Tuesday, November 22, 2016

WSJ Bankruptcy: Big Apple Circus Gets Buyers’ Expressions of Interest

Big Apple Circus Gets Buyers’ Expressions of Interest

Big Apple Circus has received expressions of interest in buying the organization that is plying its way through bankruptcy proceedings.
At the hearing, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane expressed hope Big Apple Circus, which filed for chapter 11 this week after an emergency fundraising drive came up short, would be able to find a buyer.

Circus’s lawyer, Chris Updike,( pictured)  told a court on Tuesday that he has received letters of interest from potential buyers, and the circus is open to receiving offers that would allow the show to go on. Mr. Updike said the nonprofit organization is looking to secure an auctioneer.  “The hope is that New Yorkers will see the Big Apple Circus performed in the city again,” Mr. Updike said following the hearing. Artwork by Elizabeth Williams ( click on image to see larger)
The judge said Big Apple Circus could tap a zero-interest loan provided by Circus’s directors that would pay the bills while a team of professionals looks for a buyer for the organization’s intellectual property and equipment, including its big-top tent.
“Hopefully, bankruptcy will serve the Big Apple Circus well,” Judge Lane said during the hearing in Manhattan.

Founded in 1977, Big Apple Circus’s one-ring show became a New York cultural institution, with holiday-season performances at the Lincoln Center and later on tour. The circus held special performances for children with autism and visual and hearing impairments. It also offered free and discounted circus tickets for disadvantaged children, court papers say.
Mr. Updike told Tuesday’s hearing that beginning around 2009, Big Apple Circus’s revenue began to plummet, as financial institutions and law firms cut back on private performances.
Mr. Updike and his firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, are representing Big Apple Circus pro bono.
Big Apple Circus has scaled down its staff, Mr. Updike told the court, and is now running with the minimum number of people needed to keep operating. Most of the staff are part-time and involved with the organization’s “Clown Care” community-outreach program, which sends professional clowns to pediatric hospitals, he said.

An emergency fundraising drive was launched in June, but contributions Big Apple Circus received weren’t enough, prompting the organization to cancel its 2016-2017 performance season. Aside from marketing its circus equipment and intellectual property, Big Apple Circus intends to sell its training and storage facilities in Walden, NY.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition

NJSBA Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition

 Mock Court Workshop for Students' Coaches 
October 26, 2016

This year, the mock trial case is about a mock trial competition! After years of trying, Metropolitan High School's mock trial team finally defeated longtime rival Greenward Academy in the Metropolitan County finals, only to find their victory dampened in light of allegations of cheating. Did a student blogger from Greenward defame senior Shea Simmons, a star student-attorney from Metropolitan, causing Simmons to lose a much needed college scholarship?

Speakers at podium are David Azotea, Esq. and standing next to him is David Pfeifer, lawyer-coach and teacher-coach respectively for Holy Spirit High School in Absecon    

Drama Students Proved Credible Witnesses

Star witness "Shea Simmons"

Student jurors listening intently

   Mock Court Art by Aggie Kenny


Monday, October 17, 2016

Bridgegate Witness Calls Out Cover-Up 'Lie' Courthouse News. Artwork by Aggie Kenny

Courthouse News

     NEWARK, N.J. (CN) — Gov. Chris Christie's office did not give much
thought to a messy traffic jam caused by New Jersey lane closures in
fall 2013, his former chief counsel testified Thursday, saying nothing
about it had seemed "nefarious" at the time.
     Prosecutors contend
that the four-day lane shutdown was intended as political retribution
against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who had disappointed the Christie
camp by revealing he would not be supporting the governor's re-election.
Traffic around the George Washington Bridge backed up for hours in Fort
Lee during the September lane closures, wreaking havoc on the small
     Though the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
and the Christie administration explained away the lane closures at the
time, the traffic study they blamed proved to be nothing more than a
cover story.
   A trial over the plot has been building for weeks at the Newark
federal courthouse. Fifteen miles away meanwhile a Bergen County judge
approved a criminal summons today in a citizen's complaint against Christie, finding probable cause as to the governor's role in the scandal.
     The governor's potential indictment made little splash in at the federal
trial Thursday where prosecutors called to the stand Charles McKenna,
who served as Christie's chief counsel until 2014.

   "There was nothing nefarious about a traffic study," McKenna testified.
     Despite growing media attention, McKenna said it never dawned on him to investigate the issue further.
     "It wasn't something we worried about every day," said McKenna, a former prosecutor. "The world changed on January 8th."

