Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Election observations

  • Lots of coverage of litigation-reform angles of the election over at my other website, Point of Law (here, here, here, and here). For me the heartbreaker of the evening reform-wise was the surprise defeat of the very fine Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Clifford Taylor. He will be sorely missed.
  • Interesting perspective from Bill Marler, the Seattle plaintiff’s attorney who’s become well-known for virtually “owning” the issue of food poisoning in the press: “Obama may actually see tort reform as a way to show he is a moderate”. [Jane Genova, Law and More]
  • Voters in California and elsewhere ignored the urgings of this site and wrote anti-same-sex-marriage provisions into their constitutions. There are many possible interpretations, but one is that the California Supreme Court will be Exhibit #2,971 toward the proposition that judicial activism does not always improve the well-being of its intended beneficiaries. Garrison Keillor titled one of his Lake Wobegon books We Are Still Married, and Eugene Volokh looks at the question of whether same-sex couples previously wed in California can say that (Nov. 5; more, Dale Carpenter, Jonathan Rauch). In other news, “Yesterday, 57 percent of Arkansas voters decided that the state’s 9,000 children in foster care are better off there than adopted by a gay couple.” [Radley Balko, Reason “Hit and Run”]
  • As to Topic A, the presidential election, I’ve decided to retire to the countryside and raise heirloom eggplants. Just kidding! Actually, as one who sat the election out after Giuliani quit the race, I’m happy for my friends and colleagues who are happy, awestruck by the historic moment like everyone else, and hoping for the best (i.e., centrist governance) policy-wise.

Microblog 2008-10-19

  • Foolish use of social media: Dan Schwartz feels like a broken record (= “corrupted music file”) warning about it [Connecticut Employment Law Blog] #
  • “Hundreds face charges for having nude photo that girl circulated” [Obscure Store, Michigan; Radley Balko at Reason “Hit and Run” has a separate Ohio case] #
  • “I Am the Beast Six Six Six vs. Michigan State Police”: crazy case names [Lowering the Bar via Legal Antics] #
  • Potential uses for lawyers of those new Google late-night “Email Goggles” [Lowering the Bar] #
  • Freddie Mac paid lobbyists $2 million in 2005 in stealth effort to undermine GOP-backed reform measure [AP; and N.B. Public Citizen still going out on a limb for Fannie & Fred] #
  • John Steele Gordon on mortgages, banks, bubbles and irresponsible politicians through U.S. history [Commentary] #
  • Can’t type “publ int” as shorthand for public interest without Word autocorrecting it to “pub lint”. #

July 20 roundup

  • Judge Henry Lackey, who went to feds to report bribe attempt by Dickie Scruggs associate, gets award and standing ovations at Mississippi bar convention, says he was just doing a judge’s job [NMC/Folo]
  • Related: should Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat have used official university stationery for his letter pleading leniency for chum/ benefactor Scruggs? [Daily Mississippian and editorial via YallPolitics, continuing coverage at Folo; earlier]
  • Stephen Dubner: if lawyer/subscriber can sue Raleigh News & Observer over perceived decline in its quality, who’s next? [NYT/Freakonomics blog, earlier]
  • Maneuvering over retrial of Kentucky fen-phen defendants Gallion and Cunningham [Lexington Herald-Leader]
  • A Fieger sideshow: though acquitted in recent campaign laundering prosecution, controversial lawyer fared less well in lawsuit against Michigan AG Michael Cox; Sixth Circuit tossed that suit and upheld order that Fieger fork over attorney fees to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman over subjecting the justice to unfounded vilification [ABA Journal; fixed typo on Circuit]
  • Citing long history of frivolous litigation, federal judge in central Texas fines disbarred lawyer Charles Edward Lincoln and his client and bans Lincoln from bringing any more federal suits [SE Texas Record]
  • Faced with $18 million legal-malpractice jury verdict, Indiana labor law firm stays in business by agreeing to make token payment, then gang up on its liability insurer for the rest [Indianapolis Business Journal, Ketzenberger/Indy Star via ABA Journal]

“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).

