Quote of the Day - Lobbyists are people who go to Washington to mix business with pressure.
Reigning in Proposition 65Proposition 65. You know, the statute that requires everything (well, almost everything) to carry the warning that it contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and other reproductive harm - or something very close to that.
Despite the warnings, most of us seem to go about our business as if they didn't exist. I know I still drive into parking structures [p. 16, (c)(1)] to park my car, and I occasionally eat fish.
Ah, for the good old days when I didn't know better.
But, I'm off track.
At lot of businesses are upset with Proposition 65, and a lot of environmental groups are thrilled with it. Perhaps a little too thrilled. Apparently, a number of these environmental groups have been bringing suit numerous times for the same thing, despite the fact that the target business has already posted the Prop 65 warnings and settled with another environmental group. And most distastefully, already paid the attorneys fees and costs of that other environmental group.
I'm not pointing fingers here, just look at these two bills, SB 1722, and AB 2379 and ask yourself why both houses of the California legislature decided to try to prevent this abuse.
An End to 20 Years of Superfund LitigationRemember Stringfellow Acid Pits? If you live in Southern California, at some point in the last 20 years, you probably learned about this Superfund site.
This week, the 20 years of litigation may have come to an end. The last $1.65 million in escrow was finally released. According to the USEPA, it will go to the overall Superfund, not individually to the Stringfellow site.
Just as a quickie refresher, over 34 million gallons of industrial waste, primarily from metal finishing, electroplating, and pesticide production were deposited in the Stringfellow evaporation ponds. Between 1975 and 1980, approximately 6.3 million gallons of liquid wastes and materials contaminated with pesticides were removed from the site. Guess where the rest of it went? Into the air and groundwater.
How'd you like to have a site like that named after you?
Tortoise Test Track TiffIn California City (north of Edwards Air Force Base), the state's third largest city, but smallest in population, there's a bit of a brou-ha-ha over the condemnation of property for Hyundai to build a $50 million test track.
California City fathers used the Redevelopment Act to condemn property for Hyundai because of the jobs and taxes it will bring to the City. The only glitch is that some believe the Act requires the land to be urbanized and blighted.
This high desert land is anything but, in the minds of the owners of the land. They say it's pure desert, and that's the way the land has been for hundreds of years. On the other hand, the unemployment rate is 11.4 percent, and four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes sell for $150,000 - less than half the state's median housing price. Plus, 2,600 of the town's 12,000 residents are federal prisoners. Sounds like blight to me.
Not to be outdone by a mere legal interpretation, though, two environmental groups have sued claiming that the track affects certain endangered species. In response, Hyundai hired former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit to get the necessary permits, and the company is protecting and relocating the threatened Mojave ground squirrel and desert tortoise.
Meanwhile, the track is being built.
51,700% Difference in Plaintiff and Lawyer MoniesAlmost can't believe this one. In Anniston, Alabama, folks there who claimed their properties and lives were polluted with PCBs thought they reached a settlement with the producer of the chemical, Monsanto (now Solutia).
That is until the class of people learned the terms of the settlement. Just a minor disparity, they discovered.
Each of the the 18,447 plaintiffs will get an average of $7,725 and some as little as $500 each.
The 27 lawyers who worked on the case will each get an average payment of more than $4 million, a total of $120 million to be split between them.
I don't want to even calculate the percentage differential. OK, the lawyers will get 51,700% more than the Plaintiffs.
How Much Is Enough?The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has approved a 50% increase from 4 to 6 ppb in the amount of perchlorate, a naturally occurring chemical, but also a component of rocket fuel.
The Ventura County Star reports that the change may benefit the Boeing Rocketdyne Santa Susana laboratory. You can view the lab's monitoring test results here.
The USEPA still has to approve the change. The defense industry is seeking a limit of 7 ppb, and the USEPA wants the limit in the 1 - 2 ppb range. 1 ppb is equivalent to a single drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
No Damages for Spousal DysfunctionsOK, I'll bite. As I'm reading slip opinions this morning, I run across this teaser: "Coverage under 'bodily injury' clause of defendant's insurance policy does not include nonphysical, or mental harm."
Huh? Now were splitting hairs (pardon the pun) between body, mind and soul. Is there coverage if your soul is harmed?
Essentially, the case turns on a different issue - the per accident limit of uninsured motorist coverage.
But the interesting aspect of the case is a loss of consortium claim, and whether that claim amounts to a physical injury. In other words, does the spouse who suffered the loss of consortium (i.e. the one not receiving the "spousal functions" according to the Court) have a claim against the insurance policy.
Some courts say yes - here the California Supreme Court, but this lower court put a different spin on it and said no. This Court rejected the belief that a lack of spousal functions causes a separate physical injury.
I feel the pain.
London's Old Bailey Records Now OnlinePerhaps you've been fortunate enough to know who Rumpole of the Old Bailey is. Now, you can delve a bit deeper into the the Old Bailey and the Proceedings that went on there.
Just like the modern-day Court-TV, but in written form. It was 18th century England, where kidnapping a 16-year old girl was a misdemeanor but pickpocketing a capital offense. And it is all documented on oldbaileyonline.org, an internet archive containing contemporary accounts of practically every trial at the Old Bailey courthouse, the country's largest and most famous criminal court.
The court's sessions, which happened eight times a year, were preserved thanks to "The Proceedings," a broadsheet that went into print in 1678. It began as a profitable venture that entertained the public with accounts of the more lewd, humorous or scandalous cases, but was eventually overseen by the city, which used it as an official record of trials.
The website, which went online March 5, is the brainchild of two British historians, Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, who realized that technology could make the documents a lot easier to access and read. Otherwise, you can take six months to read it in its original form in microfilm.
There are a number of stark differences between the judicial system then and now. First, lawyers were almost never used in the early 17th century. The victim of the crime was responsible for prosecuting the offender, and the person accused had to handle his own defense. Witnesses could be questioned by either party and also by the judge and even the jury.
Defendants were also not presumed innocent, they had no right to remain silent (indeed, they couldn't since they were their own lawyers) and no evidence was excluded. While today a person's prior crimes are not admissible, during an 18th century English trial, anything and everything about the accused was fair game in court. In fact, it was considered best if jurors knew the defendant or his family personally because they could then make a more informed judgment about his guilt.
Santa Fe Springs Superfund Site Cleanup BeginsThe Waste Disposal, Inc. Superfund site is slated to begin cleanup. Last year, 17 oil companies agreed to pay almost $8 million for the cleanup.
Here's the USEPA's fact sheet on the site. They've come a long way since discovering the site in 1996 in Santa Fe Springs.