Friday, December 29, 2006

D.A. Facing Ethics Charges

The district attorney in the Duke sexual assault case has been hit with ethics charges by the North Carolina Bar Association.

The bar association opened an investigation of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong last March shortly after the case began.
"It's hard for me to imagine how he can be effective as an advocate, with either the court or a future jury, when he has ethics charges pending against him ... concerning his conduct of this very same case," said Joseph Kennedy, a University of North Carolina law professor.

The North Carolina bar filed the ethics charges Thursday, accusing District Attorney Mike Nifong of violating four rules of professional conduct by making misleading and inflammatory comments about the athletes under suspicion.

Kennedy said Nifong should recuse himself, but added that the judge overseeing the case could also order his removal. The ethics charges carry penalties that range from admonishment to disbarment.

The bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after a 28-year-old woman hired to perform as a stripper at a lacrosse team party said she was gang-raped.

The rape charges against the three students were dropped earlier this month.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Live puppy OK'd for trial

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Prosecutors won the right Monday to use a live puppy in a demonstration of how another dog suffered before it was stuffed into a searing hot gas oven and killed.

Laura Janssen, the prosecutor, argued that a live demonstration would show how a real dog would react. She said her expert on dog behavior would stop short of any real cruelty.

"It helps the jury to understand," Janssen said.

The puppy pulled from the Fulton animal shelter on Tuesday would be a stand-in for one that was doused with paint, burned, hog-tied with duct tape and then died futility struggling inside a gas oven.

Two brothers, Justin and Joshua Moulder, are on trial in Fulton Superior Court for animal cruetly as well as breaking into and trashing the community center of Englewood Manor apartments in Atlanta.

Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore agreed Monday to allow the dog demonstration over the objections of defense lawyers who argued that trotting out a cute puppy would prejudice the jury.

"This is clearly just an attempt to inflame the jury," said Kevin Schumaker, the lawyer for Joshua Moulder.

Testimony resumed Monday with a series of police witnesses who kicked off the second week of the trial.

The early session witnesses included an Atlanta police supervisor, a crime scene technician and a police sergeant who were all called to the apartments Aug. 21.

They all said they found the apartment community center trashed — computers smashed, books strewn about, paint splattered around and other vandalism — as well as a small puppy that had been duct-taped and gruesomely killed inside the center's gas oven.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Supreme Court to hear arguments in latest race issue

From AP:
WASHINGTON - Pro-affirmative action demonstrators bearing "Fight For Equality" placards descended on the Supreme Court Monday as justices prepared to hear fresh arguments in cases testing when race may be used as a basis for assigning students to public schools.

Parents in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle are challenging school assignment plans that factor in a student's race in an effort to have individual school populations approximate the racial makeup of the entire system. Federal appeals courts have upheld both programs.

On the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court, several hundred of pro-affirmative action demonstrators marched in a brisk wind to dramatize their issue. A parent-teachers group from Chicago and several civil rights groups were among those sponsoring the demonstration.

Demonstrators chanted "Equal education, not segregation" and "We won't go to the back of the bus, integration is a must." Some held signs that read "Stop racism now." Among the crowd were representatives of the
National Organization for Women, the NAACP and students from Howard University.

"It's ridiculous to separate us. We worked hard to get everyone together. Why separate us now?" said Jade Johnson, 15, of Washington D.C., who attends Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in the district. Johnson said she came to the demonstration instead of going to school.

Though outnumbered, there were some in the crowd from the other side.

"Regardless of how well-motivated, allowing the state to engineer racial mixing only creates racial stereotypes and increases racial tension," said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a public interest law firm. "The court needs to put an end to state-mandated tinkering with race."

The school policies in contention are designed to keep schools from segregating along the same lines as neighborhoods. In Seattle, only high school students are affected. Louisville's plan applies systemwide.
From a NY Times editorial:
The Louisville and Seattle plans are precisely the kind of benign race-based policies that the court has long held to be constitutional. Promoting diversity in education is a compelling state interest under the equal protection clause, and these districts are using carefully considered, narrowly tailored plans to make their schools more diverse.

It is startling to see the Justice Department, which was such a strong advocate for integration in the civil rights era, urging the court to strike down the plans. Its position is at odds with so much the Bush administration claims to believe. The federal government is asking federal courts to use the Constitution to overturn educational decisions made by localities. Conservative activists should be crying “judicial activism,” but they do not seem to mind this activism with an anti-integration agenda.

If these plans are struck down, many other cities’ plans will most likely also have to be dismantled. In Brown, a unanimous court declared education critical for a child to “succeed in life” and held that equal protection does not permit it to be provided on a segregated basis. It would be tragic if the court changed directions now and began using equal protection to re-segregate the schools.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

LA cops file suit over ticket quotas

As reported by the Los Angeles Police Protective League:
Los Angeles Times

By Patrick McGreevy
Times Staff Writer

A group of Los Angeles police officers in the north San Fernando Valley has filed a class- action grievance alleging that they have been improperly pressured by the command staff to meet quotas in writing traffic tickets.

The grievance was raised by the Police Protective League on behalf of 30 officers working at the Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire Division.

Hank Hernandez, a lawyer for the union, confirmed Friday that the grievance was filed with the division because of concern that officers were facing potential harm to their careers if they failed to increase the number of tickets they wrote.

"It's an attempt to coerce and threaten officers to get them to write more tickets," Hernandez said.
And we were always told there are no quotas in writing traffic tickets.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Texas Legislators Attack Illegal Immigrants

From the New York Times:
HOUSTON, Nov. 15 — In a sign of rising passions over immigration issues, Texas lawmakers prepared for the 2007 session this week by filing a flurry of bills that would deny public assistance and other benefits to the children of illegal immigrants, tax money transfers to Mexico and the rest of Latin America and sue the federal government for the costs of state border control.

At the same time, a Dallas suburb, Farmers Branch, became the first Texas municipality to enact measures fining landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, authorizing the police to seek certification to act on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security and declaring English the city’s official language.

Many of the bills are unlikely to become law, but, combined with the Farmers Branch action, they have raised questions about whether Texas, where almost a third of the population was listed as Hispanic in the 2000 census, is about to get caught up in the kinds of legal fights about illegal immigration that have occurred elsewhere.

“It’s awful,” said Brent A. Wilkes, the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation’s largest and oldest Hispanic rights group. “Texas for a long time has avoided this anti-immigrant hysteria.”
We must remember this is the state that has executed women, children and the mentally challenged.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rapist to be slapped

Another reason it's good to live in America.

Upset with a police investigation into an alleged rape of a deaf, mute woman, village elders in India took matters into their own hands.

Lacking arrest powers, the elders nonetheless found the man guilty of rape, levied a fine and sentenced him to be slapped in public 51 times.

Police say their investigation is continuing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Curtains for 'See Clearly Method'

Vision Improvement Technologies, Inc. has been ordered by an Iowa court to pay $200,000 in consumer restitution for consumer fraud.

The court order resolves a consumer fraud lawsuit filed last year by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, which alleged that the company could not substantiate claims that the "See Clearly Method" improved people's vision so much that they would no longer need glasses or contact lenses.

The "See Clearly Method" was a kit of manuals, charts, videos and audio-tapes demonstrating eye exercises and other techniques, such as focusing eyes using special charts or props, facing a bright light with eyes closed at a distance of a few inches, covering eyes with hands for sustained periods, and applying hot and cold wash cloths over closed eyes.

The company sold tens of thousands of the kits for about $350 apiece.

"The company made dramatic claims for its product that it could not substantiate," Miller said.

"They represented that consumers who used the method could quickly and easily free themselves of having to wear glasses or contact lenses. They used illegal tactics including exaggerated claims of effectiveness, false implications of scientific validity, and misleading consumer testimonials in advertising," he said.

Read Article

Friday, November 03, 2006

Law Denies Benefits to Newborns

Seems that the Deficit Reduction Act, passed last February is being used by the federal government to deny medical care to babies born to illegal immigrants, according to an article in The New York Times.

