Monthly Archives:' December 2015

Heaven, Hell and The U.S. Chamber: 13 Years of Anti-Judicial Propaganda

By Arthur Bryant, Chairman. Source: Public Justice.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform just released the latest version of the propaganda piece it started publishing in 2002. Entitled 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States, the report summarizes the answers of a “nationally representative sample of 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives who are knowledgeable about litigation matters at companies with annual revenues over $100 million” who responded to what it calls a “survey.” The so-called “survey” does not, however, show what these people really think. Everyone taking it knows that its purpose is – as it has been for the past 13 years – to give big business a basis to smear state court systems that aren’t pro-business enough as “judicial hellholes” and push all state courts to limit corporate liability for wrongdoing.

Even so, the answers provide some extraordinary information.

GM simply writes a $900 million check: Our view

Settlement in ignition defect doesn’t include criminal charges against individuals.

By: The Editorial Board. Source: USA Today.

But the truly disturbing part of the announcement was that not a single individual has been criminally charged for concealing the defect: a faulty ignition switch that allowed cars to suddenly stall or prevented air bags from deploying. Defective vehicles remained on the road even as cars crashed, lawyers secretly settled complaints with victims’ families, and more than 120 people were killed.

Highway Guardrails Need Upgrade, Says U.S. Safety Agency

By: Patrick G. Lee, Source.

U.S. highway guardrail systems made by Trinity Industries Inc. and Road Systems Inc. have “safety performance issues” in some real-world crash scenarios, the Federal Highway Administration said as it urged a national overhaul of standards to better protect American drivers.

The regulator Friday released a report citing “performance limitations” of five guardrail products, three by Trinity and two by Road Systems. The agency found the models experienced performance shortcomings in side impacts and shallow-angle collisions with the guardrail’s end, sometimes resulting in penetration of the vehicle.

Complex Car Software Becomes the Weak Spot Under the Hood

By: David Gelles, Hiroko Tabuchi and Matthew Dolansept, Source: The New York Times.

Shwetak N. Patel looked over the 2013 Mercedes C300 and saw not a sporty all-wheel-drive sedan, but a bundle of technology.

There were the obvious features, like a roadside assistance service that communicates to a satellite. But Dr. Patel, a computer science professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, flipped up the hood to show the real brains of the operation: the engine control unit, a computer attached to the side of the motor that governs performance, fuel efficiency and emissions.

To most car owners, this is an impregnable black box. But to Dr. Patel, it is the entry point for the modern car tinkerer — the gateway to the code.

SPLC wins lawsuit challenging use of pepper spray in Alabama school district

Judge rules that Birmingham police violated the constitutional rights of students by using excessive force for minor discipline problems, such as “backtalking” and “challenging authority.”

Source: SPLC.

A federal judge in Alabama has found that the Birmingham Police Department violated the constitutional rights of students in public schools by using pepper spray to deal with minor discipline problems and by failing to ensure that children were decontaminated afterward.

U.S. District Court Judge Abdul Kallon found that police resorted to chemical spray to deal with “normal – and, at times, challenging – adolescent behavior,” a use of excessive force that is unconstitutional. The Sept. 30 decision did not ban the use of chemical spray in circumstances such as fights or other violent behavior.

The Wyoming Law That Makes Photographing A Polluted Stream Illegal Was Just Challenged In Court

By: Natasha Geiling, Source: Think Progress.

A controversial Wyoming law is under legal fire after a broad coalition of environmental, justice, and animal rights groups filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday.

The law, known as Senate File 12, or the Data Trespass Law, makes it illegal for anyone to collect data on public or private open land with the intention of sharing that data with the state or federal government. Proponents of the law say that it strengthens Wyoming’s trespass laws and gives property owners more power to dictate what happens on their land.

Critics of the law, however, liken it to a slew of “ag-gag” laws that have passed around the country in recent years, aimed at silencing whistleblowers who expose malpractice within the agriculture industry. Wyoming’s law, they contend, makes it illegal for citizen scientists or concerned residents to expose contamination of streams by the ranching industry, which represents a considerable economic and political force in the state.

Feds fail to track deadly police pursuits

By: Thomas Frank, Source: USA Today.

The U.S. government has drastically understated the number of people killed in high-speed police car chases, potentially by thousands of fatalities over several decades, a USA TODAY investigation shows.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrationoverlooked at least 101 motor-vehicle deaths in 2013 that were related to a police chase, according to a USA TODAY review of police reports and internal documents, court records, police-car videos and news accounts based on police statements. NHTSA’s count of 322 chase-related deaths in 2013 — the most recent year for which its records are publicly available — understates the total by at least 31%, the investigation shows.