Around the Blawgosphere: NOLA Lawyer Remembers Katrina; On Not Seeking 'Fun' with Law Enforcement

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‘Katrina Was one of the Best Experiences I Ever Had’

New Orleans solo Ernest Svenson, who was practicing in the city when Hurricane Katrina hit six years ago (and who tweeted Hurricane Gustav in 2008) wrote at Ernie the Attorney that “Katrina was one of the best experiences I ever had” because of what he learned from the experience.

His takeaway lessons:

• In a tragedy like Katrina (or the recent Hurricane Irene) fear and gossip are worthless; just as they are in not-tragic times.

• Clarity, unfortunately, is easier to come by while enduring a tragedy.

• Clarity and helping others are the most important things in life.

A Rule to Live By

“Ken” at Popehat noted that a rancher has announced that he’s suing actor Steven Seagal (see the third item in this Mercury News column) over a raid of his ranch he conducted along with members of the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Department for an episode of Steven Seagal: Lawman. Jesus Sanchez Llovera was suspected of cockfighting crimes, but he says in his suit that the 100 roosters he keeps “for show” as well as his puppy were killed in the raid, which was conducted with a tank and a Tactical Operations Unit in full riot gear.

Ken says police officers should have applied his personal “Holy Shit!” rule and had the sense to say “no” to Seagal’s film crew. He writes of how he developed this rule as a 26-year-old federal prosecutor who was invited to don a raid jacket and run a command center as a search warrant was executed on a ranch by helicopter. “A helicopter raid! A raid jacket! A COMMAND CENTER! They’ll probably give me a gun. You know, in case any shit goes down.”

He ran the scenario by the U.S. Attorney, who he said told him: “Ken, if your reaction to a proposal is ‘HOLY SHIT, THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN,’ then as a government lawyer and member of law enforcement, you almost certainly shouldn’t be doing it.”

Ken says the rule kept him avoid some bad decisions, and that other law enforcement officers should follow it to avoid doing “things that will shatter the constitutional rights of citizens, things that will expose them to vast liability, things that will threaten innocents with death—while under the influence of toys, cameras, celebrities, and tactical plans that wouldn’t make the table read in an A-Team sequel.”

Pooping on Groupon

At My Shingle, Washington, D.C., solo Carolyn Elefant notes that while daily deal website Groupon is going through a rough patch, its means of fee-splitting with lawyers who offer Groupons won approval from the North Carolina and South Carolina state bar associations. Groupon keeps half of the proceeds of the Groupon (which might be $100 for $200 worth of legal work) while the lawyer keeps the other half.

Elefant asserts that a Groupon is a bad strategy for a lawyer trying to bring in new business and repeat business. A client using a Groupon for after one visit is going to want future services at the same discounted rate, Elefant says. Also lawyers in some jurisdictions can’t benefit from those who buy the Groupon (giving the lawyer a hypothetical $50) but never request services, because they would be ethically obligated to put that $50 in their lawyer’s trust account and disburse it only after they earn it.

Will Judge ‘Notice’ That You’re Gone?

As many vacations wrap up for the year, South Florida Lawyers links to a recently filed notice of availability order and comes out against the practice of using them. He notes an 2010 order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Brown that points out “that these filings have no legal significance.” He also doesn’t see the point of bothering a judge with a filing to the tune of: “I just wanted you to know my personal comings and goings because there exists a remote possibility that this incredible confluence of events could somehow come together over the next thirty days and thereby create a personal problem for me.”

In June, Seattle lawyer Karen Koehler also thought filing these notices was a pointless exercise. “Will a court get mad at you for not responding to a motion that you didn’t get because you were out of town? Actually had best friend file a notice of unavailability when she was on pregnancy leave, and the other attorney still hauled her into court. A jerk will be a jerk. Paper or no paper.”

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