Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Ohio AG office harassment scandal

Do as we say, not as we do?

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann is leading a group of 18 state Attorneys General seeking a ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court that employees can not be retaliated against by their bosses for filing a sexual harassment complaint.

The case comes at an ironic moment for Dann, as his office is investigating claims by two 26-year-old women who work at the Attorney General’s office that they were sexually harassed on and off the job by their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, a close friend of Dann’s who shared a Columbus condominium with him.

(“Dann Defends Woman Amid Own Office’s Sexual Harassment Flap”, Fox8 Cleveland, Apr. 16; Mark Rollenhagen and Reginald Fields, “Employee in Ohio attorney general’s office files police report”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Apr. 19). Amid talk of a cover-up, Dann has also denied a request from the Columbus Dispatch under the state’s public records law “to review three months’ worth of e-mail messages between him and his then-scheduler, Jessica Utovich,” both of whose names turn up as possible witnesses in colorful text messages offered as evidence in the claims. “Dann in the past has said e-mails are public records and also has sought troves of messages from public offices when he was a state senator and the Democratic candidate for Ohio’s top legal office.” (James Nash, “Dann won’t release e-mails”, DispatchPolitics (Columbus Dispatch), Apr. 13; Julie Carr Smyth, “Sexual complaint probe at top cop’s office intensifies”, AP/Akron Beacon Journal, Apr. 18; Mark Naymik, “Dann has habit of hiring his friends; some have proved to be embarrassments”, Openers (Cleveland Plain Dealer blog), Apr. 12; Reginald Fields, “Dann employee files complaint with police”, Openers, Apr. 18).

After initial resistance, Dann did release some information that raised reportorial eyebrows:

In a surprising reversal, Attorney General Marc Dann’s office released 12 pages of notes that detail allegations of repeated sexual harassment and possibly an attempt to destroy text messages that may document the incidents. …

Dann’s Equal Employment Opportunity officer, Angela Smedlund, interviewed Cindy Stankoski and Vanessa Stout on March 31 about problems they had had with their boss, Anthony Gutierrez, who is Dann’s friend and former roommate.

Smedlund’s notes reveal the following:

Stankoski agreed to go out for drinks with Gutierrez last Sept. 10, but said she soon “felt tipsy and trapped.” She agreed to go to an apartment Gutierrez shared with Dann and Communications Director Leo Jennings III. She called and text-messaged friends that night.

In the margin, Smedlund wrote: “Leo & Tony destroyed texts Tony admitted to Charlie.” The notes do not identify Charlie’s last name.

Jennings and Gutierrez are now both on paid administrative leave.

(Laura A. Bischoff, “Dann’s office unveils documents detailing harassment report”, Lebanon, Oh. Western-Star, Apr. 16; Rollenhagen/Fields, “Reports show Dann was aware of Gutierrez’s history of troubles”, Cleveland Plain Dealer/Youngstown Vindicator, Apr. 18; Bertram de Souza, “Will Dann survive the crisis?”, StirFry (Youngstown Vindicator), Apr. 17). Perhaps unfortunately in retrospect, the noisily anti-business Dann had been lionized in the New York Times after his election as a possible “next Eliot Spitzer“.

More: Above the Law, John Phillips (“Other key words are pajamas, condo, inappropriate text messages, Hawaiian pizza, booze, passing out in a bedroom, unbuttoned pants upon waking up, and nothing on but his underwear.”), Law and More. Update: Dann’s emails with scheduler released (Dispatch via Genova)

