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

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Teflon in Trouble

The non-stick features of Teflon may not be working for its manufacturer, DuPont.

Neighbors of the plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia where Teflon is made have filed a class-action suit, and the USEPA is seeking millions in fines. Apparently, the USEPA thinks that DuPont failed to submit proper reports on synthetic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA or C8 that is used to make Teflon.

The neighbors think PFOA causes cancer, and want DuPont to pay for medical testing and injuries they suffered. DuPont says the chemical isn't harmful to humans or the environment, and that it has complied with reporting requirements. Right now, the USEPA wants $300 million from DuPont for its alleged reporting violations. It is conducting a separate human health investigation.

Let's see if these allegations stick.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, July 10, 2004 at 12:53. Comments Closed (0) |

How Not To Get Out Of Jury Duty

Jury duty. It strikes fear in the hearts of most Americans, and is always followed by the question, how do I get out of it?

Well, friends and neighbors, not like this. Our heroine today called in "stressed out," and failed to show up for the trial where she sat as an alternate juror.

The Judge was not pleased. Circuit Judge Thomas Clark sent his deputy to find her and bring her to court.

He then instructed the jury (the same one she was sitting on) to sentence her. Ouch. The choices: (1) one day in jail; (2) a return trip to the jury pool next week; or, (3) a sentence of sitting somewhere in the courthouse for the rest of the trial.

The jury picked Door Number 2 and Door Number 3.

But wait, we didn't hear the excuses. First, let's get this out of the way. She was a juror in a murder trial. Ok. Now the stage is set.

The recalcitrant juror said that she didn't want to view crime scene and autopsy photos, that she had an asthma attack the night before and that she was worried about her mother in a nursing home. No one on the jury bought any of them - probably because they were sitting for jury duty, and she wasn't. Who better to sentence her than fellow jurors?

The moral of the story? Cross those off your list of excuses to get out of jury duty.

Or, don't serve on a murder trial in Missouri if you're squeamish.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, July 09, 2004 at 17:52. Comments Closed (0) |

Wolves are Back, Ranchers are Mad

Despite the age-old battle between ranchers and the Grey Wolf, the wolves are coming back.

Reintroduced would be a better word. The USFWS will be releasing the wolves back into Arizona and other southwestern states, thanks to a federal judge.

The ranchers, through the Coalition of Arizona-New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth and several other organizations have fought everything from the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher to wolves. They lost this one, though.

One of our local organizations near Palm Springs, The Living Desert is part of the wolf recovery program.

This issue is another one of those where there are no easy answers.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, July 08, 2004 at 11:31. Comments Closed (0) |

It's Not Easy Getting Old and Robbing Banks

Once you hit 70, you've got most things figured out. You'd think, too, that a 70-year-old, once-convicted bank robber would have a leg up on the rest of us on how to rob a bank.

I mean the stocking-over-the-head thing should probably be passe' for this guy.

But nooooo.

Small-town Versailles, Illinois is the scene for the attempted caper by Gordon A. Bryant. He showed up at the Farmers State Bank wearing a stocking mask over his head. At the front door. And wanted to be buzzed in.

The bank, however, had installed a buzzer door entry system to foil would-be robbers after a successful robbery some months earlier.

According to news reports, "alert" (how "alert" would you have to be?) bank employees refused to let the unusually-clad gentleman in. Go figure.

Frustrated, Bryant drove away. Presumably after removing his stocking mask. But again, "alert" bank employees called the sheriff, who managed to catch Bryant. In a typical understatement, Brown County Sheriff Jerry Kempf commented, "When you're going into a bank, you usually don't wear those in there. It's not Halloween. He's 70 years old, you would hope he would have learned by now."

If convicted, Bryant could be in his 90s before he gets out. Maybe by then, he will have learned. It only took one time for the bank to figure out what to do.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, July 07, 2004 at 08:57. Comments Closed (0) |

He and She Were Married, Now He's a She. Yikes!

I predicted something like this would happen. Paul Spina and his wife, Sharon, have been married for 22 years. They have two children.

Paul recently went to Thailand and had a sex change operation and came back as Paula Spina.

Now, his wife wants an annulment. There's a surprise.

It is admittedly confusing. But, they turned to the Courts to work it out.

Apparently, Sharon lost the first round to Paul/Paula. Now, Sharon has appealed. Briefing is being submitted, and we'll keep you informed.

We haven't heard the last of this one. What's your vote?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 at 14:43. Comments Closed (3) |

Court Makes Your Email Open to Copying

How private is your email? Under the federal Wiretap Act, you'd think it's pretty secure.

Think again.

The First District Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that an email provider can copy your emails and read them. Interloc sold rare and used books, and as part of its services to dealers, offered them email accounts. Apparently the Court approved copying emails even if the company is trying to gain a commercial advantage - they copied incoming emails from Amazon, trying to find out what books their customers were looking for. Huh?

