Despite its calamitous and demagogic handling of Katrina flood insurance claims, it’s worth recalling that Mississippi has taken great strides toward cleaning up its formerly sorry reputation in other legal areas, personal injury litigation in particular. One business that seems to have noticed, per Pat Cleary at NAM (Feb. 28) is Toyota, the same company that passed over the Magnolia State in a plant-siting decision three years ago (see Apr. 30, 2004). The new Highlander assembly plant, be it noted, is to be located near Tupelo in the northeastern part of the state, far away from the storm-surge-peril zone. (“Toyota To Build Highlanders in Mississippi”, Car and Driver Daily Auto Insider, Feb. 28).
- Update to Maine Board of Tourism intimidate-a-blogger-by-litigation lawsuit: case dismissed, government official fired. [Maine Web Report; AP/Boston Globe]
- Senter blocks State Farm Katrina class settlement. [Point of Law; Rossmiller; Woullard v. State Farm]
- Senator Schumer (D-NY) calls for liability reform to save New York economy; Governor Spitzer shows up at press conference. [Point of Law]
- Canadian $10M settlement for Syrian torture: that’s what we get for trusting Syria. [Frum]
- Remember that case in Snohomish where the celebratory cannon blew up at the football game? And the plaintiffs’ lawyer complained that the injured student was getting threatened by the townspeople over his lawsuit? Turns out the student (allegedly) told a youth minister that he deliberately overloaded the cannon for “a bigger bang,” and now is (allegedly) harassing the minister. And the original threats had nothing to do with football spirit. Everett Herald]
- Regulations drive restaurateurs from New York to friendlier (if armpittier) climes. [New York via Taylor]
- Suit: suicide fault of auto dealership sponsoring “Hands on a Hardbody” contest. [AP/ Austin American-Statesman]
- Nanny statism meets failure to contemplate ex ante vs. ex post thinking in UK: new Manchester police policy is to refuse to chase helmetless bicycle thieves. [Telegraph (h/t F.R.)](earlier)
- Private eyes and lawyers among the transactions costs of rent regulation in New York. [NYT]
- The war on science doesn’t just come from the right. [Adler @ Volokh; Sandefur @ Positive Liberty]
- Mrs. Alito is very cool [WaPo via Bashman]
Former California Gov. Jerry Brown is overwhelmingly favored to become the state’s next attorney general, but don’t assume he’ll necessarily follow in the footsteps of Bill Lockyer:
“I’m going to take a very practical, common-sense approach as attorney general,” Brown said in a recent interview. “I’m someone who’s acutely aware of the fact that we as a state have added 25,000 laws since I was governor. I think we ought to give people some space to live their lives.” …
And don’t assume that he will agree completely with Lockyer’s decisions. Asked about the global-warming lawsuit, Brown said he’d have to “take a good look at it.”
“I think there’s an issue of causation there,” he said, adding that California needs to consider automakers’ “imploding” financial situation. …
“He was the first politician to turn litigation into a press release [as California Secretary of State, elected in 1970],” said Hiestand, the former Brown aide [Fred Hiestand, now prominent in California litigation-reform circles].
In post-Watergate 1974, the reform-minded Brown was swept into the governor’s office. One year later, Brown and the Legislature were besieged with pleas from doctors facing skyrocketing malpractice insurance costs. Brown called a special session that would eventually lead to the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA, California’s law capping pain and suffering awards at $250,000.
Hiestand remembers philosophical discussions with Brown on the best ways to compensate malpractice victims. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1964, Brown clerked for state Supreme Court Justice Mathew Tobriner, a contemporary of tort expert and future chief justice Roger Traynor. Brown, Hiestand said, recalled Traynor’s critical dissent in a 1962 case where a woman injured on a bus was awarded $134,000 for non-economic damages. Traynor said such awards were troubling because they are tied to subjective amounts of pain and suffering.
“At one point Jerry looks at me and says, ‘Money is a false god. If you’re in pain, you should turn to religion, sex or drugs,'” Hiestand said.
(Cheryl Miller, “Former Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Runs for State Attorney General”, The Recorder/Law.com, Oct. 16)(cross-posted from Point of Law’s Featured Discussion on the election, which is still going great guns).
Florida has staggered towards reform in the last few years under Governor Jeb Bush, bush GOP candidate Charlie Crist’s running mate, Jeff Kottkamp, is a trial lawyer, reform opponent, and plaintiff in a ludicrous suit blaming a hospital construction contractor for medical complications he had following heart surgery. (John Kennedy, “GOP candidate breaks rank on tort reform”, Sun-Sentinel, Oct. 5) (via Childs). Earlier coverage: Sep. 18 and links therein.
Elsewhere in Florida, the Florida Supreme Court has essentially undone a 2004 reform voters passed in a referendum (Nov. 3, Mar. 1: it will allow attorneys to avoid the effect of a constitutional amendment capping medical malpractice attorneys’ fees, so long as their clients sign a waiver saying they’re willing to pay more. (Aaron Deslatte, “Court lets lawyers bypass lawsuit cap”, Tallahassee Democrat, Sep. 29). I actually applaud this step to the free market, but just wish doctors had the same rights to get their patients to sign waivers. Apparently courts and consumer advocates are willing to trust only lawyers with the freedom of contract or speech.
