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Maryland

In exchange for relief from a state-mandated stormwater remediation fee, and direct government subsidies to pay for property improvements intended to reduce runoff, some churches in Prince George’s County, Maryland have made an unusual commitment to the authorities. I explain, and raise questions, at Free State Notes. Since when does government get the power to cut churches tax breaks in exchange for their agreement to preach an approved line?

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2014

  • In Utah prairie dog case, federal judge finds Endangered Species Act regulation of intra-state property impacts exceeds scope of enumerated federal powers [Jonathan Adler, Evan Bernick, Jonathan Wood/PLF] Certiorari petition on whether economic considerations should enter into ESA measures on behalf of delta smelt in California [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
  • “While Smart Growth as a whole is maligned by some advocates of the free market, many Smart Growth tenets are actually deregulatory.” [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism; related, obnoxious-yet-informative Grist]
  • Economic logic should be enough to halt suburban Maryland Purple Line, but if not, says Chevy Chase, hey, let’s find a shrimp [Washington Post; Diana Furchtgott-Roth on economics of Purple Line]
  • SCOTUS should review Florida-dock case in which lower courts held property rights not “fundamental” for scrutiny purposes [Ilya Shapiro and Trevor Burrus]
  • “The Problem of Water” [Gary Libecap, Cato Regulation]
  • Paul Krugman and others hyped the rare earth crisis. Whatever happened to it? [Alex Tabarrok]
  • Louisiana judge strikes down state law prohibiting levee boards’ erosion/subsidence suit against oil companies, appeal likely [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

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If so, you’d never guess from the result in the Maryland governor’s election, I argue at Cato at Liberty.

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Election open thread

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2014

Trial lawyer and inveterate Litigation Lobby booster Bruce Braley lost his Iowa senate bid (“He comes across as arrogant, and I think it’s because he is,” said an unnamed Democratic official.) Sen. Mark Pryor, chief Senate handler of the awful CPSIA law, lost big.

Massachusetts voters again rejected Martha Coakley, whose prosecutorial decisions we have found so hard to square with the interests of justice. The Wisconsin Blue Fist school of thought, which sees organized government employees as the natural and truly legitimate governing class, met with a rebuff from voters not only in Wisconsin itself but in neighboring Illinois (where Gov. Quinn, of Harris v. Quinn fame, went down to defeat) and elsewhere. Colorado voters rejected GMO labeling, while a similar Oregon bill was trailing narrowly this morning but not with enough votes to call.

California voters rejected Prop 46, to raise MICRA medical liability limits, require database use and impose drug testing of doctors, by a 67-33 margin, and also rejected Prop 45, intensifying insurance regulation, by a 60-40 margin (earlier).

I’ve written a lot at my Free State Notes blog about the governor’s race in my own state of Maryland, and unlike most others was not surprised at Larry Hogan’s stunning upset victory. The politics category there includes my letter to Washington Post-reading independents and moderates about why they should feel comfortable electing Hogan as a balance to the state’s heavily Democratic legislature, as well as my parody song about what I thought a revealing gaffe by Hogan’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 30, 2014

  • Weekly Standard runs my parody song about the local governor’s race, “Show Me the Way to Frederickstown, or, Lost in Maryland“; Update: Here’s Lauren Weiner’s rendition, to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike.” Freelance writer Lauren Weiner has lived in Baltimore since 1992. [improved YouTube link with video]
  • Also on Maryland governor’s race: it’s not every day a GOP challenger blames a Democratic incumbent for issuing too few pardons [Radley Balko; more on clemency]
  • Harry Reid forces are latest to demagogue Stand Your Ground laws and role of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but Glenn Kessler calls them on it with Four Pinocchios [Washington Post "Fact Checker"]
  • Enough non-citizens vote illegally “that their participation can change the outcome of close races.” [Jesse Richman and David Earnest, Washington Post Monkey Cage; a response]
  • State attorney general offices are now politicized and targets of lobbying, and why should we be surprised at that given all the power they’ve grabbed for themselves as business regulators in recent years? [David Boaz, Cato] Hot state-AG races this year include Wisconsin, Nevada, New Mexico, Arkansas [John Fund]
  • Two views on Alabama proposed Amendment One, curbing use of foreign law: Paul Horwitz (adds nothing to Alabama constitution not already there), Quin Hillyer (insurance against bad judicial decisionmaking);
  • More about the Greg Abbott tree-fall settlement called into question by opponent Wendy Davis [Hugh Kelly, TLR, earlier]
  • Long Island legislator withdraws from State Senate race after charges of high-dollar law-firm misconduct [Newsday]
  • Defaulted mortgages: “Coakley lawsuit has ties to key backer’s interests” [Boston Globe via Funnell] Flashback: Radley Balko in 2010 on Martha Coakley’s awful prosecutorial record (up to that point) [Politico; related, Harvey Silverglate on prosecutors who run for higher office; earlier]

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October 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 23, 2014

