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Can Victims of a Mass Shooting Sue the Government?

The best answer is, it's unlikely. True, litigants sue the government every day, over alleged civil rights violations, controversial laws, run-of-the-mill personal injury claims against government agencies and employees, and more. The real question is usually less about whether you can you sue the government, and more about the likelihood of success. Suing the Government Is an American Tradition Overall it's fairly common to sue the government. Special needs students may challenge a school district's educational offerings. People deprived of their rights by government policies may challenge those policies in court. Even ordinary claims for money damages -- arising out of personal injury, death, or property damage -- can be litigated before an administrative agency or judge. What's less certain is what happens in exceptional cases. Most (successful) lawsuits against the government rely on recognizable claims, alleging violations of well-accepted rights or duties, seeking relief for identifiable injuries or losses. Suing the postal service after a mail carrier crashes their mail truck into your house, for example, is pretty routine. But lawsuits based on novel legal theories, expanded notions of rights, or for damages that are difficult to ascertain are a different matter. They're not impossible. Some of the most celebrated cases in legal history were filed on a prayer. Mass shooting lawsuits fall into that bucket. What About Mass Shootings? The obvious person(s) to sue is the person(s) responsible for resulting injuries. The reality is that they're often judgment proof. And it's unusual for courts to find someone else -- even governments -- legally liable for their crimes. Maintaining safe premises in schools or office buildings is one thing. Responsibility for someone else's intentional, criminal acts enters into a different realm. Related Resources Find a Civil Rights Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can A School Be Sued for a Shooting? (FindLaw's Injured) Injury Claims Against the Government (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Kids Around the World are Suing Their Governments for Ruining the Planet (Quartz)
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Student Loan Forgiveness Options May Disappear Under New Budget Plan

Higher education is important to many people, but it doesn't come cheap. In order to get a college or graduate degree, many people need student loans. Of course, the hope is that once you receive a degree, you'll be able to get a job, and repay your student loans.However, this isn't as easy as it theoretically seems. For this reason, there are various repayment options for people who take out student loans. But, under President Trump's new spending plan proposal, there are many changes to repayment options for those who owe money for federal student loans. What Would Be Changing? The budget plan, as currently written, would do away with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and curtail income-based loan repayment plans. The plan would also cut funding for federal work study in half, and embolden the government to go after students who aren't paying their loans. These changes to student loans would apply to those students who borrow after July 1, 2019, and would not include loans provided to borrowers to finish their current education. In regard to income-driven repayment plans, they would be reduced from four options to one option. Under the one option, a student's monthly payment wouldn't be more than 12.5% of his or her discretionary income. One positive aspect of the income-driven repayment plan under the new budget is that undergraduate students would have their loan forgiven after 15 years. For reference, these types of loans are currently forgiven after 20 years. What Happens If You Can Repay Your Student Loans? There are some options for those who can't pay back their student loans, and those options will vary depending on whether you have private or public loans. Under the new budget plan, people who fall into delinquency repaying their federal loans would be subject to more stringent enforcement. More specifically, the new budget plan calls to "streamline the Department of Education's ability to verify applicants' income data held by the Internal Revenue Service." If you're concerned about repaying your student loans, or want to find out about your repayment options, it may be a good idea to speak with a local attorney. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Higher Education (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Pennsylvania Attorney General Sues Nation's Largest Student Loan Servicer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Non-Dischargeable vs. Dischargeable Debt in Bankruptcy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Can You Sue a ‘Naturopathic Doctor’?

