendant did have the ``odd foreign holiday'' but his pay ``never rose above £6,000-a-month.''

He added, ``When a man like Mr McGoldrick falls from grace, he falls from a great height. His reputation is in tatters.''

Det Con Mike Field, from Greater Manchester Police fraud squad, said: ``The man is arrogant and greedy. He got his just deserts. At no stage has he shown remorse.''

Friday, April 4, 2008

Professor Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School

In the wake of his controversial national best-seller, Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, Professor Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School sits down for an exclusive 30-minute interview with Steve Murphy and grapples brilliantly and judiciously with another stigma of our racial discourse: "selling out," or racial betrayal, which is a subject of much anxiety and acrimony in Black America.

Kennedy begins his exploration of selling out with a cogent, historical definition of the "black" community, accounting precisely for who is considered black and who is not. He looks at the ways in which prominent members of that community--Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Barack Obama, among others--have been stigmatized as sellouts. He outlines the history of the suspicion of racial betrayal among blacks, and he shows how current fears of selling out are expressed in thought and practice. He also offers insight and advice from successful African-Americans to the next generation of black leaders about these issues.

Professor Kennedy is a tenured scholar and author at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, freedom of expression, and the regulation of race relations. Mr. Kennedy was born in Columbia, South Carolina. For his education he attended St. Albans School, Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School. He served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States. Awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the Law, Mr. Kennedy writes for a wide range of scholarly and general interest publications, and sits on the editorial boards of The Nation, Dissent, and The American Prospect. A member of the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, Mr. Kennedy was awarded an honorary degree by Haverford College and is a former trustee of Princeton University.

Boy, 8, Sued in Skiing Accident

A 60-year-old man is taking an 8-year-old boy and his dad to court, claiming the third-grader caused a ski-slope collision that left the older man with a shoulder injury.

David J. Pfahler of Allentown, Pa., filed suit in Denver federal court claiming Scott Swimm, of Vail, then 7, was skiing fast and recklessly when they ran into each other in January. Pfahler's suit says he suffered a torn shoulder tendon.

The boy told Pfahler he was sorry and started to ski away when the man grabbed Scott’s legs, cursed at him and said he would sue, Robb Swimm told The Aspen Times.
“I was really scared,” Scott said to the Times.

Scott's father, Robb Swimm, said he saw the crash and that Scott was skiing slowly and in control.

"It wasn't a violent collision or anything, Scott just kind of tapped his ski boots," he said this week.

Scott's mother, Susan Swimm, said her son weighs 48 pounds and couldn't have been going more than 10 mph.

"Who in the world sues a child?" she said. "It just boggles my mind every day." Pfahler's Denver attorney, Jim Chalat, declined to comment on the specifics of the case. "It's a private matter between private parties," he said.

Chalat said Pfahler works in publishing for Reader's Digest and wants to go back to work.

The suit seeks compensation for physical therapy, vacation time, nursing and medical services provided by Pfahler's wife and other expenses. It estimates the couple's losses at more than $75,000.

Clare Huntington, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, said Scott will likely be dismissed as a defendant under laws that allow parents to be sued but not their minor children.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

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Sen. Craig's Lawyers Appeal in Sex Case

Attorneys for U.S. Senator Larry Craig are asking the Minnesota Court of Appeals to correct a "manifest injustice" by allowing the Idaho Republican to withdraw his guilty plea stemming from an airport restroom sex sting.

In court papers filed Tuesday, the lawyers asked the appellate judges to reverse the trial court's decision to let stand Craig's guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge. They also asked the court to vacate his plea.

Craig was arrested in June in a restroom stall at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport during a broad sweep targeting men soliciting sex. An undercover officer said Craig tapped his feet and swiped his hand under a stall divider in a way that signaled he wanted sex.

After news of his arrest and plea became public in August, Craig denied wrongdoing. He insisted his actions were misconstrued and said he wasn't gay. He said he pleaded guilty and paid a fine hoping to resolve the matter quietly.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Former Latham Partner Pleads Guilty

A former partner at Latham & Watkins pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding both clients and his own firm by charging them more than $300,000 in personal or false expenses.

Samuel A. Fishman, a mergers and acquisition specialist in Latham's New York office from 1993 to 2005, was designated billing partner for a number of firm clients. According to prosecutors at the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's Office, Fishman, 51, used his position to carry out a fraudulent scheme over the course of several years.

Responsible for supervising and approving invoices sent to clients, Fishman added to the bills a number of inappropriate items, mischaracterizing them as charges for photocopying or express mail. He also fraudulently sought reimbursement from his firm for a number of personal expenses he claimed were for business.

