|ARCHIVE -- MAY 2000 (III)
May 31 -- From
our mail sack: ADA enforcement vignettes. Reader Roger
Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity
tells us that every month or so he visits the Department of Justice to
pore over the new batch of publicly released enforcement letters from the
department's Civil Rights Division. Although the letters are made
available by the Department in such a way that parties in the disputes
are not individually identifiable, they do provide insight into current
enforcement priorities and trends. A few highlights that Roger passes
on from letters issued by DoJ regarding the enforcement of the Americans
with Disabilities Act:
"The Civil Rights Division's Disability Rights Section has in the last
month or so sent a lot of letters to doctors'
offices on behalf of hearing-impaired patients complaining that the
doctors don't have interpreters (a couple of the offices didn't understand
why the doctor and patient couldn't just write notes to each other) [see
also Sept. 29-Oct. 1].
* "A dance studio got a DOJ letter when it refused to continue
giving lessons to a student who was prompting complaints from other students'
parents because accommodating her took up so much class time.
"Other interesting issues prompting DOJ letters:
* "A cruise ship that refused to let a blind person on board for
a trip unless he had a medical note stating he could safely travel alone;
* "An HIV-positive student who demanded an air-conditioned classroom;
* "A blind person who wasn't allowed into a doctor's office because
in the past other patients had had an allergic reaction to his guide dog;
* "A truly tragic case -- a man with a 'manual disability' who
could not pull the trigger on a gun."
May 31 -- Jumped
ahead, by court order. A Delaware court has found that
Christiana Care Health Services breached its contract with Ahmad Bali,
MD, when it demoted him from third-year to second-year resident.
Rather than simply allot monetary damages to Dr. Bali for the trouble and
expense of having been held back needlessly at the second-year stage, the
court took the more unusual step of ordering the hospital
to accord him fourth-year residency status as if he'd completed the third-year
program. The result is to put him in the same place he'd be if not
for the hospital's earlier breach, which is certainly one kind of fairness
for which the law sometimes strives. But what if third-year residency
isn't simply a re-run of second-year, but involves the acquisition of distinctive
skills? (Miles J. Zaremski, "Delaware court reinstates terminated
resident", American Medical News, March
May 31 -- Columnist-fest.
More opinions worth considering:
* Paul Campos weighs in on the "pink-skirt" case, in which a transgendered
of a Boulder, Colo. bagel shop is suing because its owner wouldn't let
him wear that girlish item of apparel on the job ("The strange land of
identity politics", Rocky Mountain News, May
16; Matt Sebastian, "Bagel shop wouldn't let him wear pink dress [sic],
so he sues", Scripps Howard News Service, May
* Big American companies whose German operations were seized by
the Nazi regime and run with forced labor are now coming under legal pressure
to pay "reparations". "If we Jews care about justice and retribution,
we should not take this money," argues Sam Schulman of Jewish World
Review. "It is tainted -- tainted with innocence. And taking
money from the innocent blurs the line between innocence and guilt."
("Some Reparations Money is Better Left on the Table", Jewish World
18). An earlier Schulman column examines the drift of the campaigns
against the Swiss and the Austrians away from the aim of individualized
justice for expropriated families and toward the expiation of inherited
national guilt by way of large transfer payments. ("David Irving's Mirror
for the Jews", May
* Rachelle Cohen of the Boston Herald can't help wondering:
does Massachusetts really need to spend tax money setting up a state-sponsored
law school? ("Must taxpayers pay to create more lawyers?", May
May 30 -- You were
negligent to hire me. "A former Escondido school district
administrator who resigned two years ago after revelations of a 1963 rape-related
conviction won a $255,000 jury verdict yesterday against Superintendent
Nicolas Retana and the district." Thirty-four years previously, at
age 17, William Zamora had been convicted in New Mexico of assault with
intent to rape, serving two years in prison and later being pardoned by
the governor. When he applied for an $88,000/year administrative
job in 1997 with the district near San Diego, he failed to disclose his
long-ago conviction on his employment
application, later saying he thought the pardon had wiped his record clean.