Mario Rodriguez was a twenty-one year old physics student in Spain. So when he was diagnosed with leukemia, he did what you might not expect him to do. He spent �4,000 on alternative medicines and shunned a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. He later died of an intestinal infection, and his father sued the naturopathic doctor who prescribed his treatment. Can this sort of lawsuit happen in the U.S.? What Is Naturopathic Medicine? Naturopathic medicine, according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, "focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnoses and treatment." It's alternative medicine that emphasizes herbal supplements, boosting the natural immune systems, and other not-exactly-mainstream treatments in place of more traditional medicine. State regulation of the naturopathic profession is limited to eighteen states, according to the American Medical Profession (they're not a fan). And scientific support for their methods can be suspect, as can be coverage from health insurance plans. Naturopathic Doctors and Medical Doctors As you might imagine, naturopathy is controversial in the health care field. Many Naturopathic practitioners receive four-year degrees and are licensed, but many naturopath practitioners are not. Training can differ considerably from place to place and person to person, as can their treatment plans. That said, many people swear by naturopathic treatments. They remain a semi-popular alternative to traditional medicine. Suing Naturopathic Doctors Medical practitioners are responsible for providing sound care to patients. When they fall short, whether through negligence or otherwise, a medical malpractice lawsuit can result. And the same is true with naturopathic doctors. Fraud cases might be brought against naturopathic treatment providers, and, generally, juries are less sympathetic to naturopaths than medical doctors when things go wrong. Related Resources: Find a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) FTC Forces Homeopathic Drug Makers to Tell the Truth (FindLaw's Common Law) Creator of Bogus Celebrity Diet Faces 3 Years in Jail (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Turmeric IV Infusion Implicated in Woman's Death (FindLaw's Common Law)
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Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case

Just before year-end, Sara Kropf and her client got the best holiday gift ever –  an acquittal of all charges.  Sara, a Washington, D.C. defense attorney, was representing a street medic charged with rioting and destruction of property stemming from protests held during President Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration. Noting that her client attended the protests armed with bandages, Sara was quoted by Washington’s Tops News as stating, “According to the government, showing up with a fanny pack with Band Aids… is equivalent to the people who smashed the Starbucks window.” Sara’s inspirational closing argument was featured in news articles around the world.  A Washington Post article said Sara focused on a police radio report where a commander identified the demonstrators as “anarchists” and quoted her as stating“[t]his is about politics,” before the six-person D.C. Superior Court jury acquitted all the defendants on the felony charges on December 21. “This is about police and local prosecutors who work for the Department of Justice. And we know who they report to,” she said, referring to President Trump. The defendants included a nurse, a freelance photographer and a college student who were among more than 200 protesters arrested in a police round-up northeast of the White House. During the daylong protest, vandals had caused an estimated $100,000 in property damage, according to the government. Eventually, prosecutors charged 212 people in connection with the protests. Twenty pleaded guilty, and charges were dropped against another 20. In this case, federal prosecutors failed to link the six defendants with any violent or destructive acts. Instead, they argued that they had “provided cover” for the vandalism – an argument immediately challenged by Kropf and her colleagues on the defense side.  For example, they showed that the social media posts and “likes” of a detective who was one of the government’s key witnesses were critical of social protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also noted that the commanding officer of the police did not give a dispersal order to the protesters before encircling and arresting them – contrary to the department’s standard procedure. Most importantly, the defense attorneys pointed out that there was no evidence that any of the six participants had broken windows, caused property damage or encouraged others to commit illegal acts. Even before the government presented the case to the jury, Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the most serious charge – inciting a riot.  However, it took two full days of deliberations after the nearly four-week trial before the not guilty verdicts were delivered. As Kropf said in her closing, “All the government proved was that these individuals showed up and walked as protesters. And that is not a crime.”  We will always need lawyers and citizens willing to stand up against government over-reach. That is what happened here. What a courageous victory for both Sara Kropf and her client.  Huge congrats! The post Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Amtrak Liability for Train Accident Deaths

