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Court and legal news roundup

This week in legal news

  • After student complains of prejudicial treatment, law school mistakenly informs her family that she is dead; student demands answers
  • Maryland attorney disbarred for inflating expense reimbursements at the law firm he co-founded
  • Arizona attorney admits that she is at fault for 180 botched misdemeanor cases
  • The FTC files suit against CafePress for failing to protect consumer data and covering up a data breach
  • Snapchat may be liable in teen crash after being accused of negligently designing a speed filter that encouraged reckless behavior

Law student’s family receives call that she is dead — student demands answers

Fanta Ly, a law student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, is demanding answers after the school called her family to report her dead. Ly reports that this occurred shortly after she complained that one of her teachers had a track record of differential treatment towards black students.

Ly is the director of the Black Law Students Association of Canada.

The school apologized for the incident in a letter dated January 15, 2021. However, Ly continues to seek further investigation into why and how this happened.

“This ordeal has taken a lot out of me, and I think about this every day. The call to my family is just one of many incidents in my complaint, among other unacceptable matters such as unilateral policy change, arbitrary grade change, and denial of academic accommodations.” (Quoting an interview posted on

McGill University is recognized as one of the top law schools in Canada. Ly continues to take classes remotely and reports that she still feels uncomfortable and anxious.

Maryland lawyer disbarred after skimming nearly $15,000 by padding expense reports at the law firm he co-founded

Top Maryland courts have disbarred Keith M. Bonner, cofounder of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata LLP, for cheating the firm out of nearly $15,000 over 7 years.

Bonner inflated his expense reports between 2012 and 2019. He listed activities as client development, but those expenses were spent on himself and his family.

In handing down the ultimate professional sanction, the Court of Appeals rejected Bonner’s plea for mercy in light of the punishment he claimed to have already suffered in the loss of his employment at the firm he co-founded, the damage to his reputation and the pending discipline by the District of Columbia bar for the same offense. Bonner argued through counsel that his actions warranted not disbarment but suspension with the chance to apply for reinstatement after one year. (Via The Maryland Daily Record)

In the decision, the court also cited that Bonner went out of his way to deceive the law firm by fabricating calendar entries and sending follow-up emails for meetings that never happened.

Bonner’s defense included the assertion that his actions were a symptom of frustration and anger that he was not being paid a fair amount for the work that he completed for the firm. He has since received treatment for these emotional problems. The court stated that his emotional response and feelings of self-righteousness are not relevant as Bonner knowingly took dishonest actions.

After blaming her team, a county attorney in Arizona finally takes responsibility for 180 botched cases

After 180 misdemeanor cases were dropped because prosecutors failed to file charges within the statute of limitations, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel blamed her employees. She claimed, and it was subsequently reported in newspapers, that some employees were failing to handle assignments and did not report issues to their supervisors, or that some cases were not filed because supervisors failed to assign them for work.

Now, Adel has reversed that stance and taken full responsibility for those botched cases.

These dropped cases all stem from incidents in 2020 such as drunk driving, criminal trespassing, and domestic assault.

This statement has raised more concern about Adel’s performance. There have been questions about Adel’s ability to hold her position since February 2022 as she seemed to struggle with sobriety and was absent from work for long periods of time. Adel was hospitalized in 2020 to receive surgery for a brain bleed, and she participated in rehabilitation in August 2021 for treatment of anxiety, an eating disorder, and alcohol abuse.

A Feb. 14 letter to the supervisors and the State Bar of Arizona alleged that Adel had shown “obvious signs of impairment” and had been absent from work frequently since last year’s treatment. In response, Adel said she did not intend to quit her job, and the complaining prosecutors should “stick it out or resign,” the Arizona Republic previously reported. (From ABA Journal)

The State Bar of Arizona has stated that it is aware of the allegations and the dropped cases, and it is investigating.

The FTC files suit against CafePress for covering up a data breach

In a press release on March 15, the FTC stated that it would take action against CafePress following a recent data breach. The allegations include claims that CafePress failed to secure user data and then covered up a major breach.

The FTC alleged that CafePress violated the privacy policy on its website and in other communications to consumers when it stated that it uses safeguards to protect personal information, including “the best and most accepted methods and technologies” and “safe and secure Shopping. Guaranteed.” (Via the National Law Review)

CafePress stored social security numbers and passwords in plain text.

The allegations stem from a security incident in February of 2019 when a hacker exploited the failures [of CafePress data management] and accessed unencrypted information held by CafePress, including consumers’, employees’ and shopkeepers’ email addresses. and passwords, security questions and answers, and “more than 180,000 unencrypted Social Security numbers.” After the compromise, the information was available for sale on the dark web. (National Law Review)

The FTC seeks $500,000 in monetary relief for consumers, requires CafePress to adopt a new information security program, obtain assessments from an independent third party, provide annual certifications to the FTC, and report future incidents within 30 days.

Snapchat may be liable after teen uses speed filter shortly before a major crash

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Snapchat may be liable for negligence after a teenaged driver crashed her car and severely injured another driver while using Snapchat’s speed filter.

Although the teen intentionally misused the product and Snapchat warned against using the filter while driving, the Supreme Court said that Snapchat may still be liable. They have a duty to design a reasonably safe product, and their responsibility extends to people injured by the intentional misuse of that product.

The teenager who crashed after using the speed filter pled no contest in 2018 to charges of serious injury by vehicle.

The injured driver and his wife, Wentworth and Karen Maynard, had alleged that Snapchat knew that other drivers were using the speed filter while driving at more than 100 miles per hour and knew of at least one other instance in which a driver using the filter while speeding had caused a crash. They also alleged that Snapchat continued to update the app after it learned that its product was being misused. (Via ABA Journal)

This case against Snapchat has been remanded to the Georgia Court of Appeals to decide if Snapchat’s product design caused the Maynard’s injuries.


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