Friday, October 31, 2014

The I stands for Investigation

Like all the wars in America - the war on poverty, the war against communism, the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, we have better intent than outcome.

Now had the FBI been looking into hookergate, well.. never mind that seems to be the same, corrupt and incompetent.

This is just another example of the gross ineptitude and aggressiveness that the Government does in the name of "doing good." What. the. F. ever.  As that is what the F stands for.


Probe of FBI agent leads to release of convicted drug dealers from prison


By Peter Hermann October 31 at 5:36 PM

An investigation into possible misconduct by an FBI agent has forced authorities to quietly release at least a dozen convicts serving prison sentences for distributing drugs in the District and its suburbs, according to law enforcement officials, court documents and defense attorneys.

In addition, several suspects awaiting trial on drug charges and a man convicted but not yet sentenced have also been freed. Officials said more cases­ that could involve the agent are under scrutiny, including one involving 21 defendants.

None of the suspects or felons have had their charges dropped or convictions overturned. Most are on home detention in what many of their attorneys describe as a holding pattern, awaiting the outcome of the investigation into the agent, who was assigned to a D.C. police task force.

The scope and type of alleged misconduct by the agent have not been revealed, but defense lawyers involved in the cases­ described the mass freeing of felons as virtually unprecedented — and an indication that convictions could be in jeopardy. Prosecutors are periodically faced with having to drop cases over police misconduct, but it is unusual to free those who have been found guilty.

A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity said the agent has been suspended indefinitely. The agent has not been criminally charged.

The U.S. attorney’s office for the District said in a statement Friday that it is “conducting a case-by-case review of matters in which the FBI agent at issue played some role.”

“We have already begun taking steps to address this issue and are committed to doing everything that is necessary to preserve the integrity of the criminal justice process,” the statement said.

The decision to release the defendants and convicts was made with little or vague public notice. In one case, eight convicts and one defendant who pleaded not guilty were released to home detention Monday, with no indication publicly filed in court. One man who had served nine months of a 10-year sentence was sent back to the District from a federal prison in North Carolina. In another case, a cryptic court document ordered the “immediate release from incarceration” on Oct. 17 of four convicts and others with pending trials for the “duration of a current investigation.”

“I’ve never, ever seen something like this before,” said Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., a lawyer from Alexandria who is representing Anthony McDuffie, 50, who pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge and has been released pending sentencing. “It suggests to me that whatever is going on is very significant.”

Said another defense lawyer, Gregory English, whose client was released as he awaits trial: “This is stunning.”

Among the cases was one that the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office highlighted in a news release last year as the culmination of a year-long investigation that police said traced heroin and cocaine from suppliers in California to street dealers in the District, Maryland and Virginia. In all, 11 pounds of the drugs were seized in the searches of 26 homes and storage facilities, along with five guns. Affidavits filed in the case show that police listened in on cellphone calls during money and drug drops at a Metro station in Northeast and a barbecue restaurant in Northwest and that the dealers frequently exchanged bundles of cash totaling as much as $85,000.

Police also alleged that the group was involved in identity theft involving hundreds of credit cards, Social Security cards and driver’s licenses. U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. hailed the indictments last year and said police were “able to remove guns, drugs and dangerous people from the streets and take another step toward making our community safer.”

Now, all 13 people indicted — including five who pleaded guilty — are free from jail or prison. One is the alleged ringleader, Lester Pryor Jr., 63, who is awaiting trial.

English, who is representing Brandon Beale, 58, in the Pryor case, said he was planning to fight the charges­ before the revelations. He said Beale, who has been freed pending trial, was an addict, not a distributor, and he plans to argue that authorities targeted “what they thought was a group of major dealers who turned out to be a very small one,” and that the others indicted were mostly users.

“It cost the FBI a lot of money to run a wiretap, and they didn’t get what they wanted,” said English, a former federal prosecutor. He said his case is “in a holding pattern” but added: “I’d be surprised if the prosecutor proceeds with the case. If they do, our case has become infinitely stronger.”

In a statement, the spokesman for the FBI’s Washington Field Office said allegations regarding the agent first surfaced the week of Sept. 29 and involved “possible misconduct.” The statement said authorities “took immediate steps to address the incident” that included notifying prosecutors who had cases­ involving the agent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general’s office is leading the investigation into the agent. FBI officials declined further comment, and D.C. police declined to comment.

Some earlier cases­ of police misconduct in the District have had sweeping implications. In 1987, authorities dropped 300 pending criminal cases­ amid an investigation into D.C. police officers skimming drugs and money seized during raids. In that same case, convictions were dismissed against 12 who had already been sentenced.

Authorities said they were looking into virtually every case in which the agent, who has not been publicly identified, was involved. It was unclear what role the agent has had in the cases thus far.

One of those cases involves alleged drug kingpin Angel Costello and 11 others indicted with him on drug charges, according to officials familiar with the investigation. Although there was no notice publicly filed in U.S. District Court indicating a change of status for the defendants, the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator shows eight people convicted in the case were freed Monday — months and years before completing their sentences. Costello has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

In the Pryor case, a three-page order in the public court file calls for the release of five defendants who pleaded guilty, four of whom had already been sentenced. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton describes the “court’s authorization to order the [defendants’] immediate release from incarceration for the duration of a current investigation being conducted by the government that resulted from its acquisition of new evidence.” He added that the release was in the “interest of justice.”

Several defense lawyers interviewed said they are in a difficult position because they know little of the allegations involving the agent. Many of the defendants have what are called “status” hearings in the next few weeks during which lawyers said they hope to learn additional details.

Prosecutors could still move forward with some or all of the cases but would face an additional hurdle of proving that any misconduct on the part of the agent did not have any impact on the charges. Officials said decisions will be made on the merits of the case against each suspect.

Defense lawyer Ron Earnest, who is representing James “Sweet Baby James” Burkley, 59, said he readily recommended that his client accept a seven-year prison sentence for his alleged role in the Pryor drug case. Burkley pleaded guilty Sept. 23, a week before the FBI said the alleged misconduct became known.

Earnest, who has an office in Riverdale, Md., said that in late October his client called him from the D.C. jail, where he was awaiting placement in a federal prison in North Carolina. He said Burkley told him that co-defendants in the case were being released, including the alleged kingpin.

Earnest said he called prosecutors and was soon summoned to court. He said the judge told him and other defense lawyers that “something was wrong with the investigation” and “everybody would be released, including the people who pleaded guilty.”

Earnest said his next step is to file a motion asking that Burkley’s conviction and sentence be vacated so “that my client can get back to his life. . . . But it’s also possible that the government doesn’t want to invalidate the conviction.”

Judge Judy Anyone?

Very simply this is just another validation of my repetitive points that we are electing Judges that could and will rule against you.

Repeatedly we see the problems with Attorney Generals, Prosecuting Attorney's, Public Defenders being elected without any transparency, without opposition and re-elected without any actual unbiased reviews and performance assessments.

And as a result you see a system broken, busted and utterly corrupt. Shocking, I know.


Electing Judges Is Insane


Paul Waldman
American Prospect
October 31, 2014

"I am a Republican and you should vote for me," says one state supreme court candidate.


With a couple of minor exceptions, like a few local judgeships in Switzerland, the United States is the only country where judges are elected. Indeed, to the rest of the world, the idea of judges running for office—begging for money, airing attack ads against their opponents, thinking always about their next election even after they take the bench—is positively insane. And they're right.

