No misprint, the kid’s age was 11. [Lenore Skenazy, Reason; Bristol, Ct.] Related, from Free-Range Kids: “Kid, 8, Skips Church to Play. Dad Arrested” (Blanchester, Ohio). More: Radley Balko (“the criminalization of parenthood”).

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 14, 2014

  • California resists idea of charging market-clearing rate for water — too much like economics — and instead encourages tattling on neighbors [New York Times, Coyote]
  • Academia smitten by notion of “climate reparations” [Peter Wood, Minding the Campus]
  • Costly market intervention: “Minnesota doubles down on nation’s top biodiesel law” [Watchdog]
  • Reusable grocery bags have their problems for sanitation and otherwise, but California contemplates banning the alternatives [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Steven Greenhut, Reason]
  • Coming: film about Kelo v. City of New London eminent domain case [Nick Gillespie, Ilya Somin]
  • 45 years later: the famous 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga became a fable for its age [Jonathan Adler on the Cuyahoga]
  • Should beachfront owners have to open their land to all comers? [NY Times "Room for Debate"]
  • Plus: “EPA has no business garnishing wages without due process” [Examiner editorial, earlier]

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Ken at Popehat has the story on a court’s ruling for fees and costs in Ergun Caner v. Jonathan Autry, filed by a religious leader who had come under criticism for less-than-forthright descriptions of his own past. “The court ruled that Caner (1) pursued the case after Autry took the videos down, (2) demanded, as a condition of settlement, that Autry’s young children sign a non-disparagement agreement, (3) delayed the case, (4) failed to seek discovery, opposed the motion to dismiss on the grounds that he needed to take discovery, but could not articulate what discovery he needed, (5) contradicted himself, (6) made unreasonable legal arguments without any support (like the ‘you must be qualified to criticize’ argument), and most importantly (7) filed the case to silence criticism.” Under the prevailing “American Rule” on fees it’s extremely hard for the victim of a meritless suit to recover attorney’s costs, but this one was extreme enough to be an exception.

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While the court did not endorse “but-for” causation standard favored by the defense, it did rule against the ultra-accommodating position that “any exposure” to asbestos should result in liability even if far greater exposure came from a different source. The court instead hinged liability on whether a defendant’s product or activity was a “substantial factor,” which it defined “as one that more than doubles the risk of injury to the plaintiff.” [Deborah La Fetra, PLF]

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“New York Threatens to Fine Car Service [Lyft] $2,000 for Giving Free Rides” [Eli Lehrer, Weekly Standard]

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Oh, Mayor Bloomberg, you’ve gone and done it again.

P.S.: “The fact that they brushed us off really worked in our favor.” How well-roaded Pueblo, Colo. sent Bloomberg’s minions packing.

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After two insurance companies noticed patterns of suspicious claims associated with the same Philadelphia body shop, 41 persons were charged in what prosecutors say was a multi-faceted array of fraud schemes involving the participation of insurance adjusters, police, a municipal official and tow truck drivers. “According to investigators, Galati Sr. routinely created false accounts of vehicles being damaged by accidents involving falling objects, deer, and other animals to increase amounts received for insurance claims. Investigators say Galati Sr. went as far as to have employees gather and store deer blood, hair and carcasses in the shop’s garage to be used as props in photos that were later submitted with insurance claims.” Other misconduct charged includes deliberate crashing and vandalism of vehicles, and the obtaining of a $1.8 million contract with the city of Philadelphia for which investigators claim Galati’s shop lacked the contract requirements. [NBC Philadelphia, Auto Body News]

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In the North of England, “South Tyneside Council has abandoned its hunt for notorious blogger Mr Monkey after spending more than £200,000 of taxpayers’ cash.” [Chronicle] The widely read blog had made scurrilous charges against council members and others. “The authority said it had a ‘duty’ to protect staff and councillors against” what it called “cyber-bullying and harassment.” “Councils cannot sue for libel. Any action against the ‘Mr Monkey’ blogger could only be taken by named individuals.” [BBC] More: Daily Mail, Taxpayers Alliance.

