One of the most significant changes happening at the moment in the ideological complexion of the courts is not related to the federal courts at all. The Florida Supreme Court, for many years firmly in the hands of a liberal majority of justices, is likely to take a new turn with three appointments from new governor Ron DeSantis, a conservative Republican who campaigned against what he called judicial activism. The previous court is remembered especially for holding the national stage during the 2000 Bush v. Gore controversy. Among its other hits, it killed a school voucher program and liberalized tort law in such areas as premises, municipal, recreational, and rental-equipment liability. It also repeatedly struck down legislation aimed at reining in litigious excess in such areas as medical liability and expert testimony. [David Freddoso, Washington Examiner]
- Legislative relief finally in sight in Florida’s assignment of benefits mess? [Michael Moline, Florida Politics, Insurance Journal on this Insurance Information Institute white paper, Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida and more, Rocco English, Florida Daily, earlier]
- Update on 2018 developments in civil justice [Mark Behrens and Christopher Appel, Federalist Society] “Costs and Compensation of the U.S. Tort System” for 2016 [U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
- In first case to reach trial blaming Monster energy drink for heart attack, jury deliberates 15 minutes and reaches defense verdict [Jessi Devenyns, FoodDive]
- Contributing to judges’ election funds taints a verdict? Can both sides play? [Jim Beck, ADA Journal on State Farm Illinois settlement]
- “The Rise of the Freedom To Arbitrate” [John McGinnis, Law and Liberty] “Trial Lawyers Find Unusual Allies In Fight Against Arbitration: Conservative State Treasurers” [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine/Forbes]
- Accessibility complainant who turned out to be ambulatory without wheelchair drops two lawsuits after Post exposé [Julia Marsh, New York Post]
- Put a Plimsoll line on a T-shirt and you might hear from trademark lawyers [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica]
- “Do Landlords Have a Duty to Evict Drug-Using Tenants (or Face Liability if Guests Die When Using Drugs with Them)?” [Eugene Volokh]
- Interview with Judge Jeffrey Sutton about his new book on state constitutions, “51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law” [Ilya Somin, parts one and two] Federalist Society teleforum with Judge Sutton, Randy Barnett, and Judge William Pryor;
- “American Airlines bans insects, hedgehogs and goats as emotional support animals” [CNNMoney/WQAD] Peacocks begone: “JetBlue Updates Requirements for Emotional Support Animals” [press release]
- Gov. Hogan vs. teachers’ unions, pension mandate, a socialist for MoCo County Executive?, and more in my latest Maryland roundup [Free State Notes]
- “A Devastated Puerto Rico Must Still Contend with the Jones Act” [Cato Podcast with Colin Grabow and Caleb Brown, earlier]
Sheldon Silver’s arrest prompts Jeffrey Toobin to relate a war story regarding the now-defunct law firm known as Morris Eisen, P.C., “an outfit so extravagantly corrupt, so hilariously dishonest, and so creatively malign as almost to defy belief.” (I’ve written a number of times about the Eisen firm myself.) Eisen’s son-in-law, who had gotten his start with the firm, went on to found the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver had his no-visible-duties job and to which he occasionally sent lucrative asbestos referrals from his friends at the Columbia clinic and elsewhere.
Weitz & Luxenberg (which has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the federal investigation, and says it has asked Silver to take a leave of absence) is also a big political player nationally, not just in New York. As Kim Strassel notes at the WSJ, “Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top contributor from 2009 to 2014 was Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm played the same role for Bruce Braley, the trial-lawyer Democrat who just lost an Iowa Senate race.” The other large asbestos firm to receive lucrative patient referrals from Dr. Robert Taub’s now-discontinued Columbia University mesothelioma center is the Simmons firm of Illinois, another big political donor that Strassel says has been the single biggest backer of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Previously on the Silver arrest here and here. More: “Tarnished Silver: Speaker’s arrest upends most everything in Albany” [Andrew Hawkins, Crain’s New York (“his support for the teachers’ union has kept education reformers at bay”); Henry Goldman, Bloomberg; Wayne Barrett on Silver’s “Friends of Shelly” network of pals, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (“In his varied posts, Lippman has long overseen the very courts hearing the asbestos and other cases brought by Silver’s firm.”)
And this Joseph Nocera column from the weekend, which is particularly strong on Silver’s influence over the judiciary in New York, built up through methods all “perfectly legal.” But note this NYT correction stating that Nocera’s discussion of the judiciary in that column was “premised on several factual errors.” (More on that: New York Sun.) The New York Post believes the feds are sniffing around Manhattan trial courts.
- From the Manhattan Institute “Trial Lawyers Inc.” project, “Wheels of Fortune” (PDF), twin report on lawyers’ exploitation of SSDI (Social Security Disability) and ADA cases;
- Theodore Dalrymple on the flaws of the US litigation system [Liberty and Law]
- Testimony: “after he inquired about the 40 percent fee charged by [co-counsel] Chestnut, [Willie] Gary threatened to ‘tie up [client] Baker’s money in the courts for years so he would never live to see it.'” [Gainesville Sun]
- ATRA takes aim at rise of asbestos litigation in NYC [“Judicial Hellholes” series, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, New York Daily News (“national scandal”)]
- Another reminder that while plaintiff’s lawyers conventionally assail pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements, they routinely use them themselves [LNL]
- New U.S. Chamber papers on litigation trends: “Lawsuit Ecosystem II“; state supreme courts review;
- Changes ahead for class action rules? [Andrew Trask]
Really, the headline is as good an introduction to this tangled web as any: “Clifford firm contributes $150K to unseat Justice on the same day he’s in court saying campaign money corrupted Supreme Court.” [Madison County Record, related post ten years ago] Also, Illinois election officials say the state may need to have a slow Election Night [The Southern Illinoisan]
- NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
- Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
- 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a “this day and trip only” theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
- “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley’s IRS intervention, Watchdog]
- Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
- Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
- Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
- John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
- Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.
- Criminalizing Wisconsin politics: judge declines to throw out counter-suit against home-raiding, computer-seizing “John Doe” probe [Journal Sentinel, ruling, Wisconsin Watchdog, Steve Forbes, earlier]
- Defense of career agency employees’ leaking to Congress and the press to resist political appointee leadership [Amanda Leiter, SSRN]
- Hurricane and mass tort lawyer Steve Mostyn emerges as big political benefactor [David Yates, Chamber-backed SE Texas Record] More: Hello, Mr. President!
- Gotham press chooses up sides on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman [Jack Shafer]
- Florida Supreme Court among nation’s most politicized, so there’s a certain amount of karma at work here [FCIR]
- Wow: Braley campaign says he knew “he was being videotaped at the private fundraiser” [DMR via Jason Pye, United Liberty, earlier] Nothing discouraged, he’ll keynote New York trial lawyers’ event [Legal NewsLine]
- Pennsylvania legislator named in abortive sting appears down to his last few friends [PennLive]