Class Claims MetLife Cheats By Assuming Kids Will Smoke
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/13 16:44
Metropolitan Life Insurance defrauds customers by illicitly and secretively applying smokers' rates to children who don't smoke, claiming that by the time they are adults the kids will be smokers, a class action claims in Middlesex County Court.

Plaintiffs claim MetLife conceals this deceitful policy, which violates underwriting guidelines.

They claim MetLife's "'juvenile standard' or 'standard' rate and/or risk class is a blend of smoking and nonsmoking mortality experience. MetLife never disclosed this information to policyholders, defendant's own sales agents, or persons other than those MetLife actuaries and home office personnel involved in pricing MetLife's insurance policies."

Represented by Bruce Greenberg with Lite DePalma Greenberg & Rivas, plaintiffs demand treble damages for consumer fraud.


Inventor Of Secret Goggles Can't Sue Government
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/12 16:01
The inventor of color-compatible night-vision goggles lacks standing to sue the government for compensation under the Invention Secrecy Act, after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office withheld his patent for 14 years on "national security" grounds, the Court of Federal Claims ruled.

Richard Cohen, an inventor with Honeywell International, filed a patent application in 1985 for "night vision goggles compatible with full color display." The PTO forwarded his application to defense agencies, and the Department of the Navy requested a secrecy order to keep his application under wraps.

When the order was lifted in 2000, Honeywell experienced rejection after rejection of its original and new patent applications.  The company blamed the rejection of a related 2002 patent application on the 14-year delay, and sought compensation under the Invention Secrecy Act.

But Honeywell's newer patent was not based on the original patent, so Honeywell failed to establish a causal link between the secrecy order and the company's alleged damages.


Talk About A Jury Of Peers ...
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/09 16:08
A woman in the jury pool for a marijuana trial failed to return from a break because she was arrested for allegedly smoking a joint outside the courthouse, the judge told the Houston Chronicle.

Criminal Court at Law Judge Sherman Ross told the newspaper he was preparing to file a bench warrant for missing Juror No. 2 when his bailiff got a call from police, who said Cornelia Mayo was being booked on a charge of smoking pot outside the courthouse.

"I've had prospective jurors get lost before, but it never occurred to me that they might be getting ready for a marijuana trial by, allegedly, smoking marijuana," Ross told the Chronicle. Mayo, who spent the night in jail, will be arraigned next week in the court across the hall from Judge Ross's courtroom.


Vallejo, CA Declares Itself Bankrupt
Legal Topics | 2008/05/08 15:52

The Vallejo City Council has voted unanimously to declare the city bankrupt. The council cited falling property values and tax receipts and a $16 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins in July. Residents of Vallejo, a town of 120,000 in Santa Clara County, have a median income of $56,505.

    Vallejo, 25 miles northeast of San Francisco, is the largest city in California to declare itself bankrupt, and the first major metropolitan area to do so since Orange County filed for bankruptcy in 1994 after a series of bungled investments.

    "With Orange County there were identifiable bad guys," John Quigley, an economics profession at UC-Berkeley, told The New York Times. "This is different. Near as one can tell, this is more of a low-level infection everywhere."

    Proposition 13 caps property taxes in California, and the Vallejo City Council was unable to wring salary concessions from its public employees, whose salaries account for 80 percent of the city budget.



Taxpayers Challenge $7.4 Billion Prison Bond
Areas of Focus | 2008/05/07 16:02
The State of California illegally approved issuance of $7.4 billion in "lease-revenue bonds" to build facilities for 53,000 more state and county prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget claims in Superior Court.

Plaintiffs CURB and individual taxpayers claim AB 900, signed into law in 2007, violates the state constitution because it was not approved by voters and is deceptively and illegally described as a revenue bond.

The lawsuit comes as California faces an annual budget deficit of nearly $20 billion. A similar budget deficit led to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis and his replacement by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a defendant in this case.

