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NBA Games Soon to Be Settled Via Lawsuit

A “slam dunk” story for the day after the NBA Draft:

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t shy about using multiple avenues to promote himself and his team. In what is likely an attempt to keep his name in the news, Cuban is suing Golden State Warriors head coach Don Nelson, who used to coach the Mavericks, for knowing the Mavericks personnel a little too well. This “inside” knowledge, claims Cuban, helped the eighth-seeded Warriors beat the #1 seed Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs this year.

From the story:

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes Golden State’s sizzling shooting alone didn’t sink his basketball team in the most stunning playoff defeat in NBA history.

That’s according to Don Nelson’s attorney, John O’Connor, who said Cuban is suing Nelson, claiming the Warriors beat the Mavs in the first round because the Warriors’ coach — and former coach of the Mavs — had “confidential information and he [Cuban] wants to enjoin Don from coaching against the Mavericks.”…

According to the story, when Nelson left the Mavericks, he signed a “non-compete” agreement with Cuban, which Nelson claims ended when he took the job with Golden State. Cuban contends that this agreement is still in effect, which should prohibit Nelson from being able to coach another team.

I’ve often wondered how this actually affects sports teams – for instance, when a baseball player is traded mid-season to a competitor. Does it do his new team any good to have his inside knowledge of how the other team works? Isn’t it an advantage to know all the signals and shifts the other team can make, not to mention the personnel tendencies?

It’s still up in the air, however, which is a more embarrassing move for a franchise: Cuban’s lawsuit, or drafting a Chinese guy who may be lying about his age, refuses to work out against a human being, and has the Chinese government saying he will never play for your team. But I’m not bitter.

Speeding Into Court

I smell class action:

Frequent N.H. Speeder Wants Limit Raised

DOVER, N.H. – A man with a penchant for speedy driving has come up with an unusual tactic for beating speeding tickets — raise the limit. So far this year, Larry Lemay has been ticketed four times for speeding.

Rather than slow down, Lemay is suing the state Department of Transportation to study traffic and speed limits across New Hampshire, to see whether limits could be raised. … Lemay said he believes many speed limits are set intentionally low so the state can cash in on drivers.

I’m not sure exactly what this lawsuit is meant to accomplish. So he wins, and a judge orders the state to do a “study” that it doesn’t want to do? Want three guesses as to what the study is going to say?

On the other hand, I might have to give him a call to see if I can file an amicus brief. I have a lot of parking tickets that I think violate my right to park on the sidewalk.

Failed an Exam? See You in Court

27-year old former nursing student Nicholas Perrino is suing Columbia University to overturn an “F” he received after missing an exam:

Nicholas Perrino was kicked out of the Ivy League institution’s School of Nursing for missing an exam, and now he is suing to get back in.

Perrino is asking a judge to remove the “F” from his transcript, reinstate him at the school and reimburse tuition costs for classes he has already taken.

Presumably, legal action against universities by disgruntled students is fairly common. However, two of Perrino’s statements deserve scrutiny.

First, he claims he “told his instructors” he would be missing the exam. That is far different than getting permission to miss the exam. Had his instructors granted his request, he likely would have said so in the court documents. The more likely scenario is that on the way out the door, he e-mailed his professor to say “sorry, I have an emergency and can’t make the exam,” or something similar.

Secondly, he complains that “it’s not like (he) killed someone.” Actually, there’s a much less compelling case against him had he actually killed someone and not missed the exam. If he ran over someone with his car and the professors flunked him as a result, he may actually have a case. But by missing an exam, he gave them every reason to fail him.

It’s difficult to envision Columbia not having some sort of written policy on unexcused absences for student exams. The fact that Perrino is representing himself may be an indication of how he feels about his chances in court.

Prisoner Rights Update: Swedish Edition

Whereas some might think prison is a place to teach inmates valuable lessons (“don’t stab people,” etc.), it appears more Swedish prisoners are learning the value of a good lawyer:

Court Upholds Prisoners’ Right to Porn

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Convicted sex offenders in Sweden are free to read pornography in their cells following a court ruling that has angered the prison service.