But an FBI fingerprint check turned it up, and Zamora resigned at once:
a California law passed the previous year forbade school districts to hire
persons with felony sex convictions. He then proceeded to sue the
district and supervisor, contending that if they "had done their jobs properly...
they would have waited until the crime check came back before hiring him,"
and charging that his privacy had been invaded when Retana conversed with
an Albuquerque school board member about the conviction. Last week
a jury awarded him $15,000 on the negligent hiring claim and $240,000 on
the invasion of privacy claim. "Superior Court Judge Lisa Guy-Schall
kept jurors from hearing the details of Zamora's conviction, in which he
pleaded guilty. She said she didn't want to preside over a mini-trial of
events that happened 37 years ago." (Onell R. Soto, "Ex-administrator
wins $255,000 verdict against Escondido schools chief, district", San Diego
May 24; and earlier Union-Tribune coverage, May
21, 1999; May
May 30 -- Illegal
to talk about drugs? The so-called Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation
Act, which has been moving rapidly through Congress with relatively little
public outcry, would make it a felony punishable by ten years in prison
"to teach or demonstrate to any person the manufacture of a controlled
substance, or to distribute to any person, by any means, information pertaining
to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of a controlled substance,"
knowing or intending that a recipient will use the information in violation
of the law. The aim is to shut down the publishing of books, magazines
and websites that furnish information on drug manufacture or use, such
as High Times magazine and
The prohibition on "distribut[ing]" such information "to any person, by
any means" could make it unlawful even to post a weblink
to offshore sites of this nature. Another provision of the bill would
make it a crime to "directly or indirectly advertise for sale" drugs or
drug paraphernalia -- and whatever the peculiar phrase "indirectly advertise"
may mean in practice, it's probably not good news for the First Amendment.
A Washington Post editorial calls the provisions "overly broad"
and "so vague as to threaten legitimate speech": "The mere dissemination
of information, especially without specific intent to further crime, seems
within the bounds of free speech protections."
SOURCES: "The Anti-Meth Bill" (editorial), Washington
26; Amy Worden, "House Bill Would Ban Drug Instructions", APBNews,
10; Declan McCullagh, "Bill criminalizes drug links", Wired News,
9; Jake Halpern, "Intentional Foul", The New Republic, April
10; "Senate panel considers ban on Internet drug recipes", AP/Freedom
29, 1999; Debbi Gardiner and Declan McCullagh, "Reefer Madness Hits
Congress", Wired News, Aug.
6, 1999; J. T. Tuccille, "Shall make no law", About.com Civil Liberties,
15, 1999; Phillip Taylor, "Marijuana activists denounce proposed ban
of drug recipes", Freedom Forum, Jan.
May 30 -- Won't
pay for set repairs. Orkin, the pest control company,
is declining to compensate two consumers who've requested that it pay for
fixing their TV sets after they attacked unusually convincing simulations
of cockroaches that ran across the screen in its ads. The company
says a Tampa, Fla., woman tried to kill the insect by throwing a motorcycle
helmet at her set, while another man damaged his set by throwing a shoe
at it. ("'I felt really stupid': Orkin cockroach commmercial
has some viewers fooled ", AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April
May 30 -- Welcome
San Jose Mercury News visitors. At Silicon Valley's
hometown paper, columnist John Murrell ("Minister of Information") proposes
this among sites "for your weekend Web wandering pleasure ... your darkest
visions of out-of-control litigiousness will be confirmed". (May
26 entry). The weblog at uJoda.com ("From My Desktop"),
where you can pick up Macintosh icons and graphics, reports that its author
"found a great site called overlawyered.com, though not eye candy, it is
rich in content" (May 6 entry).
