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Cato Institute

Yesterday Yale Law professor emeritus Peter Schuck visited Cato to discuss his new book, and Arnold Kling commented, with me moderating. More about the book and its arguments is here, and a further note from Kling.

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Socialism_Inspectors
I’ve been blogging about a different political poster each day this week at Cato:

* Monday, “Socialism Would Mean Inspectors All Round,” 1929 British Conservative Party poster;

* Tuesday, “Come on, Dad! We’re going to vote Liberal,” 1929 British Liberal Party poster;

* Wednesday, “I Need Smokes,” World War One American poster;

* Thursday, Art Deco Prohibitionist traffic safety poster.

Update: and here’s Friday’s final installment, a contemporary freedom-of-the-press poster from Jordan.

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Now online: Wednesday’s Cato Institute event at which Virginia Postrel discussed her new book The Power of Glamour: Persuasion, Longing, and Individual Aspiration with sparkling comments from economist Tyler Cowen and New York Times writer-at-large Sam Tanenhaus. Subtracting considerably from the glamo(u)r factor, I moderated and introduced. More here.

If you missed that fantastic lunch, you’ll really kick yourself if you miss our author lunch next Wednesday with the phenomenal Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement. Click through and register now, while you’re thinking about it.

Tune in Tuesday night as Cato colleagues and I liveblog the State of the Union, or check Twitter at #CatoSOTU.

While you’re at it, do follow me on Twitter at @walterolson and @overlawyered, and at Facebook on both author and blog pages.

A reform proposal floated in a 2010 Cato Institute policy analysis is now becoming a pilot project in one Texas county. More: Greenfield.

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So will the federal government pay just compensation? The Supreme Court may decide that question in the pending case of Brandt v. U.S., in which the Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief. [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]

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On Thursday I was a panelist at the Federalist Society National Lawyers’ Conference discussing the rapid rise of litigation funding — specifically, well-capitalized firms that advance money to plaintiffs in commercial high-stakes litigation, often in exchange for a share in the proceeds. (A separate wing of the litigation finance business, which was not the panel’s primary focus, advances smallish sums to individual injury plaintiffs at high interest rates in a sort of analogue of payday lending.)

My opening remarks speculate about the future emergence of divorce trolls — excuse me, “marital rights assertion entities” — set up to buy out an ex-spouse’s stake in ongoing matrimonial strife and play it for maximum extraction value. While no one has yet rolled out that kind of business model, note that outside financiers have indeed begun to fund divorce litigation.

More seriously, I went on to argue that the rise of patent trolls and mass tort operations prefigures problems we are likely to see emerge from litigation finance, from the encouragement given to low-value claims to a settlement process skewed by the interests of the funders rather than the original disputants, and suggest that the age-old rules against champerty, maintenance and barratry might owe something to an appreciation of such dangers. A link to the video is here.

More: Check out Roger Pilon’s post on what else Cato people were up to at the Mayflower last week.

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  • Now available: 2012-13 edition of the celebrated Cato Supreme Court Review. And full video of Cato’s Constitution Day, at which many of the CSCR authors spoke, is up here;
  • Is a hearing necessary if prosecutors freeze assets needed to pay defense lawyers? Court hears argument in forfeiture, money laundering case Kaley v. U.S. [ABA Journal, Jacob Sullum, Scott Greenfield, Harvey Silverglate]
  • Court grants certiorari in greenhouse-gas case Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA [Jonathan Adler, Richard Faulk]
  • Ilya Somin briefly reviews three new books on constitutional law: John McGinnis and Michael Rappaport on originalism, Randall Kennedy on affirmative action, and Clark Neily on judicial engagement [Volokh]
  • General jurisdiction: “Justices Wrestle With Whether California Law Reaches A Mercedes Plant In Argentina” [Daniel Fisher]
  • Home Building & Loan Ass’n v. Blaisdell (1934) eviscerated the Contracts Clause, right? Well, it’s complicated [Gerard Magliocca]
  • Much-noted interview with Justice Scalia [New York mag] Is there a conservative jurisprudence bubble? [Daniel McCarthy] New opera “Scalia/Ginsburg” [Washington Post]
  • “The Fiduciary Foundations of Federal Equal Protection” [Gary Lawson, Guy Seidman, & Robert Natelson, SSRN]

