Posts Tagged ‘Al Franken’

Senate hearing on litigation reform

Arbitration was on several senators’ minds, although it isn’t among the topics of the four bills considered. [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine] This from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was passing strange, though:

“Now I know that there are bad actors out there – those who file frivolous lawsuits against hard-working and honest businesspeople – but these bills aren’t the solution,” Franken said.

“They don’t help weed out frivolous claims early on. They seek to deter meritorious claims by making class action suits so expensive, lengthy and onerous that people won’t bother to bring them in the first place.

Among the four bills before the committee was the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, intended to reinvigorate federal Rule 11 sanctions, and described as follows:

It would make sanctions mandatory against attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits. Currently, judges have discretion on whether to impose sanctions.

Plaintiffs also have a 21-day safe harbor in which they can withdraw their claims after a motion for sanctions has been filed.

It is hard to know how to describe LARA’s intent as anything other than to deter the filing and pursuit of meritless claims, thus “weed[ing them] out… early on.”

July 29 roundup

  • Don’t: “Lawyer Disbarred for Verbal Aggression to Pay $9.8M Fine for Hiding Cash Overseas” [Weiss, ABA Journal]
  • Loser-pays might help: “Dropped malpractice lawsuits cost legal system time and money” [Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe]
  • “Kim Kardashian and the Problem With ‘Celebrity Likeness’ Lawsuits” [Atlantic Wire]
  • Kim Strassel on the Franken-spun Jamie Leigh Jones case [WSJ]
  • Peggy Little interviews Prof. Lester Brickman (Lawyer Barons) on new Federalist Society podcast;
  • Worse than Wisconsin? “Weaponizing” recusal at the Michigan Supreme Court [Jeff Hadden, Detroit News]
  • New York legislature requires warning labels for sippy cups [NYDN]

July 12 roundup

  • Kagan to senators: please don’t confuse my views with Mark Tushnet’s or Harold Koh’s [Constitutional Law Prof]
  • Too much like a Star Wars lightsaber? Lucasfilm sends a cease-and-desist to a laser pointer maker [Mystal, AtL]
  • Ottawa, Canada: family files complaint “against trendy wine bar that turned away dinner party because it included 3mo baby” [Drew Halfnight, National Post]
  • “House left Class Action Fairness Act alone in SPILL Act” [Wood/PoL, earlier]
  • Not so indie? Filmmaker doing anti-Dole documentary on Nicaraguan banana workers says he took cash from big plaintiff’s law firm Provost Umphrey [AP/WaPo, WSJLawBlog, Erik Gardner/THREsq., new plaintiffs’ charges against Dole]
  • Will liability ruling result in closure of popular Connecticut recreational area? [Rick Green, Hartford Courant; earlier]
  • Class action lawyer Sean Coffey, running for New York attorney general, has many generous supporters [NYDN, more, WNYC (Sen. Al Franken headlines closed fundraiser at Yale Club)]
  • “Judge Reduces Damages Award by 90% in Boston Music Downloading Trial” [NLJ, earlier on Tenenbaum case]

July 2 roundup

  • Report: European sunscreens use superior ingredients US regulators haven’t gotten around to approving [NYT]
  • Some in Pakistan want Zuckerberg executed for hosting “draw Mohammed” [Freethinker, UK]
  • GM fought Clean Air Act? “Sen. Franken’s bad environmental history” [Adler/Volokh]
  • Scary McChesneyite plans for federal intervention in media: FTC seems to be listening [Thierer, City Journal] FCC relations with Free Press on the skids? [Mike Riggs, Daily Caller]
  • In 1978 Canada Supreme Court judicially imposed cap on noneconomic damages, world doesn’t seem to have ended for Canadian litigants [Wood, PoL]
  • “Landlord victorious in Peeps trial” [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • Who’ll wind up paying in Chinese drywall litigation? [Risk and Insurance]
  • How not to get out of jury duty [Abnormal Use]

March 22 roundup

  • No back-alley bikini lines: New Jersey consumer affairs director rejects proposed ban on Brazilian waxing [Asbury Park Press, JammieWearingFool, Jaira Lima and protest site, Popehat, News12 video] Florida, however, won’t let you get a fish-nibble pedicure [WWSB]
  • Kids doing well in homeschool but divorcing dad disapproves, judge says they must be sent to public [WRAL, Volokh]
  • Al Franken comes out for loser-pays in litigation (well, in this case at least) [MSNBC “First Read”]
  • U.K.: “A man who tried to kill himself has won £90,000 in damages from the hospital which saved his life but hurt his arm in the process” [Telegraph]
  • Life in places without the First Amendment: “Australia’s Vast, Scattershot Censorship Blacklist Revealed” [Slashdot, Volokh, Popehat]; British Telecom passes all internet traffic through “‘Cleanfeed” filters to identify (inter alia) racist content [Glasgow Herald]
  • More on that suit by expelled student against Miss Porter’s School; “Oprichniki” said to be not identical to Keepers of Tradition [NYTimes; our December coverage]
  • “Why We Need Cop Cameras” [Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune] Shopkeepers terrorized in Philadelphia: “The thugs had badges.” [Ken at Popehat]
  • Counting former lobbyists in Obama Administration? Don’t forget Kathleen Sebelius [Jeff Emanuel, RedState]
  • Wisconsin: “$50,000 claim filed over girl’s time-out in school” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Authors: sue us, please

