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Archive for the ‘litigation’ tag

Apple Easily Wins iPod Antitrust Trial

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Tech Graveyard
Tech Graveyard.

Briefly, since we marveled at this ridiculous lawsuit recently, the iPod DRM Class Action litigation lost in front of a jury:

A jury ruled in favor of Apple Inc. on Tuesday in a class-action lawsuit that accused the technology giant of violating antitrust laws by suppressing competition for its iPod music players.

After deliberating for only a few hours, an eight-person jury in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., found that Apple’s iTunes 7.0 was a genuine product improvement, and therefore not a violation of antitrust laws. The decision was unanimous.

The plaintiffs had said Apple made changes to its iTunes music service so that iPods wouldn’t operate with other companies’ products, driving up the cost of the devices. The plaintiffs, representing an alleged eight million harmed consumers, were seeking $350 million in damages, which could have been tripled under antitrust laws.

(click here to continue reading Apple Wins iPod Antitrust Trial – WSJ.)

Dead 4G iPod
4G iPod

Another amusing part of this trial was that the original plaintiffs were thrown out since they didn’t even own iPods during the time in question. Embarrassing for the plaintiffs’ legal team, and a ridiculous waste of the court’s docket…

The lawyers fighting Apple in a class-action lawsuit involving iPods have managed to do a few remarkable things: They persuaded a judge to bring a decade-old lawsuit to trial here last week, for one. They even managed to drag the famous Steve Jobs into giving a videotaped testimony shortly before he died three years ago.

But they have one big problem: Their case has no plaintiff.

A federal judge on Monday disqualified the only remaining plaintiff in the case, Marianna Rosen of New Jersey, after Apple’s lawyers successfully argued that she did not even buy any iPods for which she is seeking damages.

The judge appeared annoyed about the discrepancies with Ms. Rosen’s iPods and scolded the plaintiff lawyers for failing to do their homework. Another plaintiff in the case dropped out last week.

 …

Last week, Ms. Rosen testified that she had bought two iPods: an iPod Nano in the fall of 2007 and an iPod Touch in December 2008. Apple’s lawyer asked whether Ms. Rosen kept receipts for her purchases. Ms. Rosen said she probably did not have the paper receipts, but later said her iPod Touch was in her bag.

Apple’s lawyers looked up the serial number of Ms. Rosen’s iPod Touch and found records showing it was bought in July 2009. The class action seeks damages for iPods bought from September 2006 to March 2009. So this iPod Touch missed the cutoff.

Apple’s lawyers last Wednesday pointed out the discrepancy about Ms. Rosen’s iPod Touch in a letter to the judge. They also raised similar concerns about the second plaintiff’s iPod purchases. On Friday, the second plaintiff dropped out of the case, leaving Ms. Rosen as the lone plaintiff.

Ms. Rosen’s lawyers then provided Apple a receipt showing two iPod purchases made in September 2008. But Apple pulled up its copy of the receipt for those iPods, which indicated they were bought by the Rosen Law Firm, the firm owned by Ms. Rosen’s husband. Apple’s lawyers argued that these were not iPods bought directly by Ms. Rosen, and therefore she could not claim injury.

(click here to continue reading Setback for iPod Class-Action Lawsuit as Sole Plaintiff Is Disqualified – NYTimes.com.)

iPod Classic Returned From The Dead
iPod Classic  

Just ridiculous from the beginning. Speaking as a consumer who owned an iPod during this time, and could prove it, the litigation is (was?) groundless – I played music from many sources on my iPod without issue. And it would be like suing a CD manufacturer because some moron bought an 8-track tape and stuck it in a CD player, and the 8-track didn’t play. Is it the responsibility of the CD manufacturer to play every kind of music format ever created? No, this case was a joke.

Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd should lose their license to practice law…

Bonney Sweeney, the antitrust attorney at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd who claims to represent the interests of 8 million aggrieved Apple customers, now represents nobody but a roomful of lawyers.

On Monday, Sweeney lost her last plaintiff, a resident of New Jersey named Marianna Rosen. It turns out the “supracompetitive” price Rosen claims to have paid in 2008 for an iPod (“greater than she would have paid, but for the antitrust violations alleged herein”) was charged to her law firm’s credit card.

(click here to continue reading How dumb is this Apple iPod antitrust suit?.)

Nano gift

iPod Nano 

Especially since this is their second bite of the apple…

After a judge rejected Version 1.0 of the lawsuit, CNET says, lawyers changed their tune to accuse Apple of making software updates that kept rival music stores off the iTunes platform.