The pro-Second Amendment Fulton
Armory featured us as their site of the week a couple of weeks ago,
and we've also been linked recently by the Australian Public Law page maintained
by the law faculty at the Northern Territory University, down under ("Not
much to do with public law but we couldn't help ourselves," they explain
re including us); by the Smith
Center for Private Enterprise, a free-market think tank at Cal State,
Hayward; by ClaimsPages.com,
which offers a vast array of insurance-oriented links; and by the website
of attorney Jule R. Herbert, Jr.
of Alabama's Gulf Coast, among many others.
May 26-29 -- "Dame
Edna's Gladioli Toss Lands in Court". "Dame Edna Everage",
the character created by Australian comedian Barry Humphries (website,
show), makes a custom of ending her show by flinging gladioli to the
crowd, but now a man has hired a Melbourne law firm to undertake legal
action, saying a stem of one of the large flowers struck him in the eye.
49-year-old singing teacher Gary May is "seeking unspecified damages for
pain and suffering, loss of income and medical expenses." (Reuters/Excite,
May 25, lnk now dead). Last year (see Dec.
7) NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was sued by an audience member
who says he was injured by one of the free t-shirts propelled into the
May 26-29 -- "Skydivers
don't sue". Lively Usenet discussion last month
and this among skydiving enthusiasts
(rec.skydiving) over recent lawsuits in
the sport. In one, Canadian skydiving acrobat Gerry Dyck is suing
teammate Robert Laidlaw over a 1991 accident during an eight-man stunt
jump near Calgary in which Dyck was knocked unconscious and severely hurt
on landing. (Jeffrey Jones, "Canadian skydiver sues teammate for
mid-air crash", San Jose Mercury News, April 24, no longer online).
The other followed the death of James E. Martin, Jr., a Hemet, Calif. dentist
and veteran of more than 5,000 jumps who perished when a line snagged on
his parachute, his fifth time out on that gear. Now his widow's suing
the gear maker, Fliteline
Systems of Lake Elsinore, Calif.; vice president Mick Cottle of Fliteline,
the first defendant named in the suit, says Martin was a "close friend".
"Few lawsuits over sky diving deaths ever reach judgment," reports the
Riverside Press-Enterprise. And "most makers of sky-diving gear
do not carry liability insurance, which reduces the likelihood of plaintiffs
gaining a settlement." About 32 sky-diving deaths occur annually
in the U.S., of which about five lead to lawsuits, according to one frequent
expert witness in the field; he estimates that plaintiffs have won only
1 or 2 percent of cases he's seen, though it's unclear whether he's including
settlements in that estimate. (Guy McCarthy, "Lawsuit blames gear
in sky diver's death", Riverside Press-Enterprise, May 8, link now
dead; Remarq saved
thread; Deja.com archive, recent
search on "lawsuit" -- hundreds of posts in all)
May 26-29 -- Insurers
fret over online privacy suits. The wave of lawsuits
against Yahoo!, DoubleClick and others for privacy
sins has insurance companies "concerned they will have to pay for potentially
massive torts they didn't anticipate" in liability policies they've written
for the dot-com sector. "'If it's not the next really big issue,
it's one of the next big issues where we can expect a lot of litigation,'
said Thomas R. Cornwell, VP of the technology insurance group" for insurer
Chubb. "Plaintiff's attorneys are honing their skills and preparing
for a boom in such lawsuits," reports the magazine Business Insurance
in its May 22 lead story. "'Just as the Internet itself is a growth
area, Internet law is being recognized as a growth area within the legal
profession,' said David Sobel, general counsel for the Electronic Privacy
Information Center in Washington. The nonprofit organization supports
plaintiff lawsuits on Internet privacy." "My guess is that now that
the blood is in the water there will be a lot of plaintiffs' attorneys
sniffing it up," said one lawyer who's sued Yahoo. (Roberto Ceniceros,
"Internet privacy liability growing", Business Insurance, May 22,
archives). Expect the cost of securing liability insurance for
an Internet launch to rise accordingly.
May 26-29 -- Suits
by household pets? "Somewhere out there -- maybe in a
Boston zoo or a Fresno research lab -- a Bonzo or Fido is biding his time,
deceptively peeling a banana or playing dead, quietly getting ready to
sue his master," writes Claire Cooper of the Sacramento Bee.
