Sunday, April 25, 2004

Listening to Internet Phone Calls

The federal government is working to get authorization to listen to "voice over internet protocol" based calls, and have asked the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a rulemaking to create new regulations making it easier for them to provide easy eavesdropping of those internet based calls.

The laws that might enable the FCC to create such regulations without Congress hearing these issues, depend upon an interpretation of the Communications Asssitance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation has comments on the matter for the FCC that are thoughtful, and worth paying a lot of consideration.

Google's French Lawsuit

The third largest insurance company in the world has brought a lawsuit challenging Google's adwords advertising and the use of their registered trademarks as search terms which display their competitors' advertisements.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

what's in rebecca's pocket?

One of the hallmark blogs... a blog against which all other blogs are measured... is rebecca's pocket.

I am always delighted when I get a chance to peruse the pocket. I think you will be pleased too.

Today I was very interested in 4 or 5 articles. But I won't tell you which ones. You'll just have to find out for yourselves.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Attorney's Obligations under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act

When the general counsel for the US Securities and Exchange Commission discusses how the Commission regulates attorneys under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, it's worth listening.

Though it might be interesting to hear what your state Bar Association has to say about the legislation and the general counsel's interpretation of it.

There are serious concerns about implementation of the Act, and the linked speech identifies those:
Among other things, this debate has highlighted a number of apparent tensions: between the duty to serve shareholder interests, on the one hand, and the duty to protect client confidences, on the other; between federal authority to regulate attorneys appearing and practicing before the Commission and traditional state regulation of attorneys; and between competing policy views about the appropriate role of lawyers as gatekeepers under the federal securities laws.
The question I have, though, is how well general counsel has addressed those issues.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Private Public Defender?

How does that work? Well, in Washington at least, not very well. Grant County Washington apparently had a contract with Tom Earl to provide attorney representation for the poor in criminal cases... and he could keep what he didn't spend on hiring attorneys to do the legal work. The Seattle Times reports on "An Unequal Defense", highlighting issues that are important to our system of justice. According to the Seattle Times article, Tom Earl's license to practice is now suspended.

As we look at the legal issues presented, we are brought to focus on how this and similar arrangements effect the quality of legal services provided to the poor. We see dramatic under-funding of legal services, even here in Delaware. This under-funding has been dealt with in a number of different ways, from a budgetary standpoint. But how does this effect the client? This is the critical question that must also be answered.

Here in Delaware, thank goodness we don't have a contract like Grant County Washington. We have a set salary for the Public Defender for the State of Delaware. But to attract sufficient attorneys, we have had to allow many of them to maintain private practices on the side. Or is it that they do PD work on the side?

Not only do we have Public Defenders, but there are a number of different contractual arrangements with private attorneys to represent poor people, at the State's expense. Some of these contracts pay as little as $25 per hour, or less. By my calculations, a private attorney would need to gross $80 per hour just to break even ... to keep his or her office open and stay off of welfare. So it is costing these attorneys $55 per hour to participate in the defense of these poor clients. Yes, these poor clients.

We see these types of contracts with private attorneys in Delaware: in the defense of clients charged in criminal cases where the PD's office has a conflict of interest (for instance, where more than one co-defendant in a case need PD services, and where one might claim that the other did the deed); in the representation of persons being involuntarily committed in a mental health facility; in child support contempt cases where there is a likelihood of jail time; and in other cases and circumstances as the administration of justice requires. And so there are dozens of Delaware lawyers working under these conditions as we speak [sic].

Nation wide, we can see these rates average at or below the break even point for attorneys, even in capital cases! [PDF]

While I, as a Delaware lawyer, have voluntarily participated in thousands of cases under arrangements such as this, I viewed it as an expensive hobby. Or, as a contribution to the system of justice. My pro bono work. Well that is all well and good until it comes time to live in the real world and support a family. When the hobby becomes too expensive either the attorney quits, goes bankrupt, or provides inadequate time to the legal matters of the clients. The responsible and ethical thing to do clearly, is to quit.

The real world budgetary pressures are thus handed downhill from the government's under-funding, to the attorneys, to the clients.

In the Washington case, the public defender was "handling" almost 3 times as many cases as the recommended maximum... plus his private practice. And we can easily see then the concern about what rolled downhill to his public defender clients.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

ACLA Challenges No Fly List in Court

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a class action legal challenge to the government's "no-fly" list. A copy of the complaint is linked to from the ACLU web site.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Gambling upon online Gambling

Two of the largest search engines in the US, Google and Yahoo, have agreed to stop carrying ads from online casinos. It appears those decisions come as a result of threats from US federal prosecutors to take action against American companies that do business with internet casinos located abroad.

Gambling upon Gambling

When the General Assembly of the State of Delaware decided to let racetracks in the State install slot machines, it reinvigorated Delaware's horse racing industry, and created a source of income for the State that has been consitent and reliable.

Maryland is taking a look at the good and bad of Delaware gaming. Will slots find their way into Maryland? If they do, what impact will they have upon Delaware? What steps should Delaware take?