May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 188

M'm! M'm! Good

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has done it again, folks. The EPA foiled an attempt by the Campbell Soup Company to make its employees happy while they work. Apparently, for five whole days, Campbell’s nitrogen oxide emission levels at its Stockton, California tomato-processing plant violated provisions of the Clean Air Act. Nitrogen oxide is really a misnomer in that nitrogen has six oxides, including nitrous oxide (N2O), or more commonly known as laughing gas. The EPA, however, wasn’t laughing, and instead filed a complaint requesting monetary sanctions up to $200,000 be assessed against the famous soup-maker. It seems that nitrous oxide, like the other nitrogen oxides, is a greenhouse gas that absorbs and traps radiant energy. You know . . . , the global warming thing. Well, at least now I know why the people in Stockton were always so pleasant as I passed through on my way to Sacramento.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Gregory D. Granger on Saturday, December 11, 2004 at 16:24. Comments Closed (0) |

How To Turn One Page Into A Lawsuit

You live in New Yarwk, and you hire a real estate broker to find a "suitable" apartment. Why not - you're too busy anyway.

You sign the broker's listing agreement. You probably don't pay close attention to what it says. The broker finds the perfect place, and you sign the lease with the landlord. For $11,000 per month. You even go so far that you negotiate a reduction in the brokerage fee.

Side note here: we've got a sophisticated tenant on our hands. But not so sophisticated that the prospective tenant hired a lawyer to review things. OK, now back to the story.

Then, just as you get ready to move in, the landlord decides to renovate.

You can't move in. Well, for $11,000 a month, it's not acceptable to move in - that's probably a more accurate way to put it.

But what happens to that lease you signed?

If you're the prospective tenant now dispossessed, you refuse to pay the broker's fee. Of course. Likewise, of course, the broker sues for his fee.

Who wins?

Drum roll, please. The broker.

What, you say? The tenant didn't get the benefit of the bargain?

The Appellate Division, First Department didn't agree, and held for the broker in the case entitled: Scour v. Dwelling Quest Corp. It's a New Yarwk case discussed by New York Attorney Peter Herman in the National Law Journal (subscription required).

The court reasoned that the broker had done what the prospective tenant had asked him to do: find an apartment and get a lease signed. It thought that it wasn't the broker's fault that the landlord later decided to renovate, making the apartment uninhabitable.

The case is still subject to an appeal, and sounds to me like it will be. I'm guessing that the apartment was not "suitable." Of course, we can expect one more lawsuit out of this: the tenant will sue the landlord for the broker's fee she had to pay.

Oh yes. That listing agreement that the prospective tenant didn't send to her attorney?

It was a one-pager.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, December 10, 2004 at 17:04. Comments Closed (0) |

You Want It? You Got It. Now, Pay For It.

Over the years, the general rule has been that the party producing discovery pays to produce it, with some flexibility depending on an array of factors. There have been some recent rulings to the contrary when it comes to electronic discovery.

In fact, a recent California case, Toshiba America Electrical Components v. Sup.Ct. (Lexar Media, Inc.) pretty much drove that nail into the coffin of who pays.

Toshiba produced 20,000 pages of documents (and apparently paid for the production), but Lexar wanted more. It wanted a review of some 800 backup tapes, to the tune of perhaps $1.9 million. Lexar Media said Toshiba had to pay.

Toshiba obviously disagreed, and appealed the trial court's decision that sided with Lexar. The fact that the court of appeals took this case on a writ is especially notable. Discovery issues almost always result in a "thanks, but no thanks" postcard from the court of appeal rejecting the writ.

Section 2031(g) of the California Code of Civil Procedure allows the Court to shift the cost of producing discovery despite the general rule otherwise. The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court with this little warning: "[it] is clear that the demanding party is expected to pay [...] reasonable expense for a necessary translation."

The court also noted that this state rule is based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rule 34(a), which likewise can result in cost-shifting for expensive discovery.

The moral of the story? Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 09, 2004 at 10:02. Comments Closed (0) |

Bhopal Turns Twenty (Part 3)

III. The Human Toll

As fate would have it, the most seriously affected areas were the densely populated shanty towns immediately surrounding the plant -- Jayaprakash Nagar, Kazi Camp, Chola Kenchi, and the Railway Colony. 98% of the 200,000 people exposed to the deadly gas cocktail were poor Hindus and Muslims, with 80% earning less than $6 (U.S.) per day and less than 2% earning more than $18 (U.S.) a day. Many families had no records verifying the number of people living in their homes at the time of the worst industrial accident in history. As a result, no one really knows how many people died that morning. Some reports estimate that one week after the accident, approximately 2,500 people had died.

Other critics believe that these reports do not accurately reflect the situation at hand, with thousands of corpses laying in the street or inside buildings, and the mass burial efforts that were undertaken immediately afterwards to prevent the spread of disease. They instead point to the fact that more than 7000 death shrouds were sold in Bhopal after the chemical release as further proof that early mortality figures are incorrect.