Marilyn E. Wilson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Medicaid program, said: “The federal government told us we have no latitude. All states must change their policies and practices. We will not be able to cover any services for the newborn until a Medicaid application is filed. That could be days, weeks or months after the child is born.”

About four million babies are born in the United States each year, and Medicaid pays for more than one-third of all births. The number involving illegal immigrant parents is unknown but is likely to be in the tens of thousands, health experts said.

Doctors and hospitals denounced the policy change and denied that it was required by the new law. Dr. Jay E. Berkelhamer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the policy “punishes babies who, according to the Constitution, are citizens because they were born here.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

New Jersey Considers Ban on Aluminum Bats

In an effort to cut down on the possibility of traumatic brain injuries, shattered faces and other injuries during Little League baseball games, New Jersey is considering a ban on aluminum bats.

As one would expect, bat makers, Little League officials and others are against it.
Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said rules requiring metal bats be similar to wooden ones have cut injuries to pitchers hit by batted balls. He said Little League had 170 million at-bats last year and 22 injuries to pitchers, down from 145 in 1992.

“If this was in our opinion a safety issue, we should be leading the way on changes,” Keener said. “There is an insignificant difference between the non-wood bats that are used today and the wood bats they are tested against.”

Former major league catcher and Princeton University baseball coach Scott Bradley said banning metal bats would cut participation in youth baseball.

“I think we’re going to take a lot of opportunities and a lot of fun away,” Bradley said.
In our opinion, the prevention of a major injury to a young child is worth the ban.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Police Kill Teen with Stun Gun

From the Associated Press:
JERSEYVILLE, Ill. - A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.

In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."

Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.

Holyfield was flown to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Florida executes serial killer

Florida seems to have more than its fair share of executions and serial killers.

Yesterday, they executed Danny Harold Rolling, who was convicted of killing, sexually assaulting and mutilating the bodies of five college students in Gainesville in August 1990.

Read the story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

24, That's How Long

Update to yesterday's post:

Jeffrey K. Skilling, former Enron CEO sentenced to 24 years in prison

Couldn't have happened to a more deserving man.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Former Enron CEO to find out how long

Ex-CEO Jeffrey Skilling will find out today just how long he will have to spend in prison for his part in the financial collapse of Enron.

Ken Lay showed him a way out:
His co-defendant, Enron founder Kenneth Lay, died from heart disease on July 5. Lay's convictions on 10 counts of fraud, conspiracy and lying to banks in two separate cases were wiped out with his death.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Seven guilty pleas in corpse scheme

Seven funeral home directors secretly entered guilty pleas in a plot to steal tissue and organs from corpses to sell to biomedical companies, according to prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY.

Neither the charges nor their names were released. They are cooperating in the investigation.

The seven entered their pleas in closed courtrooms and their names were withheld, but defense attorneys said that among those cooperating was the director of a funeral home that took parts from the body of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke, who died in 2004.

The four original defendants in the case pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to enterprise corruption, body stealing and other charges in the new indictment. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison. All remain free on bail.

Prosecutors allege Michael Mastromarino, owner of Biomedical Tissue Services of Fort Lee, N.J., and three other men secretly removed skin, bone and other parts from up to 1,000 bodies from funeral homes, without the permission of families. They have accused the former oral surgeon of making millions of dollars by selling the stolen tissue to biomedical companies that supply material for common procedures including dental implants and hip replacements.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bush Grants Pardon ... to Himself

According to Elizabeth Holtzman, former U.S. congresswoman from New York and co-author of the special prosecutor law enacted in the midst of Watergate,President Bush has just signed his own pardon.
The bill countenances abuse of detainees in defiance of the Geneva Conventions and the country's past moral values and it suspends habeas corpus in defiance of the constitution. As bad as these features is the bill's grant of a pardon to President Bush and his top Cabinet officials for any crimes they may have committed under the War Crimes Act of 1996.

When a president violates the country's criminal laws and then gets a secret grant of immunity for those crimes, he makes a mockery of the rule of law. Then all lawlessness is permissible.
Read her entire statement here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Judge Bucks Bush Administration

U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl bucked the Bush administration by sentencing prominent civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart to "only" 28 months in prison instead of the 30 years administration prosecuters wanted.

Oh, yeah, the judge also let her remain free on bond by appealing her conviction.

Friday, October 13, 2006

McDonald's on hot seat again

A lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles alleging McDonald's french fries of causing a severe allergic reaction in an autistic boy.

Seems that the fast-food chain had admitted earlier that their earlier claims of their french fries being free of allergens was not entirely true; the oil they are fried in contains gluten and casein.

According to a Court TV report:
The complaint alleges fraud, false advertising and negligent misrepresentation by McDonald's Corp. and McDonald's Restaurants of California and seeks $15,000 for Roman Brown's medical expenses, along with a share of profits made by the company for the alleged misrepresentation and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The plaintiffs also are asking for certification of the lawsuit as a class-action on behalf of other autistic children who they allege may have been similarly harmed.

"In most cases, elimination of gluten and casein from an autistic child's [diet] results in dramatic improvements in the child's condition, often enabling the child to attend mainstream educational programs in a matter of months,'' the suit states.

The complaint was filed in L.A. Superior Court by Richard Brown, who was id entified as the boy's guardian. The court papers do not state the relationship between the guardian and the child, nor specify the child's age.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Court Orders Grace to Pay for Clean Up

From The Los Angeles Times:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday let stand lower court rulings that require W.R. Grace & Co. to pay a $54.5-million federal bill for asbestos cleanup in a Montana mining town described by federal regulators as one of the nation's most contaminated Superfund sites.

The court rejected Grace's appeal of a decision in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency, which sued Grace five years ago to recover the cleanup costs at a vermiculite mine in the town of Libby.
Anyone who hasn't seen this documentary, should.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Appeals Court Allows Admistration to Continue Spying

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing the government's warrantless surveillance program to continue while the Justice Department appeals a federal judge's ruling that the spying is unconstitutional.

The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave little explanation for the decision. In the three-paragraph ruling, judges said that they balanced the likelihood an appeal would succeed, the potential damage to both sides and the public interest.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled Aug. 17 that the program was unconstitutional because it violates the rights to free speech and privacy and the separation of powers in the Constitution.

The Justice Department had urged the appeals court to allow it to keep the program in place while it argues its appeal, claiming that the nation faced "potential irreparable harm." The appeal is likely to take months.

"The country will be more vulnerable to a terrorist attack," the government motion said.
Here's an interesting point made in the news account: "A secret court has been set up to grant warrants for such surveillance, but the government says it can't always wait for a court to take action."

As many understand Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 the government has the ability to initiate electronic surveillance without a court order and still have 15 days to go before the secret court to get the proper warrant.

However, this only applies when Congress has formally declared war.

The problem is that the current administration claims they have the authority to conduct warrantless searches without any court oversight at all, with which many legal and constitutional scholars (and at least one federal judge) disagee.

Could they avoid all this legal wrangling by having Congress issue a formal declaration of war on terror? Who is terror? What is terror? How do you declare war on terror?

It makes our brain hurt.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blogger Beware

One would think common sense would dictate whether one would engage in libel on the blogosphere, but then again ...

The legal battles over blogging and message board postings are unfolding on several fronts:

•In Washington, D.C., former U.S. Senate aide Jessica Cutler was sued for invasion of privacy by Robert Steinbuch, also a former Senate aide, after Cutler posted a blog in 2004 describing their sexual escapades. The blog, titled Washingtonienne, was viewed widely after it was cited by a Washington gossip website called Wonkette. In July, Steinbuch added Wonkette to the lawsuit.

