Long-held beliefs about arson science have been debunked after decades of misuse


 To this day, most fire investigators are not scientists. A recent survey of 217 fire investigators by a student from National University in San Diego found that only 14 percent had an advanced degree of any kind. Thirty-four percent had a college degree. But 13 percent had only a high school education. One percent had only a GED. A 2013 survey of 586 public sector fire investigators by two Eastern Kentucky University professors found that some myths are still commonly believed to be indicators of arson. Nearly 40 percent did not know that crazed glass is caused by rapid cooling, not rapid heating. Twenty-three percent think puddle-shaped burns indicate the use of an accelerant. Eight percent still believe that alligator blistering implies that a fire burned fast and hot.


If you have any interest in arson, whether criminal defense or civil recoveries, you need to read this article.

This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Badly Burned: Long-held beliefs about arson science have been debunked after decades of misuse and scores of wrongful convictions.”


Attorney General Tells DraftKings and FanDuel to Stop Taking Entries in New York – The New York Times

The New York State attorney general on Tuesday ordered the two biggest daily fantasy sports companies, DraftKings and FanDuel, to stop accepting bets from New York residents, saying their games constituted illegal gambling under state law.

The cease-and-desist order by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, is a major blow to a multibillion-dollar industry that introduced sports betting to legions of young sports fans and has formed partnerships with many of the nation’s professional sports teams.

Given the New York attorney general’s historic role as a consumer-protection advocate, legal experts said the action was likely to reverberate in other states where legislators and investigators are increasingly questioning whether the industry should operate unfettered by regulations that govern legalized gambling.

“It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country,” Mr. Schneiderman said, adding, “Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch.”

Continue reading the main story

Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes – The New York Times


A review by The New York Times of several dozen cases, and interviews with lawyers, prosecutors and others knowledgeable about fraudulent deed transfers, suggests they are accelerating even as officials struggle to address them. The city’s Department of Finance said it was investigating 120 cases, many of them hard to crack because of the role played by LLCs, officials said. Underscoring the rising alarm over the problem, the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and the Brooklyn borough president, Eric L. Adams, held a forum last month to warn property owners about it.


Read entire NYTIMES article here.

JURIST – Federal judge rejects New York town’s law banning laborers soliciting on sidewalks

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Easter District of New York [official website] on Thursday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a Long Island town’s law preventing day laborers from soliciting work on sidewalks is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. In ruling, Judge Denis Hurley stated, “[t]he [Oyster Bay] ordinance prohibits speech and conduct of an expressive nature that does not pose a threat to safety on the town’s streets and sidewalks. It reaches children selling lemonade at the end of a neighbor’s driveway, … the veteran holding a sign on a sidewalk stating ‘will work for food,’ and students standing on the side of a road advertising a school car wash.” 

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JURIST – Federal judge orders release of immigrant children from detention centers


[JURIST] Judge Dolly Gee of the US District Court for the Central District of California [official website] on Friday upheld [order, PDF] her July decision [JURIST report] and ordered the government to release immigrant children held in family detention centers, “without necessary delay.” The original ruling [opinion, PDF] found that the current Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] method of detaining children with their mothers violates a 1997 court settlement. The settlement bars children from being detained in unlicensed secure facilities. 


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Lawyer who billed clients for watching true-crime shows is suspended-ABA Journal


A “doggedly unrepentant” lawyer who billed her wrongful death clients for watching reality crime TV shows has been suspended for a year from law practice.

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the suspension of Knoxville lawyer Yarboro Sallee, who was accused of billing her clients hourly fees of more than $140,000 for less than three months of work and insisting that they pay a contingency fee as well. The Legal Profession Blog, the Chattanoogan and the Knoxville News Sentinel have stories. The July 23 opinion is here (PDF).


From the Decision:

In her motion, Attorney Sallee also objected to the trial court’s comment that she “watched TV and charged her client for it.” She characterized this statement as “ridiculous,” adding, “since when is television not a respectable avenue for research anyway.” Attorney Sallee pointed to a particular time entry on her “billing statement” as legitimate billable time because it was spent watching a five-hour documentary on the Peterson “Stair Case Murder” in North Carolina. Her motion did not address a 12.5-hour time entry on September 25, 2010, for watching “48 Hours” episodes on similar spousal homicides, a 4.0-hour time entry on October 19, 2010 for watching four “48 Hours” episodes on asphyxia, or a 3.5-hour time entry on October 20, 2010 for watching these same “48 Hours” episodes a second time. At Attorney Sallee’s regular hourly rate, this would amount to over $5,000 for watching episodes of “48 Hours.” 


Read entire article here.


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