Return to Sender

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would hear an appeal from a death row inmate who is slated for execution in Alabama because of a mix-up in the mailroom of one of New York’s most prominent white shoe law firms.

Two associates at the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell were representing pro bono a client in Alabama named Cory Maples in his death row appeals. An Alabama state court sent the associates two copies of a judicial order in Maples’ case, but since the associates no longer worked at S&C, the mailroom staff sent the orders back to the court unopened and stamped “Return to Sender.”  By the time Maples had found new counsel, the deadline for appealing from the court’s order had passed.  The 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals held that it was too late for Maples to appeal, even though the fault was completely that of his attorneys.

The New York Times notes that while the blame has been shifted to the clerks in the mailroom,

An Alabama lawyer, John G. Butler Jr., also represented Mr. Maples and also received a copy of the ruling. Mr. Butler said in a sworn statement that he was Mr. Maples’s lawyer in name only, serving as local counsel for the New York lawyers handling the case. He said he had not passed the ruling along to them or to Mr. Maples.

[WSJ Law Blog]

SULLIVAN AND CROMWELL! Egg, meet face. Don’t have enough time to heap the proper amount of abuse on John Butler, Asshole. Shit. Does he work with Orly?

@JNOV: I think it’s pretty shitty that S&C is blaming the hapless mail clerks. Why didn’t the associates give them a forwarding address? Why didn’t the associates tell the mail room who took over the case? Where was the supervising partner?

I suspect this may have happened in the period when all the law firms were laying people off left and right and a pro bono case undoubtedly got shunted to the bottom of the pile. That still doesn’t excuse it though.

It’s my recollection that, under the Rules of Professional Responsibility, an attorney is responsible for all work of subordinate attorneys and staff under him. The line of responsibility in this case runs from the partner supervising the associate attorneys down to the mailroom. Big firm can go to hell with their hand washing in this.

Furthermore, it is my experience that local counsel is more than just an empty suit, or should be. Local counsel bring their experience, knowledge of local rules, procedure, practice and substantive law to the table. Fuck that guy, too.

ADD: and the 11th Cir, should also be subject to the same treatment as the horse it rode in on.

@SanFranLefty: The forwarding address: In a van. Down by. The River.

@JNOV: Bet Citibank Sallie Mae can find them, though.

Thinking about Baby Ewalda…just because.

@redmanlaw: Yep cubed on those three paragraphs.

@JNOV: Sallie Mae, plus not to mention the alumni association. Citibank is my student loan pimp.

“Mr. Garre responded that the case, Maples v. Thomas, No. 10-63, was hardly routine. Among other things, he said, “the state contributed to the missed deadline” and “a man’s life is at stake.”
The Supreme Court considered how hard the government must try to make sure that notice of a severe action was actually received in 2006 in Jones v. Flowers, which concerned the sale of a home for unpaid taxes. If a letter is returned unopened, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, officials must try harder to reach the owner.
“This is especially true,” he wrote, “when, as here, the subject matter of the letter concerns such an important and irreversible prospect as the loss of a house.”

Forget the life of some poor fucker, man; this is almost as important and irreversible a prospect as the loss of a house!

@RevZafod: I’m surprised the Roberts court even granted cert – if it had just been some country lawyer sleeping during oral arguments, would they have bothered to do so?

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