Posts by author:

Walter Olson

“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]

{ 0 comments }

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]

{ 1 comment }

“… 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]

{ 1 comment }

{ 0 comments }

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.

{ 0 comments }

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.

{ 0 comments }

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]

{ 0 comments }

Who’d have guessed that movie studios would entrust populist Mississippi Attorney General and longtime Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood with key water-carrying tasks 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.

{ 0 comments }

A few highlights from January:

{ 0 comments }

The Costa Mesa, Calif. police union scandal breaks wide open with new court papers shedding light on the conduct of a law firm representing the union. [Orange County Register] Two private investigators hired by the law firm called in a fake DUI on the town’s mayor and attached a GPS to a councilor’s car to track his movements, according to the county district attorney’s office. [Daily Pilot] We’ve been covering the scandal for more than two years here, here, and here.

More: union gumshoes alleged to have set honeytrap for opposing councilmember. [Matt Coker, OC Weekly] It’s like Costa Mesa Confidential!

{ 1 comment }

Banking and finance roundup

by Walter Olson on December 17, 2014

  • House Oversight Committee report finds evidence FDIC used Operation Choke Point to strangle access to banking for lawful but disliked businesses [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bloomberg, report, Kevin Funnell, HalfWheel (cigar shops), Pete Kasperowicz, The Blaze (guns), Joe Adler/American Banker (critical views)]
  • “Fallout for the S.E.C. and the Justice Dept. From the Insider Trading Ruling” [Peter Henning, NYT DealBook, on challenges to previous cases; earlier]
  • Congress finally trims Dodd-Frank, with a nose hair clipper. Imagine what Sen. Warren will say if it takes up a scalpel or axe [Michael Greve]
  • Did tax policy set out to make life tough for American expatriates, or does it just seem that way? [Neil Gandal, WSJ on FATCA, FBAR, etc.]
  • “Like other federal agencies, the SEC has long been good at publicizing its initial accusations of wrongdoing …not so good at letting the public know when those accusations turn out to be unfounded or an overreach” [Russell Ryan via Bainbridge, more on SEC press releases on enforcement actions]
  • A market with next to no entry: “If Primary Bank, Mr. Greiner’s proposed firm, wins approval, it would be only the second new bank the FDIC has cleared in the U.S. since 2010.” [WSJ]
  • “The only people who benefit from shareholder litigation over M&A deals are lawyers. Period. End of discussion.” [Stephen Bainbridge; related, Steve Bradford via Bainbridge ("Delaware' entire fairness standard morphs into a tax on deals for the benefit of plaintiff lawyers"), earlier here, etc.]

{ 0 comments }

Because, says Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk, they’re afraid of upsetting students. [The New Yorker]

{ 1 comment }

The new lawsuit by the prominent Connecticut personal-injury firm of Koskoff, Koskoff, and Bieder [news coverage: WSJ Law Blog, CNN] seeks to get around the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by latching on to the law’s narrow exception for “negligent entrustment.” That’s not a reasonable reading of the law, and I argue in a new post at Cato at Liberty that courts should toss attempts like these to revive gun control through litigation, all the more so because legislative attempts to overturn PLCAA (as I discussed last year) are rightfully going nowhere.

Some out there seem to think it’s okay to use litigation as a way of lashing out against opponents, whether by way of a winning case or not:

More: “The Sandy Hook Families’ Lawsuit Against Bushmaster Will Fail. Here’s Why.” [Bob Adams, Bearing Arms] And Eugene Volokh’s analysis breaks down the provisions of PLCAA and its interaction with the specifics of Connecticut law, concluding that “unless there is some evidence that the defendant manufacturers and gun sellers in this case violated some specific gun regulations (judgments actually made by legislatures), plaintiffs’ claim will go nowhere — and rightly so, I think.”

{ 5 comments }

When Horizon, a large Chicago apartment building manager locked in a legal dispute with one of its tenants, chose to sue her over a disparaging tweet a few years back (more), one of the owning family’s members was quoted in the press as saying that “the suit was warranted and that Horizon is ‘a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization,'” a comment for which the company subsequently apologized. You’ll never believe what happened next

{ 1 comment }

Is a cemetery an objectionable land use, and does it matter if the neighbors’ objections are religious? [Gideon Kanner]

{ 0 comments }

NLRB and labor law roundup

by Walter Olson on December 16, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board has been so hyperactive lately reshaping the law for the benefit of labor unions that it gets a roundup all to itself:

{ 2 comments }

Marking Bill of Rights Day

by Walter Olson on December 15, 2014

Today is the commemoration of Bill of Rights Day. My colleague Tim Lynch says the Third Amendment safeguard against troop-quartering “is one of the few that is in fine shape.”

{ 1 comment }

I’ve got a new post up at Cato at Liberty about the Second Circuit’s sharply worded dismissal of two insider trading convictions, which alas came too late to avoid massive damage to the enterprises and people concerned. Quoting NYT “DealBook”:

The dismissal of the case also raises questions about the November 2010 raids of Level Global and Diamondback Capital Management by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Soon after the raid on Level Global, the hedge fund, which was started by Mr. Chiasson and David Ganek, shut down, in part because of requests by investors to redeem their money after the raid. Mr. Ganek was never charged with any wrongdoing by federal authorities.

Diamondback, where Mr. Newman was a portfolio manager, continued to operate for another two years, but it decided to close its doors in December 2012 after receiving a wave of investor redemptions.

Mr. Ganek chided the government in a statement on Wednesday. “For the dozens of my high-integrity colleagues at Level Global who lost their jobs and their reputations because the F.B.I. improperly raided our firm in this now-discredited fishing expedition, today’s legal vindication is a reminder how prosecutorial recklessness has real impact on real people,” he said.

Raids, as opposed to subpoenas and other dull ways of obtaining information sought in an investigation, are irresistible to the press — and they greatly reinforce the public impression that there must have been serious wrongdoing at a target enterprise. That in turn can spell doom especially for financial undertakings, whose business will often be built on client and public trust. And if the case subsequently fails to stick by the evidence or the law, well, it’s on to the next prosecution, right?

More from Stephen Bainbridge and from Ira Stoll (more), who unlike many in the press gave skeptical attention to the case throughout its course.

{ 1 comment }