Blog Archives

Roy Rodney, Jr. to Present on Recusation and Ethics

CLE of LouisianaThis year, CLE of Louisiana is holding its 18th Annual continuing legal education program in association with the Louisiana Judicial Counsel, and National Bar Association and National Bar Association Scholarship Foundation in Panama City, Panama.  As part of the program’s activities, on July 12, 2013, a panel entitled, “Recusation, Showdown between the Code and The Canons,” will discuss the law of recusal, particularly the conflict between the Code of Civil Procedure article 151 and the Judicial Canons.  Judge Michael G. Bagneris will serve as moderator of the panel, and the panelists include Judge Ulysses “Gene” Thibodaux, Attorney Judy Y. Barrasso, Attorney James A. Brown and Attorney Roy J. Rodney, Jr.

In conjunction with the Louisiana State Bar Association Journal article authored by Rodney & Etter, LLC attorneys entitled, “The Last Stand of the Duty to Sit Doctrine in Louisiana,”  Mr. Rodney has previously presented at a CLE in Baton Rouge held by the Louisiana Judicial Council of the National Bar Association on the foundations of Louisiana law on recusal, the rise of the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct Canons, and how Louisiana Circuit Courts have continued to apply the duty to sit doctrine in the face of Louisiana Supreme Court decisions that favor recusal where there is the appearance of impropriety. For more information on either the Louisiana Bar Journal article or the presentation to the Louisiana Judicial Council, feel free to email InTouch@rodneyandetter.com.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Awards Silverback Society a $300,000 Grant to Fund the Mentorship of Impressionable Young Men

The Silverback Society is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2007 to provide mentoring services to eighth-grade boys located throughout the City of New Orleans. The Silverback’s Society’s mantra is, “Generations Depend on Me,” and its objective is to provide positive male role models and life-changing educational opportunities to boys, particularly African Americans.

The Silverback Society is proud and thrilled to be awarded a three-year $100,000 commitment from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Roy J. Rodney, Jr., Managing Director of Rodney & Etter, LLC, is a founding member of the Silverback Society and currently serves on the Board of Directors.  Mr. Rodney has also donated legal services to the organization.  Rodney & Etter, LLC, the Silverback Society and W.K. Kellogg Foundation share the common belief that investing in our children today is truly paying it forward for the world’s future tomorrow.

Rodney & Etter Continues to Support Industry Efforts to Preserve Wetlands

Rodney & Etter, LLC (R&E) is pleased to announce that the firm will be a part of the efforts on the part of major industry to preserve the wetlands along the Gulf Coast.   Mr. Roy J. Rodney, Jr. participated in a recent dinner in New Orleans with America’s Energy Coast Industry Council, as part of the America’s Wetland Foundation’s (AWF) Blue Ribbon Resilient Community Forum.  Also in attendance were representatives from Fortune 500 oil and gas, utility, and manufacturing firms, independent exploration and production, risk mitigation, and small manufacturing business, and representatives of environmental and waterways restoration organizations.

At the same dinner, AWF honored Mr. Paul McIlhenny, chairman and CEO of McIlhenny’s, best known for its Tabasco brand hot sauce, with its Lifetime Achievement Award.  Mr. McIlhenny was lauded for his continuing efforts to operate the family owned business as a zero-waste company and the preservation of the lands around the Avery Island manufacturing plant as a nature preserve.  Click here for more information on the award.

The Industry Council dinner came at the conclusion of a leadership summit where AWF announced a national effort to encourage the Mississippi River as a single, interconnected ecosystem in need of coordinated and comprehensive management.   Click here for more information on AWF’s initiative for a sustainable Mississippi River system.

 

Class Action Lawsuits Maybe Not so Dead After Wal-Mart Decision

While many legal analysts have predicted the “death of class actions” because of the United States Supreme Court decisions in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, the class action and contracts litigation firm, Rodney & Etter, LLC, believes the recent decision in a discrimination lawsuit brought by 700 African-American stock brokers against Merrill Lynch offers hope to anti-discrimination advocates.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal on Feb 24, 2011, the Merrill Lynch lawsuit was allowed to go forward, the result of a ruling by a federal appeals court in Chicago.  In a unanimous opinion, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling that the case should not go forward as a class action. Click here for a Reuters story; here for a Bloomberg story; here for the opinion.

The panel ruled that the question of whether the practices challenged by the plaintiffs had discriminatory effects would be best handled in a single case.

