"Since the state Constitution was drafted after World War II, governors of both parties have reappointed justices without regard to ideology. The idea is that a justice should feel free to decide cases on the merits, without fear of losing his or her seat on the bench as a result."
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Ford, DuPont rule New Jersey
Image via Wikipedia
Five years after The Record unleashed a million blanks at Ford Motor Co. pollution of a close-knit community in North Jersey, the Woodland Park daily resumes firing more meaningless Page 1 salvos at the slow pace of the cleanup.
But none of the words and photos in the paper, or videos on northjersey.com, even hint at the real story: How Ford, DuPont and other corporate polluters are far more powerful than government, courts, prosecutors and the media.
That's the clear lesson of Ford's continuing impact on Upper Ringwood residents in Ringwood and DuPont's failure to clean up pollution in Pompton Lakes, another story The Record has been telling in recent months. These companies and others seem to rule the state and nation.
Editor Francis Scandale was aiming for a Pulitzer Prize with the original Ford stories, labeled "Toxic Legacy," but missed by a wide margin. This latest effort will merely reinforce that failure.
Lead reporter Mary Jo Layton and Staff Photographer Thomas E. Franklin, who produced "Toxic Landscape: Ringwood Five Years Later," leave a few angles unexplored.
One big question is why the prominent lawyers who filed suit against Ford didn't hold out and bring the case before a jury -- which, even in the absence of a scientific link between pollution and residents' illness and death -- would likely have returned a verdict ordering the automaker to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
Instead, according to what I gleaned from northjersey.com video, lawyers feared Ford would declare bankruptcy, so rushed into a settlement of a measly $12.5 million. Residents recently picked up checks ranging from $4,368 to $34,594.
But Ford was the only Big Three automaker to reject a government bailout and now is earning hundreds of millions in profit.
Isn't it likely the lawyers -- from Robert F. Kennedy's and Johnny Cochran's firms -- were working on a contingency basis, and were eager to cut their losses after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of the residents? They gave up hope of getting a substantial share of a really big payout.
On the other A-1 story today, check out northjersey.com for the bloodthirsty comments of readers reacting to the suicide of swindler Bernard Madoff's older son.
I couldn't find a follow-up today, a day after Scandale led the paper with state Supreme Court Associate Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto's protest over a temporary replacement for John E. Wallace, a Democrat who was bounced by Republican Governor Christie.
The Record's slanted story Saturday blunted his protest by leading with calls for the judge's ouster and failed to quote any legal experts supporting his position or mention that Wallace is African-American. Great job by Staff Writer John P. McAlpin.
What did Christie violate? From a Star-Ledger editorial in April:
John's warts, Elisa's stomach
Determined not to leave the office and report on commuting problems, Road Worrier John Cichowski -- Editor Deirdre Sykes' pet -- delivers another L-1 column on snow or ice on vehicle roofs, ensuring growth of the warts on his ass from all the hours he spends in front of the computer.
Restaurant Reviewer Elisa Ung was too busy stuffing her face with cookie contest loot to write "The Corner Table," her restaurant column for today's Better Living section.
On the Opinion front, Mike Kelly delivers a forceful column for a change -- slamming the GOP for blocking passage of the federal health care bill for 9/11 workers.
Better research needed
Kevin DeMarrais, the Your Money's Worth columnist on the Business front, often leaves out important information, as he does today on which merchants offer free shipping. He omits one of the biggest, Lands' End.
In a column he did some time ago on credit cards that impose a foreign-currency transaction fee, he forgot to mention Capital One doesn't charge such a fee, usually 2% to 3% of each purchase.
Travel has an entertaining piece from a Los Angeles Times writer visiting Paris for the first time -- a refreshing break from the usual stories boasting of cheap everything and transcendent experiences or retelling every klutzy move by perpetually jet-lagged Travel Editor Jill Schensul.
And a photo of a family of Asian travelers appears for the first time in many weeks on the all-white Page T-3 -- The Record on the Road photo feature.