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charitable trusts

Report: Rockefeller family foundations have given millions to anti-fossil-fuel activist Bill McKibben [Vivian Krause, Financial Post (Canada)]

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The Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization continues to take an aggressive stance against other groups using “for the cure” phrasing in breast cancer charitable efforts, part of a wider trend toward disputes between non-profits on trademark issues. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, earlier]

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October 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 11, 2010

  • “Feds seek to halt inmate’s frequent lawsuits” [AP; J.L. Riches]
  • “SeaWorld Blasts ‘Improper’ Suit Over Trainer’s Death” [OnPoint News, earlier]
  • Does new NY law serve as road map for charities that wish to defy donor intent? [CultureGrrl]
  • Cruise ship case an example of tensions that arise when defense lawyers jump fence to join plaintiffs’ side [Julie Kay, DBR]
  • More on Connecticut AG Richard Blumenthal’s “my lawsuits create jobs” stance [Bainbridge; related, New York Times Magazine (opponent MacMahon: "His business is suing people.")]
  • Australia: “Autistic student sues over test” [The Age]
  • “The most conservative court? Hardly” [Jacoby, Globe] And Justice Breyer, for one, has “rejected the notion that the U.S. Supreme Court has a pro-business slant and said the court doesn’t rule in favor of companies any more frequently than it has historically.” [Bloomberg via Adler, Volokh]
  • “Abducted by aliens? Call now for compensation” [four years ago on Overlawyered; Germany]

[Third in a series on the possible effects of proposed federal food safety legislation on small/local foodmakers and farmers. Earlier coverage is here and here; and see related post on animal-tracking proposals]

  • Could the outcry be having an effect? Until now, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) has repeatedly insisted that backyard and kitchen-table producers have nothing to fear from her bill, H.R. 875, the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act, because they do not engage in “interstate commerce”. jaybirdyamsMany observers pointed out that under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, an exceedingly broad range of agricultural and food activity (right down to the growing of grain with which to feed oneself or one’s animals) has counted as within the bounds of “interstate commerce” reachable by federal regulation.* Now, at the end of a Huffington Post piece sympathetically relaying DeLauro’s views, there comes an “Update” nodding toward the courts’ practical application of the “interstate commerce” concept and reporting that DeLauro’s staff is promising “clarifications” of the bill’s reach, perhaps even “technical corrections”, to be ready “in the next few weeks”.
  • When those corrections and clarifications appear, one crucial question will be whether they include any de minimis provisions exempting small, local, or informal producers and sellers (of course, these entities might continue to face stringent state or local regulation). As it stands now FSMA, like CPSIA before it, is notable for its lack of de minimis exclusions, as well as its failure to prescribe “scale-appropriate” principles (“tiering”, streamlined reporting, etc.) by which entities that deal in less than industrial volumes might be given the benefit of simpler and less onerous rules.
  • Given the stated views of the advocacy groups behind FSMA, I very much doubt that a revised version will in fact exempt producers of food intended for consumption within one state only. Even if it does, however, the law will still cover many persons like Harold Gundersen, who sells food from his Southwest Michigan farm at two suburban-Chicago farmer’s markets and in doing so manages to have legal contact with three states in all:

    “We’re highly regulated by state government and federal government,” he said. … [Gundersen] pays $65 twice a year to an inspector from DuPage County, who comes up to Michigan to inspect the apple butter and cider that he sells.

    Gundersen is indignant at that last requirement because he doesn’t even process the apple butter and apple cider — he takes his apples down to an Amish man in Indiana who seals them in cans and jugs. Because that facility is already visited by Indiana inspectors, Gundersen sees no reason for a DuPage inspector to take a second look.

    “There is nothing for her to look at,” Gundersen said. “She looks at my jars and says, ‘OK, I’ll sign this stuff.’”

    Through much of the country — in most of the big cities of the Northeast and Midwest, for example — food grown within a radius of (say) 100 miles will often have crossed state lines.

  • FactCheck’s lullaby of reassurance on the subject contains the following passage aimed at readers who might be perceiving FSMA as a far-reaching power grab by the federal government, or something like that:
    The bill has 41 cosponsors** and has been endorsed by major food and consumer safety organizations, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Food & Water Watch, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit organization that advocates for clean water and safe food and is headed by a woman who used to work for Public Citizen, the consumer group founded by Ralph Nader.

    twinslettuceWell! If a bill has 41 cosponsors, it must have been well vetted, right? (CPSIA had 106). And its backers include not only Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America — both instrumental in bringing us the CPSIA debacle — but also a group headed by an alum of Nader-founded Public Citizen. It’s not as if Public Citizen was the acknowledged leader of the Washington coalition that pushed for CPSIA and has defended it ever since, right? Oh wait.

    Center for Science in the Public Interest? That’s the outfit that’s called for federal regulation of the use of salt in foods, and its busybody litigiousness has long furnished copious material for this site. Pew Charitable Trusts (is it now OK for charitable foundations to support legislation?) has long had its hand in a hundred activist causes. And so forth. This is not reassurance; to coin a phrase, it’s de-assurance.

