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Cato Institute


by Walter Olson on February 13, 2013

My tweets and retweets last night during the State of the Union address and the GOP response by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in regular rather than reverse chronological order:

Also, by way of pleasant contrast:

And here’s Cato’s response video with scholars Michael Tanner, Julian Sanchez, Alex Nowrasteh, Simon Lester, John Samples, Pat Michaels, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Michael F. Cannon, Jim Harper, Malou Innocent, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Neal McCluskey.

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Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on February 8, 2013

  • Universities’ prestige game: will “zombie law schools” drag down the rest? [Gerard Magliocca]
  • Law as undergraduate degree works in advanced countries like Germany and Britain, could work here too [Bainbridge]
  • It’s a capitalist plot! Steve Diamond of Santa Clara assails Brian Tamanaha’s critique of law schools as too redolent of Hayek, Cato [SSRN, background, more]
  • “That’s pretty good reason to speak up: Thomas Breaks 5-year Silence During #SCOTUS Arguments to Mock Yale” [@DavidMastio]
  • Dean who took huge pay packet for dismal results is also immediate past president of ABA law school panel [Campos]
  • Does the California experience undercut arguments for relaxing accreditation? [Matt Bodie]
  • “What Do Law Professors Think About the Critiques of the Law Schools?” [Orin Kerr]

February 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 7, 2013

  • You mean Philadelphia traffic court wasn’t on the up-and-up? [ABA Journal] DUI prosecution in Lafayette Parish, La. had become quite the tidy business [Scott Greenfield]
  • sued after date assault [FindLaw]
  • Sweden is at cutting edge of free-market policy innovation [Adrian Wooldridge, The Economist]
  • Big victory for Institute for Justice as federal court strikes down new IRS tax preparer rules [Katherine Mangu-Ward] 97% of Chicago tax preparers out of compliance with local licensing regs? [TaxProf]
  • A sentiment open to doubt: Heritage claims “there is no ban on same-sex marriage” in any state [Ryan Anderson] Support from PM Cameron, other senior Conservatives instrumental in British passage of same-sex marriage [Peter Jukes, Daily Beast] New beyond-the-culture-wars initiative on marriage from David Blankenhorn and colleagues at Institute for American Values [Mark Oppenheimer, NYT]
  • “Why not a waiting period for laws?” [Glenn Reynolds, NY Post]
  • As he steps aside, recalling some of the accomplishments of longtime Cato Institute chairman Ed Crane [Cato Policy Report, PDF]
  • R.I.P. Maureen Martin, legal affairs fellow at Heartland Institute whose work touched many [Jim Lakely]

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January 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 29, 2013

  • In job bias dispute: “Federal Court Says Veganism Might Qualify As A Religion” [Religion Clause]
  • Perennially credulous L.A. Times drops broad hints that Toyota settlement vindicates sudden acceleration theories, others know better [LA Times, NLJ earlier]
  • “Cato Named America’s Most Effective Think Tank Per Dollar Spent” [Dan Mitchell, Nick Rosenkranz]
  • Disappointing: Transportation Sec. LaHood said to be “sticking around for a while” [Roads and Bridges, earlier] That was quick: only hours later, he says he’s leaving after all [WaPo]
  • It became necessary to destroy the sex workers in order to save them [Melissa Gira Grant/Reason]
  • Profile of lefter-than-thou NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman [NY Mag]
  • As rural pub tradition declines, Irish government rejects proposal to ease DUI laws [AP]

A Cato Forum held January 9 and featuring Craig Whitney, author, Living with Guns, and a former New York Times reporter and editor; Alan Gura and Alan Morrison, who argued opposite sides of the Heller case; and as moderator, Cato senior fellow Ilya Shapiro.

Meanwhile, getting the jump on President Obama’s proposals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature of New York have rushed to passage a hasty new gun control package [Roger Pilon, Jacob Sullum, Bob McManus/NY Post, more from Sullum on "false urgency"]

Mark your calendar! On January 16 at noon in Washington, D.C., Prof. Brian Tamanaha of Washington University will speak at a Cato Book Forum on his much-acclaimed new book, Failing Law Schools. Commenting will be Neal McCluskey, who directs Cato’s program on education policy, and University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, like Tamanaha a celebrated critic of the American law school scene. I’ll be moderating. The event in Washington, D.C. is free and open to the public; details on how to register here.

From the event description:

For decades, American law schools enjoyed one of the world’s great winning streaks. Amid swelling enrollments and what seemed an insatiable demand for new lawyers, they went on a spree of expansion; even as tuitions soared, the schools basked in an air of public-interest rectitude symbolized by Yale law dean Harold Koh’s description of his institution as a “Republic of Conscience.” Then came the Great Recession—and a great reckoning. New graduates were unable to find decently paying legal jobs even as they staggered under enormous debt burdens; it became impossible to ignore long-standing complaints from the world of legal practice that the law curriculum does not train students well in much of what lawyers do; and creative efforts to reduce the cost of law school were stymied by an accreditation process that closely constrains the format of legal education. In Failing Law Schools, one of the most talked-of books in years about higher education, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University has written a devastating critique of what went wrong with the American law school and what can be done to fix it. None of the key contributors to the problem—faculty self-interest, university administrators’ myopia, cartel-like accreditation—escape unscathed in his analysis.

We’ve often cited the work of Profs. Tamanaha and Campos in this space and linked to reviews and discussions of Failing Law Schools here, here, here, here, here, and here. National Jurist just named Prof. Tamanaha as #1 on its list of the year’s most five most influential people in legal education. See you there on Jan. 16!


