|ARCHIVE -- SEPT. 2000 (II)
September 20 --
Victory in Chicago. A judge last week threw out
the city of Chicago's lawsuit against the gun
industry. "In granting the industry's motion to dismiss, Judge Stephen
A. Schiller of Cook County Circuit Court suggested that the city had not
shown wrongdoing by the individual defendants. He said that the city's
arguments would be better handled in a legislature than in a courtroom."
However, a West Coast judge denied a defense motion to dismiss a group
of cases filed by San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles city and county,
and other plaintiffs. Pending appeal, judges have now dismissed the
suits filed by Chicago, Cincinnati, Bridgeport, and Miami, while declining
to dismiss suits filed by Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, New Orleans, Cleveland,
and the California cities. (Pam Belluck, "Chicago Gun Suit Fails,
but California's Proceeds", New York Times,
16 (reg); "Judge dismisses Chicago suit against gun industry", Reuters/CNN,
from Illinois State Rifle Association).
John Derbyshire gets radicalized on the tort reform issue when he goes
out trying to buy ammunition on Long Island, and discovers that the courtroom
assault on the industry is choking the local firearms dealers into oblivion
with no legislation needed, simply by causing their liability insurance
to dry up. ("First thing we do...",
National Review Online,
September 20 --
Disbarred, with an asterisk. Most clients probably assume
that a lawyer thrown out of the profession is gone for good, but the Boston
finds that for years bar authorities have been quietly readmitting practitioners,
including some whose original offenses were grave. Some of this leniency
has been misplaced, since a number of the readmitted lawyers have gone
on to commit new offenses against clients.
(David Armstrong, "Special Report: Disbarred Mass. lawyers skirt discipline
17, and sidebars: "Reinstatement
process favors lawyers", "Victims
often missing from equation".
September 20 --
"Regulating Privacy: At What Cost?" Free-marketeers finally
start organizing to resist the steamroller movement toward online-privacy
laws, reports Declan McCullagh. Among new initiatives are a symposium
held yesterday on Capitol Hill by George Mason U.'s Mercatus Center, a
book entitled The Future of Financial Privacy forthcoming from the
Enterprise Institute, and a privacy-issues website called Privacilla.org.
19). And Reason
Express a while back alerted us to a website by Jacob Palme in
Sweden which recounts some of the less pleasant consequences of that nation's
pioneering (1973) law preventing the electronic gathering or dissemination
of information about individuals
without their consent. Palme says the law mostly went unenforced
as regards web publishing, which is a good thing since if enforced literally
it could have rendered unlawful much of the web in Sweden. The few
instances that led to enforcement action, as related by Palme, suggest
that unpopular and dissident opinions
were among the most likely to draw complaints under the law. One
man put up a webpage critical of a large Swedish bank, naming individual
directors whom he believed had behaved in ethically irresponsible ways;
he was prosecuted and fined for violating their privacy. In another
case, an animal rights group was subject to legal action for posting a
list of fur producers. In a third, a church volunteer was prosecuted
for stating on a web page that one named church member had broken a leg
and another was a member of the Social Democratic Party; health status
and political affiliations are considered especially sensitive under the
law. In a fourth case, dissident dog lovers got in privacy-law trouble
for criticizing leading members of a dog society by name. The privacy
laws were revised in 1998 and again in 1999, following much criticism,
and as of June 2000, when Palme's page was last revised, the highest Swedish
court had not yet given its interpretation of the law ("Freedom
of Speech, The EU Data Protection Directive and the Swedish Personal Data
Swedish Personal Register Law"; "Swedish
Attempts to Regulate the Internet"; official Data
Inspection Board). (DURABLE LINK)
September 19 --
Hollywood under fire: nose of the Camel? In what
may take the prize for worst idea of the month, South Carolina Attorney
General Charles Condon has proposed filing coordinated state lawsuits to
make Hollywood the next tobacco.
"Clearly we have here a virtual replay of what the tobacco industry did
to our children. Instead of Joe Camel, Hollywood uses Eminem, South
Park, Doom and Steven Segal [sic] to seduce children," Condon wrote in
a letter to the National Association of Attorneys General (Condon press
13; David Shuster, "South Carolina AG Threatens Suit Against Entertainment
Industry", Fox News, Sept.