Your legal rights don't expire when you die. Wrongful death lawsuits allow surviving family members to sue train operators for these damages and to hold them accountable. So what's Amtrak's liability for train accident deaths? Well, it's clear but complicated. Trains Are Common Carriers Trains, planes, and automobiles are what lawyers call common carriers. A common carrier is anything that transports people or goods for a fee owes passengers a higher duty of care in ensuring their safety. Common carrier liability is an old but sensible legal concept. A driver of a car is responsible for his accidents; anyone hauling many people should be even more careful. It's common for wrongful death lawsuits against train operators to cite common carrier liability (among other grounds) when suing. Amtrak's Liability It's common for train accident related deaths to rack up huge medical bills, lost income to family and dependents, funeral costs, possible property damage, and more. These costs can be prohibitive for family members and don't go away. Amtrak, despite receiving government funds, is liable for its torts like most government entities. However, there's a catch. Congress has capped Amtrak's liability at $295 million. That may sound like a lot, but when you're talking about over eighty people's hospital costs, lost income from missing work, continuing health needs and rehab bills, and more -- it adds up pretty fast. Amtrak Train Accident Lawsuits Amtrak's issues have made recent news, including a derailment in Washington State in December 2017. Two survivors of that crash have already sued for personal injuries sustained in the crash, the first of what's expected to be many similar lawsuits. Related Resources Find a personal injury attorney near you (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Laws Govern The Amtrak Crash? (FindLaw's Injured) Common Carrier Liability in Light of Amtrak Crash in PA (FindLaw's Injured)
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After 11 Deaths, Guardrail Manufacturer Sued for Negligence

Two lawsuits filed in South Carolina and Tennessee last week added to a manufacturer's growing woes. Lindsay Corporation, the Omaha-based maker of the X-LITE guardrail commonly used on the side of highways, has faced growing criticism that it's guardrails are defectively designed and fail to protect drivers and passengers during car collisions, resulting in several injuries and deaths. The X-LITE End Terminal The X-LITE End Terminal is installed at the start and end of guardrails along highways and roads across the country. Rounding out the sharp pointy ends of a line of roadside railing, it's easy to understand how this particular component gets hit by unwary or inattentive motorists. The lawsuits allege that the end terminal fails to slide into the rest of the guardrail during a collision, a process known as "telescoping." Telescoping can reduce the force of impact during a collision, and as importantly, prevent the guardrail's horizontal beams from penetrating the cabin of an incoming car and spearing passengers inside. Federal and State Agency Review Highway safety is entrusted to federal and state government agencies. Several have acted already. In April, Tennessee announced that it would remove and replace some 1,700 guardrail ends, at a cost of several million dollars to the state's budget. The U.S. Department of Transportation previously announced a review of the X-LITE end terminal last May. The agency noted at the time the guardrail component is installed in 29 states, but that 80% of the X-LITE end terminals are installed in Tennessee, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia. Other states are currently reviewing the guardrail's safety and performance. Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits Meanwhile, several victims have taken to the courtroom, alleging that Lindsay Corporation's guardrail ends are defectively designed and that the company is liable for resulting injuries and deaths. Injury and wrongful death lawsuits of this sort are common resources for people injured by defective products to recover compensation for their injuries from the product manufacturer. Related Resources Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Wrongful Death Overview (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Highway Guardrail Impalement Injuries, Deaths Lead to Lawsuits (FindLaw's Injured Blog)
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Elon Musk Sells Flamethrowers: Are They Legal to Own?

Watch out for flamethrower bearing BBQers this summer. Elon Musk, the attention-grabbing entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, has fired up Twitter and legions of his loyal followers with a brand-spanking new toy -- a commercially available flamethrower. The Future Is Flamethrower? Musk's flamethrower has already become a hit. Pre-sales have quickly sold out online. There's no word about future flamethrowers hitting the market, so this might be a gag gift or the start of a new trend. But it raises interesting legal questions which, yes, we're here to blog about. It's Easier to Buy a Flamethrower Than a Gun You might be surprised to learn that only two states regulate flamethrowers. California requires flamethrower users and buyers to have a permit, while Maryland bans them entirely. But you shouldn't be too surprised. There's never been a wave of flamethrower-related violence to spur states and Congress to enact flamethrower laws. Hence their absence. All flamethrowers will ship with a complimentary boring fire extinguisher February 1, 2018 That might change soon, however. California is already rumbling about a ban on flamethrower sales, and we'd expect other states to follow if necessary. Use Your Flamethrower Wisely What's always prohibited are crimes -- no matter what's used to commit them. Most criminal laws criminalize actions - murder, kidnapping, assault, etc. -- and "add on" counts or prison time for using prohibited items. ELON I BOUGHT 6 FLAMETHROWERS NOW THE TSA IS TELLING ME I'M ON SOME SORT OF WATCHLIST?!? WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HELP February 1, 2018 Those definitions are flexible: a car can be deadly weapon, as can be a surgeon's hands. A flamethrower might pose an interesting case for an appellate court someday, but it's not something we'd expect to be a winning argument. Related Resources Find Your Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Is It Legal to Own a Flamethrower? (lifehacker.com) Flamethrower Drone Draws Government Ire. Can the FAA Regulate? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
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Are We Maintaining Diversity on the Bench? Judge for Yourself

