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Minnesota

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]

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on November 25, 2014

  • 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]

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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)].

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“I think I can safely say this is a very unusual claim,” said City Clerk Shari Moore, referring to Megan Campbell’s “claim against the city seeking $1,600 to $1,900 from public coffers for damage caused to her personal vehicle by a city worker — herself.” [St. Paul Pioneer-Press; Lowering the Bar]

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  • 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.

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  • “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")]

The defendant in the Duluth doctor-rating defamation case that we recounted here and here “told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.” The Minnesota Supreme Court eventually ruled that his comments were protected opinion. The doctor/plaintiff, for his part, spent $60,000 pursuing the suit. [Twin Cities Business]

The same article, a “Lawsuits of the Year 2013″ feature, also recounts how a couple under the influence of “sovereign citizen” teachings “filed more than $250 billion in liens, and other claims, against those they considered the cause of their problems, including [Hennepin County Sheriff Rich] Stanek, county attorneys and other court officials. The liens were filed against vehicles, houses and even mineral rights.” When Stanek went to refinance his property, he discovered he had been hit with $25 million in liens which took “several years” to remove entirely. The husband of the couple was sent to prison.

George Will on why you may be out of luck if you’re the thirteenth donor in Minnesota. [syndicated/Owatonna, Minn., People's Press] In a different sense, however, campaign finance law can be seen as quite calculated as opposed to arbitrary:

Eugene McCarthy, a Democrat who represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate from 1959 to 1971, said that in Washington anything said three times is deemed a fact. It is constantly said that today’s campaign regulations are “post-Watergate” reforms. Many were indeed written after the Nixon-era scandals. But the push for more government regulation of political speech began because Democrats were dismayed by what McCarthy accomplished [in challenging incumbent President Lyndon Johnson] in 1968.

Would that other newspapers were as forthright as calling for an end to “policing for profit” as the Grand Forks Herald. North Dakota is already considered to be one of the states that does best at curbing the abuse of civil forfeiture; adjoining Minnesota does less well.

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Scott Johnson at Power Line has a lookback-with-updates on the controversy over Minnesota CLE (continuing legal education) requirements precariously balanced between indoctrination and vacuity. “What bias does the Court seek to eliminate? If the elimination-of-bias requirement can be satisfied by courses such as ‘Understanding Problem Gambling,’ as it can, the requirement has become just one more way of making a statement while making the practice of law slightly more unpleasant than it already was or is.” We covered the issue back in 2003 (“compulsory chapel”).

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Medical roundup

by Walter Olson on November 13, 2013

  • Pressure from HHS leads day cares to ban practice of baby-swaddling, and not everyone’s pleased about that [Abby Schachter, Reason]
  • “If Big Pharma likes your healthcare plan, you can keep it” [Tim Carney]
  • For “those of us with polycystic kidney disease… stringent FDA regulation seems to be taking away hope” [Bill Brazell, Atlantic] And: speaking of the FDA, “Dallas Buyers Club Is a Terrific Libertarian Movie” [David Boaz, Cato] Also: New Peter Huber book, “The Cure in the Code: How 20th Century Law Is Undermining 21st Century Medicine” [Basic/Manhattan Institute, Wired]
  • $7,440 annual expected loss per hospital bed in Florida vs. $810 in Minnesota, and other med-mal loss statistics [Becker's Hospital Review via TortsProf]
  • Charge: black lung defense firm finds ways to conceal medical expert reports from adversaries [Center for Public Integrity via Joe Patrice, Above the Law]
  • Prescribing drugs for off-label uses is perfectly legal, but Johnson & Johnson will pay $2.2 billion for promoting the practice [Ann Althouse]
  • Jury awards $4 million legal malpractice verdict against prominent D.C.-based plaintiff’s firm [Richmond Times-Dispatch via White Coat]
  • “Can You Secretly Record the Medical-Legal Exam?” [Eric Turkewitz]

Yes, the New York City arts scene has a lot of money sloshing around in it, that of Minneapolis-St. Paul much less, but in neither instance are performing-arts labor unions doing well at reaching a livable accommodation with the needs of high culture. [Hoover "Defining Ideas"]

“There is no reason in the world for a case to be tried 20 years after it was filed,” said Judge Deanne Wilson, who said she knew of nothing matching the case in the New Jersey courts. The judge was highly critical of the conduct of the defendants, a real estate family led by Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf, which she found had misappropriated funds owed to longtime business partners. [Ben Horowitz, Newark Star-Ledger, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and more, Field of Schemes]

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Yesterday I poked fun at a ridiculous piece at HuffPo (apparently written by an undergraduate who was given a byline as a university researcher) claiming that doubling wages at McDonald’s would be no big deal for its prices or business strategy. Well, hats off to HuffPo, which has now withdrawn the piece, apologized for its errors, and substituted a piece that tries to take a more sober look at the issue. I wonder whether Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who was completely taken in by the original article, is feeling sheepish now (via Twitchy).

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Housing roundup

by Walter Olson on June 12, 2013

  • Danegeld: Wells Fargo agrees to pay $42 million to settle activist groups’ exotic legal claims re: REO property; much will directly go to support the groups [BLT]
  • On horrors of San Francisco landlordship, “Pacific Heights” still all too realistic [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Problem in Thomas Perez/HUD/St. Paul affair was not that DoJ chose to settle in such a way as to minimize its losses, but that it had pursued such a weak case in the first place [Richard Painter]
  • Dean Zarras on HUD v. Westchester [Forbes; our two cents] HUD embraces disparate-impact theory [Kevin Funnell, Arnold Kling]
  • Why did the mortgage market collapse? [Foote et al via @tylercowen]
  • Shorter Ta-Nehisi Coates: flaws of rent-to-own housing in ’50s Chicago prove US economic arrangements are a plot to immiserate blacks [The Atlantic] Yet Sinclair’s The Jungle, set 40 years before, showed very similar housing scams being played on Slavic newcomers.
  • Minnesota high court dodges Fourth Amendment worries re: rental inspection program [Ilya Shapiro, Cato, link fixed now]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on May 16, 2013

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The University of Minnesota law professor and Volokh Conspiracy contributor sorts out claims that the pending bill in his state threatens religious liberty. [St. Paul Pioneer Press]