- Suffolk County, New York’s new animal abuse registry [Scott Greenfield and more vs. Elie Mystal]
- Examining Dems’ “flood of outside campaign money” claims [Baseball Crank, Sullum]
- “Reverse bill stuffer” turns tables on firms’ efforts to amend fine print [David Horton, Prawfs]
- Occupational licensure and economic sclerosis in Greece [NYT]
- Phoenix cops’ unsettling evidence-plant “joke” [Coyote]
- Legal Left trying to set up argument for Thomas recusal on Obamacare challenge? [Steele, LEF]
- “How Fannie and Freddie Became a $363 Billion Liability” [John Hudson, Atlantic Wire]
- “Lawsuit of the Day: Kid Injured by ‘Deleterious’ Hot Sauce” [Legal Blog Watch]
- Oregon 7-year-old gets apology, she can go on running her lemonade stand after all [Skenazy, Josh Blackman]
- “Judicial recusals and politics make a bad mix” [Bainbridge]
- Sypher guilty in extortion trial [Above the Law and followup, earlier]
- “Chevron’s Explosive Filing on Collusion Between Plaintiffs and the Ecuadorian Court-Appointed Expert” [Roger Alford, Opinio Juris and more, Alison Frankel/American Lawyer, Anderson, Volokh, ShopFloor]
- Meet author of “How to Sue Your Doctor … and Win!” [Media Matters via Popehat]
- FBI writes to Wikipedia demanding removal of representation of its official seal [Ron Coleman]
- “Kagan’s Confirmation Could Be High-Water Mark for Big Government” [Shapiro, Cato]
- “Righthaven’s lawsuits are ‘the McDonald’s coffee cases of copyright litigation'” [Las Vegas Sun via Romenesko]
Hello? Guantanamo? It’s not as if you’d expect any sort of consistent policy on these matters from the imaginatively named Alliance for Justice. But it’s still strange that they’d open the door to future attacks on their own favored judicial nominees based on clients they represented long before reaching the bench. [Joel Cohen and Katherine Helm/Law.com, NLJ] More: John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum takes a different view, and I comment.
- Some California attorneys hoping to restart lucrative construction-defect litigation [Frith, Cal Civil Justice]
- Jury awards Seattle bus passenger $1.3 million for stair mishap [KOMO, Seattle Times]
- “Louisiana Bill Would Outlaw Insulting an Under-17-Year-Old By E-Mail” [Volokh, earlier] Update: bill watered down before passage, but still bad news for speech;
- “Attorney Fee Fight Gets Ugly in World Trade Center Litigation” [Turkewitz and more]
- Preventive detention law shows why we need to confine Congress [Sullum, Greenfield]
- Mass Fifth Circuit recusals in Comer v. Murphy Oil global warming case [Wood/PoL, Jackson] More: Shapiro, Cato, Wood/ShopFloor (a strategy to provoke recusals?)
- “By some estimates, circa 40 percent of cases in the Central African court system are witchcraft prosecutions” [Graeme Wood, The Atlantic]
- Lawyers who sued Facebook over “Beacon” to get $2.3 million in fees, class $0.00 [Balasubramani, SpamNotes]
Aficionados of the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter scandal may have noticed a new attorney’s name cropping up in news reports: Lee Rohn of the U.S. Virgin Islands. From the New York Daily News:
One day before Edwards went public with the affair, Hunter and 6-month-old daughter Frances were flown to the Virgin Islands on a chartered jet, the Enquirer reported.
The $50,000 trip was paid for by friends of Edwards. The newspaper also said she stayed at the oceanfront home of another Edwards’ pal, lawyer Lee Rohn.
(Larry McShane, “John Edwards promised Rielle Hunter they’d be together – report”, Aug. 20)(via ABA Journal)(Update: Rohn vehemently denies the Enquirer story as false, saying she neither hosted Hunter nor is close to Edwards; see below). Readers may be wondering: is Rohn yet another attorney whose doings are going to make irresistible copy for a site like this, much as with Edwards chum/Democratic moneyman/perennial Overlawyered mentionee Fred Baron? To which the answer would appear to be, “you bet”:
St. Croix attorney Lee Rohn has stirred up a chorus of criticism and complaints about her professional practices both inside and outside the courtroom.
Her most vocal critics have been opposing parties or counsel in lawsuits she has filed. They have alleged a wide spectrum of professional conduct violations.
Among Rohn’s frequent targets is Innovative Communication Corp., which runs the Virgin Islands’ local telephone provider and the islands’ newspaper, and whose lawyers say they’ve lost count of how many times she’s sued them. The company’s chairman, Jeffrey Prosser, has called in vain for Rohn’s disbarment, complaining of “intolerable” and “abusive” instances of “ethical misconduct” as well as “vitriolic” public attacks: “In some cases with us, she coerced her clients to sign documents that were knowingly false [and] ignored judge’s orders on limits of discovery inquiry during depositions,” he wrote.
