- There’s new blogging on the fate of pre-1985 children’s books from book restorer and conservator Javamom, Jane Badger (iBookNet, U.K.), Dillon Hillas, Wellspring Creations, and Small-Leaved Shamrock. Deputy Headmistress continues to blog the book angle intensively, as does Valerie Jacobsen (read this post in particular). Note also the comment from Nancy Welliver on her February 11 post: “We are a used curriculum and book seller. We have removed 3,500 books from our website. … until recently publishers did not put printing dates in books, only copyright dates. So a book that is copyrighted 1976 may have been printed in 1988 and therefore legal to sell, So how do we know which are printed before and which after 1985? So we have removed all books for children with copyright date 1985 and before.” There’s also a page at cpsia-central (the Ning group) on books and libraries.
- The law is also having a major impact on sellers of new children’s books, given that the only newer books presumed safe for legal purposes without testing are completely plain books with no embellishments or non-paper features. Don’t miss the letter at Wellspring Creations from “Jackie”, who identifies herself as the manager of the children’s book section at a Half Price Books store, part of a large chain that sells publisher’s remainders and overstocks as well as used books:
I have experienced the severity of this issue first-hand. … Initially, it didn’t seem like this would have much of an impact on the kids section, but as I went through my section pulling everything that was potentially harmful, I soon realized that this was going to decimate my section. My display tables were over halfway empty, and there were half-empty or completely empty shelves all throughout the section. … The kids cooking shelf went from being packed full to only having half a dozen books left, all because most of the cookbooks were spiral-bound with metal. …
The day that I had to get rid of all those books was one of the roughest days I’ve ever had at work. The kids section is my pride and joy, my baby, and I had to not only watch it get torn apart- I had to do it myself. It was heartbreaking.
The happy ending, if you want to call it that, is that eventually many or most of the new books are likely to return to the shelves after the chain puts them through testing — though it’s more likely to take such a step for a mass-selling branded item piled high on display tables than for a specialty cookbook expected to sell only in the dozens of copies. Go read the whole thing.
- Community Homestead is a center for developmentally disabled adults in rural Wisconsin that has sold residents’ handcraft toys. Its CPSIA story is here.
- Dust-ups in comments sections are not my thing, but some people enjoy them, and they keep breaking out on the occasions when someone still attempts an aggressive defense of this bad law. Thus when the Chicago Daily Herald printed a letter from Alexandra Lozanoff of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) yesterday rhapsodizing about the law, numerous commenters jumped in to express rather sharp disagreement. A state legislator in Orangeburg, South Carolina put her name to a piece in the local paper attacking Sen. Jim DeMint for sponsoring CPSIA reform, provoking dozens of comments, most taking issue. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which is invested in defending CPSIA in part because of the law’s phthalates ban, ran an ill-informed piece pretentiously titled “The Artisan Toymaker’s CPSIA Exemption Guide” and was promptly spanked by knowledgeable commenters, a fate that also befell the left-leaning crew at Moms Rising. The lengthy comments section on John Holbo’s thoughtful followup post at Crooked Timber presented the spectacle of one agitated and flailing defender of the law pretty much surrounded by people trying to talk sense into him. Someone adopting the monicker “Civil Justice” wandered into the Etsy forums to push Lawsuit Lobby views and was not met with pleasure by the assembled crafters, an episode which may be related to the one already told about how the misnamed Center for Justice and Democracy, a group with views antipodal to our own, suggested that we all were insensitive to children’s health and then refused to let any letters from critics through moderation, claiming to feel threatened by the letters’ tone (examples of the sorts of letter CJD found too intimidating in tone to run: Mark Riffey, Olivia @ BabyCandyStore). Some other previously linked comments discussions: The Pump Handle (profoundly misguided contributor corrected by Deputy Headmistress, Kathleen Fasanella, etc.), Consumer Reports, Greco Woodcrafting (Public Citizen’s David Arkush vs. the world), and, of course, Justinian Lane.
- Even a casual acquaintance with CPSIA blogging is enough to show that homeschooling parents have taken an extraordinary role in leading the resistance to the law. Bloggers like CalifMom have predicted that the law will have numerous harmful impacts on homeschoolers, and homeschool curriculum suppliers such as Hands and Hearts History Discovery Kits and Hope Chest Legacy have already closed down because of the impracticability of compliance. So it’s unfortunate that the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) seems to have so little clue what’s going on.
