Monday, April 30, 2007

Tort Reform and Cong. John Sullivan

So called tort reform had big week in Oklahoma in last week. The Oklahoma legislature passed a patently unconstitutional package. Had Governor Henry not vetoed it with Attorney General Drew Edmondson's approval, the whole thing would have been in court for years, generating astronomical fees for both sides until it was eventually overturned. And, it would have been overturned. Significant portions of the legislation have already been found unconstitutional.

But, another little story was breaking as well. It would seem that Congressman John Sullivan was seriously injured in a traffic accident in D.C. last year. His pleadings make a good case that the Federal employees who were directing traffic were negligent resulting in permanent disabling injuries to the congressman. Congressman Sullivan exercised his constitutional right to petition his government for a redress of a private grievance by virtue of the civil courts. So far, so good.

But, it would seem that the Federal Government already has a version of tort reform in place which limits the remedies available to government employees who are injured on the job. Congressman Sullivan's civil lawsuit was dismissed last week and he was instructed to get in line with the rest of the government employees awaiting bureaucratic resolution of their injury claims. Sullivan's pleadings state his concern that it is possible that he will not be compensated for a permanent, disabling injury to his left eye that was incurred while on the job in the capital due to the apparent negligence of other federal employees. The court said in effect, "So what?"

Welcome to "Tort Reform."

The opinion can be found at:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Remarkable Event ...

A remarkable event occurred this week in North Carolina. The State of North Carolina admitted that a prosecutor had wrongly charged three college athletes with rape. The state went further and declared them innocent of the charges. Not “insufficient evidence” or even “not guilty” but actually innocent. That just does not happen in the world of courts and prosecutors and lawyers.

The fact that this all happened speaks very well of the integrity of the North Carolina Bar and prosecutorial service. But, before we go too far in praising them all, we need to introduce a dose of reality. The accused in this case were popular college athletes at a very prestigious southern school. They were the children of wealthy people capable of exerting considerable back door influence both in the courts and the bar itself. Further, the accused were defended by teams of world class attorneys with almost unlimited budgets. And, all of these factors combined in a state with a history of liberality in jurisprudence. In all likelihood, the prosecutor, Mike Nifong, will be disbarred and North Carolina will soon pass legislation that allows state officials to intervene in cases where a local prosecutor is out of control.

One cannot help but compare this story with that of Ron Williamson here in Oklahoma as described in John Grisham’s excellent non-fiction book, The Innocent Man. Williamson was within eight days of execution when attorneys from The Innocence Project proved that not only was he innocent of the crimes he was convicted of but that he was also the victim of stunning law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct. Williamson, did not have the benefit of politically and socially connected family and friends or a strong defense team with an adequate budget. He almost died in the electric chair. The prosecuting attorney responsible is still in office and the State of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Bar Association have been remarkably silent about it all.

The bottom line here is, if the Duke LaCrosse players had been from poor or middle class families in another state, particularly Oklahoma, the outcome would have been much different. Absent a miracle they would be doing hard time right now and the lying stripper would be wealthy.

There is plenty of blame to pass around in this story and there are no heroes. The defendants were acting like frat boy pigs and deserved to be at least removed from their student athlete status if not expelled. Prosecutor Mike Nifong shamelessly used race, reverse prejudice and willful ignorance of the facts to attempt to further his career. He deserves to lose his job at minimum. But, at the bottom of the whole affair is the lying stripper. This whole affair would not have happened had she not falsely accused the players of rape. Portraying herself as a victim and playing to worst prejudices in our oh-so politically correct society, she shamefully manipulated attorneys, prosecutors and public opinion taking no thought of the havoc she was reaping on others lives. No one is talking about prosecuting her for making false statements in a criminal investigation or malicious prosecution ... YET. BUT THEY SHOULD BE. She deserves to do time and I hope the State of North Carolina pursues it.


Postcript: They say the sure sign of intelligence in a person is how much they agree with you. If that's the case then this ABC News reporter is a pretty smart guy.