The doctor legally couldn’t tell him his son was in drug trouble. Nor could the college. Maybe time to rethink federal privacy laws? [Tony Christ, DelmarvaNow]

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“…so we can figure out whom to fire” [Eugene Volokh, on the employment-law dangers of conversation] Related: “Marquette University tells employees: ‘Opposition to same-sex marriage’ could be ‘unlawful harassment'” [same]

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NYC’s expediters

by Walter Olson on December 22, 2014

Can New York City really support an army of an estimated 8,300 “expediters” who run paperwork around to city offices, wait in line, haggle with officials, and generally navigate the bureaucracy on behalf of those who need permits, licenses and other municipal decisions? It’s a testimony to the dysfunction of the city’s governance [Kanner, Renn/Urbanophile]

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More from the archives:

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We reported five years ago on a contract-law hypothetical come to life: a criminal defense lawyer went on TV and said he’d give a million dollars if anyone could prove the prosecutor’s timeline was consistent with the known facts, whereupon an enterprising law student proceeded to do just that. The Eleventh Circuit said the proper test under Florida law was whether “a reasonable, objective person would have understood [the lawyer's words] to be an invitation to contract.” And: “The exaggerated amount of ‘a million dollars’ – the common choice of movie villains and schoolyard wagerers alike — indicates that this was hyperbole.” And yet more: “we find it neither prudent nor permissible to impose contractual liability for offhand remarks or grandstanding.” [Ann Althouse, Lawrence Cunningham]

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A more balanced treatment than some we’ve seen in the press, including a video interview with Colorado baker Jack Phillips. [New York Times; earlier on forcing small business owners to service weddings against their beliefs here and here].

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No need for reformers like Will Wilkinson to make the case against police unions when guys like this make it so eloquently. More: Radley Balko (MSNBC on video versus police-union account of Tamir Rice shooting in Cleveland); Cleveland Plain Dealer (woes of officer in earlier police job). “If you work in private sector, it can be mind-blowing to see mistakes you can make and still be employed as a cop” [@conor64]

Just one more story for now, from the Akai Gurley case in New York: “Instead of calling for help for the dying man, [sources told the newspaper, the NYPD officer who fired the shot] was texting his union representative.” [New York Daily News] “If there’s one thing that will turn liberals against public sector unions, it’ll be stuff like this.” [@timfernholz]

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Liability roundup

by Walter Olson on December 20, 2014

  • From the Manhattan Institute “Trial Lawyers Inc.” project, “Wheels of Fortune” (PDF), twin report on lawyers’ exploitation of SSDI (Social Security Disability) and ADA cases;
  • Theodore Dalrymple on the flaws of the US litigation system [Liberty and Law]
  • Testimony: “after he inquired about the 40 percent fee charged by [co-counsel] Chestnut, [Willie] Gary threatened to ‘tie up [client] Baker’s money in the courts for years so he would never live to see it.'” [Gainesville Sun]
  • ATRA takes aim at rise of asbestos litigation in NYC ["Judicial Hellholes" series, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, New York Daily News ("national scandal")]
  • Another reminder that while plaintiff’s lawyers conventionally assail pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements, they routinely use them themselves [LNL]
  • New U.S. Chamber papers on litigation trends: “Lawsuit Ecosystem II“; state supreme courts review;
  • Changes ahead for class action rules? [Andrew Trask]

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It’s being suggested, in the wake of widespread outrage over the yanking of the film under threat, but please: let’s not run the whole country like the state of Maryland.

Also on the Sony affair, from @conor64: “Failure to release The Interview is less a sign of corporate cowardice than overbroad liability laws that would let people sue after attack.”

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“A Long Island woman says in a lawsuit that her 29-year-old son died in a drunken driving crash because police decided not to arrest him on DWI charges earlier that night…. Restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday’s is also named in the lawsuit, because [the late Peter] Fedden was drinking there before the two crashes, according to [Fedden family lawyer Harry] Thomasson.” [NBC New York, auto-plays]

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“The Social Security Administration, which announced in April that it would stop trying to collect debts from the children of people who were allegedly overpaid benefits decades ago, has continued to demand such payments and now defends that practice in court documents.” Robert Vogel, an attorney for clients whose refunds were seized, charges: “Their intention was to get the press off their backs and then go back to collecting their money. It’s just shocking that they believe that when someone turns 18, they automatically assume a crushing debt that was incurred by someone else.” [Marc Fisher, Washington Post; earlier here and here]

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A question for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): “Is it your position that market forces are the primary reason that oil and gas prices fall, but speculation and energy market manipulation are the primary reasons that oil and gas prices rise?” [Mark Perry, AEI] But see: Arnold Kling (capitulation by upside speculators could cause price collapses).