  • I’m quoted by Nicky Woolf of Great Britain’s Guardian on the police militarization angle in Keene, N.H. civil disturbances (also: Van Smith, Baltimore City Paper). Also quoted regarding the ominous move to heavy armaments of Wisconsin prosecutors investigating their political opponents in the dawn-raids “John Doe” proceeding [Watchdog, and second post, earlier] Humor in The New Yorker from Bruce McCall ["Pentagon Cop Aid Hits Snags"] And here’s a previously unlinked Cato panel last month on cop militarization with David Kopel, Mark Lomax, and Cheye Calvo, moderated by Tim Lynch;
  • Australia prime minister declares “repeal day” with “bonfire” of regulations [Jeff Bennett and Susan Dudley, Cato Regulation mag; earlier on Minnesota legislative "unsession" to dump outmoded or pointless laws]
  • “After dawdling for a year, panel tosses bogus complaint against Judge [Edith] Jones” [@andrewmgrossman on Houston Chronicle via Howard Bashman, Richard Kopf, Tamara Tabo, earlier here, here, and here]
  • Making waves: Michelle Boardman review of Margaret Radin book on boilerplate, adhesion contracts, fine print [Harvard Law Review, SSRN]
  • Why litigation lobby could cost Democrats Senate majority this year [Tim Carney]
  • Online-services companies, better not do business in Maryland since the state has a very special law that one law professor believes sharply restricts your customer research [Masnick/TechDirt]
  • Picking Thomas Perez as Attorney General would (or should!) ignite firestorm of opposition. Is that why President’s waiting till after Nov. 4? [Washington Examiner]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 21, 2014

  • Texas trial lawyer lobby has attacked Greg Abbott on theme of his accident for years without success, Wendy Davis would have been smarter to tell ‘em no [Politico]
  • Wondering about ObamaCare rate hikes? You’ll get to find out right after the election [Washington Times]
  • “Four more years of ‘pay-to-play’ if DeWine returns as Ohio AG, says Dem challenger” [LNL]
  • Blades concealed? Environmental group’s Iowa, Colorado attack ads play bad cop to wind lobbyists’ good cop [Tim Carney]
  • “W.Va. trial lawyers’ campaign donations near $600K” [W.V. Record]
  • With all the serious issues in the Maryland governor’s race, what’s this guy doing writing a parody song about Anthony Brown’s “Frederickstown” gaffe? [Free State Notes]
  • “Dear Trial Lawyer Colleague, One of our own, Bruce Braley, is in the fight of his life” [Joel Gehrke, earlier]

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Video now out from Save Farm Families on the Hudson Farm case (earlier). Description:

Collateral Damage: Farm Families Under Attack reviews the questionable political and academic actions that enabled the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance to push forward with its lawsuit against the Hudson family, and the continuing threat that environmental extremists pose to family farmers, not just in Maryland but across the nation.

I wrote about the case here, here, and here. It raises questions of legal ethics (when the mistaken factual basis for a claim is revealed, aren’t the attorneys obliged to withdraw it?), ideological adventurism in the environmental sphere by state-affiliated law schools, and the need for loser-pays. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who failed in a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor, comes off badly in the video, and America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure® Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., even worse.

[cross-posted from my Maryland blog Free State Notes; more on RFK Jr.'s latest foray into public discussion, in which the celebrity scion/frothing hothead again demands the incarceration of various persons who take the opposite side from him in environmental controversy]

More coverage: Mark Newgent/Watchdog and Len Lazarick/Maryland Reporter.

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on September 23, 2014

  • Down comes the pediatrician’s wall of baby pictures, another HIPAA casualty [Anemona Hartocollis/NY Times, resulting letters to the editor, earlier, NPR with somewhat different slant]
  • Had the Washington Post stayed on story of Maryland health exchange fiasco, it might have held power to account [my Free State Notes]
  • FDA rules requiring that certain drugs be kept out of hands of anyone but patients may inadvertently establish monopoly for some off-patent compounds [Derek Lowe via Alex Tabarrok]
  • Richard Epstein argues Hobby Lobby right result, wrong reasoning [new Cato Supreme Court Review, more]
  • Defensive medicine: so much easier to go ahead and order the ultrasound [White Coat]
  • Fate of melanoma-scanning device and the FDA [Alex Tabarrok via Elizabeth Nolan Brown] Can agency learn from European private certification? [more]
  • Seredipitous offshoot of study on rats helped premature infants; but would this have been quite as likely to appear in HuffPo if framed as “what we owe lab-animal research” rather than “what we owe federal research”? [Sam Stein; related, first volunteer given new trial Ebola vaccine, and a hat tip to lab-animal research on that too [Wellcome, U.K.]

Three columns to read on the subject: Gene Healy, Glenn Reynolds (linking this site), and Nat Hentoff (like Healy, a Cato colleague) in his syndicated column (thanks for mention). I had a letter to the editor yesterday in the Frederick News-Post drawing connections with local lawmakers (as well as a blog post at Free State Notes with similar themes) and the Arizona Republic quoted me Tuesday on the federal subsidy programs that drive militarization, including transfers to the ever-controversial Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of Joe Arpaio. Earlier here, here, here, here, here, etc.

