Posts tagged as:

attorneys general

January 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 20, 2015

  • Grand jury said to recommend charges against Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane [Philadelphia Inquirer, more, earlier here and here]
  • Orin Kerr analyzes Obama admininstration proposals to expand law on computer crime [Volokh Conspiracy and more]
  • “Religious Liberty Isn’t a ‘Dog Whistle’ – It’s a Necessary Practice of a Free Society” [Scott Shackford, Reason vs. Frank Bruni, New York Times]
  • Scalia, Epstein, many others: videos now online from the Federalist Society’s recently concluded 2014 National Lawyers Convention;
  • List of firms with non-disparagement clauses (of highly dubious enforceability) purporting to forbid negative comments from customers [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
  • “Red Tape Is Strangling Good Samaritans” [Philip K. Howard, The Daily Beast]
  • I’ve written on this irony: antitrust lawyers collude among themselves to boost their fee take [Daniel Fisher]

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The close working relationship between some state attorneys general and private trial lawyers — in which the AGs hire the lawyers to represent their states for a percentage fee of the haul — is not a new topic to us here at Overlawyered, but it’s nice to see it getting aired at length in the Dec. 18 New York Times piece by reporter Eric Lipton. The title gives a good introduction: “Lawyers Create Big Paydays by Coaxing Attorneys General to Sue” and in fact the private lawyers who commonly pitch the suits are themselves sometimes former state attorneys general, such as Michael Moore of Mississippi (of longstanding fame here), Patricia Madrid of New Mexico, Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island, Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma, and Peg Lautenschlager of Wisconsin. A few excerpts:

  • Law firm donations to AGs or “party-backed organizations that they run” “often come in large chunks just before or after” inking contracts to represent the state. A sidebar chart, “Political Gifts from Plaintiffs Lawyers,” confirms that most of the money flows to partisan attorney general associations ($3.8 million to Democrats and $1.6 million to Republicans over a decade) or state parties ($1.5 vs. $445,000) as opposed to candidates directly ($2 million vs. $240,000, not counting AGs running for governor).
  • When various AGs signed a brief to the Supreme Court supporting the plaintiff’s side in a securities litigation case, it was after being sedulously cultivated to do so by the lawyers.
  • “…at least three former attorneys general are pitching painkiller abuse cases to states nationwide, although no state has yet publicly signed up.” More on the Chicago and California-county painkiller cases here.
  • Yes: “‘Farming out the police powers of the state to a private firm with a profit incentive is a very, very bad thing,’ said Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado, a Republican and a former United States attorney.”

Full article, again, here. Michael Greve has further commentary on why it’s often AGs from small states who take the lead and whether business really started it all.

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Who’d have guessed that movie studios would entrust populist Mississippi Attorney General and longtime Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood with a key role in pushing their rights as copyright owners against online services and search engines? Not I [Eli Lehrer, Weekly Standard] More from Mike Masnick at TechDirt: “it appears the MPAA and the major Hollywood studios directly funded various state Attorneys General in their efforts to attack and shame Google.” Related: The Verge.

Sequel: Google goes to court to block a sweeping subpoena from Hood [ArsTechnica, HuffPost (Hood: "salacious Hollywood tale")] “One of Hood’s letters critical of Google, published earlier this week by The New York Times, was ‘largely written by lawyers for the movie industry,’ the company points out.” More: Hood vs. Google, from our archives.

December 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 10, 2014

  • “Judge dismisses ‘American Idol’ racial bias lawsuit” [Reuters]
  • “Don’t sue your art dealer, because you won’t win” [Shane Ferro, Business Insurance on fate of Ronald Perelman suit against Larry Gagosian]
  • Lawyer with big case pending before West Virginia high court bought plane from chief justice’s spouse [ABC, Charleston Daily Mail, WV Record]
  • Remembering Bruno Leoni, classical liberal known for theory of superiority of decisional law process over legislation [Cato panel this summer, Todd Zywicki/Liberty and Law]
  • “If I ever shoot your wedding, I’ll be sure to add a clause of ‘You cannot sue me for $300,000.'” [@GilPhotography on PetaPixel coverage]
  • “Court Unconvinced by Lawyer Dressed as Thomas Jefferson” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Arizona attorney general to GM: gimme $10K for every vehicle you’ve sold in my state [Bloomberg]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on December 3, 2014

