Alexander Dubose Jefferson Adds Former Appellate Justice

Bill Boyce, a justice on the Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston for 11 years, has joined Alexander Dubose & Jefferson in the firm’s Houston office.

In addition to his experience on the bench, he practiced law for 18 years as an associate and partner at Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.

While in private practice he argued more than 60 cases in appellate courts throughout Texas and across the country, including the United States Supreme Court.  He has been board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Civil Appellate Law since 1994 and has served on the board’s appellate exam drafting committee.  He has been selected as Appellate Judge of the Year by the Texas Association of Civil Trial and Appellate Specialists.

Read more about Boyce.



Mineral Interests: Executive Right Holder Liable for Refusing to Lease

A Texas Supreme Court ruling in Texas Outfitters Limited v. Nicholson explains why there is no bright-line rule delineating the duty of the executive right holder in resolving disputes among the mineral interest family, according to Gray Reed & McGraw.

The article in the firm’s Energy & the Law blog explains that the case presented an opportunity for the court to apply the guidelines outlined in an earlier ruling to a different scenario: whether the executive breached the duty by refusing to lease.

The ruling in “Outfitters reinforces the message that surface protection is not the only goal an executive is allowed to pursue – especially if a co-owner has leased.”

Read the article.




When Union Contracts And Overtime Law Conflict: Court Provides Balance For Employers

The 9th Circuit recently handed down an opinion that helps provide guidance to those employers trying to comply with collective bargaining agreements while simultaneously being challenged to apply potentially inconsistent definitions in California’s overtime law, writes Rebecca King for a Fisher & Phillips website post.

The case involved an offshore oil worker whose contract called for 12-hour shifts for a week and required him to be on the off platform between shifts. He wanted to be paid for the hours he was required to be on site.

Read the article.



Download: Zapproved’s Latest Guide for a Quick Reference to Essential Ediscovery Law

Zapproved has published “The Essential Guide to Ediscovery Law and Practice” and made it available for downloading from the company’s website at no charge.

The new guide covers relevant critical sections of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and includes case law examples.

The company says the guide summarizes those portions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that pertain specifically to ediscovery: from Rule 26’s definitions of scope and proportionality to Rule 37’s explanation of spoliation and delineation of available sanctions.

And the guide includes interspersed targeted advice and case law illustrations.

Download the guide.



Chicago Lawyer, Client Sanctioned More Than $1M for Frivolous Condo Association Lawsuits

The Cook County Record is reporting that a county judge has ordered more than $1 million in sanctions and penalties against a lawyer and his client in connection with a litany of legal actions against a condo association.

The lawyer is John Xydakis, a Chicago real estate lawyer. He represented Marshall Spiegel, who sued the 1618 Sheridan Road Condominium Association. On Feb. 8, 2018, Judge Margaret Ann Brennan denied Spiegel’s request to file a 99-count, 223-page fifth amended complaint and later that year denied his motion to reconsider that ruling, writes Scott Holland.

The judge’s order noted “Xydakis filed claims against nearly every resident” of the condo and “without any factual basis … alleged serious offenses, including theft, slander, harassment and stalking.” She said the claims they brought “have no basis in law or fact.”

Read the Cook County Record article.



Female Attorneys Sue Biglaw Firm Over ‘Fraternity’ Atmosphere, Allege Bias Against Women

Cleveland-based BigLaw firm Jones Day, which has struggled with its reputation in the past as a diverse and inclusive workplace, is being sued for gender, pregnancy and maternity discrimination to the tune of more than $200 million, reports Crain’s Cleveland Business.

“The firm’s admitted practice of pay confidentiality, combined with the “nearly absolute control” exercised by Jones Day’s Managing Partner Steve Brogan, has resulted in an opaque review system that allows bias and retaliation to run unchecked, Nilab Tolton, Andrea Mazingo, and four Jane Does say in their April 3 complaint,” writes Crain’s Jeremy Nobile.

“Jones Days’s fraternity culture presents female attorneys at Jones Day with an unpalatable choice: participate in a culture that is at best inhospitable to women and at worst openly misogynistic or forego any hope of success at the Firm,” the lawsuit states.

Read the Crain’s article.



A Judge Angered a Politically Connected Law Firm, Then Quickly Lost Her Job

Lawyers at Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano had a beef with a Philadelphia workers compensation judge who ruled against them, so they told a member of the governor’s staff that the judge was romantically involved with a local workers’ comp lawyer.

Three months later, Judge Andrea McCormick was out of a job, reports The Inquirer of Philadelphia.

“State investigators say they responded to Pond Lehocky’s complaint by pulling eight years of McCormick emails and determined that she had violated multiple policies: using her work computer to make online purchases and exchange personal photos, and sharing court decisions before they were officially posted online, among other alleged offenses,” writes the Inquirer‘s William Bender.

