May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 77

Conscientious Hit Man Refuses Plot To Kill Man's Wife, Mother-in-law And Daughter

John Orlowski was going through a divorce.  Apparently a tough divorce because his wife obtained a restraining order against him, which he violated twice and ended up in jail.  In jail, he met a member of the Crips gang, and hatached a three-way plot.  He hired the gang member to kill his wife, mother-in-law and daughter, first for $500, and then increased the offer to $2,000. 

The gang member, however, had second thoughts about killing a child and expressed those thoughts to his mother while at home awaiting the fateful day.  Thankfully, the gang member's mother called the FBI, who gained the gang member's cooperation and set up a sting.  They wired the gang member, who then met with Orlowski to go over the final plans and details, including only one bullet for his daughter, in the chest as opposed to her head, to allow for an open casket funeral.  The wife and mother-in-law were to get two bullets apiece, both in the head.

The FBI then arrested Orlowski, who recently pled not guilty, and it appears plans to use a "depression" defense

How someone with depression can be so specific will be an issue a jury likely won't have much of a problem deciding. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 27, 2007 at 12:04. Comments Closed (0) |

Court Sideswipes Coastal Commission's Attempt To Create Public Property Rights

A property owner in Malibu wanted to fence his property and erect "No Trespassing" signs in an attempt to keep people off its property.  The property fell within the California Coastal Commission's jurisdiction, so the owner applied to the CCC for a permit.  The Coastal Commission denied the permit, which is not too surprising because that's what they generally do.

The CCC's rationale, however, left the court scratching it's collective head.  The CCC denied the permit because the fences would prevent the public from establishing prescriptive easement rights in the future.

Huh?

Try that sentence again.  There are no easement rights now in the property, but once it's fenced off, the public would be prevented from establishing an easement.  Excuse me here for a moment, but that's the whole idea behind private property ownership.  You get to exclude others from your land.  I'm guessing that the staff and Coastal Commission members missed that class in school. 

Actually, the Court said it best:  "Inherent in one's ownership of real property is the right to exclude uninvited visitors.  In prohibiting [the owner] from excluding the public from its property on the theory that "potential exists to establish prescriptive rights for public use," the Commission in effect decreed the existence of such rights.  We find the Commission's denial of a permit for the gates and signs, premised on the existence of "potential" prescriptive rights, was speculative and properly was overturned by the trial court."

In other words, if the public doesn't have those rights now and the property owner takes reasonable actions to prevent the public from establishing an easement over the property, the Coastal Commission must issue the permit to fence the property.  What's perhaps more amazing is that it took a court case to restore a semblence of sanity to the Coastal Commission's actions.

And the property?  Nope, it's not beachfront.  It's an antenna farm on top of a hill.  Go figure.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 18:14. Comments Closed (1) |

How Much Are Your Trade Secrets Worth? How About 5-8 Years In The Big House?

Not all trade secrets are as closely guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola, but it's one that's definitely under lock and key.  In fact, the one company perhaps most interested in the secret, Pepsi, didn't want any part of a plot to surreptitiously gain access two it.

So when three Coke workers came calling at Pepsi's door with the keys to the castle, Pepsi execs called Coca-Cola and then the FBI.  It's a live-by-the-sword-die-by-the-sword philosophy.  The formula to Pepsi's products is similarly locked up, and consequently similarly vulnerable.  Responding to questions about the company's decision to turn in the Coke workers, a Pepsi spokesperson said, "We did what any responsible company would do.  Competition can be fierce, but it must also be fair and legal."

The three workers decided to steal Coke's formula and samples, and then offer them to Pepsi for $1.5 million.  Earlier this week after a trial, two of the workers were sentenced to five and eight years in federal prison. 

According to CNN (from the article in the last link), "Ibrahim Dimson, using the alias 'Dirk,' sent a letter to Pepsi using an official Coca-Cola envelope last May.  He later gave an FBI undercover agent 14 pages of Coca-Cola documents marked 'Classified -- Confidential' and 'Classified -- Highly Restricted.'  Coke officials confirmed the documents were tightly held trade secrets.  'Dirk' then requested $10,000 for the initial papers, accompanied by a letter promising to provide further documents on request.  'I can even provide actual products and packaging of certain products, that no eye has seen, outside of maybe five top execs,' the letter states. 'I need to know today, if I have a serious partner or not. If the good faith money is in my account by Monday, that will be an indication of your seriousness.'  CNN Reporter Rusty Dornan contributed to the report quoted here.   The case was prosecuted by US Attorney David E. Nahmias who is quoted in the CNN article. 

Trade secrets in any business are at risk, and while someone stealing yours may not get the attention of this story or prosecuted by a US Attorney, they are nonetheless deserving of protection.  Businesses can take steps to protect your trade secrets, such as restricting access, requiring employees to sign agreements protecting them, but most effective of all is enforcing the protection available under both criminal and civil statutes. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, May 26, 2007 at 16:08. Comments Closed (0) |

Hollyweird Even For A Young Director - The Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon

Eleven-year old Dominic Scott Kay is directing a film starring - who else - Kevin Bacon.  It's a short, 15-minute movie about (according to the publicist) a "heartwarming story of a boy who discovers an abandoned dog left for dead on the side of the road who he ultimately brings back to life. The boy's selfless acts continue as he secures a home for the dog in the local firehouse nursing an injured dog named Angelo back to health."  Kay as well stars in the movie, who in real life nursed an injured dog back to health.  Kay's movie title?  "Saving Angelo."

But like every movie, it needs financing.  Enter Conroy Kanter, who invested $11,000 into the movie.

Master Kay apparently felt that Ms. Kanter demanded creative control and distribution and promotion rights of the movie, and being no slouch, Master Kay hired an attorney to sue Ms. Kanter back in January.

