Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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Legal Blog Watch

Judge Dismisses KPMG Indictments

Yesterday, federal district Judge Lewis Kaplan dismissed charges against 13 defendants in a large criminal tax shelter action, finding that the pressure that government prosecutors placed on the defendants' employer KPMG to cut off legal funds violated the defendants' constitutional right to counsel  (Charges Dropped Against 13 in KMPG Case, NYT, 7/16/07). As this post from the Blog of the Legal Times notes, the judge didn't mince words about who was to blame for the dismissal:

[The prosecutors' actions] foreclosed these defendants from presenting the defenses they wished to present and, in some cases, even deprived them of counsel of their choice. This is intolerable in a society that holds itself out to the world as a paragon of justice. The responsibility for the dismissal of this indictment as to thirteen defendants lies with the government."

Peter Lattman summarizes the history of the case and the legal issues in this WSJ Blog Post.

Tom Kirkendall's post at Houston's Clear Thinkers offers more choice tidbits from Judge Kaplan's decision. And Ellen Pogdor discusses some of the implications of the judge's decision at White Collar Crime Blog. Among her comments:

And more importantly, now the court is not only dismissing the matter on the basis of  its prior conclusion, but is additionally finding that the prosecutor's conduct "shocks the conscience in the constitutional sense."  This is definitely more detrimental to the prosecution should they decide to appeal.

But professor Ribstein worries that the decision dismissing the indictments may have worse consequences for the defendants than if they'd have been convicted. From this post:

Dismissing the 13 indictments ironically is good for the government because it lets them appeal the dismissals rather than suffering likely reversal even if they were able to prove guilt. It therefore exposes these defendants to still more hardship and uncertainty at the hands of prosecutors whose conduct Judge Kaplan has deemed "intolerable."  And all this in a case in which it was hardly clear the defendants had done anything illegal, or at least that justified a criminal sanction.

As a lawyer, I'd rather lose a hard-fought case on the merits than win by luck or unfair bias. Why don't prosecutors feel the same way?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 17, 2007 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

D.C. Judge Rejects Jury Pool for Want of Diversity

This past Sunday, the Washington Post reported about how  D.C. Superior Court judges are responding to concerns about jury diversity. Surprisingly, the story -- which raises important questions such as the meaning of the Constitutional requirement that a jury reflect a cross section of the community or whether a nondiverse jury will produce biased results  --  hasn't attracted much discussion in the law blogs.   

According to the Post story, back in the spring, D.C. Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz sent back a pool of 70 prospective jurors because the racial composition of the group -- 61 whites, eight blacks and one Asian -- didn't align with the racial and economic population within the District. The District of Columbia is 80 percent African American, though demographic studies show that more whites are moving into the city.

There isn't much data available on how the court locates and calls District residents potentially eligible for jury service. Thus,  lawyers from the public defender service have been asking judges to allow them to examine court data on jury pools -- and this month, D.C. Superior Court Judge Boasberg ruled that the defense is entitled to information about how jurors are identified and summoned. The Public Defender's Office is hopeful that access to this date will help identify "problematic patterns." 

Legally, the composition of the jury does not need to match the exact racial composition of the forum jurisdiction. But as this post from Diversity.Inc queries, What does [D.C.'s recent action] mean for districts across the country where jury pools don't match demographics? Are all-white juries biased?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 17, 2007 at 03:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Large Firms Should Job-Share for Work-Life Balance

With lawyers working 60- to 80-hour weeks, there's enough work for two lawyers rather than one. And that's why Deborah Epstein Harry, founder of FlexTime Lawyers, proposes that large firms implement job sharing for lawyers, as she describes in this article, highlighted at Counsel to Counsel. Epstein Harry writes that with job sharing, each lawyer could work part of the week, with a day of overlap and weekend time negotiated between the two lawyers sharing the job.

The solution seems so obvious that I don't quite understand why job sharing isn't more pervasive at law firms. Any ideas?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 17, 2007 at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are More Firms Using Macs? An Update One Year Later

Nearly a year ago at this blog, I asked, why aren't more law firms using Macs? The question generated a good deal of discussion: Most commenters praised the advantages of Macs over PCs; others reasoned that Macs hadn't gained more traction in the legal profession because law schools push PC technology, and bar associations haven't done more to educate lawyers about Macs' ability to protect client data from viruses.

Now, a year later, it seems that perhaps the tide is turning towards Macs. I myself have crossed over the line, after I found myself rebooting my creaky PC at least seven times a day. And as Mac Lawyer Ben Stevens writes in this recent post (7/16/07), Macs continue to gain traction in the legal profession, a trend that may accelerate now that Microsoft has introduced a new operating system. Citing this article from Lawyers Weekly, Stevens predicts:

And this year might not be business as usual for law IT departments. Many PC users must switch to a new computer operating system within the next two years. Unlike previous transition periods, there may be competition this time for Vista, the successor to Microsoft's market-leading Windows XP operating system. And the most user-friendly challenge comes from Apple Inc.'s Macintosh line.

So, now what do you think about moving to a Mac?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 17, 2007 at 03:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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