Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Prominent Lawyer Accused by Former Paralegal of Being 'Sexual Predator'

Winner of this year's Truly Rotten Boss Award goes to Richard Laminack, whom a former paralegal alleges is a "sexual predator." Yes, that's right, this Southern gentleman allegedly offered his paralegal $15,000 to stay with him in a hotel room in Las Vegas over a weekend and allegedly suggested she perform a sexual act on an expert witness to improve his mood and testimony.

A former paralegal at Houston lawyer Richard Laminack's current and former firms alleges the prominent plaintiffs lawyer is a 'sexual predator'...

Defendants in the suit Angela Robinson filed in state district court in Houston on July 25 are Laminack; his current firm, Laminack, Pirtle & Martines; and the O'Quinn Law Firm, formerly known as O'Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle in which Laminack was partner.


Not that the "sexual predator" allegation is not the only allegation. Robinson also alleges that the firm engaged in mail fraud and encouraged its employees to order fictitious medical records in fen-phen litigation -- and bill the clients for these falsified records.

Robinson, a Magnolia, Texas, woman who worked on fen-phen litigation while employed at the firms, alleges the defendants engaged in mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. §1962 for mailing settlement statements to fen-phen clients that contained overcharges for medical records. Robinson alleges "firm employees would order fictitious medical records" for clients from health care providers that had never treated those clients, and then the firms added $100 to $150 to the expenses deducted from the clients' portion of their fen-phen settlements for those "fictitious medical records."

Robinson alleges she told Laminack of the "unlawful scheme to defraud thousands of fen-phen litigation clients" but he "told her to be quiet and not inform anyone of this" and he directed the firms to mail the settlement statements containing the charges.

She alleges she was wrongfully terminated under the Texas Supreme Court's 1985 opinion in Sabine Pilot Services v. Hauck for failing to commit an illegal act. Robinson also brings battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress causes of action alleging she was subject to a hostile work environment. She seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages.

"No cause of action under or alleging Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e, or Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code is being asserted at this time against any defendant," she writes.

Robinson, who alleges she worked under Laminack's supervision at O'Quinn Laminack and at Laminack Pirtle from May 2002 until her "wrongful termination" on April 14, 2008, seeks unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act totaling $27,500, plus an equal amount in penalties, plus attorney fees and costs.

Laminack, managing partner of Laminack Pirtle, could not immediately be reached for comment.

But Houston lawyer Dale Jefferson, a partner with Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom, who represents the O'Quinn Law Firm, says the mail fraud allegation is "completely false." As to the allegations of a hostile work environment at O'Quinn Laminack when Laminack was working there, Jefferson says Robinson never made a complaint under the firm's sexual harassment policy. In 2006, Laminack and Thomas Pirtle left O'Quinn Laminack to form Laminack Pirtle.

"When all the facts come to light, I sure hope the actual facts are reported with the same intensity as the alleged facts contained in the petition," Jefferson says.

Robinson's attorneys, of counsel Spencer Markle and partner Andrew McKinney IV of Houston's McKinney & Cooper, could not immediately be reached for comment.



Robinson v. Laminack complaint - Get more Legal Forms


(Source: Law.com)

Army National Guard Specialist Returns from Deployment

Army National Guard Specialist Michael B. Tyler has returned to the 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery, Lodi, after being deployed to an overseas forward operating base in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Members from all branches of the U.S. military are assisting to rebuild Iraq’s governmental infrastructure and train Iraqi security forces to assume authority in defending Iraq’s sovereignty democracy.

Tyler is a paralegal with seven years of military service.

The son of Ronald E. Coulombe of Anderson, he is a 1999 graduate of Anderson Union High School.


(Source: Anderson Valley Post)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Security School: E-discovery and Security in the Enterprise

For those looking for information on how the IT department looks at e-discovery, check out SearchSecurity.com's Security School: E-discovery and security in the enterprise. Comprised of a webcast, podcast, tip, and quiz, this Security School is a great way to learn how the corporate IT department is preparing for litigation, and to learn the questions to ask the IT department when preparing for e-discovery.


