In a ruling directly contradicting a recent California Court of Appeals decision (review denied by Cal. Supreme Court), the Ninth Circuit today said punitive damages for actions beyond a state’s borders cannot be awarded by a state court, according to this article. You can read the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in White v. Ford Motor Company here (PDF format).
News & Politics
The Supreme Court today agreed to review two cases raising important social issues. The first concerns the constitutionality of affirmative action admissions programs at colleges and universities — the first time in almost 25 years that the Court has addressed the issue. The second concerns the constitutionality of state laws forbidding consensual sodomy — oral or anal sex — that are invoked almost exclusively against homosexuals. This issue has not been addressed since Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986. No matter which side of these issues you are on, you should probably be worried. With a Court as closely divided as the current one, there’s no telling what precedent may be set in these important cases. Read coverage from law.com here.
A settlement by Sealed Air Corp. on Friday is raising hopes (noted by the financial markets) that the end of the asbestos litigation nightmare may finally be coming into view, according to this article. UPDATE (12/18/02): Halliburton has also settled all its asbestos claims, for some $4 billion, according to this.
The conservative Washington Legal Foundation claims that funding for civil legal aid derived from interest on lawyers’ trust accounts constitutes an unconstitutional taking of property belonging to clients. Their fight has gone on for more than ten years. But this article suggests that the true motive is an attack on “radical legal groups” that are funded through the programs.
After shooting him five times, police aggressively interrogated Oliverio Martinez, continuing in the ambulance and then the emergency room, all without reading him his rights. Martinez was never charged, but he brought a civil suit alleging, among other things, “coercive interrogation.” The police argue that Miranda does not confer a right not to be interrogated, only a right not to have coerced and un-Mirandized statements used by the prosecution in a criminal trial. The Supreme Court hears arguments December 4, and civil libertarians fear it might lead to an erosion of Miranda rights. Read more about it here.
On the one hand: What is with these people? Isn’t getting disbarred enough? On the other: Since when is defamation a criminal, rather than a civil, offense? Doesn’t this epitomize state controlled speech? Read all about it here.
The “Firefighter’s Rule” — a sub-species of the assumption of the risk doctrine that sometimes prohibits public safety officers from recovering in tort for injuries sustained in the line of duty — is a pet issue for me, as one of the biggest cases I ever worked on turned on its application. Recently in Coos Bay, Oregon, three firefighters died tragically when a fire in an auto parts store ballooned unexpectedly, causing the roof to collapse. The unexpected ballooning was allegedly caused by wood in the structure that had become unnaturally dry and flammable due to years of exposure to an incinerator used to burn waste grease from the store’s machine shop. This tragic accident is recounted here. I’d be willing to wager that a published opinion on “The Rule” will eventually emerge from this mess. My condolences to the firefighters’ families and colleagues.
A Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice was taken to task today in an opinion by two of his fellow justices, including the Chief Justice. In principal, I think rhymed opinions are okay, but I have to agree that Justice Eakin’s poetry is pretty bad. Read all about it here. UPDATE: (12/2/02) You can read Justice Eakin’s effort in its entirety here at How Appealing, together with some amusing commentary.