I’ve got a new blog post up at Cato on the article in yesterday’s New York Times tracing how unsustainable police and fire contracts — the product, more specifically, of a pro-union state law imposing binding arbitration on municipalities — have driven the city of Central Falls to the brink of bankruptcy. Read it here. Matt Welch discusses the same article at Reason “Hit and Run.”
John Berlau recalls Memphis, Kansas City and Chicago strikes accompanied by arson, sabotage, and loss of both life and property:
If the IAFF [International Association of Fire Fighters] and its allies get their way with federal legislation to mandate collective bargaining for public-safety officers in every American community, the deadly fire-fighter strikes of the recent past will almost certainly be a part of our “progressive” future. …The biggest congressional priority of the IAFF over the past few years has been the so-called Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which would force unionization and collective bargaining on every one of the nation’s local fire departments. … According to the watchdog Public Service Research Council, public-employee strikes quadruple, on average, in the years after state laws mandating public-sector collective bargaining take effect.
“The city of Seattle is seeking to overturn a $12.8 million judgment awarded to a former firefighter, who claimed he was permanently disabled by an on-duty fall, after investigators secretly shot video of the man chopping wood, playing horseshoes and bocce ball, and even breaking into a victory dance.” [Jennifer Sullivan, Seattle Times]
I’ve got an opinion piece up at Forbes.com on today’s Supreme Court decision in Ricci v. DiStefano, the New Haven firefighter reverse-discrimination case. The title: “Sued If You Do, Sued If You Don’t: Through the Looking Glass on Affirmative Action” (& link thanks to Ramesh Ponnuru, NRO “Corner”, Daniel Schwartz, Connecticut Employment Law Blog, Jon Hyman, Ohio Employment Law (to whom thanks for the kind comments as well), and Scott Greenfield, Simple Justice).
Boston Globe: “The families of two Boston firefighters killed in a West Roxbury restaurant fire and a third firefighter injured in the blaze will split $2.2 million to settle lawsuits they brought against the restaurant, its landlord, and a grease-cleaning company, according to a source involved in the agreement.” As we’ve mentioned in the past, the “firefighters’ rule”, a “doctrine that historically has barred lawsuits by public safety officers against those whose negligence has allegedly led to emergencies […] has decayed considerably in recent years in some jurisdictions, and suits by firefighters, police, paramedics and other rescuers have multiplied.” Also of note: “when they died, [one of the two firefighters] had traces of cocaine in his blood, and [the other’s] blood alcohol level was .27, three times the legal limit to drive in Massachusetts, according to two government officials who described the results to the Globe”. The firefighters’ union has thus far successfully blocked efforts to subject its members to drug and alcohol testing.
Last year in Shingle Springs, Calif., a schizophrenic 34-year-old named Eddie Mies gunned down his father and then engaged in a shootout with sheriff’s deputies which resulted in his own death and the wounding of three deputies. Now two of the deputies have sued Karen Mies, mother of the slain gunman and widow of his slain father, as well as her late husband’s estate and surviving son for a combined $8 million for “for emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and punitive damages.” They claim the family should have controlled Eddie better, and say the deputies “suffered anxiety and humiliation” in addition to their physical injuries.
Attorney Phillip Mastagni of Sacramento, “whose family law firm works for police unions across Northern California”, is representing the two deputies, Jon Yaws and Greg Murphy, in the suit filed in El Dorado County. Mastagni says he is confident that the suit will overcome the “firefighters’ rule”, a doctrine that historically has barred lawsuits by public safety officers against those whose negligence has allegedly led to emergencies. The rule has decayed considerably in recent years in some jurisdictions, and suits by firefighters, police, paramedics and other rescuers have multiplied.
The defendant, Mrs. Mies, a hospice nurse, had this to say:
“June 5 was a tragic day for me and my family, and it was a tragic day for the deputies who were injured,” Karen Mies said. “We were all victims that day. But this lawsuit is victimizing our family again. What do they want? My husband’s dead, my son’s dead. Do they want my house and my 10-year-old car?”
(Dorothy Korber, “Son battled officers; now mom fights suit”, Sacramento Bee, Aug. 10). Smallest Minority (Aug. 20) is particularly intrigued by allegations of “bunkers and tunnels” supposedly maintained by the younger Mies.
Public criticism that followed initial reports of the lawsuit doesn’t seem to have softened Yaws and Murphy any: per one later account (AR15.com Forums, scroll to update at end of first entry, source not identified) they’ve upped their demand to $38.4 million. What are said to be excerpts of other recent local coverage can be found on page 6 of the same extensive comments section. And the name of the third injured deputy, the one who did not sue, deserves to be recorded in this place as well: it is Melissa Meekma. More: Pro Libertate.
- If you’re claiming benefits for “total and permanent” disability it’s probably best not to enter bodybuilding competitions [Boston Globe and more, firefighter Albert Arroyo] More: GruntDoc;
- From 1884 Montreal: actionable to snub a parishioner while taking collection in church? [Volokh]
- Follow the bouncing venue in lawsuits against Rick Frenkel and Cisco over Patent Troll Tracker blog [Texas Lawyer “Tex Parte” blog]
- Individual liberty was one reason Bill Gates was free to earn his billions, too bad he’s not doing more to advance it with his philanthropy [NYTimes, Bloomberg and “tobacco control”]
- Andrew Giuliani, son of the mayor, is suing Duke University for kicking him off its golf team [Newsday, Henican] More: complaint at Popehat;
- New at Point of Law: AAJ, formerly ATLA, has its convention in Philadelphia (more); bogeyman of supposedly ultraconservative Roberts Court; why must “trophy” federal courthouses have such soulless and uncomfortable design?; Congress gunning for arbitration; too bad NYT’s enthusiasm for transparent public contracting on corporate monitors doesn’t carry over to other lawyer-hiring; the Delaware advantage in court organization; as we keep asking, what happened to Ron Motley’s yacht? and much more;
- Dr. Anna Pou, New Orleans cancer surgeon whose prosecution after Katrina roused intense controversy, recounts her experience [AP via Folo]
- “Unreal world of greed”: California appeals court throws out $88 million fee-arbitration award to Milberg Weiss and other firms following challenge to “smog impact fees” [six years ago on Overlawyered]
- Federal judge: asking employee to get coffee not an intrinsically sexist act [Legal Intelligencer]
- Kilt-clad Montgomery Blair Sibley, at press conference, adds certain je ne sais quoi to tawdry Larry Sinclair sideshow [Sydney Morning Herald]
- Remind us why Florida Gov. Crist is supposed to be an acceptable veep pick? [PoL]. Also at Point of Law: Hill’s FISA compromise may end pending telecom-privacy suits; interesting Second Circuit reverse-preference case on New Haven firefighters.
