Jordan Rushie joins Randazza Legal Group

September 1, 2014

When I was in law school, I used to read The Legal Satyricon. I remember thinking “This blog is awesome! But I could never do anything like that.” Marco has always been known for his high flyin’, foul mouthed, unique breed of legal representation. Something I always wanted to do but couldn’t. Because I was a nameless, faceless associate at a law firm billing hours and serving corporate clients.

One fateful day in April of 2011, I was checking my email before going to Whole Foods. Little did I know how much my life would change that fateful morning. As I was checking Solosez (a lawyer listserve where stupid people go to ask other stupid people stupid questions to get stupid answers), I learned that I had been named as a defendant in Rakofsky v. The Internet (hysterically and appropriately named by Scott Greenfield). Not sure what to do, I called Brian Tannebaum, a lawyer who used to write a good blog (two, actually), that I read regularly. When Brian got done yelling at me for interrupting his day, he put me in touch with Marc Randazza, who became my lawyer and proceeded to decimate the lawsuit.

Since then, I have started my own firm, wrote an ABA 100 Law Blog, and have had a career that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. Much of which involves protecting the First Amendment, intellectual property rights, and zoning. I went from working in a law job to having a practice that I feel excited and energized about every single day. Life is good. [Editor's Note: Scott Greenfield nominated Philly Law Blog to the ABA 100. I love him forever.]

I blame Marc for most of it. 

Over the last few years, we’ve done a lot of work together, a lot of which was in the press. Just one of many examples, Me and Marc handled The Bellwether Trial, which was the first bittorrent case ever to see the inside of a courtroom. We are currently working on other interesting cases throughout the country, most of which I can’t blog about just yet. (stay tuned).

It’s been a wild ride.

So, in the interest of keeping things simple, I have decided to join Randazza Legal Group as Of Counsel. This actually happened awhile ago, but I was too busy to write about it.

It’s a great honor to be working with someone who I have idolized for many years, who defended me in my first lawsuit, and helped me get my own career off the ground.

And don’t worry. Fishtown Law won’t be changing one bit. Me and Leo continue to be your neighborhood Fishtown Lawyers, drinking all the craft beers and hanging around town. I will still be working out of 2424 Studios here in Fishtown and harassing Leo on an everyday basis (although I will be in Vegas from time to time, mostly to skirt open container laws).

 


Pa Superior Court: Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Scheme “Unconstitutional”

August 21, 2014

Appellant brings this appeal challenging the constitutionality of one of Pennsylvania’s mandatory minimum sentencing statutes, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9712.1, following the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Alleyne v. United States, U.S. , 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). We find that Alleyne does indicate that the sentencing practice under Section 9712.1 is unconstitutional.

-Judge Ford Elliot, August 20, 2014, writing for an en banc Superior Court.

Just yesterday, the Pennsylvania Superior Court released an opinion in Commonwealth v. Newman, that seems to provide some direction to divided Pennsylvania Common Pleas Courts left to fend for their own in the wake of the United States Supreme Court Alleyne v. United States decision.

Let’s break this down simply. In Alleyne, the Supreme Court held that all facts that increase a mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to a jury and found true beyond a reasonable doubt.

In many states, Pennsylvania included, mandatory minimum sentences could be imposed by a judge who found certain facts to be true only by a preponderance of the evidence at sentencing.

Alleyne held this scheme unconstitutional.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have been fighting to apply mandatory minimum sentences ever since. But one by one, counties across Pennsylvania have been finding mandatory minimum sentences unconstitutional.

What Happened in Newman?

In Commonwealth v. Newman, the defendant was arrested following several controlled drug buys at an apartment in Glenside, Pa. Based on those buys, the police got a search warrant for the property, and found a “large quantity” of crack cocaine, drug paraphernalia, and a handgun a few feet away from the drugs.

The defendant went to trial, where the jury found him guilty of possession with intent to deliver, among other crimes. The prosecutor filed a “Notice of Intent to Seek Mandatory Sentence” under Pennsylvania’s gun & drug law, 42 Pa. C.S. §9712.1, which means a mandatory 5-10 years for a person found in possession of a firearm and drugs. The defendant was sentenced overall to 5-10 years.

He appealed, and the Superior Court affirmed his sentence on June 12, 2013. But just days later, on June 17, 2013, the United States Supreme Court released its Alleyne opinion, so Newman filed a petition for reconsideration, which the Superior Court granted.

Skipping over the legalese, after a review of trial court opinions from the Courts of Common Pleas across Pennsylvania, the Superior Court  in Newman ultimately found that “the very trial courts entrusted with the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences after Alleyne have found Section 9712.1 as a whole to be no longer workable[.]” Specifically, the Court found that the mandatory minimum sentencing provision at issue were not severable, and that under the statutory construction rules of Pennsylvania (1 Pa. C.S. §1925, Constitutional construction of statutes) the statute therefore as a whole must fail.

The Court then ruled that §9712.1 was unconstitutional, vacated Newman’s judgment of sentence, and remanded the case for resentencing “without consideration of any mandatory minimum sentence provided by Section 9712.1″.

What Does this Mean for Me?

If you’re not currently facing charges where mandatory minimum sentences may apply, then nothing, really.

But if you or a loved one is facing a case with a potential mandatory minimum sentence, then things change a lot.

Just today, I filed my first motion to bar application of a mandatory minimum sentence under 42 Pa.C.S. §9712.1 under Commonwealth v. Newman, in expectation of a hearing scheduled tomorrow in a client’s case.

