Posts tagged as:

state high courts

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2014

  • 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.

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2014

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They’ve reconvened, trying to enact a set of litigation reforms the state’s high court won’t just strike down [The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, earlier]

June 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 15, 2013

  • “The NYT revisits the Tawana Brawley rape hoax scandal — and Al Sharpton’s role.” [Ann Althouse]
  • Is there any hope of reforming or repealing FATCA, the crazy overseas banking regulation? [Frederic Alain Behrens, SSRN via TaxProf, earlier here, etc.]
  • Urbanophile is no fan of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, but also no fan of the campaign to drive him from office [Aaron Renn]
  • Landlords face legal risk taking on ex-offenders — so where are they supposed to live? [Volokh]
  • When does a strong central state advance individual liberty? Arnold Kling reviews Mark Weiner’s The Rule of the Clan [EconLib]
  • Unenforceability of contract holds back Indian tribes’ prosperity [Terry Anderson]
  • “Oklahoma High Court Nullifies State Tort Reform Law” [WLF, TortsProf, Tulsa World, Reuters, NewsOK, Beck ("the Oklahoma Supreme Court was plainly out of control in Ysbrand, and unfortunately it remains out of control to this day"), Douglas v. Cox]

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May 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 18, 2012

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October 25 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 25, 2010

  • And she’s a psychology professor too: “Pro se litigant of the day” [ATL]
  • “Access to justice” makes handy slogan, but has its limits re: appeal bonds [Ted at PoL]
  • New Federalist Society white papers on Michigan, Illinois, California and Alabama supreme courts;
  • Per her opponent this year, CPSIA proponent and perennial Overlawyered bete noire Jan Schakowsky ranks as most left-wing member of Congress [ExtremeJan.com]
  • Naming opportunity at Faulkner U.’s Jones School of Law falls to Greg Jones of Beasley Allen [BA press release]
  • Lockyer pushes divestment of firms for taking wrong stance on ballot controversy [Coyote]
  • “Patent marking” suits continue to proliferate as Reps. Latta, Issa propose measures to curb opportunistic filings [Gray on Claims]
  • “South Carolina tobacco fees: how to farm money” [ten years ago on Overlawyered]

Perhaps we spoke too soon when we commended the Tennessee appellate court for getting it partially right. As we stated in November 2004:

In 2001, Louis Stockell, driving his pickup at 70 mph, twice the speed limit, rear-ended a Chrysler minivan. Physics being what they are, the front passenger seat in the van collapsed backwards and the passenger’s head struck and fatally injured 8-month old Joshua Flax. The rest of the family walked away from the horrific accident. Plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Butler argued that Chrysler, which already designed its seats above federal standards, should be punished for not making the seats stronger — never mind that a stronger and stiffer seat would result in more injuries from other kinds of crashes because it wouldn’t absorb any energy from the crash. (Rear-end collisions are responsible for only 3% of auto fatalities.) Apparently car companies are expected to anticipate which type of crash a particular vehicle will encounter, and design accordingly. The $105M verdict includes $98M in punitives.

We had more details of trial shenanigans in December 2004 and noted the reduction of the punitives by the trial court to a still unreasonable $20 million in June 2005. In December 2006, the intermediate appellate court threw out the punitive damages and the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, leaving a $5 million compensatory damages verdict to be split between Chrysler and the driver responsible for the accident. An injustice, but at least a smaller injustice.