The Supreme Administrative Court in Stockholm last week ruled that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service had no right to deny a rape convict access to his porn magazines.

Prison officials had argued that reading porn would interfere with the man’s rehabilitation program. They also said the magazines posed a security problem for staff and other inmates because they could increase the risk of the man relapsing into criminal behavior.

On the bright side, he’ll be blind when he’s finally released.

Large Payment Awarded After 30 Years of Divorce

British businessman Dennis North’s wife Jean left him 30 years ago after she began seeing another man. Their split became official in 1981, when they signed an agreement that granted Jean their house and income from rents on their various properties.

North went on to be a wildly successful businessman, while his ex-wife never worked. However, a judge has just ordered North to pay Jean a large lump-sum payment because she has “fallen on hard times” due to a number of money-losing investments:

Mr North, 70, has been ordered by a court to hand her another £202,000.

The order follows a series of big-money divorce cases which have swung the law against husbands and resulted in huge payments to ex-wives even after short childless marriages. The North case now threatens to make husbands pay large sums even decades after a split.

Existing English law gives ex-spouses who are receiving maintenance payments the ability to request a lump-sum payment instead. Jean’s attorneys believe she is entitled to this money, and state their case by responding to the odd “cherry” reference:

But Deborah Bangay, QC, for Mrs North, said: “This was not a second bite at the cherry but it is what are her reasonable needs. The court was entitled to take into account the obvious wealth of the former husband.”

She said it was not Mrs North’s fault that her investments had gone wrong. The district judge’s award had been at the “bottom end of the spectrum”.

So, to recap: This woman destroys her marriage, never gets a job, lives well beyond her means, loses a ton of money in bad investments, then gets a large cash payment for her trouble? Think there’s a line of people willing to be her investment advisor?

Your Prisoner Sex Change Update

A Massachusetts inmate serving life in prison for murder is in court demanding the state pay for a sex-change operation:

The case of Michelle — formerly Robert — Kosilek is being closely watched across the country by advocates for other inmates who want to undergo a sex change.

[…]

Kosilek, 58, was convicted of strangling his wife in 1990. He claimed he killed her in self-defense after she spilled boiling tea on his genitals.

Naturally, expert witnesses are lining up to defend Kosilek, and a law firm is representing him pro bono:

Two other doctors retained and paid for by the department’s outside health provider, the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health Program, at a cost of just under $19,000 said they believe the surgery is medically necessary for Kosilek. Two other doctors who work for the health provider agreed with that.

In addition, two psychiatrists who testified for Kosilek recommended the surgery. A Boston law firm representing Kosilek for free paid for those experts but would not disclose the cost.

Aside from the propriety of taxpayers paying for a sex change operation (which Kosilek may or may not have been able to pay for himself had he not been in prison), corrections officials are correct that having a (now) woman in a male prison could pose significant problems. It is almost a given that should the operation be performed, Kosilek would petition to be moved to a women’s prison to protect his own safety.

Also, note the interesting correction at the bottom of the story:

(This version CORRECTS `himself’ to `herself.’)

Kosilek hasn’t had the sex change yet, so technically he is still a man – apparently the newspaper thought so, too. It would be interesting to find out who compelled them to change the story to portray Kosilek as a female – and in the process perhaps avoid their own lawsuit.

As noted in the story, Wisconsin went through a similar situation in 2004 when inmate Scott (now Donna Dawn) Konitzer was denied genital gender reassignment surgery by the Department of Corrections and sued the state. Department policy had been to provide hormone therapy to those who had been receiving it for a year before their incarceration, but surgery was not provided as an option. As Kosilek now has, Konitzer claimed denial of the procedure constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As a result of Konitzer’s lawsuit, the Wisconsin Legislature actually passed into law a ban on both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Naturally, that new law has been challenged in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.

Tattoos Now a Civil Right?

