National Roundup

Court to review limit of driver record privacy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has stepped into a dispute over whether lawyers can obtain personal information from driver license records to recruit clients for lawsuits, despite a federal privacy law intended to shield motor vehicle records.
The justices agreed Tuesday to hear an appeal from three South Carolinians who objected to solicitations from lawyers to join a lawsuit against car dealers. Among the lawyers named in the Supreme Court appeal is Richard Harpootlian, who also is chairman of the South Carolina Democratic party.
At issue is whether lawyers may use information gleaned from South Carolina driver records, which they obtained by filing open records requests. A federal law aimed at protecting driver records has an exception for lawsuits and the court will determine whether the lawyers’ actions qualify.

Court: Can Guam man sue gov’t over surgery?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will decide whether the government can be sued by a Guam man who said he withdrew his consent before a Navy surgeon performed unsuccessful cataract surgery on him.
The court on Tuesday agreed to hear an appeal from Steven Alan Levin, who was operated on in March 2003 at the United States Naval Hospital in Guam. Levin said he withdrew his consent before the operation began but doctors proceeded anyway. Levin suffered complications, which require ongoing treatment.
Levin sued for medical malpractice and battery. The courts threw out the medical malpractice complaint and kept the battery charge. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the government is also immune from being sued for battery.
The high court will now review that decision. Levin appealed his case to the Supreme Court without a lawyer, one of two “pro se” cases granted by the court on Tuesday.

Court upholds  congressional districts in WV

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld West Virginia’s congressional redistricting plan against a challenge that small population variations among its three congressional districts violate the Constitution.
The justices, in an unsigned opinion, reversed a lower federal court ruling that struck down the plan because of the population differences.
The high court said the West Virginia plan easily passes muster and said the population variations are too small to trigger constitutional concerns about the principle of one person, one vote. In addition, the court said the plan adopted by the West Virginia legislature served other legitimate goals, including keeping counties intact and not pitting incumbents against each other.
“It is clear that West Virginia has carried its burden,” the high court said.
The justices had previously blocked the ruling to allow the state to conduct elections under the map approved by state lawmakers.
The lower court still can consider challenges to the plan under the state Constitution.
Both the state House and Senate passed the map with bipartisan and nearly unanimous margins. The difference between the smallest and largest districts was about 4,900 people.
The Jefferson County Commission, encompassing Charles Town and Harpers Ferry, challenged the redrawing, which moved one county from one congressional district to another.
A panel of three federal judges voted 2-1 in concluding that state officials failed to justify why one district contained several thousand more people than the other two, especially when other proposals contained smaller differences in population.
The judges said that improved technology that allows precise line-drawing also had made what would have been a minor variation in an earlier era into a major issue today.
But the Supreme Court said the judges’ reasoning was faulty. “Nothing about technological advances in redistricting and mapping software has, for example, decreased population variations between a state’s counties,” the justices said.
The case is Tennant v. Jefferson County Commission, 11-1184.

Court suspends attorney’s license to practice law

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s highest court has indefinitely suspended Delegate Tiffany Alston’s license to practice law.
The Court of Appeals announced the suspension Tuesday in response to a petition filed by the Attorney Grievance Commission.
The commission alleged several violations of the Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, including Alston’s inadequate representation of a client. She also did not respond to a commission request for information.
Alston, a first-term Prince George’s County Democrat, was found guilty in June of misdemeanor theft and misconduct by using $800 in state money to pay an employee in her law office. A trial has been scheduled next month on charges she used campaign money to pay wedding expenses.
Last week, state prosecutors and Alston’s attorneys failed to reach a plea deal to settle the two cases.

Sentencing reset in chemotherapy fraud scheme

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge has rescheduled sentencing hearings for three women convicted in a multimillion-dollar fraud involving watered-down chemotherapy drugs and old needles.
Dr. Meera Sachdeva, Brittany McCoskey and Monica Weeks are scheduled for sentencing Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court in Jackson. Sentencing had been scheduled for Monday.
Sachdeva founded the Rose Cancer Center in the south Mississippi town of Summit in 2005. She pleaded guilty July 13 to one count of health care fraud and two counts of making false statements. Sachdeva, a naturalized citizen from India, has been held without bond since her arrest last August because she’s considered a flight risk. Prosecutors say she had considerable assets, including bank accounts in her native country, despite the seizure of about $6 million.
Weeks, who handled the clinic’s billing from her Ridgeland firm, Medical Billing Group, pleaded guilty the same day to conspiracy.
McCoskey, the office manager, pleaded guilty May 17 to making false statements.
The Mississippi Health Department closed the clinic in July 2011 because of “unsafe infection control practices” after 11 patients were hospitalized with the same bacterial infection.