Modern-day debtors’ prison, or a problem of his own making? “Those behind the state’s alimony reform movement say it should be easier for individuals to show that they can’t afford to pay court-ordered alimony and harder to jail a former spouse for failing to do so.” [ABA Journal]
“In a case of first impression, a New Jersey appeals court has held that a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident,” if the third party has reason to know that the text will be read while driving. The court upheld a lower court ruling finding that not enough proof of such knowledge had been offered to defeat a motion for summary judgment. [ABA Journal, earlier here and here; related, Stoll] A different view: Eugene Volokh.
After pleading guilty to driving under the influence, two New Jersey men “subsequently brought a product liability action against the company that made the breath-testing device used to establish their BACs as being in excess of .08%.” Asking for class action status on behalf of all New Jersey drivers convicted after blowing into the device, the “plaintiffs claimed that ‘the Alcotest 7110 contains latent design defects in that it is a piece of respiratory equipment that is not standardized at frequent intervals and there is no provision for calibration of its pulmonary reporting apparatus.’” A court ruled the complaint inadequate on the pleadings, though it has given them a chance to replead. [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law]
“There is no reason in the world for a case to be tried 20 years after it was filed,” said Judge Deanne Wilson, who said she knew of nothing matching the case in the New Jersey courts. The judge was highly critical of the conduct of the defendants, a real estate family led by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf, which she found had misappropriated funds owed to longtime business partners. [Ben Horowitz, Newark Star-Ledger, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and more, Field of Schemes]
New Jersey’s highest court ruled that a Harvey Cedars couple do not have to be compensated for the loss of an ocean view, as distinct from the loss of actual land, after the government condemned a strip of their beachfront for a dune restoration project. Relevant factor: the dune restoration is believed to have saved the couple’s home when Hurricane Sandy hit, and that benefit could properly be offset from the taking. [MaryAnn Spoto, Star-Ledger; earlier; edited/corrected to reflect comment]
More from reader TD in comments: “The reporter absolutely got it wrong. The court agreed the loss of a view could be a taking, but that it needed to be offset by the benefit incurred because the dune would presumably prevent future flooding. The lower courts had not allowed for the offset.”
The township of West Orange, N.J. sends a cease and desist letter to a local political activist who runs the domain westorange.info and gets the following response from attorney Stephen Kaplitt (via Above the Law):
Dear Mr. Trenk:
I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your “cease and desist letter,” dated May 13, 2013, regarding his domain westorange.info. Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk! ….
Oh, and just to play along, had you intended for your letter to be taken seriously, even in some small measure, we would have sent in response something along the following lines: …
[several legal points follow about municipalities' general lack of a right to exclude others from using their names as part of domains]
If you manage to produce supporting authority that even remotely passes the laugh test, I will donate $100 in your honor to the American Civil Liberties Union — N.J. chapter. I plan to make the donation online, assuming the state of New Jersey has not shut down aclu-nj.org.
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.
Ervin Mears Jr. has sued in Camden County, claiming his son Mawusimensah Mears, a sophomore, was kicked off the track team on the grounds of unexcused absences from practice. “‘Participation in extracurricular activities is a right,’ Mears said. Not allowing his son to participate constitutes bullying, harassment, and an ‘abusive school environment’ in which the sophomore’s rights to due process and freedom of speech were impeded, the suit says.” He wants $40 million. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Please don’t do these [in some cases alleged] things:
- Calif.: “Judge accused of stealing elderly neighbor’s $1.6M life savings resigns from bench” [ABA Journal]
- Stan Chesley joins a rogue’s gallery of disgraced litigators [Paul Barrett/Business Week, earlier here, etc.]
- San Francisco’s Alioto firm: “Attorney and law firm must pay $67K …for ‘vexatious’ suit challenging airline merger” [ABA Journal, Andrew Longstreth/Reuters (Joseph Alioto: "badge of honor"), Ted Frank/PoL (sanctions are small change compared with enormous fees obtainable through merger challenges]
- N.J.: “Lawyer takes state plea, will pay $1M to widow’s estate” [ABA Journal]
- Texas: “State Rep. Reynolds charged with 7 others in barratry scheme” [SETR]
- “Paul Bergrin, ‘The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,’ Convicted at Last” [David Lat/Above the Law, earlier]
- “Attorney’s mug shot winds up next to his law firm’s ad, in marketing effort gone awry” [Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
- Once the American legal profession reformed itself, but that was long ago [John Steele Gordon]