Survey: Attorneys working part-time are overwhelmingly women
Karen Sloan, The National Law Journal
December 31, 2008
The latest data on part-time attorneys isn't likely to shock anyone in the legal world: Working part-time is an option few attorneys take, and the vast majority of those who do are women.
According to figures compiled by the National Association for Law Placement, 5.6% of U.S. attorneys work part-time, and about 74% of them are women. That represents only a slight increase from the previous year, when 5.4% of attorneys worked part-time and 75% were women.
NALP Executive Director James Leipold said that his organization hasn't looked at why utilization of part-time programs is low, but he said a common critique within the legal industry is that attorneys fear their careers may stall if they don't work a full-time schedule.
Part-time attorneys are more common among the associate ranks nationwide, with 4.9% working less than a full-time schedule. By contrast, only 3.2% of partners work part-time, according to the NALP survey. Women constitute 90% of part-time associates and nearly 70% of part-time partners. Close to 20% of staff attorneys and of counsel currently work part-time.
While the number of part-time attorneys is still low, it has grown since 1994 — the year NALP began tracking the trend. In 1994, only 2.4% of attorneys were working part-time.
Currently, 98% of law offices allow attorneys to work part-time, which is up from 86% in 1994.
Utilization of part-time work schedules varies vastly in different regions and cities, the NALP survey found. For example, part-time partners are more than twice as common in Chicago and Washington. — at about 4% — than in New York, where 1.9% of partners work part-time. There's no data to explain the difference, Leipold said, though there are several theories.
"People in the industry would say it's the culture of these [New York] firms, that the bar is set high, and that it's due to internal competition," said Leipold.
San Francisco, San Diego and Portland, Ore., have the highest percentage of part-time partners, ranging from 6% to 7%, according to the NALP survey. The legal industry has far fewer people working part-time than the U.S. Work force overall. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that about 14% of workers in 2007 were part-time, compared to the legal industry's 5.6%. Even other professional specialties such as engineering, architecture and medical care have a much higher percentage of part-time workers.
"The legal industry stands apart from other industries," Leipold said. "There are definitely fewer part-time attorneys. We also have a huge gender disparity."
Nationwide, women account for nearly 19% of law firm partners and about 45% of associates, according to an earlier NALP study of law firm diversity.
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Federal judges say their pay falling farther behind peers in legal profession
By MARK SHERMAN, The Associated Press
December 26, 2008
WASHINGTON - Earlier this year, Martin Jenkins took what looked like a step down the career ladder. Jenkins traded his lifetime appointment as a federal trial judge for a seat on a California state appeals court.
In his new job, Jenkins must periodically face the voters, but he reaped one immediate benefit — a 20 percent jump in his annual salary.
Jenkins' case highlights what Chief Justice John Roberts and many other federal judges have identified as an emerging crisis — the failure to pay judges enough to keep them on the job and lure talented lawyers from private practice to the federal bench.
Not everyone sees it the way Roberts does. Committees in the House and Senate this year voted nearly 30 percent salary hikes for federal judges, but neither house of Congress acted on the measure.
Judges last received a substantial pay raise in 1991, although they have been given increases designed to keep pace with inflation in most years since then.
For 2009, though, judges are alone among federal workers — members of Congress included — in not getting a cost-of-living adjustment. Lawmakers get their COLA (cost-of-living allowance) automatically — $4,700 for 2009 — but they refused to authorize the same 2.8 percent bump for judges.
"Federal judges are currently under-compensated because Congress has repeatedly failed to adjust judicial salaries in response to inflation," said James C. Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S Courts. "By its failure to do so once again, Congress only exacerbates a long-standing problem it must someday address."
Duff acknowledged that the current economic turmoil makes the judges' case harder. After all, federal trial judges are paid $169,300 a year, have lifetime job security and can retire at full salary at age 65 if they have 15 years in the job. Appellate judges make more, ranging up to Roberts' salary of $217,400.
But those salaries, large as they are, are much smaller than what judges' peers make in private practice. Attorney General-designate Eric Holder said his partnership at the law firm of Covington & Burling earned him $2.1 million this year. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who retired as a federal judge in 2006 after 18 years, made nearly $2 million in 21 months at a New York law firm.
Timothy Lewis resigned from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in 1999 at the age of 44, after eight years as a federal judge. Money was a consideration.
"It's almost embarrassing to say you can't survive on $170,000 or $180,000, whatever it was that I was being paid," said Lewis, now in private practice in Washington. "That's not true, of course. But it just did not seem conducive to the lifestyle I was trying to provide for my children in private schools and college tuitions, which I'm paying now." Appellate judges made $145,000 in 1999.
Yet even with the wide gap in pay between judgeships and private practice, only a handful of judges are leaving before they are eligible for retirement. In the past two years, seven judges younger than 65 quit. Of those, Mark Filip was appointed deputy attorney general of the United States. Another judge, Edward Nottingham, resigned amid an ethics controversy.
Jenkins, who did not return calls for this article, was confirmed as a California Court of Appeal judge in the San Francisco division in April, 10 years after President Bill Clinton appointed him to the federal bench.
Jenkins, 54, packed up his office in the federal courthouse and moved across the street to a state court building. The trip was worth $35,000 a year at current levels. Another Clinton appointee in California, Nora Manella, made a similar move in 2006.
