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Judge won't dismiss charges against Haditha commander
Court Issues | 2008/03/04 22:19
A military judge has refused to dismiss charges against the highest ranking officer accused of wrongdoing following the killing of two dozen Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha two years ago.

The judge, Col. Stephen Folsom, rejected attempts by attorneys for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani to throw out the case or order that a new pretrial investigative hearing take place to determine if the charges against him should stand.

Chessani was the battalion commander at Haditha when a squad of Camp Pendleton Marines killed the civilians following a roadside bombing and small arms attack on Nov. 19, 2005.

The civilian deaths occurred as troops searched for their attackers. Those killings and the actions of commanders in the aftermath have led to the largest criminal case against Marines since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One of Chessani's attorneys, Brian Rooney, said Wednesday that Folsom has refused to allow a deposition be taken from U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., as part of the defense's motion to have the case dismissed on the basis the charges resulted from "undue command influence."

The judge refused the defense access to computer hard drives of commanders above Chessani containing e-mail messages about the incident. Chessani's attorneys contend those messages show that their client had fully reported what he knew and that commanders far above him, including at least two generals, had concluded no formal investigation into the civilian deaths was required.

"That was the most stunning part of the ruling," Rooney said. "We intend to file a motion asking the judge to reconsider that because the essence of the case is all about the reporting."

Chessani, who commanded Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Haditha in November 2005, is charged with dereliction of duty and failing to accurately report and thoroughly investigate a possible war crime. His scheduled to go on trial by military court-martial on April 28.

Two Marines under his command, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich and Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum, face court-martials this spring on manslaughter charges in the civilian deaths.

Richard Thompson, chief counsel of the Christian-based Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, Mich., that is representing Chessani, said the pretrial rulings against Chessani and the prosecution itself "stink to high heaven."

"Denying us the right to take Murtha's deposition so that we could show undue command influence, as well as denial of our request for production of documents in the possession of Lt. Col. Chessani's superiors, makes it impossible for us to render this loyal Marine officer the effective assistance of counsel he deserves," Thompson said in a written statement. "They are attempting to throw him under the bus."

A second officer also accused of wrongdoing at Haditha, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, has been in a Camp Pendleton courtroom this week for a motion hearing in advance of his trial.


Ciolli Sues Yale Law Students in AutoAdmit Scandal
Topics | 2008/03/04 22:06
Penn Law grad Anthony Ciolli — the former administrator of AutoAdmit who was named in a lawsuit filed in June by two Yale Law students against anonymous posters on the law-school discussion board and then subsequently dropped from the suit — is now returning fire. For backstory, click here, here and here.

In this complaint, which was filed today in state court in Philadelphia, Ciolli is suing the two Yale students as well as their lawyers, on eight counts, including abuse of process, libel, publicity placing plaintiff in a false light and tortious interference with contract. This fall, after being named in the original suit by the Yale women and accused of running a website called T14 Talent (now shuttered), which ranked women at the top 14 law schools based on their looks, Ciolli subsequently lost an offer for a full-time associate job at Boston firm Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge.

In defending the action filed against him, Ciolli was represented by Marc Randazza. But this complaint is signed by Mark Jakubik.

We’ve reached out to Mark Lemley, a named defendant and the lawyer for the two women, as well as the other individuals named in the suit. We’ll let you know if we hear back.



Louisiana's new AG probes Foti's last-stand lawsuits
Legal Network | 2008/03/04 21:50

FCC General Counsel Feder Leaves for Law Firm
Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell could be ready to ditch some of the more "curious" cases he inherited from his predecessor.

Former attorney general Charles Foti, unseated by Caldwell last November, issued a flurry of lawsuits in his final days on the job, LNL reported last month. In two cases he teamed up with campaign-donor lawyers to file big class-action suits.

"There has been documented curious official behavior on the part of the previous AG's office that has not gone unnoticed," Caldwell stated in a report.

Another case left for Caldwell was against Foti, accusing the former AG of illegally contracting the same lawyers to represent Louisiana in another big lawsuit. Four law firms working on two of Foti's suits donated $13,500 to his unsuccessful re-election campaign last year, that report notes.

Attorneys from New Orleans firms Dugan Law Firm and Murray Law Firm - both of which gave Foti's campaign $5,000 - are listed as plaintiffs in two of the suits.

On the flip side, Foti has also been accused of violating state law by not gaining official approval to contract with private lawyers in a lawsuit against re-constructor Road Home. The case was filed by major insurers including State Farm.



Former Court justice Baldwin joins Pittsburgh law firm
Blog News | 2008/03/04 20:40

Cynthia Baldwin, who served as a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 2006 until January, has joined law firm Duane Morris LLP's Pittsburgh office as a partner in the trial practice group and appellate litigation sub practice group.

Prior to her appointment to the commonwealth's highest court, Baldwin spent 16 years as a judge in various divisions of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Duane Morris, based in Philadelphia, opened its Pittsburgh office in 2003.



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