If you’re the federal government, one thing it’s good for is to turn a losing claim — losing because filed too late — into a possible winner. It works through something called the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, enacted by Congress in 1942 as the U.S. entered World War Two, and I explain it in this guest column for Jurist.
The ACLU’s lawsuit over the NSA surveillance program, or Larry Klayman’s? And which has more grandstanding? If you have to ask… [Howard Wasserman, Prawfs]
Why isn’t there greater revulsion when political mobs assail the personal residences of officials they disagree with? And who will be next? [Mark Krikorian; earlier here, etc.] (& welcome Instapundit readers)
“Paying to Learn Nothing = Legal; Paying Nothing to Learn = Illegal” [Andrew Coulson, Cato, contrasting internship ruling with the general lack of a legal or political remedy against educational institutions should you "go into serious debt [but] learn nothing of value”; more on the absence of “educational malpractice” relief; earlier here, etc.]
The township of West Orange, N.J. sends a cease and desist letter to a local political activist who runs the domain westorange.info and gets the following response from attorney Stephen Kaplitt (via Above the Law):
Dear Mr. Trenk:
I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your “cease and desist letter,” dated May 13, 2013, regarding his domain westorange.info. Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk! ….
Oh, and just to play along, had you intended for your letter to be taken seriously, even in some small measure, we would have sent in response something along the following lines: …
[several legal points follow about municipalities' general lack of a right to exclude others from using their names as part of domains]
If you manage to produce supporting authority that even remotely passes the laugh test, I will donate $100 in your honor to the American Civil Liberties Union — N.J. chapter. I plan to make the donation online, assuming the state of New Jersey has not shut down aclu-nj.org.
“Attention, liberals: The ACLU wouldn’t be able to sue the NSA if it weren’t for Citizens United.” [Wendy Kaminer, The Atlantic]
“Mr. Smith says he is simply trying to get the truth out about New York’s powerful. … But I came to believe that his intent could well be to tell fanciful stories in hopes of drawing media attention to extract settlement payments in his lawsuits.” [Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times]
Nick Sibilla of the Institute for Justice says the re-regulation plan has some devilish details:
Portions of the current proposal could cripple entrepreneurship. For starters, food trucks that park at an expired meter could face $2,000 fines for a first-time offense. From there on, fines would escalate quickly, reaching $4,000 for the second infraction, $8,000 for the third, and $16,000 onwards. In D.C., this would be a Class 1 infraction, the same legal category as possessing explosives without a license.
Earlier here; more background, NBC Washington.
Yesterday, in the case of Maracich v. Spears, the Supreme Court ruled that the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 (DPPA) prohibits trial lawyers from accessing names and contact information from states’ drivers license databases with the intention of soliciting potential clients for litigation. Under DPPA, the general rule is that states must keep the information in such databases private; there is a “litigation exception” for queries intended to investigate or prepare for legal proceedings, but the Court ruled that soliciting clients was not part of its scope. As I argue in a new post at Cato at Liberty, the dispute brought about a curious reversal in the polarities displayed in the case of Maryland v. King earlier this month: the pro-privacy justices in that case were more likely to be willing to dispense with privacy this time, and vice versa.
The underlying lawsuit (Kevin Russell at SCOTUSBlog and background here, here) also involves a bit of a reversal: class action lawyers are themselves being sued in a class action. The majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy sketches in some of the background:
In the case now before the Court, petitioners are South Carolina residents whose personal information was obtained by respondents from the South Carolina DMV and used without their consent to send solicitation letters asking them to join the lawsuits against the car dealerships. Petitioner Edward Maracich received one of the letters in March 2007. While his personal information had been disclosed to respondents because he was one of many buyers from a particular dealership, Maracich also happened to be the dealership’s director of sales and marketing. Petitioners Martha Weeks and John Tanner received letters from respondents in May 2007. In response to the letter, Tanner called Richard Harpootlian, one of the respondent attorneys listed on the letter. According to Tanner, Harpootlian made an aggressive sales pitch to sign Tanner as a client for the lawsuit without asking about the circumstances of his purchase.
