Monday, June 11, 2007

Be Careful What You Ask For ('cause you just might get it)

In 1986, California enacted Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. While not as famous as Alex's friend Dog, the act has produced what Adam Liptak of the NY Times calls Environmental Bounty Hunters. Citizens can file suit against offending firms and keep 25% of the penalties imposed and lawyers for said citizens get their fees paid as well!

Liptak describes one man, lawyer Clifford Chanler as "the State's leading bounty hunter".

"In the past seven years, Mr. Chanler has sent over 600 notices and filed more than 200 lawsuits on behalf of a few clients, none of whom even claimed to have been injured, and collected $15 million in settlements in return.

Over coffee the other day, Mr. Chanler said he did not much care for the term bounty hunter.

“I prefer to use the phrase of ‘citizen enforcer,’ ” he said. “But I don’t shy away from the fact that there is a civil bounty incentive structure built into the statute.”"

So far so good right? But the plot thickens. Ex-governor moonbeam and current attorney general Jerry Brown wants Chanler and others to cut it out because "it does not appear to be in the public interest"

Oooh, good one Jerry, that will work for sure. Ask a lawyer to stop doing something thats both lucrative and completely legal because it does not appear to be in the public interest? Sure, no problem.......

If anything, Mr. Chanler appears quite ready to broaden the scope of his duties:

“Civil enforcement should not be left to public officials,” he said, “because of the influence of money on politics and just the resource level available to the government.”

Amen, Clifford, amen!!