News Roundup

Afternoon Briefs: $26B opioid settlement proposed; lawyer resigns after he's accused of nude cleaning proposal

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Proposed $26B opioid settlement announced

A group of state attorneys general have announced a proposed $26 billion settlement between states and four companies that make and distribute opioids. Johnson & Johnson is among the companies that would be released from liability as result of the settlement, which requires it to stop selling opioids. The settlement will support state and local efforts to address the opioid crisis, said Michael Ullmann, Johnson & Johnson executive vice president, in a statement. (The New York Times, New York attorney general press release)

Lawyer accused of nude cleaning proposal resigns from bar

The Ohio Supreme Court has accepted the bar resignation of Wilmington, Ohio, lawyer Richard Lawrence Federle Jr. after an ethics complaint accused him of propositioning clients and would-be clients, mentioning the possibility of marriage, and using names for them such as “gorgeous” and “baby doll.” In one instance, Federle was accused of forcibly kissing a woman and offering to represent her for free if she cleaned his house in the nude. One Ohio Supreme Court justice dissented, arguing that accepting the resignation “keeps the public in the dark, silences the alleged victims, and divests this court of its jurisdiction to discipline Federle.” He noted that the ABA Journal had covered the ethics complaint, and the public is now left “with unanswered questions about an attorney who allegedly solicited sex from clients.” (The Legal Profession Blog, the Ohio Supreme Court’s July 15 opinion)

4 ex-Texas bar presidents seek discipline for state AG

A group called Lawyers Defending American Democracy has filed a complaint asking the State Bar of Texas to discipline Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for trying to file a lawsuit directly with the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge 2020 presidential election results in four other states. The Supreme Court rejected Paxton’s bid in December for lack of standing. Among those who signed the ethics complaint are four former presidents of the State Bar of Texas. The complaint alleges that the suit was frivolous. Texas bar authorities are already investigating Paxton for his failed effort to overturn the election based on a complaint by Democratic Party activist Kevin Moran. Paxton has argued that the probe unconstitutionally interferes with his decisions. (Lawyers Defending American Democracy press release and complaint, the Associated Press)

Houston judge resigns after misconduct accusations

A civil court judge in Houston, George Barnstone, has resigned after the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct received six complaints alleging misconduct. Among the allegations are that Barnstone showed bias toward certain litigants and attorneys, and that he used the prestige of the judicial office to advance his private interests. Details were not provided. In 2019, a Texas appeals court ruled that Barnstone violated the due process rights of a homeowner litigant when he asked the lawyers during a bench trial whether they could hurry up and then abruptly ruled for the litigant’s opponent. Barnstone’s lawyer, Cris Feldman, told Law360 and the Houston Chronicle that Barnstone resigned to avoid “the elongated and invasive process of fighting these targeted allegations from his various detractors.” Barnstone “took the high road and put the public interest and the judiciary first by voluntarily resigning,” Feldman said. (Law360, the Houston Chronicle)

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