15). It's time the entertainment business cleaned up its act,
writes Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, but that doesn't mean
Sens. McCain and Lieberman are right to "justify [an] end run around the
1st Amendment with a public-health argument like that which justifies the
regulation of tobacco or liquor." ("A World Apart: Eminem and Me",
17). Owens Corning and Met Life use cartoon characters (the Pink
Panther and Snoopy respectively) as advertising mascots, and you might
jump to the conclusion that they were committing that dire sin, "marketing
to children", if you didn't know that fiberglass insulation and insurance
are products bought by adults, observes Illinois law prof Ronald Rotunda
FTC Report on Hollywood Entertainment", Federalist Society, Free
Speech and Election Law Working Group; FTC
report; "Lieberman: Entertainment must police itself", AP/Miami Herald,
13). Filmmaker John Waters doesn't think much of the crusade:
"The future CEOs of America are all sneaking into R-rated movies" (Rick
Lyman, "Writers, Directors Fear Censorship, Tell Anger Over Violence Hearings",
New York Times Service/Chicago Tribune, Sept.
18). And plaintiff's lawyers suing entertainment companies over
school shootings, who've already gotten plenty of favorable ink in the
conservative press (see July 22, 1999),
are hoping the new report will invigorate their legal cause (Frank Murray,
"FTC adds ammo to lawsuits for deaths", Washington Times, Sept.
September 19 --WSJ's
Bartley on decline of American law. The establishment
of the rule of law, replacing the whim of powerful rulers, was perhaps
the supreme achievement of the West in the millennium just past, but the
United States has grown careless about its legal inheritance, with systematic
injustices mounting in both criminal and civil courtrooms. Last week's
call-sheet scandal illustrates the way "audacious and powerful interests"
who have found ways to use the legal system to make their fortunes "have
allied themselves with government and politicians." (Robert Bartley,
"The Law and Civilization's Future", Opinion Journal (Wall Street Journal),
18). "Justice Department investigators and prosecutors want to
know if there were, in fact, any quid pro quos for the trial lawyers'
extraordinary generosity," editorializes the San Diego Union-Tribune
about the scandal. "With trial lawyers contributing almost 10 percent
of all funds raised by the Gore-Lieberman campaign,
that remains an urgent question. Voters have a right to some answers
before Nov. 7." ("Veto for sale?", Sept.
September 19 --
Punitive damages for hatemongering? Washington Post's
editorial page "is gutsy enough to have qualms about Morris Dees' strategy
of bankrupting hate groups with punitive tort damages," observes Mickey
Kaus at Kausfiles ("The Aryan
Nations Verdict" (editorial), Washington Post, Sept.
16). "Many advocacy groups
that engage in direct actions potentially expose themselves to tort liability....
That danger is compounded by the abusive system of punitive damages, which
gives juries wide discretion to ruin people or companies financially in
a fashion untethered to the scope of the harm they have done in the specific
case at issue," the Post comments. "That could not have happened
to a more deserving bunch than Mr. [Richard] Butler and the Aryan Nations.
But it's worth pausing for a moment to wonder who's next."
September 18 --
Scruggs v. Ritalin. Latest target for zillionaire tobacco
lawyer and recent
profilee Richard Scruggs: Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., makers of
the drug Ritalin, and the American Psychiatric Association.
Scruggs's firm accuses the two of conspiring to promote an overly broad
diagnosis of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with the
result that the drug is given to too
many youngsters. "Novartis and the APA deny the allegations. In a
statement, Novartis says the charges are 'unfounded and preposterous.'"
Some lawyers from the Castano consortium, which pursued tobacco litigation
separate from Scruggs's, are also joining him in the action. ("Lawsuits
Accuse Ritalin Makers, APA", AP/Yahoo, Sept.
Jones; Toni Locy, "Fight over Ritalin is heading to court", USA
15) (see also Sept. 22-24 and April
September 18 --
White House pastry chef harassment suit. White House assistant
pastry chef Franette McCulloch, 53, is suing her boss Roland Mesnier, claiming
he "became hostile and rude when she spurned his advances, 'screaming'
at her for refusing to have sex, excluding her from designing desserts
and once assigning her to peel eight crates of kiwi." Her suit also
alleges that Bill Clinton, as the head of the White House, failed to establish
a proper method for employees to bring harassment
complaints, and demands $1 million each from Mesnier and Clinton.
13; Ellen Nakashima, "White House Chef Accuses Boss of Sexual Harassment",
Washington Post, Sept.
