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…and miss the more significant role of former Bloomberg health czar Thomas Frieden at the Centers for Disease Control. The Blaze covers my remarks yesterday at a Heritage panel discussion on food freedom.

More: At Independent Women’s Forum, Julie Gunlock thinks I’m letting the First Lady off the hook a bit too much.


The urge to regulate distracted driving could reach down into your smartphone [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason; Marc Scribner, CEI]


Food roundup

by Walter Olson on November 8, 2013

“In a case of first impression, a New Jersey appeals court has held that a remote texter can be held liable to third parties for injuries caused when the distracted driver has an accident,” if the third party has reason to know that the text will be read while driving. The court upheld a lower court ruling finding that not enough proof of such knowledge had been offered to defeat a motion for summary judgment. [ABA Journal, earlier here and here; related, Stoll] A different view: Eugene Volokh.


Autos roundup

by Walter Olson on April 3, 2013

  • Abuse of out-of-state motorists an issue: “The Perils of Policing for Profit: Why Tennessee should reform its civil asset forfeiture laws” [Beacon Center, earlier]
  • Manhattan: “Lawyer takes plea in $279M no-fault auto insurance fraud case” [ABA Journal]
  • “AAA Warns of ‘Dangerous’ Free Market in Parking Spaces” [Matt Yglesias, Slate via Tim Carney]
  • Negotiated rates on auto loans at dealerships might violate Obama administration’s disparate-impact guidelines [Roger Clegg]
  • Not great for Law dot com’s credibility: Corp Counsel mag throws in with “sudden acceleration” goofery; and here’s an effort to gear up acceleration claims against Ford too.
  • Ethanol group menaces Phillips with antitrust charge unless it alters franchiser rule [Alexander Cohen, Atlas]
  • “Two researchers call for installing technology to disable cellphones in moving cars” [L.A.Times via Fair Warning]

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Best of 2012: October

by Walter Olson on December 30, 2012

Politico quotes me on the latest harebrained idea from the U.S. Department of Transportation, known for Secretary Ray LaHood’s crusade against “distracted driving”:

Olson called the idea that law enforcement would be focused on using spotters perched atop overpasses “creepy” and suggested it turns police officers into “peeping toms.”

“We drive under [overpasses], so it’s not a perfect expectation of privacy; but if we saw someone staring down and hoping to look into our laps, we’d think of them as creepy,” Olson said.

Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which has been out front of the effort to curb distracted driving, scoffed at the notion that there is any expectation of privacy in a car.

Earlier here, etc.


The federal government should keep its busy hands off local traffic laws — and that goes for bribing states to its will, as well as issuing direct orders. Today the House will debate a measure that would make that point by cutting off a fledgling program that would pay states for doing what “distracted driving” crusader and DoT secretary Ray LaHood lacks the constitutional authority or political capital to do directly. I explain in my new post at Cato at Liberty.


I’ve got an op-ed in Saturday’s Orange County Register taking exception to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s call for Congressional legislation to ban “talking on a cellphone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country.” Something you might not have known: the feds blame a crash on distraction if a cellphone is so much as “in the presence of the driver at the time of the crash.” (Distracted Driving Summit Press kit (PDF), “Traffic Safety Facts” p. 2, h/t Investor’s Business Daily; earlier here, here, etc.) More: Rob Port, SayAnythingBlog. Update: LaHood spokesman says Reuters overstated his boss’s position.


I’m quoted in this Carolina Journal article by Karen McMahan. “Chapel Hill became the first municipality in the nation to issue such a far-reaching ban when the town council enacted the measure March 26 by a 5-4 vote. The law goes into effect June 1.” Earlier on distracted driving here, etc.


March 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 27, 2012

  • NYC: “Lawsuit Blames Apple’s Glass Doors for Plaintiff’s Broken Nose” [Lowering the Bar, CBS New York]
  • Some who pushed enhanced punishment for Dharun Ravi may now be doubting they really want it [Scott Greenfield, earlier here, etc.]
  • NYT editorial on FMLA state immunity is as bad as anyone had a right to expect [Whelan]
  • “Pleading, Discovery, and the Federal Rules: Exploring the Foundations of Modern Procedure” [Martin Redish, FedSoc "Engage"] Summary of important ’09 Redish book Wholesale Justice calling into question constitutionality of class actions [Trask]
  • Would trial-by-DVD be so very wrong? [James Grimmelmann, Prawfs]
  • Contested memorabilia: lawsuits filed over estate of gay rights pioneer Franklin Kameny [MetroWeekly]
  • Feds’ “distracted driving” guidance could impair usefulness of car navigation systems [Cunningham/CNet, earlier]

March 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 2, 2012

  • Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who crusades against distracted driving, worsens the problem by honking at motorists he sees using phones [WTOP via Mike Riggs, Reason] Expensive new mandate for back-up cameras in cars may be delayed until after election [Ira Stoll and more, Ann Althouse]
  • With reporter Lee Stranahan, the late Andrew Breitbart shone an investigative spotlight on the USDA’s billion-dollar settlement with lawyers representing black farmers, and there was indeed much to investigate [Big Government]
  • Substance on floor may have been own baby oil: “Oiled Stripper Loses Slip and Fall Lawsuit” [Erik Magraken; B.C., Canada; related on-the-job pole-dance injuries here and here]
  • Honeywell’s new thermostat design deserves high marks, its patent litigation maybe not so much [Farhad Manjoo, Slate]
  • Socialism takes too many evenings: @ChadwickMatlin live-tweets Park Slope Food Co-op meeting [The Awl]
  • Auto bailout a success? Really? [Mickey Kaus, Todd Zywicki, Ted Frank, Prof. Bainbridge]
  • Way to go Maryland: proud of my state for enacting law recognizing same-sex marriage, signed by Gov. O’Malley yesterday [WaPo]


