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

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

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 Military.com 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:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-asbestos-victims-group-exploring-litigation-scandals_us_58aee259e4b0ea6ee3d03622

And the group’s website: http://www.asbestosdoublevictims.org/

And more about the veterans’ issue here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-warner/a-sad-truth-for-veterans_b_9417622.html

The Los Angeles Times has a good deep-dive report into the Trump administration’s “expedited deportation” policy

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. (Jose Mendez / European Pressphoto Agency)

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. (Jose Mendez / European Pressphoto Agency)

The Los Angeles Times has a good deep-dive report into the Trump administration’s “expedited deportation” policy, noting that legal challenges are being planned. The report notes that “… [the] administration’s efforts to step up immigration enforcement and streamline deportation — outlined in memos from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly — could affect far more people, including potentially most of the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.”
And it adds that “… one part of that effort — the expanded use of what the law refers to as expedited removal — is almost certain to face a constitutional challenge in the courts.”
The Times backgrounds that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said that immigrants, even those who are here illegally, are protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of due process of law. The justices cite the 5th Amendment, which says, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Because the language refers to “no person,” not to “no citizen,” its protections cover “even one whose presence in this country is unlawful, involuntary or transitory,” the court said unanimously in 1976.
But how much process is due for immigrants who entered illegally or overstayed their visas remains “a gray area,” said UCLA law professor Hiroshi Motomura.
Read the very fine not-fake-news report here:
Trump’s fast-track deportations face a legal hurdle: Do unauthorized immigrants have a right to a hearing before a judge?

Texas Judge Keeps Secret Asbestos Deposition Private

A Texas judge has ruled against a journalist’s motion to un-seal a 19-year-old deposition involving one of the nation’s premier tort lawyers. The Southeastern Texas Record says the decision was based on a jurisdictional issue, as opposed to a decision on merits. The decision was being closely watched in the asbestos litigation world because some feel the deposition might provide insights on a controversial “witness coaching” memo.

 

See the story here:

Judge refuses to unseal Russell Budd deposition, testimony linked to Baron & Budd asbestos memo

Education Nominee Brings School Choice To The Federal Spotlight

Children hold up “Parent Revolution” signs during a press conference held next to Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in Adelanto in 2013. Parents used a state law to transform their local low-performing public elementary school into a not-for-profit charter campus. (Los Angeles Times)

Children hold up “Parent Revolution” signs during a press conference held next to Desert Trails Preparatory Academy in Adelanto in 2013. Parents used a state law to transform their local low-performing public elementary school into a not-for-profit charter campus. (Los Angeles Times)

As Democrats leveled sharp questions at Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s education nominee, this week, they stressed her decades of support for the charter school movement. Clearly, the Trump Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress will make “school choice” a spotlight issue, including the “parent trigger” movement that didn’t really come up in the DeVos questioning, perhaps because her efforts have mostly been in Michigan.

Parent trigger is the idea that parents can more or less take over a failing school. A half-dozen states have some level of parent trigger law, but the one that’s been most lawsuit-tested is California’s. The Golden State actually passed the nation’s first such law in 2010, and of course litigation came shortly after.

Natasha Lindstron, a respected reporter who has covered the California Parent Trigger since its passage, offers a good overview report here http://hechingerreport.org/parent-trigger-showdowns-loom-nationwide/

And if you’d like to see how The Los Angeles Times, which supported the original parent trigger legislation, feels about it now, check that out here:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-parent-trigger-20150803-story.html

UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits

Filmmaker Paul Johnson will show a work-in-progress documentary, UnSettled, this week. Photo Credit, Huffington Post 12/12/16 Post

Filmmaker Paul Johnson will show a work-in-progress documentary, UnSettled, this week. Photo Credit, Huffington Post 12/12/16 Post

For the past year, the Canadian journalist Paul Johnson has been making a documentary on the asbestos litigation industry. Entitled “UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits,” it examines how the “business” of asbestos litigation has evolved over the years and focuses on just how politically aligned lawyers are on reform issues. Courts Monitor publisher, Sara Warner, spoke with Paul about the project and you can read the full interview in the Huffington Post.