David Levi also was a federal trial judge in California who gave up his seat and the prospect of judges' retirement pay in 2007. Levi became dean at Duke University's law school in Durham, N.C.
He was 55 when he left, with 16 years experience as a judge, but still 10 years shy of eligibility for retirement.
Levi said he left because of the opportunity to be dean, but thought hard about giving up his pension rights. "It was significant to me that I'd be paid more as dean of the law school," he said. "That made up some of the difference."
More important than retaining experienced judges is the growing possibility that lawyers will pass up the chance to be federal judges until their children are grown.
"I think we will see people who are prepared to be considered in their late 50s and early 60s, but who will decline to be considered earlier than that because it's too expensive," Levi said.
University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner questions the case for raising judges' pay. Posner said if judges were underpaid, there should be trouble recruiting them in the first place and then retaining them.
"Existing judges could make more money if they retire, maybe three to four times their salary, and yet they don't retire in great numbers," Posner said. He recently wrote a paper with fellow law professors Stephen Choi of New York University and G. Mitu Gulati of Duke, raising doubts about giving judges more money.
Judges have better job security than almost anyone and good retirement pay, Posner said. "For many people, it's more rewarding and less stressful to be a judge," Posner said. His father, Richard Posner, is a judge on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, and also skeptical of the need to increase pay.
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Cleaning up Alabama elections takes more than proposed bill offers – [Editorial]
The Birmingham News
December 28, 2008
THE ISSUE: A bill that would set a limit on contributions to judicial candidates in Alabama is only part of the answer.
There's nothing like an ugly judicial race to fuel an effort in the Legislature to clean up the muck. Not that the effort ever gets very far, since most lawmakers like the state's campaign finance system just fine.
A bill pre-filed by state Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, for the next legislative session attempts to drain some of the corrupting influence of money from state Supreme Court races, which voters get dragged through almost every election. This year's election cycle featured the nasty race between Republican Greg Shaw and Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur. The two candidates spent more than $4 million combined on the race, which Shaw won.
England's bill would limit contributions from individuals and political action committees to $500 per candidate in district, circuit and appellate court races. The state's campaign finance law puts no limits on the amount individuals and PACs can give.
England's proposed bill points out (as has the Brennan Center for Justice and this newspaper) that Alabama spends more than any other state on judicial elections, and most of it comes from special-interest groups. Since 1993, judicial elections in Alabama have cost about $54 million, the bill says. That dwarfs the $30 million spent in the much larger state of Texas.
England even quotes a Birmingham News editorial (blush) in making the case that money has too much influence over the political process. "The perception that big bucks buy justice in Alabama absolutely exists, and grows worse every election cycle," we wrote in November 2007.
Flattery is nice, but it won't get England all the way to editorial page support for his bill. It is a step in the right direction, but England's bill isn't the answer to what ails elections. For that, we need more, much more. Here are some ideas:
For starters, why set limits only on judicial races? If limits are good enough for candidates running for judge, they are good enough for candidates running for governor, or state senator, or attorney general, or any other elected office.
England's limit of $500 is a little low in this day and time when campaigns rely on expensive ad buys. Federal spending limits - for example, $2,300 for individuals to give candidates each election - seem more reasonable.
Force all groups trying to influence an election or referendum to report spending. The Shaw-Paseur contest was filled with attacks and counterattacks, some of them fueled (and funded) by groups that are not required to report who gives them money.
At least one group, the conservative, Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom, dumped more than $1 million into ads supporting Shaw and attacking Paseur. Voters deserve to know who was behind those ads.
Ban money transfers. Another problem not limited to judicial races is the legal money laundering through PACs and political parties that hides from the public the true sources of campaign contributions. Every election cycle, millions of dollars from corporations, unions, other special-interest groups and individuals with deep pockets flow through PACs to make sure their source can't be traced.
Allowing that much unregulated money into the political process only invites corruption.
If voters can trace the source of every dollar spent on candidates' campaigns, they at least know who is backing them and can make better-informed choices. And when things turn ugly the way they did in this year's Supreme Court race, voters will know exactly whom to blame.
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Campaign donation caps not the answer – [Editorial]
Sunday, December 28, 2008
SUPPORTERS OF a bill to limit contributions in Alabama judicial races need a crash course in the history of so-called campaign finance reform.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Chip England, D-Tuscaloosa, would put a $500 limit on campaign contributions to judicial candidates. Rep. England and his most prominent ally, Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, believe this cap on contributions would diminish the supposedly evil influence of money in court races.
Rep. England and Chief Justice Cobb have reason to be concerned about the cost of judicial campaigns. Alabama's appellate court races may be the most expensive in the nation. In 2006, the current chief justice and then-incumbent Drayton Nabers spent around $13 million, with most of that money devoted to trashing one another.
Even so, Rep. England may as well propose legislation to stop water from flowing downhill. As many, many political observers have noted, money in politics acts like water — it flows around all obstacles to get to its destination.
At the federal level, campaign finance reformers have been fighting a losing battle since the Watergate era. The most recent congressional effort to diminish the power of money in politics, the much-ballyhooed campaign reform law co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold, was followed by the two most expensive — by far — presidential races in history.
Campaign fund-raisers and contributors always find ways to keep the cash flowing. Chief Jus tice Cobb would soon find that out, if Rep. England's bill became law and she and other judicial incumbents and challengers had to follow its provisions.
