Tuesday brought news of a long awaited verdict; U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled against Donziger in the Chevron v. Donziger case. Judge Kaplan said he found “clear and convincing evidence that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of an $18 billion judgment against the oil company issued in 2011.”
Villagers in the Lago Agrio area argue that Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field from 1964 to 1992. Whether or not the site was polluted was not being questioned, it was the way in which Donziger gained the favorable verdict in Ecuador. Judge Kaplan said “Donziger cannot use a Robin Hood defense to justify illegal behavior.”
Tuesday’s decision stops the enforcement of the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. This verdict might also give Chevron leverage in other claims abroad.
While Chevron’s Chief Executive John Watson called the ruling “a resounding victory”, Donziger called the verdict “appalling and blamed Kaplan’s implacable hostility toward him and his Ecuadorean clients.” He also “vowed to appeal and said the ruling would not stop his clients from seeking to enforce the judgment in other countries.”
The Ecuadorean embassy said that the “decision does not exonerate Chevron from its own legal and moral responsibilities resulting from its decades of contamination.” Chevron continues to be held up in an arbitration dispute in international court regarding cleanup costs of Lago Agrio.
To find out more details of the case, please refer to this blog’s previous posts (October 23, 2013 and November 4, 6, and 22, 2013).
Brian Pascal of The Recorder brought up an interesting point last week about “Being More Than Just a Lawyer”. Specifically honing in on privacy law, an area he believes sets itself apart by being “an academic focus, a professional discipline, and an area of public debate [that] has reached a prominence experienced by few other areas of law”. He explains that with privacy law there comes the obvious discussion of technology, often impossible to segregate the two.
He goes on to argue that when considering the role that an attorney plays in privacy law, there are two main factors: “first, we need to come to terms with the fact that except under very specific circumstances, the law plays a negligible role in the development of new technologies… The second and more important lesson is that when it comes to privacy, it is no longer enough to be ‘just a lawyer’”. Brian explains that the best lawyers understand the facts and in the case of privacy law that often means “scientific or technological elements that are not typically taught in law school”. He explains the need for attorneys who are technologically savvy that are “willing to get their hands dirty long before the fallout hits”. Here, fallout is referring to the mess attorneys are left covering up when companies who release a service then get bombarded for neglecting privacy or governments who use cutting edge technology for surveillance of their citizens get outed.
Brian lays out two examples of the type of lawyer he would like to see:
A lawyer who understands behavioral targeting and social psychology can help advertising companies balance the complex interplay between maximizing the value of extracted information and respecting customer trust. [And] a prosecutor who understands how the police located a suspect through the use of automated license plate readers can use that knowledge to make a stronger case.
But he makes a clear distinction, the idea is not to have attorneys take on the jobs of experts in various fields but they do need to understand the implications of all this new technology and how it impacts the clients, their customers and the world, because essentially “the practice of law is at its heart about the application of abstract theories to messy, changeable reality.”
To read more of Brian Pascal’s article click here.
Company: Berkeley Research Group
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Expert witness profile information provided by Ms. Ziegler:
Jennifer has provided litigation services for a wide range of industries on issues including accountants’ liability, contractual disputes, construction claims, investigations of embezzlement claims, intellectual property, and probate and estates. Additionally, she has testified in deposition and trial. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of accounting.
Jennifer Ziegler is listed on Courtroom Insight as an expert witness who specializes in providing expertise in forensic accounting, litigation support, and fraud investigations. She has experience in industries including healthcare, start-ups, pharmaceuticals, non-profits, oil, gas, government agencies and homeowners’ associations.
The lawsuit, Vergara v California, “has been brought on by students who are challenging state laws that they contend protect ineffective teachers. They say the laws deny students their constitutionally protected right to a quality education.” One of the laws in question provides tenure to teachers after 18 months. Three of the laws deal with the high cost and slow process of firing teachers and the last is a law known as the “Last in, first out”, which forces the favor towards seniority instead of quality when layoffs are needed.
The defendants are the state of California including Governor Jerry Brown, Superintendent of Public Education, Tom Torlakson and two teachers unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers.
The president of the California Federation of Teachers, Josh Pechthalt, spoke out saying “the lawsuit is without merit. It ignores the real problems of education and demonizes teachers and teachers unions for the perceived problems of public education” adding that if successful, the suit would make it “more difficult to attract and retain teachers.”
Theodore J. Boutrous, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said that
the system is dysfunctional and arbitrary. Outdated laws handcuff school administrators from operating in a fashion that protects school children and their rights to equality of education.
The defendants have made three attempts to have the case dismissed and were unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, the expert witness, Raj Chetty, took the stand. He is a Harvard professor and a well known expert in public policy economics. He offered testimony that supported the plaintiffs – the quality of a teacher directly impacts students’ achievements and the current seniority statuses have an unfair impact on minority and low income students. He explained that teacher effectiveness can be measured.