 McKenna testified that he had been told by Christie's press secretary, Mike Drewniak, in November 2013 that one of the senior staff had emails regarding the lane closures.
   On that date, Jan. 8, 2014, media outlets began reporting on the incriminating personal emails and text messages that top Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly had sent before and during the lane closures. The United States brought charges shortly thereafter against her and William Baroni Jr., a deputy executive director appointed by Christie to the Port Authority.
     Both now stand trial for fraud and eight other charges related to the shutdown.
     During cross-examination by Kelly's lawyer, Michael Critchley, McKenna said that it had not seemed important enough in late 2013 to tell Christie or others in the administration about Kelly's emails related to the lane shutdown.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Bridge gate Opening statements: L-R Atty Michael Critchley, defendant Bill Baroni, Atty Jennifer Mara, defendant Bridget Anne Kelly,  Atty Michael Critchley Jr., Baroni defense Atty Michael Baldassare, Judge Susan D. Wigenton.                        Artwork by Aggie Kenny


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jury selected in Bridgegate Trial.

Jury selected in Bridgegate trial

Defendants Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly first court appearance, "Appearance on Record"  9/12/16, Newark NJ Federal Court, before Judge Susan D. Wigenton. L-R Baroni, US Atty Lee M. Cortes, Atty Michael Critchley, Kelly, Atty Michael Critchley Jr.

artwork by Aggie Kenny 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Jury Selection Begins In 'Bridgegate' Trial Of Two Former Christie Aides

Jury selection began this week in the federal trial of two former top aides to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who are said to have orchestrated the traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 known as “Bridgegate.”
Potential jurors answering questionnaires in Jury Assembly Room on the first day of jury selection.  Artwork by Aggie Kenny

Judge Susan Wigenton who presides over the Bridgegate trial in Newark Federal Court. Artwork by Aggie Kenny

Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, a Christie appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, are charged with fraud and conspiracy for allegedly planning the lane closures as an act of retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie’s bid for re-election.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Pasadena Now » Crowell Public Library Presents Bill Robles, Courtroom Artist Extraordinaire | Pasadena California, Hotels,CA Real Estate,Restaurants,City Guide... - Pasadena.com

Pasadena Now » Crowell Public Library Presents Bill Robles, Courtroom Artist Extraordinaire | Pasadena California, Hotels,CA Real Estate,Restaurants,City Guide... - Pasadena.com

Thursday, October 6th, 7:00 p.m. Bill Robles presentation in San Marino's Crowell Public Library

Through 44 years, Mr. Robles has mastered the art of on-the-spot illustrating, working for a strict and unyielding taskmaster: television news. He has said, “I love courtroom illustrating… the immediacy… working feverishly… the adrenaline gets going and suddenly it’s over, on the satellite and around the world.”
Drawing of Charles Manson by Bill Robles.
Mr. Robles is also one of the subjects of The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art by Elizabeth Williams and Sue Russell, a book whose cover art by Robles shows Charles Mansion lunging toward the bench during his trial. As one might imagine, there are a few stories behind each illustration.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

NY DAILY NEWS: Beyoncé earns court victory as judge dismisses ‘Lemonade’ lawsuit

Beyoncé earns court victory as judge dismisses ‘Lemonade’ lawsuit from filmmaker claiming she ripped scenes

This "Lemonade" lawsuit isn't ending on a sour note for Beyoncé.
The pop star squeezed out a significant legal triumph over an independent filmmaker who claimed she stole scenes from his movie for her "Lemonade" trailer — as a judge decided to dismiss the case, TMZ reports.
Matthew Fulks sued the "Sorry" singer in June and accused her of ripping nine visual elements from his short film "Palinoia" and using similar scenes in her 60-second teaser.
Among the scenes he claimed she had stolen were a "red person with eyes obscured" and walls covered with graffiti.

Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan Federal Court who tossed the Lemonade Lawsuit.

But a judge said he assessed the lawsuit and decided to toss it, though it's currently unclear what exactly prompted him to do so, according to TMZ.

