Thursday, March 31, 2011

4th DCA Affirms That Plaintiff Is "Master of His Domain."

I really enjoyed Seinfeld and appreciated its groundbreaking comedy, but when I see lawyers who are insufferably uncool reference the show I start to feel that maybe it's a bit too obvious.

For example, when walking along with your 92-year old Grandma you never want her to turn to you and say "and by the way, they're real and they're spectacular"!

But with respect to this 4th DCA opinion from yesterday, it does seem to fit.

Apparently the plaintiff sued her employer in tort for battery and negligent retention and supervision, but the defendant argued the complaint was "actually for sexual harassment and discrimination" and plaintiff was trying to plead around the Title VII pre-suit requirements.

You hear this a lot in state court.  Parties are always trying to argue what the other party "really is doing" and lawyers frequently spin out fanciful narratives to explain why one count got dismissed, or why someone amended, yada yada yada.  (Oops!)

Here's what the 4th said:
Florida law permits multiple causes of action to co-exist. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.110(g) states that “[a] pleader may set up in the same action as many claims or causes of action or defenses in the same right as the pleader has, and claims for relief may be stated in the alternative if separate items make up the cause of action, or if 2 or more causes of action are joined.” It further provides that “[a] party may also state as many separate claims or defenses as that party has, regardless of consistency and whether based on legal or equitable grounds or both.”
In short, something can actually be more than one thing at the same time.

Imagine that!

Judge Seitz Wants Barry Minkow to "Work on His Soul."

Like Rumpy I have a few actual legal matters to attend to, so I apologize for not providing an outlet this morning for everyone to waste their time.

So let's do that now!

Nobody takes a longer better plea than Judge Seitz, and you can always count on her to say something interesting.

Following up on her "Kingdom of God" admonition to some idiot who badly -- I would say tragically -- overpaid for dinner, the Judge yesterday turned her ecumenical eye on poor Barry Minkow, an habitual con man who the feds just can't seem to quit:
Minkow said among his college degrees were a master's of divinity and a bachelor's degree in church ministries.

Seitz asked, "Given all those degrees, how did you get involved in this?"

Minkow conceded, "I'm not too wise, ma'am."

Seitz responded, "You need to work on your soul, sir."
She added, "but first get to work on your short game."

Oh I kid.

But she's right -- everyone truly does need to work on their soul.

Speaking of soul, happy birthday to the clinically insane Christopher Walken.

Here's Kevin Pollak doing his classic tribute to the man (Kevin will be performing in Palm Beach today through Saturday).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3d DCA Watch -- Approaching a Bunker Meltdown.

It's a hot, sweltering day out there, but due to budget cuts the bunker is legally mandated to maintain a constant year-round temperature of precisely 87 degrees.

Damn you, Tallahassee!


St. Louis v. FIU:

Judge Shepherd reverses a jury verdict against FIU for racial discrimination and retaliation, basically finding the whole shebang should have been out on sj:
St. Louis, a Trinidadian man, was hired in November 1997....
Hey, is this a racial or ethnic origin case?

Last I checked, there are lots of folks in Trinidad of Indian origin, a story that has been fascinatingly told (and retold) by the truly great author V.S. Naipaul (even if he is mighty cranky and a skirt-chaser to boot).

In Re: Name Change of Imad Doujieji:

Why would Judge Espinosa Dennis deprive Mr. Doujieji of an opportunity to change his name?  You try giving that name out on the phone to your plumber!

(Dear readers -- it has come to my attention that Doujieji is the name this person actually wants to be known as.  My humble apologies.)

R.J. Reynolds v. Ferrell:

Boy, get a load of the lawyer list representing Big Tobacco on this appeal:
Greenberg Traurig, and Elliot H. Scherker, David Ross, Sabrina Ferris, Julissa Rodriguez, Brigid F. Cech Samole; Carlton Fields, and Benjamin Reid, Alina Alonso, and Olga M. Vieira; Jones Day, and Stephanie E. Parker, John F. Yarber, and John M. Walker (Atlanta); Carlton Fields, and Gary L. Sasso and Joseph H. Lang, Jr. (Tampa); Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and Stephen N. Zack, Steven W. Davis, Mark J. Heise, and Pedro M. Allende, for appellants.
That's four law firms (one has two locations listed) and 17 lawyers!

Being generous, that approximates three lawyers for every word in the affirmance.

In other words, just about enough to fill the bunker hot tub.

TP Orlando 504 v. Seymour Int'l:

Judge Emas handles this more deftly than I would have:
Appellant, the plaintiff below, seeks review of an order denying its motion for partial final summary judgment on one count of its six-count complaint.
Oy vez mir got in himmel!

I'm not suggesting anyone handling this appeal suffers from this, but generally speaking I love lawyers who can spend hours debating the intricacies of the three-second rule but who are clueless about basic rules governing what they do for a living.

Judge Emas explains the problem with trying to appeal a denial of a partial sj motion that deals with only one count in the complaint:
Appeals of non-final orders are strictly limited to those specifically listed in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130(a)(3). An order denying summary judgment is not appealable pursuant to Rule 9.130(a)(3), and this court lacks jurisdiction to entertain this appeal.
Seriously, how could anyone possibly know this?

Spencer Aronfeld Has a Breakfast Club!

I'll leave it to others to figure out who in the above clip is the Princess, the Jock, the Troubled Bully, and the Brain.

Isn't it great in the movies how everyone has one single definable character trait or flaw, and that by simply recognizing and addressing that single trait/flaw all previous issues which flowed from that flaw are miraculously resolved?

Note to Spence -- I love ya buddy but you gotta do something about that conference room.  I'm pretty sure I've seen it serve as the backdrop for a least one Sasha Grey romp.

Either jazz it up a little or maybe hold the next one at Einstein's Bagels?

Just an idea.....

Kudos btw to Spence and his team and everyone who contributed and purchased items at the silent auction for Japan that Lawyers to the Rescue put together.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chief Justice Roberts Has a Funny Idea About Admissible Evidence!

Sheesh, I thought this guy was a corporate litigator -- oh yeah that means he never got to try a case:
“I checked the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Web site this morning,” the chief justice said, “and it says that this act was passed to, quote, ‘level the playing field’ when it comes to running for office. Why isn’t that clear evidence that it’s unconstitutional?” 
Um, I don't know, because your morning browser history is not part of the record on appeal?

Centennial Symposium Blawger Update -- David Markus Action Photo!

