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Monthly Archives: May 2008

Money discriminates against blind, federal appellate court rules

After a six-year legal battle, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled yesterday that the Treasury Department violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 with its design of the country’s paper currency – which discriminates against he blind because different denominations are virtually indistinguishable to those without sight.

In a ruling on the discrimination claim brought by the American Council of the Blind, Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote in the 2-1 opinion that the fact that blind people have adapted to the design – by using credit and debit cards, relying on store sales associates and by other means – that does not save the bills’ design from violating the Act.

“Even the most searching tactile examination will reveal no difference between a $100 bill and a $1 bill. The secretary has identified no reason that requires paper currency to be uniform to the touch,” Rogers wrote.
Now it is up to the Treasury Department to either begin to implement changes to the currency design or appeal the decision to a full panel of the Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Treasury Department spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said the department was reviewing the opinion, and had already begun looking into ways to assist the blind even before the decision was handed down.

Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind, called the decision “a tremendous victory for the ACB and for every blind and visually impaired person living in the United States today and in the future. We hope that the treasure department will now sit down with us to come up with a mutually satisfactory way of making our currency accessible.”

BREAKING: Sen. Kennedy has malignant brain tumor

Sen. Edward Kennedy, who has been hospitalized since suffering a seizure Saturday, has a malignant brain tumor and will be treated with radiation and chemotherapy. More here from NBC News.

Kennedy is a central figure on Capitol Hill in a number of areas that affect legal practitioners as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and as a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which oversees confirmation of federal judges.

A statement from Dr. Lee Schwamm, Vice Chairman, Department of Neurology, and Dr. Larry Ronan, Primary Care Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital reads in part: “[P]reliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe. The usual course of treatment includes combinations of various forms of radiation and chemotherapy.

“Decisions regarding the best course of treatment for Senator Kennedy will be determined after further testing and analysis. Senator Kennedy will remain at Massachusetts General Hospital for the next couple of days according to routine protocol.

“He remains in good spirits and full of energy.”

As housing market slumps, subprime suits skyrocket

It looks like all those law firms carving out subprime practice niches had the right idea.

A new report suggests that subprime-related lawsuits are outpacing litigation involving the saving and loan fallout of the 1990s.

According to a story in Corporate Counsel (via the ABA Journal) a new study by Navigant Consulting Inc. counted 448 subprime related lawsuits filed in a 15-month period from the beginning of 2007 to the spring of 2008. Compare that to 559 S&L related suits in a six year period from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.

“What we saw in 2007 was a mild breaking wave compared to the tsunami we’re witnessing now,” Navigant managing director Jeff Nielsen told Corporate Counsel. “In the most recent quarter, we’re looking at approximately two filings per day, including weekends.”

About 86 percent of the subprime cases tracked by the Navigant study are still active, he said.

Court rules on child porn pandering law, “millennium bomber” case and more

In one of four opinions handed down this morning, Supreme Court upheld a statute a federal law criminalizing child-pornography pandering, rejecting the argument that the law is unconstitutionally overbroad on its face.

The opinion in Williams v. U.S., authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, reversed the Eleventh Circuit and held that that the law does not run afoul of the Constitution because it does not criminalize a substantial amount of protected expressive activity, and because offers to engage in illegal transactions are categorically excluded from First Amendment protection.

In U.S. v. Rodriquez, the Court held that a defendant’s gun possession sentence can be boosted under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act where he had previously been given a high sentence for a drug offense under a state sentence-boosting recidivism statute.

In U.S. v. Ressam - the “millennium bomber” case that Attorney General Michael Mukasey himself tackled during oral arguments - the Court ruled in Mukasey’s favor, holding that a defendant may be convicted for carrying an explosive during commission of a felony even where the felony is unrelated to the explosive.

And finally in Dept. of Revenue of Kentucky v. Davis, the Court held that a state law that taxes interest income from bonds issued by other state and local governments while exempting interest income from in-state bonds does not violate the Commerce Clause.

Court rules on child porn pandering law, “millennium bomber” case and more

In one of four opinions handed down this morning, Supreme Court upheld a statute a federal law criminalizing child-pornography pandering, rejecting the argument that the law is unconstitutionally overbroad on its face.

The opinion in Williams v. U.S., authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, reversed the Eleventh Circuit and held that that the law does not run afoul of the Constitution because it does not criminalize a substantial amount of protected expressive activity, and because offers to engage in illegal transactions are categorically excluded from First Amendment protection.

In U.S. v. Rodriquez, the Court held that a defendant’s gun possession sentence can be boosted under the federal Armed Career Criminal Act where he had previously been given a high sentence for a drug offense under a state sentence-boosting recidivism statute.

In U.S. v. Ressam - the “millennium bomber” case that Attorney General Michael Mukasey himself tackled during oral arguments - the Court ruled in Mukasey’s favor, holding that a defendant may be convicted for carrying an explosive during commission of a felony even where the felony is unrelated to the explosive.

