“Shannon Renee McNeal was torn from her screaming children by police who were seeking a woman with a similar name — a woman who they should have known had been murdered seven months before.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Radley Balko]
More of the week’s awful-police-happenings coverage: Atlantic City beating and canine attack [Tim Lynch, Cato]; Ames, Ia. police shoot and kill son after dad calls to report he’s taken truck without permission [Des Moines Register]; “Man Dies In Jail Cell After Misdemeanor Pot Offense” [Snohomish County, Wash., severe allergies; Radley Balko again]; New Mexico man’s lawsuit alleges “worst traffic stop ever” [Jalopnik, Popehat, Lowering the Bar and more, Orin Kerr, Michelle Meyer/Faculty Lounge]
Many — most? — Des Moines taxpayers probably don’t care all that deeply whether the city extracts taxes via one broad-based method or another. But due to class-action procedure and the barriers it erects to opting out, they all get to be plaintiffs in the resulting suit, and the lawyers (self-) appointed to bring the case are expecting to pocket 37 percent, or $15 million, of the $40 million changing hands, a sum that could amount to $1,400 an hour. [Ryan Koopmans (On Brief blog), Des Moines Register, earlier]
Ryan Koopmans summarizes a baffling Iowa Supreme Court case in which a 4-3 majority of justices decided a bowling alley owner could be sued for having thrown a customer out for insulting a second customer, who — after reacting calmly at the time — then went out to the parking lot and committed violence on his provoker:
So what are the takeaways from the Hoyt decision? For bar and restaurant owners: It’s not enough to kick out an aggressive bar patron; unless you want to pay the cost of litigation and a full trial, your employees should call the police every time one patron taunts another, or, at the very least, they should personally escort every trash-talker to his car.
The takeaway for police departments: You’re going to need more officers.
Teresa Wagner had sued the University of Iowa’s law school alleging bias against her as an ideological conservative, but a jury ruled against her on most counts, and now the judge in the case has denied her retrial motion and granted the university’s motion to dismiss the remaining count. [AP via Adler; court opinion; comments by lawprofs Herbert Hovenkamp of U of I and David Bernstein of George Mason; earlier on this case, on which I was quoted in the press a number of times.]
Mary Reichard interviewed me about Teresa Wagner’s suit against the University of Iowa law school for the broadcast show “The World and Everything In It.” More on the Wagner case and its recent mistrial here, here, etc. Also on the politics of law faculties: is it believable that roughly 19 percent of law professors are going to vote for Romney, or is that number implausibly high? [Prof. Bainbridge; Tom Smith, Right Coast]
“A federal jury rejected Teresa Wagner’s First Amendment claim that the University of Iowa College of Law denied her a faculty position due to her conservative politics, but deadlocked over her Equal Protection claim that she was passed over in favor of less qualified candidates. The U.S. Magistrate Judge declared a mistrial on the 14th Amendment claim.” [Paul Caron, TaxProf, with many links; earlier here, etc.; Bainbridge, more, related on faculty political leanings]
I appeared in the press a fair bit commenting on the case, including Blaze TV (above) and Iowa Public Radio as well as stories in the Daily Iowan, AP, the New York Times and elsewhere.
Between 2006 and 2011 the Iowa Civil Rights Commission engaged in a practice of filing housing discrimination charges against landlords, which it would then settle through “donations” that went directly to the commission rather than the state’s general fund, reports Jason Clayworth at the Des Moines Register. “The requests came after sting operations in which representatives of the commission would, for example, pose as prospective tenants and tell landlords over the phone that they needed a service dog for anxiety reasons and quiz them as to whether a pet deposit would apply to them.”
The Associated Press covers the pending lawsuit against the University of Iowa by Teresa Wagner, who believes she was shot down for a job teaching legal writing because of her outspokenly conservative views (earlier here, here, and here). A federal trial starts Monday in Davenport, Iowa.
One sentence misses the mark slightly in conveying my views. As I should have taken pains to make clear, the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, as a decision, is by no means sacrosanct in legal academia; law professors both right and left, young and old, criticize it often for its reasoning, as a political blunder, and on other grounds. What is a good bit less common — and especially rare among younger academics aiming for tenure offers at law schools with no religious affiliation — is a passionate stand against abortion in itself, like Ms. Wagner’s.
The university, for its part, disclaims political bias and apparently intends to argue that Ms. Wagner did not perform as well at the interview stage as her lawyers contend. As I told the AP, while I have no doubt that political bias is rife — in 2007, Iowa’s law faculty is recorded as having had 46 registered Democrats and only one registered Republican — I have severe doubts that the courts will improve matters by peering over the hiring committees’ shoulders. (& TaxProf with links; Des Moines Register “Juice”; Prof. Bainbridge)
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….
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]
Acquitted, but now homeless, in Des Moines [Des Moines Register].
I’ve got a new piece up at Minding the Campus, the higher education reform site, with more to say about Teresa Wagner’s lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law charging ideological discrimination because of her conservative beliefs. Earlier here.