We really did have a lot of fun and a lively discussion at Friday's Centennial Symposium.

And, as lawyers often do, we all tried to one-up each other and prove we were the "Big Dawg" in the room with pithy comments and wry observations.

In fact, after a particularly witty remark by David O, I happened to snap a photo of Markus just enjoying the moment.

It's certainly nice when you can experience high points like that during the day:

11th Circuit Affirms Guts of YoPlus Class Cert Decision.

Judge Huck's Yoplus class certification decision was closely watched, and no doubt gave some indigestion.

Insert groan here.

Yet the 11th, via Judge Fay, has affirmed its reasoning and Judge Huck's "scholarly" analysis, though it was kicked back to remove any reliance element from the class definition:
The district court’s analysis in its Order on Motion for Class Certification is sound and in accord with federal and state law. The reasoning reflected therein is well within the parameters of Rule 23’s requirements for certification of a class. And, if the definition of the class had been in accord with the legal analysis, we would have readily affirmed.1 However, at the end of the district court’s Order, it defined the class in a manner which seems to conflict with its earlier sound analysis. In its analysis, the district court repeatedly stated that a plaintiff need not prove reliance on the allegedly false statement to recover damages under FDUTPA, but rather a plaintiff must simply prove that an objective reasonable person would have been deceived. And, this is correct. Notwithstanding this analysis, the district court went on to define the class as “all persons who purchased Yo-Plus in the State of Florida to obtain its claimed digestive health benefit.” Order at 21 (emphasis added). The class definition limits the class to those who purchased YoPlus “to obtain its claimed digestive health benefit,” which takes into account individual reliance on the digestive health claims. Had the district court defined the class in a manner which did not take individual reliance into account, such would be consistent with the district court’s earlier analysis. Thus, we vacate the Order certifying the class and remand to the district court for further consideration.
Seriously, what kind of maroon believes that "magic yogurt" somehow improves your digestive health?

(Wait a second, people are taking Donald Trump's run for the Presidency seriously.  On second thought, don't answer that.)

Donald Trump Is Too Busy Talking About Obama's Birth Certificate to Appear at Mediation.

I completely agree with Judge Jordan -- why should Donald Trump have to appear at a mediation when he can send a lackey his Assistant GC Alan Garten?

Question -- does "Mr. Garten" have a true live birth certificate, or just a ginned-up-in-Kenya fancy-dancy chardonnay-stained certificate of live birth?

Or maybe it's as phony as Mr. Trump's own "birth certificate"?

Let's just put it on the table -- just who is this mysterious "Mr. Garten" and why does he have Mr. Trump's "full authority"?

I'm just asking the question!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Here's Your Chance to Complain About PACER!

I know you have a staff of thousands to deal with pesky CM/ECF issues, and probably have numerous "auto-forward" redundancies so that you never miss a deadline ever.

But in the event your keyboard has actually made real live intertubular contact with PACER, you may have a suggestion or two for how to make the danged thing work better.

There is an initiative under way to improve how PACER operates.  It is headed up by Judge J. Rich Leonard, from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the ED NC, who chairs the perfectly Gov-speaked "Additional Stakeholders Functional Requirements Group" (a/ka ASFRG).

You can fill the survey out anonymously here, or do like me and have the survey automatically forwarded to your secretary and the associate who used to work with you but who left a few months back.

(That should pretty much take care of it.)

Adorno Yoss Requiem -- Slinging the Animal Poop.

The intrepid one proves once again why she is the best in the business with this devastating post-mortem of the demise of Adorno Yoss:
The final decision apparently was forced on the firm by its bank, Wells Fargo, with which firm leaders were in negotiations the week of March 7. Former partners said the firm owed the bank $8 million. The week ended with a closing announcement, after attempts by Yoss to secure a merger over the last two months failed.

In a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice filed with the state March 17, Yoss placed its employee count at 91, under the 100 threshold that would trigger severance pay with less than 60 days' notice. Plantation-based DJSP, a foreclosure processing company that recently dissolved, listed 96 employees at the time of dissolution and was hit with a class action suit by employees who claim they weren't given adequate notice or pay under federal law. Five former employees said the Yoss firm does not plan to pay any severance.
Nice way to say goodbye to your long-term employees, huh?

But I wouldn't rush to sue these guys, I'm not too sure they're collectable:
Some of the biggest losers may be former partners who are owed capital contributions of $30,000 to $100,000 each, Genovese and others said.

Linden, now a partner at GrayRobinson, said he has no expectation of getting his capital contribution back.
"If the firm is closing its doors and you are an owner, you're the last one to get paid," he said. "By the time the secured lender is paid, plus the costs of administering the wind-up, I do not anticipate a distribution. I'm not a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy, I'm a realist. I'm moving on. I don't look backwards about stuff like that."

Former West Palm Beach managing partner John Koenig said a group of former partners is considering suing Adorno and Yoss individually for breach of contract.

Former partner Sylvia Krainen already has requested mediation on her claim for her capital contribution, according to former Atlanta managing partner Tracey Blackwell and others. Krainen did not return calls for comment.
Oy veh, what a mess.

Question: how did Hank handle all this strife suffered by his employees and ex-partners?
In 2006, Adorno left Miami for Atlanta, where the firm opened an office in 2004. He bought a $4.2 million house on Tuxedo Lane, sharing the block with the founder of Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons, and a $2 million Blue Ridge Mountain estate in North Carolina's exclusive Linville Ridge, where Dick Cheney is a neighbor.

If you are forced to live right next to Dick Cheney you are most definitely in one of the nine circles of hell -- although, to be fair, this one has a Robert Trent-designed golf course.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Centennial Symposium Recap!

I must echo Rumpy and David O -- Robert Kuntz and Tim Ravitch put together a creative, informative and highly entertaining panel discussion today on "new media" and the 24-hour news cycle.

Kudos on a job well done.

In fact, it was so hip we actually got into a Twitter fight while making our presentations, and David managed to upload camera pics of the exciting, nonstop action.

A few highlights:

1.  Rump's voice-synthesized "I am Stephen Hawking" shout out.

2.  Brian Tannebaum calling this blog "a scabrous tumor that must be violently excised from the South Florida legal community before it slowly and inexorably kills us all."

(Brian, did I quote you right?)

3.  Eddie Dominguez of the DBR on their progressive and collaborative approach to new media, bloggers, plus how they all differ.

