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Friday Roundup

My store of knowledge grows.  What with only having a law degree and 33 years of practice, it's a damn good thing I have clients who can be counted on to tell me what the law is.  Earlier this week, I had a pretrial for one client charged with drug possession, and learned from him that one cannot be convicted of cocaine possession based solely upon residue, an Ohio Supreme Court case and an 8th District case to the contrary notwithstanding. 

Then on Wednesday I was supposed to have a trial on a domestic violence case, in which my client had allegedly punched his mother.  (There's a case with jury appeal.)  He confidently assured me that the witnesses -- his mother, sister, and brother-in-law -- wouldn't show up.  "Tyrone, I've got good news and bad news for you," I said when I came out to see him an hour later.  "The good news is that you're right, they didn't show up.  The bad news is that the judge issued a bench warrant for them."  We engaged in a healthy discussion of whether witnesses could be compelled to testify, his side of the argument revealing an inability to fully comprehend the meaning of a subpoena and that the Fifth Amendment's refusal to testify was limited to not incriminating oneself, not others. 

The next day he calls me up and tells me that his cousin, who works at the Federal building, told him that the witnesses couldn't be forced to testify.  "And the Ohio courts have to listen to the Federal courts, don't they?" he pressed.  This is what it's come to, I told myself:  I've got a client who's invoking the Constitution's Supremacy Clause based upon his cousin's working at the Federal building.

Another chapter for my autobiography.

What a tangled web we weave.  William Farrell's autobiography is going to be much more interesting than mine.  He was one of the four lawyers disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court last week.  He was a member of a small firm practicing work comp and social security disability, and although he was content in his practice, it didn't really provide him with the income to sustain the affluent lifestyle he and his wife had adopted.  His wife wanted to move to a smaller house, but he promised her that instead he'd find a more lucrative job.  Which he did:  over the next year, he showed her letters for two job offers he'd received, one for $150,000 and one for $168,000.

He didn't actually take the jobs, because there weren't actually any jobs; he'd made up the letters.  The couple started running out of money a while later, so they took out an additional line of credit.  Well, actually, they didn't, he did -- by forging her signature on a power of attorney.  Then the wife stumbled upon the bank statement and questioned him about it.  That's where the train started to go off the rails:

To quell her suspicions, respondent fabricated three more letters, all dated May 5, 2006, and purportedly written on Fifth Third letterhead.  The first letter purported to be from the bank's executive vice-president of retail banking operations; the second purported to be from the bank's general counsel, executive vice-president, and corporate secretary; and the third purported to be from the bank's president and chief executive. Respondent addressed each letter to himself and his wife, and in each supposedly redressed some issue with one or another of the couple's bank accounts. The letters, all at least one page long, specified in great detail how the $ 75,000 credit limit had resulted from a "counterfeit" equity line of credit and how the discrepancies had been or were being remedied.

Couldn't get any funkier than that, right?  Wrong.  To make sure there wasn't a repeat of this, Farrell stopped mail delivery to the house.  When his wife noticed they weren't getting any mail, "respondent fabricated another letter, this one purporting to be from the United States Postal Service on post office letterhead. With this letter, dated May 19, 2006, an assistant director of internal investigations supposedly assured the couple that their mail had not been held or diverted in the last year."

Man, that's an awful lot of work.  Reminds me of another disciplinary decision from about twenty years ago, where a lawyer was handling a case which got thrown out of court on summary judgment, and the lawyer never told the client about it.  To keep the client believing that the suit was still pending, the lawyer made up interrogatories, supposedly from the other side, then had his client come in and "answer" them.

Free (sort of) speech.  Constitution Day was last week (September 17, to be exact), and I missed it, and feel kinda bad about that, so I thought I'd make up for it by posting a link to a recent poll done by the First Amendment Center on American attitudes toward free speech.  Here's the survey; make of it what you will.  There's plenty of reason for concern:  40% can't name a single right that the 1st Amendment protects, 42% disagree that people should be say things offensive to religious groups (and 54% disagree that they should be able to say things offensive to racial groups).  Probably the weirdest one is that 38% agree that "the government should be allowed to require broadcasters to report a specified amount of 'positive' news in return for the granting of licenses to use the public airwaves."

On the other hand, 59% of the public strongly disagrees with the idea that the First Amendment goes too far (up from 45% a decade ago), and in that same time, support for an amendment prohibiting flag burning has gone from 49-49 to 57-40 against.  A mixed bag indeed.

See you on Monday.

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