It's possible the bill would give an advantage to candidates who solicit contributions from numerous individuals — such as trial lawyers. The trial bar typically bestows contributions on Democrats.
However, if the Democrats did benefit from the contribution limits, the business interests that give generously to Republican judicial candidates surely would figure out how to make the new system work for them, too.
There's one sure way to keep campaign money from demeaning the state's judiciary: Let the governor appoint judges, and then let the people decide whether to keep them in office.
The adoption of a system of judicial appointment and voter retention modeled on the "Missouri Plan" would put an end to Alabama's reputation as a judicial campaign hellhole.
Under the Missouri Plan, the governor selects judges from lists compiled by a blue-ribbon committee. The appointees are held accountable in periodic "retention" elections. Voters can remove a judge they believe isn't meeting the standards of the office.
A couple of years ago, Chief Justice Cobb endorsed a modified version of the Missouri-style appointment and retention system. The Press-Register editorial board would like to see her move in that direction again, instead of taking up the hopeless cause of controlling campaign spending.
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AG agrees to expand probe into Supreme Court campaign - State bar chief had urged look at ads, contributions
By BOB LOWRY, The Huntsville Times
December 23, 2008
MONTGOMERY - Attorney General Troy King has agreed to expand an investigation into whether there were violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act in the Nov. 4 Supreme Court race won by Republican Greg Shaw.
Mark White of Birmingham, president of the Alabama State Bar, had asked King's office on Nov. 14 to look into campaign contributions and advertisements in the Supreme Court race between Shaw and Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur.
During the Supreme Court campaign, there were a series of radio ads that asserted that Paseur received an "F" grade from the bar. The bar issued two press releases decrying the references to the "grading" of judges as dirty politics, since the bar does not grade judges.
While agreeing to expand the investigation, King sharply scolded White for press releases he issued during the Supreme Court campaign. In admonishing White, King noted the bar is prohibited from engaging in any political activity.
White fired back, however, saying King mischaracterized the press releases. He also took issue with King's assessment that they were "inappropriate."
In a Dec. 12 letter to White, King said the potential violations cited by White could be difficult to prosecute because of implications dealing with First Amendment rights and in bringing charges against an out-of-state organization.
King added that the bar's press releases were "used as a platform to advocate for the abolition of our people's right to elect their judges. Such characterizations carry important connotations that could influence the election's outcome when wrapped in the blanket of respectability of an entity like the Alabama State Bar."
White responded in a Dec. 17 letter to King that neither press release from the bar mentioned the popular election of judges, although the bar has been on record for decades supporting the merit selection of judges in Alabama.
White also took issue with King's characterization of the bar press releases as "inappropriate," saying they were done before the Administrative Office of Courts took its own action and because of false information being attributed to the bar.
Both of the bar press releases were approved by the bar's general counsel, White said.
Skip Tucker, executive director of Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, Friday called on White to apologize to AVALA and to King, saying White had the press releases issued without approval of the Board of Bar Commissioners.
Tucker cited the minutes of a Oct. 31 meeting of the commissioners during which White only briefly mentioned releasing a statement on the bar's behalf.
"Mark White is guilty of an eely, hypocritical, hate-filled and hateful rant against us," Tucker said. "Like too many of his ilk, he is guilty of doing exactly what we are innocent of doing. Nobody can play righteous indignation like a true fraud."
King said the bar's press releases failed to note that Administrative Office of Courts does, in fact, issue grades for judges.
"A more proper response by the bar to an incorrect advertisement would be a brief, direct response that is free of rhetoric and limited to clarification.
"While the bar's conduct in this instance may not have risen to the level of violating the law, it is inappropriate," King added.
White said earlier he had received numerous complaints about push polls and large outside campaign donations to Shaw's campaign from a Virginia group.
The two groups cited by White, AVALA and the Alexandria, Va.-based Center for Individual Freedom Inc., have said they are not political groups.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law, reported the Virginia group purchased nearly $1 million in television ads for Shaw.
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Bill seeks to limit judicial race spending
By Jason Morton, Tuscaloosa News
December 23, 2008
MONTGOMERY | A Tuscaloosa lawmaker has pre-filed a bill in the Alabama Legislature that, if passed, would limit campaign contributions for Alabama judicial races.
The bill by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, will be considered once the Legislature begins its 2009 regular session on Feb. 3.
The proposed legislation comes after this year's expensive race — an estimated $4 million, according to some — between Republican Greg Shaw and Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur for a state Supreme Court seat. Shaw won the seat in a close election.
England's bill would limit contributions in similar races from individuals or political action committees to $500 per candidate.
England, the son of Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge John England, introduced similar legislation that died in the last regular session.
Chris England could not be reached Monday for comment.
However, Alabama State Bar Association President J. Mark White said the idea behind the bill is a good one.
Noting that he had yet to read the bill, White said almost anything that limits campaign spending is a good thing.
'I think what you're seeing is a growing reaction to the ridiculous amount of money spent on races in this state,' White said, 'and growing reaction to the negative campaigns.'
In addition to spending millions, both Paseur and Shaw engaged in bitter attacks on one another, with accusations from both sides that each was beholden to powerful special interest groups that helped fund their respective candidacies.
Their race prompted White and the Alabama State Bar to ask Attorney General Troy King to investigate the conduct of third parties in the election.
