News about the Firm – August

I (Godfrey) will be volunteering in the near future with the legal clinic run by Baltimore’s Jewish Family Services and with the Women’s Law Center of Maryland’s Employment Law Hotline.   Jewish Family Services runs a walk-in clinic monthly and they had a slot for an employment attorney, and the WLC has a weekly telephone hotline on employment law.  I look forward to meeting (again or for the first time) other volunteer attorneys with both organizations.

Congratulations to Craig Roswell, Esquire

A fellow Loyola Blakefield Don, Craig Roswell, Esquire, of Niles, Barton & Wilmer, has been named Managing Partner of that prominent Baltimore insurance defense firm.  Craig’s brother and I had essentially every class in high school together at Loyola for four years in the 1980s.  I was not aware that that firm had a history of 175 years, but apparently it does.  Best wishes to Craig!

The Latest in “Rakofsky v. Internet” from the Philly Law Blog

Philadelphia attorneys Jordan Rushie and Leo Mulvihill practice in that city’s Fishtown neighborhood and publish the Philly Law Blog.  If you haven’t read their synopsis of the procedural posture of that peculiar method of attorney career suicide that attorney Scott Greenfield of New York named “Rakofsky v. Internet“, go read it.

Rakofsky, even now, could probably salvage his career.  He could withdraw everything and maybe, after a couple years, start over.  Publish a memoir about how idiotic he was when he was young.  But no, he’s going to go down for the career bellyflop, it appears.

318 employed DC gov’t workers accused of defrauding unemployment office

This is the sort of story, noted in its earlier stages in this blog earlier this year, that makes a pro-worker, pro-labor, pro-union attorney want to hang it up and go earn the hourly rates that management pays its big-firm employment litigation counsel.

Washington Examiner, November 19, 2012:

Lisa Mallory, the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, told the D.C. Council that her agency had detected $1.9 million in overpayments to District workers who collected unemployment benefits while on the city’s payroll.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vincent Gray, said he did not know when the city’s probe would conclude, but he said Gray remained committed to the investigation.

“We intend to move it until every case is closed,” Ribeiro said. “They’re going to settle, we’re going to sue them, or they’re going to go to jail.”

The purpose of the original unemployment insurance programs was, and remains, the delivery of limited assistance to workers who, through no fault of their own, lose their jobs. Not only did workers get benefits while on the clock, but the very dishonesty itself justifies their firing from public employment. Dishonesty against one’s employer – the District of Columbia government! – justifies a firing after which no benefits will be paid, but the act of defrauding the unemployment insurance office itself will surely disqualify them from benefits beyond a mere no misconduct filing.

I do not handle UI appeals in the District of Columbia and do not know the precise current administrative penalty for defrauding UI. What is clear is that these workers are going to lose their jobs in many cases and will not only be unable to collect unemployment but will owe back benefits. Some of them may actually get prosecuted for UI fraud criminally; while criminal prosecution is not particularly common in Maryland where I practice primarily, it is a crime here too and such prosecutions do occur. In Maryland, the administrative penalty for fraud on the UI Division is one year’s absolute ineligibility for benefits from the date of the fraud (generally, an under-reporting of weekly wages); the criminal penalty when applicable includes jail.

Not everyone who is accused of fraud has committed fraud. Sometimes good-faith errors occur in the reporting of wages, especially when employers mishandle hours calculations, withholdings, tips, sales commissions or the like. Sometimes workers neglect to read carefully and report their net wages after tax withholdings, rather than the gross wages as required. In Maryland, the UI fraud investigators do not automatically make a finding a fraud after every case; sometimes a mere error correction is issued, but repeated errors that make no sense outside of fraudulent intent will result in a preliminary finding of fraud that a claimant may appeal to the Lower Appeals Division for review.

July 2012 update on the firm

The following is the latest from the Law Office.

1) Godfrey is working on three e-books for distribution to attorneys. The first will be a basic guide to attorney mentoring for both mentees and mentors; the second is be a compendium of 100 of the top Maryland cases for practitioners to know and the third will be a “how-to” guide for solo attorneys using technology and other real-world tools to start and operate their practices economically, ethically and professionally. The tentative “drop” date is December 1 for at least two of the books; it may not be possible to meet that deadline given the subject matter volume but that’s the target date.

2) The firm’s commitment to pro bono litigation continues in the matter of Walker v. Kimberlin in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division. In addition, the firm has provided representation for severely indigent or disabled workers in unemployment hearings in recent months pro bono publico.

3) The MSBA Bar Bulletin will feature Godfrey in its next issue in article on the Clio practice management software tools. The picture sent to the Bar Bulletin editors electronically from the Law Office’s server almost broke the server over at the MSBA – apparently due to technical issues rather than the more likely cause of Godfrey’s hateful, dread visage…. But all worked out.

