7 posts categorized "Courts of the United States"

August 26, 2013

Woman argues with judge and ends up with 300 days in jail

Bottom line: Don't argue with the judge.  This woman turned an arraignment into a 300 day jail sentence.


ELYRIA -- Ebony Burks earned the dubious distinction earlier this month of drawing the longest jail sentence that Elyria Municipal Court Judge Gary Bennett has ever handed down for contempt of court.

Burks' 300-day stay in the Lorain County Jail came out of an Aug. 14 hearing during which she was being arraigned on domestic violence and assault charges in separate cases.

March 28, 2013

Angry Judge William Watkins Suspended for Four Years Without Pay

Folks, I don't usually reprint other articles on my blog.  However, this one along with the inciting video is worth the read and watch! 

Bottom Line: Judges, as well as attorneys and litigants, need to be held responsible for their actions.


From the ABA Journal:

An admittedly intemperate family court judge has been suspended without pay for the remaining years of his term by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

In one angry rant from the bench that has been viewed on YouTube more than 200,000 times, Putnam County Circuit Court Family Law Judge William M. Watkins III repeatedly told a pastor appearing before him to "shut up." And this was far from the only time he spoke to parties using inappropriate language, according to the opinion (PDF) filed Tuesday by the supreme court.

In one hearing, the opinion says, when speaking to a woman who was seeking an order of protection against her then-husband in a domestic violence case, Watkins blamed the woman for "shooting off your fat mouth about what happened," told her to "Shut up!" and then continued:

"Shut up! You stupid woman. Can’t even act properly. One more word out of you that you aren’t asked a question you’re out of here, and you will be found in direct contempt of court and I will fine you appropriately. So, shut your mouth.You know I hate it when people are just acting out of sheer spite and stupidity."

Click here to read the entire article


September 24, 2011

The Road to the U.S. Supreme Court (or What Is A Lawsuit, Really?)

    The Institue for Justice has produced the fantastic video below.  Interested in the steps of a lawsuit? This incredibly informative and entertaining video lays it all out from filing a lawsuit (i.e. suing someone) to trial to appeals to the ultimate arbiter of justice, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Further comments or questions? Call or e-mail me. I'd love to discuss this with you.  Hey, I'm a lawyer.  It's what I do!


Hat Tip to Ilya Shapiro at the Cato Institute

August 10, 2011

Tweeting During Trial Could Land You In Jail!

12 angry men Well, it's official.  If you're doing your civic duty as a juror in California and you Tweet (or Facebook or e-mail or... name your technology) about the trial, you will officially be in criminal contempt of court.  What does that mean to you?  It could mean six months in the klink! 

    No tweeting Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on Friday (Assembly Bill 141, authored by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Los Angeles) which requires trial judges to tell jurors that existing bans on conducting their own research about the case, or talking to outsiders about it, applies to electronic and wireless communication. Violations by jury members will be punishable by up to six months in jail for criminal contempt.

No facebook     Having just served as a juror last week on a criminal matter and as an attorney trying a civil matter just a couple of months ago in Santa Monica, I can attest to the fact that judges take the use (or misuse) of technology very seriously.  They admonish the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone including their significant others or the jury when not in actual deliberations.  They further stress, and I mean STRESS, the rules forbidding the use of electronic devices to Tweet, text, Facebook, e-mail or in any other way, shape or form any information, thoughts, questions or other communication about the case.  Jurors are not to use electronic devices to research the case or any facts about the case.

    As a lawyer, I actually think that these are good rules.  Verdicts are to be based upon the evidence admitted during the trial.  Verdicts are not to be based on a jurors' independent research.  I believe that the integrity of the judicial system must be preserved.  Read California Criminal Jury Instructions 101-102.

    You may also be interested to read what others are saying about this new law.  Most think that it's just one more useless law designed to quash the First Amendment and ultimately create more crowding in our already overcrowded jails.  Here are links to other articles and comments about this bill:

California Jurors Tempted By Technology Could Face Jail Time (Article) (Wall Street Journal Blog)

California Jurors Tempted By Technology Could Face Jail Time (Comments) (Wall Street Journal Blog)

Jurors To Be Told Not to Tweet Under New Law (SF Chronicle)

California Governor Sends Message to Jurors: No Tweeting (Law Technology News)

What do you think?

March 01, 2008

Five Insurance Executives Guilty in AIG Fraud Case

Well, there is justice after all.  No one, not even the multibillion dollar insurance industry, is above the law.  I, for one, am glad to see that major corporate greed and deceit has not gone unpunished.  Convictions for, among other things, mail fraud, conspiracy, and false statements to the SEC have humbled at least 5 insurance executives and have hopefully injected indescribable into many other insurnace executives sitting on the sidelines in anticipation of last week's verdict.

Essentially, the government presented evidence that the defendants engaged in a scheme to falsely inflate AIG’s reported loss reserves, a key indicator of financial health to insurance industry analysts and investors.

The Department of Justice, on February 25, 2008, released the following:

Department_of_justice WASHINGTON – A federal jury has found four former General Re Corporation (Gen Re) Executives and one former American International Group Inc. (AIG) executive guilty, following a five-week long trial, the Justice Department announced today. The Hartford, Conn., jury returned a verdict of guilty on all charges against all defendants contained in a 16-count superseding indictment stemming from a fraudulent scheme to manipulate AIG’s financial statements.