Today, online news channels, TV, newspapers and social media are inundated with stories of women (and men) speaking out against injustices that professional women have had to endure from men in positions of power. But there is a calculated plan unfolding that will have long-lasting effects on the judiciary that is largely unnoticed. It may not be as sexy as bringing down a famous director (or two), or dethroning a political candidate, but one that may be even more important in the long run. While individuals who engage in sexism and vagrant mistreatment of women are deservingly being “outed,” we are seeing a dangerous revival of sexism at the highest level of our government. A recent Associated Press survey found that 81 percent of President Trump’s nominees for federal judgeships are men, and that 91 percent are white. That is the highest percentage of white men in 30 years, according to the news service. Only 11 of 58 nominees to appellate and district court judgeships are women, while 47 are men. All but five of those 58 nominees are white, while three are Asian-American, one is Hispanic and one is African-American. I believe deeply in the importance of increasing diversity at all levels in our legal system, as well as promoting diverse lawyers to positions of power in firms and on trial teams.  However, the importance of diversity is especially true in our judicial system, which must reflect today’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-gender and multi-racial society. The judicial branch holds a unique place in our government. For our system to be fair – and to be perceived as fair by non-white males – we must have judges from all walks of life and with diverse life experiences hearing and judging the cases in our system. The nature of Trump’s judicial appointments in the past year is a remarkable contrast with President Obama’s record. During his eight years in office, 42 percent of his confirmed judges were women and only 37 percent were white men. However, the Republican-controlled Senate blocked all of Obama’s appointments in the last year of his term, giving Trump an opportunity to make far more lifetime appointments to the bench. While we, as legal professionals, don’t have the power to make judicial appointments, we can sound the alarm about sexism and prejudice in our courts. Neither our country nor our judicial system can go back in time to an era when women and minorities were excluded from positions of power in the workplace and in government. Whatever your political beliefs, I encourage you to speak up for gender, racial and ethnic diversity in our courts because it strengthens our nation’s judicial system. It is even more important today because the courts serve as a role model for our legal profession and our society as a whole. Get involved in legal, community and civic organizations.  Find candidates who share your values and offer your support.  That is our responsibility as defenders of a fair and equitable American system of justice. The post Are We Maintaining Diversity on the Bench? Judge for Yourself appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Alexandra Shapiro leads another victory at Second Circuit

Recently Alexandra Shapiro was successful in overturning the corruption conviction of Dean Skelos, a former New York state senator and majority leader.  Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, had been charged in 2015 by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) with bribery, extortion and conspiracy relating to accusations that the father’s office pressured a developer, a medical malpractice insurer and environmental company to give his son consulting work that resulted in hundreds of thousands of payments. The father and son were convicted at trial in December 2015. Alexandra represented the ex-senator on appeal and another lawyer represented the son. Both convictions were overturned.  This isn’t the first time Alexandra has been victorious at the Second Circuit.  We have blogged about her seemingly golden touch before in a blog post, Alexandra the Great. The grounds for appeal were largely based on the United States Supreme Case ruling in McDonnell v United States which limited the application of the federal bribery statute 18 U.S.C. §201.  The Court ruled that an official act is a decision or action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy” and that it must involve the formal exercise of a governmental power, be something specific and focused that is “pending” or “may by law be brought” before a public official.  The Court clarified that setting up a meeting, talking to another official or organizing an event, without more, does not qualify as an “official act” per McDonnell. In the Skelos appeal, the panel found that the jury instruction given in the Skelos case was too broad, and considering the ruling in McDonnell, the definition of “official acts” provided to the Skelos jury could not be ruled harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Skelos appeal ruling was instant big news and reported in the New York Daily News and in the New York Times, where Shapiro was quoted as stating that Dean Skelos was grateful for the ruling and that “[w]e believe that as events unfold, it is going to become clear that this is a case that never should have been brought.” Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the SDNY has already indicated that the office intends to retry the father and son and was quoted in the New York Times as stating, “We look forward to a prompt retrial…” Oddly enough, even former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who no longer would need to comment, felt compelled to weigh in on the ruling on Twitter. Regardless of what the future holds for this case, this victory lap is sweet and another well-deserved win for Alexandra Shapiro, who has her own firm Shapiro Arato, in New York City.  Alexandra continues to be at the center of many of the most influential white-collar appeals in this last decade and she continues to be a shining example of the great work that women are doing in our field. The post Alexandra Shapiro leads another victory at Second Circuit appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Susan Brune Prevails in “Impossible to Win” Securities Case

