- Yes: “Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Lowered?” [New York Times “Room for Debate”]
- “New police radars can ‘see’ inside homes” [Gannett]
- “‘Shopping cart’ patent beaten by Newegg comes back to court, loses again” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
- “Utah woman can sue herself over fatal car accident, ruling says” [Salt Lake Tribune, Lowering the Bar]
- “Large Product Liability Awards Made Comeback in 2014″ [Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg]
- New York assembly ex-speaker Silver indicted; charges reduced from five to three [Reuters]
- “Your fruit may be patented.” [Dan Lewis, Now I Know]
- Sheldon Silver’s law firm reportedly loses its special status in courts [New York Post] “Ex-congresswoman could get payout from court tied to Silver” [same; former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy]
- “High School Teacher With Fear of Young Children Loses Disability-Bias Case” [EdWeek, h/t @aaronworthing]
- “Worth remembering that, if they had the power in the 1980s, the public health lobby would have forced us to eat a diet they now say is bad.” [Christopher Snowdon, earlier]
- Numbers confirm that AG Eric Holder’s forfeiture reform won’t directly affect great majority of cases [Institute for Justice via Jacob Sullum, earlier]
- Despite curiously thin evidence that they work, bans on texting while driving roll on, including Mississippi [Steve Wilson, Watchdog, thanks for quote, earlier here, etc.] Draft Ohio bill has numerous troubling features, including broad bar on future technologies, vague distraction ban, stiffer penalties without judicial discretion, mandatory court dates for minor offenses [Maggie Thurber, Ohio Watchdog, thanks for quote]
- Cop’s defense in sex assault of teen: he “[had] money problems and a bad guy scared [him]” [Trumbull, Ct.; Scott Greenfield, Connecticut Post]
- “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.” [Olivia Nuzzi]
Sheldon Silver’s arrest prompts Jeffrey Toobin to relate a war story regarding the now-defunct law firm known as Morris Eisen, P.C., “an outfit so extravagantly corrupt, so hilariously dishonest, and so creatively malign as almost to defy belief.” (I’ve written a number of times about the Eisen firm myself.) Eisen’s son-in-law, who had gotten his start with the firm, went on to found the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver had his no-visible-duties job and to which he occasionally sent lucrative asbestos referrals from his friends at the Columbia clinic and elsewhere.
Weitz & Luxenberg (which has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the federal investigation, and says it has asked Silver to take a leave of absence) is also a big political player nationally, not just in New York. As Kim Strassel notes at the WSJ, “Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top contributor from 2009 to 2014 was Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm played the same role for Bruce Braley, the trial-lawyer Democrat who just lost an Iowa Senate race.” The other large asbestos firm to receive lucrative patient referrals from Dr. Robert Taub’s now-discontinued Columbia University mesothelioma center is the Simmons firm of Illinois, another big political donor that Strassel says has been the single biggest backer of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Previously on the Silver arrest here and here. More: “Tarnished Silver: Speaker’s arrest upends most everything in Albany” [Andrew Hawkins, Crain’s New York (“his support for the teachers’ union has kept education reformers at bay”); Henry Goldman, Bloomberg; Wayne Barrett on Silver’s “Friends of Shelly” network of pals, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (“In his varied posts, Lippman has long overseen the very courts hearing the asbestos and other cases brought by Silver’s firm.”)
And this Joseph Nocera column from the weekend, which is particularly strong on Silver’s influence over the judiciary in New York, built up through methods all “perfectly legal.” But note this NYT correction stating that Nocera’s discussion of the judiciary in that column was “premised on several factual errors.” (More on that: New York Sun.) The New York Post believes the feds are sniffing around Manhattan trial courts.
“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.”
According to multiple reports, the FBI has taken New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver into custody following a corruption investigation. Silver is widely thought to know more about the internal workings of Albany than any other person, so if he begins talking things could get interesting. Our previous coverage of Silver — and there’s been a lot — is here, or chronologically at this tag. My coverage of him 2005-2010 at Point of Law is here.
More: The complaint (courtesy WSJ) alleges improprieties with income both from a real estate law firm and from asbestos legal cases. On the latter, it alleges that Silver directed state research money to a university doctor in Manhattan, and that the doctor referred lucrative asbestos cases to Silver’s firm of Weitz & Luxenberg. The doctor is described as a “well-known expert” who “conducts mesothelioma research” and who had created a center at his university by or before 2002 related to that subject. The doctor, not named in the complaint, “has entered into an agreement with the USAO SDNY [U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York] under which he will not be prosecuted for the conduct described herein, and that obligates him to provide truthful information to and cooperate with the government.” [pp. 24-25] Related post: Cato at Liberty.
