August 2000 archives, part 3
August 31 – Update: Alabama campaign-tactics case. A judge has sentenced prominent Alabama trial lawyer Garve Ivey to 30 days in jail after a jury convicted him on misdemeanor charges arising out of a smear campaign against the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Steve Windom (see Sept. 1 and Aug. 26, 1999). Shortly before the 1998 election, with Windom running a hard-fought race against a trial lawyer-backed opponent, a former prostitute and heroin addict named Melissa Myers Bush stepped forward with a lawsuit dramatically charging that Windom had raped and beat her seven years earlier when she worked for an escort service. Ivey, who was serving at the time as an official of the state trial lawyers association, paid to have 300 copies made of a videotape of Bush describing her charges, “which were distributed to news outlets across the state”. But as questions arose, Bush soon recanted and said she’d been paid to tell her story and that it was false. According to later testimony at trial, Bush accepted $2,700 from Birmingham businessman Scott Nordness, money that was later reimbursed by Ivey. Nordness was granted immunity by prosecutors seeking his testimony and charges were filed against Ivey and a private investigator who’d worked with him, Wes Chappell.
On June 22 a Mobile County jury acquitted Chappell of the charges and rendered a split decision in Ivey’s case, acquitting him on the felony count of bribing Bush to give false testimony while convicting him on two misdemeanor counts of witness tampering and criminal defamation. According to AP, the witness tampering charge arose from Ivey’s having gotten Nordness to sign a sworn statement after Bush’s lawsuit which, in prosecutors’ view, seemed to suggest that no money had changed hands in the case. Windom says he feels vindicated after two years and expects an apology from the state trial lawyers’ group, which he says tried to dodge the appearance of involvement in the smear efforts when trial testimony indicated the contrary. “The evidence clearly showed that there was a great deal of involvement at every stage. They need to come clean with the public and with their own members,” he said. (The AP coverage does not include a response from the trial lawyers’ group.) Ivey’s lawyers plan an appeal; still pending as well are civil suits that Ivey and Windom have filed against each other over the affair. Update: in July 2001 the Alabama Supreme Court reversed these convictions and ordered Ivey acquitted of the charges (see July 7, 2001).
SOURCES: “Ivey sentenced to 30 days in jail on witness tampering”, AP, August 9, not online, available on NEXIS; Garry Mitchell, “Chappell cleared, Ivey found guilty in Windom trial”, AP/Decatur Daily, June 23; Garry Mitchell, “Windom wants apology from trial lawyers”, AP state and regional wire, June 23, not online, available on NEXIS; Gary McElroy, “Former call girl testifies”, Mobile Register, June 16; “Chuck’s Page” (page by Chuck Harrison, a witness called in the case; scroll down halfway to “Just Desserts”).
August 31 – “Diva awarded $11M for broken dream”. Last week a Little Rock, Ark. jury awarded aspiring opera singer Kristin Maddox, now 23, $11 million “for injuries she suffered when an American Airlines jet went off a runway last year while landing in a thunderstorm”. Maddox was studying opera in hopes of becoming a star but says damage to her voice box and hands in the crash ruined her professional chances. Her lawyer, “Bob Bodoin, told jurors that no amount of money would make up for her pain and the loss of a career that could have rivaled opera stars Beverly Sills or Luciano Pavarotti’s”. However, a university voice teacher who evaluated one of Maddox’s pre-crash performances on video said she had a voice that, while “lovely”, was also too light to fill an auditorium in the Sills or Pavarotti manner. (AP/Philadelphia Daily News, Aug. 25; discussion on Professional Pilots Rumour Network boards).
August 31 – “Breaking the Litigation Habit”. The business-oriented Committee for Economic Development released a report in April which “calls our litigation system ‘too intrusive, too slow, and too expensive.’ The current system does not adequately or fairly compensate people for injuries; it imposes costs that threaten to impair economic innovation; and it undermines the trust and civility among our citizens that are essential to a well-functioning, democratic society.” The report goes on to endorse “Early Offers” and “Auto Choice” reforms, both aimed at providing rapid compensation for injuries without litigation (introductory page links to executive summary and full report in PDF format).
