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Police and prosecution roundup

by Walter Olson on September 24, 2014

  • “Shaneen Allen’s prosecutor might be having second thoughts” [Radley Balko, earlier] Sequel: Indeed.
  • “If you get a parking ticket, you are guilty until you have proven yourself innocent …. And that’s worked well for us.” — “senior” Washington, D.C. government official [Washington Post quoting inspector general report; also includes details on traffic camera protocols]
  • Not an Onion story: Eleventh Circuit chides use of SWAT methods in Florida barber shop inspections [ABA Journal ("It's a pretty big book, I’m pretty sure I can find something in here to take you to jail for"), Volokh, Balko, Greenfield] Militarized cop gear is bad, routinized use of SWAT tactics is worse [Jacob Sullum]
  • New England Innocence Project looking at several shaken-baby cases [Boston Herald, background]
  • Innocence commissions like North Carolina’s not a big budgetary line item as government programs go, alternatives may cost more [A. Barton Hinkle]
  • New evidence continues to emerge in Ferguson police shooting, but is nation still listening? [Scott Greenfield]
  • Prosecutors arrayed as organized pressure group is very bad idea to begin with, and more so when goal is to shrink citizens’ rights [AP on "Prosecutors Against Gun Violence"; Robert H. Jackson on prosecutors' power and role in society]

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Because the federal gun-disabilities provision in question, 18 U.S.C. § 922(n), kicks in on bare indictment for a felony, as opposed to conviction. [The Blaze] But is that constitutional? [Eugene Volokh, more; earlier on Perry indictment]

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August 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 21, 2014

  • “Brady Campaign loses lawsuit against Armslist (a gun classified ad site)” [Volokh]
  • Train for your bright future in federal employment as a FOIA Denial Officer [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • Chamber of Commerce alarmed at rise of class actions in Latin America [Kevin LaCroix/D & O Diary, Chamber report and Brazil sidebar]
  • Dear CBS Los Angeles: it’s okay to show a little skepticism regarding creationist’s claims in employment lawsuit [Skeptical Libertarian]
  • Historic role of guns in black civil rights struggle departs from polite conventional account [Charles E. Cobb, Jr., guestblogging on new book at Volokh: samples one, two, three, four]
  • Ranking law blogs based on their number of Feedly subscribers [Derek Muller; only a few single-author blogs score higher]
  • At the height of county fair season, it’s depressing to read about 4-H suits [Legal Geeks]
  • D.C.-area listeners: Today (Monday) I’m scheduled to join host Diane Rehm on her popular WAMU radio show, along with other panelists, tune in at 10 a.m. [update: transcript];
  • “A few people have pointed it out, but our ROE [Rules of Engagement] regarding who we could point weapons at in Afghanistan was more restrictive than cops in MO.” [@jeffclement, part of an interesting Storify on veterans’ opinions of Ferguson; related on gun-handling practice of Ferguson police last week as seen by gun aficionados [Reddit via VICE]
  • Obama should call for an end to the 1033 program, which drives local police militarization, says my Cato colleague Tim Lynch [CNN, Yahoo] Pentagon surplus grants to local police don’t correlate with terror threats (state that gets most per officer: Alabama) [WP] Missouri grant angle [David Mastio and Kelsey Rupp, USA Today]
  • SWAT raids on poker games and a comedian: John Stossel’s column this week is on Ferguson [Fox] The inimitable Mark Steyn [Steyn Online] And for balance here’s a contrary view from someone who views militarization as both inevitable and necessary [Jazz Shaw, Hot Air]
  • “What I Did After Police Killed My Son” [Politico; Michael Bell of Kenosha, Wis.]
  • Asset forfeiture, federal partnerships fed St. Louis County gear acquisition [Eapen Thampy, Forfeiture Reform] More background on forces fueling militarization [Glenn Reynolds, Popular Mechanics, 2006]
  • “The Missouri Highway Patrol, St. Louis County, and the City of Ferguson agree that public has the ‘right to record public events'” [Volokh, 2010 Cato video] “Prove the truth”: why cameras help good cops [Nick Gillespie]
  • Did feds try to pass off bogus paperwork in Maryland forfeiture case? [Van Smith, my two cents at Free State Notes, Radley Balko (and thanks for mention)]
  • “I’m not saying that warrants are completely useless.” [Ken at Popehat]
  • “Massachusetts is the only state that incarcerates people suffering from addiction who have not been convicted of crimes” [ACLU of Massachusetts]
  • “Where Would We Be If Not For Police In SWAT Gear Raiding Poker Games?” [Amy Alkon]
  • Class of federal crimes that shows the biggest racial disparity isn’t drug offenses, it’s gun offenses [Balko on Shaneen Allen case in New Jersey]
  • Our merciful laws: “I Saw a Man Get Arrested For a Sex Crime Because He Made a Scheduling Error” [Lenore Skenazy, Reason] “Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far” [Matt Mellema, Chanakya Sethi, and Jane Shim, Slate]
  • Police chief seeks to arrest one of own officers on brutality charge, state’s attorney says no [Scott Greenfield; Ed Krayewski, Reason; Enfield, Ct.]

