Posts tagged as:

Boston

It’s illegal to have an open bar at a ticketed event in Massachusetts, and if you overlook that rule the Boston cops might just show up and get you to “voluntarily” turn some of the event’s proceeds over to them. [Clark at Popehat]

Public employment roundup

by Walter Olson on December 13, 2013

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Carlos Miller, whose “Photography Is Not A Crime” blog argues for the right of citizens to film police, has been charged by Boston police with — with what, exactly? [Brian Doherty; Ken at Popehat ("What a accomplishment: the Boston Police Department has discovered a way to make it a crime for citizens to contact the person it designates to talk to citizens.")]

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The columnist has a priceless anecdote of a fact-checking query mistakenly left in a pre-publication book version sent out by Prof. Dershowitz’s publisher; also, why those who complain about being called celebrity lawyers should probably not call attention to lists of the famous people they’ve represented. [Boston Globe]

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Mark Hansen in the ABA Journal with an overview of how crime labs have finally come under scrutiny following a “string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results” in Boston, New York, North Carolina, Nassau County, N.Y. and elsewhere.

In St. Paul, Minn., assistant public defender Lori Traub stumbled into her local lab’s problems and

says she was horrified by what she found: The lab, an old-fashioned “cop shop,” was run by a police sergeant with no scientific background, had no written operating procedures, didn’t clean instruments between testing, allowed technicians unlimited access to the drug vault, and didn’t have anyone checking anyone else’s work. Analysts didn’t know what a validity study was, used Wikipedia as a technical reference, and in their lab reports referred to “white junk” clogging an instrument.

It gets much worse. A West Virginia state serologist, following the DNA clearance of a man he had previously identified as a rapist, “was eventually found to have falsified test results in as many as 134 cases during a 10-year period.” Oklahoma City Police Department crime lab chemist Joyce Gilchrist

who testified as a prosecution expert in 23 death penalty cases, including those of 12 inmates who were later executed, was fired in 2001 for doing sloppy work and giving false or misleading testimony. Nicknamed “Black Magic” by detectives for her seeming ability to get lab results no other chemist could, Gilchrist was never prosecuted for her alleged misdeeds, though she reportedly was named a defendant in at least one lawsuit against the city by a convicted rapist who was later exonerated.

More: And according to a new paper, it turns out that many state police labs are actually paid per conviction, a practice that tends to incentive false-positive error.

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According to a panel discussion hosted by the law firm of Edwards Wildman Palmer, sponsors of the Boston Marathon could face liability claims over the terrorist bombing of the event. One panelist cited the Station nightclub fire litigation in Rhode Island, in which plaintiffs lodged claims against upwards of 90 defendants, such as beer and radio-station sponsors of the concert, and won substantial settlements — $22 million from the parent company of the local radio station and $21 million from the beer defendants, for example. [Sheri Qualters, National Law Journal]

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City of Boston vs. fun

by Walter Olson on January 15, 2013

A certain disapproving attitude toward nightlife is not exactly new among Beantown authorities, but discouraging the playing of darts, solitaire and board games in taverns does sound like something of a novelty [Boston Herald]

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The Boston suburb of Chelsea, emulating New York City and other municipalities, is banning trans fats in restaurant recipes effective Jan. 1, leaving bakery owner Richard Katz “vowing to stop selling pastries rather than peddle what he calls ‘awful’ tasting trans fat-free baked goods.” [Fox Boston via Keep Food Legal]

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Says the sponsor of Brookline, Mass.’s proposed Styrofoam ban. [Boston Globe via Ira Stoll; earlier on Concord water bottle ban]

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Speeches in October

by Walter Olson on September 27, 2012

I’ll be speaking at these five law schools in October, sponsored by the Federalist Society and at lunchtime unless otherwise specified:

Oct. 2, Lewis and Clark, Portland, Ore., debating Prof. Henry Drummonds, on federal quotas on disabled hiring (more).

Oct. 3, University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore., on tort law and the “invisible fist” theory (U of O calendar).

Oct. 9, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., on Schools for Misrule, debating Prof. Jacqueline Fox (Facebook event page, FedSoc).

Oct. 29, Boston University, Boston, Mass., topic to be announced.

Oct. 30, New England School of Law, on tobacco litigation, debating Ilana Knopf.

To inquire about having me speak to your group, email editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com.

Upcoming October travel

by Walter Olson on September 3, 2012

I’m set to speak in October in Boston, South Carolina, and Oregon. If you want to add on a speaking stop for me in one of these places or someplace nearby, let me know quickly before I buy air tickets. And if you’d like to book me to speak to your group, drop me a line at editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com.

