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Walter Olson

Great moments in unsuccessful ADA litigation: a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a summary judgment entered against a plaintiff who said his firing by the city of North Las Vegas constituted discrimination against him based on his hearing impairment as well as retaliation [Curley v. City of North Las Vegas]:

As part of the investigation, the Human Resources Department interviewed City employees and asked about their interactions with Curley. The interviews revealed that Curley had repeatedly threatened his coworkers and their families. For example, he threatened to put a bomb under a car, insinuated that he had mafia connections, and talked about giving a “blanket party” — which would involve throwing a blanket over a person’s head and beating him. One coworker reported that Curley threatened to kick his teeth out if the coworker did not join a union. On another occasion, Curley threatened to shoot his supervisor’s children in the kneecaps.

The interviews also revealed details about Curley’s work habits. Multiple coworkers said that Curley regularly conducted personal business while at work, sometimes spending up to three hours on his cell phone. It also appears that Curley was operating an ADA consulting business. Many of the calls he made during work were about the business, and coworkers saw him approach disabled individuals to discuss potential lawsuits.

Update thanks to reader Eric in comments:

I was thinking “He was only fired? Why isn’t he in jail?” so I googled him up. He has quite a history.

Astoundingly after he was fired from the city for his shenanigans, a school district (!) hired him as janitor. Six months later he was arrested for stalking (he kept threatening city employees). Finally (and after appearing in the papers) the school is attempting to fire him.

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State of the Union

by Walter Olson on January 19, 2015

Tuesday evening, tune in to #CatoSOTU on Twitter for a libertarian take on the president’s State of the Union address with me and many others from Cato including David Boaz, Mark Calabria, Ilya Shapiro, Aaron Ross Powell, Nicole Kaeding, Jason Kuznicki, Julian Sanchez, Alex Nowrasteh, and more. Additional details here

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The “equitable sharing” civil forfeiture program (see weekend post) being just one of the more visible corners of a whole scaffolding of bad incentives in law enforcement:

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NYT on auto title loans

by Walter Olson on January 18, 2015

“With a crackdown on payday lenders, subprime borrowers are increasingly using auto title loans, whose high interest rates can lead to repossession and financial ruin.” [DealBook/NYT] Todd Zywicki at Volokh finds much lacking in the article’s analysis: “it turns out that those who use these products are not as stupid as the Times’s reporters imply they are.” Reihan Salam: “Remember when people said that cracking down on payday loans would have regrettable consequences?”

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Good for Eric Holder. (And yes, that may be the first time I’ve strung those first four words together in that order.) He’s throttling way back on the “equitable sharing” program that has helped turn civil asset forfeiture into a national disgrace. A shame it’s taken this long, and that he didn’t end the program entirely.

Radley Balko praises the order as “a big deal” and notes that if effective, it “will stop local police agencies from circumventing state laws aimed at reining them in.” (If state legislatures want to allow abuse, on the other hand, the order won’t stop them.) But Balko also warns that the order is ambiguous about whether the exception made for joint federal-state task forces will be permitted, as at least one close observer warns, to swallow the rule. Many law enforcement operations have at least a passing contact with the federal government’s many programs, and if that is enough to get them exempted from the new order, business as usual may continue in the seizure of property from unwitting victims (or even under certain assumptions might things worse.) More: Roger Pilon, Jacob Sullum, Institute for Justice; lawmakers’ letter earlier this month.

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Big Mouse is apparently afraid of getting sued on charges of operating a gambling establishment. [Orlando Sentinel]

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The Meitiv family of Silver Spring, Maryland is now under Child Protective Services scrutiny for permitting their children to walk the neighborhood alone a little too freely. Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids has been on the story for a while, and now the Washington Post and columnist Petula Dvorak are covering it too (related). More: Beth Greenfield, Yahoo Parenting (cross-posted from Free State Notes).

P.S. Google Street View will let you simulate the experience of walking south a mile down Georgia Avenue from Woodside Park through and past downtown Silver Spring. And welcome listeners from “Frederick’s Forum” on WFMD with host Dave Schmidt, where I’ll be calling in to discuss the case this morning.

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I am going to take a wild guess that the suit is aimed at exciting class-action fees [NY Post; @barbararich_law ("A Carbolic Smoke Ball for the Sex and the City generation")]

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Last year I wrote a piece for Jurist on the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA). Now the False Claims Act case of Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter is before the Supreme Court, which heard oral argument on Tuesday. [transcript; Ronald Mann/SCOTUSBlog; WSJ editorial; Courthouse News; earlier here and here]

