Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Why can't Peter Mackay stay in a Motel 6 Mr. Fildebrandt or if they're full there's always ..... the Bates Motel!"

"Hear what noise?"

Court Revives NSA Dragnet Surveillance Case

By David Kravets
Follow @dmkravets
Thursday, December 29, 2011 The National Security Agency allegedly siphoned Americans

A federal appeals court on Thursday reinstated a closely watched lawsuit accusing the federal government of working with the nation’s largest telecommunication companies to illegally funnel Americans’ electronic communications to the National Security Agency without court warrants.

While the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the long-running case brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the three-judge panel unanimously refused to rule on the merits of the case, or whether it was true the United States breached the public’s Fourth Amendment rights by undertaking an ongoing dragnet surveillance program the EFF said commenced under the Bush administration following 9/11.

The San Francisco-based appeals court reversed a San Francisco federal judge who tossed the case against the government nearly three years ago. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, now retired, said the lawsuit amounted to a “general grievance” from the public, and not an actionable claim.

Walker also presided over the only case that found the Bush administration illegally spied on American citizens when it unleashed the NSA on Americans’ conversations, ruling that the government violated the rights of two American lawyers for al-Haramain, a now defunct Islamic charity. The government is appealing that ruling.

Writing for the majority on Thursday, Judge Margaret McKeown ruled (.pdf) that the EFF’s claims “are not abstract, generalized grievances and instead meet the constitutional standing requirement of concrete injury. Although there has been considerable debate and legislative activity surrounding the surveillance program, the claims do not raise a political question nor are they inappropriate for judicial resolution.”

The EFF’s allegations are based in part on internal AT&T documents, first published by Wired, that outline a secret room in an AT&T San Francisco office that routes internet traffic to the NSA.

“Today, the 9th Circuit has given us that chance, and we look forward to proving the program is an unconstitutional and illegal violation of the rights of millions of ordinary Americans,” said Cindy Cohn, the EFF’s legal director.
But the appeals court also dealt EFF a blow.

In a separate opinion (.pdf), the judges tossed the EFF’s lawsuit against the United States’ largest telecoms, including AT&T — which the EFF accused of cooperating with the government’s warrantless surveillance program.
The appeals court sided with an act of Congress from July 2008, one voted for by then-Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, and then signed by President George W. Bush. The legislation handed the telcos retroactive immunity from being sued for allegedly participating in the surveillance program.

That led Judge Walker to toss the case against AT&T and others. The EFF contended on appeal that the legislation, which grants the president the power to grant immunity to the telcos, was an unlawful abuse of power.
The appeals court disagreed.

“By passing the retroactive immunity for the telecoms’ complicity in the warrantless wiretapping program, Congress abdicated its duty to the American people,” EFF senior staff attorney Kurt Opsahl said. “It is disappointing that today’s decision endorsed the rights of telecommunications companies over those over their customers.”

That said, the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration, have neither admitted nor denied the spying allegations — though Bush did admit that the government warrantlessly listened in on some Americans’ overseas phone calls, which he said was legal. But as to widespread internet and phone dragnet surveillance of Americans, both administrations have declared the issue a state secret — one that would undermine national security if exposed.

Toward that end, the federal appeals court sent the EFF’s case against the government back to the lower courts to determine whether it should be tossed on grounds that it threatens to expose state secrets. No court date has been set.
That lawsuit was filed immediately after Bush signed the immunity legislation for the telcos. The new lawsuit prompted the Obama administration to invoke the state secrets privilege — despite having announced he would limit his use of that doctrine at the beginning of his four-year term. Usually, lawsuits are dismissed when the government invokes the privilege.

Judge Walker wound up dismissing the revised lawsuit as a “general grievance” and did not rule on the state secrets claim.

Walker, however, did allow the al-Haramain case to proceed despite the feds’ invocation of the privilege — a rarity since courts are extremely deferential to the executive branch in matters of secrecy. The Supreme Court first fashioned the doctrine in a McCarthy-era lawsuit in a case where the government lied to the court to escape embarrassment and liability over an airplane crash.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Final offer Shaw Cable?" ..... "Oh, hello there is this MTS?"

Customers Say to Cable Firms, 'Let's Make a Deal!
Want cheaper cable? Try asking for it.

By Lauren A. E. Schuler
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Every three to six months, when his most recent promotional deal expires, Carey Anthony blocks out an hour of his day to negotiate with his cable company. Each time, the president of a software company in Los Angeles says he can knock $20 to $30 off his monthly bill.

"Negotiating works every time," says Mr. Anthony, 46, who estimates he has saved more than $350 a year over the past decade. "Sometimes you have to threaten to cancel service, or switch to another provider, or sit on hold for an hour, but I've never failed to get a discount," he says. "You just have to be diligent."

Lauren Schuker on the News Hub has some tips on how to trim your cable bill, shuch as asking your service provider for unadvertised deals. (Photo AP)

As prices for cable services have surged over the past 10 years and the faltering economy has pressured household incomes, a growing number of cable customers face skyrocketing bills.

Today, the average cable TV subscriber pays about $128 a month in fees for all services, including TV, Internet and phone—nearly three times the $48 they paid each month in 2001, according to estimates by research firm SNL Kagan.

The increase is largely the result of sharply rising costs of programming, particularly sports. The TV networks pass those additional costs onto the operators, which in turn pass them onto consumers.

Cable-company executives have said publicly that they're worried rising costs could drive consumers away. The largest U.S. cable company, Comcast Corp. lost 442,000 video subscribers in the first nine months of this year, though this was fewer than in the same period last year. No. 2 Time Warner Cable Inc. lost 319,000 over the same period. Telecommunications companies including Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. are now offering more competitive services. And a growing number of early adapters are severing ties to cable altogether to rely on broadcast TV and Internet distributors, such as Netflix Inc. and Inc., though getting live sports can be difficult for these so-called cord cutters. Even in rural areas, where customers often have only one cable TV option, competition from satellite service is increasing, though satellite providers are facing similar cost pressures and passing on higher bills.

To stanch the bleeding, some cable companies have begun to quietly offer stripped-down plans to retain viewers. They frequently go unadvertised in many regions and customers might have to hunt for them on providers' websites to find out exactly what to ask for.

Comcast, for example, has a "digital economy" tier that sells for between $29.99 and $39.99, depending on the area. The next tier up in service Comcast offers, which includes ESPN, often sells for around $58 a month.

The digital economy tier includes local broadcast channels, as well as popular cable channels, such as USA, Lifetime, but no ESPN. The company says it will work with customers to find a package to fit their needs.