BTW, let me repeat -- we are extremely fortunate to have the DBR as our local professional and business newspaper, you guys are the best and we depend on you daily (on the weekends, however, we're totally screwed).

4.  Kendall Coffey holding up the panel discussion to do a five-minute segment with CNN on how to finally obtain lasting peace in the Middle East.

I'm kidding!

(It was actually on how best to solve the Japanese nuclear meltdown).

Either way, this guy really knows his stuff.

Have a great weekend!

Ernie Mullins Has a Question for Steve Zack!

Apparently tired of publishing my pal George L. Metcalfe's "Messages from Leesburg," the Florida Bar News has turned to Kissimmee lawyer Ernest J. Mullins for some fresh insights:
Here’s my question to Mr. Zack: “Hey Steve, when you were coming over here from Cuba, how many southbound rafts did you see?” Oh, and then there’s this: “We cannot fight to establish the rule of law around the world and watch it jeopardized in this country. When 80 percent of poor people, mostly women and minorities, have no access to the court system, we do not have the rule of law.”

Will somebody tell me what that even means? I go to court every day. I’ve been going to court every day for the last 25 years. I don’t know how many millionaires I’ve seen in there, but it’s not too many. When I go to court, I see mostly women, poor people, and minorities in there. Where is this 80 percent coming from? Is he kidding? Nobody, in 25 years, has said to me, “Gee, I tried to get into court on this, but they turned me away because I live below the povery (sic) level, and I’m a minority.”
Hmm, I only practice logic irregularly, but isn't this a classic argument by anecdote (there's also some argument by personal experience).

Here's what one smart guy said about this form of argument:
Argument by anecdote is when you prove a point with a story.  It is a very compelling argument, because people like stories about other people more than they like cold, hard facts.   Too often, though, the argument by anecdote is used when the facts are stacked heavily against a position.  If you don’t have the facts, tell a story.  People will believe the anecdote because it demonstrates what they themselves believe to be true.  That’s why you’ll find more arguments by anecdotes proffered by those on the losing end of the “facts” battle.
I did exactly 23 seconds of Google research, and came across this March 16, 2011 ABA publication, "The Growing Crisis of Underfunding State Courts," which has very few personal anecdotes but lots of pesky things called "facts":
The ABA’s Task Force on the Preservation of the Justice System, co-chaired by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, has been investigating the under-reported but increasingly serious problems resulting from the underfunding of the nation’s courts. Today, as part of that on-going effort, we are releasing an informal survey of American Bar Association members that helps quantify the problems experienced by citizens and all persons seeking justice in jurisdictions around the country. The systematic underfunding of the country’s courts causes delays in court proceedings, loss of staff and reduction of services. It prevents court cases from being heard and leads to delayed justice.
So the ABA has a whole task force studying this issue -- who knew?

Another four seconds of research and I came across this, from October 2010, reporting on the results of the World Justice Project's new Rule of Law Index:
 [A] world-wide survey unveiled Thursday morning . . . ranks the United States lowest among 11 developed nations when it comes to providing access to justice to its citizens -- and lower than some third-world nations in some categories.
Particularly when it comes to access to and affordability of legal counsel in civil disputes, the U.S. ranks 20 out of the 35 nations surveyed, below not only developed nations but also such countries as Mexico, Croatia and the Dominican Republic.
The results are from the World Justice Project's new "Rule of Law Index", which assesses how laws are implemented and enforced in practice around the globe. Countries are rated on such factors as whether government officials are accountable, whether legal institutions protect fundamental rights, and how ordinary people fare in the system. The index will expand from 35 countries to 70 next year.
The lowest-ranking countries in this year's survey included Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The U.S. didn't lead the world on any of the rule-of-law measures, ranking near the bottom of the developed world on most -- including even fundamental rights. But the most striking findings related to access to justice for ordinary people.
So we beat Nigeria and Pakistan!

I'm glad things are ok at the local courthouse in Kissimmee.

But I guess it's everywhere else that people seem to be worried about.

Time To Donate More Old Gym Equipment!

I agree with Fifth DCA Chief Judge Monaco, this is simply too stunning for words:
The state House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee has targeted state judges for an 8 percent salary cut and plans to reduce their judicial assistant staffing by one-quarter.

“They did not cut salaries to any other elected officials,” said Circuit Judge John Laurent, chairman of the state court’s Trial Court Budget Commission.

Laurent, a Polk Circuit probate judge, said the subcommittee chaired by state Rep. Richard Glorioso, R-Plant City, offered no justification for the salary cut proposal other than a general comment that they had to cut somewhere.
Why stop there?

Maybe we should hold a fundraiser for the court system, though I thought that was what our taxes were for.

Or firms can start sponsoring judges, and we can put our logos on their robes so everyone can see who we're supporting when they come out on the bench.  Then we can have the judges box each other and we can raise some more money that way!

Note to Florida legislature -- I'm not really suggesting the above as a revenue source (you really can't be too sure nowadays with some of these facacta proposals).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Florida Supreme Court "Clarifies" Offer of Judgment Statute.

I've said this before, but Florida case law governing the offer of judgment statute, along with its cute little tag along sister Rule 1.442, is hopelessly -- I would say irremediably -- screwed up.

That's why, for example, two DCAs could come up with diametrically opposed outcomes on a nearly identical set of very discrete facts.

How do you think that makes the schleppers feel?

Indeed, if it were within my power, I would just hit the "re-set" button, do a full System Restore and start the whole thing again from scratch.

Which brings us to today's Florida Supreme Court opinion, dealing with whether or not a party who accepts an offer of judgment is the "prevailing party" for purposes of a later fee application -- in this case under Mag/Moss.

Frankly, how the 4th DCA could blow the answer to that question is a complete mystery, but here's what they thought:
The Fourth District affirmed the trial court, holding that ―"[t]here simply was no court-ordered change in the relationship of the parties in this case by the plaintiff‘s acceptance of DaimlerChrysler‘s proposal for settlement." Id. at 1215. The Fourth District found ―that section 768.79(4)‘s provision for enforcement is not the same as the required affirmative court action that either approves of the terms of a settlement or affirmatively retains jurisdiction for enforcement.‖ Id.
This strikes me as profoundly wrong.

It's a freakin' offer of judgment statute, which carries with it certain penalties and legal consequences.  The offer was served, and subsequently accepted, in a court case in which the statute presumably governed the parties' conduct.

