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Court and legal news roundup

weekly news roundup

This week’s highlights

  • Hours after being released from jail, a Florida attorney strips naked in a bar and is arrested again
  • Florida Supreme Court imposes a three-year suspension on an attorney who altered police lineup photos
  • Two Massachusetts defendants want new trials, pointing to their appointed defender’s questionable social media posts
  • Yale announces program to offer full need-based scholarships to low-income students
  • California Court of Appeal rules that at-will employees may sue their employer for misrepresenting job duties
  • Judicial records website apologizes for publicly posting more than 250,000 confidential records

Florida lawyer arrested for stripping naked and refusing to leave bar

Licensed attorney Kelly Elkins, 49, was completely naked when police arrived at the Beach Lounge in St. Pete Beach. The manager reports that Elkins arrived at the bar already intoxicated. When he refused to serve her more alcohol, Elkins went into the bathroom, then emerged completely naked. She refused to leave or get dressed, and the manager called the authorities.

When officers arrived, Elkins was still “naked in the bar” and “had to be told several times to get dressed,” the complaint said. Even then, “she only put a zip-up hoodie on and did not zip the shirt up. Defendant refused to put her pants on,” saying she was “too tired,” the officer wrote of the “uncooperative” lawyer. (Via The New York Post)

This incident occurred hours after Elkins was released from jail.

Two days earlier, she went to Nori Thai in St. Pete Beach and ordered food and alcoholic beverages despite not having any money to pay her bill. Elkins was jailed on misdemeanor charges of obtaining food or lodging with intent to defraud.

Though Elkins is still listed as a member of the Florida State Bar, there is currently an open case to consider disciplinary action.

Attorney who altered police lineup photos receives three-year suspension

The Florida Supreme Court has imposed a three-year suspension after lawyer Jonathan Stephen Schwartz altered police lineup photos to undermine a victim’s ID of his client. The court stated that although defense attorneys are required to provide “zealous representation” to their clients, that does not excuse misconduct.

Schwartz altered two black-and-white police lineup photos to obscure identification. In one, he replaced his defendant’s face with a picture of another person who has also been identified as a perpetrator by a different witness. In the other, he altered his client’s hairstyle. Both copies still included the victim’s identification, which included a circle around the original photo of the defendant, the witness’s signature, and a police officer’s signature.

The first referee to consider the matter had concluded that Schwartz didn’t violate any ethics rules. The Florida Supreme Court rejected that conclusion in November 2019, saying Schwartz’s conduct violated ethics rules barring conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. A second referee recommended a 90-day suspension, followed by a year of probation. In its latest opinion, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the second referee’s recommendation as too lenient. The state supreme court said Schwartz had been disciplined previously, including one case in which he received a 90-day suspension. (Via ABA Journal)

This is not Schwartz’s first snag. He was reprimanded for other violations in 1995, 1997, 2002, and 2012.

Following lawyer’s Facebook posts, two defendants want new trials

At least two convicted men are seeking new trials because of offensive and racist Facebook posts by their former defense attorney.

Richard Doyle, now deceased, was accused of posting content that denigrated Muslims, black people, transgender people, and immigrants. He also posted commentary that insulted his clients. Doyle was appointed as a public defender to represent Anthony Dew and James Gaines — both of whom are black Muslim men.

Dew’s lawyer, Edward Gaffney, said in a motion Dew…should be allowed to withdraw his 2016 guilty pleas to charges of human trafficking, assault and drug distribution because of the posts…[Gaines also] wants a new trial following his conviction for armed assault with intent to murder in 2005. His new lawyer is William Korman. “Every case this guy ever touched is tainted, in my opinion,” Korman told the Boston Globe. “And every case this guy ever touched needs to be looked at.” (Via ABA Journal)

Doyle’s appointed cases are currently under review by the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

Yale to offer need-based full scholarships to low-income students

For the first time, Yale will provide 45 to 50 full-tuition scholarships that will automatically go to students who meet the financial requirements. This program is designed to help ease tuition for students with the greatest financial need, which is different from their former merit-based scholarship approach.

Both incoming students and current 1L and 2L students are eligible to receive scholarships starting this fall. In the future, Yale plans to extend the program to reach more students by introducing an ongoing fundraising campaign.

The program will be given to law students whose family income is below the federal poverty guidelines and whose assets are below $150,000. Students who qualify will be awarded more than $70,000 per year to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and health insurance, according to the release…The program will cover $72,083 of the total $93,923 it costs to attend Yale Law, which leaves $21,840 for the students to pay, according to the website. (Via Law.com)

Currently, 77% of Yale students receive some kind of financial aid, but all students leave with the same amount of student loan debt. However, students from below the poverty line are disproportionately affected by that debt and are more likely to face financial hardships. This scholarship program is intended to help those students succeed.

California Court of Appeal rules that at-will employees may sue their employer for misrepresenting intended job duties

The California Court of Appeal recently reversed a trial decision in Kenneth Allen White v. Smule, Inc. that originally ruled in favor of the employer.

In this case, the plaintiff employee alleged that he relocated from Washington to northern California because the employer stated during the interview that they were planning aggressive expansion and needed an experienced project manager in the San Francisco area to build out and manage a large team. However, after five months, the employer outsourced the position to Bulgaria and terminated the plaintiff.

Based on these facts, the Court of Appeal found that a trier of fact could conclude that the employer “never intended to employ someone in the lead project manager position [and] instead desired nothing more… than a consultation of improvement plan on how [the company] could enhance its operations.” (Via The National Law Review)

Although the Court of Appeal agrees that an at-will employee who relocates has no expectation of long-term employment, the employer in this case appears to have misrepresented the nature and requirements of the job.

Judicial records website judyrecords.com posts thousands of confidential attorney records online

The judicial records website judyrecords.com published more than 250,000 confidential records including disciplinary case numbers, file dates, case types and statuses, and the names of respondents and witnesses.

This data breach was discovered by the California State Bar, which issued a press release outlining the steps being taken to address the issue, including working with IT forensics experts, contacting their case management system software provider to address underlying issues, and notifying law enforcement.

A message posted on judyrecords Saturday night said all State Bar Court records were removed from the site after the state bar issued its press release. The message said that the records were publicly available through a state bar webpage that is now disabled. The unidentified author of the message said that they had reached out to the bar “and offered to help as appropriate” but had not received a response. (Via Legaltech News at Law.com)

At this time, the records have been taken down.

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  • 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.