According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a Fremont, Calif. apartment building’s rule against children’s playing in grassy common areas amounted to “family status” discrimination. Resulting settlement: $80,000. [DoJ complaint, press release]

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Revelations that a single senior Houston police officer served on at least ten grand juries have been an eye-opener to those who might have assumed that the grand jury as constituted in Harris County (Houston) was random or representative in its composition. Radley Balko:

…critics allege that the “key-man” system that many Harris County judges use to pick grand jurors selects for law enforcement officials and their friends, family, and acquaintances. Critics say it’s too easily manipulated, and results in grand juries continually picked from the same pool of people — cops, retired cops, friends and family of cops, and older, whiter, wealthier, more conservative people who both have the time and money to serve, and are familiar enough with the system to even know to volunteer to serve on a grand jury in the first place.

Adding to the problem, grand jury members are invited to go on police ride-alongs, are given free time at police shooting ranges, and are invited to participate in 3D shooting simulators designed to make them empathetic with police officers. Those same grand jurors are then asked to assess the validity and credibility of the police officers who testify before them, not just in routine investigations, but in investigations of the killing of police officers, alleged abuse by police officers, police shootings, or police corruption.

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Three columns to read on the subject: Gene Healy, Glenn Reynolds (linking this site), and Nat Hentoff (like Healy, a Cato colleague) in his syndicated column (thanks for mention). I had a letter to the editor yesterday in the Frederick News-Post drawing connections with local lawmakers (as well as a blog post at Free State Notes with similar themes) and the Arizona Republic quoted me Tuesday on the federal subsidy programs that drive militarization, including transfers to the ever-controversial Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of Joe Arpaio. Earlier here, here, here, here, here, etc.

P.S. Also quoted on NPR.

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And returns accompanied by more victims. After a private car and public school bus were involved in a fender-bender in Jackson, Miss., police say, things began to get a bit wild: “Precinct 4 Commander James McGowan says the driver of a white sedan, the only person in the car at the time of the accident, left the scene, more than once, and returned with people claiming to be involved in the wreck and injured.” After further altercations, two people present were “charged with disorderly conduct, interfering with police and inciting a riot.” [WLBT]

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Labor roundup

by Walter Olson on August 28, 2014

  • What’s wrong with the NLRB attack on McDonald’s franchising, cont’d [On Labor, earlier here, etc.]
  • Postal union calls in American Federation of Teachers, other public employee unions to kill Staples postal partnership plan [Huffington Post]
  • U.S. Department of Labor uses coercive hot-goods orders to arm-twist blueberry farmers, judges say no [Jared Meyer, Econ21 and Salem Statesman-Journal]
  • “Watch Closely Obama’s Treatment of Unions” [Diana Furchtgott-Roth] “Obama ‘Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces’ Executive Order Will Punish Firms in Pro-Worker States” [Hans Bader, CEI]
  • Judge: massive document request signals NLRB’s emergence as litigation arm, and co-organizer, of unions [Sean Higgins, Examiner] Wobblies on top: NLRB sides with IWW workers over poster claiming eatery’s food was unsafe [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, earlier]
  • Academic debate on union issues already wildly lopsided, union-backed labor history curriculum unlikely to help [Alex Bolt, Workplace Choice]
  • Turning unionism into a protected-class category in parallel with discrimination law is one of the worst ideas ever [Jon Hyman, earlier here, etc.]

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As I and many other writers have noted lately, the town of Ferguson like several nearby suburbs in St. Louis County has a reputation for raising revenue through aggressive use of tickets for minor traffic and vehicle infractions, a practice that many suspect weighs more heavily on poorer and outsider groups. Blogger Coyote, who now lives in Arizona, has some reflections about police practice in that state and also adds this recollection from an earlier stint in Missouri:

I worked in the Emerson Electric headquarters for a couple of years, which ironically is located in one corner of Ferguson. One of the unwritten bennies of working there was the in house legal staff. It was important to make a friend there early. In Missouri they had some bizarre law where one could convert a moving violation to a non-moving violation. A fee still has to be paid, but you avoid points on your license that raises insurance costs (and life insurance costs, I found out recently). All of us were constantly hitting up the in-house legal staff to do this magic for us. I am pretty sure most of the residents of Ferguson do not have this same opportunity.

