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Texas

Kemal Yazar’s wife called police out of concern for her husband, who had begun behaving erratically and speaking delusionally. Following a struggle of some sort, police shot the unarmed father of three to death. Now one of the deputies at the scene, “who according to an investigator’s report, suffered ‘superficial wounds’ during the incident” (though he now reports more serious injuries), has sued the family, accusing them of “negligence and recklessness” for not warning emergency operators that Mr. Yazar might be a serious threat. “Oddly, the deputy didn’t sue Kemal’s wife, who placed the call, but her mother, Carmina Figueroa, whose name was on the home insurance policy.” As we noted in an item last year, also from Texas: “Under the ‘firefighter’s rule,’ which has eroded in some jurisdictions in recent years, emergency rescuers generally cannot sue private parties whose negligence is allegedly to blame for the hazards to which they are responding.” [Lisa Falkenburg, Houston Chronicle]

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Texas: a ploy fails

by Walter Olson on March 5, 2014

“Flush with trial lawyer cash, the PAC’s public face is ‘Texans 4 Justice,’ which portrays itself as a conservative grassroots group.” It didn’t work: Texas GOP primary voters yesterday returned incumbent Supreme Court justices. [Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, earlier]

Related: Plaintiff’s lawyer Steve Mostyn, “omnipresent” in Austin, and his involvement with “Conservative Voters of Texas” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2014

  • John Lott Jr. argues in new book that judicial-nominations system is broken; responses from Michael Teter, Clint Bolick, John McGinnis [Cato Unbound]
  • “Weaponized IRS” meets Administration’s political needs at cost of future public trust [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today]
  • “For some time, however, cause lawyers have moved in and out of government, thus complicating the traditional picture of lawyer-state opposition.” [Douglas Nejaime, "Cause Lawyers Inside the State," SSRN via Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Gun rights: public opinion has changed over the decades in a big way [Bryan Caplan, Steven Greenhut]
  • “Mostyn Law Firm donates $1 million to help Wendy Davis in Texas governor’s race” [Washington Examiner, New Republic] Plaintiff’s bar supporting GOP primary challenges to Texas Supreme Court incumbents Phil Johnson, Jeff Brown, and Chief Justice Nathan Hecht [TLR] More: Legal NewsLine (Mark Lanier Law Firm largely funding challengers)
  • Nassau’s Kathleen Rice: “Anti-Corruption Panel Co-Chair Receives Big Donations From Sheldon Silver’s Law Firm” [Ken Lovett, NYDN]
  • Rule of thumb: a political party leans libertarian in proportion to the number of years since it last held the White House [Orin Kerr]
  • Dept. of Justice indicts a prominent Obama critic on campaign finance charge [Ira Stoll; more above]

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Finally addressing the entrenched social problem of architect-perpetrated crime? Or just the security state running mindlessly forward on its own momentum? David Lancaster of the Texas Society of Architects told a trade newspaper that his group “believed fighting the legislation would be ‘futile.’” [Mike Riggs, Atlantic Cities]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on December 11, 2013

  • “Who’s Afraid of Political Speech?” (spoiler: incumbents) [Roger Pilon, Cato] “None of this was perceived as a major problem so long as the 501(c)(4) category was dominated by the political left” [Brad Smith, WSJ]
  • Texas trial lawyers not all of one mind over extent of political involvements [Texas Tribune, Southeast Texas Record]
  • Sen. Mark Pryor, a key architect of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad CPSIA law, faces tough re-election race in Arkansas [Politico]
  • RNC asked to take stand for Americans overseas hurt by FATCA tax law [McClatchy]
  • Richard Epstein recalls Chris Christie’s unlovely tactics as a prosecutor [Ira Stoll, Future of Capitalism]
  • That time Texas politico Wendy Davis sued the Fort Worth paper over its coverage of her campaign [Andrew Stiles, NRO]
  • “Low political knowledge levels mainly due to lack of demand for info, not lack of supply” [Ilya Somin, Jack Shafer]
  • SEC backs off plan to expose companies to harassment over outlays to politically oriented nonprofits, and NYT (thinking only of shareholders’ welfare of course) is sad about that [Marc Hodak, David Silvers/CEI, NYT] Sen. Warren seems to enjoy new capacity to use position, Durbin-like, to punish political foes [David Henderson]

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Ethics roundup

by Walter Olson on December 10, 2013

  • Wilkes-Barre, Pa.: “one of the most egregious cases of attorney theft of clients’ escrow funds that I have seen” [ABA Journal]
  • Chamber cheers Wisconsin for enacting strongest sunshine law for state hiring of outside contingency-fee lawyers [U.S. Chamber/Business Wire]
  • Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s contributions on professional responsibility and the role of the legal profession [Steven Hobbs, SSRN]
  • “Mississippi Supreme Court sanctions judge for refusing to step aside in asbestos suit” [ Walter L. Cofer, Greg Fowler and Simon Castley, Lexology]
  • Alameda County ex-judge gets 5 years of probation in theft from elderly neighbor [ABA Journal, earlier here, etc.]
  • Study: Wisconsin high court justices tend to side with attorney donors [Fed Soc Blog]
  • Suit by Garlock claims misconduct by opposing asbestos lawyers including concealment of exposure and implantation of memories [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, related] A Lone Star State asbestos litigation revival? [Eric Lasker and Richard Faulk, WLF]

The San Antonio Four, women released after more than a decade of imprisonment over child-abuse crimes they say they never committed, talk to NBC News. “Plea deals were offered, but they refused to accept them on the grounds that they were innocent.” One of the two accusers (pre-teens at the time) has recanted, the other sticks by her story.

