Pro-Se News & Views 2012

 

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CALIFORNIA  



Click headline for full story


April 2012

MASSACHUSETTS   

Woman charged with intimidating judge overseeing her suit against Seyfarth

By Sheri Qualters, The National Law Journal  

Natasha DeLima

04-11-12 -- A Massachusetts woman who brought pro se lawsuits against Seyfarth Shaw and her former employer is facing criminal charges for a letter she sent to a Boston federal judge and statements she made on a YouTube video. . . . On April 6, Natasha DeLima was charged in federal court with impeding, intimidating and interfering with a federal official. Following an April 9 initial appearance, DeLima was released on a $10,000 bond. . . . Judge Denise Casper of the District of Massachusetts recused herself on April 10 from DeLima's civil case against Seyfarth Shaw and Marriott International Inc, DeLima v. Seyfarth Shaw, filed last September. Casper's electronic docket entry stated that recusal was prudent in light of the criminal charges in U.S. v. DeLima. "I do not do so lightly since a litigant's expression of displeasure at the conduct of a case does not ordinarily warrant such action," Casper wrote. . . . According to an affidavit filed by FBI special agent Rachel Boisselle in the criminal case, DeLima sent a letter to the Boston federal courthouse addressed to Casper on March 23. The outside of the envelope stated, "Judge, made a video at [District of Massachusetts] Judge [William] Youngs this weekend take a look before you rule on my case!" Young presided over DeLima's previous case against Marriott.


NEW YORK

In Lawsuits, Long Island Inmates Complain of Squalor

By Mosi Secret, New York Times   

04-05-12 -- The inmates at Suffolk County Correctional Facilities told anyone who would listen that they were being forced to live in squalid conditions, with human waste bubbling up from the drains, brown water running from the tap and mold multiplying on the walls. . . . Saying that their complaints were ignored by jail officials, inmates accused of murder and robbery became jailhouse lawyers, banding together to file scores of handwritten lawsuits claiming that they were being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. . . . First they sought help from the inmates who had the least to lose, those with long sentences. Soon low-level offenders were taking part. And in less than a year, a litigation campaign that was organized in whispers on the jailhouse yard, resulted in the filing of 69 separate handwritten lawsuits in Federal District Court in Central Islip, N.Y., eventually overwhelming the court. . . . “The courthouse called us,” said Corey Stoughton, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The court really wanted us to take this on.”


March 2012

FLORIDA  

Lawyer Wins Constitutional Challenge to Red-Light Ticket; Looks Forward to New Battle in Next Case

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

03-21-12 -- A former New Jersey insurance attorney has beaten the rap on constitutional grounds after getting a red-light-camera ticket from a Florida municipality in the mail. . . . Allowing New Port Richey to fine him $158 without properly proving its case in court, including the identity of the driver, would violate his due-process rights, Thomas Filippone argued in an 11-page motion, and a Pasco County judge agreed, the Tampa Bay Times reports. . . . "If they are going to prove I was driving the car, it's their duty under the law to prove the identity of the driver," the 45-year-old Filippone tells the newspaper. "It unjustly shifts burden to me and makes me shoulder the burden of having to prove their case."


CALIFORNIA  

AT&T Drops Plans to Appeal, Pays Throttled Data Plan User $935 Settlement

By David Murphy, PC Magazine 

03-17-12 -- AT&T has dropped its plans to appeal a small-claims-court ruling that the company unfairly limits subscribers of its "unlimited" data plans after they use up a particular amount of monthly bandwidth. . . . Matt Spaccarelli took AT&T to small claims court in February to protest the company's data throttling procedures for users of its unlimited smartphone data plans. AT&T previously throttled users when they reached the "top five percent" of bandwidth hogs in a location where network capacity struggled to meet user demand. . . . To Spaccarelli, however, no amount of throttling seemed appropriate – after all, he was already paying $130 a month for his "unlimited" service plan. Judge Russell Nadel of the Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley agreed, and he awarded Spaccarelli a total of $935 -- $850 for the 10 months remaining in Spaccarelil's contract times the estimated $85 monthly cost he might pay for his data use, and an additional $85 for court costs.


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February 2012

Pro Se Plaintiff Wins $850 Small-Claims Award in Data-Throttling Case Against AT&T

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

02-24-12 -- Individuals who purchased "unlimited data" plans from AT&T in years past presumably may have expected to use as much as they wanted. . . . But, after warning customers, the telecommunications company has started slowing down the speed at which the heaviest users of such plans can proceed. It stopped selling such plans in 2010. . . . That approach has been controversial, although AT&T says it has the right to impose the slowdown. California judge disagreed and awarded a pro se plaintiff $850 in a Simi Valley small-claims case, the Associated Press reports.


'Sovereign citizen' movement now on FBI's radar

The Homeland Security Department has ranked the movement as a major threat. Its members reject the law, and some kill police.

