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This Just In: USEPA Expects 35 Years and $280 Billion Cleanup

Yes, I know it's not news to you and me. But the USEPA thinks that the Report it issued Friday is.

News, that is.

You see, the USEPA estimates that there will be as many as 355,000 sites to cleanup, with up to 9,267 more discovered each year. Well, the real news is that these figures represent a 60 percent increase in the number of sites than were identified in the USEPA's last study from 1996. Back then, the USEPA thought it would only take $187 billion to cleanup; now, as much as $280 billion.

I don't trust the figures the USEPA released Friday. Think about it. Imagine what it's going to really cost 35 years from now.

Here's the USEPA's spin: "The purpose of the report is to allow us to plan and develop better strategies to meet the nation's cleanup needs," said spokeswoman Cynthia Bergman.

Who's she kidding? A sixty percent increase in just eight years? How can we trust any of the USEPA's numbers - then, now or in the future? More important, who's running the show back in D.C.?

Government bureaucracy? That's just another oxymoron.

I've got an idea. Let's stop issuing reports and start cleaning up the sites contaminated by the government, the country's worst offender.

Excluding the Departments of Defense and Energy, other government agencies including the Departments of Interior, Agriculture and Transportation have been spending $200 million annually for site cleanups, and have up to $21 billion more of cleanup work to be done over 30 years. DOD expects to spend $33 billion, and DOE expects to spend $35 billion.

All told, the government expects to spend something like $90 billion, or almost one third of the total amount of cleanups. The USEPA wants us to "plan" on those numbers.

Right. That'll be the day.

Want to buy a bridge?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, December 04, 2004 at 00:36. Comments Closed (0) |

Bhopal Turns Twenty Years Old (Part 1)

I. The Release of Deadly Gases

Twenty years ago today, during the pre-dawn hours of December 3, 1984, more than 40 tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC), hydrogen cyanide, mono-methyl amine and other lethal gases spewed from Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. According to some, routine maintenance operations caused a large quantity of water to enter MIC gas storage tank #610, triggering a run-away reaction.

Union Carbide (now a Dow subsidiary) claimed publicly that the gas leak was caused by sabotage, that a “disgruntled employee” deliberately connected a water hose to the storage tank and put water into the tank, causing a massive chemical reaction, and that safety systems had been put in place that would have kept the water from entering into the tank by accident. See Union Carbide’s chronology of events listed here.

Union Carbide’s position, however, was severely undermined by its own failure to release the name of the suspected employee or to bring charges against him. At the same time, there was significant evidence that supported a contrary view that Union Carbide (both the parent company and its Indian subsidiary) was a negligent company that had failed to improve its deteriorating plant. For example, based on a May 1982 report of the Indian subsidiary conducted by a three-member safety team from the Union Carbide headquarters in the U.S., Union Carbide knew that a serious potential existed for a sizable release of toxic materials in the MIC unit, either due to equipment failure, operating problems, or maintenance problems, and that various changes were required to reduce the danger of that plant. Yet there are no indications that any such changes were ever implemented.

See Part 2, Sat., 12/4/04

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Gregory D. Granger on Friday, December 03, 2004 at 16:48. Comments Closed (0) |

The Catalyst Rule, a.k.a. $100 Grand a Page

England has the Rule. Loser pays.

Not so here. The American Rule is that each party bears its own fees unless there's an agreement to the contrary or a statute.

The California Supreme Court, however, may be on the road to changing both rules. In two sweeping rulings, the Court ruled that if a lawyer causes a change, the lawyer may be entitled to recover fees.

Even though the lawyer may not have won any judicial rulings.

What?

I don't make this stuff up, I just report it.

Here they are, in all their glory: Graham v. Daimler Chrysler and Tipton-Wittingham v. City of Los Angeles.

Call this rule the "Catalyst Rule," first enunciated in 1983 (but in a case that actually reversed an attorneys fees award). You know, like moving money from here to there. Another name for it is the private attorney general rule.

The United States Supreme Court squarely rejected this theory in the Buckhannon decision. But that case only applied to federal statutes, not state statutes.

In Tipton-Wittingham, plaintiffs' actions resulted in changes in the LAPD's treatment of its officers' race and sex. The changes were made voluntarily by LAPD, not because of any court order. Plaintiffs recovered over $2,000,000 in fees as a result of the "catalyst" theory. In Graham, the defendants offered to repurchase the truck that was the subject of the lawsuit before the court rendered judgment.

The dissent, which lost 4-3 in Graham, the lead case, notes that the Plaintiff's entire legal effort amounted to a seven-page complaint, but the trial court awarded Plaintiff over $750,000 in attorneys fees.

That's in excess of $100,000 a page.

Now, it's the law. At least until the U.S. Supreme Court gets hold of it, which will be some time from now - if at all since there's no federal question - and since the California Supremes sent it back to the trial court. Bounty hunters will have a field day.

