News Roundup

Afternoon Briefs: Judge orders Michael Avenatti's release; ATL founder David Lat stresses importance of ventilators

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Michael Avenatti

Michael Avenatti in May 2018. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Judge orders release of Michael Avenatti because of COVID-19 outbreak

Michael Avenatti, the former lawyer of adult film actress Stormy Daniels, will be released from jail for 90 days because of the COVID-19 outbreak. U.S. District Judge James Selna ordered the lawyer’s release $1 million bond Friday. Avenatti has been convicted for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike in exchange for keeping quiet about its payments to young athletes. He faces separate trials on allegations that he stole from Daniels and from other clients. A State Bar of California review court ordered Avenatti’s interim suspension Friday based on the Nike conviction, pending final disposition of the ethics case. (Law360, NBC News, Courthouse News Service, state bar court order)

ATL founder: ‘I would not be here today without a ventilator’

Above the Law founder and legal recruiter David Lat said it is “an outrage and an embarrassment” that a nation as wealthy of the United States is facing possible ventilator shortages. In a Washington Post op-ed, Lat talked about the six days that he spent on a ventilator in a New York hospital. “I would not be here today without a ventilator,” Lat wrote. Still, he is facing a slow recovery as his lungs rebuild capacity. He is breathless from even mild exertion, and he has to take breaks to sit on a plastic stool during showers. (The Washington Post)

Governor commutes sentences of 452 inmates

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has commuted the sentences of 452 inmates in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading behind bars. Most of the inmates are in prison for drug crimes, and most will see their sentences commuted to time served. (Courthouse News Service, the Tulsa World, Stitt’s announcement)

Judge blocks crime-fighting surveillance planes

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett of Maryland has temporarily banned the city of Baltimore from using planes to collect photographs in a new crime-fighting program. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Maryland are challenging the constitutionality of the surveillance program in a suit filed on behalf of a think tank and two community activists. The suit claims violations of the right to be free from unreasonable searches and to freely associate with others. Baltimore wants to use the planes for a six-month trial period. (The New York Times, ACLU press release and lawsuit, Bennett’s decision)

3 name partners leave Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht

Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht continues to shrink amid a legal fight between the firm and former partner Don Lewis, who says he was fired after confronting managing partner John Pierce about alleged financial misconduct. The number of lawyers at Pierce Bainbridge has dwindled from about 70 in mid-2019 to about 20 today. Among the latest to leave are name partners David Hecht, Carolynn Beck and Maxim Price. Pierce is on leave. (, Law360)

Suit challenges governor’s order barring no-fee bonds

A lawsuit filed last week alleges that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott exceeded his authority when he issued an order barring judges from granting no-fee bonds to some arrestees. The suit was filed by 16 Houston judges, three criminal defense groups and the NAACP of Texas. Abbott’s order bars personal bonds for people arrested for crimes involving physical violence or the threat of violence and for arrestees previously convicted for such offenses. The order also suspends limits on how long people can be held before trial. The suit argues that only the legislature has the power to suspend elements of the code of criminal procedure. (Courthouse News Service via the Marshall Project, ACLU of Texas press release, the lawsuit)

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