A U.S. District judge has approved a 72.5 million dollar settlement between Arthur Andersen LLP and investors who brought suit against the accounting firm for its auditing role in the downfall of Enron Corp. Investors contended that Arthur Andersen aided Enron officials in perpetrating fraud. Arthur Andersen was convicted in 2002 of obstruction of justice and ceased most of its operations. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2005. The settlement order entered into on May 9, 2007 ends the accounting firm’s involvement in the 40 billion dollar class-action lawsuit.
A New Jersey jury has awarded Frederick Humeston and his wife $20 million in damages after Humeston suffered a heart attack while reportedly taking Vioxx. The jury found that the makers of Vioxx failed to put adequate warnings on the medication regarding cardiovascular risks. They also concluded that there was enough evidence to link the painkiller to Humeston’s heart attack.
The money that was awarded was for compensatory damages. The jury is now set to decide whether Merck & Co., the makers of the drug, should be liable for any punitive damages
The case is Humeston v. Merck, 03-2272, Superior Court of New Jersey, Atlantic County.
Democratic senators have called for the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales due to admissions that the FBI broke and misused laws in the process of obtaining personal information from telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, and credit bureaus under the terms of the Patriot Act.
As an executive of the Justice Department, Gonzales is viewed as having a premiere role in safeguarding and upholding the constitutional protections afforded to citizens. In a Justice Department audit, the FBI was found to have improperly used post-9/11 powers under the Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information.
The U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling and overturned the District of Columbia’s ban on individual’s possessing handguns in their homes. The federal appeals court held that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, rejecting the argument that the right only applies to militias. The Second Amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” The court held that the Second Amendment protects activities outside militia service and an individual’s enjoyment of the right is not contingent upon his or her involvement in the militia.
See Parker v. D.C., 04-7041 http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200703/04-7041a.pdf
The federal government recently filed suit against several major oil companies claiming that they illegally dumped contaminated material into a waste disposal facility in Louisiana. Among the defandants named in the law suit are BP North America, Davis Oil Company, Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore and Franks Petroleum Corporation. The government claims it cost nearly $3 million to clean up the site. Feds are seeking to hold the oil companies jointly and severally liable. That means the government could recover the entire clean up costs from any of the defendants regardless of their individual role or liability.
The case is United States v. Franks Petroleum Corp. et al., No. 07-0337, complaint filed (W.D. La. Feb. 23, 2007).
A Washington jury on Tuesday found former Vice Presidental Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby guilty of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and perjury. The charges stemmed from an investigation into who leaked the identity of a CIA official whose husband had questioned US involvement in Iraq. Libby was convicted of lying to FBI agents and a federal grand jury. Libby is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5th.
Source: Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/06/AR2007030600400.html
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied the appeal by former WorldCom, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bernard Ebbers to overturn his conviction, which resulted in a 25-year prison sentence for corporate fraud and conspiracy. Ebbers’ appeal was based on the argument that he was denied a fair trial. Ebbers contended that the trial judge wrongly refused to offer immunity to potential defense witnesses and instructed the jury in error that they could convict Ebbers on the basis that he suspected a crime was being committed but intentionally overlooked it. The justices did not comment when refusing to review Ebbers’ appeal of the defense witness immunity and jury instruction issues.
Ebbers v. U.S. 06-590 http://www.usdoj.gov/osg/briefs/2006/0responses/2006-0590.resp.html
2/27/07 – Richmond County Civil Court Judge Philip S. Straniere held in Sayeedi v. Walser, 10610/06, that a single sale on eBay was insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over the seller under the state’s long-arm statute. Plaintiff/buyer Sayeedi sued defendant/seller Walser for an engine which was described as new that he purchased for $1,444. After delivery to Sayeedi in New York, the engine was determined to have a broken connecting rod and damaged camshaft, requiring $1,150 for repairs.
The court held that the single auction failed to satisfy the minimum contacts standard used to confer New York jurisdiction on the defendant. The court reasoned that the seller’s auction listing did not purposefully invoke the benefits and protections of New York law, since the ultimate shipping destination is completely controlled by the potential buyers. In finding that the ultimate destination was not within the realm of contemplation by the seller, the court held that asserting jurisdiction in such a case would contravene notions of fair play and substantial justice.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that four challengers did not have legal standing to file suit to try to overturn a 2002 redistricting plan imposed by a judge. When Colorado legislators were unable to redraw the congressional map after the 2000 census, Colorado District Judge John Coughlin imposed a plan. The four citizens had argued that the judicially imposed plan “violated the [Elections Clause] of the U.S. Constituiton by depriving the state legislature of its responsibility to draw congressional districts.”‘ In rejecting the citizens right to bring the law suit, the Supreme Court said that private citizens lacked standing to bring such suits, only state governments can sue over redistricting matters.
“The only injury plaintiffs allege is that the law -specifically the Elections Clause- has not been followed. This injury is precisely the kind of undifferentiated, general grievance about the conduct of the government that we have refused to countenance in the past,” said the Court.
The current redistricting plan remains in place until 2010.
The case is Lance v. Dennis, 06-641.
February 20, 2007
California may be joining at least three other states in allowing courts to extend domestic protection orders to pets. Under the proposed legislation, a judge could simultaneously grant custody of an animal to a petitioner and order a respondent to stay away from the animal. Research shows a correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence. Many battered women report threats or even actual injuries and/or death to their pets. One goal of the legislation is to prevent spouses or partners from staying in a relationship simply to protect their animals.
For more information on this legislation, see http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0351-0400/sb_353_bill_20070220_introduced.html