Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Supreme Court reverses order requiring insurance company to turn over claims file

The State Supreme Court issued a heavily anticipated opinion today in State ex rel. Medical Assurance of West Virginia, Inc. v. Recht, No. 30840 (April 30, 2003), in which the Court reversed an order requiring Medical Assurance to produce its complete investigative and claim files in connection with the underlying medical malpractice claim after the plaintiff filed a claim of third-party bad faith. Supreme Court Clerk Rory Perry does a great job of summarizing the holding in his opinion summary.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Fourth Circuit holds college-sponsored prayer unconstitutional

The Fourth Circuit yesterday released its opinion in MELLEN v. BUNTING, No. 02-1215 (4th Cir. April 28, 2003), which held that VMI's sponsoring of a supper prayer violates the Establishment Clause. "Put simply, VMI's supper prayer exacts an unconstitutional toll on the consciences of religious objectors. While the First Amendment does not in any way prohibit VMI's cadets from praying before, during, or after supper, the Establishment Clause prohibits VMI from sponsoring such a religious activity."

Bush nominates Allen and Duncan for Fourth Circuit Judgeships

Law.com confirms that "For the 4th Circuit, Bush tapped Allyson Duncan and Claude Allen, who would become just the second and third African-Americans ever to serve on the Richmond, Va.-based court."

Monday, April 28, 2003

Mixed results from the Burton ruling

The Daily Mail reports that nearly a year after State ex rel. McGraw v. Burton, et al., No. 30094 (June 10, 2002) was decided, the Attorney General's office is still not satisfied with its involvement in state litigation.

You may recall that in the weeks following the decision, the Attorney General objected to having his name added to pleadings he had not reviewed. (See the 6/26/2002 post in this weblog). Now, the Daily Mail reports that "[Assistant A.G. Fran] Hughes said the office has laid off five support staff, and at least two lawyers have quit because of the increased workload brought by the ruling. 'We're not able, really, to implement State vs. Burton,' she said. 'It required us to appear on all pleadings. Well, that requires us to look at all pleadings. There's no way we can do that.'"

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. On the upside, however, the report notes that the Department of Education and the State Police now rely more heavily on the AG's office for representation and even training. "They've been doing a lot of work," Hughes said of the office. "It's proven very effective over the last year, dramatically reducing the number of payouts."

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Report: Allen to be nominated to 4th federal appeals court

The Charolotte Observer is reporting that "Claude Allen, a deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is one of two black Republicans with North Carolina connections that the White House plans to nominate Monday." The other nominee is believed to be Allyson Duncan (as mentioned in the post below). We'll all know more when the formal announcement is made on Monday.

Friday, April 25, 2003

Bush to nominate Raleigh lawyer for 4th Circuit judgeship

Howard Bashman points out this article announcing that President Bush on Monday intends to nominate Allyson Duncan, a female African-American Republican, to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Her confirmation would end an impasse that has prevented North Carolina from having any judges on the Fourth Circuit.

Fourth Circuit Affirms Constitutionality of HIPAA

In 2001, two state medical societies filed suit in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C., against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") challenging the constitutionality of HIPAA's medical privacy rule. The plaintiffs argued that (1) HIPAA violates the non-delegation doctrine by authorizing HHS to promulgate the regulations at issue in the absence of an intelligible principle from Congress; (2) the Privacy Rule exceeds the scope of authority granted to HHS under HIPAA; and (3) HIPAA's non-preemption of "more stringent" state privacy laws is unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The district Court ruled against the plaintiffs on all counts, and the Fourth Circuit today affirmed the decision. The case is South Carolina Med. Ass'n v. Thompson, No. 02-2001 (4th Cir. Apr. 25, 2003).

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Could the State of West Virginia be sued in the court of another state?

It is a possibility, according to the opinion released yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, No. 02-42. The unanimous decision held that a computer expert may sue California tax officials in a Nevada court, despite California's sovereign immunity statute. SCOTUSBlog has a recap of the decision.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Supreme Court Turns Back ADA Claim

Law.com notes that yesteday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that doctors in a small Oregon clinic are not "employees," for ADA purposes, knocking out a claim brought by a bookkeeper. The ADA's exemption of companies with fewer than 15 employees applied because four doctors among the people working at the clinic were "shareholders" rather than employees. The Court formally adopted the following six-factor test from EEOC Compliance Manual Section 605:0009 for determining whether a shareholder-director is an employee:
"Whether the organization can hire or fire the individual or set the rules and regulations of the individual's work
"Whether and, if so, to what extent the organization supervises the individual's work
"Whether the individual reports to someone higher in the organization
"Whether and, if so, to what extent the individual is able to influence the organization
"Whether the parties intended that the individual be an employee, as expressed in written agreements or contracts
"Whether the individual shares in the profits, losses, and liabilities of the organization."

