- Is it OK if Boulder County prosecutor Tweets the murder trial while in progress? [Colorado Daily]
- Pierce O’Donnell terms his gigantic Katrina/New Orleans lawsuit a “crapshoot” [Hiltzik, L.A. Times]
- Massachusetts hospital not responsible for third-party injuries from just-released colonoscopy patient’s auto accident [Ronald Miller]
- Controversial “citizen suit” provision was removed from environment bill as one of the compromises to obtain House passage [Global Climate Law Blog and more, earlier] More: Coyote.
- “I was shocked at the number of cases the neurologist, radiologists, and especially the neurosurgeon had against them.” [ER Stories with a first-person lawsuit tale]
- I liked Dole Food better when it was a victim of the litigation system rather than an aggressor [L.A. Business Journal, NLJ, L.A. Times “The Envelope” on company’s suit against Swedish documentary filmmaker; underlying banana-worker pesticide litigation scandal; CJAC]
- Virginia Postrel on kidney donation, altruism, and policy [The Atlantic]
- Grown kids appear in court to exonerate dad who spent nearly 20 years in prison on false charges of abusing them [The Columbian, Wash., via Obscure Store] More: Coyote.
- The customer who couldn’t be stopped? “Family of car salesman killed in 90 mph test drive gets $13M” [Obscure Store]
- Arizona bar disciplinary authorities move toward possible suspension for two high-volume consumer lawyers [ABA Journal]
- Trial begins on claim U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liable for Katrina levee breaks [John Schwartz, New York Times]
- Always good for copy: now Jack Thompson is riling Utah lawmakers [GameSpot]
- America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® (that’d be RFK Jr.) is now blasting Obama [Brian Ross, ABCNews.com “Blotter” via ShopFloor]
- “Burning of Surreal Boat Sparks $1M Artists Rights Suit” [Heller/OnPoint News]
- Nice profile of author Philip K. Howard [The New Yorker] And a big spread from the Examiner’s Quin Hillyer including a Howard profile, some tidbits on Washington politics and why overly legalistic schools can’t teach.
- Law firm of Dewey, Cheatham, & Howe moves into Somali pirate defense [satire, h/t @trafficcourt]
- Driver on narcotic painkillers crashes car, lawyer says pharmacists liable [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
- Who’s that cyber-chasing the Buffalo Continental Air crash? Could it be noted San Francisco-based plaintiff’s firm Lieff Cabraser? [Turkewitz]
- Axl Rose no fan of former Guns N’ Roses bandmate or his royalty-seeking attorneys [Reuters]
- Cheese shop owner speaks out against punitive tariff on Roquefort, now due to take effect April 23 [video at Reason “Hit and Run”, earlier]
- Too many cops and too many lawsuits in city schools, says Errol Louis [NY Daily News]
- Law professor and prominent blogger Ann Althouse is getting married — to one of her commenters. Congratulations! [her blog, Greenfield] Kalim Kassam wonders when we can look forward to the Meg Ryan film “You’ve Got Blog Comments”.
- “Louisiana panel recommends paying fees of wrongfully accused Dr. Anna Pou” (charged in deaths of patients during Hurricane Katrina) [NMissCommentor]
- U.K.: “Privacy Group Wants To Shut Down Google Street View” [Mashable]
- Suit by Hurricane Katrina victims against Army Corps of Engineers set for trial April 20 [WSJ law blog, Frankel/AmLaw Daily, earlier]
- Some criminal defense arguments are creative, which doesn’t mean they’ll work [Ambrogi/Legal Blog Watch]
- Words to avoid in real-estate ads: safe, quiet, family-friendly, bachelor’s, walking distance [UrbanDigs.com, New York Post] And better not mention the quadruple murder in the house either [Fountain]
- The questionable science of repressed memories [Joann Wypijewski, The Nation]
- National coverage of 14 states’ ban on fish-nibble pedicures [WSJ via OpenMarket; earlier]
- States move to revoke medical license of Dr. Ray Harron, accused of falsely diagnosing thousands of plaintiffs in asbestos cases [(Chamber-backed) SE Texas Record]
- Conan tales are public domain in New Zealand, but online reading of them there draws nastygram anyway [BoingBoing and followup]
- “Wrestler stages a fall at 7-Eleven in attempt to collect $50,000” [Obscure Store, Philadelphia Daily News]
Judge Kurt Engelhardt of the Eastern District of Louisiana, who held in October that the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not enjoy immunity from suit by plaintiffs seeking to recover from exposure to formaldehyde in trailers, yesterday dealt plaintiffs a setback by holding that they are not entitled to present their claims against various trailer manufacturers through a class action.
I have not read the opinion, but one can find a good summary of the issues presented in this story from the Times Picayune, which emphasizes the court’s concern over impossibility of determining liability, proximate causation of injury, and damages for a “class” of people of varying health, age, demographics, and lengths of exposure. Each plaintiff will have to try his or her case separately.