Anyhoo, here's what the Supremes held:
Unlike a settlement before an action is filed, any offer made and accepted pursuant to Florida‘s offer of judgment statute is, as illustrated by the very name of the statute, under the auspices of the court in which the offer is made and accepted. A resolution reached pursuant to the offer of judgment statute, as opposed to an extrajudicial settlement agreement that is not subject to judicial enforcement, bears the imprimatur of the court because a party that fails to accept that resolution is subject to judicial penalty and sanctions. See § 768.79(4), Fla. Stat. Further, a settlement produced pursuant to Florida‘s offer of judgment statute is subject to that court‘s full continuing jurisdiction thereafter. The offer of judgment statute would actually provide a basis to further penalize the consumer if this were not the end result. Consequently, a settlement produced under Florida‘s offer of judgment statute necessarily carries judicial implications.
This would seem self-evident, but like a lot of things in Florida, you often have to spell it out, then spell it out again, until some small piece of what you are trying to convey sinks in.

Chief Justice Canady, btw, dissents (not unreasonably, I might add) -- further proving my initial point that the entire area of the law needs to be wiped clean and begun anew.

Novel Solution to Judicial Funding Crisis -- Pay Judges to Work Faster!

I swear this year's legislative proposals affecting the judiciary are among the most bone-headed in memory.

Take this doozy:
Republican Sen. J.D. Alexander, the influential budget chairman from Lake Wales, wants to pay trial court judges up to an additional $12,000 a year if they meet specific numerical quarterly performance goals. The extra money would be dished out in $3,000 increments.

“I’m very serious about it,” Alexander said. “What we’re trying to do is create some incentives for the courts that are fair and reasonable and save us a lot of money.”

Alexander’s so-called Judicial Workload Incentive Plan is expected to be part of the proposed Senate budget to be considered next week, but it’s already receiving a mostly hostile reception among senators who directly oversee the judicial branch’s budget.

Despite Alexander’s unmatched clout when it comes to legislative spending, senators aren’t shy about openly lampooning his idea.

“Judges don’t need this,” said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. “I think they like to claim they’re professionals. I don’t think they need to be rewarded for managing their dockets.”
What is this, Glengarry Glen Ross?

I find the details interesting:

Every time a judge denies a continuance, we shtup them a hundred bucks.

If a judge grants an sj we give them a nice flat-screen TV.

Our motto:  Justice is fine, but a ruling is quicker!

Here's a suggestion -- how about instead of paying judges more to move cases faster, we simply hire more judges?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lawyers Who Missed Answer Deadline Accuse Opposition of Making "Bricks Without Straw."

Bricks Without Straw

Wachovia's counsel comes out swinging and gets downright Biblical:
Defendant stresses that it has given a true and legitimate explanation for the default. As set out in the Declaration of Carl S. Burkhalter (Exhibit B to the Motion), the February 17, 2011 deadline was not docketed due to the unique confluence of an associate's resignation and a computer problem.

Plaintiff quibbles with this explanation, asserting that it does not explain the failure of two other attorneys to take action: Inge Selden (with Maynard, Cooper & Gale) and Jay Thornton (local counsel with Hunton & Williams). Regarding Mr. Selden, Plaintiff misses the point: Ms. Escalona and Ms. Juarez were responsible for sending a notification of the February 17th deadline (via Microsoft Outlook) to all the Maynard, Cooper & Gale attorneys on the file – that is, to both Mr. Burkhalter and Mr. Selden. In other words, Messrs. Burkhalter and Selden were in the same boat; the deadline was on neither attorney's calendar for precisely the same reason.

As for Mr. Thornton, he has submitted his own declaration (attached hereto as Exhibit A) explaining his actions. In it, he states (under penalty of perjury) that the deadline was marked as "completed" by his docketing department. He also notes that, to avoid duplication of effort, his firm has not been involved in many aspects of this case. He adds that Plaintiff's counsel never once mentioned the failure to file an answer to the amended complaint.
Exactly -- it was the Plaintiff's fault!

I don't know, this is a mighty aggressive way of asking the Court to undo something that it acted on sua sponte when you already accepted responsibility for the problem in the first place.

What happened to old-fashioned groveling?

That said, I don't see how this motion is not granted (which is perhaps why the defendant could have dialed it down a notch).

3d DCA Watch -- Elizabeth Taylor Special Edition.

RIP you insane, crazy and remarkable lady.

On to the swillers......

Castillo v. Castillo:

I propose a one-year moratorium on any further citations to Canakaris -- it has to be one of the more unpleasantly named yet seminal Florida decisions to have to repeatedly see in briefs and orders.

Reid v. Estate of Sonder:

Judges Shepherd and Wells have an very interesting disagreement over the significance of record evidence.

I say "very interesting" but remember this is a probate case we are talking about.

State Farm v. Puig:

In a bad faith action are you entitled to the entire claims file including attorney-client protected communications?

You would think the answer to that question would be settled law, but remember this is Florida state court we are talking about.

Here is what Judge Rothenberg has to say:
We agree with the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Districts. In Ruiz, the Florida Supreme Court held that in the bad-faith context, the normally automatic work product protection afforded to certain claim file documents will not bar their production. Ruiz, 899 So. 2d at 1131. However, that decision did not add a firstparty bad faith exception to the statutory protection of confidential communications between attorneys and their clients.
The Judge continues:
Our review of the instant case reflects that the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by disregarding State Farm’s rightful assertions of attorney-client privilege. The trial court did so under the banner of the compelled claim file production involved in Ruiz. However, the issue in Ruiz was limited to whether an insurer’s assertion of work product protection must yield to a bad-faith plaintiff’s need to determine whether the underlying claim was processed in good or bad faith. Ruiz, 899 So. 2d at 1124. The Ruiz holding did not alter the availability and existence of the attorney-client privilege. See id. at 1131 (“In accordance with our decision today, work product protection that may otherwise be afforded to documents prepared in anticipation of litigation of the underlying coverage dispute does not automatically operate to protect such documents from discovery in the ensuing, or accompanying, bad faith action.”) (Emphasis added). In other words, the trial court’s decision lacked any support in the law.

The instant petition must be granted in large part because the essential requirements of law provide that the attorney-client privilege exists and is available to an insurer that is faced with a bad faith claim.
Will this clear things up?

Come on, you should know better than that!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Simply Amazing! And the Beat Goes On!

Simply Amazing! Order

I can't adequately do this Order justice, you'll have to just read it yourself.

