This One MtGox Creditor Might Recover $61 Million Dollars – or Some Other Amount of Dollars or Possibly No Dollars

“You can open the champagne now.”

Joyful celebration lit up online groups for creditors of the bankrupt MtGox exchange on June 22, when a Japanese court decided to move the company into “civil rehabilitation,” a new legal process that promises to deliver a windfall of bitcoin for creditors.

It’s spectacular news for the 24,750 approved MtGox creditors, because based on today’s bitcoin value they will end up with more money that they actually had at the time MtGox went into bankruptcy. The original bankruptcy proceeding, by law, would have paid creditors just $483 per bitcoin—the value when MtGox went bankrupt in 2014. Under civil rehabilitation, they will receive bitcoins, which are now trading at around $6,000 each, plus their share of whatever cash remains in the MtGox estate. While they missed out on the peak price of almost $19,000 last December, this is still more moolah than they ever dreamed back in 2014.

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Do journalists deserve some blame for America’s mass shootings?

The reporter who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for feature writing initially thought she was in Charleston, South Carolina, to chronicle the lives of nine church-goers who died in 2015 when a stranger with a Glock murdered them while they were praying.

The names, mug shots and one paragraph each about the lives of those nine victims did make it into Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s story, “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof,” published in GQ in September 2017.

But the rest of her over 12,000-word story told the tale of their killer instead. Ghansah spared nothing in tracking down intimate details of the shooter’s life, coming from his childhood friends, elementary school principal, church minister, co-workers, teenage pals and more. The reporter went back to his birth, telling of the isolation of his school years as a low-income white boy, can’t-get-out-of-bed depression, rancid racism, incessant preparations for killing African-American parishioners and his death sentence for a federal hate crime conviction.

It’s an incredible work of journalism, but also an example of the type of mass shooting coverage that’s maddening to advocates who, for years, have tried to little avail to persuade the media to stop publishing the names and images of mass shooters.

This article first published in Quill Magazine in June. It’s available for reprints. Contact me for details.

Continue reading Do journalists deserve some blame for America’s mass shootings?

How the Justice System Severely Failed One of its Own

Part of the horror of what happened to Suzanne Wooten is the realization that if the justice system failed so miserably for her, it could happen to anyone.

Wooten lived a nightmare: Winning an election by a landslide to unseat an incumbent judge, only to be allegedly targeted by political rivals, wrongfully convicted of nine felonies, cast down from her district court bench and stripped of her license to practice law.

Finally after six years living the bad dream, Wooten this year found complete redemption in May when a court acquitted her of all charges, declared her actually innocent, and she got back her law license in June.

Some things, Wooten will never get back. She used to believe if she paid her taxes, followed the speed limit, refused to drink and drive, or followed election campaign laws, she would be safe and wouldn’t get in legal trouble.

“The biggest horror is taking away from me and my family the sense of security we have,” Wooten said. “When something like this happens to you, my sense of being safe even just walking down the street—it’s gone, it’s destroyed.”

Wrongful conviction stories always loom large in the public consciousness because of the deep-seated need to believe that the justice system will get it right—convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent. When things go terribly wrong, people struggle to find some reason, so that they won’t have to believe that a wrongful conviction could happen to them, too.

How did the system fail Suzanne Wooten?


PDF: How the Justice System Severely Failed One of its Own _ Texas Lawyer

Call Her the Constable of Cryptocurrency

Once upon a time there was a hero who took down the corrupt French Maid, who had manipulated and stolen from the Dread Pirate Roberts on The Silk Road.

It sounds like the plot line of a swashbuckler movie, but actually, it’s part of the tale of Kathryn Haun’s rise as a federal prosecutor who helped lay the groundwork for the government to capture cryptocurrency criminals.

Right now, the value of just one bitcoin is hovering around $5,000, leading to rampant media coverage, pushing digital currency lexicon into the mainstream. But wide adoption depends much on the safety and security of the new technology, which is often compared to the Wild West.

Haun, first as a federal prosecutor and now as a bespoke legal consultant for emerging technology companies, has contributed much to beefing up security in the industry. In the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, she was the first digital currency coordinator. She handled cases that taught prosecutors to work through challenges in convicting cryptocurrency criminals, and sent loud-and-clear messages to digital currency companies to increase financial safeguards.


PDF: Call Her the Constable of Cryptocurrency


Courts Prepare for Unaccompanied Minor Cases

This story originally published in Texas Lawyer on Feb. 12, 2015.

