On January 7th, an attorney representing President Donald Trump filed a one-page motion of withdrawal from a case filed shortly after the election. That is hardly remarkable with attorneys entering and leaving cases every day in federal court. What is remarkable is the reason. Philadelphia-based attorney Jerome Marcus told the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that he was withdrawing because President Trump used him, and his election challenge, to “perpetuate a crime.” The filing raises some troubling questions regarding the alleged criminal conduct as well as the necessity of making such an allegation in a simple motion to withdraw from representation.
We have been discussing curious Covid-related offenses this year, but a Wisconsin controversy raises a particularly challenging such question. Advocate Aurora Health has admitted that an employee intentionally removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration. The intentional act, originally claimed to be accidental, resulted in the destruction of 500 doses of the potentially life-saying vaccine. Advocate Aurora Health said the employee was fired. However, an intentional destruction of the doses would seem the ultimate product tampering case: either compromised vaccines would be given patients or 500 people will have to wait longer for the protection from Covid-19.
’Tis the season for the Christmas tort. For lawyers, Christmas remains a horn-of-plenty for the practice of law. Indeed, mayhem and madness have been part of Christmas since its very founding. Thus, each year we gather for the posting of the annual list of Christmas torts and crimes. Fortunately, the holiday is much more than the entries on the criminal or civil dockets. However, these cases remind us all that, even when chaos lurks around holiday gatherings, we somehow survive and return year in and year out. So Happy Holidays to everyone. Continue reading “Christmas Torts: The 2020 Listing Of Holiday Mishaps and Madness”
In 2019, former Rep. Katie Hill resigned from Congress after the disclosure of sexual relations with a staff member. Ordinarily, the media and various public interest groups would have been outraged and unrelenting in their “MeToo” coverage, particularly with a young staffer recently out of college. In the case of Hill, however ,media outlets like MSNBC picked up on Hill’s claim that she was subjected to a “double standard” and a “misogynistic culture.” It was the ultimate form of ironic hypocrisy where a politician claimed a double standard in being forced to resign — seeking an accommodation that was wisely denied to male colleagues in past scandals. Various male politicians from Sen. Bob Packwood to Rep. Trent Franks have resigned under such scandals. Sen. Al Franken resigned for acts that did not involve an actual sexual affair. Hill abused her position of power but somehow converted that abuse into a women’s rights issue. Hill sold that narrative and is now bizarrely treated by many as a victim. Now, Hill is suing over the coverage of her scandal in a lawsuit that challenges core protections for the media. Continue reading “Former Rep. Hill Files Lawsuit Against Former Husband And Media Over Public Disclosures”
In celebration of Thanksgiving, I give you our annual Turkey Torts of civil and criminal cases that add liability to libations on this special day (with past cases at the bottom). Many criminal defense attorneys and torts attorneys give special thanks for a holiday that can involve copious amounts of alcohol, strained family relations, over-the-hill amateur football players, “Black Friday” sale stampedes, and novice cooks. These cases are why Johnny Carson said “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”
Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday.
The press conference held by the Trump legal team was not for the faint of heart. The team alleged a global, Communist-backed conspiracy to “inject” and “change” votes through the use of the Dominion computer system. It was exhausting and breathtaking. I was critical of the press conference as being long on heated rhetoric and short on hard evidence. Dominion issued a statement categorically denying the allegations. The question is whether Dominion itself will now sue. The company denied the allegations but I often measure such denials by whether anyone actually sues. Dominion could do so and force the Trump team to reveal the evidence supporting their allegations or face potentially significant liability. These are not just colorful but criminal allegations against named companies and by implication corporate officials and political allies.
Here is my annual list of Halloween torts and crimes. Halloween of course remains a holiday seemingly designed for personal injury lawyers around the world and this year’s additions show why. Halloween has everything for a torts-filled holiday: battery, trespass, defamation, nuisance, product liability and more. This year, one potential danger has been eliminated in Japan where the Japanese mob has been banned from handing out candy. However, there are still some notable additions.
