“Flush with trial lawyer cash, the PAC’s public face is ‘Texans 4 Justice,’ which portrays itself as a conservative grassroots group.” It didn’t work: Texas GOP primary voters yesterday returned incumbent Supreme Court justices. [Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, earlier]
Related: Plaintiff’s lawyer Steve Mostyn, “omnipresent” in Austin, and his involvement with “Conservative Voters of Texas” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
“A New Jersey couple does not have to pay — for now — for their 18-year-old daughter’s college education, a judge ruled Tuesday evening.” [CBS New York, ABC News, NY Daily News, AP]
“U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that attorney Steven Donziger’s legal team used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of an $18 billion judgment against the oil company issued in 2011.” [Reuters, Bloomberg, 485-pp., 1842-footnote opinion; SFGate, Kevin Williamson, Quin Hillyer, Ira Stoll (New York politicians including Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli roped in as allies of Donziger)] We’ve been covering the story for years.
Photo via David Boaz. We’ve been covering the Mardi Gras King-cake-figurine-liability issue at Overlawyered for years.
Caleb Brown interviews me for this new Cato podcast on a knotty question: when should a state attorney general decline to argue in court in defense of a law he thinks unconstitutional? On the one hand, the legal profession’s norms strongly favor giving every client and cause its day in court, and practical dysfunction might result were cases routinely handed over to others to defend or dropped entirely. On the other hand, attorneys general like other officials take an oath of office to the constitution, which calls in doubt whether they should (or even may) use their skills on behalf of unconstitutional measures. Complicating matters: how should unconstitutionality be assessed, by way of the AG’s own judgment, by way of predicting how the highest relevant court would rule, or by some other method? What kind of difference should it make whether the assessment appears certain, very probable, or more ambiguous than that?
In recent weeks about a half-dozen Democratic AGs around the country have declined to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage, on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision of last year, while other AGs both Republican and Democratic have argued in defense of those laws. (Today, Kentucky’s attorney general announced that he will not appeal a federal court ruling requiring the state to recognize out-of-state marriages, although the state’s governor is stepping in to do so.) Finding either liberals or conservatives who have preserved entirely consistent positions on the issue, though, is not always easy. Former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a strong conservative, declined to defend a state education reform law last year, while in 2011 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declined to defend a state domestic partnership registry they deemed unconstitutional. In a case like the latter it was liberals who tended to criticize the refusal to defend a law, and conservatives who applauded — patterns that to some extent have been reversed this time around.
It must not have been easy to find an appointee even farther left than the departing Thomas Perez to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, but the search eventuated with apparent success in the Obama Administration’s naming of former NAACP Legal Defense Fund official Debo Adegbile. While his confirmation is a foregone conclusion under the Senate’s new simple-majority Harry Reid rules, Republicans may still make an issue of Adegbile’s backing of the EEOC in its controversial campaign to require employers to hire felons and limit the use of criminal background checks before employment. [Byron York, Washington Examiner] Update: nomination fails narrowly in Senate, opposition driven substantially by nominee’s involvement in public efforts on behalf of convicted Philadelphia cop-killer [Politico]
Should parents helping their child’s teacher put on a short class party have to submit to a background check first? Is it child endangerment to leave your toddler in the car for a few minutes on a mild day while you run into a shop? If your child gets hurt falling off a swing, is it potential child neglect not to sue every solvent defendant in sight? Should police have arrested a dad who walked into school at pickup time rather than wait outside for his kids as he was supposed to?
