ARCHIVE -- JUNE 2002
June 19-20 -- Supreme
Court clarifies ADA. This term the Supreme Court handed
down four decisions interpreting the Americans
with Disabilities Act, in each case rejecting expansive readings of
the law. Our editor analyzed the three employment cases in
yesterday's Wall Street Journal (Walter Olson, "Supreme Court Rescues
ADA From Its Zealots," Wall Street Journal, Jun.
18 (online subscribers only)). See also David J. Reis and Dipanwita
Deb Amar, "U.S. Supreme Court in 'Echazabal' Puts Federal, State Disability
Laws in Line", The Recorder, Jun.
17) (even California employment law, nearly always more favorable for
employees than its federal counterpart, acknowledges that employees may
refuse to employ disabled workers in jobs that endanger their safety).
June 19-20 -- Judicializing
politics (cont'd). Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), active in the
1998 battle over impeachment of
then-Pres. Clinton, "has filed suit in a Washington federal court against
the former president, Clinton loyalist James Carville and politically active
pornographer Larry Flynt seeking compensatory damages 'in excess of $30
million' for 'loss of reputation and emotional distress' and 'injury in
his person and property' allegedly caused by these three -- who Barr claims
conspired to 'hinder [the plaintiff] in the lawful discharge of his duties.'"
Barr is being represented by Larry Klayman of the famously litigious organization
Judicial Watch (see Apr. 16-17). (Lloyd
Grove, "Bob Barr's Believe It or Not", Washington Post, Jun.
13). (DURABLE LINK)
June 19-20 -- To
run a Bowery flophouse, hire a good lawyer. What with
New York City's absurdly anti-landlord rental code and the ongoing predations
of publicly funded legal services groups, "it takes a tough lawyer to run
a decent flophouse." (John Tierney, "A Flophouse With a View (on Survival)",
New York Times, Jun.
11). Tierney, whose columns have been a highlight of the Times'
Metro section, is moving to Washington to cover that city for the paper.
June 19-20 -- "Suits
Against Schools Explore New Turf". Sexual harassment suits
are on the rise, suits demanding concessions for special education students
are already well-established, and although many states' laws give schools
some protection against personal-injury suits, "attorneys are finding creative
new ways to get around the roadblocks". (Alan Fisk, National Law
11). (DURABLE LINK)
June 17-18 -- No
"flood" of Muslim or Arab discrimination complaints. After
the terrorist attacks last fall some major media outlets reported that
state and local civil rights agencies were being flooded with complaints
of discrimination by Muslims and persons of Arab descent. Notwithstanding
a widely publicized recent suit against airlines for alleged misdeeds in
passenger security profiling (see Jun. 6),
the official numbers on other types of discrimination cases "tell a less
alarming story. While there certainly was a hike in such bias claims since
September, it's hard to say that the increase was serious or even statistically
significant." (Jim Edwards, "Post-Sept. 11 'Backlash' Proves Difficult
to Quantify", New Jersey Law Journal, Jun.
12). (DURABLE LINK)
June 17-18 -- Spitzer
riding high. In the New York Times Magazine, James
Traub profiles New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, currently enjoying
a wave of favorable publicity after negotiating a settlement in which Merrill
Lynch agreed to change its analyst policy and fork over money to the states;
Spitzer's efforts to bludgeon the national gun
industry into accepting unlegislated gun controls, however, have been markedly
less successful. Quotes this site's editor (James Traub, "The Attorney
General Goes to War", New York Times Magazine, Jun.
16). On abusive litigation by AGs, see the recently published
analysis by Cumberland law prof Michael DeBow, "Restraining State Attorneys
General, Curbing Government Lawsuit Abuse" (Cato Policy Analysis No. 437,
10). On the federalism angle, see Michael S. Greve, "Free Eliot
Spitzer!", American Enterprise Institute Federalist Outlook, May-June.