'The idea is a good one,' White said of England's bill, adding that he hopes it contains language to control the activity of third-party groups in campaigns.
In the Shaw-Paseur race, White alleged to the attorney general that phone calls made to voters from third-party groups contained incorrect information that Paseur had received a failing grade from the state bar.
Unlike candidates, the PACs did not file campaign finance reports showing where they raised their money, nor were they required to.
King, who questioned the state bar's role in this election, said Friday that he was opening an investigation into the participation of third-party groups.
However, the attorney general noted that any prosecution would face challenges, including First Amendment rights of free speech.
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State Bar creates panel to help Legislature
The Clanton Advertiser
December 20, 2008
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama State Bar has created what it calls a "Panel of Neutrals" to help the Legislature work through any problems and seek consensus.
The State Bar announced Friday that the panel includes: former U.S. Magistrate Judge Delores Boyd, former Govs. Albert Brewer and John Patterson, former U.S. Reps. Jack Edwards and Ronnie Flippo, former state Sen. Butch Ellis, and former Vestavia Hills Mayor Scotty McCallum.
State Bar President Mark White said the panel will not seek to advance any piece of legislation, but it will be available to help legislators who request help in sorting out the pros and cons of legislation.
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Bar backs legislation to add 7th circuit judge in county
By Bob Lowry, Huntsville Times
December 20, 2008
MONTGOMERY - Legislation to add a seventh judge to the beleaguered and overcrowded 23rd Judicial Circuit in Madison County was filed too late in the 2008 session.
But it may get a boost in 2009 from the Alabama State Bar.
The Board of Bar Commissioners has unanimously adopted a resolution to support legislation in 2009 to add a seventh circuit judge for Madison County.
Twin bills were introduced in late April in the House by the Madison County House delegation and Senate by Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison. Neither got out of committee.
The average case load for circuit judges in Alabama is about 1,200 cases, but the average case load for Madison County circuit judges is more than 2,500 cases, according to the state bar.
Madison County has not received a new circuit judge since 1974, and the number of cases filed in the past 10 years has more than doubled to nearly 10,000.
Judges from Jefferson County have been assisting Madison County judges in dealing with the case overload.
Under the bills introduced earlier this year, the new judge would have been elected for a six-year term in the 2010 general elections.
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Attorney general to investigate complaint
By Phillip Rawls, The Associated Press
December 20, 2008
Alabama's attorney general said he's looking into a complaint by the president of the Alabama State Bar about ads run in the state Supreme Court election, but he's also concerned about the group's role in the campaign.
"While the Bar's conduct in this instance may not have risen to the level of violating the law, it is inappropriate," Republican Attorney General Troy King said in a letter to State Bar President Mark White.
White had asked King to investigate advertisements and phone calls made by outside groups in the general election for the Supreme Court. They either praised Republican Greg Shaw, who won, or criticized Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur, who lost, in the election Nov. 4.
The phone calls contained incorrect information that Paseur had received a failing grade from the State Bar. Unlike the court candidates, the groups did not file campaign finance reports showing where they raised their money, but were not required to.
In a letter to White, King said his staff had conducted an initial review of the information White sent about the campaign, "and I have now directed my staff to open a more in-depth review."
King said any prosecution would face unique challenges, including First Amendment rights of free speech.
In an interview Thursday, White said he was pleased the attorney general was expanding his investigation because the Bar Association's goal is to prevent a repeat of the negative advertising attacks that occurred in this fall's election.
White said the Alabama State Bar acted appropriately in the campaign.
In King's letter dated Dec. 14, he said the Alabama State Bar is supposed to represent all attorneys, both Democrats and Republicans, and it shouldn't engage in politics. But he said the Bar did that with news releases it issued before the Supreme Court election.
In an interview Thursday, King cited an association news release that used the term "Swift Boat Tactics" to describe the incorrect judicial rating information that was used in phone calls against Paseur, the Democrat.
"Swift Boat Tactics" refers to ads used against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.
King said the association had the right to issue a straightforward news release explaining that it didn't grade judges, but it should not have used a term "that has a negative connotation in the public's mind."
King, an advocate of judicial elections, said another of the association's news releases portrayed judicial elections as demeaning.
That news release talked about the rising cost of judicial campaigns and the growing role of special interest groups in campaigns.
White sent a letter to King on Wednesday calling the news releases "a necessary and appropriate response."
Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse, which ran radio ads critical of Paseur, praised the attorney general's remarks about the association, which had cited an AVALA ad in its complaint.
Executive Director Skip Tucker said White was trying to stifle free speech and should apologize to AVALA.
Alabama State Bar Executive Director Keith Norman said White's letter seeking the attorney general's investigation was unanimously approved by the State Bar's Executive Committee before it was sent. It was also reviewed by the Board of Bar Commissioners, he said Friday.
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Courts for veterans spreading across U.S. - Wave of vets in courts trips alarm.
Lynne Marek , The National Law Journal
December 22, 2008
State criminal courts devoted to U.S. war veterans are emerging across the country, from New York to Oklahoma to California, as increasing numbers of soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are showing up as defendants with a special set of problems.
State court judges are joining with local prosecutors, public defenders, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials and local lawyer volunteers to create courts with veterans-only case proceedings, because they have seen a common thread of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, head injuries and mental illness underlying the veterans' crimes.