Leave it to a powerful woman in the investment world like Lynn Tilton to appreciate the value of a fighter and seasoned trial lawyer like Susan Brune.  Lynn Tilton, the owner of Patriarch Partners and frequently dubbed the “Diva of Distressed,” is a well-known private equity investor.   She invests in companies that are in severe financial distress, with the aim of turning them around to profitability.  From 2003 to 2007, she raised more than $2 billion via structured finance vehicles known as collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). By nature, Tilton doesn’t shy away from a challenge.  When the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came knocking in 2009, it was no surprise then that she turned to Brune, an experienced white collar securities lawyer, to represent her during the investigation and then to help her defend against the charges. In 2015, the SEC charged Tilton and Tilton’s company, Patriarch Partners, with a matter relating to their operation of three CLOs known as the Zohar Funds. The SEC sought approximately $240 million in disgorgement, in addition to fines and a lifetime bar from the securities industry. The agency chose to file the charges in the SEC’s administrative forum.  Tilton decided to take the case to trial, insisting that the highly sophisticated investors had been fully informed about the investments.  Going to trial against the SEC is a risk for any client, but in administrative proceedings the odds are particularly stacked against respondents, who have only limited discovery rights and less due process protection than in federal court. The trial was held before Administrative Law Judge Carol Fox Foelak in October and November of last year.  Brune worked closely with co-counsel at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which had amassed a large team.  Together, they presented a convincing argument on behalf of Tilton.  During the trial, Brune did a scathing cross of two fund “victims” and conducted the examination of Tilton when she took the stand in her own defense, testimony that spanned almost four days.   The defense that Brune had developed over the years that Tilton had been under investigation played out as planned and led to the dismissal of the case. In a 57-page order, the judge stated that Tilton didn’t hide anything from her sophisticated institutional investors – thus ending Tilton’s long battle with the SEC.  “While respondents did not maximize the ease of finding it, they also did not conceal — omit to state — material information such as the amount of interest actually being paid and the interest rate and principal on the portfolio companies’ loans,” Judge Foelak said in her ruling. This complete vindication is a huge victory for Tilton and for Susan Brune, who has been fighting alongside Tilton for eight years as the SEC investigated and then filed charges. “I am thrilled that she has now been fully cleared,” said Brune, whose past victories include the high-profile acquittal of a Bear Stearns hedge fund manager in a federal jury trial. Like Brune, Tilton was ecstatic to get the verdict. “I have never been one to accept injustice or cower in the face of challenging obstacles, and I knew the truth would ultimately prevail,” Tilton said in an interview.  “I can only hope that this vindication will deter the future abuse of power that comes with government overreach.” “People told me my case would be impossible to win,” Tilton said in post-trial interview on CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” as she reflected on the power of the SEC.  And, as she told Bloomberg News, she looked to Brune and Gibson Dunn because they were “willing to get in there and fight.” I think that before this victory, many would have opined that this was an impossible case to win in the SEC’s administrative court proceeding.  Not so, at least with this defense team. The post Susan Brune Prevails in “Impossible to Win” Securities Case appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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