Deadline nearing for 2010’s ‘Million-Dollar Verdicts & Settlements’

On Jan. 10, 2011, Michigan Lawyers Weekly will publish its “2010 Million-Dollar Verdicts & Settlements” edition, which compiles verdicts, settlements and class actions of $1 million or more in 2010.

If you or your firm prevailed in $1 million-plus cases in 2010 and did not previously submit reports to Lawyers Weekly, or did but have not seen the results published, now is the time to act.

In order to be considered for “2010 Million-Dollar Verdicts & Settlements,” your $1 million-plus case must have taken place in 2010 in a Michigan court. Proof of the verdict or settlement is required, as well as a thorough case description, including arguments for both sides. Case confidentiality may be requested.

The deadline for submissions is noon Thursday, Dec. 23.

You may submit your case at www.milawyersweekly.com; or by requesting via e-mail to douglas.levy@mi.lawyersweekly.com a MicrosoftWord-formatted document.

For information on submitting a Verdicts & Settlements report, or to inquire on the status of a previously submitted report, call or send an e-mail to Lawyers Weekly associate editor Douglas Levy at (248) 865-3107 or douglas.levy@mi.lawyersweekly.com.

Casual Friday: Getting in and getting out

As the year winds down, legal news is gets weirder and weirder. Some quick hits for the final CF of 2010:

Earlier this week, a California court said the state must give a prisoner the double portions of Kosher meals he requested in celebration of Festivus. Never mind that the prisoner was not Jewish and Festivus was invented by Frank Costanza on Seinfeld. Now THAT’s viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the movant (Yikes!) non-moving party.   [SFGate.com]

Also, a San Francisco woman is suing McDonalds over its classic Happy Meal. Her grievance? They put toys in the meal, which makes her kids want them. I recommend she try what my mom always did: Just say no. It’s ok. Little Junior will get over it. [CNN.com]

In New York, a lawyer representing a professor accused of having sex with his adult daughter is questioning the legality of laws banning incest, describing the daughter’s participation as follows:

“somehow a victim here, when she can be best described as an accomplice.”

Don’t laugh. The Michigan Supreme Court might agree.

A Duke Law professor suggested that a number of wealthy people may resort to suicide to avoid having to pay the estate taxes that go back into effect in the new year. Someone should explain to these people that they don’t actually have to pay the tax until they’re dead. [ABA Journal]

And one day, the media will realize that if you keep putting on television shows only the people who say crazy things, everyone will say crazy things. Crazy =/= interesting.

In South Dakota, a lawyer is being tried on child porn possession charges. His defense? He had the photos so that he could give legal advice, which is kinda like saying that you should be able kill somebody so you can give legal advice to your client charged with murder. [ABA Journal]

U.S. Patent Office opening satellite site in Detroit

The Detroit News has reported that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s will open a satellite facility in Detroit. It will be the office’s first such facility outside the Washington, D.C. area.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Patent Office director David Kappos and Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm were expected to make the announcement Thursday.

Though it wasn’t clear whether the office would be located in or near Detroit, it could open by next summer with about 100 patent examiners and some support staff.

The News noted that Michigan’s entire congressional delegation — including Sens. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing — in August urged the Commerce Department to locate the office in Michigan, suggesting Ann Arbor as a possible location.

The buzz about such an office opening in Michigan was high among the intellectual property law community, said Denise M. Glassmeyer, a patent attorney at Troy-based Young Basile Hanlon & MacFarlane PC.

“There is a lot of work going on at different firms, law schools, corporations — even the federal courts maintain and further increase Michigan as an IP law hub,” she said in an e-mail.

And Steven Oberholtzer of the Ann Arbor office of Brinks, Hofer, Gilson and Lione told Crain’s Detroit Business two months ago that an office here makes sense – as it would give local inventors and companies speedier access to the actual examiners who make the calls on patents.

“Reducing pendency time is a huge benefit for everybody,” he said.

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Kilpatricks named in city hall corruption indictments

The Detroit Free Press just reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, city contractor Bobby Ferguson, former top Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller and former water department chief Victor Mercado as “part one of the largest public corruption investigations ever in the City of Detroit.”

In a news story, Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick — the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who in 2008 broke the Kwame Kilpatrick text-message scandal that eventually forced the ex-mayor out of office — reported:

Miller and Ferguson are … close friends of the former mayor. Miller was a former basketball teammate of Kilpatrick’s at Cass Technical High School and later worked for his mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Detroit). In 2002, Kwame Kilpatrick appointed Miller as his chief administrative officer.

Ferguson, who owns a Detroit demolition and excavation company, became friends with Kilpatrick after Kilpatrick was elected state representative in 1996. They socialized, rode motorcycles together and Kilpatrick appointed Ferguson as the city’s cleanup czar. Under Kilpatrick’s tenure, Ferguson’s business with the city increased dramatically.

Mercado, who became the highest-ranking Hispanic city official when Kilpatrick named him head of the water department in 2002, said in September that he had testified before the federal grand jury in Detroit. At the time, he said he was told he was not the focus of the investigation.

