Thursday, March 26, 2015

JUDGE SENDS MESSAGE WITH SENTENCE IN TEACHER SEX CASE

Original Story: usatoday.com

DETROIT — Saying there is no room for double standards, an Oakland County judge sentenced a 30-year-old female teacher to spend the next six to 15 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with a student.

Kathryn Ronk, who taught Spanish at a Catholic high school, could have been sentenced to as little as a year in jail, but Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Nanci Grant opted for prison time Tuesday, noting the boy was 15 at the time. A Westchester County criminal defense lawyer is following this story closely.

Grant was dismayed by letters asking for leniency for Ronk, a former teacher at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights, but making no mention of concern for the boy.

"You are dealing with children that are still developing emotionally," Grant said Wednesday. "To have this continuing double standard is unacceptable. The law does not recognize a double standard, the law is clearly on point in terms that these children are developing human beings. This was a person in position with power and influence over him."

Ronk was originally charged with five counts of criminal sexual conduct, including rape, but pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. A Memphis sexual harassment lawyer represents clients involved in sexual harassment claims.

Ronk also faces charges in Macomb County because some of the sexual contact took place in the boy's Macomb Township home and in a car in Sterling Heights. A trial date has been set for March 31, although there are ongoing discussions about a plea arrangement.

CITIGROUP HAS CUT CEO MICHAEL CORBAT’S PAY — TO $13 MILLION

Original Story: fortune.com

Cut in compensation of about 10% came in a year when the bank’s profit nearly halved due to higher legal costs and a slump in bond trading.

Citigroup cut Chief Executive Michael Corbat’s pay by about 10% in 2014, a year in which the bank’s profit nearly halved due to higher legal costs and a slump in bond trading.

Separately, the bank said its consumer banking head, Manuel Medina-Mora, would retire in June. An Atlanta business lawyer is following this story closely.

The announcement comes at a time when Citi  C -1.03%  is pulling out of consumer banking in a number of countries, including Japan and Egypt, as it looks to cut persistently high costs.

Citi, like other big banks, has been cutting costs to boost profit as low interest rates and new regulations crimp revenue growth. But these efforts have been overshadowed by multibillion-dollar fines and higher costs for technology and compliance.

Corbat earned an estimated $13.1 million in 2014, including deferred shares worth about $3.49 million based on the stock’s Thursday close. He earned $14.5 million in 2013.

Deferred stock makes up 30% of Corbat’s bonus pay under Citi’s compensation plan, which was overhauled two years ago amid shareholder pressure.

Bank of America  BAC -0.70%  cut Chairman and Chief Executive Brian Moynihan’s pay by 7 percent in 2014, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

In contrast to Moynihan and Corbat’s smaller pay packages, JPMorgan  JPM -1.11%  Chief Executive Jamie Dimon earned $20 million in 2014, unchanged from a year earlier. His pay package included a first cash bonus in three years.

Medina-Mora joined the Wall Street bank in 2001, when Citigroup bought Mexican lender Banamex. The unit has been beset by multiple problems in the last few years, including fraudulent loans and rogue trading. A business lawyer represents clients in commercial disputes and business litigation matters.

Several board members had pushed Medina-Mora to leave, but Corbat and Chairman Michael O’Neill have been supportive of him, the Wall Street Journal reported in October.

His pay for 2013 was cut to $9.5 million from $11 million due to control issues faced at the U.S. unit of Banamex.

Monday, March 16, 2015

FCC POSTS ITS 400-PAGE NET NEUTRALITY ORDER

Original Story: usatoday.com

Get your reading glasses out and put on a fresh pot of coffee. The Federal Communications Commission has made its net neutrality rules public.

Simply titled "Open Internet FCC-15-24A1," the order runs 400 pages. However, the actual rules encompass only eight pages at the end of the document.

The rest of the document deals with the background of the rules, the approach the agency took, details about public comments and the dissent opinions of FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, who voted against the rules last month, leading to a 3-2 approval. A Washington DC regulatory compliance lawyer is following this story closely.

The rules don't become law until 60 days after they appear in the Federal Register. Congress is working on legislation that would supersede any FCC rules. And a court challenge by ISPs is expected, too.

"The lawyers are going to be reading this for the footnote or coda or some little phrase that gives them an idea on how they can pursue the legal case in court or to the Congress," says Bethesda, Md., research analyst Gary Arlen.

