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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

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This week’s highlights 

  • New U.S. Supreme Court term: Abortion, gun rights, and religion on the agenda.
  • Fears of “eviction tsunami” yet to transpire. Experts conflicted as to why.
  • 131 federal judges heard cases involving companies in which they or their families owned stock
  • Major accountancy firm to permanently allow all U.S. staff to “work from anywhere”
  • In tech competency ethics case, court finds lawyer’s unfamiliarity with Facebook not a violation

New U.S. Supreme Court term: Abortion, gun rights, and religion on the agenda 

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s new nine-month term, which begins on Monday, promises to be among the most momentous in generations. The justices are poised to decide major cases that could roll back abortion rights and broaden gun and religious rights.” (Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court returns to work Monday, October 4 with a packed docket. Several sources (including Reutersthe ABA, and Georgetown University Law School) have covered the upcoming docket, which includes cases related to abortion, gun ownership, and religious rights.

Prefer to listen? NPR’s politics podcast recently discussed the upcoming term with guests including the station’s long-tenured Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg. Listen here.

Fears of “eviction tsunami” yet to transpire. Experts conflicted as to why. 

“In major metropolitan areas, the number of eviction filings has dropped or remained flat since the Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on Aug. 26, according to experts and data collected by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University.” (Washington Post

When the Supreme Court struck down the CDC’s eviction moratorium in August, legal experts predicted a sudden and sizeable increase in eviction filings. Now, a month later, data from researchers at Princeton University has found little evidence of the anticipated surge.

Experts, reports the Washington Post, are split on the reason why. Some have pointed toward court backlogs, noting that in many areas new filings are up but dispositions are yet to catch up. Others suggest that local measures are still in place in many large metros.

Most agree, though, that the surge is likely only delayed, especially as state and county level bans, such as that in California, begin to expire.

131 federal judges heard cases involving companies in which they or their families owned stock 

“A Wall Street Journal investigation found that judges have improperly failed to disqualify themselves from 685 court cases around the nation since 2010. The jurists were appointed by nearly every president from Lyndon Johnson to Donald Trump.” (Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal has reported that 131 federal judges broke the law 685 times between 2010 and 2018 by hearing cases in which they, or their close family, owned stock. The ABA notes that federal law prohibits judges from overseeing cases that involve a party in which “they, their spouse, or their minor children have a ‘legal or equitable interest, however small.’”

Commenting on the findings, the U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts blamed “inadvertent mistakes, flaws in conflict checking software, and simple human error.”

Major accountancy firm to permanently allow all U.S. staff to “work from anywhere” 

“PwC LLP is introducing a work-anywhere policy for its 55,000 U.S. employees, allowing them to choose an all-virtual work option in a bid to keep and attract workers. The firm will also require staff to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to visit any PwC office or visit clients as of Nov. 1” (Bloomberg Law

PwC announced Thursday that all of its 55,000 U.S. based employees may choose a virtual, “work from anywhere” option going forward and that the policy was permanent. The firm told Bloomberg that the change “will help expand its reach to potential hires as well as retain top talent.”

The largest accounting firms have increasingly embraced flexible working, including allowing staff to choose when to work from offices. PwC is the first to announce such as an expansive policy, however.

In tech competency ethics case, court finds lawyer’s unfamiliarity with Facebook not a violation 

“The New Jersey Supreme Court has tossed ethics charges against a lawyer accused of using his paralegal to friend an opposing party after concluding the lawyer did not understand Facebook privacy settings at the time” (ABA Journal

A state’s top court has ruled in favor of an attorney who was accused of using his paralegal to contact, through Facebook, a personal injury litigant suing his clients. The paralegal had allegedly downloaded private posts after sending the litigant flattering messages.

Claiming that the posts were obtained unethically, opposing counsel objected and a complaint was filed. The court tossed the charges, though, after agreeing with the attorney’s claims that he “didn’t know Facebook had different privacy settings, did not know what it meant to be a Facebook friend, and that he believed all Facebook content was ‘for the world to see’”. There’s further analysis in the ABA Journal.

Author

  • Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.