The case is Clackamas Gastroenterolgy Associates v. Wells, No. 01-1435 (Apr. 22, 2003).

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Another puzzling per curiam decision

I just reviewed the W.Va. Supreme Court's decision today in Wines v. Jefferson County Board of Education, No. 30848 (Apr. 22, 2003), and I must say that I am perplexed by the decision to award the plaintiff back pay.

The case involves a substitute custodian who was terminated without a pre-termination hearing. Admittedly, a pre-termination hearing probably should have been afforded to her because she had been working for more than 30 days. However, the undisputed facts also show (1) that the school board afforded the employee proper notice of her poor performance; (2) her poor performance justified her discharge; and (3) even though she did not receive a pre-termination hearing, she received a full evidentiary hearing 29 days later, after which the decision to terminate was upheld.

After finding that a pre-termination hearing should have been afforded, the circuit court, relying on the case authorities, awarded the custodian nominal damages. As the Court explained in Barazi v. West Virginia State College, 201 W.Va. 527, 498 S.E.2d 720 (1997) (per curiam):
When official policy results in a person being deprived of property or liberty without procedural due process, and such deprivation would have taken place even if a proper hearing had been held, then the person is not entitled to compensatory damages for the deprivation itself. Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 260, 98 S.Ct. 1042, 1050, 55 L.Ed.2d 252 (1978). The person is entitled only to nominal damages for the denial of due process, unless the person demonstrates actual injury attributable to the denial of due process rather than to the deprivation.

201 W.Va. at 533, 498 S.E.2d at 726, (quoting DeSimone v. Board of Educ., 612 F.Supp. 1568, 1571 (E.D.N.Y.1985)). The Court cited Barazi in the 2001 case of White v. Barrill, No. 29100 (2001) (per curiam), in which it noted that "upon remand should the Commission find that White would have been dismissed even if a proper pre-termination hearing had been held, then the Commission must only award nominal damages as set forth in Barazi."

So the burning question here is why did the Court disregard these authorities, reverse the circuit court's award of nominal damages, and insist that this plaintiff be awarded a month's back pay in the absence of proof of any actual loss from the denial of due process? The troubling explanation comes in footnote 5 of the opinion: "Relying on Barazi v. W.Va. State College, 201 W.Va. 527, 498 S.E.2d 720 (1997), the School Board argues the nominal damages award should be sustained because Appellant was justifiably terminated. We believe the facts of the instant case mandate a different result."

The Court fails to provide any guidance as to which "facts" distinguish this case from Barazi. Certainly, it does not attempt to show that the Plaintiff suffered actual injury as a result of the delayed hearing. The footnote leads one the believe that the Court simply did not like the result that would be reached by applying established law, so it ordered a different result. The only other explanation for the holding is that the Court wanted to punish the school board for what it characterized as "impertinent disregard of Appellant's right to be heard before it discharged her from its employ." However, neither the facts nor the law would support a punitive award here. The award of nominal damages, however, was directly supported by the evidence and the law. I am puzzled as to why the Court believes Barazi should not be applied and the taxpayers should be required to pay this employee back pay. The Court's unexplained deviation from Barazi is bound to create mischief in this area of the law.

State Supreme Court overturns thousand-plus year sex assault sentence

WHAG-TV, (and numerous other news outlets across the country) reports that the West Virginia Supreme Court overturned a sentence of 1,140 to 2,660 years in prison for a man convicted of more than 150 counts of sexually assaulting a then seven-year-old girl. The unsigned opinion states that even though the offenses were "heinous and repulsive," the prison terms were "so offensive that they shock the conscience of this Court."

The case is State v. David D.W., No. 30786 (Apr. 21, 2003).

Sunday, April 20, 2003

DuPont ordered to pay for tests

Delawareonline.com reports that Wood County Circuit Judge George W. Hill. Jr., ruled Friday that the DuPont Co. must pay for blood tests of residents concerned about their exposure to C-8, a chemical used to make Teflon and other products.

