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Court: ‘light’ cigarette claims are not preempted by law

Boston — In a decision that allows claims by smokers seeking billions of dollars in damages from tobacco companies to proceed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Dec. 15 that state law claims that tobacco companies deceptively market “light” or “low tar” cigarettes are not preempted by federal law. The decision in Altria Group v. Good stems from a lawsuit filed ...

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7 things every lawyer needs to know about backups

No. 1: Forward-thinking lawyers back up. OK, the pun is lame — but the idea is indispensable. “So much of your important information is now on your computer,” says attorney Jeff Krause, of Krause Practice Management in Watertown. “You need to be able to recover things quickly and easily.” No. 2: The best backup method is… whatever works for you. ...

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Firms handle holiday workload

At the two largest law firms in Wisconsin, the last month of the year can be busier than the first 11. But because firms the size of Foley & Lardner (310 attorneys) and Quarles & Brady (292) have teams of lawyers who work on calendar-sensitive issues like mergers or tax contracts, there is also time to deck the halls. \“There ...

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Court lets discrimination suit proceed

A former associate in Foley & Lardner’s Chicago office will be allowed to proceed to trial on his claims that the firm terminated him after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, because of his religion and national origin. The Seventh Circuit on Dec. 15 reversed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the firm, holding that a ...

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Keller dues arbitration does not address constitutionality

Steven A. Levine may have lost the battle, but the determined attorney said he could still win the war. An arbitrator ruled against Levine and two other attorneys who argued that the State Bar of Wisconsin’s expenditures on its latest public image campaign should qualify for the Keller dues rebate. However, arbitrator Christopher Honeyman did not rule on the broader ...

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Attorney faces possible sanctions for ignoring precedent

An attorney who overzealously pursued attorney fees from the opposing party may wind up having to pay the opponent’s fees instead. The Seventh Circuit held that, because the attorney ignored binding precedents, instead of preserving an argument for reversing them in the Supreme Court, he must now show cause why he should not be sanctioned and ordered to pay costs ...

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Boll and Troupis nominated for president-elect race

So far, two Madison attorneys are vying State Bar president-elect. The State Bar of Wisconsin has announced that James C. Boll Jr., a corporate attorney for Madison Gas & Electric Co., and James R. Troupis, a partner at Michael Best & Friedrich, have been nominated for the leadership position. Immediate Past-President Thomas J. Basting, Sr., was the State Bar’s most ...

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Uninsured vehicle is not legally 'uninsured'

When is an uninsured motor (UM) vehicle not an "uninsured motor vehicle" for purposes of automobile insurance? When even though the automobile is not insured, the negligent driver is insured under his own policy. Writing for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Dec. 4, Judge Margaret J. Vergeront concluded, "Section 632.32(4)(a) does not require coverage where, as here, the alleged ...

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Bar board splits on BBE plans

State Bar of Wisconsin leaders have no problem with giving foreign attorneys a chance to become licensed practitioners in the state. But short of passing the bar exam, members of the Board of Governors do not think foreign attorneys should be allowed to engage in any legal activities in Wisconsin. The board unanimously endorsed at its Dec. 5 meeting a ...

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Justices mull car passenger searches

Washington – The U.S. Supreme Court seems primed to hand down a ruling giving the police some authority to pat down car passengers during traffic stops without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment. The case, Arizona v. Johnson, stems from a 2002 incident in which police stopped a car for a minor insurance infraction. During the stop, an officer noticed ...

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Parents waive jury trial

Baltimore — The Rodgers Forge, Md. husband and wife accused in the starvation death of their 2-year-old son waived their rights to a jury trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court. John and Susan Griffin instead will have their cases heard by Judge Timothy J. Martin, who granted the waivers on Dec. 8 after the Griffins were each briefly questioned by ...

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Biskupic to step down on Jan. 9

Call it tradition, but few were surprised by the announcement that current U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Steven M. Biskupic resigned. But who will succeed Biskupic when he departs on Jan. 9 is unknown, as is whether the U.S. attorney for the Western District, Erik C. Peterson, will follow suit. “It is pretty customary for a new ...

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Courts, legal agencies wary of big deficit

The revelation that Wisconsin could enter the next budget cycle with close to a $5 billion deficit may force the state court system to do even more with less. Five years ago when the state was facing a $3.2 billion deficit, Director of State Courts A. John Voelker said the system made several concessions, including a suspension of out-of-state travel ...

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State Bar board starts discussion on recusal rules

Initial silence eventually evolved into a lively discussion at the Board of Governors meeting today about a pair of petitions involving judicial recusal that are headed to the state Supreme Court. Absent presentations from petitioners — the Wisconsin League of Women Voters, which favors rigid recusal rules, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association, which opposes recusal restrictions related to campaign donations ...

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Navigating kids’ court

Attorneys and court officials working out at the Milwaukee Children’s Court Center are quick to note that in addition to being a separate physical location from the county’s main courthouse, the center has some very significant differences in the way that it operates. Because the cases involve juveniles, only participants in a particular case are allowed in the courtroom at ...

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P.I. lawyers caught unaware of new rules

Richmond, VA — Personal injury lawyers are bracing for more paperwork and possible delays in claim payments when the latest round of Medicare regulations kicks in next year. A few observers are even warning that plaintiffs’ lawyers will have to develop “set aside” plans for future medical expenses to settle cases for Medicare recipients, although there is no explicit requirement ...

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Judge upholds domestic violence gun ban

The federal statute making it a crime for a person subject to a domestic violence injunction to possess a firearm does not violate the right to bear arms. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman distinguished the ban from the Washington D.C. gun control law, struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008). “Heller ...

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N.Y. Court of Appeals rules lawyers may void home sales

Rochester, NY – The Court of Appeals last week upheld a party’s right to back out of a real estate contract for any or no reason, if a contingency clause commonly used in Upstate real estate contracts is invoked. “Where a real estate contract states that it is ‘subject to’ or ‘contingent upon’ the approval of each party’s attorney, this ...

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Homeowner is liable for tenant’s dog

An on-premise landlord is strictly liable if his tenant’s dog bites someone. A divided Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Dec. 3 distinguished traditional landlord-tenant arrangements (in which the landlord is not liable), from those where the landlord and tenant occupy the same residence. Walter Waterman and his two dogs were living at the home of Nancy L. Seefeldt in 2003, ...

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Attorneys prep for FMLA changes

Revisions to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will take effect next month.So, many attorneys are making sure local employers and employees understand that communication will be critical to avoid unnecessary litigation that could arise from the first changes to the law since its implementation in 1995. While Employment Law attorney Amy D. Hartwig said she expects “growing ...

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Holiday gift guide: Gifts for lawyers

Oklahoma City — Need a special Christmas gift for a hard-to-please attorney in the family or your circle of friends? Not to worry. For the fourth-year running, Washington, D.C., lawyer Reid Trautz has done the hard part for you, coming up with several out-of-the ordinary ideas in his 2008 Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers. Among Trautz’s own favorites? “Anything for ...

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Biskupic steps down as U.S. attorney

Call it tradition, but few were surprised by the announcement that current U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Steven M. Biskupic resigned. But who will succeed Biskupic when he departs on Jan. 9 is unknown, as is whether the U.S. attorney for the Western District, Erik C. Peterson, will follow suit. “It is pretty customary for a new ...

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Lawyers free to nix property contracts

Albany, NY (AP) – New York's top court says lawyers can disapprove clients' real estate contracts for any reason, concluding it's not bad faith even if they simply do it on the say-so of a client who wants to back out of a deal. The Court of Appeals, overturning lower courts, says lawyer-client confidentiality would be threatened if any attorney ...

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