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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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Retirement plan advice: Stay the course

Boston – Veteran financial adviser Ed Slott has a stern warning for solo and small-firm lawyers who are panicking about their retirement investments: Stop watching CNBC. “I tell the attorneys, ‘You can’t watch the Dow every day. Instead of watching that and getting [agitated] spend the time helping clients and making money doing it.’” As the owner of a small ...

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Attorney Disapproval – NY court: 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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Attorneys field questions about federal bailout program

Some of the most common conversations business attorneys are having with clients in the banking industry involve whether or not to apply for a portion of the federal money available through the $700 billion bailout bill. Officially known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), the U.S. Treasury Department is in the process of reviewing and granting applications for federal ...

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Tight circuit court budgets lead to some cuts

Throughout the state, circuit court administrators are walking an invisible line between balancing budgets and sustaining services. As interest and other revenues fall and countywide costs for wages, health care and utilities increase, some courts are faced with cutting the one asset that dominates their payrolls: personnel. The result is a combination of working smarter and working harder that, some ...

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Hospital infections spread, so do lawsuits

Boston — A new type of med-mal lawsuit is on the increase — claims based on hospital infections. Several recent verdicts and settlements illustrate this trend: On Nov. 6, a jury awarded $13.5 million to a Massachusetts woman who died of an infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria that she contracted during cancer treatment. On Nov. 14, a Utah woman reached ...

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Reckless crimes do not qualify as crimes of violence

Even though an alien recklessly fired a gun into an apartment, he cannot be removed for committing a crime of violence. However, he could be removed for committing a crime with a firearm. The Seventh Circuit held that, although it seems “counterintuitive,” only intentional crimes are “crimes of violence” under 18 U.S.C. 16(b); reckless crimes do not qualify. Judge Kenneth ...

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Dicta casts doubt on failure to protect claims

It has never been easy to prevail on a due process claim that a government official failed to protect a citizen from a third party. Now a Nov. 24 opinion from the Seventh Circuit casts doubt on the continued validity of one rare opinion in plaintiffs’ favor. History The seminal U.S. Supreme Court case, making it difficult to recover on ...

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BBE reverses self on mandatory online CLE filing

Despite what state attorneys were recently told, they will not be required to file CLE reports online. James A. Morrison, chair of the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, announced on Nov. 25 that attorneys reporting their continuing legal education credits will not be required to use the BBE’s new online system. He has asked the State Bar of Wisconsin to ...

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MMAC to sue Milwaukee over sick leave

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s directors Monday unanimously chose to sue the city of Milwaukee to stop a sick-leave ordinance from taking effect. The ordinance generated more backlash from association members than any other issue in recent history, and the association will ask members to contribute money to pay for the lawsuit, said Julie Granger, MMAC vice president of ...

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Arbiter to rule on Keller case, formal hearing avoided

A decision on whether the State Bar of Wisconsin can include costs to promote the public image of attorneys in its annual dues is expected by the end of the year. The arbitrator assigned to the case brought by attorney Steven A. Levine against the State Bar said he has sufficient information from both sides and plans to rule on ...

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Legality of GAB proposal expected to be challenged

Although the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) recently endorsed a plan to hold interest groups accountable for their campaign advertisements, members acknowledged the legal challenges associated with the proposal. “I advised the board members at every meeting that they will be sued and they said, ‘We understand,” said Jonathan Becker, administrator for the Division of Ethics and Accountability. “They were ...

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