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Atlanta

This isn’t the first time Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, has come under suspicion of turning forfeiture proceeds into what one might call seizure slush funds. “According to guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Justice, agencies that participate in the federal equitable sharing program (like the Fulton County DA), must ‘avoid any appearance of extravagance, waste, or impropriety’ when spending forfeiture funds.” [Nick Sibilla, Institute for Justice]

P.S. In other forfeiture news, the U.S. Department of Justice has dropped efforts to seize/forfeit the property of landlords renting to California legal medical marijuana dispensaries [Nick Schou/OC Weekly, Reason] And [h/t commenter Gitarcarver] South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel has an expose of forfeiture doings in Sunrise, Fla. Yet more: Baltimore judge aims stinging criticisms at assistant U.S. attorney Stefan Cassella in seized-Mercedes case [Van Smith, City Paper]

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Atlanta readers: a reminder that I’ll be speaking today at 12:15PM at Emory Law School, 1301 Clifton Rd. The closest visitor parking is at the Emory Hospital (map). Also speaking will be Prof. George Shepherd, who’s written extensively on legal education and law and economics and is co-author of the interesting new paper, “Law Deans in Jail” (and you thought I was the one critical of law schools). The Federalist Society chapter is sponsoring.

Kathryn Johnson, 92, “was shot and killed by police during a botched drug raid in 2006,” resulting in a payout of millions of dollars by the city. Now Rev. Markel Hutchins, who made public appearances as spokesperson for Johnston’s family, is suing her estate, saying he had an understanding to receive 10 percent of any recovery. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WABE] (& note commented controversy over whether “botched raid” is accurate.)

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July 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 9, 2010

  • Many interesting reader comments on post about jury award against manufacturer over injury on bicycle motorized post-sale;
  • Reimbursed for money never paid: “Calif. Trial Lawyers Welcome Latest Ruling on Recovery of Medical Expenses” [The Recorder]
  • Update: Defamation suit against travel blogger Chris Elliott resolved successfully [Citizen Media Law, earlier]
  • Podcast: Northwestern lawprof Steven Calabresi on McDonald (Second Amendment incorporation) case [Federalist Society]
  • “Provost Umphrey claims banana picker reps siphoned clients, money” [SE Texas Record]
  • Lawprofs in a NYT flutter about deductibility of punitive damages [Walk, Drug & Device Law] On the merits, Carter at ShopFloor: “Changing Tax Laws to Punish Businesses — Unless They Settle”
  • Troubled Pacific Law Center to close in San Diego [ABA Journal, earlier]
  • New York high court rules Atlanta exec cannot invoke New York’s pro-plaintiff state or city laws to contest firing [NYLJ]

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Perhaps the most urgent question raised by this Atlanta Journal-Constitution story is not: how did Elijah Anderson manage to emerge from such a collision sufficiently unscathed to resume life as a normal kid, aside from a scar? Nor is it: why is his mother, represented by attorney Fred Lerner, planning to sue railroad CSX despite an investigative report exonerating the railroad and the general principle that right of ways are not for trespassing? No, the real question is: whose idea was it to take that camera shot of him on the tracks?

More on railroad trespassers here, here, here, etc.

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We’ve had a lot of Montgomery Blair Sibley coverage over the years:

And we didn’t even mention his work representing Larry Sinclair (the fellow who unsuccessfully sued Barack Obama for denying Sinclair’s implausible claim that he had engaged in a homosexual tryst with him) in a lawsuit against three anonymous bloggers. (DBKP blog, Mar. 14.)

After years of over-the-top abusive litigation, the state bar finally took action, and he has been suspended by the Florida bar for three years. No doubt, this will result in a new round of frivolous pro se collateral litigation. It took a contempt-of-court citation for failure to pay child support before the Florida bar took action, so this can hardly be considered a rousing success of the bar in policing its own, even for someone as over-the-top as Sibley. (Florida Bar v. Sibley; ABA Journal, Apr. 25; MPGS blog, May 14; h/t S.G.).

Update: Two commenters (who never appeared on Overlawyered before) implausibly defend Sibley, both posting from BellSouth accounts in Atlanta, GA. Nothing about a divorce requires one to sue seven Supreme Court justices for “judicial treason” for denying a (frivolous) certiorari petition from a frivolous lawsuit. He should have been disbarred a long time ago; that he is only being suspended, and then only because of failure to obey court orders, is appalling. He’s been a hazard to his clients and to taxpayers; so, no, I don’t think he’s a “damn good lawyer.”

