May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
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There are 2034 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 198

Say What You May On eBay?

When you buy something through eBay, you have the opportunity to rate the seller.

Occasionally, the buyer is not happy with the sale. Roger Grace was one of those buyers.

He posted a comment about his purchase of some vintage magazines, complaining about the condition they arrived in.

The seller was not pleased with the comments, and posted statements accusing Grace of "being dishonest all the way".

Perhaps not surprisingly, Grace was not happy with those comments.

Grace sued eBay (not the seller), and lost. He got tossed out of court before he even got started with the lawsuit.

He appealed, and lost again. But in doing so, the Appellate Court threw Grace a bone, and said that perhaps eBay is not immune from republishing defamatory statements. Unfortunately, Grace hadn't asked for that kind of relief, so it was too late to solve that problem on appeal.

Now, the Supremes have agreed to hear the case. The question there is once again whether eBay can be held liable for allowing defamatory web postings.

We're all watching and anxiously awaiting the outcome.

In the meantime, you can rate this seller. Just use the comment section below.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, October 15, 2004 at 01:15 Comments (2) |

How Much Does It Take To Remember?

Ostriches have had better luck.

William Gurley tried, but it didn't work. The USEPA wanted some information from him about the Gurley Pit Superfund Site (how many of you can say that you have a Superfund site named after yourself?).

He didn't respond.

For seven years.

I don't know why he waited so long - maybe he misplaced the letter that asked for the information. My guess is that when he got served with the summons and complaint alleging he failed to respond, maybe he remembered then. But, apparently not.

I'll bet he remembers now.

That $1.9 million dollar fine levied by the USEPA and upheld by the Sixth Circuit probably made an impression.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, October 14, 2004 at 00:16 Comments (0) |

Sued By An Eagle - How Could The Bird Lose?

I'm sure there have been others, but there are not many lawsuits filed by bald eagles. Certainly, it's a novel approach, and designed, I'm sure to garner attention.

It got mine.

In Illinois, energy proponents want to build the Crescent Ridge Wind Power farm. Farmers, it seems, would make up to $94 per acre leasing their land to the wind farm instead of around $60 per acre growing soybeans or corn. That's quite a profit. Of course the wind farm is no lightweight, either. It's expected to cost some $60 million.

But you already know that not everyone agrees. Environmentalists are concerned that the wind farm will harm the endangered species that inhabit the area proposed for the 2200-acre wind farm.

Since the bald eagle, an Indiana bat, a northern harrier and numerous migratory birds can't speak for themselves (audio will play), someone else filed suit on their behalf. That attorney, however, is not yet fully licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Go figure.

But, for the want of $50, that problem will likely be solved pretty quickly once the appropriate paperwork (and $50 fee) is paid to the powers that be at the Illinois state bar. But the attorney, Dowell Baker, has bigger problems. The wind farm attorneys want to dismiss the case.

Their motion claims that: "[t]he enumerated animal plaintiffs also purport to seek relief based upon the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald Eagle Protection Act, the Lanham Act, the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act and the Administrative Review Act. ... The plain language of each of these statutes limits standing to 'persons' and does not confer standing on 'animals.' "

Well, there you have it in a nutshell (pun not intended, of course). Animals can't sue.

That's a pretty good argument. But, Dowell Baker was ready for that one. They also named a regular guy, Robert Bittner, as a plaintiff, too. So, figuring that they might lose the animal-is-not-a-plaintiff dismissal motion, the defendants took another shot.

The wind farm attorneys also argued that the Illinois Supreme Court had already considered the very same issues in the bird/animals lawsuit and denied to review it (the Canel case). They're more likely to win this second argument because the first one, while attractive, is moot.

I don't know, though. I kind of like the appeal of a bald eagle as a plaintiff. The judge would have an eagle in front of him as well as behind him.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 13, 2004 at 14:42 Comments (0) |

No Fooling Around Here - More Cows, Less Pollution

I'm not buying it. In fact, I'm not drinking it anymore either. Indeed, it's been awhile since I have.

Admittedly, my "boycott" (if you want to call it that) wasn't caused by this fiasco, but it might as well have been.

You may want to be the first to start boycotting, too. Let's see here. We Californians scrape together some $70 million dollars to loan to dairy farmers here in California to reduce pollution.


Turns out, in fact, that the dairies actually used the money to expand. I love this explanation, cited by the San Diego Union Tribune, "The dairies qualified for the money through tax-exempt, low-interest loan programs by stating in their applications that expanding operations would provide an 'environmentally sound method of disposing of animal waste' by spreading cow manure across a greater area and thus decreasing its impact on groundwater supplies."

That makes perfect sense. More cows mean less pollution because we're going to spread the manure over a wider area?

And State Treasurer Phil Angelides fell for it.

