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Unwed dads in court

by Walter Olson on March 13, 2014

A New Jersey judge has ruled that a mother-to-be doesn’t have to notify the estranged unwed father that she is going into labor or let him into the delivery room [ABA Journal] Meanwhile, a suit filed on behalf of unwed fathers is challenging Utah’s adoption laws, which they say improperly enable mothers from out of state to visit Utah for purposes of depriving unwed fathers of rights of notification or objection they would otherwise enjoy under their home state’s law [Salt Lake Tribune]


  • New insight into Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) casts doubt on criminal convictions [Radley Balko, earlier here, etc.]
  • “The Shadow Lengthens: The Continuing Threat of Regulation by Prosecution” [James Copland and Isaac Gorodetski, Manhattan Institute]
  • Police busts of “johns” thrill NYT’s Kristof [Jacob Sullum, earlier on the columnist]
  • Sasha Volokh series on private vs. public prisons [Volokh]
  • “Police agencies have a strong financial incentive to keep the drug war churning.” [Balko on Minnesota reporting]
  • Forfeiture: NYPD seizes innocent man’s cash, uses it to pad their pensions [Institute for Justice, Gothamist] “Utah lawmakers quietly roll back asset forfeiture reforms” [Balko] “The Top 6 Craziest Things Cops Spent Forfeiture Money On” [IJ video, YouTube]
  • After Florida trooper nabbed Miami cop for driving 120 mph+, 80 officers accessed her private info [AP]

“A lesbian couple who married last week want a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit against the state and the LDS Church that listed their names without their knowledge or permission. … ‘Mr. Smay never had authorization, consent or permission from me or my wife to file a lawsuit on our behalf,’ Fowler wrote in a court declaration.” The couple had married following an unrelated ruling by a federal judge on a challenge to Utah marriage law, and had been the subject of Dec. 25 coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, which one of the pair believes might have called them to the lawyer’s attention. [church-affiliated Deseret News, KSL, Religion Clause] For another instance in which someone complained of being named as a plaintiff in a lawsuit without their consent, see this 2007 item.

Update: court tosses suit; lawyer insists he doesn’t need couple’s permission to file suit, but other lawyers tell the Salt Lake Tribune he’s wrong.

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A YouTube clip went viral last week of three men in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park toppling over an ancient “goblin” sandstone rock formation that they considered it a safety hazard, then laughing and high-fiving afterward. It might seem surprising that the one who gave the shove, Glenn Taylor, was up for such vigorous activities, since he suffered what were described as “debilitating” back injuries (according to his legal claims) in a road accident four years ago. According to the father of the defendant in that still-unresolved case, neither Taylor nor others involved visited the hospital after that rear-ending. “Taylor’s attorney Mark Stubbs says just because his client is beginning to recover from his injured back doesn’t mean he hasn’t suffered from pain in the past, and he says Taylor’s medical bills in the wake of the accident could continue for years.” [CNN, NYDN, KUTV (auto-plays video)] More: NY Post. More: Lenore Skenazy (but it’s to make kids safer!).


“In a decision issued [earlier this month], the Supreme Court ruled that police have a ‘duty of care,’ or a responsibility, to the people they chase down. The decision ruled in favor of the family of Wayne Torrie, 16, who died in 2010 when he crashed in Weber County after a high speed police chase. Torrie’s family sued the officer that chased him, as well as the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.” [Salt Lake Tribune]


“Even though I was always on public property when I filmed the horrors I saw outside that slaughterhouse in February, I became the first person charged under one of these ‘ag-gag’ laws.” [Amy Meyer, Washington Post, Utah]

Posting videos of yourself to YouTube, for example, is definitely not a good idea, at least unless they are consistent with the disability you are claiming. “Don’t go climbing trees or fixing your roof in public. And certainly do not upload to YouTube a video that shows you half-naked and covered in tinfoil, doing ‘the robot’ to the tune of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride.’” [Slate, Utah A.G.'s office] More on “dubious disability”: Lee Habeeb, NRO. Earlier on growth of federal Social Security Disability payments here and here.

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March 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 7, 2012

  • Ray LaHood’s forgotten predecessor: “How One Bureaucrat Almost Succeeded in Banning Car Radios” [Mike Riggs, Reason]
  • “Some Recent Nonsense on Freedom of Religion in the Times” [Paul Horwitz, Prawfs]
  • Choice of Ben Stein as speaker for ABA Tech Show raises eyebrows [Derek Bambauer, InfoLaw]
  • “Oblivion video game ‘Abomb” becomes federal lawsuit” [Abnormal Use]
  • Tort causation: “Probability for thee, mere possibility for me” [David Oliver]
  • Washington state says it won’t pay for “unnecessary” Medicaid ER visits. Can you see the unintended consequences coming? [White Coat]
  • Utah says family can’t fundraise for son’s legal defense without permit [Standard-Examiner via Balko]


December 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 20, 2010

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry may urge the state to take a step toward loser-pays [NJLRA]
  • “FCC push to regulate news draws fire” [The Hill]
  • Could litigation on behalf of Madoff victims get more than all their money back? [Salmon, more, NYT, Above the Law]
  • “Chevron Says Documents Show Ecuador Plaintiffs Worked With Government” [Dan Fisher/Forbes, more]
  • Organized trial lawyers expect to fare less well in next Congress, but prospects for actual liability reform remain slender [Joseph Weber/Wash. Times, Matthew Boyle/Daily Caller]
  • Mount Laurel rulings in New Jersey (towns given quotas to build low-income housing) described as “libertarian”, I express doubts [Hills, Prawfsblawg]
  • Criminal law’s revolving door: “prosecutors turn up the fire and then sell extinguishers” [Ribstein, TotM]
  • The wages of unconstitutionality: a Utah attorney’s curious fee niche [five years ago on Overlawyered]

