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Kentucky

October 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2013

  • “Kerr received a 37-page temporary restraining order last Friday which seeks to shut down her [too-popular] haunted house.” [Silver Spring, MD; ABC News]
  • Blockbuster “60 Minutes” on the federal Social Security disability program, if you haven’t seen it yet [CBS; Chris Edwards, Tad DeHaven at Cato; ABA Journal on Kentucky lawyer and more]
  • Chevron complaint against attorney Donziger over Ecuador shenanigans reaches trial Tuesday [Daniel Fisher] More: Michael Goldhaber, American Lawyer (“A Dickensian Cheat Sheet”);
  • Ombudsman on South Dakota Indian foster care case: NPR “reporters and producers tried to push the story beyond the proof that they had. I don’t know why.” [NPR ombudsman]
  • In America we use lawyers for that: “Rabbis Arrested in Plot to Kidnap, Torture Husbands to Force Divorce” [WSJ, CNN] From 1845, a British judge’s exquisitely arch observations on the then state of divorce law [Sasha Volokh]
  • “Salvage company that lost $600M sunken ship case must pay $1M to Spain for ‘abusive litigation’” [ABA Journal]
  • How Canada lost gun freedom [Pierre Lemieux, Liberty and Law]

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“Kentucky claims that writing an advice column that appears in a newspaper in the state — in the specific case of their complaint, the Lexington Herald-Leader, though it appears in others as well — is not an act of freedom of the press, but rather practicing psychology without the required license.” [Brian Doherty] “John Rosemond has been dispensing parenting advice in his newspaper column since 1976, making him one of the longest-running syndicated columnists in the country.” The Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology had its attention called to Rosemond by a local complaint about a column in which he advised parents about how to handle a sullen teen but did not recommend they seek professional help. The Board, along with the state’s attorney general, proceeded to demand that he submit to a cease-and-desist order on such matters as whether he can be bylined as a “psychologist”; Rosemond is licensed as such in his home state of North Carolina, but not in Kentucky. The Institute for Justice is defending Rosemond and has filed an action against the state. [AP]

Update from the Kentucky AG’s office: don’t blame us, we let our lawyers lend themselves out for state agency work and it was by inadvertence that our letterhead was used on what went to Rosemond. As Caleb Brown notes, this opens up new questions even if it answers some others.

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The Colorado Supreme Court, wisely resisting a national campaign of school funding litigation, has turned down a lawsuit arguing that the state is obliged under its constitution to step up school spending. [Denver Post, KDVR, opinion in State v. Lobato]

I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty about the Colorado decision, noting that although school finance litigators make a lot of noise about educational quality, they are actually on a mission of “control —specifically, transferring control over spending from voters and their representatives to litigators whose loyalty is to a mix of ideologues and interest groups sharing a wish for higher spending.” I quote from a section on school finance litigation that I wound up cutting from my book Schools for Misrule about the enormous impact such suits have had in other states:

Vast sums have been redistributed as a result. Lawmakers in Kentucky enacted more than a billion dollars in tax hikes. New Jersey adopted its first income tax. Kansas lawmakers levied an additional $755 million in taxes after the state’s high court in peremptory fashion ordered them to double their spending on schools.

The results have been at best mixed: while some states to come under court order have improved their educational performance, many others have stagnated or fallen into new crisis. Colorado is fortunate not to join their ranks. (& reprint: Complete Colorado)

P.S. From a Colorado Springs Gazette report, Jul. 31, 2011:

“Putting more money into a broken system won’t get a better results. There are improvements that could be made without money,” says Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue. …

He points to a Cato Institute study that showed spending on education across the country has skyrocketed but test scores didn’t improve.

“That would mean that potentially every cent of the state budget would be shifted over to K-12 education,” says Blue, who heads the office’s legal policy and government affairs.

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An international brewing company that uses a red-and-orange “#9″ mark on one of its brands is suing Lexington, Ky. craft brewer West Sixth Brewing Co., which uses a black-and-green “6.” “If it was on a coaster, and the person across the table was colorblind and fairly stupid, I suppose there might be some initial confusion. … there might be a problem if somebody is holding their beer upside down.” [Lowering the Bar; Kentucky.com]

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A Covington, Ky. man escaped jail time on a disorderly conduct charge after falsely yelling “bingo” in a room of bingo players. The arresting officer compared the offense to falsely yelling “fire” in a theater. [NKY.com, David Frum, Daily Beast ("You Can't Yell 'Bingo' Around a Bunch of Old People and Not Expect to Be Arrested")]

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How to be gentlemanly in a cease-and-desist. [Mashable, Popehat]

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A t-shirt company declined to print message shirts for the Lexington, Ky. gay rights organization, explaining that to do so would be contrary to its beliefs. The group proceeded to file a complaint with the Lexington Human Rights Commission, which says it intends to apply subpoena power and that the t-shirt printer faces fines under a city ordinance if found to have “discriminated.” [Eugene Volokh, Bruce MacQuain/QandO]

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The College Sports Council has recent reports from New York City, where both boys’ and girls’ squads have been sidelined following a New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) suit over fall vs. spring scheduling (related earlier here, here, and here), and Kentucky, where quotas have prevented formation of a boys’ team.