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Ramsey Orta, whose street video of Eric Garner’s chokehold death at the hands of NYC cops became a worldwide sensation, has only days later been nabbed by that same police force on grounds of an unlawful gun infraction in what the police describe as a known drug location. “To decipher some of the police jargon, every location in New York other than St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a ‘known drug location’ as far as the police are concerned,” writes Scott Greenfield [Simple Justice]

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Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) has introduced a bill, the “Childrens Firearms Marketing Safety Act,” that would restrict the content of gun advertising, ostensibly on the grounds of protecting children. Eugene Volokh analyzes its terms and doubts that they make much sense unless one assumes that the purpose of the bill is “is to reduce as much as possible parentally approved gun use by minors. And of course the effect of the law, if it would be at all effective, would thus be to reduce the number of children who grow up familiar with guns and open to gun ownership — thus making broader gun controls easier in the future.”

Operation Choke Point

by Walter Olson on July 31, 2014

Cato event held earlier this month with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Cato senior fellow Mark Calabria. Here’s the description:

Launched in early 2013, “Operation Choke Point” is a joint effort by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the bank regulators to limit access to the bank payments system by various businesses. Initially targeted at small-dollar nonbank lenders, Choke Point has grown to cover a variety of legitimate, legal businesses that just happen to be unpopular with DOJ, such as gun dealers and porn stars. Initial responses from DOJ claimed such efforts were limited to illegal businesses committing fraud. A recent report by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reveals DOJ’s claims to be false. In today’s economy, almost any economic activity depends on access to the payments system; allowing DOJ, without trial or a right to appeal, to arbitrarily limit access represents an almost unprecedented abuse of power.

Earlier here. More: House hearing; Funnell.

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Oh, Mayor Bloomberg, you’ve gone and done it again.

P.S.: “The fact that they brushed us off really worked in our favor.” How well-roaded Pueblo, Colo. sent Bloomberg’s minions packing.

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July 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2014

  • As Brooklyn changes, so do its juries: “more sophisticated people… they don’t believe [plaintiffs] should be awarded millions of dollars for nothing.” [NY Post quoting plaintiff's lawyer Charen Kim]
  • Richard Epstein: Massachusetts buffer zone statute “should have been upheld, not struck down” [Hoover Institution, earlier on McCullen v. Coakley, my related comment]
  • “Runners” as in client-chasing for injury work: “Arkansas AG Files Suit Against Chiropractic ‘Runners'” [AP]
  • Fox, henhouse: 2012 law says local transit agencies must sit on boards helping set their own funding [Randal O'Toole, Cato]
  • No-good, terrible, really bad idea: occupational licensure for software professionals [Ira Stoll]
  • More proliferation of legally required video surveillance [Volokh; guns, cellphone sales]
  • How do you expect the IRS to back up headquarters emails when we throttle its IT budget down to a mere $2.4 billion? [Chris Edwards, Cato]

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The vote, which has occasioned little notice thus far in the press, took place on a proposed amendment brought to the House floor by Rep. Blane Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) and co-sponsored by three Democratic members (Cardenas, Hastings, Perlmutter) as well as two other Republicans (Mulvaney, Yoder) [Kelly Riddell, Washington Times] The investigation by Rep. Issa’s committee released last week capped a steadily mounting furor, starting among groups like payday lenders experiencing reduced access to the banking system but spreading to various “vice” businesses and the firearms community — assuming the administration is still distinguishing the latter from the former. Earlier here, here, here, etc.