Time Warner Cable late last year introduced a "TV Essentials" package in the same vein. It can cost as much as $49.99 but the company also offers promotional rates as low as $29.99 a month. It includes broadcast channels as well as 38 additional channels, but not ESPN.Fans of premium channels and their shows such as HBO's 'Game Thrones,' can add them to most basic cable service.

"TV Essentials is geared towards a segment of our customers who are having trouble affording the larger packages, even though they want [them]," a spokeswoman for Time Warner Cable says, adding most people who call about it end up taking a "more robust" package.

cable operators and DirecTV also offer a family packages, which usually cost $30 to $40, and give households all the broadcast channels as well limited cable channels such as the Disney Channel and Food Network.

Other subscribers are dumping bulky packages of 190 channels or more in favor of the most basic service—often known as the "Lifeline" tier in the industry. These usually include public broadcast stations and the handful of over-the-air channels, and usually cost $13 to $16, compared to the $40 to $60 it usually costs to get the more widely-distributed level of digital cable service, which includes ESPN, MTV, TNT and other basic cable channels

Although cable operators don't widely market it, a federal law requires them to allow consumers to tack on premium channels such as HBO or Showtime for roughly $17 a month, even if they only have the most basic cable package.

Some consumers say they can finagle long-term extensions of special promotional rates used to attract new subscribers that normally expire after a year or two.

Getting Down to Basics

Negotiate. Many providers offer less-expensive packages with fewer channels but don't advertise them widely. Providers often will allow customers to continue cost-saving promotions well after they expire. Other providers will cut you a new deal every six months—but you have to call and ask. Often, if customers threaten to cancel service, they are transferred to the "retention department" staffed with representatives who are trained to offer customers deals to stay put.

Don't be beholden to the bundle. Service representatives are trained to push various bundled services (cable, Internet, telephone) because it's more profitable for the company. Some customers don't need a landline and can save a lot by avoiding that service. If you are offered a promotion or discount, suggest how it could be modified to meet your needs and make the company a counter-offer.

Go basic. If you love premium channels, you can still get HBO, Showtime and others with the most basic, broadcast-channels-only service—and knock your bill down to less than $50 a month. Just ask to add those channels onto the most basic offering.

Give up the DVR. Digital video recorders can increase bills by as much as $20 to $30 in some cases. When companies introduced the DVR in the early 2000s, charges were roughly $8 to $9 in addition to the cable box. Now they often cost as much as an additional $12.

Keep tabs on promotions. Place reminders on your calendar for when a special offer expires so you can negotiate a new deal before the promotion ends and you end up paying full price.

Source: WSJ reporting

Russell Bailyn, a 29-year-old wealth manager in New York City, says he has threatened to switch service in order to keep the new-subscriber promotional rate for television, broadband, and telephone service, even though he originally signed up for Time Warner Cable back in 2004.

I kinda kicked myself for not having done it years earlier.—Frank

Mr. Bailyn says he keeps meticulous notes of his conversations, but it isn't always an easy negotiation. "Time Warner has people trained to deal with people like me," he adds. "They won't just give into an angry, articulate New Yorker easily."

A spokesman from Time Warner Cable declined to comment on customer negotiations and extending promotional pricing.

Other subscribers say they bend the truth to score promotional rates years after signing up by cancelling service and asking someone else in the household—a spouse, grandparent, or older child—sign up for service at the cheaper, "new customer" rate. Switching to a bundled TV, phone and Internet package can work, if you really need all three services.

Mark Nitzberg, who lives with his wife and two kids in Westmont, New Jersey says he now saves about $70 a month as a result of switching his family from Comcast TV and Internet service and Verizon phone service to bundling everything together with Verizon's FIOS service earlier this year

They used the extra money to buy a new flat-screen TV and upgrade the living room couch to a new sectional sofa. "After seeing how much we're saving, our friends constantly ask how we got the $79.99 deal," he says.

Write to Lauren A. E. Schuker at

Did the Winnipeg Sun award its prestigious "Jerk of the Year Award" to the wrong mayor?

Mayor quiet on domestic disputes

By Robyn Doolittle
Urban Affiars Reporter
Friday, December30, 2011
Mayor Rob Ford at Pearson Airport Friday afternoon (Michael Woods/Toronto Star)

Mayor Rob Ford has continued to stay silent about two ongoing police investigations into domestic disputes at his home.

Ford, who flew back to Toronto on Friday, did not respond to an interview request from the Star and has, as of yet, not spoken publicly on the issue. He declined to comment to a Star reporter at Pearson airport upon his arrival from Florida around 5 p.m.

His first scheduled public appearance is the annual New Year’s Levee at city hall, from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday.

On Friday, the Star reported that 22 Division’s Youth and Family Violence Unit was probing two recent incidents at the mayor’s Etobicoke home.

The first occurred on the same day Ford made the infamous early morning call to 911 after This Hour Has 22 Minutes showed up in his driveway. By 10:17 p.m., police were called back to the Edenbridge Drive residence for a “verbal altercation” between Ford and his wife, Renata.

The second domestic call came to police early Christmas morning.

Sources say Renata’s mother made the call after Ford, who she said had been drinking, took the children to the airport to go to Florida against Renata’s wishes.
No charges have been laid and there is no evidence that the Star knows of to suggest physical violence occurred.

According to numerous police and emergency service sources, 911 calls to the mayor’s home are a reality for 22 Division. The Star has heard about a handful of incidents, but attempts to confirm the reports through freedom of information requests have been unsuccessful.

The incidents raise questions about where the line should be drawn between the public and private lives of politicians. On one hand, public officials have a right to privacy to sort through personal issues. On the other, as mayor of the city, Ford is directly involved in police budget and contract negotiations. He has a seat — or a designate — on the Oversight Board, to which Chief Bill Blair reports. And four of the seven seats on the Board are appointed by city council.

In 2008, when Ford was a councillor, one dispute became public after Ford was charged with assault and uttering a death threat. That charge was dropped two months later because of inconsistencies in Renata’s story.

With files from Michael Woods

Congratulations Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz on your prestigious award!

You don't hve to be jewish to enjoy a good bagel!

Good Day Readers:

Recall meeting a lady a few years ago - well into her 50s no spring chicken - who'd never heard of a bagel. Remember thinking at the time, "My God woman where have you been?"

You have to like the line in the article about British soccer star David Bechham having to ask his wife how to spell "DVD?"

