The NBC affiliate in the Bay Area investigates “what some say is legalized extortion” (watch out for annoying can’t-mute, can’t-freeze auto-play ad). The report “reviewed more than 10,000 federal ADA lawsuits filed since 2005 in the five states with the highest disabled populations. More lawsuits have been filed in California than Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York combined.” Among violations charged: “a mirror that was hung 1.5 inches too high, a disabled access emblem that was ‘not the correct size,’ and one that was ‘not at the correct height on a restroom door.’ …’Given the way the building codes change as often as they do, it’s virtually impossible [to be in full compliance]‘ certified access specialist Christina Stevens said.”
That was in happier days, when California State Sen. Leland Yee was winning national applause for his gun-control efforts. Yesterday the San Jose Mercury-News reported:
In a stunning criminal complaint, State Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major FBI operation spanning the Bay Area. … Yee asked whether he wanted automatic weapons, and the agent confirmed he did — about $500,000 to $2.5 million worth.”
Is it time to retire our “Do as we say” tag yet? Eliot Spitzer got exposed after crusading for longer sentences for “johns.” Czars of alcohol-abuse programs keep getting nabbed on the road after having a half dozen too many. Rep. Bob Filner groped his way to the podium to chair hearings on women’s issues.
Now there’s this. Maybe Sen. Yee came down so hard on private gun dealers because he wanted to muscle into the business himself.
The entire criminal information, which beggars belief in its colorful detail (Chinese gangs, Russian arms runners, Muslim insurgents in the Philippines) is here, with highlights summarized by Scott Lucas of San Francisco magazine. The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized: “Few observers of San Francisco politics are surprised by [Yee's] arrest on corruption charges.” Then there’s this sidelight: “Keith Jackson, accused by the FBI on Wednesday of being involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and a gun- and drug-trafficking conspiracy, was San Francisco’s top elected educator during the late 1990s.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
Getting placed on the vexatious-litigants list might not actually slow you down all that much in the pace of your suit-filing. A frequent Sacramento litigant has been on the list since 2003 but nonetheless obtains fee waivers by pleading poverty even as property is held in trust or in his wife’s name, uses variations of his name that throw adversaries off the track, and, according to an opponent, gets around a ban on pro se filing by using a lawyer to file and then substituting himself as counsel. [KXTV (auto-plays), ABA Journal]
“In a blistering ruling against Cal Fire, a judge in Plumas County has found the agency guilty of ‘egregious and reprehensible conduct’ in its response to the 2007 Moonlight fire and ordered it to pay more than $30 million in penalties, legal fees and costs to Sierra Pacific Industries and others accused in a Cal Fire lawsuit of causing the fire. … Sierra Pacific, the largest private landowner in California, was blamed by state and federal officials for the blaze, with a key report finding it was started by a spark from the blade of a bulldozer belonging to a company working under contract for Sierra Pacific.” The company has contended that the cause determination was reached in haste and pursued with an eye to extracting legal proceeds for an agency-run settlement fund later found to be illegal. [Sacramento Bee; Robert Hilson, Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists]
“California regulator seeks to shut down ‘learn to code’ bootcamps” [Venture Beat]
More than a thousand local businesses have sprung up following California’s legalization of at-home foodmaking for sale. One of them is Mark Stambler’s reopened Pagnol Boulanger, which authorities had raided and shut down the day after the Los Angeles Times profiled its French bread. [Nick Sibilla, Forbes] Effort underway to expand cottage food law in Virginia [Baylen Linnekin]
Chefs “hate” the idea of using gloves or tongs on everything, says the L.A. Times, and the epic volume of plastic disposables that will have to be run through daily will make a bad joke out of the bag bans popular in the state, but the legislature was unswayed:
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that made changes to the California Retail Food Code in an effort to curtail foodborne illnesses, and those changes include a law that says “food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.”
That means cooks must wear single-use gloves or use utensils when handling food such as sushi, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and any cooked components of dishes that will be plated for customers.
Some opinions from Twitter:
P.S. Cookery writer Michael Ruhlman has more to say here (“at any busy restaurant, my experience has been that the cooks’ hands are the cleanest in the place. You’re more likely to pick up germs from the waiter’s hand that sets your plate before you — but you don’t hear the legislators clamoring for this.”)
Last year we linked a report about a series of unfortunate events that kept happening to elected officials in Costa Mesa, Calif. after they resisted negotiating demands from the city’s police union. One saw his supporters’ businesses harassed by cops, while another was picked up on a bogus DUI charge phoned in by a private eye with ties to an Upland, Calif. law firm, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir, known for extremely aggressive representation of police unions around California.
Now the Lackie, Dammeier firm is in turmoil following a raid on its offices by the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Former Costa Mesa councilman Jim Righeimer, target of the bogus DUI report, and council colleague Steve Mensinger have also alleged in a lawsuit that the law firm’s private investigator attached a GPS device to Mensinger’s car. Lawyers for the two believe the device allowed the investigator to trace the pair’s whereabouts to the bar, allowing for the called-in DUI report which failed when Righeimer produced evidence he had consumed only a couple of Diet Cokes. Mensinger “said the device was affixed to his car during the entire 2012 election season and came to his attention only when he was alerted by the Orange County district attorney’s office.” [L.A. Times, more] The Orange County Register reported: “Mensinger and Righeimer are strong supporters of reforming public pensions and privatizing some city services. … Besides Mensinger, [investigator Chris] Lanzillo is also suspected of following former El Monte City Manager Rene Bobadilla to his home in June 2011, according to a police report obtained by the Orange County Register.” And more recently: “Though they made no admissions, lawyers for the law firm and Lanzillo argued in court papers that placing a tracking device on Mensinger’s truck wouldn’t be an invasion of privacy.” The Costa Mesa police union, also named as a defendant, says in a separate filing that it wasn’t involved with any GPS-tracking plan. [Daily Pilot]
That’s not the only trouble facing the firm: “A statewide police defense fund is no longer sending [it cases] after a forensic audit uncovered triple-billing, bogus travel expenses and ‘serious acts of misconduct.’” [Orange County Register] According to press reports, the firm is in the course of dissolving.
Will California drive manufacturing of sriracha to Texas? [Steven Greenhut, Aaron Renn, Baylen Linnekin]
The Bloomberg View columnist discusses the new ruling by a California state judge that companies that once made lead paint, and their successors, owe a billion dollars plus to California counties and cities over marketing of lead paint as long ago as the 1920s and earlier. I’m quoted:
As Walter Olson of the Cato Institute noted to me in an e-mail, “Many of the key business decisions being sued over took place closer to Abraham Lincoln’s time than to our own, and if the companies had gone to twenty leading lawyers of the day and asked, `could this ever lead to nuisance liability under such-and-such facts’ would have been told `of course not.’” Can you really sue a company for doing something that was well within the law? Or, as in one case, a company that bought a company that did something that was well within the law? As Olson points out, “when ConAgra bought Beatrice Foods, most business observers never even realized there was the tiny sliver of a paint company in there among the household food brands, but that one little sliver of successor liability could far exceed the then-value of all the rest.”
More from @Popehat on Twitter: “My wrongful death suit against Mongolia for Genghis Khan’s crimes against my ancestors moves forward!”