Law Firms Eager to Solicit Victims of California Fires

Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times as reported by the New York Times on 10/20/17.

Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times as reported by the New York Times on 10/20/17.

Where there’s smoke, there are lawyers. From the Press Democratin Santa Rosa, Calif., comes a wry acknowledgement that the record-setting wildfires that devastated California’s wine country set the table for a legal feeding frenzy.

“After the limitless demonstrations of valor, selflessness and generosity, we now witness a flood of offers from lawyers from down the block and across the nation to advocate for victims of our greatest disaster — and for an ample share of any judgments or settlements. …” notes the article, titled “Chris Smith: First came the heroes, then the helpers, now the lawyers.”

“There are law-firm solicitations on the radio, on billboards, in newspapers, on Facebook, everywhere you look.” The article quotes Baron and Budd, a multi-state law firm, which chronicles the fire damage at its website. Baron and Budd reports, “The human costs of the recent Northern California wildfires were staggering, with 43 people losing their lives. Approximately 6,000 acres were burned and more than 8,400 structures destroyed. As a result, the dollar amount of damages could be in the billions.” The firm cites “reports that equipment owned and maintained by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) may have played a role in causing the disaster.”

The Press Democrat notes, “The eagerness of the lawyers trolling for clients is pretty clearly related to the blood in the water: the possibility that PG&E may not have adequately maintained and protected its power lines.”

In the aftermath of the fires, The New York Times on Oct. 20 noted, “Determining the causes ofthe fires could have huge financial implications in deciding who ultimately pays for the extensive damage, including almost 8,000 structures destroyed. Insurance companies will be looking to recover some of the more than $1 billion that the California insurance commissioner estimates they could end up paying out.”

With Trump’s DACA Decision, A Look At Context

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016. Hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their support for President Obama’s immigration executive action as the Court hears oral arguments on the deferred action initiatives, DAPA and expanded DACA.  Photo credit: Lexey Swall

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016. Hundreds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to show their support for President Obama’s immigration executive action as the Court hears oral arguments on the deferred action initiatives, DAPA and expanded DACA. Photo credit: Lexey Swall

The Texas Tribune continues excellent coverage of President Trump’s milestone decision on DACA, the Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the county with some status if they came into the country before they were 16 years old and were 30 or younger in June of 2012. The “dreamer” act is a big deal everywhere, but none more bigly a deal than in Texas.

The Tribune reminded its readers that Texas has a leadership role in opposing the plan, both with civil lawsuits and threats of legal action. They also note the relevance for the Lone Star State: “… as of August 2016, more than 220,000 undocumented immigrants in Texas had applied for a permit or a renewal of one under the program, and nearly 200,000 of those have been approved, according to government statistics. It’s the second-highest total behind California’s estimated 387,000 applications and 359,000 approvals during the same time frame.”

Texas, we are reminded, led 10 states in legal challenges to the Obama policy.

More context:

“The DACA initiative preceded a broader but ill-fated 2014 program, known as DAPA, which would have expanded the eligible population of the program and lengthened the work permits to three years. That program was never implemented after the state of Texas sued the Obama administration and successfully convinced a district judge and an appellate court that Obama overstepped his executive authority. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court split on the matter and upheld the appellate court’s decision.
“The Trump administration officially rescinded that policy earlier this month but said that DACA and some expanded DACA permits would remain in effect. Paxton argued in Thursday’s letter that that’s not good enough and warned that if the 2012 program isn’t rescinded, he and the other plaintiffs from the 2014 lawsuit would go back to court to settle the issue.
“If, by September 5, 2017, the Executive Branch agrees to rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and not to renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future, then the plaintiffs that successfully challenged DAPA and Expanded DACA will voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit currently pending in the Southern District of Texas,” they write. ‘Otherwise, the complaint in that case will be amended to challenge both the DACA program and the remaining Expanded DACA permits.'”

Follow the debate from what amounts to Ground Zero in Texas here:

Texas leads 10 states in urging Trump to end Obama-era immigration program

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

In Texas, That ‘Other’ Supreme Court Immigration Ruling Looms Large

A U.S. border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande at the border between the United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. border patrol officer accused of shooting a 15-year-old Mexican on Mexican soil has to stand trial. CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

A U.S. border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande at the border between the United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. border patrol officer accused of shooting a 15-year-old Mexican on Mexican soil has to stand trial.
CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

The recent Supreme Court decision upholding parts of President Trump’s travel ban earned most of the national media’s attention, but another ruling on border issues may also have huge impact. Newsweek magazine explains that “…. the ruling in the case of a teenager shot dead on Mexican soil by a U.S. border patrol officer in 2010 will have consequences for law enforcement along the border… the Supreme Court ruled that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must consider the case, rejecting the lower court’s previous ruling that upheld the immunity from prosecution of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who fatally shot a 15-year-old Mexican, Sergio Adrian Hernández Guereca, under his left eye.

The FBI had previously cleared the agent of any wrongdoing, and the government had defended his immunity from civil lawsuits. The family and immigration advocates are welcoming the ruling and note that it will help determine future border agent practices.

See the Newsweek story here:

Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration from Mexico are hitting a legal wall in Texas

Getting Deported Back to Haiti Almost Killed Me

Illustration Credit: Paul Moreno

Illustration Credit: Paul Moreno

The ongoing debates over United States immigration and refugee policy is bringing many personal stories into the spotlight, mostly featuring immediate concerns. But VICE is offering a compelling story of a South Florida man who was deported back to Haiti at the age of 22. The story is counter-intuitive in many ways – he prefers Reagan to Clinton as American presidents go and offers mixed feelings about how Florida would have worked out.