Clare L. Piuek
Insulting advertisements
Ad hominem
When rudeness sells

December 31, 2011 from the print edition

No longer kosher

THE Israeli government recently raised an interesting question for advertisers: whom can you safely insult?

"American Jews” is the wrong answer. An ad campaign urging Jews to return to Israel showed a boy calling his father “daddy” instead of “abba.” Diaspora Jews were outraged at the implication that they are not properly Jewish.

Companies don’t usually make such elementary errors. The list of people or groups an advertiser can be rude about is very short, reckons Bob Jeffrey, the boss of JWT, a big ad agency. He recalls adverts from the 1960s such as “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s,” which depicted people of various ethnicities munching on a Brooklyn baker’s rye bread sandwich. Such slogans would not be kosher today. But “if you say you’re not going to annoy anyone, you might as well give up,” adds Mr Jeffrey.

In this section

Setting the desk jockeys free
Hard times, lean firms
One message, or many?
Too much buzz

Insulting dictators ought to be safe, so long as you do not operate in the same country. Nando’s, a South African restaurant chain, forgot that with an ad showing a Robert Mugabe lookalike glumly alone at dinner (after many of his fellow despots had been deposed). He reminisces about happy days shooting water pistols with Muammar Qaddafi, playing in the sand with Saddam Hussein and riding a tank, “Titanic”-style, with Idi Amin. The ad was broadcast in South Africa, where Nando’s middle-class target audience found it hilarious. But Nando’s also has restaurants in Zimbabwe. Threats ensued. Fearing violence against its staff there, the ad was pulled.

Outside America, companies can probably get away with insulting George Bush junior. In Malaysia, his face has been used to sell cars, contrasting the “not smart” President with Smart cars. However, a Toyota ad featuring Brad Pitt was banned there for being an “insult to Asians” by promoting a Western ideal of male beauty. Indeed, the existence of Mr Pitt is irritating to men everywhere.

In Britain, the government takes a dim view of television ads that mock living people. In 2002 an ad was banned for depicting David Beckham, a footballer not known for his academic accomplishments, asking his wife how to spell “DVD”. The advertiser’s protest—that it was for a satirical TV show with much ruder lines—did not succeed.

It is often profitable to stir controversy. An ad that upsets people and thereby generates headlines is an excellent source of free publicity. But if it alienates potential customers, it has gone too far. Benetton, a fashion brand, reels in young shoppers by annoying their parents, for example with a recent ad showing the pope kissing Ahmed al-Tayeb, an Egyptian imam. An edgy image helps sell clothes, but it works less well with cars, as Toyota found with an ad in Australia that mocked both Range Rover and the British queen: “Don’t worry, Your Majesty. You’re not the only British export that’s had its day.” Monarchists howled. Toyota apologised.

Time to listen to the wise professor voters ..... now read on!

Does it matter if our laws are passed legally?

Peter H. Russell
Friday, December 30, 2011 The federal government took the view it could simply ignore legislation passed by a pervious parliament. (Globe and Mail)

On December 15, the Governor-General gave royal assent to Bill C-18. This means that The Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act, the legislation that ends the Wheat Board’s monopoly of wheat and barley sales, is now the law of Canada – or is it?

The question arises because on December 7, Federal Court Judge Douglas Campbell ruled that the way Bill C-18 was introduced into Parliament violated The Canadian Wheat Board Act. Section 47 of The Act requires that the Minister of Agriculture not introduce in Parliament a Bill that would end the Wheat Board’s control of all wheat or barley sales without first consulting the Board and holding a vote to determine whether farmers favour such a change.

More related to this story

Cloud of uncertainty hangs over grain farmers
Wheat Board’s legal gambit adds to uncertainty for farmers


Some farmers applaud end of wheat board monopoly

In the May election, the Conservatives ran on a platform that promised to end the Wheat Board’s monopoly. When polls indicated that a majority of both wheat and barley farmers favoured retaining the Wheat Board’s “single desk,” the government realized it might fail to honour its election commitment if it followed the procedure laid down in The Act.

The government could have avoided this issue by asking Parliament to repeal the entire Wheat Board Act, or at least Section 47. Instead, it took the position that it did not have to comply with The Act’s requirements because one Parliament cannot bind another. So, in its view, it could simply ignore legislation passed by a previous Parliament.

The government has defended its action constitutionally under the banner of parliamentary sovereignty. But against this position is the view that Parliament can bind itself as to the “manner and form” of future legislation, a view supported by many constitutional scholars in Canada and other Westminster parliamentary democracies. Taking this view does not mean that Parliament can never change its mind and rescind legislation passed by previous Parliaments. But if it is going to depart from a process of law-making that an earlier Parliament committed to, it must do so explicitly and repeal the legislation.

Canadians should understand that at stake here is not just a technical point of law, but the integrity of parliamentary government. In placing Section 47 in The Wheat Board Act, Canada’s 36th Parliament made a commitment to grain growers that it would not consider changing the rules for marketing their crops without their consent. To hold that such a promise means nothing once another party has a majority in the House of Commons is to deny Parliament the capacity to make such commitments to citizens whose interests are so directly affected by legislation.

A full debate in Parliament on the merit of that promise may well result in its repeal. But those of us who believe in parliamentary democracy would think that a better way to honour the institution of Parliament and avoid its becoming simply a ratifying agency for the majority party.

Legal challenges are reportedly under way – which isn’t surprising when you consider we have an act that has been judicially found to have been illegally introduced in Parliament. We should watch the outcome of this litigation with interest and concern.

Peter H. Russell is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto.


A special thank you to the reader who passed this article along. We had not yet completed our daily morning review of internet sources looking for "postables" so were unaware of its existence.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Are Manitoba courts wasting too much juror time? Do they care?

A Toronto juror's story: 'It was Middle Ages. It really was.'

Tracey Tyler
Legal Affiars Reporter
Wednesday, December 28, 2011 TSO trombonist Gordon Wolfe stands in front of the courthouse where he was summoned as a juror. (Nick Kozak/Toronto Star)

To some, it looks like a bad version of Wheel of Fortune. But it’s part of the jury selection process set out in the Criminal Code.

“The name of each juror . . . and his address shall be written on a separate card,” the legislation stipulates.

“The clerk of the court . . . shall cause them to be placed together in a box … and to be thoroughly shaken together.”

This, in the 21st century, is one of the rituals of picking a jury in Canada.

Critics charge antiquated jury processes are costing the GTA economy millions of dollars in lost production, but that there is no financial incentive for the provincial government to fix the system.

