Some things are best done yourself

In November 2005, you’ll recall, more than 100 federal agents swooped down on Geoff Fieger’s Southfield law offices, and executed search warrants at several of his employees’ homes, looking for evidence of illegal campaign contributions.

Fieger, a staunch Democrat, and his main partner, Ven Johnson were indicted in 2008. They famously beat the rap last year. Part of their argument rested on the notion that the prosecution was the Bush Justice Department’s politically motivated brainchild.

Now, Fieger’s not the sort of guy to take all of that lying down. Fieger, or more to the point, Michael Deszi, one of his associates, filed a couple of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).

Deszi had an eye on establishing a political conspiracy regarding campaign finance law enforcement. He asked for any documents exchanged between the FEC and Bush Justice Department operatives.

Fieger, apparently displeased with the FEC’s response, named himself as plaintiff in a FOIA suit against the FEC.

Late last month, federal District Court Judge David M. Lawson dismissed the suit.

The problem, in a nutshell, was standing. Fieger didn’t have it. Wrote Lawson:

A plaintiff who has neither made a request for information on his own nor explicitly through counsel cannot show an injury in fact, which is a necessary constitutional requirement of standing.

Moreover, a plaintiff who bases a FOIA lawsuit upon the request for information by another person does not satisfy the prudential requirement that he must assert a violation of his own legal rights. …

[B]ecause there is no evidence presented that the named plaintiff ever requested information from the FEC, or that information was requested on his behalf, Article III standing has not been established.

The case is Fieger v. Federal Election Comm’n.

Class-action against court reporting school settles for $5M

U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson has approved a class-action lawsuit settlement that will pay about $5 million in tuition refunds to close to 1,300 students who attended the Academy of Court Reporting in Clawson, reports The Detroit News.

The News reports that the “lawsuit, filed in 2007, alleged the postsecondary school defrauded students by promising associate degrees it was not certified to issue in Michigan.”

According to The News:

Lawson awarded $2.5 million in attorney fees to the Googasian law firm of Bloomfield Hills, which took the case on a contingency basis, advanced about $170,000 in costs, and spent about 5,000 hours working on the case. The attorney fees and costs will be withdrawn from the $7.8 million fund, with the balance used to refund tuition payments.

“We are proud of the job that we’ve done,” attorney Dean Googasian told Lawson.

Accused Ponzi schemer held in contempt

U.S. District Judge David M. Lawson has found John J. Bravata, accused in an alleged $53 million “Billionaire Boys Club” Ponzi scheme, in contempt of court for violating an asset freeze in the case, reports The Detroit News.

And, Lawson ruled, Bravata will go to jail on Oct. 8 if he doesn’t repay the funds.

Lawson froze Bravata’s assets shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud suit that accused Bravata and others of operating Ponzi-style investment scheme.

From The News:

But the SEC recently learned that Bravata borrowed about $37,000 from his life insurance policies at the same time he was asking permission from Lawson to take out the loan. Lawson denied the request and Bravata’s request for him to reconsider his denial, all without being told Bravata had already taken out the loan. …

[Bravata] said he took out the loans due to “necessity” and because he believed the life insurance policies were not covered by the asset freeze … .

But when pressed by Lawson, Bravata agreed there was nothing in Lawson’s asset freeze order to lead him to believe he could borrow against his life insurance policies.