The Recognitions

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I hate William Gaddis. As a would-be writer, Gaddis has had no direct influence on me. And yet, pretty much everything I have done, or planned to do, or started to do, as a writer, which I genuinely thought to be fresh or innovative, I have come to discover has pretty much already been done by him. The invasion or …

Winter’s Tale

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If someone had told me what Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale was about, I don’t think I would have read it. Written in 1983, the plot is three parts Gangs of New York, two parts Age of Innocence, with a dash of Dickens and a pinch of Lord of the Rings. A turn-of-century “period piece” set in and around the city …

American Pastoral

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I love the last sentence. “What on earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?” I love the Swede Levov character. I don’t know if I have ever identified with a fictional character (or even another real person) in the same way I identified with Levov. (Who, whether coincidentally or by design, is a literary alter ego of …

Infinite Jest

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From: Steve Herman To: Bill Chisholm Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 12:36 AM Subject: Book of Last Ten Years What was “the” book of the last 10 years I am supposed to read? ————————————– From: Bill Chisholm Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 11:12 AM infinite jest by david foster wallace ————————————– From: Steve Herman To: Bill Chisholm Sent: Sunday, March …

The Castle (with a touch of Michael Chabon and a lot of James Frey)

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The Castle is one of those books that is sitting on a shelf which I have been meaning to read for years. It really wasn’t as Kafkaesque as I would have expected. Why didn’t the guy just leave? But the book did have those great passages. The Castle, whose contours were already beginning to dissolve, lay silent as ever; never …

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Is John Updike the Shakespeare of Our Time? (The Centaur) (and a touch of Seinfeld)

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It seems like every piece of literary criticism I read lately uses Updike’s work as some sort of benchmark for great literature in the 20th Century. (X is the new Updike…; as Updike and X replaced Faulkner and Joyce…; there isn’t a clear figure from the latter part of the century whom you can point to like you could point …

What to Put on Your i-Pod

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In the new John Sanford mystery, the protagonist receives an i-Pod as a gift, and refuses to load it until he has determined exactly which 100 songs he wants to include. He spends the novel composing his list, while entertaining suggestions and defending against criticisms from his friends. At the end of the book, he publishes the list. To his …

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New York Superior Court Denies Motion to Seal Documents in Product Liability Action in the Interest of Public Policy

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Two parents sued Graco after their child died due to an alleged defect in a Graco stroller. The parties negotiated a settlement that contained a confidentiality agreement, and the plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion to seal with the court. While acknowledging the propriety of confidentiality of court proceedings under limited circumstances, the court noted that the inquiry into whether to …

The Martian (and a Lesson from Behavioral Economics)

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I thought The Martian was a pretty good movie. Well-made. Well-filmed. Well-acted. (I didn’t really like the Matt Damon character all that much, and found the voice-over narration via video diary a little formulaic and annoying, although I frankly can’t, off the top of my head, think of a better alternative.) But it was reasonably suspenseful and interesting. Thought-provoking. And/But …

District Court in Virgin Islands Calls Into Question the Efficacy of Stipulated Confidentiality Orders

In For Trial Lawyers, Legal Ethics & Professionalism, What's New in E-Discovery and Spoliation?, What's New in the Courts by gravierhouseLeave a Comment

“In the Stipulated Confidentiality Order, the parties agree that certain categories of documents will be designated as confidential. If documents are so designated, the Stipulated Confidentiality Order requires that ‘if filed, the documents shall be filed under seal and shall remain sealed while in the Office of the Clerk as long as they retain their status as stamped “Confidential” documents.’  …

The Long Arc of Justice

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View Full Document Like many of you, I suspect, I began law school with something called Pennoyer v. Neff, followed shortly thereafter by something called a “progeny.” Not being a lawyer at the time, the whole thing made very little sense to me. While it seemed logical to ask whether the parties or events had a sufficient connection to a …

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“Legalnomics”: Lessons from the Field of Behavioral Economics about Perception and Decision-Making for Trial Lawyers

In For Trial Lawyers by gravierhouse1 Comment

View Full Document When I first started practicing law in 1994, the art of trial advocacy embraced the concept of storytelling as a central way of communicating the plaintiff’s cause to the jury. The convention, at that time, was to paint the plaintiff as the protagonist in his or her own life’s story. The jury would be sympathetic to his …

Personal Remarks

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From the LAJ President’s Luncheon, March 20, 2015: View Full Document Last night I read a blog post by my partner Jed about how hard it is to be a plaintiffs’ lawyer.[1] And I was reminded of this scene in the movie Philadelphia. Everyone probably remembers the scene where Denzel Washington goes to see Tom Hanks in his home, as …