“Paradoxically, a lawsuit, especially a flimsy one, can be a boon to a book’s fortunes. And increasingly, some writers and publishers admit to hoping they’ll attract one.” Humorist Al Franken was widely envied by other authors when Fox News filed its much-derided suit against his book title (see Nov. 22), and just this past week a small publisher, Soft Skull Press, got a windfall of coverage when publisher HarperCollins sent a cease and desist order (from which it soon retreated) suggesting that the title of one of its new books, “How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office” was too close to the title of Michael Moore’s “Stupid White Men”. Of course, things can get sticky fast if the legal complaint really does have merit. (Christopher Dreher, “So sue me… please!”, Boston Globe, Mar. 21) (via Tyler Cowen, Volokh).

“My Big Fat” lawsuit threat

Fox, who was previously on the offense when its sister network Fox News complained about Al Franken’s use of “fair and balanced” (Nov. 22 and links therein), now finds itself subject to a demand letter from Gold Circle Films, who complains that the title “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé,” a reality prank series that ends Monday, is too similar to the 2002 movie title “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” (Sarah Hall, “Big Fat Stupid Lawsuit”, E! Online, Feb. 18). Neither the makers of the 1992 Swedish movie “My Big Fat Father” nor, to bring it full circle, Al Franken, who wrote the 1996 book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot,” have commented.

This is not just a 21st-century issue. Urban legend has it that a movie studio complained that the movie “A Night in Casablanca” would be confused with the more memorable Humphrey Bogart movie “Casablanca”; Groucho Marx responded (perhaps as a publicity stunt) in a letter by noting that the Marx Brothers were brothers long before Warner Brothers was using the term. “I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.” (Groucho Marx, 1946).

Update: Fox gets skinned

Federal judge Denny Chin in Manhattan rebuffed Fox News’s request for an injunction to prevent the Penguin Group from releasing humorist Al Franken’s new book with a title mocking the network’s “Fair and Balanced” slogan (see Aug. 12). “There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case,” said Judge Chin. “This case is wholly without merit both factually and legally.” “During arguments held before his ruling, Chin asked Fox lawyer Dorie Hansworth if she really believed that the [book’s] cover was confusing. ‘To me, it’s quite ambiguous as to what the message is,’ she said. ‘It’s a deadly serious cover … This is much too subtle to be considered a parody.” The book’s cover is dominated by its title, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”. (Gail Appleson, “Fox Loses Bid to Stop Sale of Franken Book”, Reuters/Yahoo, Aug. 22). Ernest Svenson (Ernie the Attorney) chides Fox not only for the weakness of its substantive trademark position but also for using its complaint as a vehicle for personal attacks on Franken: “the courts aren’t there for litigants who want retribution.” (“A lawyer’s take on Al Franken’s First Round Legal Victory”, Blogcritics, Aug. 22). Eugene Volokh also comments.

Fox’s thin pelt

Shrinking the parody exception? “Fox News Channel has sued liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to stop them from using the phrase ‘fair and balanced’ in the title of his upcoming book. Filed Monday in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Penguin to rename the book, ‘Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.’ It also asks for unspecified damages. Fox News registered ‘Fair & Balanced’ as a trademark in 1995, the suit says.” The suit claims that Franken displays a “clear” intent “to exploit Fox News’ trademark, confuse the public as to the origins of the book and, accordingly, boost sales of the book”. (“Fox Sues Humorist Al Franken Over Slogan”, AP/Washington Post, Aug. 11). Last month it was reported that lawyers for Fox had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Austin, Tex. creators of a T-shirt with a message “Faux News: We Distort, You Comply”, parodying the network’s well-known slogan. (Lee Nichols, Austin Chronicle, Jul. 11; AgitProperties website, Jun. 20).

In June radio talk show host Michael Savage, who at the time also had a TV talk show on MSNBC, sued three critics who had been urging advertisers to boycott his show (“Savage sues ‘rats'”, Southern Voice, Jun. 27; defendants and TakeBacktheMedia). Separately, Savage’s producers fell short in an effort to argue that’s domain name was “confusingly similar” to that of Savage’s own website and should be forfeited. (& more on the Fox/Franken case: New York Times, Eugene Volokh, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, and (via InstaPundit) Alex Knapp, Jeff Jarvis)(& letter to the editor, Dec. 6).