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California

CoronaPitcherLemonsCalifornia legislature does something sensible! [L.A. Times; earlier on this regulation, widely protested by bartenders, sushi chefs and other food and drink professionals] Next headlines to come: blue moon, month of Sundays, and the unexpected freezing over of Hell.

Upland, Calif.: “A California family is stumped about what to do with a live-in nanny they say refuses to work, refuses to be fired and refuses to leave. In fact, Marcella Bracamonte claims that the nanny, Diane Stretton, has threatened to sue the family for wrongful firing and elder abuse.” Stretton’s hiring agreement with the Bracamontes entitles her to room and board as part of her compensation, but she now indicates that she is suffering a disability and stays mostly in her room, the couple says. After the dispute arose the Bracamontes discovered that Stretton is on the state vexatious-litigants list and has been involved in at least 36 lawsuits; police say because Stretton is in residence it is a civil matter, but a judge threw out the couple’s initial eviction attempt, saying they had not filled out a quit notice correctly. [ABC News, auto-plays video ad; CBS Los Angeles] In September of last year, whether coincidentally or not, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the so-called California Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, affording domestic workers substantially more legal leverage in disputes with their employers. [SCPR] (& Scott Greenfield, with commenters)

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June 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 12, 2014

  • John McGinnis: As information technology disrupts the legal profession, will lawyers’ clout decline? [City Journal]
  • Law schools, especially of the more leftward persuasion, collecting millions of dollars in cy pres lawsuit diversions [Derek Muller]
  • Who’s still defending embattled medical examiner Steven Hayne? Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, for one [Radley Balko, earlier here, here, here]
  • Life in America will become more drab if Campaign for Safe Cosmetics gets its way [Jeffrey Tucker via @cathyreisenwitz, earlier on "CPSIA for soap"]
  • LSAT settled with DoJ demands re: disabled accommodation back in 2002 and again just now, and the differences between the two settlements tell a story [Daniel Fisher, earlier] Some prospective students will be losers [Derek Muller]
  • “‘Swoop and Squat': Staged car accidents, insurance fraud rise in L.A.” [Los Angeles Times]
  • Toughen duty for California psychiatrists to inform on dangerous patients? Awaiting backfire in three, two, one… [Scott Greenfield]

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California law provides unusually favorable financial rewards for ADA complaints, and the state’s legislature has largely ignored years’ worth of pleas from small businesses for relief from serial complainants. So John Perez is no longer taking walk-in customers [Manteca Bulletin]:

Ever since Carmichael-based lawyer Scott Johnson slapped civil rights lawsuits against at least 21 Manteca businesses seeking punitive damages for allegedly being out of compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act access rules he’s been locking the front door to his South Main Street cabinet shop, Perez & Sons.

Johnson (earlier on him here and here) has announced his intent to sue The Hair Company for at least $68,000 although owner Janice Ward says none of her handicapped customers have ever complained. “A good number of the targets of Johnson’s 3,000 lawsuits throughout Northern California over the years have been forced out of business.”

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  • What is pay? What is wealth? And who (if anyone) should be envying whom? [David Henderson]
  • LIRR disability scammer gets probation, will repay lost $294K at rate of $25/month [Lane Filler, Newsday]
  • Costly license plate frame can help buy your way into California speeders’ nomenklatura [Priceonomics]
  • Ohio school superintendent who illegally used public moneys to promote school tax hike won’t face discipline [Ohio Watchdog]
  • Last-in, first-out teacher dismissal sacrosanct in California [Larry Sand]
  • “Los Angeles Inspector Convicted of Bribery Keeps $72,000 Pension” [Scott Shackford]
  • Heart and lung presumption is an artificial construct that drives municipal budgets for uniformed services [Tampa Bay Times]

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May 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 30, 2014

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on May 29, 2014

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  • “House Report criticizes EEOC for litigation before conciliation” [HRM America, attention-stirring Merrily Archer survey and more]
  • Do you gripe about upward spiral of executive salaries? Do you want to force employers into fuller pay disclosure? Be aware of the tension between those two positions [Gary Shapiro of CEI, Daily Caller]
  • Because the union is all about respect: Laborers/LIUNA brings giant inflatable rat to St. Louis funeral home [KTVI]
  • Reality-based: “during five of last six federal minimum wage increases, nation fell into recession” [Thomas Firey, Cato via @scottlincicome] Minimum wage and automation [Ira Stoll, earlier]
  • Minnesota legislature expands employer regulation under apple-pie heading of “Women’s Economic Security Act” [Courtney Ward-Reichard guest-posting at Daniel Schwartz's] How well are state-mandated employee leaves working in California? [Coyote]
  • “EEOC continues fight against severance agreements, while employers fight back” [Jon Hyman, earlier on CVS case]
  • OSHA targets auto suppliers in South for enforcement crackdown, rationale to be supplied later [Sean Higgins, DC Examiner via Instapundit ("Well, he can't come right out and say it's about hurting non-union shops")]

