“A California attorney and his wife were convicted of engaging in a scheme to extort minority, immigrant-owned businesses.” [Associated Press] “[Rogelio] Morales and [Mireya] Arias engaged in a scheme in 2016 to file ‘meritless gender discrimination lawsuits to pressure minority business owners into giving them thousands of dollars in alleged “settlements,”‘ a prosecution trial brief said. Prosecutors said Morales and Arias would obtain services from the small businesses they targeted — salons or dry cleaners — and if they were charged differently for the same service, they would file a lawsuit claiming a violation of a California anti-discrimination law, prosecutors said.” [Richard K. De Atley, Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)]
“A federal judge in Washington brought the hammer down on uber-litigious Fox Rothschild client Strike 3 Holdings, calling it a copyright troll that ‘treats this court not as a citadel of justice, but as an ATM.’… ‘Armed with hundreds of cut-and-pasted complaints and boilerplate discovery motions, Strike 3 floods this courthouse (and others around the country) with lawsuits smacking of extortion. It treats this Court not as a citadel of justice, but as an ATM.” Lamberth goes on to say his court declines “to oversee a high-tech shakedown,” and adds much colorful detail about the plaintiffs’ methods. Los Angeles-based Fox Rothschild partner Lincoln Bandlow, who is said to coordinate the Strike 3 Holdings campaign, said that an appeals court would “correct this anomalous decision.” [Roy Strom, American Lawyer] Earlier on the Prenda Law saga.
The citizen-suit provision of the Clean Water Act (CWA) “allows any individual or organization that can establish standing to bring litigation against both private parties and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” and incentivizes such suits by allowing filers to collect attorney’s fees. While some valuable enforcement actions may result, writes Marc Robertson for the Washington Legal Foundation,
it is not difficult for shakedown litigators to identify targets. One especially easy theory to advance in citizen-suit litigation is unlawful stormwater pollution. Stormwater regulations are exceedingly broad, and almost any business whose production process generates as a by-product anything that could be classified as a pollutant is vulnerable to a lawsuit. In many cases, attorneys’ fees can far exceed the damage from the alleged violations, leading companies to settle rather than litigate.
Recently, DOJ filed statements in three ongoing lawsuits that allege violations of stormwater discharge limits. … those suits are just three of more than 150 notices of violation submitted by this same law firm since 2016.
The similarly worded complaints, against industrial facilities in the Los Angeles area, alleged that pollutants at each facility washed off the property during rainstorms. While the government seldom exercises its right to intervene in citizen suits, DoJ in its three filings asked the court to examine whether the actions were truly an effective way to enforce the CWA or were serving other, less public goals. [Alfonso Lares v. Reliable Wholesale Lumber Inc. filing]
- “Leave your 13-year-old home alone? Police can take her into custody under Illinois law” [Jeffrey Schwab, Illinois Policy]
- So many stars to sue: Huang v. leading Hollywood names [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]
- Morgan Spurlock’s claim in 2004’s Super Size Me of eating only McDonald’s food for a month and coming out as a physical wreck with liver damage was one that later researchers failed to replicate; now confessional memoir sheds further doubt on baseline assertions essential to the famous documentary [Phelim McAleer, WSJ]
- If you’ve seen those “1500 missing immigrant kids” stories — and especially if you’ve helped spread them — you might want to check out some of these threads and links [Josie Duffy Rice, Dara Lind, Rich Lowry]
- “Antitrust Enforcement by State Attorney Generals,” Federalist Society podcast with Adam Biegel, Vic Domen, Jennifer Thomson, Jeffrey Oliver, and Ian Conner]
- “The lopsided House vote for treating assaults on cops as federal crimes is a bipartisan portrait in cowardice.” [Jacob Sullum, more, Scott Greenfield, earlier on hate crimes model for “Protect and Serve Act”]
- Popehat’s Patrick tells the story of how, representing a bank, he resisted a serial litigant rather than pay her off [Twitter thread]
- News of suits motivated by attorneys’ fees may be slow to reach Harvard [“Bill of Health”, dismissing “idea of opportunistic lawsuits to enforce the ADA” as “somewhat farfetched” since federal law does not grant damages]
- Tim Sandefur on the Indian Child Welfare Act [Cato Regulation magazine, earlier]
- $3.5 million gift from leading trial lawyer Elizabeth Cabraser launches new Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice [Berkeley Law School]
- “The South African government will soon discover the extremely complex technical headache of expropriating land without compensation.” [Johann Kirsten and Wandile Sihlobo, Quartz]
- Speak not of trolls: “Lawyer who filed 500-plus copyright cases in federal court calls $10K sanction ‘judicial error'” [ABA Journal]
A disabled attorney known for filing dozens of suits against animal control authorities, and for frequent courtroom clashes with judges as well as a wide range of other adversaries, is the subject of a Des Moines Register profile. “In recent weeks, McCleary launched a multi-pronged effort to block the publication of this article.” He has sought accommodations for courtroom conduct under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Despite the run-ins, his “license to practice law is spotless, with no record of any public disciplinary action taken by the Iowa Supreme Court.” [Clark Kauffman, Des Moines Register; Insurance Journal (public records request indicates insurers for city of Des Moines paid him $2.1 million following claim of head injuries from falling garbage can)]
- “It’s time for our justice system to embrace artificial intelligence” [Caleb Watney, Brookings]
- Ontario woman named vexatious litigant and barred from filing lawsuits without leave tells newspaper “to hold off on publishing her story until all of her matters before the court were concluded, or else” [Jesse McLean and Emily Mathieu, Toronto Star]
- Psittacine hearsay? Parrot said to have repeated “don’t (expletive) shoot” in murder victim’s voice; wife convicted [AP/Detroit News] “The parrot was not involved in any court proceedings.” [Evening Standard (U.K.)]
- Pennsylvania’s abuse-of-process law, not particularly strong in the first place, survives a challenge [Hillary Hunter, WLF]
- No, that’s not how the law works. Sanctions next? “Baton Rouge police officer injured in deadly ambush sues Black Lives Matter” and five leaders of it [CBS]
- “When the first section heading of an opinion is ‘Design Basics and the Art of the Intellectual Property Shakedown,’ you can probably guess how things are going to turn out for Plaintiff Design Basics, LLC.” [John Ross, Short Circuit on this Seventh Circuit case]
In court a lot: “The Rise and Fall of Toronto’s Classiest Con Man” [Michael Lista, The Walrus]
Just one of many parties unhappily entangled by a “prolific, abusive” litigant: Massachusetts man who sold a $40 printer on Craigslist spends more than six years defending Indiana litigation [Indianapolis Star]
“IRS and federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into serial disability access plaintiff Scott Johnson, who has moved his lawsuit operation to the Bay Area in recent months, to determine whether he has paid taxes on his alleged millions of dollars in settlements, multiple sources told this newspaper.
“Unless a plaintiff suffered physical injuries as a result of a civil settlement, that individual must pay taxes on the monetary award, tax experts said. It is unclear whether Johnson paid any taxes on any of his Americans with Disabilities Act settlements with thousands of businesses in California that he alleged obstructed his access as a paralyzed customer using a wheelchair. He and his attorney did not return requests for comment.” [San Jose Mercury-News, more of its coverage on Scott Johnson, earlier on ADA filing mills generally and on Johnson in particular here, here, here, here, and here]