February 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 27, 2012

  • Department of Transportation cracks down on distraction from cars’ onboard information and entertainment systems; Mike Masnick suspects the measure won’t work as intended, as appears to have been the case with early texting bans [Techdirt; earlier here, etc.] “Feds Push New York Toward Full Ban On Electronic Devices In Cars” [Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit; Truth About Cars]
  • Oh no: Scott Greenfield says he’s ceasing to post at his exemplary criminal defense blog after five years [Simple Justice, Dave Hoffman]
  • California not entitled to pursue its own foreign policy, at least when in conflict with rest of nation’s: unanimous “blockbuster” decision by en banc 9th Circuit strikes down law enabling insurance suits by Armenian victims [AP, Alford/OJ, Recorder, related, Frank/PoL]
  • Playboy model’s $1.2M award against Gotham cops is a great day for the tabloids [NYDN]
  • To hear a pitch for fracking-royalty suits, visit the American Association for Justice convention, or just read the New York Times [Wood, PoL]
  • What the mortgage settlement did [John Cochrane, earlier]
  • Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 blows up an adoption: “She’s a 2-year-old girl who got shoved in a truck and driven to Oklahoma with strangers.” [Reuters,]

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who has made “distracted driving” his “signature safety issue,” is putting distance between himself and the NTSB’s call for a sweeping ban. [Reuters, Tina Korbe/Hot Air, earlier here and here]


Might it be time to abolish the National Transportation Safety Board? It’s supposed to serve as an authoritative source on the causes of accidents, but last week its chief, calling for a nationwide ban on cellphone use by drivers, was not just non-authoritative but actively misleading. I explain in a new post at Cato at Liberty (& Instapundit, Balko, Stoll, Adler).

More on misleading government public health advisories here.


As Washington launches a new crusade against “cognitive distraction” behind the wheel, it no longer seems to matter whether your eyes and hands are in correct driving position. I explain in a new Cato post.

More: Glenn Reynolds (NTSB “distracted” by its own pre-existing agenda and oversimplifying causes of Missouri accident) and more, Chapman, Marc Scribner/CEI (even bans on texting don’t seem to have worked as intended), Amy Alkon, (two years back) Radley Balko, and Ira Stoll (per IIHS, quoted on NPR, “states with cellphone bans have seen no real decrease in accident rates”). And: drivers’ use of portable GPS and MP3 devices to be included in contemplated ban? [NMA]


November 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 21, 2011

  • Spanish government fines filmmaker for movie poster showing “reckless driving” [Lowering the Bar] Siri, distracted driving, and police discretion [Balko]
  • Parents taking care of their kids under Michigan program must pay $30/mo. to SEIU for representation [Joel Gehrke, Examiner]
  • Stretching the Fifth: Joe Francis bad deposition behavior [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • WaPo covers deep split on Consumer Product Safety Commission, left wants fifth seat filled ASAP;
  • “Threat to Student Due Process Rights Dropped from Draft of Violence Against Women Act” [FIRE, background; Cathy Young/Reason]
  • After $300K donation from Philadelphia trial lawyers, you may call him “Judge Wecht” [AP/WPVI]
  • Court reverses $43M Madison County verdict against Ford [AP/Alton Telegraph, some background]


Bad sports

by Ron Coleman on July 6, 2011

If there is one universal banality about the perjury trial of Roger Clemens available on the sports pages and talk radio stations today, it’s the following, which is a composite of actual quotes and for which I am providing no link, because the sentiment is ubiquitous:

Did Clemens lie?  A trial will never really answer that question.  Everyone has already formed his opinion on whether Clemens is telling the truth.

Either way, we all know a huge chunk of players took PEDs in the 1990s. That era of the game is forever stained regardless of the outcome of this trial. What is this trial going to accomplish?  Is this really the best use of taxpayer money?

I just hope this trial is a short one, because I’d rather focus on the games being played now.

This being Overlawyered, one might suppose the appropriate point of view here would be along those lines.  Certainly, from a libertarian point of view (when in Rome…), it’s hard to be sympathetic to any investigation or prosecution whose roots are in substance abuse.  If taking steroids was or is a violation of a contractual obligation running from players to Major League Baseball, that would be an entirely private matter.  Evidently it wasn’t, or to the extent that it was, MLB would rather not pick at that scab.  Major League Baseball keeps lawyers busy with other things.

But we all acknowledge that prosecutors do and should, to some extent anyway, concern themselves with the laws that are “on the books,” which brings us back to that Sports Guy trope:  “What difference does it make?  Who cares?  Why are you distracting me with those shiny objects?”

Dumb, dumb, dumb, Sports Guy!

Point One:  It isn’t overlawyering to prosecute people who mislead law enforcement officials or lie under oath.  Yes, people mislead police and prosecutors every day and aren’t prosecuted for it — but famous people often are, because civil disobedience by them can make for a very bad example.  What better example of an example-setter is Bill Clinton, a one-man Chief Executive as sexual revolutionary, who had to turn in his law license to avoid a perjury conviction?

Clemens’s main problem was that he was put, rather unavoidably as Scott Greenfield explained at the time, in a perjury trap: [click to continue…]