In his wrapup post at Point of Law, Jim Copland summarizes pending legislation — much of it sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) — aimed at “loosening pleading standards, expanding securities litigation, rolling back federal preemption, limiting private arbitration, and cutting taxes on plaintiffs’ litigation.”
- Math curriculum wars in Seattle school district head for court [Seattle Times]
- Stuart Taylor, Jr. reviews new Abigail Thernstrom book on the Voting Rights Act [New Republic]
- Gail Wilensky: Dems could’ve gotten GOP votes for health care reform if they’d compromised on medical liability [The Hill]
- Erin Brockovich swoops down on Florida cancer cluster [Fumento/CEI, more, also on Florida case]
- Barry Goldwater was right: right-leaning bloggers favor lifting military gay ban by 62-37 margin in National Journal bloggers poll;
- Jim Copland vs. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter [Point of Law, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, more]
- Why is there no iPod or iPhone equivalent for automobiles? Regulation might have something to do with it [Ryan Avent and more via Sullivan; McArdle and more (commenter: “Motorcycles would never, EVER be approved by NHTSA if they were invented today.”)]
- So reassuring: for now FTC says it’s “unlikely to actually investigate individual bloggers” [Lewis, NYLJ] More from late last year on commission’s semi-retreat on blogger freebies [Publisher’s Weekly, GalleySmith, GalleyCat, Reason “Hit and Run”, William S. Galkin] Icons to make disclosure easy [Louis Gray]
My Manhattan Institute colleague Jim Copland has an op-ed today in the WSJ explaining how current campaign finance rules magnify the influence of trial lawyers, as through the favored status of “bundling”. Excerpt:
Over the current six-year senatorial election cycle, four of the top seven donors to the campaign committee and leadership PAC of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) were plaintiffs firms. Plaintiffs firms were the top two donors to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.).
The first piece of legislation signed by President Obama—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 — gutted statutes of limitation in employment lawsuits. The first legislative triumph for new Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.), an amendment to the defense appropriations bill, foreclosed employment arbitration clauses for federal contractors.
More from Jim at Point of Law, including a mention of Trial Lawyers, Inc.: K Street–A Report on the Litigation Lobby 2010, the newest installment in the Trial Lawyers, Inc. series, which will be available later today here.
- Uninjured patients of California, unite to demand the money you have coming to you! [Russell Jackson via PoL]
- Lawyer’s nastygram to blogger Patterico: how dare you talk to my witnesses as part of your research on my case? [Ken @ Popehat, Sheffner/Copyrights and Campaigns, Volokh, Hricik/Legal Ethics Forum; lawyer Kathy Kelly retracts and regrets her threat; the underlying article by Radley Balko, alleging extraordinary misconduct by Mississippi-based medical examiners in a Louisiana case, is here [caution, disturbing images and videos]; reactions to that from Patrick @ Popehat, BoingBoing, Coyote]
- Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) being helpful to trial lawyers? Old news to Overlawyered readers [AmLaw Daily, Wood @PoL, our earlier coverage of Specter]
- California lawyers are obliged to pay $500 annual dues to the state bar, which leaves one member irritated when the official bar publication showcases a predictable brand of politics [Bookworm Room on CLAY awards, California Lawyer] More: Discriminations on the Virginia state bar;
- So is the New Jersey Law Journal going to start printing regular tutorials on how to take unlawful action against blogs that criticize one’s client, or is it just going to be the one time? [Ron Coleman]
- New blogger Andrew Grossman joins Point of Law, expert on the “overcriminalization” of life [intro, proposed we-must-do-something-about-chimps “Captive Primate Safety Act”]
- R.I.P. Murray Teigh Bloom, author of The Trouble With Lawyers (1968), whose obituary appeared in the New York Times the other day;
- Eric Turkewitz continues his investigations of online solicitation of victims of the Continental #3407 Buffalo crash; might the New York anti-chasing rules be working? [fifth and sixth posts in series]
- Stadium patdown case: California constitution “does not grant courts a roving commission to micromanage” security arrangements at private facilities [Egelko, Chronicle]
It’s like magic, we’ll just make Big Business pay:
Washington, D.C., lawyer Thomas Fay has spent years hounding the Libyan government for money on behalf of victims of terrorist attacks. Now he’s hoping to collect — from American companies.
Fay has sent letters to 13 brand-name corporations, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, notifying them that if he wins his case against Libya, he’ll be coming after them. He has even sent one to White & Case, the prominent law firm that recently signed on to defend Libya.
The gambit stems from a change in the law meant to make it easier for plaintiffs to secure judgments and collect from countries found responsible for sponsoring terrorist attacks. Until recently, those who had prevailed in court had few options for collecting.
But on Jan. 28, President George W. Bush signed a bill amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow plaintiffs to seek any asset owned by the terrorist-sponsoring country in reach of American courts, including frozen accounts or property managed by others. The amendment also permits victims to request punitive damages, which they couldn’t before, and eliminates some avenues for appeal. Under the new law, plaintiffs with pending cases had 60 days to file or refile claims.
Attorney Fay was among those lobbying for the new provision, which was sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). (W.J. Hennigan, Legal Times, Apr. 15).
As a number of commentators have noted (e.g. Brett Kittredge @ Majority in Mississippi, Alan Lange @ YallPolitics), Booneville attorney Joey Langston, who just entered a guilty plea on charges of judicial corruption, is someone accustomed to throwing the weight of his pocketbook around in Mississippi politics. In particular, he has been among the biggest donors to incumbent Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, even as Hood employed Langston and partner Tim Balducci on contract to handle the controversial MCI tax bill negotiations, with their resulting $14 million legal fees payable to Langston et al, and the potentially very lucrative Zyprexa litigation.