“We never asked for anyone to be terminated,” Pond Lehocky partner David Stern said in an email.

Read the Inquirer article.




Ohio Judge Reprimanded for Hearing Cases He Once Litigated

An Ohio probate judge committed misconduct by hearing multiple cases in which he was previously the attorney of record and failing to notify clients after his judicial appointment that he was terminating his representation, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.

Bloomberg Law reports that Judge Robert Nathaniel Rusu Jr. heard about 170 cases where he had previously served as the attorney of record, according to the court’s findings.

In most of the cases, Rusu signed or stamped a deputy clerk’s form letters. In other cases, Rusu waived reporting requirements, approved settlement distributions, and appointed fiduciaries.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Murder-for-Hire of North Texas Woman Featured on ‘In Ice Cold Blood’ TV Series

Fears Nachawati trial lawyer Matthew McCarley will be featured in an upcoming episode of the true crime show “In Ice Cold Blood,” detailing the murder-for-hire of a 69-year-old woman who was killed for her $5 million life insurance policies.

In 2014, Anita Fox was found fatally stabbed inside a Colleyville house where she worked as a housekeeper, according to a recent post by Androvett Legal Media & Marketing. Bernard “Little Joe” Gorman and his father, Bernard “Big Joe” Gorman, were arrested for the murder, with the police investigation uncovering a complex insurance fraud scheme involving Ms. Fox’s daughter and son-in-law, Virginia and Mark Buckland.

The investigation revealed that over the course of several years, the Bucklands had taken out a series of life insurance policies on Fox, naming themselves as sole beneficiaries. Following the recommendation of an insurance agent, the couple brought in the Gormans, members of a nomadic ethnic clan known as Irish Travellers, as third-party investors. Looking for immediate returns, the pair allegedly stalked and murdered Fox, who has been identified as a member of the English Travellers, another nomadic ethnic group, according to the Androvett post.

Represented by McCarley and Brice Burris of Fears Nachawati, Fox’s son and estate executor, Al Fox III, filed suit to prevent the Bucklands from profiting from the insurance policies. Though the couple has never been charged criminally in the murder, a jury in the 2018 civil case found that they were instrumental in crafting the insurance scheme that led to Fox’s death. Jurors awarded her son $166 million.

“Five years after her death, the scheme is still shocking in its sheer audacity,” said McCarley. “They have not faced criminal charges for their role in the murder, but the one thing that Mr. Fox can take comfort in is knowing that his sister and brother-in-law will never profit financially from his mother’s death.”

Hosted by actor and rapper Ice-T, “In Ice Cold Blood” is broadcast on the Oxygen Network. The episode “Gypsy Grandma” will premiere at 7 p.m. CDT April 8.



Whistleblowing General Counsel Gets $1.87 Million Payday

The Houston Chronicle reports that the former general counsel of the Houston Housing Authority won $1.87 million in a lawsuit against the agency after she accused it of retaliation.

“Karen Miniex, the former general counsel for the agency, alleged her boss at the housing agency retaliated against her after she investigated fraud in the agency’s voucher program targeted at veterans,” according to the report. “The trial was held before U.S. District Judge Nancy F. Atlas.”

A statement from the agency said an appeal is being considered, should the judge uphold the jury’s verdict.

Read the Houston Chronicle article.



Former BigLaw Lawyer Awarded $6.3m for Brain Injury Caused By Parking Garage Pipe

A former lawyer with Hunton & Williams has been awarded $6.3 million for a brain injury caused when she hit her head on a low-hanging pipe in the Atlanta parking garage used by people at the law firm, reports the ABA Journal.

Aja Diamond McCoy was a lawyer at the firm now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth when she suffered the injury.

Jurors awarded her $8 million, but McCoy was deemed to be partially at fault, reducing the award to $6.3 million. She suffers from “unpredictable and severe” pain from the 2013 injury.

Read the ABA Journal article.



TWA Flight 847 Hijacking Victims and Families Win $353 Million Judgment Against Iran

A Washington, D.C. federal judge entered a $353 million default judgment March 23 against Iran for its role in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, according to the plaintiffs’ law firm, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.

The commercial airliner was hijacked in 1985 shortly after takeoff from Athens, Greece, headed to Rome, and then on to Boston and Los Angeles, with 139 passengers aboard, most of whom were Americans. The lawsuit, filed by 108 passengers and family members, was filed under a 2008 statute creating a federal cause of action against foreign states designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism for supporting terrorist attacks. Iran was added to the list in 1984, based on its support for a campaign of terrorist hijackings, bombings and kidnappings largely aimed at American citizens.

