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Manhattan Institute

Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on June 17, 2013

  • Chilling one side of a debate? American Federation of Teachers arm-twists board members to quit groups critical of union contracts (including the Manhattan Institute, with which I used to be affiliated) [New York Post, Bloomberg, Ira Stoll]
  • “Third Circuit Finds Schools Aren’t Liable for Bullies” [Fed Soc Blog]
  • Case dismissed in Marshall University student’s suit over exceedingly undignified bottle-rocket stunt [West Virginia Record]
  • Free pass for harming students? Realistic policy call? Both? Courts frown on “educational malpractice” claims vs. schools, teachers [Illinois State Bar Association; Beck]
  • Brookings has very poor reviews for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan plan [Matthew Chingos and Beth Akers; Megan McArdle]
  • 1,200 sign Harvard petition assailing academic freedom in Jason Richwine case [Boston Globe]
  • College selection of commencement speakers: political spectrum’s so skewed that even moderate GOPer Bob Zoellick’s a no-go [Bainbridge]
  • The Common Good online forum on risk and legal fear in schools, in which I’m a participant, continues for another day or two.

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Over at Secular Right, I’ve done a lengthy post about think tanks, more specifically about the future of the policy think tank model in light of the controversy over control of my own Cato Institute. It’s also got some memoir-ish material in it in which I recall times over the years in which I felt relatively proud of having an effect on public debate. You can read it here.

P.S. Kind words from Ryan Radia and Pierre Lemieux.

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November 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2011

I spoke about my new book before a luncheon crowd yesterday at my former institute in New York City — several distinguished law professors were in attendance — and Jim Copland interviewed me afterward. We talked about how this book grew out of my earlier work, why international rights are such a coming area in law schools, and much more. The resulting audio podcast runs just over 10 minutes; you may need to turn the volume up higher than normal to hear it properly. You can and should buy Schools for Misrule itself here (Amazon commission as well as regular royalty benefits me).

On the radio front, I was a guest on Jason Lewis’s nationally syndicated (Minneapolis-based) show on Monday, and will be a guest today at 11 Eastern on Ron Smith’s show on WBAL Baltimore (audio).

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[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

The first copies of my new book Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America are here from the printer, and I’ll be touring the country to promote it in coming weeks. Some highlights:

  • February 21. Bloomington, Ind. Indiana University Law School, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter.
  • February 22. Urbana-Champaign, Ill. University of Illinois School of Law, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter. Commenting will be Prof. Larry Ribstein.
  • March 3. Washington, D.C. Cato Institute Policy Forum. Commenting on the book will be the Hon. Douglas Ginsburg, U.S. Court of Appeals, and moderating will be Cato legal director Roger Pilon.
  • March 10. University of Minnesota, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter. Commenting will be Profs. Brad Clary and Oren Gross, and moderating will be Prof. Dale Carpenter.
  • March 16. New York, N.Y. Manhattan Institute luncheon (invitation). Commenting will be James Copland, Manhattan Institute.
  • March 22. Washington, D.C. Heritage Foundation forum. Commenting/moderating: Todd Gaziano, Heritage Foundation.
  • March 28. Boulder, Colo. University of Colorado School of Law, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter.
  • March 29. Laramie, Wyo. University of Wyoming School of Law, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter.
  • March 30. Sacramento, Calif. McGeorge School of Law, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter.
  • April 6. New York, N.Y. Manhattan Institute Young Leaders evening event (private).
  • April 7. Washington, D.C. American University Law School, sponsored by Federalist Society chapter.
  • April 13. Washington, D.C. Book club appearance (private).
  • April 27-29. Dallas, Tex. Heritage Foundation Resource Bank meeting (private).

Always check in advance with the hosting group for venues and exact times; some events open to the public require advance registration. The book’s official publication date is March 1, and copies should be arriving in the bookstores soon.

