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Jonathan Turley in the Washington Post explores at more length a point I made briefly in my TIME opinion piece: to honor the slain cartoonists of Charlie-Hebdo, we should be lifting legal constraints on what their successors tomorrow can draw and write and say, rather than, as France and other countries have been doing in recent years, bringing it under tighter legal constraint in the name of equality and the prevention of offense:

Indeed, if the French want to memorialize those killed at Charlie Hebdo, they could start by rescinding their laws criminalizing speech that insults, defames or incites hatred, discrimination or violence on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sex or sexual orientation. These laws have been used to harass the satirical newspaper and threaten its staff for years.

The numerous court actions brought against Charlie Hebdo by religious groups (as of 2011, organizations connected with the Catholic church had taken the magazine to court 13 times, Muslim groups once) are only the beginning:

[Other] cases have been wide-ranging and bizarre. In 2008, for example, Brigitte Bardot was convicted for writing a letter to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy about how she thought Muslims and homosexuals were ruining France. In 2011, fashion designer John Galliano was found guilty of making anti-Semitic comments against at least three people in a Paris cafe. In 2012, the government criminalized denial of the Armenian genocide (a law later overturned by the courts, but Holocaust denial remains a crime). …Last year, Interior Minister Manuel Valls moved to ban performances by comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, declaring that he was “no longer a comedian” but was rather an “anti-Semite and racist.” It is easy to silence speakers who spew hate or obnoxious words, but censorship rarely ends with those on the margins of our society….

Recently, speech regulation in France has expanded into non-hate speech, with courts routinely intervening in matters of opinion. For example, last year, a French court fined blogger Caroline Doudet and ordered her to change a headline to reduce its prominence on Google — for her negative review of a restaurant.

Related: National Post and Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog, on efforts to repeal Canada’s not-entirely-in-disuse blasphemy law; earlier here and here. And from Ireland, an urgent reason to repeal its own law of this sort: Muslim leader vows to “take legal advice if Irish publications …republish or tweet cartoons.” [Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Independent]

P.S. Graham Smith on Twitter: “What if every State represented in Paris today promised to repeal one law that restricts free speech?”


Annals of European employment law: “The Irish arm of supermarket giant Tesco has been ordered to pay a convicted drug dealer €11,500 for unfair dismissal.” The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) found that the market should have considered sanctions less severe than dismissal given that the employee had cooperated with its process and that a manager admitted there was no evidence of public awareness of the employee’s legal troubles, which eventuated in a guilty plea and a suspended jail sentence. [Evening Herald (Ireland)]

A court has awarded costs against a Dublin family that sued a restaurant for not warning that if they allowed their two-year-old to put her finger down the metal lid of a sugar dispenser, she might have trouble pulling it out again. The balky lid had to be cut off at a hospital. [Mirror]

January 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 29, 2013

  • In job bias dispute: “Federal Court Says Veganism Might Qualify As A Religion” [Religion Clause]
  • Perennially credulous L.A. Times drops broad hints that Toyota settlement vindicates sudden acceleration theories, others know better [LA Times, NLJ earlier]
  • “Cato Named America’s Most Effective Think Tank Per Dollar Spent” [Dan Mitchell, Nick Rosenkranz]
  • Disappointing: Transportation Sec. LaHood said to be “sticking around for a while” [Roads and Bridges, earlier] That was quick: only hours later, he says he’s leaving after all [WaPo]
  • It became necessary to destroy the sex workers in order to save them [Melissa Gira Grant/Reason]
  • Profile of lefter-than-thou NY attorney general Eric Schneiderman [NY Mag]
  • As rural pub tradition declines, Irish government rejects proposal to ease DUI laws [AP]

Now it’s newspapers in Ireland advancing the old, curious claim that online publishers have a right to order others not to link to their content. [McGarr Solicitors, earlier]


Joyce copyright expires

by Walter Olson on January 8, 2012

Will I raise a glass to toast the Irish author’s long-awaited return to the public domain? Yes I said yes I will yes [Gordon Bowker, Independent, earlier here, here, and here]

But note: The jubilation is over the entry of the author’s work into the public domain in the European Union; in the United States most of the author’s writings remain tied up for a long time to come. Details here (thanks commenter JWB).


