Posts tagged as:

governors

It only took Charlie Crist a few months, and was no particular surprise given his record in office [Daily Caller, WSJ Law Blog]. More: Turkewitz.

{ 3 comments }

Former Florida Governor Charles Crist has signed on with the big Orlando personal injury firm of Morgan & Morgan, “run by one of his longtime political supporters, Democrat John Morgan.” [St. Petersburg Times] More: Timothy Carney, Examiner.

{ 3 comments }

November 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 30, 2010

  • Sooooo glad to be an American: that’s how Patrick at Popehat feels following latest Canadian-libel-law outrage directed at conservative blogger Ezra Levant (& see comments for alternate view);
  • Obama has pardoned more turkeys than people. Why? [Dan Froomkin, HuffPo]
  • “Reforming medical malpractice liability through contract” [Michael F. Cannon, Cato Institute working paper, PDF]
  • Memoir of jury foreman in criminal case [Tux Life]
  • Not too sharp: Massachusetts school district disavows policy of not letting students bring pencils to school [Slashdot]
  • State governors have big plans for liability reform. Maybe even loser-pays? [Carter at PoL, more; Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas]
  • Parent who sent buzzworthy demand letter to Kansas City school board is a jazz musician [Wayward Blog, earlier]
  • From comic books to violent videogames: “Our puritanical progressives” [George Will]

{ 15 comments }

The talk of the internet

by Walter Olson on October 28, 2009

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acrostic veto [TechCrunch, language].

{ 3 comments }

Mark Steyn on the youngster charged with sexual harassment in suburban Washington, D.C.:

Randy Castro is in the first grade. But, at the ripe old age of 6, he’s been declared a sex offender by Potomac View Elementary School. He’s guilty of sexual harassment, and the incident report will remain on his record for the rest of his school days – and maybe beyond.

Maybe it’ll be one of those things that just keeps turning up on background checks forever and ever: Perhaps 34-year-old Randy Castro will apply for a job, and at his prospective employer’s computer up will pop his sexual-harasser status yet again. Or maybe he’ll be able to keep it hushed up until he’s 57 and runs for governor of Virginia, and suddenly his political career self-detonates when the sordid details of his Spitzeresque sexual pathologies are revealed.

(“Attack of the preschool perverts”, syndicated/Orange County Register, Apr. 12; Brigid Schulte, “For Little Children, Grown-Up Labels As Sexual Harassers”, Washington Post, Apr. 3). A contrary view (letter to the editor from Cynthia Terrell of Takoma Park, Md., WaPo, Apr. 5): “The Post showed appalling insensitivity to the inappropriate nature of Randy Castro’s act. …our culture remains largely indifferent to privacy and harassment issues involving gender.”

{ 5 comments }

Spitzer endnotes

by Walter Olson on March 17, 2008

  • Well, at least he cleaned up Wall Street; so runs one common valedictory to Spitzer, but Prof. Bainbridge begs to differ (Mar. 13)(and see links at my Point of Law roundup last week).
  • “Should Spitzer really go to jail because of the way he took his own cash out of the bank?” asks Larry Ribstein (Mar. 11). And indeed bank “Know Your Customer” regulations, of which I’ve been critical for a good long time, might now come in for much needed scrutiny (Jack Balkin, Balkinization, Mar. 13; see also). One public figure who likewise faced the prospect of a “money laundering” indictment when personal weaknesses led him into surreptitious payments was ideological antipode Rush Limbaugh, Megan McArdle reminds us (Nov. 24, 2003).
  • Last week’s New York Times article laying out Spitzer’s big crusade against the sex trade, and his successful push for a law lengthening sentences for “johns”, was powerful enough on its own terms. But isn’t it curious that the Times exclusively and at length quoted the feminist and legal-services groups who worked as Spitzer’s allies in that crusade, while not quoting a single source critical of the harsher penalties? Stephen Chapman has one corrective view [syndicated/Chicago Tribune, Mar. 13].
  • Toronto law blogger Garry Wise says that unless Spitzer was diverting public moneys his fall constitutes “just another political lynching by the Monica brigade”, a sentiment I find sufficiently wrong-headed that I’m provoked to jump in with a comment [Wise Law Blog]. P.S. Wise says he was referring not to the governor’s downfall, but to his potential overcharging.
  • How’d the press find out that “Client #9″ was the governor of New York? All signs point to a prosecution leak — the sort of underhanded tactic that should be left to the likes of, well, the departing governor himself [Frum, National Post]. Plus: Don’t assume that all the ill-advised leaks came from the prosecution side [Beldar]
  • Should “Kristen” sue AP and other press outlets for swiping her MySpace pics, she might prove formidable in court: “It’s not often you get a case where there’s someone in the room with a higher hourly rate than the lawyers.” [Steyn @ NRO "Corner"].
  • One reader said he had to check Overlawyered to see whether a certain story was true or a parody, so please rest assured: it’s only a parody (Jason Roth, “Spitzer Sues Prostitute Over Sex Addiction”, Save the Humans, Mar. 11).

