Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-11

Published June 15, 2008

Impure Legal Thoughts

Legal bloggers and law professors have been knocking themselves out debating the ethical implications of a raunchy Web site maintained by 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.

Some say the site undermines his judicial integrity. Others say the judge is just like lots of other boys being boys who email each other raunchy jokes and photos.

The judge was presiding in a pornography case in June of this year, but declared a mistrial after prosecutors questioned his impartiality, according to Associated Press. An ethics investigation is still underway.

Inquiring minds might want to know if the content is prurient enough to require sanctions or removal from office. The judge’s “private” Web site has now been shut down, but some of the content is available at

Sources: Collected at; Linda Deutsch, “Kozinski Declares Mistrial in L.A. Obscenity Case, Defense attorney accuses DOJ of ‘intimidating Judge Kozinski’ into declaring a mistrial,” Associated Press, June 16, 2008

Crash and Burn

A man who ran over a dog, killing it, is now suing the dog’s owner for $1,100 in damages to his car. The man alleges the collision with the dog was the owner’s fault.

“I have complete compassion for them,” he said. “I know how it feels. I love dogs. But once you get them, they are your responsibility.” Gloria Allred may have said it best: “The more I know about men, the more I like dogs.”

Source: “Minn. driver kills dog, sues owners,” USA Today, May 7, 2008, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform;

Groundless Lawsuit

Several women in Christiansburg, Virginia didn’t like the looks of a “massive” dirt pile on the property of a residential real estate developer during construction of a housing development. They criticized the developer on local blogs. The women claim the dirt pile “besmirches the landscape,” which the developer denies. Now the developer is suing them for $10 million in lost property sales, injury to reputation, and other damages.

The American Civil Liberties Union is defending one of the women, calling the suit groundless, claiming the blogger was just exercising her First Amendment rights to free speech. Big question, though, is whether the ACLU knows a groundless lawsuit when it sees one.

Source: Donna Alvis-Banks, “ACLU says lawsuit is groundless, The group says the developer is using the lawsuit to stifle public complaints,” Roanoke Times, June 10, 2008, via overlawyered

All Wet

High school officials in the Phoenix, Arizona area face a “catch-22” when deciding where to hold graduation ceremonies. Most districts plan outdoor convocations but make backup plans for indoor festivities in case of rain. Families complain when ceremonies are moved indoors because fewer relatives can attend, but then they complain when ceremonies stay outdoors and the whole family gets wet. These situations usually don’t result in litigation.

The father of a Gilbert, Arizona high school graduate who got wet during his outdoor graduation ceremony last month, however, has filed a $400 claim with the high school. The father says the money would pay for his son’s jacket, which was ruined by rain. He justifies the claim by noting school officials had alternate indoor plans but failed to use them.

A number of questions come to mind. Will the school raise the “Act of God” defense? Since when do graduates wear jackets? And whatever happened to rented caps and gowns?

Source: Emily Gersema, “Gilbert dad seeks $400 over wet graduation,” The Arizona Republic, June 11, 2008, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Long-Running Romance

Last year a 16-year-old high school track star in North Carolina married her 40-year-old track coach, right after the coach resigned his position. Her parents, upset at the underage union, sued the school district after having repeatedly complained it was failing to keep the two apart. The judge threw the case out this month.

The case doesn’t sound entirely bogus, until one other critical fact is added to the mix:: The student’s parents consented to the marriage, and the marriage would never have taken place without that consent. The parents are appealing, of course, so the case isn’t over.

On a related note, the marriage could have taken place without parental consent in Egypt, where a judicial official recently ruled a 92-year-old man could not marry a 17-year-old girl. The age gap between partners in that country can’t be more than 25 years, the justice ruled.

Source: Ana Ribeiro, “Judge dismisses parents’ lawsuit in Wuchae case,” Wilmington Star-News, June 9, 2008; Ana Ribeiro and Brittany Butcher, “Teacher resigns, marries 16-year-old student, Parents tried to keep teen from Brunswick coach,” Wilmington Star-News, June 20, 2007, via; Frances Harrison,”Egypt bans 92-year-old’s marriage,” BBC News, June 13, 2008, via

Paper Chase

A car hauler employed by a car transport company in Madison County, Illinois fell off an auto delivery trailer last year, injuring his hand, pelvis, and head, according to court documents. The worker and his wife are suing the transport company, among others, seeking damages for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium, the documents say.

Time will tell if the suit is warranted, but it’s already abusive. As part of the litigation “discovery” process, the worker’s lawyers are seeking all the bank account records of the transport company and those of the family that owns it, dating back to 1998, including copies of 600,000 checks drawn on one bank. The Madison St. Clair Record calls this “a legal jihad against one of the most successfully entrepreneurial families in town.” The paper believes the family will “defeat such frivolity in the long run,” but only at great cost.

Sources: “Discovery madness,” The Madison St. Clair Record, June 8, 2008; court papers available at

Picnic Casket

This year’s spring picnic and parade event held by Catholic schools in Belleville, Illinois was the last, ending a 60-year tradition. The event has been cancelled for next year because of liability concerns and increased insurance costs, an organizer said. Also driving up costs is a city ordinance requiring background checks of all employees of carnival rides, concessions, and other firms supplying goods and services.

Some parents understood the safety concerns, but others were just plain sad. The kids “thought getting to be in the parade was the neat thing,” said one parent. “That’s what they look forward to.”

Source: Scott Wuerz, “Belleville Catholic schools parade, picnic to come to end, Concerns halt 60-year tradition,” Belleville News-Democrat, May 22, 2008

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
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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