I’m pretty sure we all saw this coming. The parents of Tyler Clementi — the Rutgers freshman who killed himself after his roommate taped and broadcast Tyler’s gay hook-up — have declared their intent preserved their right to sue the university. The Clementis suggest that the university failed to protect their son, articulating various tort claims against the school and even a breach of contract claim (Rutgers broke its agreement with Clementi by not preventing what happened to him). Damages are unspecified, but Clementi’s family is claiming pain and suffering, as well as loss of companionship.
(UPDATE: As Kash noted over at Forbes, the Clementi family just issued a statement “clarifying that they have not yet decided whether they will sue, but filed notice with the university today to preserve their right to sue in the future.” Hence the edit in the preceding paragraph.)
A lawsuit by the Clementis should surprise no one. Rutgers has much deeper pockets than Dharun Ravi, the roommate who used a webcam to broadcast Clementi’s affair, or Molly Wei, the girl who was in the room while Ravi messed with his roommate. Ravi and Wei have already been charged with invasion of privacy, and prosecutors are still trying to figure out if they can bootstrap hate crime charges against Ravi and Wei. But when it came to the civil lawsuits, this was always going to come down to the parents versus Rutgers.
Because when your kid jumps off a bridge, there just has to be somebody to blame….
Late last night, Congress passed a compromise tax bill that will, among other things, cap the estate tax at 35% (with a $5 million exemption). If not for this compromise, the estate tax would have returned in 2011, at rates as high as 55 percent (with a $1 million exemption).
Hallelujah. Anytime you can save wealthy dead people millions of dollars during a time of crushing federal deficits, that’s something you just have to do. Way to go, Obama. When I voted for you in 2008, really I was just trying to vote for four more years of Bush’s ruinous fiscal policies.
Obama isn’t just saving money for all the dauphins eager to get their hands on their inheritances; he could be saving lives. Duke Law professor Richard Schmalbeck apparently thinks that rich old people might have killed themselves in droves over the next two weeks. Schmalbeck suggests that after spending a lifetime working hard and earning money, hundreds “or even a few thousand” of the aging rich might have committed suicide in the waning days of 2010, in order to pass on as much of their money to their children as they can before the estate tax returns in 2011.
I shudder to think that somebody would commodify their own life in such a way. But then again, I’m not rich. Maybe you only get rich in this country by being the kind of person who would gladly kill yourself if the price is right…
Mark Madoff, the oldest of Bernard Madoff’s two sons, committedsuicide on Saturday, by hanging himself in his Manhattan apartment. Saturday was a significant day: the second anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s arrest for running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
Mark Madoff’s lawyer, prominent Paul Weiss partner Martin Flumenbaum, issued a statement yesterday: “Mark Madoff took his own life today. This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy…. [Mark Madoff was] an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.”
Flumenbaum wasn’t the only powerful Paul Weiss personage named “Martin” with involvement in this case. Mark Madoff’s body was actually found by legendary litigator Martin London, a longtime partner at the firm who is now of counsel at PW.
As noted on his Paul Weiss website bio, “[t]he gamut of Mr. London’s successes is vast.” But his experience is primarily on the civil side, with occasional forays into white-collar criminal work. His docket generally doesn’t include violence and death; he’s not the kind of lawyer who sees dead people (e.g., a homicide prosecutor).
Pure lunacy is on display today in the Dear Prudence column on Slate. A prospective law student is set to take the December administration of the LSAT. But his or her grandmother — for ease of reference, I’ll use the male pronoun throughout this post — recently lost a battle with Alzheimer’s. Hence this question to Prudence (from questioner “Funerals and Such”):
I lost my grandmother yesterday, and I am devastated as we were very close. She had Alzheimer’s for years, and I made my peace with this some time ago. My family has planned the funeral for Saturday.
