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Hillary Clinton

September 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 11, 2009

  • House Ways & Means — yep, Charlie Rangel’s own — passes bill slamming taxpayers for innocent errors [James Peaslee, WSJ, via Alkon]
  • Must protect the children! “Parents banned from British school sports event” [Common Room] After-school pickup procedures can get a little crazy too [Free-Range Kids, Florida]
  • Once again, America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® (that’d be RFK Jr.) sounds off on an environmental dispute to which he turns out to have personal financial ties [Greenwire via Eco-Pragmatism]
  • Allegations in ugly Florida law firm breakup include misallocation of Hillary Clinton campaign money [DBR]
  • When in court, try to avoid following the example of “Girls Gone Wild” impresario Joe Francis [Lowering the Bar and more, earlier]
  • “Judge Allowed to Sue N.Y. Daily News, But Not a Lawyer Thought to Be a Source” [ABA Journal, NYLJ]
  • New Hampshire judge rules for divorced father who disapproves of homeschooling [Volokh]
  • ABA Journal is taking nominations for its annual best-of “Blawg 100″ list [hint, nudge]

Daniel Libit at Politico (Dec. 17) quotes me in a new piece on Judicial Watch, the more-or-less-conservative activist group that brought disrepute on itself in the Clinton years by advancing litigation (often of highly dubious merit) as a scorched-earth method of politics-by-other-means. Since the departure of eccentric founder Larry Klayman the group has been edging back toward respectability, but the return of Hillary Clinton to the Executive Branch seems to have rekindled a “Pavlovian” impulse to sue first and think later.

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The ten big donors who bootlessly pledged up to $12 million include some familiar names, such as John Eddie Williams and Peter Angelos, as well as a new one, Calvin C. Fayard, Jr., of the firm Fayard & Honeycutt, A.P.C., who boasts connections with former Louisiana AG Charles Foti (Folo, Mar. 20; “Michigan Missives”, The Caucus (NY Times), Mar. 19).

Roundup, March 15

by Ted Frank on March 15, 2008

  • Speaking of prostitutes and politicians, Deborah Jeane Palfrey has come to recognize that Montgomery Blair Sibley (Oct. 29; May 4; etc.) may not be the best lawyer for her. [WTOP via BLT]
  • Update: Nearly two years later, trial court gets around to upholding $2 million verdict in lawn-mower death we covered Jun. 16 and Aug. 18, 2006. [Roanoke Times (quoting me); opinion at On Point]
  • In other lawn mower news, check out Jim Beck’s perceptive comment on a Third Circuit lawn-mower liability decision.
  • Update: Willie Gary wins his child-support dispute. [Gary v. Gowins (Ga.); Atl. Journal-Const.; via ABA Journal; earlier: Nov. 2]
  • Tobacco-lawyer Mike Ciresi drops out of Minnesota senate race. [WCCO]
  • Belfast court quashes libel ruling against restaurant critic. [AFP/Breitbart]
  • Trial-lawyer-blogger happy: jury returned $1.25 million med-mal verdict for death of totally disabled person suffering from end-stage renal disease, pulmonary hypertension, oxygen dependent lung disease, and obesity, after rejecting businessperson from jury “for cause” because he was head of local Chamber of Commerce. [Day]
  • Car-keying anti-military attorney Jay Grodner faced the law in January; here’s the transcript. [Blackfive]
  • Anonymous blog post not reliable evidence of factual allegations. [In re Pfizer, Inc. Sec. Litig., 2008 WL 540120 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2008) via Roberts, who also reports on fee reduction in same post]
  • Clinton’s nutty mortgage plan. [B&MI (quoting me)]
  • A supposed DC cabbie’s take on DC v. Heller. [DC Cabbie blog]

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Before they officially became presidential candidates, the Illinois and New York senators co-authored an article in the May 25, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled “Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform.” (See: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/21/2205)

They sympathized with physicians over escalating insurance costs and condemned the current tort system for creating an “intimidating liability environment.” Still, Clinton and Obama said, it’s more important to focus on how to improve patient safety than “areas of intense disagreement,” such as caps on financial awards to patients.