We've had elected judgeships for our entire history, but until the last few years, those elections were nothing like races for Congress or governorships. But those days are past—now not only are judges acting like politicians, outside groups (yes, including the Koch brothers) are pouring money into judicial races to produce courts more to their liking. And when you make judicial elections more partisan, you get more partisan judges, like one Judith French, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court who is running to retain her seat:

At a Saturday event at which she introduced Republican Gov. John Kasich, French said, "I am a Republican and you should vote for me. You're going to hear from your elected officials, and I see a lot of them in the crowd.

"Let me tell you something: The Ohio Supreme Court is the backstop for all those other votes you are going to cast.

"Whatever the governor does, whatever your state representative, your state senator does, whatever they do, we are the ones that will decide whether it is constitutional; we decide whether it's lawful. We decide what it means, and we decide how to implement it in a given case.

"So, forget all those other votes if you don't keep the Ohio Supreme Court conservative," French said.

Well, at least she's being forthright, not bothering with "I'll rule according to the Constitution" and "It's not my job to make the laws" and "I just call balls and strikes" and all the other baloney that Republican judges offer up when asked about their judicial philosophy. "I am a Republican and you should vote for me." That pretty much sums it up. What a terrific system.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alien Nation

I read the below blog from one of my few favorite "lawyer" blogs who thankfully does not refer to it as a "blawg" much like the other great legal blogger, Grits for Breakfast. They get the whole "we the people" despite being Lawyers... see there are exceptions to the rule ALL ATTORNEYS ARE ASSHOLES. 

But the points made are truly applicable in our over lawed, over legislated, over punished, under enforced or regulated and lack of accountability by those who are entrusted to do the job of protecting our rights society.

The entire idea that we have rights that are somehow exceptions to the rule when a person who is in a position to write legislation be they elected or the funder of the elected or when those who have found their rights violated and think that somehow means they have been deigned the leader of the pack to ensure that no one else will have such a problem in the future has the right if not the duty to do so.  

Sorry but you do not have the right to stomp on mine under the idea of "protecting me" from any possibility of anyone or anything hurting me.  I accept that as a human being I may encounter those who may or may not have my best interest at heart and can hurt me, however, that is my right and my own duty and responsibility to resolve that matter through the legal channels available.  It is not someone else's right to presume or deny me that based on their own experience.

We also generalize and sweep with a broad brush a narrow picture.  Gideon makes the point quite clearly and we have zero tolerance for anyone or anything that does not share our same beliefs, interests or way of life.  GET OVER IT.  That is the price of being human, you cannot lock up or kill those whom you do not agree or don't like.

As for guns and the idea that they are protected rights I agree that you have the right to have a gun. That is about it.  You can own it and keep in in your home or go to a range to shoot or to hunt.  There is no other need for you to bring it to Starbucks, have your kids pose in the Yearbook or take to the streets to use it to do the whole killing and resolving conflict thing.  Sorry you lost that right and yes the bodies piling up show that even the Police don't seem to understand that right does not mean kill every motherfucker that you are sure you in your heavy armor is going to kill you.  Find another line of work then if that is what you think - safety first.  And by safety I mean the people's which to Law Enforcement that part of the Amendment is forgotten.

People are not corporations and corporations are not people, I don't see that in the Constitution.  But we have corporations, as in law firms representing them, finding ways to circumvent law and our rights and   in turn profit from it.  The business of law enforcement extends way beyond the walls of the halls of justice.  It includes all the businesses that generate a supportive role - the jails, the home monitoring agencies, the fake and absurd counseling and diagnostic treatment agencies, the immense legal industry that all add to the costs and the monopoly of access to justice in a timely and dignified manner.

There is no dignity in America and our rights have been alienated by those we believe were elected and hired to do so.  


Fear the death of rights




Human rights, individual rights. We all have rights. We all should have the same rights. Yet we often withhold those basic rights that we’d want for ourselves from others in civilization because we dislike or disagree with them. Why is that? Is that because we’re afraid of them? Some of them, undoubtedly, have forfeited the right to have those protections – either for a short period of time or forever – but the easiest road to stripping humans of their inherent rights is to treat them as inhuman.
We are also incredibly selective in our willingness to recognize the existence of these rights. Some, in America, recognize the First Amendment rights, but only for groups they support. Some recognize only Second Amendment rights. Some are willing to subjugate all the rights to their personal interests without any sense of irony.
We, in America, have built a society upon a foundation of individual freedom and inalienable rights but we constantly pile heaps upon heaps of fear and ignorance on that bedrock to the point that it is now so completely obscured that it remains a distant memory.
It is a difficult thing to do, to be honest: to stand firm on your principles and be honest and true to them in the face of overwhelming fear, emotion and sensationalism. As humans, we are also petty, cheap, jealous, base and vindictive. Tolerance is an achievement, not an inherent state of existence. The ability to hold two conflicting ideas in one’s head takes effort, whereas vilification of some ‘other’ takes nothing but the triggering of some base emotion.
We are also social creatures. We have the herd mentality. We need to be part of a greater whole. We want to be liked. We want to be wanted. We need approval. And approval is most easily gained by further dumping on those that the majority is already abandoning. Joining the crowd and appealing to base instincts of fear and ignorance and hatred is far easier than standing firm against that tide.
This is why it makes perfect sense that judges do, perhaps subconsciously, succumb to negative advertising and shy away from standing behind principles of freedom, equality and due process. That’s why politicians lose their seats because of spurious allegations of “supporting child molesters”. It’s why the Debo Adegbile‘s of the world can’t get the recognition they deserve.
When we decide whether certain rights (guns) should be granted based on whether we like the people who are seeking those rights (gun nuts) then we decide that rights aren’t rights at all, but rather privileges that can be taken away without any recourse.
When that happens, it won’t matter if you’re a child molester or a law-abiding citizen owning a firearm. You’ll be as much of a criminal in the eyes of everyone else.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

March of the Generals



Well another day another royal screw up the ass without dinner by our elected officials who also happen to belong to my second favorite class of assholes - Lawyers (for the record Doctors are number one on any given day but I switch it out).

The cover story in today's New York Times discusses the powerful affect of money on politics. Okay not that but on the revolving door this time not in Congress but in the Attorney General offices throughout the country.

Right now Martha Coakley the Attorney General in Massachusetts is running for Governor and this woman has an interesting history that includes aggressive and abusive prosecutions of innocent individuals using junk science as her reasoning and exploiting that for her campaign. But she has way more serious issues regarding campaign finances. Clearly she did not get the memo that leaving office is more lucrative and way easier than running for public office. Massachusetts is home to idiots I suspect as ironically it is the home of Harvard as well, which makes it self explanatory.

Good to know Washington States former AG, a utter asshole regardless of his being an Attorney, is featured prominently. And to think in moral superior Seattle you would think we would not tolerate such shenangians. Well you get who you vote for.

So reading the below article should enrage you, it should make you realize that every time you blindly vote for that individual without asking questions, making inquiries and in turn demands that our public elected officials are there to represent the real persons in the state versus the corporate persons they get this bullshit. It stinks, shocking, I know.

Have a 5 Energy Hour Drink and feel better. There will be no all expense paid trip to Hawaii, Florida or anywhere for you soon, unless you can get elected to office.



Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General
By ERIC LIPTON
OCT. 28, 2014

When the executives who distribute 5-Hour Energy, the popular caffeinated drinks, learned that attorneys general in more than 30 states were investigating allegations of deceptive advertising — a serious financial threat to the company — they moved quickly to shut the investigations down, one state at a time.
But success did not come in court or at a negotiating table.

Instead, it came at the opulent Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California, with its panoramic ocean views, where more than a dozen state attorneys general had gathered last year for cocktails, dinners and fund-raisers organized by the Democratic Attorneys General Association. A lawyer for 5-Hour Energy roamed the event, setting her sights on Attorney General Chris Koster of Missouri, whose office was one of those investigating the company.

“My client just received notification that Missouri is on this,” the lawyer, Lori Kalani, told him.
Ms. Kalani’s firm, Dickstein Shapiro, had courted the attorney general at dinners and conferences and with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Mr. Koster told Ms. Kalani that he was unaware of the investigation, and he reached for his phone and called his office. By the end of the weekend, he had ordered his staff to pull out of the inquiry, a clear victory for 5-Hour Energy.

The quick reversal, confirmed by Mr. Koster and Ms. Kalani, was part of a pattern of successful lobbying of Mr. Koster by the law firm on behalf of clients like Pfizer and AT&T — and evidence of a largely hidden dynamic at work in state attorneys general offices across the country.

Attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

A robust industry of lobbyists and lawyers has blossomed as attorneys general have joined to conduct multistate investigations and pushed into areas as diverse as securities fraud and Internet crimes.
But unlike the lobbying rules covering other elected officials, there are few revolving-door restrictions or disclosure requirements governing state attorneys general, who serve as “the people’s lawyers” by protecting consumers and individual citizens.

A result is that the routine lobbying and deal-making occur largely out of view. But the extent of the cause and effect is laid bare in The Times’s review of more than 6,000 emails obtained through open records laws in more than two dozen states, interviews with dozens of participants in cases and attendance at several conferences where corporate representatives had easy access to attorneys general.
Often, the corporate representative is a former colleague. Four months after leaving office as chief deputy attorney general in Washington State, Brian T. Moran wrote to his replacement on behalf of a client, T-Mobile, which was pressing federal officials to prevent competitors from grabbing too much of the available wireless spectrum.

“As promised when we met the A.G. last week, I am attaching a draft letter for Bob to consider circulating to the other states,” he wrote late last year, referring to the attorney general, Bob Ferguson.

A short while later, Mr. Moran wrote again to his replacement, David Horn. “Dave: Anything you can tell me about that letter?” he said.

“Working on it sir,” came the answer. “Stay tuned.” By January, the letter was issued by the attorney general largely as drafted by the industry lawyers.

The exchange was not unusual. Emails obtained from more than 20 states reveal a level of lobbying by representatives of private interests that had been more typical with lawmakers than with attorneys general.

“The current and increasing level of the lobbying of attorneys general creates, at the minimum, the appearance of undue influence, and is therefore unseemly,” said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine, who now runs a program at Columbia University that studies state attorneys general. “It is undermining the credibility of the office of attorney general.”

Several of the largest donors to the Republican and Democratic Attorneys General Associations are companies or groups that have been targets of investigations or are seeking help from attorneys general in challenging federal regulations.

Private lawyers also have written drafts of legal filings that attorneys general have used almost verbatim. In some cases, they have become an adjunct to the office by providing much of the legal work, including bearing the cost of litigation, in exchange for up to 20 percent of any settlement.

Money gathered through events like the one in February 2013 at the Loews hotel is flooding the political campaigns of attorneys general and flowing to party organizations that can take unlimited corporate contributions and then funnel money to individual candidates. The Republican Attorneys General Association alone has pulled in $11.7 million since January.

It is a self-perpetuating network that includes a group of former attorneys general called SAGE, or the Society of Attorneys General Emeritus, most of whom are now on retainer to corporate clients.

Giant energy producers and service companies like Devon Energy of Oklahoma, the Southern Company of Georgia and TransCanada have retained their own teams of attorney general specialists, including Andrew P. Miller, a former attorney general of Virginia.

For some companies, the reward seems apparent, according to the documents obtained by The Times. In Georgia, the attorney general, after receiving a request from a former attorney general who had become a lobbyist, disregarded written advice from the state’s environmental regulators, the emails show. In Utah, the attorney general dismissed a case pending against Bank of America over the objections of his staff after secretly meeting with a former attorney general working as a Bank of America lobbyist.

That Bank of America case was cited in July when the two most recent former attorneys general in Utah were charged with granting official favors to donors in exchange for golf getaways, rides on private planes and a luxury houseboat.

While the Utah case is extreme, some participants say even the daily lobbying can corrode public trust.
Continue reading the main story “An attorney general is entrusted with the power to decide which lawsuits to file and how to settle them, and they have great discretion in their work,” said Anthony Johnstone, a former assistant attorney general in Montana. “It’s vitally important that people can trust that those judgments are not subject to undue influence because of outside forces. And from what I have seen in recent years, I am concerned and troubled that those forces have intensified.”

Several current and former attorneys general say that while they are disappointed by the increased lobbying, they reject the notion that the outside representatives are powerful enough to manipulate the system.

“There is no Mr. Fix-It out there you can hire and get the job done no matter what the merits are,” said Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, the longest-serving state attorney general in the country, at 19 years.

Mr. Koster said he regretted the prominence of groups like DAGA and RAGA — as the Democratic and Republican attorneys general associations are known — saying the partisanship and increased emphasis on money had been damaging.

“I wish those two organizations did not exist,” Mr. Koster said during an interview at his office in Kansas City, even though the Democratic group has contributed at least $1.4 million to his election campaigns, more than any other source.

But he rejected any suggestion that his office had taken actions as a result of the lobbying, instead blaming mistakes made by his staff for moves that ended up benefiting Dickstein’s clients.
Some companies have come grudgingly to the influence game.

Executives from the company that distributes 5-Hour Energy, for example, have contributed more than $280,000 through related corporate entities in the last two years to political funds of attorneys general.
Company executives wrote those checks after the investigation into false claims and deceptive marketing, which initially involved 33 states, opened in January 2013. Requests started to come in for contributions, including a phone call this year directly from Mr. Ferguson of Washington State, whose staff was involved in the inquiry.

In a statement after the company was sued by three states in July, the company strongly denied the allegations and compared being solicited for contributions to being pressured to pay “ransom.” It asked, “Is it appropriate for an attorney general to ask for money from a company they plan to sue?”
A spokesman for Mr. Ferguson first called the allegation baseless. But after being shown a copy of an invitation to a fund-raising event that Mr. Ferguson held in May during a DAGA conference — where 5-Hour Energy was listed as a sponsor — his spokesman confirmed that Mr. Ferguson had made a personal appeal to the company.

Breakfast was served on a patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean — a buffet of fresh baked goods, made-to-order eggs, lox and fruit — as the Republican attorneys general, in T-shirts and shorts, assembled at Beach Village at the Del, in Coronado, Calif.

Continue reading the main story These top law enforcement officials from Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana and other states were joined by Ms. Kalani, of Dickstein Shapiro, and representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Pfizer, Comcast and Altria, among other corporate giants.

The group had gathered at the exclusive Beach Village at the Del — where rooms go for as much as $4,500 a night and a special key card is required to enter the private compound — for the most elite event for Republican attorneys general, a gathering of the Edmund Randolph Club (named for the first United States attorney general).