•Todd Hollis, a criminal defense lawyer in Pittsburgh, has filed a libel suit against a website called, which includes message boards in which women gossip about men they supposedly dated. One posting on the site accused Hollis of having herpes. Another said he had infected a woman he once dated with a sexually transmitted disease. Yet another said he was gay. Hollis, 38, who says the accusations are false, is suing the site's operator, Tasha Joseph, and the posters of the messages.

•Anna Draker, a high school assistant principal in San Antonio, filed a defamation and negligence lawsuit against two students and their parents after a hoax page bearing her name, photo and several lewd comments and graphics appeared on, the popular social networking website.

Update on LA Homeless

There's more than one way to solve the homeless problem.

Now that the Los Angeles City Council has voted down an agreement between the city and the ACLU concerning the homeless, the LAPD, with the blessing of the city attorney, has resumed arresting people sleeping on city streets during the day.

The LA Times reports:
Police Chief William J. Bratton said he authorized the arrests after the L.A. city attorney's office issued a legal opinion saying that officers could arrest homeless people who slept on skid row's streets during the day.

But the new tactics were met with concern from some L.A. council members as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has aggressively challenged the city's efforts to remove the homeless camps.

Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director of the ACLU of Southern California, questioned whether the arrests made Tuesday are allowed under an April federal appeals court ruling that struck down the city's ban on people sleeping on streets and sidewalks.

Over-zealous Agent Facing Lawsuit

A Golden, Colorado, man has filed a federal lawsuit against a Secret Service agent for "unlawful seizure, unlawful search and retaliation for exercising his constitutional right to free speech."

According to the Denver Post:
Steven Howards, 54, a consultant to non-profit organizations, was vacationing with his family in Beaver Creek when he spotted Cheney in an outdoor mall shaking hands and posing for photos. Howards and his son walked over and told Cheney that his policies in Iraq are "reprehensible."

Howards said he may have touched Cheney on the elbow or shoulder, like others in the crowd.

Howards kept walking to his son's piano lesson. He returned to the spot about ten minutes later with another son, and that's when Secret Service agent Virgil Reichle handcuffed and arrested Howards for assaulting the vice president.

The charge was later reduced to harassment, then dismissed in Eagle County Court a month later.
As is often the case in such matters, this is probably not the full story, but we guess when the vice president crawls out of his "undisclosed location" agents charged with guarding his life must feel tremendous pressure to keep him safe from things he doesn't want to hear.

Remember the physician on the Gulf Coast last year who told Cheney to go f**k himself? He was not arrested, but that's probably because he said something the veep could understand.

Using words of more than one syllable will get you in trouble.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What is two years in jail worth?

OK, the man's a convicted child molester but to have to spend two extra years in prison is a bit much.

Attorneys for Fulton County are scrambling to keep a convicted child molester's hands off more than $2 million in county money.

That's because an oversight, a piece of paper misplaced by county officials, left Calvin T. McGee II, 44, behind bars for nearly two years too long.

It's far from Fulton County's finest moment, but it's about to play out in a very public forum.

McGee, who molested two young girls, is suing Superior Court Clerk Juanita Hicks and one of her deputy clerks for $2.5 million, claiming he languished in prison for 22 months because the clerk's office didn't notify corrections officials of his scheduled release date. McGee already has surprised county officials by clearing his first major hurdle — persuading a judge not to toss out his case. Now Deputy County Attorney Willie Lovett, through his appeal, is holding out hope he can quash the lawsuit before it heads to trial.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Needed: More Courtroom Interpreters

Interpreters in federal courtrooms are in short supply:
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Federal court interpreter Teresa Thorpe spoke Spanish softly into a microphone as one Hispanic defendant after another stepped forward.

The scene was typical of U.S. courts that are struggling to break down the language barrier between an English-speaking legal system and the growing number of Spanish-speaking immigrants. What was unusual was Thorpe's commute to work: She had to be flown to Birmingham from Kentucky because of a shortage of qualified interpreters in the Southeast.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Class Action Status Approved for 'Light' Cigarettes Lawsuit

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
NEW YORK -- A federal judge today granted class action status to tens of millions of "light cigarette" smokers for a potential $200 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies.

U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein in Brooklyn made the ruling on a 2004 lawsuit that alleges Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Lorillard Tobacco Co. and other defendants duped smokers, and responded to consumers' mounting health concerns with a campaign of deception designed to preserve revenue.

The class is anyone who purchased cigarettes that were labeled "light" or "lights" after they were put on the market, beginning in the early 1970s.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lawyers Not Likely to Have AD/HD

A study commissioned by the Attention Deficit Disorder Association indicates that lawyers are among the professions less likely to suffer from AD/HD, or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to an article published by Consumers Affairs.

Politicians, tradespeople and entertainers are the most likely to suffer from the disorder.

There was no indication, however, about what happens to lawyers who become politicians.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

L.A. Homeless Update

Afraid that a settlement in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU would cause the homeless problem to spread outside of skidrow, the Los Angeles City Council voted 10-3 to reject the settlement and continue fighting in court.

"We will not bend to a legal decision that everyone knows is not appropriate in this city," Councilman Bernard C. Parks said.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes much of skid row, led the charge against the deal, along with downtown business and development interests. They argued that rather than helping clean up skid row, the settlement could make conditions worse by drawing more homeless people from the surrounding area.

The council's action not only forestalled a resolution of the dispute with the ACLU, it also was a rare rebuff of the mayor. Since Villaraigosa was elected last year, council members have been more inclined to court his favor than reject his initiatives.

After the vote, Bratton said he remained committed to improving skid row but warned that the collapse of the settlement makes the job more difficult.

"I am disappointed in that if the settlement had been agreed upon, it would have given me tools to immediately move forward. With the lawsuit we have some uncertainty," he said.

The case could take years to be resolved.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This is America?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
A woman held in a halfway house for months beyond her original sentence because she could not pay a $705 fine was released Tuesday after an agreement between the state Department of Corrections and the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Ora Lee Hurley had been caught in a legal Catch-22 that kept her confined to the Gateway Diversion Center in Atlanta for eight months beyond her initial 120-day sentence for a probation violation.

"We're grateful to the Department of Corrections for taking immediate steps to remedy the problem," Southern Center lawyer Sarah Geraghty said after a five-minute hearing before Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger where the settlement was announced.

Geraghty had earlier called Hurley's dilemma "another debtor's prison case."

Read on in the article and you find Hurley was no saint; she has a history of drug violations.

But to keep her incarcerated past her origninal sentence because she couldn't pay the fine? They were taking everything she earned to pay for keeping her in jail. Of course, she couldn't pay the fine.

That's not right.

Kudos to the Southern Center for Human Rights for stepping up and doing something about it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

From The Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles officials and the American Civil Liberties Union have reached a compromise to settle a lawsuit that has prevented police from arresting homeless people who camp on the streets and sidewalks of skid row, Police Chief William J. Bratton said Monday.

However, not everyone is happy with the reported settlement:
"Any settlement that leaves people living on the street in filthy conditions and permits chaos from 9 to 6 every night in one critical area of the city is unacceptable," said Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the Central City Assn.

We did not see anywhere in the Times article where business interests offered any alternative. Are they willing to help fund shelters for the less fortunate in our society? Probably not; there's no profit in it.

Homelessness, is a problem countrywide, and one that is not going to get any better in the foreseeable future.

It will take all of us working together to find the answers, and they will be different for each community.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Man in jail 11 years for contempt

CNN has a story about a guy who has been in a Pennsylvania county jail for 11 years for contempt of court.

Yes, it's a divorce case and involves $2.5 million. The guy says he doesn't have it; the court says he can get it.

Oh, yeah. The guy's a lawyer.

Suing Insurance Companies Over Coverage

Some people who have individual health insurance policies are suing the insurance company after their coverage is dropped, retroactively.

Exerpt from The Los Angeles Times:

The suits accuse health plans of dumping sick policyholders without evidence that the consumers intentionally omitted information about their medical condition or history. They also accuse insurers of using applications that are vague and confusing by design, trapping consumers into making mistakes that can be used to cancel their coverage later.