As animal-rights courses proliferate
at law schools, activists are quietly looking for test cases in which to
assert the singular new notion of standing for nonhuman creatures -- with
themselves as the designated legal representatives, needless to say.
("Pets suing their masters? Stay tuned, advocates say", May
13). In March the Seattle Times profiled the Great Apes
Legal Project, which views the non-human primate kingdom as plausible rights-bearing
clients. This provoked a letter from reader David Storm of Everett,
who said the article was "very interesting, but the goal doesn't go far
enough. In addition, we should declare the apes to be lawyers, which would
simultaneously improve our legal system." (Alex Tizon, "Cadre of
lawyers working to win rights for apes", Seattle Times, March
19; letters, March
21). See also Roger Bryant Banks, "Animal Dogma", SpinTech
(online), May 12,
on the question: if Chimp v. Zoo is a good case, why not also Chimp v.
Chimp, following incidents of violence or harassment?
May 26-29 -- EPA's
high courtroom loss rate. Most federal agencies
win most of the time when their regulatory decisionmaking is challenged
in federal court, but the Environmental
Protection Agency in recent years has been a glaring exception, losing
a large share of the cases it has defended, including high-profile battles
over electric car mandates, gasoline reformulation, and Clean Water Act
permit-granting, among many others. Why does it fare so badly?
Jonathan Adler of the Competitive Enterprise Institute thinks one reason
is that agency policymakers adopt extreme legal positions, partly due to
unclear authorizing statutes, partly due to zealousness among political
appointees at the top. "Environmental Performance at the Bench: The
EPA's Record in Federal Court", Reason Public Policy Institute, Policy
Study #269; "EPA in Need of Adult Supervision", CEI Update, March
1; Adler's home page. Ben
Lieberman, also of CEI, calls attention to one of the more unusual confrontations
the EPA has gotten into of late: its crackdown on coal-burning utilities
has led it into a showdown with the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority,
which means it's the feds versus the feds. ("EPA's tug at TVA's power",
May 19, no longer online).
May 26-29 -- Ready
to handle your legal needs. Stephen Glass, who resigned
disgrace from The New Republic just over two years ago after
being caught making up stories, is graduating this month from Georgetown
Law School. The
Pop View has posted this
summary of the episode for anyone who's forgotten (via Romenesko's
May 25 -- Conference
on excessive legal fees. In Washington today from 10 to
4 Eastern, the Manhattan Institute, Federalist Society, Hudson Institute
and Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. team up to host a conference on ideas
for "protecting unsophisticated consumers, class action members, and taxpayers/citizens"
from overreaching legal fees (schedule
and confirmed speakers at Federalist Society site; live
broadcast at U.S. Chamber site requires RealPlayer).
May 25 -- Thomas
the Tank Engine, derailed. "Children's online
privacy": the sort of sweetness-and-light notion practically no one's
willing to criticize in principle. Yet regulation is regulation,
and seldom lacking in real-world bite. Declan McCullagh at Wired
News reports that the popular children's TV show Thomas
the Tank Engine has had to discontinue sending regular email bulletins
to legions of young fans because obtaining parental consent individually
would be too cumbersome. The show's website cites
the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which took effect last month.
Other online publishers are also unilaterally cutting off subscribers under
the age of 12, to their distress. ("COPPA Lets Steam Out of Thomas", May
13; Lynn Burke, "Kid's Privacy an Act, or Action?", April
May 25 -- "Taking
cash into custody". Local law enforcement agencies systematically
dodge the constraints of state forfeiture law to help themselves to proceeds
after seizing cash and property in traffic stops and drug busts, according
to this Kansas City Star investigation. And though Congress's
enactment of federal-level forfeiture law reform was much trumpeted earlier
this year (see April 13, Jan.
