Sunday, April 8, 2018

Opinion | America’s Federally Financed Ghettos - The New York Times

Opinion | America’s Federally Financed Ghettos - The New York Times

Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, showed utter contempt for his agency’s core mission last month when he proposed deleting the phrase “free from discrimination” from the HUD mission statement. Yet Mr. Carson is not the first housing secretary to betray the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968 — which turns 50 years old this week — by failing to enforce policies designed to prevent states and cities from using federal dollars to perpetuate segregation.
By its actions and failure to act, HUD has prolonged segregation in housing since the 1960s under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The courtshave repeatedly chastised the agency for allowing cities to confine families to federally financed ghettos that offer little or no access to jobs, transportation or viable schools. The lawsuits, filed by individuals and fair housing groups, have forced the agency to adopt rules and policies that have been crucial in advancing the goals of the Fair Housing Act.
Mr. Carson was named in such a lawsuit filed last month by the nonprofit Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. The suit accuses HUD of illegally funneling federal money to the city of Houston, despite a 2017 finding by HUD itself that the city was flouting federal civil rights laws by allowing racially motivated opposition to stop affordable housing projects in white neighborhoods. In adetail reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, the plaintiffs argue that Houston discriminates even at the level of flood relief, maintaining “entirely different (and markedly inferior) drainage systems in predominantly minority neighborhoods, exposing the residents of those neighborhoods to increased risk from storms.”
The next round of lawsuits against Mr. Carson’s HUD will almost certainly challenge his recent decision to suspend until 2020 rules introduced under the Obama administration that require communities to analyze housing segregation and submit plans to address it as a condition for receiving billions of dollars in federal aid.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Citgo must repay full cost of oil spill cleanup

By Keith Goldberg
Law360 (March 29, 2018, 11:19 AM EDT) -- The Third Circuit handed down a precedential opinion Thursday that saddled three Citgo units with the lion's share of liability for a $100 million-plus oil spill judgment and said the refiner must fully repay the federal government for its role in the cleanup, reversing a lower court's finding that Citgo only had to pick up half the government's bill. 

Citgo Asphalt Refining Co., Citgo Petroleum Corp. and Citgo East Coast Oil Corp. sought to overturn a Pennsylvania federal judge’s apportionment of the blame over a 2004 incident in which Frescati Shipping Co.’s Athos I tanker — which Citgo chartered — hit a submerged anchor and spilled 263,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River.

After Frescati paid out $143 million for the cleanup, a federal judge ordered Citgo to pay $66 million to Frescati, including interest, and $48 million to the federal government to reimburse it for roughly half of the payout Frescati received from the Oil Liability Trust Fund.

The case is Re: Petition of Frescati Shipping Co. Ltd., case number 16-3470, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Monday, March 19, 2018

$2 billion estimate for Kansas public schools shocks lawmakers; consultants' accuracy questioned

Torts Today: $2 billion estimate for Kansas public schools shocks lawmakers; consultants' accuracy questioned

$2 billion estimate for Kansas public schools shocks lawmakers; consultants' accuracy questioned

$2 billion estimate for Kansas public schools shocks lawmakers; consultants' accuracy questioned

 — Kansas may need to spend roughly $2 billion a year in additional funding for public schools in order to meet the Kansas Supreme Court's standard for a constitutional funding system, according to a new study delivered to lawmakers Friday.
The numbers came as a shock to some lawmakers, especially those who were anticipating the consultants who wrote the report were hired specifically for the purpose of coming up with a much lower number.
"I'll admit, I'm surprised," House Democratic Leader Jim Ward of Wichita, one of the early skeptics of the study, said after hearing a summary of the report. "But I'm really happy that it really validated what happened in (earlier) studies, which is, money matters. For better outcomes, you've got to spend money."


Saturday, March 10, 2018

New York City Creates An Independent Cause Of Action Against Employers For Failing To Engage In The Interactive Process Of Determining If An Accommodation Of A Disabled Employee Is Needed

New York City Creates An Independent Cause Of Action Against Employers For Failing To Engage In The Interactive Process Of Determining If An Accommodation Of A Disabled Employee Is Needed

by David S. Rich, Esq.