All of the above are individual issues that render analysis on a class-wide basis utterly impossible, ” Engelhardt ruled in a 50-page decision. “Each plaintiff’s claims and alleged injuries will require an examination of individual evidence.
This makes sense because, from a practical standpoint, it would be impossible to present over 100 chemical injury claims to one jury, a problem that isn’t present in class settlements such as Vioxx. (The Vioxx case still had problems aplenty.) The opinion also emphasizes that each of the trailer manufacturer defendants may have separate defenses, including different manufacturing techniques and levels of formaldehyde within its trailers.
If anyone knows of a publicly available link to the opinion (I’m not writing this from a computer where a PACER download would be practical), it would be greatly appreciated.
- Raft-flip mishap at Riviera Beach, Fla. water park: family’s collective weight far exceeded posted limit on warning signs, they’re mulling suit [Palm Beach Post]
- New Rigsby/Katrina depositions include sensational new allegations of Scruggs misconduct as well as touches of pathos [Point of Law]
- “Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet” [The Onion]
- So much coverage of Hasbro vs. Scrabulous but so little solid reportage by which readers might judge strength of copyright infringement claims [Obbie]
- City of Seattle spokesman says police actions in shootout with gunman might have “saved countless other lives”, which hasn’t saved city from being sued by injured bystander [Seattle Times]
- First the vaccine-autism scare, now this? “Mercury militia” crows after FDA agrees to move forward with statement on possible risks of dental amalgam, but maybe there’s not a whole lot for them to chew on [Harriet Hall, Science-Based Medicine]
- Of lurid allegations in paralegal Angela Robinson’s suit against Texas plaintiff potentate Richard Laminack, the most printable are the ones about chiseling fen-phen clients and not paying overtime [American Lawyer; Laminack response]
- U.K. attorney suing former bosses for £19 million: that wasn’t me at the interview, that was my alternative personality [Times Online]
- Allegation: Foxwoods croupier thought he could mutter lewd comments in Spanish about Anglo female patrons, but guess what, one was entirely fluent [NY Post]
- “Richard Branson claims to own all uses of ‘Virgin'” [three years ago on Overlawyered]
- 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]
- More on that New Mexico claim of “electro-sensitive” Wi-Fi allergy: quoted complainant is a longtime activist who’s written an anti-microwave book [VNUNet, USA Today “On Deadline” via ABA Journal]
- Your wisecracks belong to us: “Giant Wall of Legal Disclaimers” at Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at Disneyland [Lileks; h/t Carter Wood]
- New at Point of Law: AAJ commissions a poll on arbitration and gets the results it wants; carbon nanotubes, tomorrow’s asbestos? California will require lawyers operating without professional liability insurance to inform clients of that fact (earlier here and here); and much more.
- Actuaries being sued for underestimating funding woes of public pension plans [NY Times via ABA Journal]
- City of Santa Monica and other defendants will pay $21 million to wrap up lawsuits from elderly driver’s 2003 rampage through downtown farmers’ market [L.A. Times; earlier]
- Sequel to Giants Stadium/Aramark dramshop case, which won a gigantic award later set aside, is fee claim by fired lawyer for plaintiff [NJLJ; Rosemarie Arnold site]
- Privacy law with an asterisk: federal law curbing access to drivers license databases has exemption that lets lawyers purchase personal data to help in litigation [Daily Business Review]
- Terror of FEMA: formaldehyde in Katrina trailers looks to emerge as mass toxic injury claim, and maybe we’ll find out fifteen years hence whether there was anything to it [AP/NOCB]
- Suit by “ABC” firm alleges that Yellow Book let other advertisers improperly sneak in with earlier alphabetical entries [Madison County Record]
- Gun law compliance, something for the little people? A tale from Chicago’s Board of Aldermen [Sun-Times, Ald. Richard Mell]
- Think twice about commissioning a mural for your building since federal law may restrain you from reclaiming the wall at a later date [four years ago on Overlawyered]
The WSJ and Mississippi’s WLOX have the news up on Dickie Scruggs’ plea of guilty to conspiracy in the attempted bribe of Judge Henry Lackey. Earlier today, the Journal had an illuminating page-one feature on Dickie Scruggs’s history of fee disputes with other lawyers. YallPolitics‘ server
seems to be down at the moment from traffic, but is back up now; in an email alert, YP’s Alan Lange said the surprise plea came three days before the deadline for Scruggs to plead before his approaching trial. Our past coverage is here, or check our Scandals page.
Update 12:18 EST: AP coverage is here (via Rossmiller). Sid Backstrom also pleaded and, per Folo rapid updates, is cooperating with prosecutors. No deal for Zach Scruggs yet. Also per Folo, Scruggs pleaded to conspiracy in the Lackey bribe attempt but did not resolve possible charges in the DeLaughter case, per the government side.