“The stakes in each of the plaintiffs’ claims are great enough to make individual suits feasible,” wrote the opinion’s author, Judge Richard Posner. “But the lawsuits will be more complex if . . . the question whether Merrill Lynch has violated the antidiscrimination statutes must be determined anew in each case. We have trouble seeing the downside of the limited class action treatment that we think would be appropriate in this case.”

Nashville broker George McReynolds filed the suit in 2005 on behalf of a group of brokers and trainees that worked in the firm’s global private client unit. He alleged that certain practices at Merrill — like allowing brokers to form teams and the method of distributing accounts upon a broker’s departure — had a discriminatory impact on African-American brokers and trainees, even if the practices weren’t necessarily discriminatory on their face.

A lower-court judge, Robert Gettleman, denied class-action status for the case in 2010.  But on Friday February 24, 2011, Judge Posner, joined by Judges Diane Wood and David Hamilton, reversed Judge Gettleman and sent the case back down for further proceedings.  Judge Posner is a recognized and widely published scholar of the “Chicago School”, and a founder of the law and economics approach to judging.  Judge Posner’s opinions are widely viewed as business oriented.

Interestingly, the court relied in part on a landmark opinion handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last year called Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes.  In Wal-Mart, the Court denied class certification for a group of female Wal-Mart workers who alleged discrimination against the retailer.

The Supreme Court based its ruling in part on a finding that Wal-Mart did not have a single allegedly discriminatory policy that could be challenged in a class action. Rather, held the court, the discrimination that allegedly affected thousands of women came at the hands of individual managers, who each had wide discretion over hiring and firing and promotions.

In contrast, wrote Judge Posner, the practices challenged at Merrill were, in fact, “practices of Merrill Lynch, rather than practices that local managers can choose or not at their whim.” Therefore, ruled Judge Posner, the case was distinguishable and allowed to move forward as a class action.

“We disagree with the ruling and we are still evaluating the decision but believe that the ruling does not fundamentally change our views that the allegations lack merit,” Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for Bank of America (which purchased Merrill Lynch in 2009), said in an e-mail. “Diversity and inclusion are part of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch’s culture and core values.”

 

R&E awarded “Top Business” recognition by DiversityBusiness.com

The New Orleans-based Class Action and Contracts litigation firm, Rodney & Etter, LLC, is pleased to announce its selection as a 2012 “Top Business” recipient by DiversityBusiness.com.   The DiversityBusiness.com “Top Business” award is the most recent recognition of the firm’s capabilities and continues a tradition of national recognition as one of the best litigation law firms in the country.  The award will be formally received by the firm at the DiversityBusiness.com Annual Member Conference, April 25-27, 2012 at Foxwoods Resort, Connecticut.

All the awards garnered by R&E partners over the past many years serve as a testament to the hard work our staff constantly delivers in the courtroom, at the negotiating table and throughout the community.  Together they have led to the firm being referred to as “pound for pound” one of the best litigation firms in the country

One of our historic recognitions came in 1995, when the R&E lawyers led what American Lawyer recognized as one of the best law firms in the country in the area of litigation.

According to a March 1995 article in the New Orleans Data New Weekly:

“American Lawyer magazine decided to not only take the word of firms who have been telling them that they are client driven, service-oriented, and focused on clear communication, quality work, and reasonable billing. They wanted to know if firms’ perceptions match reality. So they went to the clients. The findings were favorable to say the least for a local firm.

 “The multi-cultural law firm [led by Managing Partner, Roy J. Rodney, Jr] in New Orleans had become known nationwide for its litigation practice specializing in commercial litigation, professional liability, products liability, health care issues and toxic torts.

The process by which the firm was selected for this prestigious award was rigorous:

“American Lawyer received 400 responses to a survey mailed to the corporate counsel of businesses who subscribe to the publication. These in-house lawyers cover a wide gamut of industries, geographic locations and sizes of legal departments. In addition, American Lawyer telephone surveyed more than 200 general counsel of companies recognized by Fortune magazine as the leading companies in several industries in the country. They were asked to identify the top three law firms in 11 practice areas, including litigation. Firms were rated on quality of work, service and value.”

Out of this national survey process, the firm led by Roy Rodney was identified as one of the best law firms in the country for litigation… an award made more remarkable given the relatively small size of the firm and its base of operations in New Orleans.  As an example of the firm’s capabilities, at the time of the award the firm had just successfully guided a Fortune 500 diversified products company through the largest lawsuit in the company’s history.  The award announcement concluded with the following statement:

“The law firm’s commitment to their clients is matched by their high regard for legal and educational excellence.”  