On January 18, 2018, New York City Local Law 59 of 2018 (“Local Law 59” or the “new Law”) became law.  Effective October 15, 2018, Local Law 59 of 2018 amends the New York City Human Rights Law, N.Y.C. Admin. Code §§ 8-101 – 8-131 (the “City Human Rights Law” or the “NYCHRL”), by creating an independent cause of action, for monetary damages, against employers in New York City for failing to engage in the interactive process of determining if an accommodation of a disabled employee (or other eligible employee) is needed.
On December 19, 2017, the New York City Council, by a vote of 48-2, had approved Local Law 59.  Because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio neither signed nor vetoed Local Law 59 within 30 days after its approval by the Council, Local Law 59 became law.
Local Law 59 legislatively overrules, in part, the New York Court of Appeals’ 2014 decision of Jacobsen v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corp., 22 N.Y.3d 824, 11 N.E.3d 159, 988 N.Y.S.2d 86 (N.Y. 2014).  In the Jacobsen decision, the New York Court of Appeals had held (i) that there exists no independent cause of action, either under the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301 (the “State Human Rights Law” or the “NYSHRL”) or under the NYCHRL, against employers for failing to engage in a good faith “interactive process” of determining if an accommodation of a disabled worker is needed, but (ii) that the employer’s refusal to engage in an interactive process is a factor to be considered by the courts in determining whether a reasonable accommodation, for the worker’s disability, was available.  See Jacobsen, 22 N.Y.3d at 838.
The New York City Human Rights Law requires employers with four or more employees to make reasonable accommodation to enable an individual with a disability to satisfy the essential requisites of a job.
The City Human Rights Law also requires employers with four or more employees to reasonably accommodate (i) an employee’s religious practices, (ii) an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, and (iii) an employee’s needs as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking.
The NYCHRL authorizes any individual aggrieved by a discriminatory practice to file a civil actionin a court of law or to file an administrative proceeding with the City Commission on Human Rights.  Under the NYCHRL, in a civil action in a court of law, employees may recover, among other remedies, non-capped compensatory damages, punitive damages, and, if they win and at the court’s discretion, costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
The New Law
Local Law 59 of 2016 amends sections 8-102 and 8-107 of the NYCHRL by rendering it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer in New York City with four or more employees to refuse or otherwise fail to engage in a “cooperative dialogue” within a reasonable time with an individual who has requested an accommodation (whether related to a disability, religious practices, pregnancy or childbirth, or needs as a victim of domestic violence) or whom the employer has notice may require such an accommodation.
The new Law defines a ” ‘cooperative dialogue’ ” as “the process by which [an employer] and a person entitled to an accommodation, or who may be entitled to accommodation under the law, engage in good faith in a written or oral dialogue concerning the person’s accommodation needs; potential accommodations that may address the person’s accommodation needs, including alternatives to a requested accommodation; and the difficulties that such potential accommodations may pose for [the employer].”
Although, under Local Law 59, employers in New York City must engage in the interactive process of determining if an accommodation of a disabled employee (or other eligible employee) is needed, the new Law specifies that satisfying this cooperative dialogue requirement “is not a defense” to a claim of failing to provide a reasonable accommodation.
Local Law 59 further provides that the employer, after concluding the cooperative dialogue and reaching a determination, must give, to the requesting employee, “a written final determination identifying any accommodation granted or denied.”
Take-Aways for Employers
Because, under Local Law 59, failure to engage in the interactive process is itself actionable, the new Law increases the importance, to employers in New York City, of satisfying this cooperative dialogue requirement.
In order to avoid inadvertent oversights and undue delays, employers should train their managers or supervisors to recognize when to begin the interactive process.
Even before Local Law 59 became law, the best practice was for an employer, after finishing the interactive process and reaching a decision, to give, to the employee requesting an accommodation, a written response identifying any accommodation provided or denied.
Now, however, employers in New York City are required to issue these written determinations.  Businesses must issue, to requesting workers, these written determinations whether the request for accommodation is related to a disability, religious practices, pregnancy or childbirth, or needs as a victim of domestic violence.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen tries to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels - NBC News

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen tries to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels - NBC News

by Sarah Fitzpatrick//NBC News

President Donald Trump's lawyer is trying to silence adult-film star Stormy Daniels, obtaining a secret restraining order in a private arbitration proceeding and warning that she will face penalties if she publicly discusses a relationship with the president, NBC News has learned.

Monday, February 26, 2018

2d Circuit: Sexual Orientation Protected Under Title VII Rejecting A.G.'s Opposition

Sky diving instructor Donald Zarda filed suit against Altitude Express - his employer- for discharging  him when he revealed to a client that he is gay.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing Title VII employment discrimination cases arising under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).  It appeared as amicus curiae supporting Zarda.  But the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions  appeared as amicus arguing that Title VII does not bar sexual orientation discrimination.  Now, overturning its own precedent the Second Circuit Court of Appeals en banc (every judge participating) has ruled in a 163 page opinion:
We convened this rehearing en banc to consider whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation such that our 3 precedents to the contrary should be overruled. We now hold that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes a form of discrimination “because of . . . sex,” in violation of Title VII, and overturn Simonton and Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble, 398 F.3d 211, 217–23 (2d Cir. 2005), to the extent they held otherwise. We therefore VACATE the district court’s judgment on the Title VII claim and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We AFFIRM the judgment of the district court in all other respects.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Court to Dismiss Coal Baron's Suit Against John Oliver

