We’ve covered the litigious inmate fantasist before, but this is still a striking statistic: “Thirty-nine percent of the 491 cases filed so far this month in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia have been filed by one man: Jonathan Lee Riches. …Some of Riches’ prior complaints have been dismissed, including a $662 trillion suit filed in the Northern District last summer against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. The suit alleged that Vick was attempting to ‘kidnap’ Riches’ mind and to force him to lose weight, and demanded that the $662 trillion be delivered — in ‘British gold’ shipped via truck — to the front gates of the prison where Riches is incarcerated.” (Janet L. Conley, “Inmate’s Frequent Filings Take On Targets Ranging From Spitzer to Van Halen”, Fulton County Daily Report, Mar. 25).
- Remember those class actions against tech manufacturers for allegedly misstating the capacity of hard drives? Another one just settled, with buyers in for coupons and discounts, lawyers for $1.78 million [The Register, Cho v. Seagate Technologies settlement website]
- Watch what you say about lawyers, cont’d: Erie, Pa. paper thus far has fended off libel suit by Pittsburgh attorney over coverage of his run-ins with authorities over client treatment [Post-Gazette via Ambrogi]
- New at Point of Law: suicide risk of anticonvulsants?; Ohio AG Dann rebuked on foreclosure activism; simultaneous asbestosis and silicosis happens all the time at some law firms; Bush nominates an ATLA/AAJ member to a federal judgeship; and much more.
- Has a prominent investor with close ties to President Bush set up shop as an East Texas patent troll? [Troll Tracker, The Recorder]
- Embattled Tom Lakin and Lakin Law Firm, once high on the Madison County heap, fight to overturn $3.7 million legal-malpractice judgment [MC Record]
- Brent Coon suing former colleagues at Beaumont’s Provost Umphrey over division of billions in tobacco-fee booty [Texas Lawyer]
- UK judge criticizes “barking mad” human rights rules after prisoner refuses to leave his “comfy” jail cell to attend hearing [Times Online, Telegraph]
- “Six years after Enron, executives face greater risks—but investors are no safer.” [Gelinas/City Journal]
- United Farm Workers union threatens to sue over unflattering coverage [two years ago on Overlawyered]
Inmate Jorey Lee Brewis, also known as Rebekah Katherine, is suing officials of the Oregon Department of Corrections who allegedly ignored Brewis’s gender identity disorder, leaving Brewis to resort to — details not for the squeamish — do-it-yourself sex change surgery by way of fingernails, hair ties, rubber bands and other implements available in the cell. A spokeswoman for the corrections department “says she can’t discuss Brewis’ case because of medical privacy concerns”. (James Pitkin, “Juicy Suits: Cutting Off Her Own Testicles in Prison”, Willamette Week, Dec. 13).
- Vioxx settlement is good for Merck and the trial lawyers suing it, the price being paid in legal ethics [Gryphon/City Journal]
- Australia: will-contest lawyers “will have their fees capped after a string of cases where the bill has exceeded the final inheritance.” [Sydney Morning Herald]
- ADA obliges golf courses, at least Marriott’s, to furnish accessible carts to disabled golfers, federal judge rules [Egelko, SF Chronicle]
- Henry Fonda/Sidney Lumet jury-deliberation classic Twelve Angry Men normally spoken of in tones of reverence. But what’s this? [Leo McKinstry, U.K. Spectator; Gracchi, Westminster Wisdom]
- Columnist and talk show host Michael Smerconish, himself former trial lawyer, is among latest to be sued by inmate/fantasist J*nath*n L** R*ch*s [Philadelphia Inquirer; earlier]
- Biggest-ever EEOC settlement for individual racial discrimination will bring Lockheed Martin electrician $2.5 million [Reuters/NYT]
- U.K.: Coast guard wins award for saving teen from cliff, then loses job because he didn’t follow prescribed health and safety precautions [Times Online, Sun]
- Lawsuit by baseball pros who missed out on big careers because they never abused steroids? [RedBirdsFan]
- Until Sarkozy, French heads of state liked to cancel outstanding parking tickets on taking office; contrast with American practice of pardons as departing Presidential gesture [Rittelmeyer/Cigarette Smoking Blog]
- New at Point of Law: Ted on med-mal statistics; Prof. Richard Nagareda on recognizing that mass torts are lawyer-driven; voter intimidation and union card check; state AGs and letters of marque and reprisal; Prof. Michael Krauss on thread-count class action; IRBs vs. hospital safety; Ted’s continuing coverage of the Vioxx settlement; and much more.
