As grist for expert witness testimony and forensics, mathematics sounds as if it should be more rigorous and amenable to consistent results than other disciplines — psychiatry, say. “However, mathematicians Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez argue in Math on Trial that in at least 10 instances over the past century, innocent or wrongly accused defendants have been imprisoned or publicly harassed in part due to simple mathematical errors at trial, such as believing two events are independent (when they are not) or underappreciating the power of exponential growth.” [Bharath Parthasarathy, Washington Independent Review of Books]
“In answers to interrogatories, [the mesothelioma-diagnosed] plaintiff identified Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder as the sole source of her asbestos exposure.” [Ron Miller]
And we’re not just talking the amateur meth kind. [Scott Greenfield]
- How’d we get shortages of hospital and community sterile injectables? Check out the role of FDA Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) regs, warning letters, and resulting plant closures [Tabarrok, with comments controversy; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
- California orthopedist sues, wins damages against medical society that took action against him based on his testimony for plaintiff in liability case [American Medical News; earlier here, etc.]
- Can’t have that: medical apology should be opposed because it “can create an emotional connection with an injured patient that makes the patient less likely to ask for compensation.” [Gabriel Teninbaum (Suffolk Law), Boston Globe]
- Feds’ war on painkillers is bad news for legit patients and docs [Reuters, Mike Riggs/Reason]
- New federal pilot project in Buffalo will provide concierge-style home care to emergency-department frequent fliers. Spot the unintended consequence [White Coat]
- Dastardly drug companies? Deconstructing Glaxo SmithKline’s $3 billion settlement [Greg Conko, MPT] More: Beck, Drug and Device Law, on suits over “what are mostly medically valid and beneficial off-label uses”. Paging Ted Frank: “HIPAA’s Vioxx toll” thesis may depend on whether one accepts that the premised Vioxx toll has been established [Stewart Baker, Ted's recent post]
- U.K.: “Lawyers seizing lion’s share of payouts in NHS negligence cases” [Telegraph]
- Silver linings in SCOTUS ObamaCare ruling? [Jonathan Adler and Nathaniel Stewart] “DNC Scientists Disprove Existence of Roberts’ Taxon” [Iowahawk humor] Did Ginsburg hint at the court’s direction on the HHS contraception mandate? [Ed Morrissey, Hot Air]
[cross-posted at Cato at Liberty]
When a psychic calls in to inform you of an extremely sensational crime story undetected up to now, think carefully before you act [Scott Greenfield]
The other day the Chicago Tribune documented a longstanding campaign (see Friday link) to get government bodies to adopt standards requiring flameproofing of furniture upholstery, carpets and other household materials. Turns out key actors in that campaign were companies that make the chemicals used in flameproofing, which thereby guaranteed themselves a giant market for their products, as well as cigarette companies that worried that they would face regulatory and legal pressure over fires caused by careless smoking and decided to pursue a strategy of turning the issue into someone else’s problem.
Unfortunately, according to the Tribune series, the supposedly flameproof furnishings 1) aren’t necessarily very good at reducing fire risk and 2) are doused with chemicals that one might not want rubbing off on one’s family and pets. That’s aside from the regulations’ obvious cost in making furnishings more expensive and narrowing consumer choice by excluding producers unable or unwilling to use the chemical treatments. Whether or not you accept the series’ interpretation in all respects — the authors tend to taken an alarmist line, for example, on the chemicals’ environmental dangers — it’s useful as reminder #83,951 that government regulation often is driven by motives quite different from those advertised, and in particular by business lobbies whose interest is frequently squarely opposed to laissez-faire.
On Sunday, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, criticized lately in this space for his views on supposed Big Beer responsibility for Indian reservation alcoholism, addressed the flameproofing story in his column. After reciting the controversy — laying a particular emphasis on chemical alarmism, long a specialty of his — Kristof concludes as follows:
This campaign season, you’ll hear fervent denunciations of “burdensome government regulation.” When you do, think of the other side of the story: your home is filled with toxic flame retardants that serve no higher purpose than enriching three companies. The lesson is that we need not only safer couches but also a political system less distorted by toxic money.
Which affords James Taranto of the WSJ’s “Best of the Web” this response:
The guy is so blinded by ideology that he fails to notice he has just given an example of burdensome government regulation.
…can become a certified forensic consultant, it seems. “As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an expert witness in criminal and civil trials. For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate.” Do the lab coats come in cat sizes? [Leah Bartos, ProPublica]
In a much-watched (earlier) lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of up to 6,000 blacks not hired or promoted by the state government of Iowa, a judge rejected a theory that hiring and promotion were tainted by unconscious “implicit” bias. Judge Robert Blink did not find persuasive the expert testimony proffered for the plaintiff’s theories, and said plaintiffs had not identified a particular discriminatory practice responsible for their situation as required by law. He also noted that blacks appeared to fare better in the state employment process than they did in private sector hiring. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller “noted that much of the case involved blacks who were passed over for jobs after sending in applications in which they did not list their race.” [AP/NPR, Des Moines Register]
P.S. Thanks to commenter wfjag for directing our attention to this December AP dispatch with its truly wince-making example of Lead Plaintiff Fail:
The lead plaintiff in a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed by black workers against the state of Iowa is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to using her position at Iowa Workforce Development to carry out a fraud scheme in which she embezzled $43,000 in benefits meant for jobless Iowans. … Her claims have been front and center during the lengthy litigation….
“Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people nationwide, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.” Among the cases: that of Santae Tribble, who spent 28 years in prison following a murder-robbery conviction based on claimed hair identification now known to be erroneous. [Washington Post, more]
Follow-up from the Post on the Justice Department’s lack of transparency; and see my colleague Tim Lynch’s post at Cato.
More evidence that innocent parents are in prison over infant deaths [Emily Bazelon, Slate; earlier here, etc.]
Class action lawyers are suing the government of Iowa on an theory that “subconscious” bias resulted in employment discrimination against black employees and job-seekers. “The plaintiffs — up to 6,000 African-Americans passed over for state jobs and promotions dating back to 2003 — do not say they faced overt racism or discriminatory hiring tests.” Instead, they are relying on the work of an expert witness who is the developer of something called an Implicit Associations Test meant to measure subconscious bias. The controversy invites courts to revisit some issues of statistical and indirect proof that came up, without necessarily being resolved, in the landmark Supreme Court case of Wal-Mart v. Dukes. [AP via Justin Shubow, FedSoc Blog]
Many links that tend to harmonize with arguments made in Schools for Misrule, along with a few others:
- Judges criticize law reviews: “The high bench vs. the ivory tower” [Richard Brust, ABA Journal]
- “The fervor of the sixties penetrated law schools quite passionately” [Ann Althouse quoting an introduction to clinical legal education]
- More on forthcoming Brian Tamanaha book, Failing Law Schools [ABA Journal]
- “The Coming Crash in Legal Education: How We Got Here, and Where We Go Now” [Richard W. Bourne, SSRN via Kenneth Anderson/Volokh] How law, medicine and architectural schools joined the academy [Richard Neumann, Jr./SSRN via Caron]
- How lucrative are the sidelines a lawprof can develop, such as expert witness work? It varies greatly, but one star’s NYC condo is for sale for $15.9M [Julie Zeveloff, Business Insider]
- “Lawsuits against law schools weak: experts” [Reuters]
- “Obama hugging Derrick Bell” video: neither newsy nor likely to damage the President’s image, and why again is Prof. Bell supposed to be a more alarming connection than Prof. Ogletree himself? [Breitbart, Hinderaker, Cooke/NRO, and an HLS reminiscence from David French at NRO]