However, today, a 3-2 vote of the Tennessee Supreme Court made it a larger injustice again, reinstating $13,367,345 of punitive damages over a good-faith dispute over appropriate seatback design, giving no credit to evidence that the design in the Caravan was safer than the plaintiffs’ proposed design, and effectively disregarding Tennessee statutory law that compliance with federal standards creates a presumption against punitive damages. The Court did not mention Exxon Shipping‘s suggestion that punitive damages greater than a 1:1 ratio were possibly constitutionally inappropriate where compensatory damages were substantial and the defendant’s actions were not intentional or done for profit. The Court unanimously affirmed the elimination of the NIED claim; one justice would have thrown out the compensatory damages, as well, because of the volume of inadmissible and improperly prejudicial evidence admitted. (Flax v. Daimler Chrysler (Tenn. Jul. 24, 2008); id. (Wade, J., concurring); id. (Clark, J., partially dissenting); id. (Koch, J., partially dissenting); E. Thomas Wood, “High court upholds $18.4M damage award in DaimlerChrysler case”, Nashville Post, Jul. 24; Kristin M. Hall, AP/Chicago Tribune, Jul. 24). The majority decision relied heavily on the expert testimony of Paul Sheridan, an MBA non-engineer and professional anti-Chrysler witness whom a federal court called “wholly unqualified” to testify on seat back design.

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July 6 roundup

by Ted Frank on July 6, 2008

  • Beck and Herrmann fisk a NEJM anti-preemption editorial. [Beck/Herrmann; NEJM]
  • Lessons of the Grasso case. [Hodak]
  • You think BigLaw has it bad? Plaintiffs’ attorney who invented the benefit-of-the-bargain theory for pharmaceutical class actions where no one has suffered any cognizable injury, has made his firm tens of millions, but still hasn’t made partner. “Zigler said he never meets most of the people he represents in these high-profile cases.” [St.L. Post-Dispatch; related analysis from Beck/Herrmann]
  • Speaking of harmless lawsuits, “an atrocity in Arkansas,” as Arkansas Supreme Court ignores basic principles of due process and civil procedure to certify an extortionate pre-CAFA class action from MIller County. [Hmm, that's Beck/Herrmann again; General Motors v. Bryant; related from Greve]
  • Speedo competitor: unfair competition to say your innovative swimsuit has an advantage just because 38 out of the last 42 world records (as of June 30) were broken in the suit. [Am Law Daily]
  • Background on bogus shower curtain scare story (earlier). [NYT; related AEI event]
  • EMTALA-orama: don’t discuss payment in the emergency room if you don’t want to get sued. [ER Stories]

You may recall a manufactured dispute over the former West Virginia Justice Richard Neely‘s quote in The Product Liability Mess:

As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me.

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On November 14, 1999, high-school dropout Rolando Domingo Montez, celebrating his 19th birthday, was arrested for public intoxication and trespass after the owner of the boat on which he and his friends were sitting complained. Police placed him in Cell No. 1 of the Port Isabel City Jail. The next morning, Montez was permitted to make some collect calls from his jail cell to seek bail money from his mother, Pearl Iris Garza. Mom, complaining that Montez was in jail again, refused. But she generously came to pick up Montez on the 16th when he was released on his own recognizance. Unfortunately, while Garza was waiting in the lobby, and while police were responding to a call for assistance regarding a suspicious vehicle, Montez hung himself with the 19-inch phone cord from the phone he had used to make the calls.

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So AP reports. More details as they become available.

9:43: AP/Boston Globe reports a dramatic rejection of public-nuisance theory, holding the case should’ve been dismissed years ago. Good news that. The Rhode Island Supreme Court decision was unanimous.

5:00: Here is the opinion itself. James Beck has the most comprehensive analysis of the opinion so far; Walter gives thorough background at Point of Law as well as a roundup of other links. The defendants and NAM have released statements; Motley Rice claims they were doing it for the children, which doesn’t explain their self-serving settlement with DuPont or why they asked for a highly inefficient remediation remedy that would have maximized their attorneys’ fees.

Also: Jonathan Turley (who I just learned has a year-old blog with over a thousand posts), who, to his credit, has opposed such lawsuits; OpenMarket; Jane Genova; Publius. Attorney General Patrick Lynch is unhappy about the legal setback to his campaign contributors constituents.

Existing abatement efforts already required of landlords under Rhode Island law mean that lead paint exposure is at an all-time low in the state–evidence that was excluded at trial.

And more: ShopFloor; NFIB.