14). In 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled
against a discriminatory-firing claim by an employee of the White House
chef's office, but said he had been improperly retaliated against for filing
his complaint. A former executive chef testified in a sworn deposition
that year that the Clintons had paid him $37,000 to quit his post "because
of my accent and the fact that I'm overweight." (more).
September 18 --
The teetery inkbottle. “Whenever the law and the facts
were against him, Mr. Homans was not one to pound on the table. Instead,
he would resort to what he called his ‘trial pen’, a big, old-fashioned
device that he would pull out at a critical moment in a trial. On
the stand would be the state’s star witness testifying that he had seen
with his own eyes as Mr. Homans’s client pulled out a gun and pointed it
directly at the bank teller’s head. But the jurors' eyes would be
on Mr. Homans, who, with trembling hand, would be filling the pen from
a bottle of India ink perched so precariously, half over the edge of the
defense table, that the jury would be caught up in the suspense of when
it would fall.” -- from an obituary, “William Homans, 75, Dies; Boston
Civil Rights Lawyer”, by the late Robert McG. Thomas, Jr., New York Times,
February 13, 1997 (fee-based
archives, search on "William Homans").
September 18 --
That'll be $2 trillion, please. A former resident has
filed three lawsuits against the town of Rocky River, Ohio, "claiming everything
from false arrest to injury of reputation," and demanding $2 trillion.
The town isn't amused and is countersuing her, saying it's had to expend
money to defend itself. (Sarah Treffinger, "Rocky River sues woman
who sued for trillions", Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sept.
September 15-17 --
Day Two of Vetogate. George W. Bush in a California speech
says the new call-sheet revelations are evidence
that Gore "may have crossed a serious line ... The appearance is really
disturbing", Janet Reno refuses to talk about the status of the investigation,
the New York Times Washington bureau frets about being (just barely)
webscooped by Time.com on the story, and Gore campaign
spokesman Chris Lehane curiously describes the sensational disclosures
as "recycled", though no one in the press remembers seeing them before
September 15-17 --
Who caught the tire problem? "Who provided the information
that instigated the current recall? Who acted to protect the consumer?
None other than 'greedy', profit-seeking State Farm Insurance Company.
Eager to earn ever higher profits by reducing injury claims and lawsuits,
State Farm’s statistical bureau noticed an increase in claims related to
Firestone tires and passed the information along to the NHTSA which had
been asleep at the switch. [See Devon Spurgeon, "State Farm researcher’s
sleuthing helped prompt Firestone recall', Wall Street Journal ,
Sept. 1]. The profit seeking of a big, bad, private insurance company
may help save hundreds of lives." (James Ostrowski, "The Tire Fiasco",
Ludwig von Mises Institute, Sept.
In the New York Times Sept. 11, Keith Bradsher reports that by
the end of 1998 trial lawyers "had already sued Firestone, and sometimes
Ford as well, in cases involving 22 deaths and 69 serious injuries".
However, few of these cases had come to the attention of the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration; until recently NHTSA had received very few
complaints, and none of fatalities. In fact, Bradsher reports, trial
lawyers were pursuing a conscious policy of not reporting tire incidents
to the agency, apparently because of tactical concerns -- if the agency
learned about such cases too early and in too small a number, it might
do a perfunctory investigation and miss the pattern of defectiveness, and
then the lawyers would have more trouble winning their cases. This
strikes us as a fairly damning indictment to be leveling against the trial
lawyers -- they flout the public interest in learning crucial safety information,
just in order to angle for monetary advantage? Isn't that what Firestone
is accused of doing? -- but Bradsher quotes Ralph Hoar, a well-known plaintiff's-side
consultant in auto-design cases who provided
the numerical tabulation cited at the beginning of this paragraph, as cheerily
portraying the lawyers as just doin' their job, saying they have to concern
themselves with their clients' best interests, not anyone else's.
Meanwhile, Ford Motor had been named in a few suits but "paid little
attention, because automakers routinely face thousands of lawsuits after
crashes." In other words, the background level of litigation against
a company of that size is so high that it's hard to notice patterns that
do turn out to be meaningful (Keith Bradsher, "Documents Portray Tire Debacle
as a Story of Lost Opportunities", New York Times, Sept.
11 (reg)). (DURABLE LINK)
September 15-17 --
Ciresi bested in Senate bid. Michael Ciresi, the trial
lawyer who sought to parlay his representation of the state of Minnesota
in the tobacco litigation into a seat
in the U.S. Senate, has lost the
Democratic nomination to department store heir Mark Dayton by a margin
of 41 to 23 percent, with other candidates dividing the rest. (Dan
Bernard, "Dayton Grabs DFL Nomination", WCCO/Channel 4000, Sept.