Regardless of statistics, in a time span of hours, a large number of innocent people died in their sleep or as they staggered blindly into streets in terrible pain. The cyanide-laced gases burned the tissues of the eyes and lungs, crossed into the bloodstream and damaged almost every system in the body. A picture is worth a thousand words. With an estimated 10-15 people continuing to die each month, the number of deaths to date is put at over 20,000, and more than 120,000 people are still in need of urgent medical attention today.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Gregory D. Granger on Wednesday, December 08, 2004 at 16:46. Comments Closed (0) |

First Of Its Kind Ruling Pits Developers Against The Water Board

Yesterday, our local Court of Appeals issued what may be the first appellate decision on the ability of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board to impose strict water quality prohibitions. In its decision, the Court ruled that developers must install storm-drain filters, silt-removal basins and implement other "best management practices" intended to reduce bacteria, oils, fine metals and other pollutants from being discharged to the ocean by rain or other non-point sources of water.

The significance revolves around the ability to actually meet these standards. Federal law allows compliance as long as developers make efforts to the "maximum extent practicable" to reduce pollutants, even if those efforts fail. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted a broader standard that requires developers to do whatever necessary to achieve measurable results. Any runoff causing a body of water to exceed state standards for swimming or wildlife is a violation.

The case, Building Industry Association of San Diego v. State Water Resources Control Board, with San Diego Baykeeper and a host of other intervenors, will ripple across California and the rest of the country. For example, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has approximately five lawsuits pending against it based on a similar set of recently-adopted standards. Those suits just got flushed down the toilet.

The BIA argued that it was impossible to meet the standards set by the SDRWQCB. The Board, on the other hand, set these standards high because municipal storm water runoff is the largest source of water pollution in the state.

Lines have been drawn in the sand. Let's see if BIA appeals. So far, their attorney reports, they haven't decided.

Right now, we're in the rainy season, and violations will be rampant. Perhaps the enforcement of these standards will result in an appeal if the BIA doesn't take this case further.

Fines imposed by the Water Board can be pretty steep.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, December 08, 2004 at 11:17. Comments Closed (0) |

How To Sleep The Day Away And Earn Your MBA At The Same Time

Typical exchanges between recent graduates (and usually lawyers at any age) go something like this:

"Hi, Colby, I'm Mike. How are you?"

"Fine. How are you?"

"Great."

"So, where did you go to school?"

Then, the discourse continues about people they know in common, etc., etc. Well, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, that exchange ended something like this when the response came about where Colby went to school. He responded with "Meow."

See, Colby is a cat. He got one of those online MBAs. No, not from this group or site - from one of those fake ones - here Trinity Southern University.

Next thing you know, people will believe that the University of Okoboji is a school, not how you spent the summer at Spirit Lake in Iowa.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, December 08, 2004 at 10:48. Comments Closed (0) |

I'm Hoping I Don't Get A Lump Of Coal

Someone asked me for a Christmas list.

With a caveat or two, here goes. All right, not so fast. Here are the caveats. I'm a tech head. A regular gadget freak. So, that means I already have some toys.

Therefore, this list won't include those toys. But then again, if you're reading this, you probably have most of them too, so you can be a bit voyeuristic.

My other caveat is that I want to put things on my list that I've seen in the movies but haven't been invented yet. You know, like that holographic projection thing that R2D2 sported in Star Wars.

Earth to Craig. Come back, please.

All right, here it is:

A Projection keyboard for my Pocket PC.

Video conferencing for my law firm's conference room. OK, this one isn't realistic. It's almost $20,000. But I can still lust after it, can't I?

An external backup hard drive. Much more realistic, and much more practical.

Now here's one that's just plain cool, but I don't necessarily need (who's into spying?): a wireless video camera and microphone, packed into a pen.

And just in case you wanted to make sure you passed along your high-tech genes to your offspring, they've updated Etch-a-sketch, so your kids won't be left without at least one toy that requires batteries.

A 1 gig flash drive, preferably in a pen.

A good underwater digital camera.

An iRiver MP3 player.

A Yepp.

Shure headphones, but with a microphone hooked into them, too.

Finally, a wireless remote.

Some are expensive, and some are cheap. But it all depends on how you want to spend your money (take the "Facilities Tour").

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, December 08, 2004 at 01:16. Comments Closed (0) |

Does "B" Stand for Backup or Blue Screen of Death?

You've undoubtedly experienced the dreaded blue screen (yes, the link is safe, it will not [independently] cause the blue screen of death).

Right, as I am sure, you are ready to hit either the print or save button.

Somehow, your computer knows. Deep down inside, it knows when you have finished your masterpiece, and when you are done. Actually, I believe that computers come with a sigh of relief sensor. When it hears you sigh, it crashes.

For me, it has happened just after I finished a brief at 2:30 p.m that has to be filed by 4:30 p.m. later that afternoon. I'm sure you can sympathize.

What can be done to prevent this inevitable misfortune?

Well, there are several things, and most of them start with a "B."

That's "B" for backup. And also for backup. Because not only can the computer itself crash, so can power.

And again, it's a "B" for backup. Not only your files, but also your operating system.

So, where does that leave you?

Here are ten tips:

1. Set your word processor to backup the file you're working on every two minutes.

2. Backup your data files every night on a tape drive. I recommend the grandmother, mother, daughter (a.k.a grandfather, father, son) tape rotation system.

3. Backup your operating system along with your data files.

4. Print out versions of documents you can't do without.

5. Put a power backup on your workstation.

6. And your printer.

7. And your server.

8. And your copy machine.

9 And your fax machine.

10. Finally, and perhaps most important, develop an off-site backup option to restore your computers and data to in the event of a disaster.

Otherwise, don't complain if this is the next thing you see, even if it is just a practical joke.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, December 07, 2004 at 23:47. Comments Closed (0) |



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