Another entry into the genre of for-profit websites offering to match aggrieved visitors with lawyers, this one is said to be based on a slightly tweaked format (including “talk to a live lawyer” options) sidestepping certain potential pitfalls ethical and otherwise. (Siobhan Morrissey, Time, Aug. 6). Per its press release:
…The unique process used by WhoCanISue.com also ensures that cases are not jeopardized inadvertently, a common pitfall of some other approaches to online matchmaking. Because WhoCanISue.com does not require submission of open-ended descriptions of the facts of the user’s claim, users are not forced to divulge information that could be deemed a waiver of the attorney-client priviledge [sic] resulting in the information being introduced in court and used against them.
WhoCanISue.com does not generate “leads” to potential clients, a method commonly used in online legal marketing that violates ethical rules governing most attorneys’ advertising. Instead, WhoCanISue.com’s patent pending model allows attorneys to bid on real-time ad placements – usually limited to five attorneys – delivered to users who have completed question paths to determine their qualification for a particular claim.
An earlier entry in the legal-matchmaking field, SueEasy.com, has come in for a fair bit of criticism in and out of the profession (“hairball generator“, “incredibly stupid” idea, “like a carpool for ambulance chasers“, etc.).
Reactions: Bill Childs does some legwork on the site’s sponsorship, throwing cold water on hasty, sloppy, or gullible speculation in some circles that the site might be a false-flag operation. Eric Turkewitz and Carolyn Elefant aren’t any more impressed this time around than they were with SueEasy.com.
Public Citizen wrote a report about New York medical malpractice that said:
Physicians who made three or more malpractice payments between 1990 and 2006 – accounting for no more than 4 percent of New York’s doctors – were responsible for nearly half (49.6 percent) of medical malpractice dollars paid out on behalf of doctors in the time period.
This is technically true, but wildly misleading; we previously refuted this precise statistic as a natural statistical consequence of any randomly distributed set of payouts–and given that doctors in high-risk professions such as neurosurgery or ob/gyn are far more likely to be sued than dermatologists or gerontologists, the random concentration effect is going to be even more pronounced, so the Public Citizen statistic is meaningless without a showing of speciality-adjusted correlation between time periods–something no study has ever found.
But note how blogger Eric Turkewitz writes an op-ed in a small-town New York newspaper that isn’t even satisfied with simply misleading the public, and says something that is out-and-out false:
4 percent of the state’s doctors contribut[e] to half of the malpractice suits [emphasis added]
Not remotely true. “Nearly half of payments” has been turned into “half of malpractice suits.” Justinian Lane, who knows or should know that the latter statistic isn’t true, because his blog posted about the original statistic, then repeats the lie either thoughtlessly or deliberately:
Maybe doctors should discipline the four percent of doctors that make up half of all malpractice claims.
Will either of them retract the false claim with the same fanfare that they made it? Stay tuned. (They certainly won’t explain that there’s nothing damning about the accurate statistic–though I have been refuting this for over three years, Public Citizen and trial lawyers and their fans continue to regurgitate the data as if it means something.)
Justinian Lane crows: Pfizer fined by an Australian trade group! Indeed it was; drug reps went off the reservation of what they were supposed to talk about without telling managers, and exaggerated the health effects of a competing drugs for personal profit. (Note that there was no need for a regulator or plaintiffs’ attorneys to get involved; this was entirely an Australian free-market self-policing arrangement through contractual agreements that fined Pfizer. Lane forgets to mention that part.)
Lane thinks this is a just result worth noting. So let us consider that trial lawyers do the same thing every day: lie about or exaggerate health effects of drugs for profit (just Google the name of any prescription drug to get a lawyer’s ad)–and without the intermediating effects of doctors to assess the claims and correctly inform patients, so it is clearly worse. But the lawyers do so with impunity, with no consequences for the adverse health effects on patients. (E.g., POL June 2007; POL Feb. 12.) There’s no private cause of action; and the trial bar and its professional organizations lionize such tactics, rather than punish them. All we can do is criticize plaintiffs’ lawyers for putting profits before people.
As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me.
Overlawyered favorite Justinian Lane thinks he’s discovered a smoking gun in the Knology arbitration clause:
All disputes arising out of or relating to this agreement (other than actions for the collections of debts you owe us) including, without limitation, any dispute based on any service or advertising of the services related thereto, shall be resolved by final and binding arbitration… (Emphasis added.)
