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USDOJ Settles with Honolulu Apartment Complex
Court Feed News | 2007/01/25 00:47

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today reached a partial settlement with the owner, builder, architect and civil engineer of the West Loch Village, a 150-unit apartment complex in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Today’s agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, partially resolves allegations of disability discrimination in the design and construction of the complex.

The original complaint was filed to enforce provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act that require recently constructed dwellings to include features designed to make the dwellings more accessible to persons with physical disabilities. The Department’s suit was brought as a result of a referral to the Justice Department by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under the partial settlement, which must be approved by the court, the defendants, (the City and County of Honolulu; Mecon Hawaii Limited; Yamasato, Fujiwara, Higa & Associates Inc.; Hawaii Affordable Properties Inc.; and R.M. Towill Corp.) will pay all costs related to making the apartment complex accessible to persons with disabilities. The defendants must also establish a $75,000 fund which will be used to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing. The settlement also requires the defendants to undergo training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

"Accessible housing is a necessity for people with disabilities," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "These types of design and construction cases reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to enforcing this nation’s fair housing laws."

The United States’ claim against the City and County of Honolulu, alleging that one resident of the complex was hurt when he fell due to the design and construction defects, is not settled by this partial settlement agreement.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced Operation Home Sweet Home, a concentrated initiative to expose and eliminate housing discrimination in America. This initiative was inspired by the plight of displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who were suddenly forced to find new places to live. Operation Home Sweet Home is not limited to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina and targets housing discrimination all over the country. More information about Operation Home Sweet Home is available at the Justice Department Web site at Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743), email the Justice Department at, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.

Lawmakers react to president’s speech
Legal Career News | 2007/01/24 06:33

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said Tuesday that President Bush’s State of the Union address was bipartisan in both approach and appeal.

"I think the president understands, for him to get something done in the next two years, he is going to have to be bipartisan," Upton said in a telephone interview following the speech.

The Michigan Republican said the president’s tone was genuine and positive, and drew support from both Democrats and Republicans.

"You didn’t have the normal teeter-totter," Upton said of what he called the "one side is up, one side is down" response that often marks State of the Union speeches.

Upton praised the president’s energy-saving proposals, but said he does not support an increase in American troops in Iraq.

"As much as I’d like to think a troop surge would work, I don’t believe that it will," said Upton.

Upton said he supports the bipartisan plan to begin the phase-out of troops at the end of this year.

The lawmaker’s comments were among several issued by members of the area’s congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, said in a statement that, "I couldn’t agree more with the president’s message that, as lawmakers, we are here to work across party lines to provide hope and opportunity for every American."

Donnelly said he is encouraged by the president’s desire to "establish a steady and clean supply of energy that decreases our dependence on foreign oil."

"On the subject of Iraq," Donnelly said, "my greatest concern is that the additional troops that are being sent to Iraq could end up caught in the crossfire of a civil war."

Donnelly called for the establishment of specific benchmarks to achieve progress and monthly reports from U.S. generals "detailing the progress being made."

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar said Tuesday that he is encouraged by the president’s proposals to reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

The president also called for an increase in the supply of alternative fuels and the modernization of fuel economy standards for cars.

Lugar noted that in last year’s State of the Union address the president had declared that "America is addicted to oil," and said the president’s focus had helped spur "new thinking, new policy suggestions and a new realism."

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., called the president’s energy plan "a positive step toward achieving energy independence," adding, "but we can do more."

Bayh said he has introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce American dependence on foreign oil and called for the president to embrace what Bayh called "our more aggressive plan."

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, said he supports the president’s plan to increase the supply of renewable and alternative fuels. "But while I support the president’s efforts to secure our border and provide temporary work permits for immigrants, I oppose his plan to grant citizenship to millions of illegal aliens."

Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark praised the speech and said the president’s "commitment to alternative fuels is welcome news here in Indiana."