They introduced legislation, which died in committee in 2006, to provide money and assistance to physicians, hospitals, insurers, and health care systems to start programs for disclosure of medical errors and compensation to patients. The bill would have created an office of patient safety and health care quality to establish a database to track incidents of malpractice and fund research into guidelines to prevent future injuries.

“Physicians would be given certain protections from liability … in order to promote a safe environment for disclosure. … This legislation would provide doctors and patients with an opportunity to find solutions outside the courtroom. In return, [hospitals, insurers, and others] would be required to use savings achieved by reducing legal defense costs to reduce liability insurance premiums and to foster patient-safety initiatives.”

(Mark Crane, MedPageToday, Jan. 7). More: see Ted’s December post at PoL.

That’s the most favorable thing I’ve heard about Hillary Clinton in quite a while; naturally, it’s provoking heartburn in some quarters where Dellinger is viewed as neither leftist enough nor pro-litigation enough. (Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones blog, Jan. 28).

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As a number of commentators have noted (e.g. Brett Kittredge @ Majority in Mississippi, Alan Lange @ YallPolitics), Booneville attorney Joey Langston, who just entered a guilty plea on charges of judicial corruption, is someone accustomed to throwing the weight of his pocketbook around in Mississippi politics. In particular, he has been among the biggest donors to incumbent Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, even as Hood employed Langston and partner Tim Balducci on contract to handle the controversial MCI tax bill negotiations, with their resulting $14 million legal fees payable to Langston et al, and the potentially very lucrative Zyprexa litigation.

Equally interesting in some ways, however, are Langston’s activities on the national political scene. To take just one example: this CampaignMoney.com listing tabulates the top “527” contributions to a group called the Democratic Attorneys General Association, whose political and electoral mission is implied by its name. In the listing, two donors are tied for first place, with contributions of $100,000 apiece. One is the large Cincinnati law firm of Waite Schneider Bayless Chesley, associated with one of the country’s best-known plaintiff’s lawyers, Stanley Chesley. The other $100,000 contribution is from Joey Langston.

In presidential politics, Langston has recently been a repeat donor to the quixotic (and, since Iowa, defunct) campaign of Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), a lawmaker whose high degree of seniority on the Senate Judiciary Committee makes him important to ambitious lawyers whether or not he ever attains the White House. When the Scruggs scandal was still in its early stages, the WSJ law blog (Dec. 10) noted that two key figures in the affair, Tim Balducci and Steve Patterson, were strong backers of the Biden campaign: “Their bet on Biden was that he wouldn’t win the presidency but would become Secretary of State under a Hillary Clinton administration, according to two people familiar with their thinking.” The Journal reprinted (PDF) an invitation to an Aug. 10, 2007 fundraising reception for Biden at the Oxford (Miss.) University Club, sent out above the names of six hosts, three of whom (Scruggs, Balducci and Patterson) were soon indicted. Scruggs, of course, is better known for his support of Mrs. Clinton, a fundraiser for whom he had to cancel after the scandal broke.

Campaign-contributions databases such as OpenSecrets.org and NewsMeat indicate that Langston has been a prolific and generous donor to incumbent and aspiring Senators across the country, mostly Democrats (Murray, Cantwell, Daschle, Nelson, etc.) but also including a number of Republicans who might be perceived as swing votes or reachable, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Me.), and Arlen Specter (Penn.)

Incidentally, some critics have intimated that Langston’s generous support to DAGA, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, should actually be interpreted as a roundabout gift to Hood, who was the beneficiary of interestingly timed largesse from DAGA. It does not appear, however, that any of the parties involved — Langston, Hood or DAGA — have acknowledged any connection between the timing of the donations (& welcome Michelle Malkin, David Rossmiller, YallPolitics readers).