  • Deputy Headmistress: “I would believe these consequences were ‘unintended’ if I didn’t see the same consequences from government action over and over again.”
  • No, I don’t agree with the chain-email theories that insist that Monsanto, the giant agribusiness firm, is masterminding the push for this law. (Or the counter-push against it, depending on who you talk to. Maybe both!). Since the company’s name is always coming up, however, here’s a link to what the company’s own spokesman had to say on the lefty site Crooks and Liars, which was not quite what I expected (though I’m not sure what I did expect).
  • Brian Doherty writes about the furor at Reason (with comments here) and John Schwenkler also weighs in at his blog. And in the comments section of our initial post, check out what “Pelly” has to say about yogurt in Nova Scotia.

*Of course, it’s possible that a statute might not grant the federal regulator as much authority as courts would be willing to uphold as constitutional. HR 875 incorporates by reference the FDA’s current definition of “interstate commerce”. I’m not an expert in this area, but various documents suggest that the FDA already asserts much authority over items and processes whose production or use does not cross state lines.

**Among the 41 co-sponsors are such figures as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who as a co-sponsor and defender of CPSIA has been ferociously unsympathetic to distress cries from small businesses arising from that law.

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Microblog 2008-01-04

by Walter Olson on January 4, 2009

  • Must stores let in “social support” goats? Hot ADA issue we’ve often covered makes it into NYTimes mag [Rebecca Skloot] And Time mag tackles scandal of ADA-suit mass filing for $$, long familiar to our readers [Alison Stateman]

  • Can you guess mechanism by which snow globes turned out to cause fire hazard? (Then check link.) [K.C. Business Journal]

  • “Do Not Track” legislation could torpedo online-advertising models [ReadWriteWeb h/t @lilyhill]

  • What if plea-bargaining defendants could give D.A.s eBay-style feedback? [Greenfield]

  • UK cabinet minister wants govt to regulate Net with aim of child safety, Brit blogger says – hell, no! [Perry de Havilland, Samizdata]

  • As lawyer-driven mummeries go, which is worse, coffee machine overwarning or medical “informed consent”? [Happy Hospitalist]

  • Bogus memoirs nowadays spawn real lawsuits, as we remember from James Frey case [Elefant]

  • Is health care prohibition in our future? [KevinMD]

  • Massachusetts child support guidelines said to be highly onerous for dads already and getting worse [Bader, CEI]

  • Kid gloves from some local media for Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd & his magic mortgages [Christopher Fountain and again]

  • Had Robertson v. Princeton donor-intent suit gone to trial, lawyers might have billed $120 million hourly fees. How’d the number get that high? [Kennerly, Litigation & Trial and again]

  • A reminder: these microblog posts are based on a selection of my contributions to Twitter, which you can “follow” here.

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October 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 10, 2007

  • She wore a wire: defense attorney says administrative assistant to one of the three lawyers in Kentucky fen-phen scandal worked as FBI mole, circumventing attorney-client privilege [AP, Courier-Journal, Lexington Herald-Leader, ABA Journal]
  • Suing a lawyer because his deposition questions inflicted emotional distress? No way we’re going to open those floodgates, says court [NJLJ]
  • Counsel Financial Services LLC, which stakes injury lawyers pending their paydays, says it’s “the largest provider of attorney loans in the United States and the only Law Firm Financing company endorsed by the AAJ (formerly ATLA)”; its friendly public face is a retired N.Y. judge while its founder is attorney Joseph DiNardo, suspended from practice in 2000 “after pleading guilty to filing a false federal tax return” and whose own lend-to-litigants operation, Plaintiff Support Services, shares an office suite with Counsel [Buffalo News] The firm’s current listing of executives includes no mention of DiNardo, though a Jul. 19 GoogleCached version has him listed as President;
  • Patent litigation over cardiac stents criticized as “a horrendous waste of money” [N.Y. Times]
  • More on the “pro bono road to riches”, this time from a California tenant case [Greg May, Cal Blog of Appeal]
  • Not a new problem, but still one worth worrying about: what lawyers can do with charitable trusts when no one’s looking over their shoulder [N.Y. Times via ABA Journal]
  • Has it suddenly turned legal to stage massive disruptions of rush-hour traffic, or are serial-lawbreaking cyclists “Critical Mass” just considered above the law? [Kersten @ Star-Tribune]
  • “Look whose head is on a plate now”: no tears shed for fallen Lerach by attorney who fought him in the celebrated Fischel case [ChicTrib, San Diego U-T]
  • “Jena Six” mythos obscures graver injustice to black defendants, namely criminal system’s imposition of long sentences for nonviolent offenses [Stuart Taylor, Jr. @ National Journal -- will rotate off site]
  • Economist David Henderson on restaurant smoking bans [Econ Journal Watch, PDF, via Sullum, Reason "Hit and Run"]
  • Technical note: we learned from reader Christian Southwick that our roundups were displaying poorly on Internet Explorer (Ted and I use other browsers) and we found a way to fix. So, IE users, please drop us a line when you encounter problems — we may not hear about them otherwise.

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