Update, May 16, 2:45 AM: We originally repeated a second-hand report sent to us that Sibley had also been suspended in DC as part of reciprocal discipline. It is possible that our correspondent confused a Rule 8.1 report, made by the DC Bar counsel recommending reciprocal suspension, with an actual suspension. If a Rule 8.1 report was filed, Sibley is entitled to file a response; no oral argument is scheduled at this time (though none is required to be scheduled) and no DC Board on Professional Responsibility report is listed as having issued with respect to Sibley. Rule 8.4 of the DC Board on Professional Responsibility Rules of Procedure is titled “Conclusive Effect of Adjudication in Other Jurisdiction,” which would appear to give Sibley nothing to argue in DC, and would likely make discipline inevitable, but the District of Columbia, in its typical competence, has posted the wrong text for 8.4 on its website, so I cannot say that for certain. Montgomery Sibley is, as of May 16, still listed on the DC Bar’s website as a member in good standing. If the error is ours, rather than that of the DC Bar website, we regret the error. Without written confirmation of the suspension, we retract the original statement that the DC Bar has suspended Sibley in response to the Florida bar’s three-year suspension of Sibley.

Update, May 20: We were right the first time.

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We’ve covered the litigious inmate fantasist before, but this is still a striking statistic: “Thirty-nine percent of the 491 cases filed so far this month in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia have been filed by one man: Jonathan Lee Riches. …Some of Riches’ prior complaints have been dismissed, including a $662 trillion suit filed in the Northern District last summer against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. The suit alleged that Vick was attempting to ‘kidnap’ Riches’ mind and to force him to lose weight, and demanded that the $662 trillion be delivered — in ‘British gold’ shipped via truck — to the front gates of the prison where Riches is incarcerated.” (Janet L. Conley, “Inmate’s Frequent Filings Take On Targets Ranging From Spitzer to Van Halen”, Fulton County Daily Report, Mar. 25).

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Roundup, March 15

by Ted Frank on March 15, 2008

  • Speaking of prostitutes and politicians, Deborah Jeane Palfrey has come to recognize that Montgomery Blair Sibley (Oct. 29; May 4; etc.) may not be the best lawyer for her. [WTOP via BLT]
  • Update: Nearly two years later, trial court gets around to upholding $2 million verdict in lawn-mower death we covered Jun. 16 and Aug. 18, 2006. [Roanoke Times (quoting me); opinion at On Point]
  • In other lawn mower news, check out Jim Beck’s perceptive comment on a Third Circuit lawn-mower liability decision.
  • Update: Willie Gary wins his child-support dispute. [Gary v. Gowins (Ga.); Atl. Journal-Const.; via ABA Journal; earlier: Nov. 2]
  • Tobacco-lawyer Mike Ciresi drops out of Minnesota senate race. [WCCO]
  • Belfast court quashes libel ruling against restaurant critic. [AFP/Breitbart]
  • Trial-lawyer-blogger happy: jury returned $1.25 million med-mal verdict for death of totally disabled person suffering from end-stage renal disease, pulmonary hypertension, oxygen dependent lung disease, and obesity, after rejecting businessperson from jury “for cause” because he was head of local Chamber of Commerce. [Day]
  • Car-keying anti-military attorney Jay Grodner faced the law in January; here’s the transcript. [Blackfive]
  • Anonymous blog post not reliable evidence of factual allegations. [In re Pfizer, Inc. Sec. Litig., 2008 WL 540120 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2008) via Roberts, who also reports on fee reduction in same post]
  • Clinton’s nutty mortgage plan. [B&MI (quoting me)]
  • A supposed DC cabbie’s take on DC v. Heller. [DC Cabbie blog]

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Deal or Raw Deal?

by Peter Morin on February 28, 2008

Howie Mandel’s stunningly successful Deal Or No Deal television game show had an amusing little side-show.

Viewers were invited to play the “Lucky Case Game” by choosing which of six on-screen gold briefcases was the lucky case. Viewers submitted their choice on the Internet for free or through a text message that cost 99 cents. At the end of the program, the winning briefcase was revealed, and the winners were entered into a random drawing. The winner of that drawing received a prize of as much as $10,000.

One enterprising Georgia lawyer claims that this amounts to illegal gambling and has filed a class action lawsuit to obtain refunds of the 99 cent text message fees (plus attorneys fees, of course):

When a Forsyth County couple sent 99-cent text messages trying to win a prize on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” they engaged in illegal gambling and should get their money back, a lawyer told the Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

So should all other Georgians who sent text messages in the show’s “Lucky Case Game” and lost, lawyer Jerry Buchanan said. A judge hearing the case has estimated the bounty could reach tens of millions of dollars.

The case has been report to the state Supreme Court for the answers to two questions:

1. Does Georgia law allow losers of an illegal lottery to recover the money they lost?

2. And, if so, may the losers recover that money from the lottery’s promoter or organizer?

No mention of the third question.

(Atlanta Journal & Constitution, ajc.com, Feb. 27)

Since the suit was filed, the game has stopped.