On June 14, 1985, terrorists from the Iranian-financed terrorist group Hezbollah boarded TWA Flight 847, posing as passengers, while heavily armed with guns, hand grenades and other explosives. When the aircraft reached cruising altitude, they stood up and ran down the aisle, threatening to blow up the aircraft unless Israel released 700 imprisoned Shiite Muslims. The plane was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon for refueling. The hijackers then ordered the plane to fly back and forth between Beirut and Algiers, Algeria for the next three days, releasing small groups of mostly women and children along the way. On the second stop in Beirut, airport authorities turned out the lights and blocked the runways, nearly forcing a crash landing.

During the flight, passengers were beaten, made to hold torturously painful positions for hours, and subjected to mock executions. In Beirut, the terrorists killed Navy diver Robert Stethem, dumping his body on the tarmac. Family members could only imagine the worst, having no way of knowing the fate of their loved ones. Then, 39 male passengers were taken into Beirut, where they were held for several more weeks until Israel agreed to satisfy some of the terrorists’ demands by releasing prisoners held in Israel and Kuwait.

The lawsuit centered on evidence that Iran financed, supported, trained, and guided Hezbollah for the purpose of using terrorist attacks to promote a largely anti-Semitic and anti-American agenda. The U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act affords plaintiffs the ability to sue a foreign country for damages caused by its sponsorship of terrorist attacks. Similar lawsuits against Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea have resulted in judgments for compensatory damages totaling billions of dollars.

In his order granting plaintiffs’ motion for entry of default judgment, District Court Judge Richard Leon noted that the victims’ declarations “paint a harrowing tale of the events that transpired aboard TWA Flight 847.”

“These families have lived with the trauma of the hijacking for over 30 years with little hope of getting closure,” said plaintiffs’ counsel Mark N. Bravin, partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP (MSK). “They have now succeeded in holding Iran accountable in a court of law for its role in the hijacking and are entitled to the damages awarded by the court.”

Each of the 108 plaintiffs will be eligible to seek partial payment of their judgments from the U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund. Congress created the Fund in December 2015 to address the difficulties American victims have encountered when trying to enforce court judgments against the foreign states that sponsor terrorist attacks.

“The District Court’s decision acknowledges the significant physical and emotional trauma our clients suffered and will enable them to collect at least a portion of the damages awarded to them by the court,” added Bravin.

The case is Allan, et. al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00338, United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In addition to Bravin, plaintiffs were represented by Theresa Bowman and Matthew Williams, also of MSK.



5th Circuit Nixes Ex-NBA Star’s $1.5 mln BP Spill Claim – Because He Didn’t Lose Any Money

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a $1.5 million award to ex-NBA All Star David West, who claimed he qualified for a payout in the BP oil spill settlement because he earned less in 2010 than in 2009.

Reuters reporter Alison Frankel explains that West “was in the fourth year of a five-year, $45 million contract with the New Orleans Hornets when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in 2010. West was paid every penny of the $45 million he was owed under his contract, including the full amount he was due in the year after the spill. He nevertheless argued – and the settlement administrator agreed – that under the definitions and formulas in BP settlement, he qualified for a payout for economic losses because he earned less in 2010 than in 2009. The 5th Circuit shut that right down.”

5th Circuit Judge Andrew Oldham, who wrote for the panel, didn’t see it that way: “In 2010, he earned exactly what he was entitled to receive under his contract.”

Read the Reuters article.




How Has Personal Injury Changed Over Time?

Three trends have dominated the practice of law, and personal injury law in Texas, writes Bryan O. Blevins, an equity partner with Beaumont, Texas-based Provost Umphrey Law Firm. These are tort reform, judicial activism, and technology.

Tort reform has resulted in many more deserving victims having the courthouse doors slammed shut than frivolous claims being denied, Blevins writes in the article originally published in Texas Lawyer.

“Judicial activism can best be seen in the increase of appeals accepted and the almost universal reversal of trial judgments that favor plaintiff personal injury victims,” in Blevins’ view. “In the last 20 years, we have seen the explosive growth of appellate courts substituting their own version of end-result oriented justice through the guise of ‘expert’ qualification and testimony.”

And new technologies are forcing attorneys to rethink questions that, under other circumstances, may have been much simpler to answer, he added, citing legal issues surrounding driverless cars as an example of the new challenges lawyers must face.

Read the article.



High-Profile Defendants in College Scandal Hiring Biglaw Heavy-Hitters

Defendants in the college admissions cheating scandal case have been turning to Biglaw firms for representation, including Cooley, Sidley Austin, Latham & Watkins, Boies Schiller Flexner, and Ropes & Gray.

