Turned down by all 150 (or however many) Denver bakers in their quest for a wedding cake, this couple had no choice but to sue. Oh, not really: they had an endless supply of perfectly good alternative options, but they apparently wanted to make a point by suing, as did the ACLU which represented them. [Associated Press; earlier here, here, etc.]
Whence Congress enacted and President Obama signed the NOEL law (Naughtiness Obliteration and Elimination Law of 2012):
…(1) Imposes a naughtiness “fee” of $50 upon each American child for every documented instance of their “naughtiness.” Revenues from this “fee” are to support the Federal Nice Fund (FNF), a newly created fund for public-works projects in NOEL-compliant states. (NOEL, § 3(a).)…
(4) To ensure full compliance, the NOEL bars any “person, group, or agency” that receives “funding, or any benefit from the federal government” from making a “material naughtiness determination” contrary to rules promulgated by the NRB, with the consequence of such a contrary determination being withdrawal of the federal funding and/or other benefit. (Id., § 22(z)(12)(F)(vii)(¥)(‰) (LOL)(¿)(?)(D).)…
Relax. It’s not real (yet). It’s just Prof. Kyle Graham’s constitutional law exam holiday card.
Why would an employer adopt a rule forbidding employees from using company email after hours or on weekends? Simple enough: lawyers have been busily organizing class actions alleging that employees are owed millions for overtime spent on such tasks. And it doesn’t matter whether the employee wants to do his or her job that way or is responding to an emergency customer request: the legal entitlement to sue isn’t ordinarily waivable by consent. Hence “email curfews.” [Brianne Pfannenstiel, Kansas City Business Journal via Jon Hyman]
Gender governance quotas [Darren Rosenblum, Prawfs]
Kevin from Lowering the Bar has a new book out on odd laws (more on how to buy it).
Washington: “A Lake Stevens police officer who was at the center of a civil rights lawsuit that cost the city $100,000 filed a claim Monday alleging city officials mishandled the lawsuit and tarnished his reputation. … ‘The cumulative result of the City’s errors is that Warbis has been continually portrayed as a rogue and hot-headed cop, something that is completely contrary to the truth and case facts,’ according to the claim. … The claim does not spell out how much money the police officer is seeking, however, it says ‘a seven-figure-damages judgement is not unreasonable.’” [Everett Herald]
The vote was 325 to 91, with Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Mel Watt (D-N.C.) leading the opposition. Timothy Lee discusses in the Washington Post. While I haven’t tried to get into the details, the general drift looks quite good to me. One major provision requires those filing suits to plead with some specificity what the infringement is; another provides for losing parties to compensate prevailing parties toward the cost of the litigation in more cases; yet another attempts to forestall expensive discovery in cases destined to fail on other grounds. Readers who recall my first book, The Litigation Explosion, will recall that I recommended procedural reform as the most promising way to address the incentives to overlitigiousness in our legal system and in particular identified lack of fee shifting, anything-goes pleadings, and wide-open discovery as among the system’s key deficits. So, yes, developments like this make me feel I was on the right track.
Why the courts have properly kept a leash on them:
The article concludes that keeping emotion-based damages out of pet litigation is, ultimately, what is best for pets themselves. Adding new, uncertain liability to pet litigation would cause the price of pet welfare services and products prices to rise. If owners cannot afford to pay these higher costs, then many pets will not get the care they need.
[Phil Goldberg, Stanford Journal of Animal Law & Policy]
And a good thing too:
In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.
Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years.
The New York Times being the New York Times, the trend story is largely anchored by the views of critics who detest the trend and view it as ushering in (new Times preoccupation) American levels of economic inequality, but it still more or less admits that labor market liberalization in Germany has contributed to that nation’s relatively strong economic performance in recent years. Comedy bonus: a description of the United States as a place “where the government hardly interferes in the job market.” [Eduardo Porter, New York Times]
Class action lawyers hop on 23andMe with a lawsuit piggybacking on the FDA’s enforcement action [Nita Farahany; Ron Bailey, Reason]. Earlier here.
Related: “regulators remain serenely unconcerned about their hubris, convinced they know better than the rest of us what is good for us.” [Nita Ghei, Washington Times, and thanks for link]
Explaining how Kelly Thomas came to meet his gruesome decease called for some creative lawyering from defense attorneys John Barnett and Michael Schwartz, who often represent California law enforcers charged with misconduct [OC Weekly, disturbing images]
Also: Why let accused cops delay answering questions after an episode of alleged excessive force? To let them shape their story? [Scott Greenfield on new Dallas policy] And on the brighter side: Radley Balko, the nation’s premier reporter on police and prosecutorial abuse and someone regularly linked in this space, is joining the Washington Post. [Poynter]
Around half the states, including Vermont, ban “happy hour” promotions at drinking establishments. At Watchdog.org, Jon Street quotes me suggesting it’s past time for the Green Mountain State to drop its ban:
Walter Olson, a senior fellow for constitutional studies at The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Vermont Watchdog, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”
“When young people are starting out in the job world, they like moving to the sorts of places where there’s happy hour… It’s good for main streets that don’t want to go dead when the work day ends, good for restaurants trying to reach new customers, and good for tourism. The toll of drunk driving across America has plunged tremendously, both in states that have bans and in those that don’t, and it’s hard to see any difference there,” Olson said.
The happy hour controversy flared up earlier this year in Massachusetts [coverage: MSN, ABC, Consumerist, and Boston Globe (pro-happy-hour column by Farah Stockman)]. Texas alcoholic beverage regulators have a table of state laws here (PDF)
So will the federal government pay just compensation? The Supreme Court may decide that question in the pending case of Brandt v. U.S., in which the Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief. [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
“…but she can’t sell the mistletoe.” “No selling in the park” undoubtedly makes sense as a rule, but here, as in so many legal situations, an understood *de minimis* exception would help a lot. [Portland, Ore.; ABC News, Institute for Justice] But note (as reader James points out) that the setting was an established open-air bazaar with vendor waiting lists and fees, not a conventional open grassy park. That makes a pretty big difference, no?
Mike Masnick on a jury verdict against Newegg: “Having Whit Diffie (who invented public key cryptography) and Ron Rivest (who basically made it practical in real life) present on your behalf, showing that they did everything prior to Jones’ patent, while further showing that what Newegg was doing relied on their work, not Jones’, should have ended the case. But…” [TechDirt; Joe Mullin, Ars Technica]
John Steele Gordon, Commentary:
[Steve Coll] also leaves out the fact that very, very few people earning the minimum wage are the sole breadwinners of a family of four. Most are entry-level employees, often teenagers, with no developed skills. Most people who take a job at the minimum wage are earning above that level within a year, having learned marketable skills.
To be polite, Mr. Coll is being tendentious.
P.S. Meanwhile, as part of its “new focus on inequality,” the New York Times ran a feature on “Life on $7.25 an Hour” and chose to profile someone whose lifestyle includes three cars and a NYC residence bought for more than $500,000. [SmarterTimes] And the Washington Post awards President Obama two Pinocchios for his comments on what economists think.