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Los Angeles

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Under an environmentalist banner, the city of Los Angeles plans a scheme to wipe family-owned trash haulers and replace them with unionized monopoly providers [L.A. Times, Scott Shackford/Reason]

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“Who Needs Legislation? Dems Want To Extend Tobacco Settlement To E-Cigarettes” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes] “E-cigarettes are bad because they look like cigarettes. E-hookahs are worse because they don’t.” [Jacob Sullum; more from Sullum on the unanimous vote by the Los Angeles city council to ban vaping in public places]

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February 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 11, 2014

  • Minimum wage laws are sentimental legislation with all-too-real effects [Jeffrey Dorfman] “Our Business’s Response to California $2 Minimum Wage Increase” [Coyote, with more on a union angle on minimum wage laws] Some experience from Europe [Steve Hanke, more, Cato overview of minimum wage debate]
  • Connecticut fires state labor department employee who gamed system to get benefits for friend, then reinstates after grievance [Raising Hale] Oldie but goodie: union contract in Bay City, Mich. gave teachers five strikes to show up work drunk before being fired [Mackinac Center two years back]
  • Background of Harris v. Quinn, now before SCOTUS: Blagojevich and Quinn favors for SEIU [George Leef, Forbes, earlier here, etc.]
  • If you decline to hire applicants who’ve sued previous employers, you may face liability over that [Jon Hyman]
  • More on class action seeking pay for volunteer Yelp reviewers [LNL, earlier]
  • “Intriguingly, returns to skills are systematically lower in countries with higher union density, stricter employment protection, and larger public-sector shares.” [Eric Hanushek et al, NBER via Cowen]
  • “L.A. Sheriff’s Department Admits Hiring 80 Problem Officers; May Not Be Able to Fire Them” [Paul Detrick, Reason]

The Costa Mesa Syndrome

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2014

Reuters on the phenomenon of police harassment of local political opponents (earlier here, here, etc.) By no means are the reports limited to California:

There also have been allegations of intimidation by police in Cranston, Rhode Island.

On Jan. 9, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced that state police will take over an investigation into a flurry of parking tickets issued in the wards of two council members. The pair claim the tickets were issued as retribution after they voted against a new contract for police that would have given them a pay raise….

Major Robert Ryan, a spokesman for the Cranston Police Department, said: “The matter is under investigation, and pursuant to law enforcement’s bill of rights, no-one is going to comment on this.”

As readers may recall, those high-sounding “law enforcement bill of rights” gimmicks serve mostly to entrench law enforcement personnel against consequences or accountability for misbehavior, and thus have less than nothing to do with the Constitution’s actual Bill of Rights. More: Radley Balko.

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We termed the lawyers’ arguments “creative,” but a jury apparently found something to be persuasive about them: it acquitted the two police officers in the beating death of homeless schizophrenic Kelly Thomas, and prosecutors are planning to drop charges against a third officer. [Los Angeles Times]

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Last year we linked a report about a series of unfortunate events that kept happening to elected officials in Costa Mesa, Calif. after they resisted negotiating demands from the city’s police union. One saw his supporters’ businesses harassed by cops, while another was picked up on a bogus DUI charge phoned in by a private eye with ties to an Upland, Calif. law firm, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill, and Ethir, known for extremely aggressive representation of police unions around California.

Now the Lackie, Dammeier firm is in turmoil following a raid on its offices by the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Former Costa Mesa councilman Jim Righeimer, target of the bogus DUI report, and council colleague Steve Mensinger have also alleged in a lawsuit that the law firm’s private investigator attached a GPS device to Mensinger’s car. Lawyers for the two believe the device allowed the investigator to trace the pair’s whereabouts to the bar, allowing for the called-in DUI report which failed when Righeimer produced evidence he had consumed only a couple of Diet Cokes. Mensinger “said the device was affixed to his car during the entire 2012 election season and came to his attention only when he was alerted by the Orange County district attorney’s office.” [L.A. Times, more] The Orange County Register reported: “Mensinger and Righeimer are strong supporters of reforming public pensions and privatizing some city services. … Besides Mensinger, [investigator Chris] Lanzillo is also suspected of following former El Monte City Manager Rene Bobadilla to his home in June 2011, according to a police report obtained by the Orange County Register.” And more recently: “Though they made no admissions, lawyers for the law firm and Lanzillo argued in court papers that placing a tracking device on Mensinger’s truck wouldn’t be an invasion of privacy.” The Costa Mesa police union, also named as a defendant, says in a separate filing that it wasn’t involved with any GPS-tracking plan. [Daily Pilot]

That’s not the only trouble facing the firm: “A statewide police defense fund is no longer sending [it cases] after a forensic audit uncovered triple-billing, bogus travel expenses and ‘serious acts of misconduct.’” [Orange County Register] According to press reports, the firm is in the course of dissolving.

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Many of them aren’t so nice, especially in California which incentivizes access complaints with $4,000 minimum per-violation damages as well as entitlement to attorney’s fees. “According to [defense attorney James] Link, more than 3,000 ADA lawsuits were filed in L.A. County in the last three years — more than 1,700 of them by attorneys Morse Mehrban of L.A. and Mark Potter of San Diego’s Center for Disability Access.” One of Potter’s prolific clients, Jon Alexander, formerly of Utah, might displace George Louie as the poster guy for controversial ADA litigants. [L.A. Weekly via Doherty]