Who voted for this guy? Twice?

Fool me once...

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, October 12, 2004 at 20:50 Comments (0) |

Less Housing, Longer Lift Lines

We have one here on the left coast - it's called CEQA (pronounced "see-kwa"), and the federal government has one, too, called NEPA (pronounced with a long "E"). They're statutes that are designed to make decision makers consider the consequences of development on the environment.

Here in Kali-fornya (Arnold's new pronunciation), CEQA is often used as a sword against development, frequently by environmentalists, and sometimes by local residents who ban together to stop or slow down a project. Those efforts have been accused of turning into NIMBY, or Not In My Backyard - a criticism leveled by those who usually want the project to go forward and are trying to get the environmentalists/residents to back off.

Here's a project that Northstar, a ski resort near Lake Tahoe is tyring to build. Northstar wants to construct 300 apartments to house its employees along with a big water tank, which seemed to be going well until it added an affordable housing component.

Then, well, you know all of what broke loose.

Nearby residents who were already not too happy with the prospects of a small village of teenagers and twenty-somethings working as ski bums got concerned, and sued.

They claimed the local decision makers hadn't given enough thought to the consequences of the development - more unwanted growth.

The trial court agreed, and reversed the Placer County Supervisor's decision approving the project, and as you already know from clicking the "here's a project" link above, so did the appellate court.

So, for now, Northstar gets to start all over again.

Expect those lift lines to be longer this year.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, October 11, 2004 at 11:48 Comments (0) |

Cleaning Up Property and Recovering Money

Try this one on for size: read this article on CNN, and now read this summary on Oyez, a project of Northwestern University.

One by a journalist, and one by a political science professor.

Frankly, I don't understand the one on CNN. The other one makes perfect sense. So, rather than give a quick summary, I'll use Professor Goldman's words: "Does the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) require that a party liable for pollution be sued under CERCLA before seeking clean up funds from other liable parties?"

Better than a lawyer could have said it. 30 words, seven (or eight) of which he couldn't avoid. I didn't count the number of words in CNN's article, but you can bet that it's more than 30.

Anyway, an important decision is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. When a company voluntarily cleans up toxic contamination from its property, only in a few states can it sue to recover the money it spent. But not in every state, and not based on federal laws.

Only the federal government has that right, and unfortunately, the USEPA can't get to all sites to force a lawsuit against prior owners and operators.

Prediction? The Supremes will uphold the Fifth Circuit, and allow those companies who remove contamination to sue prior owners and operators for contribution.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, October 10, 2004 at 23:28 Comments (0) |

NetForce Starts To Become A Reality

Tom Clancy started the idea, as far as I know. The future is now. Catching bad guys on the internet.
The real question is, who's watching what you're doing on your computer? Besides you, that is?

That's what the FTC wants you to know. They've filed suit against Sanford Wallace. He's the first, so we'll have to name this effort the "Wallace campaign."

Frankly, for FTC's first foray (how'd you like that alliteration?) into stopping the spread of spyware on the internet is too little, too late. But at least it's a start. Wallace's two companies, Seismic Entertainment and SmartBot net are also named in the lawsuit. Spyware logs your keystrokes to capture passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive data. It's responsible for the delivery of pop-up ads, too.

What's really sad about this action is that the FTC can't even enforce federal laws to prevent spyware.

There are none.

They're having to use deceptive business practices laws instead. Come on, Congress, let's pass some bills. Get with the program!

Otherwise, NetForce will never actually happen. Doesn't that just play with your mind?

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, October 09, 2004 at 22:41 Comments (1) |

Insurance Policies Cover Heating Oil Spills

With oil over $50 a barrel, heating oil prices are expected to increase dramatically this winter. Out here on the left coast, though, it's not so much of a worry. I just have to turn off the air conditioning.

My Mom, however, isn't happy. She lives on Cape Cod, and will have to spend more than she wants to. I think that's why she switched to gas heat.

She's also glad that she doesn't have this problem in Pennsylvania. But as homeowners, we all celebrate the decision that heating oil leaks don't fall within the pollution exclusion of homeowners insurance policies.

In this case, Marlene Epstein's heating oil tank ruptured in her basement and the oil leaked onto her neighbor's property. The neighbor promptly sued her, and Marlene's insurer, Atlantic Casualty Insurance Company, denied coverage and heaping insult on injury, filed a declaratory relief action seeking to avoid paying the claim.

Now there's a surprise - an insurance company that doesn't want to pay a claim.

But, justice won in the end, and Justice Ronald Buckwalter protected the community of homeowners who have heating oil tanks. And we all sigh with relief knowing oil contamination under our homes will be cleaned up.

Now about switching to gas ...

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, October 08, 2004 at 12:18 Comments (0) |

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