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“They should go get back on a ship and go back to Africa” a Florida judge allegedly observed about African-Americans to a Staff Attorney. She was reporting on the status of an order at the time. The upshot is the Hon. Mark Hulsey III, Circuit Court Judge for Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit, presently finds himself under judicial ethics inquiry by the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.

A majority vote of the Commission determined there was probable cause to investigate allegations of discourtesy and condescension to staff; inappropriate language, including beratement of Staff Attorneys and purported violations of 14 canons of the Florida Code of Judicial Conduct.

Entitled to the presumption of innocence, Judge Hulsey denies all the allegations. Up for reelection, the judge also says the charges are politically motivated. Meantime, he’s been reassigned to probate court. See “Jacksonville circuit judge reassigned after complaint of racial comments, foul language” at the Florida Times-Union.

Too many expletives to count.

With respect to inappropriate language, readers with tender sensibilities might want to skip this second news item concerning the crude, obscene exchange between Georgia Superior Court Judge Bryant Durham and defendant Denver Fenton Allen. 

The back-and-forth between the judge and the defendant escalated into exchanges about parts of the anatomy, sex, threats and homophobia. The court transcript shared by law blogger Keith Lee is long, lurid and lewd. In its June 24, 2016 report, the Washington Post referred to the courtroom incident as “an extraordinary display of vulgarity — between a defendant and judge.”  See ‘You’ll find out how nasty I really am’: A judge’s seething response to a hostile defendant”

Teaching “courtroom etiquette.”

Meanwhile, in Nevada, a judge’s attempt to teach “courtroom etiquette” lost any subtlety of meaning when ‘the lesson’ entailed handcuffing Clark County public defender Zohra Bakhtary at a sentencing hearing for a defendant charged with a probation violation.

Although the judge in question lost reelection last month, the now former Las Vegas, NV Justice of the Peace Conrad Hafen remains under investigation for his alleged unorthodox approach to cultivating courtly manners. See the transcript and courtroom video here.

According to The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the 150-member Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice filed a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline seeking sanctions. The complaint further mentioned two other cases besides that of the handcuffed public defender that they claimed demonstrated Judge Hafen’s “complete disregard for the law.” SeeDefense lawyers say Las Vegas judge ‘was wrong’ to handcuff attorney.”

CCDU Open LetterAnd also weighing in was the Clark County Defenders Union via open letter. The letter stated, in part,

“Every person accused of a crime has a constitutional right to have an attorney speak on his behalf. Public defenders exclusively represent people with little or no money: the poor. Judge Hafen silenced an attorney who was merely attempting to speak on her client’s behalf.

He violated one of our most sacred, fundamental, and constitutionally protected rights. Judge Hafen claims he handcuffed our colleague to “teach the lawyer about courtroom etiquette.” Handcuffing an attorney who is merely doing her job to teach her a lesson is simply improper and has never been done in the history of Nevada. This misguided “lesson” runs contrary to the fundamental right to counsel. That right entitles Americans to have an attorney at their side, speaking on their behalf, especially when they are facing jail. We will continue to take our lessons from the Constitution and our solemn Oath of Attorney.”

More shackled speech.

Two close-in-time occurrences don’t make a trend. But just the same, in Ohio there was another incident of shackled attorney speech. Criminal defense lawyer Andrea Burton was handcuffed, removed from an Ohio courtroom, and sentenced to 5 days in jail for refusing Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich’s order that she remove a Black Lives Matter pin she wore to court.

Courtrooms are supposed to be viewpoint neutral according to Judge Milich who gave Burton several chances to comply before issuing his contempt order. “A judge doesn’t support either side,” Judge Milich said. “A judge is objective and tries to make sure everyone has an opportunity to have a fair hearing, and it was a situation where it was just in violation of the law.”

For her part, Burton explained, “He indicated to me he didn’t know if I was trying to seek attention from the news or whatever the case was, but that legally I wasn’t allowed to wear it and I deferred and said that I’m respecting my First Amendment right. That I’m not neutral in injustice, and to remain neutral becomes an accomplice to oppression.” She  is appealing her sentence. See “Youngstown attorney arrested for wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ button in court.”

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Credits: Photos via Morguefile license, no attribution required.