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“… because of the economy of scale they have in managing such compliance issues.” [Coyote, in a letter to the dean of the Harvard Business School taking off on the Edelman case]

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Brian Aitken at Cato

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2014

In several 2010 posts we covered the story of Brian Aitken, who was imprisoned by the state of New Jersey simply for carrying unloaded guns and ammo in his trunk (really, that was the extent of the crime). Last week Cato hosted Aitken to talk on his new book The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom. Tim Lynch of Cato moderated, and I gave comments. Event description:

In 2009 Brian Aitken, a media consultant and web entrepreneur, ran afoul of New Jersey’s draconian gun laws when he was arrested while transporting two handguns unloaded and locked in the trunk of his car. Despite the fact that Aitken owned the guns legally and had called the New Jersey State Police for advice on how to legally transport his firearms, he found himself sentenced to seven years in prison.

In 2010 New Jersey governor Chris Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence. But Aitken’s experience, like that of other law-abiding gun owners who’ve faced long prison sentences for honest mistakes, raises troubling questions about gun-law overreach, prosecutorial discretion, and judicial abdication.

I recommended the book as a riveting and outrageous read, yet leavened with hope because of the story of the strong public movement that formed to protest the injustice of his incarceration. In my comments, I mentioned the feds’ heavily armed raid on an Indiana antiquities collector. More on that story here.

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Kathleen Parker [Washington Post/syndicated] on the Sierra Pacific/Moonlight Fire case, in which judicial findings of misconduct by the state of California have now mushroomed into allegations that the U.S. Department of Justice was party to a fraud on the court. Sidney Powell, author of “A License To Lie,” has been calling attention to the case for a while.

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December 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2014

  • Michael Greve reviews new James Buckley book offering critique of fake (“cooperative”) federalism under aid-to-state programs [Liberty and Law; Chris Edwards/Cato on Buckley book, more]
  • Cuban expatriates will now have access to US banking services. Next step: call off Operation Choke Point so domestic businesses can have it too. [earlier coverage of Choke Point including its effects on, yes, cigar shops; details on new relaxation of Cuba sanctions, and related effects of banking sanctions]
  • Sac and Fox tribe appeals ruling in favor of town of Jim Thorpe, Pa. on demands for disinterment and return of remains of athlete Jim Thorpe [Allentown Morning Call, my recent writing on the case here and here]
  • NFL owners “rarely settle any dispute… Each owner pays only 1/32nd of the legal bill, and the owners love to fight” [ESPN]
  • Adios Google News: Spanish press “not even waiting for the blood to dry on the hatchet before bemoaning the loss of their golden eggs” [Julian Sanchez, Cato]
  • Union official knew New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was going to sue pizza operator before the operator did. Hmmm [Kevin Mooney, Daily Signal]
  • Nevada goes to ridiculous lengths unsuccessfully trying to regulate airport taxis, but at least they’ll try to keep you from using ride-sharing, so that’s something [Blake Ross, Medium; Reuters]

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Who’d have guessed that movie studios would entrust populist Mississippi Attorney General and longtime Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood with a key role in pushing their rights as copyright owners against online services and search engines? Not I [Eli Lehrer, Weekly Standard] More from Mike Masnick at TechDirt: “it appears the MPAA and the major Hollywood studios directly funded various state Attorneys General in their efforts to attack and shame Google.” Related: The Verge.

Sequel: Google goes to court to block a sweeping subpoena from Hood [ArsTechnica, HuffPost (Hood: "salacious Hollywood tale")] “One of Hood’s letters critical of Google, published earlier this week by The New York Times, was ‘largely written by lawyers for the movie industry,’ the company points out.”

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