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Maine

Sued over blog posts

by Walter Olson on October 4, 2006

USA Today has a survey of cases filed against bloggers and commenters. A religious broadcaster and publisher has sued over a description of its president as “a shark” who comes from a “family of nincompoops.” And an ad agency that produced a tourism campaign for the state of Maine filed, but soon dropped, a suit against a critic who ridiculed the ads as a waste of money. (Laura Parker, “Courts are asked to crack down on bloggers, websites”, Oct. 3). More: Sacha Pfeiffer, “In court, blogs can come back to dog the writers”, Boston Globe, Sept. 28.

The official recruitment of cosmetologists as informants (and as intermediaries steering customers to approved “domestic-violence” programs) continues, with programs reported in Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Ohio and Maine, as well as Nevada and Connecticut (see Mar. 16 and Mar. 29, 2000). It’s not just black eyes or lacerations that the salon employees are supposed to be on the lookout for, either. A customer’s protestation that “he would not like that”, as a reason to turn down a new hairstyle, might be a sign of “controlling behavior” that needs watching. (“Salons join effort to stop violence”, Bangor Daily News, Jun. 15) (via van Bakel).

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Boston Business Journal has a feature article catching up on the torrid fight between attorney Jan Schlichtmann (A Civil Action) and a squad of class-actioneers led by Thomas Sobol of Hagens Berman, over whether lawyers in pursuit of settlement fees sold out the interests of clients following lawsuits against Nestle’s bottled-water operation (Sheri Qualters, “‘Civil Action’ lawyer tangles with litigators”, May 19). Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly also has a big article which will however rotate off their online “Feature” page soon. Earlier coverage: Mar. 25, Mar. 20, etc.

Lance Dutson of the Maine Web Report had the temerity to note that an expensive advertising agency published a phone-sex number instead of the correct line for the Maine Office of Tourism. For this, and other criticisms, Warren Kremer Paino Advertising is suing Dutson for millions. The plaintiff’s lawyer is Portland attorney Alfred Frawley III, who alleges that an opinion that a state agency is “pissing away” money is legally actionable. Dutson has numerous links for this ludicrous lawsuit. Greenberg Traurig is once again stepping up to protect free speech in defense, in conjunction with the Media Bloggers Association. (via Lattman)

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Seattle’s best-known plaintiff’s firm gets a huge black eye and is told to pay $10.8 million : “The jury unanimously found Wednesday that lawyers from Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP violated their duty of loyalty to three small water bottlers that in 2003 were close to settling a claim with Nestle Waters North America, the owner of Poland Spring Water Co.” For more about the case, see Mar. 20 and links from there. “Jurors will return to federal court next week to settle the issue of punitive damages.” (“Jury awards more than $10 million in water bottlers’ lawsuit”, AP/Boston Globe, Mar. 23; Vanesso Ho and Mike Lewis, “Seattle law firm told to pay $10.8 million”, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Mar.24; Lattman, Mar. 24).

“Mutually assured character destruction”: that’s what Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam says to expect from a trial that started March 7 in Portland, Me. federal court that pits some of the country’s better-known members of the plaintiff’s bar against each other. Among the cast of characters: Jan Schlichtmann, of “A Civil Action” fame, Steve Berman of Seattle-based Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, and Massachusetts tobacco litigator Thomas Sobol of the same firm, and Alabama’s Garve Ivey. At issue is whether lawyers breached legal ethics or sold out the interests of class members in their sharp-elbowed maneuvers to control the process of litigation and reach a lucrative settlement with Poland Spring’s parent company, Nestle. Also testifying is celebrity enviro-pol Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who had signed up a water company he controls as one of the plaintiffs — gee, who knew RFK Jr. was tied in with hotshot plaintiff’s lawyers? (Alex Beam, “An uncivil action in Maine”, Mar. 8; Gregory D. Kesich, “Water bottlers in court to recoup lost settlement”, Portland Press Herald, Mar. 8; “Law firm’s handling of Poland Spring case at issue in trial”, AP/Boston Globe, Mar. 8; Gregory D. Kesich, “Water case puts lawyers’ ethics on trial”, Portland Press Herald, Mar. 10; “Witnesses tell of how Nestle case fell apart”, Mar. 17). The trial is expected to conclude this week. For more on the Poland Spring class actions, see Sept. 10, 2003, Feb. 2, 2004 and Jun. 25, 2004.

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Not so gentle

by Walter Olson on August 30, 2004

A New Age psychotherapeutic outfit based in Kittery, Maine, and nearby New Hampshire, the Gentle Wind Project “is a 24-year-old non-profit corporation that describes itself as being ‘dedicated to education and research aimed at alleviating human suffering and trauma.’ … The organization holds seminars across the country, selling “healing instrument” products for donations ranging from $450 to upwards of $10,000, asserting they have exclusive healing technology that is channeled telepathically from the ‘spirit world’ and has healing powers.” On a less serene note, the organization recently filed a lawsuit claiming that a husband and wife from Blue Hill, Me., Judy Garvey and James F. Bergin, and various other individuals defamed Gentle Wind by publishing a website criticizing the organization’s leadership and cautioning newcomers against excessive involvement. Garvey and Bergin were themselves formerly involved with Gentle Wind. (James Baker, “New age therapy group sues over Web site”, Foster’s Sunday Citizen (N.H.), Aug. 8)(more). The Gentle Wind Project’s side of the story may be found here and here. Update Jan. 19, 2006: federal judge dismisses suit.