Rodney & Etter’s reputation for success has continued over the intervening years, including last year’s zero verdict for the Orleans School Board in the  John McDonough Senior High School shooting case.

When he formed the firm sixteen years ago, Roy J. Rodney, Jr. said, “We view lawyering as a personal service business and we are honored to have been chosen as tops in quality and service by America’s corporate counsel. There is no higher compliment than public recognition by your clients.” The same sentiment guides the Rodney & Etter law firm today.

‘SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME’ EXPLORES ‘SHAMEFUL’ U.S. HISTORY – WATCH IT MONDAY FEB 13TH!

Rodney & Etter, LLC has a long history of supporting civil rights and promoting justice and equality for all throughout Louisiana, with the firm taking on a major pro bono case annually.  For us, civil rights, justice and equality are not just a job, it a passion!  Starting this month, we will be highlighting movies, television shows and documentaries, and books that Roy Rodney and John Etter recommend for their portrayal of the legal system, injustice, and the struggle for civil rights in this country. 

This month we are pleased to recommend the upcoming PBS special, “Slavery by Another Name,” by award-winning director, Sam Pollard and based on the book of the same name by Douglas A. Blackmon.   The book, subtitled The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II, was awarded the 2009 Pulizer Prize for general non-fiction.  The book also received the 2009 American Book Award, the 2009 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Non-fiction Book Prize, and the 2008 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Book Award, among others.  New Orleanians know Sam Pollard as the editor of the Spike Lee documentary, “When the Levees Broke

The premiere of Slavery by Another Name is scheduled for Monday, February 13.  In New Orleans, the documentary will air on WYES, Channel 12 beginning at 8:00 pm.  We encourage everyone to watch the documentary and let us know what you think.  Comment here or email us at intouch@RodneyandEtter.com.  We’ll collect the comments and post them back on the blog.

The following summary of the show is courtesy of our good friend, Regina Waynes Joseph:

“Slavery By Another Name,” a new PBS documentary, challenges the widely accepted notion: that slavery in America came to a halt with the Emancipation Proclamation. The film shows that while chattel slavery ended in the South in 1865, thousands of African Americans were pushed into forced labor that exposed them to brutality, abuse and death.
 
As narrator Laurence Fishburne says introducing the film, African Americans “were no longer slaves, but not yet free.” Men were arrested, forced to work without pay, and were mistreated by cruel masters. The system of forced labor took place in the North and South, and lasted into the 20th century.
 
“It could have been different and should have been different,” said Douglas A. Blackmon during a session during the PBS portion of the first day of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. Blaming the government, Blackmon called the continuation of slavery “an astonishing failure of modern society.”  He added, “It’s a story of how America failed,” showing how whites had lost faith that blacks could be fully integrated into the mainstream.
 
Descendants of slave owners and slaves participated in the film. Susan Tuggle Barone, who spoke during the session, told of learning how her great-grandfather John Williams killed 11 black laborers who were held illegally on his farm. It was a long-buried secret in her family.
 
“It was devastating for my family to find out about this,” she said. “I’m glad my grandmother wasn’t alive to find out about this. But it was important to learn the truth.”
Sharon Malone, who is married to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, spoke of how her uncle was a victim of Alabama’s forced labor system. She said her family spoke little about his time growing up in the South.
 
She said she has no anger or bitterness about that part of her past. “In fact, I’m more grateful to my parents than I otherwise would have been,” she said. “They did not pass on that bitterness to their children. To us, they were unburdened by their past, and that gave us faith and hope. It’s something that needs to be known.”

Rodney & Etter, LLC is a legal powerhouse recognized by its peers across the US as highly knowledgeable and sought-after counsel or co-counsel with an extensive variety of courtroom experiences and an outstanding record of successful litigation and settlements for its clients.  Roy Rodney was awarded the Louisiana State Bar Association Pro Bono Award for his pro bono work on civil rights and injustice issues.

What Do Jurors Think When Business Defendants Don’t Testify?

        While the class action and commercial litigation firm, Rodney & Etter, LLC, does not practice criminal law, business clients occasionally can face criminal inquiries and, unfortunately, even criminal indictment and prosecution.  With more than 6,000 municipal, state and federal criminal statues, managing criminal liability has become a necessary, though unpleasant, part of business strategy for corporate clients who inadvertently find themselves the subject of criminal investigation despite the lack of intent to violate any criminal laws.

