Victims Attorneys Confront Filmmaker After Asbestos Documentary Screening

Photo Credit: Image from 9/21/17 SE TexasRecord online report.

Photo Credit: Image from 9/21/17 SE TexasRecord online report.

In a panel discussing following a work-in-progress screening of his new asbestos documentary, filmmaker Paul Johnson might put at least two of America’s leading trail attorneys in the “needs more progress” category. The SE Texas Record reports that “… a couple of Texas’ most well-known toxic tort litigators had a few choice words after watching the unveiling of “Unsettled,” a documentary that offers a glimpse “Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits.”

The Record also noted that the screening, which took place Sept. 20 at The University of North Texas/Dallas School of Law, drew a strong following: “… law Professionals from all walks of life were in attendance, including professors, students and a handful of prominent trial lawyers, who were all privy to a heated discussion between expert panelists following the viewing.”

Responding to the “heat,” Johnson pushed back, according to the Record: “… as the panelist discussion winded down, Johnson said he wanted his film to raise the following question: ‘At the end of the day, are lawyers taking too much money away from sick people?’ Without receiving much of a response, he asked Simon and Siegel if there was more asbestos attorneys could do to police the “bad actors” and if there was a better way to handle asbestos litigation so more money would go to those truly injured by asbestos products.”

See the report here: https://setexasrecord.com/stories/511224309-toxic-tort-litigator-jeffrey-simon-calls-unsettled-asbestos-documentary-poorly-produced-following-screening

(note: producers of the movie say the discussion will be posted to the film’s trailer site later this week.

PBS Airs Great Backgrounder On Immigration Courts Backlog Crisis

Amid the debate over President Trump’s immigration policies, it still gets overlooked that hundreds of thousands of people are in limbo because our immigration courts are backed up for years. Now PBS sheds some light with an interview featuring the San Francisco-based immigration judge who leads the National Association of Immigration Judges, Dana Leigh Marks. For years, hers has been a strong voice for the judges, who are not “federal judges” but who work for the U.S. Justice Department.

It’s a great backgrounder and you can find it here:

How a ‘dire’ immigration court backlog affects lives

Three State Will Lead On DACA Lawsuit

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, speaks with Graciela Nuñez, a DACA recipient, at a Seattle news conference called to announce Washington’s participation in a lawsuit against the Trump... (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, left, speaks with Graciela Nuñez, a DACA recipient, at a Seattle news conference called to announce Washington’s participation in a lawsuit against the Trump… (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

While 15 states and the District of Columbia are signed on to challenge President Trump’s planned removal of DACA, it turns out that only three – Washington, New York and Massachusetts – will take the lead on the lawsuit, That will include the state attorney general who is perhaps the most vocal in his opposition, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who has long been an outspoken defender of DACA – the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program.

“It’s outrageous.” said Ferguson in a press conference. “It is. It’s outrageous. I’m not going to put up with it.” He also said this is “… a “dark time for our country.” The challenge will focus on claims of racial and ethnic bias against the “dreamers,” most of whom are from Mexico. The Seattle Times has coverage of Ferguson and the state’s leadership role here:

‘I’m not going to put up with it’: Washington AG Ferguson says lawsuit over DACA will show Trump’s bias

15 States, D.C., Sue Over Trump’s DACA Decision

Protesters gather at a federal building at Congress Parkway and Clark Street in Chicago on Sept. 5, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump's rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Protesters gather at a federal building at Congress Parkway and Clark Street in Chicago on Sept. 5, 2017, to protest President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Fifteen states – including California, the nation’s largest state – and the District of Columbia sued the U.S. government Wednesday to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end protection against deportation for young immigrants. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn asked a judge to strike down as unconstitutional the president’s action involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

The Chicago Tribune was among those reporting on the lawsuit, noting that “… the awsuit filed Wednesday says rescinding DACA will injure state-run colleges and universities, upset workplaces and damage companies and economies that include immigrants covered under the program. The lawsuit noted that Harvard University has over 50 DACA students while Tufts University has more than 25. Both schools are in Massachusetts.

Read more here: 15 states, D.C. sue Trump administration over ending DACA

CM Publisher Updates Fuel Gas Story, Notes Texas Preempts Local Rules

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Writing in The Huffington Post, Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner updates her coverage of a controversial fuel-gas tubing that brings natural gas into millions of American homes. The extend of fire danger from lightening strikes is at issue, but locals in the Lone Star State will not get to decide their own fate. After several communities banned one type of the pipe, called “CSST,” the state moved to block anyone else from adopting higher standards.

