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.

‘Stairway to Heaven’ gets second chance

Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives 1973, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on 6/10/19.

Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives 1973, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on 6/10/19.

The U.S. federal court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco agreed Monday to give Led Zeppelin a new hearing to defend a jury’s favorable verdict in a suit that claimed the opening lines of the 1972 hit, “Stairway to Heaven,” had been plagiarized from a 1968 song by the California band Spirit, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The 1968 Spirit instrumental ‘Taurus’ opens with a rising and falling guitar melody somewhat similar to the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ opening,” notes the report.

A Los Angles jury heard “conflicting testimony from musicology experts about whether the passages were similar enough for a copyright violation” during the trial in 2016.

“Led Zeppelin’s request for a rehearing, supported by other songwriters and music publishers, argued that allowing copyright protection for ‘commonplace elements’ in composition would cause ‘widespread confusion’ in the music business,” explains the report.

Multibillion-dollar insurance corporation sued for data breach

photo-1555374018-13a8994ab246Insurance giant First American Financial faces a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, claiming the company “left more than 885 million sensitive documents dating as far back as 2003 exposed online,” Forbes.com reported on May 28.

“Now the company is facing a class action lawsuit for its apparent negligence. Gibbs Law Group LLP announced today that it is bringing the first nationwide class action lawsuit against the multibillion-dollar corporation,” the article reported.

The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by David Gritz, a house flipper from Pennsylvania.

“First American was the title insurer for at least 11 of his housing transactions, according to the lawsuit,” Forbes.com reported. “The complaint suggests the members of the class affected by First American’s data exposure could be in the millions, and the lawsuit is seeking over $5 million.”

Class action lawsuit, investigation follow infant deaths in Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

Photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post, as reported on 5/30/19.

Photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post, as reported on 5/30/19.

A few weeks ago, a press release Wolf Haldensteinand Connors LLP announce that on April 19, 2019, that firm had filed “a consumer class action lawsuitagainst Fisher-Price, Inc. and its corporate parent Mattel Inc. (“Defendants”) on behalf of Cassandra Mulvey and all other owners of Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleeper since 2009, alleging violations of consumer protection laws, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment and other claims. The case, Mulvey v. Fisher–Price, Inc. and Mattel, Inc.,Case No. 1:19-cv-00518 (W.D.N.Y.), is pending in United States District Court for the Western District of New York  in Buffalo, New York, where Fisher-Price, Inc.  is located.”

You can read the full complaint here

The Washington Post did an in-depth investigation on the case about how “Fisher-Price developed its revolutionary Rock ‘n Play sleeper based on faulty beliefs about infant sleep, without safety testing and without consulting a pediatrician.”

According to WaPo, “last month, the Rock ‘n Play was recalledby Fisher-Price after a series of infant deaths. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which helped coordinate the recall, said more than 30 babies died in the product after they turned over while unrestrained or ‘under other circumstances.'”

The bleak state of the immigration court system

markus-spiske-1475927-unsplashA recent article by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) outlines the current state of the immigration court system and it is bleak: “In a report released earlier this year, the American Bar Association described the U.S. immigration court system as facing an ‘existential crisis,’ an ‘irredeemably dysfunctional’ system ‘on the brink of collapse.'”

The report notes a backlog of 900,000 cases quoting The Economist: “People will die of old age in America before they ever acquire the legal right to live in America. This is an extraordinary failure to govern.”

According to the article, Trump’s new regulations have just exacerbated the problem, comparing the complexity of the immigration courts system to the tax code. They also note that the massive backlog of cases “have led to judges rushing to complete cases, compromising their ethical obligations and violating immigrants’ due process rights…”

Judges require lawyers to disclose third-party funding

photo-1555374018-13a8994ab246Judges are requiring plaintiffs’ lawyers to disclose third-party funding in lawsuits, revealing those who have a stake in cases.

An article by The Recorder at law.com reports on this possible trend.

“As rule makers and politicians continue to debate about whether to disclose third-party funding in multidistrict litigation, some federal judges have forged ahead in requiring plaintiffs lawyers to do just that,” The Recorder reports.

Recently, U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers, in Pensacola, Fla., ordered plaintiffs’ lawyers to disclose how they are funding hundreds of lawsuits brought by U.S. service members over 3M’s combat earplug cases, the site notes.

“The motivations behind such orders aren’t entirely clear,” the article notes.