31), it's likely to leave many of the abuses unchecked. (Karen
Dillon, Kansas City Star, series
May 25 -- What
the French think of American harassment law. Pretty
much what you'd expect: "Fifteen years after the first harassment
trials, puritanism in the office is total," marvels the New York correspondent
of a French paper named Liaisons Sociales. "A suggestive calendar
in a man's locker? Prohibited. Below-the-belt jokes? Totally excluded.
Comments about physique? Illegal. The result is that behavior in the workplace
has been profoundly changed. The doors of offices are always open. The
secretaries are always present during tete-a-tete meetings, in case they
need to be witnesses in litigation." A few feminist French lawyers
would like to emulate the American way of doing things but lament that
in their country litigation is frowned on, damages are set at a token level,
and, as one complains, "current French law makes no mention of things like
improper jokes". (Vivienne Walt, "Curbing Workplace Sexism Evolving
Slowly in France," New York Times, May
24 (reg)). Plus: chief exec of leading British fashion
chain canned after inappropriate conduct (Fraser Nelson and Tim Fraser,
"Pat on the bottom costs boss £1m job" Sunday Times (London),
May 25 -- His wayward
clients. In March, in 275 pages of court filings,
Allstate, Geico and other insurers filed a lawsuit charging what they called
"the most extensive fraud upon the New York no-fault system that has ever
been uncovered," suing 47 doctors,
chiropractors and businessmen all told. But the complaint did not
name as a defendant a lawyer who's given legal advice or assistance to
just about every one of those 47 defendants; he's a former chairman of
the State Bar Association’s health committee who rents office space in
a politically connected law firm. Among his specialties is to assist
chiropractors and others in getting around a New York rule that no one
can own a medical practice other than a licensed doctor. The complaint
says a Milford, Conn. physician who holds a license to practice medicine
in New York had served as the front guy for no fewer than 29 medical practices
in the state. (Glenn Thrush, "Black Belt Lawyer Robert Borsody Evades
$57 Million Fraud Lawsuit", New York Observer, March
May 24 -- Musical
chairs disapproved. "The traditional children's party
game of musical chairs has been accused of breeding violence," reports
the BBC. A booklet produced under the auspices of the British education
ministry by a group called the Forum on Children and Violence argues that
the diversion rewards the "strongest and fastest" children and suggests
that nursery schools consider an alternative game such as "musical statues".
The education spokeswoman for the opposition Tories, Theresa May, called
the advice "political correctness gone mad". ("Musical chairs 'too
violent'", BBC News, May
May 24 -- After
the great power-line panic. Eleven years ago reporter
Paul Brodeur penned a series of articles for The New Yorker charging
that electric power-line fields were
causing childhood cancers and other ailments, later published as a book
entitled Currents of Death. Trial lawyers promptly went on the warpath,
and the resulting binge of scare publicity terrified countless parents.
Hundreds of millions in litigation costs later, the suits have mostly fizzled.
But have any lessons been learned? Forbes reprints an excerpt from
Robert L. Park's much-discussed new book, "Voodoo
Science" (Oxford U. Press). ("Voodoo Science and the Power-Line
15). Among groups that stoked the panic were Trial Lawyers for
Public Justice: see, e.g., "Names in the News: Kilovolt Cancer", Multinational
1992 (second item, quoting TLPJ's Michael Koskoff).
May 24 -- Smudged
plumage. The Baltimore Orioles, owned by trial lawyer
zillionaire/political kingmaker Peter Angelos, say that in order not to
threaten the "goodwill" arising from their exhibition performance against
the Cuban national team last year (see Dec.
9, Oct. 19 commentaries), they'll
refuse to hire any baseball player who defects from Cuba. Roger Clegg
of the Center for Equal Opportunity calls this stand "morally indefensible
-- telling those fleeing a totalitarian regime that they are unwelcome
and unemployable" -- and wonders how well it accords with the federal laws
banning employment discrimination on
the basis of national origin and lawful-immigrant status. Maybe the
team could beat such charges by arguing that it has nothing against Cuban
émigrés based on their national origin as such -- it might
hire them, after all, if they were loyal Castroites playing with Fidel's
approval. ("Peter Angelos in foul territory", National Review
18; "Orioles Avoid Cuban Players Who Have Defected", Reuters/Yahoo,
May 17, link now dead).