Nocturnal ramblings of a less-than-conscious nature during a business trip to Africa were misportrayed by the company as sexual harassment or something else improper, argued the mining exec. A jury awarded him €10 million, by far a record for an Irish libel case. [Telegraph, Eichler/Atlantic Wire]

“Ahern may look at higher ATM fees after €300,000 robbery and kidnap” [Irish Times]

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The lad won 7,500 euros for being wrongly accused of stealing a bag of snacks in a store. The settlement also covered his claim of having been falsely imprisoned and assaulted when a shop worker grabbed his arm. [Irish Times]

September 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 2, 2009

  • Cops in London borough “remove valuables from unlocked cars to teach the owners about safety” [UPI, Sullum/Reason "Hit and Run", Coyote]
  • “Trial starts for PI lawyer accused of paying bribes (to Texas insurance managers) for settlement” [ABA Journal]
  • Tort reform in Oklahoma takes effect Nov. 1, so law firm advises getting those lawsuits filed quickly [The Oklahoman]
  • Patent assembler Intellectual Ventures says it’s averse to suing. Its close partners, on the other hand… [Recorder, earlier]
  • Bill to assert U.S. control of waters whether “navigable” or not is major federal power grab [Kay Hutchison and Nolan Ryan, Dallas News]
  • California high court rules in Taster’s Choice photo-permission case [Lowering the Bar, WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
  • Civil libertarians, secularists protest as Ireland criminalizes blasphemy [Volokh, Irish Times (Dawkins), MWW and more]
  • He knows about big paychecks: “Obama’s ‘Pay Czar’ Made $5.76M Last Year as a Law Firm Partner” [ABA Journal]


October 24 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 24, 2008

  • Chemerinsky, other critics should apologize to Second Circuit chief judge Dennis Jacobs over bogus “he doesn’t believe in pro bono!” outcry [Point of Law and update]
  • New York high court skeptical of ultra-high contingency fee in Alice Lawrence v. Graubard Miller case [NYLJ; earlier here and here]
  • Panel of legal journalists: press let itself be used in attack on Judge Kozinski [Above the Law]
  • Unfree campaign speech, cont’d: South Dakota anti-abortion group sues to suppress opponents’ ads as “patently false and misleading” [Feral Child]
  • Even if you’re tired of reading about Roy Pearson’s pants, you might still enjoy Carter Wood’s headlines on the case at ShopFloor ["Pandora's Zipper", "Suit Alors!"]
  • Rare grant of fees in patent dispute, company had inflicted $2.5 million in cost on competitors and retailers by asserting rights over nursing mother garb [NJLJ]
  • Time to be afraid? Sen. Bingaman (D-N.M.) keen on reintroducing talk-radio-squelching Fairness Doctrine [Radio Equalizer]
  • “Yours, in litigious anticipation” — Frank McCourt as child in Angela’s Ashes drafted a nastygram with true literary flourish [Miriam Cherry, Concurring Opinions]

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“For a decade [Suresh Deman] sued universities – usually claiming racial bias over failed job applications – as he collected nearly £200,000 in payouts and cost the taxpayer an estimated £1million”. After he had brought 40 actions he was declared a vexatious litigant and banned from further proceedings, but the ban did not cover Northern Ireland and he was soon there pursuing an 11-year-old claim against the Association of University Teachers and Officers (AUT). (Chris Brooke, “Race-claims lecturer beats legal ban to carry on suing after 40 discrimination claims”, Daily Mail (U.K.), Nov. 19; A Tangled Web, Nov. 19; “In the news: Suresh Deman”, Times Higher Education Supplement, Mar. 21, 2003).


New York Times legal correspondent Adam Liptak has a good article summing up the state of play on legal actions arising from unkind reviews of eateries, including several cases familiar to our readers (Feb. 27, Philadelphia; Feb. 10, Belfast; Jan. 3, 2006, Dallas)(“Serving You Tonight Will Be Our Lawyer”, Mar. 7). More: PhilaFoodie.

