Health Care Funds Enough To Warrant Trust-Fund Lawsuit?

Photo credit: Legal News Line online report, 3/29/17

Photo credit: Legal News Line online report, 3/29/17

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce-backed Newsline website has published a deep-dive (well, “deeper” anyway) into the mushrooming state attorney generals investigation into asbestos trust funds, including speculation that U.S. Justice Department attention would be a “whole new ballgame.” The story broker recently when Forbes’ Daniel Fisher wrote about the probe.

(Sara Warner, publisher of this website, echoed some of his reporting in a Huffington Post piece.)

The Newsline report quotes Mark A. Behrens, who co-chairs Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s Washington, DC-based public policy group: “If these cases get the attention of the Department of Justice, then it’s a whole new ball game.” That report background that “… In one case, Utah’s Attorney General recently sued four of the largest asbestos bankruptcy trusts to make them comply with civil investigative demands from 13 states on whether they are failing to reimburse states for Medicare and Medicaid. Federal law requires those who oversee settlements to pay outstanding bills for Medicare coverage” and added that “… the federal government and the states may have similar interests with regard to reimbursement of health care costs, business interests believe. It is estimated that some 30 percent of asbestos cases involve veterans. Many of these individuals would receive treatment at VA hospitals at the government’s expense. Given the age of many asbestos plaintiffs, many also would receive Medicare benefits, a federal health care coverage program.”

The Newsline piece is here:

Traffic ‘Amnesty’ Ending. Will It Be A Return To ‘The F-Barrel’?

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

A California amnesty program created after an outcry over municipal traffic fines and fees is going away. The amnesty scheme was put into place in 2015 after a general outcry that included a national HBO report on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” program. That report made use of a a KCRA 3 (Sacramento) investigative story about the ballooning cost of court fees. It also introduced Oliver’s campaign to stop the “f-barrel,” although the cable host did not abbreviate his hopes.

David Manoucheri of KCRA is reporting that the amnesty program “… provides relief for drivers whose licenses were suspended because they failed to appear in court or had outstanding court debts, the DMV said in a news release. The fines would be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on the driver’s income.” Before, the station report, “… basic fines such as a $35 stop sign violation could balloon to over $300.”

Such fees and fines are not considered “criminal” by the courts, so violators do not hold the right to legal counsel. But they can still land people in jail for non-payment. Manoucheri notes that it’s been good for the municipal collections: “Since the program went into effect, 205,686 delinquent accounts have been reduced, 192,452 driver licenses have been reinstated and $35,530,680 in fines has been collected. That money would never have been collected by officials if the program wasn’t in place.”

Oliver connected the dots to illustrate that such municipal fees have been linked to the unrest in Ferguson,. Mo. and other problems. And his report remains one of the more anger-inducing indictments of municipal policy. You can see that vial YouTube here:

And the find KCRA report here:

Sacramento Paper Blasts Trump Immigration Policy

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation targets immigration fugitives in Los Angeles in February. Photo Credit:  Michael Johnson U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / The Sacramento Bee Report, 3/25/17

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation targets immigration fugitives in Los Angeles in February. Photo Credit: Michael Johnson U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / The Sacramento Bee Report, 3/25/17

In a scathing editorial signed by the “editorial board,” The Sacramento Bee has very much taken issue with President Trump’s recent moves on immigration policy, especially use of federal agencies to put pressure on local law enforcement. The paper also outlined what’s at stake for the Golden State: “About 10 percent of California’s workers are undocumented, and 12.3 percent of public school children have a parent who is here illegally. It’s no wonder, then, that many California leaders are resisting Trump as best they can.
No Californian should have any interest in preventing the deportation of undocumented immigrants with felony convictions. But due process must be observed. There is the matter of the 4th Amendment, and the threat of costly lawsuits, as became apparent a few years ago.”
The editorial outlines the lawsuit: “In 2014, the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security ended the Secure Communities program. The Homeland Security secretary at the time, Jeh Johnson, said the program discouraged victims and witnesses from coming forward. Courts also found that aspects of it violated the Constitution.”
And it listed some penalties: “Los Angeles County, for example, paid a $255,000 settlement in a suit by a man who, as a result of the program, was held in jail for 89 days beyond his release date, and Sonoma County paid $8,000 in an unlawful detainer suit.”
Read the Bee opinion here:
Pandering is no substitute for immigration overhaul

