Archive for March 2007

Brady’s Lawyers File King’s Bench Petition

March 30, 2007

There’s never been any doubt that the state Supreme Court would ultimately need to sort out the Tom Knox-funded Bob Brady ballot challenge morass.

Now, Brady’s Cozen O’Connor lawyers have officially asked the justices for permission to bypass Commonwealth Court review of the Knox camp’s appeal of the trial court decision in favor of Brady, the U.S. representative and longtime city Democratic Party chief.

On Tuesday, Luzerne County Senior Judge Patrick J. Toole Jr. — an out-of-town judge brought in to preside over the matter because of Brady’s ties to past judicial elections in Philadelphia — ruled that Brady’s omission on financial disclosure forms of his alleged ties to city and carpenters’ union pension funds wasn’t enough to warrant kicking him off the ballot.

Toole had ruled that the city pension was governmentally mandated and did not have to be reported, but that the carpenters’ union pension was income and should have been reported.

Toole said that error was not fatal, however, and that an amendment to the forms would cure the problem.

The next day, Knox’s lawyers at Spector Gadon & Rosen filed appeal papers.

In their King’s Bench brief, Brady’s lawyers ask the high court to assume jurisdiction over the appeal immediately “so that it may render a decision in time to allow [Brady] as much time as possible to pursue his campaign free of the cloud of these proceedings.”

The appeal is expected to present the justices an opportunity to lay down precedent concerning the exact definition of “direct and indirect sources of income” in the context of state office candidate financial disclosure statements.

–Asher Hawkins, Staff Reporter

Diversity Conference Continued…

March 30, 2007

In Friday’s Legal, I wrote about a diversity conference held at Wolf Block that looked at, among other things, the problems minority associates face in large law firms and helpful hints from minority partners about how to make it in those same firms.

There were several great anecdotes from associates and many useful suggestions from the partners that I couldn’t fit into the article. Some of those stories are below.

One associate said she expected her firm to disappoint her and was usually pleasantly surprised.

A Cuban-American associate at the roundtable said she gets questions from attorneys asking things like “I’m going to the Dominican Republic. Do you have any advice?” Her general response, she said, is “I’m not Dominican, so no.”

That same associate was playing softball as a summer associate against a team of partners. After a successful double play on her part, the hiring partner said something to the effect of “I should have known you’d be good at baseball, you’re Cuban.”

When joining her first firm, one black associate said she didn’t know where the “landmines” were and who to ask about them. She had to call old attorneys at the firm who had been through her department and had since left in order to find a mentor who could guide her through the firm.

One Asian associate who had been working on a certain floor in his office for a few months had built up a rapport with one of the support staff. He was surprised to hear her say that she had thought he was an IT person the whole time.

Another black associate went to talk to the firm president after she was disappointed by the outcome of diversity training at the firm. She felt she had some really good ideas and was getting through to her boss. She was quickly taken aback when he said “we want you to succeed here because if you don’t, we can’t hire others like you.”

One associate said there is a larger burden on minority associates because they are expected to bill the same amount of hours, represent their ethnic or racial community on the firm’s behalf and educate the firm about how to “deal with your kind.”

Kevin Hexstall of Rawle & Henderson said one of his mentors suggested that he make himself known to more than just the few partners he worked with on a regular basis. If 10 partners are going to vote on whether you should join their ranks and you don’t know three of them, Hexstall said you should invite those three to lunch.

John Nixon of Wolf Block focuses his practice on ERISA work. He said it is important for attorneys who specialize in one area to be flexible enough to take on other opportunities when they are presented. Nixon spoke of the power of your rolodex. Fellow panel member Michael Pratt of Pepper Hamilton would send Nixon litigation work when Pratt was in-house at Honeywell. While it wasn’t ERISA work, Nixon said that connection led to some lucrative work that he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t known Pratt.

“If the only work I got was ERISA [work], there would be a cap on my value,” he said. “Success is about contacts and relationships.”

Moderator Bernard Lee said there are finders who find the work, minders who make sure it gets done and grinders who actually do the work.

“Unless you start out as a grinder, you’ll never be partner,” he said.

Hexstall said it is important to feel comfortable telling your mentor about their craft and proving you understand it. He said he told a partner when he felt comfortable taking a case to trial, they trusted him, and the client ended up winning.

He said people who are partners are successful, confident and aggressive people and associates shouldn’t be afraid to be the same when dealing with them.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Knox Wastes No Time on Appeal

March 28, 2007

Attorneys for Tom Knox, the mayoral candidate who led the charge to knock U.S. Rep. Bob Brady off the May 15 primary ballot, have filed an appeal of the ruling that upheld Brady’s ballot position.

Knox’s attorney, Paul Rosen of Spector Gadon & Rosen, didn’t let the fact that he is currently vacationing in the Caribbean delay the filing of an appeal in In re Nominating Petition of Robert A. Brady. The appeal was received by the prothonotary’s office shortly after noon today.

Both Rosen and Brady’s attorney, Stephen A. Cozen of Cozen O’Connor, have predicted the case would ultimately be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Luzerne County Senior Judge Patrick J. Toole Jr. ruled yesterday that Brady’s failure to mention his city and carpenters’ union pensions on financial disclosure forms was not enough to kick him off of the ballot.

