The House Judiciary Committee, by an 18-6 vote, has given its approval to the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2016, which would curtail the Department of Justice’s practice of using legal settlements to funnel money to favored groups [Rep. Bob Goodlatte press release, Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Dan Lungren testimony, U.S. Chamber] Earlier here (Randal John Meyer), here, etc.
A federal judge has handed down one of the most spectacular rebukes in memory to the courtroom conduct of the U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ], for hiding the ball in a challenge to the administration’s DAPA immigration initiative. Writes Ilya Shapiro:
[Judge] Hanen’s remedy consists of five components:
(1) all the lawyers at DOJ headquarters who litigate in the 26 states that challenged DAPA (most of them) have to go back to school for an annual ethics course taught by an outside expert;
(2) DOJ has to certify annually for five years that these lawyers are indeed going to school;
(3) the attorney general must report within 60 days “a comprehensive plan to prevent this unethical conduct from ever occurring again,” and “what steps she is taking to ensure that . . . the Justice Department trial lawyers tell the truth — the entire truth.”; …
Declaring that the lawyers had acted in “bad faith” and that their “conduct is certainly not worthy of any department whose name includes the word ‘Justice,'” Hanen added: “The court does not have the power to disbar the counsel in this case, but it does have the power to revoke the pro hac vice status of out-of-state lawyers who act unethically in court.” [Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner; Josh Blackman, NRO] But see: Orin Kerr asks whether the order exceeds the court’s jurisdiction.
- Department of Justice: we’re going to use that Dear Colleague Title IX letter as a basis for prosecution, and colleges are going to need to crack down on speech if they want to stay in compliance [Eugene Volokh, Scott Greenfield, and FIRE, on University of New Mexico case] A brief history of how we got here from the Dear Colleague letter [Justin Dillon and Matt Kaiser, L.A. Times; my Commentary piece three years ago anticipating the basics] Why won’t even a single university challenge this stuff in court? [Coyote, earlier]
- Dangers of “safe spaces”: Mike Bloomberg’s Michigan commencement address is getting noticed [Bloomberg View, Deadline Detroit, Soave] “Slogans Have Replaced Arguments” [John McWhorter]
- Compulsory chapel will make no provision for adherents of dissenting sects: Oregon State plans training incoming freshmen in “social justice learning,” “diversity,” and “inclusivity.” [Robby Soave]
- Running various departments at George Mason U. along lines recommended by Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”: no problem. Naming law school after Antonin Scalia: that might politicize things [Michael Greve via Bainbridge]
- USC cancels visiting panel of gaming industry stars because it’s all-male [Heat Street]
- Harvard aims sanctions at students who join off-campus, unofficial single-sex clubs [The Crimson, FIRE, background Althouse, Greenfield]
- Margot Honecker, hated DDR education minister, filled schools with indoctrination, informants. Glad that era’s over [Washington Post, Telegraph, SkyNews obituaries]
- To keep your sex business free from the coils of federal regulation, your best bet might in fact be Ted Cruz, implacable opponent of Operation Choke Point [Elizabeth Nolan Brown; more from Snopes on rather silly attacks on Cruz for doing job lawyers are expected to do for clients in Texas case]
- Snoopy, you’re not systematically important: judge frees MetLife from SIFI designation under Dodd-Frank [Thaya Brook Knight/Cato, John Cochrane]
- What with Sen. Elizabeth Warren trying to put a lid on some companies’ criticism of the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, hope it’s still OK for the rest of us to talk about it [Thaya Brook Knight, Cato]
- Sen. Warren isn’t only one using letters to SEC to browbeat businesses: New York City elected Public Advocate Letitia (“Tish”) James tries to hassle gunmaker Sturm Ruger to comply with various demands of gun control advocates [Manikandan Raman, Benzinga/Yahoo; more on Ms. James and her blames]
- Next term Supreme Court will consider case on scope of insider trading law, Salman v. U.S. [Ira Stoll, more] “Returning to Common-Law Principles of Insider Trading After United States v. Newman” [Richard Epstein, Yale Law Journal on Second Circuit’s decision via Stoll]
- DoJ cracks down on big-investor activism — at least when of a sort antitrust enforcers don’t like [Matt Levine]
- Never know who’ll benefit: supersedeas appeal bond limits, sought by tort reformers, may now save Gawker from ruin [WLF, earlier] Plus a Florida appellate court ruling on newsworthiness, and other reasons the scurrilous media outlet is hoping for better luck on appeal if it can get past the bond hurdle [Politico New York]
- Governance in Indian country: Native American lawyer Gabe Galanda disbarred by Nooksack tribe while fighting disenrollment of some of its members [Seattle Times, followup (tribal judge rules due process was lacking, but in so doing, as employee serving at tribe’s pleasure, “potentially left herself open to being fired”)]
- Revenge of the broken-winged pterodactyl: Maryland Democrats accuse each other of complicity in gerrymander in fight for Van Hollen’s House seat [me at Free State Notes]
- Oh, DoJ: “enforced donation to ‘public service’ organizations that just happen to support the ruling party’s goals” [Jeb Kinnison citing this post of ours on mortgage settlements]
- “Trump’s long trail of litigation” [Brody Mullins and Jim Oberman, WSJ; our earlier here, here, here, etc.]
