Bad Dentists and Open Libraries

The newest addition to the document collection is an opinion by Judge Paul Crotty related to the case Robert Allen Lee vs. Stacey Makhnevich et al. The case is a class action lawsuit against a dentist who forces patients into signing a confidentiality document before treatment, and her attempts to intimidate the dental patient, Lee, who wrote uncomplimentary comments about her practice on Yelp and other online sites.

The opinion I snagged rejects the defendants’ attempts to have the case thrown out in court. It’s a lovely piece of legal writing. Don’t let anyone tell you that legal documents are dry and uninteresting. The best legal documents don’t just quote relevant law—they tell a story. They paint pictures, break new pathways, shape history.

I also wanted to point out the source of the document: the Santa Clara Law Digital Commons. This site is a rich pool of legal articles and opinions that are freely and openly available to everyone—the way such writings should be. The site is well organized, cleanly designed, and very accessible: a prince among sites. From its About page:

This digital repository is a project conducted by the Heafey Law Library located at Santa Clara University’s School of Law. This archive contains scholarly materials published by our faculty and other archival collections. The purpose of this digital repository is to preserve the scholarship of Santa Clara Law and enable wider access to these materials. (emph. added)

You can read more about our copyright-claiming dentist in the ABA Journal.

Environment Government

EPA’s report on Keystone XL Pipeline

Today the EPA released a comment on the State Department’s draft report on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The conclusion states:

Based on our review, we have rated the DSEIS as E0-2 (“Environmental Objections-Insufficient Information”) (see enclosed “Summary of Rating Defmitions and Follow-up Actions”).

Environmental Objections is defined as:

The EPA reyiew has identified significant environmental impacts that must be avoided in order to provide adequate protection for the environment. Corrective measures may require substantial changes to the preferred alternative or consideration of some other project alternative (including the no action alternative or a new alternative). EPA intends to work with the lead agency to reduce these impacts.

The Category 2 insufficiency is further identified as:

The draft EIS does not contain sufficient information for EPA to fully assess environmental impacts that should be avoided in order to fully protect the environment, or the EPA reviewer has identified new reasonably available alternative that are within tbe spectrum of alternatives analyzed in the draft EIS, which could reduce the environmental impacts ofthe action. The identified additional information, data, analyses, or discussion should be included in the final EIS,

This all translates to, “Busted!”

Access the report directly.

Critters Documents Legal, Laws, and Regs

The Dollarhite Rabbitry FOIA Results

A few years back I came across an article about the Dollarhites in Missouri and their little bunny business. According to the article, the Dollarhites only started raising bunnies to teach their son responsibility. It was, at most, a small, casual business.

In 2011, the Dollarhites were outraged to receive a notice of violation from the USDA, with a fine of $90,643. There was a lot of huffing and puffing about government overreach in the article, but I had enough experience with the USDA APHIS to know there had to be more to the story than was being told. I decided to file a FOIA request for all documents related to the case.

The USDA informed me that the investigation was still ongoing and they couldn’t provide me most of the documentation. They did, however, provide me a few documents, one of which I had already discovered for myself: that the Wayback machine had archives of the Dollarhite bunny selling operation as far back as 2006, not 2008, as the Dollarhites claimed.

Eventually the Dollarhites got Missouri politicians, including Claire McCaskill, to intervene on their behalf—something I wish politicians would not do, because this just leads to inconsistent applications of the law (a law created by Congress, I want to note). Especially when a little research on McCaskill’s part would have demonstrated other interesting documents associated with the case:

  • Rather than a casual operation, the Dollarhites were selling bunnies to a petting zoo in Branson, as well as a pet store. In one year, they sold over 4000.
  • An early investigative report notes Dollarhite was aware of AWA licensing, and gave the investigator the impression he was going to continue breeding and selling pet rabbits without a license (doc)
  • An investigator noted Dollarhite’s seeming hostility to regulation, as well as her safety concerns (doc)
  • An internal USDA memo expressing concern about enforcement in the case, considering the circumstances, in this case, most likely the publicity and Congressional interference (doc)
  • Another frank, interesting look at the USDA’s view of discussions with Dollarhite’s attorney, who seemed to be less than aware of how the government operates (doc)
  • A disturbing note sent by Dollarhite to the USDA (doc)
  • A very disturbing note sent to the USDA with an implicit threat (doc)

Among all of the more colorful documents are investigative reports, documented proof, as well as several settlement offers extended to Dollarhite that would have let him off without a fine as long as he agreed to stop selling bunnies as pets without a license—something Dollarhite didn’t note as frequently as he noted that $90,000 fine.

When the Dollarhites settled with the USDA, the USDA was free to fulfill my FOIA request, and I’m listing the documents here for others to access.

As I said earlier: there’s always more to these stories than what you see on the surface. Thankfully, the FOIA allows us to discover the missing pieces.

I wrote three articles on the Dollarhites:

John Dollarhite and his $90,000 fine

The Dollarhite Saga

Dollarhites: A saga that should end

Access a listing of the Dollarhite FOIA documents, individually, or as one document.