A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of Sept. 20-26.


‘Psychic Lawyer’ Bills $250 an Hour for Readings

Debra Cassens Weiss | ABA Journal

Mark Anthony is among the lawyers who found an alternate career after law school. Anthony, a Florida lawyer, graduated from Mercer University’s Walter F. George Law School and wrote a book called Never Letting Go. There’s a six-month wait for a telephone reading with Anthony, who charges $250 an hour, according to Huffington Post Weird News contributor Myra Chanin.

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Unclear Arbitration Clauses Will Not be Enforced 

Bruce D. Greenberg | New Jersey Appellate Law

Atalese v. U.S. Legal Servs. Grp., L.P., ___ N.J. ___ (2014).  Plaintiff entered into a contract with defendant for debt-adjustment services.  The contract contained an arbitration clause that did not state that plaintiff was waiving the right to sue in court.  Plaintiff sued defendant under the Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq., and the Truth in Consumer Contract Warranty and Notice Act, N.J.S.A. 56:12-14 et seq.  Defendant moved to compel arbitration instead, and the Law Division and the Appellate Division both ruled that arbitration was required.  On further appeal, and applying the de novo standard of review to the interpretation of the contract, the Supreme Court today reversed in a unanimous opinion by Justice Albin.

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Businesses Won’t Have to Return BP Spill Payouts

Janet McConnaughey and Jonathan Fahey | Associated Press

BP wants its money back — hundreds of millions of dollars of it — but a federal judge said Wednesday that the oil giant must stand by the agreement it made with the companies it compensated for losses blamed on the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

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Scientific Study Concludes No One Trusts Lawyers 

Staci Zaretsky | Above the Law

Many people enter the legal profession with the expectation that the public will see them as members of a noble trade to be revered and admired. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case at all. For every would-be Atticus Finch, there exists an off-color lawyer joke. If you’d call 5,000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean “a good start,” then you’re not alone.

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Attys Get $5.2M Bite Out Of $5.4M Taco Bell ADA Settlement

Daniel Siegal | Law360

A California federal judge on Wednesday approved plaintiffs’ request for attorneys’ fees of $5.175 million from Taco Bell Corp.’s $5.375 million settlement of a class action accusing the chain of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by imposing architectural barriers to diners in wheelchairs and scooters.

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Behind the Chevron Case

Joe Nocera | New York Times

“I am the target of what is probably the most well-funded corporate retaliation campaign in U.S. history,” Steven Donziger emailed me early Monday afternoon. Donziger, 53, is the sort of attorney they make movies about. Tall, handsome, and charismatic, he has spent the bulk of his legal career on one case: trying to get Chevron to clean up an environmental mess that he says its predecessor left behind in the Ecuadorian rain forest. His clients are poor Ecuadorians who have allegedly been living with the land’s degradation ever since Texaco pulled out of the country in the early 1990s. (Chevron bought Texaco — and acquired its legal liabilities — in 2001). He has worked tirelessly on the case for more than two decades, finally gaining a $19 billion judgment against the company in an Ecuadorian court in 2011. Though a higher court later cut the damages in half, it would still seem to be a fantastic victory by David over Goliath.

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Fears About Lawsuits Keep Revolutionary Traffic Safety Device Off The Market

Bob Dorigo Jones | Let’s Be Fair

You don’t have to be the parent of a teenage driver to have a special interest in any device that would make it impossible to use a cell phone while driving, but if you are, you’ll definitely want to know about this story. I strongly suspect it will also be of great interest to anyone who occasionally texts while driving and knows they should stop.

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Lawyers vs. Their Competition

Walter Olson | Overlawyered

Organized lawyerdom is gung-ho for stringent enforcement of UPL (unauthorized practice of law) laws — their own version of occupational licensure — but consumers fare less well when paralegals, automated forms providers, accountants and others are kept from offering competitive services.

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