Commerce secretary ordered to testify about Census citizenship question

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images as reported by NPR on 9/21/18.

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images as reported by NPR on 9/21/18.

A Trump administration official will testify out of court about a controversial Census citizenship question, due to a judge’s order.

“A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to make its main official behind the 2020 census citizenship question — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — available to testify out of court for the lawsuits over the hotly contested question,” National Public Radio reports.

Ross will sit for a deposition, per the order of U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan federal court.

“Furman has limited questioning of Ross by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to four hours, noting that the commerce secretary has already testified in Congress and the administration has released a record of internal documents about his decision to add the citizenship question,” according to NPR.

Homelessness lawsuit challenges California’s authority to impound vehicles

Sean Kayode is shown outside the Next Door homeless shelter in San Francisco on July 26, 2018. Photo Credit: David Gorn/CALmatters as reported on 9/13/18.

Sean Kayode is shown outside the Next Door homeless shelter in San Francisco on July 26, 2018. Photo Credit: David Gorn/CALmatters as reported on 9/13/18.

A lawsuit would halt California from impounding vehicles and leaving residents homeless.

“Sean Kayode said he watched his whole world roll away from him at 3 in the morning,” reports KPBS TV. “Kayode had been living in his car in San Francisco about two years. During the early morning March 5, traffic police towed and impounded his black 2005 Mercedes Benz — for having too many overdue parking tickets.”

Jude Pond of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco helped file a lawsuit on Kayode’s behalf “to challenge the California law that allows cities to tow a car away if that car has five or more overdue parking tickets,” the news station reports.

Kayode now lives at Next Door homeless shelter. He said his car wasn’t just a place to sleep, “it was how he earned a living, he said, delivering food through Uber Eats.”

Companies react to Calif. law requiring female board members

Companies will begin complying with a California law requiring female board members while waging a flurry of expected lawsuits, The Union-Bulletin in Walla Walla, Wash., reports.

“California’s new law requiring companies to include women on their boards of directors may not survive widely expected legal challenges but it has already spotlighted the entrenched practices and barriers that have helped keep women out of boardrooms,” the article notes.

By the end of next year, the law requires at least one female director on the board of public corporations headquartered in California.

“Companies with more than six board members would need three female directors by the end of 2021. Those with fewer than six members would need two women. …” the article explains.

“The law imposes a $100,000 fine for a first violation and a $300,000 penalty for subsequent violations, not huge sums for major corporations. Nevertheless, companies will likely begin efforts to comply with the law even as they keep track of — or participate in — legal efforts to block it, said Wendy Patrick, a professor of business ethics at San Diego State University,” the Union-Bulletin reports.

U.S. Appeals Court sides with Uber, denies class action suits

Image: uber.com

Image: uber.com

Drivers who complained that “Uber misclassified them as independent contractors to avoid having to reimburse them for gasoline, vehicle maintenance, and other expenses,” were dealt a legal setback last month, according to a Reuters report in The New York Times.

“Uber Technologies Inc won a legal victory on Tuesday as a federal appeals court said drivers seeking to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors must arbitrate their claims individually, and not pursue class-action lawsuits,” the news report notes.

In a 3-0 decision on September 25, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed a lower court judge’s denial of Uber’s motion to compel arbitration in three lawsuits.

It also overturned the class certification in one of the lawsuits of thousands of California drivers who had driven for the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company since August 2009.

Jurors deadlock in J&J talc powder cancer case

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Following a record verdict in a trial in Missouri, litigation against Johnson & Johnson over its talcum powder ended in a mistrial in California.

“A state judge in Pasadena, California, declared a mistrial Monday after jurors deadlocked on Carolyn Weirick’s request for at least $25 million in damages over her mesothelioma, a cancer linked to asbestos exposure,” Bloomberg News reports. “Weirick said she developed the disease from asbestos-laced baby powder.”

Previously, a jury in Missouri awarded a record $4.69 billion in July to more than 20 women who traced the source of their cancer to the company’s baby powder. This verdict is under appeal by Johnson & Johnson.

“The world’s largest health-care products maker faces more than 10,000 other suits claiming its baby powder caused cancer,” Bloomberg reports.

American Bar Association jumps into immigrant-family fray

ABA President Hilarie Bass posted a short video asking America’s lawyers to help reunite immigrant families at the border reported the ABA Journal earlier this summer.

ABA President Hilarie Bass posted a short video asking America’s lawyers to help reunite immigrant families at the border reported the ABA Journal earlier this summer.

The American Bar Association Journal is promoting a web page that helps lawyers to volunteer, donate or advocate for detained and separated immigrant families.

The web page,  http://ambar.org/immigrationjustice, was promoted by ABA President Hilarie Bass, who posted a video “asking America’s lawyers to help reunite immigrant families at the border,” the ABA Journal reported this summer.

