Friday, November 16, 2012

Jonathan Cooper, Esq.:Why the NY Lawsuit Against LIPA is a Mere Publicity Stunt

From Betsy Combier:

It seems to me that Attorney Cooper is addressing the Courts' interest in not opening up "Pandora's Box" when wrong-doing occurs. If stealing, plundering, and negligence have been overlooked by the Court in the past, why not keep overlooking it?

This has to change.

Betsy Combier 

I hope I'm wrong about this. But I highly doubt it.

I just had my power restored on Sunday morning, and my phones and internet were just restored two days ago in the aftermath of Sandy. I heard over the radio that a class action lawsuit charging LIPA with negligence has been filed. Since, at least in theory, I would be a member of that class, I certainly hope it succeeds. But I don't think it will.

Here's why:

In the aftermath of another blackout, New York State's highest court issued a decision issued in 1994 and went to the unusual step of acknowledging publicly their reluctance to impose liability for negligence on a public utility because of broader policy concerns, including potentially devastating financial damages, stating:

"This Court has from time to time addressed the scope of the duty of a utility, or a similarly situated entity, arising from negligence in the performance of contractual obligations ( see, e.g., Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., 76 N.Y.2d 220, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093; Strauss v. Belle Realty Co., 65 N.Y.2d 399, 492 N.Y.S.2d 555, 482 N.E.2d 34, supra; Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co., 247 N.Y. 160, 159 N.E. 896). Consistently, this Court has emphasized that determining the scope of the duty and the consequent sphere of potential liability is fundamentally a policy question, with the objective being to " 'fix[ ] the [entity's] orbit of duty' " so as to " ' "limit the legal consequences of wrongs to a controllable degree" ' " ( Eaves Brooks Costume Co. v. Y.B.H. Realty Corp., supra, 76 N.Y.2d at 226-227, 557 N.Y.S.2d 286, 556 N.E.2d 1093; Strauss v. Belle Realty Co., supra, 65 N.Y.2d at 402, 492 N.Y.S.2d 555, 482 N.E.2d 34; Moch Co. v. Rensselaer Water Co., supra, 247 N.Y. at 164-168, 159 N.E. 896; cf., ***689 **271 Palka v. Servicemaster Mgt. Servs. Corp., 83 N.Y.2d 579, 585-587, 611 N.Y.S.2d 817, 634 N.E.2d 189). We noted in Palka that the existence and scope of an alleged tortfeasor's duty, at the threshold, is a legal, policy-laden determination dependent on consideration of different forces, including logic, science, competing socioeconomic policies, and contractual assumptions of responsibility."

Simply put, even if the plaintiffs could prove that LIPA was grossly negligent and incompetent, I don't see a New York court opening Pandora's box and allowing them to recover consequential damages.

In fact, I would be quite surprised if LIPA doesn't move to dismiss the lawsuit from the get-go on these grounds.

Best regards,
Jonathan Cooper Signature

Friday, November 2, 2012

New York State's Corruption Risk Report Card: It Aint Good

The story behind the score

New York’s newly created ethics commission has its work cut out for it in a state government that’s often defined by dysfunction and corruption. Read more from SII State Reporter David King.
Latest state news for New York
Gov. Scott Walker survived his recall election. The same cannot be said for the integrity of campaign finance laws in Wisconsin.
Incumbents targeted for recall are freed from Wisconsin's normal fundraising limits, and can collect unlimited contributions from individual donors. With the election between Walker and his Democratic opponent, former Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, seen as a battleground for national partisan politics, money poured in on both sides. But Walker exploited the seemingly infinite loophole to tremendous advantage: By election day, Walker's campaign had received more than $30 million in donations, a total that approached the $37.5 million spent by both sides during the 2010 election,according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Wisconsin received a grade of 'C-' from the State Integrity Investigation for its political financing laws and practices, with reporter Kate Golden finding proper measures on limits, enforcement, and transparency, while also documenting numerous exemptions and back-channels, including the recall election loophole. But in other states, the potentially polluting influence of unlimited, and sometimes unsupervised campaign financing is constant and permanent, borne out of state laws and practices -- or their absence.
Read more 

State integrity news for New York, from the New York Times:
Frustrated with Albany’s tepid reaction to the idea of publicly financed elections, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and his fiancĂ© are financing a new campaign to press the issue in coordination with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The group has also enlisted two former Cuomo aides to help plot its strategy. The campaign, Protect Our Democracy, will include a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group and a political action committee.
Read the rest of of the story at the New York Times.
Read more 

State integrity news for New York, from the New York Times:
The law allows the disclosure of the names and pensions of retired public workers. But it exempts disclosure of the name of a “beneficiary” — which has long been interpreted to mean a person receiving the benefits after a retiree dies.
A state court ruling last year, however, found that a retiree could also be “beneficiary” and, therefore, could be shielded from disclosure. It is now up to the State Legislature to undo this ridiculous ruling and clarify an important law.
Read the rest of the story at the New York Times.
Read more 

State integrity news for New York, from the New York Times:
Cuomo administration officials argue that the governor pushed hard for ethics reform last year that, among other things, would require 501(c)(4) groups to disclose their donors.
Mr. Cuomo does not need to wait for that to happen. He can demonstrate his commitment to reform by pushing his friends at the committee to disclose all of its donors right now.
Read the rest of the story at the New York Times.
Read more 

State integrtiy news for New York, from the Daily Gazette:
The government transparency website Project Sunlight has been expanded by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to include the user friendly New York Open Government feature. Project Sunlight, which contains a collection of information compiled by the Attorney General's Office, will now help voters and government watchdogs hold state government accountable by offering up-to-date campaign contribution, lobbying and state contract data.
“Secrecy breeds corruption, while transparency generates confidence,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “New York Open Government will help the public keep an eye on what their government is doing in order to deter corruption and increase confidence in the public sector..