A few highlights and questions.

(1)  Like the "Tale of Two Cities" intro.

(2)  Shouldn't sanctions orders have findings?

(3)  "Simply amazing"!

(4)  "Almost laughable"

(5)  "not in this instance"!

(6)  "caught with their hand in the cookie jar"

(7)  Federal Rules and Local Rules "mere suggestions."

(8)  Deft switch to criticizing defendant's response.

(9 ) ... wasting "trees".

(10) "The history of this case is self-explanatory."

(11)" .... and the beat goes on."

(12) Sanction includes letter being introduced without authentication -- ouch!

Seriously, though, the sanctions as ordered seem like they will be difficult in practice to actually implement in a trial setting, but who knows -- things have turned out pretty well in this case so far.

South Florida Legal Blawgers To Waste Everyone's Time on Friday!

Yes it's true, kids, a veritable murderer's row of your favorites, all ready to answer important questions about why everyone wastes their time reading these stupid things:

Ripped from the Headlines: Eleventh Judicial Circuit Honors
100th Anniversary with Symposium on Media and the Courts

* * *

            The Eleventh Judicial Circuit Centennial Committee, Joseph H. Serota, Chair, is pleased to present "Ripped from the Headlines: The Vital, Tempestuous and Changing Relationship between the Court and Media."

             Symposium Chairs Robert Kuntz and Timothy M. Ravich will present a 3-part, half-day symposium showcasing important trials throughout the history of the Miami-Dade County judiciary and focusing on what the future holds as court cases are actively covered by new and emerging media sources.

  • Part I – A multi-media historical presentation by the 11th Judicial Circuit’s Court Historian Judge Scott J. Silverman. This presentation will focus on the Court’s early relationship with the press, with an emphasis on Giuseppe Zangara’s attempted assassination of President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt at Miami’s Bayfront Park in February 1930.

  • Part II - A panel discussion of the William Lozano shooting of Clement Lloyd, Lozano’s trial and re-trial, and the evolving relationship between the media and the Court.

  • Part III – A panel discussion of the role that “new media” plays in the courtroom. The discussion will include blogging, Twitter, email, cameras in the courtroom, and feeding the 24-hour news cycle.

            Featured speakers include John Hogan, Mark Seiden, Roy Black, Joseph H. Serota, Bob Levenson, Kendall Coffey, David Markus, Brian Tannenbaum -- and special "appearances" by the writers of the legal “blawgs” The Justice Building Blog and South Florida Lawyer.

            The event is scheduled for Friday, March 25, 2011 beginning at 8:30 A.M. in Room 4-2 of the Miami-Dade Courthouse, For more information visit

Despite our presence, I do think it is unique and will be very interesting, plus it's for a very good cause.

We are only congregating in one place due to the hard work and fine efforts of symposium co-chair Robert Kuntz, an upstanding and highly respected attorney whose reputation for quality legal work and moral character is impeccable, who really should be a sitting judge as we speak, and who runs a literate and highly entertaining blog in his own right.

Oh yeah, and also Tim Ravich.

I even have a list of topics -- tentative of course.

They include:

Rumpole on why Anglophiles are sexy and make the best lawyers plus why escalators in courthouses should work at least some of the time;

David Markus on how to attract high-quality legal talent (hint -- marry them!) plus how to get the feds to pay your client's legal bills; and

Brian Tannebaum on how to win a Twitter fight (I think it involves "clouds," "Diggs" and "Tumblring"?).

As for me, the organizers have agreed to my standard twenty-four page contract rider, which specifies certain conditions of my appearance (btw -- thank you Robert and Tim for the oversized hot tub filled with Evian and patchouli -- I believe my remarks will be much more reflective, relaxed and peaceful).

Sorry kids, but you'll have to show up to hear the rest!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vote, You Plebes!

Today is the last day to vote for Florida Bar President and for open seats on the Board of Governors:
Schickel is part of a three-way race for president, which hasn’t happened in 26 years. The 1984 race saw Patrick Emmanuel of Pensacola win in a runoff with William Trickel Jr. of Orlando. Michael Plunkett was third.

Schickel is running against Walter Campbell Jr. of Fort Lauderdale and Gwynne Alice Young of Tampa. All three are members of The Florida Bar board of governors.

The winner needs 50 percent of the vote plus 1, so, with three candidates, it is likely there will be a runoff.

“This is the first contested race since 2000, when Herman Russomanno of Miami was elected, and the first three-way race I can remember,” said Howard Coker, 1998 Florida Bar president. “I fully expect there to be a runoff.”

Coker ran unopposed, so he didn’t have to campaign as much as Schickel, his fellow partner at Coker, Schickel, Sorenson & Posgay has.

“This is what I call an old-fashioned election. Because you don’t have any polling, you don’t have any trending, you don’t have any tracking like you do in major political races. Three people put their hats in the ring and you just have to see how it shakes out,” said Coker.
You can vote online here -- the deadline is the stroke of midnight (of course).

And for those of you with good memories, I offer this blast from the past:
This video has been removed by the user.
Hey, no fair!

Prominent Lawyers Get Special Treatment at Joe's -- All is Well With the World!

My Herald gag reflex usually doesn't kick in until Tuesdays (for obvious reasons), but it came a day early this week.

Let's see -- we're now in the middle of three wars and there is an unprecedented nuclear crisis in Japan, in addition to thousands lost and many more suffering from the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Not to mention unemployment, gas prices, global warming yada yada yada.

And all the President wants to do is work on his bracket!

But do not fear, my childrens, because Akerman's Mike Abrams has his very own gold plaque and table at Joe's:
Don’t see his name on it? Look to the right, on the wall, where there’s a gold plaque – the only one like it in the place – that reads very clearly, “Reserved for MIKE ABRAMS.”
A gold plaque?

In my view that's quite humble and modest -- remember, it could have been platinum.

Ok, I'm all for Joe's and lunch there frequently.  The food's great, the atmosphere is very New York busy, and you do see tons of people you know.

However, if I ever wind up in an article like this, regaling the special treatment accorded to prominent attorneys who lunch there and schmooze with Anthony and my buddy Steve, you have my absolute permission not only to note that I have "jumped the shark" but to just shoot me dead.

