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Bar News - May 18, 2007

Notes from a Messy Desk


                                                              Eye on the Police

A Rochester man, after he was arrested on suspicion of DWI last month, faces additional charges when police discovered an audio recording device that was on during the questioning. He is charged with illegal wiretapping.


The case echoes a case resolved last year, when Nashua police dropped wiretapping charges against a Nashua man whose questioning by a detective was videotaped (with sound) by his home video security system. The case generated worldwide comment, and the charges were dropped about a month later on the advice the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office.

Eye on the Police, II


A Vermont judge recently ruled that a police officer’s attempt to entrap a lawyer on an obstruction of justice charge was unwarranted. Vermont District Court Judge Karen Carroll said police did not have enough evidence to justify another judge’s approval of the sting attempt. The police officer called attorney Eileen Hongisto, of Springfield, Vt., who was representing a defendant in a domestic violence case, and posed as a potential witness (adverse to the defendant) in the case. The undercover officer asked the attorney whether he should testify. The attorney told the caller that she was not his lawyer and that if he was subpoenaed, the “witness” would have to go to court.


Prosecutors have not indicated if they will contest the April 28 decision. The police had said they pursued Hongisto because the case had been plagued by witness problems, and conversations between the defendant and his mother indicated that he had been advised by his attorney that if witnesses did not testify, the charges would probably be dropped.


The attorney said the incident had a chilling effect: “You wouldn’t be able to give accurate and sound legal advice to your client,” she said. “If you are not allowed to discuss those options with your clients, how can they make informed and voluntary decisions?”


Bill Auditors Assault Privilege


Increasingly, independent auditors facing increased scrutiny from the SEC—and therefore more exposure to liability—are seeking information and work product from companies that are protected by attorney-client privilege. “In fact, some independent auditors have insisted that providing privileged materials will function as either a condition of engagement or as a requirement for completion of financial statement audits and reviews,” says Marty Steinberg, a partner in the Litigation Department at the Miami-based Hunton & Williams firm, which recently presented on this issue at the Fortune 100 Auditing Roundtable.


“Life is Short. Get a Divorce”


That’s the headline on a billboard posted recently in Chicago. The ad copy was bookended by pictures of attractive male and female bodies and the contact information for a Chicago law firm. Someone with political connections had it quickly removed, citing problem permits. The lawyers who put it up are upset and are threatening litigation. They were happy with the business it was bringing in. All true. Sorry, no punchline.





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