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Colorado

A bad idea still isn’t catching on with voters, although those on the island of Maui approved an agricultural GMO moratorium, supposedly temporary. [NPR, earlier]

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on October 29, 2014

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Oh, Mayor Bloomberg, you’ve gone and done it again.

P.S.: “The fact that they brushed us off really worked in our favor.” How well-roaded Pueblo, Colo. sent Bloomberg’s minions packing.

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A discrimination-law panel in the state of Colorado has confirmed a ruling that Jack Phillips, a baker of wedding cakes, cannot turn away a gay couple’s request based on religious scruples, and further ruled, quoting the Denver Post, that he is “to submit quarterly reports for two years that show how he has worked to change discriminatory practices by altering company policies and training employees. Phillips also must disclose the names of any clients who are turned away.” [Scott Shackford; CBS Denver]

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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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“A Colorado man, despite acknowledging that he’s lucky to be alive after being trapped in a submerged car, has filed an intent to sue his rescuers for half a million dollars.” Roy Ortiz says “he needs help paying medical bills,” and his attorney Ed Ferszt adds, perhaps not entirely helpfully, “It’s unfortunate to have to try and cast liability and responsibility for this act of God on the men and women who risked their own lives.” [ABC, CBS Denver, The Denver Channel, Broomfield Enterprise]

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WordPress is fighting back. [its blog via BoingBoing, Popehat] Will YouTube? [Popehat re: Colorado assembly hopeful]

Next time someone says big money calls all the shots in American politics, remember that an 8-1 money advantage fueled by Michael Bloomberg and other national donors wasn’t enough to save the seats of two lawmakers who’d helped push a gun-control package through the Colorado Senate, thus infuriating constituents in a marginal Colorado Springs district and in the blue-collar Democratic stronghold of Pueblo. [Denver Post, David Kopel, Volokh Conspiracy, The Denver Channel]

Meanwhile, New York City Democratic primary voters decided against nominating whited sepulcher Eliot Spitzer as the city’s next comptroller, thus foiling Spitzer’s plan to get his hands on billions of pension fund dollars with which to engage in grandstanding and litigation [WABC, Lawrence Cunningham]

P.S. Less happily, voters in Richmond, Calif. are going to let the city administration proceed with a scheme to seize underwater mortgages by use of eminent domain [Daniel Fisher, more, earlier]

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“At the risk of losing their homes if they didn’t, scores of Colorado homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure in the past year were each forced to pay hundreds of dollars in lawyer charges for phantom court cases against them, a Denver Post investigation has found.” In 126 of the episodes, the paper reports, no foreclosure lawsuit was actually filed. Related reporting on allegations against Colorado foreclosure law firms here, here, etc.

Along with the Colorado attorney general, various other law enforcers both state and federal are scrutinizing the billing practices of creditors’ law firms looking for evidence that they’ve been evading the fee and cost reimbursement limits for foreclosures that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA prescribe on loans they own, guarantee or insure. [Paul Jackson, Housing Wire via Funnell]

Here’s why: it turns out that many of the major law firms responsible for managing foreclosures for the GSEs also have a controlling interest in the ancillary service firms that generate the variable fees that appear as “costs” on the lawyer’s bill. Many law firms either outright own, or their partners have a significant interest in, the company that is posting and publishing notices; or they may own or have an interest in the company that manages process of service, as well.

Such arrangements are not illegal, but could land the firms and mortgage servicers in hot water if it develops that they have connived at fee padding by the ancillary firms. (& welcome Above the Law readers). More: Heather Draper, Denver Business Journal (and thanks for quote).

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The perfect arrangement

by Walter Olson on August 5, 2013

It seems Colorado lawmakers are given special license plates that don’t get speed-camera tickets or parking ticket collections. [CBS Denver] Five years ago the Orange County Register reported that hundreds of thousands of state and local employees, spouses and children in California were covered by programs allowing them to exclude their addresses from the system, supposedly to safeguard them against criminal threat — though a great many of the jobs were exceedingly low-risk — with the incidental benefit that toll and red-light-ticket collectors could not reach them, and many parking tickets were left unenforced as well. “This has happened despite warnings from state officials that the safeguard is no longer needed because updated laws have made all DMV information confidential to the public.”

