‘Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat’ deserves more FAA review, DC Circuit says

Administrative Law

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A federal appeals court has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a more thorough review of a group’s claim that shrinking airline seats create safety problems for passengers who have to leave the plane in an emergency.

“This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit wrote in a July 28 opinion (PDF) covered by Reuters. “As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

That observation had spurred the Flyers Rights Group and its president to petition the FAA to make rules for seat size and spacing. The FAA denied the petition, pointing to “(at best) off-point studies and undisclosed tests using unknown parameters,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote in the opinion. “That type of vaporous record will not do.”

The FAA cited outdated studies that don’t appear to control for seat dimension, and don’t address how increased passenger size interacts with seat size to affect emergency egress, Millett said. The government cited more recent studies testing evacuations with current seat size, but claimed they were “proprietary” and couldn’t be included in the public record. Nor did the government agree to provide the tests under seal.

“That is not how judicial review works,” Millett said. “We cannot affirm the sufficiency of what we cannot see.”

The government’s position “blinks reality,” Millett said. “As a matter of basic physics, at some point seat and passenger dimensions would become so squeezed as to impede the ability of passengers to extricate themselves from their seats and get over to an aisle. The question is not whether seat dimensions matter, but when.”

The appeals court remanded the case for the FAA “to adequately address the petition” but said there was no need at this point to order the government to engage in rulemaking.


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Judge grants inmate his wish for execution warrant

Death Penalty

Scott Dozier

Scott Dozier. Nevada Department of Corrections.

A Nevada judge has issued an execution warrant for an inmate who wants to end his appeals and so he can be put to death.

Judge Jennifer Togliatti of Clark County on Thursday ordered the execution of Scott Dozier to take place the week of Oct. 16, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. He would be the first inmate executed in Nevada since 2006.

Dozier was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2002 murder of an Arizona resident whose torso was discovered in a suitcase. Dozier was also convicted of second-degree murder in 2005.

Togliatti asked Dozier whether he was concerned about reported problems with the drugs that could be used in his execution. Dozier said it didn’t change his quest to die, according to the article. “Quite frankly, your honor, all those people ended up dead, and that’s my goal here,” Dozier said.

“Once they start, they’re going to get it done one way or another,” he said. “Ideally it will not be terrible or painful, but if it is, I’m kind of committed at that point.”

Clark County Assistant District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci told the judge that the Department of Corrections says it will get the drugs needed for execution, though one of the drugs in its stockpile expired recently. “I can’t tell you which drug or drugs” will be used, Pesci said.

State law doesn’t provide a protocol for execution drugs, the article reports.


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InfiLaw investors let out of students’ fraud lawsuit against Charlotte School of Law

Law Schools

The Charlotte School of Law Facade

The Charlotte School of Law. Photo by Albert Dickson.

Investors in the parent company of InfiLaw Corp. on Thursday won a motion to get out of a fraud lawsuit brought against Charlotte School of Law, which is owned by InfiLaw Corp.

The motion-to-dismiss order, which refers to defendants Sterling Capital Partners L.P. and Sterling Capital Partners GMBH & CO. KG as “Sterling Entities,” was granted by North Carolina U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen, Law360 (sub. req.) reports. Mullen found that the court has no jurisdiction over Sterling Entities.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, was brought by current and former Charlotte School of Law students in December, shortly after the law school was placed on probation by the ABA and the Department of Education pulled federal loan money for CSL students. Based on court records, three other lawsuits filed against Charlotte School of Law are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, and all of them are assigned to Mullen.

“Plaintiffs make a feeble attempt in their opposition brief to tie the Sterling Defendants to their claims by vaguely citing their conduct related to the longterm financing and strategic goals of InfiLaw and the for-profit law school that it owned and operated in Charlotte, North Carolina,” Mullen notes in his order (PDF) for Krebs v. Charlotte School of Law (PDF). “Plaintiffs then, in a roundabout way, point to an allegation in the complaint that Sterling Entities were present at Charlotte School of Law after the Department of Education’s lack of recertification occurred as proof of sufficient connections.”

