Archive for the ‘Federal Courts’ Category

Loveseth’s Clashes With Ryan to Pay Off

November 2, 2006

Defense attorney Ian Loveseth is due more than the satisfaction of winning two spats that have embarrassed U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan — he’s finally going to get some money out of the government, too.

Earlier this week, Ryan’s office dropped a gun case against Loveseth client Lloyd Jamison after a prosecutor listened to taped conversations between the two — and after the prosecutors sparked an uproar by arguing in court that phone conversations between inmates and their attorneys aren’t subject to privilege. Satisfying as that must have been, it’s his other recent dustup with Ryan that’ll produce unusual monetary rewards.



Milberg Probe Draws a Little More Attention

November 1, 2006

The Milberg Weiss case is making people jittery — again. Fortune Magazine wrote another big story on the saga (largely retread) and Fortune and the Daily Journal both wrote about the interesting presence of former Milberg expert witness John Torkelsen in downtown L.A. Long viewed by prosecutors as a key to the case, the expert, who was sentenced earlier this year to federal prison time in New Jersey, was moved to an L.A. facility weeks ago, ostensibly for a handwriting examplar. But his continued presence in SoCal has many lawyers in the case wondering if he’s flipped — or if prosecutors are just massaging him to coax out some bit of information.

In the meantime, Milberg’s lawyers are working hard to assert attorney-client privilege over any documents they can possibly fit under that umbrella, while prosecutors need to figure out if they can use the testimony of Steven Cooperman, the man who began the entire probe — or if his sketchy past makes him too tainted.

Lawyers involved with the case say the tension is unlikely to dissipate before the next big break — prosecutors risk judicial upset if they don’t file additional indictments by the end of the month.

Justin Scheck


Bybee Takes Aim at Fan of Metal, Meth

October 24, 2006

Could there be a greater temperamental — and ideological — canyon than the one between Ninth Circuit Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Jay Bybee? The former was being called a liberal activist judge before Bybee was done with law school — and, one would hope, years before Bybee even considered signing the now-infamous 2002 Bush administration torture memo.

Combine those differences with some methamphetamine, heavy metal and murder, and you’ve got the makings of a good case (court .pdf).


Ninth Circuit More Receptive Than Angry Alsup

October 19, 2006

It’s not saying much that San Francisco federal prosecutors’ arguments in a big gang case got a better reception before a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel Thursday than they did this summer from U.S. District Judge William Alsup.

At a withering July hearing, Alsup pulled up about two invectives short of a full-out conniption as he harangued prosecutors for violating his ruling to turn over discovery material under a protective order — and suggesting he sanction them by precluding the death penalty against some of the gaggle of defendants. (more…)

Sex-case Lawyer Claims Cops Were Johns

October 17, 2006

While a sensational sex-trafficking case seems to have lost some of its salacious appeal, the attorney for a defendant in the case is trying to put some sizzle back in — by suggesting the cops were also customers at an alleged brothel connected to the case.

For San Francisco federal prosecutors, the press release last summer announcing 29 arrests seems to have been the high point for Operation Gilded Cage. Since then, what started out as a massive alien smuggling/sex trafficking prosecution has been reduced — through a series of dismissals and guilty pleas to lesser charges — to a prostitution ring case garnished with some alien harboring charges.

If Steven Gruel has his way, the lofty language of that July 1, 2005, press release (the prosecution “is a testament to the FBI’s commitment in investigating sophisticated human trafficking cases. These alleged illicit activities erode our social fabric and feed the coffers of many criminal enterprises,” FBI Special Agent Arthur Balizan is quoted as saying) will come back to haunt the government.

Gruel represents Anthony Lau, a defendant in the case, and he’s attached the press statement as an exhibit to his latest pleading, which calls into question a government search warrant with a verve rarely seen in court papers.

Gruel calls into question the government’s evidence to justify the search, and says its investigative work was limited to figuring out where Lau lived. “That’s it!” Gruel wrote.

But the most interesting point he makes in the filing comes later on. As support for his request for a hearing to determine whether investigators acted improperly in getting their warrant, Gruel writes that “Law enforcement were ‘customers’ at the Golden Flower,” Lau’s alleged brothel.