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Once again, the combination of contingency fees and law enforcement spells trouble: an article by Tresa Baldas in the National Law Journal reports that controversy is mounting over the activities of private firms that go after noncustodial parents’ child support obligations in exchange for a percentage share of the bounty (“Suits collecting around child support collectors”, Sept. 17, no free link). “Critics of the industry — many of them lawyers — claim that private collectors of child support are engaging in predatory practices, such as charging excessive contingency fees as high as 50%, and using aggressive collection tactics that run afoul of federal laws.” The private agencies escape the scrutiny of federal debt collection laws and have been operating effectively without regulation, but state lawmakers are now moving to fill the gap, with 13 states having passed laws intended to protect the services’ clients (if not always their adversaries) by capping fees, prohibiting the agencies from collaring state-directed payments, and giving clients more leeway to withdraw from contracts.

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November 2 roundup

by Ted Frank on November 2, 2007

  • Curlin gets 400 new owners, as the Kentucky fen-phen plaintiffs ripped off by their attorneys get the right to seize Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion’s 20% share of the Preakness Stakes winner. [AP/NYT; earlier]
  • As Lerach pleads guilty, LA Times editorial defends class action abuses, incorrectly says that the PSLRA fixed everything and that Lerach didn’t act illegally after it was passed. [LA Times]
  • That $10.9 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church was “not about the money.” [Reuters] Really, now, this case imposing bankrupting damages for a protest on a public sidewalk is appalling. Granted: Phelps is bigoted scum, and rude bigoted scum at that. But Albert Snyder’s claimed physical injury is that the protest exacerbated his diabetes: what sort of junk science is that? NB that Snyder was not even aware of the protest at the funeral until he watched it on television. Why not liability for the news program? Even those happy to see the anti-gay bigotry of the WBC punished should take pause: Snyder testified at length that the protest upset him particularly because his son was not gay.
  • Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary (Apr. 29, Oct. 2004), on the hook for $28,000/month in child support for love child. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
  • Deep-pocket search in Great White fire case. [Childs]
  • Lawsuit over which school 9-year-old can play football for. [Tulsa World (via TMQ G. Easterbrook)] Worse, the judge rewarded the plaintiff by second-guessing the league decision. [Tulsa World]
  • It only takes ten months of legal proceedings for Cal-Berkeley to evict trespassers squatting on university property. [SF Gate]
  • Don’t hold your breath: who’s watching the trial lawyers? [Examiner]

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NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s lawsuits against out-of-state gun dealers continue in New York City, thanks to Judge Weinstein (see Aug. 27, and links therein), but it’s not all rosy for the mayor. As we previously reported, some of the gun dealers targeted by Bloomberg’s sting are fighting back, and one of them won a victory last month:

Questioning the legality of tactics used by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to sue gun dealers, a federal judge in Atlanta has allowed a defamation suit by a Smyrna, Ga., gun shop against Bloomberg and other New York City officials to go forward.

Although the judge dismissed the Smyrna gun seller’s negligence claims against New York officials, he declared that six of 13 potentially defamatory statements were actionable and cleared the way for a tortious interference with business claim.

[...]

Bloomberg, accompanied by other New York public officials, announced the results of the sting — and the accompanying suit — in May 2006 at a news conference. According to court records in the case, Bloomberg called the gun dealers “a group of bad apples who routinely ignore federal regulations,” and Feinblatt said that the targeted gun dealers had “New Yorkers’ blood on their hands.” Forrester ruled that both of those statements are vulnerable to liability claims.

More importantly, the judge denied Bloomberg’s request to transfer the case to New York, where it would have been heard by Judge Weinstein. (Bloomberg is attempting to get the decision reversed, but for now, the suit against him is active.)

In other gun-related litigation, it seems that Gary, Indiana’s lawsuit against gun manufacturers may continue, despite the fact that Congress passed a law explicitly banning such lawsuits; as in New York City’s war on gun manufacturers, activist judges seem to want to interpret away Congress’s words. (Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in Manhattan in an appeal of Judge Weinstein’s ruling allowing the city’s lawsuit to proceed. (Earlier: Nov. 2005)

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TB-flying Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker tells his side of the story. (Meredith Hobbs, “Bad Image Lingers for Atlanta Lawyer With TB”, Fulton County Daily Report, Sept. 13).

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Video resumes have been achieving a certain popularity lately among some job seekers, even beyond fields such as graphics and Web work where skill in video editing and presentation itself counts as a job qualification. Novices are finding it easier to get into the act as online job bazaars such as Jobster, CareerBuilder and Vault begin to offer ways of creating and disseminating video resumes.