- Virginia bar authorities shaken by charges that Woodbridge attorney Stephen T. Conrad pocketed $3.4 million in injury settlements at clients’ expense [Va. Lawyers Weekly; case of Christiansburg, Va. lawyer Gerard Marks ties in with first links here]
- U.K.: Local government instructs staff that term “brainstorming” might be insensitive to persons with epilepsy, use “thought showers” instead [Telegraph; Tunbridge Wells, Kent]
- Big personal injury law firm in Australia, Keddies Lawyers, denies accusations of client overcharging and document falsification [SMH]
- Will this be on the bar exam? Massachusetts law school dean eyes war crime trials culminating in hanging for high officials of Bush Administration [Ambrogi and more, Michael Krauss and I at PoL]
- “Just another cash grab”? New Kabateck Brown Kellner “click-fraud” class actions against Google AdWords, CitySearch [Kincaid, TechCrunch/WaPo]
- Former Rep. Bob Barr, this year’s Libertarian presidential candidate, is no stranger to the role of plaintiff in politically fraught litigation [six years ago on Overlawyered, and represented by Larry Klayman to boot]
- High school graduation got rained out in Gilbert, Ariz., and a dad wants $400 from the school district for that [Arizona Republic]
- Happens all the time in one-way fee shift awards, but still worth noting: lawyer in police-misconduct case “billed 22 hours at $480 an hour — a total of $10,560 — just to figure out how much his fees are going to be” [Seattle Times]
- We get to decide and that’s that: New York judge orders that salaries of New York judges including his own be raised [PoL, Bader] Also at Point of Law: white-shoe Clifford Chance throws a party for New York lefties, should anyone be surprised? outsourcing of interrogation to profit-minded private contractors is bad when it’s Blackwater, good when it’s Motley Rice; tax break for trial lawyers said to be blocked for now.
- One firefighter killed in Boston restaurant blaze had sky-high .27 blood alcohol level, the other traces of cocaine, which probably won’t impede the inevitable lawsuit against the restaurant and other defendants [Globe, background]
- Writing again on U.S. exceptionalism, Adam Liptak contrasts our First Amendment with Canadian speech trials; James Taranto thinks he’s siding with the Canadians, but the piece looks pretty balanced to me [NYTimes, WSJ Best of the Web]
- Milberg said to be on verge of deferred prosecution agreement deal with feds involving $75 million payment and admissions of wrongdoing [NLJ]
- Courts in Australian state of Victoria, emulating a model tried in Canada, will resort more to mediation of intractable disputes [Victoria AG Rob Hulls/Melbourne Age]
- Great moments in international human rights: KGB spy on the lam sues British government for confiscating royalties he was hoping to make from his autobiography [five years ago on Overlawyered]
- Raelyn Campbell briefly captured national spotlight (“Today” show, MSNBC) with $54 million suit against Best Buy for losing laptop, but it’s now been dismissed [Shop Floor; earlier]
- Charmed life of Florida litigators Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt continues as Miami judge awards them $218 million for class action lawsuit they lost [Daily Business Report, Krauss @ PoL; earlier here, here, and here]
- Lerach said kickbacks were “industry practice” and “everybody was paying plaintiffs”. True? Top House GOPer Boehner wants hearings to find out [NAM “Shop Floor”, WSJ law blog]
- It’s Dannimal House! An “office rife with booze, profanity, inappropriate sexual activity, misuse of state vehicles and on-the-job threats involving the Mafia” — must be Ohio AG Marc Dann, of NYT “next Eliot Spitzer” fame [AP/NOLA, Adler @ Volokh, Above the Law, Wood @ PoL; earlier]
- Sorry, Caplin & Drysdale, but you can’t charge full hourly rates for time spent traveling but not working on that asbestos bankruptcy [NLJ] More: Elefant.
- Fire employee after rudely asking if she’s had a face-lift? Not unless you’ve got $1.7 million to spare [Chicago Tribune]
- Daniel Schwartz has more analysis of that Stamford, Ct. disabled-firefighter case (May 1); if you want a fire captain to be able to read quickly at emergency scene, better spell that out explicitly in the job description [Ct Emp Law Blog]
- As expected, star Milberg expert John Torkelsen pleads guilty to perjury arising from lies he told to conceal his contingent compensation arrangements [NLJ; earlier]
- Case of deconstructionist prof who plans to sue her Dartmouth students makes the WSJ [Joseph Rago, op-ed page, Mindles H. Dreck @ TigerHawk; earlier]
- How’d I do, mom? No violation of fair trial for judge’s mother to be one of the jurors [ABA Journal]
- First sell the company’s stock short, then sue it and watch its share price drop. You mean there’s some ethical problem with that? [three years ago on Overlawyered]