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June 21 roundup

by Ted Frank on June 21, 2008

  • Sure enough, former Milberg lawyers sue the convicted ex-Milberg lawyers for breach of fiduciary duty. I was wondering when that was going to happen. [WSJ Law Blog; NYLJ/law.com; earlier]
  • Why file grievance against a fellow attorney who’s only stolen $200,000 from clients? Colleagues wonder [Las Vegas Review-Journal via ABA]
  • Judge: No evidence of wrongdoing by Kenneth Pasternak. Too bad he can’t get his three years back. Meanwhile SEC keeps bringing enforcement cases on same repeatedly rejected theory of liability. [WSJ; Law Blog]
  • “What the AP and The New York Times’ Hansell don’t seem to realize is how hostile an act it is to send lawyer letters to individuals.” [Jarvis via Patterico]
  • “When judges act like politicians, the judicial selection process – elected or appointed – becomes increasingly political. Action and reaction. The politicization of the court led to the politicization of the elections for justices. … When justices arrogate political policymaking to themselves, they should not be surprised when they are held to the same standards as politicians.” [Wisconsin Policy Research Institute via American Courthouse; I said that, too]
  • Even Susan Estrich finds the Alex Kozinski web site mini-to-do as evidence of media bias. [Estrich; Patterico link roundup]
  • Senator McCaskill shows her ignorance on the Anheuser-Busch merger and corporate officer duties. [Hodak]
  • A clever attorney will already have a fill-in-the-blanks product liability complaint drafted against Lego. [Childs]
  • Hugo Chavez expropriates wealth to consolidate dictatorship. American lawyer helps. Somehow I don’t think we’ll see an Alien Tort Claims Act suit against his law firm. [AmLaw Daily]

Few battlegrounds of legal reform have been harder-fought than that in the state of Michigan, where I grew up. On the plus side, the Wolverine State has seen three rounds of legislatively enacted litigation reform, along with the appointment by former Gov. John Engler of probably the most reform-minded state supreme court majority in the nation. On the minus side, trial lawyer interests have long been key players in state politics, often practicing a bare-knuckled brand of advocacy, and the career of colorful (and recently acquitted) Geoffrey Fieger of Southfield, arguably the Midwest’s most prominent trial attorney, is virtually a synonym for waywardness in the courtroom and out.

Now the Manhattan Institute’s Trial Lawyers Inc. series, under the able direction of Jim Copland, has published a new installment taking a look at the state’s tense legal politics. Trial lawyers are expected to work hard this year to knock off reformist Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor at the polls, and are also engaged in an all-out push to repeal the state’s one-of-a-kind law directing its courts in liability cases not to second-guess Food and Drug Administration determinations on pharmaceutical approval and marketing. To get up to speed on these issues and more, start here. (cross-posted from Point of Law).

Courts up to now have maintained a bright-line rule of not entertaining palimony claims unless a couple has cohabited, such a rule significantly improving people’s degree of certainty about which former romantic partners might suddenly emerge with a financial claim. But of course when you have bright-line rules of this sort, not as many people get to sue, so the New Jersey high court has now made itself the first state high court to overthrow the rule, inviting claims where the totality of the facts and circumstances “would cause one of the partners to believe a relationship existed, that it was similar to a marriage,” to quote Chatham, N.J. lawyer Alan Zegas (Tom Hester, “Palimony ruling sets precedent in Jersey”, Star-Ledger; NJLJ; AP/Cherry Hill Courier-Post*). Earlier here.

* Okay, there you go, AP, I didn’t quote even the five words from your story. But you also notice I gave the Star-Ledger first billing.

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I’ve got an op-ed today in the New York Post about one of the less obvious issues in the high-profile race for Governor of New York: whoever wins will get to reshape the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, with implications long into the future for the state’s legal well-being. Would a Gov. Spitzer appoint anti-business crusaders to the court? (Walter Olson, “N.Y. Judge Wars: Hidden ’06 Issue”, New York Post, Jun. 30)(cross-posted at Point of Law) (& welcome readers of Prof. Bainbridge, who says kind things).