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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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As if things weren't bad enough for one of the nation's largest banking conglomerates, Citigroup, Inc. and its mortgage bond investors were just hit with a massive lawsuit from many of its investors. Those investors include both Charles Schwab Corporation and Cambridge Place Investment Management.

The lawsuit revolves around the bank's processes used in underwriting, and claims in part that ''actionable misstatements or omissions in connection with the issuance and underwriting of residential securities...'' occurred. The suit demands Citigroup repay all invested monies along with various damages.

This, while major, isn't the only bank that's being hit by big lawsuits. Many are being warned to repay their investors ''or else''. Charles Schwab isn't lashing its legal powers only on Citibank, either. It's seeking to recoup nearly $1.4 billion from more than 36 mortgage companies or banks.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claims:
  • Citibank lied about the risks of ''tens of thousands'' of subprime loans
  • The loan originators ''departed extensively'' from their underwriting guidelines
  • The subprime loans were misstated to both Citibank and Cambridge Place.
The problem, of course, is due to the major mortgage meltdown in late 2007 and 2008. Beginning with Bear Stearn and eventually affecting nearly every mortgage company in the nation, they began falling like dominoes. Part of the problem has to do with stated subprime loans,which allowed folks to qualify for 100% loan to value (LTV) with low credit ratings. Some lenders accepted these 100% LTV loans with the credit scores of the applicants below 550. Further, these would-be homeowners were allowed to ''state'' certain information on their loan applications, including their income, time on the job and even their bank balances. This meant too many Americans found themselves in too deep once the mortgage payments were due. Some were fortunate enough to have been in their homes for a few years and could refinance using what little equity they had accrued to ensure a lower loan amount, thereby lowering their monthly payments. This was more the exception than the rule, however.

In a brief press release on Friday, Citibank said its lawyers were in the preliminary stages of reviewing the lawsuit and that it was not yet prepared to estimate potential losses. Despite the lawsuit, the bank's shares rose 3% at the opening bell on Friday.




11-06-2010


As closely as the elections were watched this year; each with his or her own hopes of how it would ultimately turn out
for their respective parties, there was also another closely watched measure.

This one, known as ''Prop. 19'', decided whether or not Californians would be allowed to grow, possess, and use up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes. It turns out that Prop. 19 is a no-go. Not surprising to many, the bill was supported by those youngest of voters, San Francisco, the NAACP and some police chiefs. Others, however, and likely the groups that had the big numbers, wanted no part of seeing pot being possessed or smoked in public. They included both the feds and some California law enforcement agencies. In fact, so strong was the collective federal law enforcement community's dislike of the possibility, it said it would continue to enforce anti drug laws, regardless of the outcome.

Had the bill passed, local governments would have then been allowed to approve and/or regulate pot growing operations and any subsequent sales. It would have also meant California would have been the first state to legalize pot. Those who supported Prop 19 say it would have meant a rich source of tax revenue and could have reduced crime related to marijuana.

The warnings issued by those who did not support the measure say they can rest easy now knowing that ''legal chaos'' and ''pot smokers who get behind the wheel and show up to work while high'' are no longer a consideration, at least, from a legal/illegal activity stance.

The bill was defeated by nine percentage points. Some who supported the bill were so confident that they showed up at polls, along with their joints and lighters, to celebrate the occasion. Turns out, they were celebrating an issue a bit too early - and unnecessarily. They now blame older voters who participate in midterm elections for defeating the measure. They also, albeit hesitantly, agree the younger voters did not turn out in the numbers they'd hoped to see. The California director for the Drug Policy Project, Stephen Gutwillig, says the moment was historic nonetheless and he remains confident that the measure will land again on the ballets in 2012.

Those conservatives have spoken too. In fact, they have a lot to say, including the fact they ''went pretty hard on the Democratic side'' and that if supporters believe another measure will pass in two years, ''they must be smoking something''. Indeed they are.


11-05-2010


For many of us, there's nothing sweeter than reminiscing about those
carefree days of childhood. Filled with such incredible memories of
learning to swim, riding our bikes and of course, the abundance of
life's lessons most of us learned during that first decade of life.

Justice Paul Wooten, a Manhattan judge, announced yesterday in a rather
stunning decision, that a four year old girl may be sued for negligence
in the injury and ultimate death of an 87 year old woman. It's tragic,
no doubt; but negligent? A four year old? Seriously? Turns out, His
Honor absolutely believes the little girl can be sued because there was
''no evidence that the girl lacked intelligence, maturity and nothing to
indicate that another child of similar age and capacity under the
circumstances could not have reasonably appreciated the danger of riding
a bicycle into an elderly woman''. But wait. There's more. The
mother, who was with her daughter when the accident occurred, should
not be held liable and the ruling stated further, ''a parent's presence
alone does not give a reasonable carte blanche to engage in risky
behavior such as running across a street''.



This, of course, begs the question, what about the parents who are held
liable when their teens wreck the family car, break into the neighbor's
home, get locked up for loitering and the twelve million other brouhahas
teens find themselves in? Don't we, as Americans, hold parents
accountable?



