In the case of Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, scheduled for argument Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider curbing the modern scope of the Alien Tort Statute, which asserts U.S. jurisdiction over various human rights controversies arising within the bounds of other countries. [Reuters, earlier] Considering that it amounts to the Law of the Hegemon, the Statute is oddly popular in some Left circles [Kenneth Anderson/Volokh] European governments (Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands) have filed amicus briefs on the defense side [John Bellinger, Lawfare; more, WaPo]
More: The New York Times’s Room for Debate discussion includes a contribution by my Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro. And Point of Law is having a featured discussion on the case with David Weissbrodt of the University of Minnesota and Julian Ku of Hofstra.
Prosecutors say the evidence does not support convicting prominent Dutch politician Geert Wilders of violating hate speech laws. [Dutch News] On the other hand, Andy McCarthy points out that the Dutch legal system — which obviously differs on this point from our own — allows judges to force the case to continue notwithstanding the prosecutors’ view that it should be dropped. [NRO "Corner"]
Forwarded by Pete Warden with the comment, “This post sums up why I’m a pretty liberal guy *and* a strong supporter of Overlawyered.”
And then came the second look [Scott Greenfield]
You can’t win if you don’t play: “A Dutch woman who claimed she suffered emotional damages due to not winning the lottery missed the jackpot in court too. Amsterdam District Court judges Wednesday rejected the claim of Helene de Gier, who said she was traumatized by not winning the country’s National Postcode Lottery, which she didn’t enter, while her neighbors did.” DeGier said one lucky neighbor had rubbed in his good luck by showing off a new Porsche, and claimed lottery ads had engaged in “emotional blackmail” by suggesting that non-entrants like herself might be sorry afterward. (AP/IHT, Reuters).
Partners in crime dept.: “A Dutch man who served time in jail and was deported for running one of the largest escort services in the Southeast has sued six former customers.” Arthur Vanmoor, 46, who used aliases such as “Big Pimpin’ Pappy” and whose South Florida enterprise “accounted for up to 90 percent of the escort service listings in Broward County’s 2002 Yellow Pages”, claims his customers got him in trouble by breaking the law and violating their contracts with him. “To pay the $245-per-hour escort fee, the men signed a credit card slip that said, ‘Cardholder states that this transaction is not for illegal activity,’ said Vanmoor’s attorney, Montgomery Sibley.” (AP/NBC6.net, Feb. 27).
Montgomery Sibley, attorney for Vanmoor, appeared on Tucker Carlson’s “The Situation” Mar. 1 to explain his client’s case; see this amusing account with video. A Google search reveals that a Florida attorney named Montgomery Blair Sibley, proceeding pro se, sued federal judicial officials including the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court (including “Steven” Breyer) demanding a million dollars in damages from the Justices individually for various purported offenses which included not granting certiorari review to a domestic dispute Sibley was involved in. Sibley took his case up to the Eleventh Circuit (PDF), but did not prevail.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Vanmoor is known for his litigious nature. In the past decade, he has been a plaintiff or defendant in 29 lawsuits in Broward County alone. He has sued businesses that challenged him, police departments that investigated him, an assistant state attorney who prosecuted him and journalists who reported on him.” (Sean Gardiner, “Man charged in Broward prostitution ring sues his clients”, Feb. 27). The alleged johns have not been named in the latest round of news coverage, so far as a cursory search of coverage reveals. One wonders whether the possibility of such publicity might be one factor influencing the prospective settlement value, if any, of the new round of suits.
We’re one of the “Wekelijkse aparte links” on the Netherlands portal Leukestart.nl. If this is your first time here, our page on personal responsibility is especially popular with readers; we’ve also got pages on, among many other topics, Great Britain, lawsuits against schools, and aviation.
The 11-minute film on the subjection of women in fundamentalist Muslim communities, for which the Dutch filmmaker was murdered by an Islamist assassin, may be viewed here (via Andrew Sullivan). Instapundit has a link roundup (Nov. 9).
