The separatism-minded Spanish region of Catalonia has enacted a law under which “the person accused of homophobic acts will have to prove his innocence, reversing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.” [El Pais, TheLocal.es] The law includes fines for anti-gay occurrences in the workplace. Advocates defended the shifting of the burden of proof onto the accused to prove innocence as a “positive discrimination measure [that] is already in place for other offenses, such as domestic violence against women, in instances when it is very difficult to prove.” [VilaWeb] (& welcome Andrew Sullivan readers)
Legislature’s back in session and no citizen’s liberties are safe:
- SB 65 (Benson) would require gas station dealers to maintain operational video cameras and retain footage for 45 days [Maryland Legislative Watch]
- HB 20 (GOP Del. Cluster) would require all public schools to hire cops [Gazette, MLW]
- SB 28 (Frosh) would lower burden of proof for final domestic protective orders from “clear and convincing” to “preponderance of the evidence” [MLW, ABA] One problem with that is that orders already tag family members as presumed abusers in the absence of real evidence, are routinely used as a “tactical leverage device” in divorces, and trip up unwary targets with serious criminal penalties for trying to do things like see their kids;
- Driving while suspected of gun ownership: what unarmed Florida motorist went through at hands of Maryland law enforcement [Tampa Bay Online] 2014 session in Annapolis can hardly be worse for gun rights than 2013, so it stands to reason it’ll be better [Hendershot’s]
- State begins very aggressive experiment in hospital cost controls: “I am glad there is an experiment, but I’m also glad I live in Virginia.” [Tyler Cowen]
- Scenes from inside the failed Maryland Obamacare exchange [Baltimore Sun] Lt. Gov.: now’s not the time to audit or investigate the failed launch because that’d just distract us from it [WBAL]
- Corridors run pink as Montgomery County school cafeterias battle scourge of strawberry milk [Brian Griffiths, Baltimore Sun]
- Plus: A left-right alliance on surveillance and privacy in the legislature [my new Cato at Liberty post]
- How did Maryland same-sex marriage advocates win last year against seemingly long odds? [Stephen Richer, Purple Elephant Republicans citing Carrie Evans, Cardozo JLG; thanks to @ToddEberly as well as Carrie and Stephen for kind words]
From Britain: “Domestic abuse involving “emotional blackmail” – but no violence – could become a criminal offense carrying a heavy jail term under tough new measures published for the first time.” [David Barrett, Telegraph]:
“Critically, its [the draft’s] definition of abuse includes “controlling or coercive behavior” which would “encompass but is not limited to physical, financial, sexual, psychological or emotional abuse”.
“Controlling behavior” would also lead to criminal charges, including when a partner makes another person “subordinate”, “exploits their resources” or “deprives them of the means needed for independence”.
The offense would apply to abuse committed against any spouse, partner or former partner, regardless of gender.
As Pamela Stubbart notes at the Daily Caller, when based on purely psychological and emotional interactions and states of dependence, concepts like “control” and “coercion” are at best highly subjective affairs, inviting unpredictable legal application as well as he-said-she-said legal battles in the wake of breakups or other relationship failures. The measure would also threaten criminal liability for some speech (e.g., emotionally hurtful insults not involving threats of violence) that would often be included in definitions of free speech. Meanwhile, a ban on exploiting partners’ resources or denying partners financial independence threatens to throw a shadow of criminal liability over many marital and romantic arrangements long deemed unproblematic, whether or not egalitarian.
Barrett in the Telegraph notes that while the cross-party group of Members of Parliament who are introducing the bill do not speak for the Cameron administration, they have a record of some success at getting their ideas on domestic violence enacted into legislation. Offenses will carry a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.
Related: periodic proposals in state legislatures and elsewhere to ban “workplace bullying” (more) raise some of the same issues, as do enactments (like “Grace’s Law” in Maryland) endeavoring to ban “cyber-bullying.”
Because the important thing is to show that lawmakers have their hearts in the right place, which means not lingering over doubts about the constitutionality of the restrictions on speech or the implied rebuke to double-jeopardy norms or the nature of the delegation of federal power to tribal courts. Who cares about that stuff anyway when there’s a message to be sent about being tough on domestic violence?
P.S. In case you wondered, the U.N. is in favor.
- Eugene Volokh on civil liberties problems with the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization [first, second posts]
- More coverage of the “N.C. vs. diet advice blogger” story we noted in February [Sara Burrows/Carolina Journal, Brian Doherty/Reason]
- A case for an administrative alternative to asbestos litigation [Michael Hiltzik, L.A. Times] More on administered compensation funds [Adam Zimmerman, Prawfs]
- Scuttle-the-boat insurance fraud scheme goes amusingly wrong [Lowering the Bar]
- “To lower prices at the pump, abolish the boutique fuel regime” [Steven Hayward, Weekly Standard]
- Supreme Court denies certiorari in NYC rent control case [Trevor Burrus, Cato; earlier here and here] But it does grant cert in Cato-backed property rights action [Ark. Fish & Game v. U.S.; Shapiro]
- New Zealand’s innovative public policies: left, right or something else? [Eric Crampton] Let’s be more like the Scandinavian countries [Tim Worstall, UK] Don’t forget loser-pays…
A new Massachusetts law that went into effect last year allows neighbors and other unrelated complainants to seek restraining orders against each other, a legal remedy formerly confined mostly to use between family members. But there’s been a surge of filings seeking the new “harassment prevention orders,” and according to the clerk of the Boston municipal court, the law has wound up empowering “every kook in the world” to “file a harassment order against their neighbor or landlord or someone who just annoys them.” Among cases: “One man took his neighbor to Malden District Court for allegedly blowing leaves on his property, and a woman in Boston Municipal Court insisted that actor Chuck Norris used high frequency radio transmissions to harass her at home.” [Boston Globe]
- Paper by Lester Brickman previews his much-anticipated new book Lawyer Barons [Mass Tort Lit, SSRN] More: Sheila Scheuerman, TortsProf.
- “A Players’ Class Action Against the NFL for Concussions?” [Russell Jackson]
- C’mon, DoJ, stop spreading domestic violence myths [Christina Hoff Sommers, USA Today]
- “Historians as Experts: A Plea for Help” [Bill Childs, TortsProf; related, Nathan Schachtman]
- Might not really work, though: “A call for aviation liability reform in South Dakota” [PoL]
- “Chevron Turns Tables on Ecuador Plaintiffs; Sues Them” [WSJ Law Blog, ShopFloor, more, yet more, NYLJ]
- Hedge funder plays race card against NYC’s famed Dakota co-op. How plausibly? [Business Insider]
- N.C. official: citizen who challenged road plans might be practicing engineering without a license [N&O]
A Florida man was arrested for violating a protective order prohibiting contact with his estranged spouse after he attempted to “friend” her on Facebook [Slatest via Josh Blackman]