Obama Department of Justice punts on web accessibility

Did our message finally get through? (See “How ADA-for-the-Web Regulations Menace Online Freedom,” 2013). Or that of other commentators like Eric Goldman, who warned (of a related court case) that “all hell will break loose” if the law defines websites as public accommodations and makes them adopt “accessibility”? At any rate, the U.S. Department of Justice, after years of declaring that it was getting ready any day now to label your website and most others you encounter every day as out of compliance with the ADA, has suddenly turned around and done this:

In an astonishing move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will not issue any regulations for public accommodations websites until fiscal year 2018 — eight years after it started the rulemaking process with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).

Yes, eight years is a very long time for a rulemaking, especially one pursuing issues that have been in play for many years (that link discusses testimony I gave in 2000). And predictably, some disabled interest-group advocates are already charging that the latest delay is “outrageous” and shows “indifference.” More likely, it shows that even an administration that has launched many audacious and super-costly initiatives in regulation has figured out that this one is so audacious and super-costly that it should be – well, not dropped, but left as a problem for a successor administration.

Besides, as so often happens, for regulated parties the issue is (to borrow a phrase) not freedom from obligation, but freedom from specification as to what that obligation might be. Court decisions, which for years ran mostly against ADA advocates’ “public accommodations” claim, now point confusingly in both directions. And in the mean time both private litigants and DoJ itself continue to sue online providers and fasten on them new settlements and decrees, as when Amazon lately agreed to caption more videos for the deaf; Harvard and MIT, meanwhile, were still being sued for the audacity of having offered uncaptioned online courses to the public. Minh Vu and Kristina Launey of Seyfarth Shaw:

…since issuing that [2010] ANPRM, DOJ’s enforcement attorneys have investigated numerous [entities claimed to be] public accommodations, pressuring them to make their websites accessible. DOJ even intervened in recent lawsuits (e.g., herehere, and here) taking the position that the obligation to have an accessible website has existed all this time in the absence of any new regulations.

The next administration – or better yet Congress – should summon the courage to give a firm and final No.

[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

Live-tweeting last night’s GOP debate

I was otherwise engaged during the undercard debate but here are a few things I had to say during the Seven No Trump main panel:

“I myself escaped by a bare whisker from attending law school…”

My tell-all interview at Fault Lines gets into why I don’t hate lawyers (really), my various books, my views on Cato and other think tanks, law and economics, the lack of any real reckoning for the Great Tobacco Robbery, why law schools might actually serve as a counterweight to campus pressure for ideological uniformity, my writing outside law, and much, much more. I’m interviewed by Scott Greenfield, well known to our readers for his criminal law blogging; Fault Lines is a recently launched criminal justice website that’s part of Lee Pacchia’s Mimesis Law.

There have been many flattering reactions already, scroll down from the interview to this comment from Margaret Little which made me particularly happy:

Overlawyered made an enormous contribution to understanding where lawyers were taking the legal system over the past several decades and it continues to fill a vacuum in the discourse about law. For too long that discourse was plaintiffs vs. defense lawyers, with both sides vulnerable to attack for self-interest. Worse, the defense bar, which has an economic interest in the expansion of liability, is often silent or even complicit in the game. While Overlawyered’s postings were made with much-appreciated wit and style, the sheer comprehensiveness of the empirical data, and the mind-boggling attention to detail in its analysis makes it a gold mine for research and a landmark accomplishment. Well done! Don’t quit!

Whole thing here.

Supreme Court and constitutional law roundup

Bundy group’s claims are non-starters legally

Les Saitz in The Oregonian examines the constitutional land and sovereignty claims of the Malheur occupiers, which tend to sound in what I have previously called folk law. Many in the group were arrested last night. One final point: the Bundy group can call itself a militia if it likes, but only in the same sense that Dorothy Parker could call herself the Queen of Rumania. Earlier here.

January 27 roundup

How to get more Overlawyered in your social media

More of people’s reading is being done on Facebook these days, yet Overlawyered has only a few thousand followers there. So please go like us now if you haven’t and recommend us to friends. Our Facebook page tends to share several items a week, mostly about interesting cases, a mix of our own posts and stories published elsewhere (versions of which usually turn up in this space in roundups or otherwise, but why not see them first there?)

The best way to see more Overlawyered on Facebook, and to spread the word, is to directly share our blog posts yourself, whether or not our Facebook page has done so. If you “tag” Overlawyered when you post something, we’ll see that you’ve done this and maybe even send you some Facebook readers.

While we’re at it, I’ll urge you to like my personal Facebook author page, which will get more of my writings to show up on your timeline, most though not all of them on legal subjects. I also have an active personal FB page, mostly aimed at persons with whom I have in-person or professional connections (but all are welcome to “follow”).

Finally, if you’re on Twitter, follow Overlawyered there (as well as @walterolson) if you still haven’t. The Cato Institute, with which both I and Overlawyered am associated, has a gigantic Twitter and Facebook presence with multiple sub-accounts specializing in topics like educational freedom, trade, activities on campus, the journal Cato Unbound, and so forth.