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Because the federal gun-disabilities provision in question, 18 U.S.C. § 922(n), kicks in on bare indictment for a felony, as opposed to conviction. [The Blaze] But is that constitutional? [Eugene Volokh, more; earlier on Perry indictment]

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Apparently 43 percent of Americans now believe there should be a law against that [Lenore Skenazy] Happily, after years of advocacy from Skenazy (especially) and others, we’re seeing more written from the calmly rational side: “Why I let my children walk to the corner store — and why other parents should, too” [Petula Dvorak, Washington Post]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on August 27, 2014

  • “Fine for killing birds” is susceptible of two meanings, you know [Coyote on energy production]
  • Lacey Act criminal provisions, of Gibson Guitar raid fame, owe much to influence of domestic forest products companies, and that’s just one of the links between crony capitalism and overcriminalization [Paul Larkin, Heritage]
  • Why California shut down its local redevelopment agencies, all 400+ of them [Shirley Svorny, Regulation]
  • “EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Proposal: Coming Soon to a Back Yard Near You?” [Scott McFadin, WLF]
  • Taxpayers shell out handsomely to be sued under Endangered Species Act [Higgins]
  • “How Land Prices Obviate the Need for Euclidean Zoning” [Emily Washington]
  • Casting a skeptical eye on Vandana Shiva’s anti-GMO crusade [The New Yorker]

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The many, many pitfalls of wage-and-hour law: “The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday finalized a $26-million legal settlement to end a lawsuit over a ban on lunchtime naps by trash-truck drivers. … Sanitation officials had imposed the no-nap rule to avoid the bad publicity that would come if a resident, business owner or television news crew stumbled across a sleeping city employee. But lawyers for the drivers said the city, by limiting workers’ mealtime activities, had essentially robbed them of their meal breaks.” [Los Angeles Times]

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CanadaQueenStampRemember when Canada was regarded as the high-tax, big-government country, and we weren’t? How times have changed. Burger King is considering becoming Canadian through a tax inversion deal with donut chain Tim Horton’s, aware that north of the border “corporate tax rates are as much as 15 percentage points lower than in the United States,” in the words of Daniel Ikenson at Cato, who writes: “If the acquisition comes to fruition and ultimately involves a corporate ‘inversion,’ consider it not a problem, but a symptom of a problem. The real problem is that U.S. policymakers inadequately grasp BurgerStamp that we live in a globalized economy, where capital is mobile and products and services can be produced and delivered almost anywhere in the world, and where value is created by efficiently combining inputs and processes from multiple countries. Globalization means that public policies are on trial and that policymakers have to get off their duffs and compete with most every other country in the world to attract investment, which flows to the jurisdictions where it is most productive and, crucially, most welcome to be put to productive use.” And the fact is that the United States, once the domicile of choice for international business, has slipped badly down the ratings of how difficult it is to do business in various countries. Policymakers “should repair the incentives that drive capital away from the United States.” Full post here. More: Stephen Bainbridge.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on August 26, 2014

