Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘litigation’

Flynn v. Holder: the fight for marrow cell liberation

Posted by Richard on October 31, 2009

The Institute for Justice is one of my favorite non-profits. This "merry band of libertarian litigators" just keeps finding wonderful ways of using the courts and the court of public opinion to fight for individual liberty, especially economic liberty. And they keep winning. IJ has been the leader in the fight against eminent domain abuse and for school choice, and it's helped countless minority entrepreneurs overcome arbitrary and discriminatory licensing laws, regulations, and other barriers to entry erected by governments.

On Wednesday, IJ and a diverse group of plaintiffs took on another stupid and unconstitutional law against capitalist acts between consenting adults — and this time there are many lives at stake. Flynn v. Holder seeks to overturn the ban on compensating marrow cell donors:

Every year, 1,000 Americans die because they cannot find a matching bone marrow donor.  Minorities are hit especially hard.  Common sense suggests that offering modest incentives to attract more bone marrow donors would be worth pursuing, but federal law makes that a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

That is why on October 28, 2009, adults with deadly blood diseases, the parents of sick children, a California nonprofit and a world-renowned medical doctor who specializes in bone marrow research joined with the Institute for Justice to sue the U.S. Attorney General to put an end to a ban on offering compensation to bone marrow donors.

The National Organ Transplant Act (NOTA) of 1984 treats compensating marrow donors as though it were black-market organ sales.  Under NOTA, giving a college student a scholarship or a new homeowner a mortgage payment for donating marrow could land everyone—doctors, nurses, donors and patients—in federal prison for up to five years.

NOTA’s criminal ban violates equal protection because it arbitrarily treats renewable bone marrow like nonrenewable solid organs instead of like other renewable or inexhaustible cells—such as blood—for which compensated donation is legal.  That makes no sense because bone marrow, unlike organs such as kidneys, replenishes itself in just a few weeks after it is donated, leaving the donor whole once again.  The ban also violates substantive due process because it irrationally interferes with the right to participate in safe, accepted, lifesaving, and otherwise legal medical treatment.

Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “The only thing the bone marrow provision of the National Organ Transplant Act appears to accomplish is unnecessary deaths.  A victory in this case will not only give hope to thousands facing deadly diseases, but also reaffirm bedrock principles about constitutional protection for individual liberty.”

Read the rest to learn about the people involved and their compelling stories.

It's the time of year when I make the bulk of my charitable contributions, and IJ is always near the top of my list. This suit strikes me as a terrific cause, so I'm going to donate online right now. Won't you help, too?

HT: Megan McArdle, whose column about this in the Atlantic I strongly recommend.

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Troubled times

Posted by Richard on March 10, 2009

I know, I’m a pretty sorry excuse for a blogger. The country is going to hell in a handbasket, there are countless events deserving commentary and criticism, and I went AWOL for over a week. I’m sorry. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I guess it’s time for one of my relatively rare bouts of breast-baring, one of those very personal glimpses that’s the raison d’etre for some bloggers and the sole purpose of most social networking sites, but which I generally eschew. Another beer, and it will come easily.

First, there’s family. In two weeks I’ll be explaining to a judge that someone I used to love and care about has turned out to be a liar and a thief. The closer this gets, the more it weighs on me, disturbs me, and leaves me wanting to just pull the covers over my head and wish it all away.

Then there’s work. I have tough deadlines that aren’t helped by my impending trip to Knoxville for the court case, and I’m a bit stressed out from that, too.

Then there’s the economy. I’ve been saving about a third of my income for a while now — I had to because I started late in life. But that’s a damn good rate, and things were looking pretty good for a while. Now, after losing more than half of my savings, I predict that if the market turns around modestly within the next year or so, I may be able to retire when I’m 70. Or 72.

Or maybe not. All the news out of Washington suggests that the current administration is hell-bent on recreating the plotline of Atlas Shrugged. If they succeed, there’ll be no recovery, at least not in the near term. Their policies mirror Roosevelt’s, so the consequences may be like the 1930s — a decade-long depression. And I’ll never be able to retire. That weighs on me, too.

All in all, I’ve been pretty much in a funk.

The one hopeful thing I’ve seen lately has been the Tea Party rallies around the country. I haven’t been reading widely lately, but I still drop by Instapundit pretty frequently. And bless his heart, Glenn has been commenting on and linking to those Tea Party rallies with a vengeance. There have been several times in the past week when reading the latest Tea Party update or “going John Galt” reference has moved me and made me feel that maybe there’s hope for the future after all. Like this one, and this, and this, and this, and this one with a “protest babe.” But especially this. That Orange County Register story about 8,000 people protesting higher taxes and starting recall petitions actually moved me to tears.

Maybe there are still enough decent, hard-working, honest, productive, caring people in this country to make a difference. Maybe we won’t let them turn us into a banana republic — or France, or Sweden — without a fight.

Maybe the future will be better, and we’ll reclaim the vision of a shining city on a hill.

Maybe I’ll get through this dark period and return to my naturally optimistic self.

Stay tuned. Please. I’ll try not to disappear under the covers again for so long.

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Recession batters law firms

Posted by Richard on January 27, 2009

Every cloud has a silver lining:

After upending a succession of U.S. industries, the recession has arrived for U.S. law firms, which have long seen themselves as partially insulated from economic downturns. In December, Thelen LLP, another large San Francisco firm, also shut down for good, citing recessionary pressures. Later that month, Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP, a 160-year-old New York firm, announced that it was closing. Dreier LLP of New York is dissolving after its founder was arrested for fraud.

After the arrest, all the other partners and associates decided they wanted to spend more time with their families.