May 24 -- ADA &
the web: sounding the alarm. "It's simply a matter of
(Internet) time before pitched battles over accommodations in the
virtual world rival their physical counterparts," writes MIT's Michael
Schrage ("Brave New Work: E-Commodating the Disabled in the Workplace",
15; quotes our editor). The National Federation of the Blind's
recent lawsuit against AOL is "a 500-pound gorilla that party-goers can’t
ignore," according to a metaphor-happy lawyer with Morrison & Foerster.
"...If the court rules that AOL is a public accommodation, it could require
anyone engaging in e-commerce to make their Web site ...accessible to people
with disabilities." (Ritchenya A. Shepherd, "Net Rights for the Disabled?",
Law Journal, Nov. 15, 1999). "In a few years, if regulatory history
is repeated, any Web site that doesn't provide government-sanctioned equal
access for the handicapped could be declared illegal," warns an Internet
Week columnist (Bill Frezza, "The ADA Stalks The Internet: Is Your
Web Page Illegal?", Feb.
28). Coming soon, we hope: a few highlights from the mail
we've been inundated with on this topic, much of which we haven't even
had a chance to answer yet (thanks for your patience, correspondents!).
May 24 -- Bargain
price on The Excuse Factory. Usually we urge you
to buy books through our online bookstore,
but right now Laissez Faire Books
is offering an unbeatable discount on our editor's book about law and what
it's doing to the American workplace, The Excuse Factory, just $12.25
while they last (hardcover, too). And it makes a good occasion to
check out the rest of the LFB catalogue. (Order
direct from them.)
May 23 -- Steering
the evidence. The FBI is probing charges of evidence-
and witness-tampering in a liability case that led a San Antonio judge
last week to impose sanctions on plaintiff's attorneys Robert Kugle, Andrew
Toscano and Robert "Trey" Wilson. Bridgett and Juan Fabila had sued
DaimlerChrysler, demanding $2 billion, over a 1996 accident in Mexico which
killed several family members in their Dodge Neon. Their lawyers
alleged that the car's steering column decoupler was defective. But
someone anonymously sent DaimlerChrysler evidence of misconduct
by its adversaries, and eventually the carmaker
succeeded in laying before 224th District Judge David Peeples evidence
of the following:
* The steering decoupler was broken by the time the carmaker was allowed
to see it, but photographs taken shortly after the accident showed it intact.
The plaintiff's lawyers denied for two years having any knowledge of such
photos, and then, when they came to light, moved unilaterally to drop the
suit, then argued (unsuccessfully) that the judge had no authority to impose
sanctions on them because his jurisdiction ended with the suit. Close
inspection of the steering decoupler revealed the minute scrapings of wrench
marks and other signs of deliberate tampering.
* One of the attorneys' investigators "tried to bribe two Mexican highway
patrol officers in an attempt to change their testimony and threatened
the family of a Red Cross official who said Fabila told him the accident
had occurred because her husband fell asleep behind the wheel."
* The "investigator who took the first set of photographs claim[ed]
Wilson told him in March that his firm was 'running a bluff, but we had
our hand called.'" The lawyers said later that their real demand
was for $75 million, of which they would get 40 percent as their share,
according to the San Antonio paper's Rick Casey.
