Lawsuit of the Day

Call it RICO not so suave. One of the nation’s biggest legal headhunting firms, Major, Lindsey & Africa, is withdrawing its RICO action against a former employee — after a federal judge offered a somewhat snarky assessment of the merits of MLA’s case.

As reported by Leigh Jones over at the National Law Journal, on Thursday attorneys for MLA submitted a notice of dismissal to Judge Colleen McMahon (S.D.N.Y.). The notice declared Major Lindsey’s intent to withdraw its claims against former Sharon Mahn, a former managing director at MLA, without prejudice, in order to bring such claims in arbitration and/or state court.

Perhaps MLA read the writing on the courtroom wall. The move to dismiss came after Judge McMahon ladled out some judicial sauce….

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Bengals cheerleader has a short-lived victory

This story may provide some good fodder for “dumb cheerleader” jokes. Sarah Jones, a high school English teacher and cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals, was understandably upset when a gossip website called TheDirty.com published an article entitled “The Dirty Bengals Cheerleader,” asking, “Why are high school teachers freaks in the sack?”

According to Jones’s December 23, 2009 complaint, the article, published on December 7, 2009, quoted a commenter who alleged that Jones had slept with all the members of the Bengals team and had STDs. The complaint for defamation, libel, and invasion of privacy states that Jones’s school had seen the post and that her students had commented on it. Hopefully, not with insight into how freaky she is in the sack…

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Ed. note: This post is by “The Gobbler,” one of the two writers under consideration to join Morning Dockette as a Morning Docket writer. As always, we welcome your thoughts in the comments.

Lawyers tend to define their careers by numbers (school rank, class rank, firm rank) – at least when the numbers are to their liking. Unfortunately for Larry Joe Davis, he does not have a good number (a 3.7 out of 10). He is angry about it and, like any good American, expressed his anger in the form of a lawsuit. Larry Joe’s rambling 21-page complaint, which he of course filed pro se, makes him the latest of several plaintiffs to take a shot at Avvo, the Zagat-esque rating website for the legal industry. I haven’t read the other complaints, but I’m still sure his is the worst of the group.

It reads like a Jack Kerouac novel, jumping around and running together, making it harder to follow than a screenplay-style blog post. The two main points seem to be that Avvo has a “routine business practice of publishing false and misleading information regarding attorneys” and that it coerces attorney participation via a “join-us-and-fix-it-or-else strategy” that “approaches actionable blackmail.” In other words, Larry Joe doesn’t like what’s on his profile and can’t figure out how to change it. His Internet ineptitude seems far-fetched at first, but given his statement in the complaint that web searching is a “new field,” maybe he really can’t figure it out.

So what “misleading information” is making Mr. Davis one of the mad ones?

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This one is going to get really weird, really quickly. See if you can spot the civil rights violation.

Issue 1: City council of Alexandria, Virginia, approves a permit for a new barbecue restaurant.
Issue 2: The restaurant will have an open-air, gas grille.

Did you see the potential violation? No? Well, you’re just not thinking like a lawyer — or, at the very least, you’re not thinking like an insane person. The Alexandria Gazette Packet reports:

Del Ray Attorney Ed Ablard is challenging the restaurant as a violation of his civil rights. Because the gas-fueled smoker will release particulate matter into the air, his suit charges, his civil rights will be violated.

Is a white man claiming that a barbecue joint is somehow racist towards white people? No, it’s way more crazy than that…

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I know a little something about video game addiction. While working in Biglaw, I was a respected guild member in Everquest II — before I realized that I was wasting giant amounts of time and had more than enough money to be able to interact with fellow humans in the flesh. In law school I once played 28 seasons of Madden (every game, ten minute quarters, including preseason; I would even make up a draft board). In college I played enough Civilization 2 that I thought it should count for one of my history core requirements. I legitimately fear for my job when Civilization 5 drops one month from now.

I’m serious about the Civ 5 thing. I quit my job at Debevoise just before Civilization 4 was released. I can’t truthfully say that the one thing had nothing at all to do with the other. I’m considering not even buying Civ 5, just because I like writing for you guys. I’m married, for Christ’s sake. A wife, a job, and a new Civ game? Something’s gotta give.

See, I know what I’m getting into when I open the box on certain video games. Hawaii resident Craig Smallwood claims he did not. He’s sued the makers of Lineage II, claiming that the game makers didn’t adequately warn him that its game was addictive.

Shockingly, his lawsuit has survived a motion to dismiss…

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The world of legal recruiting is a bit like Glengarry Glen Ross. Like the real estate agents of Glengarry, legal recruiters work mainly on commission, and they get paid when they close deals. Instead of getting paid for selling parcels of land, though, headhunters get paid when they find lawyers — people like you — new employment (most often at law firms, although sometimes in-house as well).