  • Follow the federal funding: “Stop giving out awards for arrests” [Andrew Sullivan]
  • NYC cops shoot at mentally disturbed man, hit bystanders instead, charge him with their injuries [Scott Shackford, Popehat]
  • Electric car owner charged with stealing 5 cents worth of power [Chamblee, Ga.: WXIA, auto-plays]
  • Claims re: sex trafficking in US fast spiraling into absurdity. Keep going [Maggie McNeill, earlier] “Perverse Incentives: Sex Work and the Law” [Cato Unbound symposium] “California to Open Victim Compensation Funds to Prostitutes” [Shackford]
  • Illegal ticket quotas at the LAPD, inmate beatings at the county sheriff’s jail: Los Angeles policing hit by multiple scandals [L.A. Times: editorial on charges against 18 sheriff's deputies, LAPD ticket quota]
  • Massachusetts crime lab test faker Annie Dookhan gets 3-5 year sentence [ABA Journal]
  • “Overcriminalization in the states” [Vikrant Reddy, Texas Public Policy Foundation, draft; related Mother Jones] Conservatives call for reforms in New Mexico justice system [Rio Grande Foundation via @PatNolanPFM]
  • Also: “Chief Judge For 9th Circuit [Alex Kozinski] Cites ‘Epidemic’ Of Prosecutor Misconduct” [Radley Balko]

Explaining how Kelly Thomas came to meet his gruesome decease called for some creative lawyering from defense attorneys John Barnett and Michael Schwartz, who often represent California law enforcers charged with misconduct [OC Weekly, disturbing images]

Also: Why let accused cops delay answering questions after an episode of alleged excessive force? To let them shape their story? [Scott Greenfield on new Dallas policy] And on the brighter side: Radley Balko, the nation’s premier reporter on police and prosecutorial abuse and someone regularly linked in this space, is joining the Washington Post. [Poynter]

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If a private employer tried to pull this kind of thing I expect there’d be an outcry:

Glendale school officials have hired a Hermosa Beach company to monitor and analyze public social media posts, saying the service will help them step in when students are in danger of harming themselves or others.

And with a private employer, you’d be there by your own choice.

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on July 2, 2013

  • Paleo-diet blogger wins a round in battle with North Carolina occupational licensing [IJ via Alkon, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • If you live in Connecticut or Montana, you have a U.S. Senator who’d go this far to trample rights [Volokh on Tester-Murphy constitutional amendment, earlier] Related: “In Attack On Commercial Speech, Law Professor Sadly Supports Selective Rights” [Richard Samp, WLF, on Columbia's Tim Wu]
  • Lawyers sue publishers of medical literature for failing to warn about drug side effects [ABA Journal, Drug and Device Law]
  • “Anti-Bullying Bill Could Jail People Who Criticize Politicians” [Ted Balaker, Reason]
  • Regarding the L.A. Times: “So people are really suggesting a city council interfere to make sure a newspaper’s owners have the proper political views. Flabbergasting.” [@radleybalko]
  • “Judge: Rocker must pay Herald $132G in court costs for dismissed defamation suit” [Boston Herald] Second Circuit recognizes scientific-discussion defense to defamation claims [Science World Report]
  • “Does Freedom of Speech Conflict with Freedom of Religion?” [Jacob Mchangama video] “Turkish Blogger Sentenced to 13 Months in Prison for Criticizing Mohammed” [Volokh] So much repression: State Dept. International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 [executive summary]

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“Air quality regulators, citing pollution and health risks, have proposed removing more than 800 fire pits that dot the coastline of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.” [Ian Lovett, New York Times]

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Los Angeles: “As LAUSD agrees to pay out 30 million dollars to the families victimized by the Miramonte Elementary School teacher molestation scandal, FOX 11 investigates why school districts seem to have such a difficult time firing teachers who’ve committed lewd acts.” Even the teacher charged with committing mass sex crimes in the Miramonte case managed to get a $40,000 payout from his district to quit. The powerful California Teachers Association (CTA) managed to scuttle a modest bill by Sen. Alex Padilla to streamline dismissals in extreme cases. Instead, it’s backing an alternative measure that reformer and former Sen. Gloria Romero describes as a joke that “wouldn’t really do anything.” [KTTV; CTA's side]

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December 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 26, 2012

  • L.A. County assessor, though in jail, will keep drawing $197K salary plus raise [LAT]
  • IRS lowers the regulatory boom on tax preparers [Institute for Justice video, auto-plays]
  • On Wal-Mart Mexico bribery, NYT has a bit of a blind eye of its own [Stoll; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Another painful CPSIA regulation: CPSC on testing “representative samples” [Nancy Nord]
  • “Popcorn lung” couple “won a $20 million judgment. Now, they’re broke.” [ABC]
  • From Todd Zywicki: Libertarianism, Law and Economics, and the Common Law [SSRN via Bainbridge]
  • If the courts disapprove of throttling internet speeds, what do they think of throttling class action claims redemption rates? [Ted Frank]

“…so we can avoid negative coverage?” [NBC Los Angeles on LAPD enforcement of law against unauthorized animal selling]

October 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 26, 2012

  • Remembering George McGovern: “The endless exposure to frivolous claims and high legal fees is frightening” [Bob Dorigo Jones]
  • “One student was told she couldn’t cast a vote for homecoming queen unless she submitted to the tracking regime.” [CNet via Doctorow, BoingBoing]
  • Couple says law firm sued them following crash of RV they’d sold months earlier [Chamber-backed Southeast Texas Record]
  • L.A. city council moves to ban pet stores [L.A. Times via Amy Alkon]
  • “Willie Gary’s law firm ordered to pay $12.5 m to lender” [Nate Raymond, Reuters] Touring the tasteful promotional materials of longtime Overlawyered favorite Gary [Above the Law]
  • Further debunkings of Lilly Ledbetter narrative [Victoria Toensing, Adler, more, earlier] And fact-checking PolitiFact could turn into a full-time job; Hans Bader is still on the case [CEI]
  • Fifth Circuit panel backs Louisiana monks’ right to produce handcrafted caskets [NOLA.com, Ilya Shapiro/Cato, earlier]