March 25 roundup

  • Speaking of patients who act against medical advice and sue anyway: doctor who advised against home birth is cleared by Ohio jury in $13 million suit [Plain Dealer and earlier via KevinMD]
  • UK: “A feud over a 4ft-wide strip of land has seen neighbours rack up £300,000 in lawyers’ bills, and left one family effectively homeless.” [Telegraph]
  • Last of the Scruggs judicial bribery defendants without a plea deal, Dickie’s son Zack, takes one [Folo]
  • By reader acclaim: securities trader sues over injury from lap dancer’s attentions [AP/NY Sun]
  • Amid the talk of FISA and retroactive telecom immunity, it would be nice to hear more about the actual lawsuits [Obbie]
  • Australian worker loses suit over firing despite a doctor’s note vouching that stress of worrying about upcoming football game made it medically necessary for him to take day off to go see it [Stumblng Tumblr]
  • Megan McArdle and Tyler Cowen toss around the question of federal FDA pre-emption of drug liability suits, as raised by Medtronic;
  • Should Coughlin Stoia have bought those stolen Coke documents? For one lawprof, question’s a real head-scratcher [David McGowan (San Diego), Legal Ethics Forum] And WSJ news side is oddly unskeptical of trial lawyers’ line that the affair just proves their power to go on fishing expeditions should never have been curtailed [Jones/Slater]
  • Dashboard-cam caught Tennessee cops red-handed planting marijuana on suspect, or so Jonathan Turley suggests — but could it be a little more complicated than that? [WSMV, AP/WATE] (& Greenfield)
  • “Heck Baptists don’t even sue you for disagreeing with them,” though no doubt there are exceptions [Instapundit; NYT on Danish cartoons; Ezra Levant with more on those Canadian speech tribunals]
  • Bestselling authors who sue their critics [four years ago on Overlawyered]

January 15 roundup

  • Client’s suit against Houston tort lawyer George Fleming alleges that cost of echocardiograms done on other prospective clients was deducted as expenses from her fen-phen settlement [Texas Lawyer]
  • Preparing to administer bar exam, New York Board of Law Examiners isn’t taking any chances, will require hopefuls to sign liability waivers [ABA Journal]
  • Thanks to Steven Erickson for guestblogging last week, check out his blogging elsewhere [Crime & Consequences, e.g.]
  • “Freedom of speech” regarded as Yankee concept at Canadian tribunal? [Steyn @ NRO Corner; reactions]
  • Court rules Dan Rather suit against CBS can go to discovery [NYMag; earlier here, here]
  • Served seventeen years in prison on conviction for murdering his parents, till doubts on his guilt grew too loud to ignore [Martin Tankleff case]
  • Orin Kerr and commenters discuss Gomez v. Pueblo County, the recent case where inmate sued jail for (among other things) making it too easy for him to escape [Volokh]
  • New at Point of Law: Cleveland’s suit against subprime lending is even worse than Baltimore’s; Massachusetts takes our advice and adopts payee notification; law firm websites often promote medical misinformation; lawyer for skier suing 8-year-old boy wants court to stop family from talking to the press; Ted rounds up developments in Vioxx litigation once and then again; guess where you’ll find a handsome statue of Adam Smith; and much more;
  • Good news for “resourceful cuckolds” as courts let stand $750,000 alienation of affection award to wronged Mississippi husband [The Line Is Here;]
  • Kimball County, Nebraska cops don’t know whether that $69,040 in cash they seized from a car is going to be traceable to drug traffickers, but plan to keep it in any case [Omaha World-Herald via The Line Is Here]
  • Hunter falls out of tree, and Geoffrey Fieger finds someone for him to sue [seven years ago on Overlawyered]

December 5 roundup

  • Fear of “retribution” and “legal action” among reasons docs don’t report hazardous colleagues and conditions [WaPo on new Annals of Internal Medicine study]
  • Judge rips Milberg for high Chiron fee proposal, questions Skadden’s conflict [The Recorder]
  • Felony murder rule is an American exception with results that can be hard to defend [Liptak, NYT]
  • UK: “Man broke girlfriend’s leg in damages fraud” [Times Online]
  • Often driven by defensive medicine, CAT scans may pose their own risks to patients who undergo them [Newsday on NEJM study]
  • Commentator is glad post offices are lawyering up their Operation Santa gift programs [McDonough, CalLaw LegalPad; earlier; possibly related]
  • Quebec judge nixes suit by Concordia University mass murderer against former colleagues [Canadian Press]
  • Update on Kennewick man and Indian-remains legislation [WashTimes; earlier]
  • Magic of compound interest? Uncollected 1977 award for victim of Evel Knievel attack said to have mounted by now to $100 million [AP/Yahoo]
  • School discipline now a heavily lawyer-driven affair [Charleston Post & Courier courtesy Common Good]
  • Complaint: Cleveland housing authority should have done more renovations to accommodate extremely obese tenant [four years ago on Overlawyered]