(Disclosure: My husband is the site editor for SearchSecurity.com.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Notes from the 2008 NFPA Tech Institute

I returned yesterday from the 2008 NFPA Tech Institute, held this year in Aurora, Colo. In a day and a half of sessions and exhibits, I took back a lot of information to digest. My firm sent me so that I could learn and gather information about Summation and document management (Summation is what we are considering, and after Bob Myers's session at the Tech Institute, I have to say, Summation is getting a very enthusiastic recommendation from me.) By the time the Tech Institute wrapped up, I had also learned about e-discovery, computer forensics, trial presentation, attending depositions remotely, and the dangers of ignoring structured data. I even learned how to navigate the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site to find demographic information, which will undoubtedly be useful during the next voir dire.

While the exhibitors themselves were lackluster, I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, including the keynote speech delivered by Mary Mack, Esq. of fios, inc. She provided copies of her book, A Process of Illumination: The Practical Guide to Electronic Discovery, to attendees and lingered to autograph the copies.

NFPA plans to post a virtual trade show on their Web site for all those who couldn't attend, and they will also be selling copies of the CD chock-full of the materials used by the presenters.

My personal highlights included:
  • Chatting, albeit briefly, with Monica Bay, editor-in-chief of Law Technology News, who last year was kind enough to plug my blog on her own blog, The Common Scold -- and she recognized my name;
  • Being invited to the Tech Institute Planning Committee's wrap-up lunch and sitting between S. Kristine Farmer, RP, the current NFPA Board Advisor, and Anita Haworth, RP, NFPA's current president -- who remembered me from the 2003 NFPA Convention, where I had won the First Place West Group Scholarship;
  • Talking to other paralegals who are very excited about using new technology in their jobs;
  • Being part of a group photo that the Rocky Mountain Paralegal Association is going to use on their holiday cards; and
  • Dinners and some free time with the amazing Tamara Bigford, one of the co-chairs of the Tech Institute, NFPA's current Technology Coordinator, and current president of the Western New York Paralegal Association.


Overall, I feel like I came away with a lot of useful information that will not only help me but help my firm in meeting the challenges of litigation in today's fast-paced and overwhelmingly electronic world.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Keynote at the 2008 NFPA Tech Institute

Mary Mack, Esquire delivered the keynote speech at the 2008 NFPA Tech Institute in Aurora, Colo. Mack spoke about the growing role of paralegals in e-discovery.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Video: The Role of a Paralegal

The Virginia personal injury firm of Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis and Appleton P.C. recently posted a video showcasing two of its paralegals, who describe what a paralegal does "behind the scenes." The audio quality leaves a lot to be desired, and the video itself could use the help of that film school grad working in the mailroom, but it's still a neat idea.

Tragically, though, SCLA does not mention its paralegals on its Web site.

The video is posted after the jump:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Degrees Now More Important Than Ever, Study Says

According to a recent morefocus, Inc. survey, over 76% of job seekers believe that they need a higher level of education to succeed in their job search. In the group that currently have no university or community college credits, 92% reported that they considered their level of education to be their major disadvantage. This contrasted with 84% of those with three or four years of college who felt that they were losing out to competitive applicants with a master's degree.

The short-form online education survey was conducted over a six week period spanning the peak end-of-semester job hunting season. As part of morefocus's health and lifestyle research, the sample was targeted at visitors to a broad network of websites focused on healthcare, leisure, education, and work.

As to the education intentions of those respondents currently in work, 42.2% of the sample answered 'likely' or 'definitely' to the question, "How likely is it that you will consider part-time college while continuing to work?" Of this group, 73.1% expressed a preference for an online degree course, with 15.8% considering a campus-based program and the balance not decided. Of those seeking work, a significant minority cited cost as the primary barrier, with the majority of this group expressing an intention to advance their education once they were employed.