Beyond the actual brevity of the rules amid the order's length, there was little surprising in the final document. Few minds were likely changed: Consumer advocates expressed conviction about the agency's move, while critics charged that the published document reveals that the FCC is executing a power grab.

A "legal coup d'├ętat" is how the Daniel Berninger, founder of the Voice Communication Exchange Committee, which counts Mark Cuban as a member, described the FCC's plan. "The order reveals FCC ambitions through what it leaves out as much as what it includes," he said. "The FCC fails to include a limiting principle and places the entire Internet ecosystem within the reach of regulatory discretion." A Washington DC regulatory compliance lawyer has experience representing clients in telecommunications issues.

But Matt Wood, policy director for consumer group Free Press, said that the FCC has made it clear in the rules that it will not engage in regulation of rates or content — as critics contend.

"The rules themselves are clear, concise and bounded," he said. "The claims about an Internet takeover lurking in these pages were always nonsense, and we're confident that the full document will help steer people back to the facts and away from the propaganda put out by big cable and telecom companies."

The initial rush to get the document from the FCC website Thursday morning led to many getting an error message. But downloading quickly smoothed out.

While the publication of the rules never drove the hashtag #netneutrality to become a trending topic on Twitter — as it did on Feb. 26, the day the FCC passed the order — a vibrant discussion began.

At investment firm BTIG, analyst Rich Greenfield noted how the FCC handpicked specific provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 that it wants to use.

And Mashable Editor-In-Chief Lance Ulanoff noted that the document quotes Benjamin Franklin ("A little neglect may breed great mischief.") in explaining why the agency needs its "unjust and unreasonable" catch-all provision to protect consumers from bad practices by Internet service providers.

ISPs, mostly large cable or telephone companies, are explicitly prohibited from blocking or slowing some content and from "paid prioritization" to deliver some content via faster lanes for payment.

Those rules will lead to legal uncertainty and prevent innovation on the Net, said Randolph May, president of the Free State Foundation, which supports limited government. "These terms are so standardless that the commission can exercise discretion arbitrarily to favor one company or market segment or another," he said.

The commission voted 3-2 last month to approve the rules to protect an open Internet, or enforce net neutrality, as the principle is often called. The goal of the rules is to establish the FCC's authority to ensure that the Internet is equally available to all types of legal content generators.

The FCC has approved net neutrality rules before, but Chairman Tom Wheeler was forced to come up with new ones after a federal court tossed out the previous rules early last year.

While throwing out the rules, that court upheld that the FCC could assert its power to regulate the Internet, but needed to consider the network as a public utility and the ISPs that deliver connectivity as "common carriers." The court also "affirmed the commission's conclusion that broadband providers represent a threat to Internet openness and could act in ways that would ultimately inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment," the agency says in the order's executive summary.

The FCC spent nearly a year gathering comment from citizens, companies and public interest groups. The agency received a record 4 million public comments on the issue.

In crafting the rules, the agency had three objectives, the order says: "America needs more broadband, better broadband, and open broadband networks. These goals are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive. Without an open Internet, there would be less broadband investment and deployment. ... All three (objectives) are furthered through the open Internet rules and balanced regulatory framework we adopt today."

In the order, the agency says that it is basing its authority on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Critics of the strategy have argued that Title II regulations could lead to the FCC setting broadband rates and increased bureaucracy. But the FCC has said it agreed not to use some of the sections of Title II and, for instance, not impose additional taxes or tariffs or require ISPs to unbundle some services or file a burdensome amount of documents. A Washington DC regulatory compliance lawyer has experience representing clients before the Federal Communications Commission.

"There is a reason that Title II has been called the nuclear option. No matter what the FCC tries to do to limit the fallout (and it is not trying very hard to do that here) the decision will still impact investments," said FCC Commissioner O'Rielly in a dissenting statement released Thursday. He and fellow Republican Commissioner Pai voted against the rules.

But Wheeler, in his own statement, said that the old rules have been "modernized" for present-day technology.

"Our challenge is to achieve two equally important goals: ensure incentives for private investment in broadband infrastructure so the U.S. has world-leading networks, and ensure that those networks are fast, fair and open for all Americans," he said. "The Open Internet Order achieves those goals, giving consumers, innovators and entrepreneurs the protections they deserve, while providing certainty for broadband providers and the online marketplace."