Like Glengarry, the world of legal recruiting features outsized personalities, profanity-spouting hustlers, and smooth-talking salespeople (the folks who cold call you and try to lure you away from Big Firm A to Big Firm B). Given the sheer number of recruiters working today, the fierce competition for deals, and the fees at stake — moving a group of powerful partners from one firm to another can result in a six- or even seven-figure payday — it’s not surprising that the business has a seamy side.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, which has come to light thanks to some recent, non-sealed court filings, one of the biggest attorney search firms out there — Major, Lindsey & Africa — has made RICO claims against an ex-employee.

Wait a sec. RICO — as in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act? Some say legal recruiting can be a dirty business, but it’s not that dirty, is it?

(And are law firm associates going to start getting voice mails from Teamsters? “Hey there, uh, David, my name is Sal….”)

Let’s explore the allegations of MLA’s lawsuit against one its former recruiters, Sharon Mahn….

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An attorney's lovely suburban home was allegedly transformed into A DEN OF SEXUAL SIN....

This story — which could also qualify as a Lawsuit of the Day — is fine, funny Friday fodder. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

Adam Bunge, an attorney, and his wife, Sarah Bunge, a Lutheran pastor, put their Maple Grove home up for sale and headed off to London this year for a four-month “work holiday.”

While they were gone, they allege in a lawsuit filed last week, their real estate agent used their house and possessions for “unauthorized sexual escapades,” staining their sheets, couch, carpet and other surfaces….

“It feels like we have been violated in every sense of the word,” Adam Bunge said in an interview.

The Bunges weren’t the only ones who were “violated.” In every room of the house. And it got pretty messy up in there….

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Donald Duck tends to be cranky; he’s not the most friendly of the Disney characters. But a Pennsylvania woman, 27, contends that Donald got way too friendly with her during a 2008 trip with her family to Epcot Center.

In a complaint posted by the Smoking Gun, April Magolon claims that she asked Donald for an autograph — who actually asks people in costumes for autographs? — and that he then grabbed her boob, “molested her,” and then made gestures “indicating he had done something wrong.” Magolon’s suing in excess of $50,000 for negligence, battery, and infliction of emotional distress. More bad news for Donald: We’ve heard that Daisy Duck is considering filing for divorce.

Gawker picked up the story and pointed out that creepy behavior on the part of Disney’s costumed characters is a bit of a trend.

The legal papers includes [sic] a helpful list of other Disney character transgressions, like the time Tigger molested a 13-year-old girl. In other news, a guy just wrote a memoir about dealing drugs while costumed as Winnie the Pooh at Epcot, and how his co-workers were furries who liked to have kinky sex in their costumes.

Disney characters are not without their defenders, though. As Mickey Mouse has not appeared to put in a good word for his furry and feathery friends, William Saletan at Slate stepped in and did some investigative reporting. He says that this may in fact be a false Tigger trigger…

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Prof. Tribe is almost 70; please don't stick him in elevators for long periods of time.

Last Sunday, the eminent constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Westling, got stuck in an elevator at the Safeway supermarket in Georgetown. (Professor Tribe is currently in D.C. to serve in the administration of his former student from Harvard Law School, Barack Obama.)

Read the (rather humorous) write-up of Tribe’s elevator incident in the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column. According to a Safeway spokesman, the company “is trying to figure out what kind of resolution is appropriate.” Options on the table include “some steaks or a gift card.”

For those of you preparing for the bar exam this week, tackle these study questions….

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Barack Obama's purported birth certificate - click to enlarge.

Orly Taitz and the Birthers aren’t the only people obsessed with Hawaiian birth certificates. A young lawyer by the name of Adam Gustafson — a 2009 graduate of the Yale Law School and former vice president of the Yale Federalist Society, who’s currently clerking in Hawaii for Judge Richard Clifton (9th Cir.) — is making a federal case over them.

And Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway, the district court judge who wound up with the case, is not impressed. She recently dismissed Gustafson’s complaint — in forceful fashion:

This case is an example of why people who overreact to situations are accused of “making a federal case out of nothing.”

Plaintiff Adam Gustafson and his wife… proceed pro se against various state officials. The Gustafsons complain about having been asked to state their race and any Spanish origin on a birth certificate registration form submitted in October 2009 for their Hawaii-born daughter. The Gustafsons articulated to the State their objection to a birth certificate identifying their races.

The court has no quarrel with the Gustafsons’ wish for a birth certificate devoid of such information. What follows, though, shows questionable judgment.

Ouch — quite the benchslap. Gustafson’s boss, Judge Clifton, should keep Gustafson far away from any appeals of decisions by Judge Mollway.

Filing a federal lawsuit in Hawaii, while clerking in Hawaii for a federal judge? It’s gutsy of Gustafson. At least he won’t have to travel far for any appearances.

So what about Gustafson’s case reflects “questionable judgment”?

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