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EPA Head Unaware of Pressures on States
Headline News | 2008/03/05 20:26

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday he didn't know of behind-the-scenes efforts by EPA officials to blunt state attempts to reduce mercury emissions from power plants.

Those efforts occurred even as the Bush administration argued in court that states are free to enact tougher mercury controls from power plants, The Associated Press reported last month, based on internal EPA documents.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., questioned EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson about the report at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations environment subcommittee.

"Has anyone with EPA ever pressured any state against instituting any more restrictive mercury regulation?" asked Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I don't recall having any firsthand knowledge of that," said Johnson. "I don't know if they have, no I don't," he added.

Leahy cautioned Johnson that such pressure on states was inappropriate, and if it did occur, "then the EPA gave misleading information to the courts, which is an extremely serious matter."

A federal appeals court last month struck down the Bush administration's industry-friendly approach for mercury reduction that allowed plants with excessive smokestack emissions to buy pollution rights from other plants that foul the air less.

Internal EPA documents obtained by the advocacy group Environmental Defense show attempts over the past two years to bar state efforts to make their plants drastically cut mercury pollution instead of trading for credits that would let them continue it.

Many states did not want their power plants to be able to buy their way out of having to reduce mercury pollution.

The push to rein in uncooperative states continued until the eve of the Feb. 8 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck down the EPA's program. A day before that ruling, the White House Office of Management and Budget approved a draft regulation to impose a "federal implementation plan" for mercury reduction in states whose mercury control measures did not meet EPA approval.



Teen Appealing Web Blog Free Speech Decision
Headline News | 2008/03/05 20:22
A high school senior who used vulgar language in reference to her school administrators is appealing the decision of a lower federal court and fighting for her right to serve as class secretary and to speak at her graduation in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

Avery Doninger, 17, was barred from running for class secretary by Lewis S. Mills High School in Burlington, Conn. because administrators she had written in her personal blog that officials were “douchebags” because she thought they cancelling an event she had helped plan. She also called for others to take action against Superintendent Paula Schwartz and to “piss her off more” by writing and calling Schwartz. Officials discovered the blog two weeks after she had written and the teen was told to apologize to Schwartz, show her mother the blog and was told she could not run again for re-election as class secretary. Doninger won the position by write-in votes, but was not permitted to serve.

U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz had said that because Doninger’s blog was addressing school issues and because it was read by other students, she could be punished by the school. However, in the appeal, Doninger’s attorney argued that schools should not be able to regulate what is done on the internet if it does not create a risk of disruption and because it did not take place on school grounds or during a school activity.

"It's just a bigger soapbox," her attorney, Jon L. Schoenhorn, told the Hartford Courant.

According to the Hartford Courant, Thomas R. Gerarde, the school’s attorney, said that the Internet has increased the impact of their words by how many people they can reach and that if student leaders make offensive comments about the school on the Internet, the school should be able to punish them.

"We shouldn't be required to just swallow it," he said.

He also contended that the blog did cause school officials to receive numerous phone calls and emails and that some students had considered staging a sit-in.

However, the Harford Courant reported, Judge Sonia Sotomayor said that "pedagogical rights can't supersede the rights of students off campus to have First Amendment rights."


Helms Mulliss, McGuireWoods to merge law firms
Firm Websites | 2008/03/05 20:18

One of North Carolina's largest law firms is merging with a national giant, the firms announced Wednesday.

Helms Mulliss & Wicker, which has more than 145 lawyers in Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington, is combining with McGuireWoods, a Richmond, Va.-based firm with 750 attorneys worldwide that opened in Charlotte in 1998.

When the merger takes effect March 31, the combined firm will be known as McGuireWoods and will have about 160 lawyers in Charlotte.

The merger is a result of clients' changing needs, McGuireWoods Chairman Richard Cullen said in a press release.

"We need to match our capabilities and geographic reach to meet those needs," he said.

Helms Mulliss' chairman, Peter J. Covington, will become vice chairman of McGuireWoods. Scott Vaughn, Helms Mulliss' finance group leader, will become managing partner of McGuireWoods' Charlotte office.



Civil Rights & the Hawthorne Police Dept & The LAPD
Legal Interview | 2008/03/05 20:16

Civil Rights Litigation. Gary discusses alleged police brutality and alleged misconduct by the Hawthorne, California, and Manhattan Beach, California, police. Joining Gary is Scott Tierney, who alleges he suffered serious personal injuries during a booking process with the Hawthorne police. In this powerful interview, Gary and Scott provide riveting testimony about a series of allegedly grave actions by the police and the need to educate the public about these shocking details. Gary further addresses the broader problem of police misconduct and its threat to public safety and community trust. Police misconduct also includes accepting bribes, improper search and seizure, harassment and racism in law enforcement. Police misconduct violates the oath of peace officers and their responsibilities as public servants. Victims of police misconduct can be wrongfully convicted of crimes, lose property and freedom, and face social stigmatization. Police misconduct also creates distrust between police and the public they are meant to protect. Police misconduct often goes uncorrected because people do not understand their rights as citizens. Prevention of police misconduct by an informed public can avert violence, wrongful convictions, and abuse of authority. In general, police misconduct is the exception - most police officers are law-abiding citizens, but when police misconduct does occur, police departments can fail to address the problem in the appropriate manner.

Gary S. Casselman is a superb trial attorney with extensive experience in the fields of criminal defense, personal injury and police misconduct. He has authored and lectured about police misconduct litigation and is a court qualified expert in matters such as legal malpractice and enjoys membership in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Gary is also a member of the Consumer Attorneys of Los Angeles and Police Watch. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Southwestern University School of Law.