The “flood” of unaccompanied Central and South American children entering the U.S. last year has only trickled into Texas courts so far, although some experts are watching for a bigger rush further downstream.

Federal courts have jurisdiction over immigration, but state courts play a role in some unaccompanied minor cases. As the so-called surge of unaccompanied children dominated the headlines last summer, David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration, said he was afraid that state courts might get hit with thousands of cases at once.

“If that does happen, that will tax the system,” Slayton said, adding, “At this point, we are seeing them trickle into the system, and we believe if they continue in that fashion, we are probably able to handle it with existing judicial resources.”

But it’s possible that many cases haven’t made it to court yet, said 312th Family Court Judge David Farr of Houston. Six months after an unaccompanied child is relocated, the relative could file for conservatorship, he said. But Farr said he could imagine the scenario of an uncle who did not expect a nephew to come live with him, and who did not have money for an attorney.

“I might sit on that decision for a couple of years,” said Farr, adding, “At some point, they are going to hit a life jam, where they say, ‘I have to go to court.’”

In fiscal year 2014, the federal government apprehended 67,339 unaccompanied minors, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Some were sent home, but at least 51,705 were eligible for special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), which grants asylum for unaccompanied children from countries that don’t touch the U.S.

Federal law requires state courts to handle the first step in SIJS cases.

A state court must determine whether an unaccompanied minor was abused, abandoned or neglected at home and whether it’s in the child’s best interests not to go back, explained Dana Leigh Marks, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

“The state courts are the experts on juveniles and what is in the best interest of the child,” Marks said, adding, “When Congress made that law, they realized it’s the state courts that have the experience and expertise to make those determinations.”

Ground Zero

In fiscal year 2014, 7,409 unaccompanied minors were relocated with friends or family in Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. Texas courts would be responsible for handling those cases. Among them, 4,028 young immigrants relocated to Harris County.

Farr, the administrative judge for Harris County’s family courts, noted that one of the county’s three juvenile courts handles SIJS cases.
The courts have handled 167 independently filed SIJS cases since July 15, 2014, he said. But Farr noted that Harris County courts have probably handled more, because SIJS cases can arise within other child custody matters.

“It’s more than we saw before this time last year. Significantly more, probably,” said Farr. “I don’t think it’s as big as we thought that it was going to be. We sat around a table in spring last year ,and I think the judges’ reaction was: ‘Well, here it comes.’”

SIJS cases are not too time-intensive for a judge.

Farr said that legal aid groups often represent unaccompanied minors. Normally, there is no opposing counsel. Farr said that a judge must review filings and hold a 20-30-minute hearing to take testimony from the child and listen to his lawyer’s arguments. He said he would often rule from the bench and sign proposed findings that the child’s lawyer filed.

“The challenge in Harris County, of course, is anything of length—anything of 30 minutes or more—you have to squeeze in with everything else you are doing,” Farr said, explaining that the family courts typically carry 2,000 cases. “We’ve had to maneuver and figure out how best to handle the cases in order not to have an adverse effect on our dockets.”

Docket Juggling

Federal immigration courts also struggle with juggling unaccompanied minor cases on their dockets.

After a state court issues findings, an unaccompanied minor must apply for SIJS status in immigration court. The federal government has ordered immigration judges to handle the children’s cases first, Marks said.

“The immigration courts are completely and utterly overwhelmed and overburdened,” she said, adding, “Older case are getting pushed aside and languishing on the docket to handle these cases of recently arrived juveniles in a quicker fashion.”

In the Texas-based immigration courts in fiscal year 2014, there were 70,099 pending cases involving immigration charges, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. People had to wait an average of 501 days just to get into court. In 2014, the Texas-based immigration courts completed 7,176 immigration cases. The average case took 193 days from filing to closure.

The numbers of juvenile immigration cases are growing. In fiscal year 2010, the Texas-based immigration courts handled only 1,622 juvenile immigration cases. In fiscal year 2014, they handled 10,654, which is more than a sixfold increase.

Finding time for SIJS cases could be a long-term issue.

“These children under federal law are allowed to seek the status up till they are 21 years old or they are deported from the country,” explained Slayton, adding, “The fastest-growing group of these children are over 12 years of age. This is not a short-term issue for us. We don’t expect this to be resolved quickly.”

The Pink Ladies: Mary Kay’s Top Lawyer Keeps Makeup Mavens’ Meeting Looking Good

The flashy pink Cadillac symbolizes ultimate success for Mary Kay Inc. beauty consultants. And for Mary Kay’s top lawyer, working with those consultants is the best part of her job.