  Thomas Ferber (pictured) arguing the motion in front of Judge Rakoff, pointing to document showing differences in videos. "The protagonist in plaintiff's film is a white man who is distressed in the wake of a failed relationship, while the defendants' protagonist is an African-American woman who progresses through stages of suspicion, denial, anger and, ultimately, reconciliation in her relationship," Ferber said in  court. Artwork by Elizabeth Williams (click on image to see larger)

Beyonce's lawyer Tom Ferber maintained her innocence throughout the saga and downplayed the likeness of the two videos in court.
 Beyoncé, who earned rave reviews for her performance of several songs from "Lemonade" at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, released the highly evocative project in April.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

CNBC 10 years later, indicted tech CEO Kobi Alexander pleads guilty to one count of securities fraud

10 years later, indicted tech CEO pleads guilty to one count of securities fraud
Indicted Comverse Technology founder Jacob "Kobi" Alexander pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in a federal court in Brooklyn on Wednesday afternoon, almost exactly 10 years after moving to Africa in what the government says was a clear attempt to flee prosecution.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis denied bail, arguing that Alexander's intelligence and guile are clear indications that he cannot be trusted. Alexander will be sent to a maximum-security facility between now and his sentencing on Dec. 16. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
After the hearing, lead defense attorney Benjamin Brafman told CNBC, "We are bitterly disappointed by the judge's ruling, but he's the judge and I'm not."
Defense attorneys argued he should be set free on $25 million bond pending his sentencing. In a court filing Monday, Brafman said Alexander is not a flight risk

Jacob ' Kobi'' Alexander, the former Comverse Technology Inc. chief executive officer stands before US District Judge Garaufis in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Garaufis said  “Maybe he would go out and hide out in a cave or go to another country where he could live more comfortably ... than Namibia,”  "This is a very smart man (Alexander) who's made millions and millions of dollars. He's sizing up the situation on this side of the bench, so spare me, I wasn't born yesterday."

Alexander moved his family to Namibia in July 2006, as prosecutors were preparing a sweeping fraud case against the tech executive. A federal grand jury ultimately indicted him on 35 counts including conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, in a 15-year scheme to manipulate Comverse options. But Brafman argued that because Alexander left before he was charged, he did not flee. And now that he has left Namibia, he has no place else to flee to.

Prosecutors paint a much different picture in a filing Wednesday morning. Arguing that Alexander is "cunning and resourceful," they want him held without bail. Otherwise, they say, "the government is confident that the defendant could find his next Namibia should he so choose."

The government's letter includes newly released details of Alexander's maneuvers as prosecutors were bearing down on him during the summer of 2006 amid public fury over a wave of accounting-fraud cases in the wake of the dot-com bubble.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

BLOOMBERG: Aeropostale’s Sycamore Rift Goes to Trial as Vote Proceeds

Aeropostale’s Sycamore Rift Goes to Trial

Aeropostale CEO  Julian Geiger claims the private equity firm backing the distressed teen retailer wanted it to crumble

The retailer has asked ( Judge) Lane to disqualify New York-based private equity firm Sycamore Partners from using its $150 million debt to bid at the auction. A trial on Aeropostale’s complaint began Aug. 15 in the SDNY Bankruptcy Court.

Julian Geiger former CEO of Aeropostale on witness stand questioned by Sycamore partners attorney Robert Ellis
 The proposed reorganization accounts for the different ways Sycamore’s claims will be treated based on how the litigation plays out. But the plan gives no estimate of what some creditor groups would recover because Aeropostale has yet to find a so-called stalking horse to make the starting bid for its assets. Lane questioned how creditors can vote when there is no “floor” for the sale.

Richard Slack of Weil Gotshal questioning Julian Geiger on the stand. Weil represents Aeropostale in the bankruptcy proceeding.

Aeropostale has said since the outset of its bankruptcy in May that Sycamore used a supplier it controls, MGF Sourcing Holdings Ltd., to drive the company into Chapter 11. On July 22, the retailer accused Sycamore of pursuing a “loan to own” strategy and said the firm and its managing partner Stefan Kaluzny traded on inside information about the company.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Sean Stewart convicted of insider trading

UPDATE: Sean Stewart convicted on all counts.

A jury ended its first week of deliberations Friday apparently deadlocked on at least one of the counts charging a Long Island-reared investment banker with illegally passing his father insider trading tips worth $1.1 million.

AUSA McCallum examines FBI witness with jury seated left, Sean Stewart far right. 7/28/16 Artwork by Aggie Kenny

 Halfway into the fourth day of deliberations, the foreperson sent a note Friday to the judge saying that a unanimous verdict “may not likely happen” on each of the nine counts against Sean Stewart, 35, formerly of North Merrick.

