- Please, someone: you can’t just donate money to the Tulsa police and get full deputy powers, can you? [Tulsa World via @RayDowns]
- Illinois bench-‘n’-bar buzz angrily at Gov. Rauner who broke rule re: not mentioning lawyers’ campaign cash to judges [Chicago Daily Law Bulletin]
- “New York’s Asbestos Court Mulls Changes After Sheldon Silver Scandal” [Daniel Fisher] “‘Judicial malpractice’ not to probe court tied to Silver: Judge” [New York Post]
- Let’s all panic about arsenic in wine, or maybe let’s all not [Nick Farr, Abnormal Use (“The highest arsenic levels cited in the lawsuit are less than half of the limits set by other countries such as Canada”), and more on class action lawsuit]
- “Tennessee Sacrifices Property Rights On The Altar Of ‘Gun Rights'” [Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway; earlier here, here, and here]
- Odd that while we make wedding cake bakers and florists common carriers, the old “cab-rank” (any paying client) rule for lawyers has come to seem almost unthinkable [Adam Liptak, NYT on big law firms’ avoidance of representing clients on the unpopular side of major gay rights cases] Similarly: Paul Karl Lukacs, L.A. Daily Journal. Related: “maelstrom of criticism” directed at Harvard lawprof Laurence Tribe over his Supreme Court representation of coal company against EPA [Orin Kerr]
- Just for fun: the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, in license plates [my post at Cato at Liberty]
- “Judge dismisses Brady Center’s lawsuit. Ammo retailers not to blame for Aurora theater killer” [Denver Post via @davekopel]
- “Ever been in a crowded subway car when a gunfight broke out? I have.” And it relates to slip-fall cases [Eric Turkewitz]
- No more of Prosser’s tricks: Scalia warns modern Restatements “of questionable value, must be used with caution” [Orin Kerr]
- Impact of revelations in Garlock document trove continues to ripple: “Insurer Claims Asbestos Fraud Tainted Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes, earlier]
- Trial lawyer allies want to make California’s insurer-shackling Prop 103 even (if possible) worse [Ian Adams, Insurance Journal, see also]
- “The settlement shakedown”: Scott Shackford on the Moonlight Fire case in California [Reason, earlier]
- This must be what they call a hellhole jurisdiction [comic book cover via Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use]
- “The FAA Says You Can’t Post Drone Videos on YouTube” [Vice] Agency rethinking position following outcry? [Photography Is Not a Crime]
- Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) proposes bill directing Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue safety rules for detergent pods [Paula Bolyard, Heartland, quotes me; earlier] Bonus: Lenore Skenazy on CPSC zipper hooded sweatshirt recall;
- New Jersey high court — Gov. Christie’s appointees included — will now take over direct enforcement of court’s previous decisions (“Mount Laurel”) requiring towns to adopt low-income housing quotas [Bergen County Record, earlier]
- Bureau of Indian Affairs revises federal guidelines on Indian Child Welfare Act, and a nonprofit group of adoption attorneys says that not only were it and other stakeholder groups not consulted, but “entire sections” of the revision “completely disregard the best interest of children,” something ICWA alas encourages by its text [American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, earlier]
- Should winning class action plaintiff lawyers be able to mark up their expenses, such as photocopying, as two law professors propose? [Andrew Trask last year]
- “Attorney who appeared in more than 3,000 asbestos cases disbarred … ‘Excuse Man’ also loses license” [Chamber-backed Madison-St. Clair Record]
- If you see an online ad for $199 divorce, maybe think twice before giving them your debit card info over the phone [KTVK, Phoenix]
- “Woman who lost $500K calls ex-lawyer’s 5-year sentence for stealing $10M ‘a joke'” [Alabama; Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
- Canada: “Mom Lost Custody After She Left Her Kid Alone at Home for 90 Minutes” [Lenore Skenazy and Paul Best, Reason] “New British Law Will Call All Sorts of Things ‘Child Abuse.'” [Skenazy]
- “If I End Up On Life Support, My Family Knows The Type Of Long, Protracted Legal Battle I Would Want” [The Onion]
