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Walter Olson

“A French judge has ruled against a blogger because her scathing restaurant review was too prominent in Google search results.” Caroline Doudet “was sued by the owner of Il Giardino restaurant in the Aquitaine region of southwestern France after she wrote a blogpost entitled ‘the place to avoid in Cap-Ferret: Il Giardino’”. [BBC]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on July 18, 2014

  • Harris v. Quinn aftermath: California teacher’s suit might tee up renewed challenge to Abood [Rebecca Friedrichs, earlier here, here, etc.] Recalling when CTA spent its members money trying to convince them their voting preferences were wrong [Mike Antonucci]
  • Calcasieu parish school board in Louisiana votes to stop paying insurance on student athletics [AP/EdWeek]
  • “Maryland Tested Kids on Material It No Longer Teaches, Guess What Happened?” [Robby Soave, Common Core transition]
  • Sexual harassment training of college faculty: a professor talks back [Mark Graber, Balkinization]
  • Eighth Circuit orders new trial in Teresa Wagner’s lawsuit charging Iowa Law discriminated against her because of her conservative views [Paul Caron/TaxProf, earlier]
  • “The 4 NYC teachers banned from classrooms who rake in millions” [Susan Edelman, New York Post] Adventures in Bronx teacher tenure [New York Daily News]
  • New Jersey: “Expensive New School Security System Traps Teacher in Bathroom” [Lenore Skenazy, Reason]

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Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested Thursday on a combined 23 counts arising from a series of episodes in which the two men are said to have accepted cash and favors from persons with business dealings with their offices; Swallow is also accused of destroying and falsifying evidence to cover up dealings with a now-deceased entrepreneur from whom he had allegedly accepted $17,000 in gold coins. The two men, both Republicans, say they are innocent and expect to be vindicated. The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage saves the Harry Reid angle for paragraph 19; the Las Vegas Review Journal gives it more attention, emphasizing Reid’s strong denial of any wrongdoing. Unrelated but also depressing: a former New Mexico AG and a penny stock.

Also: Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, officials have placed plaques beneath portraits of four lawmakers in the state capitol with details of their eventual criminal convictions. I have more details in a Cato post.

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CALPERS, the giant California public-sector pension fund, is among the nation’s leading scolds of corporate governance. So as Ira Stoll points out, it’s kind of newsworthy that its CEO over most of the 2000s just pled guilty to taking $200,000 in bribes from a contractor, the money handed over in paper bags and a shoebox. [New York Sun]

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George Leef reviews a new book by John Compton, political scientist at Chapman University, on how evangelical anti-vice campaigns against gambling, liquor and other social ills helped undermine the Constitution’s curbs on centralized power, paving the way for later Progressive gains.

The tension between moral reformers who insisted on a virtually unlimited view of the “police powers” of government (i.e., to regulate in ways intended to protect the health and morals of the citizenry) and the Constitution’s framers, who feared the results of allowing factions to use government power for their ends, was crucial in shaping constitutional law during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The book shows that by the time the New Deal’s aggressive expansions of federal power came before the Supreme Court, its earlier decisions in favor of approving legislation against liquor and lotteries had so undermined the defenses of property rights, contract, and federalism that it was nearly inevitable that the Court would cave in.

For example, when the Court decided the 1934 case of Blaisdell v. Savings and Loan, gutting the former understanding of the impairment of contracts clause, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes cited an earlier decision on interstate shipment of lottery tickets which had acquiesced in a new extension of the police power, on the grounds that a previously sacrosanct constitutional barrier could be “qualified” when a state needed to “safeguard the interests of its people.” [Forbes]