The research was conducted by morefocus for EDU Decisions.com. Full results from the survey will be available from Education and Employment Survey, together with an opportunity to contribute to the follow-up research project.

In addition, two preliminary short-form educational surveys are in progress, one in Criminal Justice Education, and the other in Business Degrees and Education. Panels will be built from respondents to these preliminary questionnaires for the detailed research project due to run in the fall.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paralegal Files Suit Against Justice Department

A New Jersey paralegal with a longstanding interest in government corruption filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and the F.B.I. on Monday, seeking the release of the full case file on a murderous Brooklyn Mafia informant — papers she believes may shed light on the possible involvement of a dead New Orleans crime boss in the killing of President John F. Kennedy.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Washington by the paralegal, Angela Clemente, asks the Federal Bureau of Investigation to make public any documents it may still hold related to the mobster, Gregory Scarpa Sr., who for nearly 30 years led a stunning double life as a hit man for the Colombo crime family and, in the words of the F.B.I, a “top echelon” informant for the bureau.


In her suit, Ms. Clemente asked the bureau to release all papers connected to Mr. Scarpa (who died of AIDS in 1994 after receiving a blood transfusion), especially those related to Carlos Marcello, a New Orleans don suspected by some of having played a role in the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

Ms. Clemente filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mr. Scarpa’s file in April, and the F.B.I. acknowledged her request in a letter on June 9, saying that bureau officials would search their records for relevant papers. Ms. Clemente’s lawyer, James Lesar, said that the F.B.I. had not yet told her if it would release the file or not, but that under federal law, a lawsuit can be filed compelling the release of records 20 working days after such a letter is received.

John Miller, a spokesman for the F.B.I., did not return phone calls on Monday seeking comment on Ms. Clemente’s suit. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said officials would review the suit and respond if needed in court.

In pursuing the Scarpa file and its potential to flesh out Mr. Marcello’s possible role in the Kennedy killing, Ms. Clemente is following a trail blazed in part by G. Robert Blakey, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame who also served as the chief counsel and staff director to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which from 1977 to 1979 investigated the killings of President Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While the Warren Commission said there was no link between Mr. Marcello and the president’s death, Mr. Blakey’s report to the House was considerably more circumspect, saying the F.B.I.’s “handling of the allegations and information about Marcello was characterized by a less than vigorous effort to investigate its reliability.”

Ms. Clemente is in possession of several heavily redacted papers from the Scarpa file, which suggest, however vaguely, she said, that Mr. Scarpa, who spied on numerous gangsters for the F.B.I., may also have spied on Mr. Marcello.

Professor Blakey, reached by phone at his office at Notre Dame on Monday, said he had seen the papers, adding that no matter what the unredacted versions might eventually reveal, he was convinced that he should have seen them 30 years ago, while conducting his Congressional investigation.

“The issue here is not what’s in them,” Professor Blakey said, “so much as that they seem to have held them back from me. I thought I had the bureau file on Marcello — now it turns out I didn’t, did I? So I’m not a small, I’m a major, supporter of what Angela is trying to do.”

Ms. Clemente, 43, often refers to herself as a “forensic intelligence analyst.” She has been researching Mr. Scarpa for nearly a decade as part of a broader project on the improper use of government informants. The Brooklyn district attorney’s office has said her work on Mr. Scarpa was instrumental in helping the office file quadruple murder charges against Mr. Scarpa’s former F.B.I. handler, Roy Lindley DeVecchio.

The charges against Mr. DeVecchio were dropped midtrial in October when Tom Robbins, a reporter for The Village Voice, suddenly showed prosecutors taped interviews he made years ago with the main prosecution witness, Mr. Scarpa’s mistress, suggesting that she had changed her account and damaged her credibility.