Author Lenore Skenazy has led the charge against the forces of legal and societal overprotectiveness in her book Free-Range Kids and at her popular blog of the same name. This Thursday, March 6 – rescheduled from a weather-canceled event originally set for last month – she’ll be the Cato Institute’s guest for a lunchtime talk on helicopter parenting and its near relation, helicopter governance; I’ll be moderating and commenting. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to register, which you can do here. You can also watch online live at this link. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)
The rules for class actions seeking injunctive relief against unlawful conduct are looser in key respects than those for actions in which monetary relief is the object, in part because the consequences for absent class members are less serious. But what happens when shrewd counsel institute an action that is injunctive on its face, but actually crafted to tee up an entitlement to class damages? The Montana Supreme Court approved such a maneuver in a case now called Allstate Insurance Co. v. Jacobsen; now Cato has filed a brief seeking certiorari review of that decision, which raises important issues of class action fairness and practicality leading on from such recent high court decisions as Wal-Mart v. Dukes and Comcast v. Behrend. Read a summary here and the full brief here. More: Legal NewsLine (on Washington Legal Foundation brief).
It’s actually on a serious subject: can a state (Ohio) purport to ban false, exaggerated or “truthy” speech about candidates, or does that impermissibly chill speech protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment? My colleagues Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Gabriel Latner co-authored it on behalf of political humorist/Cato fellow P.J. O’Rourke in the pending SCOTUS case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Read it here, alongside Ilya Shapiro’s summary, and here’s David Lat of Above the Law calling it the “Best Amicus Brief Ever.“
Radley Balko has a roundup of critical reactions to what he calls the “astonishingly awful” 6-3 Supreme Court decision last week. Cato had filed an amicus brief on the side that did not prevail, urging recognition at least of an opportunity to challenge the seizure after the fact. Earlier here.
Although we call it “rent control,” the key thing it controls is often not so much what you can charge for a lodging as whether you can ever reclaim it. This recluse successfully held out for $17 million to relinquish his moldy, squalid rented lodging at what is now 15 Central Park West. [New York Post]
P.S. But at least the U.N. likes the idea. While on the subject of legal insanity in NYC real estate: Andrew Rice, New York mag, “Why Run a Slum If You Can Make More Money Housing the Homeless?” I wrote about the epic New York City homeless-rights litigation in Schools for Misrule, and more links are here.
Unemployment among British 16- and 17-year-olds suddenly began to surge after 2005. “It’s ‘difficult to explain’ … right. A total mystery. I can’t think What might have caused it.” [BritMouse via Scott Sumner.EconLog]
More: Don Boudreaux. “A poor way to reduce poverty” [Joseph Sabia, Cato Tax and Budget Bulletin, PDF] And don’t hold back, SmarterTimes, tell us what you think re: New York Times hand-wringing on the subject.
I spoke on Thursday to the Bastiat Society chapter in Charlotte with some observations rooted in public choice theory about the “three-tier” system of state liquor regulation familiar since Prohibition. A few further links for those interested in the subject:
- Tom Wark: “Why do wine and beer wholesalers deliver up more campaign contributions than all wineries, distillers, brewers and retailers combined?” (Because of the rents!) The North Carolina microbrewery angle;
- Matt Yglesias at Slate: “How Looser Regulation Gave D.C. Great Specialty Bars“
- AEI held a panel discussion last spring with Brandon Arnold, Jacob Grier (both formerly with the Cato Institute), and Stephen George, moderated by Tim Carney. Video snippets: Jacob on the history of the 3-tier system (2:00); Brandon on homebrewing (0:44). Here’s Jacob discussing the Oregon system at his cocktails-and-policy blog Liquidity Preference, and here’s Brandon on direct-to-consumer Internet sales.
- On “at rest” laws, and the attempted extension to New York: my posts at Cato and Overlawyered, Wark, and recently from CEI’s Michelle Minton on renewed action in New York.
- Oldie-but-goodie David Spiegel, Regulation mag, 1985 (PDF).
Now this is bound to end well: Mississippi lawmakers vote to give Attorney General Jim Hood, a frequent mentionee in this space, his own strike forces [Radley Balko, AP]
“Even pictures of food [at schools] have to have the federal government’s stamp of approval.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]
P.S. Speaking of marketing and paternalism, here’s Ann Althouse on the latest horrible Mark Bittman column.