“Ugly” question raised by arrest of New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver: how often do law firms trade cash to doctors for mesothelioma referrals? [Alison Frankel/Reuters, Science magazine, earlier] And from the New York Times:
…mesothelioma doctors and personal injury lawyers specializing in asbestos-related litigation have developed over the years what some medical ethical experts describe as an unseemly alliance.
For plaintiffs’ lawyers, mesothelioma patients are a bonanza, worth $1.5 million to $2 million on average per case, according to legal experts; individual cases can yield much more. The hunger for these clients is evident to anyone who has watched late-night cable television and seen the garish ads aimed at those afflicted with the disease….
A symbiotic relationship has emerged, with lawyers financing research on the disease for doctors who send along streams of potentially lucrative clients.
- “Silver’s perversion of a health-care grant that was earmarked for post-9/11 programs” [New York Daily News editorial] Columbia University closes its Mesothelioma Center, deeply involved in the scandal, which had been given a commendation by the New York Assembly in 2011 as its director quietly referred millions in cases to Silver [Daily News]
- Circle wagons first, name committee chairs later: Albany in panic over Silver nab [New York Post, Albany Times-Union]
- Lawyer referral fees, nonprofit cash figured in Lerach/Weiss scandal as well [Daniel Fisher, more]
- Eric Schneiderman, Kathleen Rice… “Law Firm at Center of Silver Scandal Donated Huge Sums” to Moreland Commission figures [New York Observer]
- More: New York Post on, inter alia, strong position held by Weitz & Luxenberg in New York courts; Wayne Barrett/Village Voice 2009 on Silver’s work in obtaining Chief Judge job for old friend Jonathan Lippman. And from Bob McManus at the New York Post: “Orange Is The New Silver.”
The New York governor was a lawyer by training — Gideon Kanner recalls his start as an eminent domain compensation lawyer in Queens — and drew insight from the experience. Bill Hammond of the Daily News:
During his term in office I wrote two pieces for the Wall Street Journal about Cuomo, one an opinion piece on New York’s finances, another a review of an unsuitably hagiographic biography; neither is online so far as I know. My view was that despite his lion-of-the-Left reputation, Cuomo had governed in a cautious rather than radical way, and by the same token had in no way been a transformational figure for his state: New York had largely the same set of governance problems when he left office as when he entered.
In New York that’s getting to be a regular pattern in the settlement of charges against financial firms; although Eliot Spitzer, known for creative methods of corporate decapitation, may have departed office, Spitzerism lives on. I explain in a new Cato post on the state’s Ocwen Financial pact.
Related: Tactics the federal government used to seize control of insurer American International Group (AIG) away from Hank Greenberg, now made public despite years spent resisting disclosure [Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times]
The coroner’s inquest, familiar to readers of Agatha Christie, might be worth importing to the U.S. to look into police-caused deaths [Josh Voorhees, Slate, on ideas of Paul MacMahon]
Related: “The Grand Jury System Is Broken” [John Steele Gordon, Commentary, written post-Ferguson, pre-Garner]; New York Times “Room for Debate“; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asks for authority to take over prosecutorial authority in police shootings [WGRZ (auto-plays), New York Observer, Paul Cassell]; Harvey Silverglate via Todd Zywicki (don’t gut grand jury protections). And from Michael Bell, “What I Did After Police Killed My Son,” Politico: “In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified. …As a military pilot, I knew that if law professionals investigated police-related deaths like, say, the way that the National Transportation Safety Board investigated aviation mishaps, police-related deaths would be at an all time low.” (& Wisconsin aftermath)
[cross-posted and slightly adapted from Cato at Liberty]
I’ve got a guest post up at Reason on how bounty-seeking informants are bypassing the Internal Revenue Service tipster-reward program in favor of selected state False Claims Acts, such as New York’s, which enable richer recoveries for disloyal employees and others who charge defendants with underpaying taxes. Excerpt:
Will the spread of a culture of informants sow distrust and disloyalty in the workplace, while encouraging dissident executives and their lawyers to shake settlements out of risk- and publicity-averse targets by seizing on doubtful, gray-area legal theories? That’s part of the game too. Lately hedge funds and litigation finance firms have moved in to bankroll the filing of likely “whistleblower” cases. …
…by getting pro-plaintiff laws through the legislature in just a few states—New York liberalized its law four years ago—advocates can set the stage for a nationwide informant push.
