- Uh-oh: “40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities” [Pew Research, Cathy Young on Twitter (“OK, NOW can we stop the ‘naww, political correctness isn’t a threat to free speech, it’s just about courtesy’ spin?”)]
- Breezy but informative guide to why Schneiderman & Co. might hope to find, amid the general rule that the First Amendment protects business speech about public policy, an exception/ loophole for business speech about public policy when it affects securities [Matt Levine, Bloomberg View; earlier on climate speech investigations here, etc.]
- “Lawsplainer: How The Sixth Circuit Stood Up To Hecklers (And Cops)” [Popehat on Michigan case of Bible Believers v. Wayne County, Dearborn protesters threatened with arrest for “disorderly conduct” arising from prospect of violence against them]
- Discrimination law: “Can Office Depot be forced to print flyers that it disapproves of?” [Eugene Volokh; compare Hands On Originals case in Kentucky]
- Scary: UK’s Muslim Council calls for controls on UK press coverage of Islamic issues [Ben Flanagan, Al-Arabiya] Prominent Labour MP says he would have “no problem” with reintroducing blasphemy laws [National Secular Society]
- Cook County sheriff sent letterhead takedown demands to Backpage.com over sex ads, but Supreme Court has looked askance at informal you’d-better-not-publish-this pressure by government [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- Portland, Ore. police department “encourages the reporting to law enforcement” of “offensive language used on social media” even when not illegal. It does? [Charles Cooke]
- Those who want to protect American university life from mob intimidation, speak now or forever hold your peace [Conor Friedersdorf on Yale and Missouri incidents, Greg Lukianoff on Yale, Thom Lambert on Missouri; more on Missouri; John Samples/Cato] “Sorry, kids, the First Amendment does protect ‘hate speech'” [Michael McGough, L.A. Times]
- #ExxonKnew folks, please listen: “engaging in scientific research and public advocacy shouldn’t be crimes in a free country. Using the criminal law to shame and encumber companies that do so is a dangerous arrogation of power.” [Bloomberg View editorial, earlier here, etc.]
- Judge orders Facebook post taken down as campaign contribution improper under Colorado law; while target of enforcement was public charter school, logic of ruling could extend to entirely private entities as well [Megan Geuss, ArsTechnica]
- Did anyone really not see this coming? Hate speech laws give authorities powerful weapon with which to crack down on speech by critics and minorities [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, on Kenya]
- Cato amicus brief, Kentucky Court of Appeals: printers shouldn’t be forced to print gay-pride messages they don’t agree with [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, Eugene Volokh]
- “That’s not harassing, stalking, libeling or cyber bullying. That’s called reporting.” Florida Man offers to help with online reputation management but digs himself and client in further [Tim Cushing, TechDirt, background]
- Feminist lawprof we’ve met before attacks Internet-protecting Section 230, confusion ensues [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
Months of agitation promoting a government investigation of supposedly wrongful advocacy on the issue of climate change have begun to pay off. As Holman Jenkins [paywall] notes, purportedly levelheaded Democrats and environmentalists are now jumping on the bandwagon for a probe of possible unlawful speech or non-speech by energy companies and advocacy groups they’ve backed. Perhaps the most remarkable name on that list is Hillary Clinton, who said the other day in New Hampshire, referring to Exxon, “There’s a lot of evidence that they misled people.” That’s right: Hillary Clinton, of all people, now wants to make it unlawful for those who engage in public controversy to mislead people.
The first high-profile law enforcer to bite, it seems, will be Eric Schneiderman, whose doings I’ve examined at length lately. “The New York attorney general has launched an investigation into Exxon Mobil to determine whether the country’s largest oil and gas company lied to investors about how global warming could hurt its balance sheets and also hid the risks posed by climate change from the public,” reports U.S. News. Show me the denier, as someone almost said, and I will find you the crime: “The Martin Act is a nearly empty vessel into which the AG can pour virtually any content that he wants,” as Reuters points out. More on the Martin Act here and here.
At Forbes, Daniel Fisher notes the possible origins of the legal action in an environmentalist-litigator confab in 2012 (“Climate Accountability Initiative”) in which participants speculated that getting access to the internal files of energy companies and advocacy groups could be a way to blow up the climate controversy politically. Fisher also notes that Justice Stephen Breyer, in the Nike v. Kasky case dismissed 12 years ago on other grounds, warned that it will tend to chill advocacy both truthful and otherwise by businesses if opponents can seize on disagreements on contentious public issues and run to court with complaints of consumer (or presumably securities) fraud.
Perhaps in this case chilling advocacy is the whole point. And very much related: my colleague Roger Pilon’s post last week, “Whatever Happened to the Left’s Love of Free Speech?“; Robert Samuelson (“The advocates of a probe into Exxon Mobil are essentially proposing that the company be punished for expressing its opinions.”)
