Thursday, April 30, 2009

Woman caught hiding $800,000 from husband, Sues the bank for telling him

A Long Island, New York woman is suing Chase Bank for telling her husband that she had a secret account worth more than $800,000 at the bank.

Chase Bank cold called the house to offer investment advice. The husband answered the phone. The Bank told him about the account.

The husband then "began harassing [the wife], asking for money from the funds that he can invest in the stock market and to cover a margin call he had on his stock account," the wife's suit says. The husband then began "alienating" the wife, so she forked over $155,000 "to save her marriage and restore order in the marital home," the suit says.

The wife is now suing the bank to recover the $155,000 that she paid to her husband on the grounds that the bank violated federal privacy laws that "prohibit the disclosure of non-public, personal information."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lenders can shut down cars of delinquent borrowers.

AOL Autos has a good article about a new piece of technology that allows car dealers or lenders to remotely disable a vehicle if the borrower misses a payment. The devices, which are apparently required by a growing number of subprime auto lenders, will alert the driver with a concert of tones and flashing indicators a couple of days before a payment is due. Then, a couple of days after the deadline, if no payment is made, the power will be completely cut. The devices also contain GPS so that the lender can quickly locate and retrieve its collateral.

Friday, April 17, 2009

That's not fair!

Plaintiffs can file suit under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act for conduct that was neither fraudulent nor deceptive.

A plaintiff may allege that conduct is "unfair" under the Act without alleging that it was deceptive according to the ruling out of the First District in Demitro v. GMAC. In that case, plaintiff bought a Chevy Suburban for nearly $40,000. His payments were$742.18 per month. Not surprisingly, he couldn't afford it. He became delinquent nearly $2,200. He contacted GMAC. They wrote him a letter giving him seven days to come current. During that seven day period, he wrote a check to pay off his balance, but it bounced, so his truck was repossessed.

GMAC sold the truck to pay off the balance. Plaintiff sued alleging that it was unfair that his truck was repossessed during that seven day time period. (Incidentally, he never paid off his delinquency. He claimed that his check bounced because he couldn't get to the credit union to deposit funds to cover his check because his truck was repossessed.)

In any event, the court agreed that GMAC's conduct was unfair. In determining whether conduct is unfair, courts consider whether the practice offends public policy, whether it is oppressive, and whether it causes consumers substantial injury. All three criteria do not need to be satisfied to support a finding unfairness. A practice may be unfair because of the degree to which it meets one of the criteria or because to a lesser extent it meets all three.

Plaintiff was awarded $7,560 in compensatory damages, $53,101 in attorneys' fees, and $1,151 in costs.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Illinois seeks to ban texting while driving.

Proposed paragraph (b) of Illinois House Bill 71:

"A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message."

This bill already passed the House 89-27 and now awaits a vote in the Senate.

Click here for the full text of the bill.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What happens when a law student mixes advocacy with social networking?

When 25 year-old law student Adam Reich took on a post-conviction case as part of the USC Gould School of Law’s Post-Conviction Justice Project, he decided that his advocacy before a California parole board was not quite enough. Instead, he wanted as many people as possible to follow his plight.

His nonlawyer friend set up Web channels for the project. A website was created. Updates were made on Twitter. Messages were sent to Reich’s Facebook friends. The end result: the second year law student successfuly helped release a woman after she spent 29 years in jail and he gave internet communities front-row access as every event related to the project unfolded.

Although he’s not a “web expert”, Reich used online social networking as his backbone during the project. In an e-mail interview with the ABA Journal, he said he spent 22 hours a day on the case from Jan. 1 until the convicted woman walked out of prison. He estimates 50 percent was spent working the social media channels.

Social networking is an invaluable way to connect or re-connect with people for projects, networking and job searches. With websites like LinkedIn and the ABA’s Legally Minded, social networking has transcended from mere socializing to a form of professional communication. In Reich’s case, his social networking sites helped make his advocacy efforts a success.

Read the ABA's Complete Article on Reich.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tips on the Oral Argument

Last night I was looking for some new cases to read up on, but instead I discovered a part of the Illinois Courts website that I didn’t notice before... the Oral Argument Audio Video Section. It’s interesting because you can definitely learn what to do and what not to do when presenting an oral argument. Personally, I welcome all sorts of public speaking opportunities (it’s partly why I chose to pursue this profession) I think its fun; and can undoubtedly create an opportunity to deliver a message in a way that was not there before.

So here are my educational tips to approaching the Oral Argument: and videos included!

