Writer’s Picks 6/18: Fake Lawyers, Journalist Access, and Lead Paint


Some noteworthy cases this week, as reported by our Daily Summary Writers.

The 10th Circuit reversed a sentencing ruling for a defendant found to be practicing law without a license. In  US v. Kieffer, the Court found that “By all appearances, Defendant Howard Kieffer had a successful nationwide criminal law practice.” What he didn’t have was a license to go with that practice. He never attended law school, sat for a bar exam, or received a license to practice law. He was convicted of mail fraud, making false statements, wire fraud, and contempt of court. On appeal, the 10th Circuit remanded for resentencing, finding errors in the trial court’s sentencing calculations.

The 5th Circuit issued a ruling involving the First Amendment and journalistic access. In United States v. Aldawsari, a journalist appealed the district court’s gag order preventing a terrorism suspect and his legal team from speaking to the media. The journalist argued that the gag order violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights. The 5th Circuit concluded that the gag order affected appellant’s right to gather news and therefore, he had standing to challenge it. However, on the merits, appellant had not shown that the gag order violated the First Amendment since the gag order was not overly broad on its face. Additionally, the gag order did not violate the Fifth Amendment because the denial of his motion to intervene did not limit his right to earn a living through news gathering in violation of his due process rights.

The Virginia Supreme Court issued a ruling in a child lead poisoning case. At issue in Steward v. Holland Family Props. was whether Defendants, landlords subject to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), had a duty in tort to the tenants of leased properties to comply with building and housing codes concerning public health and safety. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a tort duty was not imposed on these landlords by the common law, the leases executed in this case, or the VRLTA.