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juries

Prof. Bainbridge flags this disturbing Wall Street Journal piece:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is increasingly steering cases to hearings in front of the agency’s appointed administrative judges, who found in its favor in every verdict for the 12 months through September, rather than taking them to federal court.

Previously, the agency had tended to use the ALJs (administrative law judges) for relatively cut-and-dried enforcement actions, while taking more complex or cutting-edge disputes to federal court. Now, following the Dodd-Frank expansion of its powers, it prefers ALJs even for many complex and demanding cases arising from charges such as insider trading. Defendants enjoy a range of protections in federal court that are not provided in administrative litigation, including juries as well as the presence of federal judges who are independent of agency control, held to a more demanding ethical code, and drawn generally from higher and more sophisticated circles within the legal profession. Read the entire Bainbridge commentary, with followups linking Henry Manne (adjudicatory actions are ways to avoid the more demanding process of rulemaking) and Keith Bishop (current system open to constitutional challenge?).

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Police and prosecution roundup

by Walter Olson on September 11, 2014

  • Enviro activists unlawfully block coal ship, Massachusetts prosecutor expresses approval by dropping charges [James Taranto, Jacob Gershman/WSJ Law Blog, ABA Journal]
  • Unfortunately-named Mr. Threatt charged with “robbery that happened while he was in jail” [Baltimore Sun via @amyalkon]
  • “How conservative, tough-on-crime Utah reined in police militarization” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed] More: What if we needed it someday? San Diego Unified School District defends acquisition of armored vehicle [inewsource.org] And Senate hearing [AP]
  • “Machine-based traffic-ticketing systems are running amok” [David Kravets, ArsTechnica]
  • Thanks, Fraternal Order of Police, for protecting jobs of rogue Philadelphia cops who could cost taxpayers millions [Ed Krayewski; related earlier]
  • Study: returning from 6- to 12-person juries could iron out many racial anomalies at trial [Anwar et al, Tabarrok]
  • Courts can help curb overcriminalization by revitalizing rule of lenity, mens rea requirement [Steven Smith]

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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Liability roundup

by Walter Olson on April 25, 2014

  • By convention the business/defense side isn’t fond of jury trial while plaintiff’s side sings its praises, but Louisiana fight might turn that image on its head [Hayride, sequel at TortsProf (measure fails)]
  • Generous tort law, modern industrial economy, doing away with principle of limited liability: pick (at most) two of three [Megan McArdle]
  • Fallacies about Stella Liebeck McDonald’s hot coffee case go on and on, which means correctives need to keep coming too [Jim Dedman, DRI]
  • Interaction of products liability with workplace injury often provides multiple bites at compensation apple, overdue for reform [Michael Krauss]
  • Ford Motor is among most recent seeking to pull back the curtain on asbestos bankruptcy shenanigans [Daniel Fisher; related, Washington Examiner] “Page after page he sits on the straw man’s chest, punching him in the face” [David Oliver on expert affidavit in asbestos case]
  • Kansas moves to raise med-mal caps as directed by state supreme court, rebuffs business requests for collateral source rule reform [Kansas Medical Society]
  • Let’s hope so: “More stringent pleading for class actions?” [Matthew J.B. Lawrence via Andrew Trask, Class Strategist]
  • “The Emperor’s Clothes: Should jury bias against corporations receive legal recognition?” [Michael Krauss on Alabama legal malpractice case]
  • Which did more to compromise gas can usability, regulation or liability? [Coyote, Jeffrey Tucker a year ago at LFB, earlier here, etc.]
  • Wow: Litigation Lobby stalwart Joan Claybrook signs her name to letter claiming there’s “no evidence” of “significant fraud” in asbestos litigation [WSJ letter] “Peter Angelos’s Asbestos Book” [WSJ] “House panel passes asbestos trusts transparency bill” [Law360, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
  • “Indiana’s ‘Government Compliance’ Presumption Against Defect and Negligence” [John Sullivan, D&DL]
  • CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord on the commission’s certificates of compliance;
  • A way to head off the product-suit technique for bypassing workers’-comp limits? “Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows Waivers for Future Negligence by Third Parties” [Krauss, Point of Law]
  • California cities’ lead-paint-as-nuisance suit may be headed for trial [Max Taves, Recorder]

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), the sponsor of a bill in the California legislature, thinks jury service would help advance the assimilation of immigrants by exposing them to an important civic process. Ben Boychuk, at City Journal, doesn’t agree, quoting political scientist Edward Erler: “The idea that legal immigrants can learn to become citizens through jury service is a dangerous experiment on the liberties of American citizens.”