“The Irish News must pay £25,000 plus court costs to a west Belfast Italian restaurant owner after a jury found a food critic’s review to be defamatory.” (“£25K for food critic’s poison pen”, BBC, Feb. 8). Journalist Caroline Workman, in a review of Ciaran Convery’s restaurant Goodfellas, had “described his staff as unhelpful, his cola as flat, and his chicken marsala ‘so sweet as to be inedible'”. Guardian restaurant critic Matthew Norman described the jury verdict as “very worrying news”: “You really cannot overstate the imbecility of a libel jury: what we really need now is a sustained campaign against our ludicrous libel laws.” (Maev Kennedy, “Critics bite back after restaurant reviewer sued for calling chicken too sweet”, Guardian, Feb. 10).



by Ted Frank on October 5, 2006

Some quick links:

  • Michael Krauss reviews a Mississippi Court of Appeals decision on a bogus fender-bender claim. [Point of Law; Gilbert v. Ireland]
  • Yet another example of overbroad laws on sex offenders (see also Jul. 3, 2005). [Above the Law]
  • “As far as the law is concerned, those individuals whose pacemakers fail are the lucky ones.” [TortsProf Blog]
  • Emerson Electric sues NBC in St. Louis over a scene in an hourly drama where a cheerleader mangles her hand in a branded garbage disposal. [Hollywood Reporter, Esq.; Lattman; Defamer and Defamer update; St. Louis Post Dispatch]
  • A case that’s really not about the money: Man stiffs restaurant over $46 check, defends himself against misdemeanor charge with $500/lawyer. [St. Petersburg Times; Obscure Store]
  • Bill Childs catches yet another Justinian Lane misrepresentation. See also Sep. 26 and Sep. 17 (cf. related posts on Lane’s co-blogger Oct. 3 and Sep. 25), and we might just have to retire the category, since we can only hope to scratch the surface. Point of Law has the Gary Schwartz law review article discussed by Childs. [TortsProf Blog and ] Lane’s post also deliberately confuses non-economic damages caps with total damages caps: nothing stops someone with more than $250,000 in economic damages from recovering more than $250,000, even in a world with non-economic damages caps.
  • Update: Bill Childs in the comments-section to Lane:

    “Of course, all of this gets pretty far afield from what I originally wrote and that you’ve conceded, which is that you (unintentionally but sloppily) misrepresented the facts of the Pinto memo, failed to research its background beyond what was apparently represented to you, and still haven’t (last time I checked, at 9:10 p.m.) updated your site to reflect your error. Nor have you approved the trackback I sent to the site. You’ve posted comments to that very entry and another entry has gone up on the site, but readers still see the plainly inaccurate statement that the memo excerpt you show was Ford evaluating tort liability for rearendings, when in fact it was Ford evaluating a regulatory proposal for rollovers using numbers from NHTSA.


Councilman Joel Rivera, who heads the New York City Council health committee, likes that idea on grounds of protecting city residents from their own choices (as opposed to on grounds of protecting neighbors against traffic, litter, etc.) (“Councilman: Limit fast food places to fight fat”, AM New York, Jun. 21; Carl Campanile and Mathew Charles, “Make That Fast Food ‘To Go': Council Big”, New York Post, Jun. 22; KipEsquire, Jun. 22; The Rant Shack, Jun. 22). Similarly, from Ireland: Feb. 17, 2004.

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The Bloomsday litigants

by Ted Frank on June 16, 2006

The grandson of James Joyce, Stephen James Joyce, has used his control of the copyrights to Joyce’s work to impede scholarly research by threatening to withhold consent to any academic who would veer into investigation of the family history. He spent a hundred thousand dollars of the estate’s money to halt publication of a new edition of “Ulysses”; has “blocked or discouraged” a number of readings; and threatened to sue the National Library of Ireland when it sought to display its copies of Joyce’s manuscripts. In revenge for Michael Groden’s favorable blurb of a scholar Stephen Joyce disliked, Joyce quoted a price of a million and a half dollars for Groden’s right to quote “Ulysses” in the multimedia work he spent seven years preparing. D.T. Max in the June 19 New Yorker explores the younger Joyce’s battles, and also mentions other litigious literary estates.

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Free Speech losing in the UK?

by KeyMonk on December 21, 2004

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a group of Sikh “protesters” forced the cancellation of a controversial play described as a “black comedy” that centered around rape and murder at a Sikh temple. The details are in this article (registration is gratis) and some outrage is in this short lead editorial.

Here is what is most worrisome — the notion that free speech must give way to the (violent) protests of the community (and the concurrent lack of protection by peace officers). The attitude is nicely encapsulated by these two reactions:

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