Boston Globe columnist Charles Stein on the trouble with policymaking
by prosecution, also quotes our editor ("Memo to Policy Makers: Make Policy",
Jun. 16). (DURABLE LINK)
June 17-18 -- Jury
nails "The Hammer". Rochester, N.Y.: "A state Supreme
Court jury nailed personal-injury lawyer James 'The Hammer' Shapiro with
a $1.9 million judgment Tuesday in a legal-malpractice case.
Jurors found that Shapiro, best known for flamboyant television commercials
in which he promises to deliver big cash to accident victims, mishandled
the case of client Christopher Wagner, who was critically injured in a
two-car crash in Livingston County. They also found that Shapiro's
advertising, which led Wagner to him, was false and misleading. ... Wagner's
lawyers, Patrick Burke and Robert Williams, said the award should chasten
Shapiro, who gleefully refers to himself as 'the meanest, nastiest S.O.B.
in town' in his commercials."
After suffering a severe auto crash which left him in a coma for a month,
Wagner "hired Shapiro after his brother saw one of Shapiro's TV commercials.
Wagner dealt with a paralegal and never met a lawyer from Shapiro's firm
until after he agreed to a $65,000 settlement." The jury found that
the law firm had negligently failed to press Wagner's case against the
other motorist, instead accepting from that motorist's insurer a settlement
which undervalued the case and was insufficient to pay Wagner's medical
bills. "Shapiro, whose firm
of Shapiro and Shapiro is based in Rochester, didn't attend the trial.
He testified by a videotaped deposition in which he admitted that he has
never tried a case in court, leaves the legal work to subordinates and
lives in Florida." (Michael Ziegler, "Award claws 'The Hammer'",
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Jun. 12)(link now dead).
Shapiro is also known for his role in websites entitled Million
Dollar Lungs (asbestos client recruitment) and CPalsy.com
("Your child's cerebral palsy may be the result of a mistake. Don't
Get Mad, Get Even"). See also Dec.
5, 2003. Update May
24, 2004: court suspends Shapiro from practice in New York for one
year. (DURABLE LINK)
June 17-18 -- Not
worth the hassle? "Home Depot Inc., the nation's largest
hardware and home-improvement chain, has told its 1,400 stores not to do
business with the U.S. government or its representatives." Most managers
in the chain surveyed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said "they
had received instructions from Home Depot's corporate headquarters this
month not to take government credit cards, purchase orders or even cash
if the items are being used by the federal government. ... One Home Depot
associate at a store in San Diego said, 'It feels weird telling some kid
in uniform that I can't sell him 10 gallons of paint because we don't do
business with the government.'" Although the Atlanta-based chain
is close-lipped about the reasons for its policy, companies that sell more
than nominal quantities of products or services to the federal government
risk being designated as federal contractors, a status that brings them
under a large body of regulation over their practices in employment
and other areas. (Andrew Schneider, "Home Depot stops doing business
with federal government", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jun. 16). Update
Jul. 1-2: company reverses policy.
June 17-18 -- Alamo's
stand. "Alamo Rent A Car had no 'duty to warn' a Dutch
couple visiting Miami not to drive into high-crime areas of the city, lawyers
for the company told a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal
Wednesday in an effort to overturn a $5.2 million jury verdict. Lawyers
for Alamo told the judges that there is no way their client could have
known that the couple would venture into Miami's Liberty City neighborhood,
where Tosca Dieperink was shot to death as she sat in the rental car in
1996." We last covered this story Jun.
29, 2000, at which time we wondered: how many different kinds of legal
trouble would Alamo have gotten into if it had warned its customers
to stay out of the toughest urban neighborhoods? (Susan R. Miller, "Car
Rental Agency Fights $5.2M Verdict for Slain Tourist", Miami Daily Business
14). (DURABLE LINK)
June 14-16 -- "Civil
Rights Agency Retaliated Against Worker, EEOC Rules".
