Fifteen years ago, I wrote the following, to considerable skepticism from some ADA advocates, about the idea that online publishers should be legally obliged to make their websites “accessible” to blind, deaf, and other disabled users:
If it’s easy for entrepreneurial litigators to stroll down the main street of a town and find stores vulnerable to an ADA suit because their water fountain or pay phone is at the wrong height, it’s even easier for them to surf the Web and find sites that flunk the most widely accepted disability guidelines. Assuming a court can be found with proper jurisdiction over them, the next logical step is the filing of accessibility complaints by the cartload.
Federal courts were cool toward the idea of obligatory web accessibility, but more recently it has been stirring back to life, in part owing to an Obama administration move to revitalize the idea. And while it’s taken me a while to catch up with the story, it appears that at least one practicing lawyer has indeed spotted a niche for the mass filing of ADA suits against small businesses over their online presence.
That lawyer is Minneapolis-based attorney Paul Hansmeier, who fittingly or otherwise was previously associated with the now-disgraced Prenda Law Group, which engaged in mass copyright complaint filing against computer users recorded as downloading certain X-rated materials. Mike Masnick at TechDirt followed the adventures of Hansmeier and his Class Justice in multiple web-accessibility filing in this 2013 post with sequel and even more entertaining followup (channeling Dan Nienaber, Mankato, Minn., Free Press). Now Tim Cushing at TechDirt reports that Hansmeier is running into a bit of resistance in the form of a counterclaim by one of his targets, Kahler Hotels.
- Noting statistical disparities, DoJ blames evils of Ferguson, Mo. policing on racism, conservatives push back [Dara Lind/Vox, Peter Kirsanow, IBD] Many of same trends in policing and incarceration found in cities where voters, elected officials and police forces are black-majority [Reihan Salam]
- “Resisting arrest” when there are no other charges against you: an odd crime may soon get odder if New York lawmakers yield to demands that it be made a felony [Scott Greenfield]
- Interview with former Virginia Attorney General and corrections reformer Mark Earley [Chase Madar, American Conservative]
- “How to Address Anger Over Shootings By Police? Hide Cops’ Names, Of Course!” [J.D. Tuccille; New York Times (“In many jurisdictions, including New York State, simply determining the names of officers involved in fatal shootings can be a struggle.”), earlier Virginia]
- Did Detroit really do itself a favor with its massive crackdown on noncompliant businesses? [Scott Beyer, Governing]
- “Governors Highlight Criminal Justice Reform in State of State Addresses” [ALEC “American Legislator”]
- Minnesota bill would bar police agencies from investigating own officer-involved shootings [KMSP via Radley Balko]
The library in Duluth, Minn. may need to discontinue its seed sharing program, popular among local gardeners. “State agriculture regulators say the exchange — one of about 300 in the United States — violates the state’s seed law because it does not test seeds. … ‘The last thing you’d want to have is somebody goes in the library, picks up seed, and it doesn’t come up,” said Steve Malone, a supervisor in the department’s Plant Protection Division.'” That would be anarchy! [Minnesota Public Radio]
- Hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama trends on Twitter after high schoolers tweet it with pics of unappetizing lunch trays, provoking “shut up and eat what’s put in front of you” reactions from some who support the new federally prescribed rules. Maybe better to listen instead? [Kevin Cirilli, The Hill, Rachel Zarrell, BuzzFeed]
- “After suing a small California company for calling its eggless product ‘Just Mayo,’ Hellmann’s maker Unilever tweaked references on its websites to products that aren’t exactly mayonnaise either.” [AP/Tulsa World]
- Mark Bittman/Michael Pollan scheme for national food policy? Send it back to the kitchen, please [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
- Johnny Appleseed, substance abuse enabler [Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian]
- One factor behind drive for new GMO non-browning potato: legal pressure against acrylamide, naturally forming browning component, by way of Calif. Prop 65 lawsuits and regulations [Guardian, New York Times]
- Costly, fussy, coercive: Minneapolis micromanages convenience food sales [Baylen Linnekin]
- No, FSMA isn’t worth the damage it’s doing to food variety and smaller producers [same]
The groundbreaking move follows negotiations with the federal government, which sent out a letter to school systems warning that disciplinary patterns with “disparate impact” were under suspicion. There is of course a reformist cast for rethinking some harsh aspects of school discipline systems, zero tolerance policies being one, but not the only, example. Such reforms might well have the effect of narrowing disproportionately high rates of discipline for students in some minority groups. But the Minneapolis system’s move (apparently encouraged by Washington) to consider race explicitly in the suspension process, with minority kids getting an additional layer of review, raises the likelihood of a challenge under the Constitution’s equal protection clause, as does the setting of an enforceable compliance objective of achieving identical suspension rates from one demographic group to the next independent of whether misconduct rates are identical. [Tom Corbett/Star Tribune, Hans Bader/CEI, John Steele Gordon/Commentary, RiShawn Biddle/Dropout Nation (a different view)].
- As condition of bail, federal magistrate orders arrestee to recant charge of government misconduct [Eugene Volokh]
- Possible life sentence for pot brownies shows “utterly irrational consequences of pretending drugs weigh more than they do” [Jacob Sullum, Radley Balko] Life sentence for guy who sold LSD: “the prosecutor was high-fiving [the] other attorneys” [Sullum]
- Do low-crime small towns across America really need MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected) armored vehicles and other military gear, thanks to federal programs? [Balko]
- Minnesota reforms its use of asset forfeiture [Nick Sibilla, FIRE] Rhode Island, Texas could stand to follow [Balko]
- If not for video, would anyone believe a story about Santa Clara deputies “spiking” premises with meth after finding no illegal drugs? [Scott Greenfield]
- Falsely accused of abuse: “He Lost 3 Years and a Child, but Got No Apology” [Michael Powell, NY Times “Gotham”; Amine Baba-Ali case]
- Two federal judges denounce feds’ “let’s knock over a stash house” entrapment techniques as unconstitutional [Brad Heath, USA Today]
Wow, more of this please [St. Paul Pioneer Press]:
It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.
Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter….
In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.
If lawmakers in Minnesota could identify 1,175 worthless or outdated laws that could be rooted out with little real political resistance, imagine how many other worthless or outdated laws there are that are not so easy to uproot because they work to the benefit of one group or other (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).
More: list of laws.
- “House Report criticizes EEOC for litigation before conciliation” [HRM America, attention-stirring Merrily Archer survey and more]
- Do you gripe about upward spiral of executive salaries? Do you want to force employers into fuller pay disclosure? Be aware of the tension between those two positions [Gary Shapiro of CEI, Daily Caller]
- Because the union is all about respect: Laborers/LIUNA brings giant inflatable rat to St. Louis funeral home [KTVI]
- Reality-based: “during five of last six federal minimum wage increases, nation fell into recession” [Thomas Firey, Cato via @scottlincicome] Minimum wage and automation [Ira Stoll, earlier]
- Minnesota legislature expands employer regulation under apple-pie heading of “Women’s Economic Security Act” [Courtney Ward-Reichard guest-posting at Daniel Schwartz’s] How well are state-mandated employee leaves working in California? [Coyote]
- “EEOC continues fight against severance agreements, while employers fight back” [Jon Hyman, earlier on CVS case]
- OSHA targets auto suppliers in South for enforcement crackdown, rationale to be supplied later [Sean Higgins, DC Examiner via Instapundit (“Well, he can’t come right out and say it’s about hurting non-union shops”)]