Legal Briefing: Massey Faces Justice Dept. Probe Into Coal Mine Deaths

legal briefing
legal briefing

A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Investigations of Massey Energy Sprout Like Goldman Probes

Massey Energy (MEE), which ran the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia where 29 miners died last month, is now facing a Justice Dept. criminal probe. Justice is looking into possible "willful criminal activity" at the mine. The probe joins an ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation into bribery at the mine and a pending civil case by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

With all these probes and the profound tragedy of last month's accident, I'm betting that Massey CEO Don Blankenship has even less fun testifying before Congress next week than Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein did. Worse for Blankenship, as I explained in a previous article, powerful forces are arrayed against Massey, and if the company really did commit crimes, convictions are coming.

President Barack Obama Sends Scientists to the Gulf

Perhaps BP (BP) has run out of time. The Obama Administration seems no longer content to just watch the oil company flail at stopping the massive leak and has sent a team of top scientists to help BP design a solution, reports TPM Muckraker. Hooray! We need the best and the brightest working on stopping the leak -- the growing damage to America's Gulf coast economy and environment is just too great to allow the corporations that caused the problem to be in charge of solving it on their own.

Small Business Joins States Suing Over Health-Care Reform

The National Federation of Independent Business, a small business trade group, has joined the 20 state lawsuit against health-care reform, reports the Blog of Legal Times. The group had lobbied to change the bill and ultimately opposed it but hesitated until now to join the lawsuit, according to its spokesperson. Member outcry over the individual mandate to buy insurance drove the group to join the litigation.

And in the Business of Law...

Southern Methodist University is so eager to help its graduates get jobs, it'll pay employers to hire them, notes Above the Law.

The new Am Law 100 is out, and five firms fell off the list of the nation's top-grossing law firms. One, Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, is particularly notable, explains the Am LawDaily, since it ranked in the top 100 every year since the list started, even making the cut in the early days when the first list, showcasing the top 50 firms, debuted in 1985.

The jockeying for lead plaintiff's attorney role in the Toyota (TM) litigation is mostly over, as the judge assigned 21 attorneys to three committees and named chairs of the committees. I say almost over because, as the National Law Journal reports, plaintiffs' attorneys not yet in a powerful spot are complaining that the judge is underestimating the complexity of the litigation and are pushing for additional slots on the committees. Nonetheless, reports Bloomberg, the 21 appointed attorneys are already a significant expansion upon the 12 the judge had originally intended to select.