Harry Wartnick, ‘Mr. Asbestos,’ Felled by Heart Attack at 55

Anyone who has ever had a brush with asbestos litigation in San Francisco will instantly recognize Wartnick’s name. And, though many asbestos plaintiffs’ lawyers don’t have the best reputation among judges and the defense bar, Harry did, as this obituary attests. My favorite part of his obit is this:

What people might not know about Wartnick is that he was colorblind.

“He’d come to the golf course or the office and he’d have on one sock that was bright red and one sock that was bright yellow, and lime green pants,” said Lawther, his former boss. “He was a fashion nightmare. It was the funniest goddamn thing, pardon my language, I’ve ever seen.”

Harry, we hardly knew ye.

“Judge Ticked Off, Even If He Wasn’t Flipped Off”

The baliff told the judge the defendant’s mother flipped him off, which she denied. The judge got mad and gave a speech. The defense attorney moved to disqualify the judge. The judge banned the defense attorney from his courtroom. Golly!

Read all about this little shitstorm from Largo, Florida here from the St. Petersburg Times. (Via How Appealing.)

Feds Appealing Medicinal Pot Grower’s One Day Sentence

I found this surprising news in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle:

Federal prosecutors have signaled they will ask an appeals court to send marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal to prison for cultivating pot for medical patients.

The U.S. attorney’s office filed notice with the federal appeals court in San Francisco that it intends to appeal U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer’s decision to spare Rosenthal from a prison term for his federal cultivation and conspiracy convictions last month. The notice was dated last Thursday and was obtained by reporters Monday.

Prosecutors did not explain the grounds on which they intend to appeal. The notice was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The whole story is here. Judge Breyer did the right thing, and they ought to let sleeping dogs lie (though, to be fair, Rosenthal has stupidly appealed his conviction).

Firm Mulls Closure of Satellite, Partner Looks to Defect

As if there weren’t enough problems already (see last two posts below), Fenwick & West is apparently now struggling and may shut its Washington DC office:

Fenwick & West is looking at closing its 17-year-old Washington, D.C., outpost as the firm struggles to maneuver the continuing downturn in corporate work.

Just days after the firm announced a salary freeze for most of its 250 staff members, Mountain View-based Fenwick is mulling whether to pull the plug on its capital outpost.

New York Lawyer links to The Recorder‘s bad news here (though you’ll need a subscription to read the entire thing).

The Vultures Gather:”Rivals Aim to Profit From Firm’s Demise”

I guess it’s dead: “Altheimer & Gray’s messy demise as a firm has a number of US and European rivals looking to cherry pick from among the firm’s suddenly out of work attorneys, London’s Legal Week reports” here.

Earlier blogging about this little nightmare – including some rather nasty back-and-forth about “will it or won’t it die” – is here.

Network Can Call Itself ‘Spike TV’

Filmmaker Spike Lee and Viacom have settled a lawsuit Lee filed to keep the media giant from calling its TNN cable television network “Spike TV.”

Lee had obtained a temporary injunction in June, preventing the name change, but on Monday state Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub lifted the order.

The ruling means Viacom, which also owns CBS and MTV, can proceed immediately with plans to rebrand TNN as Spike TV, the “first television network for men.” Viacom said it was renaming TNN “Spike TV” to attract more men to an audience already two-thirds male. Details on the settlement were not disclosed.

The full story is here from the AP via CNN. (Earlier posts on the controversy are here and here.)

Federal Judges Rebel Over Limits to Sentencing Power

John Martin will quit his job for life as a federal judge next month, vacating 16th-floor chambers that are bigger than most Manhattan apartments.

Mr. Martin isn’t leaving because of the salaries, though, despite 13 years on the bench, he still makes less than most young corporate lawyers. Nor is he departing because of the bitter Senate confirmation battles that leave judgeships unfilled and caseloads rising.

Instead, Martin will be retiring his judicial robes because of changes to federal sentencing rules that he considers so “unjust” that he no longer wants to work inside the criminal justice system.

The Christian Science Monitor has the story here. I initially blogged this story here when the AP broke it a few weeks ago.

“A Volt From Below”

This one goes straight into my “weirdlaw” file:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has become the second state high court to uphold a “nontraditional stray voltage” jury award, ruling that a power company breached its duty to control it.

Farmers across the country have been filing suit over so-called stray voltage for years, claiming that electrical discharges adversely affect the health of their dairy herds.

This despite an apparent lack of scientific proof of causation. Utilities say such verdicts could require them to “rewire rural Wisconson.”

And that’s just what the utility’s appellate co-counsel, Tom Armstrong of Milwaukee’s Quarles & Brady, fears. “The court’s decision undermines the public service commission’s findings and its ability to establish uniform standards,” he said. “There is no method to test what the level of ground current is that would affect a dairy cow, so you’re left with no standards.”

Chuck DeNardo, principal engineer for the utility company, was clearly frustrated by the verdict.

The Hoffmanns “implied that the effects came from earth currents coming up from the cable, but they showed us no measurements of exposure,” he said.

Read the whole mystifying tale here from The National Law Journal.