James Vargo and Jerry Kaltenbach announce new law practice.

KV Law Full Size jpgWith nearly 30 years of combined experience practicing in large and in mid-size law firms, and after embarking on successful careers as sole practitioners, Jerry Kaltenbach and James Vargo have teamed up to bring you Kaltenbach Vargo, LLC.

Kaltenbach Vargo, LLC, was founded on the principal of delivering top quality legal services in a more economic manner.  We do this through our efficiency and our ability to utilize technology in almost all aspects of our practice.

While our primary focus will continue to be business litigation, we can assist you or your business in many other areas, including business formation, employee and vendor agreements, and various other contractual matters.

We also leverage our extensive experience in fee disputes, consumer complaints, commercial and residential real estate matters, and ethical matters before the Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing, as well as local Boards of Realtors and associations, to assist agents and brokers seeking representation on any of these matters.

In addition, we are strong advocates for consumers, protecting their rights through the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act and various federal laws, and by representing those who were injured by a defective product or who suffered a significant personal injury due to the negligence of another.

If we can assist you or your business in any of these matters, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

Penn State Commentary: What about McQueary?

See evil, hear evil, but speak no evil.

11/12/2011 UPDATE BELOW. This post is not designed to provide coverage on the horrifying and troubling events that have been revealed at Penn State at the hand of former coach, Jerry Sandusky.  Click here to get coverage from the New York Times.  Instead, this post is presenting a very simple question:  How can it be that the Board of Trustees fired University President Graham Spanier and legendary head football coach, Joe Paterno, but the current wide receiver’s coach and team recruiting coordinator, Mike McQueary, still has his job?

According to the Grand Jury Presentment against Sandusky, McQueary was the then graduate assistant that went to Penn State’s locker room facilities on a night in 2002 when he heard, and then actually saw, Jerry Sandusky raping a ten-year-old boy in the showers. There’s so much to say, but let’s look at just two aspects:

1.  Mike McQueary is a former Penn State Quarterback, he was 28-years-old when this event occurred, and looks like he runs about 6’3″ and 230 lbs.  So, why McQueary didn’t stomp the 58-year-old naked and distracted Jerry Sandusky into the shower room tile is a mystery.

2.  Next, why didn’t McQueary call the cops?  There is no legal obligation to get involved in a crime in progress, but one would like to think that a call to 911 would be made as a civic responsibility at the least.  People call 911 when they see a drunk driver and even when McDonald’s runs out of Chicken McNuggets.  So why don’t you call the cops when you see the rape of a child in progress?

Instead, McQueary tells his dad what he saw and then he tells Joe Pa what he saw.  Joe Pa then tells Athletic Director, Tim Curley; but the telephone game apparently washes out some details.  Paterno or Curley could have, and should have, called the cops; but neither of them was an eyewitness like McQueary.

University President Graham Spanier and Joe Paterno were fired last night.  McQueary still has a job.  Today.  Should McQueary still have a job this Saturday by the time the Nittany Lions’ game gets underway?  We think not, how about you?

UPDATE: McQueary has been put on leave and will not be at the game today when Penn State hosts Nebraska in Happy Valley.

Cicero called to the carpet over Tressel emails

I wrote this post back on March 10, 2011, the day that Christopher T. Cicero was identified by The Columbus Dispatch as the attorney who sent e-mails to Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel warning that OSU players like Terrelle Pryor were giving away signed memorabilia in exchange for tattoos from Edward Rife, the owner of Fine Line Ink.

Mr. Cicero (Image via ESPN)

My post was not about the developing scandal at Ohio State (There has been plenty of press coverage on that topic.  Too much in the opinion of this Buckeye fan).  Instead, my post took the lawyer’s perspective since the Dispatch’s article suggested that Cicero obtained the information he sent to Tressel from Ed Rife in a meeting regarding Cicero’s potential representation of Rife in a drug trafficking investigation.  The question in a lot of attorneys’ minds was whether Cicero breached his duties to Rife by passing along attorney-client privileged information to Tressel.

The question has gathered significant steam today.  Catherine Candisky from the Dispatch reported earlier today:

The Columbus lawyer at the center of controversy surrounding former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel may lose his license to practice law.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel today filed a complaint against Christopher T. Cicero, accusing him of violating attorney-client confidentiality when he sent three e-mails to Tressel telling him that players had been given free tattoos in exchange for signed memorabilia. Continue reading

Tressel, the Tattoo guy, and Cicero. The attorney-client perspective.

Due to suspensions, this many Buckeyes will be missing for some games this fall.