They're hoping the special courts — stocked with veteran mentors, Veterans Affairs staff, volunteer attorneys and social workers — can help rehabilitate veterans and avoid convictions that might cost veterans their future military benefits.
Orange County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Wendy Lindley created California's first criminal treatment court for U.S. military veterans in November after a 27-year-old man who had served in Iraq died in a drug overdose within weeks of passing through her courtroom.
"I just thought, 'I really don't want to see anything like this happen to anyone again,'" Lindley said a few weeks after starting up the veterans' treatment court in Santa Ana, Calif.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 1.16 million of all adults arrested last year — or nearly 10% — served in the military. While there are no definitive statistics on the number of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, judges across the country say they're seeing recently returned soldiers in their courtrooms more often. They are concerned that PTSD and brain injuries underlie drug and alcohol abuse that leads to arrests for everything from domestic violence to driving while under the influence.
A separate niche
"There's a need, and I think that need is growing," said Judge Michael E. McCarthy, a judge in the Allegheny County, Pa., Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh, who estimates that three-quarters of the veterans he sees served in Iraq or Afghanistan. "It's a separate sort of niche that needs to be addressed," said McCarthy, who plans to start a veterans court in Pittsburgh early next year.
Another veterans court is planned for Janesville, Wis., one started this month in Tulsa, Okla., and courts in other states, including Massachusetts and Illinois, are reviewing the idea. All are following the lead of the first veterans court, launched in January in Buffalo, N.Y., by Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo City Court.
Russell pursued the idea of a court exclusively for veterans in Buffalo after he realized he was seeing more young veterans in his drug and mental illness treatment courts. He believed they might benefit from being in the courtroom together, given the military's strong sense of camaraderie, he said. He collaborated with staff from the Buffalo VA Medical Center to design a court that would handle only veterans who had committed nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors.
In addition to steering veterans into back-to-back hearings in one courtroom, the Buffalo court brought volunteer veteran mentors and Veterans Affairs staff into the courtroom to support the defendants and guide them in accessing military benefits that might help solve substance abuse, health, marriage, employment and financial problems.
"You have a totally therapeutic, supportive environment to afford a veteran the best opportunity to be successful," Russell said.
Since starting on Jan. 15, the Buffalo court has absorbed 82 veterans into its program, with 65% of those veterans having served in the current Iraq or Afghanistan wars, said Hank Pirowski, project director for Buffalo's treatment courts. So far, the court is planning to graduate six veterans from the 12- to 16-month program next month, with only two having been unable to avoid convictions, he said.
Local prosecutors, public defenders and other state officials, as well as private attorney volunteers, are eager to pitch in. Nick Chiarkas, the state public defender for Wisconsin, has helped push for the courts in Wisconsin as a complement to the law clinics that are helping veterans with civil law issues.
"Not only are you helping them, you're also saving a great deal of money in the system, and you're reducing the crime rate in Wisconsin," Chiarkas said. "It's a win for everybody, and my bias is that I think we owe them."
That's a sentiment shared by Lisa Avery, a lawyer in Santa Ana, Calif., who's volunteering in the veterans court there; Walter Bunt, a K&L Gates partner in Pittsburgh with a son in the Air Force who is supporting the veterans court in his city; and Margaret Cassidy, an in-house attorney at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington and a former Pennsylvania prosecutor who helped win an Allegheny County Bar Association grant to start the Pittsburgh court.
"I think it's a population that's not just underserved, it's unserved," said Avery, who is starting the Veterans Legal Resource Center in Santa Ana.
The bulk of the funding for the courts is coming from Veterans Affairs, but some funding has also come from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. State legislatures are also weighing funding proposals, and a bill pending in Congress would provide $25 million for a courts program through the Department of Justice for five years if it passes.
Supporters are gravitating to the concept because of its effectiveness, albeit based on limited results, in reducing recidivism among the veterans. They're also latching onto it in light of the difficulty veterans are having in plowing through the federal system to get military health and disability benefits and treatment.
Tulsa County, Okla., District Court Judge Sarah Day Smith, who has also overseen drug treatment courts, worked with Veterans Affairs to start a veterans court for nonviolent felons this month. She became a backer of the approach after visiting Russell's court in October and discovering that 158 veterans were arrested in Tulsa County that month.
"Oklahoma is one of the states that will get a huge influx of returning veterans, and so because of that there is some real concern," Smith said.
Smith is slowly taking on the 38 veterans eligible for the court program and hopes to have 50 in it by next year.
"They gave so much to us and instead of saying 'we don't need you anymore' or 'the best we can offer is to send you to prison,' this program offers them some light and some hope to get back on their feet," Smith said.
The Santa Ana court handles veterans who have committed any type of crime, whether violent or not. Under the California penal code, any veteran who has served in a combat zone, and has developed psychological or substance abuse problems as a result, is eligible to be treated as opposed to jailed, Lindley said.
McCarthy, the Pittsburgh judge, who was a Navy Seabee during the Vietnam War, and Judge James Daley, who sits on the Rock County Circuit Court bench in Janesville, Wis., and is a Vietnam veteran and reservist Army general, both say they believe the specialized courts will be more successful in turning around the veterans' lives and stopping the criminal behavior by addressing underlying issues.
"We have an obligation to try to help these folks," McCarthy said.