This is typical in class-action land. As with any repeated game, class-action lawyers are a well-defined group of players who must establish a reputation for fighting hard in every case and racking up as much expenses on the defense side as they can, in order to induce companies to come to the settlement table. That’s where they make their money, and the convenient fiction that they are suing on behalf of consumers collapses as they get down to the real negotiations, which are over the fee they will be paid without any objections from their supposed opponents across the table.

But for the whole process to work, they still need clients. And those clients must have a case. Defense lawyers have slowly but steadily woken up to the fact that those clients often come with baggage — Bill Lerach, the founder of the predecessor to Robbins Geller, went to jail for paying his clients to appear in securities class actions — and they are digging into their backgrounds to find out if they can even serve as plaintiffs. This must strike some plaintiff lawyers as strange, since everybody knows the “client” is just a vehicle for assembling a case that often is already loaded in their computer, ready to be filed. But it’s the law

(click here to continue reading Whoops! No Plaintiff! Apple Tells Court iPod Owner Isn’t In Class She Represents.)

Mirrored

The current case involving iPods is complex, having evolved significantly since the original January 2005 filing. The suit initially alleged that Apple broke the law by restricting owners of its iPod to songs purchased only through iTunes. A court deemed that legal, however, and the plaintiffs have since altered the suit, alleging instead that Apple made a series of software updates to iTunes specifically designed to shut out competing music stores’ ability to load their songs onto iPods.

The case will aim to determine what effect Apple’s FairPlay technology — a so-called digital rights management tool that acts like a watermark made of code — had on the market for MP3 players when it restricted iPod owners to iTunes and how to interpret Apple’s behavior in protecting FairPlay using software updates. Apple refused to license FairPlay to competing music stores and would not allow other MP3 players to connect to iTunes.

Apple’s Isaacson says the iTunes 7.0 and 7.4 updates were designed to improve security and purposefully keep third parties like RealNetworks, which Apple still considers a hacker, out of its system. “Harmony was outdated when FairPlay was updated. All Apple was doing was updating FairPlay,” he said. “That’s what happens when you reverse engineer the product and there’s an update of that architecture.”

Neither RealNetworks nor any of the retailers named in the suit, including Best Buy and Walmart, have filed suits of their own. RealNetworks executives will not appear as witnesses.

(click here to continue reading Apple misled iPod owners, plaintiffs allege at class action trial – CNET.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 16th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Lawsuit accuses Maker’s Mark of false advertising

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 Maker's Mark - a collectors edition?

Maker’s Mark – a collectors edition?

Ridiculous, and also truthy. What exactly does “homemade” mean in the context of a corporate beverage manufacturer? Is Beam Suntory expected to grind the grain with a team of oxen? What about making the bottles? Are they supposed to be hand-blown by crusty old dudes wearing overalls? Are there Revenue Agents a’coming through the piney woods?

Two California consumers sued one of Kentucky’s best-known distilleries, saying Maker’s Mark tries to spike demand and sticker prices by falsely promoting its bourbon as being handmade. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Diego, accused the distillery of deceptive advertising and business practices with its “handmade” promotion on the labels of its bottles, known for their distinctive red-wax seal. The potential class-action suit claims damages exceed $5 million.

A spokesman for Beam Suntory Inc., the parent of Maker’s, said the suit was meritless and the company will fight it. The suit was brought by Safora Nowrouzi and Travis Williams, who purchased Maker’s Mark bourbon last month.

“Defendant promotes its whisky as being ‘handmade’ when in fact defendant’s whisky is manufactured using mechanized and/or automated processes, which involves little to no human supervision, assistance or involvement,” the suit said.

(click here to continue reading Lawsuit accuses Maker’s Mark of false advertising – Bowling Green Daily News: State News.)

I have to laugh at the amount of money though, $5,000,000 is a lot of anguish over one’s cocktail. Like all class action suits, the lawyers are the real money makers.

The Good Stuff
The Good Stuff – Templeton Rye (not actually made in Iowa).

and this aside should be noted:

Executives at Templeton Rye said earlier this year they will change labels on bottles of their whiskey to clarify that the beverage is distilled in Indiana, not Iowa.

Also, obligatory YouTube clip of Bill Murray’s Suntory Time ad from Lost in Translation

Written by Seth Anderson

December 10th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Class Action Madness Against Apple’s iPod

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iPod beach joy
iPod Original Model.

To be blunt, this is bullshit.

The latest case to bring Mr. Jobs’s spirit into a courtroom is set to begin on Tuesday in Oakland, Calif. It is a class action involving older iPods, which played only songs sold in the iTunes Store, or those downloaded from CDs, not music from competing stores. The plaintiffs are consumers who say Apple violated antitrust law because to keep their music, people had to stay with the iPod, and buy higher-priced ones rather than cheaper, alternative music players. Apple has since discontinued this system.

