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 - In order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant. - Charles De Gaulle
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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 226

Who Writes Rules For Regulations?

In mid-February, House Representatives Henry Waxman (D. CA) and Tom Allen (D. ME) sent a sharply-worded letter to USEPA Administrator Mike Leavitt requesting information regarding a report in The Washington Post that portions of USEPA's latest mercury air pollution control proposal may have been "copied word-for-word from industry lobbying materials."

Allen and Waxman's letter allege that the two memos at issue were written by the 1,500 attorney firm Latham & Watkins. Seems as though an assistant USEPA administrator, Jeffrey Holmstead, and his chief counsel, Bill Wehrum, used to work for Latham & Watkins, according to the Post. The Post article claims nearly a dozen paragraphs were lifted verbatim from the L&W memoranda.

"No one disputes that industry lobbyists were allowed to write significant portions of a formal [US]EPA proposed rule," said Rep. Waxman. "The questions now are how did it happen and how do we restore [US]EPA's credibility and independence?"

"That's not typically the way we do things, borrowing language from other people," Holmstead, head of the EPA's air policy office told the Washington Post. "But it came to us through the interagency process."

USEPA officials dismissed the matter as largely an interagency mix-up that had little to do with shaping the administration's centerpiece proposal for forcing power plants to reduce mercury emissions 70 percent by 2018. They said the law firm language that turned up in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register was related to an alternative proposal that the administration does not support.

Claudia M. O'Brien, lead writer of the Latham & Watkins memos, said it was "gratifying" that the USEPA found the firms' analysis persuasive, but that "we didn't ask [US]EPA to cut and paste our analysis into their [rule-making] preamble," according to the Post. According to her L&W biography, before working for Latham & Watkins, Ms. O'Brien spent six years working for the USEPA.

The final words, in classic governmental lawyer double-speak: "Neither Bill [Wehrum] nor I had any idea this language came from Latham & Watkins," Holmstead said. "Our technical folks who did subcategorization used it."

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 04, 2004 at 09:07. Comments Closed (0) |

Who Should You Believe? - Or Do What You're Told!

As a rule, I don't comment on celebrity lawsuits because we all get enough of it every day in the regular media. But this observation, while necessarily yes a comment on a celebrity, it really is more of an observation on the media.

And you would have to be paying close attention to the coverage of Martha Stewart's trials and tribulations. Take, for example, this photograph of the somewhat ashamed Martha, just before Christmas. Then compare it with this one in 1999 when she took her company public, dutifully serving canapes to her phalanx of Vice Presidents.

Then mix in the "stand behind your man" picture when K-Mart filed for bankruptcy, but Martha stood steady.

When she entered court for her current trial, this is the typical photograph (the one of the left) chosen to accompany the lead story. Martha looks worried.

But today, we are greeted with an almost Princess Diana-like view of Martha, as we are told by the courtroom pundits that her case begins to turn.

Not that we're being told by the media what to believe (tongue planted firmly in cheek here), but it's more than a very subtle message that we're being sent. If Martha wins her trial, she will try to "rebuild" her life, we're told. If she loses, she'll hang her head in shame. Most assuredly, we'll get photographs to accompany the mood of the article.

In reality, there are 150 Marthas to choose from. The media can pick whichever one they want to communicate the larger message they want us to believe.

Feeling manipulated yet?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 03, 2004 at 08:31. Comments Closed (0) |

Beds is at it Again

Beds has a new column posted on the separation of church and state, paid administrative leave and miscreant Lutheran bishops.

You read it and figure out how he combined all of those into coherent thoughts.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, March 02, 2004 at 12:34. Comments Closed (0) |

Rent-a-Husband meets Civil Procedure 101

I read. A lot. For my legal practice, that means I read slip opinions. This new case deals with civil procedure issues near and dear to the hearts of litigators. It's not especially enlightening about anything in particular.

Except the subject of the lawsuit - drum roll please - Rent-a-husband. No, it's not what you're thinking. It has nothing to do with escort services or like lady sitters, a Comedy Central skit.

It's a handyman business. You know, that honey-do list that never gets completed. Well, this guy does. Finish up the list, that is.

