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Attorney General To Argue a Case Before High Court
Legal Network | 2008/03/13 21:35

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who spent most of his adult life as a federal prosecutor and a judge, will return to the courtroom later this month to argue a case before the Supreme Court, officials said yesterday.

Mukasey will urge the justices to reinstate a sentence overturned by an appeals court in the case of Ahmed Ressam, an al-Qaeda operative convicted of a plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport in 1999.

The last attorney general to handle a case before the high court was Janet Reno in 1996, court officials said. William P. Barr and Richard Thornburgh also argued cases while serving as attorneys general in the administration of George H.W. Bush.

Justice Department spokesman Peter A. Carr said there is a custom, not always followed, for attorneys general to argue at least one Supreme Court case during their term. He declined to comment on why Mukasey chose the Ressam case.

Mukasey, 66, is a retired federal judge who oversaw several high-profile terrorism-related trials while on the bench in New York City. He is scheduled to appear for Supreme Court arguments on March 25 and plans to conduct moot-court sessions to prepare, officials said.

Ressam was arrested near the U.S.-Canada border in December 1999 after customs agents found 124 pounds of explosives in the trunk of his car as he disembarked from a ferry in Port Angeles, Wash. He was convicted in 2001 of nine charges in connection with the plot, but after ceasing cooperation with the FBI was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2005.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit threw out the sentence in 2007 after finding that one of the charges was applied improperly. The federal government disagrees and wants the sentence reinstated.



NewsScandal-hit Spitzer faces wait for law firm role
Topics | 2008/03/13 21:32

So what will Eliot Spitzer do next, assuming he escapes criminal prosecution and disciplinary sanction following his alleged involvement with a high-end prostitution ring? If he follows the example of his three living predecessors as governor, he will join a law firm.

George Pataki last year joined Chadbourne & Parke as a counsel in the environmental practice, and Mario Cuomo has long hung his hat at Willkie Farr & Gallagher. Hugh Carey survived the 1987 collapse of Finley Kumble Wagner Underberg Manley Myerson & Casey and is now a partner in the Manhattan office of Harris Beach.

But Spitzer's reasons for resigning office mark him as something of a different candidate.

"It matters how you leave," said the chairman of one large New York firm who asked to remain unnamed.

Former governors and other prominent political names generally have a cachet with clients that makes them attractive to firms, he said, but the scandal forcing Spitzer out of office may have exhausted the current governor's quotient of good will.

"He would need to rehabilitate himself first," agreed the managing partner of another large New York firm who also requested anonymity. It would probably be a year or more before any firm would even consider bringing the soon-to-be ex-governor aboard, the partner said. "He's radioactive in this environment," he added.



Verdict upheld for Valley law firm suing over fees
Court Watch | 2008/03/12 21:35
A federal Appeals Court has upheld a nearly $3.3 million verdict obtained by a Valley law firm against another firm from Texas for unpaid legal fees.

In their unanimous ruling, the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by the attorney for John M. O'Quinn & Associates that the legal fees being charged by Brown & Bain were not reasonable. Neil McCabe said that put the Phoenix law firm in violation of ethical rules adopted by the Arizona Supreme Court.

But appellate Judge John Noonan, writing for the panel, said the O'Quinn firm had in fact agreed to pay Brown & Bain a certain amount once the case settled.

Potentially more significant for attorneys, the appellate judges said Ethical Rule 1.5, which bars fees that are "unreasonable," applies only to the dealings that lawyers have with their clients. It does not regulate what one law firm charges another.

The case involves a lawsuit filed by about 900 property owners in the Phoenix area who filed suit against Motorola contending that toxic chemicals from its plant caused environmental damage. The deal the property owners had was the O'Quinn law firm would get 40 percent of any recovery plus the cost of litigation.


Miami appraiser pleads guilty to fraud scheme
Court Issues | 2008/03/11 16:58

A Miami real estate appraiser has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for her involvement in the Southwest Ranches-area fraud scheme in Broward County, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said.

Martine Yanisse Castrillon is one of 15 defendants charged with buying homes through straw buyers at an inflated price, and then getting cash back at the closings. So far, nine defendants have pleaded guilty to various federal charges in the indictment.

Castrillon admitted that she did fraudulent appraisals -- valuing the properties at the amount requested by another defendant, not the true market price -- and forged the name of the certified appraiser who was to review her work.

According to the indictment, co-defendants Lazara Villalba and Henry Quintero-Lopez would offer the owner's full asking price and then inflate the contract purchase price to allow their companies, New World International and D&H Investments of South Florida, to receive a finder's fee, assignment fee or additional funds to allegedly construct improvements to the properties. They would then recruit individuals, who, for a fee, acted as straw buyers of the properties. Villalba and a co-defendant would obtain fraudulent pay stubs, IRS documents, verification of employment and verification of deposit forms; documents would be submitted to cooperating mortgage brokers and the loans were approved to purchase the properties.

Castrillon faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the wire fraud counts and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.



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