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 30, 2014

  • Weekly Standard runs my parody song about the local governor’s race, “Show Me the Way to Frederickstown, or, Lost in Maryland“; Update: Here’s Lauren Weiner’s rendition, to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” Freelance writer Lauren Weiner has lived in Baltimore since 1992. [improved YouTube link with video]
  • Also on Maryland governor’s race: it’s not every day a GOP challenger blames a Democratic incumbent for issuing too few pardons [Radley Balko; more on clemency]
  • Harry Reid forces are latest to demagogue Stand Your Ground laws and role of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but Glenn Kessler calls them on it with Four Pinocchios [Washington Post "Fact Checker"]
  • Enough non-citizens vote illegally “that their participation can change the outcome of close races.” [Jesse Richman and David Earnest, Washington Post Monkey Cage; a response]
  • State attorney general offices are now politicized and targets of lobbying, and why should we be surprised at that given all the power they’ve grabbed for themselves as business regulators in recent years? [David Boaz, Cato] Hot state-AG races this year include Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Arkansas [John Fund]
  • Two views on Alabama proposed Amendment One, curbing use of foreign law: Paul Horwitz (adds nothing to Alabama constitution not already there), Quin Hillyer (insurance against bad judicial decisionmaking);
  • More about the Greg Abbott tree-fall settlement called into question by opponent Wendy Davis [Hugh Kelly, TLR, earlier]
  • Long Island legislator withdraws from State Senate race after charges of high-dollar law-firm misconduct [Newsday]
  • Defaulted mortgages: “Coakley lawsuit has ties to key backer’s interests” [Boston Globe via Funnell] Flashback: Radley Balko in 2010 on Martha Coakley’s awful prosecutorial record (up to that point) [Politico; related, Harvey Silverglate on prosecutors who run for higher office; earlier]

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July 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 29, 2014

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on July 21, 2014

  • Bruce Braley’s “farmer” gaffe might hurt long-term because it fits into a wider pattern about the would-be Iowa senator [John Tabin/Rare, earlier]
  • Disbarred ex-D.A. and longtime Overlawyered favorite Andrew Thomas running for GOP Arizona governor nomination [Phoenix New Times]
  • Did Wisconsin John Doe probe include email dragnet? Yahoo billed DA for “costs associated with subpoena compliance” [M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter, more]
  • “We need a Democratic sweep. Stay focused.” — work-hours tweet by former Federal Election Commission enforcement lawyer whose hard drive, like that of her former FEC boss Lois Lerner, now tragically missing [House Oversight report, Daily Caller]
  • Texas hurricane claims: megadonor Steve Mostyn “successfully drags state senator into TWIA lawsuit” [Legal NewsLine, TLR]
  • No more pay to play? Two Ohio lawmakers seek to curb campaign giving by law firms hired by state’s attorney general [Aurora Advocate]
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s research on medical bankruptcy may be shaky, but it’s hard to fault her taste in English sports cars [Ira Stoll, American Spectator]

Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested Thursday on a combined 23 counts arising from a series of episodes in which the two men are said to have accepted cash and favors from persons with business dealings with their offices; Swallow is also accused of destroying and falsifying evidence to cover up dealings with a now-deceased entrepreneur from whom he had allegedly accepted $17,000 in gold coins. The two men, both Republicans, say they are innocent and expect to be vindicated. The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage saves the Harry Reid angle for paragraph 19; the Las Vegas Review Journal gives it more attention, emphasizing Reid’s strong denial of any wrongdoing. Unrelated but also depressing: a former New Mexico AG and a penny stock.

Also: Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, officials have placed plaques beneath portraits of four lawmakers in the state capitol with details of their eventual criminal convictions. I have more details in a Cato post.

Mass tort roundup

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2014

  • New Hampshire lottery: after Granite State’s MTBE contamination suits pays off big, Vermont files its own [WLF Legal Pulse]
  • Supreme Court declines to review various cases arising from Florida’s Engle tobacco litigation [Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSBlog, earlier] “U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Fen-Phen Lawyers’ Appeal of $42M Kentucky Verdict” [Insurance Journal, earlier]
  • In action against five drug firms over opioid marketing, California’s Santa Clara County partners with law firms Robinson Calcagnie, Cohen Milstein, and Hagens Berman, marking at least the tenth time the county has teamed up with outside law firms to file suits [Legal NewsLine; earlier on Chicago's involvement in painkiller suit]
  • Lester Brickman on fraud in mesothelioma litigation [SSRN] “Plaintiff Lawyer Offers Inside Look At `Institutionalized Fraud’ At Asbestos Trusts” [Daniel Fisher]
  • “‘Light’ cigarette case vs Huck’s continues after 9 years; Two current judges had been plaintiff’s counsel” [Madison Record, ABA Journal]
  • “If honesty in the judicial system means anything, it means proceeding with candor before the tribunal, which plaintiffs’ counsel did not do during the removal proceedings.” [dissent in Peter Angelos Cashmere Bouquet asbestos case, Legal NewsLine]
  • Report on products liability and the driverless car [John Villasenor, Brookings, earlier]

From her threat to sue the Philadelphia Inquirer over its reporting to her use of elected office to pursue quarrels with political foes, it’s a record that makes a case all by itself for demoting the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General to something appointive and lower-profile. [Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Magazine, earlier]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2014

  • NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
  • Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
  • 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a "this day and trip only" theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
  • “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley's IRS intervention, Watchdog]
  • Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
  • Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
  • Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
  • John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
  • Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.

