The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thank you, Mr. Dedman--

--for your state-of-the-art Lifetime Sports Center. It is truly amazing how much gas an hour in the gym puts back in the tank. Although, since I was pressed for time today, I did raise a few jeers and cheers by dragging my Evidence casebook through my workout with me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Let's have more trial lawyers like these guys (or at least more lawsuits)

Don't worry--hell hasn't frozen over. But in the last couple of weeks, I've run across two types of lawsuits that give me some hope that the plaintiffs' bar isn't totally irredeemable.

The first one: civil actions against State Farm for denial of Katrina insurance claims in Mississippi based on false engineering reports. ABC ran a big story this week on 20/20 about two whistle-blower adjusters who claim to have evidence that State Farm coerced engineering firms into changing their reports to show damage from rising water as opposed to wind.

If you didn't see it, it was pretty compelling: they even interviwed a PE for one of the engineering firms who had copies of his report as he prepared it and as it appeared in State Farm's files. It had been edited to substitute rising water for wind as the cause of damage, then signed again with the PE's name, but in different handwriting. The best part, though, was footage of all of these houses--some of them now only bare foundations--that supposedly suffered no wind damage surrounded by flattened trees and telephone poles.

The only bad thing here is that the lead attorney going after State Farm is one of the tobacco suit ringleaders, but at least that might mean that there are sufficient resources to take this fight down to the end.

The second instance of 'trial lawyers gone good' is more interesting from a legal standpoint: RICO suits against employers for hiring illegal workers. Here's a summary of the argument from one of the leading cases (Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Williams, Shirley et al.):

In 2004, four hourly employees of Mohawk Industries, Inc. filed suit in federal court in Georgia, claiming that the hiring of undocumented immigrants depressed their wages and cost them thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation.

Mohawk Industries is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of rugs and carpeting and is known to consumers through the carpet companies it owns, including Alexander Smith, Bigelow, and Karastan. It is a fixture in northwest Georgia, where it has been for 120 years. It now employs more than 30,000 people.

Of the states that don’t share a border with Mexico, Georgia has seen the largest growth in its undocumented immigrant population over the last five years, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-DC-based group that espouses “a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted.”

According to their attorney, Howard Foster, the workers discovered that Mohawk executives had conspired to bring the immigrants to Georgia from out of state, arranged for them to be housed with legal Mohawk employees, and then hired the illegal workers on a reduced pay scale.

This, claimed the legal employees, reduced the number of available jobs and put tremendous pressure on them to work for similarly poor wages. They also believed that the hiring of undocumented workers had the effect of deterring them from seeking worker’s compensation claims for fear of losing their jobs.

Finally, the employees contend that Mohawk broke federal and state racketeering laws when it colluded with third-party agencies in Brownsville, Texas, to hire the undocumented immigrants. To hide evidence of the deals, the employees say Mohawk destroyed a number of documents and records along the way.

This case recently went up to the Supreme Court on a technical issue on how to apply the RICO statute and got remanded back down to the 11th Circuit, but it would be great if we could see more suits along this line. As we've seen from the "cheeseburger" lawsuits, just the threat of litigation can spur changes in behavior--with suits like these, maybe we can accomplish something a little more meaningful than getting McDonald's to serve apple dippers.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Bloggers Beware!

That was the tagline of an email we got the other day from the career services office. They went on to advise us to think about removing from our personal websites any information that might hurt our chances with a potential employer, and included this link to a cautionary article about racy myspace and facebook pages.

I know they mean well, and it's good advice to remember that anything you say or post can have consequences, but there's still something about this that just rubs me the wrong way (obviously I'm not talking about sites with something outrageous like pornography or paeans to Hitler here). If I were really worried about it, I'd wipe out the Deadman--it's not like I'm anonymous here, and there are alot of posts with some salty language and political views that some people might not like. Should I really be afraid to fly that Israeli flag below, or strike that post about trial lawyers I was going to write? Is that what it's come to? Even if it has come to that, I don't give a damn.

Maybe it's a function of being older--I just don't have enough life left to deal with people who want to snoop around on the internet looking for something to play "gotcha!". Sure, companies have every right to do that, but then again they have a right to do all kinds of evil and demeaning things. But if somebody out there digging around the net can't take personal websites in the context they're offered in, that says a hell of alot more about them than it does about the blogger.

So if you, dear reader, are a potential employer (or more likely, a lowly HR flunky assigned this odious task) surfing the net looking for reasons to torpedo someone's application to your firm, here's my advice:

1. You should be ashamed of yourself: stop wasting valuable time and resources in an endeavor that only makes you look like a gigantic ass.

2. Fire that consultant you hired to figure out why you have one of the highest employee turnover rates in the business. You just found the answer.

3. Go buy the employees you DO have some new shirts, 'cause I can tell you right now they spend most of their day digging knives out of their backs. Your particular 'corporate culture' just naturally breeds that behavior.

4. If you don't want to hire me now, thank you. You've made both our lives easier.

For anyone else reading, as always, feel free to post away. If you've got something to say, say it. That's why I allow anonymous posting and never delete posts unless someone requests it.

Stay cool, boppers!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Stand Fast

We're going to be so gauche as to fly the Israeli flag this week. Despite events like the tragic bombing in Qana, the Israelis have to be given the chance to put Hezbollah down for good, otherwise this will be their own little Vietnam--a defeat brought on by lack of will on the part of those sitting on the sidelines, not those actually fighting.

Curiouser and curiouser...

When I started reading this story from the NYT about older men who've left the work force and aren't really looking for a job, I thought "What the hell? Why is this news?" So some old fat guys like the one in the picture aren't working, so what? Maybe it's just the slacker angle?

Then I found it--the nugget:

Despite their great numbers, many of the men not working are missing from the nation’s best-known statistic on unemployment. The jobless rate is now a low 4.6 percent, yet that number excludes most of the missing men, because they have stopped looking for work and are therefore not considered officially unemployed. That makes the unemployment rate a far less useful measure of the country’s well-being than it once was. (my emphasis)

Isn't it funny how lots of figures lately just aren't as good of measures of the country's well-being as they used to be--say back in the Clinton administration?? The stock market, unemployment rate, subjective measures of happiness, etc. Somehow in the last 6 years they've all gone to crap--about the same time that homelessness suddenly reappeared. Odd.