The judge said Brady did not have to mention his city pension because it was a governmentally mandated benefit, which the disclosure forms preclude from entry. Toole did say that Brady should have mentioned his carpenters’ union pension, but said it was not a “fatal error” that should knock Brady off the ballot.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Workers’ Comp Firm Moves Into Social Security Work

March 26, 2007

Martin Banks Pond Lehocky & Wilson — which until now had limited its practice exclusively to Pennsylvania workers‘ compensation cases — has formed a Social Security disability group.

Two of the firm’s associates, J. Paige Frampton and Thomas J. Giordano Jr., will focus entirely on Social Security disability cases. Giordano will head the group.

Both attorneys are in the firm’s Philadelphia office.

Name partner Samuel H. Pond said the 15-attorney firm had been reluctant to stray at all from the firm’s workers‘ comp focus, though it had seen the opportunity for years.

But he said the practice was a natural extension of the firm’s work since many injured workers need help obtaining Social Security disability.

“Our referral base has been asking for it and our clients have been asking for it,” Pond said.
 
He said the firm had a lot of labor connections that would immediately provide work for the group.

Pond said he did see the firm adding attorneys to the practice area in “short period of time.” But he said for now, the firm’s focus was establishing the practice.
 
-– Stephanie Lovett, Staff Reporter

Local Firms Adding Laterals in Out-of-Town Offices

March 15, 2007

Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll added a partner to its environmental group in the Phoenix office this week. David J. Armstrong joined the firm from Phoenix-based Gallagher & Kennedy where he was a shareholder. He counsels industrial, manufacturing and commercial clients on a variety of environmental issues.

Armstrong isn’t unfamiliar with Ballard Spahr. He worked as an associate in the firm’s Philadelphia office from 1992 to 1996 before relocating to Phoenix. Ballard Spahr didn’t have a Phoenix office until the summer of 2006. 

Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Flaster Greenberg added Eric C. Garrabrant as a shareholder in its Egg Harbor Township office. His practice focuses on construction and real estate litigation, land use and planning law and he represents buyers and sellers in commercial real estate transactions. 

Garrabrant was a solo practitioner in Wildwood, N.J. prior to joining the firm. He is currently the municipal prosecutor and conflict counsel for Wildwood. 

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Citywide Recusals – Good or Bad?

March 14, 2007

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court President Judge C. Darnell Jones’ decision to remove the city’s judges from two political hot potato cases in the last week has certainly gotten people’s attention.

First he asked for an outside judge to hear arguments regarding a challenge to plans to build casinos in Fishtown and South Philadelphia. Then yesterday he requested an outside judge to hear the legal challenge to city Democratic Party chief Bob Brady’s mayoral bid.

I can’t remember ever seeing the city’s judges removed en masse from a local matter, let alone twice in the same week. The question I have for the legal community is: is it a good move or a bad one?

When I heard about Jones’ decision regarding the casino case, I thought it was a smart move on a number of fronts. Given the big impact and money involved in gambling, as well as some of the lawyers and power players attached to some of these projects, it would have been likely that any local judge assigned to the case would have potentially faced a request for recusal. When you factor in things like a judicial election year and the bad aftertaste still lingering from the pay raise fiasco, Jones’ move eliminated any potential appearance problems or controversies for the court or its judges.

Several people I spoke to following the casino case agreed with my view, although I know one or two people who thought it could create a problematic precedent. Their position could best be summed up as: “Is the court going to recuse itself every time it has a politically-tinged case?” The folks at Pennsylvanians for Moderns told me they thought Jones’ decision – because it acknowledged the public perception problems – was an indictment of judicial elections.

But now Jones has removed the city from another case, and all I can think about are the comments from those who worried about a precedent being set. According to reporter Asher Hawkins’ story in today’s Legal, one of the lawyers representing a group challenging Brady’s candidacy, Paul Rosen of Spector Gadon & Rosen, sent Jones a letter Monday calling attention to his decision in the gaming case.

It’s a given that as party chief Brady has had a hand in getting folks elected to the bench. But are the perception problems and/or potential conflicts as pronounced as in the gambling case? Or are they more so?

I informally posed that question to a number of lawyers today. Almost universally all of them said they thought Jones made the right call. Many said they thought it was even more appropriate – given Brady’s standing in Philadelphia – in the challenge to Brady than in the casino case.

But the question I have for the rest of the legal community is: what do you think? If you’ve got an opinion, let us know.

Regardless of whether you support Jones’ decisions or not, I think you have to admit that they represent a pretty honest and open acknowledgment of public perception problems – something I think courts are tone-deaf to at times.

–Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

Reed Smith Completes Acquisition of Dechert State Tax Team

March 13, 2007

Reed Smith continued the expansion of its state tax controversy practice with another addition from Dechert. 

The firm added Michael Jacobs as a partner in its Philadelphia office, where he joined his former Dechert colleagues Lee Zoeller, Kyle Solliw, David Kraus and Frank Gallo. The four attorney group moved over in late February and had said they expected to bring others along. 

In total, Reed Smith acquired 13 attorneys from Dechert, including eight associates. Two paralegals and five staff members also made the move to Reed Smith.

 The firm said it wanted to create a national state tax controversy practice, and now says it has the largest such practice in the country.Reed Smith added a group in California in 2005. 

“Mike’s election as our newest partner completes the transition of the entire Dechert state tax controversy practice and rounds out Reed Smith’s state tax controversy team,” Eugene Tillman, Reed Smith’s Director of Legal Personnel, said.  “We now offer our clients the highest quality, coast-to-coast, one-stop state tax controversy shop available for Fortune 500 companies.” 

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter