It’s official: Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred over the weekend. From the AP:
The five-day ethics trial ended Nifong’s three-decade legal career, which he spent entirely as a prosecutor in Durham County. He was generally viewed as an honest lawyer before taking over the case of a woman who told police she was raped at a March 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.
It’s a Friday afternoon in June. Of course it couldn’t pass without a high-profile resignation. From WRAL:
Mike Nifong made the announcement at the end of his testimony Friday at his State Bar ethics trial to the surprise of the families and defense attorneys of the cleared lacrosse players.
“Throughout the years I have served as a prosecutor I have always tried to do the right thing,” a tearful Nifong said. “In this case, I was trying to todo the right thing. Much of the criticism directed to me in the is case is justified. The allegations that I’m a liar, however, are not justified.”
Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, who rose to international infamy due to his handling of the Duke lacrosse team “rape” case, must now face the music. His trial on ethics charges brought by the North Carolina State Bar started today.
According to WRAL.com, Nifong’s lawyer, David Freedman, offered this argument in his opening statement:
“It is not unethical to pursue what someone may believe to be an unwinnable case.”
Well, that depends. If the case is unwinnable due to a manifest lack of credible evidence, and you decide to “pursue” it by making over 100 prejudicial statements to the media, that might be a problem.
Freedman said Nifong made about 98 percent of his statements early on in the case before suspects were identified and charged.
Does that make things better or worse? Should Nifong get off the hook for the speed with which he broke out of the gate — what North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper described as a “tragic rush to accuse”?
P.S. The article reminds us that the stripper involved was Crystal Magnum.* Isn’t that what those Skadden summer associates recently enjoyed?
* Correction: Whoops, sorry about that. Lacrosse Attorney: Nifong Went ‘Far Over the Line’ [WRAL.com]
Chinese judges: they’re just like ours. They lament how profit pressures are making the practice of law much more of a business and much less of a profession.
At a recent conference, Hong Kong judge Andrew Li Kwok-nang stated: “To put it bluntly, mercenary considerations have assumed much greater prominence at the expense of ethical standards.” He provided this example:
Mr Justice Li cited the case of a client who asked his lawyer for a breakdown of his bill. The itemised account included a charge for “recognising you in the street and crossing the busy road to talk to you to discuss your affairs, and recrossing the road after discovering it was not you”.
Oh those Asians, they’re so hard to tell apart…
P.S. We’re Asian, so we can get away with this.
P.P.S. Whether Asians are more difficult to tell apart than white folks strikes us as a legitimate question, due to the reduced variability in terms of obvious characteristics like hair and eye color. For more on the subject, check out this website. Chief justice laments rise of greedy lawyers [South China Morning Post (subscription)] Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? [ChickenJoke.com]
“Where proven” presents the tricky part. Addison and Butler claim that the sex was consensual, and they didn’t plead guilty to rape charges. Instead, they pleaded to lesser charges of reckless endangerment of safety. And Addison also pleaded guilty to sexual gratification in public (an offense more aimed at the Pee Wee Hermans of the world, but whatever).
A moral of this story: It’s nice to have your own law firm, just like Addison & Butler. That way nobody can fire you — as Seyfarth Shaw and Schiff Hardin did to the two men, in the wake of the accusations.
(But if they get disbarred, of course, then they’re SOL. And we’re not referring to the statute of limitations.) 2 accused in ’05 rape could lose law licenses [Chicago Sun Times] Earlier: Even More Prestigious Than Gallion & Spielvogel? Biglaw Boys Up To No Good
St. Tammany Parish deputies took two defense attorneys into custody on contempt of court accusations Monday after they got into a fight at the parish courthouse in Covington, Sheriff Jack Strain confirmed.
Michael Fawer of Covington and his brother-in-law, Joseph Bartels of New Orleans, tussled outside state Judge Raymond Childress’ third-floor courtroom at about 10:30 a.m. As a result, the judge ordered both men held, Strain said.
Fawer, 71, claimed Bartels made a profane reference to his religion, and Bartels, 56, claimed Fawer injured his neck.
And you thought you didn’t get along with your brother-in-law. Well, at least these guys are zealous advocates.
A little more about this incident, after the jump.
The typical ATL “Lawyer of the Day” is a solo practitioner or small-firm lawyer. But today’s lawyer of the day hails from a large law firm, one that you’ve probably heard of — and one that gets the definite-article treatment in the New York Times wedding pages.
Meet Mark Fischer, from the Denver office of Faegre & Benson, the well-known Minneapolis law firm. Here’s what Fischer did to earn a place in the pages of ATL. From the Rocky Mountain News:
A prominent Denver law firm is being sued after one of its attorneys forged a federal judge’s signature on a legal document.
The forgery allowed one of Faegre & Benson’s clients to obtain a loan and pay the firm for work, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S District Court in Colorado.
The attorney, Mark W. Fischer, admitted in a two-page letter that on April 25, 2005, that he “fabricated a false document which purported to be an order” signed by Judge Philip Figa to release a lien against his client’s property.
Fischer was suspended by the state supreme court on April 11. His ultimate fate will be decided at an upcoming disciplinary hearing.
One of the tipsters who brought this to our attention wrote: “I can’t believe it backfired; it seems like such a good idea to forged a federal judge’s signature. I’m guessing the firm’s collections department was really hounding that attorney about those unpaid fees.”
So what did the powers-that-be at Faegre & Benson think of all this?
“What Mr. Fischer described in his letter is inconsistent with the way Faegre & Benson has practiced law for over 100 years,” [partner Dave] Stark said.
Thanks for the clarification, Dave. We’re glad to jear that forging federal judges’ signatures isn’t usual policy or practice at Faegre & Benson.
Interestingly enough, even though the firm is now being sued by the client for failure to “supervise” Fischer, it turns out that he was a PARTNER at the firm — not some wet-behind-the-ears associate. From his Martindale-Hubbell bio:
Mark W. Fischer (Partner) born Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1956; admitted to bar, 1991, Colorado. Education: Grinnell College (B.A. 1978); University of Colorado (J.D. 1991). Practice Areas: Commercial Litigation; Intellectual Property Litigation.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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