Let's round up the usual suspects:
For example, on a recent Tuesday, KnoxSeaton senior principal George Knox sat on the inner left side, declaring deadpan, I’m not a power player and I’m not a regular.” Too bad he was belied by Sawitz, who seated him prominently at a table he later declared (while grinning) had been reserved for Legal Legends, a distinction Knox had received in 2010 from the 11{+t}{+h} Judicial Circuit Historical Society. Knox was lunching with general litigation attorney Pamela Chavies, hoping she’d agree to help plan a scholarship component of the 2012 convention for Sigma Pi Phi, an 8,000-member organization of African-American professionals.
“It’s a social luncheon around a business topic,” says Knox.

Just behind him, construction king Bobby Castellano sat with Victoria Palacios, the vice president of sales for his new (and still confidential) conservation business, discussing with her and insurance exec John Lander a $25 million policy for a key man in the company.

One table over was banker-turned-University of Miami chairman Leonard Abess Jr., sitting with UM board member, beverage and automotive executive Manny Kadre. Also there: Weiss Serota Helfman managing partner Michael Popok eating with Katz Barron partner John Squitero; novelty manufacturer Sam Hollander celebrating his birthday with Gordon Miller and Isaac Serure; and research associate professor of biomedical engineering, radiology and family medicine at University of Miami, Dr. Edward Dauer with his daughter, Allison Dauer, a nurse at Bascom Palmer’s pediatric ENT clinic.

Other Joe’s regulars include: Best Buddies International founder, Anthony Shriver; Miami Beach Community leader Stu Blumberg; former Miami Beach mayor and Akerman Senterfitt partner Neisen Kasdin; Judge Rosa Rodriguez; trial lawyer Aaron Podhurst; commercial property negotiator Lyle Stern; actress and activist Sharon Gless; and real estate lawyer Steve Helfman.

Wait a minute -- Sharon Gless??

Are you s&^*ing me?

Beautiful and enchanting veteran 70s TV star, who appeared in such memorable fare as the Eddie Albert/Robert Wagner crime caper series Switch, or as the replacement for Lynn Redgrave in the TV version of the Walter Matthau film House Calls?

Well then, I take everything back.

(Note -- I recently asked Sharon to sign the above Switch fan photo last week at Joe's.  Sure, my lunch partner Aaron Podhurst was a bit unsure how to handle it when I took the photo and pen from my jacket and went running over for an autograph, I mean it was kind of a big scene and they had to call security and I never did get to finish my Key Lime pie, but what can I say -- the heart wants what the heart wants).

Friday, March 18, 2011

SFL Friday -- Please Help.

I'm sorta past these Friday afternoon posts but it's probably worth bringing back for a one-off given the magnitude of the situation in Japan.

So donate here, or Crowdrise here, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 and I promise I won't make any too many jokes about my "spent fuel rods."

David J. Stern Can't Afford to File Proper Motions to Withdraw.

 Something about this story really irks me:
Legal rules don't just allow attorneys to walk away from a case. They are supposed to file motions to withdraw, or the new attorneys are expected to file a notification that they are the new counsel.

"Florida Rules of Civil Procedure require that attorneys file a proper Motion to Withdraw from any case which they no longer plan to represent," said Eunice Sigler, a spokeswoman for the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County. "We are currently researching various options, including any remedies available through the Florida Bar."

Palm Beach County Chief Judge Peter Blanc said this week he's also trying to figure out how to proceed.
"Stern has provided notice he will no longer be attorney of record, but the court is unable to recognize it," Blanc said. "I'm told we're getting more stipulations of substitute counsel but not anywhere near the number we should have."

Blanc said he's never seen a move like Stern's before - sending a letter to judges that says "treat the pending cases as you deem appropriate."
Is this believable?

How is it possible you can't pay some paralegals to prepare and file motions?  Even if it took a month to wind down one would think Stern can -- and should -- cover these expenses.

Then the Court probably could rule on them without a hearing and Stern would be done.

Anyone else have any bright ideas?

These Proposals Seem Terrible!

What the hail are they doing in Tally:
Cannon wants to break the seven-member Supreme Court into two separate five-member tribunals, one to handle only civil cases and the other to hear only criminal cases, similar to systems in Texas and Oklahoma. That would give Gov. Rick Scott three appointments to the state’s highest court.

Cannon’s plan would require the three most senior justices — Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — to join the criminal appeals court.
Hmm, just a coincidence?

It gets worse:
A fourth bill by Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, would require all of the governor’s judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and to the five District Courts of Appeal to be confirmed by the state Senate. It passed on a party-line 10-5 vote. That bill would also abolish appeals court-level judicial nominating commissions, which recommend finalists to the governor.
What is the point of abolishing the JNCs?  So the flow of informed advice on judicial candidates ends?
When you elect idiots you get Idiocracy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Judge King Defaults Wachovia for Blowing Deadline -- Time to Take REALLY Deep Breath.

Mere hours after Judge Gold's excellent FBA speech on mindfulness, Judge King reminded counsel -- including heavyweights at Hunton & Williams and Birmingham's Maynard Cooper & Gale, that it's probably a good idea to double or triple calendar dates to respond to an amended complaint -- even if someone else is supposed to be handling it.

Why, you might ask?

All the Judge did was sua sponte enter a default against Wachovia for failing to respond to the Amended Complaint in an auction rate securities action!

The next day, after much deep breathing exercises I am sure (ed. note -- and possibly a call to the carrier), Birmingham lawyer Carl S. Burkhalter took one for the team (he also referenced his secretary and departed associate):
Defendant has not filed a timely answer to Plaintiff’s amended complaint. The reason for that failure, as explained below and in an accompanying declaration, is that the deadline date for answering Plaintiff’s amended complaint was not entered on the calendar of Carl S. Burkhalter, the undersigned attorney and primary defense counsel in this matter. The undersigned attorney depends on an associate and his secretary to docket deadline dates, but the associate in question (Ms. Prim Formby Escalona) left the firm in January 2011, whereas the undersigned’s secretary was unaware of the deadline and, thus, failed to make a calendar entry. Having said that, it is the undersigned’s duty to meet court-imposed deadlines. He accepts complete responsibility for this failure and he is profoundly sorry for the oversight.
Note to Carl -- your secretary does not get CM/ECF emails, you do.  Did you forward it to her?