Now there's an idea to get my house straightened up. Too bad this guy's in Maine.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 01, 2004 at 17:51. Comments Closed (0) |

I'm Dying for a Quote

Oftentimes when I read Newsweek (the print version), I skip right to the quotes page. I like the pithy statements distilled down to the crux of the issue. That's why I stick a Quote of the Day in this blog.

Court TV has started doing the same thing. Their section, called Hearsay is even better because it has blog-like links to the actual story. Newsweek, take note.

Beyond quotes, there's some other interesting material out there. Courthouse News, a service that offers tidbits on newly filed lawsuits, also has an interesting new column. Robert Kahn writes Coyote Speaks (middle column), and this week's rant is about reject letters from book publishers. Very funny.

To bring matters to a close, how about a do-it-yourself obituary? Or even a do-it-yourself funeral.

I'm not sure it's worth dying for, though.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, February 29, 2004 at 10:59. Comments Closed (0) |

To Discharge In Bankruptcy Or Not?

In a simple, seven-page opinion, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow environmental fines and penalties against a scrap tire dump operator to be discharged in bankruptcy.

That's a big sentence, but not an unusual holding. Here's a short article about the dangers to shareholders who receive distributions from bankrupt companies that may have environmental liability (an entirely different category than fines and penalties).

Even the automatic stay in bankruptcy does not slow down environmental claims. Ultimately the Chapter 11 reorganization, however, may be successful in temporarily eliminating environmental liability. In the Third Circuit. The law seemingly does not bind the government to such a limitation, and the USEPA and other governmental entities can pursue criminal fines and penalties without regard to bankruptcy. For contamination that continues or starts during BK protection, the government can force compliance, and then get in line in front of everyone else.

Bankruptcy courts do not have a consistent position on how to treat claims against debtors by other Potentially Responsible Parties. Some allow environmental claims for contribution to proceed, others do not. Except in one circumstance. When monies have already been expended for environmental cleanup by a PRP, claims for contribution are uniformly allowed.

Claims for future response costs are another story. Check your local listings. Courts vary in their treatment of these claims.

Then there's the question of whether you can sell contaminated assets out of a bankrupt estate. It's fraught with caveats and difficulties (download required).

But with substantial legal work, discharges of environmental liabilities have occurred - with payments and other restrictions. In instances where the discharge was pre-petition and the claims contemplated, under certain circumstances, some environmental claims may be discharged in bankruptcy.

How's that for a series of caveats?

There's no easy answer. I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer and this short summary does not cover all the facts and alternatives of your case. If you have questions, call a bankruptcy lawyer.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, February 28, 2004 at 10:23. Comments Closed (0) |

Inflation Percentages Gone Wild

Here's one to warm your heart: the USEPA has raised its maximum penalties to adjust for inflation. It is required by law to be done every four years. So, the last time the penalties were adjusted was at the turn of the century.

Now, penalties are going up a whopping 17.23%.

The USEPA claims that 17.23% is the rate of inflation for the last four years. All I know is that my income hasn't gone up almost twenty percent over the last four years, and I doubt yours has either.

I checked with the Department of Labor, and according to the consumer price index, inflation went up only 9.3% over this same, four-year period. If you look closely, you can find the DOL's inflation calculator, which notes that $1.00 in 2000 will buy what $1.08 would buy in 2004. By the Bureau of Labor Statistic's calculations, that's only 8%.

Not even close to 17.23%.

If you want to ask the USEPA how it made its calculations, call or email Cynthia Bergman 202-564-7862. You won't believe the government doublespeak.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, February 27, 2004 at 09:09. Comments Closed (0) |

I'm Hacked Off

MIPTC GOT HACKED! The site's been down for a day and a half, and we're still trying to get rid of all of the text and graphics, which is apparently still embedded deep in the site. We're working on it. (You can scroll down to read the message, posted on Tuesday).

Obviously, I don't agree with the message.

I also don't know who did it, and a search for Net Devil reveals that this hacking technique is likely a Trojan horse. The Net Devil website has no information and instead provides an error message.

I guess it's a form of internet graffiti. Now I'll just have to learn How to Become A Hacker.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, February 26, 2004 at 13:28. Comments Closed (1) |



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