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Judged

The Judge has grown weary of sulking in the shadows and letting the MeJDs and Chinaskis of Judged hog the limelight. Here you will find news about Judged, updates to our law firm rankings and the Judge’s daily ramblings. Want the real scoop? Check it out here.

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James Edward Rawe Jr., a disbarred attorney from Bradenton, Florida, has been arrested on an outstanding warrant, according to The Bradenton Herald.

The warrant charged Rawe with taking money from a client and not providing legal services.

He was arrested at home on Wednesday without issue, according to Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Rawe was charged in Sarasota County with the intent to defraud a client of less than $20,000. He posted $10,000 bond and was released from the Manatee County jail.

Rawe was disbarred from practicing law permanently and is not allowed to have any contact with the victim. He is also required to notify the Florida Bar when he is arrested and file proof of notification in court within 10 days of being arrested.

Rawe told The Bradenton Herald that he was in the midst of filing the client’s paperwork when he was fired from his job.

"We entered into an agreement with partial retainer and the bulk of my fee was going to come from his settlement," Rawe said. "The victim was informed that the retainer would be extinguished at the time the case was ready to file."

Rawe claims he was not aware of the charge even though the warrant was issued back in October.

An investigation into Rawe began in June when it was alleged that he took $5,440 from a client and never performed legal work he was hired to perform.

Rawe and the client met three times from March to April to discuss the case. At all three meetings, the client handed Rawe money.

The client told investigators that Rawe had excuses during all the subsequent phone calls when asked why legal work was not being performed.

The client and Rawe spoke for one final time in May. During this discussion, the client demanded that his money be returned. After this, Rawe stopped taking the client’s calls.

Rawe claims he has documents that show the work was performed.

Rawe was disbarred permanently on December 5 after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that he practiced law while suspended.

Rawe had been issued a suspension back in April after found in contempt for failing to respond to a court order to show cause for complaints filed against him back in 2013.

When Rawe was permanently disbarred, he had already been disbarred for failing to maintain trust accounts and records and misappropriating funds in accordance with the rules of the Bar.

01-11-2015


Federal investigators have uncovered a plot to murder a defense attorney from New Orleans, according to reports from The Times-Picayune and WDSU.

Investigators heard the plan during a phone call between two Florida prison inmates.

Former Coleman, Florida inmate Kenneth Lee offered and agreed to kill attorney Robert Jenkins, according to documents filed in court.

The other inmate involved in the murder-for-hire plot, Donald Sylvester, is serving a life sentence in Coleman following a murder conviction in 2007.

Sylvester told prison staff members that he was approached by Lee in October of 2014 seeking to be hired for a murder-for-hire job.

The target, Jenkins, is the attorney who represented former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. He also represented Sylvester before being fired from the case.

Prior to Lee being released from prison, the two inmates talked about the plot. Sylvester told prison officials about the plot and then called Lee’s cell phone to discuss it. When they talked about the plot they used fitness training to ‘code the conversation.’

Sylvester’s uncle, who was in New Orleans, would provide Lee with a weapon and compensate him for murdering Jenkins. An agent from the FBI posed as the uncle with the help of Sylvester during a phone call on December 18 that included Lee.

The call included the intent of Lee to visit New Orleans to ‘train’ a client of the uncle. When asking Lee about the caliber of gun he wanted, the undercover agent told Lee the gym has “nine and 40-pound weights and 45-pound plates.”

Another call was placed three days later with the undercover agent posing as the uncle of Sylvester. He said he would send cash and a debit card to Lee to pay for his travel. It would also serve as a down payment for the job.

12-31-2014


The disciplinary arm of the Ohio Supreme Court is expected to hand down professional misconduct charges against six lawyers from the Columbus areas, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Court officials announced the filing of cases in front of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline requesting action against the licenses of the six lawyers.

Javier Armengau, who is already suspended from practicing law, has been recommended for permanent disbarment after being convicted for raping a client and sexually assaulting two other women. The recommendation was made by a probable-cause panel.

Armengau received a 13-year prison sentence on August 26. The complaint filed with the disciplinary committee includes misconduct involving one dozen cases.

The complaint includes issues involving making false statements, charging excessive fees, conflicts of interest, dishonesty, failing to return client funds, client trust-fund violations and false advertising.

Stephen E. Hillman, from Dublin, has been cited for misconduct involving federal income tax violations. His misconduct occurred from 2009 to 2011. Hillman was sentenced to six months of house arrest for 2014 and has to pay the IRS $133,899.

In Reynoldsburg, Gerald W. Salters was convicted earlier in 2014 of felony trespassing, misdemeanor child endangering and drunken driving. Salters drank in a bar and then entered the apartment of his ex-girlfriend all while leaving his two-year-old daughter in his vehicle. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

After filing paperwork two months too late, Roger Warner was charged with mishandling the case of a client in Columbus. This issue came about when two children a couple wanted to adopt wound up being adopted by a family from another state.

In Westerville, James C. Zury has been charged with mishandling the money of his employer and dishonesty. He cashed a check made payable to American Family Insurance for $1,750. Following his employment coming to an end, Zury repaid the company.

