Author Archive

The rest of the Supreme Court’s term

With three decision days remaining — today, tomorrow, and next Monday — Ilya Shapiro outlines the remaining seven cases and their importance, including Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project (are defendants liable under “disparate impact” theories in housing discrimination law?) and King v. Burwell (interpreting Congress’s language on Obamacare subsidies).

Update: Both of those cases were decided this morning. In King v. Burwell, the Court broke 6-3 for the administration to uphold the IRS’s rewrite of ObamaCare subsidies. The Court keeps on hand a supply of what one observer called Get Out Of Bad Drafting Free cards, but as Justice Scalia noted in his “SCOTUScare” dissent, awards them only for certain laws. And the housing case was a big win for the left as Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberals to uphold housing suits based on “disparate impact” theories. His opinion throws a sop or two about how disparate impact shouldn’t imply quotas, which I suspect will mean about as much as similar sops the Court has thrown over the years in employment and education, i.e., not much. (P.S. As one reader rightly objects, the problem in Burwell wasn’t so much bad drafting as drafting that failed of its intended coercive effect and therefore needed to be revised if there was to be a Plan B. More on King v. Burwell: Roger Pilon and Ilya Shapiro at Cato)

Federal court: SEC cannot use employees as judges

The Securities and Exchange Commission practice of trying many complaints before administrative law judges (ALJs) who are its own employees, rather than before federal courts, has grown increasingly controversial lately and now one defendant’s challenge to the practice has prevailed — at least for the moment. A federal judge in Atlanta has ruled that because ALJs are “inferior officers” under the constitution, they cannot be simply employed like other federal workers by an agency like the SEC. Writes Thaya Knight at Cato, “there is a fairly easy fix available to the SEC: the five commissioners can simply appoint the existing ALJs to their current positions…. [but] other agencies could face greater difficulties.” But Daniel Fisher quotes Prof. Philip Hamburger as saying the ruling could still prove “profoundly important,” leading to the unraveling of other aspects of administrative law arrangements within agencies. More: W$J (commission fighting off at least seven legal challenges; in one instance it “asked one of its own judges to submit a formal statement about whether he has ever felt pressure to favor the agency”), Adam Zimmerman/PrawfsBlawg.

“Is the Discovery Problem Solved?”

“Long anticipated changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were approved by the United States Supreme Court on April 29, 2015. Absent congressional action, which is not expected, these new rules will take effect December 1, 2015. The most significant changes are in the area of discovery and there is hope among the defense bar that these changes may result in significant reductions in the cost and burden of discovery.” But will they? [James O’Neal and John Schlafer, Faegre Baker Daniels/JDSupra]

June 24 roundup

  • Judge lifts gag order against Reason magazine in commenter subpoena case, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for Manhattan is shown to have behaved even more outrageously than had been thought [Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, Ken White/Popehat (magistrate’s approval of gag order looks an awful lot like rubber stamp; AUSA directly contacted represented party), Paul Alan Levy (when bloggers push back, gag orders tend to get lifted), Matt Welch again with coverage roundup]
  • Maryland authorities clear “free range” Meitiv family of all remaining charges in kids-walking-alone neglect case [Donna St. George, Washington Post]
  • Disgraced politico Monica Conyers sues McDonald’s over cut finger [Detroit News]
  • American Law Institute considers redefining tort of “battery” to protect the “unusually sensitive”, Prof. Ronald Rotunda on problems with that [W$J]
  • “Did you ever falsely represent yourself as an attorney?” asks the lawyer to her client in front of reporter [Eric Turkewitz]
  • Feds endorse alcohol-sniff interlock as new-car option, critics say eventual goal is to force it into all cars, assuming rise of self-driving cars doesn’t moot the issue first [Jon Schmitz/Tribune News Service]
  • Echoes of CPSIA: regulatory danger is back for smaller soap and cosmetic makers as big companies, safety groups combine to push Personal Care Products Safety Act [Handmade Cosmetic Alliance, Elizabeth Scalia, Ted Balaker, Reason TV and followup (Sen. Dianne Feinstein objects to “nanny of month” designation, points to threshold exemptions for smaller businesses), earlier on predecessor bills described as “CPSIA for cosmetics”, National Law Review (panic over recent NYT nail salon expose might contribute to momentum)]

SCOTUS: raisin seizure requires compensation

It’s raining raisin rights! The Supreme Court has ruled 8-1, as a Cato amicus brief had urged, that the Horne family of California have a Fifth Amendment right to compensation for the government’s seizure of half their raisin crop as part of an agricultural marketing order program. Only Justice Sotomayor dissented. There was also a 5-3 split on the question of how compensation should be calculated, with the majority joining Chief Justice Roberts in holding that the Department of Agriculture was bound by its own estimate of the value of the raisins taken. Earlier on Horne v. USDA here.

Robert Thomas at Inverse Condemnation rounds up reactions. Commentary: Ilya Shapiro, Roger Pilon (and earlier on the Magna Carta angle), and Trevor Burrus/Forbes (good news: Court strikes down really awful New Deal farm program. Bad news: it took 80 years), all from Cato; Iain Murray, Ilya Somin. And thanks to Instapundit guestblogger Virginia Postrel for linking to our past coverage.

L.A. v. Patel: law must allow hotels to contest police access to registries

MovieTownHotelPostcard
In Los Angeles v. Patel, decided this morning, the Supreme Court held 5-4 with Justice Kennedy joining the four liberals that a Los Angeles law requiring hotels to give police free access to guest registries was facially in violation of the Fourth Amendment because it did not provide a way for hotels to challenge a given disclosure. Justice Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion. Cato had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the position that prevailed. Earlier here. Pictured postcard via present-day Vibe Hotel. More: Josh Gerstein, Politico; Jim Harper, Cato.

More from Conor Friedersdorf: Justice Scalia in dissent focused on the historically closely regulated nature of innkeepers, but would he feel as comfortable if technological advance turned the hotel registries into an instantly accessible government database of where all travelers are staying, a development lawyers for Los Angeles appeared to view as perfectly Constitutional?

Wage and hour roundup