To the Rules Committee: Some Thoughts About Class Actions

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Last year, it became clear that the Civil Rules Committee was going to take yet another look at potential changes to the Federal Class Action Procedure, embodied in Rule 23.  For whatever it may or may not have been worth, I provided the Committee with a few thoughts about the current state of class actions, from kind of a Big Picture …

The King of Shorts

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During the Deepwater Horizon litigation, some of the lawyers circulated a few anonymous parodies of interviews that were given by a lawyer who is not involved in the litigation to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, apparently seeking some attention for himself.  With a Hundred Years of Solitude type feel, they attempt of make light of a fairly incredulous situation.  Are some people really so desperate to feel relevant or …

Standing On The Shoulders Of Those Who Came Before Us

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View Full Document Thank you for the honor of serving as LAJ president. I look forward to the coming year and pledge my service to you. There is one important step you can take today that will make a difference in a new lawyer’s life. Become a mentor. In my law practice, I have been extremely fortunate to have benefitted …

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Duties Owed by Appointed Counsel to MDL Litigants Whom They Do Not Formally Represent

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Stemming from my experience in the BP Oil Spill Litigation, I started to think about the specific duties owed by Lead Counsel to other litigants in an MDL whom they do not formally represent. Which questions, among others, were raised in a series of speeches and papers that have evolved over time, Ethical Questions Raised by the BP Oil Spill …

ABA Issues Formal Opinion re Securing Communication of Protected Client Information over the Internet

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In sum, the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility advised as follows: “A lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer has undertaken reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access. However, a lawyer may be required to take special security …

U.S. Fifth Circuit Finds Attorney’s Promissory Note to Former Client Non-Dischargeable Where Attorney Violated Rule 1.8(h)

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Mr. Selenberg, an attorney, filed for Bankruptcy, and sought to discharge, among other things, a promissory note that was provided to a former client whose case Mr. Selenberg allowed to prescribe.  He argued that the debt should be discharged, as he did not make any “false representations” to his former client, Mrs. Bates. “For one, he notes that he accurately …

U.S. Supreme Court Reverses $2.7 Million Discovery Sanction Against GM Where Not Causally Related to the Misconduct

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Plaintiffs sued Goodyear, alleging that the failure of a G159 tire caused the family’s motorhome to swerve off the road and flip over. After several years of contentious discovery, marked by Goodyear’s slow response to repeated requests for internal G159 test results, the parties settled the case. Some months later, the plaintiffs’ lawyer learned that, in another lawsuit involving the …

U.S. Fifth Circuit Affirms Sanction of Attorneys Who Withheld Material Evidence from Rule 26 Disclosures

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The plaintiff in the underlying lawsuit claimed she was sexually assaulted on multiple occasions while incarcerated at the Maverick County Detention Center, operated by the defendant, GEO Group.  During the plaintiff’s deposition, she was confronted with recordings of telephone calls which had not be identified or produced as part of the initial disclosures under Rule 26.  The plaintiff filed a …

ABA Provides Guidance for Attorneys Seeking to Withdraw from Representation

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The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility was called upon to address the potential conflict between Court Orders and/or Rules requiring the bases for withdrawal of representation and the attorney’s obligation to maintain client confidences.  While the issue was raised in the context of a desired withdrawal for non-payment of fees in particular, the Committee provided guidance that …

Seventh Circuit Says Wife’s Unauthorized Access to Husband’s E-Mails Could Violate Federal Wiretap Act

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A husband embroiled in an acrimonious divorce brought suit against his wife claiming a violation of the Electronic Surveillance Act by surreptitiously placing an auto-forwarding “rule” on his e-mail accounts that automatically forwarded the messages on his e-mail to her. He also alleges that the wife’s divorce attorney violated the Act by “disclosing” the intercepted emails in response to his …

Covington & Burling Admonished for Representing Non-Party Witnesses in Depositions

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The defendant, Jacobs, hired Covington & Burling to devlop factual information and defenses relating to Jacobs’ work for the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Among other things, Covington helped identify non-party witnesses who might have factual information regarding the TVA-Jacobs contract.  Covington worked with the witnesses to prepare and submit declarations in support of Jacobs’ Motion to Dismiss, asserting derivative sovereign immunity …

Alaska Bar Association Prohibits Use of “Web Bugs”

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A “web bug” is a technology tool that tracks certain information about the document to which it is attached.  They can be used in e-mail newsletters to help track readers, for example, but can also be used in e-mails to “invisibly” track, among other things: when the email was opened; how long the email was reviewed (including whether it was …