1. Be prepared!
The best thing you can do for yourself in an oral argument is to be prepared! If you know your argument, the cases which support it, and the order in which you will present your argument you have nothing to worry about!

Practical ways you can accomplish this:

Get organized! Figure out what you need and simply take what is necessary to the podium. I suggest your brief, a manila folder which neatly contains your presentation, Post-it-Notes, and a trusty pen (Post-it-Notes and Pens are not really necessary at the time of your presentation; rather they are useful to take notes as your opponent is speaking). ----Click for image----

Print your argument in short hand format (an outline), this will help you stay on track with your argument and in case you are forced to step out of your argument order you can quickly step right back in.
---Click for image---

List your cases, so if you need to cite them to the court it’s right in front of you. And if you need to refresh you memory on a case it’s also right in front of you! ---Click for image---

Lastly rehearse your argument front of a mirror if you have to! The key is to just do it! You want to work the kinks out so you won’t work them out in front of the judges.

2. Look good feel good!
Make sure you dress professionally (see image at the top). Looking professional sets the tone not only for yourself but for those who are going to be listening to you. Avoid “flashy colors” (i.e. hot pink, lime green), unnecessary jewelry, and bothersome hairstyles. The last thing you want the court to be paying attention to is the choice of your attire, your blindingly reflective jewelry you refer to as “bling”, or the constant hand gestures moving your hair out of your face. Strike the balance between looking professional and feeling comfortable. Oh and if you have to ask, “Is this appropriate?” It’s probably not!

3. Respect
Respect the court and its procedure! Simply knowing these few points will increase your credibility and respect in the eyes of the courts and your peers.
Don’t approach the bench until asked to.
Begin with “May it please the court, my name is (your name here) and I represent the (party name and role in lawsuit).
Request time for rebuttal; NEVER assume your going to get time! (As a matter of fact in most courts if you don’t request it...YOU WAIVE IT!)
Briefly and concisely, introduce with out looking at your notes the following: (Yes that means memorize these!)
The issue and your clients stand (Make this great! You command the attention at this point.)
The reasons in which you will discuss why your client should prevail (Make eye contact)
The most relevant facts (Be brief because the court usually wants to skip passed these)
Now take a breath and begin your points in detail (You can look at your notes now, but don’t stare at them!)
When speaking, avoid unnecessary hand gestures, try keeping in front of you on the podium.
Lastly if a judge speaks you zip it! No matter what you are saying! (Its that respect thing again)

In an effort to show you what to do and what not to do I have written some points and illustrated them with video links from our very own Illinois courts Website. Unfortunately the videos are more than half an hour each so I only refer to the good and not so good that occurs in the first two minutes of each oral argument.

Video 1: Weather-Tite v. University of St. Francis
The good:
She waited until she was requested to approach the bench.
She dressed professionally
She was organized and had only what she needed at the podium
She began with the “may it please the court”
She had some good eye contact
She stops speaking when the judges begin speaking

The not so good:
She forgot to mention who she was?!
She began to get flustered, it would have been better if she memorized her introduction
She had to mover her hair behind her ear. (Not a huge deal...but try to prevent having to do that)
She was nervous...and it showed.

Video 2: Stern v. Wheaton-Warrenville Community Unit School District 200
The good:
He had a good introduction overall!
He dressed professionally

The not so good:
Really did you need all those papers?

Video 3: Turner v. Memorial Medical Center
The good:
He approached the podium when asked
Good classic opening sentence

The not so good:
Lack of eye contact
Unnecessary hand gestures
Really do you need all those papers and pens?

Video 4: Halpin v. Schultz
The good:
He approached when asked
He gave a good history of the case
He had his documents neatly organized and limited

The not so good:
There was no classic introductory sentence
You really don’t have to tell us who present in the court
Skip the lost us for a minute
There were unnecessary hand gestures
He did not have the codes handy: (see 2min 5 seconds)

Video 5: Beelman Trucking v. Workers' Compensation Commission
The good:
He dressed professionally
He spoke in a respective tone

The not so good:
He approached the podium before asked to
Really did you need all those papers and folders up there? (unorganized)
He did not begin with the classic sentence
There were unnecessary hand motions!
There was a lack of eye contact

Video 6: In re: Cutright
The good:
He dressed professionally.
He brought minimal papers to the podium.
He approached the podium when asked.
He used the classic introductory sentence.
He clearly stated his clients stand and the issues in a clearly spoken and concise manner.

The not so good:
He could have made better eye contact.
He nervously scratched his cheek...repeatedly.
He nervously played with his ring.