In a class action lawsuit, plant neighbors and downstream residents allege that C8 in the water and air has put them at an increased risk of cancer and other illnesses. Hill temporarily suspended his ruling to allow DuPont time to appeal. The blood tests also could cost $650 to $1,000 per person. 25,000 to 50,000 class members could be eligible for the tests.

In 1999, the State Supreme Court ruled in Bower v. Westinghouse Electric Corporation that healthy people exposed to some toxic, disease-causing substance can sue and recover the costs of medical monitoring. In order to sustain a claim for medical monitoring expenses under West Virginia law, the plaintiffs must prove that (1) they have been significantly exposed; (2) to a proven hazardous substance; (3) through the tortious conduct of the defendant; (4) as a proximate result of the exposure, plaintiffs have suffered an increased risk of contracting a serious latent disease relative to the general population; (5) the increased risk of disease makes it reasonably necessary for the plaintiffs to undergo periodic diagnostic medical examinations different from what would be prescribed in the absence of the exposure; and (6) monitoring procedures exist that make the early detection of a disease possible.

Among the many important questions raised in this case would be whether C-8 qualifies as a "proven hazardous substance," if so, how much exposure is "significant." Also, if the EPA is just now studying the effects of C-8 on humans, can past exposure by the defendants be deemed "tortious," assuming they had no access to human studies that showed significant adverse health effects? The Bower cause of action clearly requires a showing of fault on the defendants' part. If an EPA study does link the substance to serious health conditions, should DuPont have to pay the medical monitoring costs even though no one knew at the time of exposure that there were adverse health consequences?

The Bower cause of action has raise all sorts of questions. I hope the DuPont decision is appealed so we can see some more development in this area of our law.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

W.Va. Supreme Court holds jury trial is available in unjust enrichment case

In Realmark Developments, Inc. v. Ranson, No. 30895, decided today, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that "[a] suit seeking monetary recovery under a theory of unjust enrichment is an action at law and therefore, can be tried before a jury." The Court also clarified the measure of damages in such a suit:
The measure of damages in an unjust enrichment claim is the greater of the enhanced market value of the property or the cost of the improvements to the property. To the extent that the Syllabus of Somerville v. Jacobs, 153 W.Va. 613, 170 S.E.2d 805 (1969), differs from this holding, it is hereby modified.

Justice Maynard, writing for the majority, noted that "since Somerville was decided, the rule with respect to the measure of damages in claims of unjust enrichment has evolved." This modification is intended to bring West Virginia in line with the national trend in the area of unjust enrichment damages.

Drugs, weapons discovered at Monongalia County Magistrate Court

The Dominion Post reports that on Wendesday, the Mon County Magistrate Court baliff arrested a 60 year-old man for possession of a sword concealed in his cane.

In a separate incident, a man entering the court to pay "a citation" was found possessing marijuana in his backpack. The citation he was coming to pay was for, you guessed it, possession of marijuana. I'll bet he mails in his next payment.

Philip Morris makes tobacco settlement payments

The Charleston Gazette reports that Philip Morris USA met its deadline for making its payment under the 1998 settlement between states and tobacco companies, thanks to an Illinois judge's decision to cut in half the initial payment on a $12 billion bond ordered in a smoking lawsuit Philip Morris lost.

Title IX a factor in WVU's decision to cut five sports teams

The Boston Globe reports here that WVU has dropped its men's tennis, cross country, indoor and outdoor track, and the co-ed rifle team in part because of the requirements of Title IX.

Title IX, which bans discrimination on the basis of gender at publicly funded schools, requires athletic scholarship dollars to be within 1 percent or one scholarship of total athletic-participation rates, whichever is greater. Although no specific dollar amounts were given, WVU officials said 60 percent of their scholarships currently go to men. With the elimination of the five teams this fall, 51 percent will go to men and 49 percent to women.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Judge Luttig isn't happy about something

Howard Bashman points out this dissenting opinion by Fourth Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig in a qualified immunity case.

The facts of the case are interesting. A man who apparently watched too many Andy Griffith reruns decided that he needed to sober up, so he called the police to come pick him up so he could check himself into the jail over night (Otis-style). The officers contend the man was suicidal, so they handcuffed him. The man then claims that the officers handled him harshly and that he and the officers used some foul language toward each other while at the station. Next, the man contends that he was having trouble breathing, and attempted to move his handcuffed hands to his front by dropping his arms and stepping over his clasped hands. Although it is not altogther clear what happened next, the man was thrown to the floor and his nose was broken.

