Legal Pot Might Be Sued Out of Business

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is raising eyebrows in the legal marijuana industry and the Denver weekly newspaper Westword warns that the litigation “… is based on federal racketeering laws, that anti-marijuana forces hope will help them destroy the marijuana industry here and throughout the country.”
At issue is an argument that a Colorado pot-growing operation damages neighboring property owners — they say their horse-riding experience is diminished by the smell from marijuana and other concerns, including construction. In its decision, the 10th Circuit effectively found that the plaintiffs’ use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute had merit because the adjacent property violates federal laws against marijuana, which is specifically mentioned in the RICO laws.
Westwood breaks it down: “This ruling could be game-changing. If the Reillys and Safe Streets Alliance succeed, other individuals or groups would be able to file complaints against marijuana businesses using RICO on a scale so massive that the entire industry could sink under the weight of litigation — or so opponents hope.”
Read the story here:
How Bizarre Pot Smell Ruling Could Destroy Colorado’s Marijuana Industry

New York City Embraces Civil Gideon

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

The argument for Civil Gideon process took a major step forward last week when the New York City Council passed legislation in support of legal representation in eviction cases. Sponsored by Manhattan City Council Representative Matt Levine, the measure allows the city to appoint counsel for those facing eviction court.
Though Mayor Bill DeBlasio is expected to sign the bill, the process will not happen overnight. The plan is to phase the assistance in over a five year period. A recent article in Slate Magazine pointed out that in the 150,000 housing eviction cases in the city, tenants in eviction cases were victorious in 77% of cases when legal counsel was appointed.

Read the Slate story here:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/07/21/new_york_city_has_taken_up_the_fight_against_the_eviction_machine_in_a_big.html

Civil Courts Deciding New Orleans Charter-School Segregation Issue

Civil lawsuits are as much a part of America’s charter school landscape as blackboards and parental ire, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is one of the latest battlegrounds. At issue is the Greater Grace Charter Academy a bit west of New Orleans that is 93 percent black enrollment, but where the population is only 62 percent black, according to the Associated Press.

In a report posted on the NOLA news website, the AP says that “… Louisiana’s education board approved the school’s charter and U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman allowed the opening last August. He noted the school has a non-discriminatory enrollment policy. He said blocking the opening would punish students who chose to enroll there. Opponents argue that approving a nearly one-race school ‘is contrary to the goals of desegregation.'”

Arguments are expected to be heard this month. Read the AP report here:
Charter school segregation lawsuit goes to U.S. appeals court

Asbestos Trust Filings An Issue In California Legislative Push

Photo credit: Northern California Record report, 4/10/17

Tort reform advocates are pushing a new California proposal that would require victims’ attorneys to disclose filings with asbestos bankruptcy “trusts,” or face longer times awaiting trial in the state’s crowded civil court docket. The Norcal Record, a legal-issues newspaper owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, reports that the new law is scheduled for a vote in the Judiciary Committee of the California Assembly on April 25.

The Record explains that AB105 “… would require lawyers to reveal that they have filed for awards with asbestos bankruptcy trusts, established to compensate victims of exposure, before receiving ‘preference’ when filing a separate action in a civil court. Absent preference, a civil action in California’s  overburdened courts can take three years for a case to come to trial, legal experts say.”

Nothing under current California law requires a lawyer to reveal to a court that a separate action for compensation has been filed with a trust, resulting in documented cases of lawyers and their clients receiving awards both from the trusts and the courts. The so-called ‘double dipping’ leaves trusts with fewer funds for those with legitimate exposure claims, critics of the practice say.

Asbestos victims’ cases are the nation’s longest running civil tort litigation, lasting more than four decades. The trusts are a special aspect of federal bankruptcy laws that allows companies facing asbestos liability to form special trust funds that operate separately from the civil courts system. Recently, those trusts have come under fire for offering victims a chance to tell one exposure story in the trust system and another in the separate civil courts system.

Some states have passed, and the U.S. Congress is considering, new laws aimed at reconciling how the trust funds interact with the civil courts.

See the Record story here:
Asbestos transparency legislation set for committee vote next week

Legal Battle Resumes Over Nevada Nuke Waste Facility

The portal of a five-mile-long tunnel into Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where the Energy Department wants to bury 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste. Photo credit: Los Angeles Times report, 3/29/17

The decades-old legal battle over Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste facility in Nevada, has resumed, the Los Angeles Times reports. The paper says that “… Nevada has filed some 300 legal ‘contentions’ against the Energy Department’s license, each of which must be examined by a special board. The state is swinging into action to file even more contentions if the license action is resumed, said Robert Halstead, chief of the state’s nuclear office.”

“They think because Reid is gone, this will be a cakewalk. Wrong,” Halstead told the LAT. “I see them going through a licensing procedure that will cost $1.5 billion and take five years, with a 50% chance of success.” The delays have resulted in staggering costs. The government promised nuclear utilities decades ago that it would take the spent fuel by 1998. Customers have paid a fraction of a penny on every kilowatt-hour of electricity into a fund for waste storage, which now contains about $36 billion.

The facility has long been considered for storing the nation’s nuclear waste and gathered political traction during the George W. Bush administration. Then Harry Reid became Senate leader and more or less nixed the proposal. But with President Trump in charge, the new energy secretary, former Texas governor Rick Perry, has already visited the site.

Read the Times’ story here: Decades-old war over Yucca Mountain nuclear dump resumes under Trump budget plan