You can contact Gary at 310-390-4406

http://www.lawyers.com/garycasselman

or email gary.casselman2@verizon.net



Johnson & Perkinson Announces Class Action
Press Releases | 2008/03/05 20:13
Johnson & Perkinson hereby announces the commencement of a class action lawsuit naming Superior Offshore International, Inc. ("Superior Offshore" or the "Company") (Nasdaq: DEEP). Individuals, families, trusts or other entities that purchased Superior Offshore common stock between April 20, 2007 and January 9, 2008, inclusive, have the opportunity to participate as Lead Plaintiffs in the currently pending class action litigation against the Company. To do so, you must apply to serve in that capacity by April 28, 2008.

Johnson & Perkinson, a litigation boutique law firm based in South Burlington, Vermont, has extensive experience prosecuting investor class actions and actions involving financial fraud. Attorneys Johnson and Perkinson are both former employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Dedicated to maximizing shareholder return, members of Johnson & Perkinson have prosecuted complex class actions alleging securities or consumer fraud/deception on behalf of investors/consumers against numerous public companies since 1985, resulting in the recovery of many hundreds of millions of dollars, and have been singled out for excellence by various courts. The firm is litigating, or has recently resolved litigation, as Lead or Co-Lead Counsel in securities class actions against Xerox, Priceline, Wireless Facilities, i2 and Xchange, and serves on the Executive Committee in the Global Crossing case.

The Complaint charges the Company and certain of its officers and directors with making a series of materially false and misleading statements in the Registration Statement and Prospectus issued in connection with the IPO, in violation of the Securities Act of 1933.

If you wish to discuss this action or have any questions concerning this announcement or your rights or interests with respect to these matters, please contact Johnson & Perkinson attorneys James F. Conway, III, Eben F. Duval, or Christopher Allen toll free at 1-888-459-7855; via email at email@jpclasslaw.com; through our website at www.jpclasslaw.com; or by mail at Johnson & Perkinson, 1690 Williston Road, P.O. Box 2305, South Burlington, Vermont 05403. Though Johnson & Perkinson has not filed a Complaint against Superior Offshore at this time, attorneys at Johnson & Perkinson can investigate your potential claims and help you decide if seeking appointment as a Lead Plaintiff is right for you. Your ability to share in any recovery is not affected by your decision to not seek appointment as a Lead Plaintiff.



Enron class-action firm bills for 247,000 hours
Press Releases | 2008/03/05 20:11

A lawyer who helped reap a US$7.2-billion settlement for Enron investors says his firm deserves a record US$700-million in fees, due to the complexity and risky nature of the case.

"This is an extraordinary case and we did an extraordinary job," Patrick Coughlin, a partner with Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, the lead attorneys in the case, told a hearing in U.S. District Court in Houston.

The firm's founder, William Lerach, retired in August. He pleaded guilty to kickback scheme at his former law firm, but still stands to receive a multi-million-dollar payout from the Enron case.

Coughlin Stoia is seeking about 9.5% of the total settlement amount, which would equal nearly US$700-million.

Mr. Coughlin presented his case in an elaborate multimedia presentation to U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, who now must approve the fee award. The presentation included testimonials from former Enron employees and a clip from the Oscar-nominated legal thriller Michael Clayton.

Over the course of the case that lasted six years, Mr. Coughlin said his firm billed 247,000 hours, took 400 depositions and submitted 5,700 filings.

"We didn't leave any avenue unturned," he said.

Still, other attorneys took issue with the size of the award, arguing that more should go to investors.

"Class counsel has not proved the legitimacy of this fee request," Larry Schonbrun, who represents a single investor in the case, told the court.

The settlement was paid by banks including Citigroup Inc. that are accused of helping the energy trader hide financial misdeeds that led to its collapse. The settlement still lacks final approval from Judge Harmon.

Recently, a group of plaintiffs firms sought about US$460-million in fees following settlements in a securities fraud case against Tyco International Ltd.

Close



California Supreme Court in gay marriage storm
Legal News | 2008/03/05 20:10

The California Supreme Court is seemingly as divided as society is over gay marriage.

For more than three hours Tuesday, the seven justices of the state's high court shifted back and forth on whether to uphold California's ban on same-sex marriage, at times appearing to spar with each other as they weighed their most important civil rights case in decades.

The justices peppered lawyers on both sides of the case with dozens of questions that made predicting an outcome a fool's game. The court is reviewing a similarly divided 2006 appeals court ruling that upheld California's ban on gay marriage and a 2000 ballot initiative confining marriage to a union between a man and woman.

Underscoring the passions behind the conflict, demonstrators on both sides of the issue lined up outside the Supreme Court building, armed with placards and chants as they awaited the crucial legal arguments. Inside, an overflow crowd unable to get a seat in the courtroom jammed a downstairs auditorium to watch the arguments on a big-screen television, a boisterous group that cheered and jeered as though attending a high school basketball game.

But the stakes were evident in the courtroom, as the justices aired their first public views in a case they must decide within 90 days. Justices Marvin Baxter and Ming Chin, perhaps the court's most conservative members, seemed to have the deepest reservations about siding with civil rights groups and San Francisco city officials,

who argue that the ban violates the equal-protection rights of gay and lesbian couples seeking the power to wed.
But Baxter and Chin were also frequently joined by Justice Carol Corrigan, a moderate who expressed sympathy with the civil rights argument but had major concerns over tampering with the will of the voters. Corrigan indicated several times she may agree with the majority in the appeals court ruling. That court found the Legislature or voters should decide whether to change marriage laws, not judges.

"Our views on this topic are in the process of evolution," Corrigan said to Therese Stewart, San Francisco's chief deputy city attorney, who argued in favor of gay marriage. "There is substantial difference of opinion about what that evolution should look like. Who decides where we are in California in that evolution?" she asked. "Is it for the court to decide or the voters to decide?"



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