Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan Institute’

“Trial Lawyers Inc.: Michigan on trial”

Few battlegrounds of legal reform have been harder-fought than that in the state of Michigan, where I grew up. On the plus side, the Wolverine State has seen three rounds of legislatively enacted litigation reform, along with the appointment by former Gov. John Engler of probably the most reform-minded state supreme court majority in the nation. On the minus side, trial lawyer interests have long been key players in state politics, often practicing a bare-knuckled brand of advocacy, and the career of colorful (and recently acquitted) Geoffrey Fieger of Southfield, arguably the Midwest’s most prominent trial attorney, is virtually a synonym for waywardness in the courtroom and out.

Now the Manhattan Institute’s Trial Lawyers Inc. series, under the able direction of Jim Copland, has published a new installment taking a look at the state’s tense legal politics. Trial lawyers are expected to work hard this year to knock off reformist Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor at the polls, and are also engaged in an all-out push to repeal the state’s one-of-a-kind law directing its courts in liability cases not to second-guess Food and Drug Administration determinations on pharmaceutical approval and marketing. To get up to speed on these issues and more, start here. (cross-posted from Point of Law).

“He took the style and the delivery”

“Former heavyweight boxer Mitchell Rose has filed an $88 million dollar copyright lawsuit against Jay-Z in Brooklyn Federal Court, has learned.” Rose says he gave Jay-Z a demo tape in 2001 and that the musician took from it a style of rhyming, a “whispering” delivery, “and even certain lyrics” for which he should owe compensation. “Rose, 39, is also a personal injury lawyer who wrote a book called Mike Tyson Tried To Kill My Daddy.” (Nolan Strong,, Jun. 12). While we’re at it, my Manhattan Institute colleague John McWhorter has a new book out entitled “All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America“.

Excited to be here to talk about asbestos

I can’t say how excited I am to be here as a guest at overlawyered — the first legal blog still in existence! I’ll never be the indefatigable blogger that is my colleague Walter, or my friend and fellow legal reformer Ted, but I jumped at the opportunity to come over here to Mr. Olson’s “other” blog (he and Ted are also the mainstays of the Manhattan Institute’s, to which I occasionally contribute).

Overlawyered’s long-time readers have doubtless read a lot about asbestos. And we’ve covered asbestos litigation very extensively over at Point of Law. But there’s a lot of new material in the Manhattan Institute’s just-released Trial Lawyers, Inc.: Asbestos, as well as a lot of background for those new to the subject. Over the next week, I’ll be going through both.

I’d urge anyone interested to read the entire report, available here. Those who want a quicker review of some of the newer material should read my column in the Washington Examiner, which ran yesterday. And there’s a good overview of my thoughts in an on-line interview available here.

I’ll be back shortly to begin my walk-through of the report, looking at the underpinnings of the trial lawyers’ big asbestos machine.

At least they spelled our URL right

How many errors can you spot in the Jeannette Borzo/California Lawyer magazine story on legal blogging and its sentence about this weblog?

As best as most people can tell, the history of legal blogs began in July 1999 when two lawyers-a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and another attorney from New Jersey-launched Overlawyered (

The asbestos litigation machine

Yesterday the Manhattan Institute released a new report by my colleague Jim Copland, “Trial Lawyers Inc. — Asbestos“. As I note at Point of Law, even as a longtime observer of asbestos litigation I found it quite an eye-opener. I’m happy to announce that Jim Copland will be joining us tomorrow for a guestblogging stint to explain some of his findings.

Jay Greene on NYT bullying story

In addition to being a colleague of mine at the Manhattan Institute, Jay Greene is 1) a prominent national expert on education who 2) is based in the college town of Fayetteville, Ark., so I was eager to hear what he had to say about Dan Barry’s New York Times article of last month which called shame on the Fayetteville schools for their supposed toleration of the horrendous bullying of an unoffending high school student by the name of Billy Wolfe. Today Greene has a blog post on the case which concludes, as did I in my Apr. 8 post, that Barry’s coverage was by no stretch of the imagination responsible or balanced. Greene zeroes in on Barry’s assertions that “It remains unclear why Billy became a target…” and that “[Billy] has received a few suspensions for misbehavior, though none for bullying,” both of which appear, at best, grossly misleading in the light of a police report aired in the Northwest Arkansas Times detailing Billy’s alleged aggressions against other students, physical and otherwise. Greene also observes that his inquiry to the New York Times public editor about the discrepancies has gone unanswered aside from a form response. He adds:

Finding the police report and collecting all of the interviews found in the NW AR Times article would have required — uhm — reporting. It was much easier to take the story that the Wolfes’ attorney was peddling. And yes, the Wolfes are suing some of the other students and are planning to sue the school district. Barry’s article may read like a plaintiff’s brief because there actually is a plaintiff’s brief out there. …

Unfortunately, the Fayetteville School District is inexperienced with handing national reporters and they are handcuffed in responding to accusations because of student privacy issues and a pending lawsuit. Dan Barry from the NYT was able to ride roughshod over a small town school district. Maybe the Gray Lady is the most obvious bully here.

The full post is here. Among other local coverage not linked in my earlier post is an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Times, Mar. 30, and John Brummett, “Bullies Crying ‘Wolfe'”, Northwest Arkansas Morning News, Apr. 2.