29-year old Russell Parrish decided he wanted to tell his life story through his tattoos. Unfortunately for him, his life story now contains a chapter on why he couldn’t get a job because he’s covered with tattoos. Naturally, he claims this is all a result of discrimination:

His tattoos cover his right and left arms and hands. There is a spider in a web crawling up his neck.

Russell says in the last two months he’s applied for over 100 jobs. In almost half of them, he says he was denied because of his tattoos. He says that’s discrimination.

Having tried the EEOC and the Department of Labor, Parrish is now lobbying state lawmakers for a new law that would protect him from discrimination against tattoos. In other words, he now needs the government to step in and bail him out of the bad lifestyle decisions he’s made.

FEC v. WRTL

Yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life is of special importance to those of us in Wisconsin, since we have watched the case unfold before our eyes since its inception. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Court, in a 5-4 vote, struck down a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law which prohibited so-called “issue advocacy” by unregistered groups in a period of 60 days before a general election. Wisconsin Right to Life had run advertisements critical of Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl for their perceived role in holding up judicial appointments, but these ads were deemed to be illegal under McCain-Feingold, despite not advocating for the electoral defeat of either. Yesterday’s decision upheld WRTL’s right to run the ads, as the Court determined they were not “express advocacy.”

The culture of speech restriction with regard to campaigns has been prevalent in Wisconsin for some time, and produces some fairly odd applications of the law. This was demonstrated during last November’s elections, when the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (a pro-campaign finance reform group) actually filed a complaint to bar a Catholic diocese from urging its parishoners to support a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. (Church Accused of Illegal Lobbying, Madison Capital Times, Oct. 18, 2006) At the same time they were attempting to use state law to block the Catholic Church’s right to support the constitutional amendment, the WDC was actually publicly lobbying against the amendment – yet they didn’t see their own activities as “express advocacy.”

So while it is clear yesterday’s decision represented a marginal victory for free speech rights at the federal level, there are steps states can take to ensure political speech isn’t muzzled come election time. When churches break the law by teaching their beliefs, it should alert states to dangerous path campaign finance restrictions are taking us.

Louisiana Town “Cracking” Down

When showing your crack is outlawed, then only outlaws will be showing their crack:

Cajun Town Bans Saggy Pants (NYT, June 13)

DELCAMBRE, La. (AP) — Sag your britches somewhere else, this Cajun-country town has decided. Mayor Carol Broussard said he would sign an ordinance the town council approved this week setting penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for being caught in pants that show undergarments or certain parts of the body.

I totally envision a Footloose-type of situation here where a spry young high schooler rolls into town and teaches all the townsfolk that butt cracks can be a perfectly beautiful and natural occurrence.

The downside of this ordinance, of course, is that it will drive all the plumbers out of town. Better get your sink fixed before it goes into effect. Oh, and as long as we’re talking about plumbers, it gives me an excuse to show you this outstanding commercial. That is all.

A Comedian Who ACTUALLY Kills

You may have heard of condemned Texas death row inmate Patrick Knight, who has expressed his desire to tell a joke as his final statement tonight. (June 4)

From the story:

Knight acknowledges there’s nothing funny about his likely execution later this month for the fatal shooting of his neighbors, Walter and Mary Werner, almost 16 years ago outside Amarillo. But to help him come up with his final statement, Knight is accepting jokes mailed to him on Texas’ death row or e-mailed to a friend who has a Web site for him. The friend then mails him the jokes…

He said he’s already received about 250 wisecracks.

“Lawyer jokes are real popular,” he said. “Some of them are a little on the edge. I’m not going to use any profanity if I can find the one I want, or any vulgar content. It wouldn’t be bad if it was a little bit on the edge. That would be cool.”

Thank goodness he is sparing lawyers from being subjected to an off-color joke. Good thing he’s on their side – unfortunately, it’s with everyone else that he gets a little “murdery.” And I especially appreciate his concern for the feelings of the family. Here’s a valuable tip when you want to show respect for a family – try to avoid shooting them to death. I read that in an etiquette book once, I think.