Gordon Wolfe, 40, experienced the frustrations first-hand, sitting around for six hours as court staff drew cards to randomly divide members of his jury panel into groups of 25 — “a very simple task that could have been done by a computer in less than a second.”

When he was summoned for jury duty in October, Wolfe was philosophical at first. He would miss at least a week of work as principal trombonist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, but was prepared to carry out his civic obligation.

“I was thinking it could be a positive experience,” he recalls. “But it wasn’t.”

During five days at the University Avenue courthouse, Wolfe says, he spent just 20 minutes inside a courtroom. The rest of the time was taken up waiting in a drab ground-floor room with between 150 and 500 prospective jurors for a murder trial.

Others who have been there complain of not having wireless Internet service or enough electrical outlets, simple changes that would allow them to remain productive while their lives are suspended.

Wolfe began to question the hidden economic cost of having so many people away from their jobs and employers hiring temporary replacements, as the TSO was forced to do in his case.

The Star looked at the numbers. What it found was that, even by conservative estimates, the price tag could be more than $41 million a year, most of that borne by employers or individual jurors, who may have no source of income while serving on a jury panel.

Employers are required to give workers time off for jury duty, but do not have to continue paying their wages or salaries, though some do.

Every year, between 100,000 and 150,000 people are summoned for jury service in Ontario.

But there is little chance the government will feel an urgent need to improve the experience because the incentive system “is set up all wrong,” said Peter Dungan, an adjunct professor of economics at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto.

“There is very little cost to the province for wasting people’s time,” he said.

In fact, only those selected for a jury are likely to get paid by the government.

The province offers no remuneration for the first 10 days of jury service. Between the 11th and 50th day of service, jurors get $40 a day. The rate is $100 a day after that.

Even then, jurors must absorb expenses such as child care and parking, which can exceed $100 a week at the closest lot to the downtown courthouse.

Judges tell friends summoned for jury duty to bring a good book and say there are many reasons for delays.

On long trials, at least half the jury panel is likely to ask to be excused on grounds of hardship, usually because they have medical conditions, sick relatives to care for or they stand to be ruined financially because their employers won’t pay them during the trial.

The prosecution and defence can also challenge and reject jurors, notes Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General.

That adds to the time needed to pick a jury, but it’s entrenched in the trial process by law, much like shaking cards around in a box and drawing names — a process that grew out of a belief that an accused person will be better equipped to assess prospective jurors in smaller groups.

The judiciary and the ministry say they try to accommodate prospective jurors as much as possible. Work cubicles are a recent addition to the jury lounge at the University Avenue courthouse, along with flat-screen TVs, which broadcast information about jury duty.

There’s been talk of connecting to a 24-hour news channel, but a well-positioned source told The Star the government has balked at the cost of installing cable.

But really, the jury system hasn’t changed much since the 1800s, says Alan Young, a Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The one big reform came when accused people acquired the right to defence lawyers, and jurors went from being animated trial participants, openly questioning witnesses, to more passive players.

“Since then, almost nothing has changed in how we summon jurors, how we challenge jurors and what their role is in court,” Young says. “There’s never really been a sense of wanting to modernize it or make it a more efficient process.”

In Wolfe’s case, the TSO brought in another trombonist to cover for him while he was on jury duty, which spilled over into a second week. Wolfe still got paid, but wonders what it would be like for his wife, who would have to bring someone in to run her dental practice if she had to go for jury duty.

After four days at the courthouse, Wolfe was sent home until the following week.

Before leaving, he was asked by court staff to write down his phone number so if a jury was picked in the interim, he could be called and told not to bother coming back.

After returning the following Tuesday and spending another $20 for parking, he walked into the courthouse only to be told the jury had been filled the day before. Wolfe asked why he didn’t get a phone call.

A court employee told him it was “easier” to have jurors come and find out in person, because she would otherwise have to make 150 calls, he said.

“So, instead of one court employee taking two hours of her paid time to call us, 150 people had to take a day off work and come downtown to be told that they were not needed.”

But as the ministry tells it, court staff were going out of their way by even offering to call. Crawley said: “It is not normal practice for court staff to contact jurors to advise whether they are required to attend.”

'DisService' Canada?

Festering EI backlog prompts pre-Christmas violence

Gloria Galloway
Friday, December 16, 2011Service Canada offices like this one shown on December 2, 2011, have been overwhelmed with irate clients after cutbacks on staff and overtime. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Service Canada workers say they’re dealing with frustrated and increasingly volatile clients who are unable to get through on jammed phone lines to find out why their Employment Insurance cheques are being delayed as Christmas approaches.

Winnipeg police confirmed Friday they are investigating a complaint about an incident that occurred Wednesday at the Service Canada centre in the Manitoba capital.

Workers say a man who was irate at the handling of his claim scaled a metre-and-a-half high counter and lunged at an employee who suffered injuries to his head, knee and hand.

A day later, another client at the same centre was verbally abusive and threatened to come over the desk of a Service Canada worker. When the worker backed away, the man ripped up his documents and threw them at her.

The workers say the federal Human Resources department’s decision to eliminate the jobs of hundreds of processing agents this year is forcing some jobless Canadians to wait months for their first benefits cheque. And the shrinking staffing levels at Service Canada call centres have created phone lines so overloaded just one in three callers actually reaches an agent. That means more people are turning up at the centres to find out when they will get paid.

Susan Norman, the National Vice-president for the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, which represents the workers, said she cannot recall incidents like the ones that occurred in Winnipeg this week. Staff are feeling both apprehensive and vulnerable, she said.

“We know this time of year is busier, and of course with them not backfilling positions, it’s taking longer for claims to be processed,” Ms. Norman said. “The frustration of not getting through the to call centre when [the claimants] do have a question is the other part. By the time people hit the counter, they are quite agitated.”

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley says the staffing cuts are part of her department’s attempts to move from a paper system to one that is automated. But Service Canada employees point out that the system has been automated for four years.

The number of claims for EI benefits normally takes a large jump between November and January with the increase peaking in December. And this year the increase is occurring as unemployment rates rise.

The department usually approves overtime in December to handle the influx of claims and get money into the hands of jobless Canadians before Christmas. Service Canada workers say overtime has been prohibited this year.

Ms. Finley insists her department is taking steps to deal with the increased workload.

“We understand that at this time of year it is even harder for them to deal with day to day expenses,” she told the Commons Thursday – the final say of the fall sitting. “That is why we are putting extra resources to processing these claims. We do that every year and we are doing it this year.”