- Understanding the liberal-conservative gap on what “free expression” means [Ronald K. L. Collins]
- Foes of Yik Yak “want universities to ban the very app that gives marginalized students a voice on campus” [Amanda Hess, earlier] No-platforming: “It is an anti-Enlightenment movement.” [Claire Lehmann on Germaine Greer case] At UCLA, administrators and activists are attacking the core right to free speech [Conor Friedersdorf]
- “If you know what you’re doing, you bring in the litigators before you start running your mouth.” [Popehat on game developer’s lawsuit threats, language]
- “Climate change, Galileo, and our modern Inquisition” [Edward Dougherty, Public Discourse/MercatorNet on climate RICO] “Veteran campaigner Bill McKibben and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders demand the Obama administration launch a criminal investigation [over Exxon’s allegedly improper issue advocacy]… victory over deniers and climate criminals is always just around the corner” [Holman Jenkins, Jr., WSJ, paywall]
- In Denmark, courage of cartoon editors belatedly recognized, yet fear governs press [Jacob Mchangama, Politico Europe]
- Federal judge: First Amendment forbids Kentucky officials to shut down parenting column written by N.C. psychologist on grounds that it constitutes practice of psychology in Kentucky without a license [Caleb Trotter, Pacific Legal Foundation]
- “To Tweet or Not to Tweet: How FDA Social Media Guidelines Violate the First Amendment” [Kirby Griffis and Tamara Fishman Barago, Washington Legal Foundation]
- NY lawyer sanctioned $10K for behavior at deposition [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
- Obvious dangers and the W.V. frat-house rear-launched bottle rocket case [Popehat, earlier here, here]
- Review of Liberty’s Refuge, new book on freedom of assembly by Washington U. lawprof John Inazu [Anthony Deardurff, Liberty Law]
- If forfeiture and asset freeze can be deployed in a copyright enforcement case, where will they strike next? [Timothy Lee, Cato]
- Hard-hitting Kim Strassel column on Al “Crucify Them” Armendariz [WSJ, earlier] Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson: “If you want to live by the precautionary principle, then crawl up in a ball and live in a cave.” [Coyote] Washington Post on the case for the Keystone pipeline [Adler]
- Losing two looks like carelessness: second Durham County D.A. removed from office for misconduct [Volokh, KC Johnson]
- Why won’t the Eighth Circuit recognize fraudulent misjoinder? [Beck]
Dirk Olin at Portfolio magazine on the Valdez spill litigation.
I’ve done a podcast for the Federalist Society on the Supreme Court punitive damages decision in Exxon Shipping v. Baker.
Looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more about the “Kivalina” (Alaskan Inupiat village) climate-change suit:
Over time, the two trial lawyers [Stephen Susman of Texas and Steve Berman of Seattle, both familiar to longterm readers of this site] have become convinced that they have the playbook necessary to win big cases against the country’s largest emitters. It’s the same game plan that brought down Big Tobacco. And in Kivalina — where the link between global warming and material damage is strong—they believe they’ve found the perfect challenger.
In February, Berman and Susman—along with two attorneys who have previously worked on behalf of the village and an environmental lawyer specializing in global warming—filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, coal, and electric companies, claiming that their emissions are partially responsible for the coastal destruction in Kivalina. More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.
(Stephan Faris, “Conspiracy Theory”, The Atlantic, June). For the theory of legally wrongful participation in public debate (as one might call it), as it surfaced in the tobacco litigation, see, for example, this 2006 post.
More background on the suit at the Native American Rights Fund’s blog, here and here, and at attorney Matthew Pawa’s site. Carter Wood at NAM “Shop Floor” links to a report by the American Justice Partnership and Southeastern Legal Foundation (PDF) entitled, “The Most Dangerous Litigation in America: Kivalina“.
The federal courts using the common law method of case-by-case adjudication may have institutional advantages over the more political branches, such as perhaps more freedom from interest group capture and more flexibility to tailor decisions to local conditions. Any such advantages, however, are more than offset by the disadvantages of relying on the courts in common resource management in general and in the management of the global atmospheric commons in particular. The courts are best able to serve a useful function resolving climate-related disputes once the political branches have acted by establishing a policy framework and working through the daunting task of allocating property or quasi-property rights in greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, states do have a state legislative alternative that is preferable to common law suits, and that federal courts can facilitate without any dramatic innovations in federal preemption or dormant commerce clause doctrine.
It’s like magic, we’ll just make Big Business pay:
Washington, D.C., lawyer Thomas Fay has spent years hounding the Libyan government for money on behalf of victims of terrorist attacks. Now he’s hoping to collect — from American companies.
Fay has sent letters to 13 brand-name corporations, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, notifying them that if he wins his case against Libya, he’ll be coming after them. He has even sent one to White & Case, the prominent law firm that recently signed on to defend Libya.
The gambit stems from a change in the law meant to make it easier for plaintiffs to secure judgments and collect from countries found responsible for sponsoring terrorist attacks. Until recently, those who had prevailed in court had few options for collecting.
But on Jan. 28, President George W. Bush signed a bill amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to allow plaintiffs to seek any asset owned by the terrorist-sponsoring country in reach of American courts, including frozen accounts or property managed by others. The amendment also permits victims to request punitive damages, which they couldn’t before, and eliminates some avenues for appeal. Under the new law, plaintiffs with pending cases had 60 days to file or refile claims.
Attorney Fay was among those lobbying for the new provision, which was sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). (W.J. Hennigan, Legal Times, Apr. 15).