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Pennsylvania attorney general Kathleen Kane dropped a longstanding corruption “sting” probe that had snagged several Philly officials. The Philadelphia Inquirer raised questions about her decision in its reporting, which contributed to a public outcry over the episode. Then Attorney General Kane brought a prominent libel litigator with her to a meeting with the Inquirer editors, and that lawyer announced that Kane was exploring her options of suing the paper and others that had reported on the matter, and that he was going to do the talking for her.

On Sunday the paper continued to cover the sting story here and here. Ed Krayewski comments at Reason. Longtime Overlawyered readers may recognize the name of Kane’s attorney Richard Sprague.

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Caleb Brown interviews me for this new Cato podcast on a knotty question: when should a state attorney general decline to argue in court in defense of a law he thinks unconstitutional? On the one hand, the legal profession’s norms strongly favor giving every client and cause its day in court, and practical dysfunction might result were cases routinely handed over to others to defend or dropped entirely. On the other hand, attorneys general like other officials take an oath of office to the constitution, which calls in doubt whether they should (or even may) use their skills on behalf of unconstitutional measures. Complicating matters: how should unconstitutionality be assessed, by way of the AG’s own judgment, by way of predicting how the highest relevant court would rule, or by some other method? What kind of difference should it make whether the assessment appears certain, very probable, or more ambiguous than that?

In recent weeks about a half-dozen Democratic AGs around the country have declined to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage, on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision of last year, while other AGs both Republican and Democratic have argued in defense of those laws. (Today, Kentucky’s attorney general announced that he will not appeal a federal court ruling requiring the state to recognize out-of-state marriages, although the state’s governor is stepping in to do so.) Finding either liberals or conservatives who have preserved entirely consistent positions on the issue, though, is not always easy. Former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a strong conservative, declined to defend a state education reform law last year, while in 2011 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declined to defend a state domestic partnership registry they deemed unconstitutional. In a case like the latter it was liberals who tended to criticize the refusal to defend a law, and conservatives who applauded — patterns that to some extent have been reversed this time around.

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Now this is bound to end well: Mississippi lawmakers vote to give Attorney General Jim Hood, a frequent mentionee in this space, his own strike forces [Radley Balko, AP]

February 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 20, 2014

  • “Woman Arrested Nine Years After Failing to Return Rented Video” [S.C.: Lowering the Bar, more]
  • “Why India’s Ban Against Child Labor Increased Child Labor” [James Schneider, EconLib]
  • “I’ve never seen an attorney general sanctioned.” Court hits Nevada AG Catherine Cortez Masto with sanctions after collapse of robosigning suit against mortgage servicer that state hired D.C.’s Cohen Milstein to bring [Daniel Fisher, update (case settles)]
  • Another review of the new collection The American Illness: Essays on the Rule of Law (Frank Buckley, ed.) [Bainbridge, earlier]
  • They would be major: “The Gains from Getting Rid of ‘Run Amok’ Occupational Licensing” [David Henderson]
  • E-cigarettes could save lives [Sally Satel, Washington Post]
  • How incentives to avoid tax can lead to social tragedy, in this case via ABBA stage outfits [Guardian]

“Lawyers are pitching state attorneys general in 16 states with a radical idea: make the food industry pay for soaring obesity-related health care costs. … So far none have agreed to sign on.” One hope: the theory popularized by former FDA chief David Kessler that bacon, brownies and buttered popcorn should be seen as “addictive.” Paul McDonald, a Chicago lawyer who is organizing the campaign, is described as a former “senior counsel at Kraft Foods.” [Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico]

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February 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 3, 2014

  • “Class counsel in Facebook ‘Sponsored Stories’ case seeks to impose $32,000 appeal bond on class-action objectors” [Public Citizen, Center for Class Action Fairness]
  • The best piece on bar fight litigation I’ve ever read [Burt Likko, Ordinary Gentlemen]
  • Casino mogul Adelson campaigns to suppress online gaming; is your state attorney general among those who’ve signed on? [PPA, The Hill]
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): “Anyone who values the rule of law should be alarmed by the ADM enforcement action.” [Mike Koehler]
  • New FMCSA rules on length of workweek make life difficult for long-haul truckers [Betsy Morris, WSJ via Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven, National Review and more]
  • “It takes a remarkable amount of nerve to cobble together publicly available facts, claim you’ve uncovered a fraud on the government, and file a lawsuit from which you could earn substantial financial benefits.” [Richard Samp, WLF] Whistleblower-law lobby tries to get its business model established in West Virginia [W.V. Record]
  • Pittsburgh readers, hope to see you tomorrow at Duquesne [law school Federalist Society]