Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay $4.69 billion in talc case

Photo credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press as reported by The New York Times on 7/12/18.

Johnson & Johnson, in one of the largest punitive damage awards in history, must pay $4.69 billion to plaintiffs exposed to talcum-based products which they claimed caused them to develop cancer.

“Johnson & Johnson was ordered Thursday to pay $4.69 billion to 22 women and their families who had claimed that asbestos in the company’s talcum powder products caused them to develop ovarian cancer,” The New York Times reported on July 12. “A jury in a Missouri circuit court awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages to the women, who had accused the company of failing to warn them about cancer risks associated with its baby and body powders.”

Six of the women who sued the company have died, according to The New York Times. Johnson & Johnson, which has successfully appealed a number of similar cases, vowed to file an appeal.

‘Zero tolerance’ policy on border swells federal caseloads

Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego. Photo Credit: Nehrams2020 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A Trump administration policy to criminally prosecute illegal border crossings has created a renewed backlog in the federal justice system in the Southwest.

“Failures to bring new arrestees to court in a timely manner has been an issue off and on for years in San Diego and Imperial counties, and federal defense attorneys say that it has only magnified in the past couple months as the Trump administration has vowed to criminally prosecute all illegal border crossings under a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy,”reported Kristina Davis of The Los Angeles Times.

“Since mid-April, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy, public defenders in San Diego have filed 138 habeas corpus petitions, a civil remedy that in Latin translates to ‘produce the body.’ That’s compared to 13 filed during the same time frame last year, according to court records,” Davis reported.

As a result, more people arrested at the border spend longer periods of time in Border Patrol facilities rather than getting booked into the federal prison system, particularly the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, according to the report.

California courts react to #MeToo Movement with rule changes

Photo Credit: Rob Kall from Bucks County, PA, USA (#womensmarch2018 Philly Philadelphia #MeToo) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

The #MeToo Movement swept California courts this spring, as the judiciary adopted rule changes requiring the disclosure of financial agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination.

On May 24, the California courts website reported, “The Judicial Council at its business meeting today revised the rules of court to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement must be disclosed if requested, including agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination. In April, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye convened a workgroup to study and recommend changes to the rules of court to ensure that all levels of the state court system respond to these types of public records requests.”

The revised rule allows redaction of names of complainants and witnesses, however.

The Recorder at reports, “The Judicial Council approved the amendments to Rule of Court 10.500 with little discussion and none of the previous criticism from some judges that the mandate was too broad.”

The rule change went into effect June 1.

“The chief justice’s call for changes was in response to records requested by The Recorder and other media outlets that showed the judiciary paid $600,000 since 2011 to investigate and settle harassment claims against court employees and judges. Judiciary branch lawyers declined to name the judges involved or the allegations, citing broad protections for investigations of and claims concerning judges in Rule 10.500.”

Supreme Court agrees to hear civil forfeiture challenge

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Photo Credit: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite as reported by Forbes, 2/1/18.

Billions of dollars in government revenue and one of the most contentious constitutional questions of the present day are at stake in a pending U.S. Supreme Court case over civil forfeiture.

“For the first time in over 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the opportunity to review the constitutionality of civil forfeiture laws, which allow the government to confiscate cash, cars, and even homes,” Forbes reported.

Civil forfeiture laws allowed local and state jurisdictions to reap millions of dollars: “from 2001 to 2014, the Justice Department and the Treasury Department’s forfeiture funds took in almost $29 billion,” Forbes reported.

The court has granted a cert petition from Tyson Timbs, “who was forced to forfeit his $40,000 Land Rover in civil court to the State of Indiana, after he pled guilty to selling less than $200 worth of drugs,” the Forbes article reported.

Timbs prevailed in lower courts, but last fall the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against him. “The Excessive Fines Clause does not bar the State from forfeiting Defendant’s vehicle,” the court ruled, “because the United States Supreme Court has not held that the Clause applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.”

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to weigh in.



Records: Booted Tulare County, CA judge focus of $120,000 sex harassment case

The sexual harassment case against a Tulare County judge who was ousted from the bench is documented in a five-page settlement document released as a result of newly revised rules of disclosure in California’s judiciary.

The Recorder at reported on June 12, “California’s judiciary paid a Tulare County Superior Court clerk $120,000 in 2016 to settle claims that a judge — now removed from the bench — harassed her over several months in 2013.”

The Recorder noted, “The payment was made to Priscilla Campos Tovar, a Tulare court clerk who alleged that Judge Valeriano Saucedo attempted to pressure the married woman into a romantic relationship by sending her frequent text messages and numerous gifts, including a family trip to Disneyland, cash and a car. Saucedo argued he was only trying to act as a mentor to Tovar. The Commission on Judicial Performance ordered Saucedo removed from the bench in December 2015, calling his conduct ‘so completely at odds with the core qualities and role of a judge that no amount of mitigation can redeem the seriousness of the wrongdoing.’”

On May 24, the California Judicial Council revised the rules of court “to clarify that any settlement agreements involving judicial officers for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement must be disclosed if requested, including agreements related to complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination,” the state’s judicial website reported.

The Recorder reported, “The Tulare court settlement is one of three involving judges around the state dating back to 2010. Lawyers for the Judicial Council acknowledged in March that the judiciary had paid $296,000 to settle three complaints against judges, although it declined to identify the judges or say whether they remained on the bench.”