LAWYER MUST REPAY FEES
NEW YORK — A lawyer was ordered to turn over all but $750 of more than $22,000 he collected from clients after a judge determined that he billed the them as much as $450 an hour for time he spent brushing up on basic legal principles.
Gerald and Vivian Kleinerman hired Ronny Buni in March 2011 to represent them in litigation already in progress against their co-operative apartment board. In June 2011, Buni told the Kleinermans that he would not do any more work on the matter, citing an unpaid invoice for $6,239.
New York County, N.Y., Civil Court Judge Frank Nervo ruled on July 1 that Buni had done little legal work meriting compensation. He said Buni reviewed the litigation file, followed up on discovery requests already made by the parties before his involvement, attended a single status conference and "sent innumerable emails to his clients, some of which included berating them for their reasonable input into the matter."
S&P SUIT GOES FORWARD
SANTA ANA, Calif. — A federal judge said he likely would allow the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice's lawsuit to go forward against ratings agency Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC over the integrity of its ratings leading up to the 2008 financial collapse.
U.S. District Judge David Carter on July 8 tentatively rejected S&P's argument that statements were mere "puffery" and not material to investors.
"The issue of reliance also weighs heavily in favor of Plaintiff's arguments," Carter wrote. "The government's complaint goes to great lengths to plead that S&P made specific representations knowing that they were material to and would be relied on by the investors who used their credit ratings to gauge the creditworthiness of potential investments."
NUDE CLUB SETTLES SUIT
ATLANTA — A nude dancing club that features male strippers has settled two related suits that accused city officials of threatening to pull its liquor license after it moved from a mostly straight, female dancer venue to a full-time, gay-oriented format.
The city said it based its 2011 decision to revoke the license on a 2009 inspection in which police found 15 ­dancers performing without the requisite licenses, and the club suffered a series of adverse rulings from Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter and from Georgia's appellate courts.
Under the terms of the settlement signed last month, the club Bliss Atlanta will keep its license to serve alcohol and pay the city a total of $90,000 in monthly installments over the next two years. The club had accused the city of violating its equal-protection and First Amendment rights.
JUDGE TOSSES PRENUP
NEW YORK — A state trial judge has refused to enforce an agreement a wife had virtually no chance to review before signing that would have left her "practically destitute."
"In sum, it appears that Husband determined that he could take advantage of his Wife's promise to 'sign anything' in exchange for a marriage proposal — and she did just that," Nassau County, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Leonard Steinman concluded.
He cited state appellate precedents that some practitioners read as challenging the long-standing presumption that prenuptial agreements are almost impossible to escape. The husband, Lee Smith, is a business owner with assets of "several million" dollars, and an income of more than $1 million in 2011, according to the decision. The wife, Carolyn Smith, is a part-time teacher's assistant making about $5,000 a year.
SHREDS WERE TOO BIG
PHILADELPHIA — Two commercial paper-shredding companies have agreed to pay the federal government a combined $1.1 million in a qui tam suit alleging they didn't shred official documents to the size specified by the General Services Administration.
Shred-It USA Inc. will pay $300,000, and Iron Mountain Inc. will pay $800,000 to the federal government, according to their settlement agreements. Cintas Corp. is still contesting similar claims.
Douglas Knisely, the relator, will get $210,000 from the Iron Mountain settlement and $78,750 from the Shred-It settlement. As part of the accord, he also will collect attorney fees, the amount of which was not disclosed in the settlement agreements.
APPLE GIVES IN 'APP' SUIT
SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon.com Inc. is free to take a bite out of Apple Inc.'s trademark for "app store" after the Silicon Valley company gave up on an infringement lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton subsequently dismissed the suit ahead of an August trial date.
Apple calls its marketplace for applications for its digital devices the "app store." Days after Amazon debuted its "Appstore" for Android in 2011, Apple sued, alleging the name of the rival mobile applications marketplace constituted infringement and false advertising.
"This was a decision by Apple to unilaterally abandon the case and leave Amazon free to use 'appstore,' " Amazon.com Inc. attorney Martin Glick, senior counsel to Arnold & Porter's San Francisco office, told Reuters.
EMAIL SNOOPING SUIT
PHILADELPHIA — Allegations that a man's former employer broke state and federal laws by accessing his private email account and reading communications between him and his lawyer after he was fired have survived summary judgment.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody denied a motion for summary judgment on liability by plaintiff Douglas Brooks and employer A.M. Resorts' motion for summary judgment on all aspects except for those brought under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Brooks hadn't sufficiently demonstrated that he suffered loss as a result of the alleged computer fraud, she said.
Regarding all the remaining issues, brought under the federal Stored Com­munications Act and the corresponding Pennsylvania law, Brody held that there remained substantive issues of law.
STOCK SCHEME SENTENCE
WASHINGTON — A former New York lawyer who lied to federal agents about his role in a stock-price manipulation scheme will spend the next two years on federal probation.
Robert Brown, formerly with New York's Reitler Brown & Rosenblatt, pleaded guilty in federal district court to obstructing a grand jury's investigation of a so-called stock "scalping" scheme involving the use of promotional material to tout particular securities.
Brown was one of three lawyers who got caught up in the investigation. Chief Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Brown on July 3.
PUBLISHER ISN'T LIABLE
PHILADELPHIA — A medical publications company involved in clinical research owed no duty of care to plaintiffs who used the antipsychotic drug Risperdal, a state trial judge ruled in an apparent matter of first impression.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Arnold New granted summary judgment in favor of Elsevier B.V., a publisher of scholarly works, and Excerpta Medica, a wholly owned subsidiary of Elsevier and a medical communications company.
New said the plaintiff "failed to provide evidence suggesting [Excerpta Medica] consented to monitor the safety data from any clinical Risperdal study and to alert [Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.], or any of its agents or related subsidiaries, of any potential safety concern to report medical events and/or side effects to the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]."
GUARDS LOSE TO PRISONER
ATLANTA — An inmate who is serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery won a $45,000 verdict against four prison guards after alleging they beat him for failing to say "yes, sir" loudly enough.
A federal jury in Albany, Ga., reached a verdict in Ammon Ra Sumrall's favor on June 12, awarding $20,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages. U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands presided.
ABUSE CLAIM TOSSED
ATLANTA — A state trial judge has tossed a lawsuit accusing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta of negligence for failing to stop a now imprisoned former music minister from sexually abusing a young parishioner nine years ago.
Fulton County, Ga., State Court Judge Patsy Porter ruled that the suit's filing under the pseudonym "Jane Doe" violated Georgia law and, because of that, it could not be amended to meet a now-passed statute of limitation deadline. On June 24, she dismissed the case with prejudice.