Ronald_ferguson Ronald E. Ferguson, 63, of Fairfield, Conn., Gen Re’s chief executive officer from about 1987 through September 2001, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

Elizabeth_monrad Elizabeth Monrad, 51, of New Canaan, Conn., Gen Re’s chief financial officer from about June 2000 through July 2003, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

Robert Graham, 58, of Westport, Conn., a Gen Re senior vice president and assistant general counsel employed by Gen Re from about 1986 through October 2005, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

Christopher_garand Christopher P. Garand, 59, of Upper Saddle River, N.J., a Gen Re senior vice president and the head and chief underwriter of Gen Re’s finite reinsurance operations in the United States from about 1994 until August 2005 and also a member of the Board of Directors of Cologne Re Dublin, a Gen Re entity, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

Christian_milton Christian Milton, 58, of Winnewood, Penn., AIG’s vice president of reinsurance from about April 1982 until March 2005, was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, false statements to the SEC, and mail fraud.

At trial, the government presented evidence that the defendants engaged in a scheme to falsely inflate AIG’s reported loss reserves, a key indicator of financial health to insurance industry analysts and investors. This fraud was effectuated through the use of two sham reinsurance transactions between subsidiaries of AIG and Gen Re in response to analysts’ criticism of a $59 million decrease in AIG’s loss reserves for the third quarter of 2000. The two sham transactions increased AIG’s loss reserves by $250 million in the fourth quarter of 2000 and $250 million in the first quarter of 2001, masking a declining trend in loss reserves in the face of premium growth. AIG restated the transactions at issue in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May of 2005. Evidence presented at trial established that when the investigation was disclosed to investors by AIG and through various media outlets between Feb. 14 and March 14, 2005, shares of AIG stock dropped from $73.12 to $61.92.

“These convictions continue the string of successes in our crackdown on corporate fraud and our effort to restore integrity to our financial markets,” said Acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford, chairman of the President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force.

“The investing public must be able to trust and rely upon corporate management to provide accurate information in their public filings,” said Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division. “As these convictions demonstrate, executives who violate the criminal laws by deceiving investors or aiding in that deception will be held accountable.”

“We’re very pleased with the jury’s verdict, as it sends the appropriate message that those who engage in corporate wrongdoing will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin J. O’Connor of the District of Connecticut.

“Take note - this is a resounding verdict and a strong message of deterrence and accountability in a significant corporate fraud prosecution, said Chuck Rosenberg, U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia.

“Today’s verdict proves that the integrity of our nation’s postal system cannot be undermined by unscrupulous business executives,” said Alexander Lazaroff, Chief Postal Inspector, U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “The federal mail fraud statute enforced by U.S. Postal Inspectors is there to stop them.”

The government presented evidence at trial that showed that each of the defendants knew that the true purpose of the transactions was to permit AIG to falsely report increasing loss reserves in its statements to analysts and investors and its filings with the SEC. The defendants structured a sham reinsurance transaction and created a phony paper trail to make it appear as though Gen Re had solicited reinsurance from AIG when the evidence demonstrated that the parties knew AIG wanted the transaction to manipulate its financial statements. Additionally, the defendants entered into a secret side deal whereby AIG would never have to pay any losses under the contracts; AIG would return to Gen Re the $10 million in premiums Gen Re paid to AIG and AIG paid Gen Re a $5 million fee for entering into the transaction.

Ferguson, Monrad, Milton and Graham each face a maximum term of imprisonment of 210 years in prison based upon their conviction on all counts and a fine of up to $46 million. Garand faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 150 years and a fine of up to $29.5 million.

The sentencing date for all defendants has been set for May 15, 2008. All defendants remain free on bond pending sentencing.

This continuing investigation was initiated by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case was prosecuted by Fraud Section Principal Deputy Chief Paul E. Pelletier, Trial Attorney Adam Safwat, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric J. Glover of the District of Connecticut and Ray Patricco of the Eastern District of Virginia. Additional assistance was provided by Paralegal Specialists Sarah Marberg, Fraud Section and Amy Konarski, District of Connecticut along with U.S. Postal Inspectors James Tendick, Mary Giberson, Paul Boyd and Cathy Cantley and Consumer Fraud Analysts David Cyr, Charles Willetts, and James Walsh.

Additional Related Links

New York Times

Financial Week

Insurance News: More Insurer Trials Likely

Washington Post

Jurist Paper Chase Blog


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December 16, 2006

Link of the Day - History of U.S. Supreme Court

Court This site is made possible by New York Life Insurance Company, the sole corporate sponsor of THE SUPREME COURT, the first major television series to explore the history and impact of the nation’s highest court. The series, produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, will air on PBS on Wednesday, January 31 2007 and Wednesday, February 6, 2007 at 9-11 PM.

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December 15, 2006

Link of the Day - U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme_court The United States Supreme Court has its own website.  Click here to log onto the U.S. Supreme Court's site where you can find:

  • Recent Decisions, the Constitution, Biographies of the Current Justices, the Docket, Oral Arguments, the Supreme Court Calendar, Court Rules, Case Handling Guides and much, much more.  You could literally spend days or weeks on this site.  A wealth of information.

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