Flood of Taser litigation

Taser International stock dropped from $33 to $6 in 2004-05 after the plaintiffs’ bar engaged in a huge publicity campaign challenging the safety of Taser devices. Taser claims this week that it has won its 45th straight products liability case. (“Taser wins 45th-straight court case”, Business Journal of Phoenix, May 21). Little celebration to shareholders, as the stock is still in the single digits, perhaps because of the overhang: those 45 victories can be completely undone if a 46th court awards bankrupting punitive damages.

As Walter noted in November, Taser Int’l. is hardly innocent of engaging in litigation itself, though its suits against medical examiners seek only a change in ruling, and not damages. (Karen Farkas, “Taser sues over ’cause-of-death’ rulings”, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Nov. 21). Kohler’s motion to dismiss for lack of standing was denied in January, and the case is in discovery. Taser has also sued an expert witness who testified against it in a losing case. (Taser 10-Q, May 2007).

Earlier discussion of Taser litigation: Feb. 17, 2006.

Fining the wrong party, criminal edition

We regularly complain about the fact that the legal system is unable — or at least unwilling — to police attorneys who violate the rules. But this failure is not limited to the plaintiff’s bar in civil cases. Lawrence Floyd was a prosecutor in Cuyahoga County who, according to the judge, “deliberately committed prosecutorial misconduct” by making unconstitutional remarks at a murder trial, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.

His punishment? A $26,000 fine — the amount that a new trial will cost taxpayers. Sounds reasonable, right? Not quite: the judge declined to fine Floyd; instead, she fined taxpayers that amount of money. That’ll show him.

(via Crime & Federalism)

Blawg Review #56 at Point of Law

Ted and I join with Jim Copland, Larry Ribstein, Tom Kirkendall, and Sam Munson this morning as co-hosts of the week’s traveling carnival of law-related blogs, Blawg Review, over at Point of Law. A very few highlights:

* Ted comments on the self-unmasking of pseudonymous blogger “Juan Non-Volokh”, on various matters connected with Joe DiMaggio. and on Howard Bashman’s Stakhanovite work pace.

* Jim discusses the tax consequences for plaintiffs of confidentiality agreements in settlements, via Evan Schaeffer’s other weblog; a new way for the plaintiff’s securities bar to get around PSLRA; and a Court TV reality show set in New York City’s real-life night court.

* Larry, Tom and Sam round up posts on corporate law, on the Enron trial and other prosecutorial matters, and on a variety of subjects including law review style.

* And I discuss an on-the-job love triangle that eventuated in a Title VII lawsuit alleging sex discrimination; liability headaches for online enterprises and software manufacturers; the case in which the Cleveland bar association is trying to get a dad penalized for unauthorized practice of law after he successfully represented his own son in special-ed proceedings; Long Island legislator Jeffrey Toback’s demagogic suit against Google for allegedly interfering with children, as dissected by Eric Goldman; and the fast-rising number of cases filed under ERISA, the federal pension and employee-benefits statute.

It’s all here. Next week’s Blawg Review will be hosted by Lawyerlike.

R.I. jury finds former lead paint makers liable

“A Rhode Island jury today found Sherwin-Williams Co. and two other paintmakers guilty of creating a ‘public nuisance’ by manufacturing lead paint after it was found to be dangerous.” If upheld, the verdict will force the companies to contribute millions toward abatement of existing paint; a judge will also consider demands for punitive damages. The ruling, the first of its kind, is also expected to encourage the filing of more suits against the industry; the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee are among those with suits in progress. (Maya R. Payne, “Jury finds against three paintmakers”, Crain’s Cleveland Business, Feb. 22; AP/Boston Globe; Reuters). Blogger Jane Genova has been covering the three-month trial from the scene.

