Monthly Archives: April 2010

Are you a terrorist? Frozen assets? Live in the UK? NO PROBLEM.

Benefits win; anti-terror fail. AFP/Getty Images

I guess it’s not too much of a hardship to be a terrorism suspect, or at least married to one, and to have your assets frozen in the UK.  European judges have just ruled that the state must continue

paying social welfare benefits.

In other words, the government freezes assets of suspected terrorists–both to fight terrorism by cutting off the ability to carry out attacks and recruit and supply new terrorists, as well as to disincentive individuals who are or may become involved in terrorism–but then  turns around and makes sure dependents of the terrorists still receive a check from the government every week?

The EU enforces the measure via rules stating that no funds ‘shall be made available, directly or indirectly, to, or for the benefit of’ people named on the list, unless authorised to cover ‘basic expenses’.

The further we go down the rabbit hole, the more interesting it become.  Curiouser and curiouser


Thinking of litigating abroad?

I don’t do much  litigation in my practice, let alone international litigation, but I did do some research while still in law school for a professor who was very interested in international arbitration.  And so it’s still just as interesting now as a practicing attorney, if just as inapplicable as it was to a 2L.  But still interesting.

As more business crosses international borders, and if you believe Thomas Friedman then you know it is only a matter of time before your business has some cross-border transactions, and any time the deal goes south, proverbially speaking, there will be the need for you to evaluate whether litigation is a viable remedy for resolving the problem.

When you do get to that point, check into the International Business Law Advisor for some tips, including this short post on how to evaluate litigating abroad.  Just a few quick points from their article:

  • The “choice-of-law clause” can be a factor but mostly has no bearing on the choice of court. A court can apply foreign laws, although it might need expert evidence.
  • It is important that any judgment obtained in one court is “recognized” by the courts of the place where you might want to enforce the judgment – which will be where the defendant has any assets. In the U.S., many states have enacted variations of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act.
  • If your judgment was the subject of an arbitration, the judgment is enforceable in any country that has signed on to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of  Foreign Arbitral Awards (over 142 countries are parties to the Convention).

And last, but perhaps the most important–if you have a choice, litigate in U.S. courts:

  • The quality of courts and local lawyers is also important. There are courts, even within the EU, that have the reputation of being susceptible to corruption and most developing-world courts are best avoided. In the U.S, the integrity and quality of the courts are generally first rate.

China’s world?

More on this later, but just a link for now.  China has long been a pet hobby of mine, an interest that I’ve never been able to figure out how to use.

Now, from US NEWS:

It’s China’s World. We’re Just Living in It.

Opening up the books on post-grad employment

Remember graduating from law school?  Remember studying for the bar, and then taking the bar, and then that long wait for results?  And, if you were in my class, just starting to realize that the economy’s nose dive affected the legal industry, too, there was during all of that the constant hunt for a job.  Because those student loans weren’t going to pay themselves, see?

Rewind four years earlier: when this writer was considering which law school to attend, prime among my considerations what the employment rate of graduates within six months of graduation.  Let’s assume I had been accepted to an ample  set of choice schools (though none in the top 15, which would make this whole discussion moot, anyway), and I was trying to decide which school would give me the best opportunity to pay off those then only anticipated student loans.  With the average law school debt load ending up somewhere between $100k and $140k, the ability to repay the loans is among the prime considerations in selecting the school.

Enter the law school employment office and their oblique “employment statistics.” Two Vanderbilt students are taking on the system:

In a paper published at SSRN, [Patrick Lynch and Kyle McEntee] argue that summaries for each law school in the ABA’s official guide can be confusing. Prospective students looking at the summary table for a law school will see the number of grads employed in law firms, but they won’t be able to tell whether they were working as attorneys, law clerks, paralegals, contract attorneys or administrators, Lynch and McEntee write. The national summary report, however, shows that 6.9 percent of all law school graduates in the class of 2008 working at law firms actually held nonlawyer positions.

Similarly, would-be students who check out the number of graduates employed in business and industry will find that “in-house counsel [are grouped] with short-order cooks at Waffle House,” Lynch and McEntee say.

So let’s say I’m in-house counsel.  And I am grouped with short-order cooks.  Nice.  At least I have an office.

Is that fair?  (not that I am being grouped with short-order cooks, but that prospective student’s are basing their decisions on it).  Essentially, when the prospective student looks at those numbers, trying to evaluate the prospects for post-graduation employment, they want to know where alumni have ended up.  Based on how the numbers are now, little do they know that the stats are cooked to show a favorable impression of the school.