Sean Stewart testifying in his own defense, Federal Defender Martin Cohen at podium representing Mr Stewart. Artwork by Elizabeth Williams

Sean Stewart’s father, Robert Stewart, 61, of North Merrick, has admitted profiting from information about pending mergers and acquisitions about which his son knew inside information because he was an investment banker on the deals.
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Sean Stewart faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The jury’s note, sent out shortly after noon, said, “If the jury is at an impasse on a particular count, which we cannot resolve, does that mean that we have to render a not-guilty verdict, as the government has not met its burden of proof for some of the jurors? Or do we render a ‘no decision’ vote? There is no option on the verdict sheet for a ‘no decision’ option. Do we continue to deliberate until we come up with a unanimous decision, which may not likely happen?”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Second Circuit Makes Chevron v. Donziger Simple

The Second Circuit Makes Chevron v. Donziger Simple

by Michael Goldhaber Law.com

Appellant Javier Piaguaje, one of the Ecuadorean plaintiffs, on the stand in New York in 2013. (ILLUSTRATION: Elizabeth Williams)
To this day, half the Internet portrays Steven Donziger as a hero for suing Chevron Corporation in Ecuador. As the accomplished filmmaker Joe Berlinger put it in a public radio interview only two weeks ago, “It’s a very complicated story.” Well, it’s certainly a messy story. But as a matter of epistemology, law and morality, it’s always been simple. On Monday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit laid it out with admirable clarity. Donziger lied and cheated his way to a multibillion-dollar Ecuadorean judgment against Chevron.
A 500-page trial ruling in 2014 found Steven Donziger and his team in Ecuador liable for countless acts of litigation fraud. Both books on the case (by me and the esteemed Paul Barrett) agree that the facts of the litigation fraud are mostly indisputable. And in court, they weren’t disputed. While Donziger and his allies kept smearing U.S. district judge Lewis Kaplan in podcasts, they never renewed their charges of bias on appeal (despite the Second Circuit inviting them to do so). And most devastatingly — in their 325 pages of appeal briefs — they never challenged the trial court’s factual account. “[Y]ou choose not to take [it] on,” noted Judge Barrington Parker Jr. at argument.  “You don’t take it on at all.” The appellate ruling pounds on that point in both its opening and closing paragraphs.
The Second Circuit delivers its own words in a tone of dispassionate legal certainty. But a ruling that affirms Kaplan on every point channels the trial judge’s passion by constantly quoting him with added emphasis. Simply reading the Second Circuit’s “emphasis ours” passages produces a remarkable and devastating text.
The appeal judges begin with an extended highlight of Kaplan’s wise preface (excerpted here in part):
The Court assumes that there is pollution in the Oriente.… [But an] innocent defendant is no more entitled to submit false evidence, to coopt and pay off a court-appointed expert, or to coerce or bribe a judge or jury than a guilty one. So even if Donziger and his clients had a just cause–and the Court expresses no opinion on that–they were not entitled to corrupt the process to achieve their goal…. The wrongful actions of Donziger and his Ecuadorian legal team would be offensive to the laws of any nation that aspires to the rule of law, including

Chevron attorney Randy Mastro questioning Steven Donzinger on the stand. Sting in audience. Judge Lewis Kaplan presiding ILLUSTRATION: Elizabeth Williams

Every time Donziger has lost over the past five years, well-meaning supporters have scorned the decision makers as “corporately inclined.”  This is an affront to reason. As the Second Circuit eloquently affirms, Kaplan was merely following the facts. Although litigation fraud has no political valence, some may find it noteworthy that two of the appeal judges (Barrington Parker and Amalya Kearse) are African-Americans originally appointed by Democrats, and the third (Richard Wesley) overruled Kaplan earlier in the case. Judge Kearse also laid the foundation of alien tort jurisprudence, and that’s perfectly appropriate. Like the human rights jurists who filed an amicus brief against Donziger, she knows that there’s no tension between promoting human rights, and policing the integrity of its advocates.
Ecuador – and they knew it.

Law36 Feud Over Witness Caps CEO's $100M WTC Fraud Trial> VERDICT UPDATE

Larry Davis 65, of Canada, was convicted of one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  He is scheduled to be sentenced November 15, 2016.