In Illinois, a single Chicago lawyer was reported in 2012 to have used that state’s whistleblower law to file at least 238 lawsuits against retailers, pocketing millions in settlements, over alleged failure to charge sales tax on shipping-and-handling.
Whole thing here.
P.S. More recent coverage of the runaway False Claims Act train: “Repeat whistleblowers reap millions of dollars in false-claims suits” [ABA Journal] David Ogden testifies for the U.S. Chamber on what needs to happen with the federal FCA [House Judiciary] “UK Commission Takes A Pass On U.S.-Style Whistleblower Bounties” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
In a 4-2 decision, New York’s highest court agreed with two lower courts that New York City’s attempted ban on sugary drink portions over 16 ounces exceeded the powers of the city’s Department of Health. [Bloomberg News coverage]
That’s exactly in line with what I wrote at earlier stages of the case. At the time, some national commentators did not seem to have checked out the actual reasoning of Judge Milton Tingling’s decision, which rested squarely on a distinctive 1987 New York precedent called Boreali v. Axelrod which had struck down the state health department’s attempt to regulate smoking in public places as beyond its properly delegated authority. The soda case was (as they say) on all fours with Boreali, and although the Court of Appeals could have overturned Boreali, as some academics urged, or found grounds to dodge its effect, as the two dissenters did, the court instead chose to apply the precedent as it stood. That confirms that the Bloomberg-appointed Board of Health, in its eagerness to assert powers not rightly its own, had casually broken the law.
One of the two dissenters was Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, the latest of many indications that he is inclined to pull the Court of Appeals away from many of the positions and habits that have given it a centrist reputation among state courts.
We’ve tracked (especially by way of the Westchester County, N.Y. controversy) the ambitious efforts of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to grab more control over local governments’ zoning and project building decisions, in part through a proposed new “AFFH” rule (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing). Now the House has voted an appropriations rider cutting off funds for implementation of the new rule. [sponsor Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Paul Mirengoff/PowerLine, Sara Rankin/Legislation Prof (opposed), National Low-Income Housing Coalition, earlier on AFFH and on housing discrimination law generally]
The proposal by New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., D-Bronx (earlier) is beginning to break out into wider coverage. I’m quoted in this report by Steven Nelson of US News:
Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, blogged about the bill earlier this month and tells U.S. News “people see this not just as bossy, but as sinister.”
“Imagine treating every parent in New York as though they are on probation,” he says.
Olson says the bill would force parents to “show up and be re-educated” and “lectured about the shortcomings of how they are raising their kids and be inoculated with whatever the fad of the year is.”
“If you thought the public reaction to the soda ban was big,” Olson says, “wait until you see the public reaction to telling people the government knows better than they do how to raise their kids.”
Speaking of helicopter governance, if you’re near Washington, D.C. be sure to mark your calendar for next week’s (Mar. 6) talk at Cato by Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids. Details and registration here.
A bill introduced by three members of the New York Senate would require parents of schoolchildren to attend four workshops aimed at sharpening their “parenting skills,” as a condition for their kids’ advancing to the seventh grade. I’ve got details in a new post at Cato at Liberty (& Patheos’s Terry Firma).
Jack Shafer has a few thoughts:
Schneiderman mustn’t neglect the product endorsement industry. Do those celebrity endorsers really love the product or service as much as they say they do? … Fake reviews on Yelp, properly considered, are Yelp’s problem, not the state of New York’s. Let the Yelp people clean up the sewer. And the attorney general? Aren’t there any genuine crimes in the state for him to investigate?
With enough enforcement linkage between different branches of government, do we even need a Panopticon? “Beginning this year, [New York] drivers who owe more than $10,000 in state taxes face losing their license until the debt is paid.” Does this mean persons who have fallen behind on taxes won’t be able to get to their jobs to pay off the arrears? Well, it seems “there is a ‘restricted’ license that you can apply for in the event that your license is suspended” which “would allow you to commute to and from work only.” How this is to be enforced — whether the hapless motorist will be nailed for stopping off for a loaf of bread on the way home, or venturing out for a job interview — is your guess as well as mine. [Kelly Phillips Erb, Forbes]