Repeatedly Sanctioned Lawyer Sanctioned for Frivolous Pleadings which Contradict Previous Filings by Same Party

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Bordelon Marine filed suit against Bibby Subsea in Louisiana State Court, seeking to collect on, among other things, unpaid Invoice No. 15-58. The factual statements in the complaint were verified by Wesley D. Bordelon, the President of Bordelon Marine. The defendant removed the case to Federal Court, and moved to stay the matter pending arbitration. The Federal Court subsequently compelled …

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U.S. Fifth Circuit Dismisses Appeal for Lack of Jurisdiction Where Appellant Fails to Timely Object in the District Court

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“The class members get nothing. The attorneys get their fees. A class member objects, but untimely. Consequently, we lack appellate jurisdiction.” Explaining more fully: “The Supreme Court has often underscored that only parties to a lawsuit, or those that properly become parties, may appeal an adverse judgment. But then the Devlin Court came along and concluded that it should carve …

U.S. Fifth Circuit Grants Rehearing, En Banc, to Consider the Appropriate Standard of Review for Factual Determinations Where Plan Does Not Afford Administrator Discretion

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On July 10, 2017, the U.S. Fifth Circuit granted a Petition for Rehearing, En Banc, to consider the panel’s decision in Ariana M. v. Humana, 854 F.3d 753 (5th Cir. 2017), affirming the denial of medical benefits to a plan beneficiary who had been hospitalized due to serious mental health conditions.  Applying an abuse of discretion standard of review under the Circuit’s …

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Application of American Pipe Tolling to a Statute of Repose

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In 2007 and 2008, Lehman Brothers raised capital through several public securities offerings. In 2008, a putative class action asserted claims under Section 11 of the Securities Act, alleging that the registration statements included material misstatements or omissions. Because the complaint was filed on behalf of all persons who purchased the identified securities, petitioner was a member of the putative class. In …

Louisiana Fourth Circuit Affirms Verdict Against Tractor Manufacturer under the LPLA

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The plaintiff suffered permanently disabling injuries when she lost her footing and became pinned underneath the two rear tires of an over-the-road tractor while running alongside the vehicle in an attempt to shut off its engine. A jury found the manufacturer Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) 90% at fault, while apportioning 10% of the fault to the owner of the …

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Personal Jurisdiction in Pharmaceutical Case with Respect to Non-Resident Plaintiffs

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A group of plaintiffs, including 86 California residents and 592 residents of other states, sued Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMS) in California state court, alleging that the pharmaceutical company’s drug Plavix had damaged their health. BMS is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York, and it maintains substantial operations in both New York and New Jersey. Although it engages in …

Magistrate Judge Limits Discovery of E-Mails and Text Messages to Those Directly Relevant to Employment Claims on Proportionality Grounds

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In suit brought by a former State employee for retaliation, invasion of privacy, and defamation, U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes, in the Middle District of Louisiana, granted in part, and denied in part, the defendant employer’s motion to compel various e-mail and text messages. With respect to requests for plaintiff’s e-mails and text messages from his own personal cell phone …

Duties Owed by Appointed Counsel to MDL Litigants Whom They Do Not Formally Represent

In Legal Ethics & Professionalism, What's New in the Courts by gravierhouseLeave a Comment

Stemming from my experience in the BP Oil Spill Litigation, I started to think about the specific duties owed by Lead Counsel to other litigants in an MDL whom they do not formally represent. Which questions, among others, were raised in a series of speeches and papers that have evolved over time, Ethical Questions Raised by the BP Oil Spill …

U.S. Fifth Circuit Affirms Order to Reimburse Plan and to Pay Attorneys Fees, Rejecting Participant’s Challenge to ERISA’s Written Instrument Requirements

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Rhea was the beneficiary of an employee benefit plan who suffered injuries from medical malpractice. The plan covered some of her medical expenses, and, after she settled the malpractice claim, sought reimbursement.  Rhea refused to reimburse the plan, claiming that it did not have an enforceable written instrument.  The court, on report and recommendation of the presiding Magistrate Judge, held that …

U.S. Fifth Circuit Reverses Policy 495

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The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Class Counsel that its previous 2013 decision in Deepwater Horizon I did not imply that revenues should be moved, ‘smoothed’, or otherwise re-allocated, and therefore reversed the Specialized Frameworks which had been established with “Policy No. 495” for Construction, Agricultural, Educational and Professional Services Claims. See Fifth Cir Decision Reversing Policy …

ABA Issues Formal Opinion re Securing Communication of Protected Client Information over the Internet

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In sum, the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility advised as follows: “A lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer has undertaken reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access. However, a lawyer may be required to take special security …

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