Posted January 19, 2018, 5:19 pm CST
Legal technology entrepreneur Derek Bluford has been indicted on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
The five-count indictment in the Eastern District of California alleges that the 30-year-old Bluford falsely represented himself as an attorney to a married couple and defrauded them of $535,000.
Bluford, the founder of two online legal startups—California Legal Pros and Quicklegal—was seen as a rising star in the legal technology community, according to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites.
In the indictment, it is alleged that Bluford represented himself as an attorney through his company California Legal Pros to a couple wrangling a legal dispute with a tenant in California.
The couple accepted Bluford’s services in 2014. He subsequently claimed his representation of them created numerous court fees, county fines and settlement costs. The couple paid the various fees to Bluford, which he pocketed, the indictment alleges.
In one example from the indictment, Bluford claimed to have negotiated a settlement with a tenant to stave off a countersuit. Bluford collected $130,000 from the couple to pay the settlement, gave less than $5,000 to the tenant and spent the rest on personal expenses.
The criminal charges, brought Jan. 11, track a civil suit filed by the couple against Bluford in 2016.
In a separate matter, Bluford was sued by an attorney in 2014 who worked as in-house counsel for Quicklegal and was not paid, according to the filing. The case was settled last year.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, if found guilty of these recent charges, Bluford faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and 10 years in prison for money laundering.
Bluford has been given conditional release awaiting trial.
“We be falling up, never falling down / We keep it at a higher level, elevated ground.” — Black Eyed Peas
The New Year often forces us to take an accounting of our lives. Are we measuring up to the age we live in? Are we living our best lives? For Clark Hill attorney Kara Rozin, this New Year marked an exceptionally reflective time.
Rozin joined Clark Hill in September 2016 and her tenure with the firm has been quite busy thus far. Last year, Rozin’s sister had a baby and then shortly after she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Nine months later, in December, Rozin’s husband was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. Through the health scares and hospital stays, Rozin still managed to bill 1950 hours. Work became both her release from and her resource for dealing with the stresses of her family life.
Earlier this month, Clark Hill announced that Rozin was elected to membership (promoted to partner). I have known Kara ever since she became an attorney and have had the chance to witness her journey. If I had to describe her in one word, I would call her a fighter. She never backs down from and she is always willing to square up to a good challenge.
This week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Kara Rozin. It has become evident that her life and career experiences have made her wise beyond her years. Without further ado, here is a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation:
Renwei Chung (RC): Congratulations on being recently elected to membership in your firm. Can you tell us a little bit about your career so far?
Kara Rozin (KR): Thank you! It’s a great start to 2018. I can’t believe this year will be 10 years of practicing law for me. My practice is focused on Education and I represent public school districts across Michigan in an array of matters ranging from labor and employment to student discipline to labor negotiations. I also regularly train school district employees on recent legislation and timely hot topics such as Restorative Justice and Title IX/Title VII Sexual Harassment.
RC: Your recent promotion may have been the least noteworthy news, among all the other surprises you endured, in 2017. Can you share with us a little bit about last year’s journey and how you have dealt with or what you have learned from it?
KR: 2017 was a year of challenges, that’s for sure. In March 2017, only a few months into my new position at Clark Hill, my younger sister was diagnosed with brain cancer. Then, 9 months later in December, my new husband was diagnosed with bile duct cancer. I’m really not sure how I dealt with that, all while hitting my billing target.
I am still dealing with it actually, but I learned “not to sweat the small stuff” and to take advantage of my resources when I need to. Work has become both my release and resource, because on one hand it was nice to focus on helping clients with their problems, but I have also learned to leverage my practice group partners when I need time away for me and my family.
I am grateful to work with such amazing people in my practice group and firm who do not hesitate to step-in when called on. I LOVE what I do and the clients I serve, but it’s important to remember that family comes first, because without them, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I’m at.
RC: What professional, career, or life advice do you have for young attorneys and those currently attending law school?