August 29-30 – Back-to-school roundup: granola bars out, Ritalin in. The Fallingbrook Community Elementary School, in an Ottawa suburb, has “banned all snacks except fruits and vegetables in an attempt to protect children with allergies”. Children in K-4 “have been asked not to bring cheese and crackers, dips, yogurt, candy bars or homemade muffins for snacks” for fear of triggering reactions in other kids with peanut, dairy, egg or other allergies. Fallingbrook parent Theresa Holowach would like to send cereal bars or homemade muffins with her eight-year-old son and kindergartner-to-be daughter but was willing to settle for rice cakes, cheese and crackers; her requests, however, “were refused on the grounds that the school would be legally liable if actions were not taken to limit the risks for children with serious allergies. ‘To me the school is going to have serious liabilities if my child chokes on a carrot because you’ve forced me to give her raw fruit and vegetables,’ said Ms. Holowach”. (Gina Gillespie, “School bans all snacks except fruit, vegetables”, Ottawa Citizen/National Post, Aug. 26).
Meanwhile, both the New York Law Journal and USA Today say there are other cases, besides the recently reported one near Albany, N.Y. (see July 26), in which schools are resorting to legal action to compel unwilling parents to dose their children with Ritalin, the controversial psychiatric drug. (John Caher, “New York Ritalin Case Puts Parents, Courts on Collision Course”,New York Law Journal, Aug. 18; Karen Thomas, “Parents pressured to put kids on Ritalin”, USA Today, Aug. 8). The Christian Science Monitor also reports on a different kind of legal pitfall that may await the non-medicating parent: in 1995 the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a $170,000 jury verdict against parents whose fourth-grade special-ed student attacked his teacher after they took him off medication that had reduced his aggressive behavior. (Katherine Biele, “When students get hostile, teachers go to court”, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 22). However, the Wisconsin court stressed in that case that it was not imposing on parents a duty to keep the child on medication, but rather a lesser duty to warn the school if they decided to discontinue the drug (summary on Spedlaw.com website of Nieuwendorp v American Family Ins Co., 22 IDELR 551 (1995)).
The Monitor reports that educators are taking kids themselves to court over an ever-wider range of misconduct, especially defamation (see Sept. 28, Nov. 15). Most students are deemed “judgment-proof” but state laws specify a limited measure of parental financial responsibility for kids’ misbehavior, usually limited to such sums as $1,000 or $2,500, which can however escalate to unlimited amounts if the parents are deemed negligent, as in the Wisconsin case. And in Rhode Island, to update an earlier story (see April 19), two years of wrangling over whether Westerly High School sophomore Robert Parker was out of line to wear a rock band T-shirt displaying the numerals 666 have ended, with the school facing a cumulative bill for the dispute of $60,000. (American Civil Liberties Union/AP, July 6).
August 29-30 – Denny’s bias charges: let’s go to the videotape. Another day, another discrimination suit demanding money from the Denny’s restaurant chain on charges of racially based denial of service. But it so happened that a security video camera was running during the alleged Cutler Ridge, Fla. incident, and the story told by its tape was so at odds with the story the complainants were telling that their lawyer, Ellis Rubin of Miami, felt obliged to withdrew from the case for fear of facing sanctions if he continued. “In 1994, Denny’s settled a $46 million class action with hundreds of black customers who had alleged that they were refused service at the chain’s restaurants”; despite the diversity training it’s instituted since then it still faces many new public-accommodations suits, but its management vows to fight those that it considers opportunistic. (David E. Rovella, “Denny’s Serves Up a Winning Video”, National Law Journal, Aug. 24) (see also Sept. 29).
August 29-30 – Welcome Yahoo Internet Life readers. Last Friday’s installment of “Ask the Surf Guru” carried this nice accolade: “*** Special to Gwendolyn: Like Cassandra said in Mighty Aphrodite, “I see disaster. I see catastrophe. Worse, I see lawyers.” But better is seeing Walter Olson’s daily odes to odious lawyering at Overlawyered.com, where he chronicles how attorneys clog the drain of American life with lawsuits that redefine the word ‘frivolous.’” Thanks! (ZDNet/Yahoo Internet Life, Aug. 24 — final item).
August 29-30 – “Lawyers want millions as cut of Holocaust settlement”. “On April 12, 1997, Arthur Bailey, one of the dozens of lawyers who helped negotiate a $1.25 billion settlement finalized last month between Swiss banks and Holocaust survivors, bought a copy of the book ‘Nazi Gold’ by Tom Bower and spent 8.6 hours reviewing it. Cost to plaintiffs: $2,365, or $275 an hour.” Lengthy telephone conversations between lawyers and a half-hour interview granted by a lawyer to the Washington Post are among other outlays of lawyers’ time for which reimbursement is being sought in the $13.5 million fee request, which Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, described as “outrageous”: “We said from the beginning that the lawyers should be acting pro bono,” i.e., without compensation. (Steve Chambers, Newhouse News Service/Cleveland Plain Dealer, Aug. 15).