Opposition members responded by yelling, “No you’re not!” across the floor for the Commons.

The Human Resources Department has refused repeated requests for details about the "extra resources" referenced by the Minister.

The union says the department has reassigned some of the clerical staff from its Integrity Branch – the Section that ensures that the amounts being paid are correct – to fill the jobs left vacant by the terminated claims processors. But that means their own jobs, which are already backlogged, are not being done.

Still unconvinced? Read on .....

More related to this story

Employment Insurance system unjust and inefficient, report finds

Overworked EI call centre staff at odds with boss’ claims

Unforgiving computer system causes long waits for EI payments

Service Canada employees told to keep mum on complaints office

Government job cuts mean jobless waiting weeks for EI cheques

Tory minister banks on automation to ease EI backlog

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Tis a small world indeed!

Good Day Readers:

The heart of the allegations as yet unproven against Ms Glover can be found in the Statement of Claim paragraphs 84-90 inclusive pages 24-25. They have been reproduced verbatim on CyberSmokeBlog (OMG our Member of Parliament is an alleged defamer what should we do? - December 22, 2011).

Here's where it gets interesting. You may recall a couple weeks ago we covered a Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Hearing presided over by Justice Shane I. Perlmutter in which a group of Canadian Wheat Board intervenors argued for an emergency, temporary Court Injunction to block further implementation of recently passed Bill C-!8 which will effectively dismantle the Board until a full judicial revie
w can be heard (January 16-17 next year). The request was denied.

However, one of the lawyers present was none other than a Mr. Author Hamilton of Toronto-based Cassals Brock & Blackwell representing The Western Canadian Wheat Producers (if our memory serves us correctly) a vocal Association (approximately 400 members) with the reputation of making a lot of noise in support of the Ritz/Harper approach to the marketing of grain. Well, guess what we meet again. Here he is but this time as a Defendant.

Clare L. Pieuk
Arthur L. Hamilton

Arthur has over 13 years of experience practising in the area of
corporate commercial and regulatory litigation and dispute resolution, with a focus on securities litigation, energy litigation, governance, and contract and business tort litigation. Arthur also assists a number of institutional clients with employment-related matters, including the enforcement of employment agreement terms and the detection and prosecution of employee misappropriation. His litigation practice increasingly involves disputes which extend beyond the jurisdictions of Ontario and Canada.

Arthur’s experience includes

- Representing clients in the Federal Court Trial Division, the Superior Courts of Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta and Nova Scotia, as well as, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

- Appearing before a number of administrative tribunals and regulatory bodies, including the Ontario Securities Commission, the National Energy Board, the Ontario Energy Board and the New Brunswick Public Utilities Board.

- Conducting private mediations and arbitrations.

- Providing counsel to various Members of Parliament, Senators and officials within the Prime Minister’s Office on an array of issues that have come before the courts, various regulatory bodies, Parliamentary committees, Senate committees and Commissions.

Through this experience, Arthur has developed the ability to provide complete file and client management once engaged in a litigation or dispute matter. In today’s litigation and dispute resolution, protecting the interests of clients goes beyond executing the technical requirements of the litigation or dispute resolution process put in place. Rather, the positioning and articulation of various litigation or other steps and reviewing other circumstances that would inevitably be impacted by events occurring in the litigation prove to be as important, if not more important, than the steps being taken in the litigation. In the current business and economic climate, there is no question that just about any issue with which a client is faced transcends the specific boundaries of a particular litigation or dispute resolution process. Valued counsel work for a client includes not only the ability to understand the full measure of the issues within the litigation or dispute resolution process, but also those issues which are important to the client that will impact upon or be impacted by the events and steps taken within the litigation or dispute resolution process.

In his litigation and dispute resolution practice, Arthur has regularly managed complex pieces of litigation involving multiple parties, multiple issues and in certain instances, multiple decision makers in various jurisdictions. In 2004 and 2005, Arthur was the lead counsel for the Conservative Party of Canada, which had intervener status at the Gomery Commission. This involved a review of more than one million documents, experts’ reports and argument of several procedural motions on items including the requested recusal of Commissioner Gomery, the breadth of parliamentary privilege and the obligations of Commission counsel in the preparation of the Final Report and Recommendations. Arthur managed the counsel team who were successful in persuading Commissioner Gomery of the linkages between the directing of sponsorship funds and a number of key fundraising representatives of the federal Liberal Party, a matter of significant concern for the public interest. Prior to and following the Gomery Commission, Arthur has managed a number of other complex litigation matters involving energy regulation, securities regulation and multi-party commercial disputes.

Arthur holds a Bachelor of Arts (with high distinction) from the University of Toronto, 1992, and a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, 1995. He was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1997.


LL.B., Osgoode Hall Law School, 1995 B.A., University of Toronto, 1992

Call to the bar
Ontario, 1997


The Advocates' Society
American Bar Association
Canadian Bar Association (Litigation Section)
Ontario Bar Association
Toronto Lawyers Association

Practice Areas

Charity & Not-For-Profit
Energy & UtilitiesLitigationSecurities Litigation

Representative Work
Cassels Brock

Representative Work
Cassels Brock Secures Key Victory in Conservative Fund Canada v. The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
Here's what the Guergis Statement of Claim has alleged regarding Arthur Hamilton/Cassels Brock & Blackwell (at Pages 10-14 Paragraphs 36-50):

Hamilton's Allegations

36. On or or abouit April 8 and/or 9, 2011, Hamilton spoke defamatory words about the Plaintiff, advising Novak, Giorno, Harper and/or others the Plaintiff was or had been in volved in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences, and prostitution, and that Snowdy had collected evidence to corrobrate his statements that the Plaintiff had been involved in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences and prostitution.

37. The Plaintiff complains of the defamatory words spoken by Hamilton to Novak, Giorno, Harper and/or others on or about April 8 and/or 9, 2010, and states that the words complained of were false and defamatory of the Plaintoff in their natural and ordinary meaning, including their implied meanings, and were spoken with malice.

