Saturday, June 25, 2016

Another All-Out Brawl Over School Funding Is Brewing In Kansas

Another All-Out Brawl Over School Funding Is Brewing In Kansas

Having directed lawmakers to make education funding fairer to poor areas, the Kansas Supreme Court will next consider the larger issue of whether the state spends enough overall on its schools. The justices could rule by early next year; a trial-court panel said the state must increase its annual aid by at least $548 million.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP-dominated Legislature's leaders already have committed to rewriting school funding laws next year. Besides overhauling how money is distributed among the state's 286 local districts, they also want to rethink academic standards and use state funds to improve students' performance.

Kansas is likely to remain mired in the budget problems that have plagued it since Brownback persuaded lawmakers to slash personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013. Any large increase in school spending — whether to comply with a court order or smooth the way for a new funding formula — would require lawmakers to reconsider his signature tax cuts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Democrats to Christie on his school funding shake-up: No way |

 Democrats to Christie on his school funding shake-up: No way |

by Susan Livio

TRENTON — The sweeping overhaul of the school funding formula Gov. Chris Christie announced on Tuesday requires the New Jersey Legislature to let voters adopt it by amending the state constitution in November 2017.
But judging from the immediate reaction from the Democrats who control the Statehouse, the governor should expect a bitter fight.
"This plan is unfair, it is unjust and it is blatantly unconstitutional," according to a statement by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and state Sen. Theresa Ruiz (D-Essex), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.
The governor announced the "Fairness Formula," a plan that would provide every school district with $6,599 per student and scrap the court-ordered methodology that favors low-income urban school districts.
Christie said the proposal would give three-quarters of all districts an increase in state aid, translating into a huge dose of property tax relief. For a state with the highest property taxes in the nation, the idea is likely to gain interest, especially as he plans to campaign for it in towns across the state.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Separated at Birth - Thomas Edsall - The New York Times

Do the courts have any responsiblity for this? Any role in changing it?  Should they?

Separated at Birth - The New York Times

by Thomas Edsall

report recently released by the Russell Sage Foundation — “Opportunity, Mobility, and Increased Inequality” — concludes
that 60 percent of those born into a bottom-quintile family will themselves be in the bottom two quintiles of the income distribution at age forty, and that 56 percent of those born into a top-quintile family will be in the top two quintiles of the distribution at age forty.
If we focus just on the least well off, the United States today is moving toward “increasing inequality of opportunity,” with the gains over the past several decades for those in the bottom of the income distribution modest, at best, or non-existent.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

N.F.L. Tried to Influence Concussion Research, Congressional Study Finds - The New York Times

Bubba Smith (78) playing for the Baltimore Colts against Joe Namath and the Jets in the Super Bowl in 1969. Smith died in 2011 at age 66.

Bubba Smith (78) died at 66.  He is the 90th NFL player

to be diagnosed  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

N.F.L. Tried to Influence Concussion Research, Congressional Study Finds - The New York Times

When the N.F.L. agreed in 2012 to donate tens of millions of dollars to concussion research overseen by theNational Institutes of Health, it was widely seen as a positive turning point in football’s long history of playing down the long-term effects of brain injuries on players. At the time, the league said that it would have no influence over how the money was used.
But the league and its head, neck and spine committee worked to improperly influence the government research, trying to steer the study toward a doctor with ties to the league, according to a study conducted by a congressional committee and released on Monday.
“Our investigation has shown that while the N.F.L. had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the study concluded. “The N.F.L. attempted to use its ‘unrestricted gift’ as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.”
The N.F.L., in a statement, said it rejected the accusations laid out in the study, which was conducted by Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest,” the league said. “These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

Claims for Governmental Abuse Strengthened by China Supreme Court and Top Prosecutor

State Compensation Paid in Guangdong 1998-2009
Inline image 2
Guangdong High Court Yearbook - various years

The Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procurator (Prosecutor) have announced increases in the rate of compensation for persons whose rights are violated by Government.  As the Guangdong Province graph above shows citizens can have success in claims against government for rights violations. The new rates became effective in May 2016.  Courts are instructed to award compensation per day of deprivation of liberty, etc.  Violation of personal rights, bodily injury, emotional harm, and property damage are recognized.
Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to police or other official misconduct.  Although the old reeducation system "劳教" has been repealed Chinese law still permits detention for investigation.

Unlike the U.S. where complete prosecutorial immunity is the rule, in China a tort remedy is provided by the State Compensation Law.  Originally passed in 1994 it was strengthened by the 2010 Amendments.
In December 2015 the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procurator (Prosecutor) issued an " Explanation regarding several questions regarding the handling of cases of compensation for criminal injustice".  The joint document announces its purpose in Article 1:
Article 1 Explanation of the regulations setting the limits of compensation for a one who claims compensation because of a criminal  investigation, prosecution,  trial , detention, or imprisonment  by government which violated the personal rights, property rights for which application is made under the State Compensation Law , under the circumstances stated in Articles 17 and 18 of the State Compensation Law.
The regulations - as is common in Chinese law - advise courts to award compensation for disability and detention not on an individualized basis but rather on the average wage in the region, as well as other factors.
- George Conk 教授 and 刘达奇, LLM

h/t Susan Finder - Supreme Peoples Court Monitor

Friday, May 20, 2016

RJ Reynolds Hit With $11.5M Verdict In Nurse's Death - Law360

 More good news. I wish everyplace were Florida. - gwc

RJ Reynolds Hit With $11.5M Verdict In Nurse's Death - Law360

By Brandon Lowrey

Law360, New York (May 20, 2016, 5:27 PM ET) -- A Florida jury on Friday slammed R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. with $6.5 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit brought by relatives of a chain-smoking registered nurse and addiction counselor who died of lung cancer, adding to the $5 million compensatory verdict it awarded the plaintiffs a day earlier.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 25, 2014: Switch to Flint River Water Supply, Flint, MI; 1926: New York Harbor a Menace | This Day in Water History