Those allegations are conclusory, Mullen wrote, and they don’t meet existing case law standards that Sterling Entities has any sort of control over Charlotte School of law beyond long-term financing.

A motion to dismiss InfiLaw as a defendant is pending. Filed in May, the motion (PDF) argues that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over InfiLaw, headquartered in Florida, and Don Lively, the former Charlotte School of Law president also named as a defendant. Lively now heads Arizona Summit Law School, another InfiLaw school.

The law school also faces a civil fraud investigation from the North Carolina attorney general’s office. In June the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors committee, which handles state authorization and licensure for nonpublic, post-secondary degree-granting institutions, found that the law school was not in compliance with state standards regarding financial resources, planning or stability. As a condition of its state license, Charlotte School of Law must submit an ABA-approved teach out or remedial plan no later than Aug. 10.

In response, Charlotte School of Law released a statement (PDF) describing the UNC decision as “largely positive.” The statement claimed that it planned to continue pursuing participation in the federal loan program, and its ABA accreditation.


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20 House Republicans seek second special counsel to investigate handling of Clinton email probe

Attorney General

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Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the prior administration’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and 19 other Republicans sent the letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, report the Washington Examiner, CNBC and Fox News. A press release is here.

The letter says the special counsel should investigate decisions made by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former FBI director James Comey in the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private server for State Department emails.

The letter refers to an airplane tarmac meeting between Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, and Comey’s testimony that Lynch asked him to refer to the email probe as a “matter” rather than an “investigation.”

“Mr. Comey’s testimony has provided new evidence that Ms. Lynch may have used her position of authority to undermine the Clinton investigation,” the letter asserts.

The letter asks for an investigation of 14 issues. They include dealings by the Clinton Foundation and its ties to foreign entities, including entities in Russia and the Ukraine, as well as the Clinton campaign’s ties to those entities.

“The American public has a right to know the facts—all of them—surrounding the election and its aftermath,” they wrote. “We urge you to appoint a second special counsel to ensure these troubling, unanswered questions are not relegated to the dustbin of history.”


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Debt collection law firm pays $1M in restitution to settle state suit

Law Firms

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The largest debt collection law firm in Massachusetts has agreed to pay $1 million and to change its practices to settle a lawsuit filed by the state.

Lustig, Glaser & Wilson will pay the attorney general’s office for restitution to consumers, according to a press release by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The settlement resolves allegations that the law firm pursued cases based on inaccurate or incomplete information. The Boston Herald, the Boston Business Journal and Inside ARM have stories.

The attorney general’s lawsuit had claimed Lustig Glaser relied on computerized spreadsheets provided by national debt buyers that allowed it to process thousands of consumer accounts for collection in a day’s time.

Lustig Glaser has changed its practices because of the settlement and will:

• Disclose to consumers that certain income is exempt from collection.

• Verify the accuracy of a consumer’s debt before attempting to collect.

• Refrain from suing unless a lawyer has meaningfully reviewed documentation and determined there is sufficient evidence to proceed.

Lustig Glaser issued a statement published by Inside ARM: “This agreement acknowledges that there are no findings of liability or wrongdoing on the part of LGW, no finding of harm caused to consumers and it does not impose any penalty on the firm. LGW felt it was in the firm’s best interest to end the expense and uncertainty of ongoing litigation.

“Throughout this process LGW cooperated fully and transparently, producing tens of thousands of pages of documents and answering all relevant questions. LGW has a long track record of employing best practices in consumer and commercial debt collections.

“The agreement reflects existing policies and procedure that have been in place at LGW for a number of years, and outlines new provisions and practices not currently mandated by existing law or regulations, to ensure that the needs of certain consumer’s facing particular hardships can be fairly addressed. LGW is fully committed to adopting the new practices.”


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