Is this an indication of how the ruling on Proposition 64 will fare when it finally gets heard?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, December 03, 2004 at 00:29. Comments Closed (0) |

California Lawyer's 2004 Legal Follies

Here are some of this years funniest Legal Follies, as compiled in the December 2004 California Lawyer magazine.

I don't know which is funnier - the articles or the headlines.

Check it out and you be the judge.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 02, 2004 at 22:21. Comments Closed (0) |

Let Your Fingers Do The Walking Around The Internet

OK, that fingerprint thing.

Way cool.

Here's the skinny. I got the idea from my new tablet. See that little rectangular reader at the end of the pen laying on top of the tablet in the linked picture? That's a fingerprint scanner. You drag your finger or thumb across it, and it reads your fingerprint.

Then, the software logs you into the computer, and logs you in and logs you in.

What's the most frustrating thing about surfing the internet?

Logins.

Every time you turn around, you have to Log In to see content, do your online banking, access your email, VNC or RDP into work and on and on. It's enough to drive you crazy.

Enter OmniPass. It's software that came with my tablet fingerprint reader and the Targus fingerprint reader I just hooked up to my workstation at the office.

What a deal. No more multiple passwords.

All you have to do is login to your own computer with your fingerprint, and then "train" the software once. The first time you login anywhere, you click on the "Remember password" feature of the software, and the next time you get to the site, the software will enter the username and password for you, and you're off to the races.

Your multiple login usernames and passwords are safe because no one else has your fingerprint.

Such a deal.

Just don't lose your fingerprint.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 02, 2004 at 22:12. Comments Closed (0) |

Just Start Writing

Here's a fine How-to article, Blogging with Lawyers by Joy London of Excited Utterances, a great knowledge management blog. It seems there are a number of ways How To Write A Blog.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 02, 2004 at 15:29. Comments Closed (0) |

Expressing My Opinion About Court Opinions

The internet is a great equalizer.

Why, I can report about Court opinions and even point you to the actual opinion at no cost to you.

In most cases, but not all. Sometimes, I run into PACER. It's the government's way to get more of your and my tax dollars.

As if they didn't have enough already. You'd think that some of that $2.0 trillion .... well, you can imagine a few things to do with it, I'm sure.

You know the old saw, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money."

So, why is it that some federal courts offer opinions free of charge, and some do not? This admittedly unscientific and partial survey has discovered that some circuit courts offer opinions for free, some do not, and likewise with the bevy of district courts. It's all over the map.

So, what's a body to do?

Actually, I wanted to report on the case at the top of the page, but Lexis charges $20 to access it, and PACER charges, too, but not as much. It's an interesting case, certainly given that the Court figured out a way to trigger coverage for lead contamination because of an ambiguity in the policy language.

Alas, I can't point you to the actual opinion.

My recommendation? Let's abolish PACER, and require the Courts to post the opinions on their websites. Which would you rather read - judge biographies or Court opinions?

Who are these sites constructed for? The judges' egos or communicating their opinions to the public?

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, December 02, 2004 at 00:34. Comments Closed (1) |

A Living Case Study of Software and Hardware In A Law Firm

Here goes. As you may know, I've learned a few things about sermons in my time, having listened to a few too many in my younger days.

The basic rule is tell 'em what you're going to tell, tell 'em and tell 'em what you told 'em.

Here's what I'm going to tell. Well, share.

I've been thinking that the tech channel could present a case study of a law firm's computer hardware, software and its trials and tribulations in getting everything (and everyone) to work together.

Here's the brief rundown. We have four servers. One that runs the network, one that runs the telephone system, one that runs our document management system and one that's a bit of a catch-all for storage.

We have a slew of software that runs on those servers. Here are the main programs: Outlook for email; Internet Explorer; Time Matters for calendar, contacts, case management and billing; Word Perfect and Word for word processing, with customized macros in Word Perfect,

We also use Winscribe for dictation, Lexis for legal research, Checkcite for checking citations in legal briefs, Worldox for document management (although we're considering a change - more on that later), TeleVantage for our managing our telephone system; and QuickBooks Pro for financial management and billing.

We use a host of other software for utility management, such as AD-Aware SE, Spybot, Symantec Anti-virus and spam filters, and ActiveSync and HotSync on and on and on.

Our workstations are all XP-based, and our servers run enterprise versions of our programs, and are all Windows based.

More detail will follow, along with individualized discussions of hardware and software. Plus, when we add things, I'll interrupt the progression and detail the add-on. For example, I just added the Targus fingerprint authenticator, largely because I liked the OmniPass software that came with it.

Oh yes, I'll cover laptops, tablets, Pocket PCs, Palms and other gizmos and gadgets.

Plus, if you've got suggestions, I'd be happy to check it out and report back.

Stay tuned.

Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, December 01, 2004 at 23:58. Comments Closed (0) |



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