Senior partner Robert Kugle of the Kugle Law Firm counter-accused the
car company of itself bribing witnesses and tampering with evidence, while
Wilson and investigator Stephen Garza "both asserted their Fifth Amendment
right not to testify". After an inquiry, Judge Peeples dismissed the Fabila
family's suit with prejudice, ordered attorneys Kugle, Toscano and Wilson
to pay $920,000 in legal expenses that DaimlerChrysler had incurred --
it's not quite impossible for a defendant to recover its legal costs
in an American courtroom -- and said he planned to report his findings
to the state bar and to county prosecutors for possible action. The
FBI has seized the vehicle pursuant to further investigation, according
to Casey. Kugle continues to declare his innocence of wrongdoing
and says he intends to appeal; the other two attorneys were not available
to reporters for comment. Ken Glucksman, associate general counsel
of DaimlerChrysler, said the case was "the most flagrant example of misconduct
I've seen in more than 20 years as a lawyer" and said he hoped the attorneys
were disbarred. Update: final ruling by judge sets stage for
appeal (June 26). Further update
(Mar. 17, 2003).
SOURCES: Adolfo Pesquera, "Sanctions issued in tampering
case", San Antonio Express-News, May
18; San Antonio Express-News coverage by Rick Casey, various
dates; "Judge Dismisses $2 Bln Suit vs. Daimler", Reuters/FindLaw, May
18; "DaimlerChrysler wins $920,489 in fines against three Texas attorneys",
AP/Detroit Free Press, May 18; Dina ElBoghdady, "DaimlerChrysler
fights baseless suits", Detroit
19; "Lawyers who sued DC fined", Detroit Free Press, May 19,
link now dead.
May 23 -- "Toronto
Torch" age-bias suit. Shirley Zegil, 52, has filed a complaint
with the Ontario Human Rights Commission,
saying she was improperly discharged
by a Brantford strip club because of her age. "They told me I was
too old and fat," said Zegil, who has been disrobing for audiences for
more than two decades and performs under the nicknames "The Contessa" and
"Toronto Torch". But she still has plenty of loyal fans among older
clubgoers: "A girl is never too old to strip," she says. (Dale Brazao,
"Stripper, 52, a winner in my court of appeal", Toronto Star, May
22, no longer online).
May 23 -- Favorite
bookmark. Edward E. Potter is president of the Employment
Policy Foundation, which plays a prominent role in debates on workplace
issues in the nation's capital. Yesterday the Cincinnati Enquirer
asked him to list his favorite bookmarks, and this site made it onto the
short list. Thanks! ("Weighing future of work force" (interview),
May 23 -- "Lawyers'
tobacco-suit fees invite revolt". Arbitrators' award
of $265 million to Ohio tobacco lawyers
was the final straw for editors of USA Today, which came out editorially
yesterday in favor of limiting attorneys' tobacco swag. Fee
hauls have mounted to $10.4 billion, including $3.4 billion for lawyers
representing Florida, $3.3 billion (Texas), $1.4 billion (Mississippi),
and $575 million (Louisiana), the latter of which works out, according
to a dissenting arbitrator, to $6,700 an hour. The paper calls the
"mega-paydays" a "sorry legacy" of the tobacco deal and notes that lawyers
"who represented many states are being paid repeatedly for piggyback efforts."
May 23 -- "Harvard
reenacts Jesus trial". Among dramatis personae
in simulated trial of founder of Christianity: divinity prof Harvey Cox
as Pontius Pilate and, as defense lawyer for the man of Galilee, none other
than Alan Dershowitz, who "said the role fulfilled a lifelong dream. 'Jesus
is the one client I've always wished I could have represented,' said the
law professor whose clients have included O.J. Simpson, Claus von Bulow
and Leona Helmsley". Arguing that crucifixion was too severe a penalty
for defying Roman authorities, Dershowitz "came up with a novel substitute
punishment. 'I think it would be appropriate to tie him in litigation and
appeals for years," he said. 'That way he would spend his life with lawyers,
whom he hated.'" (Richard Higgins, Boston Globe/Omaha World
Herald, May 13).