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In April, the Nevada State Bar’s Board of Governors blast emailed members a third-party confidential survey asking for their “opinion on the CLE and annual license fee exemptions currently offered to members older than 70.” The survey is apparently driven by proponents who want to eliminate that age exemption. Others want it left in place. Will the survey decide the matter? I rather doubt it. In any case, the results are supposed to be published online and/or in the Nevada Bar’s magazine.

Currently, there are 412 Nevada lawyers age 70 or older actively practicing. But those silver legal eagles better start worrying. Once the age exemption is eliminated, those 412 lawyers, representing less than 5% of Nevada’s 8,818 active lawyers, will each sustain about $1,000 in new higher annual costs to practice.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/62/H_Pierre_Am_richtigen_Fleck.jpg/335px-H_Pierre_Am_richtigen_Fleck.jpg

Base annual dues in Nevada are presently $450. In addition, there’s a separate yearly $40 paid to the Nevada CLE Board. This amounts to $490 in total mandatory annual fees. And with the average cost of an hour’s worth of Bar CLE at about $45 multiplied by a mandated 12 annual CLE hours — tack on another $540 to the annual tariff. Wine may improve with age — but not it seems the bottom line for Nevada’s older lawyers.

As far as the Bar’s concerned, however, the news would be positive. Assuming the 412 septuagenarian lawyers satisfy their CLE requirements through the Bar, the projected fiscal impact for the Nevada Bar will to the sunny side of potentially over $400,000 in higher annual revenues based on the infusion of new dues-payers and CLE potentially totaling $1030 in fees X 412 active senior Nevada attorneys.

Right now, millenials outnumber the 75.4 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. But the bad news for those 18 to 34 year olds is that many Boomers aren’t retiring. So as Baby Boomers, including lawyers, continue working past retirement age, it’s not surprising that mandatory bars are trending toward revoking senior lawyer age exemptions. After all, the bureaucratic maw must be fed. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘the bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.’

Holidays 496Some mandatory bars like the State Bar of Arizona eliminated their age exemptions years ago. As a matter of fact, in the Grand Canyon state, aging lawyers who take retirement status still pay bar dues. The only way to stop paying is to resign in good standing or to rest in peace beneath the ground. And in Texas, on April 28, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court amended its Bar Rules to eliminate its longstanding MCLE exemption for so-called emeritus attorneys, those aged 70-years and up.

Understandably, it’s a bit unseemly to ascribe money grasping reasons to these moves. So look instead for overused policy dodges dressed up in public protection apparel to justify eliminating the age exemptions. Doddering dinosaur lawyers who fail to keep abreast of the law may pose risks to consumers is how the argument goes. But unfortunately for proponents, there’s never been proof or any empirical evidence that continuing legal education makes lawyers of any age more competent, professional or ethical.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/A_jolly_dog.png/163px-A_jolly_dog.pngIt seems “Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age,” according to the late Abigail Van Buren. “Nothing does – except wrinkles. It’s true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place.”

Finally, paraphrasing Francis Bacon, “Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust,” — and for mandatory state bars, old lawyers to tax.

 

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Wyoming State Bar

Wyoming Bar Members and Guests (registration required)

Running an Efficient Law Firm (webinar)

July 27, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

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Wyoming Casemaker: A Complete Guide (webinar)

August 9, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for more information and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

_____________________________________________________________________

Laws, Rules and Practices Governing OSHA Activities (webinar)

August 25, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


Lawyer Fitness 101 (webinar)

August 26, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


Going Long on Oil and Gas: Estate Planning Tools to Maximize Mineral Interests (webinar)

October 4, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


Shared Custody Arrangements in Wyoming: A Challenging (and Challenged) Proposition (webinar)

Sponsored by the Children & Family Law Section

October 19, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bio and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED


The New Era of Proportionality (webinar)

November 11, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Click here for a description of the program, speaker bios and to register.

