This week’s highlights

  • COVID surges are prompting federal and state courts to suspend jury trials and in-person courts, causing concern about delays and access to justice
  • A Baltimore defense attorney was convicted of laundering more than $1 million through the firm where he worked as a partner
  • The general counsel at Denver International Airport resigned after allegations that he slapped a colleague
  • Legalweek, previously scheduled in New York for Jan 31-Feb 3, has been rescheduled for March 8-March 11
  • Lateral associate moves increased 51% over the last four years

COVID sends federal and state courts back to the virtual realm

Some California courts have scaled back courtroom proceedings in face of the latest COVID surge while others proceed with business as usual. These measures have prompted concerns about delays, especially as some courts have already experienced a backlog.

“We’re not dispensing with process, we’re not dispensing with justice,” he said. “It just may be slowed down a little bit.

“Having to stop last year at this time when last year’s winter surge occurred was really disheartening, and it’s just as disheartening…more so now because we thought we were out of this thing,” Monterosso said. (via Cal Matters)

Federal appeals courts across the nation have taken similar measures to protect litigants and parties in the face of rising COVID cases. Closures and virtual proceedings have been announced from the 2nd Circuit, 5th Circuit, 7th Circuit, and others.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, also based in Washington, D.C., on Monday said oral arguments in January will be held remotely due to the “changing public health conditions” in the region.

The Federal Circuit also will require anyone attending an in-person hearing to provide a negative COVID-19 test result, regardless of their vaccination status. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit said last week that lawyers who appear for an in-person argument must be fully vaccinated to include a “booster” shot as soon as eligible. (via Reuters)

Defense attorney convicted of laundering more than $1 million

A federal jury convicted Kenneth Wendell Ravenell, 61, of Monkton, Maryland, on Dec. 28, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. He was acquitted of additional charges related to racketeering, narcotics and obstruction but faces up to 20 years in prison when he returns to court for sentencing in May. (via ABA Journal)

Ravenell is reported to have laundered more than $1 million through Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, where he worked as a partner. The funds came from Jamaican national Richard Byrd, who is now serving a 26-year sentence for drug conspiracy charges. Though Ravenell did not testify himself, his attorneys claimed that Byrd gave him the money to invest in casino development, and Ravenell thought that the funds came from Byrd’s marketing and events business.

The case has raised some controversy in Maryland as some worry that the verdict poses a danger to other criminal defense attorneys.

Denver International Airport general counsel resigns after allegations of violence against colleague

Scott McCoy, who became the airport’s top lawyer and executive vice president last May, resigned Saturday after a CBS affiliate in Denver reported that he yelled at a member of his team and hit him in the face multiple times in front of their CEO and other top-level executives, according to Corporate Counsel. (via ABA Journal)

Despite his resignation, McCoy denies that there was any altercation or personal conflicts. He claims that he was demonstrating police de-escalation tactics, and his passion for the topic led to at least one participant finding the exercise embarrassing and inappropriate. His intentions were good, he insists, and he holds that he is only resigning to defuse the situation and reduce distractions as the airport focuses on other important projects.

In the interim, the general counsel position will be filled by Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson.

Legalweek rescheduled for March 8-11

The Legalweek conference, originally scheduled to occur at the end of January in New York, has been moved to March 8-11 in an abundance of caution over rising COVID cases.

Conference organizers assure attendees that there are no changes to the schedule, simply a change to the dates. Attendees will still need to provide proof of vaccination and wear masks in accordance with city requirements.

Anyone who has already registered for the conference need do nothing to update their registration. However, people with hotel reservations must change those reservations themselves. (via LawSites)

This event will still take place at the New York Hilton Midtown as planned.

Lateral associate moves increased 51% over previous 4-year period

The rapid movement of associates to new law firms continued through the third quarter of last year, according to new data from legal data company Decipher, which provides firms with due diligence on lateral hires.

There were 13,987 associates who moved to new firms through Sept. 30, a 51% increase over the previous four-year average for that time period, Decipher reports. (via ABA Journal)

Data privacy and corporate law saw the largest increases in moves, with 116% and 91%, respectively. Some areas experienced particularly high increases in lateral moves, including Miami (64% increase), Chicago (62% increase), and New York (56% increase). Orange County experienced the largest increase with 75% more moves compared to the previous 4 years.

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