{ 2 comments }

Whited sepulchre watch

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2008

Client #9, also known as Eliot Spitzer, enthusiastically enlisted in a crusade for tougher anti-prostitution laws and specifically for steps to raise the penalties for “johns” who patronized the women involved. The campaign bore fruit, and in his first months as Governor Spitzer signed into law what advocates call “the toughest and most comprehensive anti-sex-trade law in the nation”. Among other provisions, the law “lays the groundwork for a more aggressive crackdown on demand, by increasing the penalty for patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor, to up to a year in jail, from a maximum of three months.” (Nina Bernstein, “Foes of Sex Trade Are Stung by the Fall of an Ally”, New York Times, Mar. 12).

{ 1 comment }

Eliot Smurfer

by Walter Olson on March 11, 2008

The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 was meant to criminalize the practice of “smurfing”, or evading reporting requirements on the transfer of large sums of cash by breaking the sums down into transactions below the threshold. (“Smurfs” were low-level operatives who agreed to go into banks repeatedly making deposits slightly below the trigger amount.) Who’d've imagined the law would trip up the best-known white collar crime prosecutor of our era? Newsday has the story, which has a Long Island angle:

Spitzer last year had wanted to wire transfer more than $10,000 from his branch to what turned out to be the front for the prostitution ring, QAT Consulting Group, which also uses a number of other names, in New Jersey, the sources said.

But Spitzer had the money broken down into several smaller amounts of less than $10,000 each, apparently to avoid federal regulations requiring the reporting of the transfer of $10,000 or more, the sources said. …

Apparently, having second thoughts about even sending the total amount in this manner, Spitzer then asked that the bank take his name off the wires, the sources said.

Bank officials declined, however, saying that it was improper to do so and in any event, it was too late to do so, because the money already had been sent, the sources said.

The bank, as is required by law, filed an SAR, or Suspicious Activity Report, with the Internal Revenue Service….

Millions of SARs are generated each week and flow into the Internal Revenue Service nationwide, but an analyst at the regional IRS office in Hauppauge [L.I.] noted Spitzer’s particular SAR and singled it out for attention to criminal investigators, the sources said.

The assumption, the sources said, was that Spitzer was being victimized either by a blackmailer or an impostor. The agents also speculated that perhaps the governor was involved in some sort of political corruption, the sources said.

Beldar (writing a day or two ago; note his update and caveats in an excellent post today):

If there were no other organized crime connections, that’s the kind of crime that might well result in a no-prison time recommendation and sentencing calculation for a first offender pleading guilty and cooperating.

AP also covers the smurfing charges, while Scott Greenfield has thoughts on the gradual erosion of financial privacy; I opined on some related matters in Reason a while back. WSJ law blog and Andrew McCarthy @ NRO discuss other charges that prosecutors might conceivably deploy against the governor. McCarthy, incidentally, contends that “innocent people in legitimate cash businesses have no concern” from the reporting requirements, which is not what I’ve heard.

More details from Wednesday’s NYT: It appears bank Suspicious Activities Reports separately directed investigators’ interest to Spitzer’s transactions and to the escort service front, QAT Consulting, and then the two investigations converged. “When he was New York State’s attorney general, Mr. Spitzer himself used the reports [SARs] to make his cases.”

Earlier here.

{ 1 comment }

Who says we never praise Democrats? Via Scheuerman, New Jersey’s Democratic governor Jon Corzine has vetoed a law that would have created unlimited noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases:

“[U]nlimited damages … could have a significant impact on state and local budgets, since government entities are not infrequently named as defendants in wrongful death suits, and there are similar concerns as the State undertakes efforts to attract and grow businesses here.”

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that this bill in its current form strikes a fair balance that would avoid using a strict monetary valuation of a person’s life while also addressing the adverse effect of allowing unlimited and unpredictable damages.”

He urged the Legislature to consider alternatives “granting more flexibility for courts to reduce excessive non-pecuniary damage awards and defining non-pecuniary damages less expansively.”

[NJ Law Journal/law.com; earlier: Jan. 9]

New Jersey’s wrongful death law had capped non-economic damages at zero, by not permitting any non-pecuniary recovery. This has been rectified by The New Jersey legislature has passed a new law (per Scheuerman) that ends this problem, but non-pecuniary damages in wrongful death cases would have absolutely no statutory limits. Governor Corzine has until January 15 to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

(Updated to reflect fact bill has not been signed yet.)