You likely know Master Kay as young Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean and the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte's Web, among numerous other screen credits.  IMDb lists his father, Scott Kay, as a co-star in the movie, and his mother, Cindy Kay, as the producer.  The film has also been nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a short film.

Oh, the litigation?

Settled, and under the terms of the agreement, Ms. Kanter receives credit as a producer and Kay gets full rights to the movie.  He plans to submit it to the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. 

Just think of all those new Bacon degrees.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, May 25, 2007 at 01:07. Comments Closed (0) |

Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet Radio Goes Hollywood

On this week's Lawyer 2 Lawyer Internet radio show, we discuss "Celebrity Criminal Cases."  Why is the public so fascinated with seeing our stars in trouble?  Is there special treatment when it comes to celebrities faced with legal problems or is it just the opposite. Does media coverage help or hurt a case or the image of the celebrity client?

Join me and my fellow Law.com blogger and co-host Robert Ambrogi as we get the scoop from the experts.  Lawyer 2 Lawyer welcomes two legal rock stars, Attorney Tom Mesereau, a partner with the firm of Mesereau & Yu, LLP in Los Angeles, and Attorney Jennifer Keller, a criminal defense attorney in Southern California, to discuss this hot topic! Don't miss it!



Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 24, 2007 at 11:45. Comments Closed (0) |

Outsourcing Services To . . . . . West Virginia?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he lives in West Virginia. 

Not India.  We've started outsourcing right here in the good old US of A. 

The mega-sized law firm of 980 lawyers otherwise known as Orrick, Harrington & Sutcliffe, with offices pretty much all over the place opened a support office in West Virginia with the help of contributions from the state government and even local churches.  The firm's West Virginia operations center operates 24 hours a day and provides backbone-style support for the firm, from from computer networking to billing services, even collections.  The center also provides "library services, human resources administration and marketing research," according to Zusha Elinson's article from The Recorder and posted to Law.com in the link above.

Now OHS even has paralegals there and even typists, with a guaranteed four-hour turnaround any time of the day or night.

By moving these operations to WV, the firm cut its expenses by some 30%, which translates directly to the bottom line, and presumably into the pockets of the firm's partners.  So that's how they pay those $160,000 starting salaries to first-year associates.  Surely they didn't raise their rates to their corporate clients. 

Comments, Bruce?



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 01:40. Comments Closed (0) |

Easements Mean What They Say, Especially Surface Easements

When you grant an easement to someone else, you give up one of the sticks in your bundle of sticks that make up the ownership of your property.  When you grant someone else an easement over your property for "parking and garage purposes" it means exactly that:  they easement holder gets to park there and build a garage on the property.

You don't lose ownership of the property; you just can't use it because there's a garage on it.

That's what happens when you grant those kind of easements, a local court ruled in a dispute over property located in Glendale between Barry Blackmore and Donna Lisa Powell and Susan Diana Schmitter.  Blackmore got the easement when he bought the property from the prior owner.  Powell and Schmitter's property was burdened by the easement, granted by the prior owner of their property (the prior owner, in both cases, was not surprisingly the same person, Richard Hunt). 

It's a little bit different than the standard type of easement your property probably has, granted in favor of Southern California Edison and Pac Bell.  Those easements allow you to use the surface of the land, but reserve the underground use to the utilities.  Here, the easement addressed what happened on the surface. 

And once you build a garage to park your car on it, the property owners of the immediately adjacent property can't use the surface area that's covered by the garage.  The easement owner has exclusive use.

Be careful what you write on paper when it comes to property.  You may give away more sticks than you think.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at 01:59. Comments Closed (0) |

Who Needs Tort Reform? The Supreme Court Sends Plaintiffs Packing.

What some have perceived as a swing to the right in the Supreme Court may have called it wrong.  It's more like they're saying "Katie bar the door" against flimsy, class-action complaints.  In a decision earlier today, the Supreme Court took down a class-action complaint for failing to meet basic, minimum pleading standards.  In the case of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the Plaintiffs alleged that a group of the Baby Bells engaged in antitrust actions designed to stifle competition from upstart telephone companies in their respective geographical regions.

The Plaintiffs' theory centered around the parallel behavior of the various Baby Bells, but did not allege any specific facts to support their allegations of an unlawful agreement between the Baby Bells.  Essentially, the complaint theorized, because the Baby Bells weren't competing with each other by invading the others' regional territories, there must have been behavior worthy of an antitrust claim.

While it may at first sound like a boring day in a law school civil procedure class, the case will likely ring a death knell for a group of poorly pleaded class action complaints.

The Court essentially ruled that without further factual enhancement, the Plaintiff's complaint "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility," and the Court wanted to see a plausible complaint, not one with the mere possibility that their may be a valid antitrust claim against the Defendants.  The Court said, "Because the plaintiffs here have not nudged their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, their complaint must be dismissed."

The opinion struck down a largely disregarded pleading standard that allowed class action complaints to proceed if there were "no set of facts that would permit plaintiffs to demonstrate that the particular parallelism asserted was the product of collusion rather than coincidence."  In other words, the Court struck down the negative pregnant concept.  In plain English, class action plaintiffs can no longer just "gin up" their claims and hold businesses hostage.

The Court also gave a tip of the hat to businesses, noting the cost of dealing with class action complaints:  "...  [its] quite another [thing] to forget that proceeding to antitrust discovery can be expensive. That potential expense is obvious here, where plaintiffs represent a putative class of at least 90 percent of subscribers to local telephone or high-speed Internet service in an action against America's largest telecommunications firms for unspecified instances of antitrust violations that allegedly occurred over a 7-year period.

Do we still need tort reform?  Not when we get rulings like this one.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, May 21, 2007 at 23:55. Comments Closed (1) |



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