Sunday, September 11, 2005

#4 William Lerach, Plaintiffs' Trial Lawyer MISSING IN ACTION

Hurricane Katrina: Ample warning, corrupt employment practices, reckless to willful incompetence, lying official announcements, mothballed school buses, arguments about sex harassment training for emergency workers.
WHERE ARE THE TRIAL LAWYERS NOW THAT WE REALLY NEED THEM?
Goldberg Screwup #77 nominates WILLIAM LERACH, the lawyer who brought Enron to its knees, as the fourth person screwing up America. A famous and fabulously rich trial lawyer, Lerach is the Chairman of Lerach Coughlin, his 150 lawyer firm with offices almost every major city of the South and West, including Houston, Texas. According to his own firms' publicity, William S. Lerach is widely recognized as one of the leading securities lawyers in the United States. He has headed the prosecution of hundreds of securities class and stockholder derivative actions resulting in recoveries for defrauded shareholders amounting to billions of dollars. Mr. Lerach has been the subject of considerable media attention and is a frequent commentator on securities and corporate law, as well as a frequent lecturer. He represents numerous public and Multi-Employer pension funds in corporate securities matters.
The firm says its business includes human rights abuses.
Trial lawyers defend themselves when people like George Bush attack them as the cause of all the ills in the society, on the grounds that we need them to keep the powerful in line. Lerach is the poster boy for the "tort reform" crowd. WHERE IS WILLIAM LERACH NOW THAT WE NEED HIM?
AM I THE ONLY LAWYER IN AMERICA WHO THINKS SOMEONE SHOULD SUE THE FEDS?
The Federal Tort Claims Act allows suits for willful and reckless misconduct.
Starting out to save someone and putting them in a worse position is a tort everywhere in America, including in Louisiana. Even the Good Samaritan Acts don't protect people against what FEMA did, including recklessly hiring a series of unqualified incompetents to run the place.
SOMEONE PUT ME IN FRONT OF A JURY OR I'M GOING TO BURST.

Monday, September 05, 2005

#3 Chief Justice William Rehnquist (posthumously)

Speak ill of the dead.
William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court until his death two days ago, was the offensive line of the conservative revolution that has come close to undoing our nation, dividing us into two nations, black and white, and stripping the poor and helpless of any claim on their national government. The only thing he did not achieve was to reduce America's women once again to back alley coat hanger abortionists. But not for lack of trying.
For doubters, I have only two words: New Orleans.

Chief Justice Rehnquist was a judicial activist in the worst sense of the word, repeatedly using an eighteenth century interpretation of the Constitution to undo the legislation of the peoples' representatives -- reversing popularly passed measures for affirmative action, violence against women, and gun control.
He had so little respect for the rule of law that, when he found himself in the minority in GARCIA v. SAMTA, the case that revived the federal government's power, his dissent simply stated that judges just impose their personal views anyway, so he was waiting for someone in the majority to die, so that he could force his position through their conservative replacement.

But when asked to interpret the Constitution actively to help people, Rehnquist magically turned into a pure strict constructionist. As a result of one of his decisions, it is fair to say that if any judge is responsible for the horrifying sight of the helpless, impoverished, dying, overwhelmingly black people in New Orleans, it's Rehnquist. Fifteen years ago, he ruled that governments owe their people nothing. While you listen to the eulogies of the former Chief Justice, who died in his bed and at his desk after eighty productive, healthy years, consider "Poor Joshua" Deshaney, whom William Rehnquist said had no claim against the society Rehnquist ruled.
POOR JOSHUA:
The Winnebago County authorities first learned that Joshua DeShaney might be a victim of child abuse in January 1982, when his father's second wife complained to the police, at the time of their divorce, that he had previously "hit the boy causing marks and [was] a prime case for child abuse." The Winnebago County Department of Social Services (DSS) interviewed the father, but he denied the accusations, and DSS did not pursue them further. In January 1983, Joshua was admitted to a local hospital with multiple bruises and abrasions. The examining physician suspected child abuse and notified DSS, which immediately obtained an order from a Wisconsin juvenile court placing Joshua in the temporary custody of the hospital. Three days later, the county convened an ad hoc "Child Protection Team" - consisting of a pediatrician, a psychologist, a police detective, the county's lawyer, several DSS case-workers, and various hospital personnel - to consider Joshua's situation. At this meeting, the Team decided that there was insufficient evidence of child abuse to retain Joshua in the custody of the court. . .
Based on the recommendation of the Child Protection Team, the juvenile court dismissed the child protection case and returned Joshua to the custody of his father. A month later, emergency room personnel called the DSS caseworker handling Joshua's case to report that he had once again been treated for suspicious injuries. The caseworker concluded that there was no basis for action. For the next six months, the caseworker made monthly visits to the DeShaney home, during which she observed a number of suspicious injuries on Joshua's head; she also noticed that he had not been enrolled in school, and that the girlfriend had not moved out. The caseworker dutifully recorded these incidents in her files, along with her continuing suspicions that someone in the DeShaney household was physically abusing Joshua, but she did nothing more. In November 1983, the emergency room notified DSS that Joshua had been treated once again for injuries that they believed to be caused by child abuse. On the caseworker's next two visits to the DeShaney home, she was told that Joshua was too ill to see her. Still DSS took no action.

