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THE PAIN OF BEING AN INSIDER The son of Louisiana Governor Mike Foster asked the state’s supreme court on Nov. 29 to free him from the anti-nepotism law that prevents state agencies from hiring close relatives of the state’s elected boss. Murphy Foster III, 45, says that the ban restricts his ability to practice. It’s not really a big hardship, though. As he owns only 7 percent of Baton Rouge, La.’s 70-lawyer Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, the law lets his firm take on state work, and he can share in fees from that work. “But I can’t do anything to contribute to the work that earns those fees,” Foster says. “Does that make any sense?” But does he really need work that badly? “It is certainly not the dominant part of our practice, but it is real dollars and cents.” WORD CHOICE Florida lifer Terry Dent, 38, has accused his lawyer, Bay County, Fla., assistant public defender Matt Meredith, of misleading him during his sentencing for attempted murder. The con said his counselor informed him in 1998 that because of the way state law views his prior crimes, he could get 60 to 90 years. As Mr. Meredith conceded, he didn’t say “life.” And, Dent says, “Life and 60 are totally different.” He contends he wouldn’t have gone to trial had he known what was at stake. Meredith replies that, “For a 38-year-old man, I’m not sure what the difference is between 90 years and life.” He believes his notes will exonerate him. STILL ALIVE After Simpsonville, S.C., attorney Kathryn Walsh yielded her phone number in 1999, the man who was next assigned it put a greeting on his answering machine that cleared up her whereabouts. He said, in part, “I’m afraid she is not available because she has died in a horrible accident. We are all very devastated and would appreciate if you didn’t call for her anymore.” Walsh sued for defamation, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress — just the sort of raw meat that Judge Judy Sheindlin likes to chew on. Thus, on Oct. 19, Walsh got to make her case in a television studio in a yet-unaired program. But how fair is it for a pro to argue against an amateur? Through an assistant, Walsh says, “Really, this was more of an arbitration than a lawsuit, and Judge Judy controlled the whole thing.” No! WHEN ROBES COME OFF U.S. Department of Justice immigration hearing judge Jimmie Benton got good news on Nov. 29. The Houston City Council agreed to pay him $55,000 to settle a wrongful-arrest suit he filed. City police confronted the 46-year-old in 1997 while he was catching his breath after jogging in a tony suburb of Houston, where he lives. An officer, responding to a complaint that a black man was wearing only boots and underwear in public, shouted to him, “Hey, come over here; I want to talk to you,” Judge Benton recalls. Wearing running shoes, shorts and a T-shirt, he says, he replied, “No. I don’t want to talk to you.” After two more officers arrived, he was arrested for refusing to give his name. City attorneys conceded that the officers wrongly thought declining to identify oneself to cops was a crime. SHAKESPEARE IN FLA. When Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at the City University of New York, watched James Baker III introduce George W. Bush’s newest lawyers on Nov. 28, he saw the wily vet “playing to Americans’ dislike of lawyers”: “Baker was very careful in his casting of this to call attention to the lawyers involved and the fact that they were being defensive — willing to back off if [Al] Gore would drop his case,” the professor told the Associated Press. Americans, he says, “feel that when lawyers get involved, principles go out the window.”

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