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November 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 20, 2014

  • More Than You Wanted To Know: favorable review of new Omri Ben-Shahar and Carl Schneider book on failure of mandatory disclosure regimes [George Leef, Cato Regulation, PDF, related earlier here and here]
  • Colorful allegations: “Tampa lawyers can be questioned about DUI setup claims” [Tampa Bay Times]
  • Intimidation the new norm: FCC head blockaded at his D.C. home to pressure him into OKing net regulation scheme [Washington Post; related, Sen. Mary Landrieu because of her support for Keystone pipeline; earlier here, here, here, here (Boehner, Wal-Mart, etc.), here (businesspeople), here (SEIU and bankers), here (Boston teamsters), here (Google), etc.]
  • Speaking of net neutrality debate, Jack Shafer (“You can’t build a better Internet out of red tape”) and Richard Epstein;
  • “FAA’s Slow Pace Grounds U.S. Drone Makers” [Friends of Chamber]
  • OECD deal could smother tax shelter competition, which might be good for rulers, if not necessarily for the ruled [Alberto Mingardi]
  • “$100/month Upper East Side tenant loses suit to raze high-rise neighbor” and the best bit comes in the last sentence [NY Daily News]

Federal Aviation Administration bans plane-sharing startups in which guest rider agrees to chip in toward gas money [Josh Constine, TechCrunch]

“…So now we only operate them with nine seats.” Taxpayers nationwide get to chip in as part of the federal government’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program. [J.D. Tuccille, Reason]

  • Los Angeles officials push SEIU-backed scheme to fasten unions on nonunion workforce at LAX airport [Brian Sumers, Contra Costa Times]
  • Want to empower cities? Reform binding labor arbitration [Stephen Eide, Urbanophile]
  • “Explainer: What Does President Obama’s Equal Pay Day Executive Order Change?” [Rachel Homer, On Labor]
  • One lawyer’s advice: “when an employee complains about discrimination, or otherwise engages in protected conduct, you must treat that employee with kid gloves” [Jon Hyman on Sixth Circuit retaliation case]
  • Detroit juggles pension numbers to fix deficit, papers over the real problem [Dan Kadlec, Time; Shikha Dalmia, Washington Examiner]
  • No room left to cut budget, part 245,871: federal grants promote labor unions [Examiner]
  • More on EEOC’s campaign to limit employment criminal background checks [Coyote, Daniel Schwartz]

Sorry, say the feds: a drone ban is a drone ban [Steve Chapman]


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]

March 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 27, 2014

  • “Stupid Warning Shows Up on Leprechaun Hat” [Lowering the Bar, California Prop 65]
  • Lawyers eager to sue over Malaysia Air disaster but first someone has to find the plane [ABA Journal, Bloomberg]
  • Among the many accomplishments of distinguished economist (and total mensch) Murray Weidenbaum: introduction of White House regulatory review [Thom Lambert, David Henderson, Russ Roberts]
  • Quicker but not ultimately cheaper than an appeal: “Losing Plaintiff Hits Defendant With a Truck” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Feds’ Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) mulls idea “that the government involve itself in the lives of obese people by sending them regular text messages.” [Baylen Linnekin]
  • Posner: judge below “should have smelled a rat” on lawyer’s “shenanigans” [Alison Frankel/Reuters, ABA Journal]
  • “Connecticut chimp attack victim seeks right to sue state” [Reuters, earlier]

News item: Judge clears some obstacles to beer-delivering drones. Lemonade streams and soda-water fountains still under environmental review. [Will Yakowicz, Inc.; Joseph Lindberg, Pioneer Press/AviationPros]

But it’s been “very seldom” so far. Oh, well, then that’s okay. [Mashable, Guardian, earlier]

More: Most of us would say a drone hovering 20 feet above our back yard invades our property. Will the FAA agree? [Voss,]


Civil liberties roundup

by Walter Olson on January 7, 2013

  • Drones in domestic policing a liberty danger, warns NYT [editorial, earlier]
  • When prosecutors freeze bank accounts, high-level targets can’t hire the best lawyers to defend themselves. Regrettable unintended etc. [Silverglate]
  • On criminalizing false statements to federal agents [Scott Greenfield vs. Bill Otis]
  • “Congress Has Enough Time to Keep Spying on You, Forever” [Matt Welch; Cato video with Julian Sanchez]
  • More on Philadelphia forfeiture [John K. Ross, Reason, earlier]
  • Homeland Security program: “Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations” [Kim Zetter/Wired via Fountain]
  • Does Brooklyn indictment signal U.S. claim of universal jurisdiction over acts hostile to its foreign policy, anywhere in world? [Eugene Kontorovich/Volokh]


Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on December 14, 2012


Caleb Brown interviews me for Cato’s Daily Podcast on the subject of law enforcement drones, which I wrote about yesterday. You can watch here.