(click here to continue reading Star Witness in Apple Lawsuit Is Steve Jobs – NYTimes.com.)

Maybe there is more to this litigation than is being reported, but as an owner of many iPods (including several of the early models, including the one that only worked with Macs), I can attest that all iPods were able to play music in the MP3 format from any source. If you got music from converting CDs you own (like I did and still do), or downloaded files from rival services like eMusic, or wherever, as long as the file was in the MP3 format, it played fine on any iPod. Now, perhaps there were music stores that sold tunes that were encoded in other proprietary formats, but why should Apple have to support those formats? Especially since if you downloaded, for instance, a WMA file from Music Match, you could easily convert the track to MP3 on your computer in seconds.

Dead 4G iPod
Dead 4G iPod

I don’t understand why this case hasn’t been tossed out yet. What am I missing?

Written by Seth Anderson

December 1st, 2014 at 9:39 am

Posted in Apple,Music

Tagged with , , ,

Investor Group Sues Richmond, CA Over Eminent Domain Plan

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plus ça change…
plus ça change…

Complications. This had sounded like an interesting way out of the national home owner crisis, but the banks are worried they will lose their paper money value. Of the 624 properties in discussion, 444 are still current in their payments, just that their houses assessed valuation is significantly less than the mortgaged value. Is eminent domain allowable in this sort of circumstance? The legal precedent is unclear, so presumedly, this lawsuit and similar is going to take a while to be settled.

Banks representing some of the nation’s largest bond investors filed suit against the city of Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday to block plans by city officials to seize and buy mortgages using their powers of eminent domain.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, could serve as a key test for whether a city can move forward with such a strategy, which would allow it to forcibly buy mortgages from investors at a price potentially below the property’s current market value. The city would then reduce the loan balance and refinance the mortgage to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

The legal challenge could serve as a key test for whether cities from Newark, N.J., to Seattle are able to follow Richmond’s lead.

City leaders in Richmond, a working-class suburb of around 100,000 on the San Francisco Bay, began sending letters last week to mortgage companies seeking to purchase loans on 624 properties and threatening to force sales via eminent domain if investors resisted. The city is partnering with Mortgage Resolution Partners, a private investment firm based in San Francisco, which was also named a defendant in the lawsuit.

 

(click here to continue reading Investor Group Sues Richmond, Calif., Over Eminent Domain Plan – WSJ.com.)

Back in Feburary, 2013, The New Yorker’s Tad Friend wrote an interesting overview about Steven Gluckstern’s plan1

LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA about Steven Gluckstern’s solution for the foreclosure crisis. At sixty-one, Steven Gluckstern has extensive experience handicapping risk propositions on Wall Street. This past fall, Gluckstern, the chairman of a San Francisco-based group called Mortgage Resolution Partners, was in the midst of a tour of Southern California. In between hasty meals, he raced his rented Mercedes to meetings with mayors and activists and real-estate agents and developers, trying to interest them in his company’s sole product: a plan for cities battered by the foreclosure crisis to keep their citizens in their homes.

It’s a tool so ingenious that Wall Street treats it as the gravest threat to civilization since the breakfast burrito. Even as America’s home prices have risen for six of the past seven months, twenty per cent of homeowners remain “underwater,” owing more in principal than the house is worth. It’s a national problem that’s concentrated in a few locales, most notably California. Mentions Salinas councilwoman Jyl Lutes.

In places like Salinas, a large part of the problem is not the loans that are held by banks. It’s the ones that were pooled in “private-label securitizations.” Under Gluckstern’s plan, a city would use its powers of eminent domain to seize a homeowner’s mortgage in court, pay off the bondholders, then arrange a new mortgage for the homeowner at a price much closer to what the home is actually worth. M.R.P. started its campaign in San Bernardino County. In June, the county and the cities of Fontana and Ontario established a “joint powers authority” to examine M.R.P.’s plan. The foes of eminent domain rose up almost instantly and assailed the plan. A coalition of twenty-six financial-service and real-estate groups sent a letter threatening lawsuits.

The opposition often invoked what’s known as the “moral-hazard argument”: if you reward people for risky behavior they’ll just do it more. By the time Gluckstern visited the San Bernardino area, last fall, he was a marked man. When Gluckstern dropped by county C.E.O. Greg Devereaux’s office, Devereaux ruefully acknowledged that the opposition had gummed up M.R.P.’s plans. Without quite conceding in San Bernardino, Gluckstern began stealthier campaigns, in Michigan, Maryland, and southern Florida. He hopes to convince the opposition that his campaign will continue.