The complaints involve individual policies — the type of coverage sold to people who work for themselves or for employers who don't offer health benefits. Unlike many work-based plans, which are open to qualified employees regardless of health, insurers in California and many other states can reject applicants for individual policies based on their conditions or health histories. After an applicant is accepted, a state law prohibits health plans from canceling unless the policyholder lied to obtain coverage.

Aside from appealing to the company that dumped them, subscribers' only recourse is to complain to state regulators or sue. After an insurer yanks coverage, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get a policy from another carrier.

Friday, September 15, 2006

California May Have Tough Time with Pretexting Case

It seems that a member of the board of directors of Hewlett-Packard Co. leaked some confidential information to the media and the company didn't like it.

So they authorized an investigation which including "pretexting", which in this case is claiming to be someone else in an effort to get that person's calling records from the phone company.

The state Attorney General's office is involved, but some experts say the state will have a hard time proving if any California law was broken.

The case is confusing to many, so read the latest from the Los Angeles Times.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Landowner Negligence Case 'Signifcant'

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 12, 2006--A negligence finding against a Pennsylvania landowner for the actions of a hunter using his land is a first for the U.S., said Joel S. Rosen, attorney for the plaintiff.

"This is an important victory for brain injury victims," said Rosen. "Firearm mishaps result in a significant number of brain injuries across the United States."

Rosen said the importance of the case may be misunderstood.

"This case holds landowners responsible when they allow negligent hunting on their property," he said. "Our research shows this is the first case of its kind in the U.S."

Landowners have a responsibility when they allow hunting on their property, he said.

"This landowner new nothing about the hunter. He did not know if he was a safe hunter. He did not know what kind of gun he was using. He did not even know if he had a hunting license," said Rosen.

"Now that we have proven the property owner's negligence, we look forward to trying the damage portion of the case," he said.

The verdict came in a negligence case involving Craig T. Wetzel who was hunting on land owned by Daniel Haas in Coplay, PA, northeast of Philadelphia.

A rifle shot fired by Wetzel traveled more than 1/2 mile before striking Casey Kantner in the head as she sat in her car in her driveway. Kantner was 18 at the time and six months pregnant. She was hospitalized for a week and had surgery to repair her fractured skull. Her baby was born safely three months later.

The original jury could only determine negligence. A separate panel will decide the amount of damages in about 60 days.

Rosen is with the law firm Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., of Philadelphia.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Joel S. Rosen wins case against hunter, landowner

Joel S. Rosen, who spent 22 years in the Philadelphia district attorney's office and who is probably best known for the conviction of fugitive Ira Einhorn, has won a lawsuit against a hunter, and the owner of the property on which he was hunting, for the accidental shooting of a pregnant 18-year-old woman.

Casey Kantner, who is now 20, was sitting in her car in her driveway when she was critically injured by a bullet fired from nearly 6/10ths of a mile away. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and had surgery to repair the damage.

With Rosen's help, Kantner sued the hunter, Craig Wetzel, for negligence, maintaining he should have known his bullets would put people in nearby residential areas in danger. The suit also claims he should not have been using the 7 mm Magnum Ruger Model 77 high-powered rifle.

The suit also named Daniel Haas, the owner of the 140-acre orchard from which the shots were fired, and his company, Overlook Orchards Inc. The company was dismissed from the lawsuit by Senior Judge John P. Lavelle.

A separate jury will determine the amount of damages owed to Kantner, which should be within 60 days.

Under Pennsylvania law, no appeal can be made until the case is finalized.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pennsylvania AG going too far?

Seems to us that the Pennsylvania Attorney General is going a bit too far in his request for reporters' computers:

High court suspends LNP fine

A key issue is whether the attorney general violated press freedoms in compelling Lancaster Newspapers, publisher of the Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster New Era and Sunday News, to hand over computer hard drives that might contain information reporters obtained from confidential sources.

"We're confident that the state Supreme Court will give this issue the appropriate scrutiny it deserves," said Kevin Harley, spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett.

The justices did not indicate when they would issue a final order or say whether they would schedule oral arguments.

The dispute arises from a probe begun last fall by the attorney general into county Coroner Dr. G. Gary Kirchner's dealings with the press.

The attorney general engaged a statewide investigative grand jury to look into whether Kirchner gave Intelligencer Journal reporters his password to a part of the county’s Web site restricted to law-enforcement and other authorized officials.

The grand jury has required witnesses to appear, but no charges have been filed.
Looks like a major fishing expedition to us.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Judge: $51 Million Too Much in Vioxx Case

From The Washington Post:
U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon in New Orleans ordered a new trial to assess damages owed to retired FBI agent Gerald Barnett but left intact a jury's finding two weeks ago that Merck was liable for his 2002 heart attack. Jurors awarded Barnett $50 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
Easy come, easy go.

Seriously, did anyone really think that amount would stand? We bet the plaintiff's lawyers didn't go out and spend any of it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Trial Lawyers Fighting Back

Long the whipping boys of conservatives throughout the land, trial lawyers are fighting back.
The Association of Trial Lawyers of America on Tuesday launched a $500,000 television and radio ad campaign in five congressional districts blaming GOP lawmakers for not seeking lower prices for the Medicare prescription drug program.

The ad campaign targets Republican House members from Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio and North Carolina. The ads accuse the lawmakers of blocking provisions that would have required Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for the best prescription cost.
Of course, Republicans are not taking this lying down.
Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, scoffed at the trial lawyers association's ad campaign.

"I can't figure out what angle they're going to take that they can sue somebody over," he said.
My, but we love a good fight.

Top Lawmaker Breaks Law

Oops! It seems Sen. Bill Frist, Senate majority leader, lied to the Tennessee Health Department about completing the required continuing medical education requirements.
“As a result of a change in Tennessee’s regulations several years after Dr. Frist came to the Senate, he may be required to complete additional continuing medical education hours,” spokesman Matt Lehigh said in a statement. “A representative of the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners has been contacted, and Dr. Frist will meet every requirement of the Board.”
It may not be that easy for the retiring senator, who has ambitions to become president.
Tennessee law states that doctors who fail to do their continuing medical education “will be subject to disciplinary action.”

Dan Warlick, a Nashville lawyer who represents doctors in trouble with the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, said a case such as Frist’s would likely be taken seriously.

“They have been routinely revoking licenses for physicians who have misrepresented to the board what they have done,” Warlick said.

“Medicine changes,” Warlick added. “If you’re telling them you’re keeping up, and you’re not, that would be a very significant problem for the board to have to deal with.”

We don't look for much to come of this, though. The Frist name still carries a lot of weight in the Volunteer State.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pete Coors' Community Service

Pete Coors, described as a Colorado beer magnate and former Republican candidate of the U.S. Senate, pleaded gulity to a charge of driving while impaired last week. Coors was arrested for driving under the influence in July after a test showed his blood alcohol level at 0.088 percent. The legal limit in Colorado is 0.08 percent.

The judge sentenced Coors to 24 hours of community service and required to pay $495 in court fees. He will also have to attend a Mother's Against Drunk Driving panel discussion on victims of DWI. The $200 fine was waived because it was his first offense.

However, the real story was buried at the end of the news account published in the Rocky Mountain News:
[Coors' attorney Stephen] Higgins told the judge that Coors spends a lot of time doing volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America and other organizations and asked if that could count toward the community service requirement.

OK, let's see if we have this right. A wealthy man has to pay less than $500 in court costs, skates on the $200 fine, and his attorney has the cojones to have his normal volunteer work count as his community service?

What kind of message does this send?

Oh, yeah, there was also this tidbid:
... Coors said he wished police had been "looking for someone a little more dangerous to the community" when he was stopped.

