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New Jersey

Brian Aitken at Cato

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2014

In several 2010 posts we covered the story of Brian Aitken, who was imprisoned by the state of New Jersey simply for carrying unloaded guns and ammo in his trunk (really, that was the extent of the crime). Last week Cato hosted Aitken to talk on his new book The Blue Tent Sky: How the Left’s War on Guns Cost Me My Son and My Freedom. Tim Lynch of Cato moderated, and I gave comments. Event description:

In 2009 Brian Aitken, a media consultant and web entrepreneur, ran afoul of New Jersey’s draconian gun laws when he was arrested while transporting two handguns unloaded and locked in the trunk of his car. Despite the fact that Aitken owned the guns legally and had called the New Jersey State Police for advice on how to legally transport his firearms, he found himself sentenced to seven years in prison.

In 2010 New Jersey governor Chris Christie commuted Aitken’s sentence. But Aitken’s experience, like that of other law-abiding gun owners who’ve faced long prison sentences for honest mistakes, raises troubling questions about gun-law overreach, prosecutorial discretion, and judicial abdication.

I recommended the book as a riveting and outrageous read, yet leavened with hope because of the story of the strong public movement that formed to protest the injustice of his incarceration. In my comments, I mentioned the feds’ heavily armed raid on an Indiana antiquities collector. More on that story here.

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Police and community roundup

by Walter Olson on December 15, 2014

  • Oh, no: “Ferguson to Increase Police Ticketing to Close City’s Budget Gap,” because three arrest warrants per household is still too low [Bloomberg News via Zach Weissmuller (& thanks for quote), earlier]
  • In years 2011/12 alone, one Buffalo officer “killed as many dogs in the line of duty as the entire NYPD.” [WGRZ]
  • “He believed the poor had the right to buy and sell.” Tunisia yes, Staten Island too? [David Boaz, USA Today]
  • “The language of protest: Race, rioting, and the memory of Ferguson” [Abigail Perkiss, NCC/Yahoo, mentions me]
  • “Red light cameras to go dark in New Jersey” [Josh Kaib, Watchdog Wire] “Public opinion swings hard against traffic cameras” [AutoBlog]
  • On interpreting statistics on race and policing, point counter-point [Scott Alexander, Ezra Klein, Alexander] Reminder: increasing ranks of black officers does not necessarily lead to fewer shootings of black civilians [Jamelle Bouie, Slate]
  • “Sex, Spice, and Small-Town Texas Justice: The Purple Zone Raid” [Reason.tv video]

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Liability roundup

by Walter Olson on December 12, 2014

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December 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 2, 2014

  • “Lying to a Lover Could Become ‘Rape’ In New Jersey” [Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason, Scott Greenfield]
  • “A $21 Check Prompts Toyota Driver to Wonder Who Benefited from Class Action” [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]
  • On “right of publicity” litigation over the image of the late General George Patton [Eugene Volokh]
  • HBO exec: “We have probably 160 lawyers” looking at film about Scientology [The Hollywood Reporter]
  • Revisiting the old and unlamented Cambridge, Mass. rent control system [Fred Meyer, earlier]
  • Lawyers! Wanna win big by appealing to the jurors’ “reptile” brain? Check this highly educational offering [Keenan Ball]
  • “Suit claims Google’s listings for unlicensed locksmiths harmed licensed business” [ABA Journal]

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Public employment roundup

by Walter Olson on December 1, 2014

  • 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]

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New Jersey: Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Dennis O’Brien has granted summary judgment to the defendant law firm of Wolff, Helies, Duggan Spaeth and Lucas and dismissed Thomas Hickey’s suit over his injuries in falling off a reclining chair in its office during a deposition. Hickey’s lawyers had argued that the law firm as owner and maintainer of the chair was negligent not to check its settings for safety before each use. The court found that whatever hazards might inhere in the chair’s low-tension setting, Hickey had been sitting in it for 90 minutes which was “sufficient time for him to learn the chair was designed to tilt and to appreciate its tension setting.” [Ashley Peskoe, NJ.com]

More chronicles of office-chair falls here (law office, Palm Beach, Fla.), here (law office, New York, N.Y.), here (NYC police detective shot by self in tippy chair), and here (U.K. law firm ad).

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For Reason TV. On a pending New Jersey case: “I think it’s the first case of letting a kid wait in a car that’s going to any state supreme court.” Lenore’s now-classic appearance at Cato, “Stop Bubble-Wrapping Our Kids!,” can be viewed here.

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A successful whistleblower, he’s featured on the reality-TV show “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and one can only commend his pacific spirit, at least as regards physical combat:

I don’t fight. I think it’s stupid. I’m trained as an attorney. If I want to hurt you, I’m going to sue you. I’m going to leverage your house. I’m gonna give you three years of hell in a courtroom. I’m going to bleed you dry financially, and I’m going to humiliate you as I depose you for eight hours and make you my bitch.