KR: For those currently attending law school, my advice is don’t think you will learn anything about the “PRACTICE” of law while in law school. Law school gives you the foundation, the science of law. However, the practice of law is an art, which is only learned and mastered once out of law school. The more practical, hands-on, experience you can get while in law school, the better. Volunteer at legal aid, go and watch motion hearings in court, intern at a law office. You’ll be one step ahead of your competition.
For young attorneys, the best advice I can give is that if you think being a lawyer is a 9-5 job, you are in the wrong profession. The practice of law does not start and stop once you cross the threshold of the office. Your clients may call afterhours when they get out of work, you may have to spend a Saturday afternoon researching an issue that cannot be billed to the client, or you may wake up at 3am the day of a motion hearing and spend another few hours reviewing your oral argument because you cannot fall back asleep.
Competition is brutal and clients want the best, so you should always be available to your clients and working to increase your knowledge and expertise in your chosen field of practice. Always anticipate the next “issue” or “hot topic” so you beat your competition to the punch.
RC: What advice do you have for law firms to be more fair and inclusive in their hiring and promotion practices?
KR: Women in the law have come a long way; however, there is still work to be done. I still remember my first year of practice when I would show up to a hearing or deposition and an “old boys club” opposing counsel would ask if I was the court reporter or a law clerk.
It took time, experience and a new layer of thick skin to establish myself and my reputation. Once there, it’s been a continuous effort to maintain that reputation—often going above and beyond what some of my very dear friends and male colleagues have had to do to obtain the same recognition or results.
I am honored to work for a firm that embraces, and celebrates, women in its hiring and promotion practices. We have a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, who sponsored training at our annual firm retreat last July in our nation’s capital, “Breaking through Bias: Understanding Gender Stereotypes and How Legal Organizations Can Achieve Real Gender Diversity.”
Knowledge is power, but it doesn’t stop there. Training and education regarding gender inclusion and equality in the workplace should be incorporated into practice. This goes both ways. Women need to break the silence, along with the glass ceiling.
RC: What do you do when you are not practicing law?
KR: I spend as much time as I can with family and friends. One of the biggest blessings during my year of challenges last year was the birth of my nephew, Luke!
He actually just turned one this week. I call him “Chunker Monker” because he is so chunky. He’s brought our family so much joy and happiness. I absolutely love being an Aunt, watching him grow and spoiling him rotten!
The other love of my life (besides my husband) is our fur-child, Arnie. He’s a 6 year old chocolate lab and a BIG BABY! We spoil him so much and enjoy taking him to parks and to the lake to swim in the summer.
RC: It was great chatting with you. Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?
KR: Thanks for having me! I’ll leave the audience with my favorite quote from Erin Hanson about believing in yourself and taking chances: “There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky, and you ask what if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”
* When it comes to the retrial of sexual-assault charges against Bill Cosby, there are many women — 19, to be exact — willing to testify #MeToo.
* Best friends: which organizations file the most amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court?
* Judicata just ranked the brief-writing skills of 20 top California law firms; how did your firm fare?
* How will artificial intelligence transform society? Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, and Harry Shum, executive VP of Microsoft’s AI and research Group, share their insights.
* Speaking of AI, how will it affect the world of legal practice? Jake Heller, CEO of AI pioneer Casetext, has answers.
* Professor Noah Feldman identifies the shortcomings of Twitter as a forum for legal discussion (but has some kind words for legal blogs, including the one you’re reading right now).
* Message boards are also valuable resources — like this one, “where all the unemployed lawyers go to cry.”
* Marc Randazza is a commendably fierce defender of the First Amendment, but this latest case might be a bridge too far.
* Check out this fascinating profile of a Mormon lawyer who lost his faith searching for an archaeological site.
* Why do we need people from s**thole countries? Meet five lawyers who prove the merits of immigration.
* Think twice before asking your accountant buddy to do your taxes for you.
* Speaking of taxes, we’ve finally uncovered the real victims of the new tax scheme — partners who want a break on sports tickets.