  • Next big church-employee bias case? Teacher signed “abide by Catholic teachings” contract, wins $170K anyway [AP] ACLU, which cheers that ruling, upset that new ENDA version would give more liberty to religious entities [BuzzFeed]
  • “Employee Who Changed Word Secretly in Severance Agreement Allowed to Proceed With Discrimination Claim” [Daniel Schwartz]
  • Sleeper Supreme Court case, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, tackles mixed-motive retaliation, oft-recurring fact pattern [podcast with Emory lawprof Charles Shanor, Fed Soc Blog]
  • You needn’t be anti-gay to oppose ENDA [Coyote, Scott Shackford] Case for public-accommodations version in state of Washington must be symbolic since it’s light on substance [Shackford]
  • English-only policies at workplace an “interesting and seldom litigated issue.” [Jon Hyman]
  • Bad, unfair move: “California Senate Passes Law to Revoke Status of Nonprofits With Anti-Gay Policies” [Philanthropy News Digest; Scott Walter, Philanthropy Daily]
  • Among those seeking broad religious exemptions from anti-bias laws, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion ought to be more controversial [BTB] Arizona bill carving out religious exception to bias laws also authorizes new suits against business [AZCentral]
  • “Across the country, human rights commissions cause more harm than they prevent.” [Scott Beyer, City Journal; Mark Hemingway, Weekly Standard]
  • New Colorado law allows workers to collect from small businesses in discrimination lawsuits [Judy Greenwald, Business Insurance]

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The Colorado Supreme Court, wisely resisting a national campaign of school funding litigation, has turned down a lawsuit arguing that the state is obliged under its constitution to step up school spending. [Denver Post, KDVR, opinion in State v. Lobato]

I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty about the Colorado decision, noting that although school finance litigators make a lot of noise about educational quality, they are actually on a mission of “control —specifically, transferring control over spending from voters and their representatives to litigators whose loyalty is to a mix of ideologues and interest groups sharing a wish for higher spending.” I quote from a section on school finance litigation that I wound up cutting from my book Schools for Misrule about the enormous impact such suits have had in other states:

Vast sums have been redistributed as a result. Lawmakers in Kentucky enacted more than a billion dollars in tax hikes. New Jersey adopted its first income tax. Kansas lawmakers levied an additional $755 million in taxes after the state’s high court in peremptory fashion ordered them to double their spending on schools.

The results have been at best mixed: while some states to come under court order have improved their educational performance, many others have stagnated or fallen into new crisis. Colorado is fortunate not to join their ranks. (& reprint: Complete Colorado)

P.S. From a Colorado Springs Gazette report, Jul. 31, 2011:

“Putting more money into a broken system won’t get a better results. There are improvements that could be made without money,” says Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue. …

He points to a Cato Institute study that showed spending on education across the country has skyrocketed but test scores didn’t improve.

“That would mean that potentially every cent of the state budget would be shifted over to K-12 education,” says Blue, who heads the office’s legal policy and government affairs.

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April 20 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 20, 2013

  • “Victory For Blogger Patterico In Free Speech Case” [Ken at Popehat, earlier]
  • “Watch ‘disparate impact’ become the new HUD jihad if it succeeds in [Westchester]” [Jackson Jambalaya, earlier]
  • “Big Tobacco uses Big Government to keep out Small Competitors” [Tim Carney, DC Examiner]
  • Casinos or no, Connecticut tribes want the federal dole [AP]
  • High cost of litigation to California municipalities [L.A. Daily News, new CALA report in PDF] “San Francisco’s iconic cable cars cost city millions of dollars in legal settlements” [AP]
  • Morning sickness drug Bendectin, famed casualty of unfounded litigation, returns to market renamed diclegis [MedPageToday, David Bernstein; background here, etc.; classic account from Peter W. Huber's Galileo's Revenge] Another Bendectin sequel: Barry Nace, former ATLA/AAJ head, draws 120-day suspension from West Virginia high court [Chamber-backed WV Record]
  • “Tennessee’s ‘guns in parking lots’ bill a net drain on liberty [George Scoville; similarly Bainbridge and earlier] Another pro-gun but anti-liberty idea: Colorado lawmaker wants to force firms to hire guards if they deny armed customers access to their premises [KOAA, SecurityInfoWatch, Durango Herald (idea nixed in committee)]

