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Attitude toward death penalty probed

Guantanamo detainees, death-row prisoners and Katrina victims share a bond that a noted attorney thinks reflects a malaise at the heart of the nation's psyche. John Adams Project defense attorney Denny LeBoeuf, keynote speaker for Thursday's Death Penalty Symposium at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, previewed the program Wednesday in delivering the Joseph Cohen Lecture. LeBoeuf summarizes her thesis this way: Guantanamo, the death penalty and Katrina are made from a single cloth woven by color, class and, in the case of "War on Terror" detainees, religion and ethnicity.

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Lost profits can be recouped for unusual vehicles, court rules

Owners of an unusual commercial vehicle are entitled to lost profits for loss of use and replacement costs of the vehicle when it is damaged in a wreck, said the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday. The Supreme Court affirmed a trial court's award of $201,000 to Gateway Foam Insulators Inc. for the loss of profits, replacement cost and environmental cleanup costs, associated with the wreck of its specialized foam insulation installation truck. The court only reversed an $11,723 award for loan interest.

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Proposed bill would let prosecutors carry guns

Deputy Scott Boan runs a metal detector over Stephen Jones at the ground floor entrance to the Jackson County Courthouse on Monday. While Jackson County has hefty security measures, some rural counties do not, prompting some lawmakers to favor letting prosecutors carry weapons. Earlier this year, a man whom Dent County Prosecutor Jessica Sparks had prosecuted on meth-related charges came into her courthouse office. Although Sparks said the confrontation didn't result in any injuries, she said she would have been in serious danger if a weapon was produced. Click here to continue reading.

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On the clock

Asked how he decided on his hourly rate, litigation and appeals attorney and former Supreme Court judge Edward "Chip" Robertson had a simple answer: "I call up Ann Covington, ask what she's charging and try to charge $5 more." It's a response that reflects one way attorneys set their rates - by checking those of other attorneys in comparable practices. Missouri Lawyers Weekly's second annual billable rates listing includes the rates of more than 200 attorneys and 61 legal support staffers in Missouri. Click here to continue reading and view the complete list.

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Venue by amendment argued

A judge's discretion to change the venue of a lawsuit in a Louisiana train accident was at issue Wednesday before the Missouri Supreme Court. In June 2007, a train owned by the Kansas City Southern Railroad Co. (headquarters pictured) slammed into a car in Louisiana. In the aftermath of the accident, an injured passenger and the family of a woman who died filed a lawsuit in Jackson County against the railway. The company is fighting a move to keep the lawsuit in Jackson County, saying venue is proper in St. Louis County, where the company’s registered agent resides.

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Buffaloed

Solo attorney Greg Stewart signaled his young client to join him at the front of the courtroom. The pair stood before Associate Circuit Judge Brenda Stith Loftin in St. Louis County Circuit Court to defend a small property damage suit. But the judge was a bit confused about the property in question. "I'm here to collect damages for my buffalo," said Betty Gourdine, the South County woman who sued Stewart's client, Michael Wirthlin, over a high school prank carried out in 2006.

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Phoning it in

The use of remote conferences to save time and money - and reduce clients' legal fees for routine court actions - appears to be gaining favor despite some limitations. The issue, lawyers agree, is simple: Why commute to court and wait for a brief conference that could be conducted by conference call or video conference between the attorneys and judge?

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Chief justice seeks public defender aid

Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith used the annual State of the Judiciary Address to call for "creative solutions" to assist the state's public defender system. She also called for using "resources more efficiently" in a difficult budget environment. Her comments came a day after Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed budget called for a roughly $1 million increase to the Office of the State Public Defender, including money to hire 12 additional staff members. Public defender officials said it would be the first staff increase to the system in years.

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No song or dance, but sweep feels as lucky as can be

Amazing what a timely magazine article can do. In the mid-1970s, a story about the lack of proficient chimney sweeps appeared in Mother Earth News, a periodical read by every self-respecting hippie of the day. Victor Imgarten was no exception and soon after reading that article he ordered some instruction manuals and purchased sundry chimney cleaning equipment. Clean Sweep Chimney Service had begun. By 1979 it was a Missouri corporation with an office near Highway 94 and Jungermann Road. Thirty years later, Imgarten feels that he made the right decision in picking a "dying career" that gets him out in the community, performing a service that is both profitable and helps in preventing house fires.

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