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ARCHIVE -- JULY 2001 (I)

July 9-19 -- Overlawyered.com takes a summer break.  We'll be taking off the next week and a half or two weeks and may update the site sporadically, or more likely not at all; the same goes for reading email.  We reserve the right to come back in if we get even more upset than usual about something.  Looking for reading material in the mean time?  This makes the perfect chance to catch up on our voluminous archives, dating back to July 1999.  Most of this older material is (in our opinion) pretty much as pertinent as the newest entries, since so little ever really seems to change in the beats we write about. (Jump in: 7/99, 10/99, 1/00, 4/00, 7/00, 10/00, 1/01, 4/01, 7/01)

July 7-8 -- Update: Alabama high court reverses conviction in campaign-tactics case.  In an 8-1 decision, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned the misdemeanor convictions for criminal defamation and witness tampering of Jasper attorney Garve Ivey and ordered him acquitted.  The case arose (see Aug. 26, 1999; Sept. 1, 1999; Aug. 31, 2000) after an ex-prostitute leveled lurid sex charges against Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom.  "The Supreme Court said the convictions can't stand because Alabama's criminal defamation law is unconstitutionally worded and because the witness tampering charge was brought in the wrong county," reports AP.  "'Because of this disposition, this opinion cannot and should not be viewed as vindication of Ivey's version of the evidence,' Justice Champ Lyons wrote in the majority decision. ...Ivey's attorney, Barry Ragsdale, said the decision shows the Republican- dominated court can rise above politics to rule in favor of someone who has been a big supporter of Democrats."  Civil suits by Ivey and Windom against each other remain pending.  (Phillip Rawls, "Supreme Court reverses attorney's conviction in 1998 lt. gov. race", AP/AlabamaLive, July 6).

July 6-8 -- The rest of Justice O'Connor's speech.  Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's speech earlier this week to a group of Minnesota women lawyers got front-page publicity because of its reflections on the shortcomings in the administration of the death penalty.  That was not the only topic of her remarks, however.  "O'Connor also said she is bothered by contingency fees that allow for big payoffs for victorious lawyers, especially in class-action lawsuits.  'Such arrangements have made more overnight millionaires than almost any other businesses and the perverse incentives and the untoward consequences they are creating within our profession are many," O'Connor said, adding that lawyers become 'business partners of plaintiffs in seeking large-dollar recoveries rather than act as objective servants of the law.' O'Connor also said she is worried that zero tolerance laws were too willing to sacrifice common sense for the politics of public safety."  ("O'Connor, in Speech, Blasts Death Penalty, Lawyer Fees and Zero Tolerance", AP/ FoxNews.com, July 3). 

July 6-8 -- Batch of reader letters.  Another large sack of correspondence in which readers send us moral support in the "Love Your Neighbor" affair; propose what to do with the trial lawyers who held secret what they knew about Firestone hazards while motorists perished; ask why Florida is investing in those demon tobacco companies; explain why the "tipsy topless dancer" injury case wasn't one for the workers' compensation system; criticize local TV's coverage of the Manhattan drugstore handicapped access suit; and discuss the bagpiper "zero tolerance" case, Ohio auto insurance, and loser-pays.  Two readers take us to task for our qualms about the negligent-homicide prosecution of the Tennessee mom who let her ill-fated two-year-old sit in her lap during a car ride; and a "proud lawyer" writes in to say "I think your website sucks", and the rest of his letter doesn't get any more complimentary from there. 

July 6-8 -- Research for lawyers, courtesy of their targets.  A rash of age-discrimination suits is expected to follow recent business layoffs, especially given the impact of a federal law called the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 which "requires companies to provide workers with age-specific data about who is targeted and who remains on the job after layoffs or early-retirement buyouts."  Put differently, the law requires employers to compile and hand over statistical ammunition so as to make life easier for lawyers who want to take them to court.  It even requires them to inform workers of the exact, not just approximate, age of their departing colleagues -- doesn't that count as some sort of privacy violation?  (Adam Geller, "A gray area", AP/Austin American-Statesman, July 5).  And the Sacramento Bee provides more details on that California legislation, authored by former state senator Tom Hayden, which furthers the cause of reparations litigation by "requir[ing] insurance companies doing business in the state during the 1800s to hand over archival records of insurance policies issued on the lives of slaves" and also directs the taxpayer-backed University of California to conduct research linking the modern California economy to the efforts of slaves.  ("Slavery reparation movement advances with state legislation", Fahizah Alim, Sacramento Bee, June 30).  Gee, who do you think lobbies for laws like these? 