In 2002, Rohn publicly blasted one of the islands’ two federal district judges, Thomas Moore, accusing him of inappropriate behavior, and Moore recused himself from some of her cases citing the antipathy. Subsequently, after she moved to demand Moore’s recusal from yet another of her cases, he refused, stating in his written ruling, “I believe attorney Rohn’s personal attack on one of the two sitting judges in this jurisdiction was nothing more than a calculated litigation tactic that would be labeled ‘judge shopping’ in most places.” Moore, who has sanctioned Rohn for insulting and profane language toward witnesses and court personnel, wrote in another case, in which the Caribbean Geoffrey Fieger “sought to compel testimony from all the federal judges in the territory”:
“Nothing Lee Rohn does surprises me anymore, although subpoenaing all the federal judges in the jurisdiction is a high point of ingenuity and creativity in attempting to manipulate the system,” Moore wrote.
“I do not believe, however, that an attorney should be allowed to use her calculated personal attack on a sitting judge as a technique to prevent that judge from presiding over any of her cases, especially in a small district with only two judges.”
A few weeks ago, it may be recalled, we looked at the question of lawyers’ public denunciations of judges and whether they do or should result in recusal by those judges. (Jason Robbins and Lee Williams, “From judges to opponents, Rohn has no shortage of harsh critics”, Virgin Islands Daily News, Mar. 29, 2004 — the newspaper, it bears repeating, and its parent company have been frequent targets of Rohn’s litigation, as in this libel case arising from her airport pot bust). Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts has more, including a picture of the Rohn villa.
The National Enquirer, which keeps breaking new developments in the story, is now reporting that “a team of six more lawyers have been involved in the coverup”. They can’t all be as interesting as Baron and Rohn, can they?
Update Fri. 8:20 p.m.: the Daily News reports Rohn categorically denies the story’s truth:
The Enquirer quoted Virgin Island pol Anne Golden as saying Hunter stayed for 10 days in an oceanfront home owned by prominent St. Croix lawyer Lee Rohn.
Rohn hotly denied that to the Daily News and vowed to sue.
“It is absolutely false,” she told The News. “The Enquirer knows the story is not true as they sat on a hill above my house for a week with telephoto lenses and video cameras and had no sighting of her. The guest cottage she was supposedly staying in is under construction and has no floor.”
Rohn said that while she donated money to Edwards, she is not friends with him. Records show she gave $2,300 to Edwards a year ago and another $2,300 to Barack Obama early this year.
(Helen Kennedy, “John’s island girl Rielle fled to St. Croix on eve of cheating flap”, Aug. 21). And — hat tip to commenter Ken Floyd — the opinions of heated Rohn critic Jeffrey Prosser, the newspaper/telephone magnate, should be evaluated in the perspective of his own controversial and colorful business record, which recently culminated in high-profile bankruptcy proceedings involving his Innovative Communication empire. Some sources on that here, here, here, and here. For more background on the recusal disputes involving Rohn and Judge Thomas K. Moore, see this Moore opinion (U.S. v. Roebuck, PDF) and this Third Circuit opinion (Selkridge v. Mutual of Omaha, 360 F. 3d 155). DBKP wishes it had been a fly on the wall during an AAJ award ceremony honoring Rohn. And see commenter #7 below who seems to have been doing considerable digging.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., criminal defense attorney Sean Conway claims he was within his First Amendment rights and should not face disciplinary action over his blog comments calling one of the judges he practices before an “evil, unfair witch” who is “seemingly mentally ill”. (Jordana Mishory, “Attorney Argues His ‘Witch’ Comments About Judge Are Protected Speech”, Daily Business Review, Jul. 16; earlier). To me, this seems rather to miss the point: sure, almost everyone but a member of the local bar enjoys or should enjoy a First Amendment right to call a judge an evil, unfair witch. Lawyers admitted to practice, however, enlist as “officers of the court” with special obligations, among which may be (to name only one) to avoid the sorts of displays of enmity that might complicate future cases before that judge, as by provoking recusal. For an extreme instance, see the Geoffrey Fieger episode recounted here, here, here, and here. More on what lawyers can say about judges from Bruce Campbell (Campbell & Chadwick) at Texas Lawyer.
The furor over the Kozinski web site pseudo-scandal over what Wonkette calls “the sort of naughtiness you’d find in the dirty birthday cards section at Spencer Gifts” has caused Judge Alex Kozinski to recuse himself from the obscenity trial, resulting in a mistrial. Kozinski is known for his ethical rectitude, which is perhaps why he did so, but one wishes that he didn’t permit the appalling LA Times coverage to create a perception of a perception of a bias, much less agree that that provides grounds for recusal. But with some implausibly calling for his resignation, discretion is perhaps the better part of valor. Still, as Jesse Walker notes, “There has been no shortage of free-speech trials in which the presiding judges had a moral objection to essentially innocuous material. I don’t see any reason why such a case shouldn’t be heard by a jurist with a history of tolerance.” And one wishes that the conservatives calling for Kozinski’s resignation would use that powder for Ninth Circuit judges who act ultra vires rather than for the jokes judges share in their own time.