The judge ruled that there was no evidence to believe she (the four year
old) lacked maturity and intelligence. This absolutely baffles the
mind. Two questions would have provided all the evidence the judge
could have possibly needed. Ask this child to define ''intelligence''.
Question two, ask her if she does her own laundry and vacuums her own
bedroom. Those two questions would reveal that this child has neither
maturity or intelligence. She's not supposed to! It's likely she only
has been sleeping in a ''big girl bed'' and has probably just learned
her alphabet. As she grows, she likely will continue to develop and
mature, but she is a toddler. For an esteemed judge to make such a
disturbing ruling would be laughable were it not such a slap in the face
to the American justice system.



It's tragic the elderly woman passed away three weeks after the little
girl ran into her with her bicycle. Her family sued, which is what this
week's hearing focused on.



Bottom line is the judge made a bad call and his decision will have
repercussions for many years. A golden opportunity was missed that
could have taught this child a lesson and that accidents indeed happen.
This child must now shoulder not only the guilt she will likely feel
about the death of the woman (It's not been determined if hers and the
little's girls run in was related to her death), but now, she'll be
stuck with the label of likely being the youngest American deemed mature
enough to sue. What's next? The neighbor suing when little Billy
picks flowers from her flower bed to present to his mother?



The case, now allowed to move forward, will likely be heard in early 2011.


11-01-2010


If you have enjoyed the file sharing courtesy of LimeWire over the past several years, you're about to discover those days of illegal juicing are over.  U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood lowered the boom on LimeWire and some say it’s not a moment too soon.

Lawsuits that attempted to shut the massive site down date back to 2003,
which has many asking why it took so long. One large group that
included Sony BMG, Virgin Records and Warner Brothers Records, come
together to file a joint suit in the summer of 2006 against the P2P
firm. It asked for compensatory and punitive damages to the tune of
$150,000 for each song that was distributed illegally. The lawyers for
the recording companies said, at the time, that LimeWire was ''devoted
essentially to the internet piracy of plaintiffs' sound recordings''.
He went on to call the damage ''staggering''.

Napster, another
download site that at one time felt the wrath of uncompensated musical
artists, had completely redesigned its business model and went on to
become a favorite for those looking for the biggest hits from their
favorite artists or the classics from the 1940s. The company now
charges anywhere from 99 cents to more than $1.40 per download.
LimeWire somehow managed to bypass a court order to change its
practices.

Now, and after four years, the company was ordered
shut down until and unless it undergoes a massive redesign and stops the
free file sharing that includes the work of other artists.

A
message on the now empty site reads, in part, ''This is an official
notice that LimeWire is under a court ordered injunction to stop
distributing and supporting its file-sharing software''. No definitive
word yet, but one employee told the media it would begin to consider
other ways to launch services that will no longer be free but that will
address the court order while maintaining compliance with the national
copyright laws.

Over the years, LimeWire downloaders have run
into a host of problems, including downloading what they believed was
their favorite song, only to realize it was a virus that caused untold
headaches and damages to the users networks. Some say it was karma,
others say it was illegal. That point is moot, of course, since the
concept in its totality was ruled illegal.

In recent years, other
P2P sites, including Kazaa, were ordered to pay monetary damages to the
music industry. In 2006, Kazaa was hit with more than $115 million in
fines. Most of these companies went out of business; somehow, though,
LimeWire managed to stay under the radar. The Recording Industry
Association of America has made comments such as ''While other services
have come productively to the table, LimeWire has sat back and continued
to reap profits on the backs of the music community''.

This most recent judgment, however, just might be the fatal blow to its current model.


10-28-2010



The First Amendment is being invoked in the construction of a Tennessee mosque that was burned down by arsonists in August.


    In July, the mosque belonging to the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, set in the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was under attack by hundreds of opponents who staged a march condemning the place of worship. Opponents carried signs reading, among them, ''MOSQUE LEADERS SUPPORT KILLING CONVERTS.''

Tennessee's Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was open with his criticism of the mosque. In a speech given this August, Ramsey's extremist comments regarding Islam were as follows: ''You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion,'' Ramsey said. ''Or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult, whatever you want to call it.''

The United States Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief, responding to a lawsuit filed by landowners in Rutherford County. The Justice Department ruled that practicing Islam is a protected right, granted under the First Amendment.

The federal government warned locals protesting the project that they may be committing a crime by disputing the mosque. The government's court filings stated that, ''Every court has treated Islam as a religion for purposes of the First Amendment and other federal laws. No court has held otherwise.''

The assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas E. Perez, stated the following:

    ''A Mosque is quite plainly a place of worship, and the county rightly recognized that it had an obligation to treat mosques the same as churches, synagogues, or any other religious assemblies. This is not only common sense, it is required by federal law. The Justice Department is committed to protecting rights of Americans of all faiths to build places of worship and to worship in peace.''

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro bought 15 acres on which they've planned to build a 10,000-square foot center. Included in the center will be a worship house, a school, a gym and a swimming pool.

This is far from the first time the Department of Justice has had to intervene in disputes of this nature. In fact, since 2001, the department has opened 51 investigations into similar matters, filed seven lawsuits, and participated in 40 privately filed suits.

The DOJ's court filings state that ''[Islam] falls plainly within the understanding of a religion for constitutional and other federal legal purposes.''


10-21-2010


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