Here's what he says happened:
Ordinarily, the February 17th deadline would have been docketed on the undersigned’s calendar by either or both of two persons: the associate on the file or Ms. Laura Juarez, the undersigned’s secretary. See Burkhalter Declaration. Unfortunately, these redundant systems failed in this instance, something that has never before happened in the undersigned’s twenty-year practice of law. The associate, Ms. Prim Formby Escalona, had left the firm in early January 2011 to become Chief Deputy for the Alabama Solicitor General. Id. In the undersigned’s federal court cases, any e-mail notices he receives are usually “auto-forwarded” to Ms. Juarez, who then makes the relevant deadline notation on the undersigned’s calendar. However, for some unknown reason, the “auto-forwarding” rule did not function in this instance, meaning that Ms. Juarez did not make a deadline entry on the undersigned’s calendar.
Oh boy.

Life happens, as they say.

Let's see what the plaintiff has to say about all this:
While Mr. Burkhalter’s efforts to take responsibility for Wachovia’s failure to timely comply with the Court’s Order appear sincere, they ignore the fact that two other current Wachovia lawyers were served with the Order and Amended Complaint. Thus, the Motion sets forth no good cause for their – or Wachovia’s – failure to timely respond. Moreover, the Motion fails to provide evidence in support of its purported defenses to STLA’s claims. Meanwhile, STLA is prejudiced by the delay. For these reasons, the Motion should be denied.
The Court has not yet ruled on the motion.

Who says being a litigator ain't stressful?

Who Else is Excited About Purim?

What, is there another holiday today?

Can't get that judge from The Verdict -- indelibly played by character actor Milo O'Shea -- out of my mind this morning.

This is one of his finest scenes.

Surfside Hires Gerald Houlihan For Only $750 an Hour!

Boy do those schleppers in Surfside know how to cut a deal.

For example, after getting hit with a federal lawsuit over a refusal to make some zoning changes to accommodate an expanded synagogue, the town attorney allegedly recommended they hire a federal lawsuit "specialist" who she -- according to this New Times article -- also just happens to be "dating," none other than dashing Gerry Houlihan:
This past December, Young Israel of Bal Harbour — a Jewish congregation that is actually based in Surfside — filed a lawsuit against the town after the town commission voted no to make zoning amendments that would have allowed the group to establish a new synagogue on an 8,000-square-foot lot it had purchased for $1.5 million. Young Israel claimed this was a violation of its members' religious rights, and demanded $5 million in punitive damages.

This sounds like a job for that town attorney. Except Dannheisser opined that the case required a specialist in federal lawsuits. She "looked around for the most experienced litigator," she explained at a recent commission meeting. She officially recommended that the town hire Gerald Houlihan. The Coral Gables attorney and Dannheisser are, by her own public admission, "dating." Houlihan's firm agreed to represent Surfside in the battle against the Jewish congregation for the low, low price of $750 an hour.
What's the problem?

Isn't that the whole point of being a town attorney -- steering business to friends, lovers and former colleagues?

Seriously, why else do it?

(I guess there's also all the free tickets!)

I also think Lynn cut a great deal getting Gerry at a bargain basement rate -- the dude's practically doing this pro bono as a public service -- just listen to Lynn explain it:
Dannheisser's somewhat mind-blowing defense: that Surfside has already obtained the services of another law firm — Weiss, Serota & Helfman — and that she was once a law partner with Joe Serota. Dannheisser boasted that "because of those personal relationships, I have been able to request that the attorneys cut their legal fees from $500 an hour to $250 per hour." That, she claimed, is "the benefit of those relationships."

(Psst -- don't tell anyone about what Michael Pizzi is charging the town of Medley, it might make Gerry seem a little pricey).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3d DCA Watch -- I'm Sick to Death of This.

The 3d DCA is really starting to get on my nerves.

There they sit, in their temperature-controlled bunker, working out in their plush mechanical room with borrowed old decrepit refurbished gym equipment, luxuriating in their bolted down washrooms, emitting written utterances wantonly and with reckless abandon as they swill their cold bitter brew.

They've almost got it as good as Wisconsin public school teachers!

So yada yada yada, let's hear what these hoity-toity high-falutin' high-steppers have to tell us about what we did wrong this week:

Beltran v. Kalb:

Boy, Judge Shepherd really likes the homestead exception:
The will of the people, as expressed by them in their constitution for more than 140 years, was fulfilled—the property was preserved for the benefit of the family.
What is this, Bonanza?

"They saved the Ponderosa, Hoss!  Tell Little Joe!"

Juba & Juba v. Milceus:

Judge Shepherd holds his nose and relieves counsel from screwing up in responding to a motion for sj:
Although, if given the opportunity, I would reconsider having joined the majority in AC Holdings 2006 v. McCarty, 985 So. 2d 1123 (Fla. 3d DCA 2008), wherein this Court relieved a defendant from the consequences of negligent counsel, which was not cured until a second motion for rehearing, I feel obligated by the doctrine of stare decisis to apply the reasoning of AC Holdings to relieve the defendants here of the consequence of similarly negligent counsel who sought to cure her error one motion for rehearing sooner. In each case, the error of counsel was basic and identical: the failure to submit sworn evidence in response to a
plaintiff’s motion for final summary judgment.
 AC Holdings is only from 2008 -- I'm not sure how strong a role stare decisis should play where the announced doctrine is merely a few years old.

Maybe the Judge is just cutting the lawyer a break and doesn't want everyone to know he's a softie at heart?

Thompson v. Walmart:

This case involves both "trial by ambush" and also a doctor whose real name is apparently "Felix Freshwater."

In my opinion neither is especially advisable.

Judge Gold's Mindfulness Campaign is Already Working!


Last week at the FBA luncheon Judge Gold delivered a tremendous message of mindfulness in the practice of law, and we're already starting to observe concrete, positive results.

For example, after I served a purely tactical 57.105 motion on opposing counsel the other day, the lawyer called me blabbering on as usual about my "bad faith."

Rather than getting into a shouting match about professionalism I simply asked "how does my motion make you feel?" and we suddenly had a really nice dialogue about organic yogurt and green tea.

So I think David Pollack's skepticism is unwarranted.

Also, per Dennis Kainen's question, I see judges are likewise starting to jump aboard the mindfulness bandwagon.

Here's a recent order from Magistrate Judge Brown that denies a motion for clarification "AS ABSURD":
The Court finds this motion totally disingenuous. One need not be a lawyer to understand that all responses to all discovery propounded by plaintiffs as of [December 21, 2010] shall be delivered on or before Monday, January 31, 2011 (emphasis added), means all responses to all discovery propounded as of the date of said order. While defendants suggest that they "seek clarification" - no clarification is needed. Perhaps it might be worth pondering ... what part of "all" do you not understand? But - it doesn't end there.