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Report from Rep. Darrell Issa’s oversight committee blasts Operation Choke Point [The Hill, earlier here, here]

P.S.: More from Todd Zywicki at Volokh and Glenn Reynolds at USA Today; and earlier from American Banker and from the Washington Times (gun dealers say Operation Choke Point, FDIC guidelines squeezing their access to banks)]

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  • Boston’s North End, the home-as-one’s-castle doctrine, and how we got the Fourth Amendment [Ted Widmer, Globe]
  • NYT sniffs at Origination Clause as basis for ObamaCare challenge, but many framers of Constitution saw it as vital [Trevor Burrus, Forbes; Ilya Shapiro; four years ago on another Origination Clause episode]
  • Justice Scalia, concurring in Schuette, knocks the fabled Carolene Products footnote down a peg [Michael Schearer]
  • SCOTUS lets stand New Jersey’s very extreme gun control law. Was it serious about reviving the Second Amendment? [Ilya Shapiro]
  • Didn’t link this earlier: Kenneth Anderson discusses his excellent Cato Supreme Court Review article on Kiobel, the Alien Tort case [Opinio Juris]
  • Kurt Lash guestblogs on 14th Amendment privileges and immunities clause [Volokh Conspiracy]
  • Supreme Court reviving law/equity distinction? (Hope so.) [Samuel Bray, SSRN via Solum]

ReportSpeechPoster The Kansas Board of Regents has adopted a broad new policy barring employees, including faculty, from “improper use of social media,” which include content that “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or is “contrary to the best interests of the university,” with some narrow exceptions such as “academic instruction within the instructor’s area of expertise (emphasis added)” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, among other groups, have argued that the new policy “authorizes punishment for constitutionally protected speech, and … leaves professors unsure of what speech a university might sanction them for,” the result being a chilling effect on both free speech and academic freedom [FIRE, NPR]. The policy was adopted at the behest of critics of one professor’s controversial anti-gun tweet, and Charles C.W. Cooke at NRO says conservative regents should have been among the first to realize that professor-muzzling is not the way to respond.

KSU’s Dan Warner did a series of posters (Creative Commons permissions) skewering the new policy, including the one above; more on that here.

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on May 17, 2014

  • Civil libertarians won victories last term in restraining open-ended use of police surveillance, search and seizure: access to emails and social media postings older than six months will now require warrant, as will location tracking; new restrictions also placed on use of automatic license plate reading system data [ACLU 2014 policy report]
  • Bill that would have banned weapons on private school grounds, whether or not the school itself had objection, failed to make it out of committee [SB 353, earlier here, here]
  • Judge overturns state union’s takeover of Wicomico County teacher’s association [Mike Antonucci, more]
  • Vague definitions of “trafficking” + asset forfeiture: what could go wrong with Del. Kathleen Dumais’s plan? [Reason, WYPR "Maryland Morning", more (legislative agenda of "trafficking task force")]
  • In his spare time, Maryland Commissioner of Labor and Industry Ronald DeJuliis apparently likes to engage in urban beautification of the sign removal variety [Baltimore Sun, Quinton Report, Daily Record (governor's office considers criminal charges against appointee "personal" and relating to "after hours")]
  • Behind the controversy over Rockville firearms dealer’s plan to offer “smart gun” [David Kopel]
  • Baltimore tightens curfew laws, ’cause criminalizing kids’ being outside is for their own good [Jesse Walker, followup]
  • In Montgomery County, police-union demands for “effects bargaining” were a bridge too far even for many deep-dyed liberals, but union hasn’t given up yet [Seventh State]

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“The fencing club at North Dakota State University cannot hold practices on campus as a result of the school’s weapons policy, Campus Reform reported.” [University Herald; Valley News Live (Fargo/Grand Forks)]

Also, note the ambiguity of the next line, “Members of the newly formed club said that despite having no pointed tips or sharp blades, the school classifies the club’s equipment as weapons.” It sounds as if the school administration itself is being described as “having no pointed tips or sharp blades,” which might be a version of “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

More: Scott Greenfield, who has a family connection with the sport of fencing.

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“It’s Doctors’ Duty to Promote Gun Safety With Patients” [Art Caplan, Medscape via Bill of Health] Next step: giving patients a hard time about kitchen or camping knives? [A. Barton Hinkle]

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I’ve got a write-up at Cato at Liberty about the federal government’s massive, SWAT-like occupation of the rural Indiana property of Don Miller, a celebrated 91-year-old local collector who has traveled the globe and whose impressive collection of world and Indian artifacts “was featured in a four part series in the Rushville Republican.” Under various treaties and federal laws, mostly dating to relatively recent times, the federal government now deems ownership of many antiquities and Native American artifacts to be unlawful even if collectors acquired them in good faith before laws changed. [WISH (TV), Indianapolis Star, The Blaze.] More: coverage in two more outlets with a flavor very different from each other, Shelby County News (FBI source stresses Miller’s cooperativeness and suggests federal actions were wtih his consent or even at his behest) and National Public Radio (“seized,” “confiscated”)

Related: Richard Epstein at Hoover on Obama Administration plans to prohibit selling your family’s vintage piano or moving it across a state line. And aside from ivory chess sets, the nascent War on Antiques might take a toll of replica firearms [Washington Times]

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