0425 Flint uses Flint River

April 25, 2014: Switch to Flint River Water Supply, Flint, MI; 1926: New York Harbor a Menace | This Day in Water History

April 25, 2014: Switch to Flint River Water Supply, Flint, MI. An article published onlinememorialized the change earlier that day from treated water from Detroit, Michigan, to the raw water supply of the Flint River and the activation of the Flint Water Plant. The photo from that article reproduced above shows local and state officials toasting each other with water from the Flint plant. I am certain that most of them would be happy to have their images removed from that and similar photographs.
About a month after the change, residents of Flint began to complain about discolored water and odors from the new water supply. The water coming out of city taps was orange, red, yellow and brown. City and State officials tried to assure Flint citizens that the water was safe to drink even after repeated failures of primary drinking water regulations: Total Coliform Rule and the trihalomethane regulation. But the worst was yet to come.
Once the water from the Flint River was demonstrated to be more corrosive to iron and steel than water from Detroit, someone in the water department, treatment plant staff, City administration or Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ, drinking water regulatory agency) should have asked the question, “What about corrosion of the 15,000 lead service lines serving water to homes in the City?”
Some stories about what happened in Flint state that the USEPA asked MDEQ if optimized treatment was being applied to prevent corrosion of lead service lines (LSLs). The MDEQ representative assured the USEPA that everything was just fine.
What we now know is that the treated Flint River water was highly corrosive to lead and levels greater than 10,000 ug/L have been found in some home samples. Hundreds of samples have been found to contain lead above the 15 ug/L State and federal action level. Young children who are most susceptible to the toxic effects of lead were exposed at high concentrations, which ultimately showed up as elevated blood lead levels in thousands of children.
It took the persistence of one mother in town, a smart, courageous doctor and an activist engineering professor to blow the whistle and get everyone to start paying attention to a public health emergency. Citizens of Flint owe a great deal to LeeAnne Walters, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Marc Edwards. Miguel Del Toral of the USEPA did everything that he could to ring alarm bells once he understood what was happening. Later reporting by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC brought the crisis to national attention and helped start a national discussion of the solutions needed.

Friday, April 22, 2016

RJ Reynolds Hit With $13M Verdict In Smoker Death Trial - Law360

RJ Reynolds Hit With $13M Verdict In Smoker Death Trial - Law360

Law360, Los Angeles (April 22, 2016, 1:47 PM ET) -- A Florida jury on Friday awarded $13 million against R.J. Reynolds to the children of a heavy smoker who died of lung disease, saying the tobacco company hid the dangers of cigarettes from her until she was hopelessly addicted.

The case against R.J. Reynolds centered on the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death of smoker Virginia Wilkinson. (Credit: AP)
The verdict included $10 million in punitive damages awarded Friday morning, and $3 million in compensatory damages awarded a day earlier.

The case centered on the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death of smoker Virginia Wilkinson. She smoked at least one pack every day for more than 40 years, beginning at age 14, according to her attorney, Eric Rosen of Kelley Uustal.

Rosen told jurors Friday morning that $8.8 million would be an appropriate award in this case.

"They [R.J. Reynolds] need to feel it," Rosen told jurors during the punitive damages phase of the trial. "That will get their attention. They will feel that."

R.J. Reynolds attorney Cory Hohnbaum of King & Spalding LLP told jurors that amount was extreme.

The tobacco giant has changed dramatically since it famously denied that cigarettes caused cancer in previous decades.

"A punitive damages award anywhere near the excessive amount Mr. Rosen suggested to you is simply not warranted under the facts of this case," Hohnbaum said. "Considering how the world has change[d] and how R.J. Reynolds has changed, you do have the discretion here not to award punitive damages."

The lawsuit was filed by Wilkinson's children, Vivian Turner and Eugene Wilkinson, alleging that her decades-long habit of smoking caused her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, eventually, her death.

They alleged she tried to quit numerous times, even throwing out her cigarettes, lighters and ash trays, only to resume smoking just a couple of days later.

She cried when she talked about quitting, and she continued smoking even after she was diagnosed with COPD in 1993, they said.

R.J. Reynolds, however, argued that there was no evidence of which brand she smoked prior to the 1960s, and that there was evidence she had COPD as early as the 1980s. If she did have COPD in the 1980s and should have known, the son and daughter would be barred by the statute of limitations from pursuing their claims.

Jurors on Friday awarded Vivian Turner and Eugene Wilkinson each $1.5 million in non-economic compensatory damages.