Defendants - in an attempt to somehow confuse the obvious - suggest that because they weren't seeking an extension in the motion for document production they weren't sure if this order pertained to same. There are two problems with that absurd argument: (1) the deadline given to defendants was already an "extension" since it was more than thirty (30) days from the date of  the order - much less from the date the discovery was propounded; and (2) if the confused defendants didn't understand this, and they didn't (by their own admission) ever seek an extension for the document production - why did they wait until almost one month after that deadline to file this motion?

The deadline for completion of discovery is in May, 2011. Therefore, and the Court being otherwise fully advised in the premises, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED as follows:

1. This motion for extension is GRANTED. The motion for clarification is DENIED AS ABSURD.
This seems harsh I agree, but think how much worse this Order could have been!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Someone Moved Howard Srebnick's Voting Site!

 I almost forgot there was an election today, but not Howard Srebnick:
Few problems were reported throughout the day at precincts, according to the county’s elections department.

But on Miami Beach, a number of voters were angry that several polling places had been moved.
Elections spokeswoman Christina White said the department notifies all voters via postcard when their precincts are relocated, and that advertisements are placed in newspapers.

But Howard Srebnick, a Miami Beach resident and prominent criminal defense lawyer, said the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, the city’s largest polling site, was shut down “without notice.”

“This is a scandal,” Srebnick said, noting that a number of voters who usually cast ballots at 2000 Convention Center Dr. are elderly and without transportation.

A sign at the Botanical Garden polling station redirects voters of precincts 30 and 34 to another polling site, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, 621 Alton Road – 15 blocks south. White said the elections department stationed a worker at the site to notify voters of the change.

Elections Spokeswoman Christina White said the precincts were moved because of a scheduling conflict, which the county learned about on Feb. 10.

“The site was unavailable,” she said. “It wasn’t our doing.”

Laura Jamieson, executive director of the Garden, said she notified the elections department as soon as she learned of the conflict with the recall election date.

“It’s valuable corporate business to us and it’s been booked for a full year,” she said.
Howard is right -- it's an absolute scandal that he doesn't read post cards or newspaper advertisements.

Now that I think about it, who does?

Seriously, County elections are severely screwed up and never more so than on election day.

If you are going to move an election precinct you have to do more than send out a post card and put an ad in the paper, forms of communication once popular during the Eisenhower Administration.

Indeed, people frequently have no idea where their precinct is, how are they going to find a new location if they can barely remember where they were supposed to go in the first place?

Breaking -- DCBA to Shutter Courthouse Night Box!

Like many of you, I received a note this morning from the DCBA, marking yet another passage of an era:
The Dade County Bar Association will no longer provide a filing box at the Dade County Courthouse for Third District Court of Appeal filings. All filings can now be made at the Third District Court of Appeal, in the night filing box located adjacent to the entrance steps at the Third District Court of Appeal, which is located at 2001 SW 117 Avenue, in Miami, Florida.  

Attorneys can now file directly at the Third District Court of Appeal throughout the evening and early morning. Documents place in the box prior to 8:00 a.m. will be clocked in as being "nightbox" filed as of the previous business day. There is no fee for using the filing box at the Third District Court of Appeal.

Since 1976, the DCBA has maintained a night filing box for the Third District Court of Appeal, located in the Clerk's Office at the Dade County Courthouse. Due to budget cuts affecting the Clerk of the Courts, that office reduced its hours and commenced closing at 4:00 p.m., thus eliminating the option of night filing.
Who else can remember late-night rushes to 73 West Flagler to drop off your expertly written pleading, followed by libations at Sally Russells, at which point everyone promptly forgot what case they were working on?

Dwyane Wade Gets Full Custody!

Maybe this will make the Heat play better, but regardless it's good news for Wade as the Chicago court that has been laboring for two years has awarded him full custody:
Still, the 102-page ruling had some sharp words for Wade's ex-wife.
"This court finds that (Siohvaughn Wade) has embarked on an unstoppable and relentless pattern of conduct for over two years to alienate the children from their father, and lacks either the ability or the willingness to facilitate, let alone encourage, a close and continuing relationship between them," read a portion of the ruling entered by Judge Renee G. Goldfarb.
Wade's attorney, James Pritikin, said the custody trial "was one of the longest ever in Cook County history."
These are strong factual findings, which will make it hard to overturn on appeal (the ex-wife's attorney has already stated one is forthcoming).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yoss Restructuring Complete!

Wow, I don't think anyone saw this coming:
In an e-mail sent to employees Friday, managing partner George Yoss notified employees that the firm would be winding down its legal practice and laying off all employees by the end of the month.

“As we are sure you are aware, these have been extremely difficult times for the firm,” stated Yoss in the e-mail. “After meeting with the bank and evaluating the firm’s status and financial position the decision was made to wind down its operation.”
Thanks to a tipster, we have managed to obtain an early draft of the email:
Oh f*&k.  F*&k f*&k f*&. F*&k a duck! Why maintain the ruse any longer?  We're f*&ked.  So f*&k you all and the horses you rode in on.  You think this s*&t's easy?  You try it.  Thank you to our loyal clients who stuck with us through the good times and bad.  That's f*&king sarcasm you dimwits.  Now good luck finding a job in this economy.  Did I mention we're f*&ked?
Yoss out.
Ok, those are pretty strong words, and I apologize for the vulgarities.

I suppose that's why you should never send an email when you're upset or angry.

Actually, here's the final real version they decided to go with:
As we are sure you are aware, these have been extremely difficult times for the firm. Over the past few months we have been dealing with many issues that have had a negative impact on the firm's ability to continue. After meeting with the Bank and evaluating the firm's status and financial position the decision was made to wind down its operations.

Accordingly we are giving to each of our employees the following notice:

It is anticipated that the firm will continue to provide legal services to its clients and will continue to conduct its regular business through March 31, 2011. Effective March 31, 2011, the firm will permanently close most of its facilities and will cease to provide legal services and will begin winding down operations. We hope to accomplish this with the least possible disruption to the lives of our employees, our clients and the community.

With the exception of several employees needed for the wind down period all employees of the firm will be laid off between now and March 31, 2011.
I don't know, the first draft has a kind of raw honesty you don't see much in law firm communications nowadays.....

Yossers, feel free to share your views in comments, our thoughts and prayers are with you and we wish you good luck in finding alternative employment.