Talk about environmental "impact." If your first thought at looking at this picture of California's Cold Spring Canyon Bridge was, "Boy, I'd sure like to jump off of that," you're not alone: at least 47 people have committed suicide by doing so since it was built in 1963. To discourage this, the state's decided to install suicide barriers, but a lawsuit has been filed to stop that:
Friends of the Bridge, an informal group of community members opposed to the barrier concept, cited three specific violations of state environmental law and asked Caltrans to set aside its approval of the $3 million project.
I'm betting that the "Friends" are people who don't live under the bridge or, as it might termed, "in the line of fire." Of course, Cold Springs Canyon places far behind the Golden Gate Bridge as the premier suicide destination in the world. Pretty much all you need to know about the mentality of suicide jumpers is summed up in these two figures: 80% of the suicides on Golden Gate occur during the day, and 82% of them jump from the side facing the city.
Here's another sign: middle finger to the First Amendment. With a hat tip to Overlawyered and Reason, this story about two Florida men being prosecuted for allegedly giving gang-related hand signals on their MySpace pages:
Their prosecutions are the first under a state law passed last year that criminalizes the use of electronic media to “promote” gangs.
The bill’s sponsor, a retired police officer, calls the law a modern response to increasing gang violence in some Florida cities.
“We have seen from day one until now that none of our freedoms are absolute, and the freedom of expression is not absolute,” said Rep. William D. Snyder, R-Stuart.
Grand Theft Auto Update. A year ago, I wrote about the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of parents outraged to find that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a video game which allowed their sons to practice mayhem on a level that would embarass Charles Manson, also allowed them to view simulated sex scenes. Another episode of Lawyers to the Rescue: a class action was filed on behalf of the aggrieved purchasers. It turned out that maybe not so many were outraged after all; fewer than 1/100th of 1% of all the people who bought the game opted to join the class. Still, a Good Deed was done, the case was settled, and the lawyers set about planning what to do with the $1 million in attorney fees the settlement included.
Or would have, except that one of the people who had purchased the game, was Ted Frank, who runs the Legal Center for the Public Interest at the American Enterprise Institute, which is not exactly a fan of the current tort system. Frank's status as a member of the class allowed him to file an objection to the settlement, noting that the class which for whose benefit all this was done had itself received a miserly $30,000. That's not $30,000 per member of the class. That's $30,000 for all the members. Frank opined that
There are two possibilities. Possibility one is they have a meritorious lawsuit and they’re selling out the class for attorneys’ fees. The other possibility is that, and frankly I think this is the more likely possibility, they brought a meritless lawsuit that had no business being brought to court at all.
I'll pretty much go with what's behind Door No. 2 on that one, too. The trial court bought Franks' argument and decertified the class, thus killing the settlement and, of course, the attorney fees. The lawyers have now appealed the decertification to the 2nd Circuit. Stay tuned.
Fan Club News. My legions of faithful readers will be interested to know that I'll be a speaker at the OSBA Criminal Advocacy seminar next Thursday in Cleveland, and will be giving an hour presentation on "Preserving the Record and Other Appellate Strategies." What's somewhat odd is that appellate guru John Martin of the Cuyahoga County Public Defenders office is also going to be doing a presentation -- on evidence. Martin (pictured at left giving the oral argument in State v. Brown) is one of the sharpest appellate attorneys in the state; as I once put it, he spends more time in front of the Ohio Supreme Court than Lindsey Lohan does in rehab, and has won a number of major victories there, something I can also say, at least when I'm not under oath. Why the OSBA didn't assign him my topic is somewhat of a mystery; speaking on appellate strategies with him sitting there will be somewhat akin to giving a presentation on step-parent adoption with Woody Allen in the audience. I'll do my best, though, and a good time will be had by all. If you're free, it's not too late to register, or just drop by and sign in at the time.