Here is the problem: My LSAT is Saturday, and I have waited for years for an opportunity to pursue law school. (I am near 30.) I told my mom that I couldn’t make the funeral because I cannot reschedule the LSAT, and she was furious! I have been on the phone with the LSAT people all morning, pleading to reschedule. No luck. Mom has informed me that she and my family are really disappointed with me, and I need to be at the funeral in order to pay my respects.
I don’t want to disappoint my family, but I have waited my entire life for this chance at law school, and I don’t want to give it up now. Additionally, if I don’t take the LSAT on Saturday, I will miss the opportunity to take it again in February (possible surgery), and I can kiss law school for next fall goodbye!
Yeah, this fellow is trying to decide between taking the LSAT or honoring his dead grandmother, and it’s apparently an open question. He’s going to make an excellent Biglaw attorney someday.
In the meantime, Prudence and I disagree about the appropriate response….
We’ve received a number of email messages from readers today conveying some very sad news. In the words of one correspondent, “Texas lost one of its finest lawyers, as well as a great man and father, last night.”
On Tuesday night, prominent Texas lawyer Gregory Coleman — name partner at appellate boutique YetterColeman, former Solicitor General of Texas, and former partner at Weil Gotshal — was killed in a plane crash. Said a second source: “I think most folks in Texas would regard him as one of the best, if not the best, appellate lawyer in the state.”
On occasion, I get accused of “blaming the victim.” I think that’s unfair. Really, I think I just know the difference between “suicide” (which is something you do to yourself) and “homicide” (which is something somebody does to you).
For instance, if you purposefully ride your bike off of a cliff, that’s a suicide. If, on the other hand, you are riding your bike and minding your own business, and somebody plows into you at 83 miles per hour and you die, that’s a homicide. Somebody killed you.
If the person who ended your life later turns around and sues your parents for allowing you to be killed by a motor vehicle traveling 83 miles per hour, that is blaming the victim.
And that is precisely what a convicted manslaughterer, David Weaving, is doing to the parents of Matthew Kenney. He’s filed a $15,000 counterclaim against the Kenneys from the lunacy of his own jail cell…
We really don’t like writing about murders, suicides, and murder suicides here on Above the Law. They are always sad, the loss of human life is always tragic, and it’s really hard to be funny/snarky/edgy when people have died.
That said, we have to go where the news takes us, and so we press on today with a roundup of people in the legal community who recently met untimely ends. A Department of Justice lawyer took his own life, and an office manager for Townsend and Townsend and Crew allegedly killed her estranged husband, before turning the gun on herself…
Clare Lenore Stoudt, a 35-year-old mother of five, was found dead in her home over the weekend. Stoudt was a tax associate at Pillsbury Winthrop. According to the ABA Journal, authorities believe that Stoudt may have been the victim of a murder-suicide:
The father of her three youngest children, Reginald Van Graves, 49, also was found apparently shot to death in the Howard County home, and a gun was in the vicinity, authorities say. A custody case over the three children, aged 2, 5 and 7, had begun less than a week earlier in Howard County Circuit Court.
The Howard County Times reports that police say the deaths may have been a murder-suicide. Autopsies have not yet been completed, however, and the investigation has not concluded.
Christine Kearns, managing partner for Pillsbury’s D.C. office, released the following statement for the firm….
Here’s an interesting issue for the pro-death penalty crowd: If killing violent offenders passes as justice, are they happy when a violent offender kills himself? That’s the question being bandied about the blogosphere in the wake of Philip Markoff’s apparent suicide.
Markoff was in jail awaiting trial as the “Craigslist Killer.” He allegedly murdered Julissa Brisman after meeting her on Craigslist.
[A]ssuming he was guilty, my first reaction here is to be pleased. By killing himself, Markoff saved a lot of time, money and energy for those who would be tasked with prosecuting and defending him. And the family of his victim would, I hope, get some measure of closure from Markoff’s death.
Actually, the family of the victim does not seem at all pleased by Markoff’s apparent suicide…
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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