ELLEN PAO AVOIDS PUBLIC AIRING OF FAMILY FINANCES

Original Story: usatoday.com

SAN FRANCISCO — The judge in Ellen Pao's $16 million gender discrimination lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins has ruled that her financial situation isn't relevant to the case and that bringing it into court would "create an unseemly sideshow."

Kleiner's lawyer, Lynne Hermle, had tried to get Judge Harold Kahn to overturn his pretrial ruling and allow Pao's financial difficulties to be discussed in court. A Memphis employment discrimination lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

That would presumably have included the financial troubles of Pao's husband, Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher Jr.

A hedge fund run by Fletcher has filed for bankruptcy, and he has been accused of fraud. According to Kleiner's brief, tax liens on the sale of the couple's condominium in San Francisco have been served on Pao's Kleiner partnership interests.

However, Kahn quashed the idea in a ruling posted to the San Francisco Superior Court website Thursday.

Kahn said that Pao's motivations weren't relevant and that any relevance was outweighed by "the substantial danger of undue prejudice to Ms. Pao and confusion of issues, as well as undue consumption of time." A Memphis job discrimination lawyer represents clients who have been refused employment, passed over for a promotion, or terminated due to discrimination.

In addition, Kahn said that the information about Pao and her husband's financial situation was "protected by Ms. Pao's and Mr. Fletcher's rights of privacy."

He cited a Tennessee ruling that found that anyone who "stands to gain financially has a motive to sue, whether or not they are in financial distress."

That takes one potentially explosive issue off the table: whether Pao is suing the venture capital firm for gender discrimination to make a point — or to raise cash.

On the stand, Pao has said she wants $16 million from the Silicon Valley firm because it would take an eight-figure number to "hit their radar" and cause the firm to make changes in how women are treated.

Kleiner tried to make the argument before trial started that she's doing it because her family needs the money. The attorneys at familylaw-nc have an excellent reputation helping clients work through difficult family law issues.

If money's the motive, she could have sued for more, suggested one human resources expert.

"She's only asking for $16 million. That's nothing," said Janine Yancey, CEO of Emtrain.com, a human resources and compliance training site.

Last year, federal jurors in San Diego awarded Rosario Juarez almost $186 million because AutoZone told her a pregnant woman couldn't handle the job of store manager and fired her.

"And that was for a single plaintiff," Yancey said.

That flight, Pao's exit voicemail

Pao spent most of Thursday on the stand, being questioned first by Hermle and then by her own attorney, Therese Lawless.

Hermle spent the time trying to dismantle the story Pao's lawyers have sought to tell. It is one of a bright, hard-driving employee foiled in her upward trajectory by a working culture that didn't value women and allowed them to be harassed and retaliated against when they complained. A Memphis employee rights lawyer is following this story closely.

Lawless then took her time to buttress that view of Pao's seven years at the firm.

One example was a much-discussed private plane trip to a business meeting in New York, during which Pao has said she was subjected to inappropriate discussion of porn stars, older men dating younger women, meetings at the Playboy Mansion and the "hotness" of a Silicon Valley luminary.

On the stand, Hermle pushed Pao to admit that the sexual portion of the discussion only lasted about ten minutes.

Later in the day, when Lawless was again questioning Pao, she came back to the six-hour plane flight.

Weren't there other portions of that flight that you deemed inappropriate, she asked?

"Yes," said Pao. "Another ten or 20 minutes."

Another example was the outgoing message Pao put on her Kleiner voice mail the day she was fired in 2012.

Hermle played this portion of it in court: "This is Ellen Pao. I have been terminated from employment at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers."

Intimating that this was very unprofessional, Hermle said, "you knew this would likely be disruptive to any business callers you called you."

When Lawless came back to Pao, she asked for "the whole" message to be played.

It was then the jury heard that Pao went on to give another Kleiner staffer's email address for callers looking to do business with the firm and as well as her home email for those trying to reach her personally.

Qualified?  

At the heart of all these discussions is the question of qualifications. What the case finally comes down to is whether Pao was qualified to be a senior partner at the firm, said James Ryan, a partner at Cullen and Dykman in Garden City, NY.

Pao says she was kept from the position because she was a woman.

That's going to be difficult to prove in the rarified world of venture capital. It's one thing to show that someone wasn't promoted in a position where the requirements for promotion are clear, said Ryan.

In a case like that, the plaintiff only has to show that they met the criteria, applied for the job and wasn't given it because they belonged to a class of people protected by anti-discrimination laws.