(click here to continue reading Tad Friend: Can Steven Gluckstern Solve the Mortgage Mess? : The New Yorker.)

Mini Bank In Fine Style
Mini Bank In Fine Style

and from what I recall, it turns out the mortgages are often held by multiple entities because of the mortgage derivative market.

and it is unclear if these particular legal challenges are going to stand up in court:

Legal advocates of the eminent domain plan have said that constitutional challenges aren’t likely to hold up in court. The loan strategy wouldn’t burden interstate commerce “because it doesn’t prevent credit from flowing in any particular way,” said Robert Hockett, the Cornell University law professor who was an early advocate of using eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages.

“This is a bluff,” said Mr. Hockett. “It’s meant to scare city officials into saying, ‘Oh, who are we to argue with the big guns.”

Supporters say their plan would help not only specific homeowners but also the broader community by reducing foreclosures that are hurting property values and eroding the tax base. “It’s the responsibility of banks to fix this, and they haven’t, so we’re taking it into our hands,” said Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin in a call with reporters last week.

 

Footnotes:
  1. not available for non-subscribers []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 7th, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Bank of America CEO must face mortgage disclosures lawsuit

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Bank of America - Kodachrome
Bank of America – Kodachrome

Continuing the story of a country and its corrupt institutions…

[U.S. District Judge William Pauley] has revived a securities fraud lawsuit accusing Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Brian Moynihan, his predecessor Kenneth Lewis, and others of misleading shareholders about the risk the bank might have to buy back large amounts of soured mortgages.…

But Pauley said the new allegations in an amended lawsuit “plausibly establish fraudulent conduct and a culpable state of mind as to all executive defendants” for allegedly concealing the buyback potential when certifying the bank’s financials.

The shareholders alleged they had been misled into buying shares of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America in 2009 and 2010.

They claimed that Bank of America knew at the time it faced capital shortfalls and large mortgage buybacks, and that recordkeeping in Merscorp Inc’s private Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems registry was so poor that it would not be able to legally foreclose on thousands of delinquent mortgages.

Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and several large banks had established MERS in 1995 to circumvent the often unwieldy process of transferring ownership of mortgages and recording changes with county clerks.

(click here to continue reading Bank of America CEO, ex-CEO must face mortgage disclosures lawsuit – chicagotribune.com.)

So you’ve probably never heard of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. Or if you have, you wish you hadn’t. 

 

Of course it buys happiness
Of course it buys happiness

You’ve heard the name Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems or “MERS” mentioned in relation to the foreclosure problems in the residential real estate market.

But what is MERS?

It is the company created and owned by all of the big banks to process title to property in the U.S. Approximately 60% of the nation’s residential mortgages are recorded in the name of MERS.

MERS is a shell corporation with no employees, but thousands of officers.

(click here to continue reading What Is MERS and What Role Does It Have in the Foreclosure Mess? (Hint: It Holds 60% of All Mortgages, But Has ZERO Employees) | Washington’s Blog.)

Think Twice About Becoming a Landlord
Think Twice About Becoming a Landlord

Matt Taibbi adds, in his customary style:

The idea behind MERS was to wipe away centuries of legal tradition that mandated the physical transfer of loan notes and ownership information. Whereas lenders once were required to physically register with county clerk offices every time a mortgage loan was extended or re-sold, MERS provided an “electronic registry” of mortgage notes where all such transfers were recorded in the wiry brain of a giant computer instead of on paper.

Instead of the individual banks or lenders registering with the counties each time a loan was sold or re-sold, MERS would handle the initial registration and then become the “nominal” note-holder. Then, each time the note was passed on, MERS would record the transaction in its computer — but no matter who the actual owner of the note was, MERS would remain the legally registered assignee of the note.

Imagine, say, a family of twelve, two elderly parents in Iowa and ten adult children scattered in different states all over the country. Mom and Dad on the farm own one Ford F-150 that they owe $300 a month on. Every month, the truck gets passed to a different family member, who in turn becomes responsible for the monthly payment. But no matter who has the car and whose turn it is to come up with the $300, the truck stays in Dad’s name and the money, in the end, comes to Ford Finance via Dad’s checking account.

Looking at this as an individual and unique case, you wouldn’t think there was much that was inherently wrong with this setup. Obviously the family arrangement violates the spirit of many laws and procedures — vehicle registration (from month to month, the true owner of the car is hidden from the state), credit application (Pops technically committed credit fraud if he got the car loan in his own name knowing the children would actually be paying), and taxes/fees (the state misses out on its registration fees every month, when the car is informally “sold” from child to child without the nominal paperwork fees being paid to the DMV of the state in question). But again, looking at this as an individual case, not many people would say any of these “violations” were major moral transgressions, if they were really moral transgressions at all. After all, this is family!