The U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify Latham as Fishman's firm in a criminal information filed with the guilty plea, nor was the firm's name mentioned in court Friday afternoon when Fishman entered his plea to one count of mail fraud. But in a statement Friday, the firm acknowledged Fishman as a former partner and said his misconduct had come to light in 2005.
Latham "immediately acted to protect our clients fully, and disclosed the matter to appropriate law enforcement authorities," said David Gordon, Latham's New York managing partner. "Mr. Fishman resigned from the firm at the time the issues were discovered. Since that time, we have cooperated fully with the investigation."

In announcing Fishman's guilty plea, prosecutors noted that the firm had reimbursed its clients hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been fraudulently charged. A firm spokesman Friday declined to identify the clients defrauded by Fishman.

The criminal information said Fishman's clients were in the banking, utilities, telecommunications and entertainment industries. He has previously acted as lead counsel for companies including movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Inc. and JPMorgan Partners, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Accompanied at Friday's hearing by defense lawyer Jack Litman of Litman, Asche & Goiella, Fishman expressed remorse to Southern District Judge Victor Marrero.
"I am very sorry for what I did," he told the judge.

Fishman's sentencing is scheduled for June 27. The mail fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Fishman also has agreed to forfeit $350,000 in ill-gotten wealth. He also faces likely disbarment.

A number of major firms have had to deal in recent years with fraud by partners, though most instances have resulted in disbarment or other disciplinary sanction as opposed to criminal prosecution.

In 2006, former WilmerHale intellectual property partner William P. DiSalvatore resigned from the bar after admitting to a litany of misconduct, including falsifying expense reports and assigning associates to perform "pro bono" work for friends and family. He claimed more than $109,000 in false personal expense.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher and the former Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman are two other firms that have also terminated partners for fraudulently seeking reimbursement for personal expenses.

In most such cases, including that of Fishman, the defrauded amounts have been small compared to what the perpetrators earn as partners. Last month, Latham said it had profits per partner of $2.3 million in 2007.

Steven Lubet, a legal ethics professor at Northwestern University School of Law, said he always found it "incredible" that highly paid partners would resort to fraud. He said he could only imagine that such people were overspending trying to emulate the lifestyles of those they represented.
"The clients have that kind of money, the lawyers don't," said Lubet. "Sometimes, lawyers decide they want to live like their clients and that extra money has to come from somewhere."
Perhaps the most well-known case of a lawyer bilking his clients and firm was Webster Hubbell, the former associate attorney general under President Bill Clinton.

Hubbell was forced to resign his position in 1994 after his former partners at Arkansas' Rose Law Firm discovered billing irregularities. He later pleaded guilty to fraudulently charging almost $500,000 for personal expenses and legal work never actually performed. He served 16 months in prison.

School Says, "No Prom Dress" for Teen Boy; He Sues.

When Kevin Logan went to his high school prom in 2006, he was hoping it would be a night to remember. What he'll remember, though, will be standing outside in the parking lot while his classmates danced inside.

As Logan walked up to the prom, clad in a pink prom dress, West Side High School Principal Diana Rouse blocked the doorway and refused to let him inside.

Logan, who goes by the name "K.K." and describes himself as a gay bisexual male, filed a suit Dec. 12 against Rouse and the school board, claiming they violated his civil rights by denying him entrance to the prom based on his attire.

"What should have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Logan to share memories with friends before graduation became an episode of humiliation and exclusion," the suit states.
When contacted by phone, Rouse declined to speak, referring comment to the school board public information spokesperson before hanging up. The school board declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Legal Cloud Lingers Over Spitzer

Resigning won't spare Eliot Spitzer from the heat of a criminal investigation — federal prosecutors must still decide what to do with the case of the disgraced New York governor and the prostitutes.

A law enforcement official said Spitzer's high-powered defense team was believed to be negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors over his connection to a high-end prostitution ring, but attorneys would not comment Thursday about the discussions.
"Corruption cases often pose a dilemma for the prosecutor," said Evan Barr, a private practice lawyer who once handled such cases for the same Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office that is now weighing how to proceed with Spitzer.

"If you charge a public figure under an obscure or rarely used legal theory, the critics will say the prosecution is politically motivated; if you decline to charge under the same circumstances, the critics will say the prosecutor is going easy on the would-be defendant because he or she is a prominent person," Barr said.

Attorney Arrested For Stealing From Elderly Man

A Melbourne, FL attorney connected to a condo project scam has been arrested for allegedly stealing funds from a 72-year-old man.

Brevard County Sheriff's deputies arrested Albert Lagano late Monday and charged him with grand theft of a person older than 65 and of more than $50,000. The charge is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Lagano, 49, was released from Brevard County jail on a $15,000 bond.

Lagano was disbarred in November for 10 years after the Florida Bar found him guilty of five counts related to trust fund shortages and comingling client funds.