“Judges might simply want to know whether plaintiffs attorneys have enough money” to fund the entire lawsuit, one source says.

Apple Supreme Court ruling opens doors for more legal action against tech giants

Photo Credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg as reported by the Washington Post.

Photo Credit: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg as reported by the Washington Post.

The Supreme Court ruled today that consumers could proceed with a large antitrust class action lawsuit against Apple.  

The New York Times reports that the justices decided “that the plaintiffs should be allowed to try to prove that the technology giant had used monopoly power to raise the prices of iPhone apps.”

The report explains, “Apple charges a 30 percent commission to software developers who sell their products through its App Store, bars developers from selling their apps elsewhere and plays a role in setting prices by requiring them to end in 99 cents.”

According to the Washington Post, “The 5-4 decision could spell serious repercussions for one of Apple’s most lucrative lines of business, and open the door for similar legal action targeting other tech giants in Silicon Valley.”

Deportation order for 11-year-old draws attention to courts’ woes

Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, 11, was ordered deported without her family. Photo credit: Fiel Houston as reported by NBC News.

Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, 11, was ordered deported without her family. Photo credit: Fiel Houston as reported by NBC News.

The near-deportation of a solitary 11-year-old child earlier this year highlights, critics say, the backlogs and turmoil surrounding federal immigration courts.

“A federal immigration judge in Houston signed a deportation order for Laura Maradiaga-Alvarado, originally from El Salvador, on March 12,” explains an NBC News article.

In the wake of publicity about the child’s plight, the judge ordered a new hearing scheduled for May 20, officials said.

“The deportation order has been attributed to a mistake made after a hearing scheduled in February for the girl, her mother and her sister was delayed by the government shutdown,” the article notes.

A March report by the American Bar Association indicated “that since its 2010 review of the court system, things had worsened ‘considerably,’” NBC News reports.

“The same issues identified then persist nearly a decade later: inadequate staffing, training and hiring; growing backlogs; inconsistent decision patterns among judges, particularly in asylum cases, and adoption of video-conference technology that impedes fair hearings. The situation, it said, has been exacerbated by years of congressional inaction while enforcement has increased under the Trump administration,” the article notes.

Report: Bankruptcy legal costs reach $84 million for PG&E

Photo Credit: David Tran Photo/Shutterstock.com as originally reported by The Recorder.

Photo Credit: David Tran Photo/Shutterstock.com as originally reported by The Recorder.

Legal costs associated with Northern California wildfires and a natural gas explosion total $84 million, based on a January bankruptcy filing, according to court filings reviewed by The Recorder.

“Four outside law firms have billed Pacific Gas and Electric Co. at least $84 million for legal services related to the company’s January bankruptcy filing,” the April 2 article at law.com reports. “The utility company disclosed its legal spend in a series of court filings last month, as it sought approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali to continue employing the law firms.”

PG&E listed more than $50 billion in estimated liabilities, the article notes.

“PG&E has hired Chicago-based Jenner & Block as special corporate defense counsel for state and federal regulatory matters during the Chapter 11 proceedings,” The Recorder reports. “Jenner & Block is also handling a criminal case involving PG&E, connected to a natural gas explosion that occurred in the city of San Bruno, California, in September 2010. According to the March 15 court filing, PG&E has paid the firm $3.57 million during the year leading up to the Chapter 11 filing. San Francisco based Keller & Benvenutti is also representing PG&E in bankruptcy court. Since May 2018, the firm has advised PG&E on legal and financial matters regarding potential liabilities resulting from 2017 and 2018 Northern California wildfires.”

Yahoo data-breach settlement filed for $117.5 million

YAHOO_headquartersA class action settlement for $117.5 million has been filed following data breaches affecting billions of Yahoo accounts.

The Recorder at law.com reports on the $117.5 million settlement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after a federal judge rejected an earlier preliminary approval.

“The settlement, filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, includes a single fund from which $55 million would be available for out-of-pocket costs and $24 million in identity theft protection for class members (or $100 payments to those who already have credit monitoring),” The Recorder reported on April 9. “It also includes $30 million in attorney fees and $2.5 million in legal costs, a slight reduction from the original fee request.”

Data breaches in 2013 and 2014 accounted for more than 3 billion accounts that were hacked, according to Yahoo. Defendants include Altaba Inc., the division of Verizon formerly known as Yahoo.