Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2014

  • In Utah prairie dog case, federal judge finds Endangered Species Act regulation of intra-state property impacts exceeds scope of enumerated federal powers [Jonathan Adler, Evan Bernick, Jonathan Wood/PLF] Certiorari petition on whether economic considerations should enter into ESA measures on behalf of delta smelt in California [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
  • “While Smart Growth as a whole is maligned by some advocates of the free market, many Smart Growth tenets are actually deregulatory.” [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism; related, obnoxious-yet-informative Grist]
  • Economic logic should be enough to halt suburban Maryland Purple Line, but if not, says Chevy Chase, hey, let’s find a shrimp [Washington Post; Diana Furchtgott-Roth on economics of Purple Line]
  • SCOTUS should review Florida-dock case in which lower courts held property rights not “fundamental” for scrutiny purposes [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
  • “The Problem of Water” [Gary Libecap, Cato Regulation]
  • Paul Krugman and others hyped the rare earth crisis. Whatever happened to it? [Alex Tabarrok]
  • Louisiana judge strikes down state law prohibiting levee boards’ erosion/subsidence suit against oil companies, appeal likely [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

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AconitumFollowing the unexplained death of a gardener at a millionaire’s estate in Hampshire, England, a coroner has been told that it is more likely than not that brushing against the poisonous common garden plant aconitum, known variously as wolfsbane or monkshood, must have caused the man’s decease. [Independent]

Maggie Bloom, who is representing the family, said in the pre-inquest hearing yesterday that the initial blood sample had been destroyed – despite being against hospital policy – and that later samples that were retained could be useless as the poison leaves the body within a day.

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A judge in Quebec has told Google to pay C$2250 to a woman caught by a Google Street View camera on her front porch in revealing, though legal, attire [Syracuse.com via Stewart Baker]

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  • New Cato paper finds little evidence that pot legalization in Colorado has much affected rates of use, traffic safety, violent crime, ER visits, health, education outcomes [Jeffrey Miron working paper via Jacob Sullum]
  • Ferguson narrative changes as new evidence supports officer’s story on Michael Brown confrontation [Washington Post, Marc Ambinder/The Week, New Republic]
  • Why Obama was smart to choose Loretta Lynch as AG rather than knocking Republicans’ cap off with a pick like Thomas Perez [Cato; Todd Gaziano on confirmation questions]
  • Plea bargaining system: “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty” [Judge Jed Rakoff, New York Review of Books]
  • “There’s not much to do about catcalling, unless you’re willing to see a lot more minority men hassled by the police” [Kay Hymowitz, Time] Peer pressure seems to be a factor in restraining it [Andrew Sullivan] The “practice of catcalling is most taboo among members of the upper classes.” [Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, earlier]
  • San Diego says it retains discretion over when to release cop camera footage [Radley Balko] How body cameras can vindicate cops [same]
  • Elderly Wisconsin man “was never considered dangerous, [but] was known to be argumentative,” so send in the armored vehicle [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar, related] “The [SWAT-raided] Tibetan monks were here on a peace mission, for Christ’s sake. Well, not for Christ’s sake, but you know what I mean.” [same] Sen. Coburn quotes Madison: standing military force with overgrown executive will not long be safe companion to liberty [WSJ]

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The EU’s newly minted “right to be forgotten” may generate an Orwellian memory hole into which can be thrown the inconvenient past. “The [Washington] Post received a letter from Mr. Lazi? in September requesting that [classical music critic Anne] Midgette’s review be scrubbed from the Web. When she failed to reply, he upped the ante by claiming that it was ‘defamatory, offensive and mean-spirited’ and thus violates his legal right to be forgotten.” [Terry Teachout, WSJ via Arts Journal]

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The Supreme Court hears oral argument in the Yates v. U.S. case [WLF, ABA Journal, Daniel Fisher, earlier] Best line from a brief, via @ToddRuger: “More specifically, a false entry cannot be made in a fish.”

P.S. Radley Balko points out that while Congress has filled the U.S. Code with strict penalties for destruction of potentially relevant evidence, federal officials themselves almost never face real consequences when they destroy such evidence.

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A bad idea still isn’t catching on with voters, although those on the island of Maui approved an agricultural GMO moratorium, supposedly temporary. [NPR, earlier]

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Or should that be “method for using nastygrams to assert what isn’t really a valid patent?” [Lowering the Bar]

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Steve Bainbridge has a wish list for reforms to financial and securities law in the new Congress, especially the damaging Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley laws. Included: repeal of conflicts minerals disclosure, “say on pay,” and pay ratio disclosure; more leeway for public companies to opt out of various regulatory obligations to shareholders that their own shareholders have not contractually seen fit to impose; and litigation reform.

Meanwhile, my Cato colleague Mark Calabria points out that there “are numerous protectors of the status quo in both major political parties,” which may frustrate the relatively free-market instincts of the responsible committee chairs, Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Jeb Hensarling. “But at least financial regulation is unlikely to get any worse.”

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A story we’ve been following about the consequences of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). Edible Brooklyn:

The holiday season fast approaches, and with it comes the busiest time of the year at Brooklyn’s cheese counters. … This year, however, one name will be missing from the must-have list, and it’s a coveted favorite for cheesemongers and customers alike. … on August 15th, Andy Hatch, co-owner and head cheesemaker at Uplands, sent a ripple through the cheese world when he announced via an email to his customers that Uplands had cancelled production of Rush Creek Reserve. In his own words:

I’m writing to let you know that we will not be making any Rush Creek Reserve this year. It’s disappointing news, I know, and we hope that it’s not permanent. Food safety officials have been unpredictable, at best, in their recent treatment of soft, raw-milk cheeses, and until our industry is given clear and consistent guidance, we are forced to stop making these cheeses. I’m sorry if this throws a wrench into your plans for the holidays — it certainly does on our end. It’s not a decision we came to easily. Hopefully, our government officials will soon agree on how to treat traditional cheesemaking, and we can all return to the cheeses that are so important to us.