The club, created by the Republican Attorneys General Association, has a $125,000 entry fee — money used to fund the campaigns of attorney general candidates with as much as $1 million, and to pay for the hotel bills, airfare and meals for the attorneys general who attend the events.

As at the Democrats’ event, the agenda included panels to discuss emerging legal issues. But at least as important was the opportunity for the lobbyists, corporate executives and lawyers to nurture relationships with the attorneys general — and to lobby them in this casual and secluded setting. (A reporter from The Times attended this event uninvited and, once spotted, was asked to leave.)

The appeals began the moment the law enforcement officials arrived, as gift bags were handed out, including boxes of 5-Hour Energy, wine from a liquor wholesalers group and music CDs (Roy Orbison for the adults, the heartthrob Hunter Hayes for their children) from the recording industry.

Andy Abboud, a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands, which donated $500,000 through its chief executive to the Republican group this year, has been urging attorneys general to join an effort to ban online poker. At breakfast, he approached Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida.

“What are you going to be doing today?” he asked.

“Sailing,” Ms. Bondi replied.

“Great, I want to go sailing, too,” Mr. Abboud said, and they agreed to connect later that day.

The increased focus on state attorneys general by corporate interests has a simple explanation: to guard against legal exposure, potentially in the billions of dollars, for corporations that become targets of the state investigations.

It can be traced back two decades, when more than 40 state attorneys general joined to challenge the tobacco industry, an inquiry that resulted in a historic $206 billion settlement.

Microsoft became the target of a similar multistate attack, accused of engaging in an anticompetitive scheme by bundling its Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system. Then came the pharmaceutical industry, accused of improperly marketing drugs, and, more recently, the financial services industry, in a case that resulted in a $25 billion settlement in 2012 with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicing companies.

The trend accelerated as attorneys general — particularly Democrats — began hiring outside law firms to conduct investigations and sue corporations on a contingency basis.

The widening scope of their investigations led companies to significantly bolster efforts to influence their actions. John W. Suthers, who has served as Colorado’s attorney general for a decade, said he was not surprised by this campaign.

“I don’t fault for one second that corporate America is pushing back on what has happened,” Mr. Suthers said. “Attorneys general can do more damage in a heartbeat than legislative bodies can. I think it is a matter of self-defense, and I understand it pretty well, although I have got to admit as an old-time prosecutor, it makes me a little queasy.”

Republican attorneys general were the first to create a party-based fund-raising group, 14 years ago. An initial appeal for contributions to corporate lobbyists and lawyers said that public policy was being shaped “via the courthouse rather than the statehouse.” It urged corporate lawyers “to round up your clients and come see what RAGA is all about.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce alone has contributed $2.2 million this year to the group, making it the association’s biggest donor.

The Democrats at first fought the idea, but two years later formed a counterpart.

Dickstein, and a handful of other law firms, moved to capitalize by offering lobbying as well as legal assistance to deal with attorneys general, whom Dickstein called “the new sheriffs in town.”

In an effort to make allies rather than adversaries, Bernard Nash, the head of the attorney general practice at Dickstein and the self-proclaimed “godfather” of the field, tells clients that it is essential to build a personal relationship with important attorneys general, part of what his firm boasts as “connections that count.”

“Through their interaction with A.G.s, these individuals will become the ‘face’ of the company to A.G.s, who are less likely to demagogue companies they know and respect,” said a confidential memo that Dickstein sent late last year to one prospective client, Caesars Entertainment.

Executing this strategy means targeting the attorneys general “front office,” a reference to the handful of important decision makers.

“Front office interest or lack of interest in an issue can come from an assessment of media reports and potential media scrutiny; advocacy group requests; political benefit or detriment; legislative inquiries; and ‘pitches’ made by law firms or other professionals in whom the front office has confidence,”

Dickstein said in the memo pitching business to executives at Caesars that asked the company to pay $35,000 a month, plus expenses, for lobbying and strategic advice, not including any legal work.

Mr. Nash and his team build relationships through dinners at exclusive spots like the Flagler Steakhouse in Palm Beach, Fla., and Brown’s Beach House Restaurant in Waimea, Hawaii, during attorneys general conferences, as well as with a constant stream of campaign contributions, totaling at least $730,000 in the last five years.

Dickstein is hardly alone.

Other dinner invitations have come from former Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker of Georgia, whose clients have included AT&T and the debt buyers industry; former Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch of Rhode Island, who represents payday lenders, Comcast and makers of online video games; and former Attorney General Rob McKenna of Washington State, who has been retained by Microsoft and T-Mobile.

In several cases, these former officials are clearly acting as lobbyists. Mr. Lynch, who declined several requests for comment, tells prospective clients that he can guide them “through the national network of attorneys general associations and work with them to build relationships,” yet The Times could find no record that he had registered as a lobbyist in more than two dozen states where he has worked.

State lobbying laws generally require registration when corporations hire someone to influence legislation, but appeals targeting attorneys general are not explicitly covered, even if a company is pushing its agenda.

The documents obtained by The Times include dozens of emails that Mr. Lynch has sent to attorneys general on behalf of clients. He is also a regular at the attorney general conferences, which include social events like trap shooting, fitness training and all-terrain-vehicle rides, in addition to cocktail parties and meals.

These conferences also include panels on topics like regulation of oil and natural gas pipelines.

Yet often a seat on these panels is, in effect, for sale. A large donation can secure the right to join a panel or provide an opportunity for a handpicked executive to make a solo presentation to a room full of attorneys general. That is what a top executive from TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline, did at two recent attorneys general meetings in Utah and Colorado.

For the attorneys general, there is a personal benefit, too: Their airfare, meals and hotel bills at these elite resorts are generally covered, either by the corporate sponsors or state taxpayers.

Ms. Bondi, the Florida attorney general, for example, received nearly $25,000 worth of airfare, hotels and meals in the past two years just from events sponsored by the Republican Attorneys General Association, state disclosure reports show. That money came indirectly from corporate donors.

She has charged Florida taxpayers nearly $14,000 since 2011 to take additional trips to meetings of the National Association of Attorneys General and the Conference of Western Attorneys General, including travel to Hawaii. Those events were also attended by dozens of lobbyists. Ms. Bondi, in a statement, said the support she had received — directly or through the Republican Attorneys General Association — had not had an impact on any of her actions as attorney general.

But Matthew L. Myers, the president of the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, who was on a panel about e-cigarettes at an event in Park City, Utah, was startled by what he saw: lobbyists from regulated industries — financial, energy, alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies — socializing with top state law enforcement officers.

Continue reading the main story “You play golf with somebody, you are much less likely to see them as a piranha that is trying to devour consumers, even if that is just what they are,” said Mr. Myers.

Mr. Tierney, the former Maine attorney general, said that lobbyists were entitled to set up a meeting with the attorneys general in their offices. But to write a check, for as much as $125,000, to gain days’ worth of private time with the attorneys general is another matter, he said.

“When you start to connect the actual access to money, and the access involves law enforcement officials, you have clearly crossed a line,” he said. “What is going on is shocking, terrible.”

In Missouri, as in other states, the attorney general’s office has provided a springboard to higher office, either to the governor’s mansion or the Senate. So even before Mr. Koster was sworn in for his second term, he was being mentioned as a candidate for higher office. And that made him an ideal target for the team at Dickstein.

