Justice Lisabeth Abramson Reportedly Being Considered for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals


Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Abramson

Andrew Wolfson with the Courier Journal reported today that–

“Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson of Louisville is being vetted by the FBI for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 6th Circuit.

Abramson, who has served on state high court since 2007, would be “a terrific appointment,” U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville said Monday in a statement.

Two high-level public officials confirmed that they had been interviewed as part of the screening process for the appeals court, which is one rung below the U.S. Supreme Court. They said they couldn’t be named because the FBI requested that they not comment.

Abramson, 58, did not respond to phone and email messages.”

Click here for rest of Courier Journal Story.

David Hale and Greg Stivers will be nominated to fill two federal district court judicial vacancies in Kentucky

U.S. Attorney David J. Hale and Bowling Green lawyer Greg Stivers, a close friend and supporter of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, will be nominated to fill vacant federal judgeships in Kentucky, according to attorneys and officials familiar with the selection process. Per story from Courier-Journal.

U.S. Attorney David Hale

U.S. Attorney David Hale

Following his nomination by President Obama and confirmation by the United States Senate, David J. Hale was sworn in as United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky on May 7, 2010. As the District’s chief federal law enforcement officer, Mr. Hale supervises the prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of civil matters in which the federal government is a party, in a district encompassing 53 counties and over two million residents. He oversees the work of more than 80 attorneys and support staff in Kentucky’s largest city, Louisville, as well as office locations in Bowling Green, Owensboro and Paducah.

Before being appointed U.S. Attorney, Mr. Hale was a member of the Louisville law firm Reed Weitkamp Schell & Vice PLLC, where he concentrated his practice in commercial litigation, representing businesses and individuals from disparate industries in federal and state courts across Kentucky. Mr. Hale’s private practice received listings in Chambers USA, Super Lawyers, and Benchmark Litigation. While in private practice, Mr. Hale was active in the community, serving on non-profit boards such as the Louisville Urban League and Kentucky Educational Television (KET). He is a graduate of Leadership Kentucky.

From 1995 to 1999, Mr. Hale served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) in the Western District of Kentucky. During his tenure as an AUSA, he prosecuted a broad array of criminal cases, including narcotics, gun crimes, homicide and other violent crime, child exploitation, and white collar crime. Mr. Hale also represented the government in civil matters, including affirmative civil enforcement cases, health care fraud, and financial litigation.

Mr. Hale is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (B.A., 1989) and the University of Kentucky College of Law (J.D., 1992). Prior to his appointment as U.S. Attorney, he also served on the University of Kentucky College of Law Visiting Committee. Mr. Hale is married and has two teenage children. He was born in the Army hospital at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.


Gregory Stivers

Gregory Stivers

Greg’s practice involves various aspects of business and employment law.  Greg works with clients in employment-related disputes, primarily representing employers in matters such as wrongful discharge and claims of religious, sexual, race, and disability discrimination.  His practice also includes representing municipalities in a wide range of litigation, including zoning, taxation, and code enforcement, as well as employment issues.  Greg also has extensive experience in the area of workers compensation claims, primarily from the employer’s perspective.

In the business area, he has represented both lenders and borrowers in a wide range of commercial transactions.  He has worked with buyers and sellers of business enterprises and counseled clients in the selection of corporate form and formation of partnerships, corporations and limited liability entities, including buy/sell agreements.  Greg also has experience in real estate matters, including sales, leases and tax-free exchanges.  In addition to working on transactions, Greg has also represented clients involved in litigating business disputes, from breach of contract actions to shareholder disputes seeking judicial dissolution.

Greg has served as a board member and past President of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Kentucky; is a founding board member of the Western Kentucky University Research Foundation; serves on the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation Board; and has served as counsel to the St. Joseph’s Cemetery Foundation.  He is also a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys and the Association of University Technology Managers.

Bar Admissions

  • 1985, Kentucky
  • 1986, U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky
  • 1989, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky


  • Eastern Kentucky University (B.A., with distinction, 1982)
  • University of Kentucky (J.D., 1985)

Federal Court: Louisville Lawyers, Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliot, File Lawsuit Challenging Kentucky Ban on Gay Marriage on behalf of Louisville Gay Couple

Federal Courthouse Louisville, Kentucky

Federal Courthouse Louisville, Kentucky

A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon  challenging Kentucky’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage.

