Following widespread criticism, Florida state senator Charlie Dean has dropped his suit against 19-year-old student Giovanni Bencini over what Dean’s lawyer calls “scurrilous accusations” that the student was menaced with a gun after entering Dean’s Inverness, Fla. property on a nighttime delivery call. He also dropped an action against Z Pizza LLC, parent company of Hungry Howie’s pizza, which had claimed the company didn’t adequately train Bencini. [Mike Wright/Citrus County Chronicle, more, update (dismisses case); AP]
…or spa law firm? “We understand that dealing with legal matters can be very stressful, so we try to tend to our clients’ every need to make their experience as stress-free and accommodating as possible. When you come into the firm you will be pampered from the moment you step in the door. You will be provided with a cool or warm towel depending on the temperature outside. The Towel will be followed by a glass of cool coconut milk, which is not only refreshing, but is full of healthy antioxidants. During your consult there is always ice cold water and fresh baked cookies every afternoon. We look forward to seeing you soon!”
- Judge chides Montgomery County, Md. police for “unlawful invasion” of family’s home [my new Free State Notes post]
- As more offenses get redefined as “trafficking,” state extends its powers of surveillance and punishment [Alison Somin on pioneering Gail Heriot dissent in U.S. Commission for Civil Rights report; Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason on legislative proposals from Sens. Portman and Feinstein] Proposal in Washington legislature would empower police to seize/forfeit cars of those arrested for soliciting prostitutes, whether or not ever convicted [Seattle Times]
- Progressives and the prison state: “most of the intellectual and legal scaffolding of the contemporary American carceral system was erected by Democrats.” [Thaddeus Russell reviewing new Naomi Murakawa book The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America]
- Here comes the next verbal conflation with negative implications for defendants’ rights, “traffic violence” [Scott Greenfield]
- Please don’t pay attention to what goes on inside Florida prisons, it would only spoil your day [Fred Grimm, Miami Herald via Radley Balko]
- Trouble in California: “U.S. judges see ‘epidemic’ of prosecutorial misconduct in state” [L.A. Times, Ronald Collins/Concurring Opinions, video from Baca v. Adams with Judges Kozinski, Wardlaw, W. Fletcher, earlier on California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Moonlight Fire case] But will Ninth Circuit’s strong words change anything? [Scott Greenfield including updates]
- “Plea Bargaining and the Innocent: It’s up to judges to restore balance” [U.S. District Judge John Kane]
The “equitable sharing” civil forfeiture program (see weekend post) being just one of the more visible corners of a whole scaffolding of bad incentives in law enforcement:
- “Our view: Civil asset forfeiture is government at its absolute worst.” [USA Today editorial] Washington, D.C. votes forfeiture reform [Nick Sibilla, Institute for Justice] “Philadelphians Save Homes From Civil Forfeiture Machine” [IJ]
- “Police Chief Magazine: Generating Revenue Streams” [Instapundit]
- Public drunkenness outside the French Quarter said to serve New Orleans as key tourist tax [Paul Gowder, PrawfsBlawg]
- “The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration” [Sentencing Law and Policy, Justice Fellowship back in August]
- To catch a non-predator (so as to grab his car through forfeiture) [Conor Friedersdorf on Florida police]
- “Prosecutors Burn Down the Law: How fire investigators distorted evidence to loot a company.” [WSJ editorial on Moonlight Fire case, earlier here and here]
The nonprofit Citizens Awareness Foundation was founded to “empower citizens to exercise their right to know,” according to its mission statement. The South Florida millionaire backing the foundation hired one of the state’s most prominent public records activists to run it, rented office space, and pledged to pay the legal fees to make sure people had access to government records.
But a review of court records and internal communications obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting shows that the foundation is less interested in obtaining records and educating the public than in working with a partner law firm to collect cash settlements from every lawsuit filed….
