No statute of limitations for one year for sexual abuse cases in New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act on Feb. 14, 2019 which extended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse filings for one year. Photo credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig as reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 8/14/19.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act on Feb. 14, 2019 which extended the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse filings for one year. Photo credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig as reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 8/14/19.

Beginning today in New York, there will be no statute of limitations to prevent filing child sexual abuse lawsuits against alleged perpetrators, no matter how long ago it occurred, for up to a year.

According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “This so-called ‘look-back window’ is part of the Child Victims Act, which extended the statute of limitations for both criminal and civil lawsuits when it was signed into New York State law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February. The bill had floundered in the State Senate for over a decade, blocked by Republican representatives. But after Democrats took majority control in January, it quickly arrived on the Assembly floor and passed by a resounding 130-3 vote.”

The report explains, “The Child Victims Act now allows prosecutors to bring criminal charges against an alleged sexual abuse offender until an accuser turns 28, and alleged victims can also now file a civil lawsuit any time before they reach 55 years of age. Previously, child sexual abuse offenses could only be prosecuted within five years of their occurrence, and civil lawsuits could only be filed prior to an alleged victim’s 21st birthday.”

Four other states – California, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Delaware — have extended the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.  

 

Cannabis the focus of new law practice

marijuanaA Los Angeles-based law partner from a prominent firm is launching a cannabis-centered practice, a signal that marijuana has become big business.

“Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is formally launching a cannabis practice in the latest sign that Big Law views this once-illicit market as a serious growth opportunity,” reported Bloomberg Law’s Big Law Business.

The practice will draw on the expertise of more than 12 partners from six offices, the site explained.

“At least a dozen other large law firms have launched cannabis industry practices with cannabis now legal for recreational use in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The firm said another 33 states permit its use for medical purposes,” Big Law Business reported.

Some analysts predict that the marijuana market will grow to $75 billion in the next 21 years, the article noted.

 

Judge challenges contract attorney fees in Wells Fargo case

JJudge Jon Tigar, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Photo credit: Jason Doiy/ALM as published on law.com)

Judge Jon Tigar, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Photo credit: Jason Doiy/ALM as published on law.com)

A California judge has questioned contract attorney fees in a high-profile class action settlement involving Wells Fargo & Co.

Judge Jon Tigar, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenged the fees, which were about nine times higher than the attorney’s rate, according to a report by The Recorder at law.com.

Disputes over $68 million in attorney fees in a $240 million class action settlement against Wells Fargo & Co. have spurred a federal judge to consider setting new precedents for contract lawyer fees,” The Recorder noted.

Judge Tigar reviewed a motion for attorney fees filed by San Francisco’s Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. The case involved a settlement with Wells Fargo shareholders over the “widespread opening of unauthorized accounts to reach sales quotas and artificially inflate the company’s stock,” The Recorder reported.

“The judge thanked Ted Frank of the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute’s Center for Class Action Fairness for raising the issue in his motion opposing the attorney fees,” the site noted. “Frank pointed out that the co-lead counsel paid contract attorneys between $40 and $50 an hour but requested about $415 an hour to cover their investment.”

 

In politically charged case, appeals court hears Affordable Care Act challenge

Photo Credit:Annie Flanagan for The New York Times as published in their report on 7/9/19.

Photo Credit: Annie Flanagan for The New York Times as published in their report on 7/9/19.

The fate of the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as ObamaCare — rests with a federal appeals court, in a judicial standoff that could affect the 2020 presidential election.

The New York Times reports, “A panel of federal appeals court judges on Tuesday sounded likely to uphold a lower-court ruling that a central provision of the Affordable Care Act — the requirement that most people have health insurance — is unconstitutional. But it was harder to discern how the court might come down on a much bigger question: whether the rest of the sprawling health law must fall if the insurance mandate does.”

Yet as the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ponders a ruling, the lawsuit could affect next year’s presidential election, The Hill.com reports.

“The lawsuit has proved to be a headache for congressional Republicans seeking to turn the page on their efforts to repeal ObamaCare after the issue helped Democrats win back the House in last year’s midterm elections,” The Hill.com reports.

