Overlawyered » Walter Olson http://overlawyered.com Chronicling the high cost of our legal system Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:42:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Grim toll of faulty arson forensics http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/grim-toll-faulty-arson-forensics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grim-toll-faulty-arson-forensics http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/grim-toll-faulty-arson-forensics/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:42:10 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47993 “Judge overturns arson/murder conviction of man jailed 24 years” [Scranton Times-Tribune, Monroe County, Pa.; earlier on faulty arson forensics (Willingham execution and Texas Monthly article)] Tweet Tags: expert witnesses, fires, forensics

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“Judge overturns arson/murder conviction of man jailed 24 years” [Scranton Times-Tribune, Monroe County, Pa.; earlier on faulty arson forensics (Willingham execution and Texas Monthly article)]

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Next divorce half off http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/next-divorce-half/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=next-divorce-half http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/next-divorce-half/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:34:22 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47982 Yes, this is a real, if tongue-in-cheek, ad by a Georgia lawyer. Via Huffington Post a year ago, though it dates back at least a year longer than that. Tweet Tags: chasing clients, divorce

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DivorceHalfOffYes, this is a real, if tongue-in-cheek, ad by a Georgia lawyer. Via Huffington Post a year ago, though it dates back at least a year longer than that.

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Judge to Food and Water Watch: put that in your whistle http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/bp-judge-whistleblowing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bp-judge-whistleblowing http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/bp-judge-whistleblowing/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 04:15:19 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47865 We’ve occasionally taken note that relators stepping forward under whistleblower laws are not always the public benefactors implied by the term whistleblower. Now here’s this from a suit that a former contractor filed, teaming up with well-connected environmental group Food and Water Watch [Bloomberg]: “BP never misrepresented — much less knowingly distorted what it was […]

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We’ve occasionally taken note that relators stepping forward under whistleblower laws are not always the public benefactors implied by the term whistleblower. Now here’s this from a suit that a former contractor filed, teaming up with well-connected environmental group Food and Water Watch [Bloomberg]:

“BP never misrepresented — much less knowingly distorted what it was doing,” U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes in Houston said today in a 10-page summary ruling, finding that the case was ultimately about “paperwork wrinkles” instead of engineering shortcuts.

Abbott and the environmentalists “have not blown a whistle,” he said. “They have blown their own horn.”

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September 2 roundup http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/september-2-roundup-4/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=september-2-roundup-4 http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/september-2-roundup-4/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 04:05:23 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47962 Police have traced the crime wave to a single micro-neighborhood in the California capital [Sacramento Bee] “Adam Carolla Settles with the Patent Trolls” [Daniel Nazer/EFF, Reason, related eight days earlier and previously] eBay takes on Landmark in the E.D. of Texas [Popehat] Frank Furedi on law and the decline in childrens’ freedom to roam [U.K. […]

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  • Police have traced the crime wave to a single micro-neighborhood in the California capital [Sacramento Bee]
  • “Adam Carolla Settles with the Patent Trolls” [Daniel Nazer/EFF, Reason, related eight days earlier and previously] eBay takes on Landmark in the E.D. of Texas [Popehat]
  • Frank Furedi on law and the decline in childrens’ freedom to roam [U.K. Independent]
  • On “ban the box” laws re: asking about job applicants’ criminal records, it’s sued if you do, sued if you don’t [Coyote]
  • Fake law firm websites in U.K. sometimes parasitize the real ones [Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
  • What C. Steven Bradford of the blog Business Law Prof reads to keep up (and thanks for including us on list);
  • As applications to renounce U.S. citizenship mount, many related to FATCA, our government hikes fee for doing so by 422% [Robert Wood, Forbes]
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    “The increasing criminalization of corporate behavior in America…” http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/economist-criminalize-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economist-criminalize-business http://overlawyered.com/2014/09/economist-criminalize-business/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 15:27:00 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47967 “…is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism,” opines The Economist, saying regulation-through prosecution has become “an extortion racket,” from hundreds of millions in Google drug-ad settlement money spread among Rhode Island police departments, to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s muscling in to extract money from BNP Paribas in a settlement of legal […]

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    “…is bad for the rule of law and for capitalism,” opines The Economist, saying regulation-through prosecution has become “an extortion racket,” from hundreds of millions in Google drug-ad settlement money spread among Rhode Island police departments, to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s muscling in to extract money from BNP Paribas in a settlement of legal offenses against U.S. foreign policy as distinct from New York consumers:

    Who runs the world’s most lucrative shakedown operation? The Sicilian mafia? The People’s Liberation Army in China? The kleptocracy in the Kremlin? If you are a big business, all these are less grasping than America’s regulatory system. The formula is simple: find a large company that may (or may not) have done something wrong; threaten its managers with commercial ruin, preferably with criminal charges; force them to use their shareholders’ money to pay an enormous fine to drop the charges in a secret settlement (so nobody can check the details). Then repeat with another large company. …

    Perhaps the most destructive part of it all is the secrecy and opacity. The public never finds out the full facts of the case, nor discovers which specific people—with souls and bodies—were to blame. Since the cases never go to court, precedent is not established, so it is unclear what exactly is illegal. That enables future shakedowns, but hurts the rule of law and imposes enormous costs.

