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Chicago

Chicken scraps

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2012

  • I joined hosts Mark Newgent and Andrew Langer of RedMaryland on their BlogTalkRadio show Monday evening to talk about the Chick-Fil-A furor, the efforts of politicians in Boston and Chicago to use regulatory permissions to push the company around, and the resulting lessons for political and economic freedom; I went on to discuss my efforts to rally opinion in favor of Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law. You can listen here or here (UStream).
  • Relatedly, here is Ted Frank’s comment: “Every chicken sandwich you don’t buy deprives anti-gay organizations of approximately $0.0001. Probably less than that. Or, you can do what I did and donate some real money that might actually make a difference to [Marylanders for Marriage Equality] to campaign about the gay marriage initiative on the ballot in that state.”
  • “Unwise…won’t work.” The New York Times, oft indignant on other topics, seems rather tepid in criticizing the various city halls’ attacks on speech;
  • No united flock: the restaurants in question, many run by strong-minded independent franchisees, seem to be politically a various bunch themselves.
  • Speaking of non-united flocks, I think the ACLU’s Illinois affiliate may have a thing or two to teach its Massachusetts affiliate. Following the Chicago alderman’s threats to block the restaurant, ACLU of Illinois attorney Adam Schwartz was both forceful and correct: “what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words. … We believe this is clear cut.” On the other hand, Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts strangely dismissed the Boston controversy as “little more than a war of words – which is protected by the First Amendment as core speech,” as if the Mayor had merely subjected the sandwich chain to a volley of verbal abuse, without more. Perhaps Ms. Rose wrote the piece while glancing only at Mayor Menino’s official letter to Dan Cathy, which stays generally within “war of words” territory, and was unaware of the July 20 coverage in the Boston Herald, which quoted Menino thus: “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.” That’s no more a mere “war of words” than “If you run that editorial, I’ll have you arrested.”
  • More coverage: Tom Palmer Cato podcast; Hans Bader of CEI First Amendment analysis; David Boaz, Roger Pilon and Brad Smith at Politico; must-read Glenn Greenwald column; earlier here, etc.
  • And: “By handing Chick-fil-A a valid grievance, Menino and his ilk rallied popular support for the company” [Josh Barro, Boston Globe]
  • Yet more: Pressure group friendly to Chicago alderman filed antidiscrimination complaint based on chain execs’ speech [Volokh; HuffPo ("negotiation")] Some further thoughts on where the First Amendment’s relevant in the whole affair, and where it isn’t [Jim Huffman, Daily Caller]

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The uproar continues, and quite properly so (earlier here and here), over the threats of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago alderman Proco (“Joe”) Moreno to exclude the Chick-Fil-A fast-food chain because they disagree (as do I) with some of the views of its owner. Among the latest commentary, the impeccably liberal Boston Globe has sided with the company in an editorial (“which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand?…A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents”), as has my libertarian colleague Tom Palmer at Cato (“Mayor Menino is no friend of human rights.”)

The spectacle of a national business being threatened with denial of local licenses because of its views on a national controversy is bad enough. But “don’t offend well-organized groups” is only Rule #2 for a business that regularly needs licenses, approvals and permissions. Rule #1 is “don’t criticize the officials in charge of granting the permissions.” Can you imagine if Mr. Dan Cathy had been quoted in an interview as saying “Boston has a mediocre if not incompetent Mayor, and the Chicago Board of Aldermen is an ethics scandal in continuous session.” How long do you think it would take for his construction permits to get approved then?

Thus it is that relatively few businesses are willing to criticize the agencies that regulate them in any outspoken way (see, e.g.: FDA and pharmaceutical industry, the), or to side with pro-business groups that seriously antagonize many wielders of political power (see, e.g., the recent exodus of corporate members from the American Legislative Exchange Council).

A few weeks ago I noted the case of Maryland’s South Mountain Creamery, which contends through an attorney (though the U.S. Attorney for Maryland denies it) that it was offered less favorable terms in a plea deal because it had talked to the press in statements that wound up garnering bad publicity for the prosecutors. After that item, reader Robert V. wrote in as follows:

Your recent article about the [U.S. Attorney for Maryland] going after the dairy farmers reminded me a case in New York state where the Health Department closed down a nursing home in Rochester. They claim is was because of poor care, the owner claims it was because he spoke out against the DOH.