But once you take this setup and institutionalize it, and employ it everywhere on a vast scale, it becomes seriously problematic. This is particularly true if, say, Pop begins allowing his kids to “rent” the car out to non-family members, so long as they kick a small fee upstairs. Say it’s March and Pop gives the truck to son Jimmy in Toledo; in April Jimmy gives the truck to his buddy Rick in Akron, charging the $300 payment plus a $20 convenience fee. May: Jimmy gives the car to his girlfriend Trudy in Phoenix, telling her to wire $300 plus another $20 back to Pops in Iowa; she in turn lends the car to her occasional lesbian love interest Madison, who begins renting the car on a day-to-day basis in Tuba City as part of her family’s Painted Desert Resort and Tourism business, etc. etc. And she’s now kicking the fees back to Iowa.

Within a year Pop is buying fifty vehicles an hour and shuttling cars to new customers all over the country, collecting millions in fees every day; he becomes a billion-dollar corporate fixture, hiring the entire local Elks club to come with him to work as support staff.

So now, to take this already absurdly overwrought metaphor one final painful step further, there is a string of grisly homicides being committed on highways across America. Witnesses spot that original F-150 truck and the license plates at each of the murder scenes, but when cops come looking for the truck owner, they find old Pop in a wheelchair in Iowa, alibied on the night of every crime by forty-five fellow members of the Dubuque Elks. They drag Pop into the station to question him, but he won’t give up which of his boys did the crimes — hell, he doesn’t know, anyway.  

This, roughly, is what MERS is. The functional effect of MERS is to create an obfuscatory wall between the homeowner and the actual owner of his mortgage loan. The problem with MERS is a paradox at the heart of the “ownership” question. On the one hand, MERS is the legal assignee of a lot of these mortgage notes. On the other hand, it’s not the “real” owner of the notes, in any way that could ever help you, or the state, or the investors in mortgage-backed securities.

(click here to continue reading An Extremely Long Metaphor to Explain Mortgage Chaos | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone.)

Sounds pretty fucked up to me. But then I’m not an expert. 

Never-Ending Condo Construction
Never-Ending Condo Construction

and from Shah Gilani:

In order to easily buy and sell mortgages between themselves so that these loans might be repackaged, securitized and then sold to investors as mortgage-backed securities, banks and other lenders needed a quick way to “trade” individual mortgages. They created a company called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS). This group includes Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), GMAC LLC (NYSE: GMA), Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC), Washington Mutual (now owned by JPMorgan Chase), the United Guaranty Corp. unit of American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), Fannie Mae (OTC: FNMA), Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC), mortgage-servicing companies and other similarly interested members.

You may not realize it, but at your home-purchase “closing,” you sign a document that appoints MERS as the “nominee” for the lender that granted you a mortgage. That gives the nominee the right to flip your mortgage to any other bank or lender it chooses. That’s how banks move mortgages around to package them into different securities.

But that brings us to the crux of the controversy: Every time there’s change on the title (a change occurs when the nominee switches the lender on your title out for another), local governments require that a new title be recorded. Of course, those governments – the county or municipality that you live in – also charge a “recording fee.” MERS also charges a fee, but it’s a lot less than government recording fees.

Here’s the problem. In creating MERS, these institutions actually changed the land-title system that this country – for much of its history – has relied upon to determine legal ownership status of land titleholders.

Not only did the lenders sidestep (read that to mean avoid) paying billions of dollars in fees to local governments, they paid themselves from the fees that MERS collected.

MERS is facing class-action lawsuits and civil racketeering suits around the country and their members are being individually named in all these suits. One suit alleges that MERS owes California a potential $60 billion to $120 billion in unpaid land-recording fees.

If suits against MERS and all its members are successful, unpaid recording fees and fines (that can be as much as $10,000 per incident) would make every one of them insolvent.

And you wonder what the Federal Reserve meant when it warned of “potential negative shocks?”

The bottom line for investors is that until all these issues are cleaned up (which might take years, or even decades) – or until there’s perhaps some sort of legislative clarity that eases uncertainty – investors face the threat of a severe “correction” in any or all of the markets that have risen on the hope that the long-hoped-for U.S. recovery is finally taking hold.

