Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #10-5

Published March 7, 2011

The Obama administration is actively aiding and abetting the litigation explosion. Three toll-free hotlines have been set up between the federal government and the American Bar Association (ABA) to refer cases to private lawyers. The hotlines connect the ABA and the Departments of Veterans Affairs and of Labor, Housing and Urban Development.

The Department of Labor will link about 4,000 potential complainants who contact the department each year with complaints about their employers whose cases can’t be investigated by department staff. Lawyers would be paid by contingent fees, typically one-third of any recovery or settlement. HUD cases aim at victims of housing foreclosure, and those of Veterans Affairs aim at veterans with government claims.

Vice President Joseph Biden, who had this idea as part of his Middle Class Initiative, says it would provide “equal access to justice” for “unrepresented litigants.” This claim seems odd because clients who have contingent fee cases usually have no trouble finding lawyers, and they pay no out-of-pocket legal fees–“unrepresented litigants” more often are those who have to defend cases and pay lawyers by the hour.

One commentator questioned the wisdom of provoking more litigation against business during a jobless recovery and the unfairness of taking sides in favor of workers and against business. “Moreover, will the government set up an ABA referral service at Labor for small businesses and employers who are having trouble with miscreant employees or are being harassed by frivolous lawsuits filed by troublemaking workers?

Source: Elizabeth MacDonald, “Hate Your Boss? Call the Government,” FOXBusiness, February 4, 2011

Clients with Benefits

By an overwhelming 72 percent majority, members of the Texas State Bar have voted to reject a change in ethics rules banning lawyers from having sex with clients.

The rule would have prohibited sex between lawyer and client unless they were married or had been involved in a consensual relationship before the legal representation began.

Some Texas lawyers suggest the Texas Supreme Court may enact the rule on its own, which it has the power to do.

Source: Debra Cassens Weiss, “Texas Lawyers Reject Ban on Sex with Clients,” American Bar Association Journal, February 22, 2011

Hard Facts

It’s illegal in Pennsylvania to throw “any solid object” onto a roadway. So when police arrested a man for throwing a piece of pizza onto the road, the question for the judge was whether it was a “solid object.” The judge concluded it was, after eating some.

“Using personal funds, I bought some pizza in order to test its physical properties,” he wrote. It did not take on the shape of the box, so he concluded it was not a gas. He then sliced it into pieces and it remained in pieces, so he concluded it was not a liquid. He then ate a piece and had to chew it. “I put the remainder on top of a paper towel and observed that it stayed in place, did not spill onto my desk, and held its shape (less one bite). I therefore concluded that it was a solid.”

Source: Kevin Underhill, “Judge Rules Pizza Slice Is a ‘Solid Object,'” loweringthebar, February 22, 2011

Adopter’s Remorse

A pair of adoptive parents in Brooklyn are suing their adoption attorneys because their baby has neurological problems the attorneys allegedly failed to warn them about. Had they been warned, the couple would not have adopted the child, they allege.

The couple has spent thousands of dollars in medical expenses, but they’re suing for $5 million. The child is “a wonderful little boy, but this has been hard,” the mother said.

Source: Christina Carrega and Selim Algar, “Suit: Our baby didn’t come with a warning,” New York Post, February 21, 2011 via

Last to Know, First to Sue

A California city is being sued for $3.9 million by the wife–soon to be ex-wife–of a man she alleges was demoted because he had an extramarital affair with an employee he supervised. The wife claims the demotion reduces her alimony.

“If the city had done its due diligence [the woman] would not have been promoted,” the wife alleges, “and my financial future would not be in jeopardy.” She claims the city engaged in “reckless conduct” and caused her “emotional, mental, and physical distress.”

Source: Ed Fletcher, “Affair has legal fallout,” Sacramento Bee, February 19, 2011 via, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform

Eviction Conviction

A California lawyer who advised his clients to move back into their foreclosed home has been found in contempt of court.

As covered previously by Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly (Issue 10-3; February 7, 2011), the lawyer was also ordered to pay $2,000 in fines and $34,000 to the investment firm that purchased the home after the clients lost the house.

After the clients were evicted, the investment firm renovated the house, at a cost of thousands of dollars, and were trying to sell it when the clients broke back in. They were evicted again–and threatened to break back in again.

The judge called the lawyer’s violations of law “willful” and said he “orchestrated, procured, led and aided” his clients into breaking back into the property, knowing they didn’t own it. She did not fine the clients–this time–but the lawyer was ordered to warn them.

Source: Stephanie Hoops, “Lawyer held in contempt for advising clients to retake foreclosed home,” Venture County Star, February 17, 2011 via

Rural Rout

City inspectors are threatening to revoke the license of a New Jersey day care center if it doesn’t meet the last round of forced regulatory requirements because they claim the center is too dangerous.

Located in a rural area, the 11-acre center prides itself on its natural setting. Child care inspectors failed to see the charm.

They ruled a cat sleeping in a basket had to be leashed or caged. The stream had to be fenced. Fat logs cut into stumps moveable for story time were deemed “play equipment” and required to be fixed to the ground. The children had to wear shoes, not just stockings. Trees have to be trimmed so seven feet of trunk are visible.

“This is a country environment! I grew up here. Honestly, that’s what I wrestle with: Do we even want to remain a child care center if we have to eliminate all the parts we love?” said the school director.

Source: Lenore Skazeny, “No Child Left Outside,” Free-Range Kids, February 12, 2011

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, Diane Carol Bast

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603