Product liability reaches the famed Alaskan dogsled race:
Iditarod mushers are known for missing digits. …
When Mitch Seavey nearly lost his index finger last year in Ophir, however, his Iditarod was over. In a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, the former champion now says the blame lies with the Oregon company that made the knife he sliced his finger with, and Sportsman’s Warehouse, which sold it to him.
[Anchorage Daily News, more]
Don’t Do It Dept.: Alaska is the only remaining state without a law school, so (it’s argued) it must need one. Right? [ABA Journal] Because of the absence of a law school in the Last Frontier, the Alaska Law Review has been published at academic institutions in the Lower 48, first UCLA and more recently Duke.
Stephanie Mencimer suggests that 11% of Alaskans would have switched their votes to Obama in 2008 if they knew that the eeeevil author of this op-ed was in Anchorage helping Governor Sarah Palin address the politically-motivated “Troopergate” investigation. Color me skeptical.
High cost of the ethics wars? Today’s New York Times quotes Alaska’s lieutenant governor on the reasons for the governor’s surprise departure:
At the news conference, Ms. Palin cited numerous reasons for quitting, including more than $500,000 in legal fees that she and her husband, Todd, have incurred because of 15 ethics complaints filed against her during her two and a half years as governor. She said all of the complaints had been dismissed, but she still had to pay lawyers to defend her.
More: Lawrence Wood/Examiner, Anchorage Daily News and earlier.
Further: WSJ Law Blog with letter from Palin lawyer Thomas Van Flein (outlining possible after-the-fact state indemnification of cost of officials’ legal counsel when complaints are found without merit).
Dirk Olin at Portfolio magazine on the Valdez spill litigation.
“The Juneau-Douglas (Alaska) School District and former student Joseph Frederick have reached a settlement in the ‘Bong Hits 4 Jesus’ case …. The school district will pay Frederick $45,000, [and] it is ‘required to hire a neutral constitutional law expert to chair a forum on student speech’ at its high school at a cost of up to $5,000.” (DRJ @ Patterico, Nov. 6; earlier).
P.S. And, yes, to clarify in response to commenter Melvin, the student lost his high-profile case last year before the U.S. Supreme Court. Imagine what the school would have had to pay if he’d won.
Manhattan Institute fellow Marie Gryphon, in National Review, on the state’s loser-pays rule:
Alaska’s unique rule is a product of its history. When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the icy wilderness had so few inhabitants that the U.S. neglected to establish immediately any civil law there at all. Congress instituted a civil legal system for Alaska in 1884 through an Act that borrowed from Oregon’s civil code and applied it to the new territory virtually wholesale. At that time, an Oregon statute allowed the prevailing party in a civil suit to recover attorney’s fees from the loser. While Oregon unwisely dumped its loser-pays rule eventually, Alaska embraced loser pays and stuck with it. …
The Alaska Judicial Council conducted a review of Alaska’s loser-pays rule in 1989 and found that, while the law could not deter filings by irrational plaintiffs, it did reduce the number of low-merit lawsuits in Alaskan courts. The Council also found that a majority of Alaskan attorneys liked the system and believed that it functioned well.
(cross-posted from Point of Law).
Perhaps a candidate for the “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” files? From Gov. Sarah Palin’s ethics disclosure form to the Attorney General of Alaska concerning allegations that she improperly sought the removal of Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten, an estranged brother-in-law who’d made threats against her family:
It was a matter of public importance that some Alaska State Troopers seemed to feel themselves above the law. Beyond the governor’s own personal experience, the state was sued for troopers’ violations of constitutional rights, occasionally losing jury trials that would cost the taxpayers substantial money. And, of course, such abuses of power by troopers are exactly the kind of corruption that the governor has long opposed. On occasion, Governor Palin would let Monegan know that she felt this was a problem within the Department of Public Safety; Monegan has told the press that at least once the Governor included mention of Wooten as a prime example of someone who was a problem within the department. Monegan himself told the Washington Post about an e-mail Governor Palin sent him after he informed the governor about one such jury trial loss.
(courtesy Anchorage Daily News, PDF — see p. 9, paragraph 45)(background: WaPo, CNN). More: Beldar.
Jeralyn Merritt @ TalkLeft and Jonathan Adler @ Volokh identify one data point.
P.S.: via comments, Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch has more.
“Find out where he lives, find out where his kids go to school,” said former (two-term) Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, according to FoxNews.com’s report of a tape of remarks made by Gravel to a Washington, D.C. crowd last week. (“Former Presidential Candidate Urges Crowd to Stalk Federal Prosecutor”, Aug. 5)(via Taranto).
Selling a dozen or two t-shirts and onesies with that slogan was enough to get Alaska artist Barbara Holmes a cease and desist letter from the milk marketing people (the supermarket cow kind of milk). Holmes explains that the commodities underlying the two slogans are unlikely to be confused with each other in the marketplace: “They’re two different kind of jugs.” (Elefant, Legal Blog Watch, Jul. 25; Roger Shuy, Language Log, Jul. 28). More: David Giacalone, who also has some very kind words for us toward the end.
Looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more about the “Kivalina” (Alaskan Inupiat village) climate-change suit:
Over time, the two trial lawyers [Stephen Susman of Texas and Steve Berman of Seattle, both familiar to longterm readers of this site] have become convinced that they have the playbook necessary to win big cases against the country’s largest emitters. It’s the same game plan that brought down Big Tobacco. And in Kivalina — where the link between global warming and material damage is strong—they believe they’ve found the perfect challenger.
In February, Berman and Susman—along with two attorneys who have previously worked on behalf of the village and an environmental lawyer specializing in global warming—filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, coal, and electric companies, claiming that their emissions are partially responsible for the coastal destruction in Kivalina. More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.
(Stephan Faris, “Conspiracy Theory”, The Atlantic, June). For the theory of legally wrongful participation in public debate (as one might call it), as it surfaced in the tobacco litigation, see, for example, this 2006 post.
More background on the suit at the Native American Rights Fund’s blog, here and here, and at attorney Matthew Pawa’s site. Carter Wood at NAM “Shop Floor” links to a report by the American Justice Partnership and Southeastern Legal Foundation (PDF) entitled, “The Most Dangerous Litigation in America: Kivalina“.
Yet more: Northwestern lawprof David Dana has a working paper at SSRN entitled “The Mismatch between Public Nuisance Law and Global Warming” (via Sheila Scheuerman/TortsProf). Abstract:
The federal courts using the common law method of case-by-case adjudication may have institutional advantages over the more political branches, such as perhaps more freedom from interest group capture and more flexibility to tailor decisions to local conditions. Any such advantages, however, are more than offset by the disadvantages of relying on the courts in common resource management in general and in the management of the global atmospheric commons in particular. The courts are best able to serve a useful function resolving climate-related disputes once the political branches have acted by establishing a policy framework and working through the daunting task of allocating property or quasi-property rights in greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, states do have a state legislative alternative that is preferable to common law suits, and that federal courts can facilitate without any dramatic innovations in federal preemption or dormant commerce clause doctrine.