Arbitration and the free market

by Ted Frank on December 15, 2007

Let us imagine a writer for a left-wing magazine, we’ll call her Mephanie Stencimer, who wants to buy a car. But she has particular tastes: she doesn’t just want any old car. She wants a three-wheeled vehicle, perhaps because the feng shui is better, perhaps because she wants to spend less money on tires forced upon her by Big Rubber. She goes from car-dealer to car-dealer around town, but every single one of the dastardly businessmen insist that her only choice is a four-wheeled vehicle. She patiently explains the aesthetics of the triangular approach, but they shrug their shoulders and tell her it’s out of their hands and she has to have a four-wheeled car or nothing. Finally, she surrenders her preference for the three-wheeled vehicle, and takes a model with the extra wheel.

If you were to take seriously the arguments of Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones and the commenters there, and perhaps the occasional judge, this is an outrageous “contract of adhesion” that should be outlawed: Stencimer didn’t have a choice, didn’t have the bargaining power to make the auto-dealer sell her a three-wheeled car, and was forced to buy an extra wheel. But is this really a problematic failure of the market that requires government intervention?

[click to continue…]

{ 28 comments }

Timothy Balducci, wannabe?

by Walter Olson on December 11, 2007

A major early theme of the Dickie Scruggs defense has been that fortyish attorney Timothy Balducci, who was “flipped” by the feds and is cooperating with prosecutors, and who has spoken of sharing with Scruggs knowledge of where there are various “bodies buried”, is a clueless newbie, a mere Timmy Tiptoes who sought to impress his elders in hopes of someday being admitted to their inner circle. Scruggs attorney John Keker used the “wannabe” epithet the other day, saying he didn’t think Scruggs and Balducci “were close at all”, and it had earlier come to mind as I sought to convey the tone of the WSJ’s Oxford Christmas party quotes. Let’s review, then, some of the revelations of recent days:

  • As a former principal in the Langston law firm, one of the state’s best known, Balducci had been appointed individually to represent the state of Mississippi as a Special Assistant Attorney General in two high-stakes and politically sensitive matters, the MCI tax dispute and the litigation against drugmaker Lilly seeking reimbursement for outlays on the psychiatric drug Zyprexa.
  • According to Alan Lange at Y’All Politics, the agreement from AG Hood’s office in the MCI case retaining the Langston Law Firm refers to “its principal members, Joseph C. Langston and Timothy R. Balducci”, and Langston’s own advertising at the time referred to the firm as being “anchored by longterm partners Langston and Tim Balducci”.
  • Scruggs retained Balducci to represent him in the highly sensitive Jones lawsuit, which aside from demanding millions of dollars carried the prospect of laying open the financial arrangements of the Scruggs Katrina Group to a curious world.
  • Earlier, Scruggs retained Balducci to represent him in the long-running and highly sensitive Alwyn Luckey fee lawsuit, which per the Times culminated in an eventual $17 million payout to Luckey. The opposing attorney who handled that case for Luckey, Charles M. Merkel, Jr., told the New York Times: “Balducci made part of the closing arguments in one of my cases, and they sat at the same table. When I was negotiating with them, it was generally with Balducci.”
  • In the Luckey case, when Scruggs sat for the fantastically sensitive 2004 deposition in which he was obliged to unveil explosive details of how he spread around money to advance the tobacco-Medicaid litigation — the episode that made his national reputation and brought him plus-or-minus a billion in fees — the lawyer on hand representing him, and peppering the proceedings with continual objections, was Balducci.
  • After Balducci struck out with former state auditor Steve Patterson to form an independent practice, his firm listed of counsel political and legal notables that included a former governor of the state of Mississippi and the former DA of the county that includes most of Jackson.
Not exactly the profile of a “clueless wannabe”. More like a “trusted inside player”, no?

P.S. For those unacquainted with the Beatrix Potter reference, the eponymous gray squirrel in her story gets into trouble with his fellows: “Timmy rolled over and over, and then turned tail and fled towards his nest, followed by a crowd of squirrels shouting — ‘Who’s-been digging-up my-nuts?’”

