This should be interesting: 19 Harvard Law School professors have denounced “The Hunting Ground,” an advocacy show on college sexual assault which CNN plans to air on Sunday, for bias and inaccuracy. “This purported documentary provides a seriously false picture both of the general sexual assault phenomenon at universities and of our student Brandon Winston,” the professors write in an open letter. Legal journalist Stuart Taylor, Jr. calls attention to emails indicating that those working on the documentary might not have embraced what you would call detached or skeptical methods: “We don’t operate the same way as journalists — this is a film project very much in the corner of advocacy for victims, so there would be no insensitive questions or the need to get the perpetrator’s side.” More: Robby Soave and Linda LeFauve, Reason; KC Johnson, Commentary, on Jon Krakauer’s book Missoula.
The urge to criminalize the other guy’s politics and advocacy seems to be running especially strong these days. If you doubt it, here’s another data point: a Latino advocacy group called Presente.org, following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial comments critical of immigration, called for arresting Trump. Not only did this not stir any great outcry, but rival Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders has now hired Presente.org’s executive director to lead his Latino outreach.
One reason our elections and public debates are intensely fought is that they carry high stakes. Their stakes will be higher yet if the price of coming out on the losing side in an election or debate is to face potential prosecution.
“Four taxi drivers are suing Uber and seeking class-action status, alleging they’ve seen up to a 40 percent dip in business since the ride-hailing service began operating in violation of local regulations.” The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of other St. Louis cabbies. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Brian Doherty, Reason]
Of the vast edifice of federal laws that now control the terms of private employment, one of the less discussed is a 1994 enactment called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), under which employees who participate in the military are made a protected class in private employment. Writes Jon Hyman: “An individual claiming discrimination under USERRA need only prove that military service was a ‘motivating factor’ in the adverse action — which may rely on circumstantial evidence (including suspicious timing, statements, or behavior) that creates a ‘convincing mosaic’ from which a reasonable jury could infer discriminatory motive.”
Hyman discusses the recent case of Arroyo v. Volvo Group North America, in which managers expressed admiration but also “frustration” at an employee’s resort to “frequent military leave” in situations where, they believed, her army reserve obligations would have been consistent with taking less time off the job. Eventually it dismissed her on attendance grounds.
Last month the Seventh Circuit overturned a lower court’s dismissal of the case, citing, as “anti-military animus,” managers’ concerns about what they perceived as her overuse of the leave, and its disruptive effects on work. “Animus” as a word here, of course, hardly carries the connotation of prejudice, spite, or hostility that frequently attach to that word. It is more like an confusing leftover from the days when federal employment law made it its chief business to prohibit invidious discrimination, rather than, as now, to enforce affirmative accommodation.
30-employee Woof ‘N’ Poof, which manufactures stuffed collector dolls and other novelty accessories in the northern California community of Chico for sale in Nordstrom and other stores, may soon call it quits [Debbie Cobb/KHSL via Richard Rider, Flash Report]:
[Owner Roger] Hart says a raise in minimum wage and workers compensation are just a couple of issues that have made it difficult to keep the business financially afloat here. Hart said, “The high cost of doing business in California coupled with ridiculous regulatory environment makes it virtually impossible to do business.” He says he has seen an 11% hike in payroll.
…A recent visit by an inspector with the Department of Consumer Affairs set the company back. The inspector from Sacramento cited him for having the wrong size font on the decorative pillow labels. He was told to take the labels out, or they would have his inventory seized. It was a costly fix.
Government is just another word for the things we do together, like threatening to seize pillow inventories with wrong-font labels.
How reliable are projections from the Department of Labor about the cost of the President’s ambitious new extension of overtime entitlements to salaried workers earning $23,660-$50,440? The “administration refuses to allow others to check its math. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the state agency that I lead, in August requested the specific data and methodology the Labor Department used to calculate its estimates. Our request was denied.” So the department went ahead with its own analysis. “The rule will supposedly cost $2 billion the first year. Our math shows $1.7 billion for Florida alone.” [Jesse Panuccio, WSJ, earlier here, here, here, here, and here]
“Every public place in [Portland, Oregon] with a television set will have to display closed captioning during business hours beginning next month, or face the specter of hundreds or thousands in fines.