The Cato Institute website has just emerged from a thorough revamp with a new look, faster loading, and better optimization for cellphones and other emerging platforms. And the Cato at Liberty blog, where I contribute often, now has a new home within the domain.

The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 aims to steer all but relatively small nationwide class actions into federal court, in part because lawmakers wanted to prevent plaintiff’s lawyers from exploiting the system by forum-shopping cases into state courts that might be biased or ill-equipped to prevent abuse. It therefore allows defendants to remove cases to federal court where the aggregate claim exceeds $5 million. To evade that limit, plaintiff’s lawyers have been proffering stipulations that disclaim (at least temporarily) any intent to ask for more than that sum, even when plausible theories of the case would suggest a larger potential recovery. If the ploy works, they get to stay in the favored state court, and in later stages of litigation they sometimes succeed in using various further tactics to shuffle off the supposed limit and ask for more than $5 million after all.

Aside from the end run it does around the intent of the statute, this practice raises serious ethical issues arising from the lawyers’ duty toward clients, including absent class members who may not even be aware of the suit, let alone in a position to second-guess tactical choices. Disclaiming damages above $5 million, in particular, may be helpful to the lawyer (by obtaining less stringent oversight of the manner in which the suit is prosecuted) yet harm some clients’ interest in obtaining the best recovery.

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up this issue in the spring, and the Cato Institute has filed an amicus brief (PDF) urging the Court to recognize the ethical problem and direct lower federal courts to grant removal where appropriate. Ilya Shapiro has more. Ted Frank at the Center for Class Action Fairness also filed amicus briefs on behalf of certiorari and on the merits; related.


Author Russell Nieli came to Cato this week to discuss his new book and I gave a brief commentary. More: John Rosenberg, Discriminations.

Related: Voting on ideological lines, the Sixth Circuit declares void the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, suggesting a constitutionalized “right” to racial preferences. Calling SCOTUS! [Jonathan Adler]

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The Right rethinks prisons

by Walter Olson on November 22, 2012

How a seemingly unlikely assortment of libertarians, religious conservatives and small-government advocates have been helping to turn around the debate on incarceration. [David Dagan and Steven Teles, Washington Monthly]

I had the honor of moderating a debate at Cato on Thursday between Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, author most recently of Cosmic Constitutional Theory: Why Americans Are Losing Their Inalienable Right to Self-Governance, and the Cato Institute’s Roger Pilon on the proper role of restraint and energy in judicial protection of constitutional liberty. It was a scintillating discussion and you can watch it above, or at this Cato link.


Details here on how you can follow along.

On C-SPAN here, via Orin Kerr (“It’s all very much worth watching, as is the case every year.”)

If you can’t attend in person in Washington, D.C., C-SPAN will be covering it live all day (C-SPAN1 in the morning, C-SPAN2 in the afternoon).

After decades, farmers in western Canada are finally free to decide for themselves how and to whom to sell their crop, the result of a long political campaign led by free-market prime minister Stephen Harper with key help from Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall. I’ve got a new, celebratory post at Cato giving details. Next: getting our own Supreme Court to reconsider Wickard v. Filburn, the decision that laid out a charter for federal supervision of wheat growing and so much else besides? [Name screwup fixed now]

P.S. Milk still a big problem (although the U.S. is hardly free of cartel-like regulations in that sphere).


July 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 27, 2012


July 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 17, 2012

  • Prediction: Homeland Security to emerge as major regulatory agency prescribing security rules to private sector [Stewart Baker] Regulators fret: air travel’s gotten so safe it’s hard for us to justify new authority [Taranto via Instapundit] “Romney’s regulatory plan” [Penn RegBlog]
  • Claim: frequent expert witness in Dallas court proceedings is “imposter” []
  • “‘Temporary’ Takings That Cause Permanent Damage Still Require Just Compensation” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • On the ObamaCare decision’s wild card, the ruling on “coercive” conditions on Medicaid grants under the Spending Clause [Mike McConnell, Ilya Somin] Ramesh Ponnuru argues that ruling is no victory for supporters of limited government [Bloomberg]
  • D.C.’s historic Shaw neighborhood near Cato Institute narrowly escaped planners’ bulldozer [Greater Greater Washington, WaPo]
  • Michelle Obama on the right track with an idea on occupational licensure but should take it farther [Mark Perry]
  • Everyone’s a judicial critic: Auto-Correct proposes replacing “Posner” with “Poisoner.”

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  • “We won everything but the case.” Ilya Shapiro at SCOTUSBlog on what it’s like to have your arguments succeed while your client goes down. Recommended;
  • David Kopel applauds, especially the Medicaid ruling limiting strings on federal support of states;
  • Michael Greve turns thumbs down: “the Chief’s supposed act of statesmanship has bought nothing that is worth having.”
  • Clark Neily: “as litigators know very well, it is always more important what a court did than what it said. … Notwithstanding the majority’s assurances … the Court ratified what many perceive as the most significant expansion of federal power in 75 years.”
  • John Podhoretz: Roberts’ artful dodgery on tax issue does the Court no credit. Similarly: Jim Huffman;
  • From a David Frum reader: did Roberts bail because the four justices to his right got too frisky on severability?
  • And Cato’s star-packed event looking at the meaning of the NFIB v. Sebelius decision will take place live on the web this coming Monday, Jul. 2, 1:30-4:45 Eastern.

Earlier here, here, and here.

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