Posts Tagged conflict of interest

New Federal Judge and Former RIAA Lobbyist Becomes Darling of Copyright Trolls Everywhere

Newly minted Federal Judge Beryl Howell, of the Federal District Court of Washington DC, who’s resume includes being a lobbyist for the RIAA, Helped Draft the DMCA, and was a lawyer for a company that specializes in tracking down and suing alleged copyright violators, in one of her first rulings has opened the floodgates to mass lawsuits by copyright trolls. With her long history of being on one side of the copyright law it would have behooved her to recuse herself as to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest but instead issued a ruling that essentially overturned other judges in other districts who had thrown out so called John Doe or reverse class-action lawsuits as being an unconstitutional violation of due process and the rights of the accused.

She also denied Time Warners request to limit the number of subpoenas to 28 a month so they and other ISPs would not be unduly burdened and in doing so handed the plaintiffs a zero – infinity number of defendants they can find and opening the flood-gates to a deluge of paperwork that will take years to process. She also denied the motion to limit all subpoenas to potential defendants that reside in her district. Taking a huge overstepping of her authority she granted nationwide supeana power to the plaintifs. Only after a defendant has been named during discovery could the defendant then make a motion challenging the jurisdiction but there is no limit to where they can pursue them.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/51383490/COTW-doc-no-40

When the defendants are named, they will have the opportunity to file appropriate motionschallenging the Court’s jurisdiction and that will be the appropriate time to consider this issue.The Court and parties are in no position yet to evaluate each putative defendant’s specificconnection with this jurisdiction. Quashing the subpoenas would effectively bar the plaintiffs’from obtaining discovery pertinent to that evaluation, and this Court declines to cut off jurisdictional discovery prematurely when the defendants are named, they will have the opportunity to file appropriate motions challenging the Court’s jurisdiction and that will be the appropriate time to consider this issue. The Court and parties are in no position yet to evaluate each putative defendant’s specific connection with this jurisdiction. Quashing the subpoenas would effectively bar the plaintiffs’from obtaining discovery pertinent to that evaluation, and this Court declines to cut off jurisdictional discovery prematurely.

The defendants that are identified may have to wait till the discovery period is over, which could be years if ever, before they could even attempt to defend themselves. Meanwhile they will be hounded relentlessly by lawyers seeking settlements. In many cases the cost of litigation will be too high and many will not be able to afford lawyers and be forced to settle regardless of the merits of their individual case.

Judge Beryl Howell has become the darling of copyright trolls everywhere. Hopefully this ruling will be overturned on appeal but one thing is curtain Judge Beryl Howell has taken her life’s work to the bench and has way overstepped her authority. If this is not a conflict of interest nothing is.

“Unquestionably, there are online crooks who are getting away with impunity. Victims are fending for themselves.” – Beryl Howell.

I have created a Facebook group “Impeach Judge Beryl Howell for Conflict of Interest” to bring awareness of this judge and track, discuss, and document her rulings. Anyone with a Facebook account can join.

http://houstonlawyer.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/judge-beryl-howell-how-her-decision-affects-copyright-infringement-defendants-cases/

http://www.switched.com/2011/03/29/judge-beryl-howell-used-to-be-riaa-lobbysit/

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/03/riaa-lobbyist-becomes-federal-judge-rules-on-file-sharing-cases.ars

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Let’s play Spot the Conflict of Interest

We’ll make this like a little game of Connect the Dots, Utah Legislature version.

The SL Trib reports:

Critics hope that, without water plans for Utah’s first nuclear power plant will evaporate.

To that end, they recently filed formal protests with the State Engineer’s Office aimed at stopping the Kane County Water Conservancy District from preserving its right to 29,600 acre-feet of water already under lease by the reactor’s developers.

Utah law puts the public’s needs first, giving communities extra flexibility to ensure any future needs of their residents. [snip]

Aaron Tilton, chief executive officer of Transition Power Development LLC, the company behind the 1,500-megawatt nuclear station, is paying the water district $100,000 a year to lease the water right. His company also has promised $500,000 a year after five years, and $1 million a year once the plant comes online (emphasis mine).

“We haven’t even paid much attention to it,” Tilton said, noting that he hasn’t seen the protests.

Mike Noel, the water district’s administrator, isn’t worried either. [snip]

“Their agenda is to stop any construction and growth in Utah,” Noel said. “It’s not an environmental agenda. It’s a no-growth agenda.”

Let’s take a closer look and connect the dots (some of the following excerpted from my own blog post of October 2007 with attribution to the Deseret News):

  • Aaron Tilton is chief executive officer of Transition Power Development LLC.
  • Mike Noel is the exeuctive director of the Kane County Water Conservancy District.
  • Noel is chairman of the Legislature’s Public Utilities and Technology Committee, and Tilton is vice chairman.
  • Both men are members of the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee, which is co-chaired by Noel. The interim committee heard extensive testimony for and against nuclear power in its July and September [2007] meetings.
  • A bill to assist utilities in building nuclear power plants was discussed extensively by the Public Utilities Interim Committee on July 18 and Sept. 19 [2007] (emphasis mine).
  • Concerning the bill that was discussed July 18 and Sept. 19, Tilton said that he has no conflicts of interest. “I really don’t have a conflict of interest, because I’m not a regulated utility,” he said, and the bill dealt with those utilities.”
  • On his Declaration of Conflict of Interest form, Noel noted that he was associated with several groups: Michael E. Noel Environmental Consulting, Flood Canyon Ranch and Kane County Water Conservancy District. But he said it was not a conflict to co-chair the committee that is considering legislation involving a nuclear power plant. “The district is a public entity, like a city, a community, leasing water to them,” meaning the nuclear power plant, he said. ‘We’re a public utility. I work for the water district as a paid employee.'”

So if you own/run a business or if you control a public works operation, and you also have legislative power recommending approval or regulation of those things, would that be a conflict of interest? Just asking.

And remember, this post is not about the merits of nuclear power in Utah, it is about conflict of interest. Interestingly enough, the Salt Lake Tribune recently had an article entitled, New Utah House Speaker Clark says ethics reform top priority. As we saw with recent ethics investigations in the Utah legislature, our ethics laws are so puny, it doesn’t matter how blatant the misbehavior of our elected officials, no actual rules are ever broken.

UPDATE: I corrected the date and link to my original post on this topic.

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