The O’Boyle law firm has filed more than 140 requests on behalf of the foundation and a related group this year, including barrages of requests against engineers and road builders. The general counsel of the Florida Engineering Federation wrote in May that it was “debatable whether they are truly seeking records or just attempting to obtain legal fees for a violation,” a concern shared elsewhere:
“It’s a sad game of ‘gotcha,’ the only purpose of which is to generate an attorney fee claim rather than obtain any actual public records,” said Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association.
A former executive director of the foundation has resigned, citing ethical concerns. Among numerous small government contractors targeted by the demands are charities and social service providers; an environmental remediation firm says the law firm included a nondisclosure demand that would prevent it from comparing notes with others to receive the fee demands. Ten years ago we reported on a practice in California in which bounty-hunting requesters aimed public records requests at school districts in early summer, then followed with legal fee requests based on the districts’ having missed the short deadline for responding.
- Latest Yank expatriate to get caught in IRS’s overseas tax/FATCA trap? None other than London mayor Boris Johnson [Robert Wood, Forbes]
- “He washes any hint of influence-peddling through the purifying font of his law firm, just as other Albany leaders do.” [Mark Cunningham, New York Post]
- Now why would Texas trial lawyer Steve Mostyn spend $1.2 million trying to get Charlie Crist elected governor of Florida, a different state? [Nancy Smith/Sunshine State News, earlier on Mostyn]
- Yes, that opinion-TweetWatch project at Indiana U. funded with federal NSF dollars was intensely if covertly political [Charlotte Allen, Minding the Campus]
- Qui tam/whistleblower plaintiff bar finds bright spot in election with elevation of Iowa Sen. Grassley who has so often been helpful to them in past [WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
- Considerable turnover in election results for state attorneys general (due to open seats, of course; you thought incumbent AGs get defeated?) [NAAG, Bingham McCutchen/Lexology]
- “John Doe froze conservative speech, targets say” [M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter, earlier]
For a lawyer to do that once might seem bad luck, to do it 588 times seems rather like carelessness. [Beck on Eleventh Circuit review of Engle tobacco cases in Florida] Excerpt:
The district court displayed the patience of Job – for a long time it tried to get the plaintiffs to do after filing, what Rule 11 requires them to do beforehand, that is, to perform basic investigation of their cases. …
The court held, with remarkable restraint, that counsel’s inability to track down its own clients before the Engel filing deadline “was at least partially a problem of its own making” because they “signed up so many clients.” …
Maybe Engle Cases is an extreme example, but the problem this litigation exemplifies – massive solicitation of would-be plaintiffs, combined with utter disregard of pre-filing obligations such as Rule 11 – is present in just about every mass tort. In Engle Cases, out of the “4500 cases” originally filed, in the end “we are dealing with 29 ? and heading to 26.” The dirty little not-so-secret of mass tort practice is that the great majority (here it looks like more than 99%) of the cases clogging up the courts would be thrown out with little or no discovery if brought individually.
Reports Angus Loten in the WSJ:
Small-business owners face a growing number of disabled-access lawsuits in the wake of a recent appeals-court ruling giving rise to disabled “testers,” as well as the release of detailed federal specifications for curb ramps, self-opening doors and other standards.
…A November 2013 decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case against Marod Supermarkets found that someone who isn’t necessarily a patron could be a “tester” of disabled-access compliance. That cleared the way for individual plaintiffs to bring dozens, even hundreds, of lawsuits against multiple businesses, as serial testers….
The litigation upswing also follows the Justice Department’s release of a set of compliance standards for the 24-year-old federal disability law. Those standards, which came into force in March 2012, include detailed specifications for long-standing requirements, such as the allowable slope of a wheelchair ramp and the exact height of towel dispensers in accessible restrooms. They also introduced a new requirement for hotels with pools to provide a “pool lift” for disabled guests, which went into effect last year.
Some business owners say the lawsuits accomplish little more than providing revenue to attorneys. …
We warned about the pool-lift requirement multiple times. The article reports that plaintiffs are filing multiple suits against hotels in Florida for not having the lifts; along with Florida, California and New York account for a high share of all accessibility actions against local businesses and retailers, in part because of favorable state and city laws that increase complainants’ legal and financial leverage.