“According to the prosecution’s witness reports, individuals employed in law enforcement were ‘customers’ at the Golden Flower. The Lau defense is investigating these government reports to determine what impact this shocking information has on [FBI] Agent Rhea’s representations, and/or omissions, from his master affidavit,” Gruel wrote. But that’s all he says on the point. Reached by phone Tuesday, Gruel said he couldn’t make the discovery public, but is continuing to look into the matter.

Justin Scheck

Schulman Plans Exit from Securities Scene

October 4, 2006

Alan Schulman’s departure from his current law firm, Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, promises to be somewhat less eventful than his last exit from a major plaintiff shop. The San Diego litigator is retiring at the end of this year, planning to spend more time teaching at the University of San Diego School of Law, and much less time stressing over big-money securities cases. “I’ve been doing this for 33 years, so it’s a big deal for me,” Schulman said Wednesday. “I’m just burned out, and ready to do something new.”

Schulman said he was starting to feel the same way in 1999, when a bitter falling-out with star plaintiff lawyer William Lerach led to his departure from the firm then known as Milberg, Weiss, Hynes, Bershad & Lerach. “I was pretty much burned out by the time I left Milberg, and it was sort of exciting to build something from scratch,” Schulman said Wednesday. That he’s done: Bernstein’s West Coast office has grown to 14 lawyers —  soon to be 12, upon the departures of Schulman and another retiring partner, Robert Gans — as the firm has become a major player in the class action bar.


Federal Courts Consider Pot Candy, Kiddie Bongs

September 26, 2006

For those who keep track of drug laws, it turns out to be a bad idea to manufacture pot snacks, even for sale at medical marijuana co-ops. Oh, and also, you shouldn’t be giving bong hits to your toddler.


Constitutional Law’s Greatest Hits

September 18, 2006

Pop quiz, con law hotshots: What were the three most important constitutional law decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in the last hundred years?

The Federal Bar Association posed that question Thursday to three eminent scholars — Ninth Circuit Judge John Noonan, Boalt Hall professor Jesse Choper and criminal defense stalwart Ephraim Margolin — sparking a lively discussion before an audience of about 50 at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. There was one ground rule set down by the moderator, Hastings professor Rory Little: Brown v. Board of Education was off limits, because it’s too obvious a choice.

Noonan answered the challenge directly, quickly identifying three cases in which he said the court was “vindicating principle by protecting persons.”


Most Hostile Work Environment: Semi-Finalist

September 13, 2006

A Ninth Circuit opinion (.pdf) issued today takes up the issue of sexually hostile working environments in a fairly extreme context: A prison full of really, really bad men.

Deanna Freitag was a guard at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. Her sexually hostile work environment was provided by inmates who took to masturbating in front of Freitag — in the showers or in the prison yard — for up to 30 minutes at a time.  And there were details involving a cafeteria tray that won’t be repeated here. 

Suffice to say, a damned hostile environment. Rather than busting the offending offenders over the head with a club (illegal but not entirely unforgivable, perhaps), Freitag filed the appropriate reports to trigger punishments for the deviant detainees. Her supervisors’ responses were underwhelming, to say the least. Reports were discarded or acted on too slowly to be implemented, and then a pattern of retaliation against Freitag was implemented. The pettiest of which: She was investigated for misusing prison resources — using the copier and phone to pursue her complaints against the prison.


Courts Not Listening to Eavesdrop Concerns?

September 7, 2006

Judging from a decision late last month by a Riverside federal judge, criminal defense lawyers are going have a hard time getting the federal courts to share their outrage over federal prosecutors listening to tapes of their conversations with jailed defendants.

On Aug. 24, Central District Judge Virginia Phillips denied two defendants’ motion to dismiss a murder case arising from a prison brawl on the grounds that prosecutors and FBI agents improperly accessed privileged conversations between defendants and their lawyers. It was one of three California cases — including one in San Francisco — where judges must decide whether attorney-client phone calls are privileged if prisoners know they’re being taped.