Sorry, Pete, but anyone driving while legally drunk is a danger to the community.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lawyers' Greed Damages Profession

Let's face it, lawyers as a group do not enjoy the best of reputations; and when we have a situation like the one in Kentucky where three lawyers were suspended by the State Supreme Court over a division of the spoils in a fen-phen diet drug cases involving $200 million dollars, all lawyers suffer to some extent.

Linda Gosnell, chief counsel for the Kentucky Bar Association, called it a "case of absolute, unbridled greed."

We are inclined to agree with her assessment when 440 clients get a share of about $45 million and the attorneys, consultants, and for all we know, relatives of the lawyers, split $155 million.

One of the lawyers (we're purposely not mentioning their names here) claimed the $23 million he pocketed was fair and well within his 30 percent.

He may be right, but perception and public opinion must account for something.

How fair is it when the clients who were harmed by the deadly drug mix receive a little more than $100,000 and an attorney walks away with $23 million?

That doesn't sound fair to us, and cases like this only further damages the public perception of an entire noble profession.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Should Merck Change It's Vioxx Strategy?

Although Merck & Co. is still winning more Vioxx cases than it loses, David Logan, dean of Roger Williams University School of Law in Bristol, Rhode Island, said the pharmaceutical company should rethink it's strategy because their losses are big ones.

"How long can Merck carry the cost of these verdicts?" Logan asked. "None of these cases are coming back small."

Last week, a New Orleans jury awarded $50 million in compensatory damages and an additional $1 million in punitive damages to a retired FBI agent.

After the verdict Merck shares fell 57 cents, or 1.4 percent, at $40.61 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Also last week, a state judge in New Jersey overturned a November verdict favorable to Merck, saying the company withheld information showing heart attacks could come with use of Vioxx for less than 18 months.

Although, Merck has a winning percentage in Vioxx cases, they may well be better off to start settling some of them.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Asbestos Story

Anyone interested in asbestos and/or Mesothelioma should read The Asbestos Story: America’s Greatest Industrial Tragedy.

Subtitled "A Tale of Deceit, Design & Temerity," this article is an excellent overview of the history of asbestos litigation in the United States. It is written by attorney Christopher Placitella and is well-referenced.

The article is broken up into sections with titles such as "New Jersey Asbestos Lawsuit Filed", "Physician Dedicates Life to Asbestos Diseases", and "Asbestos Victims, Lawyers Blamed for Bankruptcies".

In 1981, Johns Manville is the first to implement a new strategy for avoiding claims by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Johns Manville bankruptcy plan establishes a Trust to pay for claims filed by asbestos-exposed people who develop disease. The Trust is segregated from the rest of the company. The company goes on doing business as usual while being shielded from all future asbestos liabilities.

Unfortunately, as time goes on, it becomes clear that the amount of money needed to pay claims estimated in the bankruptcy process is inadequate, and that the workers will not be as fully compensated as they thought they would be.

As part of the bankruptcy process, the Trustee for the now Johns Manville Trust turns over to the plaintiffs' attorneys all of the documents previously in Manville's possession for their examination. Many of these documents have never been produced and their very existence has been denied, including the records of the lawsuit filed by Mr. LeGrande, more than 20 years earlier.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

John Mark Karr: Defense Lawyer's Nightmare

It will probably be pretty hard to find a lawyer willing to take the case of John Mark Karr now that he's admitted involvement in the death of JonBenet Ramsey on international television.

But maybe not; everyone deserves his day in court.

As Boulder County District Attorney Mary Lacy said, "There have been no charges filed at this time. There is a presumption of innocence."

We're sure there are those out there that will want to give him a fair trial before they execute him, just as there are those who want to execute him before the trial.

Any bets on if he'll cop a plea?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Too much TV, or Too Much Info

It seems that lawyers for convicted wife-killer Justin Barber, as they should in the performance of their duties, are tying to cover all the bases.

First, they want to find out if the jurors watched Court TV and learned of inadmissable evidence concerning body armor. They are also challenging the judge's decision to allow testimony about his five affairs in the course of his three-year-marriage.

The body armor we can understand; the judge said no. If jurors watched the television show and used that knowledge in their deliberations against the instruction of the judge, then Barber should probably have a new trial.

On the other hand, his lawyers are barking up the wrong tree over the extra-marital affairs. In our mind, if someone is accused of killing his wife, and he has a history of straying, then that goes to motive.

As we said, his lawyers are just doing their job, but we're afraid they may be giving him false hope.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

UK May Allow Judges to Fire Defense Lawyers

How's this for a big can of worms:

From AFP:
LONDON (AFP) - Judges will be given the power to fire defence lawyers to shorten the length of trials and to save costs under government proposals, The Times reported.

If judges believed lawyers were unable to cope with the volume of work involved in handling a big case, at any point before or during the trial, they will be allowed to dismiss them, in proposals published six days ago that were not accompanied by any press notice.

The defendant would then have three weeks to find new representation, and would be barred from choosing a lawyer already involved in the case.
Critics maintain it strips a basic legal right of defendants under United Kingdom laws - to be able to choose their own lawyers.

We can only hope that kind of legal nonsense stays on that side of the Pond.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Drunk Lawyer in Court is Never a Good Thing

It seems a Las Vegas lawyer showed up in court "two hours late for trial smelling of tequila, and getting tangled in lie after lie trying to explain his tardiness" and caused a mistrial in his client's rape case.

As reported by The Associated Press:
The judge hearing the case rejected attorney Joe Caramagno's claims that a car accident that morning left him with a concussion and caused him to be late, slur his words and tell conflicting stories.

"I don't think you have a concussion," District Judge Michelle Leavitt said. "I think you are dazed and confused and can't tell a straight story because you are too intoxicated."
All professions have their miscreants, and it never reflects well on any group when a member behaves this way.

It's a good thing he was not a New Jersey DUI lawyer, a state with some of the stiffest (pun intended) laws about drinking.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ken Starr says Americans Don't Undertand Judiciary

Ken Starr, the former special prosecutor who spent $40 million in taxpayers' money to prove President Bill Clinton lied about sexual relations, has said the majority of the American public has "a great misunderstanding" of how the judiciary works in the United States.
Starr, moderating a panel of judges from across the country, cited a poll by the bar association in which about half the respondents couldn't identify the three branches of government.

"Should Americans, should school students, have confidence as they look ahead to the integrity now of the judicial process?" asked Starr, dean of the Pepperdine University School of Law in California.
Makes one wonder how much his actions throughout his legal career have added to that misunderstanding.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Merck 5, Plaintiffs 3

Merck has expanded its lead over Plaintiffs in the Vioxx Lawsuit Marathon being run across the country.

The latest victory for Merck came in California as Chris Plaictella has reported in his Mass Tort Update blog.

"Everyone watching the trial, including hopeful plaintiffs lawyers, predicted the loss," Placitella wrote.

The jury evidently agreed.
"We didn't feel that a case was ever made that there is a connection between Vioxx and heart attacks," said jury foreman Charles Sullenger, 59. "In the end it simply boiled down to the burden of proof was not met in our opinion."

Jurors, however, agreed that there were potential risks for users taking Vioxx based on scientific studies.

"Keep the faith," Placitella said. "There will be many 100° days for Merck in the future."

Ohio Supreme Court Voids Woman's Death Sentence

Still Facing Death in Resentencing

The Ohio Supreme Court has decided that a judge stepped over the legal line when he got the prosecution involved in his sentencing opinion of a woman convicted in the 2001 killing of her ex-husband.

The court, however, did not nullify the conviction of Donna M. Roberts, who could still face the death penalty in resentencing.

According to news accounts of the ruling:
The majority opinion, by Justice Maureen O'Connor, said the trial court's delegation of any amount of responsibility in the sentencing opinion did not comply with state law.

"Nor does it comport with our firm belief that the consideration and imposition of death are the most solemn of all the duties that are imposed on a judge," O'Connor wrote. "The scales of justice may not be weighted even slightly by one with an interest in the ultimate outcome."
Roberts is the first woman sentenced to death in Ohio since that state resumed executions in 1999.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Free Speech or 'Vulgar and Crude' Remarks

It seems that calling appeals court justices jackasses on the radio in Michigan is grounds for a reprimand from the State Supreme Court. At least four of seven justices think so.

