Categories
Documents Legal, Laws, and Regs

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 in 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.

Categories
Critters Documents

Feld vs PETA Motion to Compel

Publishing single court documents is easy: just incorporate a link into a post.

However, I wanted a better approach for those cases where I had several court documents. I decided to take a copy of the PACER docket, and then replace the links with those for a local document. People can then access the documents in context. For those documents I don’t have, I leave the links off. Most of the time the documents aren’t all that useful—a howdy doody to a new lawyer, an order allowing a schedule delay, and so on. Other times I felt the document wasn’t essential to understanding what was happening, or it was available in another case.

The first case I’ve ported to this online format is one of the cases associated with ASCPA et al vs. Feld Entertainment, Inc: Feld vs. PETA, where Feld was compelling compliance to a document subpoena. You can get a feel for the antagonism between the animal welfare groups and Feld’s lawyers from some of the filings. It only gets better with the primary case.

I followed the Motion to Compel case in order to get a more comprehensive view of the overall set of cases (yes cases). I also had a suspicion about why Feld subpoenaed PETA. It seemed to me that Feld’s lawyers were fishing for anything that, no matter how thinly, Feld could use to pull PETA into the Feld vs. ASPCA et al RICO (Racketeering) case. If so, they didn’t find it.

Access the local docket page for 08-mc-00004

The ASPCA et al vs. Feld document docket page is going to be a long time coming. It has over 620 docket entries, with over a 1000 document links. It’s going to take some time to prepare.

Categories
Documents

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Documents Legal, Laws, and Regs

The money game

One of the problems I kept running into when preparing stories for this site is the fact that Missouri’s Department of Agriculture seems to have abysmal data systems. Every Sunshine Law request, no matter how small, exceeded whatever amount of money I had set as a cap for the request.

Now it would seem the same problem occurs elsewhere in state government. When asked about Lt. Governor Kinder’s calendar, journalists were first told the entries were not available. Later, though, it was discovered that the entries were available, but the cost would be well over several thousand dollars in order to get the information.

I had turned in a Sunshine Law violation complaint to the Attorney General’s office and was told by the person who responded that my main concern seemed to be not that the information wasn’t available, but that the cost was too high. According to the AG office rep, high cost to access the information does not form a Sunshine Law violation. However, when the price tag is invariably high—too high for the average person—cost does form a barrier against transparency.

Either Missouri has the worst data systems in the country—in which case there’s another first we can’t take pride in—or cost is being used as a barrier to information.