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January 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 21, 2011

May 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 10, 2010

  • Failure to warn? “Non-Child Sues For Slide-Related Injury” [Lowering the Bar]
  • “AG Cuomo Sues Lawyer for Fraud, Says He Sold His Name to Debt Collector for $141K” [ABA Journal]
  • Ted Frank on his move to the Manhattan Institute and Point of Law [CCAF]
  • “Viacom is becoming a lawsuit company instead of a TV company” [Doctorow, BoingBoing]
  • UK: “NHS pays £10,000 to family of psychiatric patient who committed suicide” [Times Online]
  • American Cancer Society: federal advisory panel’s chemicals-cause-cancer alarms are overblown [NYTimes] More: Taranto, WSJ.
  • “Who Knew Bankruptcy Paid So Well?” [NYTimes]
  • Famed sleuth Bloomberg Holmes on the case: was the Pathfinder headed for a vile sodium den? [IowaHawk]

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I’m delighted to announce that I’ve joined the Cato Institute as a senior fellow, effective this week. As most readers of this site know well, Cato is the premier voice for individual liberty in our nation’s capital, and a think tank of tremendous accomplishments across the board. Its program on law, led by Roger Pilon, includes such outstanding thinkers as Tim Lynch, Ilya Shapiro and Robert Levy. Cato is particularly known as a place where free speech, civil liberties, and the Bill of Rights are given the centrality they deserve in legal thinking, and it’s also a powerhouse in studying the ill effects of government regulation. In fact, the publication where I got my real start in the policy world, the magazine Regulation (originally published by the American Enterprise Institute), has made its home at Cato for many years now. In short, it’s hard to imagine a better fit with my writing and research interests.

I’ll be saying goodbye to my colleagues and kind friends at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, which has long supported my work in the most patient, good-humored and uninterfering way I could have hoped for. I’m immensely fortunate to have been part of MI for more than 25 years and I know I’ll learn much more from its formidable thinkers in years to come. While I’ll continue to contribute occasionally to MI’s blog/web magazine Point of Law, I’ve left its editorship, and I’m happy to say the Institute had the good idea of hiring as my replacement none other than Ted Frank, of Overlawyered and CCAF fame.

Jim Copland of the Manhattan Institute has some extremely kind things to say at Point of Law about our long association. The blog Think Tanked reprints the MI’s generous announcement.

I’ll still be posting as usual here at Overlawyered, and I’ll also be joining as a contributor at the excellent group blog Cato at Liberty, which you should promptly place in your RSS feed if you haven’t already. In months ahead I’ll have more to say about some new projects I’ll be pursuing at Cato, as well as existing projects many readers already know about, like my forthcoming book on bad ideas from legal academia, Schools for Misrule.

P.S. Cato’s press release and bio page for me are up, as is a welcoming post from Roger Pilon at Cato at Liberty. And thanks for the very generous words to Dan Pero at American Courthouse, Carter Wood at NAM ShopFloor, and Alan Lange at Y’AllPolitics.

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On overcriminalization

by Walter Olson on December 10, 2009

My Manhattan Institute colleague Marie Gryphon has a new paper out on the subject (“It’s a Crime: Flaws in Federal Statutes That Punish Standard Business Practice”, while James Copland has some comments (“Vague law is bad law”) on the “honest services fraud” cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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TrialLawyersIncNew from the Manhattan Institute’s Trial Lawyers Inc. project, on health care and the Litigation Lobby; a few of its highlights are summarized here, at Point of Law.

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Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow John Avlon, in Forbes:

New York City spends more money on lawsuits than the next five largest American cities — Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix and Philadelphia — combined. The city’s $568 million outlay in fiscal year 2008 was more than double what it spent 15 years ago and 20 times what it paid in 1977.

And the odd and extreme cases continue:

A Brooklyn insurance investigator won $2.3 million this year after he tumbled onto the subway tracks with a 0.18 blood-alcohol level and lost his right leg. (“They’re not allowed to hit you just because you’re drunk and on the track,” his lawyer explained.) A corrections officer received $7.25 million after unsuccessfully attempting suicide, on the grounds that the city should not have permitted her to have a gun. (“Ms. Jones could just have easily turned her city-authorized firearm on anyone,” her lawyer said.)