P.S. And now Gawker is on it.

Nearer, my Capitol, to thee

Education expert Jay Greene, a colleague of mine at the Manhattan Institute, has just launched his own blog, which is likely to be of wide interest. He gets off to a good start (Apr. 19) with a post based on a simple but clever idea for measuring influence:

If you stand on the steps of a state capitol building and throw a rock (with a really strong arm), the first building you can hit has a good chance of being the headquarters of the state teacher union. For interest groups, proximity to the capitol is a way of displaying power and influence. The teacher union, more than any other interest group, strives to be the closest. They want to remind everyone that among powerful interest groups, they are the most powerful – a prince among princes.

To see who has the most powerful digs, Jonathan Butcher and I actually bothered to measure just how close interest group offices are to state capitol buildings. We started with a list of the 25 most influential interest groups, as compiled by Fortune magazine. We then used Google Maps to plot the location of the state offices of those 25 interest groups and measured the distance to the capitol building.

The results are illuminating. Of the 25 most influential interest groups, the teacher union is the closest in 14 of the 50 states. The labor union, AFL-CIO, is the closest in 7 states. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and National Federation of Independent Business are the closest in 5 states, each. The trial lawyers lobby, the American Association for Justice, is the closest in 4 states.

The teacher union is among the four closest interest groups in 27 states. The trial lawyers are in the top four in 22 states, followed by the AARP in 20 states and the AFL-CIO in 19 states. …

If we gave four points for being closest, three for being the second closest, two for being third closest, and one for being the fourth closest, teacher unions would have a total of 85 points. No other group would have more than 60 points. Only four of the 25 groups would have above 40 points, with the trial lawyers, AARP, and AFL-CIO joining the teacher union in this elite group.

As Greene notes, the point of capitol proximity may be less a practical one (shaving a minute or two off the time needed to drop by to do some influencing) as that of making “a visible display of their power and influence”, like having the most sought-after seats at a sporting event. He’s followed with a state-by-state rundown of proximity here.

Scruggs scandal update: sweet potatoes by the acre

Some developments of the past ten days or so:

* In major blow to defense, Judge Biggers denies motions to suppress wiretap evidence and evidence of similar bad acts [Rossmiller]

* Balducci says he and Patterson got $500K from Scruggs to influence AG Hood to drop indictment of State Farm, motive being to advance civil settlement [Folo]

* WSJ gets into the act with some highlights of wiretap transcripts [edit page; earlier here]

* Sen. Trent Lott says he’s a witness, not a target, of federal investigation [Anita Lee, Biloxi Sun-Herald]

* Scruggs off the hook on Alabama criminal contempt charge [WSJ law blog, Rossmiller, Folo]

* “Mr. Blake has served for many years as a conduit and a layer of separation, if you will, between Mr. Scruggs and other people on sensitive issues.” (Balducci transcript highlights, Folo; more)

* In effort to get Zack Scruggs indictment dismissed, his lawyers dwell on switch from “y’all” to “you” as implying shift in persons addressed from plural to singular [Folo first, second; Rossmiller first, second; on a “sweet potatoes” point, NMC @ Folo and sequel; also]

* DeLaughter/Peters branch of scandal reaches deep into Jackson legal community [Adam Lynch, Jackson Free Press]

* Article in new American Lawyer notes that Scruggs’s ambitious suits have lately hit a big losing streak, notably those against HMOs, nonprofit hospitals and Lehman Brothers [Susan Beck]. And Lotus catches an interestingly lawyerly wording on John Keker’s part [Folo]

* I’m quoted and this site is discussed in an article on blog coverage of the case; my lack of clarity as an interviewee probably accounts for Scruggs being said to have addressed audiences at the Manhattan Institute “a few” times, when if memory serves the correct reference is “twice”. [Patsy Brumfield, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo) @ Folo]

* For more background see our Scandals page; also YallPolitics.

Flu shots in supermarkets

The mayor of Boston is against ’em: “allowing retailers to make money off of sick people is wrong.” (David Gratzer, “Health care innovation, and its enemies”,, Feb. 7). More views: Gene Pinkham, “Is the flu on your shopping list?”, Malden (Mass.) Observer, Jan. 18 (sick people might start visiting supermarkets and we can’t have that); Paul Howard (Manhattan Institute), “Competition won’t ail you”, Boston Herald, Feb. 9. More: Bainbridge.

Vioxx settlement: February 8 update

(Updating and bumping Feb. 4 post about to roll off bottom of page because of new comment activity)

  • Judge Fallon denied the motion of Florida plaintiffs to expedite a hearing on their inclusion into a settlement when they did not even bring suit (Jan. 30). Merck and the PSC are required to respond Feb. 15, and the hearing will be Feb. 21, where one can expect the motion to be denied.
  • At Point of Law, I comment on the recent grand jury investigation into Merck marketing of Vioxx.
  • Update, Feb. 8: separately, Merck yesterday settles for $650 million different Medicaid fraud allegations over the marketing of Vioxx and other drugs. The qui tam relator will get a jackpot award of $68 million. [WaPo; DOJ; Merck] The pricing theories at the center of these lawsuits—which hold Merck liable for purportedly charging too little—definitely deserve longer discussion another time.

Read On…