- Lansing prosecutor, an “outspoken advocate for ending human trafficking and prostitution,” now facing charges of go ahead and guess [WILX; our Eliot Spitzer coverage]
- Open-minded: liberal-leaning Marshall Project publishes Heather MacDonald, often found on other side of criminal justice debates, on why police shootings of “unarmed” persons are not as clear-cut a matter as one might think;
- “Report: Dashcam Equipment in Chicago Police Vehicles ‘Intentionally’ Destroyed” [Bryant Jackson-Green, Illinois Policy]
- Sure-footed SWAT response to San Bernardino terror attack proved value of police militarization, right? Not so fast [Anthony Fisher]
- In December Cato held a conference on “Policing America,” catch up with the videos here [Jonathan Blanks]
- “Head of multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task force says forfeiture reform may spell the end of these roving, self-funded teams of drug-fighting cops who aren’t answerable to any local authority. He makes a good argument, but not the argument he thinks he’s making.” [that’s Radley Balko summarizing Tim Helldorfer, Memphis Commercial Appeal]
- U.S. Department of Justice “Wants to Punish Abusive Ferguson Police with Massive Raises” [Scott Shackford, more on civil rights suit]
“Can Apple be forced to hack its own iPhones? … This week, the FBI obtained a court order demanding Apple’s help breaking into the iPhone used by [San Bernardino terrorist] Syed Rizwan Farook.” My Cato colleague Julian Sanchez has an introduction to the case at the New York Post. More: Nicholas Weaver/LawFare, Brad Reed/BGR, Sanchez Cato podcast.
Did our message finally get through? (See “How ADA-for-the-Web Regulations Menace Online Freedom,” 2013). Or that of other commentators like Eric Goldman, who warned (of a related court case) that “all hell will break loose” if the law defines websites as public accommodations and makes them adopt “accessibility”? At any rate, the U.S. Department of Justice, after years of declaring that it was getting ready any day now to label your website and most others you encounter every day as out of compliance with the ADA, has suddenly turned around and done this:
In an astonishing move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it will not issue any regulations for public accommodations websites until fiscal year 2018 — eight years after it started the rulemaking process with an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).
Yes, eight years is a very long time for a rulemaking, especially one pursuing issues that have been in play for many years (that link discusses testimony I gave in 2000). And predictably, some disabled interest-group advocates are already charging that the latest delay is “outrageous” and shows “indifference.” More likely, it shows that even an administration that has launched many audacious and super-costly initiatives in regulation has figured out that this one is so audacious and super-costly that it should be – well, not dropped, but left as a problem for a successor administration.
Besides, as so often happens, for regulated parties the issue is (to borrow a phrase) not freedom from obligation, but freedom from specification as to what that obligation might be. Court decisions, which for years ran mostly against ADA advocates’ “public accommodations” claim, now point confusingly in both directions. And in the mean time both private litigants and DoJ itself continue to sue online providers and fasten on them new settlements and decrees, as when Amazon lately agreed to caption more videos for the deaf; Harvard and MIT, meanwhile, were still being sued for the audacity of having offered uncaptioned online courses to the public. Minh Vu and Kristina Launey of Seyfarth Shaw:
…since issuing that  ANPRM, DOJ’s enforcement attorneys have investigated numerous [entities claimed to be] public accommodations, pressuring them to make their websites accessible. DOJ even intervened in recent lawsuits (e.g., here, here, and here) taking the position that the obligation to have an accessible website has existed all this time in the absence of any new regulations.
The next administration – or better yet Congress – should summon the courage to give a firm and final No.
[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]
- “Justice Department suspends abusive asset forfeiture program – for now” [Ilya Somin]
- Tulsa sheriff steers seizures to judge it once employed, invokes unclaimed property law which dodges burden of proof [The Frontier]
- Op-ed claims that if Maryland cops grab your stuff you must be a “drug dealer,” trial or no [Joseph Cassilly, Baltimore Sun]
- Quest for revenue-self-sufficient law enforcement can end in “independent, self-funding armed gangs” [Noah Smith, Bloomberg View]
- “Get rid of policing for profit in Michigan” [Angela Erickson, Detroit News]
- Congress has twice tried to make it easier for prevailing claimants to recover attorneys’ fees when recovering seized property, but the government finds ways to slip around [Scott Greenfield]
- Value of assets seized by law enforcement in U.S. in 2014 exceeds value taken by burglars [Armstrong Economics]
- “In fact, none of the mass shootings that have grabbed headlines in the last few years would have been prevented by the gun controls proposed in response to them, and Obama’s new list of warmed-over ideas does not break any new ground in that respect.” [Jacob Sullum] More: Dave Kopel; Ken White at Popehat on the President’s rhetoric of rights; Jonathan Adler notes that ATF’s new guidance on who’s a gun dealer either restates existing law (yawn) or violates the Administrative Procedure Act (whee!); Eugene Kontorovich wonders whether that guidance is vague on purpose; and Josh Blackman writes that while most of the President’s orders don’t go much beyond “hortatory fluff” (no more letting attorneys set up gun trusts for MS-13 gang members!) they help lay the groundwork for more intrusive measures to come;
- “Judge tosses consumer suit claiming SeaWorld falsely asserts its whales are well-treated” [ABA Journal]
- In a single press release on Missouri mosque vandalism case, the U.S. Department of Justice misleads readers in two important ways [Eugene Volokh on legal significance of burned Koran, omission of ideological content in sprayed graffiti slogans]
- New Greg Ip book “Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe” [Tyler Cowen and more, Arnold Kling]
- Plaintiff’s lawyers “salivating at the prospects for big paydays” from self-driving car accidents [Bloomberg]
- Do “arms trafficking” rules extend even to domestic sharing of data files containing information on three-dimensional printing of guns? [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- So the Graubard Miller/Alice Lawrence mega-fee saga, often covered in this space, turns out to have a Sheldon Silver connection [Wayne Barrett]