May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
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12/4/2008 - How to Get Sued

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Coast to Coast Internet Radio Talks Voter Fraud

Voter fraud, faulty equipment, voter purges, 3rd party registration problems-These are just some of the issues plaguing elections past and present.   Please join me as I welcome experts Attorney Brenda Wright, Legal Director of Demos, and Attorney Edward Still, a Birmingham lawyer who specializes in voting law and founder of the blog, They will discuss legal issues surrounding voter's rights, voter fraud, election litigation and what can and can't be done to recruit voters.


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 13:19 Comments (0) |

Lawyer2Lawyer Internet Radio Goes By The New Rules: Federal Rule of Evidence 502

Every lawyer knows the costs of discovery can escalate. Last month on September 19, 2008, President Bush signed Senate Bill 2450 into law, which establishes Federal Rule of Evidence 502 and is effective immediately. This law creates a new rule of evidence limiting certain attorney-client privilege and work product waivers.

Please join me and my fellow blogger and co-host Bob Ambrogi as we welcome Attorney Robert D. Owen, a partner in Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., to take a look at the new Federal Rule of Evidence 502 and see how this new rule will affect litigation and litigation costs as well as clients.

It's not that easy to find, so in case you're looking for the text of the new rule, here it is:

Federal Rule of Eviden 502. Attorney-Client Privilege and Work Product; Limitations on Waiver

The following provisions apply, in the circumstances set out, to disclosure of a communication or information covered by the attorney-client privilege or work-product protection. 

            (a) DISCLOSURE MADE IN A FEDERAL PROCEEDING OR TO A FEDERAL OFFICE OR AGENCY; SCOPE OF A WAIVER. - When the disclosure is made in a Federal proceeding or to a Federal office or agency and waives the attorney-client privilege or work-product  protection, the waiver extends to an undisclosed communication or information in a Federal or State proceeding only if:

                        (1) the waiver is intentional;

                        (2) the disclosed and undisclosed communications or information concern the same subject matter; and

                        (3) they ought in fairness to be considered together.

            (b) INADVERTENT DISCLOSURE. - When made in a Federal proceeding or to a Federal office or agency, the disclosure does not operate as a waiver in a Federal or State proceeding if:

                        (1) the disclosure is inadvertent;

                        (2) the holder of the privilege or protection took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure; and

                        (3) the holder promptly took reasonable steps to rectify the error, including (if applicable) following Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(5)(B).

            (c) DISCLOSURE MADE IN A STATE PROCEEDING.- When the disclosure is made in a State proceeding and is not the subject of a State-court order concerning waiver, the disclosure does not operate as a waiver in a Federal proceeding if the disclosure:

                        (1) would not be a waiver under this rule if it had been made in a Federal proceeding; or

                        (2) is not a waiver under the law of the State where the disclosure occurred.

            (d) CONTROLLING EFFECT OF A COURT ORDER. - A Federal court may order that the privilege or protection is not waived by disclosure connected with the litigation pending before the court-in which event the disclosure is also not a waiver in any other Federal or State proceeding.

            (e) CONTROLLING EFFECT OF A PARTY AGREEMENT. - An agreement on the effect of disclosure in a Federal proceeding is binding only on the parties to the agreement, unless it is incorporated into a court order.

            (f) CONTROLLING EFFECT OF THIS RULE. - Notwithstanding Rules 101 and 1101, this rule applies to State proceedings and to Federal court-annexed and Federal court-mandated arbitration proceedings, in the circumstances set out in the rule. And notwithstanding Rule 501, this rule applies even if State law provides the rule of decision.

            (g) DEFINITIONS. - In this rule:

                        (1) ‘attorney-client privilege' means the protection that applicable law provides for confidential attorney-client communications; and

                        (2) ‘work-product protection' means the protection that applicable law provides for tangible material (or its intangible equivalent) prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial.

