Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent the last year hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Democrats Rush to Return Lawyer's Money After Guilty Plea

| Wed Sep. 19, 2007 5:49 PM EDT

Now that famed securities lawyer Bill Lerach is officially going to prison, Democratic candidates are scrambling to get rid of all the money he's donated to their campaigns, the New York Sun Reports. Fellow trial lawyer John Edwards donated nearly $5,000 he'd taken from Lerach to charity, and Joe Biden's campaign said it had given $2,700 in Lerach funds to a prostate cancer group earlier this year. No word from Hillary Clinton, whose presidential campaign hasn't taken Lerach donations, but whose Senate campaign did...

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NFL Fines: Tax Deductible?

| Wed Sep. 19, 2007 2:45 PM EDT

Ok, sports fans. Here's a question: Should New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick get to write off his $500,000 fine as a business expense? (In case you hadn't heard, Belichick was recently assessed the biggest fine in NFL history for secretly videotaping the New York Jets' defensive signals.)

After much debate over the deductibility issue, a dozen tax law professors say yes...

California Won't Be Suing its Way to Cleaner Air

| Wed Sep. 19, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

Last year, the California attorney general made headlines by suing most of the nation's leading automakers for contributing to global warming. The AG's office used a novel interpretation of the state's "public nuisance" laws to bring the suit and had corporate America in fits. Well, they can rest easier now. A federal judge tossed the suit yesterday, saying that it would be inappropriate for the court to wade into this sort of foreign policy and interstate commerce issue, and that global warming would be better addressed in the political system.

Worm Poop Threatens Corporate Profits

| Wed Sep. 19, 2007 1:01 PM EDT

Some of the nation's biggest corporations have found that baseless lawsuits are often a useful tool for squashing upstart competition. The latest example of this kind of noxious behavior comes from Scotts Miracle-Gro, a $2 billion company that claims 60 percent of the nation's garden-care market. Earlier this year, Scotts sued the tiny New Jersey start-up TerraCycle, which sells fertilizer made from all-natural worm poop, packaged in recycled soda bottles. Scotts alleges that TerraCycle has copied its packaging design and engaged in false advertising.

TerraCycle was started by college students and has never made a profit, but has made in-roads into some of the bigger retail outlets. Apparently Scotts sees the worm poop as a threat. TerraCycle has fought back mainly with PR. They've put up a cheeky website that notes that the Scotts CEO gets a half-million dollars worth of "personal aircraft use" each year, while TerraCycle's CEO's biggest perk is unlimited free worm poop. The website also has some funny photos comparing the two companies' headquarters.

The PR has helped boost sales, but it's not likely to pay TerraCycle's legal bills. Scotts has demanded every last piece of paper from the company in discovery--everything from plans for future product development to the worm's dinner menu--as a way of driving up the costs of litigation. In the meantime, TerraCycle is asking its customers to write letters to the Scotts board asking the company to drop the lawsuit--and also is taking donations.

(H/T Law and More)

Another Big Democratic Funder Headed to the Big House

| Tue Sep. 18, 2007 12:19 PM EDT

Looks like the Democratic presidential candidate, whomever it is, will be running without the deep pockets of famed plaintiff lawyer Bill Lerach. Lerach is a California securities class action lawyer whose name has struck fear in the hearts of corporate executives for years thanks to his success winning some enormous cases, including a $7 billion settlement from companies that helped Enron hide its wrongdoing.

His crusades against corporate wrongdoing have made Lerach something of a folk hero in certain quarters, and he's won friends in high places for plowing his winnings into Democratic politics. Just in 2004, Lerach's law firm donated more than $1.5 million to 527 groups like the AFL-CIO's Coalition to Defend the American Dream that worked to defeat President Bush. Before the ban on soft money, Lerach and his partner, Melvyn Weiss, donated millions of dollars to Democratic Party entities.

That reliable spigot of campaign funding is likely to dry up now that Lerach has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge stemming from a seven-year federal investigation. Prosecutors charge that Lerach and his firm paid more than $11 million to people to be plaintiffs in their shareholder lawsuits. Lerach could spend up to two years in prison as a result of his plea. Even if he gets to hang on to most of his money, it's unlikely that many candidates are going to want to take it...

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