Archive for » June, 2010 «

Another great post by Lynne DeVenny of Practical Paralegalism, who reports that California attorney Patrick Passenheim was suspended for failing to notify the bar that he had hired a disbarred Ohio as his paralegal.  Passenheim also admitted to misappropriation of client funds in an employment case and for “engaging in acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.” Effective January 2009, he was suspended by the State Bar for 30 months and placed on four years of probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the client.

In aggravation, Passenheim had a record of prior discipline. In 1992 he was found culpable of misconduct and suspended for two years. In mitigation, during the period of misconduct Passenheim suffered extreme financial stress due to a cerebral hemorrhage he had in 2002, after which he could not work for one year. (California Lawyer)

Both of these cases seem to have a common denominator of lawyers hiring friends who just happen to be disbarred attorneys. Are your law license and fiduciary duties to your clients worth helping out any friend that has already been tried and found guilty of subverting his or her own livelihood and ethical responsibilities?

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The Judicial Council has advocated funds to keep the California Courts open after the June 16, 2010 mandated court closure.  For more information, see the Judicial Council media advisory.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me oh so happy to be able to calculate those dates without looking to see if the court closure date falls within the response time. 

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Thanks goes to Lynne DeVenny of Practical Paralegalism for sharing with us that NALS invites all legal support staffers, including legal secretaries, adminstrative assistants, legal assistants and paralegals to participate in its Legal Support Industry Survey at http://www.nals.org/ (under News).

I also took the survey and it is quick and easy and takes less than 2 minutes of your time.  NALS also has other great resources available.  If you haven’t already taken a look, take some time to do so.  You will be happy you did.

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On June 24, 2010, a New York federal court resolved a fee dispute in a  pending securities fraud class action against Comverse Technology.  The company agreed last year to pay $225 million to settle the litigation.

Pomerantz Haudek, the lead plaintiffs’ firm in the case, sought 25 percent of the settlement, or a fee of about $56 million. A one-third contingency fee, of course, has long been the industry benchmark, but plaintiffs’ lawyers in big-dollar securities fraud settlements sometimes request fees of 15 percent or less. (Lawyers can have a hard time convincing judges to award counsel one-third of settlements that reach into the many billions of dollars.)

In the Comverse case, the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, which owned shares in the company, claimed in court papers that the 25% fee request was “unreasonable,” the New York Law Journal reports.  But a Pomerantz Haudek lawyer told the New York Law Journal that the the firm’s client had agreed to a 25% fee and that such an amount is “well within the normative range of these types of cases.”

In his ruling, Brooklyn federal judge Nichoals Garaufis agreed that a 25 percent fee was within the norm for “megafund” securities fraud cases.  “While it may be that a lower percentage would also be sufficient, this court will not pretend that it has the expertise necessary to divine the ideal percentage,” the judge added. “This court is particularly unwilling to undertake an endeavor in a case where the fee award was set on the open market, and where an improperly calibrated fee would provide a disincentive to future counsel to take risks and pursue large class settlements that the SEC cannot.”

So, what are attorneys worth?  In this case, they are worth $56 million total and for the 25 attorneys at Pomerantz, this means they are each worth $2.24 million.  Not a bad day for this firm at all!

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A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that prosecutors may not present positive urine samples and other vital evidence that the government says shows that the slugger knowingly used steroids.

The appeals court ruling upholds a lower court decision made in February 2009 barring federal prosecutors from showing the jury any evidence collected by Bonds’ personal trainer Greg Anderson. Bonds’ perjury trial, which was scheduled to start in March 2009, has been delayed pending the outcome of this appeal.

Prosecutors argued that Anderson had told BALCO vice president James Valente that the samples belonged toBonds and that they would call Valente to the witness stand. But the appeals court said that because Anderson wasn’t directly employed by Bonds — the judges considered him an independent contractor — the trainer would need to testify because Bonds didn’t control of the samples.

The court noted it was Anderson’s idea to collect the urine samples and deliver them to BALCO.

“There is little or no indication that Bonds actually exercised any control over Anderson in determining when the samples were obtained, to whom they were delivered, or what tests were performed on them,” Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the majority court.

Last year Anderson told the trial court judge that he would rather go to jail on contempt of court charges than testify against Bonds. And the court says evidence tied directly to Anderson is inadmissible “hearsay” evidence unless the trainer testifies to the items’ authenticity.

