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Walter Olson

From James Taranto’s “Best of the Web” Wall Street Journal column, under his recurring “Two Papers in One!” series:

  • “Buried in the fine print of most contracts for cellphones, health insurance and credit cards is a clause requiring that all disputes be decided by binding arbitration, rather than a court. Businesses love these provisions, because arbitrators act quickly and almost always rule in their favor, and many employers are requiring new hires to sign similar agreements. All of this sounds pretty unfair, but apparently not unfair enough for the Supreme Court, which has now made the arbitration process even more onerous.” — editorial, New York Times, June 27, 2010
  • “In lieu of litigation and jury trials, each of which is expressly waived, any dispute concerning, relating or referring to this Participation Agreement, the brochure, or any other literature concerning your trip or the Tour shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration in New York City, New York, according to the then existing commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association. Such proceeding will be governed by the substantive law of the State of New York. The arbitrator(s) and not any federal, state, or local court or agency shall have exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the interpretation, applicability, enforceability, conscionability, or formation of this Participant Agreement, including but not limited to any claim that all or any part of this Participant Agreement is void or voidable.” — Times Journeys Terms and Conditions, NYTimes.com, 2014

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  • Six L.A. County sheriff workers get prison for obstructing jail probe [L.A. Times, earlier]
  • More thoughts on pros and cons of police cameras [Howard Wasserman/Prawfs, Scott Greenfield]
  • Equal time: Heather Mac Donald’s perspective on Ferguson, policing, and race food for thought even if different from ours [City Journal; our earlier coverage of Ferguson]
  • “15-year mandatory minimum federal sentence for possessing shotgun shells (no shotgun) almost 20 years after past felonies” [Volokh]
  • How much criminal culpability for battered women when their violent partners harm children? [BuzzFeed]
  • If Stephen Colbert broke NYC’s wacky knife law on the air, all the more reason to reform it [Village Voice (link fixed now), earlier]
  • Details of additional charges in billion-dollar Department of Justice case against FedEx for not policing contents of its packages [WSJ, earlier]

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The ballistic pumpkin-launching event, featured on the Discovery Channel, and “held for years on a succession of rural Sussex County farm fields, was to have moved to the same grounds that host Firefly this year. After a volunteer filed a personal injury lawsuit in 2013 over an ATV accident at the 2011 Chunk, the farmer hosting it in Sussex County said he wouldn’t let it return to his property.” Organizers have now resigned themselves to skipping 2014, and hope to hold the event in Dover next year. [Wilmington News-Journal]

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Paging the Brennan Center and Justice at Stake! “The law firm that profited the most from insurance suits in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike is sending hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign fund of the former judge who presided over the lion’s share of the litigation.” Houston plaintiff’s attorney Steve Mostyn and his wife Amber have vaulted into the ranks of some of the nation’s top political donors lately. [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; earlier on Mostyn]

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Supreme Court roundup

by Walter Olson on October 14, 2014

  • Sorry, National Review, but the marriage rulings are really nothing at all like Dred Scott [my new piece at The Daily Beast] Or Roe v. Wade either [Dale Carpenter, Ilya Shapiro, Charles Lane]
  • Ninth Circuit won’t get the message about not expropriating raisin farmers and it’s time for the Court to remind it again [also Ilya Shapiro, earlier]
  • Private businesses, even those that are quasi-public like Amtrak, shouldn’t be delegated the right to regulate their competitors [Ilya Shapiro yet a third time]
  • “Supreme Court takes case on duration of traffic stops” [Orin Kerr, Rodriguez v. United States]
  • Housing disparate impact theory, dodged by administration last time around, returns to Court [Bloomberg, Daniel Fisher; Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project; earlier]
  • Noteworthy feature of just-argued wage-and-hour case is that Obama Department of Labor is taking the employer side [Denniston, SCOTUSBlog; Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk]
  • “Supreme Court to hear case on right of Maryland to tax out-of-state income” [Ashley Westerman, Capital News Service]
  • Mark your calendar if in D.C.: I’ll be moderating a Nov. 3 talk at Cato by Damon Root about his new book Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court, with commentary from Roger Pilon and Jeffrey Rosen [Reason]

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Readers who followed Overlawyered in 2009-10 will recall that the closest this site has ever come to a crusade was in covering the truly horrible Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, enacted after a media-fed tainted-toy panic, a law that needlessly drove out of business many small retailers and manufacturers of children’s goods posing no hazard whatsoever to consumers. Some will further recall that the chief Senate handler of the legislation was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), who cut a poor figure throughout as both ill-informed and dismissive about the side effects his own legislation was having.

Now Sen. Pryor is locked in a tight race for re-election with challenger Rep. Tom Cotton, and a group called the Arkansas Project has been reminding readers of Pryor’s record on CPSIA, digging up many new details in an August series written by Washington, D.C.-area policy analyst Marc Kilmer (who generously credits Overlawyered coverage as a source throughout). Most of the series can be found at this tag or via search. Here is a guide to individual installments in the series, supplemented by links to further coverage from our archives:

Arkansas voters — and everyone who wants to learn how a Congress can fail spectacularly at its legislative responsibilities — should read this series in full.

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“I think I can safely say this is a very unusual claim,” said City Clerk Shari Moore, referring to Megan Campbell’s “claim against the city seeking $1,600 to $1,900 from public coffers for damage caused to her personal vehicle by a city worker — herself.” [St. Paul Pioneer-Press; Lowering the Bar]

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And purported reforms in 2012 didn’t help. Connecticut’s is second most expensive. [Insurance Journal]

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After Wanetta Gibson falsely accused Brian Banks of rape (earlier), her family won a settlement in a civil suit against the Long Beach, Calif. schools; Banks himself, a former prep football star, served more than five years in prison. Now the school district has obtained a $2.6 million default judgment against Gibson, whose whereabouts are unknown. “According to the school district, the judgment recoups a $750,000 settlement paid to Gibson and also includes attorney’s fees, interest and $1 million in punitive damages.” [Long Beach Press-Telegram] Earlier accounts had erroneously reported that Gibson had been paid $1.5 million.

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Megan McArdle is the latest to refute the notion that Ford’s high-wage policy was meant to put workers in a position to buy his products [Bloomberg View] We linked Marc Hodak on the same subject in July.

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has extracted an $85,000 settlement and other relief from Atchison Transportation Services, Inc., of South Carolina on charges that one of its managers terminated two motorcoach drivers who were 75 and 76 years old respectively. As with disability discrimination, federal law on age discrimination generally requires that termination be based only on cause-based individualized determinations of unfitness; in practice, an employer may be well advised to premise such determinations only on evidence that would stand up under legal scrutiny as objective, such as, for example, a driver’s loss of license or involvement in an accident. [EEOC press release, h/t Roger Clegg]

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Pitching a civil-Gideon entitlement as salvation to economically insecure faculty and administrators in legal academia [Edward Rubin via Caron, TaxProf]

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After BuckyBalls surrendered to the Consumer Product Safety Commission the Denver-based company Zen Magnets was the last standing in the tiny-recreational-magnets field, and its founder, 27-year-old Shihan Qu, isn’t planning to go quietly. [WestWord]

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October 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 10, 2014

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My new Cato piece on New York’s crazy “gravity-knife” law, picking up on an excellent Village Voice investigation by Jon Campbell. More: Scott Greenfield.

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The story from Montana, on Bloomberg, updates our earlier report [link fixed now] including this link. Writes correspondent R.T.:

Big difference in liability theories here:

Plaintiff: Defective steering mechanism;

Defendant: The fireworks that were going off INSIDE THE CAR at the time of the crash.

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