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Court and legal news roundup

cockroach related to top legal news headlines

This week in legal news

  • Old allegations resurface claiming that a Utah county attorney cannibalized children
  • Los Angeles jury awards highest ever verdict in employment case: $464 million to two plaintiffs
  • Court closes after cockroaches are released during arraignment of protestors
  • Georgia Court of Appeals makes remote appearances a permanent option
  • Study finds that attorneys who feel valued for their profit potential are more likely to use drugs and alcohol compared to attorneys who feel valued for their skills

Utah attorney up for reelection dismisses old allegations that he cannibalized children

County attorney David Leavitt is once again facing 10-year-old allegations that he and his wife cannibalized children and participated in ritualistic child abuse. These claims, which Leavitt states were debunked a decade ago, resurfaced in advance of his bid for reelection.

According to Leavitt, the woman who originally made the claims against him also accused 10 to 15 other people of abuse. Those claims were all dismissed and deemed not credible.

Leavitt called the allegations a “pack of lies” and questioned whether the woman’s false claims were the impetus for an investigation of ritualistic child abuse by the sheriff’s office. “There is no organized ring of abuse,” Leavitt said. “It was debunked more than 10 years ago. The allegations that are there are so outlandish and so crazy that they’re just not true.” (Via ABA Journal)

Local news sources report that Leavitt has taken some controversial positions during his time in office. The public information officer for the Utah County attorney’s office, Sherrie Hall Everett, says that these claims are an attempt to oust Leavitt as he is pushing for criminal justice reform.

Highest ever verdict ($464 million) awarded in employment case in Los Angeles

A Los Angeles jury awarded $464 million to two plaintiffs in an employment case, setting the record for the largest verdict of its kind.

The two plaintiffs accused their employer of retaliation after they complained of racial and sexual harassment in the workplace, both towards themselves and coworkers. One plaintiff brought complaints to management about the alleged sexual harassment of two female employees and claimed he was constructively discharged after being subjected to retaliatory complaints and investigations from other supervisors. The other plaintiff made anonymous complaints to the internal ethics hotline about the racial and sexual harassment of both himself and other coworkers. (Via The National Law Review)

At the conclusion of the two-month-long case, the jury awarded one plaintiff $22.4 million in compensatory damages and $400 million in punitive damages. The other plaintiff was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages and $40 million in punitive damages.

Cockroaches cause court to close for extermination after being released during the arraignment of four rent protestors

A courthouse in Albany, New York was forced to close in order to bring in exterminators after a person released hundreds of cockroaches. The courthouse was closed for the rest of the day.

The cockroaches were reportedly released when a person dropped lettuce onto the floor that was covered with cockroaches. A spokesperson for the New York Office of Court Administration provided the Albany Times Union with a photo of large cockroaches and lettuce on the floor. “What transpired is not advocacy or activism, it is criminal behavior with the intent to disrupt a proceeding and cause damage,” said the spokesperson, Lucian Chalfen. (Via ABA Journal)

One person was charged in relation to the incident, but she was not the individual who released the bugs. Clyanna Lightbourn was charged with tampering with physical evidence, criminal contempt, obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after she created a distraction using her cell phone while other people dropped the roaches.

Georgia court offers remote appearances as a permanent option

The Georgia Court of Appeals has published a rule that makes virtual appearances in court a permanent option. Attorneys may request a remote hearing for any acceptable reasons including health concerns, budget concerns, or time constraints.

This update was announced in a Tweet by Chief Judge Brian Rickman.

Remote appearances before the Georgia Court of Appeals are “100% optional.” “One lawyer can request virtual, while another can appear in person,” Rickman noted. “One choice doesn’t dictate for the opposing counsel.” (Via Law.com)

Although social media discourse has produced mixed reactions, the overall reception seems positive. The new rule goes into effect on July 1.

New research gives insights into substance abuse, mental health concerns for attorneys

A new study titled People, Professionals, and Profit Centers: The Connection Between Lawyer Well-Being and Employer Values has provided some new insights into lawyer stress levels and substance abuse habits.

Lawyers who perceive that they are most valued for their financial performance and productivity could be more likely to increase drug and alcohol use than those who feel valued for their professionalism and skills, according to a study released Friday. “These lawyers also tend to work the longest hours, something that is well correlated with problem drinking,” said Patrick Krill, one of the study’s authors, about attorneys who feel most valued for their financial performance, in an email Monday to the ABA Journal. (Via ABA Journal)

The original study was conducted from May 2020 through June 2020, and the results were published in the 2022 Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute’s Behavioral Sciences journal.

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