Note: UnSettled will be screened for audience feedback at the Edward R. Murrow Room at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. this Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 3:30 p.m. Paul Johnson will hold a Q&A immediately following the screening. You can see the trailer at www.unsettledthemovie.com.

Will veto really ‘export foreign policy to trail lawyers?’

Congress voted Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill to give the families of 9/11 victims a chance to sue Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Congress voted Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill to give the families of 9/11 victims a chance to sue Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

As the U.S. Congress votes this week to override a presidential veto for the first time in President Obama’s tenure, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) says the country is exporting its foreign policy to trail lawyers and warned that U.S. personnel might find themselves dragged into lawsuits abroad over American drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or even its support for Israel.

At issue is a law that would allow victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia over any potential role in those attacks. The president and others say such a law would invite similar action against the United States. Sen. Corker is one of several members who argue the bill is so broad that it could expose the United States to retaliation in foreign courts.

The Washington Post says that the move is a “… a sign that Saudi Arabia’s fortunes are waning on Capitol Hill. The Saudi government has denied it had any ties to the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and has lobbied fiercely against the bill. But victims’ families have pushed for the legislation so they can press their case in courts, and lawmakers who support the measure argue Saudi Arabia should not be concerned if it did nothing wrong.”

Also from the Post: “This is not a time when U.S.-Saudi relations have much popular support on either side,” said F. Gregory Gause, head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. Just as the Saudis think the administration has tilted too closely to Iran, he said, many U.S. politicians blame Saudi Arabia for the globe spread of Sunni extremism. “I think that’s really simplistic.”

Read the WaPo report here:
Congress overrides Obama’s veto of 9/11 bill

U.S. Dodges International Move To Free Refugee Children

22 women who are being held at Berks County Residential Residential Center started a hunger stike on August 8. They are asking to be released from detention as their cases for asylum move through the courts. Credit: Valeria Fernández/PRI

22 women who are being held at Berks County Residential Residential Center started a hunger stike on August 8. They are asking to be released from detention as their cases for asylum move through the courts. Credit: Valeria Fernández/PRI

The New York Times coverage of this week’s United Nations discussion about refugees, which includes a “summit” hosted by President Obama, including spotlighting that ” … the U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.”

That may be because the U.S. has more than a half-million pending Immigration Court cases backed up for years and has detained some refugee families for more than a year. The detention camps have been found illegal by a federal court, and some moms have resorted to hunger strikes. Some 45 countries are expected to agree to new, non-binding goals for the international refugee crisis this week.

In the U.S., immigration regulation is enforced at immigration courts as s “civil matter,” meaning those under detention do not have the same rights as criminal defendants, which would include the right to representation by a lawyer.

Read about the hunger strikes here:
Moms go on a hunger strike to get themselves and their kids out of immigration detention

Shackles In A Civil Case? With Immigration, That’s The Deal

PhotoCredit, Boston Gobe report, 8/29/16

PhotoCredit, Boston Gobe report, 8/29/16

A Boston Globe report has detailed that many detained immigrants show up in immigration court in shackles – even without any criminal record. The Globe reports that “… when detained immigrants have their day in immigration courtrooms in Boston and in many other courts around the nation, they almost always spend it in chains. Some of the immigrants have criminal records, but some do not, and the controversial practice has ignited protests from Connecticut to California. Critics say detainees in the civil immigration system are treated more harshly than people accused of violent crimes in state and federal courts. But others say shackling preserves public safety in the courts, where security is limited.”

We would background that immigration courts are not actually U.S. federal courts, but are actually run by the U.S. Justice Department. Those facing the courts do not have a right to an attorney, as they would if criminal charges were being considered, because the cases are considered “civil” actions.

Read the Globe report here: In Boston immigration court, chains are a familiar sound – The Boston Globe