The Dickstein lawyers have donated to his campaigns, invited him and his chief deputy to be featured speakers at law firm events and hosted Mr. Koster at dinners, and stayed in close contact with his office in emails that suggest unusual familiarity.

The relationship seems to have benefited some Dickstein clients.

Pfizer, the New York-based pharmaceutical giant, had hired Dickstein to help settle a case brought by at least 20 states, which accused the company of illegally marketing two of its drugs — Zyvox and Lyrica — for unapproved uses, or making exaggerated claims about their effectiveness.

Instead of participating in the unified investigation with other states — which gives attorneys general greater negotiating power — Mr. Koster’s office worked directly with Mr. Nash and Pfizer’s assistant general counsel, Markus Green.

Mr. Nash negotiated with Deputy Attorney General Joseph P. Dandurand through a series of emails, followed by a visit to Missouri in April 2013.

But both Pfizer and Dickstein had already built a relationship with Mr. Koster. Dickstein had participated in at least four fund-raising events for Mr. Koster, with its lawyers and the firm donating $13,500 to his campaigns, records show.

Several of those contributions came after Mr. Nash had invited Mr. Koster to participate in an “executive briefing” at the Park Hyatt for Dickstein’s clients. That same day, Mr. Koster held a fund-raising event, taking in contributions from Mr. Nash and other lawyers involved in matters that Mr. Koster would soon be, or already was, investigating, the records show.

Pfizer had directly donated at least $20,000 to Mr. Koster since 2009 — more than it gave to any other state attorney general, according to company records. That does not include the $320,000 that Pfizer donated during the same period to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, which in turn has donated to Mr. Koster’s campaigns.

Mr. Koster said his office was forced to negotiate directly with Mr. Nash and Pfizer because a staff lawyer missed a deadline to participate in the multistate investigation.

Continue reading the main story “This was an accident,” Mr. Koster said, adding that since he became attorney general in 2009, his office has participated in six cases against Pfizer that brought a total of $26 million to Missouri.

But the emails show that just as the negotiations on the 2013 case were intensifying, Mr. Koster’s chief deputy received an unusual invitation: Would the attorney general be interested in flying to Chicago to be the keynote speaker at a breakfast that Pfizer was sponsoring for its political action committee?
The topic was “the importance of corporations’ building productive relationships with A.G.s,” according to an email in March from Dickstein to Mr. Dandurand.

“As you know, these relationships are important to allow A.G.s and corporations to work together to address important public policy issues of concern to both the A.G. and the corporation,” the invitation said. “The conference participants also would like to hear how these relationships can help to efficiently address A.G.s’ questions or concerns before they escalate into major problems (like multistate investigations or litigation), as well as how they can carry over when A.G.s are elected to higher offices.”

Mr. Dandurand worked to accommodate the request.

“Trying now to clear his calendar,” Mr. Dandurand wrote back to the Dickstein lawyer, before confirming that Mr. Koster would accept the invitation.

“The folks at Pfizer are very appreciative and excited to hear from the General,” J. B. Kelly, a partner at Dickstein, replied.

Five days later — and just before Mr. Koster was scheduled to give the speech — Mr. Dandurand and Mr. Nash met to discuss a settlement in the fraud investigation. They agreed that Pfizer would pay Missouri $750,000 — at least $350,000 less than it would have collected if it had been part of the multistate investigation.

“Thank you for the meeting,” Mr. Nash wrote to Mr. Dandurand, after the settlement meeting in Missouri. “Pfizer is pleased.”

Mr. Koster said Missouri received a smaller payment from Pfizer because the state had less leverage after missing the multistate deadline. Oregon, the other state to negotiate directly with Pfizer on the Zyvox matter, secured a settlement worth $3.4 million — four times what Missouri received — even though Oregon’s population is far smaller.

Pfizer was not the only Dickstein client pleased with the firm’s representation before Mr. Koster’s office.

AT&T was also subject to an investigation by Mr. Koster’s office, something that Mr. Nash learned at the conference held at the Loews hotel. And like Ms. Kalani, Mr. Nash pleaded his case directly with Mr. Koster.

Three weeks after the conversation with Mr. Nash, Mr. Koster’s office took a step that questioned the legal strategy of a multistate investigation of AT&T’s billing practices, email records show. Mr. Koster did not officially back out of the inquiry, and Missouri ultimately benefited from a national settlement announced this month.

Continue reading the main story But frustrating leaders of the multistate investigation, Mr. Koster decided to join a small group of attorneys general who, to the industry’s pleasure, wanted to resolve the matter without subpoenas or the threat of a lawsuit, the emails show.

AT&T has been a major campaign contributor to Mr. Koster’s political causes, donating more than $27,000 in just the last two years, half before and half after his actions regarding the investigation.

Mr. Koster said the donations had no effect on his actions, adding that he was determined to investigate the company for its deceptive billing practices. With 5-Hour Energy, he added, he pulled out of the investigation because he did not believe it was merited — adding that he personally uses the energy drink.
Yet he said he was angry that his staff had not notified him before joining investigations into these two major companies.
“Its stock price would move at the mere mention of our involvement,” Mr. Koster said, referring to AT&T.
Mr. Nash’s appeals were not finished.
A month after returning from the Santa Monica meeting, Mr. Koster adopted a new office policy requiring lawyers and managers in his consumer affairs division to get approval from his top aides before opening any investigations involving a publicly traded company or any company with more than 10 employees.

Patrick C. Lynch of Rhode Island. Credit Stew Milne/Associated Press Mr. Nash and Lisa A. Rickard, a senior executive from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, were so pleased with the change that they asked Mr. Koster to give a talk about his new office policy at a meeting of attorneys general in Washington.

“This is going to be titled my Lisa Rickard memorial presentation,” Mr. Koster said at the February 2014 meeting. “She was the one who initiated this idea.”

The email records also reveal the personal nature of the relationship between Mr. Koster’s office and the lawyers at Dickstein.

In an August 2013 exchange, in which the attorney general’s office assured Mr. Nash that it would not share potentially damaging information on a Dickstein client with another state attorney general who was investigating the company — saying the documents were considered confidential — the conversation took a sudden turn away from business.

“Let’s go bowling sometime,” Mr. Dandurand wrote.

“Thanks,” Mr. Nash wrote back. “I’d rather eat and drink with you any time, any place.”
The email records show a similarly detailed interaction with the office of Ms. Bondi, the Florida attorney general and a fast-rising star in the Republican Party.

Mr. Nash and his partners worked to help Ms. Bondi further her political ambitions at the same time they were lobbying her office on behalf of companies under investigation by it.

Accretive Health, a Chicago-based hospital bill collection company, whose operations in Minnesota had been shut down by the attorney general’s office there for abusive collection practices, had turned to Dickstein Shapiro to try to make sure that other states did not follow Minnesota’s lead. Mr. Nash contacted Ms. Bondi’s chief deputy and urged the office to take no action.

Continue reading the main story “We persuaded A.G.s not to sue Accretive Health following the filing of a lawsuit by the Minnesota A.G.,” Dickstein wrote in a recent marketing brochure.

Thurbert E. Baker of Georgia. Credit Associated Press Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit online school that has been under scrutiny for what Mr. Miller, the Iowa attorney general, called “unconscionable sales practices,” turned to Dickstein to set up meetings with Ms. Bondi’s staff, to urge her not to join in the inquiries underway in several states. Again, her office decided not to take up the matter, citing the small number of complaints about Bridgepoint it has received.