July 6-8 -- Estate-law temptations.  According to Dominic Campisi, a San Francisco litigator who heads a committee on estate malpractice for the American Bar Association, 'there are lots of attorneys that steal from estates.' ... Bad estate lawyers can easily skate free because their clients aren't around to oversee them." And do be extra careful around lawyers who are willing to be named beneficiaries in their clients' wills. (Brigid McMenamin, "Lawyer Take All", Forbes, May 28)(reg).

July 5 -- Welcome Slashdot readers.   Our coverage of Barney's blustering lawyers is here.  Also check out Declan McCullagh's article on Wired News for more details ("Lawyers: Keep Barney Pure", July 4).  And another Slashdot poster points out that satire site Cybercheeze, the target of Barney's lawyers, has its own permissions page which purports to ban linking to its site without using its logo -- whoops, looks like we've just violated that policy. Or have we?

July 5 -- Disparaging stadium nickname leads to suit.  "Invesco Funds Group, which bought the naming rights to the new Denver Broncos stadium, announced Sunday that it plans to sue The Denver Post and sports columnist Woody Paige over Paige's column in Sunday's newspaper.  Paige wrote that an unidentified Invesco executive told him some people in the company call Invesco Field at Mile High 'The Diaphragm' because they say it resembles the birth-control device."  The company says none of its execs would talk that way, even in private.  Conclusion: it's been defamed.  ("Invesco to sue over column", Denver Post, July 2).

July 5 -- Harvard Law's new Bob Barker program in animal rights.  In recognition of a $500,000 gift, Harvard Law School has established the Bob Barker Endowment Fund for the Study of Animal Rights -- the esteemed Mr. Barker, of course, being the longtime host of the TV game show "The Price Is Right" and a prominent supporter of the animal rights movement.  "The Fund will support teaching and research at the Law School in the emerging field of animal rights law.  The income generated by the gift will fund periodic courses and seminars at the Law School on animal rights taught by visiting scholars with a wide range of views and perspectives." (HLS press release, June 13).  Despite the nod toward "a wide range of views and perspectives", we wonder whether Harvard would really have welcomed a mirror-image endowed fund on the study of animal law named after, say, Fred the Furrier.  And if not, can we doubt that its imprimatur is effectively going to one side of this debate?  Bonus: polymathic judge Richard Posner engages Princeton's Peter Singer in a recent Slate online dialogue on critters' entitlements (June 11: parts -1-, -2-, -3-, -4-) (via Arts & Letters Daily).

July 5 -- "Scruggs interested in buying Saints".   "A multimillionaire trial lawyer says he would buy the New Orleans Saints and move them to Mississippi if it becomes an option.  Richard Scruggs, a Mississippi plaintiffs lawyer who made several hundred million dollars from tobacco settlements, said he is interested in buying the team and moving it to Mississippi."  That money must just be burnin' a hole in his pocket -- or is it Angelos envy?  And one of the rival groups of investors interested in the team is headed by another plaintiff's lawyer, Walter Leger Jr.  (AP/Jackson Clarion Ledger, June 29).

July 5 -- Connecticut to "mainstream" retarded kids.   In a recent disabled-rights court settlement, the state of Connecticut has agreed to educate many more retarded students in regular classes alongside other kids.  There are good reasons to fear that such placements will often lead to serious disruption of the class for other students and the teacher -- and also a slower learning pace for many retarded kids themselves than if they were in a class tailored to their needs.  But given the binding nature of a court order, schools will probably find it hard to undo placements on a case-by-case basis when they don't work out ("State agrees to mainstream more disabled kids", AP/Christian Science Monitor, June 19).  This site's editor was on the Fox News Channel last Thursday predicting that (alas) lawyers in the rest of the country will soon be trying to bring the new Connecticut system to their states (see Heather Nauert, "Connecticut Agrees to Teach Some Mentally Retarded Children in Regular Classes," FoxNews.com, July 6).

