A press release from George Washington University Prof. John Banzhaf describes his latest stunt as follows: “Undergrads Required To Lobby For Obama Policy.” In this case, it’s more for a policy identified with Michael Bloomberg — limits on the size of sweetened drinks — which students were asked to promote in letters to their own lawmakers. I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty, where I list some of the other occasions on which Overlawyered readers have met the gadfly professor. (& Katherine Mangu-Ward, Center for Consumer Freedom) Update: many reactions, including another press release from Prof. Banzhaf.
Our least favorite member of the George Washington University faculty is seeking to lay out the legal backing for a proposal being floated by Arkansas Gov. Huckabee to ban smoking by women who are pregnant. Huckabee recently signed a bill to ban smoking in cars when children are present. (Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”, Jun. 15). More on tobacco and tyranny here.
Such a collegial guy to have around a faculty, that Prof. Banzhaf:
Students at the George Washington University may now be able to sue administrators individually for perceived wrong-doings rather than attempt legal action against the University as a whole, with the help of a new legal tactic suggested by maverick GW Law professor John Banzhaf.
Using the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act as support, Banzhaf created a website, banzhaf.net/fightback, to educate students on how they can sue individual GW administrators and professors without the institutional legal protection the University typically provides. …
“If you could download a simple complaint (form) from the Internet and go after not the University but the individual administrator who made the decision, I think you’ve got leverage,” said Banzhaf.
(Christine Grimaldi and Emily Metz, “Prof: students can sue individual administrators”, Daily Colonial, Apr. 17). Last week, administrators at GWU announced that they were reversing an earlier stand and capitulating to a demand by Banzhaf and various students to post signs discouraging persons from smoking near entrances to the university’s campus in an urbanized section of Washington, D.C. (Katie Rooney, “GW to post signs asking smokers to back off from buildings”, GW Hatchet, Apr. 24). Banzhaf naturally takes credit:
“It was only after I initially threatened to sue him [college director of risk management and insurance Fitzroy Smith] personally and sent a draft complaint to University lawyers, did they agree to revise signs over all the campus buildings,” said Banzhaf…
If appropriate signs are not up by the beginning of the Fall 2006 semester, Banzhaf and his law students “will file the complaint, which would make Mr. Smith liable for tens of thousands of dollars plus my attorney fees,” said Banzhaf in a letter released on Friday.
Banzhaf plans to seek $100 for every student exposed to second-hand smoke while entering University buildings from January until the signs are up….
“At this point I hope they do it right,” said Banzhaf. “I’m not kidding around.”
(Brittany Levine, “GW concedes to smoking ban petition”, Daily Colonial, Apr. 24).
For more on Prof. Banzhaf, whose activities regularly furnish material for this site, see Feb. 28 and links from there. An absurdly laudatory editorial about him in the university newspaper states: “As a professor of public interest law here at GW, Banzhaf has become most notable for his class on ‘Legal Activism,’ also informally known as ‘suing for credit.’ His class teaches students to become public interest lawyers while giving them real experience.” (“GW’s own legal powerhouse”, Apr. 20).
More skirmishing in preparation for the expected lawsuit against soft-drink vendors over sales in Massachusetts schools (see Dec. 5, Dec. 7, Feb. 7, etc.), via a Boston Globe editorial (“Vending against obesity”, Jan. 30):
In advance of the suit, Washington lawyer John Banzhaf sent an e-mail to 50-100 school committee members in Massachusetts ”to warn of your inevitable involvement in these law suits as a named party or otherwise…”
A couple of years back, Banzhaf threatened to sue the Seattle school district for renewing a $400,000 vending-machine contract with Coca-Cola (Jul. 3, 2003). Prof. Banzhaf’s other doings, which have ensured him regular appearances on this site, include proposing lawsuits against parents of obese children and against doctors who fail to warn their obese patients about overeating (Dec. 3, 2004).
- Long before North Korea “Interview” episode, Hollywood was caving repeatedly to power-wielders [Ron Maxwell, Deadline] Relevant: “A Tyranny of Silence,” new book by Danish-Muhammad-cartoons editor Flemming Rose published by Cato Institute [Kat Murti, earlier on the Danish cartoons, related Liberty and Law]
- Score 1 for First Amendment, zero for Prof. Banzhaf as FCC rejects “Redskins” broadcast license attack [Volokh, earlier including the prof’s comment on that post]
- Court dismisses orthopedist’s defamation suit against legal blogger Eric Turkewitz [his blog]
- “Hate speech” notions reach the Right? Author claims “justice” would mean incitement “charges” vs. liberal talkers [Ira Straus, National Review]
- Wisconsin prosecutors said to have eyed using John Doe law to aim warrants, subpoenas at media figures Sean Hannity, Charlie Sykes [Watchdog] More: George Leef on California vs. Americans for Prosperity;
- “British journalist sentenced for questioning death toll in Bangladeshi independence war” [Guardian] Pakistan sentences Bollywood actress Veena Malik to 26 years for acting in supposedly blasphemous TV wedding scene [The Independent] Erdogan regime in Turkey rounds up opposition media figures [Washington Post editorial]
- “Is it a crime to say things that make someone ‘lack self-confidence in her relations with the opposite sex and about her body-build’?” [Volokh; Iowa Supreme Court, affirmed on other grounds]
“The Federal Communications Commission will consider punishing broadcasters for using the Washington Redskins’ [name] on air, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said during a conference call with reporters, according to Reuters.” [Sports Illustrated] It won’t if it wants its actions to stand up in court, though [Eugene Volokh, and more on the role of frequent Overlawyered mentionee John Banzhaf]
More: Prof. Banzhaf responds in comments.
