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.