Former Immigration Judge Calls For L.A. To Provide Lawyers

Some of about 100 people demonstrate outside a federal immigration court in Los Angeles on Monday, March 6, 2017. (Michael Balsamo / AP)

Some of about 100 people demonstrate outside a federal immigration court in Los Angeles on Monday, March 6, 2017. (Michael Balsamo / AP)

A former immigration court judge is calling on Los Angeles to move quickly and provide attorneys for undocumented residents facing deportation. Bruce J. Einhorn, who was an immigration judge for 17 years, says in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that he “… watched sons trying to grasp complicated legal concepts not written in their native language and mothers desperately advocating for daughters who were in detention. I saw families torn apart by a system they were unable to understand.”

The former judge makes both legal and financial points in arguing his case and notes that Trump administration policies are likely to increase court volume and backlog. Already, he explains, San Francisco hearings might take two years before there’s room on a court docket. He also argues that the L.A. program might be modeled on the New York City project.

Judge Einhorn writes that “… New York City’s program, which began in 2013, has been tremendously successful. After securing representation for its first 1,000 clients, the program reported that it completed more than a third of the city’s deportation cases in the first or second hearing, and that immigrants were nearly 10 times more likely to win their cases. The program has since been expanded to New York State.”

Read his opinion here: L.A. needs to provide attorneys to immigrants facing deportation

Forbes: State AGs Probe Asbestos Trusts Over Medicaid Payments

Asbestos wallboard on a job site: Who pays when workers get sick? (Shutterstock)

Asbestos wallboard on a job site: Who pays when workers get sick? (Shutterstock)

Daniel Fisher at Forbes is reporting that attorneys general from 13 “Republican-leaning states” are involved in a lawsuit against several big national asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, seeking “… information on whether they are squandering money and failing to reimburse states for Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.”

Fisher’s report says that the lawsuit follows “… demand letters to the Armstrong World Industries, Babcock & Wilcox, DII and Owens Corning/Fibreboard bankruptcy trusts on Dec. 12. So far none have responded, Utah says in the complaint filed March 7 in state court in Salt Lake City.”

The report also notes that “… The AGs cite the Medicare Secondary Payer law, a little used federal statute that carries stiff penalties for insurers and others who arrange for lawsuit settlements to be paid directly to claimants without making sure they first settle outstanding bills for Medicare coverage. Penalties can include double damages and even plaintiff attorneys can be liable, said Frank Qesada, an attorney with MSP Recovery, a Miami law firm that has filed numerous national class actions on behalf of private Medicare providers.”

Asbestos lawsuits represent the nation’s longest-running personal injury civil litigation and has been ongoing for about 40 years. Read the Forbes story here: State AGs Probe Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts To Recover Medicare Payments

L.A. Schools Join Challenge To Trump ‘Sanctuary’ Threats

David Cortese, president of Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors, discusses litigation to block President Trump’s executive order affecting “sanctuary cities.” (Santa Clara County) Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/15/17

David Cortese, president of Santa Clara County’s Board of Supervisors, discusses litigation to block President Trump’s executive order affecting “sanctuary cities.” (Santa Clara County) Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/15/17

The Los Angeles Times reports the the LA Board of Education has told its legal staff to participate in a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s power to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary cities” that follow their own policies for immigrants. The LAT explains that the LA schools will join a lawsuit already filed by Santa Clara County that called President Trump’s executive order “unprecedented” and unconstitutional attempt to expand executive power.”

The report also notes that “… if the Trump administration carried out its threat — and interpreted it broadly — L.A. Unified could be at risk. The nation’s second largest school system received more than $585 million from the federal government last year, a substantial portion of its $7.15-billion general fund revenues.