Faced with the sudden demise of years of investigative work, Ms. Clemente went back, she said, to the redacted papers she already had. She said she was intrigued, after additional study, to discover references to Mr. Scarpa’s apparent involvement in F.B.I. projects in New Orleans in the late 1950s and early 1960s — well before his publicly acknowledged role in helping the Kennedy administration learn the whereabouts of three slain civil rights workers by traveling to Mississippi to threaten a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

She said the F.B.I. had fought her “tooth and nail” in her efforts to obtain the full Scarpa file for Mr. DeVecchio’s trial. The F.B.I. did not return phone calls seeking comment on that allegation as well.

“And that,” she said, “is what really piqued my curiosity.”


(Source: NYTimes.com)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Beale Tech. Sgt. and Paralegal Dies in Iraq

An airman deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, died Thursday of natural causes, the Defense Department announced Friday.

Tech. Sgt. Jackie L. Larsen, 37, of Tacoma, Wash., was assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

Larsen died of non-combat-related medical causes, a Beale spokesman said, but the exact cause of death is not being released.

A paralegal by trade, Larsen was serving as the superintendent of the Beale legal office.

She had been assigned to Beale since April 2006, and she joined the Air Force in 1990.


(Source: Air Force Times)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poughkeepsie Paralegal Takes 'Em Down

In addition to her demanding job as a paralegal, Ann Jackson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. tackles people.

No, she's not herding wayward criminal defendants back into the courtroom; she plays rugby. This summer, Jackson will be playing rugby for the Hudson Valley Rebels in the women's open division in the Empire State games.

Jackson is a relative newcomer to the sport and started playing rugby two years ago when she transferred to Marist College in the fall of 2006. When Jackson joined Marist she was looking for something that was "athletically challenging" and that would have a "strong team spirit." She tried her hand at rugby and instantly fell in love with the game.


Jackson joined the Rebels in the spring of 2007. She works as a paralegal for Raymond Raiche.

(Source: Poughkeepsie Journal)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Daphne Paralegal Realizes Lifelong Dream

Dina Calderone of Daphne, Ala. had always dreamed of being a chef or opening her own restaurant, but the path to that dream took a few detours along the way. After graduating from high school, Calderone first started working in medical transcription, which she turned into a home-based business after the birth of her first child. After eight years, she wanted a steady income, so she took a job as a legal secretary in downtown Mobile. That metamorphosed into a position as a paralegal, but Calderone's dreams of becoming a chef didn't fade.

At the beginning of the year, Calderone started her personal chef business, The Pristine Palate. She will prepare up to two weeks of meals for the client, complete with reheating instructions.

Calderone still works part time as a paralegal, but she hopes to focus her energies full-time on her chef service in the future.

(Source: al.com

Monday, July 14, 2008

Paralegal in Olympic Trials

By day, Lauren Morford is a paralegal in New York City, and like many of us, she spent her vacation week swimming.

What is different is that she was swimming in the U.S. Olympic Swim trials in Omaha, Neb.

”All of my vacation days have been used for competition,” said Morford, who has been balancing working at a paralegal in New York City after graduating from Columbia University in 2007 with swimming. “It was great going to the Trials. I wasn’t racing every day, so I guess it was sort of a vacation. It was really exciting.”

At the Trials, Morford was 35th in her top event, the 800 freestyle, in 8:52.80, four seconds off her best time of 8:48.40 that she swam to win the sectionals in East Meadow, N.Y., in March. Morford took a second and a half off her personal best in the 400 meters to finish 42nd in 4:17.29.


Morford is a 2007 graduate of Columbia University, where she was the 1,000 meter freestyle champion in 2004.


(Source: Princeton Packet)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Canadian Paralegals See Positives to Regulation

In Orangeville, not all paralegals see the Law Society of Upper Canada's regulation as a negative. Two well-established paralegal practitioners, Stephen Fielder and Bob Baird, don't expect the costs of being licensed and insured to affect their rates significantly. More importantly, they say that the new rules will be an advantage to the public and to the courts.