       Companies involved in regulated industries such as health care, transportation, or natural resource extraction and processing are more likely to face criminal inquiries and sometimes prosecution than their counterparts in other economic sectors.  Common to the successful defense of many of these cases is the cooperation between the company’s corporate counsel, such as Rodney & Etter, and the criminal defense counsel.  A successful collaboration may often cause both the civil and criminal lawyers to rethink and re-consider common strategies unique to each discipline.  This article, from DecisionQuest and used by permission, explores a very common question:  when should the business client testify, or more specifically, what do jurors think about business clients who don’t testify during criminal proceedings.

In a criminal trial, it is difficult to imagine a witness whose testimony would be more important to a juror than the defendant. A defendant who does not take the stand deprives jurors of the opportunity to evaluate his or her conduct, demeanor, and credibility. In the absence of the defendant’s testimony, jurors will fill in the blanks, often making assumptions that can be more detrimental to the defendant’s case than the truth would have been. Jurors take their duties seriously and want to make informed decisions; if they feel that a defendant is interfering with their ability to do so, they could very well hold this against him or her.

Jurors often find it difficult to strike a balance between their “gut reaction” and the court’s instructions. In fact, data collected by DecisionQuest from a nationwide sample of jurors indicate that if a judge’s instructions about the law were different from a juror’s own personal moral convictions, approximately half of jurors would follow their own personal moral convictions. For this reason, it is imperative that attorneys make every effort to understand jurors’ preexisting attitudes, experiences, and beliefs during jury selection, rather than rely on the judge’s instructions that jurors be fair and impartial.

In one of its recent on-line newsletters, DecisionQuest asked its readers the following question:

“Despite the fact that in our legal system a criminal defendant is not required to testify in his or her own defense, when a senior corporate executive does not testify at trial, it is a sign that the executive is probably guilty.

“As a lawyer, how do you think American jurors feel about this statement?

                 A. Strongly Agree                           B. Somewhat Agree
                 C. Somewhat Disagree                D. Strongly Disagree

Seventy-six percent of the attorneys who responded to our survey believed that jurors in a criminal trial would consider a senior corporate executive’s decision not to testify in his or her own defense to be a sign of that executive’s guilt.

Indeed, the majority of non-lawyers we polled said that they would interpret an executive’s decision not to testify as an indication that he or she has something to hide. Notably, many respondents were quick to acknowledge that, as jurors, they would likely be instructed by the judge not to infer guilt or innocence from a defendant’s decision to refrain from testifying. However, these respondents said that, despite the judge’s instruction and their desire to respect the court’s orders, it would be very difficult to overcome their “gut reaction” that the defendant was hiding something. As one respondent put it, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why not testify?” Another respondent said she might even infer that the defendant’s lawyer had instructed the defendant not to testify which, to her, would be a tacit admission by the attorney that his client was guilty. Jurors hear so much in the media about a criminal defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination that it is only natural for them to assume that a criminal defendant who does not testify believes he will actually incriminate himself if he takes the stand.

About the DecisionQuest Authors:

Alison Wong is a Senior Consultant in DecisionQuest’s Houston office. She has a background in both psychology and sociology, and received her JD from the University of Texas School of Law. Ms. Wong has considerable experience in research activities and her clients rely on her for strategic recommendations and storyline development. She may be reached at awong@decisionquest.com.

Blaine McElroy is a Research Associate with the Houston office. Mr. McElroy focuses on jurors’ decision pathways; the individual and group dynamics that present tactical actions or arguments used to manipulate or influence others. He may be reached at bmcelroy@decisionquest.com.

© DecisionQuest 2011.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission from DecisionQuest.  www.decisionquest.com

Rodney & Etter, LLC is a diverse law firm that is recognized by its peers as an extremely successful legal powerhouse in the areas of corporate litigation, class action defense and environmental torts.  We work with our clients to ensure that juries understand the facts and implications of cases and decisions. Roy Rodney, managing partner, can be reached at rjr@rodneylaw.com.

THIS DAY IN RODNEY AND ETTER HISTORY

from:  Roy J. Rodney, Jr.

We continue to be amazed that we have been providing legal service to the New Orleans community for almost thirty years.  Recent delving into the firm’s archives have made us realize that they contain a virtual treasure trove of history and information on the practice of law in this city and the role of members of our firm in that legacy.   We hope you won’t mind if we occasionally dust off some old articles to share with our clients, friends and supporters through the new digital media.

