Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

Obama curtails police military surplus program

What, no more free surplus bayonets and grenade launchers? Radley Balko:

According to NBC News, the new policy will stop “tanks and other tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition measuring .50-caliber and larger, grenade launchers and bayonets” from being given to local police agencies.

Additionally, the new policy would attach some restrictions and conditions to the transfer of other equipment, “including armored tactical vehicles like those used in Ferguson, as well as many types of firearms, ammunition and explosives.” These restrictions include requiring the agencies to present “a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the controlled equipment,” adopt community-oriented policing strategies, agree to “close federal oversight and monitoring overseen by a new federal agency with the power to conduct local compliance reviews,” train officers who will be using the gear, and keep data on how the equipment is used and with what results.

A spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police has already promised to fight the plan. Despite the changes to the 1033 surplus program, so far as I can tell, municipalities and states will remain perfectly free to purchase most of the named categories of equipment; they’ll just have to do so on the open market with their own money. Of course, once they are constrained to weigh such purchases against other uses of public funds, most will probably have little interest in doing so — which is part of the point we critics have been making.

Radley Balko himself deserves applause for having led the way on the issue of police militarization, both when he was at the Cato Institute and more recently as an independent reporter and Washington Post commentator, above all in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop. More of his work on the issue at Cato’s Letter (2013), at this video, and in a white paper on paramilitary police raids, as well as a general link to Cato’s work on the subject by many authors. I’ve covered the subject in many posts here and elsewhere, as well as in a podcast.

State of the Union 2015

As I did last year I’m tweeting reactions to President Obama’s State of the Union address so you wouldn’t have to watch. Here are Twitter highlights, mostly in regular rather than reverse chronological order:

More: Cato scholars respond in a video:

Obama: let’s step up federal cop subsidies

It’s like a parody of one’s worst expectations: President Obama refuses to curtail the federal police militarization program, instead calling for a big hike in federal spending on aid to local departments with the usual micromanaging strings attached. [The Guardian] The administration has now gathered some useful information on the Pentagon’s 1033 surplus-gear program, but still has no plans to improve data gathering on police use of lethal force [Washington Post editorial] More from USA Today: “The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, has waged an intense lobbying campaign to keep the surplus equipment flowing,” and its executive director specifically speaks up in favor of the transfer of armored vehicles and personnel carriers. More: Trevor Timm.

Related: Conor Friedersdorf gathers stories of cops reinstated in union arbitration from Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Miami, Sarasota, and other cities. He concludes:

I’d rather see 10 wrongful terminations than one person wrongfully shot and killed. Because good police officers and bad police officers pay the same union dues and are equally entitled to labor representation, police unions have pushed for arbitration procedures that skew in the opposite direction. Why have we let them? If at-will employment, the standard that would best protect the public, is not currently possible, arbitration proceedings should at a minimum be transparent and fully reviewable so that miscarriages of justice are known when they happen. With full facts, the public would favor at-will employment eventually.

You can’t tackle the excessive force problem credibly unless you tackle the power of the police unions. Period.

August 4 roundup

  • Administration tees up massively expensive regulation docket for after election [Sam Batkins, American Action Forum]
  • More on FedEx’s resistance to fed demands that it snoop in boxes [WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
  • Ethics war escalates between Cuomo and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, but is sniping in press suitable role for prosecutor? [New York Post, Ira Stoll]
  • “Mom Hires Craigslist Driver for 9-Year-Old Son, Gets Thrown in Jail” [Lenore Skenazy]
  • One-way fee shifts, available to prevailing plaintiffs but not defendants: why aren’t they more controversial? [New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Watch]
  • Water shutoff woes sprang from Detroit’s “pay-if-you-want culture” [Nolan Finley, Detroit News]
  • “CPSC Still Trying to Crush Small Round Magnet Toys; Last Surviving American Seller Zen Magnets Fights Back” [Brian Doherty]

SCOTUS: EPA overstepped law in regulating CO2

In a complex decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down in part and upheld in part the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate large emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) [McClatchy/Federalist Society]. A key portion of the holding, writes Jonathan Adler at Volokh, is the finding that the EPA

is not permitted to rewrite the applicable statutory emission thresholds. The latter conclusion, in particular, is an important reaffirmation that agencies are not allowed to rewrite the statutes that they administer. But today’s decision was not a total loss for the EPA, however, as the Court also concluded that it was reasonable for the EPA to interpret the Act to allow for the regulation of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from sources already subject to regulation under the PSD and Title V [large stationary source] program. What this means is that large stationary sources (think big power plants and industrial boilers) that are already regulated as major stationary sources under these programs will have to control GHG emissions when they control other emissions. But sources that only emit large amounts of GHGs will not become subject to EPA’s regulatory authority under these provisions.