Accourding to the complaint, Bourke and DeLeon have been together for 31 years and legally married nine years ago in Canada.

The complaint alleges their exclusion of marriage undermines the couple’s ability to achieve their life goals and dreams and it deprives them of numerous legal protections that are available to opposite-sex couples in Kentucky.  The couple have two children who they had to adopt separately because they can’t as a legal couple, is just one of the many stipulations their lawsuit is challenging.

The lawsuit was filed by Louisville attorneys Shannon Fauver and Dawn Elliot.  Click here for firm’s web site.

See also, WLKY story entitled Court to decide if spousal privilege applies to same-sex couples

Here is copy of complaint filed in federal court:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

“All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon”, then time for a history lesson for those not familiar with Kentucky Bourbon.

A little taste of bourbon history a la Judge Boyce Martin and Maker’s Mark Distiller v. Diageo N. Am., 5/9/2012.

I thought this might be an appropriate legal discussion on the eve of Judge Martin’s retirement, and although Judge Martin was able to hide his bourbon preference, I am more than happy to share mine.  For years, I enjoyed the taste of Woodford Reserve, but a few years back my neighbor Jack Rutledge enlightened me of the finer qualities of Jim Beam’s Four Roses and his brother Jim Rutledge who was their master distiller.  Yes, I have seen the light, and soft golden light looking through the pane of Four Roses.  Good stuff, and I do enjoy a taste with Coke ™ and ice just to push Jack a bit over the edge.

And now for a judicial opinion on the taste that made Kentucky famous:

Maker's Mark and a Dip in Red Wax

Maker’s Mark and a Dip in Red Wax

BOYCE F. MARTIN, JR., Circuit Judge. Justice Hugo Black once wrote, “I was brought up to believe that Scotch whisky would need a tax preference to survive in competition with Kentucky bourbon.” Dep’t of Revenue v. James B. Beam Distilling Co. , 377 U.S. 341, 348-49 (1964) (Black, J., dissenting). While there may be some truth to Justice Black’s statement that paints Kentucky bourbon as such an economic force that its competitors need government protection or preference to compete with it, it does not mean a Kentucky bourbon distiller may not also avail itself of our laws to protect its assets. This brings us to the question before us today: whether the bourbon producer Maker’s Mark Distillery, Inc.’s registered trademark consisting of its signature trade dress element—a red dripping wax seal—is due protection, in the form of an injunction, from a similar trade dress element on Casa Cuervo, S.A. de C.V.’s Reserva de la Familia tequila bottles. We hold that it is. The judgments of the district court in this trademark infringement case are AFFIRMED .


Four Roses

Four Roses

All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.1 Whiskey, like other distilled spirits, begins as a fermentable mash, composed of water and grains or other fermentable ingredients. The mash is heated and then cooled, yeast is introduced to ferment the sugars in the mash, and the yeast turns the sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This now-alcoholic liquid is then distilled to concentrate the alcohol. Gary Regan & Mardee Haidin Regan, The Bourbon Companion 32-33 (1998). The composition of the mash, and the aging, treating, and flavoring of the distilled alcohol, determine the flavor, color, and character of the distilled spirit. In the case of bourbon, the corn-based mash  [415]  and aging in charred new oak barrels impart a distinct mellow flavor and caramel color. Distillers compete intensely on flavor, but also through branding and marketing; the history of bourbon, in particular, illustrates why strong branding and differentiation is important in the distilled spirits market.

