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Court and legal news roundup

This week in legal news

  • An attorney who yelled profanity at a judge while intoxicated gets a stayed suspension on the condition that she submit to a substance use assessment
  • A federal judge rejects a plea deal for an attorney accused of stealing millions from elderly and disabled clients
  • New Jersey law firm McCarter & English dealing with a cybersecurity incident that blocked attorneys from email and remote work systems
  • Kentucky man is awarded $450,000 after his employer planned a birthday party for him against his wishes

Ohio lawyer must submit to substance use assessment after yelling profanity at judge

Natalie Bahan, an Ohio attorney, has received a stayed six-month suspension after a profane outburst at a holiday party.

Bahan was intoxicated at the time of the incident. As conditions of her stayed suspension, Bahan must engage in no further misconduct, and she also must report to a substance use assessment by the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program and abide by any of their recommendations.

The outburst that prompted these actions occurred at a Logan County Bar Association holiday event.

During the party, the bar association presented a mock award to a judge who was then on the Logan County Court of Common Pleas. “Bahan, who had consumed alcohol at the event and appeared to be intoxicated, loudly and rudely interrupted the presentation,” the opinion said. She used the F-word to describe the judge, and she also called him a “piece of s- – -” and an “a- -hole.” (Via ABA Journal)

Two of the seven judges who heard this case concurred with the majority judgement, but stated that they would not have disciplined Bahan for her outburst as she has a First Amendment right to criticize the courts.

Federal judge in Salt Lake City rejects plea deal for lawyer accused of stealing $12.7 million from disabled and elderly clients

Salt Lake City attorney Calvin Curtis withdrew his guilty plea after US District Judge David Barlow determined that the terms were unreasonable. Curtis is accused of stealing $12.7 million from 26 clients who were incapacitated, elderly, or disabled.

Barlow said the alleged fraud was “cold-blooded, premeditated and repeated,” and Curtis had “enriched himself on the backs of those who needed his help,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Seven alleged victims or their representatives made statements to the court, according to the docket entry. A common theme was that Curtis should get the maximum sentence for stealing money that could have been used on necessities that include medicine and medical care, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. (Via ABA Journal)

Curtis’s lawyer, Greg Skordas, contends that Curtis’s cooperation with authorities should be considered. Curtis has helped authorities investigate the fraud and uncover $1.4 million in funds that could be repaid to victims, though it is highly unlikely that the rest will be repaid.

Cybersecurity incident at McCarter & English prevents access to remote work tools and email

McCarter and English has suffered their second cybersecurity incident in a year.

“Our systems are very complex, and we continue to investigate,” Lubertazzi continued. “We had a security incident, we are investigating and we will resolve all issues.” Sunday’s memo was the first firmwide correspondence from top brass addressing the breach since lawyers at the firm reportedly lost access to McCarter’s email and remote systems April 9. In the days that followed, several firm employees were “frantic” as they sought advice from the firm’s IT personnel. (Via Law.com)

Attorneys and other employees were unable to access remote work tools or email. The firm states that they have no financial concerns.

This breach comes just months after another hack in June 2021 which exposed personal information from 344 people.

McCarter and English is imposing new security rules, including 2-factor authentication, in an effort to prevent further security issues.

Jury awards Kentucky man $450,000 after his employer throws him an unwanted birthday party, employer plans to appeal

A Kentucky man named Kevin Berling sued his employer for emotional distress and lost wages after his employer threw him an unwanted birthday party. Berling asked his supervisor not to have a birthday celebration as it would cause him immense stress. His manager did not heed the warning and Berling suffered a panic attack.

After the party, Berling’s supervisor chastised him for being overly sensitive, insulted him, and claimed that he negatively affected his coworkers, which prompted Berling to have a second panic attack. This led to termination of his employment.

Berling alleged in his lawsuit the company discriminated against him based on a disability and retaliated against him for demanding a reasonable accommodation to it. The jury returned the verdict after a two-day trial in Kenton County that ended in late March. The jury awarded him $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages. (Via Associated Press)

An attorney for the company stated that they continue to deny liability and will pursue post-trial options. The company also claims that Berling’s panic attacks are examples of potential workplace violence and terminating his employment was necessary for the safety of other employees.

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