ARCHIVE -- JULY 2002
July 19-21 -- Disabled
lap dancing just the start. Our recent item (Jul.
16-17) on demands for accessibility in lap-dancing facilities reminded
an alert Australian reader of a recent case from his country in which a
complainant filed charges against the proprietors of a "swinging house
party", which was found in unrelated proceedings to be operating as an
unlicensed brothel, for excluding her because of her status as a wheelchair
v Morgan & Anor  FMCA 127)(adult content warning, though
it's a court opinion). (DURABLE
July 19-21 -- Stolen
silence? Via WSJ OpinionJournal Best
of the Web Today: "The London Sun reports that Nicholas Riddle,
who heads a firm that owns the copyright to the late John Cage's composition
'4' 33" '--which consists of four minutes, 33 seconds of silence--is suing
'pop guru' Mike Batt, whose new band, the Plantes, has just released an
album with a track called 'A One Minute Silence.' Riddle alleges
that Batt violated Cage's copyright.
'John always said the duration of his piece may be changed, so the Planets'
piece doesn't escape by virtue of its shorter length,' Riddle tells the
paper. 'We want our royalties.'" Oh please, let this be a Monty Python
skit and not an actual lawsuit (Thomas Whitaker, "Silence is old 'un",
Sun (London), Jul.
18). (DURABLE LINK)
July 19-21 -- Enron's
other helpers. If Arthur Andersen & Co. is going to
get run out of business for approving Enron's dubious financial deals,
why is its outside law firm, Vinson & Elkins, unlikely to face similarly
devastating consequences for approving and helping structure the same deals?
Well, one reason is that accountants are conceived of as having broad obligations
to the general public, while lawyers mostly aren't.
Rather convenient for the lawyers, don't you think? Julie Hilden makes
a valiant effort to defend the double standard as a principled one ("Scummery
Judgment", Slate, Jun.
21). (& see letter to the editor, Oct.
23) (DURABLE LINK)
July 18 -- "Family
of boy injured by leopard may sue". "In April, Eric River,
11, sneaked into the Rosamond
Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park with friends, tried to feed and pet a snow leopard,
got 10 deep lashes to his face, arm and back, and received 500 stitches.
Now, three months later, his mother, Terry Wells, is threatening to sue
the zoo's owner, Onondaga County, for failing to properly secure and police
the zoo after hours." River and three friends managed to get into
the zoo by scaling one 8-foot fence, squeezing through a gap in another,
and scaling a 4-foot fence before finally approaching the leopard in its
cage. (Teri Weaver, Syracuse Post-Standard, Jul.
17) (see Sept. 21, 1999).
July 18 -- "Trauma
center reopens doors". The only trauma center in
southern Nevada has reopened, "ten days after a state malpractice
insurance crisis forced its closure". (Las Vegas Review-Journal,
14; Joelle Babula, "University Medical Center: Trauma center closing",
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jul.
2; Steve Kanigher, "Trauma cases to shift to nearest hospital", Las
Vegas Sun, Jul.
2; William Booth, "Las Vegas Trauma Center Closes as Doctors Quit",
Washington Post, Jul.
4; Las Vegas Review-Journal, coverage
at a glance). Crisis continues in Mississippi: Reed Branson,
"Doctors shutting practices amid epidemic of lawsuits", GoMemphis.com,
11; John Porretto, "Exodus of doctors causing crisis for moms-to-be
in Mississippi", AP, Jul.
11. Texas: Mary Ann Roser, "Doctors at a crossroads", Austin
17. (DURABLE LINK)
July 18 -- "Edwards'
fund raising a strong suit". Why are we not surprised
that he's vaulted ahead of some better-known Democrats on the money-raising
front? "Reports released Monday show that two fund-raising committees
controlled by Edwards
raised a combined $2.6 million in the second quarter of this year and that
the North Carolina Democrat now has more than $4.4 million in the bank.
... A News & Observer analysis of Edwards' PAC money showed that more
than 77 percent of it came from lawyers or law firms." (John Wagner,
Raleigh News & Observer, Jul.
16). All five of the top contributors to the Edwards campaign
are plaintiff's law firms, the list topped by Girardi
& Keese of Los Angeles and Baron
& Budd of Dallas, both familiar to longtime readers of this site.
(David Brown, "The Candidate", The Recorder, Jun.
14). (DURABLE LINK)
July 16-17 -- By
reader acclaim: quadriplegic sues strip club over wheelchair access.
Edward Law of Orlando, Fla., who is quadriplegic, "has sued a strip club,
charging that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because the
lap dance room does not have wheelchair access." In addition to suing
the Wildside Adult Sports Cabaret of West Palm Beach, Law has also recently
sued a second strip clup, "an Orlando restaurant and a Daytona Beach Harley-Davidson
motorcycle shop"; we don't know yet whether to assign his filing activities
to this category. ("Orlando
quadriplegic sues strip club over wheelchair access", AP/Palm Beach Post,
15)(for more on lap-dance handicap accommodation, see Sept.