And finally in Dept. of Revenue of Kentucky v. Davis, the Court held that a state law that taxes interest income from bonds issued by other state and local governments while exempting interest income from in-state bonds does not violate the Commerce Clause.

Monday status conference: brand new edition

It’s a brand new week, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down some brand new opinions today, and there is a brand new issue of Lawyers USA on the stands. Here is a taste of what’s in this issue (Subscribers can click the links for more).

A growing trend of custody battles involving adult children fighting over where their parents should live and who should control their finances has fostered a new preemptive tool: elder mediation. Across the U.S., family lawyers and estate planners are turning to mediators – and sometimes serving as mediators. More here.

In the midst of a nationwide foreclosure crisis, individual states have undertaken programs aimed at helping buyers and lenders sort out the mess. One of the more ambitious plans has been implemented in Ohio, where foreclosure filings have risen by one-third since 2005. More here.

Patent cases typically involve high stakes and large dollar amounts. But a recent petition for certiorari filed in the U.S. Supreme Court could be the most high-profile patent law case in years. At issue: the validity of the appointment of 46 (out of 74) patent judges and any decisions they rendered in the last eight years. More here.

As Internet marketing has grown more sophisticated, it is getting less clear exactly how the ethical rules governing lawyer marketing should apply.A few states, most notably Florida and New York, specific rules for ‘computer-accessed communications’ and separately address issues of websites and e-mail. More here.

Meanwhile,

Under the Senate’s version of a bill aimed at helping the country through the housing meltdown, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would foot part of the cost of helping Americans struggling with their mortgages. (Bloomberg).

Texas mayors and business leaders filed a class-action lawsuit Friday alleging Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff hoodwinked landowners into waiving their property rights for construction of a fence along the Mexican border. (AP)

Test results could shed some light today on what caused Sen. Edwards Kennedy to suffer a seizure of the weekend. (WaPo)

Back Monday

DC Dicta is off today, but will return Monday. In the meantime, check out some of the other Dolan Media blogs to the right, as well as some of the sites on the blogroll.

SG Clement to step down

The federal government’s chief appellate advocate has announced his plans to step down.

U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who has frequently argued on the government’s behalf before federal courts – including 49 appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court – will step down in early June, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.

“I will miss not only Paul’s superb advocacy on behalf of the United States, but also his wise counsel and keen legal analysis,” Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey in the Justice Department announcement.

A longtime conservative and former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, Clement developed a reputation for seeking the middle road in order to build consensus.

This year Clement drew fire for his stance in the pending Supreme Court case D.C. v. Heller. In the government’s amicus brief, rather than adopt the White House’s hard-line view that the Second Amendment precluded handgun bans, Clement’s brief urged the high court to remand the case back to the lower court first to determine to what extent such a rule would thwart federal gun control efforts.

Clement, 41, has not announced what his plans will be after his June 2 departure.

Clement’s is the latest in a series of announced Justice Department departures as the Bush Administration draws to a close.

Actor to lawmakers: Let patients bring pharma suits

Dennis Quaid, whose newborn daughters were accidentally given a nearly-lethal dose of the blood-thinning drug herapin, told lawmakers yesterday that without the right to sue pharmaceutical companies, consumers will becomes “uninformed and uncompensated lab rats.”

“Like many Americans, I believed that a big problem in our country was frivolous lawsuits,” Quaid told members of the House Reform and Government Oversight Committee. “But now I know that the courts are often the only path to justice.”

Quaid’s testimony comes as the Food and Drug Administration has increasingly stepping into lawsuits against drugmakers, arguing that its regulatory authority in approving drugs supersedes state laws – including civil tort claims that drugs are unsafe.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to weigh in on the issue new year with the case Wyeth v. Levine. This year, the Court held in Riegel v. Medtronic that state law tort claims alleging unsafe medical devices are preempted by FDA approval.

Lawsuit limits have been included in 51 rules proposed or adopted during the last few years of the Bush Administration. The civil claim limits governing a wide array of areas - from drugs and medical devices, to cars, railroads, and food.

AAJ to Bork: Even tort reformers sue

Somehow last week DC Dicta missed the news about a civil settlement former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork reached with the Yale Club. Bork filed a lawsuit against the club after he slipped and fell during a speaking engagement back in 2006. The conservative legal scholar sought $1 million in damages. The terms of the settlement are confidential, according to the Associated Press.

The news of the settlement was not missed by plaintiffs’ trial attorney group American Association for Justice, though. The group’s CEO Jon Haber released a statement ribbing Bork for his past support of strong tort reform measures. “Robert Bork today proved that the civil justice system works even for tort reformers who spent their careers trying to undermine it,” Haber said in a statement Friday when news of Bork’s settlement broke. “Bork’s lawsuit underscores how all people deserve to have a fair chance to receive justice.”

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