May 22 -- Texas
tobacco fees. "Every three months, like clockwork, another
$25 million arrives for the five Texas tobacco lawyers." The five
are fighting tooth and nail to avoid being put under oath by Texas Attorney
General John Cornyn, a Republican, about how they came by that money, specifically,
"longtime allegations that his predecessor, Dan Morales, solicited large
sums of money from lawyers he considered hiring" for the state's tobacco
case. (Wayne Slater, "Trial lawyers give heavily to Democrats",
Dallas Morning News, May 14; Clay Robison, "Cornyn moves in on anti-tobacco
Chronicle, April 27; Susan Borreson, "Motions
Flying Again Over Tobacco Lawyers' Fees",
Texas Lawyer, July 26,
1999; "Lawyers Challenge AG’s Subpoenas", Nov. 17, 1999).
So far, according to the Dallas Morning News report, the five
have taken in more than $400 million of the billions they expect eventually
from the tobacco settlement, and have recycled a goodly chunk of that change
into political donations -- more than $2.2 million in unrestricted soft
money to the Democrats already in this election cycle, with further sums
expected. Walter Umphrey, along with members of his Beaumont firm,
"has put at least $350,000 into Democratic coffers. 'The only hope of the
Democratic Party is that the trial lawyers nationwide dig down deep and
the labor unions do the same thing,' he said. In addition to Mr.
Umphrey and his firm, John Eddie Williams and members of his Houston firm
have given $720,000; Harold Nix of Daingerfield, $420,000; Wayne Reaud
of Beaumont, $250,000; and John O'Quinn of Houston, $100,000."
May 22 -- Not child's
father, must pay anyway. "Told by his girlfriend that
she was pregnant, Bill Neal of Glasgow Village presumed he was the father
and agreed to pay child support."
Eight years and $8,000 in payments later, Neal was curious why the child
didn't take after his looks, arranged for a DNA test to be done, and discovered
the boy was someone else's. So far the courts have ruled that he
has to keep paying anyway because he didn't contest the matter earlier.
The legal system is big on finality on the matter of paternity, as men
have learned to their misfortune in similar cases lately in Ohio, Texas
and Pennsylvania. (Tim Bryant, "Man must pay support even though he is
not boy's father", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 17, no longer online).
John Tierney on "throwaway dads" ("An Imbalance in the Battle Over Custody",
New York Times, April
29 (requires registration)).
May 22 -- "Jury
Awards Apparent Record $220,000 for Broken Finger".
It happened in Atlanta after 41-year-old dental hygienist Linda K. Powers
took a spin on the dance floor with
Mike D. Lastufka but came to grief when Lastufka "tried a shag-style spin
move"; her thumb wound up broken and she sued him. The previously
reported Georgia record for a broken finger or thumb was $20,000 to a tennis
instructor hurt in an auto accident. (Trisha Renaud, Fulton County
Daily Report, Jan. 28).
May 22 -- Annals
of zero tolerance. In Canton, Ohio, a six-year-old
boy has been suspended from school
for sexual harassment after he jumped
from the tub where he was being given a bath and waved out the window to
a school bus that was picking up his sister (Lori Monsewicz, "Boy, 6, jumps
from tub into sex harassment trouble", Canton Repository, May
11). In the latest "finger-gun"
incident, the principal of a Boston elementary school visited a class of
second-graders to admonish several of them for making the thumb-as-trigger
gesture during a supervised play-acting session; the youngsters were not
subjected to discipline, however. (Ed Hayward, "School gives hands-on lesson
after kids pull 'finger guns'", Boston Herald, March
28). And the American Bar Association Journal -- who says
its views don't coincide with ours occasionally? -- points out that "a
child is three times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed
violently at school" and recounts many noteworthy cases: "A second-grader
who accidentally grabbed her mother's lunch bag containing a steak knife
was disciplined despite turning the bag over to her teacher as soon as
she realized her mistake. A middle-schooler who shared her asthma inhaler
on the school bus with a classmate experiencing a wheezing attack was suspended
for drug trafficking." "Kids are not going to respect teachers and
administrators who cannot appreciate the difference between a plastic knife
and a switchblade," says Virginia lawyer Diane Fener. (Margaret Graham
Tebo, "Zero tolerance, zero sense", ABA Journal, April).