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

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Quote of the Day - I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn't park anywhere near the place. - Steven Wright
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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 218

Can You Pay Back These Fines?

There you are, out wandering (let's say patrolling) the Arizona forest during high fire season. You're a U.S. Forest Service Forestry Technician. You get a letter from your estranged husband earlier that morning. You're upset. Very upset. What do you do with the letter?

Of course. You burn it. In a campfire ring. In the middle of one of the hottest summers on record. During the highest possible fire danger. The fire gets away from you, and you report it. Not surprisingly, they ask you how it started.

You lie about it.

Next thing you know, you owe $42.2 million in fire suppression costs, $14.7 million of which was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Plus 12 years in state prison, and 6 years in federal prison. At least you get to serve the sentences concurrently.

Plus, they took your matches away. Go figure.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, May 10, 2004 at 10:55. Comments Closed (0) |

Wine or Whine? Tell Us Soon, Supremes

I follow the wine industry for two reasons: one because my son works in it - but is now on his way to the University of Iowa College of Law (my alma mater) and will likely return to it. The other because I like wine. Jack London merlot to be specific. Plus an occasional Chianti Classico Riserva.

But I digress.

One of the more frustrating things is trying to buy wine and have it shipped to you interstate. It's nothing short of a nightmare.

This coming Thursday, the United States Supreme Court will consider whether to unravel the mess. Stay tuned, and look for more on these two cases: Granholm v. Heald and a companion case, Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association v. Heald.

Then we'll decide whether to order that perfect case of wine, or whether to order some cheese with that whine.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 09, 2004 at 13:45. Comments Closed (0) |

Go To Prison, Get A Flat-Screen TV

Most people assume that when you go to prison, you deserve some level of punishment.

Not true in Oregon.

There, you get to watch flat-screen TVs in your cell. If you're good, and you've earned it, according to prison officials there. They claim relegating prisoners to their cells instead of the common TV room cuts down on violence.

But, the prisoners who get the flat-screen TVs are basically trustys. Did I miss something?

Most people, including me, do not yet have a flat-screen TV at home.

Maybe I need to go to prison to watch one. Nah.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, May 08, 2004 at 11:46. Comments Closed (0) |

Lodi Loses In More Ways Than One

The City of Lodi doesn't like hazardous waste, so they passed an ordinance, MERLO, (see second story down) to regulate it. It passed muster (partially) before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Given that their ordinance had for the most part gotten past the possible conflict with the federal hazardous waste laws, the City was emboldened. They went after more companies using their ordinance. One company, Randtron, however, fought back and claimed that it was preempted by the HSAA, the California State Superfund laws. The City, confident with its somewhat federal victory, fought back.

They lost.

Turns out that the state appeals court thinks that the State Superfund law controls over the City's ordinance. Who woulda thunk it? No kidding.

But, it didn't have to be such a loss. All the City had to do to exercise proper jurisdiction over Randtron was to designate the area as redevelopment and then use the Polanco Redevelopment Act. Too bad they didn't think of that first. Would have saved them a ton in attorneys fees.

Oh well, it's only the taxpayer's money.

Sunday, May 9, 2004. Here's a follow-up in the Contra Costa Times about the lawyers fees charged in these cases.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, May 07, 2004 at 14:39. Comments Closed (0) |

One Cruise Line Comes into Line

As part of my continuing effort to follow up on previously published posts, here's one on cruise ships and sewage. It appears that Royal Caribbean is cleaning up its act.

According this Associated Press story, the cruise line "will clean the up to 24,000 gallons of sewage or 'blackwater' and 265,000 gallons of 'graywater' from laundries, showers, sinks and dishwashers each dumps daily when it's at sea."

Predictably, Oceana (the environmental group that led this charge) is gloating. Royal Caribbean cleaned up its act after paying a $27 million file to the Coast Guard. Now, 29 ships are outfitted with the treatment systems, and 26 more are slated for retrofitting.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, May 06, 2004 at 12:30. Comments Closed (0) |

Creating The Laboratory Error Defense

The Third Circuit created new law yesterday: the laboratory error defense. This defense applies in at least the Clean Water Act, and perhaps other environmental statutes.

The company, Allegheny Ludlum, charged with violating the CWA believed it was in compliance with reporting requirements, but due to a laboratory error, they actually were overreporting zinc concentrations due to the laboratory's contaminated reagent. The USEPA brought an administrative action to levy fines. After imposing some $8 million in fines, the company fought the allegations in a lower court and lost. They appealed, and won, creating this new defense.

The USEPA argued that the CWA imposed a strict liability scheme, and there could therefore be no exceptions. Although the Circuit court disagreed with the government, the court would not endorse the laboratory error defense as an actual affirmative defense to the USEPA's charges, but noted that it was "relevant" to compliance determinations.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 at 11:16. Comments Closed (0) |

Your Landfill is About to Start Glowing

According to the North County (San Diego) Times, both environmentalists and government employees are upset at the USEPA.

Not that it's any surprise that they're upset.

The USEPA is proposing to dump radioactive waste into landfills. Now that's something that may be worth being upset about. I don't like to glow in the dark. Here are the comments submitted by The Public Citizen. I know it's redundant, but I didn't pick the name.

This editorialist complains that he can't dump a TV into a landfill, but the USEPA wants to dump radioactive waste.

If you want to comment or give the USEPA a piece of your mind, then go to it.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, May 03, 2004 at 11:33. Comments Closed (0) |

Mixed Bag of Insurance Coverage For Two Towers

Here's the follow-up story to one published here last September about the loss of the World Trade Center towers.

On remand from the Second Circuit, the federal jury held that the majority of the insurers on the risk were bound to pay for only one loss instead of two. The owner of the building argued for two occurrences. He lost.

But, he still has hope against Swiss re.

The buildings' owner, Larry Silverstein, won against three of the insurance companies in the trial -- Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group Plc, Hartford Financial Services Group's Twin City Fire Insurance Co. and Zurich Financial Services AG, representing about $176 million of coverage. The jury found that they didn't offer policies based on the form defining the attacks as one loss.

It's not over yet, though. Predicition? Settlement. Neither side can afford a losing a total victory.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, May 02, 2004 at 10:05. Comments Closed (0) |



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