- OSHA backs down from its plan to regulate hazards like trippable power cords and rickety chairs in telecommuters’ home offices [eight years ago on Overlawyered]
Colorado: “An inmate who twice escaped from the Pueblo County jail filed a federal lawsuit Thursday, alleging that guards abused him and didn’t do enough to stop him from breaking out.” Scott Anthony Gomez, Jr.’s lawsuit “claims authorities ‘did next to nothing to ensure that the jail was secure and that the Plaintiff could not escape.'” (TheDenverChannel.com, Jan. 4).
A guestblogger will be joining us momentarily, and I’ll be posting less over the holidays. Meanwhile, my pipeline is still backed up with items from the past year that deserve a more serious treatment than a hurried roundup mention permits. Here are four of them:
- More docs moving to Texas? Watch out, they must be quacks! After the New York Times reported that doctors seemed to be showing fresh interest in practicing in Texas since its enactment of litigation reforms, our frequent sparring partner Eric Turkewitz of New York Personal Injury Law Blog quickly countered by noting that disciplinary actions in the state are way up, and — quite a jump here — concluded with a suggestion that the newly arriving docs must be causing quality problems. Among bloggers who took this idea and ran with it: Phillip Martin of Burnt Orange Report. Then Prof. Childs had to spoil the fun by asking whether the doctors being disciplined were in fact newcomers to the state and found that, to judge by an initial sampling, no, they’re not. And the medical blogs then knocked the remaining props out from under the reform-made-care-worse theory by linking to coverage documenting how the increase in disciplinary actions reflected the Texas medical board’s concerted recent effort to get tough on doctors — too tough, said many critics. In other words, the Texas medical profession was doing exactly what many skeptics demanded it do — submit to stricter oversight in exchange for liability reform — and now that very submission was being cited as if it proved that standards of care were slipping.
- Uninjured car owners can sue GM over seatbacks. No class members claim to have been injured, but Maryland appeals court allows class action over cost of replacing allegedly weak seatbacks in GM cars. [DLA Piper; opinion, PDF; Maryland Courts Watcher]
- The litigious stylings of Jonathan Lee Riches. We mostly ignore litigants who file handwritten pleadings from prison cells complaining of obviously hallucinated events, but there’s no getting around it: the South Carolina convict has become a pop culture phenomenon with his scores of lawsuits against sports figures, President Bush, Perez Hilton, William Lerach and Elvis Presley over a host of imagined legal injuries. Some of the coverage: The Smoking Gun, Dreadnaught, Deadspin, Justia, Above the Law. He even has several Facebook fan groups.
- Taxpayers and vaccine-compensation lawyers. Under the federally enacted vaccine-compensation program, notes Kathleen Seidel, “a petitioner who brings a claim in good faith is entitled to reimbursement for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, regardless of whether the claim is successful.” (Forget about loser-pays; this ensures that taxpayer-defendants can win but pay the other side’s fees anyway.) What sorts of bills do you think attorneys file for reimbursement under those circumstances? Yep, very optimistic bills, in which they expect taxpayers to shell out for their attendance at “advocacy group meetings, and attendance at a conference of trial lawyers representing autism plaintiffs”. In this case, HHS successfully appealed (PDF) an order that it pay the fees. Seidel’s Neurodiversity blog offers a remarkable trove of insight into litigation relating to autism causation theories, vaccines and thimerosal, and this post is no exception. (Updated to include links.)
Whereas some might think prison is a place to teach inmates valuable lessons (“don’t stab people,” etc.), it appears more Swedish prisoners are learning the value of a good lawyer:
Court Upholds Prisoners’ Right to Porn
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Convicted sex offenders in Sweden are free to read pornography in their cells following a court ruling that has angered the prison service.
