Author Archive

Who is Responsible for the Death of Susie Lopez?

Some call him troubled. Others call him a “coldblooded killer.” Whatever you call him, there is no dispute that this past weekend, Jose Pena used a toddler — Susie Lopez — as a human shield as he exchangd gunfire with the LAPD. As a result, the LAPD shot and killed the toddler, along with Pena. It was reportedly the first time in the SWAT team’s 38 year history that a hostage has been killed by the LAPD. The family of Susie Lopez has retained a lawyer, Luis Carrillo, and accusations of excessive force and cover ups are already flying.

It has also been reported that Pena told the police that he was not going to jail, Pena told his stepdaughter that he was going to shoot his own daughter and Pena threatened his own wife. Had the LAPD not acted in the face of these acts and threats, does anyone doubt that lawyers would be second guessing the LAPD for inaction? (LA Times “Coroner Says Toddler Shot by LAPD Officer,” Jul. 13, MSNBC, “War of words escalates in deadly L.A. shooting,” Jul. 14.)

Talk Show Host Don Imus sued for Slander by Doctor

Dr. Howard Allen Pearson has sued talk show host Don Imus, NBC, MSNBC and Westwood One Inc. for slander. The lawsuit stems from Imus’ on-air comments about the quality of services rendered by Dr. Pearson in July 2004 for a child staying at Imus’ ranch. Imus reportedly said that Dr. Pearson: “was one of the worst doctors in the world and did not care if children suffered.” (Fox News, “Doctor Sues Don Imus for Slander,” Jul. 11.)

Judge OK’s False Claims Act against Contractor Providing Security in Iraq

Two ex-Army Rangers formed a security firm — Custer Battles — and contracted with the U.S. government to supply security for the Baghdad airport. Two former employees of Custer Battles are now blowing the whistle, filing suit utilizing the False Claims Act and hoping to claim a share of the lawsuit proceeds which is nominally brought in the name of the U.S. government. An interesting legal issue was presented when Custer Battles argued in court papers that the False Claims Act only protects the government of the United States from fraud — not the Coalition Povisional Government. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected that argument last week by holding that money paid for Custer Battles’ services was, in part, seized by the Coalition from the old Iraq regime. Such funds are — under principles of international law — the property of the United States. (Richmond Times Dispatch “Whistleblowers can press lawsuit, Two allege (sic) security firm committed fraud on Iraqi contracts,” Jul. 11.)

Convicted Arsonist Sues Over Denial of College Football Privileges

Sione Havili was convicted of felony arson. He pled guilty to tossing two plastic jugs filled with gasoline into a home. After serving his time, he wanted to play college football, like any average kid. Utah school officials denied him his right to play football and have now been sued. (“Former running back sues Utah AD, former president,” MSNBC Jul. 10.) [Cross-posted at SoCalLawBlog]. Good for Utah. Torching someone’s house is just plain wrong.

Lawsuit Filed to Prevent Killing of Pigs on Channel Islands

A lawsuit was filed on Tuesday to halt the killing of feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island off of the California coast. The pigs are causing problems with the island’s ecosystem. Nonetheless, the plaintiffs contend that the Channel Islands National Park officials have “rushed to judgment” in deciding to kill the pigs. (Mercury News, “Lawsuit seeks to stop eradication of pigs on Santa Cruz Island,” Jul. 6, 2005).

Federal Lawsuit for Slave Reparations Dismissed Again

A federal lawsuit seeking reparations for descendants of slaves was dismissed for a second time on Wednesday. Even the inclusion of a 104 year old who plaintiff claimed to have lived in a slave hut with his family was not enough to save the lawsuit. ( Tribune, “Lawsuit seeking reparations for slavery dismissed again” July 6, 2005). Overlawyered previously reported on this case on Jan. 26 and Jan 30.

Disgruntled Talk Show Caller Presses Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Controversial Talk Show Host Tom Leykis bluntly told a caller that he was too old to be a caller. Specifically, Leykis said: “You’re not just older than my demographic, you’re the grandfather of my demographic.” You can read the entire transcript of the call at this June 19, 2005 post at

The caller, Marty Ingels, was upset and naturally filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, violations of California’s laws prohibiting discrimination. In response, the radio show filed an an anti-SLAPP motion to obtain a quick dismissal of the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds. The trial court granted the motion to strike and Ingels, the caller, appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s ruling.

Tomorrow’s edition of Calendar Live continues the saga. Ingels is now petitioning the California Supreme Court to reinstate the lawsuit and plans to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if the California high court fails to take action.

Overlawyered previously reported about the case on June 10, 2005. (“Not too old to sue Tom Leykis”, Robert W. Welkos, Los Angeles Times – Calendar Live, July 6, 2005.)