Do as we say dept.: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled
that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the federal agency which claims
for itself the role of public watchdog on discrimination matters, unlawfully
retaliated against its former staff solicitor, Emma Monroig, after she
filed a discrimination complaint against it in 1995. The commission,
which has a staff of about 75, has been hit with nine recent EEOC complaints
from employees, of which at least
three have been settled. (Darryl Fears, Washington Post, Jun.
13). (DURABLE LINK)
June 14-16 -- Dealership
on the hook. "A Michigan auto dealership that failed to
complete the title transfer on a car involved in a fatal accident has been
hit with a $12 million jury verdict." In July 1999 Les Stanford Oldsmobile
in suburban Troy allowed Mohammad Bazzi, then 20, to drive away his newly
purchased 1996 Camaro convertible although the paperwork to transfer title
was not complete. Bazzi was supposed to return to sign the papers,
but never made it: two days later, driving intoxicated at an estimated
100 mph on I-75 at 2:30 in the morning, he smashed the car into the rear
of a slower moving truck, killing his 18-year-old passenger, Ronny Hashem.
Hashem's survivors sued the dealership citing Michigan's 70-year-old Owner
Liability Statute, "which holds the owner of a car liable whenever the
car is being operated consensually". (Peter Page, "High-Speed Death",
Law Journal, Jun.
12). (DURABLE LINK)
June 14-16 -- Batch
of reader letters. Readers take
issue with our coverage of a Canadian court's ruling on welfare reform
(we stand accused of citing a conservative columnist) and of the recent
suit against a baseball-bat maker by a teenager hit by a line drive; offer
a different perspective on the Audubon String Quartet litigation; and track
down the drunk driving defense law firm that has trademarked the phrase
"Friends don't let friends plead guilty". (DURABLE
June 13 -- Breaking
news: slaying at Texas law firm. 79-year-old Richard Joseph
Gerzine of Vidor, Tex. is in custody following a fatal shooting at the
offices of the prominent Beaumont plaintiff's firm of Reaud, Morgan &
Quinn, known for its role in the asbestos and tobacco controversies.
The victim was senior partner Cris Quinn. The perpetrator was said
to have been angered by the law firm's refusal to represent him in an asbestos
case. (Beaumont Enterprise, Jun. 13; AP/Houston Chronicle,
Jun. 13). (DURABLE LINK)
June 13 -- "Student
gets diploma after threatening lawsuit". "A threatening
letter from her lawyer and an opportunity to retake an exam hours before
graduation helped a West Valley high
school student get her diploma last month. ... On May 22, Stan Massad,
a Glendale attorney representing the Peoria family, faxed a letter to [English
teacher Elizabeth] Joice asking her to take 'whatever action is necessary'
for the student to graduate or the family would be forced to sue.
'Of course, all information regarding your background, your employment
records, all of your class records, past and present, dealings with this
and other students becomes relevant, should litigation be necessary,' he
wrote to the teacher." (Monica Alonzo-Dunsmoor, Arizona Republic,
Jun. 10; lawyer's
response; Joanne Jacobs, Jun.
UPDATE: The case has mushroomed into a cause
celebre in Phoenix (Arizona Republic coverage: Maggie Galehouse,
"Decision to allow Peoria student to graduate draws outrage", Jun.
12; "State Bar probes threat against teacher over student's graduation",
13; "Failing your classes? Get a better lawyer", (editorial), Jun.
11; "Pathetic plight in Peoria" (editorial), Jun.
12; Benson cartoon, Jun.
11; Richard Ruelas, "Lawyer made an offer school couldn't refuse",
12). In the blog world, see Thomas Vincent, Jun.
11 and later posts; Edward Boyd, Jun.
11 and later posts; DesertPundit, Jun.
13. And InstaPundit
Power" discuss issues of whether the lawyer might face bar
discipline and why the family members have been allowed to keep their
names confidential. More update: Monica Alonzo-Dunsmoor, "Peoria
district issues an apology for furor", Arizona Republic, Jun.