- Stiff training mandates for new drivers? Don’t be surprised if trainers develop into lobby in favor of keeping program going [Maggie Thurber, Ohio Watchdog, thanks for quote]
- “Law prof’s Garlock testimony details asbestos lawyers’ change in strategy” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine on Lester Brickman analysis] Plus, new ATRA website on asbestos litigation abuse;
- “BakerHostetler 2014 Year-End Review of Class Actions (and what to expect in 2015)” [via Paul Karlsgodt]
- R.I.P. legal ethicist Monroe Freedman [Washington Post; a 2012 post of his I admired, re: showboat prosecutors]
- Lester Brickman, others testify before House subcommittee on proposed asbestos-reform FACT Act [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
- “B.C. student-turned-dominatrix awarded $1.5M after car accident left her with new personality” [National Post]
- Here, have some shredded fairness: New Jersey lawmakers advance False Claims Act bill with retroactive provisions [NJLRA] Maryland False Claims Act, which I warned about last year, reintroduced as leading priority of new attorney general Brian Frosh [Maryland Reporter; my coverage here, here, etc.]
- Oregon: a “man badly burned when he poured gasoline on a fire is suing Walmart, claiming the gas can he bought there was defective.” [KOIN]
- Minnesota jury is latest to buy sudden-acceleration case, awards $11 million against Toyota [Reuters]
- Insurers, trial lawyers gear up for Texas legislative fight over hailstorm litigation [Bloomberg/Insurance Journal]
- Breaks ankle in “watch this” stunt, files negligence claim, but some spoilsport posted the footage to YouTube [U.K.: City of London police]
Sheldon Silver’s arrest prompts Jeffrey Toobin to relate a war story regarding the now-defunct law firm known as Morris Eisen, P.C., “an outfit so extravagantly corrupt, so hilariously dishonest, and so creatively malign as almost to defy belief.” (I’ve written a number of times about the Eisen firm myself.) Eisen’s son-in-law, who had gotten his start with the firm, went on to found the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver had his no-visible-duties job and to which he occasionally sent lucrative asbestos referrals from his friends at the Columbia clinic and elsewhere.
Weitz & Luxenberg (which has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the federal investigation, and says it has asked Silver to take a leave of absence) is also a big political player nationally, not just in New York. As Kim Strassel notes at the WSJ, “Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top contributor from 2009 to 2014 was Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm played the same role for Bruce Braley, the trial-lawyer Democrat who just lost an Iowa Senate race.” The other large asbestos firm to receive lucrative patient referrals from Dr. Robert Taub’s now-discontinued Columbia University mesothelioma center is the Simmons firm of Illinois, another big political donor that Strassel says has been the single biggest backer of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Previously on the Silver arrest here and here. More: “Tarnished Silver: Speaker’s arrest upends most everything in Albany” [Andrew Hawkins, Crain’s New York (“his support for the teachers’ union has kept education reformers at bay”); Henry Goldman, Bloomberg; Wayne Barrett on Silver’s “Friends of Shelly” network of pals, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (“In his varied posts, Lippman has long overseen the very courts hearing the asbestos and other cases brought by Silver’s firm.”)
And this Joseph Nocera column from the weekend, which is particularly strong on Silver’s influence over the judiciary in New York, built up through methods all “perfectly legal.” But note this NYT correction stating that Nocera’s discussion of the judiciary in that column was “premised on several factual errors.” (More on that: New York Sun.) The New York Post believes the feds are sniffing around Manhattan trial courts.
“Ugly” question raised by arrest of New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver: how often do law firms trade cash to doctors for mesothelioma referrals? [Alison Frankel/Reuters, Science magazine, earlier] And from the New York Times:
…mesothelioma doctors and personal injury lawyers specializing in asbestos-related litigation have developed over the years what some medical ethical experts describe as an unseemly alliance.