Read the story here:

CSST Gas Piping Industry Spends Big Money Against Higher Safety Standards… Thanks Texas Legislature

L.A. Jury Awards Record $417 Million In Talc Cancer Case

 

The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. PhotoCredit: The Los Angeles Times online article, 8/21/2017

The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. PhotoCredit: The Los Angeles Times online article, 8/21/2017

The Los Angeles Times is among those reporting on a $417-million verdict against Johnson & Johnson over the company’s talc product, In effect, the jury found the company liable because it did not warn a 63-year-old woman diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer about the talcum cancer risks.
The Times noted that “… verdict marks the largest award yet in a number of suits claiming that the company’s talc powder causes ovarian cancer. More than 300 lawsuits are pending in California and more than 4,500 claims in the rest of the country, alleging that the healthcare giant ignored studies linking its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products to cancer.”
The company says it will appeal, insisting that science is on its side. But the Times explained that the L.A. lawsuit “… cited a 1982 study that shows women who used talc on their genitals were at a 92% increased risk for ovarian cancer. The lead researcher, Daniel W. Cramer, later advised Johnson & Johnson to put a warning label on the product.”
The newspaper also backgrounded that “… ovarian cancer accounts for 1.3% of all new cancer cases in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute. But it is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Fewer than half of all patients survive five years after a diagnosis.”

Read the LAT report here: L.A. jury hits Johnson & Johnson with $417-million verdict over cancer link to its talc

Will Pot + RICO Challenge State’s Federalist Trend?

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Writing in The Washington Post, legal commentator Jonathan H. Adler outlines both the context and challenges facing “legal” marijuana now that a law targeting gangsters is being used for civil resistance to state pot reforms. We’ve reported before that the federal 10th Circuit court has taken a stand and it’s significant.
 
Adler outlines the federal context, including how the U.S. Congress has linked marijuana to funding legislation, before going into the looming challenges.
 
He notes that “… a bigger potential threat [to state legalization efforts] comes from the fact that marijuana possession and distribution are predicate offenses under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This means that those who produce or sell marijuana are potentially subject to civil RICO suits, whether or not such activities are legal under state law. So held the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit earlier this year. A federal judge once described RICO as “the monster that ate jurisprudence.” Barring real reform at the federal level, it could be the monster that ate marijuana federalism, too. Here again, an appropriations rider is insufficient.

 
Adler is arguing that the RICO use is a threat to the “federalism” model for state control. 
 
Opinion | Will marijuana make federalism go up in smoke?

Texas Journalist Explains Medicaid Flaw In Asbestos Lawsuits, Calls For Change

Photo Credit: File photo, Dallas Observer article, August 13, 2017

Photo Credit: File photo, Dallas Observer article, August 13, 2017

A Dallas-based journalist who pioneered coverage of asbestos lawsuit issues is calling for changes while explaining a “Catch 22″ that could be shortchanging states’ Medicaid coffers. Christine Biederman, writing as a contributor to The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C., explains that “… Medicaid secondary payer laws provide states potential funds. For example, if a Medicaid enrollee is sickened by asbestos, and Medicaid pays the healthcare bills, Medicaid is entitled to a share of any future personal injury settlement. Medicaid is theoretically required to recover part of the settlement.”

Biederman, who wrote a landmark Dallas Observer investigative story “Toxic Justice” 19 years ago, adds that “… in practice, this means that unless a lawyer, a defendant or another party to a personal injury claim is located in the same state as a Medicaid beneficiary, and thus required by state law to report payments, the state Medicaid agency will likely never learn about the money. Of course, the enrollee is supposed to report the windfall. If you think that usually happens … please get in touch, because I have an investment opportunity for you.”

The story benefits from the fact that Biederman is herself a Texas attorney and will be must-read material in the asbestos world. (Disclosure: Ms. Biederman contributed reporting to the documentary UnSettled by Canadian journalist Paul Johnson; the Courts Monitor has shared resources and research with producers of that film, scheduled for release this fall.)

Medicaid Catch-22: It’s time for the asbestos trusts to do what’s right

Legal Pot Might Be Sued Out of Business

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is raising eyebrows in the legal marijuana industry and the Denver weekly newspaper Westword warns that the litigation “… is based on federal racketeering laws, that anti-marijuana forces hope will help them destroy the marijuana industry here and throughout the country.”
At issue is an argument that a Colorado pot-growing operation damages neighboring property owners — they say their horse-riding experience is diminished by the smell from marijuana and other concerns, including construction. In its decision, the 10th Circuit effectively found that the plaintiffs’ use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute had merit because the adjacent property violates federal laws against marijuana, which is specifically mentioned in the RICO laws.
Westwood breaks it down: “This ruling could be game-changing. If the Reillys and Safe Streets Alliance succeed, other individuals or groups would be able to file complaints against marijuana businesses using RICO on a scale so massive that the entire industry could sink under the weight of litigation — or so opponents hope.”
Read the story here:
How Bizarre Pot Smell Ruling Could Destroy Colorado’s Marijuana Industry

New York City Embraces Civil Gideon

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

The argument for Civil Gideon process took a major step forward last week when the New York City Council passed legislation in support of legal representation in eviction cases. Sponsored by Manhattan City Council Representative Matt Levine, the measure allows the city to appoint counsel for those facing eviction court.
Though Mayor Bill DeBlasio is expected to sign the bill, the process will not happen overnight. The plan is to phase the assistance in over a five year period. A recent article in Slate Magazine pointed out that in the 150,000 housing eviction cases in the city, tenants in eviction cases were victorious in 77% of cases when legal counsel was appointed.

Read the Slate story here:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/07/21/new_york_city_has_taken_up_the_fight_against_the_eviction_machine_in_a_big.html