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Friday's grab-bag

Goofiness abounds.  From the Overlawyered comes the story of two private school teachers in Seattle who filed a complaint against the school for hostile workplace environment.  Whatever the merits of their other claims in that regard, they were substantially diluted by this one: 

Among the plaintiffs' complaints was [the school's] invitation to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza to speak as part of a distinguished lecture series.

D'Souza has been an opponent of affirmative action, and argues that the problems that blacks currently encounter are due not to racial discrimination but to cultural differences.  Whatever the merits of that view, it's a pretty sorry state of affairs when the mere expression of it can constitute a hostile environment.  Take that back; it wasn't D'Souza's expression of those ideas, but the school's simple invitation to him to discuss them to which the plaintiffs took offense.

There's a fair amount of that going around.  Concurring Opinions has a piece on Keith Sampson, a student and employee of the Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, who was disciplined under the University's prohibition of racial harassment.  His crime?  Reading a book entitled Notre Dame versus the Klan.  The book focuses on a 1924 incident in which several Notre Dame students fought members of the Ku Klux Klan, a result largely of the latter's anti-Catholic focus.  Two of his co-workers objected to Sampson's reading the book -- on his break, no less -- apparently because it had "Klan" in the title.  Back about eight months ago, I reported on a story where the Massachusetts NAACP protested that a government manager had a coffee cup with the Confederate flag on it; actually, the coffee cup had a reproduction of a painting of Pickett's charge on it (it had been purchased by the manager's son on a trip to Gettysburg), and the Confederate soldiers were, for some inexplicable reason, carrying a Confederate flag, which was apparently discernible to those equipped with Superman-like vision.

Ultimate Plaintiff's Zero-damages Verdict.  Apparently, the attorneys for US District Judge George Schiavelli must have thought he was pretty badly injured in a fall from a malfunctioning escalator in 2005, because they asked the jury to give him $21 million.  To be sure, the judge had to have operations on one knee and hip, and will be facing other surgeries, but the jury apparently figured that $21 million was a bit much, so they gave him a lower figure.  Lower by $21 million, to be exact.  His lawyer, after taking quick time out to calculate what 40% of nothing is, blamed it on The Way Things Are Nowadays:  "The bias against judges in today's world is just palpable."  Well, from reading the cases and talking with lawyers, it seems one of the best ways to wind up with a turned-off jury is to ask them to give your client what's equivalent to the GDP of a Central American country. 

Presidential candidates and crack retroactivity.  In light of the Ohio primary this past week, it's a good idea to articulate the three rules by which I run this blog:  (1) no political discussions, (2) be civil, and (3) no political discussions.  I'm going to deviate from that slightly because there's one thing I find disturbing.  As this article from the Huffington Post notes, Hillary Clinton is opposed to the retroactive modification of the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity.  (Discussed here.)  As Doug Berman notes in his Sentencing Law and Policy blog, this puts Hillary on the same side as the Bush administration and the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Not meaning to be overly political, but on this issue at least, that's not good company as far as I'm concerned.

Shooting the (hired) messenger.  Finally, Decision of the Day gives us the cautionary tale of Dr. Barry Swerdlow, a plaintiff's expert witness in a medical malpractice case.  For a variety of reasons, mainly lack of preparation and an unwillingness to display the evasiveness of the normal expert when cornered, Dr. Swerdlow pretty much gave the game away on his deposition, and the plaintiffs got bounced on summary judgment for failure to establish proximate cause.  That, the plaintiffs claimed, was supposed to be Swerdlow's job, so they then turned around and sued Dr. Swerdlow, their litany of woe including claims of fraud, professional malpractice, breach of contract, and tort.  The district court tossed it out, but the 10th Circuit reverses, over the dissenter's protest that all the decision accomplishes is to "make candor an expensive option and risk incenting experts to dissemble rather than change their views in the face of compelling new information."

I think the compelling new information that Dr. Swerdlow gleaned from his experience is not to get within five miles of a courtroom in the future.


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