August 29-30 – Imagine if she’d had a photo of a gun too. Police in Davidson, North Carolina “are defending an officer’s decision to search a woman’s car for drugs after spotting a photo of a marijuana plant on the cover of a newspaper in her car.” The driver, when stopped at 1 a.m., had a copy of an alternative weekly in her car with a cover story on police use of helicopters against marijuana growers, and consented to the search request, police said. A journalism professor says carrying such material could not possibly be probable cause for a car search. Nothing unlawful was found in the vehicle. (“Police say photo of marijuana plant sufficient cause for drug search”, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, Aug. 25) (via Progressive Review).
August 28 – “Man killed in gas explosion told to clean up rubble”. “One day after a Brooklyn couple died in a gas explosion at their home, city officials fired off a letter to the dead husband insisting that he was responsible for immediately cleaning up the rubble.” On July 11 a massive blast leveled the home of Leonard Walit, 72, and his 66-year-old wife Harriet, who were buried under the rubble of the four-story brownstone with a third victim. “The responsibility to [repair or demolish the premises] is yours, and because of the severity of the condition, the work must begin immediately,” declared the form letter from building commissioner Tarek Zeid, which warned the deceased couple that if they delayed the city would perform the necessary work and bill them for the expenses. Critics say the city should have known better given that the blast made big headlines, and a spokesman for the Buildings Department has apologized. (AP/Yahoo, Aug. 26).
August 28 – Campaign consultants for judges. At $15,000 a pop it gets expensive fast to hire professional campaign help, but elected Florida judges increasingly feel they have to shell out for two, three or four of the hotshot local consultants — especially since if they don’t put them on retainer, they might just find themselves facing a challenger who has. It’s another reason reformers are hoping to move to an appointive system. (Tony Doris, “Full-Court Press”, Miami Daily Business Review, Aug. 23).
August 28 – “Relatives find ‘proof’ they own New York”. “Descendants of an 18th-century privateer are hoping that a copy of an ancient lease discovered in an attic in South Wales may finally prove that they are the rightful owners of the world’s most valuable piece of real estate,” reports London’s Sunday Times. “For 120 years the descendants of Robert Edwards have been trying to establish their rights to 77 acres of Manhattan on which now stand Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, [lower] Broadway and the World Trade Center.” And who’s to say they won’t succeed, given the enthusiasm shown by American courts for hearing Indian land suits (see Feb. 1), liability claims arising from the sale of products in the first years of the Twentieth Century, and perhaps, before long, slavery reparation cases as well? (Simon de Bruxelles, Sunday Times (London), Aug. 22).
August 25-27 – Mich. high court: tough on working (arsonist) families. As the nasty race for the Michigan Supreme Court heats up (see May 15, May 9, Jan. 31), opponents have rolled out television ads assailing three Republican justices as “antifamily” and biased toward business, on the strength of 43 decisions they’ve rendered that supposedly fit that pattern. However, when the Detroit Free Press‘s Dawson Bell looked into the details, he discovered that among the rulings being flayed as “antifamily” is one from last year denying insurance coverage to “a pair of convicted arsonists who burned down a row of buildings”. A look at the rest of the cited court decisions likewise “indicates that the content provided in the ads borders on the bogus.” For example, in six cases the ad-makers counted government defendants in lawsuits — that is to say, the taxpayers — as “corporations”; they omitted a half dozen cases that obviously didn’t fit their pattern, while including “at least seven cases in which an individual won, or a corporation wasn’t a party;” and they included fourteen cases in which the court’s Democrats agreed with the outcome. Where’s the state Democratic Party getting the money for its big ad buy trashing the GOP judges? It’s hard to know for sure, but trial lawyers are said to have privately pledged millions to defeat the trio at the polls (see May 9). (Dawson Bell, “Party politics enters high court race”, Detroit Free Press, Aug. 3; Kathy Barks Hoffman, “Chamber runs ads to counter Democrats’ attacks on justices”, AP/Detroit News, Aug. 17; Charlie Cain, “High court race will be nasty, pricey”, Detroit News, June 23). Opponents of the three justices have mounted not one but two websites: AgainstMichiganFamilies.com and The Justice Caucus. But in fact “Michigan’s Supreme Court may be the nation’s best example of a court committed to interpreting the law — not manufacturing it,” contends National Review Online contributor Peter Leeson (“Michigan’s Supreme Court Is Supreme”, Aug. 22). That makes it a notable contrast with the high court in neighboring Ohio, where a narrow majority of justices last year (see Aug. 18, 1999) used activist reasoning to strike down legislated liability limits, and are now being heavily backed by trial lawyers in their re-election bids (Thomas Bray, “A Nation of Laws, or of Judges?”, Opinion Journal, Aug. 17).