The legend of the birth of bourbon is not without controversy: “As many counties of Kentucky claim the first production of Bourbon as Greek cities quarrel over the birthplace of Homer.” H.F. Willkie, Beverage Spirits in America—A Brief History 19 (3d ed. 1949). The generally accepted and oft-repeated story is that “the first Bourbon whiskey . . . made from a mash containing at least fifty percent corn, is usually credited to a Baptist minister, The Reverend Elijah Craig, in 1789, at Georgetown, [Kentucky],” just prior to Kentucky’s joining the Union as a state in 1792. Id. But it is more likely that Kentucky whiskey was first distilled at Fort Harrod, the first permanent European settlement in what is now Kentucky, in 1774. Charles K. Cowdery, Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey 3-4 (2004); accord Willkie, supra, at 19. Kentucky’s settlers distilled whiskey using methods similar to those “used in Scotland and Ireland for hundreds of years,” Willkie, supra, at 20, except that Kentucky whiskey was made mostly from corn, a crop unknown to Europeans before Columbus ventured to America. Cowdery, Bourbon, Straight, supra, at 2. Though “most [American] colonial whiskey was made from rye,” id. at 3, corn was easy to grow in Kentuckysoil, and surplus corn was often used to make whiskey. Id. at 4.

Four Roses

Four Roses

The name “bourbon” itself is easier to trace: one of the original nine counties of Kentucky was Bourbon County, Willkie, supra, at 20, named in honor of the French royal family. Charles K. Cowdery, How Bourbon Whiskey Really Got Its Famous Name, Bourbon Country Reader, July 1996. “[Kentucky] whiskey was shipped from Limestone, a riverside port in Bourbon County,” down the Ohio river to the Mississippi, bound for New Orleans. Regan & Regan, supra, at 14. Whiskey shipped from the port in Bourbon County came to be known as “Old Bourbon,” and later, simply “Bourbon,” to distinguish it from Pennsylvania Rye or other whiskeys. Cowdery, How Bourbon Whiskey Really Got Its Famous Name, supra. The name “bourbon” at that time meant whiskey made from mostly corn in Kentucky or points west. But it was likely not until “sometime between 1823 and . . . 1845” that Dr. James Crow “perfect[ed] the sour-mash method of whiskey-making”—the dominant process in use today that, when coupled with aging in charred new oak barrels, produces modern bourbon’s familiar caramel color and distinctive taste. Regan & Regan, supra, at 15.

While in the early years “[w]hiskey was whiskey, as everybody knew,” some bourbon distillers began to brand their bourbons to capitalize on the differences between “[g]oodKentucky Bourbon” and all the rest. Willkie, supra, at 22. Dr. Crow, a Kentuckian by way of Scotland, “insist[ed] upon strict sanitation in his manufacture,” and branded his bourbon with his name; other Kentucky families followed suit in an effort to differentiate their products. Id. Crow’s branding tactics seem to have worked, as his bourbon accumulated prominent fans. For example, bourbon drinker Ulysses S. Grant preferred Old Crow over other bourbons, Julia Reed, Bourbon’s Beauty, Newsweek, Dec. 21, 2008, as did all three of Congress’s “Great Triumvirate,” Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster. Gerald Carson & Mike Veach, The Social History of Bourbon 47 (2010).

[416]  Success attracts imitators, and in the late nineteenth century “rectifiers” began to crowd the market, selling “a product that they would call ‘Kentucky Bourbon’ using neutral spirits, flavoring agents and artificial coloring with only some aged whiskey in the product.” Mike Veach, The Taft Decision, The Filson, Winter 2009, at 4. A hotly contested legal and lobbying war between the rectifiers and traditional “straight whiskey” distillers erupted, culminating in President William Taft’s official interpretation, in 1909, of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act; Taft’s interpretation settled the question of what spirits could be labeled as “whiskey.” Id. The rectifiers lost and were required to label their product “imitation whiskey.” See id.; see also H. Parker Willis, What Whiskey Is, McClure’s Magazine, 1909-10, at 687-903. The ruling only increased distillers’ incentives to differentiate themselves and their products. “Before the Taft ruling, few brands were nationally known . . . . But, under the new regulations, labels had to tell both the process and materials of manufacture. Whiskey . . . now began to appear under distinctive labels, competing with other brands on its own merits.” Willkie, supra, at 26. After Prohibition was repealed, the distilled spirits industry consolidated and matured, id. at 27, and bourbon continued to attract notable adherents. Ian Fleming, the writer who created the James Bond character that famously favored martinis, switched from martinis to bourbon as his drink of choice. John Pearson, Rough Rise of a Dream Hero, Life, Oct. 14, 1966, at 113, 126. And Harry S. Truman started his day with a walk followed by “a rubdown, a shot of bourbon, and a light breakfast.” Univ. of Va. Miller Cntr., Harry S. Truman: Family Life, http://millercenter.org/president/truman/essays/biography/7.

