“An Alabama man who sued over being hit and kicked by police after leading them on a high-speed chase will get $1,000 in a settlement with the city of Birmingham, while his attorneys will take in $459,000, officials said Wednesday.” [Reuters/Yahoo] Readers may argue about whether this kind of outcome is fair, but note that it seems to happen more often, rather than less, in this country (with its putative “American Rule” that each side pays its own fees) than in other industrialized countries which tend more to follow “loser-pays” or “costs follow the event” fee principles. One reason for that is that the U.S. does not actually hew consistently to the so-called American Rule; across wide areas of litigation, including civil rights suits, it follows “one-way shift” principles in which prevailing plaintiffs but not prevailing defendants are entitled to fees, and whose encouragement to litigation is greater than either the American Rule or the loser-pays principle.
Related: The Pennsylvania legislature is moving to adopt a rule adopting one-way fees for some cases in which municipalities trample rights protected by the Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment, provoking peals of outrage (“dangerous,” “outrageous,” “threatens municipalities’ financial stability,” etc.) from elected officials few of whom seem to be on record objecting to one-way fee shifts when plaintiffs they like better are doing the suing. [Free Beacon]
The curious case of political blogger (Legal Schnauzer) and multiple litigant Roger Shuler [Ken at Popehat; Brian Doherty, Reason] And: Update on Kimberlin lawsuits against critics includes new action filed against 21 conservative media figures and entities [Popehat]
A “staff attorney at the Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program… was suspended after being accused of accepting fees from law firms while processing their clients’ claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.” [Bloomberg] And that’s just the start of what may be much wider problems, according to a cover story by Paul Barrett at Bloomberg Business Week. “The craziest thing about the settlement,” one lawyer wrote in a client-solicitation letter, “is that you can be compensated for losses that are UNRELATED to the spill.” [Bloomberg Business Week] Barrett’s account tells, in his own words, “how the private-claims process following BP’s (BP) 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill devolved into a plaintiffs’-lawyer feeding frenzy.” [BBW]
A WSJ editorial and news coverage have called attention to a case from the Alabama high court holding Pfizer liable for a drug it didn’t produce, namely a generic knockoff of its acid reflux drug Reglan. Michael Greve agrees that it’s daffy to allow such suits, but traces the problem to the U.S. Supreme Court’s popular (at least with the media) 2009 decision in Wyeth v. Levine, okaying state tort actions over federally approved labels — and cautions that any victories for regulated business on the issue of federal-state preemption tend to be temporary at best. More: Coyote, FedSocBlog.
Can courts even do that? Both houses of the Alabama legislature passed a measure called House Bill 84 revamping education policy; the state teachers’ union, the Alabama Education Association, went to court with a challenge; and Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price issued an injunction forbidding the Clerk of the House from enrolling the bill for the signature of Gov. Robert Bentley, who has said he would sign it. The AEA argued that lawmakers violated the state Open Meetings Act in the course of bringing the bill to passage. Republican lawmakers are appealing the judge’s action to the state supreme court; presumably they’ll argue for the old principle that equity will not enjoin legislative acts, even if it can enjoin legislation from taking effect once it is signed. [WAFF, more] Further: some background on the education bill from Jeff Poor at the Daily Caller.
Shelby County, Ala. judge Hub Harrington had some scathing words for the town of Harpersville and a private probation company over “debtors’ prison” treatment of local defendants milked for large fines and fees. [Birmingham News via ABA Journal] More on abusive fine extraction and privatization of law enforcement here, here, etc.
The good, the bad, and the beyond belief:
- “Ten Commandments” judge no favorite with business defendants: “Trial lawyers putting their campaign cash behind Roy Moore for Alabama chief justice” [Birmingham News via Charlie Mahtesian, Politico; same thing twelve years ago]
- From James Taranto, a brief history of Supreme Court leaks [WSJ "Best of the Web," mentions my Daily op-ed]
- Pennsylvania: Judge’s swearing-in ceremony “was filled with appreciation to those who helped him get elected, including some convicted felons” [Judges on Merit; Walter Phillips, Philadelphia Inquirer]
- Roberts just carrying forward the Frankfurter-Bickel-Bork tradition of judicial deference? [Steven Teles, Carrie Severino, further Teles] Ted Olson on just-finished Supreme Court term [FedSoc and video]
- Columnist-suing attorney doesn’t lack funding in race for appellate judgeship in Illinois’ Metro-East [Chamber-backed Madison County Record]
- Study: SCOTUS Justices time their resignations depending on political party of President [James Lindgren, Volokh]
- Alameda County judge charged with elder theft, perjury [The Recorder]
- Profile of 5th Circuit’s Edith Jones; law wasn’t her first career choice, and Cornell riots influenced her path [Susanna Dokupil, IWF]
I’ll be speaking in Birmingham, Alabama tomorrow to a lunch gathering of the city’s Federalist Society Lawyers’ chapter, about my book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule. The event will be at noon at the Summit Club, Sixth Ave. N. More details here.
Speaking of Alabama, the Eleventh Circuit has broadly sided with artist Daniel Moore over his right to create and sell artistic depictions of Crimson Tide sporting events without paying a licensing fee to the University of Alabama [Jon Solomon/Birmingham News, AP/Tuscaloosa News, earlier here and here]
P.S. Music lover? You might see me at this.
The trademark case between artist Daniel Moore and the University of Alabama, over his paintings of Crimson Tide athletics without permission from the university’s licensing operation, has reached the Eleventh Circuit. [Ben Flanagan, Al.com; earlier]
Alabama: “A Jefferson County jury has awarded $2.4 million from an emergency physicians group to the mother of a 2-year-old who died after ingesting methadone.” Lawyers said the emergency department failed to take proper steps to rule out drug overdose as a reason for the child’s condition. [AP/WHNT via White Coat]
Plus: A more explanatory news account (h/t commenter John Rohan).