Archives for March 2017

Health Care Funds Enough To Warrant Trust-Fund Lawsuit?

Photo credit: Legal News Line online report, 3/29/17

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce-backed Newsline website has published a deep-dive (well, “deeper” anyway) into the mushrooming state attorney generals investigation into asbestos trust funds, including speculation that U.S. Justice Department attention would be a “whole new ballgame.” The story broker recently when Forbes’ Daniel Fisher wrote about the probe.

(Sara Warner, publisher of this website, echoed some of his reporting in a Huffington Post piece.)

The Newsline report quotes Mark A. Behrens, who co-chairs Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s Washington, DC-based public policy group: “If these cases get the attention of the Department of Justice, then it’s a whole new ball game.” That report background that “… In one case, Utah’s Attorney General recently sued four of the largest asbestos bankruptcy trusts to make them comply with civil investigative demands from 13 states on whether they are failing to reimburse states for Medicare and Medicaid. Federal law requires those who oversee settlements to pay outstanding bills for Medicare coverage” and added that “… the federal government and the states may have similar interests with regard to reimbursement of health care costs, business interests believe. It is estimated that some 30 percent of asbestos cases involve veterans. Many of these individuals would receive treatment at VA hospitals at the government’s expense. Given the age of many asbestos plaintiffs, many also would receive Medicare benefits, a federal health care coverage program.”

The Newsline piece is here:

Traffic ‘Amnesty’ Ending. Will It Be A Return To ‘The F-Barrel’?

Photo Credit: KCRA3 online report, 3/28/17.

A California amnesty program created after an outcry over municipal traffic fines and fees is going away. The amnesty scheme was put into place in 2015 after a general outcry that included a national HBO report on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” program. That report made use of a a KCRA 3 (Sacramento) investigative story about the ballooning cost of court fees. It also introduced Oliver’s campaign to stop the “f-barrel,” although the cable host did not abbreviate his hopes.

David Manoucheri of KCRA is reporting that the amnesty program “… provides relief for drivers whose licenses were suspended because they failed to appear in court or had outstanding court debts, the DMV said in a news release. The fines would be reduced by 50 to 80 percent depending on the driver’s income.” Before, the station report, “… basic fines such as a $35 stop sign violation could balloon to over $300.”

Such fees and fines are not considered “criminal” by the courts, so violators do not hold the right to legal counsel. But they can still land people in jail for non-payment. Manoucheri notes that it’s been good for the municipal collections: “Since the program went into effect, 205,686 delinquent accounts have been reduced, 192,452 driver licenses have been reinstated and $35,530,680 in fines has been collected. That money would never have been collected by officials if the program wasn’t in place.”

Oliver connected the dots to illustrate that such municipal fees have been linked to the unrest in Ferguson,. Mo. and other problems. And his report remains one of the more anger-inducing indictments of municipal policy.

You can see that vial YouTube here:

And the find KCRA report here:

How Many Florida Folks Represent Themselves In Court? We May Soon Know

The Florida Bar Association Foundation is conducting polling to figure out how many people in the Sunshine State actually represent themselves in court. Eventually, it’s expected that the number, along with tracking outcomes in those cases, will become part of the debate over who the government should provide attorneys.

WLRN Radio of Miami is among those covering the effort, quoting Anais Taboas, South Florida Pro Bono Program Officer for the Florida Bar Foundation: “It’s a well known fact: there are many individuals who can not get an attorney. Whether it’s because they can’t afford to, or whether it’s because they don’t know… where [to] find an attorney… It’s extremely helpful if every single person going into court has access to an attorney and it’s part of the access to justice issue.”

Results are expected in late April. Connect with the story here:

How Many People Represent Themselves In Court? Lawyers Are Trying To Figure That Out

Former Immigration Judge Calls For L.A. To Provide Lawyers

Some of about 100 people demonstrate outside a federal immigration court in Los Angeles on Monday, March 6, 2017. (Michael Balsamo / AP)

A former immigration court judge is calling on Los Angeles to move quickly and provide attorneys for undocumented residents facing deportation. Bruce J. Einhorn, who was an immigration judge for 17 years, says in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that he “… watched sons trying to grasp complicated legal concepts not written in their native language and mothers desperately advocating for daughters who were in detention. I saw families torn apart by a system they were unable to understand.”

The former judge makes both legal and financial points in arguing his case and notes that Trump administration policies are likely to increase court volume and backlog. Already, he explains, San Francisco hearings might take two years before there’s room on a court docket. He also argues that the L.A. program might be modeled on the New York City project.

Judge Einhorn writes that “… New York City’s program, which began in 2013, has been tremendously successful. After securing representation for its first 1,000 clients, the program reported that it completed more than a third of the city’s deportation cases in the first or second hearing, and that immigrants were nearly 10 times more likely to win their cases. The program has since been expanded to New York State.”
Read his opinion here: 

L.A. needs to provide attorneys to immigrants facing deportation

Forbes: State AGs Probe Asbestos Trusts Over Medicaid Payments

Asbestos wallboard on a job site: Who pays when workers get sick? (Shutterstock)

Daniel Fisher at Forbes is reporting that attorneys general from 13 “Republican-leaning states” are involved in a lawsuit against several big national asbestos bankruptcy trust funds, seeking “… information on whether they are squandering money and failing to reimburse states for Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.”

Fisher’s report says that the lawsuit follows “… demand letters to the Armstrong World Industries, Babcock & Wilcox, DII and Owens Corning/Fibreboard bankruptcy trusts on Dec. 12. So far none have responded, Utah says in the complaint filed March 7 in state court in Salt Lake City.”

The report also notes that “… The AGs cite the Medicare Secondary Payer law, a little used federal statute that carries stiff penalties for insurers and others who arrange for lawsuit settlements to be paid directly to claimants without making sure they first settle outstanding bills for Medicare coverage. Penalties can include double damages and even plaintiff attorneys can be liable, said Frank Qesada, an attorney with MSP Recovery, a Miami law firm that has filed numerous national class actions on behalf of private Medicare providers.”

Asbestos lawsuits represent the nation’s longest-running personal injury civil litigation and has been ongoing for about 40 years. Read the Forbes story here: State AGs Probe Asbestos Bankruptcy Trusts To Recover Medicare Payments