Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on April 6, 2014

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At Tablet magazine:

Having grown up in families that experienced firsthand the oppressive potential of untrammeled state power, these individuals naturally gravitated toward libertarianism, with its deep-rooted suspicion of government overreach. “Those of us who share that story share the same reason for why we became libertarian,” explained Sasha Volokh, now an associate professor at Emory Law School.

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Not so smart?

by Walter Olson on April 5, 2014

Northwestern athletes’ “college football participation = paid work to be governed by labor laws” argument may boomerang with a whopping tax bill [TaxProf, Bleacher Report on NLRB giving nod to idea]

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Says the man who sued because he tried to climb a boulder in Manhattan’s Hudson River Park and fell off. Good news, Mr. Stock: you not only get to explore the world, you also get to explore the legal concept known as “assumption of the risk.” [Gothamist]

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As you might have heard, Michael Lewis has a new book out [Tyler Cowen, Cato panel with Louise Bennetts, Holly Bell and Hester Peirce, Charles Gasparino/NY Post]

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I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty about the federal government’s massive, SWAT-like occupation of the rural Indiana property of Don Miller, a celebrated 91-year-old local collector who has traveled the globe and whose impressive collection of world and Indian artifacts “was featured in a four part series in the Rushville Republican.” Under various treaties and federal laws, mostly dating to relatively recent times, the federal government now deems ownership of many antiquities and Native American artifacts to be unlawful even if collectors acquired them in good faith before laws changed. [WISH (TV), Indianapolis Star, The Blaze.] More: coverage in two more outlets with a flavor very different from each other, Shelby County News (FBI source stresses Miller’s cooperativeness and suggests federal actions were wtih his consent or even at his behest) and National Public Radio (“seized,” “confiscated”)

Related: Richard Epstein at Hoover on Obama Administration plans to prohibit selling your family’s vintage piano or moving it across a state line. And aside from ivory chess sets, the nascent War on Antiques might take a toll of replica firearms [Washington Times]

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April 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 4, 2014

  • “Helmet maker not to blame in football player’s injury, jury finds” [L.A. Times]
  • “New Corporate Survey Illustrates Burdens Of Document Preservation And Benefits Of Proposed [Rule 26 Discovery] Reform” [Mark Chenoweth/WLF, Timothy Pratt/Abnormal Use, NJLRA, earlier]
  • Have divorce statistics been misreported? [Kay Hymowitz, Robert VerBruggen]
  • “Intoxicated Man Loses Big at Casino, Wants His Money Back” [Abnormal Use]
  • “SCOTUS Deferred to Executive Agencies. What Happened Next Will Infuriate You!” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato on Peri & Sons Farms v. Rivera]
  • Overtime scheme: Obama doesn’t “worry about being held accountable for the unwelcome consequences” [Steve Chapman] Advice for small business on complying with salaried employee classification [Suzanne Lucas ("Evil HR Lady") at Inc., earlier here and here]
  • Religious liberty, discrimination law and how spurious rights drive out the real [Jacob Sullum] Timely: “Harvard Hosts Conference on Religious Accommodation in the Age of Civil Rights” [TaxProf]

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Quoth California Sen. Leland Yee, D-S.F., would-be censor of violent video games, whose involvement in a wildly colorful arms-smuggling scandal, though neglected in some national media circles, lends irony to talk of the psychologically obscure Root Causes of Violence. Thanks, Sen. Credibility! [Lowering the Bar]

More: Leland Yee, international man of mystery: how’d he manage to duck terrorism charges? [Contra Costa Times]

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“…Yet”. Daniel Fisher explains yesterday’s 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. FEC, which may be more significant as a clue to the direction of future Court thinking on campaign finance and the First Amendment as for its actual direct effect. Cato submitted an amicus brief on the side that prevailed, and my colleagues Trevor Burrus and Ilya Shapiro have flash reactions (earlier). More: Ilya Shapiro now has a longer treatment out at SCOTUSBlog.