Cost: FREE

CLE Credit: 1 credit

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED

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Lexis Nexis University

Your Library is Your Portrait: Using Technology to Improve Accessibility and Effectiveness

  • Class Type: On-Demand Training
  • Product: LexisNexis® CLE and CPE
  • Run Time: 66 Minutes
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You are not Going to Believe This!: Deception, Misdescription, and Materiality in Trademark Law

  • Class Type: On-Demand Training
  • Product: LexisNexis® CLE and CPE
  • Run Time: 60 Minutes
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Credits: “Men of the Day No. 732: Caricature of Mr James Lennox Hannay. Caption read “Marlborough Street” by Spy in Vanity Fair, 22 December 1898, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain;”Am richtigen Fleck. Signiert. Öl auf Leinwand” via Wikimedia Commons, public domain; “A jolly dog,” by Currier & Ives, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/05/ErieRingBlindman%27sBluff.gifIf you’re in Nebraska family court, you might wonder why child custody and parenting time outcomes are so seemingly different throughout your state. But if you’re a shared parenting advocate like Les Veskrna, you want answers. Veskrna is a Lincoln family physician and executive director of the Children’s Rights Council of Iowa and Nebraska.

Hypothesizing that training might account for the dissimilar results, Veskrna asked Nebraska State Court Administrator Corey Steel for information about the training judges receive on custody and parenting matters. Specifically, Veskrna requested access to related judicial continuing education documents. “Looking at disparate outcomes for child custody and parenting time throughout Nebraska, it appears judicial practices are not consistent with the literature,” Veskrna explained. And he added, “A growing body of research suggests that children in divorce do best emotionally and in school when they spend meaningful time with both parents.”

Steel, however, denied the request. He contended that training information wasn’t subject to disclosure under state public records law. Moreover, he said that the records were entwined with a judge’s deliberative process and therefore, privileged. Veskrna disagreed. The Nebraska Constitution at I-13 says that “All courts must be open.” And the explicit purpose of Nebraska’s Public Records Statutes is to “guarantee that public government records are public.” Under the law, Nebraskans have “the right to obtain access to, and copies of, public records in the custody of public agencies in the state.” So in 2015, Veskrna went to court to seek an order that Steel turn over those records.

In January of this year, a Lancaster County, Nebraska District Court agreed with Veskrna and ordered the Nebraska Judicial Branch to release training documents disclosing how judges learn to adjudicate child custody disputes.

The First Amendment and public access.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9b/%E4%BF%9D%E9%9A%9C%E8%A8%80%E8%AB%96%E8%87%AA%E7%94%B1%E7%9A%84%E7%BE%8E%E5%9C%8B%E6%86%B2%E6%B3%95%E7%AC%AC%E4%B8%80%E4%BF%AE%E6%AD%A3%E6%A1%88%E7%B4%80%E5%BF%B5%E7%A2%91_%22The_First_Amendment_to_The_U.S._Constitution%22_Monument_in_Independence_National_Historic_Park_in_Philadelphia%2C_Pennsylvania%2C.jpg/320px-thumbnail.jpg

Admittedly, the First Amendment does not expressly address public access. It fosters “individual self-expression.” But at the same time, it affords “the public access to discussion, debate, and the dissemination of information and ideas.” The First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.” First Nat’l Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 783, 98 (1978).

Arizona transparency.

Presume an interested Arizonan wants to emulate Les Veskrna and ask for judicial continuing education training records on custody and parenting matters or on any other area of law such as, for instance, handling capital cases. In Arizona, that person would discover that Evaluation materials and records generated by participants in judicial education programs such as test scores, educational assessments, practical exercise worksheets, and similar materials are closed” in accord with Arizona Supreme Court Rule 123, (13) Judicial Branch Training Materials and Records. Does this rule mean that information about how and what training judges acquire directly related to their tax-payer paid work is closed to public access? It depends — on the Court.

Politics Law & Finance 43The Court has its own public access rules to govern the maintenance and disclosure of judicial records. Arizona Supreme Court Rule 123, “Access to the Judicial Records of the State of Arizona,” controls — not Arizona Public Records Law. See London v. Broderick and Arpaio v. Davis.

And no matter that Arizona’s Constitution at Article II, Declaration of Rights, makes a similar — but not quite the same — declaration as Nebraska’s Constitution about court openness. Justice in all cases shall be administered openly,” says Section 11.

The plain meaning of a “public body” under Arizona Public Records Law should deem that state courts statutorily meet the definition as “any branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council or committee of the foregoing, and any public organization or agency, supported in whole or in part by monies from this state or any political subdivision of this state, or expending monies provided by this state or any political subdivision of this state.”