Law360, New York (August 9, 2016, 7:25 PM ET)
Pete Brush -- Prosecutors seeking to convict steel construction CEO Larry Davis of fraud for taking $100 million of World Trade Center rebuilding dollars that were supposed to go to women and minority contractors on Tuesday sharply rejected a defense allegation that a key government witness was browbeaten into pleading guilty. 
Defense Attorney Sam Talkin gives closing statement and claimed a key witness against his client had been brow beaten into pleading guilty. 
The dispute came during closing arguments of the seven day trial before Manhattan Federal Court  Judge Loretta Preska. Davis is  charged with a 100 M dollar fraud.
AUSA Robert Lee Boone closing statement

Monday, August 8, 2016

AP: US court rules for Chevron in Ecuador rainforest damage case

US court rules for Chevron in Ecuador rainforest damage case

NEW YORK (AP) — Ecuadorean plaintiffs cannot collect a $9 billion judgment in the U.S. against energy company Chevron for rainforest damage, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, upholding a judge's finding that the judgment was obtained through bribery, coercion and fraud.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan had the authority after a trial to rule in March 2014 as he did. It noted, however, that Kaplan's decision doesn't invalidate the Ecuadorean judgment and doesn't stop the enforcement of the judgment outside the U.S.
A U.S. spokeswoman for the Ecuadoreans, Karen Hinton, said they were shocked and called it a "sad day for the U.S. justice system."

Judge Nicholas Zambrano on the stand cross examined by Chevron attorney Randy Mastro during the 2013 trial in Manhattan Federal court. Jusdge Lewis Kaplan presiding

Steven Donzinger on the stand questioned by Randy Mastro attorney for Chevron. Sting in audience far right seated next to Amazon tribal leader.

In a decision written by Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse, a three-judge 2nd Circuit panel rejected the argument by the Ecuadorean plaintiffs that they were unaware of wrongdoing by lawyers in the case and shouldn't be held responsible.
"There is no authority suggesting that a party ignorant of its attorney's fraudulent actions may enforce a fraudulently procured judgment," the panel said. "Even innocent clients may not benefit from the fraud of their attorney."
An attorney for a New York City lawyer, Steven Donziger, who was heavily criticized by Kaplan, called the 2nd Circuit decision "unprecedented in American law" and vowed to explore all options on appeal.
"Never before has a U.S. court allowed someone who lost a case in another country to come to the U.S. to attack a foreign court's damages award," attorney Deepak Gupta said. "The decision hands well-heeled corporations a template for avoiding legal accountability anywhere in the world. And it throws the entire international judgment enforcement framework out the window."
The case resulted from a long-running court battle between Amazon rainforest residents and oil companies.

Reed Brodsky cross examines Amazon tribal leader in Manhattan Federal Court, during the Chevron v Donzinger trial in 2013

Friday, August 5, 2016

Investment banker testifies at his insider trading trial AP WIRE

NEW YORK (AP) — An investment banker charged with teaming with his father to use inside information to make money in the stock market insisted from the witness stand Thursday that he never knew his father would make illegal trades.
“I am innocent,” Sean Stewart said at his Manhattan federal court trial. “I never ever gave my father information expecting him to trade.”
Prosecutors say Stewart fed Robert Stewart information about five pending mergers involving public health care companies, enabling him to work with a stock broker to earn $1.1 million illegally. During the four-year period from 2011 to 2015, Sean Stewart worked first for JPMorgan Chase & Co. and later at Perella Weinberg Partners LP.
Authorities said Robert Stewart got $150,000 and the broker got the rest, while the father passed along some winnings by paying for his son’s 2011 wedding rehearsal dinner and a photographer. The father has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year of home detention.
Sean Stewart, 35, testified he had such a close relationship with his parents that he sometimes talked about work, including pending acquisitions that were supposed to be secret. He said earned less than $100,000 annually at JPMorgan after finishing at Yale in 2003, but had boosted his pay to about $500,000 by 2010, when he was made vice president.

Sean Stewart on the stand questioned by his defense attorney Martin Cohen. "I spoke very freely with them( his parents). I know now that the consequences are severe,” Stewart said. “At the time, it felt completely natural to have these discussions.” Artwork by Elizabeth Williams
He said he never told his parents they should not trade on any information they heard from him because it never occurred to him that they would do so.
He said he never told his father the price that a company would be sold for or when a sale would occur, answering “absolutely not” repeatedly when asked those questions about each deal.
The son testified he could not recall talking about some of the deals at all, though he conceded he must have because his father initiated stock trades with information he could not have gotten elsewhere.
Even on those deals, though, Stewart insisted he never would have mentioned the amount of money involved or the anticipated closing dates.