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Attorney-Client Privilege Goes Both Ways

From the March 2011 Attorney E-Newsletter of The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Supreme Court Declares Two-Way Street for Attorney-Client Privilege

On February 23, 2011, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided an important issue of the law of attorney-client privilege in the case of Gillard v. AIG Insurance Company. The issue presented was whether the attorney-client privilege established in 42 Pa. C.S.A. §5928 applies to communications from attorney to client which are not derivative (i.e., which do not incorporate confidential communications from the client).

The case involved allegations of bad faith by the insurance company. In the course of discovery, the plaintiff sought production of all documents in the file of the law firm representing the defendant insurance company. In its response to the discovery, the defendant’s counsel redacted documents prepared by the law firm, asserting attorney-client privilege. The lower court ordered the redacted documents produced and the Superior Court affirmed, relying upon the holding in Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Fleming, 924 A. 2d 1259 (Pa. Super. 2007) that the statutory attorney-client privilege applies only to communications from client to attorney.

Yale Law School Library Lending Out Therapy Dog for Stressed-Out Students

From New York Magazine

Last fall, the blog Above the Law caught wind of a jokey stunt going on at the Yale Law School Library. In addition to checking out books, students at the top-ranked graduate school could also, it seemed, check out "Monty" (full name General Montgomery), a border terrier mix. The dog would be available to play with students for 30-minute intervals, according to the library catalogue listing. But shortly after ATL discovered this adorable opportunity, the school said that it was just a gag, and that you couldn't really check out the pooch.

And yet now, according to a memo to students, Monty is back in circulation.

Attention Family Law Attorneys

From the Court Administrator's Office

ATTENTION FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS: The Parent Information Form for Custody cases is now available on the Westmoreland County Website (www.co.westmoreland.pa.us) under Forms, Court Administration (Custody). This form is required for all custody cases.

New York Courts Will Press for Legal Aid in Foreclosure Cases - NYTimes.com

New York court officials outlined procedures Tuesday aimed at assuring that all homeowners facing foreclosure were represented by a lawyer, a shift that could give tens of thousands of families a better chance at saving their homes. Criminal defendants are guaranteed a lawyer, but New York will be the first state to try to extend that pledge to foreclosures, which are civil matters. There are about 80,000 active foreclosure cases in New York courts. In more than half of them, only the banks have lawyers.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Calls on Attorneys to Provide More Public Service

HARRISBURG, January 14, 2011—Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille has issued a call to the Commonwealth’s 70,000 attorneys to volunteer more of their time and money to help ensure Pennsylvanians with limited financial means receive needed civil legal representation.

Saying the Commonwealth is “dealing with a civil legal aid crisis,” the chief justice reminded Pennsylvania attorneys in a letter distributed through the cooperation of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) of their professional obligation to support services to citizens of limited financial means —otherwise known as pro bono service.

Do Judges Read Online Briefs Differently? Brief Writers May Need to Be Briefer

As more courts require e-filing, lawyers may need to adjust their writing style to account for differences in the way people read online.
 
That’s the conclusion of Houston appellate lawyer Martin Siegel in an article for Texas Lawyer.

Online readers “jump around, skimming and seizing on bits of text,” Siegel writes. “Eye-tracking studies show they seek content in an F-shaped pattern, looking down the left side for structural cues and then focusing on headings and first sentences of paragraphs. Heaven help the content provider with important text consigned to the bottom right of the screen.”

Siegel cites a book by Houston appellate lawyer Robert Dubose and a law review article by University of Dayton law professor Maria Crist. Dubose says lawyers writing with online readers in mind should put their most important points in headings and first sentences of paragraphs, use bullet points, and quickly get to the point. Similarly, Crist endorses short paragraphs and condensing chunks of information into smaller pieces.

To read the entire article, visit the ABA Journal: www.abajournal.com/news/article

Calif. Judge OK’d Seinfeld’s ‘Festivus’ as Legitimate Religion, Ordered Special Meals for Inmate

Locked up in a California jail, Malcolm Alarmo King wanted healthier meals. In an argument apparently made to a friendly court, he won a ruling from Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson that he should be fed double-portion kosher meals.

Pennsylvania Commuters Should Be Aware of New Maryland Traffic Ticket Law

New Law Changes Maryland District Court Procedures for Traffic Tickets: After January 1, Drivers Must Ask for Trial



(ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Dec. 1, 2010) When a new state law goes into effect on January 1, drivers who get a payable traffic ticket in Maryland will no longer be given an automatic trial date to appear in court. Instead, any driver wanting to go to trial to dispute a ticket will have to request a trial date from the District Court of Maryland.

Friends May Be Foes

From the November 2010 Attorney E-Newsletter of The Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Can a lawyer ethically get access to an opposing party’s Facebook page? We previously reported on a Philadelphia Bar Association opinion concluding that a lawyer may not, personally or through an agent, seek to “friend” an opposing party or witness without revealing.

But is there another way? A Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas has held that a party may be compelled through the discovery process to provide an opponent with access to his Facebook and MySpace accounts. In a decision in the case of McMillen v. Hummingbird Speedway, Inc., handed down September 9, 2010, President Judge John Henry Foradora of the Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County held that access to one’s social networking sites is not protected by any privilege, and that the plaintiff in a personal injury action could be compelled to reveal the usernames and passwords of his Facebook and MySpace accounts to counsel for the defendants (but not to the defendants themselves). The court looked closely at the privacy and disclosure policies of the sites in question, and concluded that users are on notice that information posted on them may be revealed to persons who have access to such information by process of law.

A New York trial court decision reached the same result by a very similar analysis.

It becomes increasingly obvious that lawyers should be counseling their clients on the use of Internet social media. More than ever, there are few secrets on the Internet.

Attention Court-Appointed Attorneys

From the Court Administrator's Office

ATTENTION COURT APPOINTED ATTORNEYS: Pursuant to the recently revised court appointed attorney guidelines, court appointed counsel is asked to submit Fee Petitions on a timely basis. Unless otherwise ordered, petitions for each case shall be submitted monthly for all capital cases, and quarterly for all other cases until representation is concluded. If you need a copy of the current guidelines, please contact the Court Administrator’s Office, Danielle Frye, at 724.830.3393.

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