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Walter Olson

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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It may sound like satire, but the Los Angeles Ethics Commission is perfectly serious about the idea of handing out random cash as an incentive for apathetic constituents to get to the polls. I take a dim view of that in a Cato post; more from columnist Debra Saunders.

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A federal judge has declined to award summary judgment to Cinemark Holdings against a claim that it should have foreseen a madman’s mass shooting rampage at its Aurora, Colo. theater two years ago. [Deadline Hollywood] Ken White at Popehat corrects some media misapprehension about the difference between a summary judgment motion and disposition of the merits, but as a commenter points out, much of the practical damage is indeed done when a judge declines summary judgment in such a case, since the defendant then faces not only the substantial cost of trial but also the unpredictability of a jury faced with very sympathetic plaintiffs and a deep-pocket defendant; there is nothing either unusual or untraditional about judges’ averting these costs by ruling out particular liability theories as a matter of law.

More from Scott Greenfield: “The biggest growth job in America will be armed guard. … A theater showing a movie, even a Batman movie at midnight, is not a crazy killer magnet such that Cinemark could have possibly anticipated what would happen…. The law shouldn’t impose a duty that suggests otherwise.”

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If done by anyone other than unionists, this would by now be a trending national story:

The Teamsters picketers were already mad. By the time Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi’s car pulled up to the Steel & Rye restaurant in the picturesque New England town of Milton just outside Boston, one of them ran up to her car and screamed, “We’re gonna bash that pretty face in, you f*cking wh*re!”

“She was scared,” said a Top Chef crewmember who witnessed the incident.

Bravo had incurred the wrath of Charlestown-based Teamsters Local 25 by using its own production assistants as drivers, reports the Boston Herald:

The picketers lobbed sexist, racist and homophobic slurs at the rest of the cast and crew for most of the day, the website reported, and when production wrapped, the “Top Chef” crew found that tires were slashed on 14 of their cars. Milton police confirmed that the union members were “threatening, heckling and harassing” but said no arrests were made.

The Herald quotes a spokeswoman for Local 25, Melissa Hurley, sounding completely unapologetic: “As far as we’re concerned, nothing happened.” Or to put it differently: Teamsters Will Be Teamsters.

More, including the violent history that makes this incident anything but “isolated,” from the Boston Globe. I’ve posted on the curious exemption of unions from the law of harassment, stalking, hostile environment, etc. here, here (more on Philadelphia Quaker meetinghouse arson), and in various other posts, as well as in my book The Excuse Factory.

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A successful whistleblower, he’s featured on the reality-TV show “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and one can only commend his pacific spirit, at least as regards physical combat:

I don’t fight. I think it’s stupid. I’m trained as an attorney. If I want to hurt you, I’m going to sue you. I’m going to leverage your house. I’m gonna give you three years of hell in a courtroom. I’m going to bleed you dry financially, and I’m going to humiliate you as I depose you for eight hours and make you my bitch.

[Newark Star-Ledger via Above the Law]

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Alcohol roundup

by Walter Olson on August 22, 2014

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Coyote, updated, and Hans Bader write about yet another new burden loaded on federal contractors, involving the creation of separate affirmative action plans for each installation, including those that do no federal contract business. One result will be to pressure some firms that do only a little federal work to get out of the government contracting business entirely, rather than submit to escalating cost and open-ended legal consequences.

Meanwhile, notes Bader, another part of the Obama administration’s rapidly proliferating “pen and phone” regulation of the workplace “will make it very costly for employers to challenge dubious allegations of wrongdoing against them,” by “[allowing] the government to cut off the contracts of contractors and subcontractors that do not ‘consistently adhere’ to a multitude of complex federal labor, antidiscrimination, harassment, and disabilities-rights laws.” Even more damaging, it will forbid many applications of pre-dispute arbitration to workplace disputes, thus shunting grievances into courtroom litigation. “It will allow trial lawyers to extort larger settlements from companies, and enable bureaucratic agencies to extract costly settlements over conduct that may have been perfectly legal.”

Earlier on regulation of federal contractors, a program driven by executive orders and particularly at the mercy of White House discretion, here and here, here, here, here, and generally at this new tag.

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Race is one reason for constant police hassle in towns like Ferguson. Revenue is another. In a Cato post yesterday, I note that court fees are the second biggest source of revenue for the small city, and that the Ferguson municipal court last year issued three arrest warrants and presided over 1.5 cases per household. As a result, many residents of the town “wind up interacting constantly with law enforcement because of a culture of petty fines” — enough to make for tense relations between the community and the police even aside from the racial divide. Similarly: Alex Tabarrok, who wrote on related issues two years ago. More: Amy Alkon; Brian Doherty at Reason says his colleague Scott Shackford reaches a lower estimate of the importance of fines in the Ferguson budget.