…and it’s a law firm that returns your call, according to a rival trial lawyer, J. Steele Olmstead of Tampa. Olmstead has asked the Florida Bar to look into whether any money has changed hands in the relationship between Orlando law firm Morgan & Morgan and chiropractor Gary Kompothecras, which might constitute unlawful “patient brokering”. Morgan & Morgan, which denies wrongdoing, has been in the news lately as the home base of Republican lieutenant governor candidate and state Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, who is not named in the Bar complaint. (Mary Ellen Klas and Beth Reinhard, “Fundraiser host being investigated”, Miami Herald, Sept. 22)(via Lattman).
Florida gubernatorial nominee (and incumbent state AG) Charlie Crist (Feb. 3) has picked Jeff Kottkamp, a “mostly conservative” state representative, to be the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor. Kottkamp, a plaintiff’s lawyer, was the only Republican to break ranks and vote against joint-and-several liability reform. (Brian E. Crowley, “Conservative trial lawyer joins Crist on GOP ticket”, Palm Beach Post, Sept. 14). See also Aug. 18, 2005, and other related: May 21 and Jan. 17, 2006, as well as Ted’s of Aug. 22, 2005, etc.
Apparently there is no honor among
thievesplaintiffs’ attorneys. The Texas Shark Watch Blog tells us that John Edwards’ money-man, Fred Baron, has sued his former law firm:
Never one to overlook any conceivable cause of action, Baron alleges in his petition filed in Dallas state district court breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy to breach fiduciary duty, tortious interference, conspiracy to tortious interference, fraud or alternatively negligent misrepresentation, conspiracy to fraud, fraudulent transfer, conversion, legal malpractice, negligence, unjust enrichment, and alternatively promissory estoppel or quantum meruit.
The blog has much more about plaintiffs’ bar involvement in Texas politics, including the use of over a million dollars of trial-lawyer money to support the independent-Republican candidacy of Carole Strayhorn, presumably to split the Republican vote and unseat a governor who has done much for reform. Efforts by trial lawyers to supplant reform-friendly Republican legislators with their own stalking-horse candidates in Republican primaries were unsuccessful, however.
For California state senator Deborah Ortiz, that would describe smoking in a car in which a child is present. Writes Brooke Oberwetter at CEI Open Market (Jun. 29): “According to the Contra Costa Times, smokers can be fined under [a bill approved by the committee Ortiz chairs] even if the car is parked and on private property. Clearly California is just a cigarette’s flick away from suggesting banning smoking in private homes: If they can tell you what you can and cannot do in the driveway, is there really much left in terms of precedent to stop them from stepping gingerly up to the front porch and peering in the windows?” A similar bill has already passed the California assembly. (Edwin Garcia, “Bill targets smokers with children”, Contra Costa Times, Jun. 29; Michael Siegel, Jun. 29). Earlier coverage: May 1 and links from there. On the follies of GOP governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who promoted a similar measure in that state, see The Agitator, Jun. 9.
I’ve got an op-ed today in the New York Post about one of the less obvious issues in the high-profile race for Governor of New York: whoever wins will get to reshape the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, with implications long into the future for the state’s legal well-being. Would a Gov. Spitzer appoint anti-business crusaders to the court? (Walter Olson, “N.Y. Judge Wars: Hidden ’06 Issue”, New York Post, Jun. 30)(cross-posted at Point of Law) (& welcome readers of Prof. Bainbridge, who says kind things).
Over-riding the Governor’s veto, the Kansas legislature has enacted a “Shall Issue” law for issuing licenses to carry a concealed handgun for lawful protection. Before, Kansas was one of only four states without any provision for issuing concealed handgun licenses. One of the remaining three states, Nebraska, appears poised to enact a similar law, which the Governor has said he will sign.
Kansas is now among the 39 states which have a fair procedure to allow citizens to carry handguns for protection. Along with the three states (Nebraska, Wisconsin, IIllinois) that currently do not issue permits, eight other states issue permits according to the whim of a local official (Hawaii, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Delaware). A Shall Issue bill is moving through the legislature in Delaware. Rhode Island already has a Shall Issue law, although the law is nullified by administrative practice.
In Wisconsin, a Shall Iissue bill has been vetoed twice, with the vetos sustained by only one or two votes. In every state where Shall Issue proponents have gotten as close as they have in Wisconsin, the state has always eventually enacted a Shall Issue law–although sometimes the process can take a while.
So of the eleven remaining states that are not Shall Issue, two of them (Nebraska and Wisconsin) are nearly certain to change at some point in the future, and there is reasonable possiblity of change in Delaware. All that Rhode Island needs to change is the election of Attorney General who will not interfere with the state law that local goverments must issue carry permits to qualified applicants.
So the number of Shall Issue states could be 43 in the not too distant future. In the seven hold-out states, Shall Issue has passed one body of the legislature at least once in the three largest states: California, New York, and Illinois.
Every year, more and more Shall Issue states create “reciprocity” with each other, so that a person with a permit from her home state can carry her firearm lawfully in a other state while visiting. Currently, a carry permit issued by one state is valid in over half of all states. (See Packing.org for details.)
As the combined total of “no issue” or “whimsical issue” states declines into the single digits, and reciprocity continues to spread, it seems hard to deny that America is concluding that Shall Issue is sensible gun control — one that regulates firearms carrying but does not infringe the right to self-defense.
For more on the Kansas law, see this excellent article in the Wichita Eagle.