The piece is adapted from a contribution to a City Journal symposium, “New York’s Tomorrow”, and there’s also an associated podcast (cross-posted from Point of Law). More: Eric Turkewitz talks back from a plaintiff’s point of view (“when you account for inflation, there really hasn’t been much change at all” [compared with 15 years ago)] (& welcome Above the Law, WSJ Law Blog readers)

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Microblog 2008-12-19

by Walter Olson on December 19, 2008

  • Newest “Trial Lawyers Inc.” report is on Louisiana [Manhattan Institute, Point of Law]
  • Mel Weiss disbarred automatically w/strong language from judges [Matter of Weiss h/t @erwiest]
  • Pro se claimant: I wrote down cure for cancer and then the darn hospital stole it! [Above the Law]
  • “California Supreme Court Ruling May Deter Good Samaritans” [The Recorder; SF Chronicle with copious reader comments, GruntDoc, our coverage last year]
  • Due diligence on dodgy funds? Sometimes it seems everyone’s relying on someone else to do that [Bronte Capital] Madoff fraud may date to 1970s, maybe “recent laxity” angle has been overdone [Securities Docket] “Ponzi crawl” = pub crawl whereby new person is added at each location and has to buy a round [Re Risk]
  • Radley Balko on Julie Amero malware-prosecution story [Reason, earlier]
  • Join Paul Ehrlich in some of the world’s most famously refuted predictions, and you too may get to be Obama’s science adviser [John Tierney/NYT, John Holdren]
  • Wisconsin Minnesota pig-sitter trial set for March, claim is that defendant let star porker overfeed and gain a hundred pounds [LaCrosse Tribune h/t @kevinokeefe]
  • More on the Patent and Trademark Office “acceptable error” employment case [Venture Chronicles, Jeff Nolan; earlier]
  • Procter & Gamble “Satanism” case finally settles, soap giant got $19 million verdict against four Amway distributors who spread rumor [OnPoint News]
  • Once filing of a suit severs the channels of communication, attorneys and clients alike begin to make up “what really happened” narratives [Settle It Now]
  • Sometimes lawyers need to be formal. Don’t IM “Court denied your appeal u will b executed saturday thx” [Beck & Herrmann]
  • Bangladesh hoping to build replica of Taj Mahal despite copyright claims [Times Online h/t @mglickman]
  • Midnight regulations? “OMB Watch” vigilant (and with reason) during this R-2-D transition but sang different tune in 2000’s D-2-R [Gillespie, Reason]

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Yesterday the Manhattan Institute unveiled a new study by my colleague there, Senior Fellow Marie Gryphon, entitled “Greater Justice, Lower Cost: How a ‘Loser Pays’ Rule Would Improve the American Legal System” (podcast; Pajamas TV video). It’s got an introduction by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose endorsement of the idea all by itself counts as a welcome news story, I think. I was part of the panel discussion held to welcome the paper, along with Philip Howard of Common Good, Ted Frank of AEI (and this site), and NYU law professor Mark Geistfeld. Some coverage of and reactions to the study: ABA Journal, AmLaw Litigation Daily, Quin Hillyer @ Washington Examiner, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Legal NewsLine, Jane Genova, and Jim Copland and Michael Krauss at Point of Law.

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I’ll be on a morning panel discussion sponsored by the Manhattan Institute to discuss a new paper on loser-pays reform by Marie Gryphon. Details here.

New at Point of Law

by Walter Olson on November 3, 2008

If you’re not visiting my other site — or subscribing to it in your RSS reader, or following its Twitter feed — here’s some of what you may have missed lately:

Manhattan Institute fellow Marie Gryphon, in National Review, on the state’s loser-pays rule:

Alaska’s unique rule is a product of its history. When the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the icy wilderness had so few inhabitants that the U.S. neglected to establish immediately any civil law there at all. Congress instituted a civil legal system for Alaska in 1884 through an Act that borrowed from Oregon’s civil code and applied it to the new territory virtually wholesale. At that time, an Oregon statute allowed the prevailing party in a civil suit to recover attorney’s fees from the loser. While Oregon unwisely dumped its loser-pays rule eventually, Alaska embraced loser pays and stuck with it. …

The Alaska Judicial Council conducted a review of Alaska’s loser-pays rule in 1989 and found that, while the law could not deter filings by irrational plaintiffs, it did reduce the number of low-merit lawsuits in Alaskan courts. The Council also found that a majority of Alaskan attorneys liked the system and believed that it functioned well.