Dickstein set up a similar meeting for Herbalife, which has been investigated by federal and state authorities for sales practices related to its nutritional shakes and other products. No investigation was opened; again, Ms. Bondi’s staff said her office had received few complaints.

Perhaps the greatest victory in Florida for Dickstein relates to a lawsuit filed by Ms. Bondi’s predecessor against online reservation companies, including Travelocity and Priceline, which Dickstein then represented, based on allegations that they were conspiring to improperly withhold taxes on hotel rooms booked in the state.

Local officials in Florida were confounded by the fact that the case, which was filed before Ms. Bondi was sworn in, suddenly seemed to come to a halt.

“As our state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official, and as the people’s attorney, you have the authority to pursue action on behalf of the citizens of Florida,” Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, a Democrat, wrote to Ms. Bondi in 2011, while he was a state legislator, estimating that Florida was losing $100 million a year.

Behind the scenes, Dickstein had been working to get the case dropped.

“Thank you so much for chatting with me last week about the online travel site suit,” said a January 2012 email to Deputy Attorney General Patricia A. Conners from Christopher M. Tampio, a former lobbyist for the convenience store industry who was hired to work in Dickstein’s attorney general practice, even though he is not a lawyer or a registered lobbyist in Florida.

A year later, a second round of emails arrived in Ms. Bondi’s office: first, one inviting Ms. Bondi or her top aide to dinner at Ristorante Tosca in Washington, and then one from a Dickstein lawyer pointing out that similar online travel cases had recently been dismissed by Florida judges.

The email records provided to The Times show no response to Dickstein, other than a terse “thanks.” But two months later, Ms. Bondi’s office moved to do what the firm had sought.

“Dismissed before hearing,” the state court docket shows, as the case was closed in April 2013 even before it was officially taken up by the court.

A spokesman for Ms. Bondi said her office had dropped the matter after concluding, as Dickstein had argued, that state tax law was ambiguous. The office urged the State Legislature to clarify the matter. But several Florida counties have continued to pursue the matter, taking it to the State Supreme Court.
Photo

HOTEL DEL CORONADO A conference of the Republican Attorneys General Association was held in June in Coronado, Calif. Representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Pfizer, Comcast and Altria, as well as a Dickstein Shapiro lawyer, attended the event. Dickstein also took unusual steps to promote Ms. Bondi’s political career.

The firm’s lawyers helped arrange a cover article for Ms. Bondi in a magazine called InsideCounsel, which is distributed to corporate lawyers, and invited her, as it did Mr. Koster, to appear at an event in Washington that included the firm’s clients.

And as with Mr. Koster, the assistance included direct political contributions. Mr. Nash was a sponsor of an elaborate fund-raising event this year in Ms. Bondi’s honor at the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, owned by Donald J. Trump, which is considered one of the most opulent mansions in the United States.
Ms. Bondi, in a statement, said none of these efforts had affected her decisions.

“My office aggressively protects Floridians from unfair and deceptive business practices, and absolutely no access to me or my staff is going to have any bearing on my efforts to protect Floridians,” she said.

The Revolving Door
In at least 31 states and in Congress, elected officials are banned from lobbying their former colleagues during a cooling-off period, which is intended to limit their ability to cash in on their contacts. Once they do start to lobby, they are required to register to disclose the work.

But even in states like Georgia, where the law prohibits state officials from registering as lobbyists or engaging in lobbying for one year after leaving office, a former attorney general made appeals almost immediately to his former office.

Mr. Baker, who left his post as the state’s attorney general in January 2011, wrote repeatedly that year to the office of his successor, Sam Olens, and to Mr. Olens’s chief deputy, who had served in the same role during Mr. Baker’s tenure, to ask them to take actions that would benefit AT&T, which he had been hired to represent.

“Hi Thurbert,” Jeff Milsteen, Georgia’s chief deputy attorney general, replied to one of the emails that Mr. Baker sent to him in 2011, as Mr. Baker sought his successor’s public support for the proposed merger between T-Mobile and AT&T. “I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”

The next day, Mr. Milsteen wrote back. “I’ve talked to Sam,” he said, “and he is fine with you adding him to the letter.”

A spokesman for Mr. Olens said that he saw nothing wrong with the exchanges because Mr. Baker was acting as a lawyer, not as a lobbyist, and therefore was exempt from the one-year ban — which covers only lobbying of the legislature or the governor, not the attorney general.

But Mr. Baker declined, when asked by The Times, to identify a single legal filing concerning AT&T that he had been involved with. He wrote back to say that this definition of “lawyer” was too narrow.
“Lawyers are advocates,” he said.

In Washington State, both Mr. McKenna, the former attorney general, and Mr. Moran, who had been his top deputy, were pressing their former colleagues within months of leaving their jobs last year, on behalf of clients including Microsoft and T-Mobile, emails show.

Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story For Mr. McKenna, it was quite a turnaround. He had sued T-Mobile in September 2011 to block its proposed merger with AT&T. Now, as a corporate lawyer, Mr. McKenna was setting up meetings with his successor, Mr. Ferguson, to ask him to intervene with federal officials on T-Mobile’s behalf in the inquiry over whether the company was seeking to prevent its competitors from acquiring what it thought was too large a share of the available federal wireless spectrum.

“I write today on behalf of the millions of consumers of wireless and mobile computing services,” said a letter, drafted initially by T-Mobile, but sent out by Mr. Ferguson in January, although it made no mention of the role played by the company or the former attorney general.

Email records show a similar intervention by Mr. McKenna on behalf of Washington State-based Microsoft, with outcomes that brought praise from the corporate executives. “I know that Microsoft was very pleased that you made yourself available,” Mr. McKenna wrote to Mr. Ferguson last October. “Thank you again.”

Mr. Baker and Mr. McKenna are both regulars at the attorneys general retreats. As former attorneys general, they are also special guests at events of the Society of Attorneys General Emeritus.

They have good company in the SAGE club: More than a dozen of the members are now lawyers and lobbyists for corporations, or work at plaintiff’s law firms that are seeking to secure commission-based contracts and then sue corporations on a state’s behalf.

The schedule of attorney general conferences for the coming year is laid out — after a pause for the elections — with events set for the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach, the Four Seasons Hotel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and the Grand Wailea resort on Maui, among many others. The invitations for corporate sponsorships are already being sent.

Rock Paper Scissors

I have long lamented the issues surrounding the legal system as it is a Monopoly run by a Union. Funny we have long problems with the idea of monopoly and unions unless of course they are white collared ones, that handle money, complex issues, their unions have lobbyist functions that protect their members and are called the American Medical Association or American Bar Association and then suddenly they are not the same as steel workers, teachers, service workers or just people who have not gone to a prestigious school or just some school which cost several figures for years to get a double letter after your name.

For the record I am not jealous or even remotely envious.  I was in a Ph.d/Masters program for Education when my then husband said let's do the simple payback and we concluded that after 15 years my salary would peak out and would only be half of what that entire program would have ended up costing.  At the time it was close to 90K as I had already gone back to school to get a second B.A. while earning my Teacher's Certificate.   And that cost 25K which I was still paying.  So I sold my house paid the loans off and never bothered even accrediting myself for my Masters until recently a payroll audit found that I had the credits and should be paid accordingly.  It worked out in back pay to about 1.50 more per hour.  Wow the back pay and taxes levied that pretty much equal when I got the check.