We don’t yet know if the Commonwealth (the prosecutors trying to keep people locked up) is going to petition the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for allocatur (aka ask them for permission to appeal the Superior Court’s judgment), but we’ll find out soon.

I’ll be paying close attention in the meantime.

Congrats to Patrick I. McMenamin, Jr. for this victory for the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

-Leo.

Update 2014.8.22: The Judge granted my motion without even requiring argument.

 


Sometimes, our clients get ridiculous lawsuit threats…

August 1, 2014
View this document on Scribd

Sometimes, those ridiculous threats warrant an equally ridiculous response.

View this document on Scribd

Bagels, anyone? [Ed: "Liable Per Se"? What's that?]

Read more here: http://www.philadelinquency.com/2014/08/01/pdq-receives-lolsuit-threat-legal-dept-responds/

 


Are You “Experienced”?

July 5, 2014

Not only a good album, but a good question. Attorney advertising has been around as long as I’ve been practicing law, as have the Rules of Professional Conduct, which govern attorney behavior, including advertising.

In Pennsylvania, attorney advertising is governed by Rule 7.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. As part of these rules, a lawyer may not use “inherently subjective terms” like “experienced” to describe their practice. This rule seems to be observed more in its breach than in lawyers’ adherence to it. Google “Experienced Pennsylvania Lawyer” (or just click that link) and you’ll see what I mean.

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In case it’s not perfectly clear…

July 1, 2014
GetAWarrantiPhone

Get a Warrant — for iPhone

I made this on my iPhone yesterday, and it currently serves as my lock screen.

Feel free to download and use it appropriately.

Tell your friends and share as much as you’d like. Get the word out there that police may not search your phone without your consent or a warrant, thanks to Riley v. California.

(Wikipedia here, SCOTUS opinion here, OYEZ project link here).

While you’re at it, turn off location services.

Edit: I had a colleague point out to me that the text is obscured by the unlock dots on some Android phones. An Android version is below the fold.

2nd Edit: Ken at Popehat requested a special custom version, which is also below the fold. Use at your own risk.
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Making People Stupider: Jezebel Edition

June 20, 2014
About That Time Jezebel Made People Stupider

About That Time Jezebel Made People Stupider

Today in Making People Stupider, I present to you the Jezebel article by Erin Gloria Ryan titled “About That Time Hilary Clinton Smeared a Tween Rape Victim“.

Read it. Please. Yes, including the comments section.*

Here’s are two highlights :

On the other hand, how massively fucked is it that our legal system expects and encourages attorneys to treat rape victims like this? And that even Hillary Clinton didn’t have the balls to set her career goals aside for a moment and stand up to what she must have known was bullshit, even in the midst of a time in her career she claims was devoted to serving children and families?

***

Hillary Clinton didn’t ‘laugh at a rape victim’ as the coverage errantly insists, but she definitely was the sort of lawyer who would attack the credibility of a rape victim in pursuit of legal victory.

You’re right, Erin. It couldn’t possibly be that Hillary was doing her job as a criminal defense lawyer and had an ethical obligation to defend her client however she could—it was that she had “career goals”. She should have “had the balls” to roll over and sell her client up the river, in derogation of her ethical duties to her client, because she’s the sort of lawyer who DARES to attack the credibility of a complaining witness.

Oh, and “the children”.

I was going to write a much longer, angrier, piece about the history of what criminal defense lawyers do, our ethics, our duties to our clients, etc., but it would be wasted breath keystrokes.

I’ll just say this: criminal defense lawyers have an ethical obligation to defend their clients. There is no “I understand, but…”. It simply is.

Erin Gloria Ryan, shame on you for making people stupider today .

*I am ashamed to say I broke Rule 1 of the Internet and argued in the comments.


Winning Ugly

June 18, 2014

Judge Papov looked pissed.

“You’re really going to instruct your client not to answer the question and waste everyone’s time, Mr. Rushie?”
“Judge, you’re not giving me much of a choice here…”

The judge didn’t even bother to hear argument. He looked at me, looked at my older adversary, and made a decision as soon as we reached the podium.

A week ago I had instructed my client not to answer a question in a deposition because it called for privileged information. The other side filed a motion to compel a response.

Before coming to court I had done the research and written a brief on the issue, confirming that my instruction not to answer was appropriate. No judge in their right mind would force my client to divulge privileged information with 5th Amendment implications, especially when the case law was this clear, right?

Of course, this was discovery court, where the dreams of young lawyers go to die. When it came to justice or convenience, convenience always seemed to win out. At one point the judge mentioned “If you don’t like my decisions, maybe you should work out your disputes before hand.”

As the judge glared down, I think this was the last place in the world I wanted to be. It was 85 degrees, and was packed to the brim with dozens of lawyers hoping to be heard quickly and get out. I waited over two hours to be called. Until my hearing, the judge had been moving through his docket quickly, mostly making decisions that seemed almost arbitrary. For a brief second, pressed shirt now drenched with sweat, I pictured myself laying on a beach somewhere drinking a piña colada. I could hear the ocean.

Judge Papov brought me back to reality and bellowed, “Mr. Rushie, I told you once, and I will not tell you again. Instruct your client to answer the question. I don’t have all day.”
Gary turned and whispered in my ear. “We can’t give them that information, right? You gotta fight for me…” Gary was right.

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