Many labor and employment attorneys, however, are warning employers that video resumes open up too many liability issues to be comfortably accepted:

“Just don’t even deal with them,” said Dennis Brown, an attorney in the San Jose, Calif., office of Littler Mendelson whose firm recently advised employers about the dangers of video resumés in a seminar. “My advice to my clients who have asked me about video resumes — and I have had a lot of clients ask lately — is do not accept, do not review video resumes.”

Brown’s main concern with video resumes is that they reveal information about a person’s race, sex, disability, age — all details that could wind up in a discrimination lawsuit…. “This is one of those instances where a little bit of unnecessary knowledge is dangerous.” …

Labor and employment attorney Darlene Smith can’t fathom why employers — knowing the risks of video resumes — would willingly open themselves up to lawsuits. “Actually, I’m dead set against it, to be honest,” said Smith of the Washington office of Boston’s Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. “You definitely, definitely increase your exposure…so why even put yourself in a position to be sued?”

And similarly from Cheryl Behymer of Fisher & Phillips in Atlanta: “You’re opening yourself up to a potential that someone could claim, ‘Well, the reason I didn’t get hired is because you could see my gray hair and you could see that I’m over 40.'”

As for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it may come as a relief to learn from an EEOC staff attorney that the agency does not consider video resumes a legal violation in themselves. However, it’s “concerned” that they “could contribute to hiring discrimination”, says the attorney. Other EEOC “concerns”, per the NLJ’s Tresa Baldas: “video resumes could also lead to the exclusion of people who are not tech-savvy, or minority applicants who may not have access to broadband-equipped computers or video cameras.” (“Employers told to stay away from video resumes”, National Law Journal, Jun. 4, not online).

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David Giacalone has some thoughts on now-notorious Atlanta personal injury lawyer Andrew J. Speaker, who doesn’t seem to have lived up very well to the Lakoff-prescribed billing of “public protection attorney” (Jun. 1). But see: Elizabeth Whelan, in the New York Post, thinks the pillorying of Speaker’s decision to fly home has been overdone (“Free Andrew! Hysteria and the TB Case”, Jun. 2). Updates: Jul. 8 (some passengers sue Speaker), Dec. 2 (no one flying with him caught TB).

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Because if your insurer wasn’t willing to pay for damages to your car incurred after your family member led police on a high-speed chase, why was it willing to collect the premiums in the first place? (Beth Warren, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Apr. 6).

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A team of doctors at North Fulton Medical Center worked on Josh Coleman’s back surgery in 2003. Dr. Frank Puhalovich had a minor role: “he was only in the operating room for about 10 minutes making sure a technician properly hooked up a monitor that tracks nerve impulses along the spinal [cord] through electrodes attached to Coleman’s head and feet.” But after Puhalovich left, during surgery, the alarm went off: attorneys blame the surgeons’ failure to respond to the alarm in a timely fashion for Coleman’s paralysis. Coleman sued everyone involved, and all the doctors settled, except Puhalovich. So Coleman proceeded to trial against Puhalovich, blamed him also, and a jury awarded $11.7 million. The press coverage gives no indication what the theory of liability is against Puhalovich.

Joshua Coleman, sitting in a wheelchair next to his attorneys, Bill Stone and David Boone, smiled as the verdict was announced after the two-week civil trial.

“Josh is high as a kite right now,” Stone said. “He’s going to have a great weekend.”

(Beth Warren, “Paralyzed man awarded $11.7 million”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 24).

Update: Kevin, MD post with clever title Shotgun yields a jackpot.

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“Genarlow Wilson, honor student and football star, had consensual sex with a fellow teenager. What happened to him next was a crime.” Once the target of recruiting efforts by Ivy League coaches, the Douglasville, Ga. native is now twenty years old and Inmate No. 1187055 at Burruss Correctional Training Center, an hour and a half south of Atlanta. His crime? Sex with a 15-year-old girl, when he was 17. “Everyone, including the girl and the prosecution, agreed she initiated the act.” The operation of Georgia law was what you might call Draconian: “Just two years into a 10-year sentence without possibility of parole, he peers through the thick glass and bars, trying to catch a glimpse of freedom. Outside, guard towers and rolls of coiled barbed wire remind him of who he is.” (Wright Thompson, “Outrageous Injustice”, ESPN E-Ticket magazine, no date posted; Wilson appeal website; Chandra R. Thomas, “Why Is Genarlow Wilson in Prison?”, Atlanta magazine, no date posted; Sherry F. Colb, “The Harsh Wages of Sin: Why Genarlow Wilson is Languishing in Prison”, FindLaw, Jan. 10; Doug Berman, Jan. 24).

More: Georgia lawmaker has introduced bill that would allow for more lenient resentencing in Wilson case ((Alyson M. Palmer, “Ga. Bill Takes Aim at Sentencing That Resulted in 10-Year Term for Teen Sex”, Fulton County Daily Report, Jan. 29).

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