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A man who showed up at court in Springfield, Mass. to deal with a traffic ticket mistakenly wound up on a jury. The jury proceeded to hear the evidence and closing statements and convict the defendant; the judge declared a mistrial after it emerged that the man, who spoke limited English, had gotten on to the panel by accident. [MassLive]

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March 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 27, 2012

  • NYC: “Lawsuit Blames Apple’s Glass Doors for Plaintiff’s Broken Nose” [Lowering the Bar, CBS New York]
  • Some who pushed enhanced punishment for Dharun Ravi may now be doubting they really want it [Scott Greenfield, earlier here, etc.]
  • NYT editorial on FMLA state immunity is as bad as anyone had a right to expect [Whelan]
  • “Pleading, Discovery, and the Federal Rules: Exploring the Foundations of Modern Procedure” [Martin Redish, FedSoc "Engage"] Summary of important ’09 Redish book Wholesale Justice calling into question constitutionality of class actions [Trask]
  • Would trial-by-DVD be so very wrong? [James Grimmelmann, Prawfs]
  • Contested memorabilia: lawsuits filed over estate of gay rights pioneer Franklin Kameny [MetroWeekly]
  • Feds’ “distracted driving” guidance could impair usefulness of car navigation systems [Cunningham/CNet, earlier]

The blogosphere has been kicking around that question this week, and I add my own views at Cato at Liberty (& Alkon).

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More FCPA acquittals

by Walter Olson on February 2, 2012

Defenders of the government’s aggressive prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are finding more and more to be defensive about. The latest in the string of setbacks for the Department of Justice came Monday, when a jury acquitted two defendants in the Justice Department’s 2009 Gabon “sting” operation and the case against three others ended in a mistrial. Alison Frankel: “So far, the Justice Department has not managed to convict a single Gabon sting defendant who contested its charges.” [WaPo, WSJ blog and related, earlier]

More: “A Guest Post From The Africa Sting Jury Foreman” [FCPA Professor]

January 31 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 31, 2012

  • Latest of periodic Towers Watson (formerly Towers Perrin/Tillinghast) surveys: tort costs fell in 2010 excluding oil spill liability [Towers Watson]
  • “Will Newt Neuter the Courts?” [James Huffman, Defining Ideas] Obama’s high court appointees are fortunately friendlier toward civil liberties than he is [Steve Chapman]
  • Unanimous Cal Supremes: companies not legally responsible for other companies’ asbestos products used as replacement for theirs [Cal Biz Lit, Jackson, Beck, Mass Tort Prof]
  • Claim: jurors considered policy implications of verdict and you can’t have that [On Point; defense verdict in Baltimore, Maryland school-bullying case]
  • Airfare display mandate: “‘Protecting’ Consumers from the Truth About the Cost of Government” [Thom Lambert, TotM]
  • Critical assessment of AP-backed new copyright aggregator “NewsRight” [Mike Masnick] Promises not to be “Righthaven 2.0″ [Cit Media Law]
  • Restatement (Third) of Torts drafters vs. Enlightenment scientific views of causation [David Oliver in June]

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July 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 12, 2011

  • Not for first time, Dahlia Lithwick misrepresents Wal-Mart case [Ponnuru, Whelan, earlier here and here]
  • Merciful gods, please spare us ghastly “Caylee’s Law” proposal [Josh Blackman, Reuters, Greenfield, Frank] More on constitutional flaws [Robson, Tribe]
  • Mark Perry on efforts to replace the relatively open-entry Washington, D.C. taxi system with NYC-style cartelization via medallion;
  • “Wrongful Convictions: How many innocent Americans are behind bars?” [Balko]
  • “Persaud identified himself as a juror, offering to fix the verdict for a fee.” [CBS NY; Long Island med-mal case]
  • “Is the Common Law the Solution to Pollution?” [Jonathan Adler, PERC]
  • “Rice Krispies class action settlement” [Ted Frank]

Jurors as grown-ups

by Walter Olson on July 7, 2011

New Michigan rules allow juries to ask questions and judges to summarize evidence for their benefit. Michigan Chief Justice (and Overlawyered favorite) Robert Young Jr. “says jurors will no longer be treated like kindergarteners” under the new rules. [ABA Journal; my take back when]

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June 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 23, 2011

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“The tree trunks, exposed banks and other hazards whizzing past represent a cornucopia of potential tort suits under U.S. law, yet somehow the Swiss manage to operate these runs without being sued into oblivion.” Dan Fisher at Forbes has a go at explaining why. More: Bill Childs, TortsProf (many U.S. states relatively protective of winter sports providers).

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February 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 22, 2011

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November 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 30, 2010

  • Sooooo glad to be an American: that’s how Patrick at Popehat feels following latest Canadian-libel-law outrage directed at conservative blogger Ezra Levant (& see comments for alternate view);
  • Obama has pardoned more turkeys than people. Why? [Dan Froomkin, HuffPo]
  • “Reforming medical malpractice liability through contract” [Michael F. Cannon, Cato Institute working paper, PDF]
  • Memoir of jury foreman in criminal case [Tux Life]
  • Not too sharp: Massachusetts school district disavows policy of not letting students bring pencils to school [Slashdot]
  • State governors have big plans for liability reform. Maybe even loser-pays? [Carter at PoL, more; Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas]
  • Parent who sent buzzworthy demand letter to Kansas City school board is a jazz musician [Wayward Blog, earlier]
  • From comic books to violent videogames: “Our puritanical progressives” [George Will]

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Kevin at Lowering the Bar points out that the suit we reported on yesterday doesn’t actually carry the highest damages demand ever; it is topped by one man’s suit last year against Bank of America for 1.7 septillion dollars. In third place — maybe — is “a claim for three quadrillion and change filed by someone against the federal government after Hurricane Katrina.”

Meanwhile, the story of the $38 quadrillion lawsuit moves Adam Freedman at Ricochet to consider some perhaps drastic legal reform remedies.

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