P.S. The ArchCity Defenders report on problems with North County municipal courts is online (PDF). And even before Ferguson blew up, there had been stirrings of reform on some of the courts’ user-unfriendly practices [Post-Dispatch]

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August 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 21, 2014

  • “Brady Campaign loses lawsuit against Armslist (a gun classified ad site)” [Volokh]
  • Train for your bright future in federal employment as a FOIA Denial Officer [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • Chamber of Commerce alarmed at rise of class actions in Latin America [Kevin LaCroix/D & O Diary, Chamber report and Brazil sidebar]
  • Dear CBS Los Angeles: it’s okay to show a little skepticism regarding creationist’s claims in employment lawsuit [Skeptical Libertarian]
  • Historic role of guns in black civil rights struggle departs from polite conventional account [Charles E. Cobb, Jr., guestblogging on new book at Volokh: samples one, two, three, four]
  • Ranking law blogs based on their number of Feedly subscribers [Derek Muller; only a few single-author blogs score higher]
  • At the height of county fair season, it’s depressing to read about 4-H suits [Legal Geeks]

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Feta-compli?

by Walter Olson on August 20, 2014

RoquefortWikimediaThe remorselessly paternalistic British Medical Journal now prints an article urging that government take action against salty varieties of cheese such as Roquefort and Halloumi [Guardian; picture credit Wikimedia]

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Robert and Cynthia Gifford offer their Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, N.Y. as a wedding venue. New York has now fined them $13,000 for politely declining to host a gay wedding. They’ll also have to train their employees in compliance. [LGBTQ Nation, WNYT, Village Voice] Earlier on cakes and more cakes, flowers, photographers, etc. etc. More on this topic: Scott Shackford, Reason.

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All-Ferguson edition, including my CNBC exchange last Friday, above:

  • Typically good John Stossel column [Washington Examiner, syndicated, and thanks for mention] Disturbing innovations coming our way in the world of crowd/protest control include “puke cannons,” “pain rays” [Gene Healy, Washington Examiner, ditto]
  • Cause of death: failure to comply with police orders [David M. Perry, opinion] “Here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you” [Sunil Dutta (L.A.P.D. officer), Washington Post; Ken at Popehat]
  • “Expect Many, Many Lawsuits From Ferguson” [Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed]
  • Not the safe conventional move: I’m quoted on Sen. Rand Paul’s willingness to grapple with Ferguson [Politico]
  • Local commercial economies take a long time to recover from damage done by looting [Kate Rogers/Fox Business, thanks for quote]]
  • Political economy: unusual state of representation in Ferguson makes the town an outlier [Seth Masket, Pacific Standard] Police-driven budget? “Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees” [Jeff Smith, NY Times]
  • According to Victor Davis Hanson, we critics of police militarization have “empowered [radical groups] to commit violence” [NRO]
  • “What I Did After a Cop Killed My Son” [Michael Bell, Politico, Kenosha, Wisc.; civilian review]
  • “Why Are There No News Helicopters Over Ferguson?” [Peter Suderman]

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Federal Aviation Administration bans plane-sharing startups in which guest rider agrees to chip in toward gas money [Josh Constine, TechCrunch]

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Should cops wear cameras?

by Walter Olson on August 19, 2014


I’m at 1:45 in this report that aired on WOAI (San Antonio), Fox 45 Baltimore, and other Sinclair Broadcasting stations nationwide, with accompanying article. See Nick Gillespie in Time, also linked yesterday; earlier on police cameras here, etc.

P.S. Don’t underestimate the data security issues.

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  • After Harris v. Quinn, states and unions begin dropping mandatory dues collection for home health carers [Michigan Capitol Confidential, Fox; my two cents at Free State Notes on Maryland's heel-dragging]
  • Macy’s in suburban Boston is opening target for NLRB bid to install gerrymandered “micro-unions” [The Hill, earlier here, etc.]
  • Federal contractors to fork over pay demographics, the better to be sued [Department of Labor]
  • Speaking of the barrage of executive orders coming out of the White House, it’s beyond silly to pretend that all the costly new employment mandates will promote “efficiency and cost savings” [Coyote]
  • “Gay Christian conservative employee sues gay bar for sexual, religious harassment” [Volokh]
  • “House Hearing Highlights Problems in the Fair Labor Standards Act” [Alex Bolt]
  • “Forcing Kids to Do Chores Not a Federal Crime” [Courthouse News, Volokh]

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