15. (DURABLE LINK)
June 13 -- "The
NFL Vs. Everyone". "Why is it that football players/owners/teams
are in court all the time? And why would the Broncos sue fans? The NFL
is a great case study in litigiousness gone haywire." (Dan Lewis,
dlewis.net, Jun. 12;
see "NFL Bootleg: Making the Court Circuit", Bootleg Sports/FoxSports,
Jun. 12). Lewis's blog also calls our attention (Jun. 11) to this
article explaining one remarkable implication of new "medical privacy"
laws: "Law May Forbid Leagues to Say if Player Is Hurt" (Buster Olney,
New York Times, Jun.
11 (reg)) (DURABLE LINK)
June 13 -- He's
at it again. It seems Kevin Phillips has published another
of his awful
books. Here's what we said about one of the earlier
ones. (DURABLE LINK)
June 11-12 -- "French
ban sought for Fallaci book on Islam". The true
meaning of hate-speech laws?
In France, an "anti-racist" group has filed a legal action demanding a
ban on the publication of a new book by outspoken Italian journalist Oriana
Fallaci criticizing Islamic fundamentalism and defending the United States
in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Reuters/MSNBC, Jun. 10)(&
readers). (DURABLE LINK)
June 11-12 -- Malpractice
crisis latest. More problems with the notion of suing
our way to quality medical care: Philadelphia's Jefferson Hospital,
citing rising malpractice insurance bills, has laid off 99 workers and
eliminated 80 vacant jobs. (Linda Loyd, "Jefferson Hospital cuts
179 positions", Philadelphia Inquirer, May
21). Brandywine Hospital, which operates the only trauma center
in Chester County, Pa., said it would temporarily close its center, with
the result that "trauma patients -- the most severely injured accident
victims -- will be diverted to trauma centers at hospitals in surrounding
counties.". It blamed malpractice costs for difficulty in recruiting
qualified physicians (Josh Goldstein, "Hospital closing trauma center",
Philadelphia Inquirer, Jun.
5). The closure of a Wilkes-Barre ob/gyn practice typifies the
forces driving doctors out of Pennsylvania, according to the Wilkes-Barre
Leader (M. Paul Jackson, "Frustrated doctors look to quit area", May
1). The supply of neurosurgeons in central Texas is likewise
under pressure, resulting in the family of an accident victim's "being
told a city of Austin's size had no spine surgeon available when they desperately
needed one". (Mary Ann Roser, "Neurosurgeons in short supply", Austin
May 19). Update: Francis X. Clines, "Insurance-Squeezed Doctors
Folding Tents in West Virginia", New York Times,
13). (DURABLE LINK)
June 11-12 -- Flash:
law firm with sense of humor. This one's been around for
a while, but we've never paid it due tribute: Denver's Powers
Phillips maintains the only law firm website we've seen that's laugh-out-loud
funny (and even manages to tell you a lot about the firm) (& update:Metafilter
thread). (DURABLE LINK)
June 11-12 -- "San
Francisco Verdict Bodes Ill for Oil Industry". Oil refiners
are unhappy about a recent verdict in which a West Coast jury declared
that the gasoline additive MTBE, which has a nasty tendency to seep
into water tables, is defective and should never have been marketed.
The refiners have contended that the federal government itself pushed the
industry into adding MTBE to gasoline by way of the Clean Air Act's 1990
amendments, which mandated the use of reformulated and oxygenated gas to
reduce air pollution. At least two earlier courts did accept that
defense, but now the industry may stand exposed to potential billions in
damages. (June D. Bell, National Law Journal, May
3). Background: Energy Information Administration, "MTBE, Oxygenates,
and Motor Gasoline" (Mar.
2000). (DURABLE LINK)
June 11-12 -- Welcome
"Media Watch" (Australia). On the Australian Broadcasting
Corp. program, which monitors the press, Steve Price traces the circulation
of the much-forwarded "Stella Awards", a list of (fictitious, invented)
outrageous lawsuits (see Aug. 27, 2001)
10). (DURABLE LINK)