Wouldn’t it be great if the newly elected and more regulation-skeptical Congress passed and sent to the President a bill to roll back or repeal the FSMA and save endangered foods like Rush Creek Reserve?

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On Monday I moderated a panel at Cato on Damon Root’s splendid new book on the long debate over judicial activism from the Civil War to the present (blurbs). Commenting were prominent legal journalist Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and Roger Pilon, director of Cato’s Center for Constitutional Studies, whose work figures prominently in the book. From the description:

What is the proper role of the Supreme Court under the Constitution? Should the Court be “active” or “restrained”? Or is that even the proper way to look at the question, however much we’ve heard it put that way for several decades now? In his new book, Damon Root traces this debate from the Constitution’s conception to the present. His central focus, however, is on the emergence of the modern libertarian approach, which cuts through the often sterile debate between liberals and conservatives and points to the Constitution itself by way of determining the proper role of the Court under it.

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International law roundup

by Walter Olson on November 7, 2014

  • Department of surreal headlines: “Detroit Mayor’s Office Disappointed With UN’s Stance on Water Shutoffs” [MLive.com via Deadline Detroit, earlier on customers who don't pay Detroit water bills]
  • “When Mr. Bond first impregnated Mrs. Bond’s best friend, the international Chemical Weapons Convention was probably the furthest thing from his mind.” [Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Cato Supreme Court Review (PDF), earlier on Bond v. U.S.]
  • A case against including investor/state protections in trade negotiations [Daniel Ikenson, Cato] Issue leading leftists, libertarians separately to discover merits of sovereigntism? [Julian Ku, Opinio Juris]
  • Survey of rapidly changing field of transnational antiquities law [ABA Journal]
  • Canada, like U.S., gets periodic U.N. tongue-lashing over its relations with Indian tribes/native peoples [Kathryn Fort, ConcurOp]
  • With U.S. isolated on firearms issues, U.N.’s contemplated Programme of Action on Small Arms not quite so innocuous [Ted Bromund, more, earlier here, here, here, and here]
  • “The U.S. government should be careful about entering into new international agreements and treaties precisely because international laws do have legal force.” [Jason Sorens, Pileus]

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If so, you’d never guess from the result in the Maryland governor’s election, I argue at Cato at Liberty.

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The website of Morgan & Morgan, the large personal injury firm headed by politically active Orlando attorney John Morgan (“For the People”), announces the firm’s interest in handling cases alleging overtime infractions and other wage and hour violations under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and boasts that its client recoveries in employment cases have exceeded $50 million. Not mentioned is a recent case in which Morgan & Morgan is reported to have “reached a settlement meant to resolve a former field investigator’s allegations that he was not properly paid overtime, according to [an October] filing in Florida federal court.” [Scott Flaherty, Law360] According to an article last year on the dispute, Christopher Hranek “was a field investigator for Morgan & Morgan from June 2008 until he was ‘terminated’ by mail in August 2012 while on Family Medical Leave Act leave, according to the lawsuit. He alleged that he routinely worked more than 40 hours a week and sometimes up to 70 hours weekly, using his 1999 Ford to drive to various locations in the state as the firm’s preliminary contact with injured people or potential clients, but did not receive overtime compensation.” The firm denied the allegations and said it had paid Hranek appropriately. [Jane Meinhardt, Tampa Bay Business Journal; earlier]

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Gordon Crovitz reminds us not to underestimate the significance of the episode in which Sen. Harry Reid, at the behest of plaintiff’s lawyers, torpedoed legislation meant to restrain the activity of patent trolls. The technology community, formerly very friendly to Democrats in its politics, began taking more seriously the danger to its interests of a Senate in which Mr. Reid enjoyed a blocking role. [Wall Street Journal]

P.S. David Bernstein at Volokh doesn’t hold back from telling us what he thinks of Sen. Reid’s constant use of the Senate floor to attack private businesspersons and citizens by name.

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November 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 6, 2014

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It didn’t end well for Sen. Harry Reid, as my Cato colleague Roger Pilon points out (more).

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Election open thread

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2014

Trial lawyer and inveterate Litigation Lobby booster Bruce Braley lost his Iowa senate bid (“He comes across as arrogant, and I think it’s because he is,” said an unnamed Democratic official.) Sen. Mark Pryor, chief Senate handler of the awful CPSIA law, lost big.

Massachusetts voters again rejected Martha Coakley, whose prosecutorial decisions we have found so hard to square with the interests of justice. The Wisconsin Blue Fist school of thought, which sees organized government employees as the natural and truly legitimate governing class, met with a rebuff from voters not only in Wisconsin itself but in neighboring Illinois (where Gov. Quinn, of Harris v. Quinn fame, went down to defeat) and elsewhere. Colorado voters rejected GMO labeling, while a similar Oregon bill was trailing narrowly this morning but not with enough votes to call.

California voters rejected Prop 46, to raise MICRA medical liability limits, require database use and impose drug testing of doctors, by a 67-33 margin, and also rejected Prop 45, intensifying insurance regulation, by a 60-40 margin (earlier).

I’ve written a lot at my Free State Notes blog about the governor’s race in my own state of Maryland, and unlike most others was not surprised at Larry Hogan’s stunning upset victory. The politics category there includes my letter to Washington Post-reading independents and moderates about why they should feel comfortable electing Hogan as a balance to the state’s heavily Democratic legislature, as well as my parody song about what I thought a revealing gaffe by Hogan’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.

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