Posts Tagged ‘legal extortion’

July 22 roundup

  • Facebook fought dragnet-with-gag-order subpoena in NY police/fire disability-fraud case [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • Two lawyers charged in alleged plot to extort millions from wealthy sheik [ABA Journal]
  • Judge declares mistrial, plans new trial date in case of allegedly faulty guardrails [Bloomberg, more, background]
  • Last year Overlawyered made the “Hall of Fame” and from now through Aug. 8 you can nominate other sites for the ABA’s annual Blawg 100 honor;
  • Supreme Court, which seldom grants cases raising non-delegation doctrine, agrees to hear Dept. of Transportation v. Assn. of American Railroads [Roger Pilon/Cato, Gerard Magliocca] And Prof. Philip Hamburger, author of bracing new book Is Administrative Law Unlawful (earlier), has just guest-blogged about it for a week at Volokh Conspiracy, and has a related podcast at Law and Liberty;
  • David Henderson writes rave review of new Peter Schuck book Why Government Fails So Often [Regulation, PDF; excerpts also at Econlib and more, earlier on Schuck book]
  • Legal academia stunned, in grief after highly regarded criminal law specialist Dan Markel is murdered in his Tallahassee home [PrawfsBlawg, Dave Hoffman, Marc DeGirolami]

June 26 roundup

  • Court slaps “nightmare” Sacramento litigant Raj Singh with sanctions [KXTV, auto-plays, earlier]
  • Child overprotection: “I don’t think they even drink liquid soap, the gateway drug for sunscreen.” [Lenore Skenazy, Free-Range Kids]
  • Three-fer: personal injury, qui tam lawsuits against guardrail maker coordinated by disappointed patent litigant [Insurance Journal]
  • Donald Trump hit with sanctions in lawsuit for not disclosing insurance policy [South Florida Business Journal, our Trump coverage]
  • On AirBnB and sharing services, it’s lefty economist Dean Baker (con) vs. David Henderson (pro). Go David! [EconLib] London black cabs seek level playing field with Uber. Good idea, let’s deregulate ‘em both [Matthew Feeney, Cato]
  • Waffle House chairman claims attorneys committed extortion in ex-housekeeper’s sex lawsuit [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
  • “Tenth Circuit Says No to ‘Death by Discovery’ in Dispute over Agreement to Arbitrate in Class Action” [Lars Fuller, Class Action Blawg on Howard v. Ferrellgas Partners LP]

California: Lawyer’s nastygram threat is free speech, not extortion

In a menacing letter that included the draft of a complaint, well-known entertainment lawyer Martin Singer informed his target that “I have deliberately left blank spaces in portions of the complaint dealing with your using company resources to arrange sexual liaisons with older men such as ‘Uncle Jerry,’ Judge ——, a/k/a ‘Dad’ (see enclosed photo), and many others. When the complaint is filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, there will be no blanks in the pleading.” Now California appeals court judge Steven Suzukawa has ruled that the threatened disclosure was appropriately related to the financial dispute at issue and did not constitute extortion as a matter of law. [Hollywood Reporter, earlier]

August 10 roundup

Annals of rape allegations

“A Louisville police detective testified Monday that she was surprised to see television reporters outside the police station when Karen Sypher arrived to file a rape report last year against University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.” [USA Today, more] A year ago Sypher’s lawyer wrote Pitino a letter demanding $10 million on threat of suit. Sypher is now on trial for alleged extortion and her then lawyer has given testimony for the prosecution. [ABA Journal]

Update: lawyer’s baseless demand letter amounted to extortion

Updating our March 2008 coverage: The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled last month that an attorney could properly be convicted of extortion for sending a demand letter threatening patently baseless litigation. The lawyer had sent the letter (which included a demand for monetary payment) to a hair salon threatening litigation over its purportedly discriminatory setting of different rates for men’s and women’s haircuts. A crucial element in the decision was that the lawyer did not in fact have a client in hand with a potential complaint as an actual customer of the salon. [Eugene Volokh, Above the Law; State v. Hynes, PDF] “Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Baker said Hynes sent letters to at least 19 salons in the state.” [Concord Monitor 2008 coverage]

Deceased Austin lawyer probed over demand letters to restaurants

Prominent Austin, Texas lawyer and judicial candidate Mina Brees, who died Aug. 7, is the target of a probe by the state’s attorney general after sending scores of letters to Houston and Dallas area restaurants advising them that their business name registrations had expired and that they could buy them back by dealing with her at a cost of $20,000 or $25,000 each. The letters informed them that a client, Chicksports Inc., had taken possession of the names, but did not mention that she herself was the president of Chicksports or that it operated from the address of her solo-practice law firm. The Texas Restaurant Association had advised its members not to pay and said under state law lapses in name registrations do not deprive restaurants of their legal rights to their distinctive names. Brees had been on strained terms with a famous son, NFL quarterback Drew Brees. [Mike Tolson, Houston Chronicle/KHOU, Austin American-Statesman, more Houston Chronicle, Tex Parte, DeadSpin] Per the Austin American-Statesman, “Brees received the Austin Bar Association’s 2005 professionalism award for legal ethics and professionalism.”

Beaumont justice and the silicosis mass torts

“The first time we ever lost a case in trial, it was 2001. We tried it in Beaumont, Texas, and lost $7.5 million. . . . The judge sat there through the trial reading a newspaper. At one point an objection was made, the bailiff taps him on the shoulder and says ‘judge, objection is being made.’ He looks at our lawyer and says ‘overruled.’ The plaintiffs’ lawyer raises his hand and says ‘no, judge, it was me.’ He says ‘sustained’ and goes back to reading the paper.” …

[U.S. Silica CEO John A.] Ulizio shares a memo that plaintiffs’ lawyer Joe Gibson sent to silica defendants in 2004 with a blunt offer: Settle our 9,000 cases for $900 million, or pay $1.5 billion in pretrial discovery alone, plus an even bigger verdict. “That’s the genius of the economics of litigation from the plaintiffs’ perspective. Sue a lot of people, sue on behalf of a lot of plaintiffs, get into an adverse jurisdiction, and then don’t make too big of a demand, so you can settle it for a relatively small percentage of the cost of defending the case,” Mr. Ulizio says.

Kim Strassel has a must-read account of how U.S. Silica beat a mass-tort fraud attempting to steal its solvency—and did so almost entirely by the luck of the MDL draw, as a different judge might have refused to conduct the hearings that exposed the wrongdoing. (See also Michael Krauss at Point of Law.)

Note that that $900 million proposal for 9000 bogus cases works out to $100,000/case—which is exactly what the Vioxx litigation settled for.

“Sued for seeking a ZIPcode?”

Overlawyered readers may remember the problem of FACTA lawsuits when a poorly drafted federal law led to attorneys seeking $1000 for every occasion when a credit-card slip showed an expiration date.

Stroock & Stroock’s Daniel A. Rozansky and Scott M. Pearson have an op-ed in today’s San Francisco Chronicle discussing problems with a similar California law. California prohibits businesses from requesting or requiring “personal identification information” while accepting a credit-card payment; this includes address and phone number, but doesn’t specify what else. Entrepreneurial trial lawyers are asking courts to hold that it includes harmless information like ZIP codes: since the statute provides for $1000/violation damages in the absence of a showing of harm without a cap, extortionate lawsuits are easy to create–and a further drag on the already-suffering California economy.