Cultivated Compendium is my periodic round-up of important, cutting-edge or interesting legal news as well as some of my original reporting and musings.


News and Reporting

December 6th, 2015
Last month, the Second Circuit clarified when the statute of limitations begins to run under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, The New York Law Journal's Mark Hamblett reports. It is when the bank freezes a debtor's account, not when the notice of debt is served. The plaintiff in the underlying case is suing attorney Todd Houslanger of Houslanger & Associates for freezing his account when it was allegedly another man with... Continue Reading
December 6th, 2015
The New York Court of Appeals has ruled that minimum-wage protections apply to public assistance receipients. New York state is entitled to seize lottery winnings from people who have received public assistance. Courthouse News' Rose Bouboushian reports that the court reasoned that a Vietnam veteran, who received public assistance, was entitled to keep his $10,000 lottery winnings. Taking those benefits would have... Continue Reading
November 29th, 2015
The ABA Journal's Mark Hansen has a cover story about how two decades of research into the cause of fires has shown that many criminal defendants have been wrongfully convicted of arson-related crimes because of faulty evidence admitted against them. Arson expert John Lentini estimates that there may be a few hundred innocent people in prison for arson. Arson cases are "particularly difficult to undo," Hansen... Continue Reading
November 17th, 2015
I wrote a piece for the Connecticut Law Tribune about how telecommuting and taking conference calls from home can make lawyers run afoul of the unauthorized practice of law rules: There are probably hundreds of lawyers who are licensed in New York and living in Fairfield County in Connecticut. It's become commonplace for these attorneys to log onto their home computers to work on legal documents on behalf of New York clients, to... Continue Reading
November 15th, 2015
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voided a nursing home arbitration agreement, The Legal Intelligencer's Ben Seal (my former colleague) reports. The court reasoned that agreements that rely on the National Arbitration Forum code are unenforceable because the NAF no longer accepts arbitration cases. Nursing home attorneys, however, told Seal that nursing home companies have now "largely stopped identifying sole... Continue Reading
November 15th, 2015
Inmates forfeit their right to privacy once they are behind bars. But that doesn't extend to their constitutional right to competent and effective legal counsel. However, a massive hack of prisoner phone records exposed that an industry leader in the prisoner telecom industry has recorded at least 14,000 conversations between inmates and attorneys. The Intercept's Jordan Smith and Micah Lee reported earlier this week... Continue Reading
November 14th, 2015
Canada's Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says that her country will implement the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Metro Toronto reports. Bennett is part of new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government. The UN Declaration goes further than the constitutional protection requiring the Canadaian government to consult with indigenous peoples on issues that might affect their... Continue Reading
November 13th, 2015
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a conservative Republican, is considering the expansion of the state's Medicaid program, the Associated Press' Kim Chandler reports. Bentley, a dermatologist by training, remarked, "'I am concerned about the plight of the working poor ... If doctors are not paid for seeing those patients, doctors will not go to rural Alabama because you can't expect a doctor to go to rural Alabama and... Continue Reading
November 3rd, 2015
Laura Elliott-Engel (1/25/47—11/2/2015) My mother took the next step on her spiritual journey Monday morning, passing away at 3:15 a.m. after a diagnosis with late-stage cancer a brief 32 days ago. My brother, Jeremy Elliott-Engel, husband, Jason Rearick, and I were with her, holding her hands as she passed. As we returned to Mom’s home on a valley hillside after she passed, the sun was rising, mist was... Continue Reading
October 25th, 2015
Here's my latest piece for the Connecticut Law Tribune: Connecticut lawyers can now be paid by clients for their services in chickens and eggs. Well, not quite. But an opinion issued by the Connecticut Bar Association's Standing Committee on Professional Ethics seems to have opened the door for lawyers to engage in barter. The committee was asked to offer an opinion on whether an attorney may barter his or her legal services... Continue Reading
October 19th, 2015
A mistrial was declared today in the trial of former executives at a leading white shoe law firm that melted down amid financial irregularities and partner defections, Reuters' Brendan Pierson reports. The New York Supreme Court jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on charges against former Dewey & LeBoeuf Chairman Steven Davis, Executive Director Stephen DiCarmine and Chief Financial Officer Joel Sanders, "including grand... Continue Reading
September 27th, 2015
Richard A. Diment, a Municipal Court judge in Bowdon, Ga., has been excoriated after a video surfaced in which he threatened to jail defendants who didn't cough up money toward their fines, The New York Times' Shaila Dewan reports. Diment told the NYT that he only made an empty threat to pressure people to pay their fines. Dewan notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the poor can't be jailed solely if they can't pay... Continue Reading
September 27th, 2015
The Connecticut Supreme Court has struck down a state law that gave the Department of Banking authority to regulate law firms engaged in debt collection, The Connecticut Law Tribune's Christian Nolan reports. The Supreme Court ruled that only the judiciary can regulate the conduct of law firms. The law limited the fees that law firms could charge and required law firms to pay $800 annual licenses for helping consumers renegotiate credit... Continue Reading
September 27th, 2015
Lana Slezic has a visual history in The Walrus of the Canadian residential schools in which Indian children were taken away from their families to boarding schools in order to "civilize them." The United States has this same history of assimilation too (I wrote my senior thesis at Mount Holyoke College about this). Slezic's photographic essay looks at the decaying remains of these institutions, asking if their destruction through... Continue Reading
September 21st, 2015
President Barack Obama's administration has agreed to pay $940 million for failing to compensate American Indian tribes for public services like law enforcement that tribes carried out, NPR's Laura Wagner reports. The services are provided by the tribes under the Indian Self Determination Act, but the federal government pays for them. Sometimes the appropriations were not enough. Continue Reading


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