- As I type this post, I’m listening to Andrew Frey argue Conrad Black’s appeal before Judge Posner and the Seventh Circuit. Posner seems to be confused over whether incorrect jury instructions can be prejudicial in a general verdict. [Bashman roundup; earlier]
- “For years families bogged down in Harris County [Texas] probate courts have accused judges of bleeding estates of tens of thousands of dollars to pay high-priced lawyers for unnecessary work.” [Houston Chronicle; Alpert v. Riley (Tex. App. Jun. 5, 2008) (via)]
- Company sets policy. Employee violates policy. Is corporation criminally responsible for employee’s act? [POL; FCPA blog; Podgor]
- Merrill Lynch banker asks for investigation of Enron Task Force withholding of exculpatory evidence [Bloomberg]
- When calculating the costs of medical malpractice suits, let’s not forget the noneconomic costs. “In the [John] Ritter case, the jury agreed with the defendant physicians and exonerated them of any liability. They were lucky. How lucky? They were able to spend four years with attorneys worrying about their future, including the potential that they would be ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars and be left penniless. So, they didn’t really win. They just lost less.” [EM News via Kevin MD via Dr. RW]
- Nor should we forget the defensive medicine costs. [Kevin MD]
- Legal reform = job creation. [American Courthouse]
- According to Justinian Lane, if you’re reading this post, you’re a “spineless sycophant.” [Bizarro-Overlawyered]
“As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me. ”
— Richard Neely, Justice, West Virginia Supreme Court, The Product Liability Mess at 4
At Bizarro-Overlawyered, Justinian Lane states:
Ted Frank at Overlawyered falsely claims that “In civil court, a default judgment can be obtained merely on a plaintiff’s say so. In contrast, most arbitration agreements require the arbitrator to scrutinize the evidence before granting an award, even when the debtor does not contest the arbitration claim…” A default judgment against a debtor will be based upon the same evidence in civil court or in arbitration: an affidavit or affidavits from the creditor alleging that the debtor owes a specific sum. Both the judge and the arbitrator will “scrutinize” the affidavit in the same way; they’ll check to make sure names and sums are correct.
It will be no surprise to long-time readers of Overlawyered that Justinian Lane is 100% incorrect.
As if to demonstrate that their website is simply reflexively anti-reform rather than anything to do with the justice they supposedly aspire to, one of their trolling bloggers attacks the American Justice Partnership for seeking predictability in the law (and does so by quoting a positively deranged anonymous blogger). Of course, predictability—that like cases are treated alike—is a fundamental component of the definition of justice. The social benefits of the rule of law are so obvious that it should hardly be necessary to list them, but, aside from issues of fundamental fairness enshrined in our Constitution in the ex post facto clause among other places, predictability has other advantages. If a result is predictable, settlement is easier: there’s little point in continuing to litigate on either side, because additional money spent on lawyers cannot change the result. If a result is predictable, one can more easily conform conduct to be law-abiding. Corporations aren’t incentivized to break contracts with one another to see whether they can get a better deal in the courts; individuals and corporations know where the line is in dealing with the public and won’t step over it. And as I noted last year,
In banana republics across the globe, economies come to a standstill because the risk of confiscation or corruption keeps many investments from ever happening. The same danger occurs when the expropriation is conducted by lawyers in the name of “justice.” If businessmen and entrepreneurs—be they insurers, manufacturers of lifesaving pharmaceuticals, or the small businesses that deliver your packages—have to account for the risk that their contractual arrangements will be disregarded by courts, they have to raise prices to account for that risk. Such increased prices mean fewer contracts are signed and fewer businesses are started. Consumers are worse off, not just because they now have fewer options, but because the economy is smaller as jobs and opportunities are lost. The only beneficiaries are the lawyers.
The poster knows darn well that the idea of predictability in justice hardly originates with Dan Pero and reformers. As I once noted to the same poster in a comment thread:
Since when is predictability a component of justice?
Since at least Aristotle, and arguably even further back to Mosaic law and the Code of Hammurabi.
If a desire for predictability in law makes one a reformer, then one can certainly add Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Montesquieu, Justice Holmes, and Lord Chief Justice Bingham of Cornhill to the list of reformers. More recently, one can read Richard Epstein on the subject. Justinian Lane would serve himself better by reading more books and fewer anonymous blogs before he asks such silly questions.