(cross-posted from Point of Law).

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Welcome LA Weekly readers; this website is mentioned and I am quoted in a less-than-entirely-coherent story about mold litigation in this week’s LA Weekly. The story focuses on Sharon Kramer, who has given up a full-time career to pound the drums over her fight with her insurer alleging mold harms after a remediation; and an unfortunate lawsuit brought by scientist Bruce Kelman against Kramer. Kelman only wants an apology from Kramer for her issuing a press release that falsely claimed he lied under oath; Kramer has refused, and Kelman is still stuck in litigation where he will likely come up with a Pyrrhic victory. (Kelman’s work writing a layperson’s guide to the science of mold for the Manhattan Institute is central to the libel allegations.) Kramer, meanwhile, blames her aging on exposure to mold, rather than, say, turning 56. The story suffers for treating Erin Brockovich as the archetype of a justified plaintiff; Overlawyered readers know better.

The story is worthwhile for one new tidbit of information, the poetic justice facing Ed McMahon for his bogus mold lawsuit:

In 2003, another raft of huge mold news stories broke nationwide, and Kramer paid close attention. The most famous, and strangest, was that of Johnny Carson’s sidekick Ed McMahon, who took a $7.2 million settlement after suing for $20 million in his claim that mold made him and his wife sick — and killed his sheepdog, Muffin. …

In the McMahon case, some see the tragic unraveling of a popular public figure egged on by an attorney, Allan Browne. No hard, scientific evidence was ever made public proving that McMahon or his dog suffered the specific mold allergies and immune-system problems that, in rare cases, can be set off by household mold.

Since then, McMahon has become a sad figure, with a series of new troubles, including his default this year on his palatial 7,000-square-foot home on Mulholland Drive, involving a $4.8 million loan from the infamous lender Countrywide. And he just sued again, bizarrely accusing investment tycoon Robert Day of having in his mansion a poorly lit staircase on which McMahon says he fell during a party last year. McMahon is belatedly alleging he broke his neck but that doctors missed it.

The longtime TV pitchman spent years convincing the courts and the general public that his home contained rampant, poisonous, deadly mold strong enough to fell a large dog. McMahon talked it up for so long that he now faces the daunting task of selling a home he can no longer afford, that people believe is riddled with toxins.

Also interesting to me is the story’s quote of me. I gave an e-mail interview to the author, Daniel Heimpel in February. It’s interesting what gets used and what doesn’t get used, so I am going to attach the entire interview.

Here’s the full February 28 interview:

[click to continue…]

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Few battlegrounds of legal reform have been harder-fought than that in the state of Michigan, where I grew up. On the plus side, the Wolverine State has seen three rounds of legislatively enacted litigation reform, along with the appointment by former Gov. John Engler of probably the most reform-minded state supreme court majority in the nation. On the minus side, trial lawyer interests have long been key players in state politics, often practicing a bare-knuckled brand of advocacy, and the career of colorful (and recently acquitted) Geoffrey Fieger of Southfield, arguably the Midwest’s most prominent trial attorney, is virtually a synonym for waywardness in the courtroom and out.

Now the Manhattan Institute’s Trial Lawyers Inc. series, under the able direction of Jim Copland, has published a new installment taking a look at the state’s tense legal politics. Trial lawyers are expected to work hard this year to knock off reformist Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor at the polls, and are also engaged in an all-out push to repeal the state’s one-of-a-kind law directing its courts in liability cases not to second-guess Food and Drug Administration determinations on pharmaceutical approval and marketing. To get up to speed on these issues and more, start here. (cross-posted from Point of Law).