Chief Counsel Laura Beitler — who joined the company in 2000 as a staff attorney — manages Mary Kay’s 11-lawyer legal department and provides counsel to European subsidiaries. Her legal department helps plan Mary Kay’s annual event and teaches legal-oriented classes to new and veteran beauty consultants.

The coveted Cadillacs and other pink rides will grace the Dallas Convention Center from July 21 through Aug. 6, as Mary Kay’s annual meeting attracts 30,000 beauty consultants to learn more about Addison-based Mary Kay and how to boost their independent businesses.

“It is like a big party with Cadillacs, makeup and a lot of women,” says Mary Kay spokeswoman Kathrina McAfee. She describes the scene: “Thousands of women, perfectly clothed, sharing their success stories with other women, seeing the excitement in their eyes.”

PDF: The Pink Ladies Mary Kays Top Lawyer Keeps Makeup Mavens Meeting Looking Good

Productivity and Performance: Allison Levy Helps Ensure AdvoCare Plays By the Rules

An exciting aspect of being general counsel of AdvoCare International Inc. is that Allison Levy occasionally meets celebrity athletes like New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and NASCAR champion Richard Petty.
Meeting athletes who endorse AdvoCare is a nice reward for Levy, who shoulders a big load as the company’s sole lawyer. The Plano-based company develops and markets nutritional supplements for general health, weight management and sports performance, among other products.

Levy supervises three nonlawyer employees in her legal department, but as the company’s only lawyer, she manages a vast range of issues: ensuring the company’s products, marketing and direct-sales business model comply with regulations; overseeing distributors’ compliance with company policies; legal issues with sponsoring sporting events; and managing outside counsel representing AdvoCare in litigation.

“My day can consist of switching gears a dozen times,” she says.

PDF: Texas Lawyer_ Productivity and Performance Allison Levy Helps Ensure AdvoCare Plays By the Rules

Texas Immigration Law Professors Take Action to Help Reunite Families Seeking Asylum

Law students were on summer break when outrage erupted nationwide over the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant parents and children who crossed the country’s southern border.

But summer didn’t stop Texas immigration law professors from taking action, and in the coming school year, they’re planning opportunities for law students in their schools’ immigration clinics to help reunited families seek asylum or fight deportation.

Law professors all over Texas jumped into action at various levels to help immigrant families the government separated.


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Michele Mirto: Stepping up A2J while cutting cost

As executive director of Step Up to Justice, a Tucson, Arizona-based privately funded legal aid nonprofit, Michele Mirto wields a shoestring budget and just three staff members armed with legal technology. They lead an army of volunteer lawyers in resolving low-income clients’ civil matters—mostly family law but also guardianship, consumer law, bankruptcy, and wills and probate.


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‘Extreme Part-Time’ Lawyer-Moms Flock to Freelance Firms

After having her second child, Southern California litigator Erin Giglia worked part-time for law firm Snell & Wilmer, but fellow associate Laurie Rowen had different plans for work when her baby girl was born 16 days after Giglia’s daughter.

Rowen always knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, while continuing to do legal work on an extremely part-time basis. It took nearly a year for Giglia to jump on board, but when she did, the pair co-founded Montage Legal Group, a new legal business model especially attractive to women.

Montage and firms like it have proven a good match for all sorts of lawyers who want to set their own work terms, but they have become particularly popular with lawyer moms who want to dramatically reduce their hours after they give birth, but who also want to stay in the legal game. The part-time experience at these kinds of firms also eases the transition back into the profession full time, if they choose to, when their children get older.


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Boost Your Practice by Improving Your Wellness: New ABA Book

It’s a well-known fact that lawyers suffer at high numbers from mental health and substance abuse problems, and a new book on lawyer wellness drives home a point that might motivate many attorneys to take action.

When wellness permeates an attorney’s life, there’s a positive impact on his law practice, clients, judges and juries, said Stewart Levine, editor and curator of the recently released book, “The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness.” Levine, whose book is published by the American Bar Association, recruited lawyers and wellness experts to pen chapters that serve as a guide toward lawyer wellness, suggesting things such as practicing yoga in the office, eating nutritiously, exercising and giving back through pro bono and volunteerism and building resilience.

The book is part of an ongoing trend to push wellness into the legal profession in the wake of eye-opening research over the past few years that showed how pervasive mental health and substance abuse issues are among lawyers.


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