EVEN IF THE GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN, THE COURTS WILL STILL STAY OPEN: For three weeks. After that, I don’t know. I’m rooting for total anarchy though. I’m one of those “anarchy is preferable to tyranny” guys. Basically the entire project of Western political philosophy has been trying to tell me I’m wrong, but those philosophers have all been white. Here’s my post.
HOW ARE YOU DOING, 2LS and 3LS? Apparently 2Ls and 3Ls are more likely to screw around on their laptops than 1Ls. Which makes sense. Because law school should not be three years long. Anyway, Joe welcomes our readers here.
WE ASKED DEALBREAKER TO EXPLAIN CRYPTOCURRENCY: Listen to the podcast here. You might learn something, or, in the alternative, feel superior to me because you already knew all this stuff.
PAYDAY LOANS ARE EVIL: There’s really no excuse for making them come back, except for the fact that the President is a con-man and therefore has no problems with predatory “banking.” Post here.
MALE CLIENTS PREFER MALE ATTORNEYS: I mean, men suck. I’d apologize for my gender, but that would just make some man call me a ‘cuck’, and then I’d have to challenge that man to a fight, because I’m a man and I don’t really know how to settle my differences without at least threatening physical domination of my enemies. But I would be willing to hire a woman to defend me from the manslaughter charge, which, apparently, makes me a more evolved man than most. And because I’m a more evolved man than most, I generally feel I should be rewarded with sex and meat. Basically, I should probably be forcibly prevented from participating in society. But Kathryn’s post has some less violent and totalitarian solutions.
As reflected by the upcoming return of the travel ban to the U.S. Supreme Court, the success of President Donald Trump in advancing his agenda depends in significant part upon the federal judiciary — and the identity of its members. This explains why, despite all the Sturm und Drang at the White House, the Trump Administration continues to move forward diligently on judicial nominations. Many of President Trump’s initiatives might get stuck in Congress, struck down by courts, or undone by his successor — but his appointees to the federal bench, appointed for life, will be around for a long, long time (especially given the administration’s focus on youth when selecting nominees).
The administration continues to stay the course on judicial appointments. Earlier this month, President Trump renominated 21 judicial picks whose nominations automatically lapsed at the end of 2017.
And Republican Senators continue to do their part as well. Congress has been focused this week on averting a government shutdown, but that hasn’t stopped the Senate from making progress on nominations. Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved 17 of Trump’s judicial nominees, sending them to the Senate floor for confirmation votes.
Of the 17 nominees, eight were approved on 11-10, party-line votes, with only two winning unanimous support. Three of the nominees are up for appellate- or circuit-court seats, and the other 14 are for trial-
or district-court seats. (You can see the names of the 17 on the SJC website, with “January 18, 2018” next to their names.)
When will we see floor votes for the SJC-approved nominees? It could take a while. As I previously explained, when discussing the sorry state of Justice Department nominations, the Senate Democrats are invoking procedural rules that require 30 hours of “debate” on every nominee. There’s often no actual debate, but this does require the passage of Senate floor time — so it could actually take weeks to get all 17 confirmed (despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s effort to prioritize and fast-track judicial nominations).
Could this change? Quite possibly. If Republicans get fed up with the slow progress, they could invoke the “nuclear option,” just as the Democrats did regarding the judicial filibuster, and abolish or amend the 30-hour rule by majority vote. I predict that changes will be made at some point, unless the Democrats relent; otherwise it will take years to get all of Trump’s nominees confirmed. (One possible reform, suggested by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), would reduce the required debate to two hours for district-court nominees, but leave the 30 hours in place for circuit-court nominees.)
In light of the new year and recent activity, now is a good time for me to revisit judicial nominations. I haven’t written in any depth about the subject since last September, before my paternity leave and job change here at Above the Law, even though the subject is near and dear to my heart.