In recognition of bourbon’s unique place in American culture and commerce, and in the spirit of the Taft decision, Congress in 1964 designated bourbon as a “distinctive product[] of the United States,” 27 C.F.R. § 5.22(l)(1), and prescribed restrictions on which distilled spirits may bear the label “bourbon.” Federal regulations require that bourbon whiskey to, among other things, be aged in charred new oak barrels, contain certain proportions of mash ingredients, and be barreled and bottled at certain proofs. § 5.22(b). Importantly, whiskey made for consumption within the United States cannot be called bourbon unless it is made in the United States. § 5.22(l)(1). While bourbon is strongly associated with Kentucky, and while “[ninety-five] percent of the world’s supply of bourbon comes from Kentucky,” Jessie Halladay, Kentucky’s Libation Vacations, Courier-J., Feb. 26, 2012, at D1, some notable bourbons are made in other states.2

Maker’s Mark occupies a central place in the modern story of bourbon. The Samuels family, founder of the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, has produced whiskey in Kentucky nearly continuously from the eighteenth century through today. Regan & Regan, supra, at 161-62. Indeed, Robert Samuels (along with Jacob Beam, Basil Hayden, and Daniel Weller, all of whose surnames are familiar to bourbon connoisseurs) was one of Kentucky’s early settlers. Cowdery, Bourbon, Straight, supra, at 4. Bill Samuels, Sr. formulated the recipe for Maker’s Mark bourbon in 1953. His wife, Margie, conceived of the red dripping wax seal and used the family deep fryer to perfect the process of applying it. The company has  [417]  bottled bourbon for commercial sale under the Maker’s Mark name, and has used a red dripping wax seal on its Maker’s Mark bourbon bottles, since 1958. Maker’s Mark, and craft bourbon generally, garnered national attention when the Wall Street Journal published a front-page article about the bourbon, the red dripping wax seal, and the family behind it. David P. Garino, Maker’s Mark Goes Against the Grain to Make its Mark, Wall St. J., Aug. 1, 1980, at 1. In 1985, Maker’s Mark registered a trademark for the dripping-wax-seal element of its trade dress, which it described as a “wax-like coating covering the cap of the bottle and trickling down the neck of the bottle in a freeform irregular pattern.” The trademark is silent as to color, but Maker’s Mark conceded in submissions before the district court that it sought only to enforce it as applied to the red dripping wax seal.

Jose Cuervo produced a premium tequila, “Reserva de la Familia,” beginning in 1995. The tequila bottle had a wax seal that was straight-edged and did not initially feature drips. By 2001, Cuervo had begun selling this tequila in the United States in bottles with a red dripping wax seal reminiscent of the Maker’s Mark red dripping wax seal. In 2003, Maker’s Mark instituted this suit against Casa Cuervo S.A. de C.V., Jose Cuervo International, Inc., Tequila Cuervo La Rojeña S.A. de C.V., and Diageo North America, Inc. claiming state and federal trademark infringement and federal trademark dilution; sometime thereafter, Cuervo discontinued use of the red dripping wax seal and reverted to a red straight-edged wax seal. In its suit, Maker’s Mark sought damages, injunctions against dilution and infringement, and costs. Cuervo counterclaimed for cancellation of the Maker’s Mark trademark.

After a six-day bench trial, the district court found that Maker’s Mark’s red dripping wax seal is a valid trademark and that Cuervo had infringed that trademark. Based on those findings, the district court enjoined Cuervo permanently “from using red dripping wax on the cap of a bottle in the sale, offering for sale, distribution or advertising of Cuervo tequila products at any locality within the United States.” The district court found that Cuervo had not diluted the mark and denied Maker’s Mark’s claim for damages; the district court also denied Cuervo’s counterclaim for cancellation of the mark. In a separate opinion, the district court awarded Maker’s Mark some of its costs.