By Brian Bennett, Washington Bureau, Los Angeles Times  

02-23-12 -- With the FBI pounding on his door, and his wife and two children barely awake, Shawn Rice allegedly strapped on a bulletproof vest, grabbed a semiautomatic pistol and stepped out his back door on Dec. 22. . . . But dozens of FBI agents and local police had surrounded the ranch house in Seligman, Ariz., about 80 miles west of Flagstaff, and the only nearby cover was knee-high sagebrush. Rice ducked back inside, and warned the FBI to keep away. . . . After a tense 10-hour standoff, Rice, 49, was arrested. He now sits in a Las Vegas jail awaiting trial on federal money-laundering charges. . . . But it wasn't Rice's alleged offense alone that prompted the FBI's interest. . . . According to court papers, Rice was involved in the "sovereign citizen" movement, a group that has attracted little national media attention but which the FBI classifies as an "extremist antigovernment group." So-called sovereign citizens argue that they are not subject to local, state or federal laws, and some refuse to recognize the authority of courts or police.


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  

Pro Se Malpractice Suit Against Fried Frank Survives Motion to Dismiss

Posted by Zoe Tillman, The BLT, Blog of the Legal Times

02-17-12 -- A Maryland woman suing Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson pro se for legal malpractice survived a motion to dismiss today, although the District of Columbia Superior Court judge made it clear that he was doubtful of the case's merits and that he'd like both sides to attempt to resolve the case. . . . Fried Frank agreed to represent Michelle Etlin pro bono in early 2008, to assist her in defending against an attempt by Virginia authorities to enforce a child support action against Etlin in Virginia and Maryland. Etlin sued (PDF) the firm in Oct. 2011, claiming they failed to adequately represent her. She accused firm attorneys of making decisions that harmed her interests, ignoring her wishes and misinforming her of what was going on.


INDIANA  

Ind. county's small claims courts under scrutiny

Associated Press

02-20-12 -- Defendants who say they've faced intimidation from attorneys for debt collectors in Marion County's small claims courts are welcoming the Indiana Supreme Court's decision to appoint two judges to review allegations against the court system. . . . Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker will serve on the task force to examine the county's nine small claims courts that handle civil cases involving less than $6,000. . . . Baker tells The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/wA8zeo ) he expects the review to find potential solutions to some problems and perhaps propose changes to state law. He said it's important for the public to have confidence in the court system. . . . "I'm worried that people might perceive they aren't being treated fairly," Baker said. "And if they have that perception, it really doesn't matter if they were treated fairly or not."


CALIFORNIA  

Honda loses Civic hybrid Small Claims Court lawsuit

By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times  

02-01-12 -- The owner of a Honda Civic hybrid won an unusual Small Claims Court lawsuit against American Honda Motor Co. . . . Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner Douglas Carnahan ruled that the giant automaker mislead Civic owner Heather Peters when it claimed that the hybrid could achieve as much as 50 miles per gallon. . . . Peters said the Torrance Small Claims Court commissioner awarded her $9,867 in damages, very close to the maximum $10,000 allowed in Small Claims Court that the Los Angeles resident was seeking. . . . “It is a victory for Civic Hybrid owners and consumers everywhere,” Peters said. “Sometimes big justice comes in small packages.” . . .  Her award was far greater than the damages Peters would have collected if she had signed on to a class-action lawsuit settlement that would end larger litigation that makes many of the same claims against Honda.


January 2012

ILLINOIS  

Pro-se Woman fired for working during lunch wins court battle

Ex-receptionist spiraled toward edge of bankruptcy but never stopped fighting

By Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune reporter  

01-16-12 -- Growing up on the South Side, Sharon Smiley was taught by her father that success comes from hard work, and he demonstrated that truth over 47 years as a railroad worker. . . . But when Smiley put that principle into practice, she was fired -- for the first time in her life -- from a receptionist job she had held for a decade. . . . Her offense? Voluntarily doing extra work one day during her lunch break. . . . Not only was Smiley fired, but the realty company she worked for challenged her unemployment benefits, saying she was guilty of misconduct and insubordination. Smiley says several lawyers declined to take her case, telling her she was bound to lose, so she represented herself.


Now Launched! The Network on Self Represented Litigation: Fulfilling the Promise of Access to Justice for the Self-Represented

November 2008 -- The Self Represented Litigation Network is an open and growing grouping of organizations and working groups dedicated to fulfilling the promise of a justice system that works for all, including those who can not afford lawyers and are therefore forced to go to court on their own. The Network brings together courts and access to justice organizations in support of innovations in services for the self represented. . . . The participants are cooperating in a wide variety of collaborative efforts and working groups. These efforts include providing information about innovations for the self represented, promoting best practices in such areas as the setting up of self help offices, the use of forms, and e-filing, discrete task representation, and judicial practices and education programs, establishing a research agenda, and working for integration with the system as a whole and for long term funding to support access to justice for the self-represented. . . . Initial concrete projects include the www.selfhelpsupport.org website, cooperation in the planning of a series of three regional conferences on self-represented litigation, and the distribution of a national directory of court-based programs for the self represented.


 

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"The court should be a place where anybody can come - whatever they have in their pocket - and be able to file a complaint in simple fashion and at least have somebody give consideration to it and give them an opportunity to be heard."

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Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

JOHN ADAMS (1732-1826), U. S. President, December 1770.

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-- Aldous Huxley, A Note on Dogma, 1894-1963--

 

 

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INAUGURATED ON: March 12, 2009
Updated on: 04/12/2012