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Department of Justice

The tests “disproportionately screened out female applicants, resulting in a disparate impact against those applicants.” Officers who are highly fit have more options in a situation where force is required — subduing a suspect without resort to a gun, for example. Still, courts have often gone along with demands to weaken tests and standards. [DoJ press release]

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  • Sad and bad: “House Republicans vote to block Obama’s new pardon attorneys” [MSNBC, Jacob Sullum, my Cato take]
  • Ready for sorghum-patch unrest? More than 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture agents are armed with submachine guns [Matt Welch]
  • “Cop who punched Occupy Wall Street protester gets tax-free disability pension” [New York Daily News, video of punch]
  • “Officials could identify just one [Bronx] prosecutor since 1975 … disciplined in any respect for misbehavior while prosecuting a criminal case.” [City Limits via Radley Balko]
  • Georgia drug raid: flash-bang grenade thrown into crib badly burning toddler [Tim Lynch, PoliceMisconduct.net "Worst of the Month"]
  • New book by Sidney Powell critical of USDOJ explores Ted Stevens, Enron prosecutions, has foreword by Judge Alex Kozinski ["Licensed to Lie": Craig Malisow/Houston Press, Legal Ethics Forum, Amazon]
  • Two times over the legal limit, hmm. Would it help to flash my badge? [Prosecutorial Accountability on state bar discipline against San Francisco deputy d.a.]

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I’ve got a longer write-up at Cato at Liberty (earlier) on the extraordinary outcome of a federal investigation into larcenous raids on bodegas by Philadelphia narcotics cops pursuant to sales of banned plastic zip-lock bags: U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger has closed the case without charges, the statute of limitations now having run.

This was a story that really got to me on many levels, as with this passage from the Philadelphia Daily News’s coverage: “Anh Ngo, like the Nams, said that she was never interviewed by investigators about what unfolded in her family grocery store in the Lower Northeast during a 2008 raid. Ngo, 30, said the officers smashed the [security surveillance] cameras with a sledgehammer and stole about $12,000, taking her mom’s diamond ring and emptying their wallets.” They took her mother’s ring! “‘To think that some light was shined on this by the Daily News and then the investigation just died, it’s really very frustrating,’ she said…. ‘[The cops] are living nice off of the money they stole from us.’” Notes one journalist: “The shop owners were all legal immigrants. None had criminal records. Nor had they ever met – they hailed from four corners of the city and spoke different languages.” Yet they told essentially the same stories.

The local press, specifically the Philadelphia Daily News, did everything one could reasonably wish to bring the story to light. In fact reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigation, “Tainted Justice,” and in March published a book on the scandal. The paper’s coverage of the dropping of charges has been likewise hard-hitting, including video of a bodega raid. In the end, none of it seemed to have worked in obtaining justice for the store owners.

I go on in the Cato piece to ask a few other questions about whether laws banning common items like mini-zip-lock bags are really a good idea given that they readily allow police to obtain search warrants against unsuspecting businesses; and whether we insist that store owners like these organize to defend their interests in the political process because the legal process will afford them no protection. Read it here.

And one other question: If we told these immigrant store owners that the American legal system works, would they believe us?

P.S. Internal police department discipline? The local Fraternal Order of Police union, according to its president, has been “standing behind the officers from the minute it happened.” Some don’t expect much:

“This is no big deal,” [the president of the police union lodge] said. “They’ll be handed some discipline and we’ll probably win in arbitration. . . . I don’t see anyone losing their jobs.”

On the other hand

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Last week the Department of Justice announced a deal with Toyota in which the Japanese automaker would fork over $1.2 billion and place itself under supervision for allegedly not being forthcoming enough with information at the height of the 2009-2010 panic over claims of unintended acceleration in its cars. The acceleration claims themselves had turned out to be almost entirely bogus, and were refuted in a report from the federal government’s own expert agency, NHTSA. Instead, the prosecution relied on a single count of wire fraud: Toyota had supposedly given regulators, Congress and the public an erroneously positive view of its safety efforts. It should therefore have to “forfeit” a huge sum supposedly related to the volume of business it did over a relevant period.

I’ve got an opinion piece in Monday’s Wall Street Journal (unpaywalled Cato version here, related Cato post here) about this whole appalling affair, which should frighten other businesses that might face draconian charges in future not just for compliance infractions, but more broadly for defending their products in the court of public opinion. Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s grandstanding and demagogic press release goes to some lengths to leave the impression “that unintended acceleration is some mysterious phenomenon of auto design unrelated to flooring the accelerator.” Someone here is irresponsibly misleading the motoring public and withholding vital safety information, but it’s not Toyota.

A few related links: NHTSA unintended acceleration report, Car & Driver’s coverage, and my 2010 opinion piece. And Holman Jenkins at the WSJ (paywalled) compares the still-unfolding story of ignition problems at GM, also discussed by Paul Barrett at Business Week.

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It must not have been easy to find an appointee even farther left than the departing Thomas Perez to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, but the search eventuated with apparent success in the Obama Administration’s naming of former NAACP Legal Defense Fund official Debo Adegbile. While his confirmation is a foregone conclusion under the Senate’s new simple-majority Harry Reid rules, Republicans may still make an issue of Adegbile’s backing of the EEOC in its controversial campaign to require employers to hire felons and limit the use of criminal background checks before employment. [Byron York, Washington Examiner] Update: nomination fails narrowly in Senate, opposition driven substantially by nominee’s involvement in public efforts on behalf of convicted Philadelphia cop-killer [Politico]

As we’ve been saying, the Obama Department of Justice has been taking a licking at the Supreme Court, managing to lose some decisions by a 9-0 margin. Damon Root compiles greatest hits and quotes me (thanks) on the Hosanna-Tabor case. [Reason]

Client protection be damned: “Asking would-be lawyers standard questions about their mental health, including their history of diagnosis and treatment, could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice.” [ABA Journal]

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If you’ll drop Magner v. Gallagher, your case against us before the Supreme Court, we’ll drop this other big case we’ve filed against you, the Department of Justice told the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. And thus the government averted an embarrassing high court opinion reining in some of its most avant-garde lending-discrimination theories [American Banker, Kevin Funnell/Bank Lawyer's Blog, WSJ, Hans Bader, Ted Frank]

“Delano Regional Medical Center in Kern County defended its English-only policy as necessary for patient care.” Nonetheless, without admitting wrongdoing, it yielded to a complaint from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center that it had improperly penalized Filipino-American workers for communicating with each other in their own language. The suit had alleged, among other things, that the hospital had been more liberal in permitting the use of other languages other than English, and that it had not prevented workers from making fun of accents and expressing ethnically-based hostility. [L.A. Times, ABA Journal]

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