(click here to continue reading What You Don’t Know about “Mortgagegate” Could Crush the U.S. Banking System – Money Morning.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 17th, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , , ,

Criminal Case Glut Impedes Civil Suits

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Circuit Court of Cook County
Circuit Court of Cook County

Seems like our litigious society has consequences, and not all good. If we stopped prosecuting low level drug offenses, our overcrowded courts could clear their glut a bit. Maybe there should be a five year moratorium on prosecuting marijuana offenses regarding amounts less than an ounce? Try it, see if the dockets clear up a bit…

An explosion of criminal prosecutions in the nation’s overextended federal courts has left civil litigants from bereaved spouses to corporate giants waiting years for their day in court.

The logjam, prompted particularly by criminal cases related to drugs and immigration, as well as by the proliferation of more-obscure federal criminal laws, threatens the functioning of the nation’s judicial system, say some judges and attorneys.

Over the past three decades, the U.S. has steadily added to the federal rule book through new criminal statutes and regulations that carry criminal penalties. Combined with beefed-up enforcement, that has led to a 70% jump in the number of pending federal criminal cases in the past decade—to over 76,000, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.
Civil litigation, which accounts for over three quarters of federal court cases, is getting squeezed the most. In 2007, fewer than 7% of civil cases were more than three years old. By last year, that percentage more than doubled, with nearly 45,000 cases in a holding pattern.

(click here to continue reading Criminal Case Glut Impedes Civil Suits – WSJ.com.)

Combo Post Office and Court House

Combination Post Office and Court House in Sitka, Alaska.

It doesn’t help that appointing judges to the bench has become part of our toxic partisan political system

Exacerbating the problem are vacancies on the federal bench. Despite the surge in case loads, the number of authorized federal judgeships has risen just 4% since 1990. Of the 677 district court judgeships currently authorized, about 9.5% are vacant.

Cops on Bikes
Cops on Bikes

and these are just tickets, but still, to my mind this mentality is part of the problem:

A record number of drivers were issued cellphone violation tickets in Chicago for not using hands-free devices last year, translating into millions of dollars in revenue for the city, according to figures obtained by the Tribune.

And because of a change in the way those tickets are processed, the city doesn’t have to offer a cut on most of those fines to the state or Cook County, resulting in a loss of revenue for them, the newly released data show.

In 2010, Chicago police issued 23,292 tickets for using a cellphone while driving, the highest number of citations handed out in a single year for the offense. The number is a 73 percent increase from 2006, the first full year that the city’s cellphone law went into effect. The 2010 tickets brought in $2.2 million for the city, data show. The figures indicate the city has become more aggressive in issuing the violations, which are difficult to fight and come with a hefty fine that has increased from $50 to up to $500 in just five years.

“It’s pay short money now or pay long money later,” said Alvin Wooten, 42, a South Sider who has gotten two cellphone tickets and chose to pay the fines rather than face higher ones by contesting them.

(click here to continue reading Record number of drivers given cellphone violation tickets in Chicago – chicagotribune.com.)

Every little societal change involves laws, and enforcement of laws to change behavior. Some I can see (cellphone usage does impair driving), but not all…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 10th, 2011 at 8:17 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , , ,

Classmates.com Settles Lawsuit

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Thankfully, the ubiquitous Classmates.com banner ads are less prevalent than they once were. I never had a weak moment and signed up, but some did, and some got compensated for their blinding loneliness.

myspace

Classmates.com has agreed to refund nearly $10 million to users who were told that long-lost school chums were looking at their profiles, only to find, once they’d ponied up a subscription fee, that no one they knew was looking for them at all.

The proposed settlement would end a lawsuit filed in November 2008 on behalf of Classmates.com user Anthony Michaels who sued after he spent $15 to upgrade to a Gold Membership at Classmates.com, one of the net’s original social networking sites. But that fee was a rip-off, he said.

“Upon logging into his Gold Membership profile in order to view the classmate contacts … Plaintiff discovered that in fact, no former classmate of his had tried to contact him or view his profile,” the complaint read. “Of those www.classmates.com users who were characterized … as members who viewed Plaintiff’s profile, none were former classmates of Plaintiff or persons familiar with or known to Plaintiff for that matter.”

While Classmates.com denies it engaged in any deception, it agreed to pay up to $9.5 million to the estimated 3.16 million people who signed up for the service after seeing ads and e-mails encouraging users to upgrade in order to see what members had been looking at their profiles. Each will be offered $3 in cash or a $2 certificate towards future membership.

[Click to continue reading Lonely Classmates.com Users Get $9.5M in Suit]

Don't Even Bother

The real winners, of course, are the class action lawyers1, who as always get the major portion of the settlement. Most members of the class get $3, if you were a primary defendant, you get $2,500, but the attorneys get $1,300,000. Pretty much par for the course.

update: see here for more details, but

But this week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals put a damper on the business model of legal extortion by trial lawyers filing frivolous lawsuits.