The majority refused to grant qualified immunity to the police officer alleged to have struck the man. Judge Luttig found this extraordinary, given the recent finding of qualified immunity in the Robles case, in which officers who tied a passive man to a pole in a deserted parking lot at three in the morning and then abandoned him were found entitled to immunity. (Luttig wrote a dissent in that case). He contends that "the only support for the majority's reading of Robles is Judge Wilkinson's opinion concurring in the denial of rehearing en banc of Robles." He then criticized the court for its practice of adding to, subtracting from, or recharacterizing the facts recited and relied upon in challenged panel opinions in subsequent opinions denying rehearings. He feels the court tries to rewrite or shore-up questionable panel decisions.

Thanks to Howard for pointing out this interesting dissent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Is protesting on a bridge "loitering"?

The Fourth Circuit says no in its opinion in Lytle v. Doyle, Nos. 02-1056 and 02-1076 released yesterday. Abortion protestors were arrested for protesting on a bridge in violation of Va. Code 46.2-930, which provides that pedestrians "shall not loiter on any bridge on which the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner has posted signs prohibiting such action." The Court held that protesting is not loitering. "Loitering is aimless. Social protest is by definition purposeful," the Court held. It found the statute was unconstitutionally applied to the Plaintiffs, although not facially unconstitutional.

Training for special criminal investigators established

The Intelligencer reports that "[f]or the first time in West Virginia history, investigators who work for county prosecutors will have an opportunity to share ideas and information while they train together at a June seminar organized largely by the staff of the Marshall County Prosecutor's Office."

I thought this was interesting because I was not aware that county prosecutors employed their own special investigators. I thought the various police departments were doing all of the investigation work.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Compromise reached between dentists and hygienists

One of the 14 bills vetoed by Governor Wise this past session was SB 329, which would have changed rules for more than a dozen professions, including dentists and hygienists. Dentists urged the veto, arguing that the bill did not contain enough duties for dental assistants. Dental assistants are not certified and are paid an average hourly wage of $9.54, while dental hygienists are certified and receive an average $17 per hour. Because services can be delivered through dental assistants at nearly half the price of hygienists, dentists are in favor of expanding the range of duties that can be performed by assistants.

The Herald-Mail reports that a series of meetings between the dentists and hygienists has yielded a compromise bill for lawmakers to consider. Hopefully, it will have everyone smiling.

HIPAA has landed

The deadline for complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is today for many hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and other health care organizations.

So what does this mean to litigators? Obtaining medical records will become more burdensome. HIPPA has created a new general rule: "Except as otherwise permitted or required by this subchapter, a covered entity may not use or disclose protected health information without an authorization that is valid under this section." 45 C.F.R. 164.508.

The rule, of course, has exceptions. Probably the most important exception for the average litigator is 45 C.F.R. 164.512(e) ("Standard: disclosures for judicial and administrative proceedings"). Under that provision, protected health information ("PHI") can be disclosed by a covered health care entity by court order, by subpoena if certain notice requirements are met, or where a Qualified Protective Order ("QPO") is put in place to shield the records.

Attorneys seeking medical records during litigation must familiarize themselves with these new laws. The old practice of using a half-page medical authorization to obtain "any and all" medical records probably is not going to work anymore. Section 164.508(c) requires that the authorization contain, among other things, "[a] description of the information to be used or disclosed that identifies the information in a specific and meaningful fashion." I would image that the description "any and all" is not going to be deemed "specific and meaningful."

Alternative Careers for Lawyers

Here's an interesting career move: Lawyer tries burrito skills in his native Wheeling [The Intelligencer].

Friday, April 11, 2003

Court agrees to hear challenge of state sex offender list

The court voted 3-2 (Maynard and Davis voted to decline) Wednesday to consider three convicted sex criminals' claims that the state doesn't have the authority to permanently and publicly brand them as sex offenders by placing them on an internet-accessible offenders list.

In the "bad analogy" department, the Daily Mail article quotes the petitioners' lawyer as saying:
"When you put it on the Internet for the rest of my life, and there's no way to get rid of it, (that's punishment)," said Bill Richardson, the lawyer representing the men. "I could become a Catholic priest, and it would still be on there."