In this election, the Lincoln Project has been arguably the most prolific anti-Trump organization in running scathing and often personal attacks on Trump, his family, and his associates. The ads have ranged from the genuinely funny to the shockingly vicious. Now however, the Project may have added openly defamatory. The Project has erected a pair of billboards in Times Square that slam Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as callous and mocking figures in the fast of the rising death toll from Covid-19. The Project has received a letter of intent to sue from the family’s lawyer and, while these actions by public official or public figures are extremely difficult to maintain, the claim could have merit. I have updated the column below to add the statement from the Lincoln Project.
Police in Michigan are looking for the person responsible for a booby-trapped Trump-Pence sign that cut a worker who was removing it because it was too close to the road. The worker required 13 stitches. In torts, we cover a long line of cases involving “snare guns” and “man traps” going back centuries. This case presents an ironic twist under that precedent. Continue reading “A Sign of Our Times: Police Search For Culprit In Booby Trapped Trump Sign”
Two Temple University students were hospitalized after falling four stories while they were allegedly trying to take a selfie at a rooftop party. The students were at a party around 2 a.m. on Saturday when they fell from the rooftop and landed in an alley. The management company insisted that there is an ample barrier, but the case could raise some challenging questions in a tort action for both sides.
Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly is reportedly moving forward with defamation actions against those who have called him a “murderer” for his role in the Breonna Taylor case. His attorney Todd McMurtry has been unclear on who would be sued for the commonly used label following the shooting of Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker. A defamation is possible but it would be highly challenging under controlling case law and this specific context. Continue reading “Does Officer Jonathan Mattingly Have A Defamation Case In The Coverage Of The Breonna Taylor Case?”
Alan Dershowitz just filed a whale of a lawsuit against CNN, though it could end up beached in short order under controlling case law. The Harvard Law professor emeritus is demanding $300,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from CNN for misrepresenting his legal arguments in the Trump impeachment trial. In fairness to Dershowitz, the coverage of the trial by CNN was dreadful with intentionally and consistently slanted coverage of the evidence, standards, and arguments. However, the objections raised by Dershowitz are likely to be treated as part of the peril for high-profile figures operating in the public domain. In other words, you can complain about the weather but you cannot sue the storm. Continue reading “Dershowitz Sues CNN For $300,000,000 In Defamation Action”
Thirty years after the late D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s famous statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that a Salon owner set her up in an embarrassing incident where Pelosi was shown not just violating San Francisco’s pandemic laws in getting her hair done but not wearing a mask while doing it. Pelosi refused to take responsibility for the violation (including the failure to wear a mask) and, in the tape below, only took responsibility to “failing for a set up.” She added “I think that this salon owes me an apology, for setting me up.” The Salon owner, Erica Kious, has stated that she expects to close eSalon after receiving a torrent of death threats and hostile massages after Pelosi’s allegation. The question is whether she could actually sue for defamation. Continue reading “Set Up or Slander: Did Pelosi Defame A Salon Owner?”
Sarah Palin is about to get all mavericky in court. Indeed, the former Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate just might be making new law in the area of defamation. Palin’s won a major victory in a decision by Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who ruled that she could go to trial o a particularly outrageous editorial by The New York Times In June 2017. The editorial suggested that she inspired or incited Jared Loughner’s 2011 shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. The case also involves a curious twist due to the involvement of James Bennet, who resigned in the recent controversy over an editorial by Sen. Tom Cotton. I supported Bennet’s decision to publish that editorial and denounced the cringing apology of the Times after a backlash.
New documents in the George Floyd investigation have been released and it is likely that they will be key to the criminal defense of the accused officers in that case. The documents contain accounts of extremely high levels of fentanyl in Floyd’s blood that could have contributed to his death. The documents are likely to feature significantly in the criminal defense of former officers Tou Thao, Derek Chauvin, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. While admissibility can be challenged, they reflect findings that will be raised at trial on the impact of these drugs in Floyd’s system. However, the documents in my view do not conclusively establish that the drug use was the cause of the death. Indeed, some reaffirm the view of prosecutors. I do not believe that these documents should not be treated as determinative evidence by the court in pre-trial motions. In other words, this should go to a jury.