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That sum, demanded by a Las Vegas man in a suit against three Utah attorneys, is far in excess of all the money in the world, so there may be collectibility problems. [Provo Daily Herald]


Wal-Mart stores in many parts of the country are famous for letting motor-home travelers park overnight in their lots for free. One wonders whether that policy will last: a Florida couple is now suing the retailer over an incident in the parking lot of its Cedar City, Utah store, in which the family shot and killed a man who intruded in their parked home. They say they have suffered emotional distress and medical problems and that “store officials knew the man was loitering in the lot” but failed to act. [Salt Lake Tribune via Consumerist, where commenters haven't been conspicuously sympathetic to the plaintiffs]


Defying a national trend, Utah has moved to amend the interpretation of its state-level version of the Americans with Disabilities Act so as to curtail pet owners’ rights to demand that their “emotional support service animals” be allowed onto the premises of reluctant business owners. [Salt Lake Tribune via Patrick at Popehat]

February 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 26, 2009

  • “God convinces woman to withdraw her voodoo-related lawsuit” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Obscure Store]
  • Federal, state judges differ on whether wildlife officials can be sued over fatal Utah bear attack [Heller/OnPoint News]
  • GPS helped trip him up: highest-paid Schenectady cop sure seems to spend a lot of time off patrol in a certain apartment [Greenfield]
  • More coverage of Luzerne County, Pa. corrupt-judge scandal, including reputed mobster link [Legal Intelligencer/, ABA Journal, earlier here and here]
  • Reductio ad absurdum of laws dictating where released sex offenders can live: proposal to keep them from living near each other [Giacalone and sequel]
  • Defamation suits: “What happens when it’s the plaintiff that is anonymous, and wants to stay that way?” [Ron Coleman]
  • Scalia: “Honest Services” fraud statute lacks any “coherent limiting principle” to restrain runaway prosecution [Grossman/PoL, Kerr/Volokh, Hills/Prawfsblawg]
  • Because they’d never enact a law except to deal with a real problem: “Kentucky Prohibits First Responders from Dueling” [Lowering the Bar]

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If Salt Lake City’s Deseret News must run anti-videogame screeds, couldn’t it find authors to write them who are not, you know, disgraced and disbarred?

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Peter Jose Smith of Provo, Utah, is suing the Mercado Latino market, saying it violated his accommodation rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act because it wouldn’t let him wear inline skates in the store behind his wheelchair. Store owner Hugo Martinez said Smith, who has sued other local businesses, was asked to comply with the store’s policy against skates after he “was riding quickly in the store and bumped into another customer”. (Ace Stryker, “Disabled Provo man suing Latin market”, Provo Daily Herald, Jul. 18).


A Utah federal court will consider the Pace family’s lawsuit against California anesthesiologist Barry Swerdlow, whom they had earlier hired as an expert witness as part of their medical liability suit against another anesthesiologist, Stephen Shuput, whom they blamed for their late daughter’s death. After agreeing to come on board as an expert for the Paces, Swerdlow examined Shuput’s deposition and concluded that Shuput had met the standard of care; he proceeded to inform Shuput’s lawyers of this, and they quickly got the case dismissed. The Paces then sued Swerdlow for “malpractice, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and negligent infliction of emotional distress,” to quote AMNews’s catalogue. Swerdlow conceded that he was new at the expert witness game and that it would probably have been a good idea for him to have read Shuput’s deposition earlier. The EleventhTenth Circuit ruled that a lower court should consider the Paces’s contention that they had suffered legally actionable damages from Swerdlow’s actions. (Bonnie Booth, “Expert who changed mind claims immunity, but plaintiffs still sue”, American Medical News, Apr. 14).

Judge Gorsuch, dissenting from the EleventhTenth Circuit’s ruling, wrote:

Parties already exert substantial influence over expert witnesses, often paying them handsomely for their time, and expert witnesses are, unfortunately and all too frequently, already regarded in some quarters as little more than hired guns. When expert witnesses can be forced to defend themselves in federal court beyond the pleading stage simply for changing their opinions – with no factual allegation to suggest anything other than an honest change in view based on a review of new information – we add fuel to this fire. We make candor an expensive option and risk incenting experts to dissemble rather than change their views in the face of compelling new information. The loser in all this is, of course, the truth-finding function and cause of justice our legal system is designed to serve.

(Decision of the Day, Mar. 5; Karen Franklin, Forensic Psychologist, Mar. 7; The Briefcase, Mar. 7).


In a 3-2 decision, the Utah Supreme Court has held a liability waiver unenforceable, and permitted a skier to sue a resort for his injuries in a skiing accident, notwithstanding his agreement to the contrary by disingenuously expanding a state assumption-of-the-risk statute for ski resorts to forbid any contractual modification of liability. When even Utah refuses to honor contracts, you know we’re in trouble.

Edited to add: For some reason, multiple commenters who haven’t read the opinion are claiming that the only thing the opinion does is require a signature. Not so: Rothstein explicitly signed a release, and the release only covered negligence (permitting Rothstein to sue for intentional torts). Rothstein realized the benefit of the bargain, by getting season tickets for a considerably cheaper price than he would have been able to if the resort knew he wasn’t going to honor his end of the bargain. The Utah Supreme Court (not an intermediate appellate court) rewrote the agreement retroactively. Consumers are hurt.


October 8 Roundup

by Ted Frank on October 8, 2007