So I don't give a flying fuck about degrees and the cost of your idiocy in a quest for your professional security and arrogance as that is what much of it is about, telling people you are smarter while proving you are not.  Trust me I have a Harvard lawyer.

Which is why when I read this blog entry from Above the Law about the rising costs of Attorney fees in relation to the lowering earnings of the middle class and the unbalance of those two as the need for lawyers has subsequently increased I responded - yeah I know ask me about the 25K and the two cases that I have in the appellate courts (both civil and criminal top that people!)  The criminal one in the hands of an Attorney whom I NEVER speak to or the other, the civil case,  that I go alone to an Appeal Court with because Lawyers are simply assholes.


empty-pocketAt the risk of stating the obvious to this audience, the American middle class is in serious trouble. But why am I taking the time to state the obvious? Because it isn’t what we know, it’s what we do with what we know to reposition our solo/small firm practices for survival that matters most. Most solo/small firms are consumer-law driven. Since so much of the success of many a lawyer has been predicated on a stable middle class with disposable income, how a solo/small firm responds to their disappearing wealth is intimately tied to their professional success.
The middle-class share of national income has fallen and continues to fall, dropping many who were normally categorized as such into the lower middle class, even upper lower class. Middle-class wages are stagnant even though productivity time has increased dramatically, and we no longer have the world’s wealthiest middle class. I don’t even have to quote any sources on this information because you just have to Google it and you’ll get hundreds if not thousands of pages and articles on this alarming topic.
As painful as this squeeze is individually, multiply this by millions of families (your potential clients). Then aggregate this demand across all areas of the economy (obviously, the law), and you see why this will inevitably trickle down to cripple the following generations (also your potential clients).
But the story is much bigger than this and has another very important side….
If you are still in the middle class, the cost to maintain this economic status and standard of living is rising way too fast as wages languish. Fundamental needs such as health care and child care have seen dramatic increases these last few decades. They are increasingly taking a much larger chunk of family budgets. The middle class is being wrung dry. There’s simply nothing more to get from them. That means traditional legal fees. And that means traditional legal fees even though they still have tremendous legal needs.
When it comes to take-home pay for the typical American worker, they have been in a vise for the many decades prior to 2007 and the Great Recession. Both events took an additional devastating toll on millions of Americans. During this time unemployment skyrocketed and trillions of dollars in household wealth vanished. Even though the economy has ticked up since taking a nosedive in 2009, and growth in private-sector jobs began to bounce back in 2010, the distribution of these gains from this post-crash period has been strikingly unequal. The top 1 percent of all U.S. households received ninety-five percent of all income gains since the start of the recovery. That means only a meager five percent was distributed over the remaining ninety nine percent of all households. Wow. Again, your clients.
Income Gains
If lawyers don’t act now, doesn’t this just open the field for outside interests to do so? And that’s what we’ve been witnessing. There has been a surge in startups chipping away at the services lawyers have traditionally offered. They are doing so at price points and with alternate delivery systems lawyers have either been prohibited from doing, simply too sluggish to do, too scared to try and/or can’t afford to do because of the debt they struggle under from the 62% increase in tuitions between 2000 and 2012 (see chart below).
Okay. This post isn’t meant to be all doom and gloom. It’s simply meant to offer up, by way of explanation, an overview of the current state of affairs and why our profession will never revert back to business as usual. In order to succeed going forward, lawyers, especially solo/small firms, have to pivot, innovate and rethink how they offer up services to a class of client whose dollars are both shrinking and ultimately being reallocated to basic needs.

Who is the Middle Class?

The middle class is statistically defined as those households earning between the 20th and 80th percentiles on the income distribution ladder. You would know them as the upper middle, middle, and lower middle classes. However, middle class is also less about income in many ways and more about what middle class has traditionally come to mean. Economic security. This security is what’s disappearing. And when security disappears, dollars are held onto with a death grip.
Some Harsh Realities
I won’t give you a history lesson here, but will share the following just to illustrate the disparities:
  • Among the top 20 percent of families by net worth, average wealth increased by 120 percent between 1983 and 2010
  • The middle 20 percent of families saw their wealth increase by only 13 percent, and
  • The bottom fifth of families, on average, saw debt exceed assets—negative net worth.
  • Families of color have fallen further behind white families in building wealth:
    • A survey that tracked white and African American families between 1984 and 2009 found that the wealth gap between them nearly tripled, from $85,000 to $236,500.
  • Homeowners in the bottom quintile of wealth lost an astounding 94 percent of their wealth between 2007 and 2010.
This chart is illustrative of how real wages have decreased in comparison to real costs of fundamentals:
Household Income change
So, how is a consumer-facing lawyer supposed to build a practice in the face of such troubling economic indicators?
Well, the good news is that regardless of the economy, people still need lawyers. There is a huge latent market of more than $1 billion in legal services up for grabs according to one estimate. But this need is still going unmet even though there is a glut of unemployed or or underemployed and struggling lawyers. The traditional delivery methods of legal services are simply not being used by the nearly 80 percent of all litigants across demographics representing themselves.
Bridge Builders
In Part II, I’ll showcase some up-and-coming companies that are tapping this latent market through education and effective, cost-efficient technologies, then funneling the legal work to solos and small firms. They are the bridge builders.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Votes In

As we elect our Prosecutors, Judges and other political malcontents in the coming week, I once again wonder how much money plays in the hands of electing those who are supposed to have no bias nor political affiliation? And the answer is clearly that is one of great debate.

The current situation in my home city is that many of the Judges run unopposed and we know nothing about them nor seemingly care. The Prosecuting Attorney is also being decided and I know nothing about his running of the office nor who is opponent is. This is working out well already.

In many cities and states the money is pouring in and all of it with an agenda and that is vague, uncertain as who the donors are and their purpose and intent.

The battle Royal is one that we have much to weigh on yet nothing of substance in which to compare it. Ignorance is not bliss my friends when it comes to these elections and campaigns.

First is the discussion in Open File about many of the Texas races in these hotly contested jobs.

Or how about even Joe Nocera in the New York Times today weighing in on the strange money train of judicial elections.

Or there is this article on how advertising affects actual Judicial decision making as it relates to Judicial races and we all know how accurate and knee jerky, emphasis on jerk.

Or this editorial on judicial elections from the Washington Post  that puts the special in interests regarding the matter.

Or how about the great Lawyers that try their cases before the Judiciary. Better buy one now before prices go up.

As it has been said by supposedly a Union boss:  “We figured out a long time ago that it’s easier to elect seven judges than to elect 132 legislators.”

And we do the same with lawmakers to write laws.  We are a nation that loves bad laws and overwritten ones that appeal to the emotional components of victimization and America loves a victim, preferably a little girl with an overwrought father or mother and then promptly a law is written, little is done to improve the quality of society but a new acronym group is formed, tax dollars are given and tax deductions are made. All in the name of crime. As this article discusses the emotion that plays out in the reason laws are written.

And funny it is those who swear to uphold the laws that commit crimes that at times go ignored or unpunished or simply ignored by the rights of law that ensure they can never be.

A roundup of the many (and there are many) offenses by law enforcement include the following:

New York Cops that misused database for personal use

New York Officer charged with crimes found guilty of drug and robbery charges

Cop takes nude photos from phones from arrestees.

