District attorney recognizes paralegal for law enforcement assistance

Sure like it when everyday citizens find & help solve crimes! Read all about it in this article from California's Auburn Journal:

"The message from the Placer County District Attorney's Office was that law enforcement can't go it alone.

"'Many ignore the call,' District Attorney Brad Fenocchio said, during a ceremony honoring several who stepped up to assist an investigation or put a suspect behind bars.

"Area residents who went above and beyond that call stepped up Tuesday before the Board of Supervisors to receive praise and certificates from the District Attorney's Office.

[snip]

"Paralegal Gayle McMorow noticed some inconsistencies in an 87-year-old woman's checking account, reported what turned out to be theft by a former caregiver, and assisted with a felony elder abuse case that took three years to prosecute."

Congrats to Gayle!!


"Paralegal receives mixed verdict"

So, is this good news? Or bad news for the paralegal profession?

"A Wailuku paralegal who said she 'filled in the blanks' for a customer on a divorce form has been acquitted [emphasis added] of a charge of unauthorized practice of law.

"Kitty Atchley, 54, was found guilty [emphasis added] of two misdemeanor counts of unsworn falsification to authorities for documents she filed in court as part of a divorce case in 2005.

"Atchley said she filed a document indicating the woman’s husband had been served with divorce papers in Kihei, even though Marten-Naidenko had told her he was in Russia.

"She continued filing documents even after Marten-Naidenko called Atchley to 'pull the plug on the divorce,' Atchley said, because she believed the woman was in an abusive relationship and feared for her safety. Atchley said she was following the woman’s earlier instructions not to stop the divorce proceedings no matter what she said."


"D.C. Law Firm Suspends Woman Who Worked as Escort"

ABC News finds another person involved in the growing D.C. Madam scandal:

"A legal secretary at one of Washington's most prominent and well-connected law firms, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, has been suspended after telling her bosses she secretly worked at night for the escort service run by the so-called D.C. Madam, Jeane Palfrey.

"The woman both serviced clients and, at times, helped to run the business, Palfrey told ABC News in an interview to be broadcast on '20/20' Friday.

"The firm said it would not make her name public.

"According to e-mails the woman sent to Palfrey on her Akin Gump account, she 'enjoyed and even missed' the work she did at night for Palfrey, who has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a large scale prostitution ring.

[snip]

"According to the e-mails provided to ABC News by Palfrey, the Akin Gump woman was interested in helping to restart the escort service after Palfrey had closed it, suggesting it could be done from the Akin Gump offices.

[snip]

"'I think that handling the phones 4 to 5 nights a week is a very fair offer and would be something that I could easily do, even with my paralegal duties as they could pretty much be done simultaneously in front of a computer,' she wrote."

This is just sad, very sad.


"Virginia Tech Tragedy and the Law"

A compilation of legal & factual issues surrounding this tragic event has been posted on Legal Blog Watch by lawyer & blogger Carolyn Elefant:

"As our nation continues to mourn the victims of the senseless Virginia Tech massacre, many bloggers' thoughts turn to the question of whether this tragedy could have prevented or whether others like it can be prevented in the future.  While now's not the time to assign blame (and indeed, without additional information, we really can't make any definitive judgments), here's a list of some of the issues that will be generating additional discussion in the weeks to come..."

Three such issues include Restrictions on universities, Gun Control Laws, & The Limits of Technology.


"Still Guilty After All These Years"

Very interesting op-ed in the NY Times from author & lawyer Scott Turow, all about how advances in forensic technology may also impact statutes of limitations. He raises some intriguing questions about changes in law & the passage of time:

"THIS Friday a 33-year-old man named Juan Luna will go on trial here for the murder of seven people in a Brown’s Chicken restaurant in Palatine, Ill., on Jan. 8, 1993. The investigation of the murders, in which the victims’ bloody corpses were discovered in the restaurant freezer, languished for more than a decade until Mr. Luna’s DNA was identified in the saliva found on a chicken bone at the crime scene.

