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Courthouse crew does the music thing

| Sunday, Feb. 10, 2002

In the Allegheny County Clerk of Courts Office we find Benjamin Dettinburn, (he of great punk hair), who is guitar player and vocals for a poppy-punk-ska band named the Distorted Penguins.

The group, which includes Derek Shank (lead vocals), Steven Amtower (trumpet/vocals), James Durst ( trombone), Derek Green (drums) and Nick Taylor (bass) started out in Morgantown, West Virginia and only recently invaded the Pittsburgh Music Scene.

Catch Benjamin's gigs through the band website www.distortedpenguins.com .

More musicians with legal connections are coming forward in future columns.

OF ALL PLACES. You'd think your purse would be safe on a courthouse conveyor belt going through a security checkpoint. Nope.

Attorney Wendy Williams' paralegal K.J. Swan, put her purse on the conveyor belt and was trying to hustle through the arches but was foiled by a young man who kept beeping. Finally, security guards asked the young man to take off his coat and put it on the belt.

It then seems this daring, dastardly fellow put his coat over Swan's purse and attempted to take off with it as he fled for the stairs.

Fortunately, he didn't get far. Swan chased him into the stairwell and he was shortly thereafter whisked away with the same speed with which he whisked away the purse.

PRACTICING POLITICS, NOT LAW. The state Supreme Court has ordered a group of attorneys transferred to inactive status because they haven't paid an annual assessment of $175. Among those on the list: U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods.

The Supremes also transfer to inactive status those attorneys who do not complete required Continuing Legal Education. Pennsylvania requires that every practicing attorney submit proof of twelve hours of approved courses, and a minimum of one hour of ethics, professionalism or substance abuse classes. Among those on that list: U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart of Bradford Woods.

FOX SAYS CHICKENHOUSE NOT IN DANGER. An economic study paid for by the state trial lawyers association says that problems in Pennsylvania's health care industry are cyclical business maladies and do not require tort reform.

A report by Stanford Consulting Group concluded that large jury awards and skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums are not adversely affecting physicians in Pennsylvania.

Attorney Richard Geschke, who defends doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice suits, notes that in the last six months, three doctors have asked him whether they should leave the state. Just how serious they were, I don't know, but I think the fact that they asked shows the anxiety.

Does it occur to anyone else that a study to determine the fairness of malpractice awards to plaintiffs, paid for by lawyers, might not be altogether the best test of reality in the land of health care costs?

SLIPPERY SLOPE. This year might not be anywhere near as promising for high-top starting salaries at major law firms.

In the recent past, we'd begun to see $100,000 plus pays for beginners, but last year's bout with terrorism and weakened economic infrastructures may cause the expensive new hires to vanish.

The main cause of higher starting salaries was originally thought to be competition for talent among all the new dotcoms. Many of these are now dotwent, and their talented employees are seeking new homes.

This leaves the supply-demand cycle on the low side for now.

eBAY PROBLEMS. When the young man of Swissvale ordered a car engine from the eBay auction site, and forwarded $750.00 for it, imagine his surprise when it showed up on another site.

State Attorney General Mike Fisher is on the case. By calling (800) 441-2555, you can complain about a bad online experience, or you can obtain a Complaint Form online at consumers@attorneygeneral.gov.

The Consumer Protection Division at Big Mike's says it has a successful track record of recovering money and/or goods once the complaint is investigated.

SAME THING ONLY DIFFERENT. Meanwhile, a class action complaint form captioned United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division advertises for added plaintiffs.

James W. Brown and others are suing the Equitable Life Assurance Society for discrimination against African Americans in professional hiring. Equitable has agreed to settle.

To read between the lines, it seems Equitable told a number of African-American applicants that they were all filled up with financial professionals from 1987 until a month ago.

CORRECTION. Karen Ollis of the Court Liaison Unit of the Board of Probation and Parole had her name misspelled in the Jan. 27 column. Sorry for the error.

Celeste Whiteford is an attorney and the Tribune-Review's legal columnist. She can be reached at Legalwhisp@aol.com .

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