Posts tagged as:

Joe Biden

VP debate: the Tweets

by Walter Olson on October 12, 2012

A selection from my live-Tweets last night, as part of the Cato team, in reverse chronological order. For the entire team coverage, go here or here.

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2012

  • Vice President Biden raises at least hundreds of thousands of dollars at AAJ annual convention in Chicago [PoL] Romney’s law and legal policy team [Brian Baxter, AmLaw Daily]
  • Law star Ted Cruz advances toward Senate [David Lat, AtL]
  • Can Republicans make hay out of Democrats’ platform endorsement of same-sex marriage? New Pew poll, as well as May polling round, offers reasons to doubt that [my new post at Maryland for All Families]
  • “Why Citizens United Has Nothing to Do with What Ails American Politics” [Ilya Shapiro, The American, more]
  • Bridgeport mayor Joseph Ganim, of gun-suit fame, a step closer to getting law license back after serving 7-year prison term for corruption [Courant] Eight more indictments as the Connecticut corruption scandals roll on [Conn Post]
  • Rob McKenna’s star on rise in Washington; he’s pursued public-liability reform as the state’s attorney general [Daily Caller, earlier]
  • Bypassing public financing, West Virginia judicial candidates pour their own injury-law fortunes into races [Richie Heath, Charleston Daily Mail]
  • “How hot is it in DC today? Congressman Paul is using a paper money substitute because his actual money melted.” [Tim Carney]

The Obama administration ramps up a major new program to regulate universities — and builds its case on bogus statistics. [Heather Mac Donald, National Review; The Dartmouth]

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September 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 30, 2008

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Microblog 2008-09-24

by Walter Olson on September 24, 2008

  • Both McC and Palin seem cold-blooded about firing people, might be seen as feature rather than bug [McLaughlin/Baseball Crank] #
  • Legal obstacles to four day work week [Point of Law via @lilyhill] #
  • Yep, that’s Joe: Biden said he’s “done more than any other senator combined” for trial lawyers [Point of Law] #
  • Day of protest against software patents [OUT-LAW via @lawtweets] #
  • Related? “EPO staff strike over patent quality” [OUT-LAW] #
  • What a curious Nigerian scam email, do you think it could be genuine? [Cernovich] #

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September 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 11, 2008

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White House race roundup

by Walter Olson on September 8, 2008

  • High-profile trial lawyer and Hillary fundraiser John Coale now backing McCain, believes plaintiff-friendly Sen. Lindsey Graham, a confidant of the GOP candidate, will sway him on liability issues [Gerstein, NY Sun, Tapper/ABC, Haddad/Newsweek] More on McCain-Graham friendship [New Republic]
  • Reasonably neutral evaluation of contrasting McCain and Obama positions [Chris Nichols, NC Trial Law Blog]
  • No Naderite he? Sen. Biden has generally taken a “protect the golden goose” approach toward his state’s niche as provider of corporate law [Pileggi, Bainbridge]
  • Palin’s views on legal reform mostly unknown; Alaska (like Delaware) has one of the most highly regarded state legal systems, and wouldn’t it be fun if the state’s distinctive and longstanding (if somewhat attenuated) loser-pays rule got mentioned in the campaign?
  • Lending spice to campaign: prospect that victorious Dems might criminally prosecute Bush officials [Guardian (U.K.), Memeorandum, OpenLeft ("we'll put people in prison" vows whistleblower trial lawyer/Democratic Florida Congressional candidate Alan Grayson)] Some differences of opinion among Obama backers on war crimes trials [Turley (Cass Sunstein flayed for go-slow approach); Kerr @ Volokh (Dahlia Lithwick doesn't think it has to be Nuremberg or nothing); earlier]
  • If anyone’s keeping track of these things, co-blogger Ted is much involved with the McCain campaign this fall, I am not involved with anyone’s, so discount (or don’t discount) accordingly.

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September 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2008

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Add the August 28 LA Times to the list of newspapers looking askance at Joe Biden and his family’s cozy relationship to judicial-hellhole asbestos attorneys, in this case Madison County’s SimmonsCooper. (Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger, “Business dealings of Biden family could be problematic for him”, Aug. 28). Unfortunately, the article somehow manages to miss the rationale for creating the trust fund, which was the degree to which so much asbestos litigation in the country is abusive.

Update: also, Am Law Daily.

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Biden and the trial lawyers

by Ted Frank on August 27, 2008

A USA Today story delves deeply into how Biden’s done the bidding of the litigation lobby special interest group, particularly with respect to the bipartisan asbestos litigation reform bill.

Biden and civil liberties

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2008

Wired.com, meet Radley Balko and Jeralyn Merritt.