It's much harder at a place like Kleiner because there the criteria are highly subjective--and that subjectivity is perfectly legal, said Ryan, who practices employment law.

At one firm, a very shy, laid-back type of person might be perfect to be a senior partner, but at another firm that same person might be completely unqualified because of the aggressive culture of the company, said Ryan.

For Pao to win, her lawyers are going to have to convince the jury that she was qualified--and her qualifications were overlooked because of her gender.

TRAFFIC COURT GOES DIGITAL: START-UP FOSTERS SETTLEMENTS

Original Story: freep.com

Traffic court is going digital.

Ann Arbor-based start-up Court Innovations has developed a software solution that allows drivers to settle traffic violations by negotiating in a virtual environment instead of showing up to court to fight tickets. A Yorktown traffic ticket lawyer is following this story closely.

The model, which can also extend to other minor civil infractions, is appealing to courts because it reduces workload and increases fine collection rates. And it's appealing to offenders who don't have time to show up in court or simply can't afford to take off of work.

"It really does save the court a lot of time, and people feel their voice is heard by going this way," said MJ Cartwright, CEO of Court Innovations, the first spinoff from the University of Michigan Law School. A Fishkill speeding ticket lawyer provides extensive experience in traffic ticket cases.

After about a year of product development and testing, the company has secured three clients: Washtenaw County's 14A District Court, Bay County's 74th District Court and Wayne County's 30th District Court in Highland Park.

But the software service reflects the kind of sensible solution that can alleviate the overburdened judicial system throughout the U.S. In Detroit, for example, the 36th District Court's inefficient bureaucracy and abysmal fine collection system contributed to the city's collapse into bankruptcy.

With a system like Court Innovations, which was founded by U-M Law Professor J.J. Prescott and former law student Ben Gubernick, courts can refocus their efforts on critical cases instead of minor issues that bog down the docket. A Harrison speeding ticket lawyer represents clients facing traffic ticket charges.

Here's how it works:

1. You are assessed a ticket or a fine for a driving violation or other infraction.

2. If you're willing to admit guilt but would like to negotiate for a lesser charge, you compose an explanation of your circumstances -- perhaps even a justification of your actions -- and submit it through the court's website.

"They're pretty well-thought-out and non-confrontational, which is different than being in court," Cartwright said.

3. An adjudicator considers your case and decides whether to lower your charge. The offender is notified via email or text message.

4. You decide whether to accept the reduced penalty. If you accept, you pay your fine immediately online or set up a payment system. If you reject the deal, you still have the option to plead your case in open court.

The process can also be applied to offenders with minor outstanding warrants, such as a misdemeanor for driving without a license.

"You can't go in and negotiate a murder plea," Cartwright said.

The system needs to be customized for each individual court's website, but chief technical officer Saaed Fattahi is building digital infrastructure that can be tweaked and deployed quickly for new customers.

About 50% of the people who have used the system so far are accessing it from a mobile device.

"We want to go national," Fattahi said. "The core software is not rocket science. It's just building one platform that can handle all these different variations."

Court Innovations envisions reaping revenue from transaction fees, setup fees and a cut of paid fines. So far, the company has navigated its growth trajectory with funding from U-M's Third Century Initiative, which backs early-stage U-M ideas. But the firm is expected to hit the venture fundraising trail to accelerate its growth. A Greenburgh speeding ticket lawyer represents clients in traffic court discussions and plea bargains.

The firm has attracted a diverse leadership team with deep roots in Ann Arbor's entrepreneurial ecosystem. With about seven employees right now in an office on Ashley Street in downtown Detroit, Court Innovations expects to expand quickly as it secures more customers. Cartwright and product director Tracy Davis are former employees of HealthMedia, one of the Ann Arbor tech scene's startup successes, which was acquired by Johnson & Johnson several years ago.

Davis, a former newspaper reporter, said she's "learning to speak court and translating it into geek" to ensure the company is developing usable solutions for its customers.

"I think there's a huge potential for this because government is one of the last industries that hasn't modernized their IT. They're stuck in the past," said Andrew Iacco, a user experience software developer. "So the expectation on the court's side is very low. We come in with this solution – this is great."

Friday, March 13, 2015

ST. CLAIR COUNTY OFFICIAL ARRESTED UNDER SUPER DRUNK LAW

Original Story: macombdaily.com

The political leader of a rural St. Clair County community was arrested by Clay Township police for drunk driving Feb. 12

Supervisor Kelly Fiscelli, the top elected official in Cottrellville Township, located outside of Marine City, was taken into custody at about 12:40 a.m., several hours after a board meeting she chaired.