June 16 roundup

  • Educator acquitted on charges of roughness toward special ed student sues Teacher Smackdown website over anonymous comments criticizing her [NW Arkansas Morning News, Citizen Media Law Project, House of Eratosthenes]
  • Lorain County, Ohio judge who struck down state’s death penalty has Che Guevara poster in his office, though Guevara wasn’t exactly an opponent of killing [USA Today]
  • Privatization of U.S. Senate food service is a parable for wider issues [Tabarrok]
  • Low-end strategies for acquiring criminal-law clients include trolling the attorney visiting area at the federal lockup, paying the hot dog guy in front of the courthouse [Greenfield]
  • A Canadian Senator on why his country’s medical malpractice law works better than you-know-whose [Val Jones MD leads to audio]
  • U.K.: convicted rapist sexually assaults and murders teenage girl after housing authority is told evicting him would breach his human rights [Telegraph]
  • No word of legal action (yet, at least) in Salina, Kansas car crash that driver blames on “brain freeze” from Sonic restaurant frozen drink [AP/K.C. Star]
  • In Michigan, some mysterious entity is trying to drop an electoral anvil on two of our favorite jurists [PoL]

Fieger gets off

All those reimbursements of employees who donated to John Edwards? Just one vast coincidence, not a purposeful way of evading federal campaign finance laws. Now that the verdict’s in, could we please repeal the campaign finance laws in question ASAP, before some less lucky soul tries the same thing and gets sentenced to time in the slammer because his name isn’t Geoffrey Fieger and his lawyer isn’t Gerry Spence? (David Ashenfelter and Joe Swickard, “Fieger, law partner acquitted of illegal political donations”, Detroit Free Press, Jun. 2).

Fieger jury deliberates

After three days of deliberations, it’s not clear any resolution is near in the trial of high-profile Michigan lawyer Geoffrey Fieger and a colleague on charges of massively evading campaign-finance laws (David Ashenfelter, “Fieger jury signals verdict could take a while”, Detroit Free Press, May 30). Norm Pattis, who has attended the trial (and who hopes Fieger gets off) writes as follows (May 30):

This jury was told that it is unlawful for a person to ask another to make a contribution to a political candidate and promise to reimburse them for the contribution. There is power[ful] evidence before the jury that this is precisely what Fieger did. When I see, as I did at trial, evidence that a person making $560 a week with no prior history of political contributions makes a $2,000 contribution to their boss’s candidate, I wonder. When I see the boss reimburse the employee days after the contribution, giving in a “bonus” even enough to cover payroll tax, I am more than a little suspicious. When this pattern is repeated scores of time[s], I am like Archimedes springing from his tub: “Eureka!”

A jury could easily convict Fieger.

But [celebrated defense lawyer] Gerry Spence asked them not to. In a mesmerizing performance he commanded the room as can few others. He asked for commitments from jurors, showing himself to be vulnerable so as to make jurors at ease with their own vulnerability. Spence is charisma personified.

But Spence made one mistake in his argument that could cost Fieger his freedom. “If this prosecution can happen to Fieger, it can happen to any of us,” he said. It is a powerful argument in the right case. But as jurors ponder this case, and Spence’s magic recedes, someone will, sooner or later, raise the following question: “Who was Spence talking about?” The fact is most Americans cannot conceive of giving more than $100,000 to a political candidate by using employees as strawmen. This is not a case of the Government versus Everyman. Much though it pains me to admit this, there was power in the Government’s assertion that “Fieger thinks he is smarter than you.” With wealth comes, alas, arrogance.

Perhaps forgoing a chance to reach out for libertarian allies — though no doubt wisely as a matter of criminal-defense strategy — the defendants are not taking the position that the campaign-finance restrictions are improper restrictions on political freedom that should have been struck down as unconstitutional and even now merit condemnation. Instead, to quote the Freep’s Ashenfelter, their “lawyers have said they would have never risked their legal careers or put their employees or family members in harm’s way had they known it was wrong.”