Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’

Jury agrees: crashes of cars into stores are stores’ fault

For some time trial lawyers have been promoting the theory that when runaway cars smash into convenience stores and other retail locations, it is the stores’ fault for not installing protective bollards. This theory has now taken a big leap forward in a case in which a Western Massachusetts jury has told Cumberland Farms to pay $32 million over a crash in which a motorist who’d had a stroke careened off a road and into a Chicopee store. [Springfield Republican; more at Fair Warning, which as is its wont takes the plaintiff’s-bar side]

Massachusetts awards $100,000 to blind barber over firing

Great moments in discrimination law: Joel Nixon, who has been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and is legally blind, was fired from his job at Tony’s barber shop in South Easton, Mass. He says he had been giving men’s haircuts for years to customers’ satisfaction but was fired after a 2012 incident “when he tripped over a customer’s legs. Later in the day, he tripped over a chair in the waiting room.” His former employer Tony Morales calls the allegations “a bunch of lies” but “did not appear at numerous hearings and parted ways with an attorney who was supposed to help him.” The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the state civil rights agency, awarded Nixon $75,000 in lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress. [Bob McGovern, Boston Herald]

Free speech roundup

  • Supreme Court’s sleeper case of the term, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, may greatly toughen First Amendment scrutiny of many laws [Adam Liptak, New York Times]
  • Authorities to press charges against Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly, arrested last year in a McDonald’s during Ferguson protests [Newsweek]
  • Having said obnoxious things is grounds for exclusion from Canada. Right? [CTV] Related musings about speech that affronts us [Ken at Popehat]
  • In case paralleling issues in SBA List v. Driehaus, Massachusetts high court strikes down false-campaign-speech law that enabled incumbent to inflict legal woe on critics; state’s attorney general comes off poorly in account [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner/Cato]
  • Court strikes down of Idaho ag-gag law, and Prof. Volokh notes some parallels to Planned Parenthood covert filming battle;
  • Update: city of Inglewood, Calif. not faring well in effort to use copyright law to keep a critic from putting video clips of its council proceedings on YouTube [Adam Steinbaugh, earlier]
  • Denver digs itself deeper in charges over leafleting by jury nullification activists [Jacob Sullum, earlier]

Police unions roundup

  • Quite a story: “Las Vegas cop behind controversial killing now influential union leader” [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
  • Strife betwen NYPD union and City Hall long predates current NYC mayor [David Firestone, Quartz; Guardian]
  • “Report: Massachusetts police grant ‘professional courtesy’ to other officers caught driving drunk” [Radley Balko; earlier on cops’ refusal to ticket cops]
  • “Cleveland police union defends fired cop, saying others did far worse” [Cleveland Plain Dealer, earlier]
  • After cartoon ire, did union chief tell police departments not to give information to Bucks County, Penn. paper? [Jim Romenesko via Balko]
  • Oldie but goodie: “hit it with a flashlight until we gain compliance” [Officer.com]
  • Miami FOP: chief’s view of the Eric Garner case isn’t ours [Washington Post via Amy Alkon]
  • And for a contrasting view, check out the generally pro-police-organization site of Ron DeLord;

Public employment roundup

  • Cute: Outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Patrick shifts 500 managers to union status, now incoming GOP successor can’t touch ’em [Fox Boston]
  • Despite opposition from police union, Montgomery County, Md. eventually managed to correct disability scam [Washington Post editorial, Ed Krayewski]
  • “Retired CUNY professor gets $560K a year pension” [New York Post]
  • “L.A. Cannot Afford Budget Busting Labor Agreements” [Jack Humphreville, CityWatch L.A.] Major changes needed to Nevada public collective bargaining laws [Las Vegas Review-Journal] “States And Cities Coming To Grips With Economic Reality” [Brett Joshpe, Forbes]
  • “Public-Sector Unions and Government Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Political Contributions and Collective Bargaining Rights” [George Crowley/Scott Beaulier, Mercatus, PDF]
  • “Newark forced to rehire tenured teacher despite new state law” [NJ.com]
  • Time Magazine says not-especially-controversial things about tenure system, gets attacked by teachers unions [Weekly Standard] Throwing their money and influence around in elections [RiShawn Biddle on Democracy Alliance, same on AFT]

Westminster drops tobacco-ban proposal

“Bowing to a forceful majority of opinion, the [Westminster, Mass.] Board of Health has killed its proposed ban on tobacco sales.” [Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise, AP (“This is a free country?” sign), Chris Snowdon (“The anti-smokers of Westminster… had to demand prohibition before the townspeople finally realized that they were dealing with prohibitionists”), earlier]

Westminster, Mass., and the well-tended grass roots of tobacco bans

Townspeople came out loudly and in force to oppose the proposed Westminster, Mass. ban on all tobacco sales, and that has thrown advocates back a bit [New York Times, MassLive, earlier]:

“They’re just taking away everyday freedoms, little by little,” said Nate Johnson, 32, an egg farmer who also works in an auto body shop, as he stood outside the store last week. “This isn’t about tobacco, it’s about control,” he said.

Right he is. And despite the Times reporter’s lifted eyebrow at the notion that “outside groups” are encouraging town officials to go forward with the ban, it’s worth asking how Westminster, Mass., population 7,400, came to have its very own “tobacco control officer.” Do you imagine the townspeople decided to create such a position with local tax funds? If so, read on.

WestminsterSealFor well over a decade the Massachusetts Municipal Association has run something called the Tobacco Control Technical Assistance Program, assisted by grant money from the state Department of Public Health. It does things like campaign for town-by-town hikes in the tobacco purchase age to 21, and town-by-town bans on tobacco sales in drug stores. It will surprise few that it has been in the thick of the Westminster situation.

This article, written for a friendly audience of public health advocates, frankly describes how the MMA project, with assistance from nonprofit and university groups as well as the state of Massachusetts, worked to break down the reluctance of town health boards to venture into restrictions on tobacco sales (scroll to “Roles of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, Local Boards of Health, and Tobacco Control Advocates”);

Local boards were enticed into hiring tobacco control staff by the DPH’s tobacco control grants. As a participant in the process explained, “[L]ocal boards of health looked at it as ‘oh, it’s a grant. Let’s apply for this grant. So now, what do we have to do, now that we’ve got it?’” … The grants dictated that local boards use those community members they had hired as their staff to assist them in enacting and enforcing tobacco control regulations…

The staff paid for with money from outside the town seem to have seen their job as, in part, lobbying the local officials: “We’ve had to work on each individual board [of health] member to get them to come around,” said one.

The account continues with many revealing details of how the outside advisers managed to orchestrate public hearings to minimize critics’ voice, deflect challenges with “we’ll take that under advisement” rather than actual answers, and in the case of particularly intense opposition, “back off for a couple of months” before returning. “Grant-funded regulatory advocates were able to counter all of [opponents’] arguments and tactics.”

In other words, an extra reason for the townspeople of Westminster to be angry is that they have been paying to lobby themselves. And it’s worth knowing exactly how the game plan works, because similar ones have been rolled out to localities in various states not only on “tobacco control” but on “food policy,” environmental bans and other topics. Grass roots? If so, most carefully cultivated in high places.

Update Nov. 21: board drops plan in face of overwhelming public opposition.

Election open thread

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.