… advocates for the deaf cheered, and restaurant lobbyists shook their heads in frustration.” The Portland City Council vote was unanimous. [Dirk VanderHart, Portland Mercury]
- “Executive Power in the Age of Obama,” podcast interview with Prof. David Bernstein about his new book Lawless, from Encounter Books [Liberty and Law] And so many choices: Bernstein picks his top five acts of Obama administration lawlessness;
- Donations-wise, law firms love Hillary Clinton [Above the Law] as do teachers’ unions [RiShawn Biddle]
- “The Criminalization Of Politics: Is It Happening, And Is It A Problem?” David Lat covers the Federalist Society convention panel [Above the Law]
- Donald Trump’s fondness for legal threats can be traced back to his early association with infamous attorney Roy Cohn [Business Insider video with Michael D’Antonio; June 1989 Spy magazine “Those Who Can, Sue” noting the Trump/Cohn connection; a Steven Brill anecdote about Cohn and Ford Motor that I quoted in my first book] More: @andrewmgrossman on “Ex. 1 to defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion,” Trump on Kasich;
- “Sheldon Silver lied to us” [New York Daily News editorial] More: Lawyers for Silver “don’t plan to call any witnesses. They will instead enter some documents as evidence in their defense, offering a case so minimal that U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni used air quotes when referring to it.” [WSJ]
- Raunchy emails in Kathleen Kane saga: “Pennsylvania’s attorney general seems to have decided that if she has to go, she’s going to take others down with her.” [AP/Yahoo]
- Eternal return? Ex-con reinstalled as mayor of Bridgeport, Ct. played key role in cities-sue-gun-business episode [U.S. News, back then]
It’s a familiar libertarian insight that regulation often holds government itself to lower standards than it does private actors. Pension funds for public employees are mostly immune from the federal solvency and funding requirements that apply to their private counterparts; Federal Trade Commission rules against false advertising by private companies do not restrain false advertising by government actors on the same topics; the FTC can fine companies massively for data breaches even as the federal government itself suffers gigantic losses of sensitive data to foreign actors with few, if any, visible career consequences for those who had dozed; anticompetitive practices per se illegal under antitrust law become legal when the states engage in them, and so on and so forth.
Now David Konisky of Indiana University and Manuel Teodoro of Texas A&M, in a study published by the American Journal of Political Science entitled “When Governments Regulate Governments,” have taken a look at some data:
Our empirical subjects are public and private entities’ compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. We find that, compared with private firms, governments violate these laws significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations.
For the study, Konisky and Teodoro examined records from 2000 to 2011 for power plants and hospitals regulated under the Clean Air Act and from 2010 to 2013 for water utilities regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The study included over 3,000 power plants, over 1,000 hospitals and over 4,200 water utilities — some privately owned and others owned by public agencies.
* For power plants and hospitals, public facilities were on average 9 percent more likely to be out of compliance with Clean Air Act regulations and 20 percent more likely to have committed high-priority violations.
* For water utilities, public facilities had on average 14 percent more Safe Drinking Water Act health violations and were 29 percent more likely to commit monitoring violations.
* Public power plants and hospitals that violated the Clean Air Act were 1 percent less likely than private-sector violators to receive a punitive sanction and 20 percent less likely to be fined.
*Public water utilities that violated Safe Drinking Water Act standards were 3 percent less likely than investor-owned utilities to receive formal enforcement actions.
[After speculating that public operators may find it harder to raise funds promptly for needed facilities improvements:] Public entities also face lower costs for violating the regulations, the authors argue. There is evidence from other studies that they are able to delay or avoid paying fines when penalties are assessed. And officials with regulatory agencies may be sympathetic to violations by public entities, because they understand the difficulty of securing resources in the public sector.