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“In a new move against the online gambling industry, Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration is attempting to use an obscure state law to recover losses incurred by Kentuckians who placed bets through Web sites.” Three times the losses, in fact. [Stephanie Steitzer, Louisville Courier-Journal]

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Those of you who have attended my “Law of McDonald’s” talks in California and Florida may recall the case of the strip search hoax. A Florida man who was unusually persuasive would call dozens of fast food restaurants until he could find someone who would believe he was with the police and who would disrobe employees (or themselves) at his instructions; though there have been other lawsuits seeking to blame the fast food restaurants for this, courts have generally thrown them out. One exception was the case of Ogborn v. McDonald’s, where two targets of the hoax successfully sued for millions. On Friday, the Kentucky Court of Appeals largely affirmed the lower court judgment, though it reduced the punitive damages received by Donna Summers (who gave an Alford guilty plea for her role in the strip search) from $1 million to $400,000. McDonald’s hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court. (Andrew Wolfson, “Appeals court upholds $6.1 million strip-search verdict against McDonald’s”, Kentucky Courier-Journal, Nov. 20, via ABA Journal).

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“U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joan Lloyd ruled Friday that attorney Bruce Atherton and [financier] Randall Scott Waldman ‘blatantly breached’ their duty to the owner of a Louisville tool machinery company by forcing him out of business and seizing his assets. …Atherton was suspended from practicing law last month by the Kentucky Supreme Court based on his guilty plea in September in Pennsylvania federal court to charges that he aided a scheme in which other defendants allegedly ‘busted out’ small businesses by pretending to buy them, then draining their assets before the deals were completed.” [Louisville Courier-Journal via ABA Journal]

The story is from Kentucky, but it’s different from and evidently unrelated to the much-publicized episode in which three lawyers from that state arranged to divert large sums from the proceeds of a group settlement of fen-phen claims. Patricia Fulkerson of Nelson County sued the lawyer and law firm that had represented her in her fen-phen claim, saying that the lawyer sexually harassed her and that the law firm (quoting Andrew Wolfson in the Louisville Courier-Journal) “exaggerated her heart injuries — and those of other clients — so it could collect higher fees”:

A former paralegal in the firm, Fonda Walters, testified in a deposition that it exaggerated the injuries of a half-dozen clients, and that their initial test results, which had showed little or no heart damage, were altered. …Walters acknowledged she was fired from the firm in connection with a dispute over a bonus she claims she was owed.

The law firm’s defense raised (inter alia) an interesting argument:

Those lawyers also have argued that the alleged altering of Fulkerson’s medical records by the Florida-based firm of Wasserman Riley & Associates also doesn’t amount to negligence because “the claimed goal of the alleged malpractice was to get her more money.”

Apparently the judge rejected that argument, though. In a second Journal-Courier report dated June 22 — the same date as the above item, but presumably subsequent to it — Wolfson reports that Fulkerson’s lawsuit “has been successfully mediated and will be dismissed, lawyers for both sides said.” Speaking to the Broward-Palm Beach (Fla.) New Times, partner Jay Wasserman called the claims of diagnosis-embellishment “absolute nonsense”:

Wasserman also says there were only about six claims filed among the many prospective clients who received the complimentary tests. “If [falsifying results] was going on, why didn’t we have a much bigger number?” Wasserman asks, adding that since the reports were produced by experts and would be part of the case, it wouldn’t be possible to fake them, even if he wanted to.

More: Ronald Miller.

You may recall the earlier trial of the Kentucky fen-phen attorneys who had stolen tens of millions of dollars from their clients ended in a mistrial for two and an acquittal for their third compatriot. This time around, a federal court jury, after ten hours of deliberation, found William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham Jr. guilty of eight counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy. A streamlined prosecution case no doubt helped make a difference; defense attorneys sought to blame the matter on Stan Chesley, who negotiated the underlying settlement and received millions more than he was contracted to receive, and it remains mysterious why he was not charged. [Courier-Journal]

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February 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 26, 2009

