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Court and legal news roundup

This week in legal news

  • After 20 attempts, law graduate finally passes the bar, only to be banned from law practice in Massachusetts
  • The historic Whaley House in San Francisco will hold court again after 151 years
  • Ethics complaint alleges that temporary judge repeatedly told litigants that he was ignorant of the law and the cases in front of him
  • Tennessee passes a bill that would require drunk drivers to pay child support if they caused the death of a parent

Law graduate passes the bar 30 years after graduation, but is banned from the bar due to unlicensed legal work

Lionel Porter graduated from law school in 1985. However, he didn’t pass the bar until his 20th attempt, nearly 30 years later. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Porter may not become a lawyer due to multiple violations during his time as a paralegal.

“Porter affirmatively acknowledged, for example, that he signed Hrones’s name on an affidavit, accepted clients, negotiated fees, filed complaints, drafted pleadings, conducted discovery, advised clients as to their legal rights, settled cases and performed other legal work,” the court said. The court cited some missteps by Porter while working on the cases. He missed some filing deadlines, and a default judgment was entered against his client in one case. He also kept client retainer funds for personal use on at least one occasion, telling the board that he did so because there were times that he didn’t have money. (Via ABA Journal)

In the opinion, the court states that it is not satisfied that Porter fully appreciates the wrongfulness of his unauthorized practice.

Porter still aspires to become a lawyer and states that he wasn’t aware of the breach of propriety at the time because the firm was just excited to help people.

Historic Whaley House will hold court again for the first time in 151 years

In Old Town San Diego, the Whaley House is recognized as a historic building, as it was the second courthouse in the city. Now, Whaley House will hold court again.

In recognition and celebration of the Whaley House holding court from 1868-1871, this event extends the current San Diego Superior Court to include the Whaley House as a location for official court business for one day. The court session will begin at 9:00 a.m. with welcome remarks to recognize the significance of the one-room courthouse, the late pioneer judges, and the then-landlords, the Whaley family. The official court calendar will follow with civil matters on the docket. (Via Superior Court of San Diego County)

Proceedings will be open to the public. All local and state rules apply.

Judge receives ethic complaints after allegedly telling litigants that he was unfamiliar with the law and ignorant of case specifics

Judge Michael J. Kassel is a civil court judge who received a temporary assignment to the family division. The assignment was one day per week from April 10, 2021 until June 15, 2021. He is the now the subject of an ethics complaint related to remarks he made to litigants during those trials.

On 16 occasions, Kassel “remarked to litigants and their counsel appearing before him that he lacked familiarity with their case, was ignorant of the applicable law, and incapable of adjudicating family court matters,” the complaint alleges.

At one point, Kassel compared himself to an obstetrician who had to treat broken bones, the complaint alleges. Another time, he compared himself to a cardiologist seeing his first patient, according to the complaint. He allegedly told one litigant that he had “zero matrimonial knowledge.”

“Frankly, you could get a guy off the street that’s more experienced than me with this stuff,” he allegedly told other litigants. (Via ABA Journal)

The complaint includes other allegations, including a claim that Kassel appeared at a virtual hearing without a judicial robe and with his feet propped up on a desk, and another claim that he failed to recuse himself when there was a potential conflict of interest.

Tennessee passes a bill requiring drunk drivers to pay child support if they cause the death of a parent

In a unanimous vote, the Tennessee state Senate passed Bentley’s Law, a bill that would require drunk drivers to pay child support if they kill the parents of a minor. The bill already passed — also with unanimous support — in the Tennessee house, and now it may be signed into law.

The bill gives the convicted one year to begin payments if they are unable to do so due to incarceration, and the payments would be required to continue until the child is 18 years old. The bill cites several reasons why the payments to the child would be necessary, including: maintaining the child’s standard of living, the financial resources and needs of the child, as well as the financial needs of the surviving parent or guardian of the child, notes the local outlet. (Via The Hill)

If passed, the new law will honor a grandmother who lost her son, his fiancé, and their 4-month old child in a drunk driving accident in 2021. The accident orphaned two children, including 5-year-old Bentley after whom the bill is named.

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