[Newark Star-Ledger via Above the Law]

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Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on August 11, 2014

  • Celebrated as the “most insane amusement park ever,” New Jersey’s notorious Action Park reopens, minus some of its most extreme hazards [National Post]
  • Insurance industry study finds attorneys getting into higher share of auto crash claims [IJ]
  • Medical monitoring cases, once seen as wave of future, have not fared well in court [Steven Boranian, DDL]
  • “Florida high court’s irrational ‘rational basis’ rejection of state tort reform undermines Rule of Law” [William W. Large, Washington Legal Foundation]
  • For a sense of where tort pressure is being felt, list of litigation groups at AAJ (including newly formed groups) often provides clues;
  • Los Angeles jury finds team partly liable in $14 million negligent security award for man beaten in Dodger Stadium parking lot [AP]
  • “Perhaps this is the first of a wave of hose-entanglement cases” [Lowering the Bar, Louisiana]

She’s suing Fulton Financial, her employer, under New Jersey’s state equivalent of the ADA for its resistance to accommodating her by switching her to less stressful commuting hours [Courier-Post]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on June 17, 2014

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on June 16, 2014

  • The federal school lunch initiative as experienced by school districts in rural New York [Sarah Harris, North Country Public Radio]
  • Europe’s Ugly Fruit movement wants to reclaim for consumers tons of food rejected for appearance, sometimes by marketers and sometimes by regulators [NYT]
  • Expect uptick in food labeling suits after Supreme Court decision approving suit in Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola [Glenn Lammi, WLF; FedSoc Blog; more, Mayer Brown]
  • “Biggest secret” of glutamic acid, of umami and MSG fame, “may be that there was never anything wrong with it at all” [BuzzFeed]
  • Cottage food win: New Jersey lawmakers unanimously back right to sell homemade goodies [Institute for Justice]
  • Celebrity-driven “Fed Up” film is “strident stalking-horse for a Bloombergian agenda” [Jeff Stier, Baylen Linnekin]
  • Young persons, especially college students, drink much more than they used to. Right? Wrong [Michelle Minton, Andrew Stuttaford]

In November 2010 Camden Sgt. Jeffrey Frett radioed for help after receiving a superficial gunshot wound in the leg. Police discovered his wife near the scene and the officer later admitted “that he and his wife had concocted the incident. Officers injured in the line of duty receive a pension that pays 66 percent of their salary tax-free for life.” In the mean time, however, Frett had applied for a disability pension on a separate basis, namely the aftereffects of a 2008 car accident while on duty. Now the state pension board has turned down his request, with one of its members publicly questioning why the officer was permitted to plead to a very minor charge to resolve the staged-shooting episode. [Philadelphia Daily News]

How far can an employee go in ADA demands before finally going too far? [Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal]

The lawyer, a deputy attorney general known as E.H. in court papers, made 30 requests for special treatment in the course of his first year on the job—ranging from reserved indoor parking, adjusted timing on elevator doors, a grab handle in the rest room and transportation to court appearances—all of which were granted.

He sued because his 31st request—for a personal assistant who would “function as his shadow”—was refused.

On Thursday, an appeals court ruled that the Attorney General’s Office did not violate laws against disability discrimination. The court said deference was due the findings of the Civil Service Commission that an assistant was not warranted because it would not help E.H. address his weak job performance.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was new, there was hopeful talk among some disability advocates of what some wary employers nicknamed “two-for-one” hiring — demands that a second employee be put on payroll to assist the first. While courts have generally declined to go along with this idea, it is sobering to think the issue might be close enough that the worker’s very poor job evaluations might have mattered one way or the other.

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Unwed dads in court

by Walter Olson on March 13, 2014

A New Jersey judge has ruled that a mother-to-be doesn’t have to notify the estranged unwed father that she is going into labor or let him into the delivery room [ABA Journal] Meanwhile, a suit filed on behalf of unwed fathers is challenging Utah’s adoption laws, which they say improperly enable mothers from out of state to visit Utah for purposes of depriving unwed fathers of rights of notification or objection they would otherwise enjoy under their home state’s law [Salt Lake Tribune]

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“A New Jersey couple does not have to pay — for now — for their 18-year-old daughter’s college education, a judge ruled Tuesday evening.” [CBS New York, ABC News, NY Daily News, AP]

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March 5 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 5, 2014

  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights commissioners Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow: Administration’s new policy on race and school discipline likely to make schools more chaotic [Robby Soave, Daily Caller, 2011 related, earlier here, etc.]
  • French court: fan club members suffered legally cognizable emotional damage from Michael Jackson’s death [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • “The Newkirk incident demonstrates why cameras in the courtroom are a bad idea” [James Taranto, includes bonus New York Times disgrace]
  • Claim: advocates stymied firearms research over most of past two decades. Accurate? [Fox News]
  • Another look at the CPSC’s war on former Buckyballs CEO Craig Zucker [Jim Epstein, Reason, earlier]
  • Chris Christie use of monitorships in white-collar prosecutions draws renewed scrutiny [New Republic, earlier]
  • In which I am included in a list with George Will and Heather Mac Donald, all very flattering etc. etc. [Charles C. W. Cooke, NRO]
  • D.C.: disbarred lawyer sat for years as workers comp judge [Washington City Paper]
  • “German home-school family won’t be deported” although Supreme Court declines to hear asylum appeal [AP; discussion in comments earlier]

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Close-to-home plaintiffs

by Walter Olson on January 22, 2014

Weirdly, or tellingly? “Weirdly, two of [the New Jersey bridge plaintiffs] work for the attorney who’s representing them” [John Culhane, Slate via Howard Wasserman, Prawfs, earlier]

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