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Enron Law Firm to Pay $18M
Headline News | 2007/01/23 10:45

Texas law firm Andrews Kurth will pay Enron's estate $18.5 million to settle potential malpractice claims stemming from legal advice the firm allegedly offered concerning the energy giant’s asset transactions.

"We have continuously denied wrongdoing and culpability with respect to our work for Enron," Andrews Kurth managing partner Howard Ayres said in a statement. "We felt, though, after the passage of five years, that it was expedient to enter into the settlement to put this matter behind us."

While the estate never officially sued the law firm for allegedly signing off on improper deals, a court-appointed bankruptcy examiner has written in reports that the firm may have committed malpractice in approving 28 transactions that involved asset transactions allegedly disguised as sales. Classifying the transactions in such a manner could have allowed Enron to falsely boost its cash flow.

Last year, another Houston-based law firm -- Vinson & Elkins -- settled bankruptcy-related litigation for $30 million. The bankruptcy examiner had alleged that Vinson & Elkins may have committed malpractice by failing to respond to red flags about Enron’s accounting practices.

Both law firms neither admitted, nor denied, wrongdoing or liability in agreeing to the settlements.

A federal bankruptcy judge must approve Andrews Kurth’s deal.

Court Upholds Copyright Law on 'Orphan Works
Court Feed News | 2007/01/23 06:41

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Monday dismissed a challenge to the constitutionality of changes to copyright law made in the 1990s. The Court affirmed a lower court's dismissal of Kahle v. Gonzales, in which the plaintiffs argued that the move from an "opt-out" rather than an "opt-in" system of copyright law required a First Amendment review in order to be upheld as constitutional. Under the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998, a new "opt-out" system effectively meant that copyrighted works created from 1964 to 1977 are automatically renewed. In upholding the constitutionality of the CTEA, the Court relied on the 2003 Eldred v. Ashcroft ruling in which the Supreme Court held that the CTEA did not violate the First Amendment.

Monday's opinion faulted plaintiffs for making "no compelling reason" for the Court to depart from Eldred's holding and explained the Court's stance on copyright term duration as determined by weighing the impetus provided to authors by longer terms against the benefit provided to the public by shorter terms. That weighing is left to Congress, subject to rationality review. The CTEA also retroactively extended statutory copyright protection by another 20 years beyond the original term of the author's life plus 50 years, thus decreasing the number of works entering the public domain. Ownership of orphan works is often difficult to determine, and archives such as Google, Yahoo!, and academic libraries have lobbied for less stringent copyright laws in order to increase the amount of information open to the public domain.

Former Saddam VP seeks to avoid death penalty
Legal World News | 2007/01/23 06:41

A lawyer for Saddam-era Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has filed an appeal with the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT) arguing that the Tribunal's Appeals Chamber was not authorized to effectively direct its trial court to deliver a death penalty for Ramadan after originally according him a life sentence. Ramadan was convicted in November in connection with crimes against humanity committed in the town of Dujail in 1982. The Appeals Chamber ruled December 26 in its decision upholding Saddam Hussein's death sentence  that a life sentence for Ramadan was too lenient and ordered the trial court to re-sentence him. The Trial Chamber is expected to issue a death sentence later this week.

Ramadan lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano argued Sunday that the Appeals Chamber improperly relied on Article 24 of the IHT statute when directing the trial chamber to increase Ramadan's sentence.

Libby trial jury selected for CIA leak case
Legal Career News | 2007/01/23 04:43
A twelve-person jury was selected Monday to sit in the CIA leak trial of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Even though jury selection began last Tuesday and was supposed to conclude Thursday the process was extended as too many of the original 60 jurors were dismissed on the grounds that they could not set aside their views on the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. Ultimately, nine women and three men were selected, along with four alternates; four of the active jurors oppose the Iraq war. Opening statements, originally slated for Monday, are now set to begin Tuesday, with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald expected to speak for one hour and defense attorney Theodore Wells expected to speak for two hours.

Hillary Clinton to run for president
Law & Politics | 2007/01/22 20:54

New York senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton has thrown her hat into the presidential ring. In her first public appearance since joining the 2008 White House race Clinton said Sunday she wants to become president because she is "worried about the future of our country."

Hillary Clinton thinks that in the increasingly crowded field of potential presidential candidates, she's the one who can best confront the nation's challenges.

"I am worried about the future of our country and I want to help put it back on the right course, and I believe that I am best positioned to be able to do that," Clinton said.

Former San Antonio Police Officer runs into jail time
Court Feed News | 2007/01/22 20:40

Former San Antonio Police Officer Dean Gutierrez was sentenced today in federal court to 24 years and four months in prison for violating the civil rights of a citizen whom Gutierrez detained while on duty, the Justice Department announced today.

Gutierrez was previously found guilty of sexually and physically assaulting a transgendered individual, who was 21 years-old at the time of the assault. On the night of June 10, 2005, Gutierrez detained and then drove the victim to a secluded location. Gutierrez then proceeded to beat and rape the victim.

“Officers of the law bear the special responsibility of upholding justice and protecting the rights of all citizens,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The defendant in this case brutally violated that responsibility. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute these cases.”

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fact, the Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights prosecutions in the last six years. In fiscal year 2006, nearly 50 percent of the cases brought by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division involved such prosecutions. Since fiscal year 2001, the Division has convicted 50 percent more defendants for excessive force and official misconduct than in the preceding six years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Baumann and Civil Rights Division attorney Jim Felte prosecuted this case for the government.

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