  • “God convinces woman to withdraw her voodoo-related lawsuit” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Obscure Store]
  • Federal, state judges differ on whether wildlife officials can be sued over fatal Utah bear attack [Heller/OnPoint News]
  • GPS helped trip him up: highest-paid Schenectady cop sure seems to spend a lot of time off patrol in a certain apartment [Greenfield]
  • More coverage of Luzerne County, Pa. corrupt-judge scandal, including reputed mobster link [Legal Intelligencer/Law.com, ABA Journal, earlier here and here]
  • Reductio ad absurdum of laws dictating where released sex offenders can live: proposal to keep them from living near each other [Giacalone and sequel]
  • Defamation suits: “What happens when it’s the plaintiff that is anonymous, and wants to stay that way?” [Ron Coleman]
  • Scalia: “Honest Services” fraud statute lacks any “coherent limiting principle” to restrain runaway prosecution [Grossman/PoL, Kerr/Volokh, Hills/Prawfsblawg]
  • Because they’d never enact a law except to deal with a real problem: “Kentucky Prohibits First Responders from Dueling” [Lowering the Bar]

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The state of Kentucky enacted a new sales tax on the services of telecommunications companies. It also forbade the companies from breaking the tax out as a line item on customer’s bills — that might get people mad at the legislators, after all. The Sixth Circuit, Sutton, J., ruled that under the intermediate level of First Amendment scrutiny applied to limitations on commercial speech, the “no-stating-the-tax” provision was unconstitutional. (BellSouth v. Farris, Sept. 9).

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October 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 22, 2008

  • Bulgarians employ “decoy lawyers” to get around corruption in official bureaus [Cowen, MargRev]
  • Forum-shopping vol. MMMCCXII: Taiwan company claims Apple broke California unfair-practices law so of course it sues in Texarkana [AppleInsider]
  • “U.S. produces far too many lawyers for society to absorb” and one reason is that law schools want warm seats on chairs [Greenfield]
  • Second Circuit: lawyers can’t buy their way out of sanctions for filing meritless lawsuit [Krauss, PoL]
  • Some reasons furor over free speech in Canada is relevant this side of the border [Bernstein @ Volokh]
  • We’re quoted on the subject of those websites that offer “point-and-click access to trial lawyers” [Business First of Columbus]
  • Tight lid kept on study of disposable diapers’ environmental impact since findings were … inconvenient [Times Online (U.K.) via Stuttaford]
  • Judge backs Kentucky’s bid to seize domains of online gambling sites, implications for everyone else [Balko, "Hit and Run"; earlier here and here]

October 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 9, 2008

  • Appeals court upholds Ted Roberts “sextortion” conviction [Bashman with lots of links, San Antonio Express-News]
  • Alito incredulous at FTC: you guys have failed to raise a peep about bogus tar & nicotine numbers for how long? [PoL]
  • Please, Mr. Pandit, do the country a favor and don’t litigate Citigroup’s rights to the utmost in the Wachovia-Wells Fargo affair [Jenkins, WSJ]
  • Docblogger Westby Fisher, hit with expensive subpoena over contents of his comments section, wonders whether it’s worth it to go on blogging [Dr. Wes, earlier]
  • “Title IX and Athletics: A Primer”, critical study for Independent Women’s Forum [Kasic/Schuld, PDF; my two cents]
  • Case of whale-bothering Navy sonar, often covered in this space, argued before high court [FoxNews.com]
  • More on Kentucky’s efforts to seize Internet domain names of online gambling providers [WaPo, earlier]
  • Exposure to pigeon droppings at Iraq ammo warehouse doesn’t seem to have affected worker’s health, but it was disgusting and she’s filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against private contractor for big bucks [St. Petersburg Times, Patricia Howard, USA Environmental; but see comment taking issue]

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September 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 29, 2008

  • Watch where you click: “Kentucky (secretly) commandeers world’s most popular gambling sites” [The Register/OUT-LAW]
  • Erin Brockovich enlists as pitchwoman for NYC tort firm Weitz & Luxenberg [PoL roundup]
  • U.K.: “Millionaire Claims Ghosts Caused Him to Flee His Mortgage, I Mean Mansion” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Prosecution of Lori Drew (MySpace imposture followed by victim’s suicide) a “case study in overcriminalization” [Andrew Grossman, Heritage; earlier; some other resources on overcriminalization here, here, and here]
  • Exonerated Marine plans to sue Rep. John Murtha for defamation [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
  • Snooping on jurors’ online profiles? “Everything is fair game” since “this is war”, says one jury consultant [L.A. Times; earlier]
  • Allentown, Pa. attorney John Karoly, known for police-brutality suits, indicted on charges of forging will to obtain large chunk of his brother’s estate; “Charged with the same offenses are J.P. Karoly, 28, who is John Karoly’s son, and John J. Shane, 72, who has served as an expert medical witness in some of John Karoly’s cases.” [Express-Times, AP, Legal Intelligencer]
  • School safety: “What do the teachers think they might do with the Hula-Hoop, choke on it?” [Betsy Hart, Chicago Sun-Times/Common Good]

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