"Article XVI, Section 1 of the California Constitution requires voter approval for all long-term debts greater than $300,000. However, the state contends that the AB 900 bonds do not require voter approval because they are secured only by 'lease' payments. This lawsuit contends the opposite: namely, that the $7.4 billion in lease-revenue bonds in AB 900 are actual debts that will further impair the credit of the state, and that require voter approval before they can be incurred," the complaint states.

"A revenue bond is backed by the future revenue stream created by a given construction project. For example, a revenue bond allows a cit or the state to build a tool bridge or a convention center and then to repay the debt with user fees generated by the project. ... Prisons, however, do not generate revenue. ... Under the lease-revenue bond transactions at issue here, the state will not receive any funds from the operation of the new prison facilities financed by the bonds, but will instead incur substantial additional costs - in excess of $1.4 billion each year. ...

"In the past, the state itself clearly recognized that bonds used to finance prison construction had to satisfy the constitutional requirement of voter approval. Until 1996, the state routinely used general obligation bonds to finance prisons and submitted proposed prison expansion projects to the voters. However, the last two times that state did so, in 1990 and again in 1996, the voters rejected the prison bonds. The state has not submitted any of its prison expansion plans to the voters since 1996."


Federal judge rejects Katrina damage immunity bid
Legal Topics | 2008/05/06 16:14

Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. of the US Eastern District of Louisiana ruled again Friday that the US Army Corps of Engineers cannot claim immunity from suit in connection with damages suffered by plaintiffs by virtue of alleged defects in the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO). Duval said that the outlet was a shipping channel and not a flood control outlet in connection with which the Corps would have been properly immune in tort. He rejected the Corps' argument that the MRGO was nonetheless part of a larger flood control system in the New Orleans area.

Duval made a similar ruling in February 2007 in the context of an earlier motion to dismiss. Three months before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, an expert at the LSU Hurricane Center predicted that the MRGO could amplify storm surges by 20-40 percent. After Katrina, the center determined through computer modeling that the presence of the MRGO also increased the speed of the surge, causing an even greater detrimental effect.



N.Y. Judge Files $10 Million Defamation Suit
Headline Legal News | 2008/05/05 16:06

A Brooklyn judge has filed an unusual $10 million defamation suit against attorney Ravi Batra and the New York Daily News.

The suit, Martin v. Daily News, 100053/08, filed earlier this year in Manhattan Supreme Court by Justice Larry D. Martin, alleges that Batra was the source of two Daily News columns and related blog postings falsely accusing the judge of improperly presiding over a case involving a lawyer who had defended him before the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Martin maintains that Batra "requested and urged" Daily News columnist Errol Louis to publish "defamatory statements" about him. He claims the articles were "outrageous, grossly irresponsible, malicious and evinced a complete and utter indifference" to his "rights and reputation."

Both Batra and the Daily News have filed motions to dismiss.

On Jan. 28, 2007, Louis wrote that the "complicated world of judicial corruption in Brooklyn -- a snakepit filled with bribery and back-room political deals" -- was on the verge of being "blown wide open."

He cited an action brought by Batra, relating to Singer v. Riskin, 015812/01, an ongoing multimillion-dollar real estate dispute between Batra's clients, Martin and Grace Riskin, and Ted Singer. That dispute has spawned 11 lawsuits.

In November 2006, Batra filed Riskin v. Karp, 34131/06, on behalf of his clients against attorney Jerome M. Karp. The suit alleges Karp represented Singer "in secret" in Riskin v. Belinda, 048555/98, a mortgage foreclosure action and offshoot of Singer v. Riskin.

Batra alleged that Karp's failure to disclose his representation of Singer in Belinda, over which Martin presided, created an undisclosed conflict since Karp had served as the judge's attorney before the judicial conduct commission.

The commission, in a determination issued in December 2001 and modified in June 2002, admonished Martin for sending ex parte letters seeking favorable consideration on behalf of defendants awaiting sentencing in other courts.

In an interview, Batra called Martin's pending action "a frivolous lawsuit [that] ill serves one who sits on the noble bench."

The suit is before Supreme Court Justice Martin J. Schulman.



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