4) Pending final confirmation of details, the Law Office will be sponsoring and teaching a free “Street Law” legal education course in Baltimore through the Baltimore Free School. The details are not finalized but the Law Office has received preliminary approval for the concept from the administrators. Topics will be basic, everyday law for real people.

5) The course on Unemployment Insurance: Law Practice and Procedure at Solo Practice University continues; 10 video lessons are in the “can” at SPU and there are two more to go. While Steven Spielberg, Ken Burns and George Lucas need not be quaking in their Rodeo Drive boots, the discipline of speaking on a timer and the skills of video editing have been rather useful to acquire, the former helping out a great deal at Godfrey’s recent presentation at the MSBA Annual Meeting’s “Going Geek” program track.

6) The Law Office anticipates moving to Reisterstown proper at the end of September. The Businessuites environment in Owings Mills has been wonderful for my practice and I recommend it and the team there strongly. I concluded, however, that I wanted to be closer to my gym, to my office’s long-standing PO Box (both within walking distance) and most importantly to other attorneys to retain a better sense of connection to the Bar. Denrich and Bell, LLC, will become my new landlord at the corner of Bond and Main in historic Reisterstown; Susan Bell and Diana Denrich’s practices complement my own and the congenial, informal attorney environment there will be most welcome.

7) A personal note: Mentoring has been a pleasure over the last several months. I have gotten to know better a number of junior members of the Bar over the last few months. A significant part of the content of the e-book on attorney mentoring will come from my interactions with these fine attorneys in their continuing professional development.

A Personal Statement About Professional Fortitude

Today’s tone will be a little earthier and more personal than I am normally willing to indulge here.  If coarse analogies offend, please go read this vulgarity-free light reading instead.

Lawyers far more skilled and dedicated than I have taken risks in their profession over the two centuries of the practice of law in this country. Would that I had learned more of their good examples in law school, and less about the useless trivial intellectual speculations of some of my law professors, who “opined deeply” while drinking down our tuition.

Lawyers who defended the targets of lynch-by-alternative-means in the South. And not only in the South, let’s be clear. Atticus Finch was a brave attorney in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, but his real-life counterparts have at times needed to worry about starvation for defending those whom “local justice” pre-determined as guilty – this in the pre-Gideon days when the right to counsel was even more theoretical than it is now, and local attorneys were ordered to take on cases at no charge and at the risk of considerable opprobrium in their communities.

Radical lawyers like William Kunstler who had the nerve to go inside Attica State Penitentiary during a prison riot (or, as some would maintain, an uprising). The lawyers who contributed sweat, treasure and sometimes blood to the formation of highly controversial organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and (much as I myself reject their Marxist roots) the National Lawyers’ Guild, and who litigated and organized despite real fear.

Some have taken smaller, but still real, risks. Conservative stalwart Ted Olson made a lot of his fellow conservatives unhappy by standing up as an appellate attorney for same-sex marriage as subject to the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and therefore by logical conclusion lawful. Liberal stalwart Alan Dershowitz has stood up for the free-speech rights of Nazis and Holocaust deniers to speak freely and even opposed private censorship of their speech. Whether same-sex marriage or free speech by antisemites is a “good thing” isn’t the issue; the issue is whether attorneys have the courage to get up and do their jobs when someone else tries to turn up the heat.

My examples have leaned “lefty” as a sample pool, but many examples of staunchly conservative attorneys who took risks in their professional lives in the midst of conservative legal advocacy also exist.

As some of my readers (or am I now down to “reader” in the singular?) may be aware, my law office is now involved in a case of some modest public note. This is not the place for discussions of the specifics of that case, but rather of some of the surrounding environment of that case. Many reports of “SWAT”-ing – the practice of filing or calling in false criminal reports as a harassment and intimidation tactic – have emerged in the growing narratives surrounding the “greater metropolitan case”. Who exactly is doing the “SWAT”-ing isn’t entirely clear, though I certainly have my suspicions. For me as a practicing attorney, the issue is whether I continue to do my job like a professional, or whether I start letting myself get “nervous” about having the police greet me with tactical shotguns at my front door because a “dead body” was, per some fraudulent report, being dragged out of my apartment. The positive examples of attorneys of generations past, attorneys who were also public citizens, urge maximum fortitude.

Fortunately, my local police captain was extremely receptive to my letter faxed to him describing my concerns; he assured me in his manifest professionalism today that he has gotten these sort of foolish calls before and has a highly disciplined squad who are simply not going to go “stormtrooper”, and who have been fully briefed and directed to check with him first before they assume that any report about me might be true. I had occasion to work with two of his detectives and one of his uniformed officers in January when two other community members and I got robbed at gunpoint outside my apartment; I will be seeing them again in August and September when the three suspects stand trial or plea out. So I am not particularly worried about getting “SWAT”-ted; whatever is out there doing the “SWAT”-ing should fear the police captain’s irritation, as he is clearly not in the mood to put up with any games.