- “Law school plotted to sabotage its own students?” [Steele, Cassandra Burke Robertson, Caron on Phoenix allegations]
- Bryan Garner’s take on law reviews [Green Bag]
- Washington & Lee’s innovative practice-oriented third year has drawn much attention, but job placement results lag [Deborah Merritt via Alice Woolley]
- “Law school sues for liability insurance coverage” [VLW on Liberty U., Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case]
- The business of one high-flying law school: documents shed light on NYU [Joe Patrice, Above the Law]
- Concussions: NFL players’ union to fund $100 million Harvard project, including HLS, on football and health [Cohen, Prawfs, with further thoughts from a notorious gadfly on lobbying by lawprofs]
- John O. McGinnis and Russell Mangas, “An Undergraduate Option for Legal Education” [IRLE/SSRN]
- Toward more sensible law school rankings? ABA makes it harder to count higher expenditures themselves as a plus [Above the Law]
As I noted yesterday here and at Cato at Liberty on Wednesday, GWU law prof John Banzhaf sent out a press release boasting of having assigned undergrads to lobby for NYC-style soda bans or, alternatively, other ventures in “obesity policy.” Some reactions from Robby Soave at the Daily Caller, Katharine Mangu-Ward at Reason (“I’m gonna guess there aren’t a lot of libertarians in his class”), George Leef at Phi Beta Cons, Center for Consumer Freedom (Banzhaf hoping to stir pot for high-stakes litigation), Jamie Weinstein/Daily Caller (“There are radical Pakistani madrassas that are more intellectually open than Professor Banzhaf’s class sounds,”) and on Twitter from @rogerkimball (“Where’s the outrage?”) and @keepfoodlegal (“Vile. Illegal, too?”) And Prof. Bainbridge:
I wonder what people would say if I made my students write letters to their Congressman supporting Senator Shelby’s Dodd-Frank corrections bills? Actually, I don’t wonder. they’d say I was abusing my power. And they’d be right. Only someone blinded by their own self-righteous arrogance would fail to see the gross impropriety here.
Now Banzhaf has sent out another press release, which aside from tossing an inaccurate brickbat or two at my motivations for challenging him, takes care to specify — as his earlier press release did not — that students in the class are free to propose lobbying for at least some deregulatory ideas. The two examples he gives are as follows: “students could also ask legislators to reduce limits on the sale of items from food trucks [or] cut back on unnecessary food-related regulations.” Whether liberty-minded students could actually get course credit for lobbying on behalf of food-related positions that Banzhaf opposes — as distinct from seeking out some subtopic in the field where he happens to agree with them — remains unclear.
- D.C. Circuit’s Janice Rogers Brown: three-decade-long case over Iran dairy expropriation raises “harshest caricature of the American litigation system” [BLT]
- Legal blogger Mark Bennett runs for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as Libertarian [Defending People, Scott Greenfield] And Prof. Bill Childs, often linked in this space, is departing TortsProf (and legal academia) to join a private law practice in Texas;
- Ambitious damage claims, more modest settlements abound in Louisiana oil-rig cleanup suits [ATLA’s Judicial Hellholes, more, more, earlier]
- Better no family at all: Lawprof Banzhaf jubilant over courts’ denial of adoption to smokers [his press release]
- “The worst discovery request I’ve ever gotten” [Patrick at Popehat] And yours?
- Concession to reality? Class action against theater over high cost of movie snacks seen as dud [Detroit Free Press]
- FCPA is for pikers, K Street shows how real corruption gets done [Bill Frezza, Forbes] Dems threatening tax-bill retribution against clients whose lobbyists who back GOP candidates [Politico]
- More on prosecution of “jury nullification” activist Julian Heicklen [Brian Doherty, Tim Lynch/Cato, earlier]
- Age-bias litigant who complained about 88 year old judge is reassigned same judge [NYDN via Ellie K., earlier]
- Court certifies Nutella class action [Russell Jackson, earlier here and here]
- D.C. agency dismisses Banzhaf’s complaint about single-sex dorms at Catholic U. [Caron, earlier]
- After SCOTUS decision in Brown v. Plata, L.A. faces possible release of thousands of inmates [PoL, earlier here, here and here, Federalist Society panel]
- Cautionary tale of star attorney Stanley Chesley [Corporate Counsel] Ken Feinberg, Harvey Pitt back off expert avowals in Chesley cases [Robert Ambrogi] Judge Bamberger disbarred in Kentucky fen-phen scandal [ABA Journal]
- Texas doctor will surrender license in case where nurses faced false criminal charges [PoL, earlier]
- Mistrial in case of New Jersey lawyer Paul Bergrin [Star-Ledger, earlier]