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W.Va. not only state debating judicial selection
by Lawrence Messina, The Associated Press
December 15, 2008
West Virginia is not alone in weighing whether to alter the way it chooses its judges and justices, though the states have not seen any sort of sea change in the way they choose their judicial branches.
More than a half dozen states have either put questions relating to judicial selection to voters this year, or have legislatures planning to discuss the topic in 2009.
West Virginia elects its entire judiciary along partisan political lines. Gov. Joe Manchin is the latest to question that method. Though his office says he has no specific plan yet, he recently asked judicial officials to consider nonpartisan elections for at least circuit judges.
A review of the states shows no clear favorite. More than half the states appoint their top appeals courts, but a greater number elect at least some of their trial-level judges, according to research by the American Judicature Society.
Just three states -- Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina -- have changed their selection methods since 1994, said Malia Reddick, the group's research and program director. Each moved from partisan to nonpartisan voting.
Reddick's group advocates "merit selection,'' the dominant appointment method. It has a governor choose from candidates nominated by a commission, with voters deciding whether to retain those picked after a set term.
For election states, the majority keep the balloting nonpartisan. But a half-dozen states have two, sometimes three different methods for the same tier of their courts system, the society's information shows.
New Mexico, for instance, appoints its entire judiciary. But those selected face partisan elections to retain their seats.
Arizona limits merit selection of trial-level judges to counties with 250,000 or more people, and the rest hold nonpartisan elections. Indiana has two different kinds of county-based, trial-level courts. Most employ partisan balloting, but a handful are either nonpartisan or merit-selected.
Kansas and Maryland also mix merit selection and elections. Even Missouri, which gave rise to the merit selection method nearly 70 years ago, still elects a number of trial judges along partisan lines. But a debate rages there over the "Missouri plan'' and whether it has created a judiciary independent of political pressure.
The flashpoint was Greene County, while voters decided Nov. 4 to switch to merit selection. But the result came after a well-funded advertising campaign against the ballot measure with ties to departing Gov. Matt Blunt. He and other Republicans have alleged the nominating panels are too secretive, are dominated by trial attorneys and result in candidates who have occasionally been too liberal for Blunt's liking.
Reddick said her group questions those claims. She also said public confidence in merit selection depends on the transparency of the nominating process.
"For merit selection to remain a legitimate option, I think there needs to be more openness and public involvement,'' Reddick said.
Reddick counts Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Washington among the states she expects to take up merit selection next year. Nevada lawmakers have approved amending its constitution to adopt that method, but must pass it a second time before it can go to state voters, she said.
West Virginia's Judicial Association, which represents the state's circuit judges and Supreme Court justices, endorsed a resolution supporting partisan elections earlier this month. That vote echoed one by the board of governors for the State Bar, the mandatory community of all practicing West Virginia lawyers, in 2005.
West Virginia's Constitution was amended in 1974 to allow for nonpartisan elections, but the Legislature and state voters would have to change it again to permit an appointment system.
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Bar might add sexual orientation to state oath - Some lawyers call anti-bias clause overbroad, morally compromising
By Howard Fischer, Arizona Daily Star
December 18, 2008
PHOENIX — The State Bar of Arizona is weighing whether to require new lawyers to swear they won't let their views on someone's sexual orientation affect their duty.
Critics say that move could force attorneys to represent clients whose views they find personally offensive.
Existing rules require an oath saying lawyers "will not permit considerations of gender, race, age, nationality, disability or social standing to influence my duty of care." The plan being weighed by the Bar's board adds sexual orientation to that list.
Not signing the new oath, if it is adopted, is not an option. Attorneys cannot practice law in Arizona without being admitted to the Bar.
The move has provoked severe objections from 31 attorneys who sent a letter to state Bar President Ed Novak.
Tim Casey, one of those unhappy with the proposal, said it raises all sorts of issues. At the very least, he said, the wording "is so very vague it's scary."
Casey, who is Catholic, said he understands that if he agrees to take a case for someone who is gay he is required to do his best.
"My duty of 'due care' is the same for that person as if I were representing the pope himself," Casey said.
But he said the language of the oath is so broad that it could be interpreted as a requirement for an attorney to accept a case that goes against his or her moral beliefs.
Novak said that's not true. He said the oath would simply spell out that attorneys who take on clients must keep their personal views about homosexuality to themselves.
Attorney Ronald Meyer countered that if that's the case, then the Bar's proposal is unnecessary. Meyer, one of the more senior attorneys who signed the letter, said existing ethical rules already spell out that attorneys must do their best for their clients.
And Novak himself said rules say that lawyers do not have to — and, in fact, should not — take on cases where they feel they cannot properly represent the client's interests.
So what's the need? Novak said it is designed to equate discrimination based on sexual orientation with other types of discrimination already prohibited in the Bar oath.
Casey, however, said there's one crucial difference. He said federal law and federal courts say it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age and similar factors. Any move to make sexual orientation one of these "protected classes" should be decided by lawmakers or courts, not by the board of the state Bar, Casey said.
Novak disagreed. "Our obligation as professionals we view as somewhat broader than the constitutional requirements," he said.
Casey said he sees a broader agenda at work. "There are people trying to make it difficult for professionals to exercise their religious convictions, their moral objections or their ethical objections in cases," he said.
Casey said this is no different than efforts in some states to force pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills even if that is in direct violation of their religious beliefs.
