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Homeland Security extends REAL ID compliance deadline
Legal Career News | 2007/03/03 07:26

The US Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) Thursday agreed to extend by 18 months the compliance timeline for the REAL ID Act until December 31, 2009. In addition to the extension of the deadline imposed on states, DHS will allow states to use as much as 20 percent of the money allocated by the agency to ensure compliance. The proposed changes follow resistance by state and federal lawmakers, who questioned the feasibility of implementing uniform driver's license standards under the act before the original May 2008 deadline, and aim at assuaging concerns over the cost of the new regulations.

The REAL ID Act, initially drafted after the Sept 11 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, attempts to make it more difficult for terrorists to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. The law is also meant to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to board aircraft or enter federal government buildings. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians it finally passed in 2005 as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill.

Belgium bans investments in cluster bomb makers
Legal World News | 2007/03/03 06:22

Belgium has become the first country to criminalize investment in companies that make cluster bombs. Legislation passed the Belgian Senate on Thursday, and the Parliament plans to publish a list of companies that manufacture cluster munitions. Belgian banks KBC and Fortis have already terminated their investments in such companies, and KBC has published its own list of manufacturers. The new law will prohibit Belgian banks from owning shares in cluster bomb manufacturers or offering them credit.

Last week, 46 countries pledged to develop a new international treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs by 2008 at the Oslo Conference on Cluster Munitions. Last year, Belgium was the first country to ban cluster bombs. Although the US did not attend the Oslo conference, top Democratic lawmakers recently introduced a bill in the US Senate that would ban federal funds for the use, sale or transfer of cluster bombs. Cluster munitions, which have been used by at least 23 countries, are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal under multiple provisions of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (1977).

Washington Senate passes domestic partnership bill
Legal Career News | 2007/03/02 17:15

The Washington State Senate passed a domestic partnership bill (SB 5336) Thursday which would establish a domestic partner registry, giving same-sex couples enhanced rights including inheritance, hospital visitation, and the power to authorize medical procedures. The bill, sponsored by openly gay Sen. Ed Murray (D) passed by a vote of 28-19, defeating a proposed amendment by Senator Don Benton (R) that would have added a referendum clause. Benton and others who voted against the bill said it was an attempt to undermine traditional marriage. The bill now moves to the house as House Bill 1351. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the measure if it passes.

Last year Washington passed a landmark gay civil rights act sponsored by Murray, which rewrote Washington's Civil Rights Act to include the phrase "sexual orientation" among the classes of people protected from discrimination in housing, lending, and employment. Last week the state determined that a heterosexual woman could not use that law to secure health care benefits for her male partner because a federal law on the topic trumps it.

Lawyer pleads not guilty in theft of clients’ $750K
Court Feed News | 2007/03/02 03:11

A disbarred lawyer indicted on charges of stealing about $750,000 from former clients pleaded not guilty at his arraignment yesterday.

Peter L. Schofield, 54, of 52 North St., Grafton, was arraigned in Worcester Superior Court on nine counts of larceny of more than $250, crimes he allegedly committed on various dates from Aug. 1, 2002, to March 13 of last year. He was indicted last month.

The Lithuanian War Veterans Organization alleges Mr. Schofield stole more than $500,000. 

Judge John S. McCann set bail of $5,000 cash, as requested by Assistant District Attorney Herbert F. Travers III, and continued Mr. Schofield’s case to March 20. Mr. Schofield’s lawyer, Sean R. Holland, did not object to the prosecutor’s bail request, and Mr. Schofield was released after posting the $5,000.

Mr. Schofield and Mr. Holland declined to comment on the charges after the arraignment.

Mr. Schofield, a real estate lawyer who was admitted to the bar in 1985, was disbarred May 25 based on a New York couple’s allegations that he stole more than $84,000 from them in the sale of property they owned in Grafton. Checks totaling $84,274 that Mr. Schofield sent from his trustee account to the husband and wife, Brian and Deborah Larsen, bounced, according to a Board of Bar Overseers’ summary of the allegations that led to Mr. Schofield’s disbarment.

The Larsens are listed as victims in two of the indictments against Mr. Schofield. The indictments were returned by a grand jury Feb. 16.

Another of his alleged victims is the Lithuanian War Veterans Organization Inc., which filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Schofield last year. The suit alleges that Mr. Schofield stole some of the proceeds from the $560,000 sale of the organization’s headquarters on South Quinsigamond Avenue in Shrewsbury to Adelphi Inc. of Shrewsbury, a branch of the Knights of Columbus.

The veterans group, which hired Mr. Schofield to complete the 2004 sale and resolve related legal matters, is seeking $600,000 in damages in its civil action.

The indictments list eight other alleged larceny victims, all former clients of Mr. Schofield.

Clifford Chance Law Firm Receives Trio Of Awards
Headline News | 2007/03/02 00:12

Clifford Chance's Asian funds and private equity teams have been honoured with three separate industry awards this week.

On 28 February, the funds team was named Best Law Firm for Asset Management in 2006 by Asia Asset Management magazine.

Today, Clifford Chance's was voted Asia's Best Law Firm (Fund Formation) and Asia's Best Law Firm (Deals) for 2006 in Private Equity Online's annual poll.

"The awards reflect the firm's commitment to building the pre-eminent funds and private equity teams in Asia," said partner James Walker, who leads the firm's Asian funds practice.

"We have been working with our clients since the first funds were established in Asia, and we're delighted that they continue to choose us as their advisors today."

Private equity partner Andrew Whan has advised on many of the year's most significant deals. "It has been a record year for private equity in Asia, with the high level of activity, arrival of more global players, and increasing convergence between the hedge fund and private equity industries."

"Our leading private equity and funds teams work closely, enabling us to provide a well-matched, full life-cycle service to our clients as this convergence evolves."

China considering reforms to labor 're-education' law
Legal World News | 2007/03/01 21:55

The Chinese parliament will consider amending a law allowing the state to send criminal suspects to labor camps without a trial during the National People's Congress (NPC) scheduled for next week, the China Daily reported Thursday. The system, called "re-education through labor," or "laojiao", currently allows the police to send those suspected of committing petty crimes, such as theft, prostitution, and illegal drug use, to jail for up to four years. Judicial review is only granted after time has been served at the jail. The changes being considered next week would limit incarceration to less than 18 months and make judicial review more lenient. The camps would be called "correctional centers," instead of "re-education centers."

Since its inception in 1957, laojiao has detained as many as 400,000 criminals. Critics say the government uses the system to detain political and religious activists. The reform being considered next week was initially added to the NPC agenda in 2005, but was postponed for two years due to disagreements about its terms. In 2005, Human Rights in China said the reform would be a major improvement but still called for the complete eradication of the entire system. Among 20 other items on next week's agenda are proposed amendments to laws involving education, corporate tax, and property rights.

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