“If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, the decision would likely be handed down in June 2020, dropping a bomb in the center of the presidential election.”

The health care law has weathered legal challenges since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the mandate in 2012.

“If the mandate is indeed unconstitutional, the next question is whether the rest of the Affordable Care Act can function without it. In December,” The New York Times reports. “Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth said it could not and declared that the entire law must fall.”

Allergan recalls textured breast implants due to cancer link

Photo Credit: BROKER, via Alamy, as originally reported by The New York Times on 7/24/19.

Photo Credit: BROKER, via Alamy, as originally reported by The New York Times on 7/24/19.

Global pharmaceutical company Allergan has announced a voluntary worldwide recall of Biocell textured breast implants and tissue expanders due to links to an unusual form of cancer. 

The July 24 recall, made in the United States at the request of the federal Food and Drug Administration, affects implants used for cosmetic breast enlargement and for reconstruction after mastectomy for breast cancer, The New York Times reported.

“Worldwide, 573 cases and 33 deaths from the cancer have been reported, with 481 of the cases clearly attributed to Allergan Biocell implants, the F.D.A. said. Of the 33 deaths, the agency said its data showed that the type of implant was known in 13 cases, and in 12 of those cases the maker was Allergan,” The New York Times reported.

In Europe, the Allergan devices were banned late last year.

Shareholders sued Allergan late last year, as a proposed class action lawsuit in Manhattan federal court accused the company of hiding from investors the link between its textured breast implants and the rare form of cancer, Reuters reported.

The December 2018 lawsuit followed an announcement by Allergan that it would take its textured breast implants off the market in Europe after a Dec. 18 recall order, Reuters reported.

Today, lawyers are advertising for plaintiffs. 

Equifax to pay up to $650 million in data breach settlement

Photo credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images file published in a report by NBC news on 7/22/19.

Photo credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images file published in a report by NBC news on 7/22/19.

“This company’s ineptitude, negligence, and lax security standards endangered the identities of half the U.S. population,” said the New York Attorney General in a statement reported by NBC news.

Reuters reports, “The largest-ever settlement for a data breach draws to close multiple probes into Equifax by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, and nearly all state attorneys general. It also resolves pending class-action lawsuits against the company. Credit-reporting company Equifax will pay up to a record $650 million to settle federal and state probes into a massive 2017 data breach of personal information…”

Equifax is one of the three largest major credit-reporting companies; the company collects and aggregates information on over 800 million individual consumers and more than 88 million businesses worldwide. In 2017, the company made headlines when it disclosed that a data breach had compromised the personal information, including Social Security numbers, of 143 million Americans.

Court rebukes President Trump for blocking followers on Twitter

Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times as reported in The New York Times on 7/9/19.

Photo Credit: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times as reported in The New York Times on 7/9/19.

How the First Amendment functions in the social media age gained further clarity this week when a federal appeals court ruled that President Trump violated the Constitution by blocking people from following his Twitter account.

“Because Mr. Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts — and engaging in conversations in the replies to them — because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled unanimously,” The New York Times reports.

Tuesday’s ruling may be appealed.

“Mr. Trump’s legal team argued, among other things, that he operated the account merely in a personal capacity, and so had the right to block whomever he wanted for any reason — including because users annoyed him by criticizing or mocking him,” The New York Times reports.

“Courts have increasingly been grappling with how to apply the First Amendment, written in the 18th century, to the social-media era,” The Times continues. “In 2017, for example, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a North Carolina law that had made it a crime for registered sex offenders to use websites like Facebook.”

Another judge rebuked for treatment of sexual assault case

Excerpt from the judge's statement as reported by the New York Times, 7/2/19.

Excerpt from the judge’s statement as reported by the New York Times, 7/2/19.

Judicial treatment of sexual assault cases continues to prompt scrutiny, the latest involving a New Jersey family court judge who argued that prosecutors should have considered the suspect’s college prospects and how charges would affect his life.