Read the story here:
L.A. Unified to step out in support of federal funds for sanctuary cities

Texas Lawsuit-Reform Group Issues Comprehensive Asbestos White Paper

The “Texans for Lawsuit Reform Foundation” has released a deep-dive into the ongoing role of the Lone Star state in asbestos litigation. The document notes that Texas has played a leading role, first on the side of victims’ attorneys and then on the side of tort reform and now in the ongoing litigation. While written from a decidedly pro-business tort-reform point of view, the paper still notes that some victims became “pawns” in the system and gives a good timeline on the litigation’s evolution.

(The National Courts Monitor has recent agreed to facilitate a victim’s group “investigative” effort to determine the extent that asbestos victims might have become litigation victims. Check out the website at

In its press release on the paper, TLR Foundation President Hugh Rice Kelly is quoted saying that a “handful” of “… lawyers’ activities were carried out at the expense of the judicial system, thousands of plaintiffs who were pawns in the litigation game, and hundreds of defendants who paid settlements to uninjured plaintiffs.”

The white paper is also a sort of greatest hits of asbestos litigation issues, noting recent trust-claim controversies and the infamous “witness coaching memo.” To view the full paper: _Web.pdf.

Trump Policies Play Out In Courtrooms Like This One

The Courthouse News has an excellent report about a San Francisco courtroom it calls a “microcosm” of how the nation’s immigration deportation system is reacting to President Trump’s new policies. The CN explains that the courtroom is “… where immigrants held in detention centers miles away speak to judges through interpreters and flat-screen TVs.” The report details cases from “… about 1,500 immigrants detained in four facilities within 300 miles of San Francisco, where deportation cases are tried and decided by 19 immigration judges at two courthouses.”

The report also backgrounds the effect of having legal representation: “A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania Law Review found detained immigrants with an attorney were four times more likely to be released on bond, 11 times more likely to seek asylum or other relief from deportation, and twice as likely to successfully obtain the relief they sought. According to that same study, 37 percent of immigrants have no legal representation in removal cases, a proportion that shrinks to 14 percent for those held in detention.”

Officials are trying to provide legal representation for immigrants facing deportation, but given the years-long backlog and budgets, it seems an uphill struggle. Immigration courts are considered civil courts, so they do not carry the same “right to an attorney” that criminal courts have.

Read the story here:

Unintended Consequences As Virginia Court Excuses Pot, But Ensnares Immigrants

Washington Post article, 3/10/17

Photo Credit: Washington Post article, 3/10/17

The Washington Post has a story illustrating how shifting legal landscapes can impact immigration practices. The paper reports that “… the Arlington General District Court this month imposed the new policy for handling many misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, a change the top prosecutor said would make the court process quicker and less stressful for first-time offenders. But the county’s public defender and immigration advocates are objecting because the shift also means that poor defendants in those cases will no longer get a free lawyer to help them understand — and perhaps fight — the charge.”

Because immigration issues are considered civil, not criminal, defendants do not have assurances of legal representation. Now, because “jail” is not looming they will not get legal representation – if they take the easy way out, just plead guilty, they may find themselves later banned from the country, even if they are here legally.

It’s a great example of how the legal system can confuse the issues:

Get caught with pot, don’t go to jail: Why not everyone is happy

NCM Taking Part In New Asbestos ‘Double-Victims’ Group

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

The National Courts Monitor is helping organize a new workgroup to look into how the asbestos litigation system treats cancer victims and other families impacted by the substance. In particular, the group hopes to help discover if the practices of some special bankruptcy trust funds, and the attorneys who work with them, leaves families vulnerable to charges they have shortchanged insurance companies or other health-care providers like Medicaid.

NCM Publisher Sara Warner explains that the group is organizing as civil racketeering lawsuits are popping up around the country, based largely on the revelations from the “Garlock” case in North Carolina where a federal judge found “evidence suppression” as he looked into 15 different asbestos cases.

The issue is especially important for our nation’s veterans because more of them are at risk from asbestos disease.

As the website put into context:
“While veterans represent 8% of the nation’s population, they comprise an astonishing 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in this country… virtually every ship commissioned by the United States Navy between 1930 and about 1970 contained several tons of asbestos insulation in the engine room, along the miles of pipe aboard ship and in the walls and doors that required fireproofing…”

You can read more about Sara’s views here:

And the group’s website:

And more about the veterans’ issue here: