Posted on Monday, March 11th, 2013 at 5:25 pm
In the United States, the recent passage of laws legalizing the recreational sale and use of marijuana in the states of Washington and Colorado has highlighted the natural tension between state and federal legal authority. Marijuana has been illegal under federal law for decades, and most states have similarly criminalized the substance throughout this time. However, with the new laws, it is unclear what actions, if any, will be taken by federal authorities.
Some states have already dabbled with legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and in some instances, particularly in California, the federal government has ignored state prerogatives in these cases in favor of enforcing federal statutes. The new laws, however, represent a far greater challenge to federal authority than that posed by medical marijuana laws, calling into question whether the federal government will even be able to pursue this same strategy, or whether enforcement will necessarily become more enhanced or ignored altogether.
Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s highest-ranking lawyer, has recently acknowledged the difficulty of this problem, and provided assurances that the Administration’s position will be clarified relatively soon in the future.
Posted on Friday, March 8th, 2013 at 4:28 pm
Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay $8.3 million to a 65 year old man who claimed that the DePuy ASR hip implant he received was defective. This case was the first of over 10,000 lawsuits filed against Johnson & Johnson to be brought to court.
In the jury ruling, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay over $300,000 to cover the plaintiff’s medical expenses, and another $8 million for pain and suffering resulting from the defective hip implant. Johnson & Johnson issued a recall of 93,000 implants back in 2010 after announcing that 12% of the devices failed after just five years.
Experts agree that the cost of resolving the over 10,000 suits against the company could cost Johnson & Johnson billions of dollars.
Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2013 at 3:59 pm
The Chicago Tribune, one of the largest newspapers in the United States, has recently agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed by 46 reporters who worked for its Trib Local services over allegations of unpaid overtime wages. The settlement, which is reported to be in the amount of $660,000, will be distributed to employees based on the amount of work for which they were denied overtime payment.
The overtime lawsuit was filed by Carolyn Rusin, and in addition to her share of the settlement, she will also receive $10,000 for bringing the case and $2000 for her individual claim. A court hearing for final approval on the settlement is scheduled for June. Approval is expected. Individuals engaged in an overtime lawsuit may find themselves facing incredible difficulty, especially if they are going against a large company with extensive legal resources. In cases like this, the assistance of an overtime lawyer is almost always necessary to give plaintiffs a shot at securing the verdit they want.
Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 8:32 am
Indigent residents of states across the U.S. are facing a loss of the legal assistance they need as a result of funding shortfalls at both the state and federal level. While constitutional guarantees of access to criminal defense representation for criminal defendants remains an important bulwark of protection for criminal suspects accused of committing a crime, those in other situations who may require legal assistance but who cannot afford an attorney on their own are now facing the possibility that they will not be able to obtain representation.
In Texas, for instance, where nearly six million of the state’s residents have incomes which would qualify them for legal aid in normal circumstances, some individuals have been turned away because of shortfalls in the state’s fund for legal aid. According to some estimates, the state only has enough resources to provide legal assistance to 100,000 individuals in the year.
The problem is part of a national trend, with states struggling to balance their budgets being forced to make tough spending decisions and, in many cases, having to reduce funding for legal aid services. On the national level, the Legal Services Corporation, the federal organization which provides much of the funding for legal aid agencies across the country, has seen its own budget reduced by Congress. As a result, the availability of lawyers for indigent citizens has been dramatically reduced in scope.
Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 at 4:15 pm
A case soon to come before the Supreme Court has far-reaching consequences for civil liberties and law enforcement methods in the United States. At issue is whether law enforcement agencies can legally require individuals who have been arrested, but not convicted, for a criminal offense to submit a DNA sample for testing. These samples would not necessarily be used for the case being investigated, but rather to check against databases of other crime scene investigations and determine whether the suspect had been involved in separate offenses.
Proponents of the law point to its effectiveness in the case which has come to the courts. In Maryland, Alonzo King was arrested for attempted assault, and when police checked his DNA profile against their database of crime scene evidence, they found that his DNA matched that found at the scene of a serious sexual assault. King was, therefore, convicted for this crime, as well as the more minor assault charge.
Opponents of the practice, including King’s lawyers, have argued that DNA testing of arrest suspects is a violation of the 4th Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches. Furthermore, some claim that this overzealous DNA collection practice adds to evidence backlogs and impedes the ability of law enforcement agencies to effectively investigate criminal offenses in a timely manner.
The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching ramifications on defendants and criminal defense lawyers, regardless of how it is decided, as dozens of states have already put in place these types of laws and many more are considering them.
Posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 5:02 pm
The first civil charges have been filed over a controversy that unfolded last year regarding drug samples at a Massachusetts drug lab. Chemist Annie Dookhan, a former employee of the state drug lab, has been accused of tampering with evidence and compromising as many as tens of thousands of drug samples submitted as evidence for criminal proceedings in drug crimes cases. Dookhan was arraigned in her sixth and final arraignment and pleaded “not guilty” to the charges against her.
Because of the invalidity of evidence used in so many MA criminal cases that were affected by Dookhan’s alleged actions, many criminal defense lawyers have been able to have the charges, convictions, and penalties against their clients overturned or dramatically reduced in severity.
Now the first charges have been filed against Dookhan and other authorities for charges and convictions based on faulty evidence. Jeffrey Solomon has named Dookhan, the state, District Attorneys from both Suffolk and Norfolk counties, and one police officer in his lawsuit. Solomon is seeking damages for drug charges and for a mandatory prison sentence that accompanied them.
Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 5:48 pm
The Lancet Neurology recently published the results of a new study revealing a link between IQ and Depakote (valproate). According to the study, children born to women who took valproate while pregnant had, on average, lower IQs at age 6 than children whose mothers took different anti-seizure medications.
This is not the only scrutiny that has befallen Depakote / valproate. In May of 2012, Depakote’s manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories Inc., pleaded guilty to charges that it promoted Depakote for uses that had not been approved and deemed safe by the FDA, and paid $1.5 million in the case.
Numerous plaintiffs have already taken action against Abbott Laboratories Inc. by filing Depakote lawsuits alleging that using the drug while pregnant resulted in a number of serious birth defects in their children, including facial deformities, abnormal digits, spina bifida, and impaired cognitive development.
These new findings could be used as additional evidence in existing lawsuits, or could result in new lawsuits being filed.
Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2013 at 5:03 pm
A huge constitutional law decision was handed down today, as President Barack Obama’s three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were deemed to be unconstitutional. Obama had been accused of abusing his power as president by make these three appointments while Congress was not meeting, and today, the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia confirmed these accusations.
The controversy in these appointments centered over what can constitute congressional “recess”. The Constitution allows the president to make recess appointments, but what was debated was whether or not recess means when Congress recesses at the end of a session, or any time that Congress is not meeting, be if for a number of days or a number of weeks.
In this instance, President Obama made the NLRB appointments when Congress had recessed for more than a few days, but not during the major recess at the end of the calendar year. This appointment was ruled to be an abuse of power, dealing a major political blow to the president at the beginning of his second term.
Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2013 at 5:33 pm
According to a story in the Oakland Tribune, Annie’s Homegrown, a natural and organic foods company based out of Berkeley, CA, issued a voluntary recall of their frozen Rising Crust Pizza after a faulty screen at their production plant resulted in metal shards finding their way into flour and pizza dough.
Although there are no reports of injuries or consultations with personal injury lawyers because of the incident, Annie’s decided to recall frozen Rising Crust Pizzas with a “best buy” date between January 9th and September 14th of this year. Additionally, there have been no reports of consumers finding any metal in store-bought pizzas.
Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 6:23 pm
A recent decision out of Massachusetts may have far-reaching consequences for those with serious food allergies. A settlement reached by the United States Justice Department with Lesley University has established that, in some circumstances, people with severe food allergies may be considered to have a disability and, therefore, may be entitled to request a reasonable accommodation for their dietary needs with the help of a disability lawyer.
The case arose from a complaint filed by at least one student after being denied exemption from the school’s meal plan, in spite of the fact that this individual was allergic to all of the school’s offerings. As a result of the settlement, the school will now be required to provide gluten-free options in all of its cafeterias. More importantly, though, this agreement opens up the possibility that other institutions which serve food to the public may, in the future, be legally required to meet the needs of individuals with serious food allergies.