For more on clawback and quick peek agreements, give a listen to the show.  You can also download our show to your iPod


Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 10:24 Comments (0) |

Can You Sue God? Is It Necessary To Join Satan As An Indispensable Party?

Apparently Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers thinks so - at least on the first part.  The jury's still out on the second.  He sued God in Nebraska state court, but the judge dismissed the case for lack of service:  "Given that this court finds that there can never be service effectuated on the named defendant this action will be dismissed with prejudice," Douglas County District Judge Marion A. Polk wrote from Courtroom 10.  According to the Associated Press article in that last link, Senator Chambers isn't taking it lying down.  " 'The court itself acknowledges the existence of God,' Chambers said Wednesday. 'A consequence of that acknowledgment is a recognition of God's omniscience.'  Therefore, Chambers said, 'Since God knows everything, God has notice of this lawsuit.' "

I don't know about you, but it is a bit of a turn of events from Gerald Mayo's 1971 lawsuit against Satan.  His case was dismissed as well, and somewhat one the same reasoning: 

While the official reports disclose no case where this defendant has appeared as defendant there is an unofficial account of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff [The Devil and Daniel Webster].  The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court.  This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time.

If such action were to be allowed we would also face the question of whether it may be maintained as a class action. It appears to meet the requirements of Fed. R. of Civ. P. 23 that the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, there are questions of law and fact common to the class, and the claims of the representative party is typical of the claims of the class. We cannot now determine if the representative party will fairly protect the interests of the class.

We note that the plaintiff has failed to include with his complaint the required form of instructions for the United States Marshal for directions as to service of process.

For the foregoing reasons we must exercise our discretion to refuse the prayer of plaintiff to proceed in forma pauperis (Latin:  "in the form of a pauper").

I don't get it.  Everybody's so concerned about jurisdiction.  If as Senator Chambers argues, God is all around, then isn't he/she in the courtroom, too?  But that's just the half of it.  I think you can't sue God without also bringing Satan into the lawsuit.  Any case takes two sides to argue.

Just think.  We might even be able to make some headway in the election and the current economic crisis. 

My only hope is that Senator Chambers files an appeal.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 15:18 Comments (1) |

Supreme Court's Chief Justice Takes A Look Back To Writing Style Of The Fifties

"North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a threedollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He'd made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.

"Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn't buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up thebuyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy's pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office. "

And with that Mickey Spillane-style writing, none other than Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts as he dissented from the the petition for a writ of certiorari denied by the rest of the Supreme Court (except Justice Kennedy, who joined in Roberts' dissent) in the case entitled:  Pennsylvania v. Nathan Dunlap.  If you're interested in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court opinion in Commonwealth v. Dunlap, click on the case name.

Some might think that Roberts was trying to imitate Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe, but it could just as easily be Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer or Dashielle Hammet's Sam Spade.  In any event, it's a nice breath of dark fresh air.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 09:38 Comments (0) |

OK, So I'm Not A Harvard Law Professor

, but How to Get Sued is in there between two of them:  Alan Dershowitz's new book, Is There A Right To Remain Silent and Lawrence Tribe's new book, The Invisible Constitution.  Right in between the two in San Bernardino's Barnes & Noble bookstore.  See ...

How to Get Sued

Yes, for a few days after this post is up, it will block the news and ads over there on the right.  After a post or two, it will fit right back in between the lines.  So to speak.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 21:45 Comments (0) |

Lawyer2Lawyer Internet Radio Goes Smokeless

Will the U.S. Supreme Court dismiss a class action suit brought by smokers in Maine, who say they were misled into believing that "low tar" and "light" cigarettes are a healthier alternative to regular cigarettes? Arguments heard before the high court this week, pit tobacco giant, Phillip Morris against smokers. blogger and co-host, Bob Ambrogi welcomes Dr. Jeffrey Wigand, a nationally known whistleblower involving tobacco company, Brown & Williamson. Wigand's courageos story ultimately led to a landmark case against big tobacco, changes in cigarette advertising and was the basis for the movie, The Insider. He is now founder of SMOKE-FREE KIDS, Inc. Tony Mauro, Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times and, also joins us to discuss this important case with insights from inside the courtroom.



Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 11:03 Comments (0) |

An At-Will Employment Contract Or A Promise Not To Terminate For Cause?

You Can't Have It Both Ways

The Salvation Army employed Arthur Stillwell back in 1962 until about 1977, and then on and off through the eighties, when it hired him back full-time in 1997 until it terminated him in 2003.  When it hired him back, the Army provided a written agreement to Stillwell that contained an "at will" clause, which allowed the Army to terminate him without cause. 

Because of Stilwell's long employment, he alleged that the Army had promised him it would not terminate him without cause.  During his trial, he was able to introduce that evidence with enough success to convince a jury.

Trouble is, however, you can't have it both ways.  Either you have a written contract or an equitable contract.  It goes to one of the most basic divisions in the law:  tort and contract.  With few exceptions, you can't recover a tort claim and a contract claim based on the same set of facts. 

Unfortunately for both Stillwell and the Army, the jury awarded him both tort and contract recovery when it gave him a little over $158,000 in damages.  Now don't get too excited here and think my choice of "unfortunately" was imprudent.  Read on.  The Army convinced the judge to overrule the jury's verdict and grant a defense verdict, with no damages, so Stilwell appealed.  Now you see at least one side was unhappy with the result. 

The Court of Appeal reversed that decision and ordered the court to hold a new trial.  This time, hopefully, the court and the lawyers will make the jury questionnaire more definitive, and set it up so it allows only one decision:  written contract or implied contract.  See why I used "unfortunately?"  They both lost. 

If only the Army would have had a modification clause that prevented others in the Army from making promises contrary to the terms of the written employment agreement.  Do you think they need a good lawyer?

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 08, 2008 at 21:01 Comments (0) |

It Doesn't Pay For Insurance Companies To Negotiate In Bad Faith

Natalie Aguirre hit a parked car stopped at a red light.  She didn't carry enough insurance for the injuries she caused.  The car that Natalie hit belonged to Stuart Brehm's parents.  After the injury, he and his parents equally divided the $30,000 of coverage Natalie had.  Stuart, however, needed more to cover injuries to his shoulder, so he made a claim to 21st Century Insurance under his parent's underinsured motorist  coverage, which had limits up to $100,000.

Stuart Brehm, IV submitted documentation of his severe shoulder injury that required surgery, and his doctor estimated his claim near the limit of the 21st Century policy.  In response, 21st Century's medical expert, Dr. Swickard, disputed Brehm's injury and made a counteroffer of $5,000.

Without an agreement, they scheduled an arbitration, and Stuart underwent an independent medical evaluation, which put his costs around $20,000.  He submitted an offer to 21st Centruy for $85,000.  In the arbitration, Brehm received $91,186, which 21st Century then paid.

Next, Brehm filed a breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing lawsuit, alleging 21st Century's medical evaluation was a sham.  According to the record, Brehm further alleged Dr. Swickard, a nonpracticing professional expert witness, was known to the insurance industry to be biased in favor of the defense and was retained, not to objectively and fairly evaluate Brehm's shoulder injury, but with the intent that he minimize its seriousness to make it appear ‑‑ falsely ‑‑ there was a genuine dispute about the extent of that injury."

The trial court kicked his case out, but in the appeal his case got reinstated.  The appellate court ruled that 21st Century couldn't avoid the bad faith lawsuit simply by requesting the arbitration, and that the the Genuine Dispute Rule does not protect an insurer whose position is not maintained in good faith and on reasonable grounds.  In other words, by its so-far-off-the-mark offer, 21st Century likely committed bad faith, and Brehm is entitled to have a jury hear his arguments.  While the case may get to a jury, with this ruling, it's more likely to settle. 

You could say that Brehm has shoulded his fair share of abuse.

Printer friendly page Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, October 06, 2008 at 14:40 Comments (0) |

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