Now Jean Pierre Marseille is described as a “journalist, fixer, translator, salesman” and “jack of all trades.” His story offers a lesson in how policy translates into personal history, and you can find it here:

Getting Deported Back to Haiti Almost Killed Me

D.C. Among Those Talking ‘Civil Gideon’ for Evictions

At some D.C. apartments, where tenants are overwhelmingly poor and recipients of housing vouchers, any violation of the lease — even walking your dog without a collar — becomes grounds for a suit for eviction. But far more common is suing over nonpayment of rent. Shown is Brookland Manor, a low-income housing complex that is undergoing redevelopment. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

At some D.C. apartments, where tenants are overwhelmingly poor and recipients of housing vouchers, any violation of the lease — even walking your dog without a collar — becomes grounds for a suit for eviction. But far more common is suing over nonpayment of rent. Shown is Brookland Manor, a low-income housing complex that is undergoing redevelopment. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

A trio of Washington, D.C., council members are making the case for a limited “civil Gideon” provision for District residents facing evictions. In a Washington Post op/ed, the three Democrats admit that their city might one considered already “tenant friendly” but that the legal policy is needed.

“Many tenants are pressured by lawyers representing their landlords to settle their case in the hallways outside of the courtrooms,” they write. “If you don’t understand the legalese, it’s hard to know what’s happening to you and it’s almost impossible to know what your options are. All the while, you just want to avoid becoming homeless.

The offer these stats: Of the 33,000 eviction cases filed annually in the District, fewer than 10 percent of tenants have legal representation during an eviction hearing; more than 90 percent of landlords are represented.

For background, they note a national movement: “… this is a small part of a larger national trend called ‘civil Gideon,’ a nod to the case that established the right to counsel for criminal defendants and is now a growing movement to create a right to counsel in civil cases.

See the piece here: Opinion | Low-income tenants in D.C. may soon get legal help

Chicago Trib Deep-Dives Into Immigration Court Delays

Dario Castaneda, an immigration attorney who is representing detained immigrant, Francisco Casas, outside of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office (West Congress Pkwy.) in Chicago on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

Dario Castaneda, an immigration attorney who is representing detained immigrant, Francisco Casas, outside of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office (West Congress Pkwy.) in Chicago on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune is taking a deep dive into the Windy City’s immigration court backlog, including how a DUI sent a man to jail for seven months to await his day in court and other big-picture information. For example, the newspaper reports that “… as recently as 2010, the immigration court in Chicago had fewer than 13,000 pending cases on its docket. By the end of March, that figure had risen to 24,844, according to statistics provided by the federal Executive Office for Immigration Review, which is part of the Department of Justice.

The paper also notes that “… the crunch is partly the result of policy changes under the Obama administration, which made a priority of quickly handling cases that involved children and recent border crossers, particularly in the face of an influx of immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally from Central American countries around 2014. But the Trump administration has contributed to the crunch as well, emphasizing the deportation of detainees who have had contact with the criminal justice system, though even those without records have been caught up in the efforts.”

It’s a solid report and you can find it here: Cases flood Chicago Immigration Court as system reckons with new landscape

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Emory University School of Law are calling for an investigation

AJC File

AJC File

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Emory University School of Law are calling for an investigation into the federal immigration court practices in Atlanta, alleging discrimination and noting outcomes that differ from the rest of the country’s immigration courts. Those “courts” are actually not part of the federal judicial system but are administrative functions of the U.S. Department of Justice – the judges work for the DOJ.

The SPLC, in a letter to federal authorities, said that the Atlanta-based court “… denies asylum at the highest rate of any immigration court – 98 percent. The average bond set by its judges is typically 41 percent higher than the national average ($8,200 versus $11,637).”

Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report here:
Your Daily Jolt: Emory law school wants probe of immigration court | Political Insider blog

CM Publisher Updates AG Probe Into Asbestos Trusts

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Posting at The Huffington Post, Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner updates an investigation by 13 state attorneys general into what they are calling potential abuse and mismanagement in four of the nation’s largest asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Billions of dollars are held by dozens of trusts and a key issue is is required re-payments to Medicare and Medicaid programs may have been missed.

See the HuffPo blog here:

Link to post: Asbestos Trusts Strike Back, Calling AGs Medicaid Fraud Probe ‘Overreach’

Legal Battle Resumes Over Nevada Nuke Waste Facility

The portal of a five-mile-long tunnel into Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where the Energy Department wants to bury 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste. Photo credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/29/17

The portal of a five-mile-long tunnel into Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where the Energy Department wants to bury 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste. Photo credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/29/17

The decades-old legal battle over Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste facility in Nevada, has resumed, the Los Angeles Times reports. The paper says that “… Nevada has filed some 300 legal ‘contentions’ against the Energy Department’s license, each of which must be examined by a special board. The state is swinging into action to file even more contentions if the license action is resumed, said Robert Halstead, chief of the state’s nuclear office.”

“They think because Reid is gone, this will be a cakewalk. Wrong,” Halstead told the LAT. “I see them going through a licensing procedure that will cost $1.5 billion and take five years, with a 50% chance of success.” The delays have resulted in staggering costs. The government promised nuclear utilities decades ago that it would take the spent fuel by 1998. Customers have paid a fraction of a penny on every kilowatt-hour of electricity into a fund for waste storage, which now contains about $36 billion.

The facility has long been considered for storing the nation’s nuclear waste and gathered political traction during the George W. Bush administration. Then Harry Reid became Senate leader and more or less nixed the proposal. But with President Trump in charge, the new energy secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry, has already visited the site.

Read the Times’ story here: Decades-old war over Yucca Mountain nuclear dump resumes under Trump budget plan