August 25-27 – “Albuquerque can seize homes hosting teen drinking”. Under a bill approved by the city council of New Mexico’s largest city, you can now look forward to losing your house if the neighbors complain about repeated gatherings of tippling teens while you’re away. (Kate Nash, Albuquerque Tribune/Nando Times, Aug. 23).
August 25-27 – “How do you fit 12 people in a 1983 Honda?” Brazen, well-organized car-crash fraud rings thrive in the Big Apple, according to a series of New York Post exposés this summer. Other states are well ahead of New York in enacting legislation aimed at curbing fraud; meanwhile, the “Pataki administration is in court trying to overturn a decision in which the trial lawyers and medical profession successfully sued to have the state’s existing no-fault regulations thrown out.” June 25 (related story); June 26; June 27; July 16 (related story); August 6). Last year New York City recouped $1 million following the racketeering and fraud convictions of attorney Morris Eisen, a one-time major filer of injury claims who prosecutors say introduced fraudulent evidence in at least 18 cases, including three against the city (press release from office of Comptroller Alan Hevesi, May 18, 1999).
August 25-27 – Retroactive crash liability. Following years of lobbying by trial lawyers, Congress passed and President Clinton signed in April a new law retroactively raising the amounts payable in lawsuits to relatives of those killed in three air crashes over international waters, including the loss of TWA Flight 800. The little-publicized passage, “nestled on page 71 of a 137-page budget bill … carries an effective date of July 16, 1996″ — almost four years before its signing. It abolishes old limitations on lawsuits set by the historic Death on the High Seas Act so as to expand the sums recoverable for “non-pecuniary” losses, such as the “care, comfort and companionship” of the deceased. The result is to ensure substantially higher payouts in litigation over the TWA crash, for which that airline and Boeing are being sued, as well as the Atlantic downings of Swissair Flight 111 and EgyptAir Flight 990. Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), who represents Boeing’s home state, had argued to no avail that it was unfair to expand the companies’ obligation retroactively. (Frank J. Murray, “Retroactive move allows big awards in TWA crash”, Washington Times, Aug. 24).
August 23-24 – Class actions: are we all litigants yet? If you’re a member of American Airlines’ frequent-flier plan, you may have received by now a class action settlement notice in which the airline agrees to make legal amends for the atrocity of having raised from 20,000 to 25,000 miles the point level needed to claim a free coach round-trip. After slogging through the legal jargon, St. Petersburg Times columnist Susan Taylor Martin finds that the “most that ‘class members’ in my category can expect is this: a 5,000-mile discount on a frequent-flier award or a certificate for $75 off on a ticket costing at least $220. Wow. But let’s read on. In return for negotiating this settlement, the lawyers representing me and other plaintiffs will apply for fees ‘not to exceed $25 million.’ No wonder we’re such a lawsuit-happy nation.”. She asks her newsroom colleagues if they’ve been represented in class actions, and they inundate her with responses. Then she goes on to cite this website, quote a number of comments from our editor, discuss proposed reforms that would redirect nationwide class suits to federal courts, and finally take up the much-recurring question: what’s the best way to discourage further legal excesses of this sort, to fill out and return the claims form, or toss it in the waste basket? (Susan Taylor Martin, “Is anyone not involved in a class-action lawsuit?”, St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 20). Also see Sarah Haertl, “Bill Limits Class-Action Fees for Attorneys”, Office.com, June 19.