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Just in case you forgot or were off doing the fabulous work we all do everyday, today is California Paralegal Day!!!  Yes, you California Paralegals, you rock!   The San Francisco Paralegal Association is holding their 22nd Annual Celebration of California Paralegal Day at The Bar Association in San Francisco.

I won’t be able to attend, but from what I read on the SF Paralegal Associations website, the keynote speaker will be Michael P. Carbone, Esq. talking about the “Utilization of Paralegals.”  I am hoping that they post his speech so we can all hear how Mr. Carbone utilizes paralegals.

There will also be two hour long seminars, “Discovery, Litigation and ADR in General” and “Calendaring as a Risk Management Strategy” which will earn you Ethics and General MCLE credits.

They are also asking for items for the adopted Paralegals in IRAQ, so if you are one of the lucky ones attending today, please check out the flyer for more information on what they need.

Congratulations to all my Paralegal friends here in sunny California!

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Congratulations to one of our own!  As reported in the Connecticut Business News Journal, Pattie Chouinard was named the very first Paralegal of the Year Award in Connecticut.

Ms. Chouinard has made extensive contributions to the paralegal field over the years.  She has volunteered with the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, including authoring numerous articles for their publications; mentored paralegal students; participated in pro bono and charity activities performed in connection with the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association; and has been committed to advancing the paralegal profession through her dedication to providing excellence in client service.

We love to hear when Paralegals are given the props they deserve!

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Paralegal spends $1.25M for Pacific Palisades 3BD | BlockShopper Los Angeles.  Wow, really?  I want to work where this paralegal works!  I don’t know about you, but I wonder how anyone can afford a home right now, let alone one at $1.25 million.   All kidding aside, congratulations from one paralegal to another!

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In an article I read today, the Air Force is looking for Paralegals.  When Airmen enlist, they swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution.  In addition to defending the geographic territory and populace of the United States, paralegals defend the rule of law and the freedoms that the Constitution awards citizens.

In the Air Force, Paralegals defend the Constitution by advising commanders on operational matters, defending the Air Force from lawsuits, helping enforce criminal laws and helping Air Force members find just and peaceful resolution of disputes that arise.  In representing the Air Force and Air Force members, paralegals defend the Constitution by ensuring the law is correctly and fairly applied in every situation faced by clients.

The Air Force is currently looking to expand its paralegal force.  As an enlisted member, Airmen may be eligible to re-train into the paralegal career field.

The primary mission of The Judge Advocate General’s Department is to provide legal counsel to commanders, first sergeants, and other key personnel on a broad spectrum of legal matters. The paralegal’s role is to assist judge advocates (attorneys) in achieving that mission.  Consequently, paralegals support virtually all areas of the Air Force’s legal practice, including operations law, military justice, claims, civil law, legal assistance, contracts, labor law and environmental law.  Within these areas, paralegals conduct legal research, interview witnesses and victims, draft legal opinions, create and notarize powers of attorney and draft wills.  Paralegals also support investigations of serious incidents, such as aircraft, missile or rocket accidents.

To ensure paralegals are qualified to support these many legal areas, the department provides the necessary training, both on-the-job and in the classroom.  Paralegals attend basic and advanced paralegal courses at the Judge Advocate General’s School, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and may also attend specialized legal courses.  Recently, the American Bar Association has certified the paralegal Community College of the Air Force degree as an accredited degree, making it easier to continue in the legal field after leaving active duty status.

There is no deadline for career Airmen but first-term Airmen must meet the requirements set by the Air Force Personnel Center.  Specifically, four-year enlistees cannot apply before their 35th month and six-year enlistees cannot before their 59th month.  From the department’s perspective, the minimum qualifications include the ability to type 25 words per minute, a minimum AQE score of 51 and no derogatory information in their records.

The paralegal career field can be extremely interesting and very challenging. It is rewarding for individuals who are looking for a job that provides independence in their work, personal growth, and most importantly, a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.  Being a Paralegal may be the job for Airmen who are interested and eligible to retrain. To submit retraining applications, contact the Employment section of the Military Personnel Flight.  For more information about the paralegal career field, contact the Law Office manager, Master Sgt. Jamie Murray at (661) 277-9613.

This would be a great way for anyone interested in joining the Air Force and entering the legal field as a paralegal.  Just one more way to get the education needed to succeed as a paralegal.

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