Bloomberg Law reports that two of the latest hires are Cooley partners Randall R. Lee and William Schwartz, who have been hired by Jane Buckingham, the founder and chief executive of Trendera, a youth marketing consultancy. Prosecutors allege she paid $50,000 for someone to take the ACT college entrance exam in her son’s place.

And Jack W. Pirozzolo, a partner in Sidley Austin’s Boston office, is representing William McGlashan Jr., who worked at private equity firm TPG before being fired in the wake of the scandal.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Suit Against Lawyers of Mormon ‘Prophet’ Revived

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that former members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have provided enough evidence of misdeeds by their old lawyers for parts of a lawsuit to proceed, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The Tribune‘s Nate Carlisle explains:

The former sect members must still prove their case in a Salt Lake City courtroom, the appeals court said. The Denver-based appeals court only considered the narrow issue of whether federal Judge Ted Stewart correctly dismissed a lawsuit filed against FLDS President Warren Jeffs and the law firm which used to represent his church, Snow Christensen & Martineau.

The plaintiffs, ex-Jeffs followers, contend the lawyers helped Jeffs find legal mechanisms to hide child rape as well as benefit from child labor, kick people out of their homes and separate them from their families, Carlisle writes.

Read the Salt Lake Tribune article.



Ruling Allows Sandy Hook Case to Go Forward: A Path Around Federal Protection for Gun Makers?

Image by Mitch Barrie

The Connecticut Supreme Court Thursday narrowly reversed a ruling by a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed, reports the Hartford Courant.

The decision that remanded the landmark gun case back to Bridgeport Superior Court possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits, writes the Courtan‘s Dave Altimari.

He explains:

The ruling paves the way for the families to subpoena internal documents on how the gun companies have marketed the AR-15, which has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters. The gun manufacturers have closely guarded information on how they market the assault weapons.

Read the Courant article.



Biglaw Co-Chair Charged in College Bribery Scheme

Bloomberg Law reports that Willkie Farr & Gallagher Co-Chairman Gordon R. Caplan has been charged along with dozens of others, including Hollywood actors and executives, in a criminal conspiracy to bribe college admissions officials to gain admission for their children to top universities.

According to Bloomberg’s Melissa Heelan Stanzione, Caplan was arrested at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and was released on $500,000 bail after appearing in Manhattan federal court.

Caplan has been charged with donating $75,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation. “In an exchange detailed in court filings, two of the FBI’s cooperating witnesses agreed to proctor his daughter’s college entrance exam and correct the answers after she finished it,” Stanzione reports.

Another Bloomberg report contains a transcript of a discussion involving a call Caplan had with William Singer, the founder of a corrupt college counseling and test-prep business who would later become a cooperating witness:

“Look, I’m particularly interested in working with you guys and figuring out what’s best for [my daughter],” Caplan said, according to the criminal complaint, which details the conversation intercepted on a court-authorized wiretap.

Read the Bloomberg reports
here and here



Roundup Cancer Claims Could Come Down to a Feather’s Weight

Image by Mike Mozart

A lawyer representing a man who claims Bayer AG’s Roundup weed killer caused his cancer urged jurors to imagine the scales of justice ever so slightly tilted in his favor, as if weighted by a feather, and said that would be enough to advance his trial to the next and final phase, reports Bloomberg.

Reporter Joel Rosenblatt summarized the argument of Aimee Wagstaff, representing Edwin Hardeman:

Roundup, not hepatitis, caused Hardeman’s cancer, his lawyers argued at a critical juncture in the company’s second U.S. trial over the popular herbicide. Hardeman’s exposure to Roundup “was a real factor, it doesn’t have to be the only cause” of his cancer, Wagstaff said. “It doesn’t have to be the only cause of his harm,” even if they determine hepatitis “may have played a role,” she added.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Are Contractor Agreements Not Worth the Paper They’re Printed On?

A recent ruling in an Alabama federal court illustrates how having a valid independent contractor agreement is not necessarily an impenetrable magic shield automatically rendering misclassification claims null and void, according to Fisher Phillips’ Gig Employer Blog.

Partner Richard Meneghello describes the case in which a company’s former worker claimed that he faced discrimination on account of his race, gender, and age during his three months on the job. The company, however, countered that the plaintiff had been an independent contractor and did not have legal standing to bring employment discrimination claims under Title VII or the ADEA.

The company also citied an independent contractor agreement, confirming that the worker was a contractor and had no employment rights. The plaintiff cited work requirements that would have been appropriate for an employee.

“When the two were compared—the world contained in the contractor agreement against the reality as alleged by Nemo’s complaint and evidence—the court found inconsistencies that led it to rule in [the plaintiff’s] favor,” Meneghello writes.

Read the article.