Legal Briefing: Can BP Victims Get Paid and Still Sue?

A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Can BP Victims Get Paid by the Compensation Fund and Sue Too?

BP and spill fund czar Kenneth Feinberg is taking a lot of flak for the details of the compensation fund, which Feinberg started managing Monday. One issue is the likelihood that people who take payments won't be able to sue later.

On the one hand, the rule seems eminently reasonable; swift and certain payment in exchange for giving up the chance to win more later, a classic bird in hand versus two in the bush decision. However, the trade-off only makes sense for victims if they are accurately aware of the damage they have (and will) suffer from the spill, which many may not be since the full effects of the spill are not yet known.

On the other hand, if BP doesn't get legal protection by paying victims, what's in it for BP? Sure, the fund without a lawsuit waiver might be the right thing to do, but that's not how business works -- as the saying goes, you don't get something for nothing. However, Feinberg is reportedly considering extending liability protection to other potential defendants, such as Transocean, Halliburton, and BP's partners. That would flip the something-for-nothing argument the other way -- those companies haven't anted into the fund and don't deserve protection from it.

Bank Bailout Details Coming in a Week?

The Federal Reserve and its bank allies (organized as "The Clearing House Association LLC") just lost another bid to keep the details of the bank bailout secret. Bloomberg filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the 231 term sheets detailing which banks got how much backed by what collateral, among other information, but the Fed denied the request. Bloomberg, supported by the media industry, sued and won at trial and the first appeal. Now the appeals court refused the Fed's request to reconsider its decision. Although the Clearing House has already promised an appeal to the Supreme Court and the Fed is weighing one, the documents must be released in a week unless the Appeals court issues a stay while the appeal is pending. I've got my fingers crossed that finally, a week from now, we'll learn what we should have known all along: who taxpayers helped, and on what terms.

Judge to Clemens: Zip It

The National Law Journal reports the judge in Roger Clemens's perjury case is angry that Clemens is talking to the media; he wants everyone in the case to hush up until it's over or face contempt charges.

And in the Business of Law

Above the Law reports that Florida law firms have taken the old summer associate gravy train experience and fully inverted it: The firms want summer associates to work for free. Really? It's one thing for non-profits and taxpayer-funded agencies to want legal interns laboring for love; it's pretty obnoxious for a for-profit law firm to ask for the help. And yet one firm that insists on paying its summer help notes that it had been inundated with resumes offering to work for free. Now that's a bad job market...

The Legal Intelligencer reports that an ex-attorney Jeffrey Abramowitz, who apparently stole over $1 million from his clients and law firm before having his law licenses suspended, will finally face the music: he's been indicted.

Bloomberg reports that one potential lawyer has delayed starting at Harvard Law School because his tennis career may takeoff: Blake Strode is three wins away from playing in the U.S. Open.