Folklaw 9 September

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

Tools of the tradeA 23 year-old woman from Liverpool with a history of setting fire to random vehicles has been granted the right to carry matches and cigarette lighters after her lawyer argued…

Tools of the trade

A 23 year-old woman from Liverpool with a history of setting fire to random vehicles has been granted the right to carry matches and cigarette lighters after her lawyer argued that to ban her from doing so would breach her human rights. Mary Dalziel was convicted of arson recently after dousing two cars in paint stripper and setting them alight. Prosecutors had sought to prevent Dalziel from carrying the tools to start a fire, but her solicitor said this would abuse her rights as a smoker.

So, if you happen to be in Liverpool and find your car a smoking wreck, be consoled by the fact that Dalziel has no difficulty lighting up a ciggie whenever she wants one. She was, however, banned from carrying accelerants and given a 7pm curfew. And that’s not an abuse of rights?


Students outsmart system

Thirteen Pennsylvania high school students who were charged with felonies for hacking into their school-issued laptops have been let off with community service. The charges were laid after the Kutztown school district issued laptops to 600 students, and installed administrative software to prevent students from accessing inappropriate sites and instant messaging while also monitoring how they were using the computers. However, the password was pasted to the back of each of the laptops, and smart cookies that they are, the students figured it out.

The district laid charges after repeated detentions and other punishments failed to prevent the students from utilising their new-found access. American website All Headline News reported that the Berks County juvenile probation office offered to drop all charges if the students completed 15 hours of community service, a letter of apology, a class on personal responsibility and a few months of probation. Attorney William Bispels, who represented almost half of the accused students said the probation department realised the case was “small potatoes”.

Held to ransom

An attorney has been ordered to return a client’s passport after telling her it would be held until the attorney’s fees were paid. Mark Fass reported in the New York Law Journal on August 23 that Civil Court Judge Philip S. Straniere likened the attorney’s action to holding the client hostage.

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“[T]here are numerous enforcement mechanisms present in the CPLR, available to the claimant, which do not make the defendant a ‘prisoner’ in the United States unable to return to her native country,” Straniere wrote. “Claimant is in effect making the defendant an ‘indentured servant.’” The attorney, whose name has not been released, initially held the passport of her Sri Lankan client Chandrani Goonewardene and her son during a custody proceeding, under the instruction of Judge Ralph J. Porzio to ensure their attendance. When fees of more than US$6,000 were outstanding, the attorney refused to return the documents. Straniere wrote that allowing an attorney to hold a passport as security for legal fees was “patently unfair” and allowed “an individual to act as the equivalent of a government and restrict the movements of the foreign citizen”.

The attorney obviously didn’t hold by the adage that her clients are God.

Led to their door

I think our friends in South America are starting to rival our Romanian favourites in the amount of space they receive in Folklaw. This week we have the tale of three robbers in Argentina who were arrested after taking pictures of themselves with a mobile phone they had stolen. Unbeknownst to the thieves, who also stole 20 tonnes of fertiliser, every picture taken by the camera was automatically uploaded to a personal web site. Police were able to analyse the pictures and identify the culprits. A police spokesperson said the robbers had taken so many pictures it had been very easy to identify them and called it the easiest arrest ever.

You have to laugh

Corrs Chambers Westgarth partner Matthew Seymour wrote up a piece for the Lawyers Weekly deals column, a blander version of which is in this issue. However, we at Folklaw thought Seymour’s take on the deal was worth publishing. “The logistics of settlement were interesting: five parties, 15 people, an 11 page settlement checklist, over 60 documents (plus counterparts) and five hours to complete,” he wrote. Seymour also revealed that David Walker claimed the dubious honour of working for three different law firms over the duration of the deal — his previous employer, as a sole practitioner for a brief period and then with current employer Holding Redlich.

“The deal nearly collapsed at least twice, but both vendor and purchaser seemed to be experts at deal CPR milliseconds before the flat line,” Seymour wrote, before adding a warning at the end of his email. “If you are ever asked to act in the sale or purchase of the IMAX Theatre, do not be deceived by the apparent simplicity of assigning a head lease — your fee quote should be about 10 times your wildest estimate.”

In a moment of seriousness, he said that he wanted full credit to go to the other lawyers on the transaction, including Walker, because if it wasn’t for them being easy to deal with, the process would have been an utter chore.

Folklaw 9 September
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