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Desuetude

Rory Perry has a post discussing the legal doctrine of desuetude, which permits courts to discontinue enforcement of obsolete statutes. Here's a statute in our labor code that I would like to see someone try to sue under:

21-3-11. Seats for female employees.
Every person, firm or corporation employing females in any factory, mercantile establishment, mill or workshop in this state shall provide a reasonable number of suitable seats for the use of such female employees, and shall permit the use of such seats by them when they are not necessarily engaged in active duties for which they are employed, and shall permit the use of such seats at all times when such use would not actually and necessarily interfere with the proper discharge of the duties of such employees, and, where practicable, such seats shall be made permanent fixtures and may be so constructed or adjusted that, when not in use, they will not obstruct such female employee when engaged in the performance of her duties.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

New high tech company to set up shop in Martinsburg

The Washington Post reports today that Software company SecureMethods Inc. said it will use a new $3 million investment to expand its sales efforts as it sets up shop in Martinsburg. The company sells software plug-ins that help authenticate computer users for online communication and encrypt the data they exchange.

SecureMethods joins multi-player online gaming developer Butterfly.net as the second "new economy" business to locate in Martinsburg in the past several months.

W.Va. maintains its abysmal rank for its poor legal climate

West Virginia still ranks 49th of 50 states on a survey of state legal climates released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The state ranked worst in treatment of class-action suits. [Daily Mail]

Injunction granted against Lottery Commission

The Daily Mail reports that Circuit Judge Irene Berger has granted a preliminary injunction against the state Lottery Commission, temporarily blocking its move to Putnam County.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

BSA puts West Virginia among top three states in software piracy

ZDNet.com UK throws an interesting factoid into this article: "Washington-based Business Software Alliance (BSA) estimates that 25 percent of software used in the United States is pirated. West Virginia, Mississippi and Wyoming are the highest, with piracy rates of 47 percent or more."

This is an interesting statistic when you consider studies like this one which rank West Virginia 46th in the nation for number of households with computers. (Mississippi is 50th, by the way).

Cross burning bans not unconstitutional

Law.com reports that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Virginia law yesterday that outlaws acts of cross burning that are intended to intimidate. The ruling retreats from the Court's 1992 decision in R.A.V. v. St. Paul, in which the Court struck down a similar cross-burning statute as impermissible discrimination based on the content of the speech.

Yesterday's opinon can be found here.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Interim Meetings of the Legislature

The Dominion Post mentions that the legislature has mandated a dozen interim studies to examine such topics as the state's water supply, surface mining laws, the administration of estates, the role of bail bonding agents in the court system and mandatory overtime for nurses. All of these topics will, of course, be competing with workers' compensation for the legislators' attention.

Adobe Acrobat 6 is Here!

Adobe Systems today made an official announcement of its forthcoming Acrobat 6.0 family of desktop software products, with the first versions (English) expected to begin shipping in mid to late-May.

Planet PDF takes a first look at the new product. Adobe has decided to segment its products into 4 flavors, each with an increasingly large price tag: Adobe Reader (which will now display eBooks), Acrobat Elements (volume licensing only), Acrobat Standard and Acrobat Professional (the flagship product).

I am hoping one of these intermediate-level products will suit the needs of most lawyers: (1) easy PDF creation by scanning or "drag and drop," (2) highlighting tool, (2) "sticky note" tool, (3) bookmarking, (4) ability to add bates stamps and other stamps (such as "confidential," etc.) to multiple documents, (5) digital signing, (6) ability to easily split and merge PDF files, and (7) an easier linking tool for creating electronic briefs. It would also be nice to have the ability to redact documents. I think you should be able to get such a product for about $50 per user so everyone in the firm can use it without breaking the bank. The only product I have seen that comes close to fitting this bill is the Jaws PDF Editor ($39), but because we are still running Windows 98, we can't take advantage of it. (A new version compatiable with Windows 98 has been promised this quarter). If Adobe does not have a product that can compete with this one, they are really missing the boat.

For a good resource on how PDFs can be used in the law office, see Ernie the Attorney's PDF for Lawyers .

Sunday, April 06, 2003

New spam suit seeks poetic justice

ZDNet.com notes that the anti-spam company Habeas has made good on its promise to strictly enforce its copyrights against spammers. The company filed two suits last week seeking damages against two spammers that used Habeas' copyrighted Haiku to evade spam filters. The company's business model involves the licensing of the haiku to legitimate (non-spammer) marketers who include the poem in their messages supposedly to indicate to spam filters that the accompanying message is not spam. Habeas' haikus are recognized by the antispam filters and technology of companies including Spam Assassin, AOL and Juno.

