- NY lawyer sanctioned $10K for behavior at deposition [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
- Obvious dangers and the W.V. frat-house rear-launched bottle rocket case [Popehat, earlier here, here]
- Review of Liberty’s Refuge, new book on freedom of assembly by Washington U. lawprof John Inazu [Anthony Deardurff, Liberty Law]
- If forfeiture and asset freeze can be deployed in a copyright enforcement case, where will they strike next? [Timothy Lee, Cato]
- Hard-hitting Kim Strassel column on Al “Crucify Them” Armendariz [WSJ, earlier] Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson: “If you want to live by the precautionary principle, then crawl up in a ball and live in a cave.” [Coyote] Washington Post on the case for the Keystone pipeline [Adler]
- Losing two looks like carelessness: second Durham County D.A. removed from office for misconduct [Volokh, KC Johnson]
- Why won’t the Eighth Circuit recognize fraudulent misjoinder? [Beck]
Dirk Olin at Portfolio magazine on the Valdez spill litigation.
I’ve done a podcast for the Federalist Society on the Supreme Court punitive damages decision in Exxon Shipping v. Baker.
Looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more about the “Kivalina” (Alaskan Inupiat village) climate-change suit:
Over time, the two trial lawyers [Stephen Susman of Texas and Steve Berman of Seattle, both familiar to longterm readers of this site] have become convinced that they have the playbook necessary to win big cases against the country’s largest emitters. It’s the same game plan that brought down Big Tobacco. And in Kivalina — where the link between global warming and material damage is strong—they believe they’ve found the perfect challenger.
In February, Berman and Susman—along with two attorneys who have previously worked on behalf of the village and an environmental lawyer specializing in global warming—filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, coal, and electric companies, claiming that their emissions are partially responsible for the coastal destruction in Kivalina. More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.
(Stephan Faris, “Conspiracy Theory”, The Atlantic, June). For the theory of legally wrongful participation in public debate (as one might call it), as it surfaced in the tobacco litigation, see, for example, this 2006 post.
More background on the suit at the Native American Rights Fund’s blog, here and here, and at attorney Matthew Pawa’s site. Carter Wood at NAM “Shop Floor” links to a report by the American Justice Partnership and Southeastern Legal Foundation (PDF) entitled, “The Most Dangerous Litigation in America: Kivalina“.
The federal courts using the common law method of case-by-case adjudication may have institutional advantages over the more political branches, such as perhaps more freedom from interest group capture and more flexibility to tailor decisions to local conditions. Any such advantages, however, are more than offset by the disadvantages of relying on the courts in common resource management in general and in the management of the global atmospheric commons in particular. The courts are best able to serve a useful function resolving climate-related disputes once the political branches have acted by establishing a policy framework and working through the daunting task of allocating property or quasi-property rights in greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, states do have a state legislative alternative that is preferable to common law suits, and that federal courts can facilitate without any dramatic innovations in federal preemption or dormant commerce clause doctrine.
It’s like magic, we’ll just make Big Business pay:
Washington, D.C., lawyer Thomas Fay has spent years hounding the Libyan government for money on behalf of victims of terrorist attacks. Now he’s hoping to collect — from American companies.
Fay has sent letters to 13 brand-name corporations, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, notifying them that if he wins his case against Libya, he’ll be coming after them. He has even sent one to White & Case, the prominent law firm that recently signed on to defend Libya.
The gambit stems from a change in the law meant to make it easier for plaintiffs to secure judgments and collect from countries found responsible for sponsoring terrorist attacks. Until recently, those who had prevailed in court had few options for collecting.
But on Jan. 28, President George W. Bush signed a bill amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow plaintiffs to seek any asset owned by the terrorist-sponsoring country in reach of American courts, including frozen accounts or property managed by others. The amendment also permits victims to request punitive damages, which they couldn’t before, and eliminates some avenues for appeal. Under the new law, plaintiffs with pending cases had 60 days to file or refile claims.
Attorney Fay was among those lobbying for the new provision, which was sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). (W.J. Hennigan, Legal Times, Apr. 15).