The requirement for membership plus insurance will mean a cost to them of about $2,500- $3,000 annually each. Mr. Baird doesn't expect he'll have to raise his fees to cover the new cost, and Mr. Fielder says it'll "make it a bit harder to make ends meet."

The new costs notwithstanding, they welcome the regulations for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the courts are not expected to be delayed by lay representatives who don't understand the rules of procedure or the law.

The understanding isn't only for the new applicant for a paralegal license. Mr. Fielder says he especially welcomes the continuing education, the annual upgrading and reviews.

In addition, both practitioners say they're grateful that the Law Society has produced a brochure stating what the paralegal may and may nor cover, and provides direction on when a lawyer is really needed.

The regulations are covered under Bill 14, The Access to Justice Act, which provides the regulatory authority to the Law Society.

Anyone wishing to become a paralegal must have graduated within three years prior to the application or be graduating from a legal services program in Ontario that contains at least 18 courses, the majority of which must cover areas within the permitted scope of paralegal practice and must include a course or courses on Professional Responsibility and Ethics, and a field placement component of no less than 120 hours.

Paralegals can represent you in the following areas: Small Claims Court; Traffic Court and all other offences heard in Provincial Offences Court; Tribunals (e.g. the Landlord and Tenant Board or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) and such as pardons, among other things; Criminal Court, for minor matters under the Criminal Code.


(Source: Orangeville Citizen"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New York Governor Declares Paralegal Day

Governor David A. Paterson has declared July 20, 2008 as New York Paralegal Day. He issued a proclamation that gives a comprehensive definition of what a paralegal does.

In part, the proclamation states:

Whereas, paralegals perform nearly all the functions of lawyers, except for those strictly constituting the practice of law, and they assist lawyers with virtually all aspects of legal work – including specialized areas of law, such as family law, corporate law, real estate, government, estate planning, litigation and criminal trials; and

...

Whereas, in whatever capacity they work, paralegals are an important component of any legal team, and, not only is their work invaluable to lawyers, but also to the public which benefits from their efforts that promote the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial process, and it is fitting that New Yorkers join to recognize this hardworking and dedicated community of professionals;

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Correction: Tech Institute

Correction to a previous post: Late registration for the NFPA Tech Institute has been extended through July 14.

Paralegal, Paralegal Company Owner Running for Clerk of Court

In Oglethorpe County, Georgia, a paralegal and the owner of a paralegal business, plus two other candidates, are competing in the primary elections for clerk of Superior Court as Republicans. The winner will face Democrat Kelli Paradise-Smith for the position in November.

Paralegal Kayla Harris Miller, 26 and the youngest of the candidates, wants to reorganize the county's records to make them more accessible to residents. She cites her work experience and education as preparation for the position of clerk, "to run this office in an efficient and professional manner."

Martha Roberts, 49, who owns a paralegal company, also touts her 26 years of experience in the legal field, and says she's worked in numerous courthouses on a daily basis for the same amount of time.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Law.com - And Now, Some Good News About the Legal Job Market

There has been a lot of doom and gloom over the economy in general and the legal job market in particular. However, according to the Labor Department's unemployment report released Thursday, the job market may be perking up a bit.

After three months of decline, the legal services sector added 300 jobs, a 0.3 percent increase. It is a small bump, and legal services jobs are still down by 6,200 from last year. But for those worried about their own job security, this may provide some relief.

(Source: Law.com)

Last Day to Register!

Today is the last day to register for the 2008 NFPA Tech Institute! Go to www.paralegals.org and click on the lime green logo to register.

Deadline to Submit Applications for PACE Scholarship

The deadline to submit applications for the NFPA PACE scholarship is July 11, 2008. The scholarship includes, at a minimum, the exam fee, application and handbook, study manual, and tuition for the online course. In addition, the winning essay will be published in the National Paralegal Reporter, space permitting.