Labor roundup

by Walter Olson on August 7, 2012

  • I dreamed someone sabotaged the memory care unit by switching Rosa DeLauro’s name tag with Rosa Luxemburg’s [Fox; Raising Hale, Labor Union Report with more on alleged nursing home sabotage and the Connecticut pols that enable it]
  • New York’s Scaffold Law will inflate cost of Tappan Zee Bridge rebuild by hundreds of millions, according to Bill Hammond [NYDN]
  • “In Michigan, a ballot measure to enshrine union rights” [Reuters, WDIV]
  • Massachusetts voters rejected unionizing child care providers, but legislature decided to do it anyway [Boston Herald]
  • SEIU flexes muscle: “Surprise strike closes SF courtrooms” [SFGate, NBC Bay Area]
  • If it goes to arbitration, forget about disciplining a Portland police officer [Oregonian via PoliceMisconduct.net] Boston police overtime scandal [Reason] Related, San Bernardino [San Diego Union-Tribune]
  • Louisiana teacher union furor: “Now There’s A Legal Defense Fund For Schools The LAE Is Threatening To Sue” [Hayride, earlier]
  • As unions terrorize a Philadelphia construction project, much of the city looks the other way [Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer, PhillyBully.com; via Barro]

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Chicken scraps

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2012

  • I joined hosts Mark Newgent and Andrew Langer of RedMaryland on their BlogTalkRadio show Monday evening to talk about the Chick-Fil-A furor, the efforts of politicians in Boston and Chicago to use regulatory permissions to push the company around, and the resulting lessons for political and economic freedom; I went on to discuss my efforts to rally opinion in favor of Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law. You can listen here or here (UStream).
  • Relatedly, here is Ted Frank’s comment: “Every chicken sandwich you don’t buy deprives anti-gay organizations of approximately $0.0001. Probably less than that. Or, you can do what I did and donate some real money that might actually make a difference to [Marylanders for Marriage Equality] to campaign about the gay marriage initiative on the ballot in that state.”
  • “Unwise…won’t work.” The New York Times, oft indignant on other topics, seems rather tepid in criticizing the various city halls’ attacks on speech;
  • No united flock: the restaurants in question, many run by strong-minded independent franchisees, seem to be politically a various bunch themselves.
  • Speaking of non-united flocks, I think the ACLU’s Illinois affiliate may have a thing or two to teach its Massachusetts affiliate. Following the Chicago alderman’s threats to block the restaurant, ACLU of Illinois attorney Adam Schwartz was both forceful and correct: “what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words. … We believe this is clear cut.” On the other hand, Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts strangely dismissed the Boston controversy as “little more than a war of words – which is protected by the First Amendment as core speech,” as if the Mayor had merely subjected the sandwich chain to a volley of verbal abuse, without more. Perhaps Ms. Rose wrote the piece while glancing only at Mayor Menino’s official letter to Dan Cathy, which stays generally within “war of words” territory, and was unaware of the July 20 coverage in the Boston Herald, which quoted Menino thus: “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.” That’s no more a mere “war of words” than “If you run that editorial, I’ll have you arrested.”
  • More coverage: Tom Palmer Cato podcast; Hans Bader of CEI First Amendment analysis; David Boaz, Roger Pilon and Brad Smith at Politico; must-read Glenn Greenwald column; earlier here, etc.
  • And: “By handing Chick-fil-A a valid grievance, Menino and his ilk rallied popular support for the company” [Josh Barro, Boston Globe]
  • Yet more: Pressure group friendly to Chicago alderman filed antidiscrimination complaint based on chain execs’ speech [Volokh; HuffPo ("negotiation")] Some further thoughts on where the First Amendment’s relevant in the whole affair, and where it isn’t [Jim Huffman, Daily Caller]

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July 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 30, 2012

  • Backing down, sort of: “Menino says he can’t actively block Chick-Fil-A” [Boston Herald; Michael Graham on the Boston mayor's curious standards] Glad for small favors: Maryland public officials have wisely stayed out of the fracas [my post at Maryland for All Families got an Instalanche, thanks Glenn Reynolds] Earlier here, here, here;
  • Trying to start a business in Greece? What to expect [Reuters on shrimp farm]
  • Proceeds of California’s Prop 63 “millionaire’s tax” were supposedly earmarked for mental health. Here’s where the dollars have actually been spent [AP]
  • George Will on prosecution of whale-watcher for “harassing” humpback [WaPo, our January coverage]
  • Tries to slide down banister four stories up, survivors now suing Chicago’s Palmer House hotel [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Link bait: the ABA Journal picks the 12 greatest courtroom plays;
  • Prop 65 and carryout bags: “California, Land of the Free” [David Henderson]

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The uproar continues, and quite properly so (earlier here and here), over the threats of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago alderman Proco (“Joe”) Moreno to exclude the Chick-Fil-A fast-food chain because they disagree (as do I) with some of the views of its owner. Among the latest commentary, the impeccably liberal Boston Globe has sided with the company in an editorial (“which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand?…A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents”), as has my libertarian colleague Tom Palmer at Cato (“Mayor Menino is no friend of human rights.”)