[snip]

"Greater accuracy in the truth-finding process is a laudable development. But I worry that the growing capacity of today’s forensics to reach farther and farther into the past seems likely to undermine the law’s time-ingrained notions, embodied in statutes of limitations, about how long people should be liable to criminal prosecution. As the Brown’s Chicken case illustrates, DNA analysts [PDF] can now examine scant decades-old specimens and produce results of near-certainty in identifying suspects. Nor are the innovations in forensic science limited to the testing of human DNA. Forensic botany can often establish whether plant fragments found on a victim or defendant have a unique origin. Fire-scene investigation has advanced because of new extraction techniques and instrumentation. Fingerprint identification has been revolutionized both by cryogenic processes for lifting latent prints and computer imaging that allows faster and more reliable identification of partial prints. Forensic pathology, ballistics and forensic anthropology have also moved ahead rapidly.

[snip]

"The law is a fluid thing, and there is an inherent unfairness in initiating a prosecution decades later when legal rules and community expectations have changed. If a jury — or the police and prosecutors — now strongly disapprove of conduct to which they would have once turned a blind eye, it’s natural to wonder whether the defendant would have acted the same way in today’s ethical climate.

"Statutes of limitations have also traditionally embodied a moral judgment that if a person has lived blamelessly for a significant time, he should not have the anxiety of potential prosecution hanging over him forever. Violent crimes are usually the province of young men, and it is often the case that one of the principal purposes of the criminal justice system — keeping the criminally inclined off the streets — vanishes with time."


"Paralegal pleads not guilty in fraud, theft"

I hate news like this about paralegals. Innocent until proven guilty, of course....:

"A Ware County paralegal was released on $20,000 bail Tuesday after pleading not guilty to federal charges of bank fraud and theft of government funds.

"Gina A. Wooten, 50, of Waycross, is accused of stealing more than $110,000 in a bank fraud scheme that an FBI investigation revealed involved forged signatures on federal bankruptcy checks.

"Wooten also is accused of stealing more than $1,000 from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The money was in the form of official checks from the bankruptcy trustee, a March 8 federal indictment showed.

"In an initial appearance, U.S. Magistrate James Graham arraigned Wooten and set the conditions of her bail, which include restricting her travel to southeast Georgia except for medical appointments in Jacksonville, Fla."


Amnesty criticizes Guantanamo abuse investigation

I just hope the paralegal who blew the whistle doesn't have her career damaged:

"A human rights group on Thursday accused the U.S. military of failing to adequately investigate the latest allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay and urged officials to open the detention center to more independent monitors.

"An investigation was launched in October by U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba, after a Marine paralegal reported guards she met at Guantanamo bragged about beating detainees.

"Amnesty International said the probe was 'flawed' because the chief investigator, Army Col. Richard Bassett, did not interview any detainees before concluding there was no evidence of mistreatment."


"Princeton paralegal charged with theft"

NOT the kind of news about paralegals I like to read:

"A paralegal here with the Cooper Levenson law firm has been charged with theft by deception and forgery after allegedly ripping off a client’s account of $6,000, police said.

"

Kara Swinney, 35, of Washington Street, Trenton, surrendered at police headquarters Tuesday and was arrested by Detective Sgt. Scott Porreca following an investigation.

"'The law firm uncovered this, and reported it to us,' said Detective Sgt. Ernie Silagyi, Princeton Township Police Department spokesman. 'We understand they discovered it after she left the firm.'"


"Investigator: Paralegal filed false complaint"

Oh, this news can't be good for anyone:

"A Marine paralegal who reported that she overheard guards at Guantanamo Bay brag about beating detainees was accused by a military investigator of filing a false report, the paralegal’s boss, a Marine officer, said Friday.

"Army Col. Richard Basset, who was ordered by the U.S. Southern Command to investigate the allegations into guards’ actions, met the paralegal, Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, late last year at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she is based, according to Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey.

"Basset told Cerveny the guards denied her account of their conversation in a Guantanamo bar — and the investigator accused her of having made a false statement, Vokey told The Associated Press in a telephone interview."


"Paralegal arrested on sex charges"

Oh. My. Not the kind of headline one likes to see, but I had to read the article:

"A Polk City man was arrested Wednesday after detectives said he impersonated a lawyer and offered a woman free legal service if she performed sex acts on him.

"Leonard W. Yanke Jr., 55, who is a paralegal, faces charges that include unlicensed practice of law, solicitation of legal services and compelling another to become a prostitute, the Sheriff's Office reported."