While national alcohol prohibition in the US is widely (if not quite universally) regarded as a failure, there remains substantial support for our current tragic folly, drug prohibition. The respective prohibitions are not identical, however, and I want to point out two ways in which drug prohibition is worse than alcohol prohibition. First, during alcohol Prohibition, purchase and (for the most part) possession of alcohol were not crimes. (People often seem surprised to learn this these days, as if the drug war has made a firm link in their minds between prohibition and the criminalization of possession and purchase.) In other words, what we refer to as a “decriminalization” regime with respect to drugs today is pretty much what we had with alcohol prohibition: drug prohibition is much more severe than alcohol Prohibition.
The second major difference is that alcohol prohibition was restricted to a handful of countries, whereas drug prohibition is global. As a result of the limited geographical scope, there was plenty of legally produced alcohol during Prohibition, such as that made in Canada (and then illegally smuggled into the US) by Seagrams. But more importantly, the fact that other countries had legal alcohol — and were often just as successful in reducing consumption and alcohol-related problems as the US — provided ongoing evidence of the extent to which Prohibition was a policy blunder. With global drug prohibition, we are very limited in the types of policy experiments that can be run; even in the Netherlands, marijuana is technically just as illegal as it is in the US. This helps to explain the odd “self-justifying” nature of drug prohibition. Bad outcomes under drug prohibition should tend to discredit prohibition as a policy. This is what would likely occur if there were a visible alternative policy with outcomes that were better. Instead, bad outcomes under drug prohibition are met with the logic that if there were fewer drugs, there would be fewer bad outcomes. So to reduce bad outcomes under prohibition, we need… a stronger, more committed prohibition!
In the late 1930s, Edward Kasner was asked to come up with the name for a large number; as legend has it, he asked his nine-year old nephew, who said “googol,” and Kasner’s 1940 book “Mathematics and the Imagination” popularized the term for the number 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. Over a half century later, a variation of that word was used to name a popular search engine, which you may have heard is going public in an e billion dollar offering.
Now Kasner’s great-niece, Peri Fleisher, is going public herself, complaining that her family hasn’t been compensated for Google’s choice of a name, and “exploring” the possibility of legal action. Fleisher has said that she would settle for being allowed to participate as an “insider” in the IPO; the interviewer, either out of ignorance or charity, doesn’t point out that because the Google IPO is a “Dutch auction,” Fleisher already has the right to participate as an “insider” (presuming she means a “friends and family offering”), which is merely the right to buy shares in an IPO at the issuing price. (Gerald P. Merrell, “Have your Google people talk to my ‘googol’ people”, Baltimore Sun, May 16).
Blessed are those who just don’t get involved in the first place dept.: “Relatives of victims of Europe’s bloodiest post-war massacre are to sue the United Nations and the Dutch government for ?370 million.” Since no adequate recovery is to be had from Bosnian Serb war criminals for the Srebrenica massacre, reparations lawyers now wish to extract money from the well-meaning neutrals and noncombatants whose bungling efforts failed to prevent it. That should provide a good incentive for anyone to volunteer as peacekeepers in future, no? U.S. lawyers are said to be involved. (“Srebrenica relatives sue UN and Dutch for ?370m”, Daily Telegraph, Nov. 10).
American women who get routine mammograms are more likely to be called back for additional tests than women in other countries, even though such caution does not result in more cases of breast cancer being found, a new study has found. ‘Higher callback rates would be fine if we had evidence we’re getting more bang for the buck,’ said Dr. Joann Elmore, lead author of research published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. ‘But we’re not.’” The study found that “American mammographers do not detect any more cases of breast cancer, nor do they detect cancer at earlier stages, than their counterparts in such countries as Australia, the Netherlands, Italy or Britain.” They do, however, have a much higher false-positive rate: “According to one of Elmore’s earlier studies, one in every two U.S. women will have at least one false positive after 10 years of annual screening. … the authors say they have adjusted for most of the other factors that could lead to higher false-positive rates and hint strongly that America’s litigious culture is implicated.” (“Callbacks don’t increase detection”, Chicago Tribune/San Diego Network of Care, Sept. 17). See also Nov. 2, 2000; May 12, 2003; “Study suggests false-positive mammogram results linked to radiologists? experience”, UW School of Medicine Online News, Sept. 27, 2002 (earlier Elmore research).