Sociological historian Karl Polanyi, who argued in The Great Transformation that the market economy was a novel and alien mode of human interaction imposed by strong central government and due for obsolescence, has long been a spent force even among most thinkers on the left. So it might have counted as mildly surprising that a writer at the left-leaning think tank Demos picks Polanyi as a champion to send into battle against libertarians (for what it’s worth, Demos now has a whole project, the “Gordon Gamm Initiative,” aimed at finding fault with libertarians; more here from Trevor Burrus). Assigning my Cato colleague Alex Nowrasteh to refute the Polanyi thesis, as Cato’s Libertarianism.org does here, is like sending in a skilled shipbreaker with power tools to remove the stuffing from a scarecrow.

Update: In response to Matt Bruenig, Alex bounces the rubble.

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The head of Lavabit — one of two small encrypted email providers that just closed down pre-emptively rather than fight federal government demands — “says he’s been told it’s illegal even to discuss what demand the feds made of him.” [Kashmir Hill/Forbes, more, TechCrunch, Guardian] “Wyden’s constant references to location tracking in this context would be nothing short of bizarre unless he had reason to believe that the governments assurances on this score are misleading, and that there either is or has been some program involving bulk collection of phone records.” [Julian Sanchez, Cato] “The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership” [Bruce Schneier, Bloomberg] “A Guide to What We Now Know About the NSA’s Dragnet Searches of Your Communications” [Brett Max Kaufman, ACLU] The Cato Institute has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to accept a case challenging the legality of current programs of mass surveillance, in a case filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

More: No right to noisy exit? “Feds Threaten To Arrest Lavabit Founder For Shutting Down His Service” [TechDirt] And now (Sunday): with no charges and no arrest, authorities at Heathrow held and interrogated the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald (who has exposed the NSA program) for nine hours, exactly as long as they could under Britain’s anti-terror law without pressing a charge. They also confiscated his phone, laptop, USB sticks and other electronic gear. [Guardian, Greenwald, NY Times, Lowering the Bar, Peter Maass/NYT Magazine (filmmaker and Greenwald collaborator Laura Poitras regularly detained and interrogated at airports), Joel Mathis/Philly Mag] But see The Spectator (Miranda “carrying encrypted files from Snowden to Greenwald”).

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close ally of labor union and trial lawyer interests on Capitol Hill, is sending out hundreds of letters to groups linked to ALEC, the free-market group of state legislators that has occasionally involved itself in other issue areas like criminal and self-defense law, promising to shame those supporters at a public hearing for the notional link to the Trayvon Martin affair. (ALEC backed the passage of some state “stand-your-ground” laws, which as we have grown weary of repeating, did not form the basis for George Zimmerman’s successful claim of self-defense; a new Quinnipiac poll finds that American voters back “Stand Your Ground” laws by a 53-40 margin, so that campaign against these laws has evidently flopped badly)

Mostly these letters were designed to intimidate businesses that might support ALEC, but Durbin also sent one of the browbeating letters to the Cato Institute, which might have been a mistake. As related by colleague Ilya Shapiro:

Earlier this week, we received a letter from Durbin asking two questions (you’ll have to pardon the awkward grammar; this went out to hundreds of groups, so Durbin’s staff apparently had no time for proofing):

Has Cato Institute served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?

Does Cato Institute support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?

And, by the way, Durbin wants recipients of his polite inquiry to know, “I plan to convene a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to examine ‘stand your ground’ laws, and I intend to include the responses to my letters in the hearing record. Therefore, please know that your response will be publicly available.”

Well, I’m proud to say that Cato isn’t going along with this charade. Our president John Allison has responded to Durbin with a letter that I’ll quote in its entirety:

Dear Senator Durbin:

Your letter of August 6, 2013 is an obvious effort to intimidate those organizations and individuals who may have been involved in any way with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

While Cato is not intimidated because we are a think tank—whose express mission is to speak publicly to influence the climate of ideas—from my experience as a private-sector CEO, I know that business leaders will now hesitate to exercise their constitutional rights for fear of regulatory retribution.