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Labor roundup

by Walter Olson on July 11, 2014

  • California tenure lawsuit exposes rift between Democratic establishment and teachers’ union [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner]
  • NLRB pushing new interpretation to sweep much outsourcing into “joint employment” for labor law purposes [Marilyn Pearson, Inside Counsel]
  • Restaurant “worker centers” campaign against tipping. Perhaps a sign their interests not fully aligned with waitstaffs’? [Ryan Williams, DC]
  • NLRB’s edict against non-union employers’ confidentiality policies emblematic of its activist stance lately [Karen Michael, Times-Dispatch]
  • Three public sector unions spent $4.3 million on Connecticut state political activities in 2011-2013 cycle [Suzanne Bates, Raising Hale]
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham prepares funding rider to block NLRB “micro-union” recognition [Fred Wszolek, background]
  • “Table Dance Manager” glitch alleged: “Exotic dancers + allegedly malfunctioning software = Fair Labor lawsuit” [Texas Lawyer]

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Duking it out

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2014

Duke University and the heirs of the late actor John Wayne have been fighting in court for nearly a decade over trademark/licensing rights to the word “Duke” [Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter]

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The town of Stratford, Connecticut entered an employment agreement with its director of human resources, stating that his employment would be entirely at-will and further providing:

Based upon the annual performance evaluation, and at the [m]ayor’s sole discretion and recommendation, the base salary may be increased on July 1 of each fiscal year, subject to the approval of the [council], which by Charter fixes the salaries of all mayoral appointees.

Subsequently, the town council voted to reduce the manager’s salary, and the dispute went to litigation. Both a trial court and a Connecticut appeals court agreed with the manager’s argument that even though the document prescribed an at-will relationship, by specifying that the base salary “may be increased” it was implicitly promising that it would never be decreased. [Daniel Schwartz; Adams on Contract Drafting]

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In more than a dozen states in recent years, governors, legislators or both have arranged through law or regulation to install unions to represent the fast-growing ranks of home health and child care workers, who in many instances are family members receiving a state stipend for looking after their own loved ones. In Harris v. Quinn, a five-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it violates the First Amendment rights of these recipients to require them to pay dues to a union of whose views and activities they may not approve. It did not alter — for now, at least — the 1977 Abood precedent under which full-fledged public workers can be required to pay such dues, instead recognizing a new category of “partial public employees.”

I explore some of the implications in this Cato podcast with interviewer Caleb Brown. Earlier on Harris v. Quinn here.

P.S. A tip-off from SCOTUS on where it intends to take Harris logic? One view from the Left [In These Times] Ruling is rebuke to various governors, including Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, who have employed executive orders to unionize home health carers [Marc Kilmer, MPPI; related, George Leef] Eugene Volokh dissents on the underlying “bedrock” First Amendment issue [Volokh Conspiracy] Will a teacher’s case called Friedrich v. CTA be the vehicle for revisiting Abood? [Jason Bedrick, Cato] And some clues that the first draft of Harris v. Quinn might have overturned Abood, before the majority reconsidered and pulled back [Jack Goldsmith, Sachs, Homer, at On Labor]

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July 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2014

  • Supreme Court agrees to hear case in which feds claim right to ignore deadlines for suit-filing because of Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA), passed in 1942 [my new Cato post, earlier]
  • As we’ve advised before, don’t run 10K races while your claim of low-speed-crash injury is pending [Philly.com]
  • Incentivizing complaint-filing: State Bar of California pushes “urgency legislation” empowering it to collect $2500 per enforcement action from targets of its efforts against unauthorized practice of law; association of non-lawyer preparers of legal documents calls it “a cleverly designed effort by the Bar to seek additional revenue from non-members of the Bar.” [Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee via KafkaEsq]
  • Feds get earful on Hawaiian tribalization plan [KHON, Indian Country Today, more, earlier]
  • BP: “Legal feeding frenzy continues four years after the spill” [Melissa Landry, The Hayride]
  • Danke schön! “Overlawyered ist übrigens ein vorzügliches Blog, das sehr oft sehr gute Postings hat zu den Irrungen und Wirrungen des US-amerikanischen Rechtssystems” [Lawblog.de comment]
  • There’ll always be a Berkeley: California city requires medical marijuana dispensaries to set aside some product for free use by indigent and homeless [Reason, KCBS]

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Now this is lovely: the Environmental Protection Agency intends to assert for the first time a power to garnish your wages without a court order to cover fines or other sums it may assess. The new “administrative wage garnishment” power is fueled by a 1996 federal law, the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA), which authorizes more direct means for the seizure of “fines, penalties or fees assessed by federal agencies” and other moneys owed them. The EPA is taking comments through August 1. [Robert Gordon, Daily Signal]

More, a semi-defense of the agency from Brent Fewell: since Congress has pushed these new collection methods on many agencies besides the EPA, the most suitable course for critics would be to press lawmakers to change the debt collection law, the EPA’s underlying statutes, or both.