- Telemarketers working for lawyers and chiropractors “line up every day” at police and public records offices to buy car-crash records [Dallas Morning News]
- Nice work if you can get it: Bernardine Dohrn’s terrorist-to-lawprof career track [Kass, Chapman @ Chicago Tribune, Ed Morrissey/HotAir, PoL, Horowitz/DtN, Daily Northwestern/FrontPage, Malkin, Power Line]
- Mystery of embattled Florida debt-relief law firm Hess Kennedy (Mar. 6) deepens as whereabouts of lawyer Edward Kennedy are questioned [ABA Journal]
- Criticism mounts of Calif. AG Jerry Brown’s lawsuits using global warming theories to force higher-density development [Stewart/LA Weekly, Walters/SacBee, via Kaus, scroll]
- Kevin Pho (KevinMD.com) on defensive medicine [USA Today]
- Colorado firm says lawsuit’s “settlement mill” allegations are concocted “by a competitor who doesn’t like (Azar’s) advertising.” [Colorado Springs Gazette]
- Hey, you can rig up a disposable camera to give you a little shock; it might also give you a D felony record under school zero tolerance [WTNH via Greenfield]
- One good thing about those anonymous snitchlines for domestic abuse, you don’t have to worry about bogus calls or anything like that [Colorado Springs Gazette on Texas polygamist raid backstory]
- Lawyers get $2 million in fees in Netflix class action [WSJ law blog; earlier]
- Supreme Court refuses cert on that very curious $112 million (originally $1 billion) land-contamination verdict from Louisiana [Exxon v. Grefer, Dow Jones/Fortune; CalPunitives link roundup; earlier; more background at Laura Hart/Louisiana Law Blog]
- Cow-pie bingo event falls victim to liability fears [three years ago on Overlawyered]
Dana Milbank’s Feb. 28 column on Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker operates on the premise that the winner of any Supreme Court argument should be whoever can best appeal to the justices’ sympathies regardless of the merits of the case. Such an approach is more appropriate for coverage of television game shows than the law.
The Post would do better to treat its readers like grownups and have its Supreme Court reporting done by journalists who don’t “yawn” at questions about the appropriateness of jury instructions.
— Theodore H. Frank
The writer is director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Legal Center for the Public Interest.
- Oregon Supreme Court plays chicken with SCOTUS over $79.5 million punitive damages award in Williams v. Philip Morris case. [Sebok @ Findlaw; Krauss @ IBD; POL Feb. 1]
- Speaking of punitive damages, I did a podcast on Exxon Shipping v. Baker. I can’t bear to listen to it, so let me know how I did. [Frank @ Fed Soc]
- Arkansas case alleged legal sale of pseudoephedrine was “nuisance” because meth-makers would buy it; case dismissed. [Beck/Herrmann]. This is why I’ve stockpiled Sudafed.
- Lawyers advertise for refinery explosion victims before fire goes out. [Hou Chron/TLR]
- Connecticut Supreme Court: cat-attack victim can sue without showing past history of violence by animal. [On Point] Looking forward to comments from all the anti-reformers who claim to oppose reform because they’re against the abrogation of the common law.
- Op-ed on the Great White fire deep pockets phenomenon. [SE Texas Record; earlier: Feb. 2]
- “FISA lawsuits come from Twilight Zone.” [Hillyer @ Examiner]
- Legislative action on various medical malpractice tweaking in Colorado, Hawaii, and Wyoming. [TortsProf]
- Request for unemployment benefits: why fire me just because I asked staffers for a prostitute? [Des Moines Register]
- “So much for seduction and romance; bring in the MBAs and lawyers.” [Mac Donald @ City Journal; contra Belle Lettre; contra contra Dank]
- Where is the Canadian Brandeis standing up for free speech? [Kay @ National Post]
- In defense of lobbying. [Krauthammer @ WaPo]
- Longtime Overlawyered favorite Judy Cates, of columnist-suing fame, is using large sums of her own money to outspend incumbent James Wexstten in hard-fought race for Illinois state judgeship; Democratic primary is Feb. 5 [Belleville News-Democrat, Southern Illinoisan]
- City council told: we’ll cancel your liability coverage if you throw all meetings and city records open to public [Seattle Times]
- Attorney member of Canadian Senate in spot of bother after revelation that she billed client for 30 hours in one day [Vancouver Province, edit]
- A public wiki just for Scruggsiana? After Keker’s minions swoop in to do their edits, the Mississippi attorney may wind up portrayed as the next Mother Teresa, and not the Hitchens version either [WikiScruggs]
- Same general category of point, my Wikipedia entry now suddenly describes me as “controversial”, when but a month ago I wasn’t;
- $28 to $52 million in 18 months for serving as a DoJ “corporate monitor” sounds like nice work if you can get it, and former AG Ashcroft got it without competitive bidding [Lattman, St. Pete Times edit, PolitickerNJ, NJLJ]
- The Amiable Nancy (1818), admiralty case that could prove crucial precedent in Exxon Valdez punitive appeal, has nothing to do with The Charming Betsey (1804), key precedent on international law [Anchorage Daily News; Tom Goldstein/Legal Times]
- “First do no harm… to your attorney’s case” [Cole/Dallas Morning News via KevinMD]
- Probers haven’t come up with evidence of more than middling tiger-taunting, and attorney Geragos says he’ll sue zoo’s p.r. firm for defaming his clients [KCBS; SF Chronicle; AP/USA Today]
- UK’s latest “metric martyr” is Janet Devens, facing charges for selling vegetables in pounds and ounces at London’s Ridley Road market [WSJ; earlier]
- Lawyer can maintain defamation suit over being called “ambulance chaser” interested only in “slam dunk” cases, rules Second Circuit panel [eight years ago on Overlawyered]