Oh, did we mention that attorney Geoffrey Fieger also likened them to Adolph Hitler and other Nazis?

Seems that Fieger was a bit upset that the Appeals Court overturned a $15 million Medical Malpractice lawsuit.

Do you think the Court's ruling could have been influenced in any way by Fieger's political ambitions? Surely not.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Troubled past for Missiouri 'execution doctor'

The doctor overseeing executions has a troubled past, according to an account in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The Post-Dispatch has confirmed the man behind the screen was Dr. Alan R. Doerhoff, 62, of Jefferson City. Two Missouri hospitals won’t allow him to practice within their walls. He has been sued for malpractice more than 20 times, by his own estimate, and was publicly reprimanded in 2003 by the state Board of Healing Arts for failing to disclose malpractice suits to a hospital where he was treating patients.

It is unclear how much U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. was told before he strongly questioned the doctor’s qualifications — and whether Missouri was delivering unconstitutionally cruel punishment in its death chamber.

Doerhoff’s reprimand was no secret to Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office. Nixon’s office, which fought to keep Doerhoff’s identity a secret in death penalty appeals, signed off on the discipline.

Executions in Missouri have been stopped by a federal court order.

Our question: If the doctor is supposed to oversee executions, can he be held liable if the inmate survives?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Attorney Offers to Wear Asbestos

Attorney Ed Mueller, who unsuccessfully defended a $10. 4 million wrongful death suit for John Crain Inc., has been quoted as saying he would wear the products accused of contributing to the death of 60-year-old Buddy Jones, a former shipyard worker.

Jones was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer linked to asbestos, nearly 20 years after leaving the shipyard job. Mesothelioma can lie dormant for decades.

John Crain is known for not settling asbestos cases, preferring to take them to court.

"We defend cases because we believe in the safety of the product," Mueller is quoted as saying. "If you were sitting here right now, I'd take a piece out and put it around my neck and wear it home."

It's important to note that Mueller qualified his statement with the phrase "if you were sitting here right now."

We wonder if he would be willing to put in four years of the type of work Jones performed.

We think not.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Good News, Bad News for Andrea Yates

It seems that Texas can find a reasonable jury that is not just out for blood.

The good news for Andrea Yates is that she was found not guilty by reason of insanity this week in the drowning of her five children in 2001.

The bad news for Andrea Yates is that she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and "will be committed to a state mental facility in Texas until she is deemed to be no longer a threat."

The main question is: Will she get the care and treatment she needs, or will she be locked away and forgotten?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How far should the state go?

A case in Virginia involving a 16-year-old cancer patient who, along with his parents, decided to forgo a second round of traditional chemotheraphy has us wondering just how far the state should go in determining what is best for a person.

From the Associated Press:
Starchild Abraham Cherrix, who is battling Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, refused a second round of chemotherapy when he learned early this year that the cancer had returned.

Abraham chose to instead go on a sugar-free, organic diet and take herbal supplements under the supervision of a clinic in Mexico.

A social worker asked a juvenile court judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment, and the judge on Friday ordered Abraham to report to a hospital Tuesday. Accomack County Circuit Court Judge Glen A. Taylor set aside that order.
Complete Article >>>

Our question: what makes the social worker who sought to force treatment on Starchild an expert on what is best for that particular individual. It seems he had already tried regular treatment which resulted in a relapse. Does the family not have the right to attempt alternative treatments?

You be the judge.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Former Nixon Lawyer dies

Robert Mardian, a former lawyer for Richard Nixon, who had his conviction for obstruction of justice during the Watergate scandal overturned on appeal, has died, the Associated Press reports.
Mardian died of complications from lung cancer Monday at his vacation home in Southern California, said his son Robert.

The attorney long denied helping conceal the Nixon administration's involvement in the break-in and attempted bugging of the Democratic National Headquarters office at the Watergate complex.
Complete article >>>

Virginia 'chairs' convicted murderer

A 27-year-old convicted murderer became only the fourth person to be executed by electric chair in Virginia since electrocution became an option 11 years ago.

Reuters news service reports:
Brandon Wayne Hedrick, 27, was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Lisa Crider, 23, near Lynchburg, Virginia, in May 1998.

"Death was pronounced at 9:12 (EST/00:12 GMT). There were no complications," said Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor.
Complete article >>>

Sunday, July 16, 2006

New York Judges may carry guns

The Associated Press reports:
NEW YORK - It's one way to assure order in the court. The New York state Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics has ruled that it is permissible for judges to pack a pistol beneath their robes while on the bench.

Monday, July 10, 2006

First Katrina Lawsuit Begins

Are insurance companies trying to avoid payment of claims resulting from Hurrican Katrina by blaming damage on flooding? A lawsuit underway in Mississippi is the first of many.

From The Associated Press:
GULFPORT, Miss. - Attorneys carried files and exhibits into a federal courthouse Monday for what they expect to be a groundbreaking trial on whether insurance policyholders who lost homes in Hurricane Katrina are entitled to recover losses that insurance companies claim were caused by flooding.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, and this is the first step," plaintiffs' attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs said as he arrived in court. "It's one case. If you win it, it's a huge win. If you lose it, you spin it the best way you can."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of police Lt. Paul Leonard, who had taken out homeowner's insurance with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. long before Katrina pulverized his Pascagoula house on Aug. 29.

After the storm, Nationwide blamed the damage on water, not wind. The insurer said Leonard's policy didn't cover floods.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Suit Alleges Cingular Deception

From Consumer Affairs:
Cingular Wireless misled and overcharged millions of AT&T cell phone users when Cingular bought AT&T Wireless, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Cingular bought AT&T's cell phone system in October 2004, after assuring federal regulators that the merger would be "seamless."

But, the lawsuit contends, instead of the new and better services that Cingular promised AT&T customers, Cingular immediately began dismantling and degrading the AT&T network, forcing AT&T customers to move to Cingular's cell network. That meant buying new phone equipment, moving to higher cost plans, and, in some cases, an $18 "transfer" or "upgrade fee."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

SC Decision Victory for Working Women

The Supreme Court decision upholding a jury verdict in favor of a female forklift operator was a momentous victory for working women everywhere.

Read Article

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gitmo Lawyer Expects to Lose Job

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift -- the Navy lawyer who beat the president of the United States in a pivotal Supreme Court battle over trying alleged terrorists -- figures he'll probably have to find a new job.

Of course, it's always risky to compare your boss to King George III.
More >>>

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bobbleheaded Justice

The LA Times has an article about bobblehead dolls of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Some collectors are paying thousands of dollars for the rare dolls.


Perhaps they have more dollars than sense.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Who's Really in Charge of Supreme Court?

A LA Times news analysis reports:
John G. Roberts Jr. may be the new chief justice, but the Supreme Court is not truly the Roberts court, at least not yet.

In the most divisive cases before the court in the term that just ended, it was Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who determined the outcome every time. In unpredictable fashion, he sided some of the time with the court's conservative bloc and some of the time with its liberals.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. -- Albert Einstein

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Court Slaps Down Gitmo Tribunals

From the Washington Post:
The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Judge Orders Missouri Executions Halted

From STLtoday:
A federal judge halted all executions in Missouri on Monday after finding that the state's execution procedure - largely in the hands of a dyslexic doctor - could cause "unconstitutional pain and suffering."

U.S. Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. gave the Missouri Department of Corrections until July 15 to come up with a new lethal injection procedure. A department spokesman initially declined to comment, saying officials had not yet had time to study the ruling.

The order to halt executions came as Gaitan amended his ruling in the case of a condemned Kansas City man who faces execution for murdering a 15-year-old girl in 1989. The inmate, Michael A. Taylor, appealed his sentence, arguing that Missouri's method of execution could force him to suffer unconstitutionally cruel pain and suffering.