The Supreme Administrative Court in Stockholm last week ruled that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service had no right to deny a rape convict access to his porn magazines.
Prison officials had argued that reading porn would interfere with the man’s rehabilitation program. They also said the magazines posed a security problem for staff and other inmates because they could increase the risk of the man relapsing into criminal behavior.
On the bright side, he’ll be blind when he’s finally released.
A Massachusetts inmate serving life in prison for murder is in court demanding the state pay for a sex-change operation:
The case of Michelle — formerly Robert — Kosilek is being closely watched across the country by advocates for other inmates who want to undergo a sex change.
Kosilek, 58, was convicted of strangling his wife in 1990. He claimed he killed her in self-defense after she spilled boiling tea on his genitals.
Naturally, expert witnesses are lining up to defend Kosilek, and a law firm is representing him pro bono:
Two other doctors retained and paid for by the department’s outside health provider, the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health Program, at a cost of just under $19,000 said they believe the surgery is medically necessary for Kosilek. Two other doctors who work for the health provider agreed with that.
In addition, two psychiatrists who testified for Kosilek recommended the surgery. A Boston law firm representing Kosilek for free paid for those experts but would not disclose the cost.
Aside from the propriety of taxpayers paying for a sex change operation (which Kosilek may or may not have been able to pay for himself had he not been in prison), corrections officials are correct that having a (now) woman in a male prison could pose significant problems. It is almost a given that should the operation be performed, Kosilek would petition to be moved to a women’s prison to protect his own safety.
Also, note the interesting correction at the bottom of the story:
(This version CORRECTS `himself’ to `herself.’)
Kosilek hasn’t had the sex change yet, so technically he is still a man – apparently the newspaper thought so, too. It would be interesting to find out who compelled them to change the story to portray Kosilek as a female – and in the process perhaps avoid their own lawsuit.
As noted in the story, Wisconsin went through a similar situation in 2004 when inmate Scott (now Donna Dawn) Konitzer was denied genital gender reassignment surgery by the Department of Corrections and sued the state. Department policy had been to provide hormone therapy to those who had been receiving it for a year before their incarceration, but surgery was not provided as an option. As Kosilek now has, Konitzer claimed denial of the procedure constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
As a result of Konitzer’s lawsuit, the Wisconsin Legislature actually passed into law a ban on both hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. Naturally, that new law has been challenged in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee.
- Litigation as foreign policy? Bill authorizing U.S. government to sue OPEC passes House, and is already contributing to friction with Russia [AP; Reuters; Steffy, Houston Chronicle; earlier here, here, and here]
- Albany prosecutors charge boxing champion’s family with staging 23 car crashes, but a jury acquits [Obscure Store; Times-Union; North Country Gazette]
- New at Point of Law: Bill Lerach may retire; Abe Lincoln’s legal practice; Philip Howard on getting weak cases thrown out; “Year of the Trial Lawyer” in Colorado; and much more;
- Multiple partygoers bouncing on a trampoline not an “open and obvious” risk, says Ohio appeals court approving suit [Wilmington News-Journal]
- Skadden and its allies were said to be representing Chinatown restaurant workers pro bono — then came the successful $1 million fee request, bigger than the damages themselves [NYLJ]
- Who will cure the epidemic of public health meddling? [Sullum, Reason]
- Turn those credit slips into gold, cont’d: lawsuits burgeon over retail receipts that print out too much data [NJLJ; earlier]
- Lawprof Howard Wasserman has further discussion of the Josh Hancock case (Cardinals baseball player crashes while speeding, drunk and using cellphone) [Sports Law Blog; earlier]
- “Women prisoners in a Swedish jail are demanding the ‘human right’ to wear bikinis so they can get a decent tan.” [Telegraph, U.K.]
- Disbarred Miami lawyer Louis Robles, who prosecutors say stole at least $13 million from clients, detained as flight risk after mysterious “Ms. Wiki” informs [DBR; earlier at PoL]
- Indiana courts reject motorist’s claim that Cingular should pay for crash because its customer was talking on cellphone while driving [three years ago on Overlawyered]