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Court and legal news roundup

news roundup with ghost cattle

We’ve rounded up the latest and most interesting news in the legal industry. Plus, you can check out the most recent InfoTrack product news here.

The latest in legal news

  • Rancher sentenced in “ghost cattle” scam
  • A lawyer was disbarred after apparently faking his own death to avoid investigation
  • A suspended judge is accused of intimidating witnesses, using his influence to try to stop a report that he roams the courthouse in his underwear
  • A Reddit post that seems to confess cheating on the bar exam has prompted investigation
  • Golden Gate Law School reduces class size and offers full scholarships to all students in an effort to improve bar passage rates
  • Northeastern University School of Law accidentally sends hundreds of acceptance emails to applicants who were actually rejected

Just in time for Halloween — ghost cattle?

A Washington cattle rancher was sentenced to 11 years in prison for defrauding Tyson foods and another company out of more than $244 million dollars. The rancher billed these companies for the cost of purchasing and feeding hundreds of thousands of cattle, but those cattle did not actually exist.

According to court documents, Cody Allen Easterday, 51, of Mesa, used his company, Easterday Ranches Inc., to enter into a series of agreements with Tyson and Company 1 under which Easterday Ranches agreed to purchase and feed cattle on behalf of Tyson and Company 1. Per the agreements, Tyson and Company 1 would advance Easterday Ranches the costs of buying and raising the cattle. Once the cattle were slaughtered and sold at market price, Easterday Ranches would repay the costs advanced – plus interest and certain other costs – retaining the difference as profit. (Via The National Law Review)

Easterday continued this scam from 2016 through 2020. The proceeds of the fraud were used for his personal benefit and to cover approximately $200 million in trading losses.

“Dead” lawyer found alive, disbarred

California attorney Donald Martin Stone was under investigation by the State Bar of California for a suspected ethical violation. He faced disciplinary action for failing to disclose that he had been convicted of stealing from a department store in 1995.

Stone had requested that the disciplinary case be dismissed, stating that the charge had been vacated and he was no longer practicing law. However, the bar continued with disciplinary hearings. Stone failed to appear.

In September 2021, the bar received an email from an address that Stone had used to communicate with officials about the case indicating that he had died “months ago.” Bar officials sent investigators to confirm that Stone had died, but instead found him living at a new address, according to a filing in the case. (Via Reuters)

This led the bar to submit a petition for disbarment, which the California Supreme Court approved.

Suspended judge accused of trying to stop reports that he roams courtroom in his underwear

Judge James T. Jameson was already temporarily suspended for misconduct, and now he is facing new accusations that he tried to use his influence to stop reports that he roamed the courthouse in his underwear. He is also facing allegations that he intimidated witnesses and instructed his staff to violate the law in an ethics proceeding.

Judge Jameson’s original suspension claimed that he used his influence to choose the provider of an ankle-monitoring program and promoted that program to raise money for a program which he headed.

According to the new allegations, Jameson learned in April that the public radio station at Murray State University, WKMS, had made a public records request for security footage at the courthouse. Jameson called station manager Chad Lampe, said he had spoken with the university president and said the university president was not happy. According to the ethics complaint, Jameson “asked Mr. Lampe to confirm that the news station was not going to run a story about the camera footage of you walking around in the courthouse in your underwear.” (Via ABA Journal)

Lampe, the station manager, commented that the footage was of a highly personal nature and did not rise to the level of a news story.

Other accusations are also being investigated, including trying to pressure lawyers to fund and support Jameson’s political campaign and trying to persuade a lawyer to submit an ethics complaint about the supposedly leaked footage. Jameson strongly denies that there has been any wrongdoing.

After a Reddit post seems to confess to cheating on the bar exam, state bar investigates

Reddit user burnerman1818 posted to the r/barexam subreddit with a concerning question. “I cheated on the bar exam. Will they find out?”

Details in the post included the law school from which the user supposedly graduated, the location of the bar exam (Chicago), and specifics on how the cheating was accomplished.

“I had a psychologist test me and he diagnosed me with ADHD which I used to get extended time on the exam,” they wrote, adding that they had notes, which included photos of flashcards, on their phone and took bathroom breaks to check their phone to cheat on the MEE.

“I did pass the exam (after failing the last two times),” burnerman1818 continued, “Everyone is telling me to be proud of myself for finally doing it but deep down I feel guilty,” and proceeded to ask “How likely will they find out?” (Via Law.com)

While internet commentary seems to indicate that there is suspicion that this user is actually trying to flag someone else for investigation or that the post is altogether fake, the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar is still investigating.

Golden Gate University School of Law offers full scholarships to all students

After failing to meet minimum bar passage rates, Golden Gate School of Law is trying a more drastic method to improve their students’ academic success.

Starting this year, the school has drastically reduced its acceptance rates, and all full-time students will receive a full-tuition scholarship for their studies.

This bold move comes after efforts to improve passage rates have proven to be not quite enough. In order to keep its accreditation, the school must have at least 75% of students pass the bar within 2 years of graduation. The class of 2018 had a two-year pass rate of 57.5%. The rate for the class of 2019 increased to 67%, which, although an improvement, is still not enough.

In addition to reduced class size and full scholarships, Golden Gate School of Law is also offering increased academic support.

“It’s a very ambitious step, no question,” said Dean Colin Crawford, who knows of no other school embarking on such a path. “We’re the first and hopefully not the last. We saw an opportunity for dramatic and innovative change.”

This year’s full-time class numbers just 21 students compared to last year’s class of 103. Part-time students stand at 24, down from 42. Half of them are getting full scholarships too. That’s a near 70% reduction. (Via The National Jurist)

Rejected law school applicants accidentally receive acceptance emails from Northeastern University School of Law

The Northeastern University School of Law accidentally sent acceptance emails to 205 applicants that were actually rejected. They also sent those emails to 3,930 applicants from the previous year. Some of those people were already attending the school.

According to a statement from the the university, a communication explaining the error was sent shortly after the acceptance emails, and individual outreach with applicants is taking place.

“The school of law deeply regrets this unintended mistake and is taking steps to ensure that it will not happen in the future,” according to the statement. (Via ABA Journal)

The school attributes the emails to a technical error.

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  • Kitty Webb

    Kitty is a well-rounded writer with a broad spectrum of interests and experience. From legal technology to organic gardening, she knows how to take a deep dive into a topic and find the most valuable resources and information. As a master of written communication and an experienced content creator with experience in the legal community, Kitty is proud to be the content manager at InfoTrack.