Fifteen years ago members of our firm were awarded the Young Leadership Council’s Diversity Award:

“The Young Leadership Council (YLC) Diversity Awards Advisory board has selected the law firm … to receive a … Diversity Award.  The award, which is part of the Leadership in a Diverse City Project, is presented to those businesses the board deems exceptional in its efforts to embrace diversity concepts within its workforce and its management practices.  [The firm] will be recognized under a special designation created to honor businesses 10 years old or less. …

“The firm… is privileged to be chosen as this year’s Diversity Award recipient.  ‘We are very proud that the YLC has recognized our commitment to racial, ethnic and gender diversity.  Our philosophy has been to reflect the multicultural composition of our clients here in South Louisiana, manage our diversity and harness the energy and imagination created by our unique cultural perspectives,’ states Roy Rodney, managing director of the firm. 

 “The Diversity Award was designed by [the late] John Scott, recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship…”

 Today, Rodney & Etter continues to demonstrate the same commitment to diversity, energy, imagination and to the region’s cultural history that led to this prestigious award.

 

R&E welcomes School Administrators and Counsel to New Orleans

Early in October, Rodney & Etter welcomed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA’s) Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) to New Orleans.  CUBE held its 44th Annual Conference & Award Luncheon with the theme “Urban School Governance Today: Challenges and Opportunities” at the Loews Hotel from October 6-8, 2011.  CUBE represents over 110 urban school districts in 35 states and the Virgin Islands.  R&E served as a silver sponsor of the event and participated in the State of Urban Education Address and Luncheon, a discussion of the State-Level Challenges to School Board Governance, and a workshop on Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability.  We enjoyed networking with Board Members from across the nation and sharing our experiences on the role of school safety, school violence, bullying, and discriminatory school practices.

One week later Rodney & Etter welcomed the NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) to New Orleans.  COSA held their 2011 School Law Practice Seminar at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel October 13-15.  COSA’s membership consists of 37 affiliate state councils and over 3,000 attorneys nationwide, who work to improve the practice of school law and prevent lawsuits against public schools.  R&E sponsored the Wi-Fi access for the seminar, enabling the more than 120 attendees’ access to internet and email.

At the COSA Seminar we participated in sessions on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Crisis Communications Management for School Districts, Litigating Student Suicides in Federal Court, and the Role of the School Attorney in Emerging School Governance Models.   We also attended sessions on “24 Things a School Attorney Really Needs to Know” and Legal Pointers on Religion in Public Schools.  A session on Legal Pointers on Discrimination in Public Schools was presented by Edward Morris, General Counsel for the Orleans Parish School Board.  Norlisha Parker Burke represented the firm at the Conference, and enjoyed networking with School Attorneys from across the nation and sharing our experiences on the role of school safety, school violence, bullying, and discriminatory school practices.

 Contact Norlisha Parker Burke or Roy J. Rodney, Jr. for more information or to discuss any of these topics. 

PRESS RELEASE: Orleans Parish School Board Wins Litigation In High School Shooting Case

For Immediate Release — February 18, 2011

New Orleans, LA:  On April 14, 2003, two young men, armed with automatic weapons entered the gymnasium of the John McDonogh Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The gym was filled with over 200 students participating in various school classes and activities.  The assailants sprayed the gym with gunfire, murdering their intended target, Jonathan Williams, and injuring four others before escaping into the surrounding neighborhood.  One of the assailants was convicted of first degree murder and is serving a life sentence without the benefit of the parole.  The other assailant accepted a plea bargain and is still incarcerated.  The parents of Mr. Williams and the other injured parties sued the Orleans Parish School Board, claiming lax security at the school and insufficient response by the School Board to warnings of potential violence against Mr. Williams.

In six days of testimony experts in security, former John McDonogh students, teachers, and administrators, police and school security officers, and others provided graphic testimony about the events of that day, one of the worst school shootings in America.   An expert in school security who had worked other infamous school shootings, including the Columbine tragedy, testified that the School Board had taken all reasonable steps to establish and maintain a safe and secure campus environment at John McDonogh.  Other witnesses testified to the deliberate nature of the assailants’ actions and the appropriate actions of teachers and administrators immediately following the assault.

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Robin Giarusso ruled in favor of the Orleans Parish School Board, indicating that no additional actions on the part of the School Board likely would have prevented the brazen mid-day attack.  Giarusso called the attacks “unexpected, unprecedented and unforeseeable” and that “no place could have prevented [the] gangland-style assassination.” A copy of the complete judgment is attached.

The School Board was represented by firm of Rodney & Etter, LLC which continued its reputation for success in defense of high-profile litigation cases.  Rodney & Etter is a boutique litigation firm located in New Orleans.  Members of the firm have been recognized as top litigators by American Lawyer Magazine and others.

For more information contact:   Mr. Roy J. Rodney, Jr., Managing Partner, Rodney & Etter, LLC, 504-483-3224

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