Judge Guilty of Accepting Bribes  or Traffic Court Judge Accepting Gifts

Drunk Cop Drives Dangerously  

Prosecutor Lies and finally gets charged 

There are many other cases where the law and enforcement get muddled.  Don't expect Officer Wilson to be charged in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson it just doesn't work the way you think unless you are working it from behind the desk versus in front of it.

System is down, broken and busted.   Keep voting for them and you will get the contempt of the court as that is what they have for the great unwashed.

Afford Me This

The Affordable Care Act, debate the affordable part among yourselves, comes to its annual marking of the hysteria this year. I of course found that my policy that I have never used and cannot afford even with stipends is being cancelled and replaced with the identical same policy only even less affordable.

While I was away I still followed many of the same articles and information regarding this fiasco of a policy that has yet fully demonstrated what it was intended to do and at this point even I have no idea. There are two institutions in America that define fucked up - the medical and the legal - and these two in this marriage continues to demonstrate how this is a union that is best negotiated with a serious prenup. That never happened and to this day a divorce is now impossible without serious damage to all parties.

So was there any winners in this arrangement? It appears for some yes, others no and some yet to be determined.

The articles are linked below about the act and the annual reviews that are still coming in with the premimum rises, the cancellations and the sheer utter confusion that begins again on November 15.

Is the Affordable Care Act Working?


Affordable Care Act Benefits Hosptials by reducing costs

Hurdles to Affordable Care Act

Judging the Affordable Care Act

A Perfect Fit for Some but not for Others

Unable to meet the deductible or the Doctor

Back to HealthCare.gov to shop for policies

MediFraud

Much like supposed voter fraud that transpires and thereby requires intense voter protection laws that do more to supress and discourage voting, Medicare and Medicaid are always being waived about as fraud percolaters that the elderly and indigent use to avoid paying insurance, getting jobs with insurance or just dying sooner versus later. Then when you look into Medicare fraud the largest perps are of the course the institutions that are the providers to the supposed fraudsters. Innocent victims caught up in web of slackers and hypochondriacs.

But this case of fraud tops them all - the City of New York. Well they do it bigger ther and if you can't rip off the government there where can you? Its up to you New York New York!



New York City Agency and Vendor Bilked Medicaid, U.S. Says


By BENJAMIN WEISER
OCT. 27, 2014

Federal authorities have accused New York City officials of a five-year effort to defraud Medicaid, working with a contractor to exploit loopholes in Medicaid’s computerized billing system to collect reimbursements that amounted to tens of millions of dollars.

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Monday that the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the contractor, Computer Sciences Corporation, created schemes from 2008 through 2012 that would produce reimbursements on tens of thousands of false claims for early intervention program services for infants and toddlers.

In one scheme, the city and the firm switched diagnosis codes on children, using a default code — 315.9, which designates an “unspecified delay in development” — that Medicaid would approve, the prosecutor’s office said.
Other schemes were intended to circumvent Medicaid rules that required the city and the computer firm to exhaust private insurance coverage before billing Medicaid, Mr. Bharara’s office said.

If the city did not have adequate insurance information from the patient, it would not make any effort to find the correct policy information, the office said. Instead, a computer program was created that would insert 999-999-999 as the purported policy number. Private insurers would quickly reject the claims, freeing the city to submit them to Medicaid.

The lawsuit, which follows a whistle-blower’s complaint, was filed under the False Claims Act. The lawsuit demands triple damages and penalties, but does not specify how much it is seeking. But in just one four-day period in April 2009, the lawsuit claims that the false diagnosis data was used on more than 600,000 claims, resulting in a $49 million payment from Medicaid to the city.

Mr. Bharara, in a statement, said that Computer Sciences Corporation and the city had “created computer programs that systematically, and fraudulently, altered billing data in order to get paid by Medicaid as quickly as possible and as much as possible.”

New York State joined in the whistle-blower lawsuit, making its claim only against Computer Sciences Corporation.

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said the city had “cooperated fully” with the federal investigation.
“But we strongly disagree with the allegations, which we believe involve technical billing issues, not fraud,” the Law Department said. “The health department acted appropriately and all services billed were authorized and provided.”

Computer Sciences Corporation said in a statement that it had worked cooperatively with Mr. Bharara’s office over the last two years, and had also conducted its own review of the claims. The firm said that it would “vigorously defend itself.”

“We believe there is no factual or legal basis to support virtually all the allegations of which we have been made aware during the course of the inquiry, and that the complaint is without merit,” the company said.


The lawsuit mirrors a similar civil complaint filed by Mr. Bharara’s office in 2011. In that case, the city was accused of overbilling Medicaid by improperly approving 24-hour home care for thousands of patients. New York City eventually paid the federal government $70 million to settle that claim.

In announcing the lawsuit on Monday, the United States attorney’s office said that the fraud schemes outlined in the complaint were “part and parcel of a general practice at C.S.C. and the city to blatantly disregard their obligations to comply with Medicaid billing requirements.”

Medicaid typically pays reimbursements quicker than private insurers, and with fewer requirements. It also covered a larger share of early intervention services than the state’s own funds for such programs.
The complaint suggested that the fraud scheme was designed to serve the city’s and the company’s economic interests, noting that the city linked the amount of fees it paid to the amount of Medicaid payments the company obtained for the city.

Mr. Bharara’s office said in the lawsuit that when the former finance director of the city’s early intervention program was asked whether he had “schemed” with Computer Sciences Corporation to submit false claims to get Medicaid payments, he “repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege.” The official was not identified in the suit.

The suit said that even before the computer firm was hired, the city official had made it a practice to submit claims using the default 315.9 diagnosis code, rather than the codes generated by service providers; he later asked the firm to use that code.

After April 2009, the suit says, Computer Sciences Corporation and the city continued to use the 315.9 code improperly. When the city and the company noticed that Medicaid had denied several hundred thousand early intervention claims because of invalid diagnosis codes, they revised a computer program to replace the invalid codes with the default 315.9 code in Medicaid claims.

The suit said that the computer firm was aware that it was submitting claims to Medicaid with diagnosis codes that “did not accurately reflect the diagnoses” for which the early intervention program “services were being rendered.”

The firm, based in Falls Church, Va., said in its statement that all eligible beneficiaries received the early intervention services to which they were entitled, and that the firm did not submit any claims to Medicaid for which the city “was not entitled to be paid.”

It said the city was “properly reimbursed for these services” and “Medicaid would have paid out the same amounts of funds” for the early intervention program “irrespective of any claims processing issues.”
The early intervention program provides services to children under 3 years old who have been found to have developmental delays or have been diagnosed with medical conditions, like autism and low birth weight, with a high probability of causing such delays, the lawsuit says.

The original whistle-blower suit was filed under seal in 2012, the document shows, by Vincent Forcier, who worked as a senior manager at Computer Sciences Corporation in its Kansas office, according to his LinkedIn profile. In April 2013, he went to work for H&R Block, the profile says. Under the law, Mr. Forcier could receive 15 percent to 25 percent of any recovery in the case.

Mr. Forcier declined to comment when reached by phone. His lawyer, Shelley R. Slade, said, “Mr. Forcier, in filing his suit, took on significant professional and personal risk, and I applaud his courage for standing up to do what he believed was the right thing.”