What the “Evidence” of “Frivolous” Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Really Says

By J.G. Preston
Protect Consumer Justice

The fight against “frivolous” medical malpractice suits is back in the news. President Obama said in his State of the Union speech he is open to “medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.” That brought cheers from Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), one of the authors of a bill (H.R. 5) that would limit the amount of damages that could be awarded to victims of malpractice. (It’s a subject Gingrey knows something about, since, as Barry Meier reported in the New York Times, he has faced malpractice charges himself in his previous career as an obstetrician.  A jury found against him once, and in two other cases he paid settlements.)

Pelosi Wants Fight on Abortion, Family Planning Funding in the House

By David Dayen

House Democrats have been extremely focused over the past couple weeks on the spate of Republican bills and provisions aimed at women’s health and reproductive choice. In particular, there are three bills that would massively roll back a woman’s right to choose or even to access birth control. One, HR3, would basically move the Hyde amendment into statutory law and also include even secondary spending from the federal government, meaning that any company who receives tax subsidies for health insurance, or women who use pre-tax dollars in flexible spending accounts, would have to drop abortion services coverage.

This would almost certainly lead insurance companies to withdraw all plans that cover abortion services. The bill also sought to redefine rape, one of the exemptions to the law, as “forcible rape.” After an outcry, Republicans said they would remove the offending language, but to this point, they haven’t.

Breaking News: Big Supreme Court Victory for “Made in the USA”

By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California

The California Supreme Court issued a significant ruling yesterday protecting consumer access to the courts in cases of false advertising. The case involved a manufacturer that labeled as “Made in the USA” products that, in fact, contained component assemblies manufactured in Mexico – a clear violation of state law prohibiting this label on products that are substantially produced outside of the United States.

The case is Kwikset Corp. v Superior Court (Benson). Quikset, a manufacturer of locksets, closed down its Anaheim factory and shipped jobs to Mexicali, Mexico. It continued to label products containing foreign-made subassemblies as "Made in the USA". Consumers sued under California's Unfair Competition Law, claiming that they were duped into buying these products only because of their prominent "Made in the USA" label.

NCLR Analysis: Ninth Circuit Prop 8 Oral Argument

By Shannon Minter, Esq.
National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director

Monday was the long-awaited oral argument at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal court challenge to Proposition 8. The Ninth Circuit is the federal appeals court that covers California. Yesterday's argument was heard by a panel of three judges, who will decide whether to uphold District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's August ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

The argument ran for almost two and a half hours, covering two basic questions:
•    Do the proponents of Prop 8—and Imperial County, which is seeking to intervene in the case—have the right to appeal Judge Walker's ruling, even though they do not represent the State of California? The legal term for this question is whether the proponents have "standing" to appeal. 
•    Second, is Prop 8 unconstitutional?

Gang Injunctions: An Important Tool Protecting Our Communities

By Assemblymember Mike Davis

Gang activity and violence is a major problem plaguing our communities.  On a daily basis young men are gunned downed or stabbed by dueling gangs. Innocent bystanders are also often caught in this crossfire.  It is not uncommon to hear of children, even infants, being fatally struck by stray bullets from the guns of gang members.

According to a 2009 report by the Violence Policy Center, 32.7 percent of homicides in California are gang related.  Furthermore, the largest percentage of male homicide victims (37.5 percent) are victims of gang-related homicides.

Gangs typically take over neighborhoods exerting power and control over several blocks of a city.  Within their “territory,” gang members extort from businesses (for “protection”), steal cars, deal drugs, and run prostitution schemes.  Make no mistake, residents live under the authority of these gangs.  Crimes occur within eye sight but individuals are intimidated and scared into remaining silent.

LA County: America's Capital Punishment Capital

By James Clark

In striking down America’s death penalty in 1972, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously compared capital punishment to being struck by lightning, arguing that death sentences were given to “a capriciously selected random handful.” For Californians, though, a better metaphor might be an earthquake.

The danger of earthquake, after all, is based on one's proximity to the fault line; death sentences likewise are determined by something as capricious and random as location. And the San Andreas, it turns out, is a fault line for more than just earthquakes: it’s also home to America’s surprising new death penalty capital, Los Angeles County.

As Elections Pass, SF Court Seems Willing to Restore Parts of SB 1070

By Valeria Fernandez

PHOENIX, Ariz.— A hearing to reinstate key parts of Arizona’s hard-line anti-immigration law SB 1070 poured more fuel onto the political fires a day before crucial statewide and national elections.

On Monday, lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) tried to persuade the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to keep in place an injunction again the law, which was approved last spring and took effect last summer.

“It is important not to allow a patchwork of state laws,” Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler told the three-judge panel, adding that SB 1070 could also hurt U.S. foreign relations.

Kamala Harris: Why AGs Matter on Foreclosure Fraud

By Dave Dayen

I had the opportunity to speak with Kamala Harris, the San Francisco District Attorney and the nominee for Attorney General in California. She is in a toss-up race with LA District Attorney Steve Cooley, the Republican. Recently, an outside attack group funded by multinational corporations swooped in with a million dollars in ads against Harris in the closing days (a much smaller ad buy has come in on her behalf). Clearly, big business has put a target on her back. “If you look at the facts, there’s a belief that Cooley will be a firewall for tobacco, oil and insurance companies,” Harris said. “And the truth hurts.”

On the day I spoke with her, Harris released a detailed Homeowner Relief and Protection Plan, which would include new anti-predatory lending laws carried into the legislature, including a mandate for foreclosure prevention counseling at the outset for prospective homebuyers. In addition, Harris would create a “strike force” to expand the investigation of fraudulent foreclosures, and appoint a “Foreclosure Oversight Czar” that would force quarterly audits on mortgage lenders to ensure compliance with state consumer protection laws. The oversight official could refer offenders for criminal prosecution.

Will the Courts Soon Drive Illegal Aliens Out of Our Public Colleges?

By Peter Schrag

It’s always risky to read judicial tea leaves, but judging from last week’s oral arguments before the California Supreme Court, a majority of the justices may uphold the state law granting illegal immigrant graduates of California high schools in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities. A decision is due within 90 days.

But it’s a shaky case, no matter how defensible the policy, and chances are that when it gets to the unfailingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court, the law will be overturned in a flash.  That would be a sad outcome, not only for the hundreds of thousands of students involved,  both in California and in the nine other states that have similar tuition policies, but for the economy and, more generally, for civil society at large.

California's $4 Million Rollercoaster Ride

By James Clark

California’s death penalty has always been a bit of a head-scratcher, but the news over the last two weeks may have the record for furrowed brows and rolled eyes. The legal drama that has unfolded as the state tries to execute Albert Brown has shocked legal experts, but just confused everyone else.

There’s a reason for that. Five years ago, when executions were put on hold, it was because of myriad problems with the process of putting people to death. Execution teams were poorly trained, didn’t understand the deadly substances they were handling, and were working in dark, cramped conditions. That’s a recipe for botched executions, which has happened too often in California. When Judge Jeremy Fogel, a federal judge, heard that evidence, he told the state they had to fix the procedure.