The New York Times reports on an appeals court’s rebuke of Monmouth County Judge James Troiano of Superior Court, who denied prosecutors’ motion to try a 16-year-old sexual assault suspect as an adult.

The judge questioned whether the incident was rape, although investigators said the boy shared a cellphone video among friends and sent a text that said, “When your first time having sex was rape.”

“The boy filmed himself penetrating her from behind, her torso exposed, her head hanging down, prosecutors said,” The New York Times reported.

The judge said “the young man came from a good family, attended an excellent school, had terrific grades and was an Eagle Scout,” according to the article.

The appeals court “cleared the way for the case to be moved from family court to a grand jury, where the teenager, identified only as G.M.C. in court documents, will be treated as an adult,” the article explained.

“In recent years, judges across the country have come under fire for the way they have handled sexual abuse cases,” The New York Times reported. “One of the most notorious was in 2016 when a judge in California sentenced a Stanford University student to six months in jail after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. After an intense public backlash, California voters recalled the judge. Judge Troiano, who is roughly 70, was one of two family court judges whom appeals courts in New Jersey have criticized in recent weeks over relatively similar issues.”

Alabama case stirs debate about the rights of fetuses over those of mothers

Marshae Jones was charged with manslaughter when she was shot and her fetus died. Photo Credit: Jefferson County Jail as reported by The New York Times.

Marshae Jones was charged with manslaughter when she was shot and her fetus died. Photo Credit: Jefferson County Jail as reported by The New York Times.

According to the New York Times, “Marshae Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot in the stomach. Her fetus did not survive the shooting… But on Wednesday, it was Ms. Jones who was charged in the death.”

“The police have said she was culpable because she started the fight that led to the shooting and failed to remove herself from harm’s way,” explains the report.

Since Jones was arrested and charged with manslaughter in Alabama last month, there has been “heated debate over the rights of pregnant women and fetuses nationwide, and Alabama is ground zero for the issue.”  

From another New York Times report: “Activists have also cited it as a demonstration of the dangers of the “personhood” movement, which pushes for the rights of fetuses to be recognized as equal to — or even more important than — the rights of the mothers who carry them. And many are now watching as the movement gains momentum in Alabama, which already has some of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in the country.”

The Times explains that last November, Alabama voters approved a ballot measure that amended the state’s constitution to recognize the “sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.” This has resulted in a number of court cases aimed to protect the rights of unborn children, including a wrongful-death lawsuit by a 19-year-old man against a clinic and a pharmaceutical company that provided an abortion pill to his girlfriend.

“Under Alabama law, life begins at conception,” said Bryan Fair, professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Alabama School of Law as reported in The New York Times. “The question is whether that is consistent with federal constitutional law.”

New courthouse in Placerville – unsought by judiciary – funded in California budget

7048-004-675BA472A controversial effort to build a new courthouse in Placerville received a boost in California’s $215 billion budget.

The Recorder by law.com reported on June 13 about the $2.8 million allocation, which will pay for about 5 acres of vacant land, the prospective site of a new courthouse.

The land is owned by El Dorado County, “acquired by the county in a 2014 land swap with John V. Briggs, a former Republican assemblyman and state senator.” Described as an example of pork-barrel politics, the allocation was not requested by the judiciary.

“The judicial branch has no immediate plans to build the courthouse,” The Recorder reported. “The Judicial Council hasn’t secured the funding for a project with an estimated price tag of $82 million.”

California legislators approved the budget on June 13. The $2.8 million allocation for courthouse land “was not vetted in months of budget committee hearings this spring. It appeared for the first time Sunday night as a line item in the budget deal reached between Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers,” The Recorder reported.

“The current three-story, four-courtroom building in Placerville is postcard pretty, but at 106 years old it lacks modern-day features. It is crowded and has no holding cells for in-custody defendants, no dedicated jury assembly room and limited public parking. The idea of building a new courthouse instead of renovating and expanding the existing one has been a contentious one for decades. A 1965 grand jury report recommended relocating the court. Local residents balked and the existing courthouse was remodeled instead,” the article noted.