[Second of a two-part post. The first part is here.]

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“A federal grand jury today indicted one of the nation’s most successful trial lawyers, Richard F. Scruggs, on criminal charges that he and other lawyers engaged in a scheme to bribe a judge.” The 13-page indictment charges five lawyers, including Scruggs and his son and law partner Zach, with offering Mississippi state judge Henry Lackey $40,000 for favorable action in a lawsuit filed against the Scruggs firm over Katrina insurance fees. “The indictment says Judge Lackey, who sits in Mississippi’s Third Circuit Court District, reported the ‘bribery overture’ to federal authorities and agreed to assist investigators in an ‘undercover capacity.'” (AP/New York Times, Nov. 28; Biloxi Sun-Herald).

Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger is out front on the story, reporting: “Some of the conversations between Balducci and the judge were apparently taped,” and reporting alleged language uttered by some of the indicted lawyers, including: “We paid for this ruling; let’s be sure it says what we want it to say.” (“Scruggs arrested on bribery charges”, Nov. 28). David Rossmiller is following developments at Point of Law and at his blog, where he has a PDF of the indictment.

More: Y’all Politics has considerable reader comment about the implications for other Mississippi political figures, and notes drily that “for starters, Dickie Scruggs fundraiser for Hillary Clinton on December 15th featuring Bill Clinton, will likely be cancelled.” Many sites, including Michelle Malkin’s, RedState, and Tim Noah’s “Chatterbox” at Slate, are speculating on the close proximity of these developments to the surprise retirement of Scruggs’ brother-in-law, Sen. Trent Lott.

November 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 26, 2007

All-automotive edition:

  • Court won’t unseal settlement arising from $105 million Aramark/Giants Stadium dramshop case for fear girl’s father will try to get his hands on money [NJLJ, NorthJersey.com, Childs; earlier]
  • Great moments in insurance defense law: you mean it wasn’t a good idea to infiltrate that church meeting to investigate the crash claim? [Turkewitz first, second posts]
  • Columnist Paul Mulshine rejoices: Ninth Circuit decision “if it stands, will lead to the end of the SUV as we know it” [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • Is it unfair — and should it be unlawful? — for insurers to settle crash victims’ claims too early? [Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog]
  • If Ron Krist prevails in shoot-out of Texas plaintiff titans, he vows to have sheriff seize John O’Quinn’s Batmobile [American Lawyer; see also Ted's take earlier]
  • In much-watched case, Australian high court by 3-2 split upholds highway authority against claim defective bridge design was blameworthy after youth’s dive into shallow water [RTA NSW v. Dederer, Aug. 30]
  • Redesigning Toyota’s occupant restraint system? Clearly another job for the Marshall, Texas courts [SE Texas Record; Point of Law; more]
  • Bench trial results in $55 million verdict against U.S. government after Army employee on business runs red light and paralyzes small child [OC Register]
  • Vision in a purple Gremlin: her Yale Law days shaped Hillary in many ways [Stearns/McClatchy]
  • Zero tolerance for motorists’ blood-alcohol — are we sure we want to go there? [Harsanyi, Reason]
  • Driver falls asleep, so of course Ford must pay [two years ago on Overlawyered; much more on our automotive page]

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As a means of conserving oil, Sen. Hillary Clinton wants Uncle Sam again to mandate a maximum speed limit of 55 MPH. Presumably she’s aware that lowering the speed limit will cause us to spend more time on the roads and less time at our destinations.

But on her website, Sen. Clinton expresses concern that Americans are strapped for time: “Today’s families are often stretched thin – working to make ends meet while also trying to carve out time to care for their young children and aging relatives.”

Assuming consistency across her various policy positions, we can conclude that Sen. Clinton is confident that the value of the time that a 55 MPH speed limit will force us to waste on the roads is worth less to us than oil we’ll save by driving more slowly.