The Columbus Dispatch revealed today that Columbus lawyer Christopher T. Cicero was the “unnamed attorney” that sent e-mails to Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel starting in April 2010 warning that some players were giving away signed memorabilia in exchange for tattoos from a parlor owner, Edward Rife, who happened to be the subject of a federal drug trafficking investigation.

The revelation, which was scooped by Yahoo Sports, led to Ohio State’s self-report to the NCAA and a 2-game suspension for Tressel coupled with a $250,000 fine.

Copies of Ohio State’s March 8, 2011, letter to Julie Roe Lach, the Director of Enforcement Services at the NCAA, that includes the emails between Coach Jim Tressel and, apparently, Christopher T. Cicero can be read by clicking here: OSU’s Report including the Tressel emails.

The Dispatch reports that “Cicero, a lawyer with a checkered past [] represented the tattoo-parlor owner, Edward Rife, in 2003 when Rife was a key witness in a murder trial.”

I have no personal knowledge  of any of these facts.  I’m just reading the paper and internet articles, just like you.  However, if the reports are accurate and Cicero did send the emails to Tressel, some of Cicero’s content is troubling from the lawyer’s perspective.  Cicero had an attorney-client relationship with Rife in 2003.  While it is unclear from the emails whether there is a current and formal representation of Rife by Cicero, our rules of professional conduct state that a, “lawyer who has formerly represetend a client in a matter…shall not…use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these rules would permit…or…reveal information relating to the representation except as these rules would permit.”

In one of the emails, Cicero tells Tressel that he had Rife “in my office for an hour and a half last night.”  Then, Cicero goes on to discuss the substance of his meeting with Rife held in his law office.  I have never met Mr. Cicero.  I have never met Mr. Rife.  I have no idea what the substance of the conversations were other than what the email to Jim Tressel recounts, but I do know that our rules of professional conduct state that “a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client, including information protected by the attorney client privilege under applicable law, unless the client gives informed consent….”

I have no idea what motivated Christopher Cicero to send the emails to Tressel, if he did.  But, I do know that the content of the emails from an attorney about his own client is troubling.

One of my biggest pet peeves is reading commentary, stories, facebook status updates, or hearing coffee shop talk from people with sharp opinions when they are barely informed of all of the facts to arrive at their conclusions.  With that in mind, I reiterate that the Columbus Dispatch article this morning contains no admission by Cicero that he authored the emails.  Also, I have no personal knowledge of what transpired in the meeting between “the lawyer” and Rife discussed in the emails, or whether the two were meeting as friends or if it was a client meeting with his lawyer to discuss a problem.  I simply have a hunch, perhaps an educated hunch, that this issue is long from over for any lawyer that was in this position.

Supreme Court OK’s Judge’s use of facebook / twitter

You can "like" me now!

On December 3, 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline issued an advisory opinion saying that Ohio Judges can have facebook friends and twitter followers that are also attorneys appearing before them in Court.  The Supreme Court’s website issued this release:

In one of the most comprehensive and detailed examinations in the nation, the Supreme Court of Ohio’s disciplinary board has issued an advisory opinion examining the ethical implications of judges using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The opinion from the Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline advises judges that social media use is permitted but must be done with caution, and it offers wide ranging, specific guidance to judges on how to navigate the new waters of social media without violating judicial canons that require judges to avoid even the appearance of bias or impropriety.

“This is a topic of great interest to the legal community because, like the rest of the nation, more judges are experimenting with social media in both their personal and professional lives,” said Jon Marshall, the board’s secretary. “For those judges who choose to use this technology, we hope this opinion gives them practical guidance on how to do so and maintain their obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

A recent national study found that 40 percent of judges report using social media profile sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, a proportion roughly equal to that in the general U.S. adult population. Smaller numbers reported using microblogging sites like Twitter and other less popular social media, but the numbers are expected to grow.

Opinion 2010-7 finds that a judge may be a “friend” on a social networking site with a lawyer who appears as counsel in a case before the judge, but cautions: “As with any other action a judge takes, a judge’s participation on a social networking site must be done carefully in order to comply with the ethical rules in the Code of Judicial Conduct.”

Some very logical restrictions include that (1) a  judge may not give anyone legal advice through social media sites, (2) judges may not comment on matters pending before the judge, and (3) judges cannot communicate with an attorney appearing before the judge about the matter.  The advisory opinion goes on to say that a judge should disqualify herself from a proceeding if her social media relationship with a lawyer on that case creates bias or prejudice.  All very fair rules and it demonstrates the pervasive qualities of social media and that, like it or not, it is here to stay.

You can find the entire advisory opinion here.

Class Action against Apple and AT&T to proceed

I have an iPhone.  I love it.  I have AT&T service on my iPhone because I have to.  I don’t love it.

