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February 2006
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April 2006

White Hottie Walks

Julia Diaco is a little trashy looking for my tastes, but I could see why some guys might find her attractive.  Anyhow, Ms. Diaco is a rich white girl who received probation for dealing drugs on a college campus.  The story is here.  (Via OK).

Now, some might say that the criminal justice system treats pretty white girls differently than ugly black males.  That's only because ugly black males are scary, where as pretty white girls are not.  Or something like that.

I Hate It When That Happens

You prepare your case with care. You study the elements of the crimes charged. You parse the evidence of which you aware, hoping that something like a defense will emerge. The trial begins and the pieces begin to fall into place. For a time, it looks as though you might actually do your client some good.

And then he decides to testify.

The decision about whether to testify is always the client's. Defense counsel can play grand tactician all he or she wants, but, in the end, the decision on whether to plea, whether to try the case to court or jury, and whether to testify belong solely to the client. Lawyers are mere advisers at this point, and must be prepared for their clients to reject the lawyer's advice.

You can almost hear the groans of defense counsel in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. On trial to determine whether he shall live or die, the defense did a good job meeting the Government's case. Indeed, the case was nearly thrown out after a hot-headed Government lawyer violated a sequestration order.

Moussaoui, as we know, has pleaded guilty to six counts arising from the September 11 suicide bombing of the World Trade Center. Prosecutors now seek to have him put to death. Mr. Moussaoui, they contend, withheld information from federal officials when detained by immigration officials  weeks before the attack. Had he come clean, the attack might have been prevented.

So to the witness stand Moussaoui strutted yesterday. He denied being the intended 20th bomber on September 11, 2001. (Of the four planes hijacked, three were commandeered by crews of five, one had but four hijackers. Someone apparently missed their flight.) So far so good for the defense.

Then Moussaoui all but confessed to the unsolved murder of Jimmy Hoffa. He and shoe-bomber Richard Reid were supposed to hijack yet another plane and run it into the White House, he testified. The claim smacks of grandiose self-delusion. Richard Reid, arrested after trying to light a bomb in his shoe aboard a transatlantic flight in December 2001 is an incongruous figure -- call him the Forrest Gump of international terrorism.

The defense had contended at trial that Moussaoui was a fringe figure in al Qaeda. Moussaoui, enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame, wants to make the most of it. He'd like to be a martyr for Islam, no doubt. According to The New York Times, he was all cooperation when questioned by the Government, becoming restless only when questioned by his own lawyers.

The jury may well vote to execute Moussaoui, but will that be because he is the terrorist he pretended to be on the stand, or because they simply want to put this deluded liar out of his misery?

Blogging for Business, or Pleasure?

If blogging for business, then you should read Aaron Larson's terrific post, which concludes:

In my humble opinion, a law firm will typically benefit from a weblog, but the weblog should be integrated into the firm's site. The firm should build a collection of articles on the firm website, and use the weblog to feature its new article content. By featuring an article on the weblog (e.g., by announcing its publication with a short excerpt and a link), the odds go up that external links (those on other sites) will be directed at the article as opposed to the weblog entry, which in turn should help that article in future search engine results.

I especially like this conclusion, since I recently told a friend that if he is going to blog to bring attention to his practice, his url should be  Lots of curious folks will cut off the "blog" to see the lawyer behind it.  (By the way, this goes against conventional wisdom, which teaches that the URL should be something catchy like

It's Okay to Hate A Black Person For Being Black...

... if the black person is also a Republican.  So argues Eugene Robinson in these revolting paragraphs:.

I have to admit that when Claude Allen was arrested a couple of weeks ago for allegedly stealing merchandise from discount stores, my first reaction was pure schadenfreude. Until his resignation last month for the standard Washington non-reason -- to spend more time with his family -- Allen had been the highest-ranking African American on the White House staff, the president's top domestic policy adviser....

Would it be fair to cheer Allen's downfall just because he held a highly visible post in an administration that is reviled by most African Americans? No, but there's more: He made his name in black conservative circles by serving as a top aide to Jesse Helms, the old buzzard from North Carolina.

The rest of the column, which is actually pretty insightful, is here.

Calling Some, But Not All, Lawyers

The following arrived in my email this morning. It is a chance to learn the Gerry Spence method of cross examination. But only some lawyers are invited. No insurance defense lawyers, for example. Such silliness. Does the Trial Lawyers College, with which I once affiliated, recommend that folks not take out insurance policies? Are we to roll over when sued, pluck out our wallet and throw dollars to the wind chanting "justice"?

And why the prohibition on prosecutors? Is there really never such a thing as a crime? Aren't some acts prohibited and worthy of punishment?

This sentimental nonsense of pretending to harbor all that is good, true and beautiful on but one side of the courtroom reminds me of why I find the college a little too unctuous for my tastes.

Even so, the program is good, and I recommend going. It is always useful to find another arrow to place in your quiver. But please, someone, some prosecutor or insurance defense lawyer, sneak in and write me a note telling me that you've gone to see the emperor of justice. Then tell me if you think he's fully clothed.