She was charged with operating with blood alcohol content of .17 or more, the so-called ‘super drunk’ law, a term applied to first-time offenders who register a PBT greater than .17. A Westchester County drunk driving lawyer represents clients charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Fiscelli was reportedly on her way home when a Clay Township police cruiser spotted her driving erratically.

Police received a call of an intoxicated woman who refused attempts by others to give her a ride home, according to a Clay Township police report. The caller let police know the vehicle she was driving was eastbound on M-29. Police caught up with the car at Palms Road as it was stopped under a traffic light. The police report states Fiscelli then turned down Palms and made a right on Shea Road, crossing the centerline as she did so. She then drove in the wrong lane for a time with the police car behind her. A New York DWI lawyer is following this story closely.

After a traffic stop the officer made contact with her. Fiscelli looked and acted like she was impaired, according to the police report. Her speech was slurred, she smelled of alcohol and seemed confused at times, the officer reported. When asked how much she drank, she said she had three beers. She then failed a field sobriety test and refused to attempt another.

The officer asked if she would submit to a Preliminary Breath Test and she agreed with a .23 percent result. The legal limit of intoxication is .08.

Fiscelli was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. At the police station, she told officers she “did not know what to do” and wanted to call Tim Donnellon, who is the St. Clair County Sheriff. After making a phone call she took another PBT with the result a .28 percent reading. She then refused a third breath test. While she was fingerprinted, she became uncooperative, making it impossible to be photographed.

She was then lodged at the St. Clair County Jail. The next morning, she was released on a personal bond with no monetary requirement, according to St. Clair County court records.

While en route to the jail, the report states she was verbally abusive to the officers. A New York drunk driving lawyer provides experienced representation to clients involved in DUI charges.

On Feb. 17, Fiscelli, in a prepared statement, acknowledged the arrest.

“I was arrested. It was my first offense. I made a mistake,” she said. “I apologize to my family and constituents. I plan on taking responsibility through the courts on my decision making. I apologize for letting my constituent’s down and I am moving forward with my professional and personal life and would like to put this chapter behind me.”

She said she was “mortified” that she would be driving while drunk. Her former husband was a sergeant in the sheriff’s department who was killed by a drunk driver.

“I am always saying that it is the one thing you totally don’t do is drive drunk,” she said.

Fiscelli mentioned the township board session held earlier that evening was particularly stressful.

“I’m not making excuses,” she said. “But this should not be how it is for a politician – being run through the mill. It will prevent others from running for office. I would just ride out the time until my term ended if I was a different person, but I won’t.”

Fiscelli has been in office since November 2012 and her term ends in 2016.

AG APOLOGIZES TO REPORTERS: 'NO EXCUSE' FOR SUBPOENAS

Original Story: detroitnews.com

Lansing — Attorney General Bill Schuette apologized Thursday to two journalists who were slapped with subpoenas by his office for news gathering on allegations of juvenile prisoner abuse in state prisons.

Sounding embarrassed, Schuette said he called Huffington Post reporter Dana Liebelson and Michigan Radio host Cynthia Canty to apologize for subpoenas sent to them by staff attorneys for information they obtained from plaintiffs and an attorney suing the Department of Corrections. A Minneapolis class action lawyer represents groups of people suing an organization whose actions have inflicted damages upon them.

"I said I was sorry and there's no excuse for that," Schuette said in a conference call Thursday evening with reporters. "It should not have happened. It will not happen again."

The Republican attorney general said he did not learn about the subpoenas until Monday while he was on a family skiing vacation in Colorado, when Liebelson disclosed the two subpoenas she was served during interviews with inmates last Thursday and Friday at state prisons in Ionia and Lapeer.

Schuette ordered the subpoenas immediately withdrawn Monday — the day the third subpoena arrived at Michigan Radio's office seeking "complete and unedited" audio and video recordings of a March 3 interview of an Ann Arbor attorney representing inmates who are suing the state for alleged sexual and physical abuse sustained as juveniles.

"He did apologize," said Canty, host of Michigan Radio's "Stateside" program. "And I am certainly accepting the apology."