Also, check out recent columns on the subject by my Cato colleagues Gene Healy and Nat Hentoff. As Healy points out, elected officials such as Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) have made remarkably blithe statements in favor of drone use, even as a defense contractor is perfecting tiny mechanized spies-in-the-sky that weigh no more than a battery and can perch on window ledges taking pictures of what is inside. (Another drone capability: intercepting nearby wireless communications.) Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has emerged as a leading critic (“when I’m separating out my recyclables, I don’t want them having a drone to make sure I’m putting my newspaper in the proper bin.”) The AP’s Joan Lowy covered the controversy last month.

Meanwhile, the chief practical obstacle to widespread drone deployment over U.S. skies — Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval — was quietly gotten around this spring when Congress passed legislation directing the FAA to carve out an approved space for drones, a move that followed a strong lobbying push on the “pro” side and almost no organized opposition from privacy advocates, Fourth Amendment fans or anyone else (see T.W. Farnam’s excellent Washington Post account.) More on domestic drone lobbying from Andrea Stone at HuffPo and First Street Research.


We’re getting closer to that world very fast — and if you have Fourth Amendment qualms, maybe you’re the sort a drone-company exec responds to as follows:

“If you’re concerned about it, maybe there’s a reason we should be flying over you, right?” said Douglas McDonald, the company’s director of special operations and president of a local chapter of the unmanned vehicle trade group.

My new post at Cato at Liberty has much more (& Above the Law).


July 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 17, 2012

  • Prediction: Homeland Security to emerge as major regulatory agency prescribing security rules to private sector [Stewart Baker] Regulators fret: air travel’s gotten so safe it’s hard for us to justify new authority [Taranto via Instapundit] “Romney’s regulatory plan” [Penn RegBlog]
  • Claim: frequent expert witness in Dallas court proceedings is “imposter” []
  • “‘Temporary’ Takings That Cause Permanent Damage Still Require Just Compensation” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • On the ObamaCare decision’s wild card, the ruling on “coercive” conditions on Medicaid grants under the Spending Clause [Mike McConnell, Ilya Somin] Ramesh Ponnuru argues that ruling is no victory for supporters of limited government [Bloomberg]
  • D.C.’s historic Shaw neighborhood near Cato Institute narrowly escaped planners’ bulldozer [Greater Greater Washington, WaPo]
  • Michelle Obama on the right track with an idea on occupational licensure but should take it farther [Mark Perry]
  • Everyone’s a judicial critic: Auto-Correct proposes replacing “Posner” with “Poisoner.”

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A year ago the D.C. Circuit told the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it needed to go through notice-and-comment rulemaking for its controversial program of full-body scanners at airports. The rulemaking process is intended to ensure that the agency lays out clearly the factual, legal and policy basis for its actions, with a chance for opponents to lodge objections and establish a basis for judicial review. As my colleague Jim Harper points out, the agency has dragged its heels about doing this — a sort of passive resistance it would probably not tolerate from the hapless citizens stuck in its lines. TSA screening is one of the most widely resented governmental intrusions on the individual citizen of our era. Shouldn’t we all demand that the federal government demonstrate adequate justification for imposing it? [Cato at Liberty and Ars Technica; Consumerist; Constitutional Law Prof, 2011] (& welcome National Review “Web Briefing” readers; John LaPlante, Detroit News “Water Cooler”)


The Texas School for the Deaf flies its non-local students to their family’s homes each weekend for free, and saves the frequent flier miles for purposes such as buying air tickets for chaperones. A woman identified as D.G. sued, saying the benefit of the miles should go to her daughter, but her lawyer says she’s dropping the suit in view of the big public outcry against it. [Claire Osborn, Austin American-Statesman; followup, Ken Herman]


“Issues surrounding liability and law, rather than technology, now appear to be the biggest obstacle to autonomous vehicles.” [Ryan Avent via Alex Tabarrok]

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You shouldn’t have let my common-law husband and his drunken coterie onto your charter flight, they were too obviously a safety hazard, alleges the suit, filed in a British Columbia court. [CNN]