Your letter thus represents a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is a continuation of the trend of the current administration and congressional leaders, such as yourself, to menace those who do not share your political beliefs—as evidenced by the multiple IRS abuses that have recently been exposed.

Your actions are a subtle but powerful form of government coercion.

We would be glad to provide a Cato scholar to testify at your hearing to discuss the unconstitutional abuse of power that your letter symbolizes.

Sincerely,

John Allison

The Wall Street Journal is on the issue today, and so is the Chicago Tribune, reproaching hometown Sen. Durbin for his propensity to “use the power of his high federal office as a cudgel against his enemies.” Incidentally, while Cato takes no official position so far as I know on “Stand Your Ground” laws, I have been active in discussing them: in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Caller, Bloomberg TV, Cato podcast and other places, and in many places here, including discussions of the campaign against ALEC here, here, here, and here (Paul Krugman at his most careless). Do you think I could ask the Senator to shame me by name at the hearing?

P.S. One of the rare occasions when my opinions diverge from Ira Stoll’s.

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Mark your calendar to be in Washington, D.C. Sept. 17 for the Cato Institute’s annual Constitution Day. Among the highlights: introductory talks by Cato’s Roger Pilon and Ilya Shapiro, a series of topical panels including many scholars, writers and lawyers oft linked in this space, a preview of next year’s term with star Court-watchers Tom Goldstein (SCOTUSBlog), Marcia Coyle (National Law Journal), and Howard Bashman (How Appealing), and a wrap-up address by Judge David Sentelle on freedom of the press. Full program and registration here.

This year, the Cato Institute went 15-3 before the Supreme Court, counting argued and decided cases (and not counting Perry, which was resolved on standing rather than merits).

That’s pretty phenomenal. By way of comparison, in this listing of greatest American sports teams, the legendary 1961 New York Yankees were 109-53; the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96 were 72-10; and the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings were 51-12. Sandy Koufax’s 1963 season had his best win-loss record at 25-5.

And that’s the kind of year we’ve had in the Cato legal department.

P.S. And here’s Ilya Shapiro with a more detailed post including a list of cases. He notes that of the Court’s closing trio of very high-profile decisions, Cato was “the only organization to file briefs supporting the challengers on each one (Fisher v. UT-Austin, Shelby County v. Holder, Windsor v. United States & Perry v. Hollingsworth).”

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May 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 7, 2013

  • In quiet retreat from STOCK Act, Congress dispenses with trading transparency for its staff [Prof. Bainbridge]
  • Deep-pocket quest: hotel named as additional defendant in Florida A&M hazing death [Orlando Sentinel, earlier]
  • “Keynes didn’t expect to have kids so he didn’t care about the future” wheeze long predates Niall Ferguson [Kenneth Silber; my new post at IGF, where I've also been posting lately on the topic of adoption]
  • Ten and five (respectively) reasons for a plaintiff’s lawyer to turn down a personal injury case [Eric Turkewitz, Max Kennerly]
  • Setback for man seeking to trademark “Eat More Kale” [AP, earlier]
  • Gawker is now on the UK “Warning: This bag of nuts may contain nuts” case [earlier]
  • Overlawyered’s Twitter feed just passed the 7,000-follower mark, while our Facebook page, which recently stood at 1,000 likes, has now surged to nearly 2,500. Thanks for following and liking, and if you’d like to engage with other parts of Cato on social media, check out this nifty guide by Zach Graves.

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I’m delighted to announce that Overlawyered, a freestanding blog since I founded it in 1999, has now affiliated itself with the Cato Institute, at whose Center for Constitutional Studies I’m a senior fellow. Cato already publishes several blogs and its prowess in technical support, marketing, and press outreach are certain to help the blog reach new readers, look sharper, keep more current with blog technology, and be even more a part of the conversation about law and legal reform.

As a trial run, Cato’s Ian Jacobson has already been helping out with the site’s Facebook presence in recent weeks, and Cato’s graphics team has devised an terrifically good-looking banner you can check out there, complete with shark fin. (We’re not losing the popular “shark and goldfish” emblem, though.) While you’re there, be sure to “Like” us and recommend us to friends, and also join nearly 7,000 others who follow us on Twitter.