The state just lost a lawsuit where the jury found the DOH targeted the nursing home operator because he spoke out against them.

According to Democrat and Chronicle reporters Gary Craig and Steve Orr, the jury found state health officials had engaged in a “vendetta” against the nursing home owner:

Beechwood attorneys maintained that an email and document trail showed that Department of Health officials singled out Chambery for retribution because he had sparred with them in the past over regulatory issues. The lawsuit hinged on a Constitutional argument — namely that the state violated Chambery’s First Amendment rights by targeting him for his challenges to their operation.

The Second Circuit panel opinion in 2006 permitting Chambery/ Beechwood’s retaliation claim to go forward is here. It took an extremely long time for the nursing home operators to get their case to a jury; the state closed them down in 1999 and the facility was sold at public auction in 2002.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on July 26, 2012

  • Chicago city government joins Boston in threatening to use regulation to punish Chick-fil-A for its political views [Josh Barro, Eugene Volokh, earlier, Tim Carney]
  • NYC hearing on Bloomberg soda ban “a pre-scripted event with a foregone conclusion” [ACSH, WLF] despite inclusion of Baylen Linnekin on witness list [Reason, Jacob Sullum] If calories are the point: “Hey, Mayor Mike, why not ban beer?” [Sullum, NYDN]
  • California restaurants serving foie gras “can be fined up to $1,000…or is it a tax?” [Fox via @ReplevinforaCow]
  • When nutrition labeling meets deli salads: the FDA invades Piggly Wiggly [Diane Katz, Heritage]
  • “Raw Milk Advocates Lose the Battle But Win the War” [ABA Journal]
  • “PLoS Medicine is Publishing An Attack On ‘Big Food’” [David Oliver]
  • More signs that Mayor Bloomberg is eyeing liquor as a public health target [NYP, earlier] Oasis in the putative food desert: “In praise of the corner liquor store” [Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason]

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The Cato Institute recently began providing a home to the previously freestanding National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, which compiles an astounding and varied collection of allegations of misconduct, inefficiency and questionable employment practices in law enforcement. Among them: this report from the Chicago Sun-Times noted by my colleague Tim Lynch. If you have any interest in the topic, you’ll want to add the site to your RSS, Facebook or Twitter feeds.

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No, Mayor Menino…

by Walter Olson on July 21, 2012

In a free country you can’t keep out a restaurant because you dislike its owner’s politics [Boston Herald on Chick-Fil-A controversy, more on death through regulatory delay as a city tactic, mayor's letter in PDF; good discussions at Amy Alkon and Popehat/Ken] Comments: “Inclusion. He gives this as justification for excluding someone.” [Ken R at Alkon] “Also, has Boston ever been ‘at the forefront of inclusion’?” [@thad_anderson]

For a powerful vignette of what can happen in certain big cities when the ruling government nomenklatura comes to view the local merchantry as there by sufferance, see John Kass’s recent Chicago Tribune column, recalling the struggles of his Greek immigrant grocer father, via David Zincavage.

P.S. Speaking of taking outspoken stands on same-sex marriage, Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed covers a (very successful!) fundraiser I helped throw over the weekend for like-minded folks in Maryland and D.C. If you’d like to donate as part of the event, you can do so here.

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Chicago hits a rough patch [Aaron Renn, City Journal] “Cook County is viewed negatively from a litigiousness standpoint,” a statement touched with the quaint understatement for which the insurance business is known [PC 360 on AON, NATO] And here’s a video on how small businesses can face the “Chicagoland shakedown” [via John Cochrane]

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April 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 23, 2012