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4a/Freedom_of_Information_Act_%28FOIA%29_Document_Processing_%2814189201882%29.jpg/387px-Freedom_of_Information_Act_%28FOIA%29_Document_Processing_%2814189201882%29.jpg

But in Arizona, the Court decides public access for itself and it decided to exempt itself from state public records law. Not that this is unusual. The view of state supreme courts elsewhere aligns with Arizona. The state supreme courts in Washington and Nevada, for example, have likewise expansively interpreted their state constitutions to declare state public records laws off-limits to their courts.

In City of Federal Way v. David Koenig, 167 Wn.2d 341(Washington 2009), the Washington Supreme Court held the state public records act does not apply to the judiciary and judicial records.

And in Nevada in Civil Rights for Seniors v. Admin. Office of the Courts, 129 Nev. Adv. Op. 80 (Nevada 2013), the Nevada Supreme Court held that considering the judiciary’s authority to manage its own affairs, it would limit the scope of the public’s access to the records maintained by the Administration of the Courts (AOC).

Unfortunately, despite constitutional, statutory and common law presumptions favoring public access, the legal establishment inclines toward reticence — if not outright opacity. Just a few months ago, for example, UCLA Professor Richard Sander’s decade-long fight to obtain test score, grade and bar exam passage information from the California State Bar was finally allowed to proceed to trial over the Bar’s ongoing objections.

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Credits: Tweed and Erie Rings play blind man’s bluff with justice, Harper’s Weekly, at Wikimedia Commons, public domain; FOIA via Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office, Constitution monument, posted to Flickr by euthman, Wikimedia Commons, attribution generic license.

 

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It's A Dry Heave | by cogdogblog

This is the time of year where anywhere is better than being trapped in Satan’s boxers. Sure, we missed the 120 weather forecast on June 19th. Just the same Phoenix spent the month breaking infernal records.

And now we’re bedeviled with the glistening humidity and demonic heat of monsoon season. What a combination. But how fitting for filing the following under WHAT. THE. HELL.

  1. Utah v. Strieff: The erosion of fundamental Constitutional freedoms continues.

On Monday, June 20, 2016, a 48-year Phoenix temperature record was broken when the thermometer hit 116 by 3 pm. On the same day, the nation’s highest court further undermined the part of the Fourth Amendment that safeguards individuals from unreasonable government searches and seizures. In Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373, the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the “exclusionary rule.” It’s the rule that excludes evidence from trial obtained by unconstitutional police conduct.

Bill of Rights | by GruenemannThe case involved police officer Douglas Fackrell who without probable cause stopped Edward Strieff after Strieff left a South Salt Lake City house under police surveillance thanks to an anonymous drug tip. Strieff was arrested after Officer Fackrell discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for a minor traffic violation. A search of Strieff turned up methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia.

But if the stop was unlawful, shouldn’t the drugs have been excluded? Or did the existence of an outstanding arrest warrant weaken or attenuate the connection between the government’s misconduct and the discovery of the evidence?

Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the evidence obtained was admissible “because the officer’s discovery of the arrest warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence seized incident to arrest.”

In spirited dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor declared:

“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.”

Justice Sotomayor particularly warned about the risk of “treating members of our communities as second-class citizens.”

“It is no secret,” she wrote, “that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny.” And she added, “. . . this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

Just 5 years ago, criminal defense lawyer Michael Cicchini deconstructed the ongoing erosion of our fundamental rights in Tried and Convicted. On the heels of Strieff, the bad news is that our individual rights continue being “hammered and softened by high court judicial decisions.” These rights are “intended to protect us from the vagaries of the criminal justice system” and from the “government agents” who “are easily able to bypass, and in fact destroy, our constitutional protections.” 

           2.   Brock Turner and Raul Ramirez: Racial and ethnic disparity in sentencing persists.

Unequal Justice in America | by DonkeyHotey

As though Judge Aaron Persky wasn’t facing enough opprobrium for sentencing Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to only six months in county jail for rape, The Guardian reported last month that the same Judge Persky had approved a much harsher three-year prison sentence for Salvadoran immigrant Raul Ramirez for committing a similar crime. And unlike Turner, Ramirez expressed genuine remorse and plead guilty, which should have mitigated his sentence. See “Stanford sexual assault case revealed racial bias.”