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2014

  • NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
  • Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
  • 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a "this day and trip only" theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
  • “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley's IRS intervention, Watchdog]
  • Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
  • Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
  • Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
  • John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
  • Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.

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MICRA, approved by California voters in 1974, limits noneconomic damage payouts in medical malpractice cases and has been the main reason medical liability insurance rates in the state are only in the middle of the pack nationally despite the state’s long-earned reputation as one of the most litigious in general. Focus-group research led trial lawyer advocates to tack on a provision prescribing drug testing for doctors to improve the measure’s chances [James Hay, San Diego Union-Tribune; Legal NewsLine and more; ABA Journal] Some predict that the impending lawyers-vs.-doctors battle, with various allies brought in on both sides, will be the most expensively fought ballot measure in history. Earlier coverage of MICRA here.

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  • Court will hear case of mariner charged with Sarbanes-Oxley records-destruction violation for discarding undersized fish [Jonathan Adler, Eugene Volokh, Daniel Fisher]
  • SCOTUS goes 9-0 for wider patent fee shifting in Octane Fitness v. ICON and Highmark v. Allcare Health Management System Inc. [Ars Technica, ABA Journal, earlier]
  • Constitutional principle that Washington must not give some states preference over others could face test in New Jersey NCAA/gambling case [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Supreme Court grants certiorari in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, a class action procedure case on CAFA removal [Donald Falk, Mayer Brown Class Defense Blog]
  • “Supreme Court’s Daimler decision makes it a good year for general jurisdiction clarity” [Mark Moller, WLF, earlier] Decision calls into question “the jurisdictional basis for this country’s litigation hellholes” [Beck]
  • How liberals learned to love restrictive standing doctrine [Eugene Kontorovich, more]
  • “California Shouldn’t Be Able to Impose Regulations on Businesses Outside of California” [Ilya Shapiro on cert petition in Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey (fuel standards)]
  • “A Poster Child for Overcriminalization: The History of the Lacey Act” [Jarrett Dieterle/Point of Law; earlier] “Strict Obama administration ivory ban infuriates musicians” [Bluegrass Nation/Daily Caller]
  • California business didn’t think nutty Prop 65 warning regime could get worse, Brown administration might prove them wrong [Michael Feeley et al., JD Supra]
  • “We’re definitely asking a judge to make a leap of faith here”: profile of Steven Wise, who files suits on behalf of chimps and other non-human “plaintiffs” [New York Times Magazine, earlier on Wise]
  • Quin Hillyer gives thumbs down to Louisiana coastal wetlands suit [Baton Rouge Advocate, earlier]
  • James Huffman on the public trust doctrine [Hoover]
  • John Steele Gordon on California drought [Commentary]
  • “It’s easier to engage and organize people around ‘fracking’ than a complicated list of practices.” [L.A. Business Journal]

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April 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 30, 2014