  • Fearful of adverse Supreme Court ruling, Department of Justice said to have exercised pressure on city of St. Paul to buckle in housing-disparate-impact case [Kevin Funnell]
  • Justice Janice Rogers Brown: we can dream, can’t we? [Weigel] The Brown/Sentelle opinion everyone’s talking about, questioning rational basis review of economic regulation [Hettinga v. U.S., milk regulations; Fisher, Kerr]
  • Claim: “The Bachelor” TV franchise discriminates on basis of race [Jon Hyman]
  • Chicago sold off municipal parking garages. Good. It also promised to disallow proposals for private parking nearby. Not good [Urbanophile]
  • Bad day in court for Zimmerman prosecution [Tom Maguire, more, Merritt]
  • “I want some systematic contacts wherever your long arm can reach” — hot-’n'-heavy CivPro music video satire [ConcurOp, language]
  • Federal judge dismisses charge against man who advocated jury nullification outside courthouse [Lynch, Sullum, earlier]

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April 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 18, 2012

  • “MPAA: you can infringe copyright just by embedding a video” [Timothy Lee, Ars Technica]
  • NYC: fee for court-appointed fire department race-bias monitor is rather steep [Reuters]
  • Larry Schonbron on VW class action [Washington Times] Watch out, world: “U.S. class action lawyers look abroad” [Reuters] Deborah LaFetra, “Non-injury class actions don’t belong in federal court” [PLF]
  • Will animal rights groups have to pay hefty legal bill after losing Ringling Bros. suit? [BLT]
  • You shouldn’t need a lobbyist to build a house [Mead, Yglesias]
  • “Astorino and Westchester Win Against Obama’s HUD” [Brennan, NRO] My two cents [City Journal] Why not abolish HUD? [Kaus]
  • “Community organized breaking and entering,” Chicago style [Kevin Funnell; earlier, NYC]

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“The Cook County Board on Tuesday agreed to pay more than $1 million in taxpayer money to settle a federal lawsuit brought by female County Jail inmates who said their civil rights were violated during repeated weekend lockdowns at the massive detention facility. The bulk of the settlement — $850,000 — will go to attorneys who represented the four inmates in the nine-year court case. Two inmates won federal judgments totaling $143,000, and the county opted to pay two others $5,000 to end the suit. … In addition to the $1 million settlement, the county spent at least $732,144 over the years to pay an outside firm to defend it against the suit, according to county records.” The plaintiffs had failed in a bid for class action status. [Chicago Tribune]

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Prosecution roundup

by Walter Olson on November 25, 2011

  • Six-year-old charged with sexual assault [Channel3000.com, Wisconsin; Radley Balko]
  • “Beware: Cities Hunting You Down For Reagan-Era Parking Tickets” [David Kiley, AOL]
  • Waco, Texas: “McLennan DA fights DNA testing because exonerations override juries” [Grits for Breakfast] Robert Mosteller, “Failures of the Prosecutor’s Duty to ‘Do Justice’ in Extraordinary and Ordinary Miscarriages of Justice” [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Controlled substances: “Could a US lawyer lawfully counsel clients about this proposed new law?” [John Steele, LEF]
  • Mens rea erosion a “deeply troublesome trend” [Kevin LaCroix on WSJ] “Trial penalty,” long sentence minimums give prosecutors muscle to extract plea deals [NYT, Sullum] “Settlements feed U.S. prosecutor overreach” [Reynolds Holding, Reuters BreakingViews] “Responsible corporate officer doctrine” worries pharma defense lawyers [WSJ Law Blog] “The continuing quest to criminalize business judgment” [Kirkendall]
  • “More than three-quarters of turn-of-the-century Chicago homicides led to no criminal punishment — not because the perpetrator could not be identified, but because no jury would convict.” [William Stuntz's posthumous book via Cowen]
  • “Scalia criticizes narcotics laws” [for over-federalization] [WSJ]

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November 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 4, 2011

  • “Kentucky antidiscrimination law doesn’t bar discrimination based on litigiousness” [Volokh]
  • “Lawyer sues to stop fireworks show; now wants $756K in fees from taxpayers” [CJAC, San Diego]
  • Leahy bill reauthorizing VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) includes language codifying OCR assault on campus due process [Bader, Daily Caller, Inside Higher Ed, FIRE, earlier here, here]
  • “One-Ninth the Freedom Kids Used To Have” [Free-Range Kids] “WARNING: Baby in pram! Anything could happen!” [same]
  • New Zealand considers criminalizing breaches of fiduciary duty [Prof. Bainbridge]
  • From libertarian Steve Chapman, a favorable rating for Rahm Emanuel as Chicago mayor [Chicago Tribune]
  • Did California privacy legislation just regulate bloggers? [Eric Goldman, Paul Alan Levy]

