Degree of Investment — Rutgers Law School-Newark is among the nation's 10 law schools providing the best return on tuition invested, U.S. News & World Report says.
Rutgers-Newark graduates joining the private sector earned an average $117,500, while median debt at graduation was $87,272. That means a 1.346 salary-to-debt ratio, putting the school ninth on the U.S. News Short List.
The average indebtedness of 2012 law school graduates with debt was $108,293, while the average median starting private-sector salary for all 2011 graduates was $76,125, according to data from 194 ranked law schools.
The school at the top of the list was the University of Texas-Austin, with median average salary of $155,000 and average debt of $86,312, for a ratio of 1.796. The next four were University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Brigham Young University-Clark, Stanford University and Yale University. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor was No. 10.
Rutgers-Newark's achievement was particularly notable because its rank in the annual U.S. News law school report, 86th, was far below those of the other nine schools on the list.
"We are always pleased to receive recognition for the excellent value of a Rutgers J.D.," says Acting Dean Ronald Chen. "For the past three years … as we have made enhancements to our programs, we have done so without raising tuition."
U.S. News says it uses 2011 data for salaries and 2012 data for debt because law school employment and salary data lag behind indebtedness data by a year.
Escape Planning — SugarDaddie.com, a Miami-based website that matches older, wealthier men with younger "sugarbabes," appears highly conscious that these relationships can be ephemeral. It's holding a contest in which the prizes are free divorces from LegalZoom.com.
Contestants have until Aug. 22 to explain in 100 words or less why they want a divorce. The winners will be announced by mid-September, three of them to come from Newark.
The contest, initially for Sacramento residents, has also been extended to Phoenix and Philadelphia. The cities were selected based on size and as places where divorce is especially costly, and more will be added, says spokesman Darren Shuster. The first three cities each drew 100 to 200 entries and more than 100 had been received from Newark within three days of Tuesday's announcement, he says. About 80 percent are from women.
The $299 LegalZoom divorce package includes state-specific divorce documents and marital settlement agreements, as well as a parenting plan and a review of the completed documents for "formatting," backed by a "100% Satisfaction Guarantee."
Cary Cheifetz, of Ceconi & Cheifetz in Summit, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says, "whoever wins the prize is not going to be happy they won," noting those with significant assets or complications might find the divorce package inadequate.
Settler's Remorse — There's no reason to allow a successful estate litigant to pull out of a deal to pay his former lawyer where the terms were clear, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
Cresskill solo John Manfredonia represented beneficiary Daniel Sicardi in will litigation and a settlement gave him 80 percent, $700,000, of the estate.
When Sicardi refused to pay the $50,000 legal fee, Manfredonia sued for breach of contract. They settled, with Sicardi, represented by Whiting solo Josephine Marchitto, agreeing to pay within seven days. He did not, and Manfredonia moved to enforce.
At a hearing before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Brian Martinotti, Sicardi, now pro se, claimed he agreed under "coercion" though he had said on the record he understood the terms. When Martinotti ordered him to pay, Sicardi, still representing himself, went to the Appellate Division, which affirmed.
The terms "were clear and uncomplicated" and Sicardi was represented by counsel, and testified he understood and wanted the settlement, Judges Mitchel Ostrer and John Kennedy said in Manfredonia Law Offices v. Sicardi.
Sicardi declines to comment, but Marchitto says the settlement "was worked out over two days with lots of give and take." She adds: "No matter how fine a settlement you get, some clients will never be happy."
Zipper Defense — A Washington, D.C., police officer who in November 2010 approached a man suspected of peeing in an alley, searched him and charged him with possessing a handgun violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled on Thursday that the officer should have stopped his encounter with Ernest Ramsey once he no longer suspected him of committing public urination. The officer's actions after that point — running Ramsey's name and birth date through a police database and then searching him — were held unlawful.
"At that point, we conclude, because appellant would not have felt free to leave, the encounter became a seizure — for which [the officer] no longer had reasonable, articulable suspicion," said Judge Phyllis Thompson, writing for the majority.
Senior Judge Vanessa Ruiz wrote a concurring opinion saying the officer shouldn't have stopped Ramsey at all. In 2010, public urination wasn't explicitly a crime under the city's disorderly conduct law. To legally stop Ramsey for disorderly conduct, "he had to be posing some actual or potential threat to public order," she said.
But dissenting Judge John Fisher wrote that even before the disorderly conduct laws changed in 2011, the officer "was not required to shrug his shoulders and walk away" when he believed Ramsey had urinated or was about to do so.
— By Charles Toutant, Mary Pat Gallagher, Michael Booth and Zoe Tillman (The National Law Journal)