Special Reports Coming to National Courts Monitor (NCM)

SPECIAL REPORTS: In the coming weeks, the National Courts Monitor (NCM) will be announcing a series of “special reports” focusing on some of today’s most urgent civil litigation issues. Similar to the print-edition special reports that helped launch the website in California (as the California Courts Monitor) more than a decade ago, the reports from across the country will include original reporting and production from the NCM while also showcasing investigative and writing from partner organizations. Watch this space for more information, and we are making this announcement now because our reporters and video producers are now in the field conducting the background research necessary for multi-media reporting on issues including environmental lawsuits, immigration issues and, of course, the rationing of civil justice in America.

– THE EDITORS

Trump vows to revoke waiver allowing California to set auto emissions

Photo credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP as reported by NPR on 9/18/19.

President Trump announced he will revoke a 2013 waiver issued by the EPA to the California Air Resources Board which allowed the state to set stricter air-quality standards than those imposed on the federal level.

According to an NPR report, “The move comes after the Department of Justice earlier this month launched an antitrust investigation into a July deal between California and four automakers – Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW – and is seen as a broader effort by the White House to rollback efforts to combat climate change.”

The report notes, “California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has vowed to take the Trump administration to court. Speaking on Tuesday, California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said that while the White House ‘has abdicated its responsibility,’ his state ‘has stepped up.'”

States unveil bipartisan antitrust probe of Google

 

Image credit: Wikipedia.

“Google is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in U.S. digital ad revenue this year, far rivaling its peers, while capturing 75 percent of all spending on U.S. search ads, according to eMarketer,” The Washington Post reports.

The probe is supported by 50 U.S. states and territories, excluding Alabama and California, home of Silicon Valley.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” though he clarified that states are launching an investigation and not a lawsuit.

“The probe marks the latest regulatory headache for Google and the rest of Silicon Valley, which have faced growing criticism — and widening state and federal scrutiny — into whether they’ve grown too big and powerful, undermining rivals and resulting in costlier or worse service for web users,” The Post reports.

Federal regulators have decided against assessing major penalties against the company, including breaking it up, but “The European Union has issued the company $9 billion in competition-related fines over the past three years,” The Post reports.

New report: Legal firms chasing demand for marijuana-related advice

Pot is hot in the legal field. According to a new report, law firms are scrambling to keep up with demand from clients seeking advice regarding marijuana legalization.

In a special report, The Recorder at Law.com offers a wide-ranging update.

“There is just too much business to be had for these firms to ignore this,” Law.com reporter Cheryl Miller says in a 15-minute “Legal Speak” interview. “We have 33 states and the District of Columbia now where some form of cannabis is legal, and there’s such a demand for legal guidance from all these businesses that are sprouting up in response.”

Miller says clients dealing in areas such as real estate and employment law need legal advice to keep up with the rapidly changing marijuana market.

The federal-state conflict remains a major issue, she cautions. Banking regulation or cross-border travel particularly into Canada are examples of problem areas.

But firms such as Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings are encountering high demand.

Miller says, “These lawyers are finding that it’s a natural outgrowth of a strong employment practice, a strong real estate practice or a strong transactions practice or a strong litigation practice, and they’re having their existing clients come to them, and that leads to more business down the line.”

Verdict in Ghost Ship trial leaves victims, families ‘stunned’


Photo credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times, as reported by the New York Times on 9/5/19.

An Oakland, California jury acquitted one man and could not reach a decision on a second man in the role they played in a 2016 warehouse blaze that killed 36 people.

One of the deadliest structural fires in recent American history, the fire occurred on Dec. 2, 2016 in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood in a building known as Ghost Ship, which had been illegally used as an artist studio and residence.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “The jury acquitted Harris, the warehouse’s 29-year-old self-described ‘creative director,’ and deadlocked on the charges against Almena, the warehouse’s property manager. Yesterday’s verdict capped a long judicial saga that involved two trials, an aborted plea deal and a near-mistrial. It was not immediately clear whether or not prosecutors would attempt to retry Almena.”

The report continues, “’For the victims’ loved ones, many of whom had either sat in court and listened to heart-rending testimony about their relatives’ final moments during the four-month trial or flown back and forth from other parts of the country to attend key hearings, Thursday’s result was the latest round of pain and frustration,’ as crime and policing reporter James Queally explained in his story on the verdict.”

The New York Times reports, “The jury’s decision comes after a tortuous deliberation process that began in July, but was interrupted last month when Judge Thompson dismissed three jurors for unspecified misconduct, replacing them with three alternates. The judge then ordered the jury to begin deliberating from scratch. The trial featured three months of testimony.”

The NYT report continues, “’I’m just stunned,’ Alberto Vega, 36, whose brother Alex Vega was one of the victims, said outside the courtroom. ‘I feel sick to my stomach. It was obvious what rules were broken.’”

 

 

 

Okla. judge orders Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for opioid crisis

Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman made a landmark ruling, which found Johnson & Johnson liable for fueling an opioid epidemic in Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Reuters as reported by The Washington Post on 8/26/19.)

Johnson & Johnson must pay the state of Oklahoma $572 million in the first opioid-related state case to go to trial.

Cleveland County (Okla.) District Judge Thad Balkman found the pharmaceutical company responsible for the opioid crisis in Oklahoma, one of more than 40 states waging lawsuits, The Washington Post reports.

Judge Balkman issued his ruling Monday, Aug. 26, which The Post dubbed a “landmark decision” and “the first to hold a drugmaker culpable for the fallout of years of liberal opioid dispensing that began in the late 199os.”

An estimated 400,000 people have died of overdoses from painkillers, heroin and illegal fentanyl since 1999. according to the report.

Oklahoma attorneys sought $17.5 billion over 30 years for treatment, emergency care, law enforcement, social services, and other addiction-related needs, but Judge Balkman ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million “to remedy the drug crisis in the first year, based on the state’s plan,” The Post reports. The company has vowed to appeal.