38. The words complained of meant, were intended to mean, and were unstertood to mean that:

a. The Plaintiff was involved in fradulent activity;

b. The Plaintiff was involved in extortion;

c. The Plaintiff was involved in obtaining benefits by false pretences;

d. The Plaintiff was involved in prostitution;

e. Evidence existed and had been obtained by Snowdy to corrobrate the allegations that the Plaintiff was involved in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences and prostitution;

f. Snowdy had previously provided information respecting the improper and/or unlawful conduct to the RCMP and the OPP;

g. Snowdy had advised Hamilton that the Plaintiff was involved in fradulent activity;

h. Snowdy had advised Hamilton that the Plaintiff was involved in extortion;

i. Snowdy had advised Hamilton that the Plaintiff was involved in obtaining benefits by false pretences;

j. Snowdy had advised Hamilton that the Plaintiff in prostitution;

k. Snowdy had advised Hamilton that evidence existed and had been obtained by Snowdy to corroborate the allegations that the Plaintiff was involved in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences and prostitution.

l. Snowdy had advised Hamilton that Snowdy had previously provided information respecting the improper and/or unlawful conduct of the Plaintiffs to the RCMP and OPP.

39. Contrary to the foregoing false and defamatory words, implications, and innuendos:

a. The Plaintiff has never been involved in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences, or prostitution;

b. No evidence has ever existed to corroborate the allegations that the Plaintiff's conduct included involvement in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences and prostitution;

c. In the alternative to the statements made at paragraphs 31-35 herein, Snowdy never communicated to Hamilton any allegations that the Plaintiff was involved in fraud, extortion, obtaining benefits by false pretences, or prostitution;

d. In the alternative to the statements made at paragraphs 31-35 herein, Snowdy never told Hamilton that he had collected evidence to corroborate any allegations respecting the Plaintiff;

e. In the alternative to the statements made at paragraphs 31-35 herein, Snowdy never told Hamilton that he had provided information respecting the Plaintiff to the RCMP and the OPP, as of April 8 and/or 9, 2010.

40. On other occasions during 2010, the dates and times of which are not known to the Plaintiff, Hamilton spok further defamatory words about the Plaintiff, advising certain of the Defendants or other indivuduals that the Plaintiff had used cocaine and associated with prostitutes while using cocaine, and that a video recording exists depicting the Plaintiff using cocaine by snorting cocaine off the breast of a prostitute.

41. The Plaintiff complains of defamatory words spoken by Hamilton during 2010, and states that the words complained of were false and defamatory of the Plaintiff in their natural and ordinary meaning, including their implied meanings.

42. The words complained of meant, were intended to mean and were understood to mean that:

a. The Plaintiff has used cocaine;

b. The Plaintiff has used cocaine while associating with prostitutes;

c. A video recording exists depicting the Plaintiff using cocaine by snorting cocaine off the breast of a prostitute;

d. The Plaintiff has engaged in criminal conduct, being the possession and use of cocaine.

43. Contrary to the foregoing false and defamatory words, implications and innuendos:

a. The Plaintiff has never used cocaine;

b. The Plaintiff has never been in the presence of another individual or individuals using cocaine;

c. The Plaintiff has never been involved in criminal conduct;

d. No video recording has ever existed depicting the Plaintiff snorting cocaine off of the breast of a prostitute.

44. The defamatory words spoken by Hamilton about the Plaintiff during his meeting(s) with Novak, Giorno and Harper of April 8 and/or April 9, 2010 and on other occasions during 2010 were spoken in pursuance and in furtherance of the consipiacy engaged in by the Defendants.

Hamilton and Cassels Brock's Breaches Of Their Duties

On April 8 and 9, 2010 and all material times, Hamilton and Cassels Brock owed a fiduciary duty and duty of good faith to the Plaintiff, and were obliged to act with regard to the Plaintiff's interests and keep and protect the Plaintiff's confidences as a result of the relationship that existed between the Plaintiff, Hamilton and Cassels Brock, including as a result of the legal advice that had been provided by Hamilton and Cassels Brock to the Plaintiff on or about April 7, 2010 at a time when the Plaintiff was vulnerable and dependent upon Hamilton and Cassels Brock and relying upon their professional advice.

In this regard, on or about April 7, 2010, just one or two days prior to the words and defamatory words spoken by Hamilton to Novak, Giorno, Harper and/or others on or about April 8 and/or 9, 2010, Hamilton and Cassels Brock were providing legal advice to the Plaintiff, were receiving confidential information and documentation from the Plaintiff, were bgeing relied upon by the Plaintiff to protect her legal interests, and were aware that the Plaintiff's trust was being reposed to them.

However, on or about April 8 and/or April 9, 2010 and thereafter, Hamilton and Cassels Brock disregarded their relationship with the Plaintiff and acted in a manner detrimental to the Plaintiff's interests, including by speaking the foregoing false and defamatory words about the Plaintiff to Novak, Giorno, Harper and/or others on or about April 8 and/or April 9, 2010.

In addition, Hamilton and Cassels Brock failed to avoid a conflict of interest whereby the interests of their other client(s) were promoted at the expense of the Plaintiff's interests, resulting in breaches of their fiduciary duties and duties of good faith owed to the Plaintiff.

In speaking the foregoing false and defamatory words about the Plaintiff to Novak, Giorno, Harper and/or others on or about April 8 and/or April 9, 2010, and by communicating to Novak, Giorno, Harper and/or others private and confidential information that had been provided to Hamilton and Cassels Brock by the Plaiintiff, Hamilton and Cassels Brock breached the Plaintiff's confidences and/or were negligent with resulting damage to the Plaintiff.

Hamilton and Cassels Brock's breach of the Plaintiff's confidences was effected in pursuance and in furtherance of the conspiracy engaged in by the Defendants.
Glover is 'conspiracy,' Guergis suit says
MP's comments after ouster cited

By Bruce Owen
Wednesday December 28, 2011

Helena Guergis (left) and Shelly Glover

ST. Boniface MP Shelly Glover was part of a "conspiracy" to discredit former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis and remove her from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's caucus, court documents filed in Ontario say.

Glover is one of eight people named in a $1.3-million defamation lawsuit Guergis filed last week against Harper, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, the Conservative Party of Canada and others.

Harper fired Guergis from cabinet in April 2010, saying he had information involving allegations of criminal conduct. He referred the matter to the RCMP and did not provide details of the allegations to Guergis, says the 31-page statement of claim.

Glover is singled out for comments she allegedly made -- none of the allegations in Guergis's claim has been proven in court -- in a May 16, 2010 television broadcast in which she commented on Guergis's departure.

In the broadcast, picked up by other media, Glover said, "I can assure you that there is far more to come," and, "This isn't finished."

Guergis said in her claim in Ontario Superior Court evidence was made public about her being involved in criminal conduct. The RCMP also cleared Guergis and no charges were laid against her.

She said in the claim Glover's words were calculated to make her suffer harm and have damaged her reputation, political career, health and well-being.

