A daily look at legal news and the business of law:
Department of Justice to Expand Foreign Corruption Prosecutions
A dedicated team of prosecutors will be going after large-scale foreign corruption, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Sunday. Main Justice reports this effort comes on top of the stepped-up prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Why all the effort? Well, out of a $30 trillion global economy, apparently $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year.
Why Habeas Corpus Is So Crucial
Imagine you're on trial for the second time for being the alleged accomplice to a murder. Your first trial, featuring the testimony of jailhouse informants who got drastically reduced sentences for their testimony, ended in a hung jury. In a separate trial, the alleged gunman was acquitted. Now imagine that the most important jailhouse informant recants his testimony and then invokes his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself. Then imagine that the prosecution gets to read the contrite informant's original testimony to the jury in your current trial, but you can't offer any evidence that it was recanted and you can't cross-examine him. Finally, imagine that the jury convicts you, only after having that recanted testimony read to them several times during deliberations.
Your lawyers appeal through the state courts to no avail. Finally, a federal judge grants your Habeas Corpus petition, finding that your constitutional rights to a fair trial and to due process of law have been violated.
The Am Law Litigation Daily reports that's what happened to Darryl Whitley, who has his pro bono counsel from Simpson Thatcher to thank for his successful Habeas petition. Now Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has 60 days to schedule a retrial or release him.
Oakland Cops Lied to Get Warrants
In other news about violations of constitutional protection, Oakland, Calif., will pay $6.5 million to settle a class-action suit charging that the Oakland police used false and misleading information to get search warrants, reports The Recorder.
And in the Business of Law ...
• Of all the critics of BP Spill Fund Administrator Kenneth Feinberg, among the most vocal are plaintiffs' attorneys. This makes perfect sense, of course: Spill-injured people who deal with Feinberg aren't suing, which costs those attorneys business. Indeed, the Daily Business Review reports that a key demand of the attorneys is that Feinberg stop discouraging people from speaking to lawyers. Further, the attorneys point out that Feinberg is being paid by BP (BP), and won't say how much, leading them to query if he's really on BP's side. Another issue they flag is that people who deal with the compensation fund may get less than they would if they sue. That's probably true, but it's also a nonissue. People dealing with the fund gain speed and certainty of compensation, neither of which are available to litigants.
• About that legal job market: 88% of 2009 graduates were working within nine months of graduation, but only 71% of those jobs required a law degree, and more than typical were temporary jobs, according to the annual NALP survey. The National Law Journal notes that average salary information and even median salary information isn't that helpful for understanding the legal job market, because salaries come in two tiers: law firm associates and government/public interest work, that are separated by over $100,000 a year. Moreover, big law firms tend to report salary information more easily than other employers, skewing both averages and the median by creating disproportionate representation at the high end of the salary scale. All that said, 2009 graduates earned an average of $93,454 and a median of $72,000.
• The ABA Journal notes that New Hampshire lawyer lost $240,000 in a variation of a classic internet scam: A "client" "deposited" a larger retainer in the lawyer's account with a bogus check and then asked the lawyer to wire $240,000 of the money on; sadly the lawyer did. The underlying Associated Press story reports that another New Hampshire lawyer was also targeted, but that attorney investigated first and figured out the retainer was a scam before wiring any money.
• The ABA Journal also flags the Hollywood Reporter's list of the Top 100 Power Lawyers in Entertainment.
Legal Briefing: Justice Department Turns Up the Heat on Foreign Bribery