Duel of the expert witnesses: “The ‘violent sleepwalking’ defense worked for a man who strangled his 4-year-old and tried to kill his other two children. A jury decided unanimously that Joseph Anthony Mitchell is not guilty of murder and attempted murder after an expert witness said he was effectively unconscious at the time of his attacks four years ago.” [AP/Fayetteville, N.C. Observer]
Following the unexplained death of a gardener at a millionaire’s estate in Hampshire, England, a coroner has been told that it is more likely than not that brushing against the poisonous common garden plant aconitum, known variously as wolfsbane or monkshood, must have caused the man’s decease. [Independent]
Maggie Bloom, who is representing the family, said in the pre-inquest hearing yesterday that the initial blood sample had been destroyed – despite being against hospital policy – and that later samples that were retained could be useless as the poison leaves the body within a day.
New questions about the work in a shaken-baby-conviction case of Steven Hayne, the controversial state medical examiner whose work has been much defended by Mississippi Attorney General and perennial Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood. [Radley Balko, Washington Post; earlier on Hayne and on shaken baby cases]
After the spectacular crash of a Porsche Carrera GT killed driver Roger Rodas and his passenger, Hollywood actor Paul Walker, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol investigated and concluded that the crash was due not to mechanical problems but to unsafe speeds of up to 94 mph; the vehicle crashed into three trees. Longtime Overlawyered favorite attorney Mark Geragos “said he hired the top experts in the country” for an unbiased evaluation. The resulting wrongful death lawsuit by Kristine M. Rodas against automaker Porsche “says her husband was driving at 55 mph” contrary to the official version. [New York Post]
- “Nullification” a non-starter, but states do have ways to resist federal encroachment [Amy Pomeroy, Libertas Utah, with podcast] Passport to Baraboo? State GOP resolutions committee backs “Wisconsin’s right, under extreme circumstances, to secede.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
- Flawed forensics: “DUI expert pleads no contest to perjury charges, gets house arrest and probation” [PennLive]
- “Insurance: The Musical” turned out to be an April Fool’s, a pity since I was looking forward to the actuary production number [Insurance Journal, but see (David Skurnick, “Cut My Rate,” set in California Insurance Department) and more (“The Sting”)]
- Executive power grab? New F.H. Buckley book on “The Rise of Crown Government in America” [Tyler Cowen, with Canada comparison]
- My appearance on Anne Santos’s radio show discussing lawsuit culture [KNTH]
- If General Motors objects to direct consumer sales freedom for Tesla, perhaps the answer is to set GM free too [Dan Crane, Truth on the Market; James Surowiecki/New Yorker, Adam Hartung via Stephen Bainbridge]
- James Maxeiner on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure after 75 years [Common Good]
I’ve got a new post up at Cato (“Sixth Circuit: You’re Drunk, EEOC, Go Home“) on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s spectacular loss yesterday at the Sixth Circuit in the Kaplan case. As I comment, the victory for the defendant is
all the more impressive because one of the three judges on the opinion is liberal lion Damon Keith, about as sympathetic a judicial ear as the EEOC could normally hope for. It’s a sharp setback for the agency’s dubious “disparate impact” campaign against employer use of credit and criminal records in hiring. And it’s also part of a pattern of rebuffs and defeats the EEOC has been dealt by judges across the country since President Obama turned the agency on a sharp leftward course with his appointments.
The Sixth Circuit has actually been one of the EEOC’s better circuits in recent years. For example, it reversed a Michigan federal judge who in 2011 had awarded $2.6 million in attorneys’ fees to Cintas, the employee-uniform company, and reinstated the lawsuit. In doing so, the appellate panel nullified what had been the lower court’s findings of “egregious and unreasonable conduct” by the agency, including a “reckless sue first, ask questions later strategy.” The commission hailed the reversal as one of its big legal wins — although when one of your big boasts is getting $2.6 million in sanctions against you thrown out, it might be that you don’t have much to brag about.
For some other recent EEOC courtroom setbacks, check our roundup of last month. If you wonder why the commission persists in its extreme aggressiveness anyway, one answer may be that the strategy works: most defendants settle, and the commission hauled in a record $372 million in settlements last year. Yet here and there, as with Kaplan, defendants decide to put up a fight, with instructive results. When will Congress begin to hold the commission accountable? More: Hans Bader, CEI.
- New insight into Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) casts doubt on criminal convictions [Radley Balko, earlier here, etc.]
- “The Shadow Lengthens: The Continuing Threat of Regulation by Prosecution” [James Copland and Isaac Gorodetski, Manhattan Institute]
- Police busts of “johns” thrill NYT’s Kristof [Jacob Sullum, earlier on the columnist]
- Sasha Volokh series on private vs. public prisons [Volokh]
- “Police agencies have a strong financial incentive to keep the drug war churning.” [Balko on Minnesota reporting]
- Forfeiture: NYPD seizes innocent man’s cash, uses it to pad their pensions [Institute for Justice, Gothamist] “Utah lawmakers quietly roll back asset forfeiture reforms” [Balko] “The Top 6 Craziest Things Cops Spent Forfeiture Money On” [IJ video, YouTube]
- After Florida trooper nabbed Miami cop for driving 120 mph+, 80 officers accessed her private info [AP]
- Still money left in that piggy bank: Justice Department shakes $1.7 billion out of J.P. Morgan because its custody wing kept handling a primary Bernie Madoff account while a distant equity desk grew suspicious of him, in what “looks a bit like a tax on bigness and integration” [Matt Levine, Bloomberg; NPR].
- Legacy of TARP one of cronyism and lawlessness [Mark Calabria, USA Today]
- NYT assails a couple of academics as mouthpieces for Wall Street, Felix Salmon has a bit to say about that [Reuters, EconBrowser, Bainbridge, Pirrong] Daniel Fisher on a possible tie-in with Times reporter David Kocieniewski’s earlier piece flaying Goldman Sachs over aluminum warehousing [Forbes]
- “Court Receptive to Overturning SEC’s Conflict Minerals Disclosure Rule” [Fed Soc Blog]
- “Target Breach — Are Dodd-Frank ‘Swipe Fee’ Price Controls to Blame?” [John Berlau, CEI “Open Market”] “Volcker Rule Overshoots Wall Street to Hit Utah” [same]
- “CFPB and Disparate Impact” [Hester Peirce, Point of Law]
- “It might cost you $39K to crowdfund $100K under the SEC’s new rules” [Sherwood Neiss, VentureBeat via @jerrybrito]
- Here’s a novel proposal for corporate governance: use the rules agreed upon by the original parties to the transaction [Hodak]
- Metro-North train crash spurs calls for mandatory crash-prevention devices. Think twice [Steve Chapman]
- BP sues attorney Mikal Watts [Insurance Journal] Exaggerated Gulf-spill claims as a business ethics issue [Legal NewsLine]
- Pot-war fan: “Freedom also means the right not to be subjected to a product I consider immoral” [one of several Baltimore Sun letters to the editor in reaction to my piece on marijuana legalization, and Gregory Kline’s response]
- Aaron Powell, The Humble Case for Liberty [Libertarianism.org]
- Allegation: lawprof borrowed a lot of his expert witness report from Wikipedia [Above the Law]
- Frivolous “sovereign citizen” lawsuits on rise in southern Jersey [New Jersey Law Journal, earlier]
- Star of Hitchcock avian thriller had filed legal malpractice action: “Tippi Hedren wins $1.5 million in bird-related law suit” [Telegraph]