"The defamatory words spoken by Glover respecting the plaintiff's alleged involvement in criminal conduct were spoken in pursuance and in furtherance of the conspiracy engaged in by the defendants," the claim says.

Glover's spokeswoman Myrrhanda Novak said because the matter is before the courts, Glover won't comment.
The Prime Minister's Office has called the allegations groundless.

Glover made her comments on CTV's Question Period in which she defended Harper's decision to ask for Guergis's resignation as minister for the status of women and expel her from the Conservative caucus as MP for Simcoe Grey.
"Frankly, (the PM) did the right thing," Glover also said.

She is also suing Ray Novak, Harper's principal secretary, Arthur Hamilton and the law firm he works for, Cassels Brock & Blackwell, Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, Axelle Pellerin, a former aide to Guergis, and Derrick Snowdy. Snowdy is the Toronto private investigator whose allegations helped spark the controversy around Guergis and her husband.

Jaffer came under scrutiny for his activities as a lobbyist after he lost his Edmonton seat in 2008. He also made headlines when an associate had bragged to friends Jaffer could open doors in Ottawa to potential clients.

Filings to a Commons Committee revealed Jaffer use one of his wife's parliamentary email addresses, a room in her office, and had even handed out an MP's business card to prospective clients.

With files from The Canadian Press

"Customers' hours"

Scott Rothstein's Recently Sentenced Pals May Testify in Lawsuit Against TD Bank

By Matthew Hendley
Monday, October 3, 2011Scott Rothstein (in happier times)

An investment company alleging TD Bank committed multiple crimes throughout Scott Rothstein's billion-dollar Ponzi scheme is requesting that three of the four recently sentenced Rothstein cohorts testify at a civil trial.

Coquina investments, which claims it lost $37.7 million in Rothstein's scheme, is requesting that William Corte, Curtis Renie, and Stephen Caputi appear to testify at the trial or at least be made available for deposition.

The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2010, alleges two Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations and fraudulent misrepresentation against both Rothstein and TD Bank and additionally claims that TD Bank was aiding and abetting fraud.

In the lawsuit -- the second against TD Bank related to Rothstein's scheme -- claims that TD Bank officials helped contribute to the "aura of legitimacy" investors felt while dumping money into Rothstein's scam, claiming several higher-ups in the bank provided personal assurances to Rothstein's clients about their funds.

"Coquina reasonably relied on misrepresentations and material omissions made by Rothstein, TD Bank, and others in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme," the lawsuit says. Now that three of Rothstein's amigos have received their prison sentences, Coquina apparently thinks it has something to share with the court about TD Bank, although it didn't reveal any new information in the request -- filed today -- for the three of them to testify.

The court had previously asked Coquina to file a motion requesting the men to appear after they were all finally sentenced -- which happened last week -- and the motion has not yet had an immediate response.

Renie and Corte, both 38-year-old former information technology workers for Rothstein's now-defunct law firm, pleaded guilty in June to a single count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and were both sentenced last week to 37 months in prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Renie and Corte -- the so-called "computer experts" -- were an integral part of Rothstein's scheme.

Rothstein offered $5,000 each to Renie and Corte for copying the website of TD Bank to a computer at his law firm in an attempt to be able to confirm that funds from investors were being held in trust accounts.Once this was done, investors could view the website -- which looked nearly identical to TD Bank's -- from inside the law firm, allowing investors to view the information in their fake accounts.

For much of 2009, Rothstein would give Renie and Corte a copy of bank account information with balances written next to the printed balances and ask them to update the fake website with the new balances.Caputi, 53, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and received the maximum prison sentence of five years.

According to Caputi's indictment, he had posed as a TD Bank official during meetings with unknowing Ponzi scheme investors and would actually hold these meetings in a conference room at a TD Bank location in Weston that Rothstein had set up with bank officials.

Caputi would then present false bank statements to show to investors, telling them he's a customer service representative who worked for the bank, gaining confidence from the investors that their accounts were full of cash.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is still preparing its impending indictment against more alleged Rothstein co-conspirators, which include charges related to mail fraud, wire fraud, campaign finance fraud, tax fraud, extortion, payments of unlawful gratuities, bank fraud, and money laundering, according to a previous court filing.

Follow The Pulp on Facebook and on Twitter: @ThePulpBPB. Follow Matthew Hendley on Facebook and on Twitter: @MatthewHendley.


Coquina Investments
Curtis Renie
Ponzi Scheme
Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler
Scott Rothstein
Stephen Caputi
TD Bank
US Attorney
William Corte

The Ponzi pot party!

" You don't want to have marijuana dealing from the middle of your law office because I was running a giant Ponzi scheme out of there ....." Scott Rothstein

On January 27, 2011 Mr. Rothstein pleaded guilty to five charges of racketeering, money laundering and fraud in a massive $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. In June, 2011 he was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison. Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler (70 lawyers) was dissolved during November of 2009.

What happens to copyright trolling law firms!

The story introduces three male goats a youngster, father and grandfather, but more often described as brothers. There is no grass left for them to eat near to where they live, so they must cross a river to get to a "saeter" (a meadow) or hillside on the other side of a stream to eat and get fat. To do so, they must first cross a bridge, under which lives a fearsome troll who eats anyone who passes that way.

The smallest billy goat is the first to cross and is immediately stopped by the troll who threatens to "gobble him up!" The little goat convinces him to wait for the bigger billy goat to come across because he is larger and more gratifying as a feast. The greedy troll agrees and lets the smallest goat cross.

The middle goat sees that the youngest one has crossed and reaches the conclusion that the bridge must be safe after all, but is also stopped by the troll and given the same threat. The second billy goat is allowed to cross as well after he tells the troll to wait for the biggest billy goat because he will have the most meat.

The third billy goat then gets on the bridge, and is stopped by the hungry troll. When the troll gets up on the bridge however, the third billy goat is so big, that he easily throws the troll into the stream with his horns and crosses the bridge. From then on the bridge is safe, and all three goats are able to go to the rich fields around the summer farm in the hills. They all live happily ever after. The troll however was never seen again.
Copyright Troll's Domain Name Auctioned to Pay Legal Fees

By David Kravets
Tuesday, December 27, 2011Righthaven, a copyright-troll law firm that failed in its attempt to make money for newspapers by suing people for sharing stories online, is having its domain name auctioned off to help satisfy the Las Vegas company’s debts.

