Welcome to the weekly roundup of the latest news from the courts and the legal industry. Each week, we bring you a quick summary of significant developments, new trends, and interesting articles.
This week’s highlights
- Florida to lift all courtroom restrictions and resume speedy trials
- Service of capitol insurrection-related lawsuit sparks debate over the conduct of process servers
- Prices charged for consumer legal services flat again in May
- Big Four not likely to enter US legal services market, for now
- A would-be class action alleges ‘Hint of Lime’ packaging overstates the fruit amount in Tostitos chips
Florida to lift all courtroom restrictions and resume speedy trials
“Chief Justice Charles Canady June 4 issued an order allowing courts around Florida to lift requirements to wear masks and distance from others while in courtrooms during proceedings.” (Florida Bar Association)
COVID-related restrictions are to be fully lifted in Florida’s courtrooms. Citing increased vaccination rates, the Chief Justice’s order permits counties to begin dropping mask and distancing requirements in courtrooms during proceedings as soon as June 21 and no later than August 2.
The order also sets a schedule for the resumption of speedy trials and extends the emergency authority for remote proceedings. It is anticipated that many counties will continue to hold hearings remotely as they seek to clear their case backlogs swiftly.
Service of capitol insurrection-related lawsuit sparks debate over the conduct of process servers
“On Sunday, [Congressman Mo] Brooks posted a tweet accusing the process server who served him with trespassing. The tweet included a photo of a computer screen displaying Alabama’s criminal trespassing statute — the implication being that the process server violated the law when they served the lawsuit.” (Vox.com)
Republican Congressman Mo Brooks was served Sunday with a lawsuit filed against him by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell over his role in the January 6 assault on the Capitol after Swalwell’s initial efforts to serve Brooks were unsuccessful.
Swalwell’s team was able to complete service Sunday, but not without controversy. A spokesperson for Brooks told CBS News that the “process server entered the congressman’s house without his wife’s knowledge or consent and refused to leave when she demanded it” and produced a video purporting to show the incident.
The process server’s affidavit paints a different picture, and Swalwell’s legal team has stated that they “look forward to litigating our claims in court.”
Prices charged for consumer legal services flat again in May
“Prices for most consumer goods increased 0.6% in May vs. April—a 5% total rise when compared to the same period last year. Prices rose for almost all categories of goods with limited exceptions.” (AP)
Prices charged for typical consumer legal services, such as the writing of a will or the filing of a divorce, were flat in May vs. April despite substantial inflation in other areas of the economy. Prices have increased just 0.9% versus the same time last year and have barely budged at all in 2021.
Next week the Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish the Producer Price Index, which looks at prices paid by businesses—instead of individual consumers—for services such as legal advice.
Big Four not likely to enter US legal services market, for now
“The Big Four accounting companies are not likely to try to directly compete with law firms in Arizona and Utah until other states follow their lead in loosening restrictions on legal service providers, according to a top voice in industry innovation.” (Bloomberg Law)
The Big Four accounting firms are unlikely to enter the US legal market following deregulation in Utah and Arizona, as they have in deregulated legal markets overseas. That’s according to Don Bivens, a leading member of the ABA’s Center for Innovation.
After conversations with Big Four executives, Bivens says the firms are more likely to enter the market only if many other states follow. Legal industry deregulation efforts in Arizona, Utah, and California have long been seen as potentially giving the Big Four the means to compete head-on with the country’s largest law firms, something existing state rules have prevented.
A would-be class action alleges “Hint of Lime” packaging overstates the fruit amount in Tostitos chips
“A federal lawsuit filed last month against Frito-Lay North America Inc. has alleged that the snack maker misleads consumers by touting a ‘Hint of Lime’ in Tostitos chips that apparently contain only a ‘negligible amount of lime.’” (ABA Journal)
A newly filed lawsuit claims that consumers understand the word “hint” the same way as its dictionary definition—to mean “a slight but appreciable amount.” In reality, lime is only a “de minimis or a trace amount” of the “natural flavors” listed on the ingredients list, the suit said. Otherwise—the plaintiffs contend—the label would state “lime juice” instead of “natural flavors.”
The suit has alleged violations of Illinois consumer fraud law, breach of implied warranty, fraud, and unjust enrichment.