Paul Pioneer Press; Minneapolis
September 15-17 --
Cash return sought by murder-for-hire convict. "A
criminal defense attorney who paid an undercover agent $11,000 in a failed
murder-for-hire plot is asking the government to return the money.
Frederick Ford, 48, who is serving an eight-year prison term for planning
to kill two former clients he thought could implicate him in a kidnap plot,
is seeking the return of the money he admitted he gave to a U.S. Department
of Labor agent last year." ("Convicted attorney seeks return of murder-for-hire
retainer", AP/CNN, Sept.
13; Shelley Murphy, "Hit man hirer wants money back", Boston Globe,
September 14 --
"I know [you] will give $100K when the president vetoes tort reform, but
we really need it now." The New York Times reports
in today's editions that Justice Department campaign finance investigators
have launched a preliminary probe into documents that have surfaced from
the Clinton/Gore 1996 fundraising operation, including a "call sheet" prepared
for Vice President Gore regarding Beaumont, Texas lawyer Walter Umphrey,
a major Democratic benefactor who shared in Texas's $3.3 billion tobacco
contingency fee and is well known to readers of this space. The sheet
describes Umphrey as "closely following tort reform" and suggests asking
him for $100,000 to finance Democratic Party TV commercials. The
White House claims that Gore did not make the call, but two weeks later
a staffer for then-Democratic National Committee chairman Donald Fowler
prepared a call sheet reading as follows: "Sorry you missed the vice president.
I know [sic] will give $100K whn [sic] the president vetos [sic] tort reform,
but we really need it now. Please send ASAP if possible." DNC
officials propose that the "missed" might have referred to the two men
not connecting at an in-person event; Fowler disclaims any memory of talking
with Umphrey about campaign donations and says he would never have used
the language on the call sheet. According to the Times, "Trevor
Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, called the
call sheet's language 'extraordinarily ill-advised,' saying prosecutors
would probably be investigating whether the solicitation violated either
a bribery statute or a law prohibiting 'illegal gratuities,' a 'gift' given
after an elected official takes a public action."
The Washington Post reports that Umphrey says he doesn't recall
"any of that" and otherwise declines comment, while Payne was talking to
the Times only through her lawyer. And attorney Michael Tigar,
who represents Umphrey and the rest of the Big Five Texas tobacco lawyers,
issued this small gem of legalistically worded denial: "Tying campaign
contributions to legislative or executive action has never been illegal
in the United States unless there is proof that the public official extorts
the money by threatening to give or withhold action based on the contributions,"
he said; moreover, his clients, including Mr. Umphrey, "have repeatedly
been asked in many forums whether they have ever given money to a candidate
or officials as a quid-pro-quo for official action, and they have repeatedly
said under oath that they have never done so." The Times account
adds considerable background on the epic pace of Clinton/Gore fundraising
among Texas plaintiff's lawyers of late, including a little-reported fundraiser
thrown for Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign by Big Five stalwart
John Eddie Williams of Houston. (Don Van Natta Jr. with Richard A. Oppel
Jr., "Memo Linking Political Donation and Veto Spurs Federal Inquiry",
New York Times, Sept.
14 (reg); Susan Schmidt, "1995 Documents Appear To Link Lawyer's Contribution
To Veto", Washington Post, Sept.
14; more on Umphrey and the Big Five: Sept.
1, May 22; more
on trial lawyers' political clout). More breaking coverage (via
September 13-14 --
"Violent media is good for kids". Good kids, as well as
bad ones, are naturally fascinated with violence, catastrophe and retribution,
and letting them explore these matters in the relatively safe territory
of the printed page and popular entertainment
is part of the process by which they learn how to fit themselves into a
frightening world, argues cartoonist Gerard Jones, in an excerpt from a
book due out next year from Basic with co-author Melanie Moore ("Reality
Check", Mother Jones,
28; Reason magazine, "The
Kids Are All Right", "Breaking Issues"; Christopher Stern, "Violent
Material Marketed To Youth", Washington Post, Aug.
27; Mike Allen and Ellen Nakashima, "Clinton, Gore Hit Hollywood Marketing",
Washington Post, Sept.