  • “7 Reasons U.S. Infrastructure Projects Cost Way More Than They Should” [Scott Beyer, Atlantic Cities]
  • Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointments could reshape California Supreme Court [Mark Pulliam, City Journal]
  • Critics say hiring of outside counsel in Pennsylvania government is an insider’s game [WHTM]
  • Could “Bitcoin for contracts” replace legal drafters’ expertise? [Wired with futurist Karl Schroeder]
  • “Getting state out of marriage” makes for neat slogan but results would be messy in practice [Eugene Volokh]
  • Lobbying by auto body shops keeps Rhode Island car repair costs high [Providence Journal, PCIAA press release and report in PDF]
  • “Bipartisan, publicity-hungry members of Congress want the FTC to investigate Photoshopping in ads” [Virginia Postrel on this WaPo report; Daily Beast; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • “Will ‘Microaggressions’ Make Their Way Into Employment Discrimination Cases? Have They Already?” [Daniel Schwartz]
  • More phone and pen: Obama executive orders will forbid federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss pay with colleagues, direct DoL to require compensation data from contractors based on sex, race [AP, White House]
  • List of best and worst states for employee lawsuits (from employer’s perspective) includes some surprises, although California’s status as worst isn’t one of them [Insurance Journal] $20K to fend off suit “for harassment and intimidation by her manager — when the manager was her sister” [Coyote; sequel to "Ventura County blues," on which earlier here and here]
  • Wage/hour activists step up pressure for federal enforcement, more detailed pay stubs to combat off-clock work, alleged misclassification [ABA Journal]
  • “A National Minimum Wage Is a Bad Fit for Low-Cost Communities” [Andrew Biggs and Mark Perry, The American] “Immigration, Eugenics, and the Minimum Wage” [Matt Zwolinski, Bleeding Heart Libertarians]
  • Court decision may amount to end run enactment of something like ENDA minus the legislative compromises and exceptions [Tamara Tabo, and thanks for link to "good reasons" for opposition; a second view from Jon Hyman]
  • “DOL (Department of Labor) Persuader Rule Undermines Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Generals Say” [Howard Bloom and Philip Rosen (Jackson Lewis), National Law Review, earlier]

The NBC affiliate in the Bay Area investigates “what some say is legalized extortion” (watch out for annoying can’t-mute, can’t-freeze auto-play ad). The report “reviewed more than 10,000 federal ADA lawsuits filed since 2005 in the five states with the highest disabled populations. More lawsuits have been filed in California than Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York combined.” Among violations charged: “a mirror that was hung 1.5 inches too high, a disabled access emblem that was ‘not the correct size,’ and one that was ‘not at the correct height on a restroom door.’ …’Given the way the building codes change as often as they do, it’s virtually impossible [to be in full compliance]‘ certified access specialist Christina Stevens said.”

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That was in happier days, when California State Sen. Leland Yee was winning national applause for his gun-control efforts. Yesterday the San Jose Mercury-News reported:

In a stunning criminal complaint, State Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major FBI operation spanning the Bay Area. … Yee asked whether he wanted automatic weapons, and the agent confirmed he did — about $500,000 to $2.5 million worth.”

Is it time to retire our “Do as we say” tag yet? Eliot Spitzer got exposed after crusading for longer sentences for “johns.” Czars of alcohol-abuse programs keep getting nabbed on the road after having a half dozen too many. Rep. Bob Filner groped his way to the podium to chair hearings on women’s issues.

Now there’s this. Maybe Sen. Yee came down so hard on private gun dealers because he wanted to muscle into the business himself.

The entire criminal information, which beggars belief in its colorful detail (Chinese gangs, Russian arms runners, Muslim insurgents in the Philippines) is here, with highlights summarized by Scott Lucas of San Francisco magazine. The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized: “Few observers of San Francisco politics are surprised by [Yee's] arrest on corruption charges.” Then there’s this sidelight: “Keith Jackson, accused by the FBI on Wednesday of being involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and a gun- and drug-trafficking conspiracy, was San Francisco’s top elected educator during the late 1990s.” [San Francisco Chronicle]

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  • Nomination of David Weil as Labor Department wage/hour chief could be flashpoint in overtime furor [Terence Smith, Hill] Another reaction to President’s scheme [Don Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek, earlier here and here]
  • Oregon: longshoreman’s union says NLRB charges of blinding, threatened rape meant “to distract” [Oregonian]
  • Who thinks hiking the minimum wage would kill jobs? Company chief financial officers, to name one group [Steve Hanke, Cato]
  • Tourists’ casual naivete about union politics at NYC hotel made for tension, hilarity [How May We Hate You via @tedfrank]
  • Just for fun: Wichita business’s creative responses to union’s “Shame On…” signs reach Round 2 [Volokh on first round, Subaru of Wichita on second round]
  • Workers’ comp claims at government agencies in Maryland can be odd [Baltimore Sun via Jeff Quinton]
  • Are unions losing their grip on the California Democratic Party? [Dan Walters]

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Getting placed on the vexatious-litigants list might not actually slow you down all that much in the pace of your suit-filing. A frequent Sacramento litigant has been on the list since 2003 but nonetheless obtains fee waivers by pleading poverty even as property is held in trust or in his wife’s name, uses variations of his name that throw adversaries off the track, and, according to an opponent, gets around a ban on pro se filing by using a lawyer to file and then substituting himself as counsel. [KXTV (auto-plays), ABA Journal]