Personal experience supports this.  As I approached graduation and was trying to find out where my fellow students were going, as well as were they had gone in years past, and even after graduation when I asked where we had all landed, at each request I was met with opaque responses citing “confidentiality.”  I’d buy that, except that the graduation survey that I was hounded to complete, even before I was fully employed, explicitly listed me with the option of either being employed, or not employed, but gave no option for partial employment or non-law related employment.  Even when I expressed my hesitancy to complete the survey because it did not seem to reflect my experience, the employment counselor pressed me because “it helps the school’s recruiting to show employment, and besides, this is only for statistical purposes.”

And what might those purposes be? Recruitment.  Only.  As if it were so benign.

Which brings me back to Lynch and McEntee, our enterprising Vanderbilt 2Ls. They say that

[…] law schools hide their employment data in aggregate form, the National Law Journal reports. “You may know that 50 percent of graduates got jobs at law firms, but you don’t know what types of firms and types of jobs they got,” McEntee, a 2L, told the publication.

The two students have created a website called Law School Transparency where they hope to publish more specifics. They want to describe in more detail where law school graduates end up working each year and how much value they received from their degree.

In particular, they want each school to provide information about each student nine months after graduation that includes employer type, employer name, position name, whether bar passage is required or preferred, full-time or part-time status, office location, whether the student worked on a law journal, and salary.

Lynch and McEntee aren’t asking for each student’s grade point average or class rank out of privacy concerns, but they believe law journal information will suggest whether students were at the top of their class.

It’s a great idea, and it may do something to open the law school market up to better education, better employment offices (as in, they actually try to help all of their students, not just the top 10% who are headed to the big, shiny firms), and better networking.  Competition is good for everyone, and opening the windows to transparency will only enhance prospective students’ ability to make informed choices.

I know I would have been more discriminating if I had known more about my school’s employment office before I paid down my deposit.

(via ABAJournal)

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Amazon v. North Carolina: taxes on internet purchases, or “Big Brother” in N.C.

Amazon Headquarters in Seattle

One of my favorite things about Amazon–other than that I can shop and never have to leave my desk–is that I can avoid paying taxes on my purchase (as well as shipping, if I can buy enough books, which, honestly, is almost never a problem.  Quite the contrary.  But I digress…).  There have been several attempts by states to capture back taxes lost to Amazon as a result of online sales.  See, if the books were sold from Barnes and Noble, or Borders, or some local bookseller, there would be no argument–sales tax would be added to any purchase and paid to the state tax commission as a matter of course.

The internet, of course, has no such restraints.  And now comes North Carolina to try to get back some portion of the purchases that occur on Amazon’s website by consumers in the state.  Amazon, a Washington company, asserts that North Carolina has no right to the tax.  A few years ago, when North Carolina tried this before, Amazon closed down all of its storefronts in the state in order to avoid any tax liability.  Now, in a new thrust, North Carolina is demanding that the online retailer provide records on what was purchased by consumers in the state since 2003.  That amounts to over 50 million purchases, no small number. While North Carolina law requires consumers to pay taxes for online purchases  if buying the same item in a store would result in a sales tax, out-of-state retailers–like Amazon–can’t be forced to collect North Carolina’s tax if it has no physical presence in the state. Hence, the demand for all information on purchases since 2003.

Foul, cries Amazon, and a violation of  Amazon’s customers First Amendment rights. In order to head off the action, both in North Carolina as well as in other states, Amazon filed suit in US District Court in Seattle.  From the AP:

Amazon said disclosing the names and addresses of buyers, as requested, would harm customers who may have bought controversial books or movies. In a federal lawsuit filed in Seattle, the company also expressed worries that the disclosures would diminish future sales.

Amazon wants the court to rule that North Carolina’s collection effort “violates the rights of Amazon to sell, and its customers to purchase, books, movies, music, and other lawful expressive content free from government intrusion into the customers’ reading, viewing and listening choices.”

Amazon is asking the U.S. District Court in Seattle, where Amazon has its headquarters, to find North Carolina’s request unconstitutional. The company said federal action would avoid varied decisions in multiple courts “in the event other states make similar demands for customer data.” The lawsuit was filed Monday.

One can’t help but hear echoes of “Big Brother is watching” in North Carolina’s actions.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so.  Patrick over at Popehat eloquently channels Orwell for his opposition to North Carolina’s apparent intrusion into its citizens’ purchase habits.  And it sounds like he will be taking action.

As a North Carolina citizen, I have decided that in November I shall vote against every single incumbent politician on the ballot.  I won’t throw away my vote on third parties.  I’ll vote for the candidate most likely to unseat the incumbent, no matter how well-meaning a fool the incumbent may be.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse for incumbents this year, North Carolina has proven me wrong.

George Orwell, author of "1984"