Yet more: Remembering when the National Council of State Legislatures awarded Silver its “prestigious” and delightfully named “William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award” [Howie Carr, New York Post via Margaret Soltan]
Lists of lists, if not indeed lists of lists of lists:
- Lenore Skenazy picks worst school safety overreaction cases of the year [Reason] and worst nanny state cases [Huffington Post]
- Radley Balko, “Horrifying civil liberties predictions for 2015″, and you won’t need to read far to get the joke [Washington Post]
- Feds probe NY Speaker Sheldon Silver over pay from law firm — not his big personal injury firm, but an obscure firm that handles tax certiorari cases [New York Times; our earlier Silver coverage over the years]
- “Doonesbury” Sunday strip gets filed 5-6 weeks before pub date, so if its topicality compares unfavorably to that of Beetle Bailey and Garfield, now you know why [Washington Post and Slate, with Garry Trudeau’s embarrassing excuses for letting papers run a strip taking the Rolling Stone/U. Va. fraternity assault story as true, weeks after its collapse; Jesse Walker assessment of the strip twelve years ago]
- Jim Beck’s picks for worst pharmaceutical law cases of the year [Drug & Device Law]
- “The Ten Most Significant Class Action Cases of 2014″ [Andrew Trask]
- Washington Post calls for steep cigarette tax hike in Maryland, makes no mention of smuggling/black market issue so visible in New York [my Cato post]
- Latest Yank expatriate to get caught in IRS’s overseas tax/FATCA trap? None other than London mayor Boris Johnson [Robert Wood, Forbes]
- “He washes any hint of influence-peddling through the purifying font of his law firm, just as other Albany leaders do.” [Mark Cunningham, New York Post]
- Now why would Texas trial lawyer Steve Mostyn spend $1.2 million trying to get Charlie Crist elected governor of Florida, a different state? [Nancy Smith/Sunshine State News, earlier on Mostyn]
- Yes, that opinion-TweetWatch project at Indiana U. funded with federal NSF dollars was intensely if covertly political [Charlotte Allen, Minding the Campus]
- Qui tam/whistleblower plaintiff bar finds bright spot in election with elevation of Iowa Sen. Grassley who has so often been helpful to them in past [WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
- Considerable turnover in election results for state attorneys general (due to open seats, of course; you thought incumbent AGs get defeated?) [NAAG, Bingham McCutchen/Lexology]
- “John Doe froze conservative speech, targets say” [M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter, earlier]
- Texas jury awards $27 million against McDonald’s in negligent security case [Bloomberg]
- NYC cop sues after being acquitted on rape charges, and from the difference in coverage between the NY Daily News and Slate, you might not realize it was the same case;
- “Obamacare was no inartful compromise; it was a brutal cramdown.” [Michael Greve, Law and Liberty, on Halbig]
- American Tort Reform Foundation nominations of “judicial hellholes” this year include Louisiana, South Florida and NYC [Abnormal Use]
- Antitrust’s awful academics [Tom Bowden, Ayn Rand Institute]
- New York Assembly Speaker Silver “earned up to $750,000 in 2013 working a few hours per week” at prominent tort firm [NY Daily News]
- Europe: Gardeners with sit-on lawnmowers face buying motor insurance [Telegraph]
- NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
- Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
- 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a “this day and trip only” theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
- “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley’s IRS intervention, Watchdog]
- Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
- Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
- Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
- John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
- Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.
Last year New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s income from prominent personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg, where he is of counsel, was between $350,000 and $450,000, a disclosure eagerly awaited by some Gotham reporters since details about Silver’s financial arrangement with the firm have previously been kept under wraps. Silver also has a relationship with Counsel Financial, which lends money for the furtherance of lawsuits. “Critics have suggested that the two-year gap between the old and new reporting requirements gave Silver enough time to front-load his salary from Weitz & Luxenberg before the new rules went into effect, thus making it appear he has a smaller salary when he had to finally publicly disclose it. Those close to Silver have dismissed such speculation.” Silver’s Assembly salary is $122,500. [New York Daily News; Ira Stoll]