August 23-24 – Funds that don’t protect. “Client protection funds” are supposed to reimburse persons who fall victim to thievery by their lawyers, but a National Law Journal investigation finds the funds “poorly endowed, stingy about payouts and virtually a secret, even to many lawyers, whose bar dues help finance them”. Many victims get just pennies on the dollar, or nothing at all: “cheated clients are getting twice betrayed by the legal professionals who should be protecting them”. (“Wronged Clients Face an Empty Promise in Some States”, Aug. 21).
August 23-24 – Fateful carpool. The consent of one’s spouse is no excuse for violating a restraining order obtained by her earlier, as Blaine Jeschonek has learned to his sorrow in Bedford, Pennsylvania. When Jeschonek, 44, arrived in court accompanied by his estranged wife Beth, Judge Thomas Ling promptly ordered him arrested and charged with criminal contempt for violating a court order forbidding him to have contact with her. “The Jeschoneks had traveled together to court to ask Ling to dismiss the restraining order. ‘I will not tolerate these orders being violated in my presence, under my nose, in my own courtroom,’ Ling said.” (“Pennsylvania man carpools to court and faces contempt”, AP/CNN, Aug. 14).
August 23-24 – Bankrupting Canadian churches? A remarkable legal story is unfolding in Canada, where down through the 1960s the country’s major churches, under an arrangement with the national government, administered residential schools for youths from Indian tribes. A significant share (perhaps 20 percent) of all school-age Indians attended these schools, thus being separated from native communities for much of their childhood. As ideas of multiculturalism made headway, the schools with their premise of assimilation to English culture came to be regarded as an embarrassing legacy, though at the time they had enjoyed the support of most Indian bands. In recent years adults who attended the schools in their youth have filed legal actions against the school proprietors, originally in small numbers over claims of past physical and sexual abuse, but more recently in much larger numbers, more than 7,000, with the predominant alleged injury among new cases being “cultural deprivation” years or decades earlier. Claimant recruitment by attorneys has played a major role in the expansion of the dispute; one lawyer alone, Tony Merchant of Regina, Saskatchewan, has assembled no fewer than 4,300 former school residents from across Western Canada to press claims. Although very few cases have yet reached court, early rulings suggest that the litigation may inflict money transfers and legal costs so large as to bankrupt or financially cripple some or all of the church defendants: the Anglican Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church of Canada and Roman Catholic Church of Canada (David Frum, “The dissolution of Canadian churches”, National Post, Aug. 19; “Tending the flock”, editorial, Aug. 16; Richard Foot, “Deputy PM to meet Church leader over bankruptcy crisis”, Aug. 16; Ian Hunter, “Paying for past injustice is unjust”, July 20; “Sins of the fathers”, editorial, July 17; Ferdy Baglo, “Canada’s Anglican Church Considers Possibility of Financial Ruin“, Christianity Today). (DURABLE LINK)
MORE RESOURCES: Law Commission of Canada; Anglican Church of Canada (main page; apology; in Oji-Cree syllabics (pdf)); United Church of Canada (FAQ, news); Turtle Island Native Network (resources, news); Diane Rowe for White Oppenheimer & Baker (plaintiff’s law firm); Jane O’Hara and Patricia Treble, “Abuse of Trust”, Maclean’s, June 26; “Residential Schools: An Essential Component of Genocide” (University of Victoria); Jay Charland, “St. Paul diocese part of $195M suit”, Western Catholic Reporter; Patrick Donnelly, “Scapegoating the Indian Residential Schools”, Alberta Report, Jan. 26, 1998, reprinted at Catholic Educator Resource Center.
August 23-24 – Welcome screenwriters. It’s hard to beat what goes on in courtrooms for sheer drama, which may be one reason at least two sites catering to professional screenwriters link to Overlawyered.com. CreateYourScreenplay.com gives us a nice encomium on its “Research” page (scroll down to “O”) and we also figure on the “Miscellaneous” links page of DailyScript.com.
August 21-22 – Tobacco- and gun-suit reading. National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor, Jr. pens a powerful critique of the tobacco litigation (“Tobacco Lawsuits: Taxing The Victims To Enrich Their Lawyers”, Aug. 1; quotes our editor). The American Tort Reform Foundation has published a review of the state tobacco suits, with particular attention to the questionable interrelationships between private for-profit lawyers and state attorneys general; the authors are well-known Wall Street Journal editorialist John Fund and Martin Morse Wooster (“The Dangers of Regulation Through Litigation: The Alliance of Plaintiffs’ Lawyers and State Governments,” March 30, available through ATRF). Prof. Michael Krauss, of George Mason University School of Law, has written an analysis for the Independent Institute exploring the manifold legal weaknesses of the recoupment actions filed by states and cities against both firearms and tobacco makers (“Fire and Smoke”, orderable through II). And we’ve now posted online our editor’s op-ed from last month on the Florida jury’s $145 billion punitive damage award in Engle v. R.J. Reynolds (Walter Olson, “‘The Runaway Jury’ is No Myth”, Wall Street Journal, July 18).