27-28, 2000). (DURABLE LINK)
July 16-17 -- Mercury
in dental fillings. For well over a century dentists have
used a mixture of metals including mercury in standard tooth fillings,
and both the U.S. Public Health Service and Consumers Union have declared
that patients have no grounds for
alarm that the fillings pose a risk to health. That hasn't convinced
a small if longstanding body of dissenters who hold that exposure to even
trace amounts of the heavy metal must be having toxic effects on users'
bodies. The dispute has lately turned litigious, with Van Nuys, Calif.
personal injury and environmental
Khorrami spearheading several suits which accuse the American Dental
Association and dentists of wrongly promoting the material, and the ADA
striking back with a defamation suit. (Doug Bandow, "Killer teeth?",
Cato Institute Dailies, Jun.
28; Raymond J. Keating, "Lawsuits and Legislation Causing Pain for
Dentists", Small Business Survival Committee, Jun.
7; AltCorp (anti-mercury
testing firm); Stephen Barrett, "The Mercury Amalgam Scam", QuackWatch.com,
last revised Apr.
QuackWatch on "amalgam"; American Dental Association on
v. Khorrami). (DURABLE
July 16-17 -- Hizzoner's
divorce, settled at last. "Anyone who's been appalled
at the depths to which the parties stooped in this Hanover/Giuliani split
just hasn't been divorced from a millionaire often enough. As big splashy
go, this was no uglier than most." (Dahlia Lithwick, "Hats Off to Rudy",
Slate, Jul. 12).
July 16-17 -- "Spanking
Client Not Legitimate Trial Prep Tactic". Just plain bizarre:
U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny has ruled that an attorney's malpractice
insurer is not obliged to pay out in a case in which Derby, Ct. attorney
Milo J. Altschuler allegedly took a client across his lap and spanked her
before a court appearance. "The woman claimed Altschuler, before
removing her panties and stockings, told her he needed to spank her so
the judge didn't think she was lying." Judge Chatigny ruled that
the spanking did not constitute the rendering of professional services,
although Altschuler "acknowledged that he used [threats of spanking] in
representing more than a dozen other clients to make them 'more afraid
of him than they would be of the prosecutor.'" (Scott Brede, Connecticut
Law Tribune, Jul.
15). (DURABLE LINK)
July 15 -- "Morales'
$1 Million Tobacco Fee Under Fire". "Former Attorney General
Dan Morales told lawyers that a $1 million contribution to his political
campaign fund was a condition for joining his anti-tobacco
legal team, a Houston lawyer testified in a newly released document."
In a 1999 interview that has only now been made public in court proceedings,
an assistant to Texas Attorney General John Cornyn questioned Houston attorney
Wayne Fisher, a former president of the State Bar and a former president
of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, under oath. Fisher "said
Morales outlined two separate requirements during a meeting he had with
the then-attorney general in 1995. Fisher said one condition of employment
was to 'front' the legal expenses and a second was to 'commit to contribute
$1 million to (Morales') political campaign -- to (Morales') political
campaign fund, as I recall it.'" Fisher "chose not to join Morales'
legal team"; he also "recalled wondering later if the meeting was a 'sting
operation.'" Fisher's account seems to buttress earlier recollections
by noted plaintiff's attorney Joe Jamail, who also did not join the state's
team (see Sept. 1-3, 2000, May
22, 2000, June 21, 2001, Aug.
29-30, 2001, Nov. 12, 2001).
The five law firms eventually hired by Morales are all "major contributors
to Democratic candidates and causes". Michael Tigar, attorney for
the five, denies that any of their tobacco fees or expenses went to Morales
but concedes that "some was paid to Austin political consultant George
Shipley. Tigar said all the payments to Shipley were first reviewed by
University of Texas law professor Charles Silver, who was retained by the
lawyers as an ethics adviser." (Clay Robison, Houston Chronicle,
12). (DURABLE LINK)
July 15 -- Paper
currency should accommodate blind, suit argues. "The American
Council of the Blind, which seeks to improve conditions for the visually
has sued the Treasury Department to force its way into the currency revamping
process. ...The group is not promoting a specific change that would help
blind and sight-impaired Americans sift through their money, but hopes
the government will study an array of options that would be helpful.
A major step could be offering denominations in different colors or sizes
with large-print features, like many other countries, [Ralph] Brunson said.
Braille and textures also are possibilities, although the markings are
prone to wearing off. 'We did not specify a particular option because,
primarily, at this point we're trying to get the dialogue going,' Brunson
said." (Mark Babineck, "Blind Group Sues U.S. over Currency", AP/FindLaw,
1). (DURABLE LINK)
July 15 -- New
civil rights target: "linguistic profiling". With
assistance from a Ford Foundation grant, the National Fair Housing Alliance
and Stanford education and linguistics professor Dr. John Baugh have
launched a project "to study the impact of linguistic profiling on housing
discrimination. This summer, Baugh will track the instances of bias
that the housing markets show toward speakers of non-standard English over
the telephone. Baugh says speakers who do not 'sound white' often
are discriminated against over the telephone. 'Even though the courts
are reasonably well equipped to prosecute cases of face-to-face discrimination,'
says Dr. Baugh, 'they have a hard time understanding and applying the law
to linguistic profiling, and that's where this research will help.'" "National
Study on Linguistic Profiling in Housing Announced", Jun.