Frank has become the proverbial fly in the trial lawyers’ ointment, objecting again and again to bogus nuisance settlements that make up the bread and butter for some. In January, his objection helped convince a court to throw out a settlement between Classmates.com(the online social site with the annoying popup ads) and some users who felt they had been duped into signing up.

In that case — whose merits appear much stronger than the Bluetooth case — the lawyers had negotiated $117,000 for the aggrieved class, and a million-plus-dollar fee for themselves.

Frank’s organization, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is currently fighting settlements that are overly generous to trial lawyers in cases against Kellogg, Volkswagen and Toys “R” Us, among others.

Footnotes:
  1. note: this link to the PDF is currently not working []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 16th, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Man Sues RINO nightclub

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My quick take: serves the patron right for stepping foot in such a lame bar.

Rino Bar

[343 West Erie, Chicago, despite what the sign says – 658 North refers to the cross street ]

A man is suing RiNo nightclub for injuries he says he sustained at the hands of one of RiNo’s bouncers.

According to the complaint, on December 20, 2008, plaintiff Sean Regan was in the VIP area of RiNo nightclub when he “inadvertently dropped a drink on the floor” and was asked to leave by an unknown bouncer.

When Regan asked to speak to the manager, the complaint states, the unknown bouncer angrily denied his request, led him down a dark hallway with another unknown bouncer, shoved him, twisted his arms behind his back and “spun him around violently at which time [plaintiff’s] left thumb hooked into the unknown bouncer’s jacket pocket, resulting in a fracture to [plaintiff’s] left hand.”

[Click to continue reading Man Sues RiNo nightclub for Injuries by Bouncer – Chicago Bar-tender, complaint here Scribd.com ]

Of course, I’ve only been inside about three minutes, but any bar that names themselves Republican In Name Only is suspect.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 29th, 2009 at 8:31 am

Posted in Chicago-esque

Tagged with , ,

This is not going to end well for CBS

without comments

Dan Rather’s lawsuit against his former employers, CBS News, for firing him because of discussion over George W. Bush’s lack of National Guard service is continuing.

One Eye to Rule Them

The New York Times reports:

Dan Rather won significant victories Tuesday in his suit against his former network, CBS. He won access to more than 3,000 documents that his lawyer said were expected to reveal evidence that CBS had tried to influence the outcome of a panel that investigated his much-debated “60 Minutes” report about former President George W. Bush’s military record.

Mr. Rather also won an appeal to restore a fraud charge against CBS that had been dismissed. Martin Gold, the lawyer representing the former anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” called it “a very successful day for us; we got everything.”

Mr. Rather called it a “good day” for his side and — referring to the name for the CBS headquarters — “a bad day for Black Rock.”

[Click to continue reading Rather Wins a Round in Lawsuit Against CBS – NYTimes.com]

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters adds:

You’ll recall that late last year we learned, via Rather’s lawsuit, that internal memos indicated that CBS when first facing the right-wing firestorm over its 60 Minutes report about Bush’s National Guard years, considered appointing Matt Drudge to sit on an “independent” fact-finding board to investigate the scandal. (A board which Bush refused to answers questions about his Guard service from.)

In fact, we learned that CBS was in full panic mode and was willing to take whatever step necessary to placate the right-wing fanatics frothing about Memogate. The picture painted by the CBS memos and documents already reviewed by Rather suggest a craven news organization that was less interested in uncovering the truth about the disputed memos, and more interested in appeasing Rush Limbaugh. It wanted to “mollify the right,” as one internal CBS memo put it.

As I said, my guess is that with Rather and his lawyers about to dive into a new batch of documents, that portrait will only become more vivid.

And here’s the kicker for the former Tiffany Network: Rather has vowed to never settle the case out of court.

[Click to continue reading This is not going to end well for CBS | Media Matters for America]

Like I’ve said1 before, I wish Dan Rather well in this lawsuit, and not just because he once lived in the same apartment as me2. The shrill right-wingers who seemingly control CBS should be deported, at the least.

Footnotes:
  1. in those URLs above, and probably in others I’m too lazy to find right now []
  2. at different times obviously, an apartment located on Rio Grande near West Martin Luther King Boulevard, near UT-Austin campus, according to my landlord at the time. []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 23rd, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Reading Around on June 10th through June 13th

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A few interesting links collected June 10th through June 13th:

  • ESPN – OTL: Phil At Work – Jackson is not thinking about 10 rings. – He puts the players on alert with it. Trap now. Watch the double. Jump out on that screen-roll. See what the opponent is doing — read the floor. Its meaning shifts. It's a text to be read, interpreted and acted upon.…His brother taught him the whistle when they were kids. Jackson used it to call his dog …when they were walking through the streets of his hometown of Williston, N.D. When he got to the NBA, and shouting stripped his voice, he turned to the whistle.