  • “New York Times Hosts Panel on Farming, Forgets to Invite Farmers” [Julie Gunlock, IWF]
  • Historical perspectives on the current attack on food freedom [Baylen Linnekin and Michael Bachmann for the Institute for Justice; report, PDF, and summary; Reason and more Linnekin on the FDA's odd campaign against added ingredients which also occur naturally]
  • Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 will increase costs and reduce variety in food intended for animals as well as for humans [Jerry Ellig and Richard Williams, Cato Regulation]
  • Elyria pink cookie, pride of the Ohio town’s school system, is casualty of federal food rules [Chronicle-Telegram, WEWS] NYC may launch another attack on toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals [Jeff Quinton, earlier]
  • UC Berkeley project assists effort to step up labor union presence in food area [Bill McMorris on Food Labor Research Center]
  • Lungs are better in the open air: Scotland has at least one haggis food truck [Baylen Linnekin, Vice mag]
  • “Eat great on food stamp budget” cookbook is hit, even if fans may not always have thought through its political valence [Maryn McKenna, National Geographic "The Plate"] Push to make food stamp program data public [Slate, USDA comments]

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A warning sign

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2014

RedditWarningSign
Making the rounds, from Reddit: “Please do not enter the dangerous area beyond this gate! You quite possibly will be hurt, then you will sue. … [This sign] will be ‘Exhibit 1′.”

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Making hash of Halbig

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2014

We live in a golden age of Supreme Court coverage, and then there’s Linda Greenhouse [David Henderson on Michael Cannon]

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Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis wants to abolish the statute of limitations on sex assault charges [Scott Greenfield, Dallas News, Houston Chronicle]

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Back to school roundup

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2014

  • Pending California bill would impose “affirmative consent” requirement on sex between students at colleges that receive state funding [Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Dish] “New Startup Connects Students With a Lawyer the Minute They Get In Trouble” [The College Fix] Yale vs. wrongly accused males [KC Johnson/Minding the Campus, related on due process] Provision in proposed “Campus Accountability and Safety Act” (CASA) would incentivize fining colleges by letting Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights keep the proceeds [Hans Bader; more on CASA] Idea that campuses are gripped by “rape culture” having wide-ranging effects, even off campus [Bader, Examiner]
  • Not only that, but the body was missing: “HS student says he was arrested for killing dinosaur in class assignment” [Summerville, S.C.; WCSC]
  • Is Mayor de Blasio really willing to sacrifice NYC select schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant in the name of equality? [Dennis Saffran, City Journal]
  • Administration trying to hold for-profit colleges to standard few public colleges could meet [WaPo editorial]
  • Progress of a sort: UC San Diego “has determined that most projects by historians and journalists need not be submitted to the IRB [institutional review board].” [Zachary Schrag; related speech]
  • “At Appomattox County [Va.] High School, the staff spent the summer changing its block-letter ‘A’ logo on everything from sticky notes to uniforms after the licensing agency representing the University of Arizona sent the school a cease-and-desist letter claiming potential confusion among consumers.” [Washington Post Magazine]
  • “Fifth Circuit Disobeyed Supreme Court in Allowing Racial Preferences at UT-Austin” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Note that the pile-up of parking signs at a Culver City school is still “towering and confusing” even in the “after” photo following response to complaints [L.A. Times via Virginia Postrel]

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Lawyers are warning that a bill to restrict consideration of criminal records in business hiring now pending in New York City would be even more burdensome to business than similar bills enacted in other cities and states, applying, for example, to businesses with as few as four employees, a lower threshold than usual. [Crain's] The bill prohibits inquiry about criminal record until after a provisional job offer is made, at which point a reluctant employer must withdraw the offer, painting a large “Sue Me” target on its chest.

To be able to reject an applicant because of a past conviction, employers would have to go through a rigorous process that, if not followed, would result in the presumption that a business owner engaged in unlawful discrimination, [Reed Smith's Mark] Goldstein said….

Additionally, the City Council bill would allow an applicant rejected because of a past crime seven days to respond. The job would have to be held open during that time….

In the bill’s current form, the business would bear the burden of proof in any resulting lawsuit by the job applicant, Mr. Goldstein said.

More: Nick Fishman, Employee Screen on unusually burdensome provisions of San Francisco “ban the box” law (“Employers can’t just sit back anymore and think that these laws are benign. At the least, they are creating an administrative nightmare. At worst, the plaintiff’s attorneys are standing by waiting for your first misstep.”)

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