July 3-4 -- "Reflections of a Survivor of State Judicial Election Warfare".  In this speech to the Manhattan Institute, Justice Robert Young of the Michigan Supreme Court, who with two colleagues survived vicious attacks to retain his seat in last fall's elections, argues that the mounting acrimony and expense of state judicial campaigns arises from a philosophical clash between activist and traditionalist views of the judicial role, made worse by interest-group warfare, with trial lawyers intent on keeping state judiciaries in the hands of their friends (Manhattan Institute Civil Justice Report #2, June: html, PDF formats)

July 3-4 -- "Lawyer says Yellow Book ad made him look bad, sues for damages".  Attorney Harvey W. Daniels of Greensburg, Pa. has sued the publishers of the Westmoreland County Yellow Book "for $500,000 in punitive damages and an unspecified amount in compensatory damages. ... Daniels alleges the advertisement in the 2000-01 Yellow Book failed to mention that he is a personal-injury lawyer.  He also claims that a photo with the previous year's ad was 'so grotesque that the plaintiff looked like an albino and discouraged any client from contacting' him." (AP/Boston Globe, June 29) (sorry, no illustration).

July 3-4 -- "You get a coupon, he gets a fortune".  Vince Carroll of Denver's Rocky Mountain News on the Blockbuster Video class action settlement (June 13).

July 3-4 -- "Court Says Tipsy Topless Dancer Can Sue Club".   A Texas appeals court has ruled that dancer Sarah Salazar of San Antonio, who left work tipsy and had a car accident, can sue her employer, the now-defunct Giorgio's Men's Club, for encouraging her to drink with customers "so they would buy more drinks at inflated prices."  If she was employed by the club, shouldn't this be a workers' comp claim rather than a lawsuit?  Or are we missing something? (Reuters, June 28) (& letter to the editor, July 6).

July 3-4 -- Welcome Online Tonight listeners.   Our editor was a guest Friday night on the radio show hosted by David Lawrence.  Also: Virginia Postrel's "The Scene", congratulating us on our second birthday; Slithy Tove's Live Journal (scroll to May 23); GrassRoots GunRights South Carolina; Infodrome.nl (in Dutch); San Francisco law firm Cox, Wootton, Griffin & Hansen; Declan McCullagh's politechbot, June 26

July 2 -- Two views of Microsoft ruling.  Richard Epstein finds the court of appeals' unanimous ruling to be reasonably good news for Microsoft, and in line with the market's expectations; but Jonathan Groner says the company is now in more trouble on the private suits and might still face a breakup down the road (Richard A. Epstein, "Phew!", Wall Street Journal/ OpinionJournal.com, June 30; Jonathan Groner, "Not Good News for Microsoft", American Lawyer Media, June 29; U.S. v. Microsoft (PDF -- courtesy Law.com)).

July 2 -- Facial-jewelry discrimination charged.  Phone company Ameritech has told three line workers that it will not let them go to work with eyebrow rods and other inserted facial-piercings jewelry, which it worries could obstruct their vision or conduct electricity in an accident.  The three say they're being discriminated against and have filed a grievance.  However, the company may risk being sued if it does let them wear the metal items, given OSHA rules calling for technicians who work near power lines to forgo wearing anything that conducts electricity, even wedding rings (Jon Van, "Piercings pit workers against Ameritech", Chicago Tribune, June 21).

July 2 -- Bounties for ratting out taxpayers?  For nearly 10 years private San Francisco attorneys Michael Mendelson and Wayne Lesser have been goading the city to pursue IBM over its alleged use of property transfers to underpay city real estate taxes.  The city did investigate and negotiated a deal in which the giant computer maker agreed to fork over more tax money, but that deal has been rejected by the board of supervisors and the eventual outcome remains uncertain.  In the mean time, Mendelson and Lesser say they want "attorneys' fees of about $14 million -- 25 percent of the $56 million in back property taxes, interest and penalties they say the city is owed" -- for having pushed the issue onto city lawyers' agenda.  Deputy City Attorney Owen Clements says the city neither needed nor wanted their help and "says city officials were on top of the matter before the two attorneys started making noise."  He's also "adamant that, whatever the outcome of the case, the two lawyers have no fee due them.  'There's no such thing as tax bounty money.'" (Dennis J. Opatrny, "Battle Over Big Blue", The Recorder, June 5).

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