Friday, February 15, 2008

On the Docket

As one of the two resident attorney-bloggers, I thought I'd highlight two stories that made news today that might be of interest. (They're completely unrelated, but I'm keeping them in one post for those of you who wish lawyers would just crawl back under the rocks from whence we came.)

First, the Warren County grand jury indicted Michel Veillette, the French Canadian accused of killing his family in Mason, on murder charges that include death specifications. If the prosecution's theory is proven correct, and Mr. Veillette killed his wife and then set fire to his house--thus killing his children--in order to cover up the crime, then his conduct could warrant the death penalty under Ohio law. (Remember, though: an indictment is not proof of a crime. Mr. Veillette remains innocent until 12 Warren County residents unanimously agree otherwise.)

Cincinnati attorney Tim McKenna was appointed to represent Michel Veillette. I'm not sure, but I believe Mr. McKenna is qualified to handle death penalty cases (the Ohio Supreme Court has fairly strict standards governing the requisite qualifications to defend a death penalty case). But I believe the death specifications mean that there will be another attorney joining him at counsel table. Based on the stakes (life and death) and the complex analysis of the physical evidence that will be required for both sides, the trial will likely be one of the most expensive Warren County has seen in some time.

Second (and on a much lighter note), say what you will about Eric Deters (and people have said just about everything about him), he's a fearless, ingenious litigator. With Hugh Campbell (of Villa Hills, KY) and a New Orleans attorney, Mr. Deters has filed suit against the New England Patriots, asserting that they cheated during the 2002 Super Bowl. The lawyers want to represent two groups of people: the defeated St. Louis Rams, who each would have earned an additional $25,000 (plus a really nifty ring) had they won; and the nearly 73,000 fans who attended the game and who each paid $400 for a ticket.

The suit raises a number of interesting questions. First, for the players: don't they need to prove that they would have won if the Patriots hadn't cheated? If they can't prove that, then they can't prove they were "damaged" by the Pats' alleged misconduct. One of the player-plaintiffs now plays in the Arena Football League; can't he argue that if he were a Super Bowl winner, his NFL career would have been longer and his earnings higher?

Second, for the fans: assuming they're entitled to refunds because they thought they were paying to see a fair contest and instead saw a less-than-fair one (which also assumes Deters and friends can prove the cheating), are they entitled only to the face value of the ticket, or can people who bought in the secondary market (or "scalpers") recover what they actually paid? How about a class of fans who watched on TV, who wish to be compensated for the four hours they devoted to watching an unfair game? What about a class of St. Louis fans who suffered emotional distress when their beloved Rams lost?

If the Deters team survives a motion to dismiss, we should put them in the Lawyers Hall of Fame.

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