In March 1984, Randy DeShaney beat 4-year-old Joshua so severely that he fell into a life-threatening coma. Emergency brain surgery revealed a series of hemorrhages caused by traumatic injuries to the head inflicted over a long period of time. Joshua did not die, but he suffered brain damage so severe that he is expected to spend the rest of his life confined to an institution for the profoundly retarded. Randy DeShaney was subsequently tried and convicted of child abuse.

Joshua and his mother brought this action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin against respondents Winnebago County, DSS, and various individual employees of DSS. The complaint alleged that respondents had deprived Joshua of his liberty without due process of law, in violation of his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, by failing to intervene to protect him against a risk of violence at his father's hands of which they knew or should have known.

Rehnquist ruled:
Although the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause affords protection against unwarranted government interference . . ., it does not confer an entitlement to such [governmental aid] as may be necessary to realize all the advantages of that freedom."

[Joshua and his mother] contend, however, that even if the Due Process Clause imposes no affirmative obligation on the State to provide the general public with adequate protective services, such a duty may arise out of certain "special relationships" created or assumed by the State with respect to particular individuals. Petitioners argue that such a "special relationship" existed here because the State knew that Joshua faced a special danger of abuse at his father's hands, and specifically proclaimed, by word and by deed, its intention to protect him against that danger. . . Having actually undertaken to protect Joshua from this danger - which petitioners concede the State played no part in creating - the State acquired an affirmative "duty," enforceable through the Due Process Clause, to do so in a reasonably competent fashion. Its failure to discharge that duty, so the argument goes, was an abuse of governmental power that so "shocks the conscience," Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 172 (1952), as to constitute a substantive due process violation.

We reject this argument.

It doesn't take much imagination does it to envision how the society might have evolved over the last sixteen years, since Rehnquist's decision in DeShaney, if it had gone the other way. But instead we have the sights and sounds of the last seven days. Poor Joshua. Poor America.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Screwup #2 Judge Richard Posner

Richard Posner is Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago. A prolific scholar and public intellectual, as well as an influtential judge, he earns his place as Screwup #2 for his role in creating the doctrine that the government has no duty to rescue its citizens from harm.
Early in his career, Posner published an article arguing that it would be "inefficient" in an economic sense to make people liable for walking past a drowning man. Even really good swimmers.
See,William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, Salvors, Finders, Good Samaritans, and Other Rescuers:An Economic Study of Law and Altruism, 7 J. LEGAL STUD. 83 (1978) (arguing that imposing liability for failure to rescue would be economically
inefficient).
Then, when he was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals, he got a chance to put his theory into practice, writing the enormously influential opinion for the court, then affirmed by the Supreme Court, in DeShaney v. Winnebago, the case where the County Welfare Department sent a boy, Joshua DeShaney, back to his abusive father, who beat him until he was forever retarded. Not liable, said Posner, we cannot have the government responsible for the well-being of its subjects. Where will it all stop?
Although the Supreme Court affirmed Posner's reasoning, the case generated the legendary dissent by Justice Blackmun, which begins. "Poor Joshua!"
Poor Joshua, indeed. And all the people locked into the Superdome while Bush fiddles are the heirs of Richard Posner's fertile mind.