P.S. Also quoted on NPR.

Alcohol roundup

by Walter Olson on August 22, 2014

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  • Did feds try to pass off bogus paperwork in Maryland forfeiture case? [Van Smith, my two cents at Free State Notes, Radley Balko (and thanks for mention)]
  • “I’m not saying that warrants are completely useless.” [Ken at Popehat]
  • “Massachusetts is the only state that incarcerates people suffering from addiction who have not been convicted of crimes” [ACLU of Massachusetts]
  • “Where Would We Be If Not For Police In SWAT Gear Raiding Poker Games?” [Amy Alkon]
  • Class of federal crimes that shows the biggest racial disparity isn’t drug offenses, it’s gun offenses [Balko on Shaneen Allen case in New Jersey]
  • Our merciful laws: “I Saw a Man Get Arrested For a Sex Crime Because He Made a Scheduling Error” [Lenore Skenazy, Reason] “Sex Offender Laws Have Gone Too Far” [Matt Mellema, Chanakya Sethi, and Jane Shim, Slate]
  • Police chief seeks to arrest one of own officers on brutality charge, state’s attorney says no [Scott Greenfield; Ed Krayewski, Reason; Enfield, Ct.]

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And so the experiment begins. The politics are pretty interesting, with neither the teachers’ unions nor the voters in places like Baltimore city necessarily thrilled about this development. It’s far more popular with various legal services groups, liberal foundations, and of course the Obama Administration’s Department of Education and Justice Department. [Washington Post, earlier on similar Los Angeles initiative and on the race angle]

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In more than a dozen states in recent years, governors, legislators or both have arranged through law or regulation to install unions to represent the fast-growing ranks of home health and child care workers, who in many instances are family members receiving a state stipend for looking after their own loved ones. In Harris v. Quinn, a five-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it violates the First Amendment rights of these recipients to require them to pay dues to a union of whose views and activities they may not approve. It did not alter — for now, at least — the 1977 Abood precedent under which full-fledged public workers can be required to pay such dues, instead recognizing a new category of “partial public employees.”

I explore some of the implications in this Cato podcast with interviewer Caleb Brown. Earlier on Harris v. Quinn here.

P.S. A tip-off from SCOTUS on where it intends to take Harris logic? One view from the Left [In These Times] Ruling is rebuke to various governors, including Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, who have employed executive orders to unionize home health carers [Marc Kilmer, MPPI; related, George Leef] Eugene Volokh dissents on the underlying “bedrock” First Amendment issue [Volokh Conspiracy] Will a teacher’s case called Friedrich v. CTA be the vehicle for revisiting Abood? [Jason Bedrick, Cato] And some clues that the first draft of Harris v. Quinn might have overturned Abood, before the majority reconsidered and pulled back [Jack Goldsmith, Sachs, Homer, at On Labor]

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Eight of the twelve most affluent counties in the United States are in the Washington, D.C. area, and high among them stands Howard County, Maryland (Columbia/Ellicott City), where the celebrations tomorrow will be a bit constrained:

Some find it a damper on the festivities to bring Howard County’s Fourth of July fireworks into compliance with County Executive Ken Ulman’s December 2012 edict sharply restricting the sale of sweet beverages and high-calorie snack food at county-sponsored events. Under the regulations, which are “the first and only of their kind in the state,” at least “50 percent of packaged food offered at county events must contain 200 calories or less per portion”; prepared food, such as funnel cakes and soft-serve ice cream, is not covered. [Baltimore Sun via Quinton Report] The rules exempt the county’s “Wine in the Woods” event, held each May.

Whether or not the policy mirrors the preferences of voters in Howard County (and who knows, it might), it serves the function of affluence signaling in the conspicuously prosperous county. One reason families pay a premium to move to a county like Howard is the implicit promise that their kids will grow up with plenty of worldly, educated, skinny role models and that the government is not going to be run in line with the wishes of poorer or lower-status residents. Message sent!

[adapted from my Free State Notes blog]

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The group Save Farm Families is doing a nonfiction film (link to trailer) about the Hudson Farm case, in which Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Waterkeeper group, backed by a University of Maryland environmental law clinic, sued an Eastern Shore chicken farming family on charges a judge later threw out as unfounded. More at my local policy blog Free State Notes.

The Chamber has been tracking this major engine of contingency-fee litigation as it jumps from federal practice to the realm of similar state laws vigorously lobbied for by the plaintiff’s bar. I have an opinion piece in the Baltimore Business Journal on the Maryland version, which 1) nearly passed this year, 2) would go further than the federal law in some vital respects, and 3) has become an issue in a closely watched primary contest.

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on May 26, 2014

  • NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
  • Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
  • 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a "this day and trip only" theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
  • “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley's IRS intervention, Watchdog]
  • Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
  • Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
  • Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
  • John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
  • Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.

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