In the video, Bass talks about what she saw during her late June trip to south Texas, where she met with immigrant mothers detained at the Port Isabel Detention Center near Harlingen. Some of those women hadn’t seen their children in six weeks, Bass said; some had talked to their children on the phone, but knew the children were far away,” the ABA Journal reported.

“But what really disturbed Bass, she said, was that all of them would give up their asylum claims and return to the violence they’re fleeing if it meant their children would be returned.”

Same-sex partner wins legal standing after girl’s death

A same-sex partner won legal standing to sue for legal distress despite the lack of a state-recognized relationship.

“A woman whose same-sex partner’s biological daughter was killed in a traffic accident can seek damages for emotional distress even though she and the other woman weren’t married or in a civil union at the time, an appeals court ruled,” according to an Associated Press report published in U.S. News and World Report.

In the Aug. 17 ruling, Valerie Benning was given legal standing, reversing the findings of a lower court that found she wasn’t familiar enough with the girl.

“The 2-year-old girl was killed in 2009 when a firetruck and a pickup truck collided while she was waiting with her family to cross a street in Trenton to see a ‘Disney on Ice’ show at the facility now known as CURE Insurance Arena,” U.S. News notes.

Benning had been romantically involved with the girl’s mother for more than a year before the accident, according to the report.

L.A. jury awards $417 million in Johnson & Johnson talc powder case

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Johnson & Johnson has sustained another major judicial loss in its defense of its talcum powder product.

On Aug. 22, the New York Times reported, “In what may be the largest award so far in a lawsuit tying ovarian cancer to talcum powder, a Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in damages to a medical receptionist who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s trademark Johnson’s Baby Powder on her perineum for decades.”

Eva Echeverria, 63, of East Los Angeles, was the plaintiff in the case, “one of thousands of women who have sued the consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson claiming baby powder caused their disease, pointing to studies linking talc to cancer that date to 1971, when scientists in Wales discovered particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors.”

National Courts Monitor has charted the lawsuits across the United States against the company. In July, a jury in Missouri awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to women “who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.”

The Aug. 20 award in California prompted a vow to appeal.

“A spokeswoman for Johnson & Johnson, Carol Goodrich, said the company would appeal the verdict handed up by a jury in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County and was preparing for additional trials,” according to the New York Times.

‘Dreamers’ could see fate resolved by Supremes

Photo Credit: Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune as reported in The Texas Tribune on 7/31/18.

Photo Credit: Julián Aguilar/The Texas Tribune as reported in The Texas Tribune on 7/31/18.

The future of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will become clearer as federal courts wrestle with the Obama-era initiative to shield young immigrants from deportation. And the U.S. Supreme Court may end the controversy once and for all.

The Washington Post reports that on Friday, Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled that the Trump administration must continue processing renewals but that the administration can halt new applications for “Dreamers” while DACA is under appeal.

“Bates is one of the federal judges presiding over four different lawsuits aimed at maintaining or eliminating DACA, which was created by executive order by President Barack Obama and then ended by President Trump,” the Post reports.

The Texas Tribune notes that on Aug. 8, federal District Judge Andrew Hanen was scheduled to hear the state’s request for a halt to the program preliminarily “while the issue meanders its way through the federal court system.”

The fate of DACA could ”end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Texas Tribune reports. “In June, the Department of Justice asked Hanen to delay a possible injunction ‘so the United States can seek stays of all the DACA injunctions in the respective courts of appeals and the Supreme Court,’” the Tribune notes.

West Virginia Supreme Court justices impeached over spending

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation on 8/14/18. Photo credit: CRAIG HUDSON/CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL/ASSOCIATED PRESS, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, 8/14/18.

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis announced her resignation on 8/14/18. Photo credit: CRAIG HUDSON/CHARLESTON GAZETTE-MAIL/ASSOCIATED PRESS, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, 8/14/18.

West Virginia lawmakers have impeached all of the state’s Supreme Court justices over spending issues.

The Associated Press reports, “West Virginia lawmakers completed the extraordinary action of impeaching all four justices on the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals for spending issues, including a suspended justice facing a 23-count federal indictment.”

According to The New York Times, “Most of the articles involved the chief justice, Allen Loughry, a Republican, who has been suspended since June and is facing a 23-count federal indictment on charges of fraud and false statements. He is accused of using state property for personal use and of deceiving lawmakers, in addition to the charge of ‘unnecessary and lavish spending,’ most emblematically on a $32,000 office sofa.”

The New York Times also notes that a Republican governor will appoint replacements: “Democrats have described the whole process as a partisan power grab; the Legislature and the governor’s office are in Republican control, while a majority of the justices on the Supreme Court of Appeals, as the state’s highest court is officially known, were elected as Democrats.”