Edwards scandal updates

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2008

  • Those who saw only the earliest version of our Friday post on Lee Rohn, the Virgin Islands attorney whose name came up in National Enquirer coverage, will want to check out the updated version, which notes Rohn’s categorical denial of the Enquirer story’s veracity and other important additions. Commenters have been adding to the picture as well;
  • Ted must be feeling prescient regarding his speculations about an Edwards-contributor refund class action now that Warren Buffett has weighed in on the idea [Kaus]. And in fact the Edwards campaign does seem to be refunding some contributions in interesting ways, if one account pans out (bundlers! Thomas Girardi! John O’Quinn!) [DBKP, more, yet more]
  • Edwards moneyman and perennial Overlawyered mentionee Fred Baron will be at the Democratic convention in Denver, and there’s little chance his name will fade from the news right away since he’s been a key backer of Sen. Biden as well [Matthew Mosk, WaPo]

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More on Joseph Biden

by Ted Frank on August 23, 2008

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The Delaware senator tapped as Obama’s running mate has just announced that he’s giving away to charity campaign contributions from participants in the Scruggs scandal, no doubt preparing for scrutiny of a set of connections that have already gotten considerable attention in the blogosphere [ABA Journal, NMC @ Folo, YallPolitics, Lattman @ WSJ law blog, Rossmiller, our own mention]. Lotus @ Folo wonders if the McCain camp will risk bringing up Scruggsiana given their own candidate’s former dealings with the disgraced lawyer.

In 2005, Sen. Biden praised “bottom-feeders” (his term) in the legal profession, saying it was worth it to let them collect big fees “to stop bad guys from doing bad things”. In another account, the Senator “began pounding the table in opposition to the bill [Class Action Fairness Act] as he praised plaintiffs attorneys”. On Sen. Biden’s overall alignment with the general trial lawyer cause, see our earlier links here, here, and here.

Members of Biden’s family, including brother Jim Biden and son Joseph (“Beau”) Biden III, who serves as Delaware attorney general, have figured in many news stories about the senator’s connections with the practicing law world. The state of Delaware, renowned for the high caliber of its legal system, has lately attracted an influx of asbestos lawsuits filed on behalf of residents of other states, a trend criticized by guestblogger Steven Hantler (of the Chrysler Corporation) last year. Credit-card companies are a mainstay of the Delaware economy, and Marc Ambinder notes Biden’s having “pushed the bankruptcy bill that Dems now hate”.

Orin Kerr @ Volokh, who is from Delaware himself, likes the Senator.

More: Carter Wood @ PoL on the Senator’s rating of “zero” on legal reform as judged by NAM. See also Ted’s further post. Open Secrets covers the Senator’s campaign finance. And now, as Lotus @ Folo notes, the AP’s Pete Yost and Holbrook Mohr have jumped on the Mississippi connection.

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Daniel Fisher usually understands legal issues and has done some good reporting about trial-lawyer abuses, so I was very disappointed in today’s Forbes.com story (which quotes me about Obama and CAFA). Most notably, it’s not true that tort reform is a “catchall phrase for legislative measures designed to make it harder for individuals to sue businesses”–many tort reforms make it easier for individuals with legitimate claims to sue businesses. Tort reforms are simply measures to improve the accuracy and efficiency of the civil justice system; they’re opposed by trial lawyers because they derive billions of dollars of wealth from inaccuracies and inefficiencies in the civil justice system, and supported by businesses and consumers that are the victims of such inaccuracies and inefficiencies.

The article also inaccurately characterizes the Obama-Clinton medical malpractice legislation, and furthers the idea of “Kennedy is a moderate,” blurring the role of the Supreme Court by implicitly endorsing the liberal idea of it as a political superlegislature rather than a judicial body with an obligation to follow the law. The focus on anti-preemption legislation, as opposed to some of the dozens of other pro-trial-lawyer-lobby bills pending in this Congress and likely to be renewed next Congress, is unusual. (Separately, I disagree with Jim Copland; I don’t think McCain would hesitate to veto the giveaways to the trial-lawyer lobby if they’re in single-purpose bills and not attached as hidden amendments to omnibus legislation.)

I’m less surprised than Fisher and Bill Childs that Obama is getting money from defense firms, or, more accurately, attorneys who work at defense firms. The legal establishment is overwhelmingly liberal (hence the 3:1 fundraising advantage Obama has), and many defense attorneys are perfectly happy with a status quo that requires companies to pay them millions of dollars to continue doing business. (Some are too happy, and have vocally supported ABA resolutions that would harm their clients–something their clients should pay closer attention to.)

While plaintiffs’ law firm contributions are often coordinated (sometimes a bit illegally, as when Tab Turner’s firm and Geoffrey Fieger’s firm were caught reimbursing their employees for donating to John Edwards), it’s a mistake to think the same thing happens in the defense bar, where attorneys are donating on an individual basis because they perceive future government administration (or Article III) jobs of a certain political caliber as pay-to-play or because they’re otherwise simply interested in the political process. Kirkland & Ellis may have tobacco and asbestos defense in its portfolio, and many alumni in the Bush administration, but most Kirkland attorneys are doing other things, and a disproportionate number of them at the Chicago-based firm are going to be former classmates of or students of Harvard Law graduate and Chicago Law lecturer Obama, and have the six- and seven-digit incomes to give maximum contributions–and it only takes a few dozen $4600 contributions to make a firm look like a big contributor.  (And, on the other hand, as if to demonstrate the bipartisan nature of most law firms, John McCain turned to a Republican attorney, former Reagan White House Counsel A.B. Culvahouse, at the largely Democratic O’Melveny & Myers to lead his vice presidential search.) During the primaries, the trial lawyers were giving most of their money to Edwards, Clinton, and Biden, but those fundraisers are now doing business with Obama, as the recent press coverage of Fred Baron shows.

But the article is correct that the outlook for federal tort reform is grim, and that reformers are looking at rearguard actions defending against numerous attempts to make the system worse.

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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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Scruggs indictment IX

by Walter Olson on December 12, 2007

Yes, it seems there were wiretaps. Defendants will be seeing evidence from the prosecution momentarily which might (or might not) be the trigger for further flipping and early plea deals, if such there will be.

There is enormous curiosity (e.g.) about P.L. Blake, to whom Scruggs says he paid $10 million (and tens of millions more in future payments) for vaguely described intelligence services aimed at swaying political influentials during the tobacco caper. Per a 1997 account posted at Y’All Politics, “Blake pleaded ‘no contest’ in 1988 to a federal charge that he conspired to bribe officials of the now-defunct Mississippi Bank to secure favorable loan terms.” The same article, citing reporting in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, reports that Blake was in close phone contact between 1994 and 1996 with eventually-disgraced state Auditor Steve Patterson, who after leaving office went into partnership with Timothy Balducci and is one of the five indicted in the current Scruggs affair. Per AP, “Patterson was a banker at Mississippi Bank before his 1984-1987 tenure as head of the Mississippi Democratic Party.”

David Rossmiller, as so often, is out front with a report filling in background on two other controversies involving Blake. One arose from a venture into the grain storage business which landed him in a Texas dispute in which his attorney was none other than Fred Thompson, later a Tennessee senator and presidential candidate. The other arose from his cordial dealings with a former chief of staff to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi).

Harper’s blogger Scott Horton has now published his take, as is his wont heavily dependent on hush-hush (but no doubt wholly trustworthy) confidential sources who float all sorts of theories about scoundrelly doings by the highly placed. He winds up with a theory that would pull Sen. Lott into it (though with no allegation of criminality) by way of the Acker contempt matter, as distinct from either the Balducci/Lackey bribery attempt or, say, the Paul Minor affair. Of Horton’s many anonymously sourced speculations, the one that caught my eye was tucked into a footnote: “A law enforcement official I interviewed, who for professional reasons asked to remain anonymous, told me that Scruggs’s junior partner Sidney Backstrom might take the same road as Balducci.” Now that is news a rumor (more). (Update Tues. evening: Backstrom’s attorney Frank Trapp flatly denies that anything of the sort is in the works: Patsy R. Brumfield, “Backstrom firm on innocence, his attorney says”, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Dec. 12.)

This is probably a good place to apprise readers who aren’t aware of it that 25-odd years ago, while first gaining a footing in the policy world, I worked briefly on Capitol Hill drafting research papers for a committee then headed by Mr. Lott. We only talked a couple of times, I had never set foot in the state of Mississippi at the time, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t recognize me on the street, but if you’re a conspiracy theorist about such matters, there you have it.

At Y’All Politics, commenter “lawdoctor1960″ has some speculation as to why the remarkable deposition of Scruggs in the Luckey case didn’t get more media or political attention at the time.

Welcome Andrew Sullivan, David Rossmiller, Y’All Politics readers.

Attorney Tim Balducci’s role as deputized lawyer for the state of Mississippi in the MCI and Zyprexa cases is drawing public scrutiny, and may result in pressure for reform of AG outside contracting.

We’ve started a new “Scandals” category for readers who want quick access to coverage of the Mississippi mess, also stocked with some earlier links to coverage of such earlier blow-ups as Milberg Weiss/Lerach, Kentucky fen-phen, the Paul Minor affair, etc. For those who are following Scruggs posts in sequence, be aware that yesterday’s first and second posts fell outside the numbering scheme.

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More on Lerach plea

by Walter Olson on September 19, 2007

The Washington Post quotes me on the hubris that the now-disgraced class-action potentate came to symbolize (Carrie Johnson, “Guilty Plea to End Crusading Lawyer’s Lucrative Run”, Sept. 19). Few tears will be shed in Silicon Valley (Wired “Epicenter” blog, Sept. 18). The John Edwards campaign says it’s handing over Lerach’s contributions to charity, and the Joe Biden campaign says it’s already done so; no word yet from Hillary Clinton, who took Lerach money for her Senate bid (Josh Gerstein, “Fortunes Darken for Lawyer Melvyn Weiss”, New York Sun, Sept. 19). More coverage: Lattman, What About Clients?, NAM Shop Floor. Plus: Ben Smith at Politico has more on the John Edwards connection: “Though he’s giving away the $4,600 from Lerach, Lerach is also listed as a bundler, and employees of the lawyer’s firm are his third-largest group of donors, mostly giving in the first quarter.” (Sept. 19).