Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
The editorial board of the New Jersey Law Journal has lauded as a "step in the right direction" the Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009, S-718 , recently introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin. It would restore Legal Services Corporation funding to 1981 levels: $750 million in 2009 dollars.
The Board observed that "Legal Services was born in the War on Poverty as the Office of Economic Opportunity. It irked many with its early projects challenging Federal and especially state laws and practices that affect the poor, the disabled, military families, and others served by the program. Mobilization for Youth Legal Services (MFY) and California Rural Legal Assistance were emblems of the aggressive legal services litigation that engendered resistance."
Congressional opponents not only cut federal funding for Legal Services, the Board observed They also imposed "practice restrictions — barring class actions, and barring Legal Services-funded agencies from collecting counsel fees — even when fee-shifting statutes warranted an award."
"One of the first programs -Mobilization for Youth (MFY) in New York City - brought the landmark case Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that a state could not terminate "public assistance payments to a particular recipient without affording him the opportunity for an evidentiary hearing prior to termination." The concept of fair hearings is now commonplace, and millions of Americans continue to benefit from this decision.
Twenty years later, MFY prevailed in New York v. Sullivan, 906 F.2d 910 (2d Cir. 1990), a class action that successfully challenged procedures of the Social Security Administration for evaluating cardiovascular disabilities, the board noted.
Nine years ago MFY gave up federal funding to avoid practice restrictions that would have prevented it from again bringing New York v. Sullivan . Few local legal aid organizations have such an option. All are laboring under severe economic constraints, exacerbated as one of their primary sources of funding — interest on lawyers' trust accounts — has collapsed with the real estate and credit markets."
The Harkin measure, which has 15 senate co-sponsors has been referred the the Health EducationLabor andPensions Committee. For the text and current status of S 718 check out Open Congress here.
Although the omnibus appropriations bill signed by President Obama on March 11 gave Legal Services a $40 million increase, the programs remain hobbled by the collapse of the housing markets - and interest rates- an ironic result of the Fed's efforts to stabilize the financial system. Legal Services agencies have depended heavily on interest on lawyers' trust accounts. The courts collect the interest on lawyers trust accoount balances during the brief period between deposit and disbursement of routine transations like house closings.
To learn about the work of Legal Services go to the website of LSC - the national legal services corporation.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"The bishops are certainly right to condemn the moral evil of abortion and to warn us against the individualism, selfishness and greed which have had such a devastating effect on American culture and family life as well as on our financial institutions,” he said.
“But if they think they make their witness more credible and more effective by developing a quasi-excommunication of the Democratic Party and by aligning themselves with politicians who think that combining pro-life slogans with American chauvinism and exercising American military power without regard to international criticism constitutes an adequate response to evil in the world, they are sadly mistaken,” he added.
Bishops who try to make abortion the sole or overriding political issue for Catholics are “marginalizing the church’s political influence,” he said.
Monday, May 18, 2009
As I considered the controversy surrounding my visit here, I was reminded of an encounter I had during my Senate campaign, one that I describe in a book I wrote called The Audacity of Hope. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination, I received an email from a doctor who told me that while he voted for me in the primary, he had a serious concern that might prevent him from voting for me in the general election. He described himself as a Christian who was strongly pro-life, but that’s not what was preventing him from voting for me.
What bothered the doctor was an entry that my campaign staff had posted on my website - an entry that said I would fight “right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” The doctor said that he had assumed I was a reasonable person, but that if I truly believed that every pro-life individual was simply an ideologue who wanted to inflict suffering on women, then I was not very reasonable. He wrote, “I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”
After I read the doctor’s letter, I wrote back to him and thanked him. I didn’t change my position, but I did tell my staff to change the words on my website. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me. Because when we do that - when we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think like we do or believe what we do - that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.
That’s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.
So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.”
Understand - I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. No matter how much we may want to fudge it - indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory - the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
"The company didn't believe (the warning) was supported by the data," he said.
When Mr Back, who is now the company's associate director of regulatory affairs, was asked by Mr Burnside who the warnings had to be made "palatable" for, he said it was for Ms Loran (a Merck marketing exec in the U.S.).
The court heard that the TGA finally accepted the revisions in November 2001 after Merck successfully changed the warning from Vioxx-specific to just referring to the class of drug.
Lead plaintiff Graeme Peterson, representing more than 1000 other Australians, claims Vioxx caused his heart attack in 2003. He is suing Merck & Co and Merck, Sharp and Dohme for compensation."
For excellent discussion of the issues, take a look at Concurring Opinion for its discussion of "mercketing". And for the particularly serious problem of pharmaceutical companies like Merck's ghost-writing medical literature, see Sergio Sismondo's Ghosts in the Machine.
Thanks to Mass Tort Litigation blog for the tips on Concurring Opinion and Sismondo.