Cuervo appeals the district court’s determination that the red dripping wax seal is not aesthetically functional, some of the district court’s factual findings, its balancing of those findings in determining Cuervo had infringed, and its award of some of Maker’s Mark’s costs. Cuervo does not appeal the scope of the injunction.

Download (PDF, 61KB)

6th Cir. NPO Decision of Grange Mut. Cas. Co. v. Mack (8/26/2008) re private cause of action under RICO claiming ongoing conspiracy to fraudulently bill insurance company for medical expenditures under the Kentucy No Fault Act

Grange Mutual Casualty Company v. Joni Mack
    Eastern District of Kentucky at London
8/26/2008 – 08a0523n.06

JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge. Plaintiffs Grange Mutual Casualty Co., Grange Indemnity Insurance Co., and Trustgard Insurance Co. appeal the district court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of their civil action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) against defendant Joni L. Mack. Plaintiffs argue that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiffs could not establish a private cause of action under 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c) against Mack. In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bridge v. Phoenix Bond & Indemnity Co., 128 S. Ct. court’s dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

Plaintiffs allege that Mack joined an ongoing conspiracy that involved fraudulently billing plaintiffs for medical expenditures. Although Mack is the only defendant in this case, plaintiffs initiated a separate civil RICO action on December 4, 2002, against Mack’s husband, Greg S. Mack, and other members of a conspiracy allegedly involving a number of medical rehabilitation centers.1 In this case, plaintiffs allege that Mack joined the same conspiracy, alluding to the suit filed against Greg Mack.

The schemes were designed to take advantage of Kentucky’s statutory automobile insurance coverage system—which encourages insurers to promptly pay providers for medical costs associated with automobile accidents—in two ways. First, the conspirators coordinated testing services for physicians, which encouraged the physicians to refer patients for unnecessary testing. Second, the conspirators operated clinics—including the Injury & Rehab Centers of Kentucky, PLLC (“IRC”)—to cater to automobile victims. At IRC clinics, physicians and other employees were creat[ed] and implement[ed][ ] multiple fraudulent schemes to bill Plaintiffs for medical treatments or supplies that were never rendered or supplied, were medically unnecessary or were billed unlawfully. [In addition, these individuals] caused these fraudulent bills to be submitted to Plaintiffs via the United States mail or interstate wire communications.

In this case, the district court treated plaintiffs’ complaint as alleging that Mack violated both § 1962(c)’s substantive provision and the § 1962(d) conspiracy provision. It then determined that because the complaint failed “to plead facts demonstrating that [p]laintiffs’ injuries were suffered in reliance on the fraudulent conduct of Mack or any conspiratorial acts after her joinder in the conspiracy” it could not conclude “that Mack’s conduct was the proximate cause of [p]laintiffs’ injuries.” Given that plaintiffs are no longer required to allege reliance following Bridge, we remand to the district court for consideration of whether plaintiffs have alleged facts establishing proximate cause for either a § 1962(c) or § 1962(d) violation. To establish proximate cause for a § 1962(c) violation, plaintiffs must allege that Mack’s own violations of § 1962(c) led directly to plaintiffs’ injuries. See Anza, 547 U.S. at 461. To establish proximate cause for a § 1962(d) violation, plaintiffs must allege that they were injured by reason of a conspiracy to violate § 1962(c)’s substantive provision. See Beck v. Prupis, 529 U.S. 494, 500, 507 (2000) (holding that to maintain a § 1964(c) claim predicated on a violation of § 1962(d), a plaintiff must be injured by an act of “racketeering or otherwise unlawful under the statute”). If plaintiffs can make this showing, the district court will need to further consider whether Mack can be held civilly liable for injuries caused by the conspiracy but occurring prior to Mack’s joinder in the conspiracy.

For the foregoing reasons, we vacate and remand to the district court for further consideration consistent with this opinion.

By Michael Stevens

6th. Cir. Decisions for Week of Jul 14-18, 2008 (Ky – 2 Pub, 2 NPO)

6th. Cir. Decisions for Week of Jul 14-18, 2008 (Ky – 2 Pub, 2 NPO) posted at www.SixthCircuitCases.com.

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