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On ‘judicial activism’ The “responses to the ABA president” [ Letters, NLJ, May 16] are part of the problem. In faulting American Bar Association President Robert J. Grey Jr.’s move to help reduce the problem of “threats against judges and the judiciary,” one writer says “some aspects of our legal system are simply corrupt,” and the other decries “the unbridled arrogance shown by activist judges.” President Grey aims at protecting judicial independence, the sine qua non of our world-leading combination of Rule of Law and Democracy. The steps he and the ABA are taking will, hopefully, include educating the public-and obviously, many lawyers-about just what is judicial “activism.” “Activist judge” has become a sound bite blast by anyone unhappy with a particular decision or, much worse, with the role of our courts. Far too little has been done to move that phrase from being a curse word to becoming part of a constructive dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of our judicial system. Roy A. Schotland Washington Check-cashing exemption My firm, Robert M. Levy & Associates, represents the Financial Service Centers of Florida. Marcia Coyle’s excellent article [" Banks vie for relief from reporting," NLJ, May 23] addresses an important issue with regard to the Bank Secrecy Act, the USA Patriot Act and the filing of Suspicious Activity Reports. Missing from this entire debate is the increasing proliferation of check-cashing outlets at retail stores, convenience stores and gas stations. The Legislature placed an exemption in Florida’s check-cashing statutes that permitted unlicensed activity for those whose check cashing was less than 5% of their business. That was long before Sept. 11, 2001, and enactment of the aforementioned laws governing financial transactions. What’s good for one is good for all, and I would submit that there is a major gap in not including these growing check-cashing markets in the strong grasp of these laws. Most of the money that was utilized in the terrorist activities of Sept. 11 was laundered in Florida. The Legislature needs to close this loophole, and all those conducting financial transactions at any level should be regulated at a minimum and subject to the Patriot Act and Bank Secrecy Act. Anything less creates a gap big enough to drive through all the cash anyone would need. Retailers, convenience store operators and gas stations have strong lobbyists who would fight such a move, but nothing short of our national security is at risk in failing to act. Robert M. Levy Miami Public nuisance lawsuits J. Russell Jackson is off target when he writes that courts have been “highly reluctant” to allow public nuisance lawsuits to proceed against the gun industry. [" Public nuisance theories," NLJ, May 16.] In fact, many public nuisance suits have been upheld in cases charging gun makers with irresponsibly distributing thousands of guns through high-risk dealers. These dealers, in turn, have faced liability for creating a public nuisance by supplying criminals with firearms, using highly suspect and dangerous sales practices. In the last several years, courts in Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington state and West Virginia have all allowed such cases to proceed. A unanimous Indiana Supreme Court recently ruled that the city of Gary’s public nuisance suit against gun manufacturers and dealers presented a valid claim, and New York City’s similar suit is scheduled for trial in September. Moreover, three high-profile public nuisance gun suits reached landmark settlements last year. One case, brought by victims of the Washington-area 2002 sniper attacks, resulted in a $2.5 million settlement against assault weapons manufacturer Bushmaster Firearms and gun dealer Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply. Bushmaster was charged with creating a public nuisance by distributing its weapons through a reckless dealer that lost more than 230 firearms from its inventory, including the snipers’ Bushmaster rifle, all with no record of sale. The store could not account for any of these guns in repeated audits and for years had its guns linked to dozens of violent crimes. Bushmaster glibly referred to this irresponsible dealer as a “good customer.” These cases have not only established important precedents for future public nuisance lawsuits against reckless gun sellers, but have also led to important gun industry reforms. Bushmaster and other gun sellers have agreed to change their business practices to curtail sales to the criminal market. Indeed, the gun industry is so fearful of having to reform its sales practices that it is pushing for unprecedented special-interest federal legislation, H.R. 800/S. 397, to bar most negligence and public nuisance cases against gun dealers and manufacturers. Far from Mr. Jackson’s suggestion of a trend against firearms public nuisance suits, these cases show that the gun industry can and, barring unwarranted federal protection from lawsuits, will be held liable for its continuing sales practices that funnel guns to criminals and lead to thousands of preventable deaths. Daniel R. Vice Washington The writer is a staff attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

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