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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wonder Why Lawyers Are Disliked?

A bitter legal brawl over attorneys' fees has erupted in a national cosmetics pricing class action lawsuit, with feuding camps of plaintiffs' lawyers slinging allegations of flagrant billing abuses and extortion.

Among the alleged abuses were bills of $195 an hour for work by paralegals who were paid just $30, claims that attorneys and paralegals worked 24-hour or even 72-hour days, and charges of $90 or more for cleaning desks and filing.

"It's unfortunate it has gotten kind of nasty," one of the lawyers in the fray, Michael Caddell of Houston, said in an interview yesterday.

The conflict stems from a settlement an Oakland, Calif.-based federal judge approved last year to end long running litigation over claims that department stores and cosmetics manufacturers conspired to prevent discounting of lipstick, blush, and other beauty counter products.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Microsoft Offers $70 Million

Microsoft Corp. agreed to pay $70 million to several California municipalities to resolve claims that the company overcharged for its Windows software.

The city of Los Angeles, L.A. County, San Francisco and Santa Clara, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties would receive vouchers worth as much as $70 million to purchase computers, software and other equipment, said Jim Emery, an attorney for San Francisco.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Supremes Rule In Favor Of Smith

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that one-time stripper and Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith could pursue part of her late husband's oil fortune.

Justices gave new legal life to Smith's bid to collect millions of dollars from the estate of J. Howard Marshall II. Her late husband's estate has been estimated at as much as $1.6 billion.

Smith has been embroiled in a long running cross-country court fight with Marshall's youngest son, E. Pierce Marshall. The court's decision, which was unanimous, means that it will not end anytime soon.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court, said Smith should have a fresh chance to pursue claims in federal court.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Book Him Danno

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Streakers Beware

A German court ruled that stadium operators can claim damages from streakers at matches - a decision that could affect the World Cup.

The High Regional Court in Rostock ruled Friday in favor of local second-division club Hansa Rostock, which filed compensation claims against three streakers after being fined euro20,000 ($24,800) by the German soccer federation (DFB).

The court ruled the club could seek full compensation for the fine against the trio, who had climbed over the fence and onto the field during an October 2003 match.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Maryland Sues Exxon Mobil

In the biggest environmental enforcement action in recent years in Maryland, the state filed suit yesterday seeking nearly $12 million in penalties from Exxon Mobil Corp. and a local service station operator for a major gasoline leak that officials say has fouled well water in the Jacksonville area of Baltimore County.

"We are holding those responsible accountable," Kendl P. Philbrick, secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, said at a news conference at the agency's Baltimore headquarters. He called the leak, one of the largest ever in the state, "catastrophic," and said an investigation continues into whether criminal charges might be filed as well.

The 15-count civil suit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, accuses the giant oil corporation and Storto Enterprises Inc., operator of the Jacksonville Exxon station, of violating state environmental laws and regulations by allowing gasoline to leak from an underground fuel line and not detecting or reporting it promptly.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Operation Falcon II Rounds Up Sex Offenders

More than 1,100 people wanted for violent sex crimes have been arrested in a weeklong roundup of fugitives, the Justice Department said Thursday.

The arrests were made as part of "Operation Falcon II," a nationwide dragnet timed to coincide with National Victims Rights Week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Supremes to Hear Immigration Case

As the fight over rewriting immigration law heats up, corporations are coming under fire for using recruiters to find and hire workers who are in the United States illegally.

The allegations against corporations will figure prominently in arguments before the Supreme Court when justices hear an appeal Wednesday by a Georgia floor-covering company accused by current and former employees of hiring hundreds of illegal immigrants to suppress wages.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lay: Not My Fault

Former Enron chairman Ken Lay, who came to personify an era of corporate scandals that shook the U.S. marketplace, took the stand here Monday and described his transformation from business titan to white-collar criminal defendant as a journey from the "American dream" to an "American nightmare."

Lay, 64, denied any involvement in what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to hide Enron's financial problems in 2001, when revelations about Enron's accounting practices shook investor confidence and ultimately drove the company into bankruptcy protection.

Recalling how he resumed as CEO in August 2001, when Jeff Skilling suddenly quit the position, Lay said it was "absolutely ludicrous that I stepped back in and picked up the mantle of conspiracy."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Supermodel Gone Bad

Former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model May Andersen was arrested after allegedly becoming unruly and striking a flight attendant on a plane from Amsterdam to Miami, police said.

Andersen, 23, from Denmark continued being loud and violent after officers met Martinair Flight 643 on the ground Thursday, Miami-Dade Airport Police said.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Lawyer Dies In Courtroom

A lawyer arguing a drunken driving case at the Wake County Courthouse died Thursday, apparently of a heart attack.

Tom Farris, 57, a Wilson defense lawyer, collapsed about 11:30 a.m. and died despite efforts to resuscitate him in the courtroom. The courthouse -- a weekday gathering place for hundreds -- does not have a defibrillator.

Defibrillators deliver a shock or series of shocks to the heart and can revive some patients. Portable units are increasingly found at stadiums, amusement parks and other places where large crowds gather. Some homes also have them.

Wake County officials set aside money to buy defibrillators last June but spent the past 10 months doing a study to assess the county's need for them in the courthouse and other buildings.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Raunchy Talk Not Sexual Harassment

The sexual jokes and innuendoes that were the mainstay of television's "Friends'' for a decade were nothing compared with the daily fare at script meetings, according to an assistant -- writers boasting about their sexual exploits, using language about sex practices too crude for the screen, and fantasizing in explicit terms about sex with the stars.

The assistant, finding nothing friendly about the environment, sued, saying the daily sex talk and accompanying gestures amounted to sexual harassment in the workplace. But on Thursday, the California Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that offensive comments are not sexual harassment when they are not aimed at a particular individual or at women in general.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Insanity Defense Being Examined By The Supremes

The Supreme Court struggled Wednesday with an appeal from an Arizona teen who killed a police officer but might have believed he was shooting a space alien. The case could affect insanity-defense laws nationwide.

Much of Wednesday's hour-long session focused on the intricacies of Arizona law that prevented Eric Michael Clark from offering evidence of his mental disease to counter the prosecutor's assertion that Clark had the requisite criminal intent to commit the June 2000 murder. Clark was 17, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and, his lawyer says, believed aliens were after him.

More broadly, the case tests constitutional standards for a state's consideration of a defendant's mental illness and how states may be bound to a traditional rule from 19th-century England that allows a defendant to demonstrate insanity if he did not know "the nature and quality" of the act and that it was wrong. The Supreme Court has never ruled that defendants have a constitutional right to make an insanity defense, but most states allow it and use the traditional two-prong test.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blogger Rights As Journalists

At, a Pennsylvania blogger offers up a daily menu of passionate online dish about all things Apple Computer. It looks like just another run-of-the-mill site in the vast and exploding blogosphere -- advertisements, links and an introduction that says "Publishing since 1995."

But bloggers like Jason O'Grady, who owns Power-Page, want to establish more than credibility with Apple aficionados. They see themselves as journalists, worthy of the same legal protections as Woodward and Bernstein, The New York Times or any other traditional form of media.

The blogging world may soon find out whether the highest courts in California agree.