By itself the disparity in Ramirez’s sentencing is nothing unusual. It’s commonplace. It’s only newsworthy because of the light touch administered on Turner.

According to Census and Dept. of Justice analyses by the Sentencing Project, racial disparity in sentencing and incarceration is real. Indeed, research by Dr. Ashley Nellis bears out that prosecutors and judges often treat blacks and Hispanics more harshly in their charging and sentencing decisions.

“Sentencing policies, implicit racial bias, and socioeconomic inequity contribute to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system. Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men.”

WHAT. THE. HELL.

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Credits: “It’s A Dry Heave,” by Alan Levine at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “Bill of Rights,” by John W. Schulze at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution;”Unequal Justice in America,” by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons Attibution.

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SG_01_IMG_3458_MFI was disappointed to recently learn from a colleague about the demise of the Washoe County, Nevada volunteer program known as SAFE, Special Advocates for the Elderly. SAFE’s purpose is to assist judges by independently gathering and evaluating information about elders under or facing guardianships.

Based in Reno, NV, the Washoe County SAFE program became a victim of the great recession when grants and donations apparently dried up during 2008 to 2010. The sad consequence was that an indispensably meritorious organization was forced to shut its doors. A shame I’m late on the news.

SAFE

rep.5 | by simajeSAFE volunteers are appointed by the court in civil or criminal matters involving allegations of exploitation, abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult or ward. In addition to acting as the court’s eyes and ears, SAFE volunteers provide essential companionship that improves the quality of life and enhances the dignity of at-risk elders. And unlike financially motivated stakeholders, these volunteers work autonomously for the court as trained advocates not conflicted by financial self-interest.

The model for SAFE is the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for children. CASA advocates “for the timely placement of abused and neglected children in safe, permanent homes and for the highest quality of their care while they are under the court’s jurisdiction.”

rep.1 | by simaje

SAFE volunteers are trained to investigate the appropriateness of guardianship for elders by visiting residents in nursing homes and other facilities. They review court documents and accounting records. They interview witnesses, family members, attorneys, and facility staff. Advocates prepare reports of their findings for the court and attend court hearings for the wards.

I’ve been remiss not keeping up with the topic of elder financial abuse here as I once did. The problem hasn’t gone away. Far from it. In fact, I still think SAFE ought to be duplicated throughout the country.

Happily, the SAFE program created 6 years ago in Douglas County, NV continues to thrive. I’ve even heard Douglas County’s SAFE has become a state model and that it may be adopted by other Nevada counties.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/b/bjwebbiz/preview/fldr_2008_11_02/file000228637046.jpgIndeed, last week the same Nevada colleague speculated that SAFE’s laudable objectives may even be gaining traction with a Nevada Supreme Court statewide commission created a year ago to study the administration of guardianships in Nevada’s Courts.

Under Nevada Supreme Court Administrative Order ADKT 0507, the Commission to Study the Creation and Administration of Guardianships in Nevada’s Courts has been reviewing the processes for creating guardianships and conservatorships, stakeholder accountability, court documentation and tracking, judicial training, and any resources available or needed to assist Nevada’s courts in administering guardianships.

While it’s commendable Nevada’s high court has tasked a state commission to undertake this comprehensive review, why does it always seem such praiseworthy initiatives only occur in temporal proximity to media scrutiny, scandal and public embarrassment?

the Clinquant of the Future | by DerrickTLike in other jurisdictions, including Arizona’s, probate court reforms come in fits and starts and seemingly only after disconcerting media revelations. In 2011, for example, The Arizona Republic published a multi-part investigation, “Probate Court: A Troubled System,” which “revealed that Maricopa County Probate Court is allowing the life’s savings of vulnerable adults to become engines of profit for attorneys, for-profit fiduciaries and care providers. Their fees can drain a large portion of the assets of people who have lost the ability to take care of themselves.” Court reforms and remedial legislation followed.

In Nevada, ongoing problems with the probate system in Clark County came to light in a series of Las Vegas Review-Journal articles published in April 2015. “Cases high­lighted by the newspaper showed a lack of oversight by the courts, such as failing to require guardians to file annual accounts of a ward’s finances even though it is required by state law.”  Two months later, there was a statewide guardianship commission.