As of 3 p.m. EST on Tuesday, was going for $1,250, up from $100 when the online auction started on December 26. The auction, which ends January 6, is to intended to recoup $63,000 in legal fees Righthaven owes after it lost a case in which a federal judge said reposting an entire news article in an online forum was fair use — an issue Righthaven has appealed.

Struggling after several courtroom setbacks, Righthaven has ceased filing new lawsuits, pending resolution of that case and others on appeal. Righthaven was also hit with a separate order in October to pay $120,000 in legal fees in another case it had lost.

Borrowing a page from patent trolls, in the spring of 2010 Righthaven was formed with the idea of suing blogs and websites that re-post newspaper articles or snippets of them without permission. Now it appears that the Righthaven saga is largely over — and it’s unclear whether it will have the financial wherewithal to maintain its appeal in a closely watched fair-use copyright case.

Righthaven initially was winning and settling dozens of cases as defendants paid a few thousand dollars each to make the cases go away. But Righthaven has never prevailed in a case that was defended in court. Ironically, Righthaven sought — as payment — the domains owned by the people it was suing, and now it has lost its own domain in the process while threatening to file for bankruptcy protection.

The domain auction is to help pay Las Vegas lawyer Marc Randazza for successfully defending Vietnam veteran Wayne Hoen against a Righthaven copyright lawsuit seeking large damages for posting the entirety of a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial to a small online message board.

The U.S. Copyright Act allows damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, but also grants legal fees and costs to the “prevailing party.” More fee awards against Righthaven are expected.

The lawsuit against Hoehn, one of Righthaven’s roughly 275 cases, accused him of unlawfully posting all 19 paragraphs of a November 2010 editorial from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Hoehn posted the article, and its headline, “Public Employee Pensions: We Can’t Afford Them” on to prompt discussion about the financial affairs of the nation.

Righthaven’s first client, Stephens Media of Las Vegas and operator of the Review-Journal, invested $500,000 into the Righthaven operation last year.

Righthaven’s only other client, MediaNews Group of Denver and the publisher of the Denver Post and 50 other newspapers, dropped Righthaven in September.

The other big issue Righthaven has appealed is the complicated arrangement between Righthaven and its newspaper clients.

The arrangements hit a major snag in June when Chief U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt of Nevada threw out a copyright lawsuit against the Democratic Underground blog for allegedly clipping four paragraphs from a 34-paragraph story published by the Review-Journal, Stephens Media’s flagship paper.

As it turns out, Righthaven didn’t own the copyrights it was filing suit over. Instead, Stephens Media granted Righthaven permission to sue over the newspaper chain’s content in exchange for a 50 percent cut of all the settlements and jury awards: The agreement did not grant Righthaven license to use the content in any other way. The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the arrangement a “sham,” and judges hearing Righthaven cases began to take notice.

Judge Hunt ruled in the case that a “copyright owner cannot assign a bare right to sue.”

Righthaven’s other client, MediaNews Group, had a similar relationship with Righthaven, and some three dozen Righthaven lawsuits over Denver Post content have been dismissed over the standing issue.

Steven Gibson, Righthaven’s Chief Executive, did not immediately respond for comment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Small claims flash mob coming to Manitoba?

Car owner takes fight away from lawyers

Heather Petersis miffed that her Civic doesn't fet its claimed fuel economy, and she isn't satisfied with a proposed settlement. So she's trying a new approach to litigation. Honda said the 2006 Civic, above, would get about 50 miles per gallon, but because of tehcnical problems the car gets closer to 30 mpg. (Mark Elias/Blooomberg News)

By Jerry Hirsch
December 27, 2011

Heather Peters is an angry consumer who knows she has little chance of winning a war with Honda Motor Co. and its army of high-priced lawyers.

The Los Angeles resident is miffed that her 2006 Honda Civic hybrid doesn't get its claimed fuel economy. And she isn't satisfied with a proposed class-action lawsuit settlement that would give trial lawyers $8.5 million while Civic owners would get as little as $100 and rebate coupons for the purchase of a new vehicle.

But Peters believes that she found a venue where she can win justice and where Honda can't spend a single dollar on legal help.

On January 3 she'll take her case to Small Claims Court in Torrance, where California law prohibits Honda from bringing an attorney. She's asking for the maximum of $10,000 to compensate her for spending much more on gasoline than expected. Honda said the Civic would get about 50 miles per gallon, but because of technical problems the car gets closer to 30 mpg.

What's more, Peters is urging Honda owners across the country to do the same. Peters' website and a DontSettleWithHonda Twitter account include a link to state-by-state instructions for filing these lawsuits, which have low fees and minimal paperwork. Honda sold about 200,000 of the hybrids over a six-year period, and because of resales, as many as 500,000 people are eligible to file claims against Honda.

"I want them to know they can file in Small Claims Court and that it is not so scary," Peters said.

If she's successful in getting others to follow her example, Peters could inspire a whole new litigation strategy in the auto industry and other businesses. Working together but filing lawsuits independently, consumers could force companies to go mano a mano with individual plaintiffs in far-flung courtrooms nationwide.

Call it a small-claims flash mob.

"This could create a lot of problems in the industry," said Aaron Jacoby, the Los Angeles defense attorney who heads the automotive industry group at the Arent Fox law firm.

Attorneys said social networking and the Internet make it easier for groups of claimants to find one another and map out tactics such as the one Peters has devised.

Apartment dwellers for years have used a similar strategy, banding together to file individual cases against the same landlord in Small Claims Court.

"You might have 10 plaintiffs suing the same defendant, but with different claims, and requesting that all the cases be heard at the same time," said Nicholas Aquino, Small Claims Court Advisory Program Manager for the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs.

He said mass filings could become a trend.

"Governments are cutting back on everything, including consumer protection. The Small Claims Court is the forum of last resort for the everyday person," Aquino said. "It gives a consumer an opportunity to have an issue addressed in court."

To be sure, there are hurdles that might dissuade people from pursuing the stratagem en masse.

Although there is relatively little red tape, Small Claims Court still requires plaintiffs to prepare arguments. And they have to make a court date and possibly miss work to attend the hearing, Jacoby said.

Some states allow the litigants in small claims actions to be represented by attorneys — giving big companies with high-priced legal staffs an advantage over mom-and-pop plaintiffs.

"It could be a daunting task for some," Jacoby said.

But in California and other states where companies can only be represented by non-attorney employees, there also could be some benefits, beginning with "cutting the attorneys out of the equation in these cases," said Richard Cupp Jr., who teaches product liability law at Pepperdine