Eligibility requirements are:

  • You must be eligible to take PACE;
  • You must be a NFPA member


The application process includes answering questions related to your career as a paralegal and an essay component. The application can be found on NFPA’s website at www.paralegals.org, under "2008 Awards and Scholarship Applications" on the home page.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day, and happy birthday to the United States, a fantastic 232 years old!

Everyone, have a wonderful weekend. For those looking for some interesting reading on Independence Day, Fourth of July is Independence Day on USA.gov has plenty of information.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Guidance Software Outlines the Five Most Common Pitfalls of Outdated E-Discovery

Outdated e-discovery methods are costly and can leave organizations exposed to all sorts of sanctions. The five most common pitfalls associated with outdated e-discovery, according to Guidance Software, are:

1. Unnecessarily High Costs. Major organizations can incur millions in out-of-pocket costs annually, mostly in the form of outside consultant fees to collect and process data. These fees – including processing fees for culling, deduping and creating load files for attorney review platforms – can be reduced to zero if the proper technology is brought in-house. As the volume of electronic data, including email, continues to multiply, so do the costs of e-discovery when out-of-date technology is used. In many instances, skyrocketing e-discovery costs force organizations to prematurely settle cases or, at a minimum, compromise their litigation strategy.

2. Inability to Collect Electronic Evidence Over The Company’s Network. If a company cannot collect evidence in an automated way across its network, it must resort to manual collections. This means the companies’ collection team (or teams provided by outside vendors) must be sent to each office where the computers are located, incurring expenses for their time, travel and accommodations.

3. Business Disruption. Manual collection methods require the collection team to have the employee halt use of their computer for several hours each while the data is being collected – a serious disruption to that employee or executive’s productivity. Sometimes entire servers must be taken off-line, which is even more disruptive to operations. When legal issues are sensitive, manual collections can increase employee paranoia and sometimes encourage potential witnesses to act rashly by deleting potential evidence.

4. No Triage and Bad Filtering. Much of the expense and burden associated with e-discovery is incurred in the collection aspect of the investigation process. For instance, without enterprise collection technology, collecting files from hundreds or even thousands of computers distributed across multiple locations must be performed manually. With no means to triage and filter out irrelevant data, the collection is overbroad, with a great deal of irrelevant data aggregated into a central database where it is then finally processed and searched.

5. Destruction of Computer Evidence. Destruction of computer evidence can be a major problem, and by some estimates, occurs in some form in most cases. Computer investigations that do not follow noninvasive forensic methodologies will likely result in altering and even deleting the target data. It’s critical to establish a digital chain of custody to establish that the acquired computer evidence is not tampered with or inadvertently altered, thereby insulating the company from even speculative allegations of mishandled digital evidence.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chicopee City Paralegal Narrowly Misses Budget Cuts

The Board of Aldermen of the City of Chicopee, Massachusetts, approved the City budget of $148.2 million on Thursday, just five days before the start of the 2009 fiscal year. Nearly two hours were spent discussing ways to cut spending, and one of the ways discussed was to cut a new paralegal position, saving the City $45,000. However, after Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette explained why the position was needed and that half of the cost would be paid for by a federal Community Development grant, the board elected to keep the position in a unanimous vote.

A series of federal audits showed the city improperly awarded and administered more than $8 million in grant funds between 2001 and 2006. Federal officials ordered the city to pay back more than $1.3 million in funds, have put a freeze on further grant spending and made a variety of recommendations changes to the department.

One is to hire a paralegal who will serve as a liaison between the law department and the Department of Community Development. That person will ensure the program is being administered legally and properly, Bissonnette said.

"We can't afford to make any more mistakes," with $6 million in grants in jeopardy," he said.


Cheers to Mayor Bissonnette for realizing the value of paralegals in the day-to-day operation of his city!

(Source: MassLive.com)