I do know that there have been some petty efforts to interfere with my relationships with some legal referral sources of mine. But when I tell you I don’t care, I don’t care. I have no boss to “harass”; this law shop is mine for my clients’ welfare and I answer to no one but my clients and the courts.  That’s that.

Either you have the courage to do what needs to be done as an attorney, or you don’t. Fortunately, I do. At the risk of ungentlemanly coarseness, mine are made out of high-quality tempered American brass, and that fact settles the discussion.  Indeed, the best way to discourage this sort of nonsense is to respond to it with moral fortitude, measured, reasonable responses and, to the extent strictly lawful, vi et armis.

PS – welcome all of you visiting from Instapundit – sorry I didn’t clean up the place a bit better. Wish I had some beer to offer but alas, we don’t have “Google ColdDraft 1.0” yet installed on the site….

Walker v. Kimberlin Complaint and Motion for Emergency Preliminary Injunction


June 22, 2012 – The Law Office of Bruce Godfrey, in professional cooperation with Dan Backer, Esquire, of leading Washington, DC, campaign finance and political compliance law firm DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, has today filed a Complaint and Motion for Emergency Preliminary Injunction on behalf of plaintiff and attorney Aaron Walker, Esquire against activist Brett Kimberlin in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division.

Pending the imminent formation of a legal defense fund, the Law Office of Bruce Godfrey is participating in this litigation pro bono publico on behalf of Mr. Walker, due to the paramount constitutional principles at stake in the dispute outlined in the Complaint and Motion for Emergency Preliminary Injunction.  No further discussion of the merits of the case would be appropriate here at this time, out of respect for the rights of Plaintiff Walker and Defendant Kimberlin to a fair and unbiased jury trial, which the Complaint requests on issues so triable.  The relevant filings are available from the electronic filing and records systems of the United States District Court.

The Law Office of Bruce Godfrey is honored to participate in this case.

Going Geek, Gone Geek

I was most pleased to have the chance to speak at the MSBA Annual Meeting’s “Going Geek” presentations on June 14, 2012 in Ocean City. Four of us presented: Heather Pruger, Esq. of Saul Ewing, Laurie Wasserman Esq. of Tydings and Rosenberg, Hughie Hunt, Esq. of Kemet & Hunt in College Park and myself. We got a nice write-up by Danny Jacobs in the Daily Record today.

I should note that I quoted Eric Turkewitz’ phrase “Outsourcing Marketing = Outsoucring Ethics” with credit both on the PowerPoint slides and verbally at the projector; others have borrowed his intellectual property without crediting him and I want to make sure that no one thinks that happened in Ocean City.  Jacobs’ blog post quotes me paraphrasing Turkewitz’ comment but did not quote me as quoting Turkewitz himself, which I also did explicitly in the slides and verbally. I put a brief supplemental comment there to make sure Turkewitz gets the proper credit with the Daily Record’s readers.

New Law Office Developments, June 2012

As previously noted here, Bruce Godfrey will be opening the “Gone Geek” conference track of the MSBA Annual Meeting in Ocean City next week on Thursday the 14th.  The 8:15 AM lead-off presentation will cover “30 Tech Tips in 30 Minutes”, covering a variety of tools, strategies, vendors and key concerns in the modern social media and legal marketing era.  To the left is a summary of the main topics.

It’s a bit early to announce it officially, but Bruce Godfrey may be teaching a free “street law” course in Baltimore this fall through the Baltimore Free School.  If everything works out, the course will cover practice legal topics once a week such as consumer protection and debt collection, landlord-tenant, criminal procedure, the Maryland court system’s structure and employment law.

And a personal note:

In November 2010, I (Godfrey) co-presented on the topic of social media for attorneys at a conference of the Solo and Small Firm Division of the Maryland State Bar Association.  It was an honor to make that presentation with attorney Bradley Shear, Esquire, whose knowledge of the matter substantially exceeds mine.  It is somewhat ironic to report that I have decided to cease participation in most social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook, as they have grown to be a source of strife and unpleasantness as two separate incidents, one on each of those sites, demonstrated over the last several days.  Accordingly, clients and real-life friends and acquaintances expecting to see me on those sites should, if they wish to say “hello”, pick up the phone and say “hello.”

Gone Clio interview with Godfrey on Legal Talk Network

Jack Newton of Themis Solutions, the publisher of the Clio online law practice management platform, interviewed me last week to discuss my overall positive experience with their product.  The discussion is probably of interest primarily to other attorneys but perhaps there might be value to other self-employed professionals in the discussion as well.  15 minutes.

FYI the fishing tackle business in question is Godfrey Custom Tackle, owned and operated by my father Ted Godfrey with a lot of help from my mother Faye Godfrey.