“West Virginia courts have a well-deserved reputation for favoring plaintiffs, but the state’s Supreme Court may have gone too far this year when it said drug addicts who broke the law to obtain narcotics could sue the doctors and pharmacies who supposedly fed their addiction.” Rulings like that, writes Daniel Fisher, are one reason West Virginia perennially ranks at the bottom in the U.S. Chamber’s ranking of state legal climates, and did again this year. Louisiana, Illinois, and California are other cellar-dwellers, while Alabama and Texas, despite extensive reforms and the success of business-oriented candidates in many judicial races, also languish in the lower ranks with continuing problems such as the litigation atmosphere of east Texas [Lou Ann Anderson/Watchdog Arena] More: Bob Dorigo Jones. Related, from ALEC: State Lawsuit Reform.
In light of President Obama’s (quite admirable) recent comments on college as a place for the open exchange of ideas, could his administration call off its rules pressuring colleges to adopt unconstitutional speech codes? [Hans Bader, Glenn Reynolds, USA Today] “University of California considering recognizing a ‘right’ to be ‘free from … expressions of intolerance'” [Eugene Volokh; regents go back to drawing board; Sarah McLaughlin/FIRE; AAUP] “Deciding who is eligible to complain about microaggressions is itself an act by which the majority imposes its will.” [Megan McArdle] And the New Yorker contributes a politically correct “Lord of the Flies.”
- On California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk: “Bill punishes cities that have transparent labor process” [Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune]
- “Jeweler tries to sue anonymous woman who left 1-star Yelp review” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has put out a new draft of First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) minus some provisions that I and others had sharply criticized. Does it fix enough? [draft; Lee letter in NYT; National Review editors, arguing on behalf of new draft]
- Local ordinances deeming properties a nuisance if they get frequent police calls pressure landlords to evict domestic violence victims [Jessica Mason Pieklo, RH Reality Check on ACLU lawsuit against city of Surprise, Arizona]
- Wisconsin: “This is a slippery slope when the government starts telling parents whether or not their teenagers can get a sun tan” [AP/Dubuque, Ia., Telegraph Herald]
- “Chinese Nail Salon Owners: ‘Shame on You New York Times!'” [Jim Epstein, Reason, earlier]
- And still she won’t resign: “Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspends Attorney General Kane’s law license” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, earlier]
A would-be class action from Edelson PC “aims to represent two classes — every American on Twitter who has ever received a direct message and every American on Twitter who has ever sent a direct message.” The claim is that Twitter’s use of URL shorteners for links sent within direct messages (DMs) violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California privacy law because the service “reads” (if only by algorithm) communications that it promised were confidential. “The claimed damages are as high as $100 per day for each Twitter user whose privacy was violated.” [Hollywood Reporter] Overlawyered readers have met the Chicago-based Edelson class-action firm on previous occasions.
- Study: California’s high-profile CEQA environmental-review law is used heavily against public, not just private projects, particularly environmental, transit, and renewable-energy projects [Holland & Knight; more, George Skelton, L.A. Times] Estimate: needless delays in infrastructure permitting methods cost U.S. economy $3.7 trillion [Common Good]
- “‘[F]ive White Pelicans, twenty (regular old) Ducks, two Northern Shoveler Ducks, four Double Crested Cormorants, one Lesser Scaup Duck, one Black-Bellied Whistling Tree Duck, one Blue-Winged Teal Duck, and one Fulvous Whistling Tree Duck’ met their untimely end in an open oil tank owned by CITGO. Did CITGO ‘take’ these birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918? Fifth Circuit: There’s a circuit split, but we say no.” [John Ross, Institute for Justice “Short Circuit”]
- Judge: no, “waters of the United States” don’t include dry land over which water sometimes flows [Andrew Grossman, Cato]
- Just as we were getting ready with jokes about a wind shortage comes word that maybe there isn’t one [Tyler Cowen, AWEA blog]
- After the West’s outrage-binge over lion trophy hunting, African villagers feel the repercussions: “Now they are going back to hating animals.” [New York Times]
- “Solyndra: A Case Study in Green Energy, Cronyism, and the Failure of Central Planning” [David Boaz, Cato]
- Serving municipal water without charges makes for both an economic and an environmental fiasco. Who will tell that to Ireland’s #right2water marchers? [Telesur TV, Charles Fishman/National Geographic]
We’ve often covered the outrageous results of California’s Unruh Act, a lawyer-enriching, endlessly abusable enactment that awards damages without actual injury, generates surprising new grounds for litigation, and tilts the playing field of litigation toward plaintiffs with one-way fee shift entitlements and other goodies. Now, whether or not with dollar signs twinkling in their eyes, some busybodies have invoked it to go after a women-in-tech conference over alleged sex discrimination, and a whole new generation of commentators have discovered that in areas like the Unruh Act, “the legal system allows meritless claims to extort compliance” and that the “threat of a lawsuit is usually enough to shut a company down, even if the company stands a good chance of winning in court, simply for one reason: it costs less to settle than it does to fight in court.” Ken at Popehat does not offer a warm outpouring of sympathy:
Here’s the thing: if you only wake up to how broken the system is when it’s abused by one of your ideological enemies, you’re a vapid partisan hack. The legal system — including, but not “only” or “especially” civil rights laws — is a tool of extortion, deceit, and thuggery. I’ve seen nothing in my 21 years as a lawyer to make me think that civil rights plaintiffs are any more likely than other plaintiffs to abuse the system. But some laws lend themselves to abuse — like laws that are deliberately broad, deliberately flexible, and that award attorney fees only to prevailing plaintiffs, removing all deterrents against frivolous suits and piling on incentives to cave to extortion. The result is a system that’s profitable for lawyers, mediocre for individual plaintiffs, and a constant burden on potential defendants in a way that utterly fails to distinguish between wrongdoers and the innocent.
If you’re only irritated by this when a group of Wrong People target a group of Right People, you’re not to be taken seriously.
The Supreme Court should step in to stop California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s dragnet for nonprofit donors [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- “American Express Settlement Collapses Amid Charges Of Collusion” [Daniel Fisher]
- Some on Capitol Hill would like U.S. Treasury to return money seized from South Mountain Creamery in now-notorious structuring case [Washington Post, our earlier coverage]
- CEO pay shaming theory has been tried and failed twice, but why not one more try? [Marc Hodak, earlier]
- Another big courtroom reverse for SEC in use of in-house administrative law judges [Reuters]
- Judge Easterbrook on competitive federalism, Delaware, and incorporation [Robert Goddard, Corporate Law and Governance quoting Corre Opportunities Fund, LP v. Emmis Communications Corp.]
- How far will California go to tax one wealthy ex-resident? Consider saga of Gilbert Hyatt vs. Franchise Tax Board [Lloyd Billingsley, Daily Caller]
- Apparently so: “Is Securities Litigation’s Future Secure?” [Nick Goseland, Above the Law]
“Only two of the estimated 232,000 class members claimed the coupons” in a class action led by Edelson McGuire LLP. Defendant Dick’s Sporting Goods “agreed not to oppose the plaintiff’s request for $210,000 in attorney fees and costs and a $3,500 incentive award,” but an Orange County, Calif. judge took away a large chunk of that sum because… why? Because some of the lawyers angling for it had not been admitted to practice in California, that’s why. [Kenneth Ofgang, Metropolitan News-Enterprise; Golba v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, unpublished]