Today I’m going to conduct a round-up of nomination news in the different judicial circuits up through and including the Fifth Circuit. Next week I will cover the remaining circuits. This time around, in a departure from my past practice, I will include discussion of interesting district-court as well as circuit-court news.
As of this writing, there have been 23 judicial confirmations during the Trump Administration — which gives President Trump the record for the most federal appellate judges confirmed in the first year of a presidency. There are 145 current judicial vacancies, with 43 nominees pending, and 26 future judicial vacancies, with one nominee pending. (When the vacancy date for a future vacancy is listed as “TBD,” that generally means the sitting judge has announced her intention to retire upon confirmation of a successor, which makes that “future” vacancy really the same as a current vacancy.)
As you read through this round-up, here are some useful links that you should keep on hand for ready reference:
Now, on to the circuits. If you have additional information or tips, please email me (subject line: “Judicial Nominations”). I’m especially interested in information about the Sixth through Eleventh Circuits, which I will write about in a separate story next week, but of course I welcome comments and corrections about any of the discussion appearing below.
After the November confirmation of former Deputy White House Counsel Gregory Katsas as the newest member of this extremely powerful and prestigious court, there are no new openings on this bench.
As for the (also very important and influential) District Court, there is currently one opening: the seat formerly held by Chief Judge Richard Roberts, who retired in the wake of rape allegations back in March 2016 (well before the current national reckoning over sexual misconduct by powerful men). Judges Timothy Kelly, Trevor McFadden, and Dabney Langhorne Friedrich were confirmed to the D.D.C. in late 2017.
There are currently no openings on the Federal Circuit.
There are no vacancies on this smallest of the circuit courts (with just six judgeships), but there are five open district-court seats — two in Massachusetts, one in Maine, one in Puerto Rico, one in Rhode Island — and no nominees for them yet.
For the two vacancies on the Second Circuit, both seats in New York, the White House has sent four names to Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand: Judge Richard Sullivan (S.D.N.Y.); Matthew McGill, a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington; Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center; and Michael Park, a partner at the law firm Consovoy McCarthy Park in New York.
Who has the edge for the two seats? I’m hearing Judge Sullivan and Professor Rosenkranz are the most likely picks, but please let me know if I’m wrong.
As for the district courts within the Second Circuit, there are ten vacancies, in the Eastern District of New York (4), the Southern District of New York (3), the Northern District of New York (1), the Western District of New York (1), and the District of Connecticut (1). Only the Connecticut seat has an official nominee (Judge Kari A. Dooley of the Connecticut Superior Court), but the White House floated several names to the New York senators last summer as well. I wouldn’t expect much movement anytime soon, though, given the blueness of the states at issue.
Professor Stephanos Bibas of Penn Law is now Judge Stephanos Bibas of the Third Circuit, as of November 2, 2017. Two vacancies remain, the seats of Judges D. Michael Fisher (Pennsylvania) and Julio M. Fuentes (New Jersey), and neither has a nominee.
There are a slew of current and future district-court openings throughout the circuit, a grand total of 19: the District of Delaware (2), the District of New Jersey (5), the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (4), the Middle District of Pennsylvania (1), and the Western District of Pennsylvania (7). Only five of these seats have nominees.
For Delaware, the nominees are Colm Connolly, former U.S. Attorney and current Morgan Lewis partner, and Maryellen Noreika, an IP litigation partner at Morris Nichols. For one of the Eastern District seats, the nominee is Judge Chad F. Kenney, currently on the Court of Common Pleas (Pennsylvania’s state trial court). For two of the Western District seats, the nominees are Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, currently a Magistrate Judge for the District, and Judge Marilyn Jean Horan, also on the Court of Common Pleas.
Fun fact: several of these folks have been judicial nominees before. Colm Connolly was nominated by President George W. Bush, while Judges Baxter and Horan were nominated by President Obama. As sitting judges previously nominated under the administration of the other party, Baxter and Horan should have easy confirmations.
Now, on to the other courts….
(Flip to the next page to read about the remaining circuits.)