Monday, May 26, 2008


Barack Obama: The BlogHer Interview

Back in February 2006, the founding author of this blog, Lisa Stone, turned over the reins to Carolyn Elefant and me so that she could focus on her other "little project," BlogHer, the "community for women who blog." Since then, both Lisa and BlogHer have done very well, thank you. But perhaps their biggest coup to date is their exclusive, on-camera BlogHer interview with Sen. Barack Obama. Stone has the details of the interview, which was conducted by BlogHer contributor Erin Kotecki Vest. Stone has invited Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain to sit down for their own BlogHer interviews.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 23, 2008 at 08:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Folos: Med-Mal Crisis; Judicial Uncertainty

A post here last week, Study Debunks Med-Mal Crisis, discussed a new study conducted by researchers at Suffolk University Law School in Boston and published in the journal Health Affairs that questioned claims of a medical-malpractice premium crisis in Massachusetts. That prompted a post by Ted Frank at PointofLaw.com criticizing the study, describing it as based on "the chutzpah approach to empirical research." As you might expect, Frank's post drew a response from one of the study's authors, Suffolk Prof. Marc A. Rodwin, who wrote that Frank was not accurate in his post. Yesterday, Frank shot back, calling the study's conclusions "cherry-picked non sequiturs from the underlying data."

Earlier this week, in Somma: On the Bench or Off?, we wrote about uncertainty in New England over the status of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma, who resigned then un-resigned after his DUI arrest while crossdressing. News of that lack of news caused Mark Obbie at LawBeat to bemoan the dearth of shoeleather reporting in Boston's courthouses. "[I]t's downright lame that the papers are so out of touch with the courthouse crowd that they are either silent or publicly confess their cluelessness instead of digging up the news."

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 23, 2008 at 08:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Do You Make a Lawyer Cry?

How do you make a lawyer cry? That's the teaser the blog Grits for Breakfast uses to introduce a San Angelo Standard-Times report that begins, "Attorneys and mothers alike wept on the Tom Green County Courthouse lawn, rejoicing in the reversal by an Austin appeals court of a San Angelo judge's decision to remove hundreds of children from a polygamist Mormon splinter sect." As Carolyn Elefant noted here yesterday, I was critical in an earlier post of legal bloggers' silence over Texas's wholesale removal of more than 400 FLDS children. With yesterday's appeals court ruling that the state had no right to seize the children, the blogosphere is at last breaking its silence.

Peter Tillers, for one, calls the case a "civil liberties disaster." Steven Ballard says the court "did the right thing in denouncing the outrageous government raid." Eugene Volokh describes the opinion as "a sharp and detailed rebuke of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services," and considers the possibility of lawsuits against the department. Dahlia Lithwick finds parallels to Guantanamo, "as a noble effort suddenly got mired down in tricky factual disputes, cultural and religious clashes, and the practical necessity of warehousing hundreds of human beings for an indefinite period of time."

In my earlier post about the silence of the blogs, some of those who commented proved prescient. One wrote that the raid "has both the Left and the Right holding their breaths with uncertainty." Another said that the issues "are so complex and distasteful" that many blawgers are "adopting a wait and see attitude." Still another said, "the 'ick' factor overwhelmed the facts." With yesterday's opinion, it is now safe for bloggers to break their silence.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 23, 2008 at 07:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyer Seeks $108 Million From Ponzi Scheme

That dollar amount from a news report in the Jamaica Observer sure grabbed my attention, until I realized it was $108 million in Jamaican dollars. Still, even when converted to U.S. money, that is $1.5 million -- not hay by any standard. According to the report, that is the amount (plus interest) that a Texas lawyer loaned to the Jamaica-based company Cash Plus, with a promise of 10 percent per month return. If it sounded too good to be true, it was. On March 31, Jamaica's Supreme Court put the company into receivership and appointed a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner from New York, Kevin Bandoian, to manage it.

The lawyer, identified in the article as Sandra Robinson of Houston, is one of "scores" of lenders who have sued the troubled company, but hers is the biggest lawsuit to date in the recovery she seeks.

Robinson said in her affidavit, filed on May 14, that between January and August 2007 she loaned Cash Plus J$101,354,102.80, with the promise of a 10 per cent per month return on the money loaned. According to the affidavit, Robinson at March this year was owed J$98,500,000 plus interest.

Earlier this week, the receiver issued a report estimating that the company had only 16 cents to pay for every dollar it owed creditors. Bandoian's report made the company sound like a classic Ponzi scheme, as he wrote that "monies used for repayment appear to have come directly from the funds received from lenders, as Cash Plus did not appear to have sufficient income-generating activities to support the interest payments on these deposits and to pay staff and other operating costs."

The exact nature of the company's business seems muddy. In 2006, owner Carlos Hill rebuffed government pressure to register as a financial or investment company. At the time, the company reported its businesses as including prepaid calling cards, distribution services, telecom services, real estate management and construction. Hill was released on bail after his arrest last month on charges of fraud. News reports say documents found during the arrest connect Hill to billions of dollars in overseas financial institutions.

As for lawyer Robinson, the State Bar of Texas directory shows only one by that name in Houston -- listed as employed by the Houston Police Department.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 23, 2008 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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