We’ve covered this topic before, but Mike Masnick at Techdirt has a slew of revealing new details on how Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood acted as cat’s paw for Hollywood studios in his legal battles against Google. Former Mississippi attorney general Michael Moore, another longtime Overlawyered favorite, plays a key role in the story as well. Our coverage of Hood’s work over many years is here.
- Judge lifts gag order against Reason magazine in commenter subpoena case, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for Manhattan is shown to have behaved even more outrageously than had been thought [Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, Ken White/Popehat (magistrate’s approval of gag order looks an awful lot like rubber stamp; AUSA directly contacted represented party), Paul Alan Levy (when bloggers push back, gag orders tend to get lifted), Matt Welch again with coverage roundup]
- Maryland authorities clear “free range” Meitiv family of all remaining charges in kids-walking-alone neglect case [Donna St. George, Washington Post]
- Disgraced politico Monica Conyers sues McDonald’s over cut finger [Detroit News]
- American Law Institute considers redefining tort of “battery” to protect the “unusually sensitive”, Prof. Ronald Rotunda on problems with that [W$J]
- “Did you ever falsely represent yourself as an attorney?” asks the lawyer to her client in front of reporter [Eric Turkewitz]
- Feds endorse alcohol-sniff interlock as new-car option, critics say eventual goal is to force it into all cars, assuming rise of self-driving cars doesn’t moot the issue first [Jon Schmitz/Tribune News Service]
- Echoes of CPSIA: regulatory danger is back for smaller soap and cosmetic makers as big companies, safety groups combine to push Personal Care Products Safety Act [Handmade Cosmetic Alliance, Elizabeth Scalia, Ted Balaker, Reason TV and followup (Sen. Dianne Feinstein objects to “nanny of month” designation, points to threshold exemptions for smaller businesses), earlier on predecessor bills described as “CPSIA for cosmetics”, National Law Review (panic over recent NYT nail salon expose might contribute to momentum)]
And critics such as lawprof Tim Wu in the New Yorker aren’t ready to accept as an excuse the genuineness of Tribe’s belief in the argued-for positions [John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum] Perhaps the idea is that strong lawyers — like cartoonists? — have an obligation not to “punch down,” whether or not justice in a given case is on the side of the putatively less empowered party.
I’ve got an extensive discussion of law professors’ real-life litigation involvements in my book Schools for Misrule.
Counsel’s Ninth Circuit arguments on behalf of copyright troll Prenda Law did not go well, to put it mildly. Trouble was evident even before Judge Pregerson commented, regarding the clients, “They should have asserted the Fifth Amendment because they were engaged in extortion.” [Ken at Popehat; Joe Mullin, Ars Technica] More on the Prenda Law saga here.
The courts themselves reacted vigorously against the legal shenanigans of a copyright-mill mass filing enterprise built on the IP rights of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Nevada bar discipline authorities, however, didn’t: “disciplinary matters have a higher standard of proof than almost all civil matters in a judicial setting.” [Nicole Hyland, Orange County Register, earlier]
In Altoona, Pa., a private philanthropic group assisted by local businesses has funneled millions of dollars to local prosecutors to go after illegal drug cases [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] Leaders of the group, called Operation Our Town, “said they don’t pressure prosecutors, and only publish the annual arrest and prosecution numbers as a way to raise funds.” Still, the practice sheds light on the changing status of privately assisted prosecutions, which were common in the Nineteenth Century but then came under an ethical cloud:
“It’s pretty much disappeared, in part because we want disinterested prosecutors who answer to the public, and not to individuals,” said Bruce A. Green, director of the Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham University in New York.
Decisions by courts in California and Tennessee, among other places, have disapproved of private subsidies to prosecutors in cases where private parties had themselves been victimized by a crime or wanted to see more enforcement of obscenity laws. On the other hand, insurance and banking industry financial participation in efforts to investigate crimes like insurance fraud and bank robbery is widely accepted, although some trial lawyers have raised questions about insurers’ role.
In Key West, Fla., last year, nonprofit groups steered funds to underwrite a local prosecutor assigned to handle drunken driving cases. The arrangement died after defense attorney Jiulio Margalli sued, saying it violated state law.
“Do you want the motivation to be justice,” asked Mr. Margalli, “or do you want the motivation of the prosecutor to be a guilty verdict so that that [office] could continue to receive funding from the organization who paid them?”
- “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]
Tamara Tabo has some choice things to say following judges’ unanimous rebuff to a bogus ethics complaint against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones: “Using professional misconduct proceedings to harm an ideological rival is worrisome. …It was weakly supported, politically motivated, self-serving, and opportunistic. It’s dirty pool.” Among jurists on the panel that recommended dismissal of the complaint was respected D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, a Clinton appointee [Above the Law, opinion] We cast a dubious eye on the allegations earlier here, here, and here.
Petitioners in the case, to quote the opinion, “include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); the NAACP (Austin Chapter); the National Bar Association (Dallas Affiliate – J.L. Turner Legal Association); the Texas Civil Rights Project; La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE); legal ethics experts, and law professors specializing in judicial ethics.” They should each reflect upon the costs to an independent judiciary of leveling unsubstantiated allegations for political motives. More: Jonathan Adler.
Feds charge two California private investigators with hiring hackers to obtain information about litigants in civil suits [ABA Journal]