Some of these points may be relevant on remand, because the court will be asked to consider whether the original solicitation letter (marked “SOLICITATION”) had the predominant purpose of investigating the developing lawsuit, or of attracting clients for it. And this leads to the third turnabout. In the second class action, the one over privacy and the lawyers’ use of the DMV database, petitioners are seeking specified statutory damages of $2,500 for each person whose privacy was breached, which could add up to an “astronomical” (as Justice Ginsburg put it in her dissent) sum of hundreds of millions of dollars in all. Indeed, the majority opinion as well as the dissent signaled disquiet at a possible assessment of damages so far out of proportion to any actual harm done — a phenomenon we have seen again and again in statutory class or group damages cases in the past. Some trial lawyers have in the past pooh-poohed, as the griping of sore losers, complaints about mechanical multiplication of statutory damages into huge sums (e.g. FACTA, junk faxes, song piracy, California Labor Code). In this case, such multiplication could pose a threat to the fiscal well-being of some of their own number. (& welcome TortsProf, Legal Ethics Forum, SCOTUSBlog readers)
When local governments lack a properly compliant attitude:
The federal monitor overseeing Westchester’s much-debated court settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over affordable housing asked County Executive Rob Astorino on Wednesday to remove a news release from the county’s website, saying it contains falsehoods….
[Manhattan-based attorney James] Johnson cast doubt on whether Astorino can say whatever he wants about the controversial 2009 settlement.
During a conference call with journalists shortly before Astorino’s news conference, Johnson said the settlement calls for the county to educate the public about the benefits of integration. Astorino, on the contrary, has been antagonistic toward much of the agreement, Johnson said.
Johnson says Astorino wrongly suggests that HUD is pressing for construction of more than the 750 units of “affordable” housing specified in the settlement; Astorino responds that HUD officials keep citing a study under which a much larger number of units would be required to bring the towns into compliance. Westchester voters elected Astorino in part because of his criticism of the much-disliked deal. [Newsday, paywall; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
A bill passed by the New York Senate would make it a felony to “subject” any police officer to “physical contact” with the intent to “harass, annoy, threaten or alarm” such officer. Under current law, only contact that results in injury rises to the status of a felony. Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome), sponsor of the bill, cites “shocking incidents” of “disrespect.” [Gothamist, Scott Greenfield; Gannett LoHud (Sen. Griffo complains his intent was misunderstood, says bill is doomed in Assembly)]
An attorney for a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice denies that there was anything improper about personal injury referral fees paid to the judge’s wife, who has also served as his chief aide over much of his time on the bench. Eight law firms are reported to have paid the judge’s wife referral fees; although most of the amounts have not been disclosed, one that was disclosed amounted to $821,000. Legal ethics expert Geoffrey Hazard said the judge “should not have participated in any case involving a firm that had been a source of referral fees for his wife. However, Bruce Ledewitz, professor of law at Duquesne University, said he did not think McCaffery was under an obligation to tell litigants about the referral fees.” An attorney for the judge “said the newspaper had engaged in a ‘slanderous campaign’ to pry into ‘Ms. Rapaport’s legitimate and proper legal business relationships with her colleagues.’” and said the law firm responsible for the large fee noted above had not had a case before the court. [Philadelphia Inquirer via Milan Markovic, Legal Ethics Forum; PhillyMag]
Why Elizabeth Warren is wrong about them [Prof. Bainbridge]
Warner/Chappell Music continues to demand and collect royalties for public performance of the ditty, although its melody was first published more than 120 years ago and the familiar celebratory words have been sung to it for more than a century. A new lawsuit seeks a judicial ruling that the song is in the public domain and asks a return of wrongfully collected royalties. [The Hollywood Reporter via Mike Masnick, TechDirt]