In coming weeks you’ll notice design changes on our front page, as well as other new features. If you’re not familiar with Cato, the world’s leading libertarian think tank, this is a good time to check it out and learn more about its pursuit of individual liberties, free markets, and peace. In particular, let me recommend Cato’s group blog Cato at Liberty, where I and my colleagues blog on a variety of public policy issues.

Here’s the Cato announcement that went out this morning:

The Cato Institute is proud to announce its affiliation with one of the most respected law blogs around: Overlawyered.com. Founded and run by senior fellow Walter Olson, the blog explores an American legal system in dire need of reform, showing how litigation is used as a weapon against guilty and innocent alike, new laws erode individual responsibility, and law firms enrich themselves at the public’s expense.

Walter skewers American litigiousness with a careful eye and sharp wit. If you haven’t been following Overlawyered, here’s what you’ve been missing:

To learn the extent of the legal insanity, and how to fix it, visit Overlawyered.com and “like” its Facebook page.

Walter Olson founded and continues to run Overlawyered.com. He is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

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  • If you didn’t see my Saturday post previewing the DOMA and Prop 8 cases that reach the Supreme Court this week, I’ve now got a virtually identical version up at the Cato blog.
  • On Wednesday, immediately after the Court’s oral argument in Windsor, I’ll be moderating a panel at Cato with former Republican National Committee head Ken Mehlman (NPR profile), Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson (BuzzFeed profile), and Cato’s Ilya Shapiro (AFF profile). Details and RSVP here. If you’re in DC, don’t miss it! If not, watch live online at www.cato.org/live and comment via #CatoEvents.
  • A collection of links on the cases is currently headlining the Cato website.
  • I’ll be speaking Wednesday evening about the cases before the Washington, D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. I also expect to be doing some national broadcast commentary — details to follow.
  • Last week I spoke at a panel in Cato’s social media series with Jimmy LaSalvia (GOProud) and Trevor Burrus (Cato) on conservatives and same-sex marriage, on topics that included the changing poll numbers and demographics. Aside from going through my analysis of November’s election results, I commented on various aspects of the debate such as the difference between civil and religious marriage (“the same as that between a birth certificate and a christening,” I like to say), the non-connectedness of the gay marriage and abortion issues (on which many others seem to agree with me), and the issue of religious exemptions (“As libertarians, we’re ahead of the curve in considering how anti-discrimination law can trample freedom of conscience.”) No video at the moment.
  • By coincidence, that panel happened to be scheduled against a crosstown event making the opposite case at the Heritage Foundation, which suffice it to say is at a very different place from Cato on this topic. On the question of using 11-year-olds to try to tear down other people’s families, by the way, Rob Tisinai at Box Turtle Bulletin has a nice pre-rejoinder to Heritage: “But Gracie, no one is trying to take one of *your* parents away.”
  • I couldn’t help noticing the following from a March 22 Clarus survey of U.S. voters:

    “Do you think each individual state should be allowed to decide whether same-sex couples can legally marry, or not?”

    Should 53%
    Should not 45%

    “Do you think same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, or not?”

    Do 53%
    Do not 43%

    If these figures are to be credited, at least 6% of the voting public (and possibly much more) overlappingly believes both that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, and that “each individual state should be allowed to decide” on that same question. I think it may be time for a refresher course in constitutional law.

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Yesterday by a 9-0 vote the Supreme Court agreed with a Cato amicus brief that the Securities and Exchange Commission has no power to seek fines or penalties after the statute of limitations has expired on challenged conduct by arguing that it did not discover the conduct until recently. I’ve got a discussion at Cato at Liberty. (& SCOTUSBlog, which also hosts this opinion analysis by Jonathan Macey)

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From Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case. [National Law Journal] More: Trevor Burrus, The Blaze. And the New York Times takes up the topic of guns and suicide, but with some pretty big omissions [Tom Maguire, Ira Stoll/SmarterTimes]

Further: “Senate Judiciary Committee Hears from Cato on Gun Policy” [Ilya Shapiro, citing contributions by David Kopel, Randy Barnett, etc.] And while Bing’s real-time reaction tracker isn’t a scientific voter survey (though the sample size is large, and there’s a partisan breakdown) it seems I was not alone in being put off by President Obama’s demagogic “they deserve a vote” State of the Union wind-up on gun control. [Mediaite]