West Virginia judge Jeffrey Cramer is dismissing a defamation lawsuitagainst John Oliver stemming from a segment in which a giant squirrel named “Mr. Nutterbutter” told coal baron Robert Murray to eat shit, according to the Hollywood Reporter. HBO and Partially Important Productions had asked that the suit be dismissed because the facts in Oliver’s segment were based on government reports, and the more insulting statements—like Oliver’s assessment that Murray resembles “a geriatric Dr. Evil”—could not be proven true or false. Judge Cramer agreed, and on Wednesday, informed attorneys by letter that he planned to dismiss the case. The judge’s letter is a lot less funny than the West Virginia ACLU’s amicus brief, but has the advantage of being dispositive.
Lawyers for Murray, whose company lost six miners and three rescue workers in the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, said in their initial complaint that “nothing has ever stressed him more” than the Last Week Tonightsegment, in which a gigantic squirrel named “Mr. Nutterbutter” presented a novelty check for “three acorns and eighteen cents” made out to “Eat Shit, Bob!” (The memo line on the check read “Kiss My Ass,” which does indeed sound stressful, but maybe not “mine collapse with multiple fatalities” stressful.) To be fair, most of the complaint revolved around whether or not Oliver correctly characterized Murray’s handling of the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, but Mr. Nutterbutter did play a prominent part:
1. Instead, Defendants continued their ruthless character assassination and attack on Plaintiffs’ business reputations by describing Mr. Murray as someone who “looks like a geriatric Dr. Evil” and arranging for a staff member to dress up in a squirrel costume and deliver the message, “Eat Shit, Bob!” to Mr. Murray.
52. If that were not enough, after the live taping, Defendant Oliver exclaimed to the audience that having someone in a squirrel costume tell Mr. Murray to “Eat Shit” was a “dream come true.”
While the judge’s decision may be a setback for Mr. Murray and Murray Energy, it is also a significant step forward for human-sized squirrels named “Mr. Nutterbutter,” the novelty check industry, Last Week Tonight, and the sacred right of every American to tell coal barons to eat shit.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Trump Names BP Oil Spill Lawyer, Climate Policy Foe as Top DOJ Environment Attorney | InsideClimate News

Trump Names BP Oil Spill Lawyer, Climate Policy Foe as Top DOJ Environment Attorney | InsideClimate News

Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a lawyer who has repeatedly challenged the scientific foundations of U.S. climate policy and was part of a legal team that represented BP in lawsuits stemming from the nation's worst oil spill, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, was nominated by President Donald Trump on Tuesday to serve as the Justice Department's top environmental lawyer.
Clark, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis, has represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in lawsuits challenging the federal government's authority to regulate carbon emissions. In court he has repeatedly argued that it is inappropriate to base government policymaking on the scientific consensus presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"When did America risk coming to be ruled by foreign scientists and apparatchiks at the United Nations?" Clark demanded in a 2010 blog posting on the EPA's endangerment finding.
Clark was prominently involved in industry challenges to the EPA's "endangerment finding" that set the scientific basis for all subsequent attempts to regulate greenhouse gases, including from autos and industrial sources. It was a demonstration of opposition to the underpinnings of the whole Obama administration regulatory approach to carbon dioxide, which were consistently upheld by the Supreme Court.
One of the legal briefs he signed is such a comprehensive compendium of thoroughly debunked denial of the scientific consensus that it stands as a classic of the genre, replete with condemnations not just of the EPA but of the IPCC, whose work the petitioners tried to persuade the court to rule out of bounds. A series of podcasts and papers he has written on The Federalist Society website continue his arguments against the endangerment finding and climate science more broadly.
"He has a long history of opposing climate action for corporate and ideological clients," said David Doniger, who heads the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, after learning of Clark's nomination. "I would expect that history would require him to recuse himself from such cases as over the Clean Power Plan, where he filed an amicus brief against the rule.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Compensation claims over Sanchi collision may be complex due to Iran’s sensitive diplomatic status: report - Global Times

Compensation claims over Sanchi collision may be complex due to Iran’s sensitive diplomatic status: report - Global Times

As a massive oil spill caused by the crash of Iranian tanker Sanchi earlier this month continues to spread across the East China Sea, fishermen and sea farmers in China's largest fishing hub are worried about potential ecological damage.

The fully laden crude tanker, owned and operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), suffered a major explosion and sank eight days after its collision with Hong Kong-flagged freighter CF Crystal.

The foreign tanker was carrying condensate, an ultra-refined, highly volatile form of ultra light oil used to make products such as jet fuel. Satellite images show that the spilt oil covered 332 square kilometers of water on Sunday, The Cover reported.

In the winter, low temperatures reduce evaporation speed, leaving massive condensate floating on the surface as waves spread. Experts warn of the serious immediate and long-term impact on the marine environment.

"The oil on the surface evolves to be highly concentrated, which hinders the respiration of marine life. Oily water containing sulphide can also poison and even kill sea creatures. Without professional treatment and scientific management, its harm will soon become obvious," Huang Weiqiu, a professor at Changzhou University Petroleum Engineering Department, interpreted.

The unpredictable expansion of the massive oil slick worries many fishermen in Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province, which is China's biggest and most important fishery hub.

Sun Yun (pseudonym), who farms mussels in the sea off Zhoushan, is one of them. After the crash, he was in a panic and rightly concerned about the potential ecological and economical effects on his livelihood. He recruited people to observe if there was oil floating near his sea area and purchased heavy metal test papers to prepare for subsequent risks.

Some other local residents remained relatively calm about the potential risks, counting on pure speculation. "The sea area is vast. I guess there would not be a serious problem as long as the wind blows strongly," a resident who lives in Zhoushan city was quoted by Chinese media as saying.