DSCF1286 | by rahnekat

But no matter the timing or how belated, this ought not diminish the importance of the Commission’s charge. Past Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Hardesty is Chairperson and is joined by stellar state jurists with longstanding interests in doing right by Nevada’s most vulnerable populations.

Additionally, the Supreme Court’s Order limited the Commission membership to no more than 20 representatives from the public and private guardianship system. And in a refreshing departure from the insular approach too often taken by Arizona’s high court, Commission members also include members of the state legislature and even the news media. Public testimony has also been taken statewide.

And so strong is the Commission’s interest in getting it right that the deadline for the its final report was recently extended by the current Chief Justice to September 30, 2016. The Commission’s website has news, documents and forms as well as meeting recordings. I will keep you posted.

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Credits: “rep.5” and “rep.1” by sima dimitric at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “the Clinquant of the Future” by Derrick Tyson at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “DSCF1286 Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City. January 18, 2011” by Rahne at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; other photos via Morguefile.com no attribution required.

 

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Unlike new-found inquiries into the source of Jimmy Page’s guitar chords, there’s no question about the common progressions two lawyers strummed this month. Decrying their decisions to attend law school, their observations underline how when it comes to law school, the stairway leads to the other place — not to heaven.

The two lawyers, neither currently practicing law, wrote respective commentaries that caught my notice. The first was Steven Waechter, a 2009 Drake Law School grad who quit lawyering after just a few years. He is an inactive member of the Iowa Bar and currently works in consumer goods manufacturing.

On his Linkedin page, Waechter states, “I consider my sojourn into the law to be a false-start career.” When he left Drake 7 years ago, it was the middle of the ‘Great Recession.’ The scam blogger movement was in mid-boil. And coincidentally, 2009 was also the year another Drake grad began vitriolically venting a NSFW blog called Third Tier Reality.

For those unfamiliar with the term,“scam bloggers” describes a community of woefully indebted law school student and graduate bloggers. Some 10 years ago, they began making mostly anonymous online allegations about how law schools were scamming students with inflated post-graduation employment statistics. Also see Noam Scheiber’s story in Sunday’s New York Times, “The Law School Bust.”

A 2012 law review article described the movement’s context this way:

“While there have always been economic and financial pressures
around the margins of law, law practice, and law school, these marginalia
are becoming the new text. Approximately half of all students attending law
school today will not get jobs requiring a J.D. Even a large percentage of
those with law jobs will be underemployed, and a startling number will not
see a meaningful return on the approximately $150,000 investment in their
legal education. Law school debt has skyrocketed, and many recipients will
live poverty-level lives while struggling to cover their debt service obligations.
Others will descend into a hopeless spiral of nondischargeable student
loans, wrecked credit scores, and miserable low-end jobs.”

j0385401However, Waechter is not a scamblogger. But he is an engaging and passionate commentator. In fact, in 2014 he authored the op-ed, “Law School is Broken” where he opined, “American law schools take bright, ambitious young people and leave them broke, humiliated, deeply indebted and disaffected.”

Two years later, Waechter’s opinions haven’t moderated. This month he followed up with “If You MUST Go to Law School.” In this commentary, he echoed many of the arguments of the scam bloggers and warned the still undeterred against law school calling it“pointless financial suicide.” It’s worth sharing with anyone who despite all contrary evidence still contemplates law school. Surely, that would confirm the exception that proves the fool.

These days, there aren’t as many scambloggers as before. This is largely a function of there being only so much spleen to vent. Eventually, even anger comes to something resembling an end. Still others believe the work of the coal miner’s canary has mostly been done. And in any event, the law school industrial complex no longer escapes scrutiny or accountability. Indeed, I’m hard pressed to believe there are many college students left who despite a belief in their special snowflake status, haven’t heard the alarms about choosing law as a respectably remunerative career.

The second lawyer riffing a similar melody authored a pointed commentary in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. Attorney turned business analyst Bob Larson underscores that while the scamblogging movement might only be simmering now, the angry and embittered remain.

Larson like Waechter no longer practices law. His heartfelt opinion piece is likewise worth reading. He wrote it in response to receiving repeated alumni fundraising appeals from his law school. Entitled, Law school fundraising: Solicitations will be bitterly denied,” the subhead asks, “What have you ever done for me? And what makes you think you made me wealthy?”