Omigod Brown Really Is A Screwup

When we nominated FEMA director Michael D. Brown as Goldberg77 Screwing America #1, we did it based on his obvious lack of qualification for this crucial post. Little did we know, dear reader, that the horse people didn't even trust him with animals.
Read from Josh Marshall and
weep.
Earlier we asked who would track down the story about FEMA Chief Michael Brown's apparent firing from his last pre-FEMA employment.


The Boston Herald is on the case. The lede from this morning's piece by Brett Arends ...


The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.


And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.


The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.


The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.


A bit further down, there's this ...


Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.


``He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.


Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.


Takes your breath away, doesn't it?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Today's Screwup: Michael D. Brown, Director, FEMA

Just in case you're wondering about the experience of the man whose agency took four days to get to New Orleans, which used to be called the City That Care Forgot.
Well, dear readers, before the Bush Administration found him a job in Emergency Management, he was the Commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, an international subsidiary of the national governing organization of the U.S. Olympic Committee. And we know how well organized they are, don't we?
From 1988 to 1991, Brown was General Counsel to Dillingham Insurance, Suits Drilling, Suits Rig, Latigo Energy, Dillingham Ranch and Dillingham Enterprises.
Do I smell oil? In a Bush administration? Nah, must just be that pesky exploding truck in the City that Bush Forgot.

Put Your Behind in the Past and Consider New Nominees for the Worst 100

Dear Readers,
Now that you have had a glimpse of the kinds of people the right loves to hate -- Nobel Peace Prize winning Presidents of the United States, lifelong warriors against racism and oppression -- it is time to move on. Starting today with Michael Brown, the Bush Administration director of Federal Emergency Management, I am turning my attention to the present and future of our country with real screwups.

So, Goldberg #77's 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America
#1. Michael Brown, Director, FEMA
need an explanation? Turn on CNN.

Here's the rest of Goldberg's list, for those of you who have been on Mars. Some of them are as obscure as I was before Bernie made me his own and others are well known to you all. Please feel free to comment on anyone who strikes your fancy.
11 Noam Chomsky
12 Dan Rather
13 Andrew Heyward
14 Mary Mapes
15 Ted Rall
16 John Edwards
17 Al Sharpton
18 Al Gore
19 George Soros
20 Howard Dean
21 Judge Roy Moore
22 Michael Newdow
23 The Unknown American Terrorist
24 Lee Bollinger
25 James Kopp
26 Dr. Martin Haskell
27 Paul Begala
28 Julian Bond
29 John Green
30 Latrell Sprewell
31 Maury Povich
32 Jerry Springer
33 Bob Shrum
34 Bill Moyers
35 Jeff Danziger
36 Nancy Hopkins
37 Al Franken
38 Jim McDermott
39 Peter Singer
40 Scott Harshbarger
41 Susan Beresford
42 Gloria Steinem
43 Paul Eibeler
44 Dennis Kozlowski
45 Ken Lay
46 Barbara Walters
47 Maxine Waters
48 Robert Byrd
49 Ingrid Newkirk
50 John Vasconellos
51 Ann Pelo
52 Markos Moulitsas
53 Anna Nicole Smith
54 Neal Shapiro
55 David Westin
56 Diane Sawyer
57 Ted Field
58 Eminem
59 Shirley Franklin
60 Ludacris
61 Michael Savage
62 Howard Stern
63 Amy Richards
64 James Wolcott
65 Oliver Stone
66 David Duke
67 Randall Robinson
68 Katherine Hanson
69 Matt Kunitz
70 Jimmy Swaggart
71 Phil Donahue
72 Ward Churchill
73 Barbara Kingsolver
74 Katha Politt
75 Eric Foner
76 Barbara Foley
77 Linda Hirshman
78 Norman Mailer
79 Harry Belafonte
80 Kitty Kelley
81 Tim Robbins
82 Laurie David
83 The Dumb and Vicious Celebrity
84 The Vicious Celebrity
85 The Dumb Celebrity
86 Chris Ofili
87 Sheldon Hackney
88 Aaron McGruder
89 Jane Smiley
90 Michael Jackson
91 Barbara Streisand
92 Kerri Dunn
93 Richard Timmons
94 Guy Velella
95 Courtney Love
96 Eve Ensler
97 Todd Goldman
98 Sheila Jackson Lee
99 Matthew Lesko
100 Rick and Kathy Hilton
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