{ 1 comment }

December 8 roundup

by Ted Frank on December 8, 2007

  • As governor, Huckabee signed a good tort reform package capping punitive and non-economic damages, and reforming joint and several liability and venue law, but the rest of his economic record is big-government. And David Harsanyi is critical of Huckabee’s claimed opposition to nanny-statism. [Insurance Journal; Human Events; Harsanyi; RCP; Michael Tanner @ FoxNews]
  • Update to the popular Bridezilla flowers lawsuit; florist files opposition. Lots of comments ensue. [Lattman]
  • South Dakota Supreme Court: no, you can’t sue a pharmacy for being a “drug dealer” when plaintiff steals prescription medicine for a disabled friend and injures himself OD’ing on it. [On Point]
  • Former litigator hired to invest $100m in court cases for UK hedge fund. [Times Online]
  • Atkins fallout in Texas and California, as professional anti-death-penalty experts there happily minimize subject IQs to call their intelligent clients retarded. Earlier: Feb. 2005; Sep. 2003. [Science Evidence blog; and again]
  • Heartbalm tort of alienation of affection withstand constitutional challenge in Mississippi. Earlier: Jul. 5; Nov. 2006, etc. [Torts Prof]
  • Bob Woodruff biography: I would have died if my injury happened in the United States because of fear of liability. [Murnane]
  • I’ve updated my paper on Thomas Geoghegan’s new book. [SSRN]
  • Overlawyered holds slim lead at ABA Blawg 100 popularity contest. But why aren’t any of you voting for Point of Law? [ABA Journal]

{ 2 comments }

Gotta protect those state revenues?

Even as Governor Deval Patrick seeks to license three resort casinos in Massachusetts, he hopes to clamp down on the explosion in Internet gambling by making it illegal for state residents to place a bet on line. He has proposed jail terms of up to two years and $25,000 fines for violators.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), however, reacted strongly against the proposal:

“I believe in personal liberty,” Frank said. “Adults should be able to do what they want. I wish my fellow liberals would not be so inconsistent on this issue.”

(Matt Viser, “Internet gambling is a target of Patrick bill”, Boston Globe, Nov. 10)(via Brayton).

{ 1 comment }

In which the attractive principle behind the line-item veto goes deeply, seriously wrong (Althouse, Oct. 30). One commenter says that the law was previously changed to prevent letter-by-letter vetoes but that the legislature did not ban the practice for numerals.

Does the Democratic Party realize the extent to which party leaders are selling out its principles to the trial lawyers? It’s gotten to the point that they’re running John Arthur Eaves, Jr., for governor in Mississippi. Eaves is pro-school-prayer, anti-abortion, and more sanctimonious in his Christianity and gay-bashing than any Republican regularly criticized by the Kossacks of the Left. But at least he supports (and is a member of) the trial bar! Democrats’ other constituencies should take a long hard look at the extent to which their issues are going to take a back seat to the litigation lobby’s takeover of the party. (Adam Nossiter, “In Mississippi, Democrat Runs in G.O.P. Lane”, New York Times, Oct. 10).

Update: Howard Erichson notes Eaves’s slogan “”If it wasn’t your fault or an act of God then someone must be held responsible” and Peter Lattman also covers the page-1 Times story.

The Washington Legislature recently passed and governor signed the “Insurance Fair Conduct Act” allowing first party claimants to recover treble (triple) damages and attorney fees for claims unreasonably denied. The Seattle Post Intelligencer’s story here lays out the pending battle between insurers and the trial bar. You see, the legislation is up for public vote in November and each side is scurrying to curry favor with the electorate.

Now, as an insurance consumer myself I expect high marks from my insurance company in the event of a loss. And, I have from time to time witnessed the recalcitrance of other insurers when tendering defense and indemnity to them (particularly in additional insured scenarios.) Few would disagree that insurers should promptly and cheerfully pay those claims they owe, period.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Via Rossmiller, more on Judge Murphy’s libel suit:

Though [Judge] Murphy won his case against the Herald, he has not emerged unscathed. The Commission on Judicial Conduct filed charges last month with the Supreme Judicial Court alleging that Murphy sent letters to the Herald that constitute “willful misconduct which brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

Murphy sent the letters to Purcell after the verdict, requesting a private meeting to discuss getting more money from the tabloid, according to the commission.

“You will bring to that meeting a cashiers check, payable to me, in the sum of $3,260,000,” wrote Murphy in a handwritten letter on Superior Court stationery. “No check no meeting. You will give me that check and I shall put it in my pocket.”

In another letter, Murphy wrote, “It would be a mistake, Pat, to show this letter to anyone other than the gentleman whose authorized signature will be affixed to the check in question. In fact, a BIG mistake.” A date has not yet been set for Murphy’s hearing on the misconduct charges.

Earlier this month, Governor Deval Patrick rejected an appeal by Murphy to retire early with a lucrative disability pension based on his contention that he has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the defamation case.

Murphy, not satisfied with his $3.41 million collection from the Boston Herald, has sued the Herald’s insurance carrier for $6.8 million for alleged bad faith. (Shelley Murphy, “Judge seeks $6.8m from Herald’s insurer”, Boston Globe, Aug. 18). Earlier: Jul. 15, May 11, Dec. 23, 2005, etc.

{ 1 comment }