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November 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2013

  • Incoming Australian attorney general: we’ll repeal race-speech laws that were used to prosecute columnist Andrew Bolt [Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Herald-Sun, earlier]
  • Texas sues EEOC on its criminal background check policy [Employee Screen]
  • After Eric Turkewitz criticizes $85M announced demand in Red Bull suit, comments section turns lively [NYPIAB]
  • If only Gotham’s official tourism agency acted like a tourism agency [Coyote on NYC's official war against AirBnB; Ilya Shapiro, Cato; earlier here and here, etc.]
  • “Lawmaker wants Georgia bicyclists to buy license plates” [WSB]
  • Religious liberty implications of European moves to ban infant circumcision [Eugene Kontorovich]
  • Video on CPSC’s quest for personal liability against agency-mocking Craig Zucker of Buckyballs fame [Reason TV, earlier]

Police and prosecution roundup

by Walter Olson on September 30, 2013

  • Stop and bleed: Tennessee rolls out “no refusal” blood-draw DUI driver checkpoints, which already go on in Texas [WTVF, Reddit, Tom Hunter/Liberal America, Charles "Brad" Frye (Texas practice)]
  • Issues raised by growing practice of placing government “monitors” inside businesses to police compliance [Veronica Root, Prawfs]
  • “Faulty Justice: Italian Earthquake Scientist Speaks Out against His Conviction” [Scientific American]
  • California: suit could probe patterns of harassment against Orange County officials who’ve resisted police union demands [Krayewski, earlier]
  • Illinois “[makes] it a felony to flick cigarette butts onto streets for the third time” [Gideon's Trumpet]
  • Before making laws intended to benefit sex workers, take time to listen to them [Popehat via Maggie McNeill]
  • Report: state of Florida investigating Zimmerman prosecutor Angela Corey over sacking of alleged whistleblower [Washington Times, earlier] “A Visitor’s Guide to Florida’s Most Notorious Law Enforcement Agencies” [Mike Riggs, Atlantic Cities]

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“State Seizes Two-Year-Old Child From Parents Because They Smoked Pot, Child Dies in Foster Care” [Rockdale, Texas; Ed Krajewski, Reason] On the propensity of some local authorities to seize kids in marijuana cases, see this report last year on one California county.

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“…can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes.” Sarah Stillman’s new article in the New Yorker is making a stir, and I write up some of its highlights at Cato at Liberty, including the traffic-stop scandal in Tenaha, Texas, a curious raid on a Detroit art museum, and the plight of a Philadelphia couple whose son sold $20 of pot from their front porch (& Don Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek).

Bonus: “The Civil Forfeiture Implications of the DEA-NSA Spy Program” [Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform]

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A “staff attorney at the Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program… was suspended after being accused of accepting fees from law firms while processing their clients’ claims from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.” [Bloomberg] And that’s just the start of what may be much wider problems, according to a cover story by Paul Barrett at Bloomberg Business Week. “The craziest thing about the settlement,” one lawyer wrote in a client-solicitation letter, “is that you can be compensated for losses that are UNRELATED to the spill.” [Bloomberg Business Week] Barrett’s account tells, in his own words, “how the private-claims process following BP’s (BP) 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill devolved into a plaintiffs’-lawyer feeding frenzy.” [BBW]

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And more litigation besides: “[Steven] Phillips sued a lawyer who billed him more than $1 million for lobbying lawmakers to increase the compensation for exonerees. And another ex-wife is seeking to recover child support that went unpaid during his years in prison. He said that he has spent at least $300,000 on lawyers since he was freed and that despite the compensation [package valued at $6 million], he has struggled to keep his business afloat.” [Texas Tribune] The “last thing a guy freed from 24 years of wrongful imprisonment needs is more time in court.” [Scott Greenfield]

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George Will’s syndicated column today salutes the Texas high court for preserving the traditional common-law rule against damages for animal companionship and sentimental value, thus declining to jump off an emotionally alluring cliff:

Texas’ Supreme Court decided to distinguish between dogs and heirlooms “such as a wedding veil, pistol” — this is Texas — “jewelry, handmade bedspreads and other items going back several generations.”

Noting that the Medlens “find it odd that Texas law would permit sentimental damages for loss of an heirloom but not an Airedale,” [Justice Don] Willett rejoined that it would be even odder if Texans could recover wrongful-death damages for the loss of a Saint Bernard but not for a brother Bernard.

Laconically noting that “the law is no stranger to incongruity,” Willett explained that “permitting sentiment-based damages for destroyed heirloom property portends nothing resembling the vast public-policy impact of allowing such damages in animal-tort cases.”

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Ira Stoll catches the New York Times being tendentious again [SmarterTimes]:

…one reason that Texas is at or near the top of the nation in terms of workplace fatalities is that it is at or near the top of the nation in terms of the number of workers and how many hours they work. If you adjust for that, and take the rate of workplace fatalities — that is, the number of fatalities from workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time workers, Texas isn’t worst in the nation, but somewhere in the middle…

Related: Josh Barro, Steven Greenhut (California as comparison).

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And now William Lawler is suing the Amarillo, Tex. sports bar that served both of them earlier in the evening, saying it should have cut them off. The suit, which seeks $1 million or more,

also claims the two had an “amiable relationship, and would have never fought were it not for their extreme level of inebriation.”

Lawler’s lawyer Ryan Turman said he thinks they have a solid case.

“We feel like we’ve got solid facts. We feel like Pink is responsible,” he said. “You just trust a jury to do what is right on these.”

He said the lawsuit was filed in accordance with the Dram Shop Act.

[Amarillo Globe-News, more, Jon Mark Beilue column; & welcome Above the Law readers]

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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]

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Not only can she, but it seems she does. [Austin American-Statesman]

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