Pay cuts and layoffs are becoming commonplace. …

In November, New York legal giant Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP announced it was reducing year-end bonuses for junior lawyers, and that it wouldn't raise its billing rates in 2009. Latham & Watkins LLP, one of the nation's highest-grossing firms, said in December that associates would not get raises in 2009 — a move followed by many other firms.

"More firms are in a fragile condition than I've ever seen," says William Brennan, a law-firm consultant with Altman Weil Inc. and formerly chief financial officer at two large Philadelphia firms.

Profits, on average, were down 8% to 12% across the industry last year, after 15 years of consistent profit growth, says Peter Haugh, managing director for the Legal Specialty Group of Wachovia Wealth Management.

Throughout the industry, business has dropped off in such key practice areas as mergers, public offerings, and corporate finance. Litigation, often counted on to carry firms through downturns, has become less profitable as clients increasingly settle big cases, forgo lawsuits altogether, or pressure firms to discount their fees, lawyers say. Some practice areas, such as bankruptcy, however, are robust.

Litigation is less profitable — more good news!

Too bad about the bankruptcy business, though.

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Support Harry’s Place

Posted by Richard on July 12, 2008

I've had Harry's Place in my blog roll almost from the beginning and have linked to it several times. It's the voice of Britain's sane, anti-authoritarian left that "gets it" regarding the threat of Islamofascism and its historical and intellectual ties to European fascism.

Reading Harry's Place will convince you that they have a better class of leftists in Britain than we have here — far more articulate, reasonable, funny, and interesting than the American nutroots left. They're evidence, as I once said, "that being economically illiterate doesn't necessarily mean you're divorced from reality in all respects. :-)"

Now, their existence is threatened by a jihadist legal assault. Here's the story from NeoConstant:

Harry’s Place, a UK blog dedicated to promoting the ideals of freedom and democracy, is being sued by Mohammed Sawalha, the President of the British Muslim Initiative, which has been linked to Hamas and the Islamic Brotherhood, both terrorist organizations.  The blog reports that Mr. Sawalha, according to the BBC…

“master minded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy” and in London “is alleged to have directed funds, both for Hamas’ armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah”.

In their revelation of the impending lawsuit against them leveled by Mohammed Sawalha, they write:

Mr Sawalha claims that we have “chosen a malevolent interpretation of a meaningless word”. In fact, we did no more than translate a phrase which appeared in an Al Jazeera report of Mr Sawalha’s speech. When Al Jazeera changed that phrase from “Evil Jew” to “Jewish Lobby”, we reported that fact, along with the statement that it had been a typographical error.

Mr Sawalha has been the prime mover in a number of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood associated projects. He is President of the British Muslim Initiative. He is the past President of the Muslim Association of Britain. He was the founder of IslamExpo, and is registered as the holder of the IslamExpo domain name. He is also a trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque….

…Mr Sawalha says that the attribution of the phrase “Evil Jew” to him implies that he is “anti-semitic and hateful”. Notably, he does not take issue with our reporting of the revelation, made in a Panorama documentary in 2006, that he is a senior activist in the clerical fascist terrorist organisation, Hamas.

It looks like Harry’s Place is going up against some pretty top-notch lawyers on this one, and they’ve got guts, but as the post goes on to say:

If Mr Sawalha persists in attempting to silence us with this desperate legal suit, we will need your help.

We won’t be able to stand up to them alone.

This is why we’ve started this blogburst, to get the word out that we won’t let members of Hamas or any radical terrorist group censor us or any of our fellow bloggers.

If you're a blogger, join this blogburst in support of Harry's Place by posting this message. I'm hoping that in the future, there will be an opportunity to offer financial support as well. I'll let you know.  

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Polar bear numbers

Posted by Richard on May 15, 2008

Estimated number of polar bears in 1970: 8,000 – 10,000

Estimated number of polar bears today: 20,000 – 40,000 

Estimated increase in Quebec, Labrador and southern Baffin Island polar bear populations in the last 20 years: 160% 

Percentage of relevant scientific forecasting principles applied by Dept. of Interior research studies predicting polar bear decline due to global warming: 10 – 15% 

Number of reputable peer-reviewed studies published since last October (by NASA and the journal Nature) showing that the melting of Arctic sea ice in recent years is not caused by global warming: 2

Degree of confidence that the models and predictions and projections about Arctic sea ice and polar bear populations will prove to be accurate: Zip, zero, zilch, nada 

Number of lawsuits environmentalist will file to stop human activities that generate CO2, now that the Interior Dept. has listed polar bears as a threatened species anyway: Countless

Thanks, Bush administration.

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Court curbs gas discount

Posted by Richard on November 9, 2006

A U.S. District Court ruled that Colorado grocer King Soopers (a division of Kroger) broke the law by selling gas too cheaply. The court ordered King Soopers to stop offering a ten-cent per gallon discount on gasoline because it’s not fair to other retailers:

The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by two independent gasoline dealers in Montrose, Parish Oil Co. and Ray Moore Tire & Petroleum Service Inc., who said the grocers had been illegally selling gas below cost, a violation of Colorado’s Unfair Practices Act.

King Soopers, in a press release, said they felt their program complied with the law but added that they will immediately change their program to abide by the court’s decision. The program was pulled at midnight.

However, King Soopers plans to appeal the ruling.

"We disagree with the ruling. That promotion was to increase grocery sales, not to increase fuel sales," said Trail Daugherty, spokesperson for King Soopers.

To get the discount, you had to reach $100 in grocery purchases on your King Soopers card. When you subsequently swiped your card at the pump, the price rolled back ten cents. That’s how I bought gas for just two bucks the other day.

The King Soopers card is good for a 3-cent discount without the qualifying grocery purchases, and that discount isn’t affected by the ruling. That tells us something interesting: King Sooper’s retail markup on a gallon of gas is between 3 and 10 cents.
 

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