Another lawyer from Reynoldsburg has been recommended to the disciplinary board of the Ohio Supreme Court. Daniel K. Balaloski has been charged with the mishandling of six estates and other cases. He was also charged with failing to distribute funds to clients in a timely manner.

Hearings will be held by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline for all of the cases filed. The board will then make recommendations to the Ohio Supreme Court as to which actions to take against each lawyer’s ability to practice law.


12-28-2014


South Dakota has begun a program that aims at moving lawyers into rural areas, according to The Ledger-Enquirer.

There will be 16 attorneys accepted into the program, which provides lawyers with a $12,000 annual subsidy.

The program is funded by the South Dakota Bar Association, the state’s judicial system and the counties within the state.

Jake Fischer is one of those 16 attorneys. He moved to Corsica from Minneapolis to practice law in a town of 600. He is the only attorney in the town and just one of two full-time attorneys in a county that is home to 3,000 people.

"Being in a small town, of course you have to do a little bit of everything, criminal law, land deals, business deals, estate planning, the whole range of stuff really," Fischer said.

Some rural residents in South Dakota find themselves driving 100 miles to seek legal advice. Other states are struggling to attract attorneys to rural areas.

There are 93 counties in Nebraska and 12 of them do not have a single practicing attorney. In the state of Georgia, just 30 percent of the attorneys practice outside of Atlanta. Even New York City struggles with getting lawyers into rural areas. There are 170,000 practicing attorneys in the state, with 60 percent of them practicing in New York City.

David Gilbertson, the South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice, said, "You can have the courthouse doors wide open, you can have the judge sitting in the courthouse, but without lawyers to represent the clients, nothing is going to happen, or very little. They make the whole system work."

Towns struggling with money issues need to hire lawyers from other towns to participate in commission and board meetings. They are also hired to work as court-appointed defenders and prosecutors.

The past president of the American Bar Association, Jim Silkenat, said that South Dakota has “led the way” in attracting attorneys to rural areas. He also said that there are other states working to do the same.

Law school graduates in Nebraska will have their law school loans repaid if they commit to work three years in under-served towns in the state. This program will start in 2015. The Nebraska Bar Association will team with two law schools to provide summer clerkships at rural law firms.

The American Bar Association granted $15,000 to the Legal Aid of Arkansas to help fund fellowships for brand new lawyers who practice in rural areas for at least one year.

"One of the big things, honestly, that my wife and I thought about is losing some of the culture, losing some of the entertainment, and things like that," Fischer said. "But the Internet has opened up so much stuff that you can get whatever you want. You can access music and movies and all that stuff. We all have the same resources."


12-21-2014


A Manhattan lawyer has been charged in a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme and it all comes from a failed suicide attempt, according to The New York Daily News.

On November 3, Charles Bennett jumped into the Hudson River. He was rescued by a SCUBA diver from the NYPD and transported to a hospital.

What made matters worse for Bennett was that he left a suicide note in a West Side hotel that totaled 16 pages. It was recovered by police officers as part of the investigation.

The suicide letter was titled, “A Sad Ending to My Life.”

The letter stated the following:

“I have systematically over the course of five years or so perpetrated a huge Ponzi scheme envelloping[SIC] my family and closest friends.”

“I managed to completely squander the hard earned money that my family and dear friends managed to set aside over the course of their working lives. To be clear about this: the whole . . . investment scheme that so many thought was real was in fact a complete and [SIC]fiction of my crazed imagination.”

He reportedly told investors that they were seeing amazing returns and even paid some of their “dividends.” But, it turned out that, “It was all an illusion — again not one trade was ever done. It was a Ponzi scheme pure and simple,” he wrote.

The suicide letter said that the money went “to pay off other supposed ‘investors’ and my absurd lifestyle.”

Following an investigation, it was discovered that Bennett was actually telling the truth in the letter. He has been charged with stealing $5 million from 30 clients since 2008.

A complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission said he used the investors’ cash for himself. He made large withdrawals while taking vacations and staying in luxurious hotels.

He would lure investors by falsely claiming that former governor Eliot Spitzer was an investor. Bennett used to work with Spitzer’s now ex-wife, Silda Wall, at Skadden Arps.

Spitzer said Bennett “should be prosecuted aggressively.” He also described the scam as “a horrific act by someone who pretended to have a relationship that did not exist and who lured unwitting investors into a Ponzi scheme.”

On Friday night, Bennett was arraigned on securities fraud charges while still in his hospital room. The arraignment occurred over the phone.

Amy Lester, the prosecutor working the case, has asked to have Bennett held without bail because he is a flight risk.

He "already took a great risk — some might say the ultimate risk — to avoid prosecution for his crimes by attempting to commit suicide," Spencer said.

Julia Gatto is Bennett’s court-appointed lawyer. He claims he does not have enough money to pay for his own counsel.

Gatto requested that Bennett be released on his own recognizance in order to get treatment for a host of ailments.

Magistrate judge Kevin Fox ordered Bennett to remain free until he leaves the hospital. If convicted, Bennett faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.


12-14-2014


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