The lawyer who famously pleaded last month for a break from trial should his soon-to-be-born grandchild turn out to be a boy (see our earlier post) is now the grandfather of a grandson. The ABA Journal has the story.
Eugene Wanger left his mark early on Michigan history, serving at age 28 as a delegate to Michigan's constitutional convention. He advocated for and drafted the anti-death penalty provision, as well as provisions expanding the powers of the state's auditor general. Although Michigan had long banned the death penalty by statute, Wanger told the Lansing State Journal that he was motivated to enshrine the death penalty ban in the constitution by the fear that without constitutional protection it would be too easy for "tough-on-crime" lawmakers to repeal the state law.
Now Wanger has given Michigan another gift. He has donated 48 boxes of historical documents, the centerpiece of which is material from the development of the 1963 constitution, to the state archives. State Archivist Mark Harvey describes Wanger's donation as one of the "most valuable and unique collections ever given to the state."
Another Michigan lawyer, Wanger's wife Marilyn, played a role in the gift-giving. "She was pleased we're getting all of that stuff out of our house," Wanger told the State Journal.
Looking at the grim fiscal picture for state and local government, CBS Moneywatch puts judgeships #1 on the list of the top 10 high-paying jobs with no future. The list was compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, which predicts a loss of 700 jobs nationally for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates between 2008 and 2018. Judges staying in their jobs longer than usual due to the bad economy is also a factor in the prediction. Median pay for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates was $110,220 in May 2008.
Given economic and demographic predictions, Michigan is likely to contribute to the downsizing trend. The Judicial Crossroads Task Force convened by the State Bar took a serious look at the question of judgeships in its work, which concluded in October, and its recommendations address how the process of adjusting judgeships should be handled. Given the predominance of baby boomers on the bench, Michigan's constitutional mandatory retirement for judges will mean an unprecedented turnover of judges in the coming decade, putting the Supreme Court's determination of the appropriate distribution and number of judges statewide in sharp focus.
Conspicuously (and encouragingly) absent from the Moneywatch list are lawyers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth for lawyers at 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, about average for all occupations. But the report takes into account the changes already underway in the profession, predicting job growth in salaried jobs as businesses and governments hire growing numbers of staff attorneys. The report also notes another trend SBM Blog has been reporting -- that lawyers are increasingly finding work outside of law firms in areas where legal training is an asset, rather than a requirement.
Both of these resources are filled with innovative, fun and some productivity-enhancing items to brighten the holiday season of your favorite lawyer. Of course, you can figure a clever way to let your loved ones know if you find the ideal gift for you!
The L.A.Times writes about the "critical shortage" of lawyers for death penalty appeals. According to the story, criminal defense lawyers attribute the shortage to "inadequate state funding, the emotional toll of representing a client facing execution and the likelihood that the California Supreme Court will uphold a capital conviction." In contrast, prosecutors and death penalty supporters blame "the culture of criminal defense work," including zeal "to turn over every rock in the world."
The story sheds light on the current economics of death penalty appeals:
[UC Berkeley law professor Elisabeth] Semel said an investigation for post-conviction challenge costs about $250,000, which includes pay for expert witnesses and travel. The state high court two years ago doubled the investigation budget to $50,000 for an inmate.
Beth Jay, principal attorney to the chief justice and a 31-year veteran of the court, said the court pays a lawyer $200,000 to $300,000 on average for a post-conviction challenge, which can take years. Several law firms that take such cases cover the unreimbursed costs.
40,000. That's an eye-catching number for SBM Blog, almost exactly the number of licensed attorneys in Michigan. A three-judge panel in a California federal district court came up with that number when it ruled that overcrowding in California's prisons, where a system designed to house 80,000 now holds over twice that number, is the main cause of substandard medical and mental health care that violates prisoners' Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The State of California appealed the ruling, and the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the case today. The order has been stayed pending the outcome of the appeal. ScotusBlog has all the pertinent detail about the case, Schwarzenegger v. Plata.
Michigan's budget woes and prison woes parallel those of California, although on a smaller scale, and Michigan joined 17 other states in an amicus brief (PDF) urging the high court to overturn the order. The amicus brief challenges the district court's interpretation of the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, governing how federal courts can get involved in the management of state prisons, and says that the order is a threat to public safety. Anthony S. Barkow, head of NYU Law School's Center on Criminal Law told the Wall Street Journal (subsc. req.d), "The way that California ends up dealing with this problem will be an example for other states with massive budget problems and overcrowded prisons to watch and learn from."
What do you do if several of your state legislators are caught on videotape stuffing campaign cash into gym bags in exchange for votes on bills? If you're the electorate of Arizona, you pass a law that gives public money to state candidates who agree to limit private fundraising, and kicks in extra public funds to match the spending of a wealthy, free-spending opponent. The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to hear a challenge to the act based on an argument that the matching funds are unconstitutional because they punish candidates who raise and spend private money. Court analysts say that a 5-4 majority on the Court tends to disfavor restrictions on campaign spending. If the act is found to be unconstitutional, it will take off the table one of the more popular strategies advocated by reformers as a means to reduce the appearance of impropriety problems associated with election of judges. The case is Microsoft v. i4i Limited Partnership (10-290). SCOTUSblog has details.
Eugene Krasicky, of Lansing, died November 27, at the age of 87. Mr. Krasicky was a 1946 graduate of Wayne State University Law School. He was a long-time assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan, whose service included the position of Solicitor General. Mr. Krasicky also taught at Thomas M. Cooley law school, where he deveoped the school's scholarly writing program. Visitation is from 2-4 and 6-8 on Wednesday, Dec. 1, at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, 325 W. Washtenaw Street, Lansing, MI 48933. Services will be at St. Mary Cathedral, 219 Seymour St., Lansing, at 10:00 a.m., Dec. 2.
The ABA's Commission on Ethics 20/20 has just released a discussion draft of proposed changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct on the topic of legal outsourcing, and they want to know what you think. If you want a sort-of quick tutorial on the history of outsourcing, the draft is right up your alley. And check out this proposed comment to Rule 1.1 to gauge where things might be headed and whether you want to comment:
A lawyer may retain other lawyers outside the lawyer’s own firm to provide or assist in the provision of legal services to a client provided the lawyer reasonably concludes that the other lawyers’ services will contribute to the competent and ethical representation of the client. The reasonableness of the conclusion will depend upon the circumstances, including: the education, experience and reputation of the nonfirm lawyers; the nature of the services assigned to the nonfirm lawyers; and the legal and ethical environment in which the services will be performed. When retaining lawyers and others outside the lawyer’s own firm, the requirements of Rule 5.5 (a) must be observed. When using the work of nonfirm lawyers in providing legal services to a client, a lawyer must also reasonably conclude that such work meets the standard of competence under this Rule. If information protected by Rule 1.6 will be disclosed to the nonfirm lawyers, informed client consent to such disclosure may be required. For example, if the rules, laws or practices of a foreign jurisdiction provide substantially less protection for confidential client information than that provided in this jurisdiction, the lawyer should obtain the client’s informed consent to such disclosure.
Living in the world of lawyers lulls you into thinking that all the great disputes and problems are finally solved through lawyers. A Nuclear Standoff with Libya in Sunday's The Atlantic tells the riveting story of how skilled diplomats managed to coax Libya into releasing seven five-ton casks of nuclear material into safe international hands, without the aid of the legal system. One slight technical difficulty with the conclusion that this was a lawyer-free triumph, however, is that a pivotal figure in the story, the current U.S. Secretary of State, is a lawyer by training. Just curious: Do any readers happen to know what percentage of the U.S. diplomatic corps has legal training?)