August 21-22 – A thin-wall problem. A suburban Chicago attorney with Tourette’s Syndrome, the neurological condition that causes its sufferers to experience tics often in the form of uncontrollable utterances or gestures, is going to collect upwards of $300,000 in settlement of a lawsuit against the condominium association of which he and his wife were members. Jeffrey Marthon, 54, agreed in exchange to move out and to drop his suit contending that the association had violated fair-housing laws by attempting to evict him; the association had filed a legal action complaining of the noise from his involuntary hooting and foot-stomping. “Several neighbors said in affidavits that they were losing sleep because of noises coming from Marthon’s third-floor condo,” and engineers said it was impossible to install soundproofing to mitigate the problem. (Dan Rozek, “Man with Tourette’s cuts deal vs. condo”, Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 18).
August 21-22 – Fit to practice? The California Supreme Court, reversing a lower panel, has unanimously ruled against granting a law license to convicted felon Eben Gossage, a scion of an affluent San Francisco family who says he’s turned his life around and is fit to become an attorney notwithstanding an extensive record of past trouble with the law, most notably a manslaughter conviction for having brutally killed his own sister (Kevin Livingston, “Convicted Killer Denied California Bar Card”, The Recorder/CalLaw, August 16). At a June hearing, Justice Joyce Kennard “made it clear she was bothered by Gossage omitting 13 of his convictions on his Bar application.” (“How Long Is Long Enough?”, June 7). Several prominent Bay Area politicians had appeared as witnesses for Gossage, among them state senate president John Burton; after the one nonlawyer member of the lower disciplinary panel dissented from the panel’s decision that Gossage should be allowed to practice law, Burton introduced and helped secure passage of a bill which abolished that nonlawyer’s seat on the panel, sending, in the view of commentator George Kraw, an unsubtle message — “Don’t antagonize important legislators” (“Friends in High Places”, July 31; Mike McKee, “Court Sounds Leery of Bar Court Shuffle”, May 4; Mike McKee, “State Bar Court Braces for Upheaval”, June 29, reprinted at Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP site). Meanwhile, at least two lawyers implicated in California’s famous “Alliance” scandal are trying to regain their licenses to practice; the “Alliance”, a covert joint venture between plaintiffs’ and defense lawyers to manufacture and prolong legal claims for which the insurers would be obliged to employ legal counsel, bilked large insurance companies out of hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1980s (Mike McKee, “Scoundrel — or Scapegoat?”, The Recorder/CalLaw, June 13; more about Alliance (Kardos CPA site)).
August 21-22 – Watch those fwds. Last month “Dow Chemical, the No. 2 U.S. chemical company, fired about 50 workers and suspended another 200 for up to four weeks without pay, for sending or storing pornographic or violent e-mail messages. ” The “range of material” involved includes “stuff that would be in a swimsuit edition” as well as more offensive material, the company says; in a fit of mercy, it did not discipline workers who merely received such material as email and did not forward it to others. Under widely accepted interpretations of harassment law, companies that fail to take action against circulation of ribaldry in the workplace face possible liability for allowing a “hostile working environment”. (“Dow Scrubs 50 for Eyeing Porn”, Reuters/Wired News, Jul. 28). Workers who imagine that their email is private, readily deleted, and secure don’t seem to realize the current state of the law and the technology, says a risk-consulting division of law firm Littler Mendelson (Chris Oakes, “Seven Deadly Email Thoughts”, Wired News, Aug. 8). Nor are “anonymous” postings to bulletin boards really anonymous once the legal actors — including private lawyers — launch their subpoenas (Carl S. Kaplan, “In Fight Over Anonymity, John Doe Starts Slugging”, New York Times, June 2; Michael J. McCarthy, “Can Your PC Be Subpoenaed?”, ZDNet, May 24; Lauren Gard, “Yahoo Hit With Novel Privacy Suit”, The Recorder/CalLaw, May 15).