Unlike Roy Pearson in the celebrated D.C. case, Charleston, W.V. lawyer Richard D. Jones isn’t demanding $67 million from the dry cleaner, nor is he a sitting judge (his practice is in civil defense). About the only visible angle that distinguishes the case from the entirely ordinary: Jones wants punitive damages from defendants Pressed For Time and Lisa Williams. (W.V. Record, more).
They shouldn’t include hiring a felon to put the strong arm on deadbeat clients. Attorney Mark Blevins of Wheeling, W.Va., a Republican candidate for county prosecutor, denies the charges. [Lawrence Smith, “Wheeling attorney faces suspension for using felon to collect debts”, West Virginia Record, Aug. 22; Joselyn King, “Lawyer faces license suspension”, Wheeling Intelligencer, Aug. 26) (via ABA Journal).
In response to his request for handicap accommodation, the West Virginia Board of Bar Examiners gave Shannon Kelly three instead of two days to complete the bar exam, “printed its examination in big type … gave him a room to himself and allowed him an extra day to complete the test”. He flunked anyway, so it’s off to federal court to demand further accommodations for what his lawyer Edward McDevitt describes as Kelly’s “severe deficits in processing speed, cognitive fluency and rapid naming”. (Above the Law, Aug. 4; WV Record, Jul. 25). We covered similar issues in the famous Marilyn Bartlett case (before federal judge Sonia Sotomayor in New York) Aug. 20-21, 2001. More: Coppelman, Workers Comp Insider.
Analyzing the upcoming race between the incumbent, Darrell McGraw, and his clean-government opponent, Dan Greear, the West Virginia Record has an extensive story on the West Virginia attorney general’s habit of giving lucrative no-bid contingency-fee contracts to his campaign contributors, as well as holding on to settlement money for his own personal slush fund. I am quoted at length and described as “widely regarded as one of the country’s leading voices in tort reform.” Also notable are quotes from another “Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who has written articles about the need for reform.” Kim Strassel also has a good piece on the subject in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:
To Mr. Greear’s advantage, his opponent is a case study of abuse in office. Mr. McGraw, in more than 14 years as West Virginia’s attorney general, has been a pioneer in the practice of filing questionable lawsuits against big companies, secretly doling out the legal work to outside trial lawyer friends who reap millions in fees. Those lawyers then turn around and donate heavily to Mr. McGraw’s re-election.
Polls show the public, in theory, disapproves. In a Tarrance Group survey last year, 75% of West Virginians think an attorney general should publicly disclose outside contracts with lawyers. Nearly 60% think attorneys should have to competitively bid for those jobs.
It’s this that motivates Mr. Greear. “I’ve watched what’s going on and thought: ‘If I were doing this to a client, I’d lose my law license.’ I don’t think any fair-thinking person can think this is good government, or good solid legal representation for West Virginia,” he tells me.
Also helping is that Mr. McGraw’s own sense of political immortality has recently landed him, and his state, in hot water. In 2001, he appointed four private law firms to sue drug companies for alleged deceptive advertising of OxyContin. Having forced a settlement in 2004, he handed his tort allies $3.3 million of the $10 million haul. Mr. McGraw had sued on behalf of state agencies (including the state’s Medicaid program) — yet his office kept the rest of the settlement money.
The federal government, which pays a significant portion of the state’s Medicaid bills, remains furious the program received none of the settlement, and is now threatening to withhold millions in Medicaid money. Mr. Greear is hitting hard on the uproar, using it to suggest Mr. McGraw has lost sight of why he’s suing companies, other than for the headlines.
[A] large deal of the gleeful Spitzerfreude on Wall Street arose from of the poetic justice of Spitzer’s undoing at the hands of the same extra-judicial tactics he regularly used against Wall Street firms and corporate executives when he was attorney general of New York. The real scandal of Spitzer’s career was not so much the former Girls Gone Wild model as the prosecutors gone wild.
My retrospective of Eliot Spitzer as both archetype and victim of overaggressive prosecutors in the July/August American Spectator is now on line at the AEI website.
The Humphreys – Bagent – Aguilar family of Charles Town, W.Va. and Fort Wayne, Ind. says professional photographer Sheri Grippo-Titus, who formerly practiced in Charles Town, used at least 74 photos of the family on her web site without obtaining a requisite model release, so they’d appreciate getting a million and a half. Possibly relevant: one member of the family formerly worked for Grippo-Titus but parted on unhappy, still-disputed terms. (Cara Bailey, West Virginia Record, Jul. 18). More on photo permissions here, here, and at other points in our art and artists category.
As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me.
Frank Haas is suing for damages and reinstatement after his expulsion from Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of West Virginia, Wellsburg Lodge #2. Per Above the Law, “Discovery should be fun in this one.” (Jun. 16; Dan Barry, “From Would-Be Reformer, to Former Mason, to Plaintiff”, New York Times, Jun. 16).
“As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me. ”
— Richard Neely, Justice, West Virginia Supreme Court, The Product Liability Mess at 4
- Florida trial lawyers have funneled millions to Gov. Charlie Crist and GOP state legislators; now guess why Orlando isn’t going to get commuter rail [Bousquet/St. Petersburg Times; Sentinel]
- What his ex-law firm told the world was “extremely inappropriate personal conduct” was in reality no more than a “brief, consensual kiss” with co-worker, charges attorney in $90 million defamation suit; Kasowitz Benson says it was following zero tolerance policy [American Lawyer]
- SCOTUS, 9-0, Thomas writing, narrows scope for money-laundering charges over hiding unexplained cash — but will that curb forfeiture abuse? [Grits for Breakfast, Greenfield]
- After West Virginia high court refuses to review $405 million royalty dispute jury verdict against Chesapeake Energy and another defendant, company scraps plans to build $30 million headquarters in the state [PoL]
- Even after discounting anti-corporate rhetoric, there does seem to be a story here about aggressive seed patent litigation tactics used by agri-giant Monsanto, a firm known to our readers [Barlett & Steele, Vanity Fair; earlier]
- Medical liability consequences of much-promoted concept of hospital “never events” [Buckeye Surgeon]
- Cellphone rage update: Judge Robert Restaino ousted for jailing 46 people after one of the annoying devices rang out in his Niagara Falls, N.Y. courtroom [Buffalo News, earlier]