I honestly don’t know if I would love the iPhone more on Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or any other carrier.  A device so powerful, so popular, and so demanding of bandwidth has the capacity to cripple any carrier.  That’s why I hope all the carriers will have the iPhone someday.  I may not even switch from, AT&T.  At least, not right away.  I will wait to see how network traffic across carriers is affected.  Fewer iPhones on multiple networks will should reduce traffic and dropped calls. Also, competition amongst the communication giants should reduce the “sticker shock” when I get the monthly bill.

These topics and more, including anti-trust and claims of secret deals between Apple and AT&T, are the subject of many lawsuits filed since 2007 and now consolidated in the Northern District of California.  The AP reported this morning:

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A federal judge says a monopoly abuse lawsuit against Apple Inc. and AT&T Inc.’s mobile phone unit can move forward as a class action.

The lawsuit consolidates several filed by iPhone buyers starting in late 2007, a few months after the first generation of Apple’s smart phone went on sale.

An amended complaint filed in June 2008 takes issue with Apple’s practice of “locking” iPhones so they can only be used on AT&T’s network, and its absolute control over what applications iPhone owners can and cannot install on the gadgets.

The lawsuit also says Apple secretly made AT&T its exclusive iPhone partner in the U.S. for five years. Consumers agreed to two-year contracts with the Dallas-based wireless carrier when they purchased their phones, but were in effect locked into a five-year relationship with AT&T, the lawsuit argued.

The actions hurt competition and drove up prices for consumers, the lawsuit claims.

Apple and AT&T have not commented on the terms of their deal. In its response to the complaint, Cupertino,California-based Apple said it did not hurt competition.

In court documents filed July 8, Judge James Ware of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said parts of the lawsuit that deal with violations to antitrust law can continue as a class action. The class includes anyone who bought an iPhone with a two-year AT&T agreement since the device first went on sale in June 2007.

Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones in the last three years. The company does not specify how many have gone to U.S. customers.

Ware dismissed other claims against Apple, among them allegations that the company broke laws when an update to the iPhone’s operating software caused some phones to stop working and deleted programs that users had purchased.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to keep Apple from selling locked iPhones in the U.S. and from determining what iPhone programs people can install. It also seeks damages to cover legal fees and other costs.

We will continue to follow this story on the blog.  Would you like links to filed court documents from this case?  Let us know in the comments and we will provide.

Lawyers using social networks: attorney beware!

These 12 networks just scratch the surface. There are literally hundreds of them. Click for a list.

Lawyers have all kinds of rules to follow when it comes to practicing law, giving legal advice, and advertising.  As social media has expanded over the last few years, one study suggests that 3/4 of lawyers belong to at least one online social network such as LinkedIn, facebook, and twitter.  If you look to either side of this blog, you can see that I am squarely within that 3/4 group.

There is nothing wrong with lawyers belonging to social networks, is there?  In my mind, they are free tools that provide an enormous community for users to share ideas and connect with people that would otherwise be unavailable.

But, lawyers must use their heads when using these networks.  Common sense and experience should be sufficient for most lawyers.  Perhaps the most important key to avoiding foot-in-mouth disease is to proofread, review, and THINK.  We have all had that sickening feeling in the pit of our stomach when we click “send” when we meant to click “cancel” on an email.  Even worse, is the classic “reply all” when “reply to sender” was the intent.  You can’t take those emails back, but at least the audience is limited to (hopefully) a short cc: list.  But, when you post a status update on facebook, all of your “friends” see it, your friends’ friends may see it, and eventually your post will be indexed by Google and may permanently link your name with your entertaining bathroom mishap in search results.

A recent article by Vicki Voisin sets out some examples of lawyers that should have thought twice before using social media.  One example sums up why caution, care, and though should be the focus:

Judge Susan Criss, a Galveston, Texas, state court judge, relayed an interesting personal story as part of the 2009 ABA Annual Meeting program “Courts and Media in the 21sr Century: Twitterers, Bloggers, the New Media, the Old Media, and What’s a Judge to Do?”  Judge Criss admitted learning to adapt to social media as a way to connect with long-lost friends, leveraging Facebook as a tool-and then learning a few surprising things on Facebook … The judge granted a continuance requested by a lawyer upon the death of the lawyer’s father.  Judge Criss also checked the lawyer’s Facebook page. While there was a funeral, there was also a string of status updates posted on Facebook that detailed not mourning her dear departed father, but, instead, the lawyer’s week of drinking and partying.
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I’m guessing the continued hearing was a bit awkward for the lawyer and Judge Criss.  Social media is here to stay and it makes the world smaller and communication easier.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing and it all comes down to using social networks consciously and responsibly – if you value your career, that is.