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EEOC roundup

by Walter Olson on July 17, 2014

  • “U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenges EEOC over its ‘unreasonable’ enforcement tactics” [Jon Hyman, more on House oversight hearing, earlier on court rebuffs to agency and more]
  • On summary judgment: “EEOC case alleging ADA violations against Womble Carlyle nixed by federal judge” [ABA Journal]
  • By 3-2 commissioner vote, EEOC adopts detailed, restrictive new guidance on pregnancy discrimination [Eric Meyer, Hyman]
  • Commission thinks its investigation, mediation and other pre-litigation procedures should be immune from court oversight and public transparency [Merrily Archer]
  • Survey: “Are Employers Adapting to EEOC Guidance on Employment Background Checks?” [Nick Fishman, Employee Screen, related earlier]
  • Commission sues Wisconsin Plastics, Inc. for terminating employees with low-rated English skills as part of English on the job policy [Scott Greenfield, EEOC, my two cents way back]
  • “Is the EEOC the new NLRB?” [John Holmquist, Michigan Employment Law Connection]

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A House panel approves a bill aimed at patent demand letters that are in bad faith or based on invalid patents [Reuters]

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In the upcoming case of Yates v. United States, the Supreme Court will decide whether a fisherman can be prosecuted under Sarbanes-Oxley’s prohibition on destroying or concealing “any record, document, or tangible object” to impede an investigation. The records, documents, or tangible objects in question were undersized fish, which Mr. Yates threw overboard instead of bringing back to the dock as instructed by inspectors. Cato has filed an amicus brief urging the Court to rule that Mr. Yates was not adequately put on notice of the reach of “tangible object” to include not just business items such as hard drives, but small marine creatures, lest the law “potentially criminalize an unfathomable range of activities.” [Trevor Burrus, earlier]

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“…will inevitably be used to protect police and others in power, not…the weak.” [Ken White/Popehat on case of Thomas G. Smith, whose conviction, later overturned, for "disorderly conduct" and "unlawful use of a computerized communication system" was based on an obscenity-filled rant against cops on the Facebook page of the Village of Arena, Wisc. police department]

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Welcome Redditors

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2014

This nine year old Overlawyered post (“Attorney accidentally sues himself”) got highlighted on Reddit /humor/ over the weekend, resulting in a big traffic surge.

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Mass tort roundup

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2014

  • New Hampshire lottery: after Granite State’s MTBE contamination suits pays off big, Vermont files its own [WLF Legal Pulse]
  • Supreme Court declines to review various cases arising from Florida’s Engle tobacco litigation [Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSBlog, earlier] “U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Fen-Phen Lawyers’ Appeal of $42M Kentucky Verdict” [Insurance Journal, earlier]
  • In action against five drug firms over opioid marketing, California’s Santa Clara County partners with law firms Robinson Calcagnie, Cohen Milstein, and Hagens Berman, marking at least the tenth time the county has teamed up with outside law firms to file suits [Legal NewsLine; earlier on Chicago's involvement in painkiller suit]
  • Lester Brickman on fraud in mesothelioma litigation [SSRN] “Plaintiff Lawyer Offers Inside Look At `Institutionalized Fraud’ At Asbestos Trusts” [Daniel Fisher]
  • “‘Light’ cigarette case vs Huck’s continues after 9 years; Two current judges had been plaintiff’s counsel” [Madison Record, ABA Journal]
  • “If honesty in the judicial system means anything, it means proceeding with candor before the tribunal, which plaintiffs’ counsel did not do during the removal proceedings.” [dissent in Peter Angelos Cashmere Bouquet asbestos case, Legal NewsLine]
  • Report on products liability and the driverless car [John Villasenor, Brookings, earlier]

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WSJ editorial this morning: “We hold no brief for Citi, which has been rescued three times by the feds…. [But] good luck finding a justification for [the $7 billion figure] in the settlement agreement. The number seems to have been pulled out of thin air since it’s unrelated to Citi’s mortgage-securities market share or any other metric we can see beyond having media impact.

“This week’s settlement includes $4 billion for the Treasury, roughly $500 million for the states and FDIC, and $2.5 billion for mortgage borrowers. That last category has become a fixture of recent government mortgage settlements, even though the premise of this case involves harm done to bond investors, not mortgage borrowers.” More: Bloomberg. And the settlement directs Citigroup to hire former Eric Holder associate Thomas Perrilli, now at Jenner & Block, for a monitorship that is likely to prove an extremely lucrative plum [Reynolds Holding, Alison Frankel] Also: Ira Stoll.