September 13-14 --
Gregoire's home front. Washington state attorney general
Christine Gregoire gained a high national profile jetting around the country
to take a leading role in the tobacco-Medicaid affair and other big-case
AG litigation, and followed up by assuming the presidency of the National
Association of Attorneys General (see July
17). Now it may be time to wonder whether she was keeping enough
of an eye back home on the unglamorous routine of the AG's office, which
plays a vital role in protecting the state's legal interests. In
March a Pierce County jury awarded the largest verdict ever against the
state, $17.8 million, on behalf of three developmentally disabled men whose
families said they were abused in a state-supported home. Gregoire's
office announced plans to appeal but, embarrassingly, proceeded to lose
the state's right to do so by missing a filing deadline. With interest,
the total bill has now mounted to $18.7 million. (Eric Nalder and Mike
Carter, "State won't give up bid to appeal $17.8 million verdict", Seattle
12; Eric Nalder, "No excuse for missed appeal, court says", Seattle
22; see also update Nov. 30).
The Capital Research Center has issued a new report critical of recent
attorney general activism, by Ron Nehring of Americans for Tax Reform ("National
Association of Attorneys General: Opening the Door to a New Era of Regulation
Through Litigation", Organization Trends (CRC), Sept.)
September 13-14 --
Prescription: 24-7 monitoring. Adding to Evergreen State
taxpayers' legal woes, a Pierce County, Wash. jury Sept. 1 ordered the
state government to pay $22 million to survivors of a driver killed in
an auto accident by a man who was at the time serving the community-supervision
portion of a sentence for third-degree assault. The verdict broke
an earlier $17.8 million record for lawsuits against the state, set in
March by the same plaintiff's attorney, Jack Connelly (see above item).
Gov. Gary Locke vowed to appeal the verdict, saying if upheld it could
make the entire enterprise of community supervision unworkable. "This man
was convicted of ... third-degree assault connected with a domestic dispute,"
he said. "Imposing liability for his involvement in an auto accident extends
public liability too far." A Locke aide questioned whether the state
could monitor the 55,000 persons on community supervision adequately to
prevent any of them from being a menace on the highway. One of the
alternatives to risking failure-to-supervise liability -- keeping the 55,000
locked up -- would apparently be okay with lawyer Connelly, who said, "If
you're not even going to try to do your job, then don't put these guys
on community supervision. Put them in jail." (Eli Sanders, "Family
awarded $22.4 million in wrongful death lawsuit against state", Seattle
2). See also Chris Solomon, "Cities leery of new probation
rules", Seattle Times, July
11 (local governments fear being financially wiped out by Washington
Supreme Court ruling allowing negligence lawsuits against municipalities
over crimes committed by probationers).
September 13-14 --
More bank spying? Despite strongly negative public reaction
to withdrawn "Know Your Customer" regulations that would have accelerated
banks' sharing of customer "profiles" with law enforcement, legislators
like Rep. James Leach (R-Iowa) are back with proposals that raise similar
civil liberties concerns (Scott C. Rayder, "The Counter-Money Laundering
Act: An Attack on Privacy and Civil Liberties", Heritage Foundation Executive
take on the last round).
September 13-14 --
Judges' words, copyrighted. Officials in the California
judiciary would like to revamp the instructions that judges give juries
before trial deliberations, in hopes of making them clearer and more understandable,
but have run into an unexpected problem. The Los Angeles County courts
turn out to hold copyright in the most widely used current instructions
and collect royalties when other California courts use them, which have
generated $2.5 million for the county's use over the past decade.
"'When we first began this effort three years ago, all of us just assumed
that we would take [Los Angeles instructions] and improve on them,' said
Associate Justice James D. Ward of the state Court of Appeal in Riverside,
vice chairman of the task force. 'Then they announced to us that
they owned them.'" The L.A. courts have held back from cooperating
in the statewide revision efforts, which if successful would result in
a set of instructions that courts could use for free. (Caitlin Liu,
"Say What, Your Honor?", Los Angeles Times, Sept.
