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Folklaw 24 March 2006

Folklaw 24 March 2006

Naught but a scandal ragHot on the tail of law firm Irvin Mitchell’s “beautiful people contest” (Folklaw, 10 March 2006), Roll on Friday reports that UK “magic circle”…

Naught but a scandal rag

Hot on the tail of law firm Irvin Mitchell’s “beautiful people contest” (Folklaw, 10 March 2006), Roll on Friday reports that UK “magic circle” law firm Allen & Overy recently appointed a former Playboy model as an associate.

It seems the firm did not in fact know about the Canadian lady’s prior career as a nude model, justifying themselves by saying that her flesh work occurred “many years before she joined the firm”, and as far as A&O was concerned is “completely unconnected to her ability as a first class lawyer”.

Folklaw would dearly love to have documented the firm’s gain in the Lawyers Weekly appointments section, but unfortunately we were unable to obtain a picture of the lady that fit within our censorhip rating. We are told, however, that she can be found on Playboy’s 2002 “Girls of Canada” issue. Our sources for this are, of course, strictly confidential.

The US continues its litigious ways with even more cases involving people spilling scalding coffee on themselves, burning themselves severely, then claiming tens of millions of dollars. Folklaw does admit at this point that quite often massive payouts given by courts, and subsequently sensationalised in the news, are brought down considerably on appeal. However, the fact remains that lawsuits can proceed on a far wider basis than in Australia.

Ever since the celebrity hot coffee case brought against McDonalds that netted the plaintiff US$2.9 million, the whole hot coffee litigation avenue has not only taken off in courtrooms but has become a popular culture icon for over-litigation, appearing as core stories in Seinfeld and The Simpsons.

Recently, Burger King settled for an undisclosed amount (for the sake of drama we shall assume millions) in yet another coffee bean-related lawsuit. Folklaw really must ask at this point, why on earth don’t staff just tell people the coffee is hot?

Overused titles 101: Sex and the City

The conservatives’ war against brothels continues unabated in the face of figures that suggest conservatives rank as among the greatest connoisseurs of the ancient profession. According to Penny Crofts, senior lecturer in criminal law and criminology at the University of Technology in Sydney, the same hypocrisy reigns in the regulation of brothels — a decade after they were legalised and given the mantle of “legitimate businesses”.

Crofts says that due to complex and arcane regulatory processes at (how surprisingly) a local government level, it is now the case that “local councils are effectively the primary regulators of the industry”. Apparently, judges of the Land and Environment Court are increasingly conflicted between the stigma of “moral contamination” associated with ladies in red and the actual legal framework in place for brothels.

Folklaw would never dream of telling judges how to do their job, but we can’t help but think that the easiest way out of this predicament is for them to simply apply the law and stop thinking with their gavels.

Stockbrokers earn lots of money!

It seems that stockbrokers have finally reached breaking point. Overlawyered reports that class action lawsuits have been levied against some of the top brokerage firms in New York amid accusations that labour laws have been circumvented. How has this gross misdeed been perpetrated on our hapless stockbrokers? Apparently, it was only a matter of overtime. It is claimed, although they earn incredibly large amounts every year, and are employed (as are most other permanent workers) on annual salaries, that they should actually be classified as “hourly employees”.

Folklaw can see their point. After all, if you’re earning your firm billions of dollars a year then surely you should be entitled to overtime. As well as commissions on those billions of dollars worth of deals, free cars, concierge services, apartments, champagne and more money.

Blood - thicker than water, thinner than hard cash

Newspapers (especially in the ever-litigious USA), constantly brim with news of gargantuan lawsuit settlements. Folklaw also notes that newspapers over there brim with news of comically long prison sentences that make a mockery of some fundamental tenets of a judicial system. But we digress — back to the settlements. What we don’t hear much about is what happens to the luminous amounts of money afterwards. There are only so many Erin Brokoviches in the world, after all.

Usually, a trust fund is established when the plaintiff gets a monetary windfall. However, the problem lies with family members or appointed guardians, who are meant to ensure that the injured person is looked after. In New Jersey, family members can apparently be quite devious. In an “extremely sad case”, according to the presiding judge, a woman was sentenced to seven years in prison for ransacking her cerebral palsied daughter’s special-needs trust to the tune of nearly US$2.8 million. Over an eight year period, the admitted drug addict bought a Porsche, kept her heroin and cocaine habit running at full tilt and comprehensively failed to take care of her disabled daughter.

In retrospect, Folklaw acknowledges that this story isn’t entirely funny per so, but suggests that you if focus on the multitudinous inconsistencies and oddities of the American judicial system as the main point of the story, humour can easily be found.

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