The verdict is an unfortunate confirmation that the “tobacco model” of mass tort litigation remains alive and well. In particular, contingency-fee private counsel have once again managed to 1) dream up a novel idea for litigation based on the idea that some category of public expenditure is really blameable on long-ago sales of a product; 2) sell the idea of suing to public officials who agree to front the action, and who thus provide (along with advocacy groups) a suitably public face for the lawsuit; and 3) manage to get liability attributed retroactively to businesses whose actions decades ago were plainly lawful under the standards of that time. In the Rhode Island case, in particular, the outcome represents the culmination of years of careful groundwork by South Carolina-based asbestos/tobacco powerhouse plaintiff’s firm Motley Rice (earlier Ness Motley), which some years embarked on a strategy of making itself a behind-the-scenes kingmaker in Rhode Island — one of America’s most politically insider-ish, as well as smallest, states. For details on how the Motley firm quickly established itself the number one donor in Rhode Island politics, with special generosity toward officials who could be helpful to its idea for a lead paint suit, see Jun. 7, 2001.

For more coverage of the Rhode Island suit, see Jun. 8-10, 2001; Jul. 2, Nov. 1 and Nov. 16, 2005; and various other entries.

Nanotech’s legal risks

They’re anything but infinitesimal, or so conferees were told recently:

“However,” Monica warns, “no industry — including the nanotechnology industry — is beyond the reach of American trial lawyers. Concerns about possible health and safety hazards posed by nanomaterials are being raised among labor unions and environmentalists; trial lawyers cannot be far behind. Some have even begun to compare nanotechnology to asbestos, a material plagued by $70 billion in litigation over the past three decades.”

Lawyer John C. Monica Jr. of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur in Cleveland, along with colleagues, wrote the paper, which was entitled “Preparing for Future Health Litigation: The Application of Product Liability Law to Nanotechnology.” (Keay Davidson, “Big troubles may lurk in super-tiny tech”, San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 31)(more tech law coverage)(& welcome InstaPundit readers).

Geoffrey Fieger update

You will recall that Geoffrey Fieger’s modus operandi is to engage in outrageous behavior to get judges thrown off of cases and otherwise accuse judges who rule against him or his clients of misconduct (Nov. 20; Mar. 24). Now, in the aftermath of Hollins v. Jordan (Nov. 20 and links therein), Fieger is attacking an Ohio probate court judge who is daring to try to protect the settlement of the brain-damaged and legally incompetent plaintiff from Fieger’s machinations.

“This is all about intimidation,” [Judge] Corrigan said. He accused the plaintiffs’ out-of-town lawyers of “forum-shopping” to take the case away from him and give it to a Michigan judge more acquiescent to their wishes.

(James F. McCarty, “$30 million verdict spawns new legal battle”, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Oct. 9). This dispute is over a $1.5 million pretrial settlement with another defendant; the $30 million verdict is also on appeal.

Back in Michigan, Fieger is offering to spend millions of dollars of his own money to run for Michigan Attorney General on the Democratic ticket. (Steven Harmon, “Fieger ready to pour own cash into attorney general fight”, Grand Rapids Press, Oct. 21). Fortunately for the Democratic Party, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the idea. (Kathleen Gray, “Fieger considers running for state attorney general”, Detroit Free Press, Oct. 12). John Engler easily beat Fieger, 62 percent to 38 percent, when Fieger ran for governor in 1998.

The targeting of the incumbent attorney general, Mike Cox, may be related to “an ongoing criminal investigation of a complaint from Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land about alleged filing irregularities on $400,000 of Fieger-financed spending opposing the successful 2004 re-election of Republican Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman.” (George Weeks, “Fieger isn’t faking bid for attorney general”, Detroit News, Oct. 13). Fieger has demonstrated his misunderstanding of principles of federal jurisdiction with a federal lawsuit against Cox and Land in an attempt to squelch the campaign finance investigation. (AP, Oct. 13).