From my colleague Andrew Grossman at Cato:

At issue was one of the Obama Administration’s earliest efforts to skirt Congress and achieve its major policy goals unilaterally through aggressive executive action….

Autocrat tea bag
The Court, in a lead opinion by Justice Scalia, called it “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous.” EPA, it held, must abide by the statute: “An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.” And if such tailoring is required to avoid a plainly “absurd result” at odds with congressional intentions, then obviously there is obviously something wrong with the agency’s interpretation of the statute. To hold otherwise, the Court recognized, “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers” by allowing the executive to revise Congress’s handiwork. …

The Court’s decision may be a prelude of more to come. Since the Obama Administration issued its first round of greenhouse gas regulations, it has become even more aggressive in wielding executive power so as to circumvent the need to work with Congress on legislation. That includes recent actions on such issues as immigration, welfare reform, and drug enforcement.

Four liberal justices dissented, while Justices Alito and Thomas argued that the Scalia-led plurality were too accommodating of the EPA’s assertion of power.

“Is Administrative Law Unlawful?”

Columbia lawprof Philip Hamburger is out with a book of high importance on the administrative state and the legality of its actions, and Cato had him in to speak earlier this month, with D.C. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams commenting and Cato’s Roger Pilon moderating (video, podcast links). The event description:

When law in America can be made by executive “pen and phone” alone — indeed, by a White House press release — we’re faced starkly with a fundamental constitutional question: Is administrative law unlawful? Answering in the affirmative in this far-reaching, erudite new treatise, Philip Hamburger traces resistance to rule by administrative edict from the Middle Ages to the present. Far from a novel response to modern society and its complexities, executive prerogative has deep roots. It was beaten back by English constitutional ideas in the 17th century and even more decisively by American constitutions in the 18th century, but it reemerged during the Progressive Era and has grown ever since, regardless of the party in power.

Earlier here, etc.

Phone, pen, and Obama’s assertions of executive power

All sitting Presidents try to press the power of their office into doubtful areas. President Barack Obama has been particularly aggressive about doing so, according to the panelists at a May 21 discussion held at the Cato Institute. Georgetown law professor and Cato fellow Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz noted that the Constitution’s Take Care Clause directs the President to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, and descends directly from centuries of struggle against the “dispensing power” claimed by pre-modern English kings — that is, the power to dispense with enacted legislation entirely where the royal will is better served that way, a claim of power that goes beyond simple prosecutorial discretion or the pardon power.

Rosenkranz pointed to a number of Obama executive actions that are hard to reconcile with the Take Care clause. The text of the Affordable Care Act, for example, states that the employer mandate prescribed by the law was to begin Jan. 1, 2014. “You don’t need a lawyer to interpret this, you need a calendar.” Yet President Obama elected unilaterally to delay the mandate and substitute a later effective date of his own choice. Likewise, the President’s suspension of some immigration regulations overrode the clear letter of U.S. law, aside from any pluses or minuses it may have had as a policy matter.

“President Obama is being the kind of President Nixon wanted to be,” said panelist Jonathan Turley, a well-known legal commentator and law professor at George Washington University: “Many Democrats will rue the day they stood by while the President asserted these kinds of powers.” Panelist Andrew Grossman of Cato said future presidents are likely to follow Obama’s lead and assert their own right to suspend the operation of other laws.

Bonus: At a separate event, Cato welcomed George Mason U. law professor Frank Buckley to talk about his book The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America. I offer a question at the beginning of the comment period.

“Perhaps it is time for defendants to start settling less often”

I’ve got a new post at Cato about the latest federal court smackdown of overreaching enforcement by the Obama administration, this time in a Department of Labor prosecution regarding a Texas company’s wage-and-hour classification. I mention some greatest hits of the past couple of years reversing DoL, the EEOC, the EPA and other agencies, and suggest that a useful step might be for regulated businesses to contest unreasonable cases more often rather than, as is so often the norm now, paying to get them over with.