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

NCM Taking Part In New Asbestos ‘Double-Victims’ Group

Sara Warner, Founding Publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor

The National Courts Monitor is helping organize a new workgroup to look into how the asbestos litigation system treats cancer victims and other families impacted by the substance. In particular, the group hopes to help discover if the practices of some special bankruptcy trust funds, and the attorneys who work with them, leaves families vulnerable to charges they have shortchanged insurance companies or other health-care providers like Medicaid.

NCM Publisher Sara Warner explains that the group is organizing as civil racketeering lawsuits are popping up around the country, based largely on the revelations from the “Garlock” case in North Carolina where a federal judge found “evidence suppression” as he looked into 15 different asbestos cases.

The issue is especially important for our nation’s veterans because more of them are at risk from asbestos disease.

As the Military.com website put into context:
“While veterans represent 8% of the nation’s population, they comprise an astonishing 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in this country… virtually every ship commissioned by the United States Navy between 1930 and about 1970 contained several tons of asbestos insulation in the engine room, along the miles of pipe aboard ship and in the walls and doors that required fireproofing…”

You can read more about Sara’s views here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-asbestos-victims-group-exploring-litigation-scandals_us_58aee259e4b0ea6ee3d03622

And the group’s website: http://www.asbestosdoublevictims.org/

And more about the veterans’ issue here:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-warner/a-sad-truth-for-veterans_b_9417622.html

Attorney-Author Marks BP-Spill Anniversary With Dire Assessment

An environmental attorney from New Orleans has marked this week’s 5-year anniversary of the huge BP with a truly dire assessment of regulatory inaction, warning in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that the region not only remains at risk, but the “cure” of using dispersant may have been worse than the oil itself.

Stuart H. Smith, a high-profile plaintiff’s attorney who turned blogger then author in the wake of the BP disaster, says President Obama said the right things “… but Congress — controlled by Republican lawmakers indebted to their Big Oil campaign contributors — still has not enacted the offshore-drilling safety measures recommended by the president’s Oil Spill Commission. It has not given strong regulatory powers to the agency that replaced the scandal-scarred Minerals Management Service. And it has not raised the ridiculously low cap of $75 million for corporate liability on major spills.”

Smith offers this even more unsettling take on the half-decade: “… on the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident, workers continue to clean up tar balls and giant tar mats of weathered BP oil along beaches from Louisiana to Florida. Black crude still clogs the edges of our ever-shrinking wetlands. A recent report by the National Wildlife Federation chronicled significant health damage to some 20 species of marine plants and birds, while people who took part in 2010 cleanup efforts struggle with headaches, nausea and other symptoms.”

He contends that “lax government standards for highly toxic dispersants are yet another problem” and that a “string of scientific studies has suggested that exposure to Corexit [the dispersant famously used in bulk during the BP spill] may have been more damaging to the health of cleanup workers and marine life than the initial exposure to spilled oil.”

Meanwhile, of course, the civil lawsuits continue to have billions of dollars at stake. Check out the excellent Smith blog, with links to his book “Crude Justice” here: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/

Check out the LAT opinion piece here: 5 years after BP spill, little has changed to protect Gulf of Mexico

 

 

‘Civil Gideon’ Suggested For Pennsylvania

Most of us know that we have a right to an attorney if we’re arrested, but a movement is afoot to provide a similar provision for those facing civil lawsuits. In particular, cases involving “human need” like child custody and shelter would qualify for the “civil Gideon” program. “Gideon” is the name of the court cases that created the “right to a lawyer” in criminal court.

In Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “… a statewide coalition of leaders from the Allegheny County, Dauphin County, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania bar associations, as well as other related groups, held public hearings on the idea of expanding the Gideon ruling to civil cases. It is recommending the Pennsylvania Supreme Court establish an Access to Justice Commission, similar to those in 32 other states, which would further explore how to implement such a measure”

In addition to establishing a commission, the newspaper noted, a recent report recommends the Pennsylvania Legislature appropriate $50 million for civil legal services and work toward establishing a right to counsel in civil legal matters where “fundamental human needs are at stake.”

You can read the report here.