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  • Ohio vote looms on Wisconsin-style public labor reform [NRO Corner, Columbus Dispatch, Atlantic Wire, Buckeye Institute "S.B. 5", Brian Bolduc/NRO]
  • Florida lawmaker proposes leave for some employees with domestically abused pets [Eric Meyer]
  • UK proposal: let employers have frank talks with underperforming workers without fear of liability [Telegraph]
  • “Wisconsin legislation could restrict punitive damages for job bias” [AP]
  • No, your mover can’t enter the building: a Chicago lawyer encounters union power [Howard Foster, Frum Forum] An insider’s game: “Two teachers union lobbyists teach for a day to qualify for hefty pensions” [Chicago Tribune]
  • Alternatively, we might just want to go back to freedom of contract: “An employer’s bill of rights” [Hyman]
  • Michael Fox on “Healthy Workplace Act” proposal creating rights to sue over on-job bullying [Jottings]
  • Feds put employer use of “independent contractors” under microscope [Omega HR] FLSA risks to employer of using unpaid interns [SmartHR]
  • A bit of health care deregulation from Obama [Tyler Cowen] Related on nurse practitioners: [Goodman]

Upcoming Midwest speeches

by Walter Olson on October 31, 2011

Tomorrow, Tuesday, I’ll be on a lunchtime panel at Capital University Law School in Columbus to discuss Gov. John Kasich’s proposals for revamping public-employee labor law in Ohio. And next Tuesday, I’ll be in Chicago speaking at an Illinois Policy Institute breakfast on my new book on legal academia, Schools for Misrule (sign up here). Afterward, I’ll talk with students at Northwestern thanks to a kind invitation from the Federalist Society.

To book me for a speech at your group, contact Diane Morris at dmorris – at – cato – dot -org or contact me directly at editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com.

I’m currently planning speaking trips that will take me to Chicago Nov. 7-8, Greenville, S.C. Dec. 7, Denver Dec. 13, and possibly Phoenix Dec. 1. If you’ve got a speaker’s series or organization that’s in one of these places or an easy travel jump away, consider saving on travel expenses by booking me for a talk around these dates. You can contact me directly at editor – [at] – overlawyered – dot – com or Diane Morris at the Cato Institute: dmorris – [at] – cato – dot – org.

August 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 29, 2011

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August 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2011

  • Yikes! “House Committee Approves Bill Mandating That Internet Companies Spy on Their Users” [EFF; Julian Sanchez, New York Post/Cato and podcast]
  • Australia courts skeptical about claim that sex injury is covered under workers’ comp [Herald Sun]
  • Well-off community doesn’t need annual HUD grant, seeks to sell it [Dan Mitchell]
  • Report: playful City Museum in St. Louis has taken down signs criticizing lawyers [Bill Childs/TortsProf, earlier]
  • Chicago neurosurgeons pay $4500 a week in med-mal premiums, blame lawless Illinois Supreme Court [Medill Reports] Supreme Court declines to review Feres doctrine, which shields military doctors (among others) from suits [Stars and Stripes] Why is the most widely cited number of medical-misadventure deaths such an outlier? [White Coat; more here, here, etc.]
  • After “Facebook broken heart” suit, will pre-nups for Mafia Wars relationships be next? [Tri-Cities Herald]
  • Another horrific report of poppy seed positive drug test followed by child-grabbing [Radley Balko]

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Neurosurgeons in Cook and four other counties pay nearly $230,000 a year, obstetricians nearly $140,000, and general surgeons nearly $100,000. The legislature in Springfield had voted liability limits, but last year the Illinois Supreme Court, in a decision hailed by organized plaintiff’s lawyers but condemned as lawless by many others, struck down those limits. [Heather Perlberg, Medill]

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April 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 27, 2011

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