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    Kennewick Man: science 1, Army Corps and DoJ 0 http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/kennewick-man/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kennewick-man http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/kennewick-man/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 15:34:22 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47950 The U.S. government was intent on “repatriating” the ancient remains of Kennewick Man for burial to Indian tribes in compliance with the perceived spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), though any relation between those remains and current tribes is at best notional. The U.S. Department of Justice and Army Corps […]

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    The U.S. government was intent on “repatriating” the ancient remains of Kennewick Man for burial to Indian tribes in compliance with the perceived spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), though any relation between those remains and current tribes is at best notional. The U.S. Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers had thrown their full weight on the side of immediate burial, even threatening criminal charges against individual scientists who insisted on litigating the case. “If it weren’t for a harrowing round of panicky last-minute maneuvering worthy of a legal thriller, the remains might have been buried and lost to science forever.” Fortunately, scientists won in the end, leaving the “most important human skeleton ever found in North America” finally free to disclose his secrets. [Smithsonian, earlier]

    P.S. Welcome Popehat readers (“Science in the Hands of Angry Liberal Arts Majors”). And as several commenters point out, my summary above overstates the extent to which scientists actually prevailed, since the U.S. government continues to fight tenaciously to prevent further testing of the remains, and reportedly dumped a thousand tons of fill on the discovery site early on in case it hadn’t made its stance clear.

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    ALS group drops attempt to trademark “ice bucket challenge” http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/als-group-moves-trademark-ice-bucket-challenge-viral-sensation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=als-group-moves-trademark-ice-bucket-challenge-viral-sensation http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/als-group-moves-trademark-ice-bucket-challenge-viral-sensation/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 15:44:24 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47938 The retreat came after Mike Masnick at TechDirt and Joe Mullin at ArsTechnica pointed out some of the reasons the attempt might be problematic, among them that the challenge had been used widely by other charities before it caught on in August in connection with ALS. Tweet Tags: trademarks

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    The retreat came after Mike Masnick at TechDirt and Joe Mullin at ArsTechnica pointed out some of the reasons the attempt might be problematic, among them that the challenge had been used widely by other charities before it caught on in August in connection with ALS.

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    Writer observes misery of tow impound lot http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/writer-observes-misery-tow-impound-lot/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=writer-observes-misery-tow-impound-lot http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/writer-observes-misery-tow-impound-lot/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:17:58 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47935 And thinks to blame economic inequality, but not municipal coercion [David Sheff, Time] For a Northern California tow-and-impound saga that makes even San Francisco look mild, see earlier coverage here, here, and here. Tweet Tags: San Francisco, traffic laws

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    And thinks to blame economic inequality, but not municipal coercion [David Sheff, Time] For a Northern California tow-and-impound saga that makes even San Francisco look mild, see earlier coverage here, here, and here.

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    Rule against children playing on grass leads to $80K payout http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/children-playing-grassy-common-areas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-playing-grassy-common-areas http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/children-playing-grassy-common-areas/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:42:50 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47880 According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a Fremont, Calif. apartment building’s rule against children’s playing in grassy common areas amounted to “family status” discrimination. Resulting settlement: $80,000. [DoJ complaint, press release] Tweet Tags: Department of Justice, housing discrimination

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    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a Fremont, Calif. apartment building’s rule against children’s playing in grassy common areas amounted to “family status” discrimination. Resulting settlement: $80,000. [DoJ complaint, press release]

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    In Houston, grand jury frequent fliers http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/grand-jury-frequent-fliers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grand-jury-frequent-fliers http://overlawyered.com/2014/08/grand-jury-frequent-fliers/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 04:15:41 +0000 http://overlawyered.com/?p=47820 Revelations that a single senior Houston police officer served on at least ten grand juries have been an eye-opener to those who might have assumed that the grand jury as constituted in Harris County (Houston) was random or representative in its composition. Radley Balko: …critics allege that the “key-man” system that many Harris County judges […]

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    Revelations that a single senior Houston police officer served on at least ten grand juries have been an eye-opener to those who might have assumed that the grand jury as constituted in Harris County (Houston) was random or representative in its composition. Radley Balko:

    …critics allege that the “key-man” system that many Harris County judges use to pick grand jurors selects for law enforcement officials and their friends, family, and acquaintances. Critics say it’s too easily manipulated, and results in grand juries continually picked from the same pool of people — cops, retired cops, friends and family of cops, and older, whiter, wealthier, more conservative people who both have the time and money to serve, and are familiar enough with the system to even know to volunteer to serve on a grand jury in the first place.

    Adding to the problem, grand jury members are invited to go on police ride-alongs, are given free time at police shooting ranges, and are invited to participate in 3D shooting simulators designed to make them empathetic with police officers. Those same grand jurors are then asked to assess the validity and credibility of the police officers who testify before them, not just in routine investigations, but in investigations of the killing of police officers, alleged abuse by police officers, police shootings, or police corruption.

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