Lastly here is a young law student, Victoria Corder, who in my opinion does a pretty darn good job!--->Video

As always opinions & comments are welcome!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rocket Science

I’m not a big television person, but every now and then I’m compelled to watch some good old “reality TV”. Something about people foolishly making themselves appear unintelligent or uneducated makes me smugly feel better about myself. Cops, Peoples Court, and yes even The Real Housewives of New York City are among my, “if it’s on and I have nothing better to do I’ll watch it” list.

Well, apparently I had nothing better to do. (As a law student I don’t know how that is possible but, sure why not?) I was watching Judge Judy, and this particular case involved two young women and their parents. Apparently the defendants daughter got a little reckless when she decided to push the plaintiff’s daughter into a pool which in turn caused complete damage of an iPhone.

Watch the video below and see how easy it is to smugly feel better about yourself. Oh and if you’re watching this video and think that defendants daughter reminds you a certain Miss Teen South Carolina of 2007...I concur.

Rocket Science on Judge Judy

I guess a better question to have asked would have been, "What is a rhetorical question?"

...Just in case you are wondering here is Miss Teen South Carolina of 2007 --> Miss Teen South Carolina of 2007

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Objections to Discharge

Last Friday, I settled an adversary lawsuit in bankruptcy court about thirty minutes before our trial was supposed to start. My client is owed approximately $115,000 from a former commercial tenant. In February 2008, the tenant filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In Chapter 7s, creditors are not able to file claims unless they are notified by the trustee that there are assets available for distribution. In this case, it appeared that there were no assets, but my client was aware of assets owned by the debtor that were not disclosed by him on his bankruptcy petition.

So, we needed to file an adversary complaint. There are two ways to object to a debtor's discharge in bankruptcy. The first one involves non-dischargeable debts. Section 523 of the bankruptcy code outlines nineteen types of debts that are not dischargeable, including taxes, student loans, and domestic support obligations. Also, included are debts incurred through "false pretenses, a false representation, or actual fraud." Based on the circumstances of this particular case, we could have alleged that the debt was incurred through fraud, but I didn't think that we would be able to prove it at trial.

The second type of objection is a general objection to the debtor's discharge under Section 727. That section outlines several circumstances under which a debtor's discharge will be completely barred. For instance, if the debtor made a "false oath" in connection with his bankruptcy filing.

After a careful review of the debtor's petition, we determined that there were at least nineteen different answers by the debtor that we thought were less than truthful. We filed a general objection to his discharge. Throughout the course of discovery, and right up to the final trial preparations, it was apparent that the debtor either outright lied on his petition, or at the minimum, he showed a "reckless indifference" to the veracity of his statements which should prevent him from obtaining his discharge.

At the last minute, the debtor wanted to settle. If he lost at trial, his entire bankruptcy case would be dismissed. He wanted to settle with my client so that he could discharge everyone else. My client had in interest settling as well so that we would be the only creditor left standing after the completion of the bankruptcy case. Thirty minutes before trial, the debtor consented to a non-dischargeable judgment in favor of my client for the full $115,000, plus $13,000 in attorney's fees.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poetry in Law

Here is an interesting case that, if you have not already come across, is an amusing read! It’s an actual case that the Honorable Judge Gillis decided to get creative with. Apparently West Law thought it was amusing and added their own stanzas about the case.

Fisher v. Lowe, 333 N.W.2d 67 (Mich. App. 1983).

A wayward Chevy struck a tree
whose owner sued defendants three.
He sued car's owner, driver too,
and insurer for what was his due.
For his oak tree that now may bear
a lasting need for tender care.
the Oakland County Circuit court,
John O' Brian, J., set forth
the judgment the defendants sought
and quickly an appeal was brought.

Court of appeals, J.H.Gillis, J.
Gave thought to this and had this to say:
1) There is no liability
since no-fault grants immunity;
2) No jurisdiction can be found
where process service is unsound;
and thus the judgment, as it's termed
is due to be and is


(West Law)
1. Automobiles Key # 251.13
Defendant's Chevy struck a tree-
there was no liability;
the No-Fault Act comes into play
as owner and the driver say.
barred by the act's immunity
no suit in tort will aid the tree.
Although the oak's in disarray
No court can make defendants pay.

2. Process Key # 4
No jurisdiction could be found
where process service was unsound;
In personam jurisdiction
was not even legal fiction.
Where plaintiff failed to well comply
with rules of court that did apply.