Subject:    Cross Examination

Sponsor:    Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College

When:       4/20/06 (4:00 PM) to 4/23/06 (12:00 PM)

Where:      Edith Macy Conference Center, Briarcliff, New York

(located just 55 minutes from Bridgeport; 1 hour 20 minutes from New Haven;
1 hour 44 minutes from Hartford)

Tuition:    $1,450 (covers all lodging, meals, instruction, and materials.)

This program will focus on cross examination.

Learn a new and more effective way to prepare and cross-examine
witnesses, one which will communicate your client¹s story, connect you with
the jury, and help you obtain justice. This program is appropriate for both
new and experienced attorneys as participants are broken out into small
groups for the cross-examination exercise sessions. While there are some
lectures and demonstrations, this is primarily a learn-by-doing program.

A limited number of partial tuition scholarships are available for
this program for those applicants who demonstrate financial need or a
hardship in paying the tuition to attend this program. To apply for a
scholarship, include a letter explaining your circumstances and need with
your application.

Please note: Trial Lawyer College programs are designed exclusively for
lawyers who represent people who have been injured or who have been accused
of criminal misconduct. Therefore, corporate defense lawyers, insurance
defense lawyers, and prosecutors will NOT be accepted for attendance to this

For more information about the Trial Lawyers College, this program, and/or
to download a brochure and application, click on the link below:

Why It Is Important To Charge Fees

I am not a personal injury lawyer, so I have never been in the business of sheer speculation over the suffering of another. Contingency fees are the norm among the "PI" crowd. I litigate criminal cases and plaintiff's federal civil rights cases. From time to time, and increasingly, I defend civilly. Here is something I have learned that may be of value: Be sure to charge adequate, even high, fees.

I see eyes rolling. Let me explain.

Filing an appearance or a lawsuit on behalf of a client is an act carrying consequences. Call it something akin to a marriage vow. You can only be let out of a case with permission of the Court. Have you a retainer agreement that will protect you from a client with infinite and irrational needs?

Persons accused of crimes or seeking access to the civil justice system are people in trouble, people in need. Sometimes the needs are simple and easy to meet. In some cases, lingering just beneath a benign smile there lurks a hollow and angry heart. The needs of this latter class of clients approach infinity. All lawyers blunder into the path of sociopaths and borderline personalities.

The Rules of Professional Conduct require that we keep our clients reasonably informed about the status of their case. But some clients can't help but obsess, and cannot avoid telling you how to do your job. Nothing requires us to give law-school tutorials to our clients, and we are no more required to explain each step we take than is a surgeon to justify each cut. These clients will call, cavil, quibble, and write one thing after another, taking time most lawyers don't have. How many lawyers have made the mistake of charging a flat fee only to hear the client want one impossible thing after another. Ever hear a client say "What have we got to lose," when all he is spending is your time?

Lawyers speak of client control. Wary litigators are aware that it is far easier to lead a client to the courthouse than it is to make them think. Fees, hourly fees, impose discipline on a client, and, if the client insists on wasting time, a lawyer is at least compensated for the time spent.

Failure to charge fees often yields the inevitable and most often frivolous grievances when a client feels neglected. That, too, takes time to defend. And then there is all the staff time spent copying documents, answering endless calls responding to questions that are not really questions, but are really just pleas for attention.

As lawyers we are all free to give our time away as often as we like. Indeed, it is our obligation to serve and to offer pro bono service. But we get to choose the person to whom we give.

My advice to young practitioners? Don't scramble so for cases that you fail to charge enough. I've spoken to more than one young lawyer in the past month who is at wits end over the impossible demands of impossible clients. Protect yourself and your firm by charging fees sufficient to permit you to get the job done, and fees high enough to let clients know that if they insist on wasting your time, they, and not you, will pay for it.

Perp Walks, Federal Guidelines, and the Constitution has this fascinating article on "perp walks."  Unlike a lot of stuff that appears on and other legal media outlets, the article contains sustained analysis and citations to cases and scholarly materials.  Let's hope that this article will be part of a growing trend for and ALM.  While the flakly stuff about salaries and bonuses make great desserts, we readers also need our meat.

Pardon the disgression: here's the article. (Via Ellen Podgor)

Skakel Family to Waste More Money on Legal Fees

The AP is reporting that Michael Skakel's lawyers will appeal his case to the United States Supreme Court.  The chance that cert. will be granted?  Zero.  But I guess if you have money to burn...

Of course, the moral of the Skakel case is this: Don't wait until the appellate phase of the case to bring in real lawyers to try your case.  Skakel never should have been convicted at trial.  But when your trial lawyer is too busy goofing off on the Internet during trial, and is too busy cooing for the camera when he should be preparing for the next day of trial, well, you get what you get.  I think they paid Skakel's "Dream Team" a few million dollars, too.  Which goes to show that sometimes you don't get what you pay for.

Anyhow, the non-story on Skakel's appeal to the Supreme Court is here.