Judge: Tactic Unconstitutional

From The New York Times:
A federal judge ruled yesterday that a tactic used by prosecutors to crack down on corporate misconduct violated the constitutional rights of employees, a decision that may change the way the government pursues white-collar cases.

The ruling, by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of United States District Court in Manhattan, who is overseeing the trial of former employees of the accounting firm KPMG, is the first major criticism from the bench of tactics that federal prosecutors have adopted since a wave of corporate scandals erupted after the collapse of Enron.

The issue addressed by Judge Kaplan concerns the advancing of legal fees to employees caught up in criminal investigations. Companies have traditionally paid such costs, and some states' laws and a number of companies' bylaws require it. But an influential 2003 Justice Department document known as the Thompson memorandum has been interpreted by many lawyers to mean that companies under investigation can gain favor with prosecutors if they cut off legal fees.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Regiional Recalls Upheld

Consumer Affairs reports:
A federal appeals court has upheld the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration policy that allows automakers to limit some vehicle recalls by region.

Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety had challenged the NHTSA policy as an attempt to change federal law without public comment.

Appeals court Judge Harry Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote the "guidelines are nothing more than general policy statements with no legal force."
Rest of article

CA court expands police authority

Here's another reason not to drink and drive in California, especially if you have made someone angry with you:
SAN FRANCISCO - Law enforcement may stop and detain drivers based
on anonymous and uncorroborated tips that they were driving while
intoxicated, the California Supreme Court decided.

Court to rule on climate

From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court entered the debate over global warming Monday, agreeing at the urging of environmentalists to rule on whether emissions from new cars, trucks and power plants must be further regulated to slow climate change.

The court's action gave a surprising, if tentative, boost to 12 states, including California, and a coalition of environmentalists who say the federal government must restrict the exhaust fumes that contribute to global warming. Their appeal accused the Environmental Protection Agency of having "squandered nearly a decade" by failing to act.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Kansas Death Penalty Stays

In a split vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined the Kansas death penalty is constituional.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Scalia Incorrectly Cites Author

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia "twisted my main argument to reach a conclusion the exact opposite of what I spelled out in this and other studies," says the author of the work cited in a court decision, Samuel Walker.

Walker is professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has written 13 books on policing and civil liberties, and he served as a consultant to the Justice Department.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Walker says:
Scalia's opinion suggests that the results I highlighted have sufficiently removed the need for an exclusionary rule to act as a judicial-branch watchdog over the police. I have never said or even suggested such a thing. To the contrary, I have argued that the results reinforce the Supreme Court's continuing importance in defining constitutional protections for individual rights and requiring the appropriate remedies for violations, including the exclusion of evidence.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Police Can Stop, Search Parolees at Will

The U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed a California law that permits police to stop and search parolees without cause.
"California's ability to conduct suspicionless searches of parolees serves its interest in reducing recidivism, in a manner that aids, rather than hinders the re-integration of parolees into productive society," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that requiring police to show they reasonably suspected wrongdoing is a shield "to guard against the evils of arbitrary action, caprice, and harassment." Stevens said that the majority merely paid "lip service" to the Constitution and branded the California law "an unprecedented curtailment of liberty."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Supreme Court Restricts Rights

In a ruling on Tuesday, May 30, the Supreme Court said public employees do not have 1st Amendment rights protecting them from speaking out to their managers about possible wrongdoing.

From the LA Times:
Although government employees have the same rights as other citizens to speak out on controversies of the day, they do not have the right to speak freely inside their offices on matters related to "their official duties," the high court said in a 5-4 decision.

"When a citizen enters government service, the citizen by necessity must accept certain limitations on his or her freedom," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, rejecting a lawsuit brought by a Los Angeles County prosecutor.

Lawyers for government whistle-blowers denounced the ruling as a major setback. They said it could threaten public health and safety. Public sector hospital workers who know of dangers may be discouraged from revealing them, while police and public employees may be dissuaded from exposing corruption, they said.

"In an era of excessive government secrecy, the court has made it easier to engage in a government coverup by discouraging internal whistle-blowing," said Steven Shapiro, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A warning

Consider this article about a disbarred lawyer accused of defrauding clients out of settlement money a warning to all who even think about going over to the dark side.

In the meantime, if you are looking for what a competent, ethical asbestos lawyer should be, check out

Monday, May 22, 2006

Should U.S. Prosecute Media?

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Sunday that his office is considering prosecuting The New York Times for breaking the story about the government's secret domestic spying program."

From Reuters:
There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility," Gonzales said told ABC's "This Week," when asked if the government could prosecute journalists for publishing classified information.

"I will say that I understand very much the role that the press plays in our society, the protection under the First Amendment we want to promote and respect, the right of the press. But it can't be the case that that right trumps over the right that Americans would like to see, the ability of the federal government to go after criminal activity," he said.
Should one right "trump" another, or can they co-exist?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Law Firm Charged with Fraud

From Reuters:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman LLP, the most prominent class-action securities law firm, was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury on fraud, conspiracy and other charges related to an alleged kickback scheme.

A Los Angeles grand jury issued a 20-count indictment against the firm and partners David Bershad and Steven Schulman. Prosecutors accused them of making illegal payments over a 20-year period to clients who agreed to act as plaintiffs.

Milberg Weiss said it would vigorously defend itself against the charges, which analysts said could make it difficult to keep its clients and its attorneys.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Execution Stayed by Governor

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen "reluctantly" ordered a 15-day stay of execution so DNA tests could be considered.


What's interesting is that the stay was not issued for the test to be conducted, only for the court to determine is the tests are warranted.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A boon for trial lawyers?

Will the recent worldwide recall of Bausch contact lens solution be a boon for trial lawyers?

From Reuters:
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Bausch & Lomb Inc. on Monday said it has extended a recall of its ReNu with MoistureLoc contact lens solution to all markets worldwide, saying the product may increase the risk of acquiring a rare but potentially blinding eye infection.

The company concluded "some aspect of the MoistureLoc formula may be increasing the relative risk of Fusarium infection in unusual circumstances," Bausch Chief Executive Ronald Zarrella said in a statement Monday.

Company officials initially thought the infection may have been linked to a potential contamination at its plant in Greenville, South Carolina.

After an extensive investigation, "there is no evidence of product contamination, tampering, counterfeiting or sterility failure," Zarrella said.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Campaign Reform

Those of you interested in a political career should take not of this new campaign for political reform.

It matters not where you stand politically; this is an idea that deserves serious consideration.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Brain Injury CLE Seminar

The Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania is presenting a continuing legal education seminar entitled "Understanding the Medical and Legal Aspects of Brain Injury Litigation."

The all-day seminar is set for June 26 at the Wyndham Harrisburg-Hershey Hotel in Harrisburg, PA.

Chairing the even is attorney Stewart L. Cohen, Esq., of the firm, Cohen, Placitella & Roth. Cohen is also president of the BIAPA.

The Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board is offering 6.5 credits for the legal seminar.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

'Blackness' Matters

From Reuters:
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The more "black looking" an African-American man charged with murdering a white victim, the more likely he is to be sentenced to death, a Stanford University researcher said on Tuesday.

Using scores given by white and Asian-American Stanford undergraduates to rate facial features of 44 black men tried for murder in Philadelphia over 20 years, researchers found that 57.5 percent rated to have "stereotypically" black features such as dark skin were sentenced to death.

By contrast, 24.4 percent of black men in similar murder cases and rated by the students as less stereotypically black were sentenced to death, said Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford psychologist involved in the research.
Sounds like appeals arguments, eh.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Apple Computer win over Beatles

From Reuters:
LONDON (Reuters) - Apple Computer won its courtroom battle against the Beatles on Monday when a judge ruled the company's iTunes Music Store did not infringe on the trademark of Apple Corps, which represents the band's interests.