1:16: Per Patsy Brumfield at the NEMDJ:
…The government recommended a sentence of five years in prison for Scruggs and 2 1/2 years for Backstrom. They also will pay a maximum fine of $250,000 each and a court fee. …
Before Biggers accepted their pleas, Scruggs and Backstrom admitted in open court that they had done what the government said they had done in Count One – they had conspired to bribe Circuit Judge Henry Lackey of Calhoun City for a favorable order in a Katrina-related legal fees case….
Dickie Scruggs, arguably the most famous plaintiffs’ attorney in the U.S., looked pale and thin but carried himself with a bit more control than his younger colleague at The Scruggs Law Firm, headquartered on the storied Square in Oxford.
The 61-year-old Ole Miss Law School grad and legal giant-killer, as well as Backstrom, likely will voluntarily surrender their law licenses, as has co-defendant Timothy Balducci of New Albany, who pleaded guilty in December although he was wired and cooperating with the government at least a month earlier.
“Do you fully understand what is happening here today,” Biggers asked him.
“Yes, I do,” Scruggs responded.
Questioned about whether he had discussed his decision to plead guilty with his attorney, Scruggs responded, “With my attorney, my wife and my family.”
…* Richard Scruggs is pleading to conspiracy to bribe a state court judge, count 1 of the indictment, with other counts to be dismissed. This was an open plea, that is, no recommended sentence.
* The government expects that he will get the full five year sentence on that count. …
* There was no mention of cooperation by Scruggs. …
* There was an interesting and unusual disagreement with the government’s statement of facts in the plea colloquy. The government stated in its facts for both Backstrom and Scruggs that a conspiracy began in March to corruptly influence the state court judge, and Scruggs spoke to say that he had agreed to earwig the judge but not corruptly influence him in March, and that he later agreed to join a conspiracy to corruptly influence the judge. Sid Backstrom took a similar stance….
[See also WSJ law blog and later NMC post, as well as WikiScruggs on “earwigging” as a Mississippi tradition.]
3:18: The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports: “As part of the plea deal, federal prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution of Scruggs’ son, Zach Scruggs, who agreed to give up his license to practice law.” [N.B.: NMC @ Folo has a very different take, and other sites are also questioning the C-L’s reporting on this point.] Folo at its temporary bivouac has PDFs of the Scruggs and Backstrom pleas and underlying facts, as does David Rossmiller. ABA Journal coverage includes the text of a forthcoming article by Terry Carter on the affair, written pre-plea. Other reactions: Above the Law (“has Scruggs employed bribery as a tactic in other matters — e.g., the tobacco cases that made him famous …?”), Beck and Herrmann (“What a week. First Spitzer, and now Scruggs. What goes around, comes around.”), TalkLeft, Michelle Malkin, NAM Shop Floor (“So what are the odds that this was Dickie Scruggs’ first and only crime during his decades-long career as a trial lawyer?”).
6:27: Roger Parloff wonders whether Scruggs will cooperate, and whether the statute of limitations might have run already on tobacco skullduggery. NMC @ Folo wonders what prosecutors will make of a slew of fresh documents from the Scruggs Law Firm, or whether perhaps such documents have already had an effect. Not so surprising a plea, says Jane Genova at Law and More, but rather “widely expected“.
Big news day in the Scruggs scandals: a judge has turned down defense motions to throw out the charges and to suppress the evidence, a hearing on those motions has showcased the testimony of government informant Tim Balducci, and the government in responding to the motions has released extensive and often quite damning transcripts of the wiretap conversations among the principals. Folo as usual provides the most in-depth coverage, with posts on the judge’s rulings here and here, on the hearing and Balducci’s testimony here and in numerous preceding posts, and on the wiretap transcripts here and in numerous preceding posts. David Rossmiller is on the judge’s ruling here, and on the hearing and transcripts here. More: Patsy Brumfield, NEMDJ, was at the courthouse.
Picking through the rich contents of the transcripts and Balducci’s testimony is going to keep Scruggsians busy for a good long time. In the meanwhile, some odds and ends:
* Want to review all the major events of the central alleged bribery case, skillfully narrated in chronological sequence? Of course you do. Folo’s NMC has it in six parts beginning here and ending here (follow links to find those in between).
* Mississippi legislature won’t give AG Jim Hood authority to wiretap
his enemies suspected white-collar criminals. Gee, wonder why that might be? [WLBT via Lange] Plus: description of Hood as a Pez dispenser coughing out multi-million-dollar cases for his chums [Rossmiller]
* More Hood: prosecuting the accused judge-bribers “would be like prosecuting a relative” [Salter, Clarion-Ledger, Rossmiller, Folo]. Give back tainted money? “That’s up to DAGA [Democratic Attorneys General Association]” [Lange]
* Small world, Mississippi: member of arbitration panel that awarded Scruggs huge fees was later hired by the tort potentate for legal work [Lange]
* Blogosphere has been a major source for breaking news on the scandal [LegalNewsLine]
* Liberal columnist Bill Minor recalls when a certain Sen. McCain let Dickie Scruggs and Mike Moore run their tobacco lobbying campaign out of his Hill office [NEMDJ via Folo; more at PBS “Frontline” and NY Times]