Obama’s ‘Rocket Docket’ Policy Comes Under Scrutiny

The so-called “rocket docket” policy of the Obama administration is coming under fire for lack of judicial training and for allowing non-judges to determine which cases get priority, according to four attorneys’ groups.

The Courthouse News is reporting that “… the groups — including the American Immigration Lawyers Association — claimed the Department of Justice, which oversees EOIR, refused to turn over records on policies and procedures for expedited immigration dockets, or “rocket dockets,” in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

The CN also noted that the groups “… say the lack of clear policies and guidelines made it harder for unaccompanied minors, one-parent families and their attorneys to navigate the system and avoid deportation.

See the story here: https://www.courthousenews.com/foia-reveals-spotty-procedures-immigration-courts/

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:

http://legalnewsline.com/stories/511099428-business-lawyers-expect-spillover-from-actions-against-asbestos-trusts-plaintiffs-lawyers

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 http://www.asbestosdoublevictims.org/)

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:
http://www.tlrfoundation.com/sites/default/files/pdf/TLR_Asbestos_Foundation_Paper_02.2017 _Web.pdf.

Trump Immigration Crackdown Hits Backlogged Courts

Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AP

Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / AP

BuzzFeed is deep-diving into the problems of a backlogged immigration courts system as President Trump gears up his enforcement and deportation plans. The report notes that “… judges and lawyers interviewed by BuzzFeed News described hearings scheduled four, five, or even six years out. Already facing a crushing caseload, immigration judges are bracing for more strain as the Trump administration pushes ahead with an aggressive ramp-up of immigration enforcement with no public commitment so far to aid backlogged courts.”
And as background the websites notes that “… immigration courts, despite their name, are actually an arm of the US Department of Justice… [the][ lawyers from the US Department of Homeland Security prosecute cases. Rulings can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is also part of the Justice Department, and then to a federal appeals court.”
The report also notes that more than a half-million cases are pending immigration court attention. Read the report here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/zoetillman/backlogged-immigration-courts-pose-problems-for-trumps-plans?utm_term=.qeqnQJxo3#.wxBYOm5nr

Amid ICE Raids, Courts Are Even More Backed Up

Reporting on immigration raids and related issues often overlook the ongoing backlog at the nation’s immigration courts, where more than a half-million cases are already awaiting hearings and wait times can reach into years. But do not count the CBS Austin TV affiliate among those missing the story.

CBS Austin reports that U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has introduced legislation to freeze funding to ICE and Border Protection until immigration court funding is increased. The “courts” are not actual federal courts. They are civil hearings conducted by the U.S. Justice Department; judges are employees of the Justice Department and have no authority to hold federal agents in contempt.

Read the story here:
As ICE enforcement grows, immigration courts can’t keep up

Trump Ponders Next Steps After Court Nixes Immigration Order

Several prominent legal experts are encouraging President Donald Trump to withdraw his current order and redraft it. | AP Photo

Several prominent legal experts are encouraging President Donald Trump to withdraw his current order and redraft it. | AP Photo

The D.C.-based Politico newspaper is outlining what options President Trump’s team has after the California-based 9th Circuit appeals court nixed his travel order this week. Politico said the Trump group was “… licking their wounds following a stinging appeals court defeat, President Donald Trump’s aides went into triage mode Friday as they consider options for salvaging his contested travel ban executive order.”

The story notes that “… Trump rarely backs down from a fight, but there were initial signs that the White House might not proceed as originally expected with an emergency application to the Supreme Court. Legal experts said it was doubtful Trump could muster what he’d need to get immediate relief there: the votes of five justices on the high court, which remains shorthanded with only eight justices. A 4-4 deadlock would leave the ruling suspending enforcement of Trump’s ban in place.”

See the story here: Trump team mulls next steps on travel ban order

CBS News Asking How Trump Policy Works With Court Backlog

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, CBS NEWS

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, CBS NEWS

“What happens when a federal push to ramp up arrests and deportations hits a severely backlogged federal court system?” It’s a good question being asked by CBS News as it notes that “… President Donald Trump is taking what he portrays as a hard-nosed approach to undocumented immigrants, issuing an order this week to boost the number of U.S. border patrol agents and to build detention centers.”

Omar Jadwat, an attorney and director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the ACLU, offers an answer: “It’s a recipe for a due process disaster.” CBS backgrounds: “Just how backlogged is the system for adjudicating deportations and related legal matters? America’s immigration courts are now handling a record-breaking level of cases, with more than 533,000 cases currently pending, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC, a data gathering site that tracks the federal government’s enforcement activities. That figure is more than double the number when Mr. Obama took office in 2009.”

Read the excellent reporting here:

Overloaded U.S. immigration courts a “recipe for disaster”

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

Texas Court Hearing Will Address Decades-Old Asbestos Testimony

A Texas reporter is trying to unearth asbestos-related testimony from nearly 20 years ago that might shed light on some more recent activity. Specifically, the reporter feels a deposition, apparently sealed for all this time, might shed light on a famous witness-coaching memo that came to light during the landmark Garlock bankruptcy case two years ago. A hearing is set for today (Jan. 31) in a downtown Austin, Tx., courtroom.


We will update the results, which are not expected to be immediate. Meanwhile, the case has attracted the attention of tort-reform organizations and even the center-right Tucker Carlson website Daily Caller, which published a scorched earth article on the even of the hearing. The reporter is also a contributor to the Paul Johnson Films documentary “UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits” and did original reporting at the Dallas Observer that appeared in the film. Asbestos litigation is America’s longest-running tort litigation and a frequent target of civil lawsuit “reform” groups, typically backed by business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Read the Daily Caller opinion piece, from a regular contributor but not a news staff writer, here.

Trump’s Immigration Plan Brings Several Early Legal Challenges

Demonstrators gather outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Sunday to protest President Trump’s executive order on immigration. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post) (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)

Demonstrators gather outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Sunday to protest President Trump’s executive order on immigration. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post) (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)

President Trump’s immigration orders over the weekend brought both protests and legal challenges, with several judges ordering halts to the program and scholars offering opinions. The Washington Post had a good article outlining the civil concerns, including listing some of the groups opposing the move:

“… the American Civil Liberties Union, which won the injunction from a New York judge Saturday, immigrant legal aid societies, public-interest groups and the alliance of 16 state attorney generals.”

The story also predicted more challenges under both constitutional grounds and legal decisions over decades.

See the WaPo story here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/scholars-many-more-legal-challenges-likely-for-trumps-executive-order-on-immigration/2017/01/29/2801ffee-e64b-11e6-bf6f-301b6b443624_story.html?utm_term=.569746bb8037