Mercado, who was the general manager of the Bexar Metropolitan Water District in San Antonio, Texas, offered no further details.

Today’s announcement follows earlier convictions of several of Kilpatrick’s closest associates, including two brothers on his staff who were childhood friends, and charges of fraud and tax evasion against the ex-mayor himself.

Kilpatrick currently is in state prison on a separate matter: violating his probation on perjury-related charges in the text message scandal that led to his downfall.

The federal probe of Detroit City Hall, first reported by the Free Press in 2008, has already led to criminal charges against 20 people. Of those, 15 have been convicted of charges ranging from bribery to bid rigging, with many of the defendants cooperating with federal investigators.

The grand jury issued today’s indictments right up against deadline as the jury’s 36-month appointment limit runs out Dec. 31. Had the indictments not been issued, the federal government would have had to request an extension or start from scratch with another grand jury.

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Study planned of how Mich. appellate judges picked

DETROIT (AP) — A task force will propose revisions to Michigan’s system for selecting state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges in the wake of an election season that included the heavy use of negative ads.

The 24-member Judicial Selection Task Force announced Tuesday is co-chaired by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and 6th Circuit Judge James L. Ryan. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is an honorary co-chair.

Starting in January, the task force will look at how Michigan’s appellate judges are picked and examine recent campaign spending for Michigan Supreme Court races. Kelly says in a statement that the 2010 judicial elections in Michigan saw “vitriolic advertising.”

The task force plans to release its recommendations in 2011.

Federal court seeking to fill two spots

Michigan Public Radio is reporting that Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have asked Detroit lawyer Eugene Driker to chair a committee to advise them on filling two positions on the federal bench.

U.S. District Court judges Arthur Tarnow and Bernard Friedman are taking senior status next year, which enables them to cut their caseloads. As a result, the Court needs new federal judges.

Applications are due from Levin’s office Jan. 24, according to the story.

Tough sledding for new grads

News flash: The economy sucks, especially for Michigan lawyers right now.

Whether you blame it on the national economic meltdown, the Engler court or just the circle of life, one thing is certain: the people feeling the brunt of it are the new graduates, who have no experience and a mountain of debt.

So what else is new, you ask? Hasn’t every graduating class since the beginning of time faced the same obstacle? Yes and no. Certainly everyone starts at the bottom, but at least there were opportunities. The problem for today’s graduates is that there are so few entry level positions available that if you don’t find your job through on-campus interviews, your employment opportunities are bleak.

And even if you are lucky enough to find a job, the current rate for most entry level jobs is far below even modest expectations. Even those who were able to find employment at big firms through on-campus interviews have found that their starting dates were postponed a year if not cancelled all together.

How bad is it? Several blogs, including Above the Law and S#!@ Law Jobs, are dedicated to highlighting the the worst possible examples of legal job postings. A couple great examples:

From Craigslist [HT: Above the Law]

small personal injury firm seeking a 0-2 year experienced lawyer. No experence in persoanl injury required. The job will not pay as well as some others, but the candiate will get a lot of experience immediatedly. The candidate will attend deposition, court hearing, write briefs, and interact with clients, and experts. If you would like to learn personal injury law, or start a personal injury pratice, this is the position for you.

This downtown Chicago job is listed at a part time job. The pay? $1,000 a month. If it was a full time job, it would pay $6.25 an hour. You can make more at McDonalds (because, you know, the minimum wage is $7.15). Something tells me the job requires full time effort.

And it’s not just private firms. The U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri wants to pay attorneys with experience [ATL, again]:

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri is seeking applications from attorneys who are willing to accept temporary positions that, while unpaid, offer attorneys a valuable opportunity to gain exposure to the office while also obtaining litigation and potentially trial experience.

What? Are the college football players? And what’s worse is that they actually want a commitment of six months to a year. “Hey recent graduate! I know those student loan bills are coming, but maybe you can live with your parents a little bit longer and work for us for free!” And the work? Well, it sounds like attorney work.

SAUSAs will research legal issues, draft pleadings and briefs, provide support at hearings and trials, and attend difference court proceedings.

Yikes.

Yet despite the glut of lawyers and the dearth of entry level jobs, law schools are still churning out new lawyers at record numbers, and, unlike before, they’re becoming quite active in marketing and advertising themselves with the promise of a better life/career.

The University of Toledo Law School, for example, offers in-state tuition to many Michigan residents. The Thomas M. Cooley Law School bought the naming rights to the Lansing minor league baseball stadium, and has expanded to Grand Rapids, Rochester and Ann Arbor. Both Cooley and Michigan State University School of Law have billboards throughout the state.

It’s to the point that I can’t see how anyone in good conscience encourage somebody to go to law school anymore. I get asked to talk to someone’s family member or friend on a semi-regular basis about what law school is like. Instead, I end up telling them what the market’s like. And they always go to law school anyway, thinking it won’t happen to them. 

I hope, for their sake, that things improve by the time they get out, and they don’t resort to begging the school for their money back if they choose to just go back to what they were doing before they started law school. But with roughly a thousand new attorneys being licensed each year by the State Bar, it’s unlikely to change.