Let’s explore. Assume that the typical car on the road today gets 25 miles per gallon on the highway and that a gallon of gasoline costs $3.00. Further assume (rather generously) that driving more slowly will increase the typical car’s fuel efficiency from 25 mpg to 35 mpg.

On highways where the speed limit currently is 75 MPH, reducing the speed limit to 55 MPH will cause a driver to cover 20 fewer miles in one hour of driving. To travel these 20 miles at 55 MPH will take 21.82 minutes. That is, the distance a driver covers in one hour driving at 75 MPH requires 81.82 minutes to cover while driving at 55 MPH.

At today’s average hourly wage rate for non-supervisory workers of just over $16 — but let’s call it an even $16 — this 21.82 minutes is worth $5.82. (That is, working at a wage rate of $16 per hour, a worker will earn $5.82 in 21.82 minutes of work.)

But how much does the driver save, fuel-cost-wise, by driving more slowly?

Driving at 75 MPH (and getting 25 mpg) costs the driver $9 of gasoline per 75-miles driven. (Remember that gasoline is priced at $3 per gallon.) Driving at 55 MPH (and getting 35 mpg) costs the driver $6.42 of gasoline per 75-miles driven.

In short, for every 75-miles covered on a highway, reducing the speed limit from 75 MPH to 55 MPH will save a driver $2.58 in fuel cost — and this assuming that the increase in fuel efficiency of the average car caused by the lower speed limit is a whopping 10 mpg. But the resulting greater time on the road will cost a driver earning the average non-supervisory wage $5.82 worth of his or her time per 75-miles driven.

The net cost to the average worker driving the average car will, under the above reasonable assumptions, be about $3.24 per 75-miles driven. Not a good deal, Sen. Clinton.
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Here’s a challenge for a clever student: assume (as is reasonable) that an enforced speed limit of 55 MPH will cause the price of gasoline at the pump to fall. By how much would it have to fall (under the above assumptions) in order to make the $$$ saved on gasoline exceed the $$$ value of the extra time spent driving?

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Bill Clinton made a name for himself as a moderate by criticizing violent rap in 1992, and Hillary is following in his footsteps with what ALOTT5MA’s “Phil Throckmorton” calls “an executive-quality display of deep moral concern” over an alleged modification possible in the popular “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” video game that makes the simulated sex in the game somewhat more explicit, and thus worthy of an “AO” Adults Only rating instead of a “M” Mature rating. (Under the voluntary system, AO is 18+, while M is 17+.)

Me, I’m just amused by the thought of class action attorneys trolling for a named plaintiff parent who will testify that, while she was okay for her little Johnny to buy a game involving drug dealing, gambling, carjacking, cop-shooting, prostitution, throat-slashing, baseball-bat beatings, drive-by shootings, street-racing, gang wars, profanity-laced rap music, homosexual lovers’ quarrels, blood and gore, and “Strong Sexual Content,” she is shocked, shocked to learn that the game also includes an animation at about the level of a Ken doll rubbing up against an unclothed Barbie doll with X-rated sound effects, and is thus a victim of both consumer fraud and intense emotional distress, entitled to actual and punitive damages totalling $74,999 per identically-situated class member in the state. The Grand Theft Auto series has already been the target of some pretty silly suits (Feb. 19 and links therein), and we can pretty much expect the trend to continue. (And I beg the eventual defense attorney to pass along a public version of the deposition of the stooge named plaintiff, which will have tremendous entertainment value.) One is hopeful that the Class Action Fairness Act will give Take-Two Interactive Software the backbone to resist the extortion attempt. But if not, expect to see $5 coupons for the next edition of Grand Theft Auto in the offing.

Update: Reason’s Daniel Koffler notes “[T]oday, kids might only be able to download explicit content into their video games, but given a few years and a couple of leaps in technology, they might even be able to find hardcore pornography on the Internet.”