For plaintiffs’ lawyers, mesothelioma patients are a bonanza, worth $1.5 million to $2 million on average per case, according to legal experts; individual cases can yield much more. The hunger for these clients is evident to anyone who has watched late-night cable television and seen the garish ads aimed at those afflicted with the disease….
A symbiotic relationship has emerged, with lawyers financing research on the disease for doctors who send along streams of potentially lucrative clients.
- “Silver’s perversion of a health-care grant that was earmarked for post-9/11 programs” [New York Daily News editorial] Columbia University closes its Mesothelioma Center, deeply involved in the scandal, which had been given a commendation by the New York Assembly in 2011 as its director quietly referred millions in cases to Silver [Daily News]
- Circle wagons first, name committee chairs later: Albany in panic over Silver nab [New York Post, Albany Times-Union]
- Lawyer referral fees, nonprofit cash figured in Lerach/Weiss scandal as well [Daniel Fisher, more]
- Eric Schneiderman, Kathleen Rice… “Law Firm at Center of Silver Scandal Donated Huge Sums” to Moreland Commission figures [New York Observer]
- More: New York Post on, inter alia, strong position held by Weitz & Luxenberg in New York courts; Wayne Barrett/Village Voice 2009 on Silver’s work in obtaining Chief Judge job for old friend Jonathan Lippman. And from Bob McManus at the New York Post: “Orange Is The New Silver.”
According to multiple reports, the FBI has taken New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver into custody following a corruption investigation. Silver is widely thought to know more about the internal workings of Albany than any other person, so if he begins talking things could get interesting. Our previous coverage of Silver — and there’s been a lot — is here, or chronologically at this tag. My coverage of him 2005-2010 at Point of Law is here.
More: The complaint (courtesy WSJ) alleges improprieties with income both from a real estate law firm and from asbestos legal cases. On the latter, it alleges that Silver directed state research money to a university doctor in Manhattan, and that the doctor referred lucrative asbestos cases to Silver’s firm of Weitz & Luxenberg. The doctor is described as a “well-known expert” who “conducts mesothelioma research” and who had created a center at his university by or before 2002 related to that subject. The doctor, not named in the complaint, “has entered into an agreement with the USAO SDNY [U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York] under which he will not be prosecuted for the conduct described herein, and that obligates him to provide truthful information to and cooperate with the government.” [pp. 24-25] Related post: Cato at Liberty.
Yet more: Remembering when the National Council of State Legislatures awarded Silver its “prestigious” and delightfully named “William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award” [Howie Carr, New York Post via Margaret Soltan]
“U.S. personal injury lawyers allegedly concealed evidence and induced clients to commit perjury to drive up asbestos-related settlements and garner bigger fees, according to lawsuits unsealed on Tuesday in the bankruptcy of a gasket maker.” [Reuters, earlier] My 1998 piece on asbestos witness-coaching is here.
- From the Manhattan Institute “Trial Lawyers Inc.” project, “Wheels of Fortune” (PDF), twin report on lawyers’ exploitation of SSDI (Social Security Disability) and ADA cases;
- Theodore Dalrymple on the flaws of the US litigation system [Liberty and Law]
- Testimony: “after he inquired about the 40 percent fee charged by [co-counsel] Chestnut, [Willie] Gary threatened to ‘tie up [client] Baker’s money in the courts for years so he would never live to see it.'” [Gainesville Sun]
- ATRA takes aim at rise of asbestos litigation in NYC [“Judicial Hellholes” series, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, New York Daily News (“national scandal”)]
- Another reminder that while plaintiff’s lawyers conventionally assail pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements, they routinely use them themselves [LNL]
- New U.S. Chamber papers on litigation trends: “Lawsuit Ecosystem II“; state supreme courts review;
- Changes ahead for class action rules? [Andrew Trask]