Novak said he has not reached a decision yet on whether to proceed with the rule change. He said the full board is taking comments through Jan. 16 and will consider it after that date.
Ill. Supreme Court Institutes Peer-Review of Some 900 Judges
By Molly McDonough, ABAJournal.com
December 2, 2008
The Illinois judiciary is taking a page from the business community by instituting a new peer-review program to evaluate the state's more than 900 sitting judges.
Until Monday when the state supreme court made it official, the Judicial Performance Evaluation Program was voluntary, the Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Illinois) reports.
Among other things, the new protocol requires judges to undergo a review of opinions and be evaluated by attorneys and court personnel at least once during their terms.
The evaluation process, peer review and a general statement of expectations for judges is meant to bolster the public's confidence in the judiciary, according to a news release from the supreme court.
"The program is similar to peer review groups used by successful businesses around the country," Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald said in the release. "The voluntary program over the years has provided us with a wealth of information that will be very useful in developing a revised format."
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Pay Raise For Judges Tucked Into Bailout Plan
By Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press
Dec. 11, 2008
WASHINGTON - If the $14 billion bailout plan for U.S. automakers passes, it will help more than just Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. Federal judges would get a pay raise, as well.
The raise an annual cost of living adjustment, or COLA would bring U.S. District court judges up to par with members of Congress, who will receive an almost $5,000 boost on Jan. 1. District judges and lawmakers now earn $169,300 a year but are expected to be awarded a 2.8 percent raise next year, said Dick Carelli, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., insisted that the judicial pay raise go into the automaker loan measure, which is the only item of business on Congress' lame-duck agenda.
Under ethics legislation enacted almost two decades ago, members of Congress get a cost of living raise automatically, but they have to vote to give judges an identical raise. Because the spending bill covering U.S. courts has not passed, the step is necessary if judges are going to get their COLA.
The Senate passed the judicial pay measure as a separate bill in November, but the House never acted. As a result, Reid has taken the unusual step of linking the obscure but important judicial pay issue to the unpopular auto bailout.
There is concern among many policymakers that judges are not paid enough relative to the importance of their offices, and in six of the past 13 years, judges have been denied their pay raise as lawmakers opted not to take their own COLA.
Even with the raise, judge earn far less than lawyers at big firms, just as members of Congress make less than most lobbyists.
If the pay measure fails to go through this year, judges are likely to get the increase as one of the first pieces of business next year.
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W.Va. judiciary sticking with partisan elections
By The Associated Press
December 3, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A group representing West Virginia's judiciary has decided not to endorse a proposed end to electing the state's judges along partisan political lines.
The West Virginia Judiciary Association adopted a resolution Tuesday that supports the state's current method of selecting its judicial branch.
But the resolution also says the judiciary remains willing to consider and help study alternatives to partisan elections.
The group's executive committee had earlier endorsed nonpartisan judicial elections, at the request of Gov. Joe Manchin. But his plan has been criticized by fellow Democrats.
More than 90 active and retired circuit judges and Supreme Court justices belong to the association, which is holding its annual winter meeting in Morgantown this week.
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Try writing Alabama's constitution - Reformers to hold mock convention to test process
By LEE ROOP, The Huntsville Times
December 7, 2008
Wonder what a new Alabama constitution might look like? Why not help write one and see for yourself?
The Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation is sponsoring a mock convention next year to write a mock replacement for Alabama's 1901 constitution.
Critics say the current constitution, already amended more than 800 times, limits local control of government and keeps in place an unfair tax system, among other problems.
Supporters of the current document fear a new constitution could well be worse than the one we have, especially because it could be an opportunity to raise taxes.
The reform foundation hopes a mock constitution will ease some fears about what a new constitution might look like, according to spokesman Mark Berte.
"We think there are more people who want to work on a new constitution than don't," Berte said Friday.
Citizens can go on the Internet and apply either to be delegates to the mock convention or to be on the local committees that will select the delegates from each state House district.
Delegates will gather on two weekends next year and draft the new constitution with assistance from the State Bar Association and other experts, Berte said.
The new mock Alabama constitution will be unveiled next summer.
Berte said the mock convention is being tried now because the foundation is at a point it can support such an effort financially and organizationally. At least one other foundation has already contributed, and more money will be raised, he said.
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16% jump in those retaking LSAT
Amanda Bronstad , The National Law Journal
December 04, 2008
The number of prospective law students retaking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) jumped more than 16% in the past year, an increase that many anticipated since the American Bar Association began recognizing, in ranking and admission criteria, the highest test score, rather than the average score, of those who take the exam more than once.
The increase in "repeaters" contrasts with an overall decline of nearly 2% of prospective law students who took the LSAT for the first time during the past year, according to the statistics, which are compiled by the Law School Admission Council. The statistics, which normally are not public, were available on Wednesday on the Legal Profession Blog.
William Henderson, associate professor of law at Indiana University School of Law – Bloomington, who posted the blog item, said he anticipated that the ABA's new rule would prompt more prospective students to take the LSAT again. He criticized the rule, which was adopted in 2006, as a "zero sum game" for the legal profession, since increasing LSAT scores across the board results in no significant changes.
He also questioned whether an applicant's highest LSAT score is the most accurate.
"A higher LSAT score is not as good a predictor as the average," he said, noting that outside factors could influence someone's score. Further, prompting prospective law students to take the LSAT multiple times leads to more money for the testing agencies, he said.