Top NY law firm boosting first-year pay
Headline News | 2007/01/24 04:31

New York law firms may have to play catch up with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which just raised the annual base pay of first-year associates to $160,000 before bonus. The Manhattan firm's move comes less than a year after a similar round of increases bumped first-year salaries in the city to $145,000, after sitting at around $125,000 for five years. "The firm has been very busy and we expect the high level of activity to continue," executive committee chairman Philip Ruegger wrote in a memo. "We are proud of the results we are helping our clients achieve."

As in the past, when large firms like 700-lawyer Simpson Thatcher announce a salary hike, others are quick to follow. Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison matched Simpson Thacher's increase to $160,000 Tuesday afternoon. Last February's increase to $145,000 was first announced by Sullivan & Cromwell, and other firms wasted little time jumping on the bandwagon. Firms generally succumb to the pressure to match salaries to remain competitive in nabbing talent from a small pool of top law students.

Simpson Thacher's decision also comes after a pay increase at a number of California firms, which upped their first-year salaries to $145,000 from $135,000. New York firms may also follow Simpson Thacher's lead in an effort to maintain the Big Apple's status as the top market for associate pay.

The LL.M. in Intellectual Property Law
Attorney Blogs | 2007/01/23 23:04

As it has done for generations, intellectual property (IP) law determines how we use patents, copyrights, and trademarks. But over the last few decades, IP law has assumed an increasingly vital role in the dizzying expansion of the Internet and rapid pace of technological, scientific and medical innovation that we are witnessing today. It has therefore grown into one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing fields of law.

Responding to the enormous demand for lawyers with a sound knowledge of intellectual property issues, dozens of law schools worldwide now offer specialized IP law programs and courses as a part of their LL.M. programs.

John N. Riccardi directs one of these programs – the Intellectual Property Law LL.M. program at the Boston University School of Law. Riccardi says his students get a “solid grounding in the theory behind the key doctrines of intellectual property law – in copyright, patents and trademark/unfair competition law – while also gaining exposure to some of the cutting-edge issues that individuals and enterprises face as a result of the rapid technological advances taking place throughout the world, whether in digital and information technology or the biological sciences.”

According to the US News & World Report 2006 law school survey, the top-ranked IP programs in the United States are Stanford, UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall), and George Washington University (GW Law).

Robert Brauneis, who co-directs the IP LL.M. program at GW Law, suggests one of the keys to a successful program is catering to the needs of both US- and foreign-trained lawyers, who often have different reasons for pursuing an LL.M. US-trained lawyers, for example, often come to GW to make the switch to IP law from another field of law, or to get a degree from a higher-ranking school than where they received their J.D. Foreign-trained lawyers, however, may already have lots of experience practising IP law in their home country, but want to learn more about US law or prepare for a US bar exam.

“Because we offer a large number of both US and international and comparative courses, students can choose to focus more on domestic or more on international issues”, says Brauneis. “These days, the two are also often intertwined – to understand a provision in US law, you need to understand that it was required by an international treaty, and learn something about the background of that treaty.”

“Many of our graduates who stay in the U.S. go to law firms,” says Brauneis. “You will find GW LL.M.s in most major firms with substantial IP practices, such as Finnegan Henderson, Wilson Sonsini, Foley and Lardner, Fish & Richardson, Howrey, Banner & Witcoff, Kenyon & Kenyon, and many, many others.”

“We also have graduates in government, not only at the Patent and Trademark Office but also as judicial clerks and legislative aides,” adds Brauneis. “Many are also in-house counsel in corporations, although they often start out at firms. There is a similar mix among foreign students who go back to their home countries, though the mix differs somewhat from country to country.”

The list of high-quality IP programs in the United States is perhaps too long to reproduce here, but along with the aforementioned schools, a short list would certainly also include Cardozo-Yeshiva, Duke, Santa Clara, Columbia, Houston, Franklin Pierce, John Marshall, Case Western Reserve University, Chicago-Kent, DePaul, University of Washington (Seattle), Michigan State, and Fordham.