Summary of appeal court's opinion

J.H. Gillis, Judge
We thought that we would never see
a suit to compensate a tree.
A suit whose claim in tort is prest
upon a mangled tree's behest.
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
against a Chevy's crumpled crest.
A tree that faces each new day
with bark and limb in disarray.
A tree that may forever bear
a lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
we must uphold the court's decree.


Big Brother

Leave it to government to add even more administrative burdens to the practice of law. On May 1, the Federal Trade Commission will begin enforcement of the “red flags rule” The rule is part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), legislation in response to the rise in identity theft. Because more than half of identity thefts occur in the workplace, businesses are going to now be required to implement certain safeguards.

Under the new rule, lawyers must implement a written policy specifying how they will watch for the warning signs -- the “red flags” -- that indicate an identity theft may be occurring and how they will respond to prevent or mitigate the crime if uncovered. The extent of the written policy depends on entirely on the type of practice and the FTC concedes that there is no bright-line rule. For a good overview written by Susan D. Oja and Alex De Grand of the State Bar of Wisconsin, follow this link.

This new "rule" should go along quite nicely with the changes to the Illinois Notary Public Act that becomes effective June 1, 2009. The changes are part of a four year pilot program designed to reduce real estate fraud in Cook County. The big changes for those of us who are notaries and practice in Cook County is we have to create and keep a Notarial Record, which requires us to take down certain identifying information, the funnest of which will be a person's right (not left) thumbprint, if they are transferring real property in Cook County. The good news is we can now charge up to $25.00 for each notarization.

For an overview of the Act's other changes as complied by the National Notary Association click here.

As an aside, for my practice I plan to start doing cheek swabs to have my client's DNA, to ensure compliance with the new laws. I will keep the package of swabs right next to my ink pad for the fingerprints.

Welcome Cynthia Edwards!

The Northern Law Blog is pleased to announce the addition Cynthia Edwards as a contributor to site. Cynthia is a 3L student at NIU. She is currently a court mediator at the Zeke Giorgi Legal Clinic. She has also worked in the Office of the Ombudsman where she helped students and parents resolve university related disputes.

In college at the University of Illinois, Cynthia wrote for the Daily Illini student newspaper and Buzz Entertainment magazine. She also directed live news radio programs, produced her own radio show called "College News with Cynthia Nicole," anchored, reported and directed live newscasts for UI-7 News television, and completed a production internship with CBS Radio. She also served as a camerawoman for the PBS television show "Illinois Gardener" and wrote press releases for published books at the University Press.

Wow! It's great to have such a media savvy individual on the site. Great to have you Cynthia!


There has been some confusion recently between Maryam Khan (’05) and Marium Khan (’03). Maryam Khan is an attorney in Palos Heights. Marium Khan is an attorney and the Manager of New Business Intake at DLA Piper in Chicago.

Maryam Khan was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office on Wednesday. Marium Khan was not.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cook County, Illinois Suspends Most Foreclosure Hearings


In Cook County, Illinois (where approximately 50 % of the state's foreclosure volume is located), the Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division has imposed an administrative order regarding the management of foreclosure cases. In addition to requiring additional court appearances for case management, the order suspends scheduling of hearings until September in many cases.

Scheduling Suspended on All Cases Filed After 1/1/09

Effective April 1, 2009, no new hearing dates (either for judgment or orders confirming sale) can be scheduled in Cook County. This suspension will continue until August 31, 2009. A waiver of this rule in individual cases may be requested on notice and motion for “good cause”, but “good cause” is likely to be limited to situations in which the property is vacant and abandoned, and proof of this abandonment can be presented to the court. The evidence required will include affidavits prepared by a property inspector who inspected the property within 30 days of the hearing.

July and August Suspension for All Cases Filed Before 1/1/09

Cases filed before 1/1/09 can continue to be scheduled. However, these cases cannot be scheduled during the months of July or August 2009, unless the case is on the court’s contested call. Default cases will not be allowed to proceed in these months. Hearings already scheduled for July and August will be cancelled.

Calendar Call for Cases filed Before April 1, 2009

All pending foreclosure cases filed before April 2009, will be scheduled for special case management hearings in July and August, 2009. Attorneys will be required to appear at these hearings and report to the judges on the statuses of these cases.


Cook County’s new case management system will result in significant delays in foreclosure completions on approximately half of all Illinois foreclosures. In addition to the delays, additional costs may be incurred as a result of additional required court appearances for the case management calendar calls and for motions to for leave to set hearings on abandoned properties.