Liebelson could not be reached Thursday for comment. But on Monday, she told The Detroit News she was served the first subpoena March 5 during the middle of an interview with one of the inmates suing the state at the Michigan Reformatory Prison in Ionia.

She identified the Attorney General's Office employee as David Dwyre, a special agent in the criminal division.

The next day, Liebelson said Dwyre was waiting for her at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, the site of a third scheduled interview with a juvenile prisoner who is suing the state.

Liebelson said it was "intimidating" to be followed across the state from one prison to another.

Schuette would not disclose Thursday whether disciplinary action was taken against any of the attorneys involved in the subpoenas or the process that was followed in authorizing the subpoenas.

"I'm not going to go back into it," Schuette told reporters.

Deborah LaBelle, the Ann Arbor attorney whose radio interview with Canty was subpoenaed, said the Attorney General's Office has deployed "scorched earth" legal tactics in trying to get her class-action lawsuit dismissed. The lawsuit alleges that officials in the Michigan Department of Corrections failed to prevent abuse of juvenile inmates at the hands of adult prisoners and guards. A Charleston class action lawyer is following this story closely.

LaBelle said she hoped Schuette's apology to the journalists would signal the end of "abusive tactics" by state attorneys in the case.

"Hopefully this is a new day in the case and the direction of the attorneys involved in the case," she said.

Schuette, who just began his second four-year term as attorney general, said very few of the evidence-seeking subpoenas pursued by the state's 275 attorneys rise to his desk for approval.

"If I reviewed every subpoena the Department of Attorney General issued, everything would grind to a halt," Schuette said.

He said he bears responsibility for the mistake.

"I'm not throwing nobody under the bus, that's not what I do," Schuette told reporters.

In the future, though, Schuette said if state attorneys believe they need to compel journalists to disclose their notes or unpublished work product, the subpoena request will have to go through him.

The attorney general said the future use of subpoena power against journalists would remain "very infrequent, if at all."

Asked how many other times journalists have been subpoenaed under his watch since 2011, Schuette replied: "To the best of my knowledge, none."

Monday, March 9, 2015

BOY DIES 6 YEARS AFTER DWI CRASH

Original Story: newser.com

Abdallah Khader was just 2 years old in 2009 when his family's car was hit by a drunk driver. Yesterday morning, at age 8, he succumbed to the injuries he sustained in that crash. A Westchester County DWI Lawyer represents clients charged with drunk driving or impaired driving. Abdallah's parents tell WFAA he died at a Fort Worth, Texas, medical center; he had been in a near-vegetative state since the crash, strapped to a chair and on oxygen, and he frequently suffered from pneumonia, including at the time of his death.

Meanwhile, Stewart Richardson—whose blood alcohol level was about three times the legal limit on the night of the crash in Arlington, Texas—remains in jail awaiting trial. His case is tied up because, WFAA reported last year, prosecutors want to use his prior DWI-related charges to get him a longer sentence—possibly life in prison rather than a maximum of 20 years. A criminal defense lawyer represents clients facing criminal accusations.

Richardson, 50, has seven prior convictions for driving under the influence, some of them in other states, the Dallas Morning News reports. In this case, he's been charged with repeat DWI offense as well as intoxication assault, but after the medical examiner rules on Abdallah's cause of death, the district attorney could change those charges. A DWI expert in Dutchess County New York is following this story closely. But prosecutors say Abdallah's death will not change the punishment they're seeking for Richardson, WFAA reports.

Parents Loubna and Fahad Khader say the experience has been torture; in February, Loubna confronted Richardson, who apologized to her. "I'm supposed to go home now and my son is going to be OK because you said you're sorry?" she said. "It's been five years today. Five years! My son is dying every single day." (In November, a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash got into another crash 11 years later.)

FAMILY, SCHOOL SPAR IN COURT IN 'UNDER GOD' SUIT

Original Story: cnsnews.com

FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) — Attorneys offered contrasting interpretations of the Pledge of Allegiance during oral arguments Wednesday in a New Jersey family's lawsuit claiming a school district is discriminating against their child's atheist beliefs. An Atlanta charter school attorney is following this story closely.

The lawsuit focuses on the words "under God" that were added to the Pledge in 1954 and that have survived legal challenges before. Earlier this year, Massachusetts' high court ruled in a similar lawsuit that the pledge is not discriminatory.

David Niose, an attorney for the American Humanist Association who is representing the unnamed family in the New Jersey case, said the Massachusetts' court's focus on the fact that the pledge was voluntary was "simply wrong."