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Not an April Fool’s: we’ve covered the saga of Judge Cynthia Brim in two earlier posts. Chicago voters re-elected her to the bench despite troubles which eventuated in a successful defense to misdemeanor battery charges on the ground of insanity. [Chicago Tribune, auto-plays annoyingly]

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The NBC affiliate in the Bay Area investigates “what some say is legalized extortion” (watch out for annoying can’t-mute, can’t-freeze auto-play ad). The report “reviewed more than 10,000 federal ADA lawsuits filed since 2005 in the five states with the highest disabled populations. More lawsuits have been filed in California than Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York combined.” Among violations charged: “a mirror that was hung 1.5 inches too high, a disabled access emblem that was ‘not the correct size,’ and one that was ‘not at the correct height on a restroom door.’ …’Given the way the building codes change as often as they do, it’s virtually impossible [to be in full compliance]‘ certified access specialist Christina Stevens said.”

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Under an environmentalist banner, the city of Los Angeles plans a scheme to wipe family-owned trash haulers and replace them with unionized monopoly providers [L.A. Times, Scott Shackford/Reason]

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Popular radio host Mike Rosen had me on his program last week to talk about the Justice Department’s aggressive use of criminal law against the Japanese automaker (earlier here). Also check out Canadian columnist Terence Corcoran’s view: “Intended media acceleration and the assault on Toyota” [Financial Post]

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Martha Neil at the ABA Journal reports on a setback for one fast-out-of-the-gate filing over the fate of Flight 370:

“These are the kind of lawsuits that make lawyers look bad—and we already look bad enough,” Robert A. Clifford, one of Chicago’s best-known personal injury lawyers, told the Chicago Tribune earlier, calling Ribbeck’s filing “premature.”

Much more from Eric Turkewitz.

P.S. Representatives of American law firms swarm bereaved families in Peking and Kuala Lumpur, talk of million-dollar awards: “a question of how much and when.” [Edward Wong and Kirk Semple, NY Times]

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  • If you imagine the primary goal of occupational licensure is to protect consumers, think again [Donald Boudreaux, Ramesh Ponnuru]
  • “U.S. Civil Rights Commissioners Take EEOC to Task on Background Checks” [Nick Fishman, Employee Screen; Seyfarth Shaw]
  • Pennsylvania lawmakers consider ending union exemption from stalking laws; Illinois, Nevada and California also shelter them from liability [Washington Examiner]
  • “How Disruptive Can an Aggressive NLRB Be in a Non-Union Setting? More Than You Might Think” [Michael Fox]
  • “A call for the DOL to fix what is wrong with our wage-and-hour laws” [Jon Hyman]
  • Restaurant Opportunities Center, known for staging employee protests, bars own employees from same privilege [Florida Watchdog via Sean Higgins]
  • Conference honoring assassinated professor Marco Biagi showcases classical liberal labor law scholarship (or so one would hope) [my comment at Workplace Prof, related call for papers, earlier]

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It’s no longer a specifically enumerated crime to do that on the streets of Houston in an annoying or flirtatious way [Volokh]

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Another survey of late-night TV lawyer ads, this time by 99 Percent Invisible at Slate “The Eye”, and some, like “We’ll Change Your Pain Into Rain,” previously unseen by us. Audio podcast (21:04) here:

And Above the Law highlights this very…. unusual video by an intellectual property lawyer in Houston:

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A new book by British humor scholar Christie Davies (via Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal) has a discussion of lawyer jokes, which, Davies says, surged in the 1980s in America in a way not seen in other countries:

…American attorneys in the late Twentieth Century who felt offended by lawyer jokes were trapped, because the television writers and their bosses did not care about the possible hurt feelings of individual lawyers, who for them did not matter, and lawyers’ organizations (which did have power) were only concerned with using television to manipulate public opinion about far more important questions. The rightly saw jokes as utterly insignificant by comparison. The only exception I know happened not in contemporary America but in Britain in the late 1940s, when a senior person from the Law Society was able to persuade the BBC to stop comedians from telling jokes about solicitors (attorneys) who absconded with their clients’ money. The deal was done quietly in that sly, behind-the-scenes British way, paradoxically known as a gentleman’s agreement….

[After rejecting as unreasonable the views of a Pennsylvania lawyer who finds in some American lawyer jokes an "invitation to genocide":] Likewise, we may dismiss the thesis popular among lawyers that the jokes originated with big corporations, who had them invented to assist in their campaigns against being sued for damages…. jokes belong to the people… they cannot be created by decree, nor can they successfully be repressed…. They are not a thermostat, but they are a thermometer.

What happened in the 1980s especially that might have touched off a popular American interest in lawyer jokes? It’s a mystery! The book can be purchased here, while more about its author is here; David Conway wrote a review for Law and Liberty in 2012, as we noted. (& welcome Above the Law readers)

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