ATTORNEY DISCIPLINE

LAWYER SANCTIONED AGAIN, THIS TIME FOR INSULTING JUDGE

NEW YORK — A Manhattan lawyer who was hit with a $10,000 sanction earlier this year for egregious conduct at a deposition is on the hook for an additional $36,274 in attorney fees and expenses. New York County, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla on October 17 ordered attorney Joseph Sahid to pay $29,753 in fees and $6,521 in expenses.

In April, an appeal court sanctioned Sahid for insulting Supreme Court Justice Jane Solomon, her clerk, a court reporter and the plaintiff’s counsel, and remanded for a calculation of fees and expenses.

Scarpulla’s award came after two days of hearings and on a motion by the plaintiff’s counsel, Vlock & Associates of New York. The underlying dispute involved a $1.1 million judgment owed by a diamond dealer to a partnership that had been assigned the debt by a bank.

CONTRACTS

WITH $1.8M AT STAKE, HANDSHAKE DEAL UPHELD

ATLANTA — A state trial judge has ordered the family of a late businessman to pay $1.8 million to uphold a deal he made on a handshake.

That was 5 1/2 years ago, and lawyers for both sides have been litigating the deal almost ever since, concluding with a four-day bench trial in March before Harris County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr., who issued his decision on October 12.

“Evidence in the case suggested the children didn’t like the deal their father had made and set about to get him out of it,” said plaintiffs’ counsel Morris Mullin. He represented two contractors who often did business with Cason Callaway Jr. on a handshake.

CRIMINAL LAW

DESPITE CONFLICT, A.G. CAN PROSECUTE SEX OFFENDER

NEW YORK — Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office need not be removed from a case involving the possible civil commitment of a sex offender because the offender’s former defense attorney is now an assistant attorney general, a state trial judge has ruled.

Dutchess County, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Christine Sproat denied the request from an offender identified as “Philip B.” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sennett represented “Philip B.” in criminal proceedings in 2008 when Sennett was in private practice in Kingston, N.Y.

Sproat noted that the assistant attorney general assigned to the Philip B. matter, Robert Conflitti, has said that he does not know Sennett and has never had any contact with him about the civil commitment case or any other matter.

FINGERPRINTS OF IDENTICAL TWINS RESULTS IN CONVICTION

ATLANTA — Fingerprints of identical twins were used to tell them apart when DNA evidence could not, leading a state trial jury to convict one of the pair for murdering a woman during a car theft.

DNA evidence usually provides police with a unique profile of an individual. But because identical twins share the same DNA, they are the exception to the rule that everyone has a distinct genetic pattern.

During the trial, the fingerprints of Ronald Smith made it clear to the jury that he was the shooter even though he had blamed the crime on his twin, Donald Smith, said deputy chief assistant district attorney Lisa Jones of Gwinnett County, Ga.

ELECTION LAW

JUDGE BACKS ATTEMPTS TO IDENTIFY CAMPAIGN DONORS

SACRAMENTO — A state trial judge has tentatively backed state campaign regulators’ attempts to unmask donors to a big-spending Arizona group, ruling that voters might suffer “irreparable injury” if an audit of its records is blocked before the November 6 election.

In a tentative ruling, Sacramento County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne Chang granted the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s request for an injunction forcing the nonprofit Americans for Responsible Leadership to produce any documents related to its $11 million donation to a California campaign committee.

The Small Business Action Committee has spent millions to defeat Proposition 30, Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, and to defeat Proposition 32, a corporate-backed measure to curb labor union power.

EMPLOYMENT

LL.M. DOESN’T SUBSTANTIATE MAN’S DISCRIMINATION CLAIM

NEW YORK — A man who earned a law degree in Pakistan and an LL.M. in New York could not convince a federal judge that employment discrimination based on his age and ethnicity was responsible for a string of unsuccessful job applications.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn on October 15 dismissed Iqbal Sulehria’s complaint against New York state. He said Sulehria “claims that he was not hired due to racial animus and offers in support of this claim the fact that he possesses an LL.M.; however, he makes no claim that any of the jobs for which he applied required legal training or involved any areas in which his legal skills might be either required or necessary.”

In September 2010, Sulehria applied for six state jobs but was not allowed to take a test for five of them.

JUDGE CALLS CASE ABOUT LOAN A ‘PETTY, PERSONAL VENDETTA’

NEW YORK — A magistrate judge urged dismissal of an action to collect damages on an allegedly unpaid $22,000 loan, viewing it as part of “an immense legal offensive by a titanic media company” against a whistleblower who reported alleged financial improprieties.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Gary Brown wrote that he “strongly recommends dismissal of this matter as it fails to satisfy the jurisdictional minimum and to avoid expending precious judicial resources on a petty, personal vendetta.” Brown recommended dismissal without prejudice.

In a footnote, he said dismissal with prejudice “might be a fitting result,” but case law held that when courts lack subject matter jurisdiction, they cannot dismiss with prejudice.

ESTATE LAW

WOMAN ENTITLED TO BENEFITS DESPITE NO MARRIAGE LICENCE

NEW YORK — A woman is entitled to the proceeds of her late husband’s life insurance policy despite the lack of a marriage license and a death certificate that listed the man as divorced, a state trial judge has ruled.

Bronx County, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Sharon Aarons ruled on October 24 that Patricia Conteh was the proper beneficiary of Musa Fofana’s $500,000 life insurance policy. She ruled that Conteh had established “sufficient evidence that Musa Fofana did not take any steps to change the beneficiary prior to his death,” while the insurer had not raised triable factual issues in challenging her claim.

The couple, both from Sierra Leone, was married by an imam in New York state during a traditional African Muslim wedding in 2000, but never received a marriage license.

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

NEW TRIAL GRANTED IN CASE INVOLVING DELAYED DIAGNOSIS

PHILADELPHIA — A state judge has granted a new trial in a medical malpractice case over an alleged delayed diagnosis of lung cancer after a defense expert testified in violation of the court’s order that the plaintiff was a smoker.

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Paul Panepinto’s order sets the stage for the trial court to hear arguments that attorney Nancy Raynor, her client and the defense expert should be sanctioned or found in contempt of court.

Plaintiff Rosalind Sutch, the executor of Rosalind Wilson’s estate, has argued that malpractice was committed against Wilson because of events that led to a delayed diagnosis of her lung cancer.

PATENT LAW

IN APPLE CASE, JUDGE RECUSES OVER ‘INTEREST’ IN COMPANY

NEW YORK — A federal judge has recused himself from a patent infringement case involving Apple Inc. U.S. Judge Gary Sharpe said that he was acting sua sponte to remove himself from the case because “the court has an interest in Apple, Inc.”

He did not elaborate in his October 23 ruling. “Because the appearance of impartiality and actual impartiality are of virtually equal importance, the court finds recusal appropriate,” Sharpe wrote. He noted that Dynamic Advances v. Apple has been transferred to U.S. District Judge David Hurd.

Dynamic Advances contends that Apple’s “Siri personal assistant” communications program in which a user can issue voice commands to an iPhone infringes on technology patented in 2007 by a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and a professor at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Thailand.