26)(via Scott Norvell, FoxNews.com, Jul.
1). (DURABLE LINK)
July 12-14 -- Welcome
Salon.com readers, Bill O'Reilly listeners. We're cited
in Janelle Brown's excellent article on parental lawsuits against teachers
("L is for Lawsuit", Jul.
12) which mentions our subpage on overlawyered
schools. And our editor is appearing today (Fri.) on Bill O'Reilly's
popular radio show to discuss the case of a New York City jury's award
to a woman who lay down on the subway tracks (see Jun.
26-27), along with other cases featured on our personal-
responsibility subpage. Update: and welcome BBC-5 listeners,
for whom our editor taped an interview arising from the Salon piece
July 12-14 -- Credibility
up in smoke? Environmentalist groups have strenuously
denied that their use of litigation to stall road building, logging and
the construction of firebreaks worsened this year's raging wildfires out
West (see Jul. 1-2). But it turns out
that a recent General Accounting Office report, much cited by the enviro
groups to show that they don't sue often, actually may show nothing of
the sort. "Environmental appeals delayed 48 percent of the [Forest
Service]'s fire-suppression projects in fiscal 2001 and 2002, thereby stalling
efforts to clear the brush and small trees that fuel the catastrophic wildfires
plaguing the West, according to an internal Forest Service report obtained
by The Washington Times. The report, slated for release [Thursday],
found that 155 of the agency's 326 plans to log overgrown, high-risk national
forests were stymied by appeals. In Arizona and New Mexico, sites
of some of this summer's worst wildfires, that figure rose to 73 percent,
and climbed to 100 percent in the Pacific Northwest". (Valeria Richardson,
"Forest Service Says Activists Played Role in Fires," Washington Times,
11; Kimberley A. Strassel, "Truth Under Fire ", Wall Street Journal/
11). (& see letter to the editor, Oct.
23) (DURABLE LINK)
July 12-14 -- Read
the label, then ignore it if you like. "Two carpet installers
who admit they read the label of an adhesive they used, admit they understood
the adhesive was flammable and should not be used inside, used it inside
anyway, caused an explosion, were burned badly, sued, and won $8 million
dollars." (Phil Trexler, "2 installers get millions in blast suit", Akron
10) (link and description via MedPundit, Jul.
10). (DURABLE LINK)
July 12-14 -- Financial
scandals: legislate in haste. The "chief sponsor of the
House [financial-reform] legislation, Republican Michael G. Oxley of Ohio
... complained that some aspects of the Sarbanes bill appeared to be turning
into 'a gravy train' for trial lawyers." (Richard A. Oppel Jr., "Senate
Backs Tough Measures to Punish Corporate Misdeeds", New York Times,
11). House Republicans are particularly critical of provisions
which, in line with a long-term goal of the plaintiff's bar, increase the
time permitted to bring securities fraud lawsuits. The Mobile Register
editorially warns that a number of ideas emanating from the Senate "would
be a huge boon to voracious plaintiffs' attorneys. And the last thing the
nervous stock market needs, now or ever, is to worry about companies being
ruined by ever-more creative lawsuits whose practical effect would do far
more to enrich the lawyers than to protect the interests of individual
investors." ("Bush right, Shelby not, on business reform" (editorial),
10). "Robert Musil" has some thoughts on the newly popular idea
of requiring CEOs to certify their company's financial filings on penalty
of perjury (Jul.
7). And before assuming that it was management malfeasance alone
that destroyed the market value of such companies as WorldCom and Adelphia,
it would be wise to note that Europe, without benefit of major scandal,
has managed to see most of the value of its telecom stocks evaporate since
the sectoral bubble burst, with historic enterprises like Deutsche Telekom,
France Télécom and Royal KPN of the Netherlands losing 80
or 90 percent of their value, and Britain's BT doing not much better (Edmund
L. Andrews, "Europe Shares Pain of the Fall in Phone Stocks", New York
And see Steve Chapman, "Real and phony fixes for corporate corruption",
Chicago Tribune, Jul.
11). (DURABLE LINK)
July 12-14 -- "Court
Tosses 'Sopranos' Suit". Following an appellate court's
ruling against them, the Italian-American Defense Association has dropped
its suit against HBO charging that "The Sopranos" offends the dignity of
Italian Americans in supposed violation of the Illinois Constitution's
"individual dignity" clause. Score one for free speech (N.Y. Daily
2)(see Apr. 6-8, 2001). (DURABLE