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The government-backed, lottery-funded British Film Institute, which backs a substantial portion of film production in Britain, “announced a ‘Three Ticks’ scheme to ensure diversity in films and behind the scenes as it set out new rules for funding. Under the system, to be implemented in September, films must ‘tick’ at least two of three criteria: on-screen diversity; off-screen diversity and ‘creating opportunities and social mobility’.” [Telegraph]

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Writing checks for overtime (or sending managers home before they reach the point of being entitled to it) is only the more visible cost to business of the Obama administration’s scheme to reclassify layers of junior management as hourly employees. Small businesses told the Wall Street Journal this spring (summarized) of the forbidding morale cost of discouraging ambitious employees from upwardly mobile, which usually means salary-oriented, thinking:

Emo Pentermann, owner of Bell ATM Service Inc., a distribution and repair shop for ATMs and other money machines in Centennial, Colo. …worries that making more people eligible for overtime pay could remove the inherent incentive for lower-level managers to hustle to earn a promotion.

“You work hard, develop the maturity for a salaried position, and then move up,” he says. “It takes away that whole level of maturity and freedom of choosing to get the job done in the time allotted. So for all practical purposes, they just might as well be on a time card.”

Jeffrey Harris has 70 salaried employees at his Chicago-based Inte Q, a marketing firm that specializes in customer-loyalty programs for brands such as Reebok and Office Depot. … He has tried to create a workplace environment that de-emphasizes keeping up with a time clock. For instance, employees can take time off work to attend a child’s performance in school….

…when he heard about the proposal, he said he immediately thought it would affect the type of work culture that has yielded results for him in both profits and employee retention. Only 2% of workers have voluntarily chosen to leave the company in the past three years, he says.

Whole piece here, and earlier on the manager-overtime scheme here and here.

P.S. Proposed regulations anticipated by November 2014, final regulations “unlikely to arrive until Spring 2015″ [Wage and Hour Insights]

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on July 9, 2014

  • Congress responds to Veterans Administration health care scandal by throwing huge new sums at care [Nicole Kaeding, Chris Edwards, Cato] “Every Senior V.A. Executive Was Rated ‘Fully Successful’ or Better Over 4 Years.” [NYT via Instapundit] “VA Hospitals aren’t included on the federal government’s Hospital Compare web site” [White Coat]
  • Canadian judge quashes as vexatious suit over non-admission to medical school [Winnipeg Free Press]
  • Brain-damaged child cases: “14.5 Million Reasons Physicians Practice Defensive Medicine” [White Coat, Cleveland] “North Carolina Jury Deadlocks in John Edwards’ Malpractice Trial Against Doctor” [Insurance Journal, emergency medicine]
  • “Medical Licensing in the States: Some Room for Agreement — and Reform” [Charles Hughes, Cato]
  • “NY Launches Statewide Med Mal Settlement Program” [NYDN via TortsProf]
  • “Unlucky Strike: Private Health and the Science, Law and Politics of Smoking” [John Steddon and David Boaz, Cato program] Here’s the long-awaited segue to complete prohibition: British Medical Association recommends banning tobacco permanently for persons born after 2000 [WaPo]
  • Sneaky: California ballot language undoing MICRA liability limits “buried in an initiative titled The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014.” [Yul Ejnes, KevinMD]

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When a near-unanimous Congress came together in 2008 to pass something with the moralistic, self-congratulatory name of the “William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection” Act, we should have braced ourselves for major, unintended, un-humanitarian consequences. And here they are. [Alex Nowrasteh, The Hill]

More: Now that the Wilberforce Act’s moral posturing has led to more actual trafficking, activist groups (see their open letter) are pressuring the White House not to fix the law [Charles Lane, Washington Post] “Congress likes to put fancy titles on its legislative handiwork, but they should probably just call everything the Law of Unintended Consequences, especially immigration bills.”

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