Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Legal Blog Watch

Nancy Grace Sued for Suicide

Controversy over CNN's Nancy Grace, which we've posted on previously here, continues. Now, as this AP story (11/21/) reports, relatives of Melinda Duckett have sued Grace, alleging that Grace's badgering of Duckett during a news interview about her son's disappearance, including accusations that Duckett was responsible, lead to Duckett's suicide the next day. The family's attorney argues that Grace misrepresented her intentions when inviting Duckett to appear on the show. Though Grace had suggested that Duckett's appearance would raise awareness about her son, Grace "took on the role of a law enforcement official" during the interview by grilling Duckett about her evasiveness regar ding her son's disappearance. The article notes, however, that law enforcement officials have since named Duckett as the prime suspect.

Though the suit against Grace may seem far-fetched, it's not the first time that a TV personality has been sued for allegedly playing a role in a death. Back in 1995, talk show host Jenny Jones faced a similar suit, after a gay man, Scott Amedure, confessed his love for a straight friend, Jonathan Schmitz, on the show. Three days after the show was taped (it never aired), Schmitz, humiliated by the incident, killed Amedure. Schmitz was sentenced to prison, but Amedure's family sued the show for failing to screen the mental stablity of guests. Amedure won at trial, but the verdict was vacated on appeal.


Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 21, 2006 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Get a Test Jury Online

Bob Ambrogi has good news for everyday litigants with this post: You don't have to be an Enron defendant to afford a mock jury. As Ambrogi writes, a new Web site, TrialJuries, "will allow lawyers to submit their cases and have them 'decided' by online jurors similar to those who would serve on an actual jury at trial." To use the site, a lawyer can submit a written statement of each side's case or an audio or video argument. Mock jurors review the submissions and answer the verdict and feedback questions. When their review is done, the lawyer receives the verdict and can review the comments and feedback.

The cost to submit a case to TrialJuries using text only is $1,500. For audio, the cost is $2,000, and for video it is $2,500.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 21, 2006 at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Paralegal Dupes a Law Firm

This post from the Estrin Report blog highlights this recent article, Anderson Kill Discovers "Associate" Is Not A Lawyer (Law.com, 11/20/06). According to the article, Brian Valery had worked as a paralegal at Anderson since 1996 and told his employers that he was attending Fordham Law's night program to advance his career. In 2004, Valery told the firm that he'd passed the Bar, and apparently, he was hired on as an associate. It wasn't until 2005, when Valery moved for pro hac vice admission in Connecticut, representing that he was a member in good standing of the New York Bar, that grievance officials caught on to his deception and informed the firm.

Apparently, Anderson has policies in place to check the status of newly admitted attorneys. But Valery slipped under the radar because of his ongoing employment relationship with the firm. In that regard, it's not hard to feel sorry for Anderson Kill. The firm trusted a longtime employee and took him at his word. Now, the firm faces the embarrassment of informing clients that Valery wasn't really an attorney as well as potential repercussions (such as increased premiums) from its legal malpractice carrier. We read so much about the unreasonableness of large firms -- how they don't care about employee morale or act in their best interest. Here's a firm that apparently did care enough about an employee to support him in his effort to become an attorney -- and look at the outcome. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 21, 2006 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thanksgiving Comes Early for Some New Orleans Defendants

Five hundred criminal defendants in New Orleans will have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving:  the dismissal of their respective cases. As New York Times reporter Luanne White reports in this article, In New Orleans, Rust in the Wheels of Justice (11/21/06), in the aftermath of Katrina, "as many as 500 defendants, mostly in drug, theft and assault cases, have been freed because of problems with evidence, including difficulty in finding the witnesses who have moved away."

In many cases, evidence has been lost or contaminated through water damage or mold. DNA samples were held without refrigeration for several months, which may ruin their usefulness. One Tulane law professor, Pamela Metzger has urged public defense lawyers to challenge the condition of the evidence in their cases. 

But the loss of evidence can cut both ways. As the article notes: 

Katherine Mattes, another Tulane law professor, said the lost or damaged evidence could also make it harder for innocent people to shake off charges filed against them. She said, for instance, that a rusted gun might no longer fire, making it impossible to conduct new ballistic tests that might show it could not have been used in a murder. "What people say when you describe all the evidence problems is how terrible it will be if we have people who committed crimes and can't be prosecuted," she said. "But it also can work the other way."

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on November 21, 2006 at 01:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)