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Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2013

  • Defeat of proposed assault-weapons ban is setback for demagogy [Taranto] “If You Don’t Support an ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban, You Hate Children and Want Them to Die” [Jacob Sullum on New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica]
  • New York snitchline offers $500 rewards for turning in neighbor in possession of unlicensed gun [USA Today] “Andrew Cuomo Realizes He Mandated Gun Magazines That Don’t Exist” [Sullum]
  • “Colorado’s New Gun Controls Promise Dubious Public Safety Benefits and Lurking Legal Perils” [Sullum] Democratic sponsor “didn’t realize that her bill would outlaw practically every magazine currently for sale in the state” [Daily Caller] In empty gesture, inevitably to be pre-empted by PLCAA, some Colorado Dems sought to legislate liability for “assault weapon” owners, sellers and makers for crime [Denver Post, Daily Caller]
  • Maryland state senator J.B. Jennings introduces bill restraining school discipline of students who simulate “guns” by way of pointing fingers, nibbling breakfast pastries into shapes, etc. [Easton Star-Democrat, Joanne Jacobs, earlier]
  • “Survey: Federally licensed firearms retailers overwhelmingly oppose ‘Universal Background Checks'” [Daily Caller]
  • “Science and gun violence: why is the research so weak?” [Maggie Koerth-Baker, BoingBoing]
  • Hope springs eternal on legal mandates for personalized guns, though even the Violence Policy Center doesn’t think much of the idea [San Francisco Chronicle]
  • California Supreme Court: fee shift in disabled-rights claim can go to winning defendant, not just plaintiff [Jankey v. Song Koo Lee, Bagenstos/Disability Law]
  • That’s Olsen with an “e”: “Lawmaker wants to protect cities from frivolous lawsuits over A.D.A.” [California Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen; L.A. Times] “Gas stations confront disabled-access lawsuits” [Orange County Register] Serial ADA filer hits New Orleans [Louisiana Record] ADA drive-by suits in Colorado and elsewhere [Kevin Funnell]
  • And this lawyer follows a see-no-evil policy regarding ADA filing mills: “I refuse to pass judgment on other attorneys here.” [Julia Campins]
  • Child care center could not turn away applicant with nut allergy because Iowa disabled-rights law said to have expanded its coverage of categories when the U.S. Congress expanded ADA, though Iowa lawmakers enacted no such expansion [Disability Law]
  • Feds join in LSAT accommodation suit [Recorder]
  • Official in San Francisco’s mayoral Office on Disability files disability-bias claim [KGO]
  • “Testing employees for legally prescribed medications must be done carefully” [Jon Hyman]

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“…collects and distributes dead eagles and their parts.” [Jay Wexler, PrawfsBlawg] Earlier here, here, here, etc.

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Yes, it’s a lawyer — and from a reasonably well-known New York firm at that — blaming the theater operator for the Aurora, Colo. attack [Abnormal Use ("It is interesting that Mr. Bern chose to say the 'primary responsibility' for the shooting lies with Cinemark. I would have probably placed the primary responsibility on the guy with the gun who was actually doing the shooting"), earlier; BBC]

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Attorney Donald Karpel, representing a theatergoer, plans to sue the theater in Aurora, Colo., the doctors who prescribed medications for the killer, and Warner Brothers, for “rampant violence” in its Batman movie. [TMZ] Suits against movie studios, at least, unlikely to prevail, so let’s be thankful for small sanities [Reuters] “That a cinema should prepare to repel a concerted paramilitary attack is only reasonable In Times Like These.” [George Wallace] More: Ken at Popehat.

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