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A popular feature of many real estate websites is the ability to search for neighborhood- and town-level statistics on crime, rated school quality, income, age, concentration of school-age children, and a host of other demographic variables. Now the National Fair Housing Alliance, the busy group that has extracted tens of millions of dollars from other businesses through complaints and litigation, says it is considering complaints against sites that offer search for information related to forbidden fair housing categories (race, national origin, family structure, and others) and either offer real estate for sale or refer business to real estate agencies. Site operators object that the offending information typically comes from the U.S. Census Bureau itself and that consumers could still obtain such information online, if a bit less conveniently, even if real estate sites stopped offering it. [Kenneth Harney, Washington Post/syndicated]

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Bob Dorigo Jones’s 2014 Wacky Warning Labels Contest has its five finalists.

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July 15 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 15, 2014

  • “Cato Went 10-1 at Supreme Court This Term” [Ilya Shapiro; on merits cases] Yesterday I spoke to a private policy gathering in Annapolis, Md. with a retrospective on the Supreme Court term, especially its lessons for state government. If you’re looking for a speaker on Court issues, I or one of my colleagues at Cato’s Center for Constitutional Studies may fit the bill;
  • “CrossFit Sues ‘Competitor’ For Revealing Its Injury Rates” [DeadSpin]
  • New Jersey court rules for casino in unshuffled baccarat deck case [Elie Mystal/Above the Law, earlier]
  • Family rescued from 1000 miles offshore plans to sue over nonworking satellite cell phone [ABC 10 News]
  • Tartly worded response to third-party-subpoena demand in Sherrod/Breitbart case [attorney Robert Driscoll]
  • Legal academia: Prof. Bainbridge takes on law-and, empirical legal studies crowds [Bainbridge, TaxProf and reactions] George Leef on reforming law schools [Pope Center]
  • “Uber Agrees to End Surge Pricing During NY Emergencies, And Why That Means You’ll Never Find a Ride” [Gary Leff; Peter Van Doren, Cato]

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Commenter Eric Rasmusen at Prof. Bainbridge, via Maitland, quotes Sir Frederick Pollock, Principles of Contract, originally published in 1876:

…the Roman invention, adopted and largely developed in modern systems of law, of constituting the official character of the holders for the time being of the same office, or the common interest of the persons who for the time being are adventurers in the same undertaking, into an artificial person or ideal subject of legal capacities and duties.

To put it differently, the law’s handling of enterprises as people was old news in Roman times. More on the misguided attack on rights-bearing by business organizations: Josiah Neeley, Matt Yglesias (“5 mistakes liberals make about corporate personhood and Hobby Lobby”).

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No misprint, the kid’s age was 11. [Lenore Skenazy, Reason; Bristol, Ct.] Related, from Free-Range Kids: “Kid, 8, Skips Church to Play. Dad Arrested” (Blanchester, Ohio). More: Radley Balko (“the criminalization of parenthood”).

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 14, 2014

  • California resists idea of charging market-clearing rate for water — too much like economics — and instead encourages tattling on neighbors [New York Times, Coyote]
  • Academia smitten by notion of “climate reparations” [Peter Wood, Minding the Campus]
  • Costly market intervention: “Minnesota doubles down on nation’s top biodiesel law” [Watchdog]
  • Reusable grocery bags have their problems for sanitation and otherwise, but California contemplates banning the alternatives [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Steven Greenhut, Reason]
  • Coming: film about Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case [Nick Gillespie, Ilya Somin]
  • 45 years later: the famous 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga became a fable for its age [Jonathan Adler on the Cuyahoga]
  • Should beachfront owners have to open their land to all comers? [NY Times "Room for Debate"]
  • Plus: “EPA has no business garnishing wages without due process” [Examiner editorial, earlier]

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