Equally interesting in some ways, however, are Langston’s activities on the national political scene. To take just one example: this CampaignMoney.com listing tabulates the top “527” contributions to a group called the Democratic Attorneys General Association, whose political and electoral mission is implied by its name. In the listing, two donors are tied for first place, with contributions of $100,000 apiece. One is the large Cincinnati law firm of Waite Schneider Bayless Chesley, associated with one of the country’s best-known plaintiff’s lawyers, Stanley Chesley. The other $100,000 contribution is from Joey Langston.
In presidential politics, Langston has recently been a repeat donor to the quixotic (and, since Iowa, defunct) campaign of Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a lawmaker whose high degree of seniority on the Senate Judiciary Committee makes him important to ambitious lawyers whether or not he ever attains the White House. When the Scruggs scandal was still in its early stages, the WSJ law blog (Dec. 10) noted that two key figures in the affair, Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson, were strong backers of the Biden campaign: “Their bet on Biden was that he wouldn’t win the presidency but would become Secretary of State under a Hillary Clinton administration, according to two people familiar with their thinking.” The Journal reprinted (PDF) an invitation to an Aug. 10, 2007 fundraising reception for Biden at the Oxford (Miss.) University Club, sent out above the names of six hosts, three of whom (Scruggs, Balducci and Patterson) were soon indicted. Scruggs, of course, is better known for his support of Mrs. Clinton, a fundraiser for whom he had to cancel after the scandal broke.
Campaign-contributions databases such as OpenSecrets.org and NewsMeat indicate that Langston has been a prolific and generous donor to incumbent and aspiring Senators across the country, mostly Democrats (Murray, Cantwell, Daschle, Nelson, etc.) but also including a number of Republicans who might be perceived as swing votes or reachable, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Me.), and Arlen Specter (Penn.)
Incidentally, some critics have intimated that Langston’s generous support to DAGA, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, should actually be interpreted as a roundabout gift to Hood, who was the beneficiary of interestingly timed largesse from DAGA. It does not appear, however, that any of the parties involved — Langston, Hood or DAGA — have acknowledged any connection between the timing of the donations (& welcome Michelle Malkin, David Rossmiller, YallPolitics readers).
[Second of a two-part post. The first part is here.]
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Ia.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) have teamed up to co-sponsor a proposed constitutional amendment that “would overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions that limit Congress’ power to regulate the funding of political campaigns. … the amendment would repeal the 1st Amendment as it relates to campaign finance. This would be the first time in our history that we altered the Constitution to curtail liberties protected by the Bill of Rights. It would also have the effect, not accidental, of protecting incumbent members of Congress from being unseated at the polls.” (Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune/syndicated, Oct. 28).
P.S. Then there’s the possibility that the talk-radio-stifling Fairness Doctrine will be reintroduced in 2009 or after (John Fund, OpinionJournal.com, Oct. 29). And while “Crooked Timber” may be a pleasantly evocative name for a weblog, would arch-liberal Isaiah Berlin really have been so keen to use the state’s coercive power against unwanted speech? (Sullivan, Bainbridge)(& welcome Salon Blog Report readers).
Sen. Arlen Specter has risen to the level of self-parody and “accused the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles of treating Terrell Owens unfairly, and might refer the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.” The AP story quotes a couple of experts as noting that there isn’t an antitrust problem in much more polite terms than I would have. (AP/ESPN, Nov. 29 (hat-tip L.S.)). Owens seems to provoke a lot of silliness: see Nov. 24 and links therein.
The American Spectator’s unsigned “Prowler” slams Sen. Arlen Specter for selecting as general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee Carolyn Short Torsella, whom it describes without more as a “trial lawyer” and implies might prove unacceptably liberal to the GOP majority. (“Specter?s Trial Lawyer Appointee”, Jan. 26). It does not add — but probably should have — that Ms. Short’s renown with the firm of Reed Smith is on the defense side, where she has helped employers fight off discrimination suits. A profile of Ms. Short in Forbes three years ago (Joanne Gordon, “Get Shorty”, Dec. 24, 2001; same article reprinted at Reed Smith site) provides zero support for the depiction of Ms. Short as wild-eyed liberal: “The vast majority of discrimination cases are hogwash,” is the first thing it quotes her as saying.
Charm offensive? “Last week, ATLA dispatched a team of Republican trial lawyers to meet with key GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill. … behind the scenes, ATLA has been surprisingly generous toward GOP organizations,” giving $30,000 apiece this cycle to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee, the maximum allowable. (Geoff Earle, The Hill, May 5)(see Aug. 25). In Florida, housing secretary Mel Martinez’s background as a former president of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers continues to generate controversy in the Republican Senate primary race, which comes to a vote Aug. 31; but Martinez says he supports class-action reform and even some version of loser-pays (William March, “Stance On Tort Awkward For GOP”, Tampa Tribune, May 2; see Feb. 21). [Update Sept. 3: Martinez wins primary]. And in Pennsylvania, the plaintiff’s bar is both perplexed and delighted that two of its good friends — incumbent Republican Arlen (“Shanin’s dad“) Specter and Democratic challenger Joe Hoeffel — are running against each other for Senate. “It’s going to be a tough call,” said James Mundy, a former president of the trial lawyers’ association in the Keystone State. “But in a sense it’s a nice call, because we can’t lose.” (Melissa Nann, “Arlen Specter or His Opponent? Trial Lawyers Like Both”, Legal Intelligencer, May 4). See also Lori Patel, “Lawyer Loyalties Eclipse Family Ties”, Law.com, Feb. 5 (Kline & Specter members donated more to Sen. Edwards than to Sen. Specter).