    "Now it's the source of his power, in a way," assistant coach Brian Shaw says. "If it were words he was shouting, you could hear them or not hear them, but with the whistle, he's asking you to think, he's putting it on you."

    It's equal parts advance and retreat, right? He commands attention, then backs off, maybe leans back in his courtside chair, even puts his hands in his lap. The whistle says he's here and he has expectations, and at the same time it says he trusts you, believes you can do what needs doing.

  • Valassis Uses News America's Own Clients Against in Trial; Feel the Wrath of Sara Lee! | BNET Advertising Blog | BNET – "Account reps for News America Marketing could face some uncomfortable meetings and phone calls with their clients over the next few weeks, because dozens of their clients’ names have been dragged into the ongoing Michigan state court trial in which the agency is accused of forcing its customers to take anti-competitive bundled deals on in-store promos and newspaper coupons.

    The News America clients named on just the first day of the trial were:

    Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Dial, S.C. Johnson, Georgia-Pacific, Campbells, Sara Lee, Pepsi, Church & Dwight, Johnson Family Co., Kraft, Coca-Cola, Conagra, Cadbury, Ocean Spray, Clorox, Novartis, Pfizer, Tropicana and Reckitt-Benckiser."

  • Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive « alex.moskalyuk – Number 7 sounds like Apple's iPhone 3GS and 3G pricing model:
    "A more expensive product makes the old version look like a value buy. An example here is a Williams-Sonoma bread maker. After an introduction of a newer, better, and pricier version, the sales of the old unit actually increased, as couples viewed the new item as “top of the line”, but old product was all of a sudden reasonably-priced, even though a bunch of features were missing"

Written by swanksalot

June 13th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

News America Purchases Floorgraphics

with 4 comments

Whoa, that’s one way to settle a lawsuit that is going poorly…

Hanging Out on the Bean

News America Marketing, a unit of the News Corporation that produces coupon inserts and sells advertising in supermarkets, settled a lawsuit this week with a competitor that had accused it of anticompetitive behavior and corporate spying.

On Wednesday, News America bought the company, Floorgraphics, outright for an undisclosed sum.

The lawsuit was settled after witnesses began testifying in the trial in federal court in New Jersey. The original lawsuit was filed in 2004.

In a brief statement, a spokeswoman for News America confirmed the acquisition, saying, “We’re pleased to be expanding our network of stores to better serve our customers and we’re very excited to incorporate the quality network so ably developed by Floorgraphics.”

[From News Corp. Unit Settles Suit With a Rival, Then Buys It – NYTimes.com]

Surprising development, actually. Rupert Murdoch must have made FGI an offer they couldn’t refuse.

[more details at Jim Edwards blog: bnet]

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

News Corp Trial

with one comment

We wrote about this case a while ago, and it seems to be getting juicy. [Source documents available here]

Tall statue aka Our Onion-headed Overlords

At issue is whether News America has lied, cheated and stolen to maintain its market share. FGI claims News America “engaged in illegal computer espionage by breaking into FGI’s password-protected computer system and obtaining propietary FGI information.” News America denies the allegations.

The saga began when, according to FGI’s complaint, News America made FGI an offer it couldn’t refuse:

At a meeting in July 1999, News’ Chief Executive Officer told FGI that News was interested in buying FGI, but if FGI refused to sell and chose instead to compete with News for in-store programs other than floor advertising — such as instant coupon machines, shelf ads, take ones or shopping cart placards — News would destroy FGI.

FGI chose to compete — and News America allegedly made good on its promise to kill FGI. The complaint:

“…on at least eleven separate occasions between October 2003 and January 2004, News intentionally, knowingly and without authorization breached FGI’s secure computer system and repeatedly accessed, viewed, took and obtained FGI’s most sensitive and private information concerning its past and upcoming advertising and marketing programs.”

FGI discovered this when one of its clients asked FGI how News America knew about a program that the client was only running with FGI. News America had blown its cover by asking the client why the program wasn’t also running with News America.

A breach of FGI’s computer system was later traced to “an IP address registered at the time to News,” the complaint states.

Following the computer break-in, FGI lost contracts from Safeway, Winn-Dixie, Piggly Wiggly and Basha’s.

[Click to read more Trial: Did News America Marketing Group Break Into Floorgraphics’ Computers? | BNET Advertising Blog | BNET]

Usually these sorts of business litigations are dryasdust, however, News Corp. isn’t most companies.

Written by swanksalot

March 2nd, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,