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

New courthouse in Placerville – unsought by judiciary – funded in California budget

A controversial effort to build a new courthouse in Placerville received a boost in California’s $215 billion budget.

The Recorder by law.com reported on June 13 about the $2.8 million allocation, which will pay for about 5 acres of vacant land, the prospective site of a new courthouse.

The land is owned by El Dorado County, “acquired by the county in a 2014 land swap with John V. Briggs, a former Republican assemblyman and state senator.” Described as an example of pork-barrel politics, the allocation was not requested by the judiciary.

“The judicial branch has no immediate plans to build the courthouse,” The Recorder reported. “The Judicial Council hasn’t secured the funding for a project with an estimated price tag of $82 million.”

California legislators approved the budget on June 13. The $2.8 million allocation for courthouse land “was not vetted in months of budget committee hearings this spring. It appeared for the first time Sunday night as a line item in the budget deal reached between Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers,” The Recorder reported.

“The current three-story, four-courtroom building in Placerville is postcard pretty, but at 106 years old it lacks modern-day features. It is crowded and has no holding cells for in-custody defendants, no dedicated jury assembly room and limited public parking. The idea of building a new courthouse instead of renovating and expanding the existing one has been a contentious one for decades. A 1965 grand jury report recommended relocating the court. Local residents balked and the existing courthouse was remodeled instead,” the article noted.

 

‘Stairway to Heaven’ gets second chance

Photo credit: Michael Ochs Archives 1973, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on 6/10/19.

The U.S. federal court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco agreed Monday to give Led Zeppelin a new hearing to defend a jury’s favorable verdict in a suit that claimed the opening lines of the 1972 hit, “Stairway to Heaven,” had been plagiarized from a 1968 song by the California band Spirit, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The 1968 Spirit instrumental ‘Taurus’ opens with a rising and falling guitar melody somewhat similar to the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ opening,” notes the report.

A Los Angles jury heard “conflicting testimony from musicology experts about whether the passages were similar enough for a copyright violation” during the trial in 2016.

“Led Zeppelin’s request for a rehearing, supported by other songwriters and music publishers, argued that allowing copyright protection for ‘commonplace elements’ in composition would cause ‘widespread confusion’ in the music business,” explains the report.

 

Multibillion-dollar insurance corporation sued for data breach

Insurance giant First American Financial faces a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, claiming the company “left more than 885 million sensitive documents dating as far back as 2003 exposed online,” Forbes.com reported on May 28.

“Now the company is facing a class action lawsuit for its apparent negligence. Gibbs Law Group LLP announced today that it is bringing the first nationwide class action lawsuit against the multibillion-dollar corporation,” the article reported.

The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by David Gritz, a house flipper from Pennsylvania.

“First American was the title insurer for at least 11 of his housing transactions, according to the lawsuit,” Forbes.com reported. “The complaint suggests the members of the class affected by First American’s data exposure could be in the millions, and the lawsuit is seeking over $5 million.”

 

 

Class action lawsuit, investigation follow infant deaths in Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

Photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post, as reported on 5/30/19.

A few weeks ago, a press release Wolf Haldenstein and Connors LLP announce that on April 19, 2019, that firm had filed “a consumer class action lawsuit against Fisher-Price, Inc. and its corporate parent Mattel Inc. (“Defendants”) on behalf of Cassandra Mulvey and all other owners of Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘n Play Sleeper since 2009, alleging violations of consumer protection laws, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment and other claims. The case, Mulvey v. Fisher–Price, Inc. and Mattel, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00518 (W.D.N.Y.), is pending in United States District Court for the Western District of New York  in Buffalo, New York, where Fisher-Price, Inc.  is located.”

You can read the full complaint here

The Washington Post did an in-depth investigation on the case about how “Fisher-Price developed its revolutionary Rock ‘n Play sleeper based on faulty beliefs about infant sleep, without safety testing and without consulting a pediatrician.”

According to WaPo, “last month, the Rock ‘n Play was recalled by Fisher-Price after a series of infant deaths. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which helped coordinate the recall, said more than 30 babies died in the product after they turned over while unrestrained or ‘under other circumstances.'”

The bleak state of the immigration court system

A recent article by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) outlines the current state of the immigration court system and it is bleak: “In a report released earlier this year, the American Bar Association described the U.S. immigration court system as facing an ‘existential crisis,’ an ‘irredeemably dysfunctional’ system ‘on the brink of collapse.'”

The report notes a backlog of 900,000 cases quoting The Economist: “People will die of old age in America before they ever acquire the legal right to live in America. This is an extraordinary failure to govern.”

According to the article, Trump’s new regulations have just exacerbated the problem, comparing the complexity of the immigration courts system to the tax code. They also note that the massive backlog of cases “have led to judges rushing to complete cases, compromising their ethical obligations and violating immigrants’ due process rights…”