September 12 --
Goodbye to gaming volunteers? Online multiplayer gaming
has grown to be a big Internet institution in no small part because large
numbers of unpaid enthusiasts join in on a volunteer basis to suggest and
beta-test new features, run discussion boards and perform countless other
services. "But maybe not for long. On Monday, August 28 ... Origin
Systems Inc. (OSI) [makers of Ultima Online, one of the leading fantasy
role-playing games], announced the termination of free game account privileges
for hundreds of community volunteers.... While company representatives
have not said so outright, it appears the move to eliminate what amounted
to a $10 a month gratuity for volunteers is related to a recent New York
class action lawsuit, brought by former volunteers at America Online (AOL)"
(see Sept. 7, 1999). The class
action lawyers in that case are charging that because AOL benefits from
the content devised by its volunteers, and has given them at least nominal
compensation in the form of free services and the like, it is therefore
obliged to keep track of how much time they put into volunteering and pay
them at least the minimum wage. If the lawyers succeed in their efforts,
community providers could find themselves facing large retroactive
wage bills. "Origin is just the first game company to move to
protect itself legally by removing any perks that could be seen as differentiating
its volunteers from all the other players. The major subscription-based
role-playing services may soon follow suit. While the short-term effects
may be limited (some volunteers may quit, but could be replaced), the long-term
future of volunteer work on online releases seems doubtful all of a sudden."
(Bruce Rolston, "The End of the Smurfs?", Adrenaline Vault, Sept.
September 12 --
Curious feature of lawyer's retainer. Texas trial lawyers
are in a flutter over a Waco case in which an appeals court ruled that
a client family in an industrial accident case was within its rights to
withdraw from a contingent-fee legal contract it had signed. The
agreement the lawyer had gotten the family to sign included a curious feature:
a provision entitling him to settle the case without their consent.
Such a provision, the court ruled, "clearly violates" the Texas professional
code for lawyers, making the entire contract voidable. The lawyer,
J.W. Stringer, plans motions for rehearing and appeal. (Jenny Burg,
"Opinion Has Lawyers Reviewing Contingent-Fee Contracts", Texas Lawyer,
September 12 --
This little piggy got taken to court. More pig farmers
are facing legal action as outlying towns change "from rural, mind-your-
own-business farm communities to residential, what’s-that-smell, suburban
neighborhoods," according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report.
Five residents of Medina County, Ohio, including a truck driver and two
auto mechanics, have been sent to jail this summer for refusing to clean
up pig living arrangements on their properties (Stephen Hudak, "Proud
Pig Man’s smelly pork farm lands him in poke", Sept.
7) (via Romenesko's Obscure
Store) And a Marlin County, Florida pig farmer sued by an adjoining
golf course has put up a website which solicits moral support and legal
defense contributions, as well as purchases of the squiggle-tailed offenders
(Pigfarmer.com) (more on pig litigation:
September 11 -- "Feeding
Frenzy Over Firestone". "Lawyers all over the country
see opportunity in the escalating legal, commercial and public relations
disaster for Ford and Firestone." (Bob Van Voris and Matt Fleischer,
Law Journal, Sept.
September 11 --
Harassment law roundup. At an Alcoa plant in North Carolina,
one of the black complainants in a race discrimination suit went out to
the parking lot, made a list of all the workers' vehicles with Confederate
flag stickers on them, and filed this as evidence of "hostile racial environment"
in the case. The company promptly banned employees from having such
stickers on their cars, a ban it insists had absolutely nothing to do with
the lawsuit (Steve Chapman, "Trouble in Mind: Is the First Amendment Void
in the Workplace?" Chicago
24). In an excerpt from his book The
Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America, New Republic
legal correspondent Jeff Rosen urges courts to reconsider the "hostile
environment" analysis that has become an accepted part of harassment
law: "A jurisprudence originally designed to protect privacy and dignity
is inadvertently invading privacy and dignity" ("Fall of Private Man",New
12; more on book).
Clarence Thomas, alone among the nine Justices of the Supreme Court, wanted
to tackle the "troubling First Amendment issues" raised by a court's injunction
against workers' use of racial epithets on the job at an Avis Rent-a-Car
franchise; a California court had ordered the drawing up of a list of words
that employees were to be forbidden to use in conversation with each other,
whether anyone present found the words objectionable or not (Tony Mauro,
Freedom Forum, May
23). And early this year it was reported that an "affirmative
action officer in Falmouth, Massachusetts -- whose job it was to enforce
the town's sexual harassment policy -- has been fired for sexually harassing
a town employee. The official, Jayme Dias, was in charge of promoting and
enforcing fairness in hiring and employment practices." (Monster.com,
"Week in Work", Jan.
September 11 -- "Mother
sues over lack of ice time for goalie son". In Rimouski,
Quebec, "Hélène Canuel is seeking $1,000 in damages from
the Rimouski Minor Hockey Association because her son, David, was denied
the right to play in a critical game during a hockey tournament last December."
David is 14 years old. (Arpon Basu, Montreal Gazette/National