Larson wrote about having received a 50-percent scholarship to attend his law school. All the same, he left law school $170,000 in debt. “It feels like a grave insult every time you request a donation,” he wrote.

At every turn, you’ve done me a disservice. You’ve taken so much from me, and given precious little. My life is worse for having known you. I have paid and will continue to pay for that mistake. But you don’t care; you’re just a bloated glutton, constantly demanding more.

“So, in light of that, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say, “Go to hell, you parasite.”

There’s not much to say after that — except I think they’ll still ask him for money.

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Photo credit: “Animation of a sweep picking played on electric guitar,” by Punkettaro at Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta El Santo, leyendo... | by Manuel Chávez R.

I’ve been asked why I don’t blog about one of the hot button topics of the day like, for instances, the past notorious murder cases of Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias or Steven Avery. There are lots of reasons, I reply, not the least being that I’m not a criminal defense lawyer. Without investing time and study, it’s harder to weigh in on the nuances and strategies of an unfamiliar practice area.

That’s not to say, of course, that I haven’t sometimes borrowed a page from Oscar Wilde and opined anyway. Wilde famously observed, “I love to talk about nothing. It’s the only thing I know anything about.”

The better reason is a more practical one. Unless I take up the habits of a paid blogger I once read about — who has the time to keep up? No wonder the parenthetical quote in Anand Giridharadas‘ April 15th New York Times Book Review rang so true for me. Giriharadas wrote, “A boss of mine once said, of an article I had drafted over several months, that I had done a terrific job of catching myself up to a conversation the world had been having without me.”

I don’t recall much about that book review — except for that quote. By the time I get around to posting about a hot topic, the conversation the world has been having will have indeed ended without me.

Nap Time 8Just the same, what I most remember about that paid blogger is that he claimed to have so many blogging ideas, it was costing him sleep. During the night, his fertile brain would intermittently jolt him awake with creative inspiration. He’d then immediately jot down the ideas on the laptop kept conveniently on his nightstand. The tale, tall or not, unfortunately failed to mention what his wife thought about his many nocturnal mental emissions.

My skepticism about this guy’s supposed excess creative juices led me to speculate on other causes. His interrupted sleep was the result of (A) a self-denying work ethic; (B) an overriding devotion to making a buck; (C) an enlarged prostate; or (D) undiagnosed sleep apnea. I went with (B). Unlike those of us who make no money from web logs, it’s more than likely a paid blogging gig will produce income induced insomnia.

Pragmatically speaking, then, without such blogging pecuniary inducement it’s hard to keep up with events. Too often they overtake opportunities to timely blog. Had I the self-discipline to reduce my ruminations to 140 characters on Twitter, I guess my commentaries could have more immediacy just like the tweets of a certain carrot-colored presumptive presidential nominee. But 140 characters?

Nun Disaproval | by AlishaVLast year, a lawyer who never lets facts get in the way of opinion griped, “You don’t respect my time — if you expect me to read all that,” this after I sent him facts. Foolish me. He’s right. Hell, a nun in parochial school once accused me of “diarrhea of the pen”  — no doubt for disrespecting her time.

The bottom line is I don’t have the paid blogger’s remunerative incentives or the surplus shuteye to look for more sleep deprivation. As it is, I guard my 5 hours or so of overnight sack time. And besides I get enough ideas during waking hours without having to fish for them at night.

And with that, here’s another Free CLE update. The usual disclaimers apply about continued availability, content and jurisdictional creditworthiness.

FREE CLE

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Veritext Legal Solutions

Continuing Legal Education

CLE Webinar Schedule at:

http://www.veritext.com/cle/

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National Consumer Law Center

Financial Frauds and Scams Against Elders: Government Responses and Resources
06-15-2016 2:00 pm (EST)
Categories:  National Elder Rights Training Project | Consumer Fraud & Scams

Past Webinars Archive at: http://www.nclc.org/eventbooking

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Thompson Coburn LLP

[Webinar] Ethics and Cybersecurity – June 29th, 12pm CDT

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Photo Credits: “Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta El Santo, leyendo…” by Manuel Chávez R at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “Nun disapproval,” by Alisha Vargas at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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