The new lawsuit by the prominent Connecticut personal-injury firm of Koskoff, Koskoff, and Bieder [news coverage: WSJ Law Blog, CNN] seeks to get around the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act by latching on to the law’s narrow exception for “negligent entrustment.” That’s not a reasonable reading of the law, and I argue in a new post at Cato at Liberty that courts should toss attempts like these to revive gun control through litigation, all the more so because legislative attempts to overturn PLCAA (as I discussed last year) are rightfully going nowhere.
Some out there seem to think it’s okay to use litigation as a way of lashing out against opponents, whether by way of a winning case or not:
More: “The Sandy Hook Families’ Lawsuit Against Bushmaster Will Fail. Here’s Why.” [Bob Adams, Bearing Arms] And Eugene Volokh’s analysis breaks down the provisions of PLCAA and its interaction with the specifics of Connecticut law, concluding that “unless there is some evidence that the defendant manufacturers and gun sellers in this case violated some specific gun regulations (judgments actually made by legislatures), plaintiffs’ claim will go nowhere — and rightly so, I think.” Yet more: Steve Chapman.
And purported reforms in 2012 didn’t help. Connecticut’s is second most expensive. [Insurance Journal]
In Philadelphia, the city has seized a widow’s home and car for forfeiture after her son was nabbed on charges of selling pot [Inquirer] “Minneapolis police plan to keep $200,000 seized in a raid of a tobacco shop, even though they didn’t find any evidence to merit criminal charges. Meanwhile, a former Michigan town police chief awaits trial on embezzlement and racketeering charges for allegedly using drug forfeiture money to buy pot, prostitutes and a tanning bed for his wife.” [Radley Balko] Nebraska cops seize nearly $50,000 from a Wisconsin man driving from Colorado, “a known source state for marijuana,” but a court orders it returned [same]. Connecticut police use forfeiture proceeds “to buy new police dogs, undercover vehicles, technology, fitness equipment — and to pay for travel to events around the country.” [New Haven Register]
More: Half-forgotten history of how the feds pushed the states to embrace forfeiture [Eapen Thampy, Forfeiture Reform] And for once good news: “Rand Paul introduces bill to reform civil asset forfeiture” [Balko again] And: Rep. Tim Walberg introduces a bill on the House side; video of Heritage panel today with Balko, Walberg and IJ’s Scott Bullock, Andrew Kloster of Heritage moderating.
The town of Stratford, Connecticut entered an employment agreement with its director of human resources, stating that his employment would be entirely at-will and further providing:
Based upon the annual performance evaluation, and at the [m]ayor’s sole discretion and recommendation, the base salary may be increased on July 1 of each fiscal year, subject to the approval of the [council], which by Charter fixes the salaries of all mayoral appointees.
Subsequently, the town council voted to reduce the manager’s salary, and the dispute went to litigation. Both a trial court and a Connecticut appeals court agreed with the manager’s argument that even though the document prescribed an at-will relationship, by specifying that the base salary “may be increased” it was implicitly promising that it would never be decreased. [Daniel Schwartz; Adams on Contract Drafting]
“It is a truism that laws tend to be arranged for the benefit of the political class.” Even so, would you expect Connecticut law to provide that private employers must hold open the jobs of full-time elected officials for as much as eight years in case they decide to return? My new blog post at Cato has details.
Labor and left-wing advocates are staging a concerted push for this measure, which opponents say is particularly burdensome to small business. “Supporters cite their success in gaining the enactment of paid sick day laws in Connecticut and six U.S. cities — the District of Columbia, Jersey City, N.J., New York City, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle–as proof that the campaign is gaining momentum.” Opponents are fighting back with, among other steps, legislation passed in at least ten states specifying that municipal home rule does not include the authority to enact ordinances of this sort. [Rhonda Smith, Bloomberg BNA]
The federal EEOC has been helping prepare the ground with guidance indicating that it legally disfavors asking job applicants about criminal records across a wide range of situations. Meanwhile, activists in places like San Francisco seek local laws banning the practice in private employment, following successful campaigns to end it in the public sector. [San Francisco Chronicle]
On Hallowe’en I often recall my ancestor Lydia Gilbert of Windsor, Ct., convicted of witchcraft in 1654 and probably executed (accounts here, here). Three years earlier Henry Stiles had been killed by an apparently accidental discharge of the firearm of neighbor Thomas Allyn, and three years later Lydia was charged with being the true cause of this misadventure. In modern American law we might call that third-party liability. And from a few years ago, a durable favorite post: “Toronto schools: Halloween insensitive to witches.”
Pro se (lawyerless) litigants in Connecticut with low income have been allowed to sue without paying the ordinary $350 filing fee, and some have made the most of the situation by filing scads of suits. In May, following publicity about the high cost and hassle imposed on targets, the state adopted a law which “allows judges to review the details of a lawsuit before granting a plaintiff… a waiver from filing fees.” A former courthouse employee who testified in favor of the bill was himself named in a subsequent lawsuit by a litigants whose activities he had mentioned, along with various other defendants including the New London Day and one of its reporters. [WFSB via @SickofLawsuits]
According to research by Yale law professor Donald Elliott, early American civil practice empowered judges to review the details of a lawsuit for adequacy at its outset, and before a target was faced with major costs of response. That practice — dropped later during the purported modernization of our legal system — would come in handy in screening out ill-founded or tactical suits, and not just regarding in forma pauperis (indigent-filed) cases.
On the other hand, it seems to be open season on opponents in the Nutmeg State: lawyers will continue to enjoy “absolute immunity” from being sued by their opponents on charges of fraud. “Donna Simms [client of the lawyers in question] said she wasn’t excited about the decision because she’s been involved in court proceedings with her ex-husband for three decades and there may be more legal fights.” [Insurance Journal]