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  • Obama wants Hill to force paid leave on employers. What, his rule-by-decree powers didn’t stretch that far? [RCP, USA Today] Department of Labor, using funds taxed from supporters and opponents alike, happy to act as frank advocate for legislation [its blog]
  • Employers brace for salaried-overtime mandate, wrought by unilateral Obama decree [KSL, earlier at Cato]
  • Related: “Employers To Face More Litigation In 2015 As Plaintiff Lawyers Swoop In” [Daniel Fisher on Gerald Maatman/Seyfarth Shaw report] Here come more NLRB decisions too [Tim Devaney, The Hill]
  • Krugman on minimum wage: two economists in one! [Donald Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek via Coyote, @Mike_Saltsman ("Min wage in France is closer to $12/hr US. But Krugman still being inconsistent bc he's also backed $15 US minimum")]
  • Five pro-de Blasio unions — SEIU/1199, teachers, hotel workers, doormen/building staff, CWA District 1 — help enforce NYC mayor’s agenda [NYDN]
  • Testimony: “worst-kept secret” in Philly ironworkers’ union was that you could get ahead through violent “night work” [Philadelphia Inquirer; earlier on Quaker meetinghouse arson here and here, related here]
  • Loads of new compliance burdens: “Changes in California Employment Law for 2015″ [Baker Hostetler] And it wouldn’t be California without many more employer mandates pending in legislature [Steven Greenhut]

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Imprécis sur le concept

by Walter Olson on January 15, 2015

France has arrested 54 persons “not… linked to the attacks” over alleged hate speech [AP, Matt Welch, earlier on wavering European commitment to free expression]

Bonus: “Knowledge starts as offendedness”: new Jonathan Rauch video interview for FIRE on free speech from the Salman Rushdie case to now.

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An ACLU report argues not, taking issue with some police groups. Practice has differed — the L.A. sheriff’s department, in installing jail cameras, recently adopted a policy that deputies will have to file incident reports before viewing videos.

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Supreme Court roundup

by Walter Olson on January 15, 2015

  • Perez v. Mortgage Bankers: can agency escape notice-and-comment requirements for new rulemaking by couching edict as other than a rule? [The Hill]
  • Contrary to imaginings in some quarters, anti-business side doesn’t lack for access to front-rank Supreme Court advocates [Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSBlog]
  • Speaking of which, Alison Frankel’s profile of Prof. Samuel Issacharoff’s work on behalf of class actions illuminates little-seen world of cert practice [Reuters]
  • After two near misses, it’s time for Justices to turn thumbs down on housing disparate impact theory [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner, Cato]
  • Integrity Staffing v. Busk: Court unanimously rules Fair Labor Standards Act does not require overtime pay for security screening after work [SCOTUSBlog, Michael Fox, On Labor, Daniel Fisher, Dan Schwartz]
  • “Religious Liberties for Corporations? Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution” [Cato panel discussion with Roger Pilon, Ilya Shapiro, Randy Barnett, David Gans]
  • Some local governments presume to license local tour guides, which amounts to requiring a license to speak [Shapiro and Latner, Cato]
  • More: 1997 flap over sculpture of Muhammad in Supreme Court building mostly subsided after Islamic scholar interpreted it as gesture of goodwill [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]

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“A former ING Financial Services trader sued the owners of Madison Square Garden (MSG) for booting him from the arena last year after he yelled ‘Carmelo, you stink’ during a New York Knicks game, a move he said cost him his job.” [Bloomberg]

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I’ve got a new post at Cato about the perennial problem of poor governance at Washington, D.C.’s WMATA Metro subway system, which on Monday suffered a smoke-in-tunnel accident that cost the life of a passenger and sickened many more. Excerpt:

If the cream of the nation’s political class, living within a 50 mile radius in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., cannot arrange to obtain competence from their elected local officials in delivering a public service that’s vital to their daily work lives, what does that tell us about their pretensions to improve through federal action the delivery of local government services – fire and police, water supply and schooling, road maintenance and, yes, transit itself – in the rest of the country?

Reactions from George Leef (“it tells us that we should ignore them”), @jasonkeisling (“If it had been Uber, the gov would ban their service. But no need to address any problems with metro.”), and Christine Sisto/National Review. The Washington Post succinctly summarizes local outrage about the service’s failure to live up to its boasts of a “culture of safety”, while Washington City Paper, Aaron Wiener reviews Metro’s sluggish response to a series of previous safety crises and breakdowns.

A lot of literature — like this recent study cited by the Regional Plan Association — tends to confirm the idea that transit operations work better when governance is arranged so as to provide clear lines of responsibility and accountability. WMATA, which has gone through many general managers over the years, suffers from a weak, too-many-cooks board structure in which two each of eight board seats are filled by Maryland, Virginia, the District, and the federal government, along with another two alternates for each of the four jurisdictions.

On Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m. I’m scheduled to be on Fox 5 WTTG Morning News television to talk about these ideas.

More: Michael Brickman, Flypaper. @politicalmath recalls when Metro got $200 million from the stimulus program to “create a safety culture.” Another comment from @jasonkeisling: “No accountability. Imagine if a private company had an incident like this…”

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Last of our highlights roundups:

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Glasgow, Kentucky: “A former Glasgow police officer is suing a Barren County gun store after being handed a loaded gun from under the counter and accidentally shooting his finger off.” [WBKO]

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Following Mayor Bloomberg’s lead, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio bans Styrofoam take-out trays and coffee cups, along with packing peanuts used in shipping, on the grounds that they can’t be recycled [Eater NYC, city press release, earlier here and here]

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