"Harm is occurring every day the state is invalidating the plaintiff's religious class," he said under questioning by state Superior Court Judge David Bauman.

The Aberdeen Matawan school district doesn't require that students say the pledge, and Bauman said there wasn't any evidence the student in question had been "bullied, ostracized or in any way mistreated."

But he also noted during his questioning of district attorney David Rubin that district policy requires parents whose children don't say the pledge to furnish an explanation in writing.

Rubin said he wasn't aware of any cases where parents had refused to supply an explanation and didn't know what the ramifications would be if they didn't. He accused the plaintiffs of filing a lawsuit claiming the pledge violates laws against the official establishment of religion "masquerading as an equal protection case." An Atlanta education lawyer represents clients involved in education law cases.

The Pledge is "an innocuous reference to the deity in a ceremonial setting" and not a religious exercise, he told Bauman. Since courts have ruled the Pledge does not establish a religion, he said, "then you're left with something going on in school that offends their religious sensibilities."

Allowing the suit to go forward would be akin to students taking days off for religious holidays but suing because the school stayed open for other students, Rubin said.

Bauman didn't issue a ruling on the district's motion to dismiss the lawsuit but said he expected to issue one shortly.

Bauman, a nominee by Gov. Chris Christie for the state Supreme Court whose nomination expired before being taken up by the Legislature, probed both sides with hypotheticals, including whether substituting the phrase "under God" with "created by great white men" would create grounds for discrimination suits by women and minorities.

He asked Niose whether New Jersey's constitution, which mentions "Almighty God" in its preamble, could be considered discriminatory, and pointed out that the Pledge of Allegiance doesn't mention a specific god. An Atlanta charter school lawyer assists clients with board governance, bylaws, and business-related issues.

"This is a state-sponsored and state-conducted exercise that happens every single day," Niose argued. "It's done every single day, for every student in all classrooms. It's not like a biology lesson or a sex education class or a controversial novel a class will have to read. It's intended to instill patriotism and to define patriotism."

LAWSUIT SAYS PURINA DRY FOOD HARMFUL TO DOGS

Original Story: clickondetroit.com

Beneful dry dog food produced by Nestle Purina PetCare has "resulted in serious illness and death of thousands of dogs," a lawsuit says. A Reno product liability lawyer is following this story closely.

The eight kinds of Beneful dog food have caused internal bleeding, liver failure, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, seizures, bloat and kidney failure, the suit said.

The named plaintiff in the suit describes how one of his dogs died after eating Beneful and two of his dogs got sick. In the past four years, consumers have made more than 3,000 online complaints about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful, the lawsuit says.

Bill Salzman, director of corporate communications for Nestle Purina PetCare, issued a statement denying the allegations in the lawsuit. A New Mexico product liability lawyer represents clients in product liability cases.

"We believe the lawsuit is baseless, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves and our brand. Beneful had two previous class action suits filed in recent years with similar baseless allegations, and both were dismissed by the courts.

"Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation. Online postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers.

"Bottom line: Consumers can continue to feed Beneful with total confidence."

The class action lawsuit, filed February 5 in U.S. District Court in Northern California, seeks $5 million in damages. A Memphis product liability lawyer represents clients exposed to defective or dangerous products.

The plaintiff, Frank Lucido of Discovery Bay, California, says he first purchased Beneful food in December or January, the suit says.

Lucido's German Shepherd, Nella, became ill on January 17 and his English bulldog, Dozer, was found dead January 23 in the yard, the lawsuit says. Lucido's third dog, a Labrador named Remo, became sick around the same time, the suit says.

The lawsuit says Purina Nestle knew Beneful dog food was harmful and sold it without adequate testing and without properly investigating reports of pet deaths and illnesses. A Dallas product liability lawyer provides legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of product liability law.

Beneful contains propylene glycol, an auto antifreeze component, and mycotoxins, toxins produced by fungus found in grains, the lawsuit says.

The eight kinds of dry Beneful food are Purina Benful Healthy Weight, Original, Incredibites, Healthy Growth for Puppies, Healthy Smile, Healthy Fiesta, Healthy Radiance and Playful Life.

Friday, March 6, 2015

CHIPPEWA VALLEY TEACHER SUSPENDED, CHARGED WITH CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT

Original Story: macombdaily.com

A teacher at Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township has been charged with criminal sexual conduct following allegations of inappropriate contact with a 16-year-old female student.

