Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Texas death row inmate gets reprieve

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the first scheduled execution of a Texas death row inmate using a new drug cocktail on Tuesday, although the proposed lethal mix was not mentioned in the court's decision to reconsider the merits of the condemned man's appeal.

Cleve Foster was to have been executed hours later for the 2002 slaying of a Sudanese woman in Fort Worth — the first Texas execution since the state switched to pentobarbital in its three-drug mixture. The sedative has already been used for executions in Oklahoma and Ohio.

On Tuesday morning, the high court agreed to reconsider its January order denying Foster's appeal that raised claims of innocence and poor legal help during his trial and early stages of his appeals.

Foster's lawyers also have argued that Texas prison officials violated administrative procedures last month when they announced the switch to pentobarbital from sodium thiopental, which is in short supply nationwide. Foster's lawyers contend that the rules change in Texas required more time for public comment and review. Lower courts have rejected their appeals and attorneys had planned to take their case to the Texas Supreme Court.

Louisiana to get $12M in Health Net case

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered Health Net Inc., a major health maintenance organization, to cover more than $180 million in claims by consumers, health care providers and creditors in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon told The Advocate that Louisiana will get the smallest portion of the payout.

"We have about $12 million coming to us to policyholders, providers and general creditors, meaning companies who sold them supplies or that rented them space," Donelon said.

Donelon said the unanimous ruling, issued Friday, will reimburse all of AmCare Louisiana HMO's members, providers, and creditors for any losses caused by Health Net's conduct.

Health Net sold health plans in the three states to AmCareco Inc. in 1999. In 2002, the troubled health plans were placed under state supervision. Each of the state's insurance departments sued AmCareco and Health Net, alleging fraud, negligence, conspiracy and breach of fiduciary duty.

In 2005, a state district court jury awarded the Texas plaintiffs around $100 million in damages. In 2005, a state judge in Baton Rouge issued similar verdicts against Health Net and awarded $30 million to the Louisiana and Oklahoma plaintiffs.

2 charged with insider trading involving law firms

Federal authorities have charged two men with running an insider trading scheme that netted more than $30 million with information stolen from law firms.

Garrett Bauer is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., on Wednesday afternoon. Matthew Kluger will make his first appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

They're accused of trading on inside information stolen from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong.

Authorities also allege the decades-long scheme used information stolen from prominent New York law firms Cravath Swaine & Moore and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Voters to narrow Supreme Court candidate field

Wisconsin has focused on the Green Bay Packers and Gov. Scott Walker for the last month, but another fight with perhaps just as much impact on the state is about to take center stage -- the state Supreme Court primary.

Justice David Prosser faces three challengers. Voters on Tuesday will choose two survivors who will face off in April's general election. The winner gets a 10-year term on the court.

The primary has played out in the background as the Packers charged to a Super Bowl title and Walker proposed doing away with state workers' unions. But the general election could ultimately tilt the ideological balance of the court for years to come.

State election officials expect about 10 percent of the state's voters will venture to the polls Tuesday.

Man expected to plead guilty in Iowa asbestos case

Court records say the supervisor of a renovation project in Des Moines' Equitable Building has agreed to plead guilty to asbestos-removal charges.

The Des Moines Register says Russell Coco's lawyer confirmed Tuesday that Coco will plead guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to impede and impair EPA asbestos-removal procedures.

Coco and his boss, developer Bob Knapp, are accused of illegally removing asbestos from 2005 to 2008.

The indictment says asbestos from the building was put in open bins, then dumped in a landfill. Asbestos can cause lung illnesses and cancer. Coco and Knapp were scheduled to begin trial on Feb. 28.

Judge affirms $7.3M verdict against law firm

A Maine judge has upheld a jury verdict that awarded $7.3 million in damages for emotional distress to a businessman who contended he was double-crossed by a law firm he hired.

A Cumberland County jury last summer said the Portland law firm of Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson worked against Peter Redman's interests in a dispute with his brother over control of the now-defunct Northern Mattress and Furniture Co. In a 37-page ruling, Superior Court Justice Thomas Humphrey denied the law firm's motion seeking a new trial.

Redman, of Old Orchard Beach, was banned from the family business' headquarters over a sexual harassment claim he contended was orchestrated by his brother to wrest control of the business. Redman said the firm failed to defend him against the accusations.