Sam Stonefield, associate dean for external affairs and a professor of law at Western New England College School of Law, said the new rule also hurts diversity initiatives at today's law schools because applicants in several minority groups are less likely to incur the cost and time necessary to retake the LSAT.
But Allen Easley, dean of the University of La Verne College of Law, who served as chairman of the questionnaire committee of the ABA's section of legal education and admission to the bar, which adopted the rule, said the change was implemented because law school deans were feeling pressured to reflect high LSAT scores in rankings such as U.S. News & World Report and believed competitors were manipulated their average LSAT scores.
"If we let everybody report the high score, everyone is on the same level playing field and we eliminate that concern," he said.
He said the number of "repeaters" had been increasing before the ABA implemented the rule, although he admitted that the change could have exacerbated the rise. As to the potential impact that the rules could have on diversity at law schools, his committee concluded that the issue was speculative and outweighed by the other concerns, he said.
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Jury Trials to Be Halted in One State Feeling Pinch
By ABBY GOODNOUGH, The New York Times
December 9, 2008
BOSTON — The Superior Court system in New Hampshire will take the unusual step of halting jury trials for a month early next year because of a widening state budget crisis.
John Broderick, the state’s chief justice, said suspending trials was essential to avoid layoffs in the judicial system, which has already cut $2.7 million from its budget.
The measure will save about $73,000, the monthly amount spent on stipends for jurors. But the head of an association representing civil trial lawyers said it could have a harsh impact on plaintiffs, many of whom have already waited years for a judgment in their case.
“What are they going to rely on in the interim?” said Ellen Shemitz, executive director of the New Hampshire Association for Justice. “Some of these people have been harmed by the wrongdoing of others, are out of work as a result and are looking to the courts to protect their rights and provide some kind of financial remuneration.”
Officials at the National Center for State Courts said that while court systems across the country had made cuts they were not aware of any others suspending trials. In perhaps the closest parallel, Vermont is closing its district and family courthouses a half day per week for the rest of the fiscal year to save $300,000.
Suspending jury trials to save money is not unheard-of. Vermont stopped holding civil trials for five months in 1990, and New Hampshire effected a one-month suspension in 2001. Other state courts have tried to do it but have been overturned.
The clerks of court in New Hampshire’s largest counties, Hillsborough and Rockingham, said they were rescheduling 179 criminal and civil trials planned for February or March.
New Hampshire is facing a $250 million revenue shortfall this year, and every branch of government is weighing cuts. In addition to suspending trials for a month, which was first reported by The Concord Monitor, the court system is not filling seven judicial vacancies until at least June. It will also delay replacing a Supreme Court justice set to retire in February.
“Cutting one month of jury trials won’t stop the wheel from turning,” Chief Justice Broderick said in a phone interview. “We would rather do that and have that inconvenience for a month than lay staff people off, which would be a perpetual inconvenience.”
Two of the state’s 12 counties will not be affected because they hold jury trials only every other month. Merrimack County, where juries sit longer than in the rest of the state, will go for a month and a half without trials.
Jurors in New Hampshire receive $10 for every half day of duty. The court system is under pressure to make even more cuts, and Chief Justice Broderick said suspending trials for a second month was a possibility.
Don Hall, a vice president of the National Center for State Courts, said that at least 20 state court systems were facing budget deficits and that those in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Minnesota were suffering the most. The Florida system recently reduced its work force by 10 percent, Mr. Hall said.
Ms. Shemitz said the one-month suspension was only the latest in a series of measures that have worsened trial delays in New Hampshire. She heard from one lawyer this week whose four-year-old case was scheduled for trial in August, was postponed until March because of the shortage of judges, and now will not take place until late next year.
She said the state, which does not have an income tax or a sales tax, should reconsider its policy.
“New Hampshire wants to remain competitive,” she said, “but we also need to be real about the fact that we can’t be competitive if we lack essential infrastructure — not just roads and highways, but the courts.”
Asked if taxes were necessary, Chief Justice Broderick said, “I don’t go there.”
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Study: Florida lawyers lax on free legal service
By The Associated Press
December 8, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida's lawyers are slacking off in providing free legal work to the poor, a new study suggests.
The Florida Supreme Court released the study Monday of the legal work called "pro bono" services. It was conducted by consultants for a Florida Bar subcommittee and submitted to the high court, which oversees the state's legal profession.
The study shows only 52 percent of lawyers reported they did free work in 2006 - the same as 2000. Pro bono programs, meanwhile, saw a 30 percent decline in the number of lawyers who donated their time.
The study recommends legal community leaders, including the Supreme Court, increase their pro bono emphasis and that they improve the coordination of what now is a patchwork of different legal service efforts, many of which do not work together.
"We will use this report as a roadmap to guide our reform efforts and to remind Florida lawyers that their license is granted as a privilege that comes with definite obligations to the public," Chief Justice Peggy Quince said.
Bar rules set a goal - but not a requirement - of 20 free hours per lawyer annually or else a $350 donation to a legal aid organization. The study recommends the donation be increased to $500 and that law firms count pro bono work as billable hours.
The state report cites a national study showing for every poor person who receives legal assistance another is turned away.
Lawyers responding to a survey indicated a lack of time is the main reason they don't perform pro bono work. Another factor they cited is the lack the skills or experience needed to competently represent clients in the specialties required by the poor.