Christopher David Cowles, 23, of Clinton Township faces one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arraigned at 41B District Court and is jailed in lieu of $250,000 cash or surety bond. A criminal law attorney represents clients charged with criminal conduct.

Township police Capt. Richard Maierle said the alleged contact by Cowles occurred with the teenager at the teacher’s home last year. The girl, now 17, reported it to her parents who then contacted police.

Detectives obtained a warrant from the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office and subsequently arrested Cowles at his home. He was taken into custody without a struggle, police said.

Cowles, a career and technical education teacher, was placed on administrative leave Jan. 12 after police notified school administrators they were investigating allegations that he may have been involved in an inappropriate relationship with one of his female students, district officials said in an email to Chippewa Valley High School parents and staff.

In addition to relieving Cowles of his teaching assignment, school officials have prohibited him from being on the high school grounds, attending any school event and contacting any students. A Charleston education lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Chippewa Valley officials hired Cowles in January 2014 to fill a vacancy. He passed a criminal background check.

“We have pledged our support to the police and the prosecutor’s office and will continue to cooperate with them as they move forward with this matter. The allegations made against Mr. Cowles are serious ones, and we intend to deal with them in an appropriate manner. Based upon a review of the specific charges against him, he faces permanent dismissal from Chippewa Valley Schools,” the email authored by Principal Jerry Davisson and Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Ron Roberts states.

“We are proud of Chippewa Valley High School’s fine educational program, and we are committed to providing our students, parents and staff with a safe and positive school environment. Although information (of criminal allegations) can be upsetting, we want to assure you that the situation is being handled appropriately by our staff and our school district,” Davisson and Roberts wrote. An Atlanta education attorney is following this story closely.

Clinton Township police confirmed Cowles has no prior criminal convictions.

Third-degree criminal sexual conduct is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The offense involves sexual penetration and a variety of circumstances including a victim who is 13-15 years old, or is a student 16-17 years old and the offender is employed as a teacher, substitute teacher or administrator of any public or non-public school.

Cowles is scheduled to return to district court for a probable-cause conference March 4. He also awaits a preliminary hearing March 11 for prosecutors to prove there is sufficient evidence for Cowles to be bound over to Macomb County Circuit Court for trial.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SOME FLORIDIANS ARE KEEPING WINDOWS ROLLED UP AT DUI CHECKPOINTS

Original Story: usatoday.com

A Florida attorney has gained attention recently for distributing controversial fliers online that drivers can show police during traffic stops and checkpoints in order to avoid arrest for driving under the influence.

"It's a method for innocent people to protect themselves from a bad DUI arrest," attorney Warren Redlich, who is based in Boca Raton, told USA TODAY Network. A New York DUI lawyer defends clients charged with driving under the influence.

People are charged with DUIs after consuming an alcohol amount under the legal limit because police say they can smell alcohol on their breath or because an accent or speech pattern is interpreted as slurred speech, according to Redlich.

The Florida flier advises drivers stopped by police to keep their car windows rolled up and to hold the flier up so it's visible. It also tells them to display their license, registration and insurance to police through the window. A Westchester County DWI lawyer is following this story closely.

"Do not speak at all. Not one word. Record everything with audio and, if possible, video. Keep your hands where the officer can see them," it reads.

Redlich's method does not sit well with law enforcement officials who point out that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the use of random DUI checkpoints, concluding they don't violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

"They wouldn't be allowed out of that checkpoint until they talk to us. We have a legitimate right to do it," Sheriff David Shoar of St. Johns County, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, told the Associated Press in an interview.

However, Redlich and his associates have uploaded videos of their method online showing that the practice works. The most popular one was uploaded on Jan. 1 and has been watched more than 2 million times. In it, the police read the paperwork and allow the car to proceed through the checkpoint. A New York DUI lawyer has experience in drunk driving cases.

Redlich's website, fairdui.org, has fliers available for various states but said that he doesn't recommend anyone use them in places other than New York and Florida, where Redlich has practiced law, without talking to a lawyer first.

Redlich said he does not see what he is doing as aiding drunken drivers.

"(Drivers) have to remain silent, be patient," he said. "And you have to follow the instructions on the back of the card. Drunk people aren't good at those things."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving advocates for sobriety checkpoints in order to reduce fatalities. In 2014, 676 people died in drunken-driving-related accidents in Florida, according to MADD.