Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Drinking coffee behind the wheel = distracted driving?

The Minnesota state police don’t deny that they see coffee-drinking behind the wheel as something that might constitute prohibited distracted driving, but deny Lindsay Krieger’s claim that that was why she was pulled over on Interstate 94 in St. Paul. A spokeswoman says an officer stopped and ticketed Krieger (not her first time) for driving without a seat belt, and the coffee lecture was in the nature of an added warning. Krieger was once “busted in Eagan…for eating Cheerios out of a cup while waiting in line to make a turn.” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, FindLaw]

Assault on police: the newest hate crime?

The town of Red Wing, Minnesota, has passed a resolution urging that assaults on police be made a hate crime, a position urged for some years by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union. How bad an idea is this? A very bad one indeed, I argue in an op-ed for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Critics argue that [existing hate-crime] laws in effect play favorites, departing from the spirit of equal protection under law that aims at treating all victims of personal assault as equally important.

Because they seem to put an official public seal on a narrative of oppression, such laws are also lobbied for in me-too fashion by other groups that rightly or wrongly see themselves as oppressed….

Not only are lethal assaults on police declining, I note, but the vast majority of them do not arise from any supposed prejudice or animus against cops, nor do such crimes go neglected and unprosecuted. Besides, most states already allow sentence enhancements on other grounds for crimes against police:

…what would [such a change in law] symbolize? The merely absurd proposition that police in the U.S. today are an oppressed minority group? Or the downright dangerous proposition that the law should step in to chastise and rectify the attitudes of a public that may not be as supportive of police wishes and demands as cop advocates would like?

Read the whole thing. Incidentally, the town council voted last week to let its Human Rights Commission review the resolution, a possible step toward reconsidering it. Some earlier Cato commentary on hate-crime laws hereherehere, and here. (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty).

More links: Star-Tribune original coverage (noting that Red Wing’s police chief approached the council requesting the resolution as a “show of support,” and that Minnesota already provides for sentence enhancements when police are the target of crimes, as indeed do most states); FBI on definition of hate crime; Fraternal Order of Police side of the case; Washington Post; U.S. News; New York Daily News.

Schools roundup

  • Following student complaints, Northwestern Prof. Laura Kipnis investigated by her university over an essay she wrote on campus sexual politics [Jonathan Adler and more, Chronicle of Higher Ed (Kipnis cleared amid nationwide furor), Glenn Reynolds] Flashback: How NPR, the Center for Public Integrity, and federal officials fueled the campus sex assault panic [Christina Hoff Sommers, The Daily Beast, January] Harvard lawprof Janet Halley, who battles for rights of Title IX accused, is anything but conservative [Harvard Crimson] “The pretense of ‘neutrality’ … has its roots in privilege.” Popehat’s wicked satire of academia looks so real;
  • Throwing Skittles on a school bus = “interference with an educational facility” [Louisiana, Lowering the Bar]
  • To reduce stigma, or so it’s said, Maryland will serve free school breakfast and summer meals to more children whether they’re poor or not. Why cook for your kids when the state will do it? [my Free State Notes post]
  • Will high school football still be around in 2035? “Iowa Jury Awards Injured Ex-High School Football Player $1M” [Insurance Journal]
  • “Maryland’s ‘free range’ parents cleared of neglect in one case” [Washington Post, earlier]
  • St. Paul, MN schools in recent years embraced latest progressive nostrums on discipline, mainstreaming, cultural difference. Results have not been happy [Susan Du, City Pages]
  • “Two-Thirds of Risk Managers Say Frats Are Major Liability” [Inside Higher Ed] California trend spreads as Connecticut Senate passes affirmative consent bill for college disciplinary policies [West Hartford News/CT News Junkie]

From mass copyright complaints to web accessibility: one lawyer’s journey

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.

Police and community roundup

  • 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]

Duluth library seed-sharing program may violate state law

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]

Food roundup

  • 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]

Prodded by feds, Minneapolis will consider race in school suspensions

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)].