If anti-spam legislation awarding victims $1000 per e-mail is not enough to stop spammers, will the threat of a haiku copyright infringement lawsuit deter them? The whole reason anti-spam legislation is not making a dent is because (1) spammers are too hard to track down, and (2) even if you can track them down, they probably have no money to pay your judgment because most are fly-by-night operations. While I admire the creativity of Habeas' efforts, I just don't see how the business model can be profitable. Any business model that depends significantly on litigation to secure its revenue stream is doomed, in my opinion.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Lawsuit against lawyers can proceed

The Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram reports that Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell has denied motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a physician who claims that the West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and its president have conspired against state doctors.

Dr. Julie McCammon, proceeding pro se, seeks unspecified damages, claiming the defendants' actions have caused her malpractice insurance premiums to increase to "stifling" levels, thereby limiting her professionally and causing her emotional distress.

A trial date of December 22 has been set.

Judge Bedell is clearly being very cautious and generous.

Could West Virginia become the Vermont of Gay "Civil Divorces"?

This New York Times article contains an interesting factoid: "Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based group that advocates the legalization of marriages of gay and lesbian couples, said he believes that only one couple has successfully dissolved a civil union outside Vermont. Last December in Marion County, W.Va., a Family Court judge granted two women a dissolution of their civil union."

"The women, wrote Judge David P. Born, are 'citizens of West Virginia in need of a judicial remedy to dissolve a legal relationship created by the laws of another state.' Citing the women's 'irreconcilable differences,' Judge Born put asunder what Vermont had joined."

Apparently, Vermont has a one-year residency requirement for divorces. That could make our state an appealing place for gay couples to get divorced.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

State's funds from tobacco in question

According to this article in the Daily Mail, "State officials are worried that a tobacco company's legal problems in Illinois could lead to a $25 million hole in West Virginia's budget."

Philip Morris suffered a $10 billion dollar judgment against it in Illinois for falsely marketing its light cigarettes. In order to appeal the ruling, it must post a $12 billion bond (yes, that's billion with a "b"). Obviously, it is having no luck finding a surety for that amount, and the company claims it cannot raise sufficient cash without missing payments owed to the states under the tobacco settlement.

I find it ironic that our state legislators, who have paternalistically sought to protect its citizens from addiction to gambling and cigarettes by heavily regulating both, are themselves addicted to gambling and tobacco money to balance the budget. We are in for a rude awakening when the money from these sources dries up, which is certain to happen.

XML Problems

I'm getting an error message on the XML feed. I have contacted the Blogger suport folks to help me figure out the problem. Hopefully, it will be running smoothly soon.

Knowledge Management in the Spotlight

Findlaw's Modern Practice this month has several good articles dealing with knowledge management.

House Panel Nears OK on Gun Lawsuit Bill

Newsday.com reports that "[a] House committee is considering legislation that would block antigun lawsuits of the kind now being argued by the NAACP in federal court, alleging a link between gun marketing practices and street violence."

One suit involving a West Virginia gun dealer would be affected by the bill. David Lemongello, a former New Jersey police officer, is suing the dealership that sold the pistol used by a criminal to wound him and his partner -- an injury he said ended his police career.

According to the report, Democrats suggest the bill is timed to placate the NRA before its convention two weeks from now.

WV Tax Holiday

WTRF-TV reports that the state will be giving consumers a sales tax holiday again this year on August 1-3. The holiday will cover school supplies, clothing and computer equipment.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

New XML Feed

Believe it or not, this weblog will turn one year old on the 18th! It looks like I am in this for the long haul. As a birthday gift to my blog, I gave it an XML feed and a facelift. You will notice that I have added links to some of my favorite legal weblogs, which are listed below the archives. To access the XML feed, click on the orange XML button on the right.

Attorney General News

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel reports that Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw Jr. filed suit Tuesday against two cemetary owners, accusing them of selling preneed burial crypts in a non-existent mausoleum.

In other news, Internet Week reports that Microsoft says it won't pay the attorney general's legal fees in fighting the antitrust settlement. The AGs for West Virginia and Massachusetts are seeking $2.3 million in fees, according to the article.

Jury awards man fired by Region VI $250,000

Dominion Post
A Monongalia County jury awarded $250,000 in damages, including $50,000 in punitive damages, in a whistleblower case against the Region VI Planning and Development Council.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Lawmakers Say 'No' to Internet Access Taxes
Reuters
According to this article, federal lawmakers are looking to extend the current ban on Internet access taxes which expires in November. Meanwhile, cash-strapped state governments eager to tax online sales are lobbying Congress to permit such taxes. Congress appears to be trying to sidestep the more controversial sales tax issue.