One of the main points on the plaintiff’s side is that California tenure laws “do not provide adequate time to determine a teacher’s effectiveness.” Chetty agreed that 18 months is insufficient and harmful to students.
Driving his point home, Chetty provided graphs from his own research that showed how students test scores are directly impacted with either an effective or ineffective teacher. He added that his research takes into account other external factors that might play a role, but quickly noted that nothing “predicts future success more than effective teachers.”
As John Deasy, Superintendent of LA Unified, finished his testimony on Wednesday, after three days on the witness stand, he was questioned as to whether these laws “prevent LA Unified from assigning more experienced teachers to high poverty areas when vacancies are available.” When asked specifically if a “grossly ineffective teacher was ever intentionally assigned to a high poverty school”, he said “regrettably, yes.”
Source: LA School Report
Courtroom Insight’s most recent reviews seem to have a few similarities. Not only are the ratings low, but biases and lack of preparedness seemed to play a role in each review. A part of a review about Judge Contillo reads “Robert Contillo is a criminal himself and just another lackey for the banking parasites he serves.” An excerpt of a review about Richard Chernick says “he may have conducted hundreds of large and complex arbitrations and mediations employing various rules, but today he failed to live up to his credentials.” Another review, this time about an expert, reads “he is easy to take down because he doesn’t remember any of the detail from the materials, and doesn’t base his opinions on the facts.”
To read these and other recent reviews about experts, judges and neutrals, visit Courtroom Insight.
Jahi McMath, a 13-year-old girl, suffered cardiac arrest, heavy bleeding and loss of blood to the brain following a tonsillectomy surgery. Her doctors have pronounced her brain dead and in California when a person is brain dead, they are considered dead. Court documents show that two hospital physicians and three other doctors, requested by the family, also believe that she is brain dead.
“An independent physician named by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo last week corroborated the determination that Jahi is legally dead, saying that testing showed no blood flow to the brain, no ability to breathe without the ventilator and no sign of electrical activity in her brain.”
Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, has continued to fight for her daughter, insisting she is still alive.
When I go in there and touch her, she moves her whole body, her legs, her shoulders. How can you possibly say my child is dead is she responds to my voice?
Jahi is on a ventilator now, however, since she has been pronounced dead, the hospital’s next step is to stop ventilation. Jahi’s family fought for time and a judge’s order granted an extension to keep Jahi’s ventilator on until January 7th at 5 pm. Today, a federal magistrate is scheduled to mediate talks between the Oakland hospital and Jahi McMath’s family. “Children’s Hospital Oakland argues that Jahi is legally dead and opposes performing medical procedures on a ‘deceased person’. Jahi’s family insists that she is still alive, and wants her transferred to a long-term care facility despite a consensus among neurologists that she is dead.”
New Beginnings Center in Medford, New York agreed to take Jahi and Medway Air Ambulance quoted nearly $28,000 to transport Jahi and a physician. Nonetheless, the family still has not found a physician “willing to perform the procedures necessary for the breathing and feeding tubes.”
Robert M. Veatch, a professor of medical ethics, ethics consultant, and expert witness has written an opinion piece on the matter. The following are excerpts of what can be found in his CNN opinion.
A significant minority in the medical profession continue to believe people with dead brains and beating hearts are still alive. Believers include some of our wisest minds — a Harvard professor, an National Institute of Health theorist, a chief of neurology at UCLA, and the former chair of the U.S. President’s Council all reject brain-based death pronouncement. They agree with Jahi’s parents that death is linked to circulatory loss.
“Others take a position more liberal than the standard law that defines brain death. They favor pronouncing death in some cases even when some parts of the lower brain are still functioning. I have defended that view since 1973.”
“Why, then, does American law continue to force one standard of death on Jahi’s parents and others who have plausible alternative definitions? Once one realizes that the choice among the options is not a cut-and-dried matter of medical science, why not let people have some choice based on their personal religious and cultural views?”
“The trouble arises when physicians want to stop life-support, perhaps because they believe the case is hopeless, and the patient or family insist that life support continue. We call this the “futile care problem.” I defended in court the mother of a severely brain-damaged baby referred to as Baby K who wanted life support to continue even though her doctors wanted to stop. Society should show sympathy for mothers who want their children to be kept alive.”
“If preserving life requires high-tech support like a ventilator, doctors are the ones who should provide it. The costs shouldn’t be borne by the hospital. The health insurance company or Medicaid shouldn’t pay. But if the family can raise the funds, like Jahi’s parents are doing, and the patient is beyond feeling pain, no harm is done by continuing, especially if they can find a facility willing to take the case.”
“Whether this right to medical support should extend to those considered dead by one standard, but alive by another is the question we face with Jahi McMath. If the patient does not suffer, and private funding is available, people should have the right to make this decision for their loved ones.”
Sources: LA Times and CNN Opinion