The Court upheld the dismissal of an indictment against Interloc's vice president (the company is not in business anymore, but its successor is also a rare and used book seller where you can still give them your email address).

Yep, even after two other people involved with the scam pled guilty, obviously thinking the Act meant something.

To me, the Court's decision is just wrong.

I'm not the only one. In a dissent that's twice as long as the majority opinion, Judge Kermit V. Lipez said the other two judges misread the law and that the ruling "will have far-reaching effects on personal privacy and security." He also wrote that the 2-1 decision "would undo decades of practice and precedent regarding the scope of the Wiretap Act and would essentially render the Act irrelevant to the protection of wire and electronic privacy."

Others are unhappy too. "This decision makes clear that the law has failed to adapt to the realities of Internet communications and must be updated to protect online privacy," said Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group.

At least one other blog, The Rutherford Institute commented on the ruling.

On a somewhat related topic, in response to the FBI's attempt to open up the Act to allow even more copying of emails, there's a Petition to the FCC to stop that kind of expansion. You can't sign this petition, but you can write the FCC.

That won't address the Court's opinion. For that, you've got to write your representative or senator.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, July 05, 2004 at 12:28. Comments Closed (1) |

God Bless America

A couple of anniversaries of note. The Big One of course. Happy Birthday America.

Plus, my grandfather, James Burton Walker, God rest his soul. Happy Birthday Grandpa. As many grandsons would say, a finer man I have not met. In fact, he gives me one of my standard lines in closing arguments. "The judge has given you the law, and you now understand the facts of this case. But before the judge instructed you, you already knew what was right. Your grandfather and your grandmother, as well as your parents and many others in life had already taught you. You know what is right and wrong, and we're asking you to make the right decision today." My grandfather was a proud American, and I as equally proud of him. He would always joke that the entire country celebrated his birthday.

Then, there's Ann Landers too, God rest her soul. There's also Neil Simon, Gina Lollobrigida, President John Calvin Coolidge and Louis B. Mayer, God rest their souls.

For those who died on the Fourth of July, there are Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe, as did modern-day lover of bucolic Americana, Charles Kuralt. Also Madam Marie Curie, who died from leukemia caused by the radiation she researched to discover radium and polonium and in isolating radium.

We also celebrate many other fallen heroes, who gave their lives so we could live in a free democracy. I can write whatever I please (today is MIPTC's 11 month anniversary - just one month shy of a year's worth of entries), you can read whatever you please, and we both can say whatever we please.

God bless America, and all of those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Thanks, from one who briefly served his country, but will never understand that ultimate sacrifice that you gave.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, July 04, 2004 at 13:59. Comments Closed (2) |

The Circus Otherwise Known as Litigation

California has the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world. That's saying a lot, given that we're bigger than France, Italy and China.

Well, Canada, too, but that's not saying a lot.

Heck, we exported over $27 billion in goods in 2002, and more last year.

But, we may be about to export an unlikely service: litigation.

Earlier this week, the California Supremes voted unanimously to hear the case of Snowney v. Harrah's Entertainment. In doing so, the Supremes rejected 1981's Circus Circus Hotels Inc. v. Superior Court, 120 Cal.App.3d 546, in which the 4th District ruled that advertising and toll-free numbers do not confer personal jurisdiction allowing suits in California. The justices called the 23-year-old ruling a "narrow interpretation" that was "unwarranted."

That's right, the seven-ring circus of justices are going to determine whether Harrah's and other hotels such as Circus Circus in Nevada can be pulled over the border to the circus otherwise known as California.

OK, maybe too much clowning around in that last paragraph, but it sounded good. Or maybe you'll like this sound better.

Harrah's advertised over here in California via the web. Well, who doesn't? Reading through the appellate court opinion gives us little clue over the basis for the claim other than unfair competition and false advertising to "high end" customers. Seems that Snowney sued seeking class action status on behalf of all California residents hit with a $3-per-night energy surcharge while staying in Las Vegas, Reno or other gambling towns. He says we were enticed by advertising both on the web and billboards.

A three-dollar charge because we saw ads on billboards? Doesn't sound to high-end to me.

A companion case involving telemarketers is something of the same thing about jurisdiction over a Nebraska telemarketer.

Neither Harrah's nor the Nebraska telemarketer believe they should be here in California answering to California courts. There are many Californians who think the same thing, but the Supremes are about to decide whether the long arm of the law can stretch to other states based solely on advertising in California.

Interesting to lawyers (see it in color), but how does this affect you? Well, if you're out of state, it might if you advertise here, or if you advertise in other states, you can expect the same treatment there.

Long story short? I don't know. Stop advertising. Be ready to get sued. I'm guessing we're going to have litigation as a new export.

Maybe we can ship some lawyers out, too. Now there's an idea.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, July 03, 2004 at 09:36. Comments Closed (0) |



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