In a trial which included the playing of disco hit "Le Freak" in London's High Court, Apple Corps argued the computer company had violated a 1991 trademark agreement by moving into the music business.

Apple Computer, which has sold millions of iPods and more than a billion song downloads, held that iTunes was primarily a data transmission service and permitted by the agreement.

The Beatles are high-profile holdouts from Internet music services like iTunes, but it emerged during the trial that Apple Corps is preparing the band's catalog to be sold online for the first time, according to a submission by Neil Aspinall, managing director of Apple Corps and a former Beatles road manager.

"We are glad to put this disagreement behind us," Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said. "We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store."
Rest of article

Friday, May 05, 2006

Breyer Calls High Court 'Boundary Patrol'

NEW YORK - The job of a justice on the nation's highest court is to patrol the boundaries of American society, not to decide what kind of society it should have, Supreme Court Justice
Stephen Breyer said Tuesday.

People are suspicious of what the court does and think it intrudes into what they do, Breyer said.

"Democracy has boundaries, or rails," he said during a luncheon at New York Law School. "We are the boundary patrol."

The 68-year-old justice noted that the word democracy is not found in the Constitution. But the concept, he said, is there.

"When you understand this document has democracy as its heart, then you have an approach to answer specific questions," Breyer said.
Do you agree? What do you think is the main function of the Supreme Court ?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Feds do not prove case

Zacarias Moussaoui received a life sentence for his alleged role in 9/11.

Prosecuters argued for the death penalty.

What do you think they did wrong?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Trouble not over for Blackberry

Consumer Affairs:
Research In Motion, the company that makes the Blackberry hand-held communication device, is the defendant in yet another lawsuit claiming its popular product infringes on someone else's patent.

RIM paid millions of dollars to settle a similar claim two months ago.

In the latest case, California-based Visto filed a lawsuit against RIM, charging the company illegally used four of its patents. Visto said it would seek an injunction to force RIM to stop using its technology and to pay monetary damages.

RIM denied the claims in a brief statement "RIM believes it does not infringe Visto's patents and will file its legal response in due course," it said.

Visto has already successfully sued another company it said was using its mobile email technology without permission. It sued Seven, Inc., in Texas.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Legal ramifications?

What would be the legal ramifications if the American people followed the advice of this editorial?

From King George of 1776 to King George of 2006, It's Time Declare Our Independence from Monarchal Rule

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bush and the Constitution

For students of constituional law:
Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Best way to fight rights violation suits

The U.S. government is using the secrets defense to have suits dismissed:
SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 - The U.S. government has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a San Francisco civil liberties group against AT&T because it says the case could reveal military and state secrets.

The class-action suit by the group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on behalf of AT&T customers accuses the company of unlawful collaboration with the National Security Agency in its surveillance program to intercept telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and people linked to al Qaeda and affiliated organizations.

President George W. Bush authorized the intercepts following the September 11 attacks without court approval.

In a "Statement of Interest" filed on Friday, the government asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to throw out the suit, saying the government "cannot disclose any information that may be at issue in this case."

"The government intends to assert the military and state secrets privilege (that) permits the government to protect against the unauthorized disclosure in litigation of information that may harm national security interests," it said.

"In addition to asserting the state secrets privilege, the U.S. also intends to file a motion to intervene for the purpose of seeking dismissal of this case," the filing said.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Microsoft's European Appeal

For those interested in European law involving Microsoft.

From the NY Times:
LUXEMBOURG, April 27 — Lawyers for the European Commission and Microsoft faced tough questioning on Thursday about the 2004 antitrust ruling against the company.

During cross-examination by 13 judges of the European Court of First Instance who are hearing Microsoft's appeal of the ruling, the sharpest questions were reserved for the commission. Judge John Cooke, who will write the decision in the case, appeared to chastise commission lawyers for not taking the company's concerns about protecting its intellectual property seriously.

Under the 2004 ruling, Microsoft was ordered to disclose technical details to rival makers of software for computer servers to allow them to develop programs that work as smoothly with the Windows operating system as Microsoft's own software does. The company contends this order breaches its intellectual property rights, while the commission argues that Microsoft is seeking to preserve trade secrets that fall short of legal protection.

On Wednesday, Anthony Whelan, the commission's top lawyer handling the software development part of the case, argued that patent and copyright claims must be scrutinized by independent bodies before they were granted protection, whereas trade secrets did not. Yet the bulk of Microsoft's intellectual property argument revolves around the trade secrets in Windows that the commission wants the company to reveal.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Dangers of The Defendant Testifying

From the Associated Press:

HOUSTON - In a highly tense cross-examination, Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay admitted he tried to contact potential witnesses during his fraud trial — including one who wound up testifying against him.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Merck guilty again

Form news accounts:
RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas (AP) - A state jury found Merck & Co. liable Friday for the death of a 71-year-old man who had a fatal heart attack within a month of taking its since-withdrawn painkiller Vio and ordered the company to pay $32 million. Merck said it would appeal.

The damage award will likely be reduced because of a state law capping punitive damages.

The jury of 10 men and two women deliberated for about seven hours over two days before returning the verdict in favor of the family of Leonel Garza, who had suffered from heart disease for more than 20 years and had taken Vio for less than a month.

The company was ordered to pay $7 million in noneconomic compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.

But the punitive damage amount is likely to be reduced because state law caps punitive damages at twice the amount of economic damages -- lost pay -- and up to $750,000 on top of noneconomic damages, which are composed of mental anguish and loss of companionship.
Sponsored in part by Vioxx Lawyers.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Free Speech v. Hate Message

From the LA Times:
Court Lets Schools Ban Inflammatory T-Shirts

Schools in the Western United States can forbid a high school student to wear a T-shirt with a slogan that denigrates gay and lesbian students, a sharply divided federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Thursday.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that a T-shirt that proclaimed "Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned" on the front and "Homosexuality is shameful" on the back was "injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn." Wearing such a T-shirt can be barred on a public high school campus without violating the 1st Amendment, the court said.
How would you rule?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Court opinion: JAMES HERREMA vs. MEIJER, INC.

Here is an interesting case involving a brain injury:





Plaintiff, Case No. 05-12359-NO




We were tipped to this case by our Pennsylvania brain injury lawyer friends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Constitutional question

For constituional lawyers, read this article on the case for Senate hearings on the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

Raising the worse-than-Watergate question and demanding unequivocally that Congress seek to answer it is, in fact, overdue and more than justified by ample evidence stacked up from Baghdad back to New Orleans and, of increasing relevance, inside a special prosecutor's office in downtown Washington.

In terms of imminent, meaningful action by the Congress, however, the question of whether the president should be impeached (or, less severely, censured) remains premature. More important, it is essential that the Senate vote—hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties—to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee's investigation during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Interested in an internship at the U.S. Supreme Court?

Here's a link to their online application.

Monday, April 17, 2006

High court to consider retaliation claims

From a report by the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - U.S. businesses are confronting a new dilemma: how to maintain control in the workplace after an employee complains of sex or race discrimination without drawing a more damning charge of retaliation.

Retaliation claims have risen dramatically, and the Supreme Court considers Monday what legal standard should be used to evaluate the seriousness of changes in employment made by supervisors who may be angry over an employee’s discrimination complaint.

A decision by the court could affect the balance of power in government and private workplaces nationwide.
The case is Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway v. White, 05-259.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Google Receives Voice Search Patent

Something worth watching for all patent attorneys (and wannabes like some of us) is the news that Google has been granted a patent for voice search.

Exactly what this means for the future of Internet searches and subsequent software development in that area remains unclear.

Perhaps it is a step in the direction of search engines being able to spider videos like this one on Choosing A Rehab Center or this one on TBI: What Families Need to Know, offered by

Of course, no one can know exactly where the field of patent law will go in the future, but for a law student with a keen interest in the Internet, this is a promising area to consider.