There are also excellent IP programs to be found in the United Kingdom, including those at Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the University of London schools (Queen Mary, King’s, UCL). Perhaps the leading specialized program on the European continent is the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center (MIPLC) in Germany, which is a cooperative project of the Max Planck Institute, the universities of Munich and Augsburg, and GW Law.

Some LL.M. programs – including those at Berkeley, Stanford, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Ottawa – give students the opportunity to focus squarely on information technology or “law and technology".

Whichever of these programs you might choose, professors in the field agree that the demand for IP lawyers and IP LL.M. graduates shows no signs of abating in the coming years.

“I believe that the future career prospects for LL.M. graduates in IP will remain strong,” says Jeffrey M. Samuels of the University of Akron, the home of another specialized IP LL.M. program in the United States.

“The level of activity in the areas of patent, trademark, and copyright law, and the importance of IP to the national and global economy, will require an increasing number of attorneys well versed in this area of the law,” adds Samuels. “I would anticipate that the demand for IP attorneys will increase over the years, given the expanding scope of patentable subject matter, the advent of new technologies, and increased globalization.”

John Riccardi from Boston University agrees: “I have every reason to believe that the demand for US intellectual property law studies among foreign-trained lawyers will stay strong – and even increase – particularly among the rapidly growing Asian economies of China and India,” says Riccardi.

“As US businesses expand into these markets, they will need competent local counsel that understands local laws, as well as the US perspective. This is not just in Asia – it's around the world – but the surge in interest among Asian economies within the past five years has been dramatic.”

US House votes to strip felon lawmakers of pensions
Legal Career News | 2007/01/23 22:29

The US House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Tuesday to deny retirement pensions to any member of Congress "convicted of any of certain offenses," including fraud, bribery and perjury. Currently, federal lawmakers can only be stripped of their benefits for treason or espionage. The new legislation, passed by a vote of 431-0, adds to the list the crimes of bribery, acting as a foreign agent, breaking restrictions on becoming a lobbyist, committing perjury, convincing another person to commit perjury, and conspiracy to commit one of these crimes. Some legislators even sought to go further, including Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) who failed to secure passage of an amendment that would have also put crimes such as tax evasion, wire fraud, and racketeering on the list. The House bill still needs to be reconciled with the Senate's version before a final vote can be held. Neither the House nor Senate version of the bill is retroactive.

Tuesday's unanimous vote signals House lawmakers' desire to improve their image after a year in which several bribery and influence-peddling scandals made headlines. Most notably, former US Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) was forced to resign [JURIST report] and former US Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) was sentenced to prison for their connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Meanwhile, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) received a record sentence in March 2006 for taking bribes from a defense contractor, and Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) came under investigation in a separate bribery investigation.

Israeli president accused of raping four women
Legal World News | 2007/01/23 16:41

Prosecutors intend to charge President Moshe Katsav with rape and other crimes against female employees, the Justice Ministry said on Tuesday, in what would be an unprecedented indictment against an Israeli head of state. Katsav has denied wrongdoing. His post is largely ceremonial and the scandal is unlikely to have a direct impact on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- who has himself been hurt politically by a string of investigations into suspected corruption, which he has denied.

"The attorney-general, with the agreement of the state attorney, reached the conclusion that there is sufficient prima facie evidence to indict the president," the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

The scandal erupted last year when several former staffers filed complaints with police, accusing Katsav of sex crimes. The ministry said an indictment would include the charge of raping one of the four women who accused Katsav of sexual assault.

In the statement, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz gave Katsav a last chance to present legal arguments before a final draft of the indictment, proposing a hearing at which he promised to hear the president's response with an "open heart and a willing soul".

Asked on Channel 10 television if Katsav intended to resign, his lawyer, Sharon Nahari, said: "I think it is too early to say. What is important is that this is a very difficult day for Israel. We hope all will become clear after the hearing."

The ministry said a date for the hearing would be set soon.

While serving as president, Katsav can be put on trial only if he is impeached by parliament. He has said he would suspend himself from office if indicted.

Katsav has been president since 2000 and is due to stand down in July.

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