The spectacle of a national business being threatened with denial of local licenses because of its views on a national controversy is bad enough. But “don’t offend well-organized groups” is only Rule #2 for a business that regularly needs licenses, approvals and permissions. Rule #1 is “don’t criticize the officials in charge of granting the permissions.” Can you imagine if Mr. Dan Cathy had been quoted in an interview as saying “Boston has a mediocre if not incompetent Mayor, and the Chicago Board of Aldermen is an ethics scandal in continuous session.” How long do you think it would take for his construction permits to get approved then?

Thus it is that relatively few businesses are willing to criticize the agencies that regulate them in any outspoken way (see, e.g.: FDA and pharmaceutical industry, the), or to side with pro-business groups that seriously antagonize many wielders of political power (see, e.g., the recent exodus of corporate members from the American Legislative Exchange Council).

A few weeks ago I noted the case of Maryland’s South Mountain Creamery, which contends through an attorney (though the U.S. Attorney for Maryland denies it) that it was offered less favorable terms in a plea deal because it had talked to the press in statements that wound up garnering bad publicity for the prosecutors. After that item, reader Robert V. wrote in as follows:

Your recent article about the [U.S. Attorney for Maryland] going after the dairy farmers reminded me a case in New York state where the Health Department closed down a nursing home in Rochester. They claim is was because of poor care, the owner claims it was because he spoke out against the DOH.

The state just lost a lawsuit where the jury found the DOH targeted the nursing home operator because he spoke out against them.

According to Democrat and Chronicle reporters Gary Craig and Steve Orr, the jury found state health officials had engaged in a “vendetta” against the nursing home owner:

Beechwood attorneys maintained that an email and document trail showed that Department of Health officials singled out Chambery for retribution because he had sparred with them in the past over regulatory issues. The lawsuit hinged on a Constitutional argument — namely that the state violated Chambery’s First Amendment rights by targeting him for his challenges to their operation.

The Second Circuit panel opinion in 2006 permitting Chambery/ Beechwood’s retaliation claim to go forward is here. It took an extremely long time for the nursing home operators to get their case to a jury; the state closed them down in 1999 and the facility was sold at public auction in 2002.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on July 26, 2012

  • Chicago city government joins Boston in threatening to use regulation to punish Chick-fil-A for its political views [Josh Barro, Eugene Volokh, earlier, Tim Carney]
  • NYC hearing on Bloomberg soda ban “a pre-scripted event with a foregone conclusion” [ACSH, WLF] despite inclusion of Baylen Linnekin on witness list [Reason, Jacob Sullum] If calories are the point: “Hey, Mayor Mike, why not ban beer?” [Sullum, NYDN]
  • California restaurants serving foie gras “can be fined up to $1,000…or is it a tax?” [Fox via @ReplevinforaCow]
  • When nutrition labeling meets deli salads: the FDA invades Piggly Wiggly [Diane Katz, Heritage]
  • “Raw Milk Advocates Lose the Battle But Win the War” [ABA Journal]
  • “PLoS Medicine is Publishing An Attack On ‘Big Food’” [David Oliver]
  • More signs that Mayor Bloomberg is eyeing liquor as a public health target [NYP, earlier] Oasis in the putative food desert: “In praise of the corner liquor store” [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason]

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No, Mayor Menino…

by Walter Olson on July 21, 2012

In a free country you can’t keep out a restaurant because you dislike its owner’s politics [Boston Herald on Chick-Fil-A controversy, more on death through regulatory delay as a city tactic, mayor's letter in PDF; good discussions at Amy Alkon and Popehat/Ken] Comments: “Inclusion. He gives this as justification for excluding someone.” [Ken R at Alkon] “Also, has Boston ever been ‘at the forefront of inclusion’?” [@thad_anderson]

For a powerful vignette of what can happen in certain big cities when the ruling government nomenklatura comes to view the local merchantry as there by sufferance, see John Kass’s recent Chicago Tribune column, recalling the struggles of his Greek immigrant grocer father, via David Zincavage.

P.S. Speaking of taking outspoken stands on same-sex marriage, Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed covers a (very successful!) fundraiser I helped throw over the weekend for like-minded folks in Maryland and D.C. If you’d like to donate as part of the event, you can do so here.

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June 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 18, 2012

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