We ran a post recently on how Mora County, New Mexico, had somehow passed an ordinance purporting to enact various fringy environmental theories (legal rights for natural landscape features like wetlands, a ban on oil and gas extraction by incorporated businesses, declaring all water a public trust) while stripping away a variety of currently recognized constitutional rights, both for businesses and others. A judge proceeded to strike the ordinance down, but several of our readers wondered how such a law could ever have made it past the review of lawyers in the first place, assuming the county was advised by such. Now Joseph Bottum, at the Weekly Standard, digs much deeper into the back story of the ordinance with exactly such questions in mind. He also explores the secessionist/insurrectionist tendencies implicit in the ordinance’s rejection of the supremacy or even authority of higher levels of government. It’s quite a story.
County in New Mexico purports to ban oil/gas extraction, assign legal rights to rivers, wetlands and other natural features, declare all water a public trust, create an enforceable legal right to a “sustainable energy future,” strip corporations of various current constitutional rights, and make the whole thing self-executing against private parties. Federal court: uh, no, guys [Eugene Volokh on decision in Swepi, LP v. Mora County, striking down ordinance on various grounds including Supremacy Clause, First and Fifth Amendments.]
- Fairfax County, Va. finally releases file on police shooting: contradicting fellow officer’s account, three cops say homeowner had hands up when shot [Washington Post, earlier here and here] “11,000 pages of court documents released on a Friday night, almost a year and a half after the shooting” [@markberman]
- New York Gov. Cuomo pocket-vetoes bill that would have further insulated unionized cops from discipline [E.J. McMahon, Empire Center]
- Police use of force is on the decline [Steve Malanga, City Journal]
- Utah bill would significantly reform no-knock police raids, bringing law back closer to common-law knock-and-announce standard, while Georgia bill would do less [Balko, Jacob Sullum, Scott Greenfield]
- “Even Small Towns Are Loading Up On Grenade Launchers” [Joseph Bottum, The Federalist] Charting the growth in MRAPs, militarization [Brent Skorup and Andrea Castillo, Mercatus via Balko] Investigative story on use of flashbang grenades [Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring, ProPublica] Earlier on militarization here, here, here, here, here, here, etc., and generally here.
- The New Yorker looks into the shooting of a mentally ill man in his home by Albuquerque police [Rachel Aviv] Same town: “Albuquerque prosecutor indicts cops, immediately faces repercussions” [Balko, Greenfield]
- “Time for a Police Offenders Registry: A police job is a privilege, not a right” [Ed Krayewski]
- More from Jonathan Blanks at Rare: “police practice, and not the law, should be the focus of reform“; when police lie about use of force.
Both Oklahoma State University and New Mexico State University use a version of “Pistol Pete” as a mascot. OSU found that although NMSU had agreed to use a variant, some items sold in connection with its school continued to use the version infringing on OSU’s. Suit was filed, but rather than expensively shooting it out in court, the two have now agreed to let a token fee cover a small leeway for infringement, and leave it at that. [Trademarkologist]
Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested Thursday on a combined 23 counts arising from a series of episodes in which the two men are said to have accepted cash and favors from persons with business dealings with their offices; Swallow is also accused of destroying and falsifying evidence to cover up dealings with a now-deceased entrepreneur from whom he had allegedly accepted $17,000 in gold coins. The two men, both Republicans, say they are innocent and expect to be vindicated. The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage saves the Harry Reid angle for paragraph 19; the Las Vegas Review Journal gives it more attention, emphasizing Reid’s strong denial of any wrongdoing. Unrelated but also depressing: a former New Mexico AG and a penny stock.
Also: Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, officials have placed plaques beneath portraits of four lawmakers in the state capitol with details of their eventual criminal convictions. I have more details in a Cato post.
Deborah La Fetra at Pacific Legal on a case that arose against a shopping mall after a runaway car smashed through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall into a medical clinic:
[On May 8,] the New Mexico Supreme Court decided in Rodriguez v. Del Sol Shopping Center that when a court decides whether a property owner has a duty to protect people from harm on the premises, the court must never consider whether the harm was foreseeable. PLF has long argued in premises liability cases that foreseeability cannot be dispositive, because the court must also consider the public policy considerations of imposing a duty to protect. The court’s holding that foreseeability must never be even a factor, however, sets it apart from every other court in the nation, to the detriment of New Mexican property owners and businesses….
This approach means that, as a practical matter, New Mexico courts can never dismiss a case on the grounds that the defendant owed no duty to the plaintiff. …This is a shocking departure from standard tort doctrine that squarely places upon courts the responsibility to determine the nature and extent of tort duties. All property owners and businesses in the state should be on notice that any accident, no matter how bizarre or unlikely, that occurs on their premises will almost certainly go to a jury – or settle.
Whole post here.
New WSJ op-ed by Eugene Volokh and my colleague Ilya Shapiro, with which I agree 100%: “We support the extension of marriage to same-sex couples. Yet too many who agree with us on that issue think little of subverting the liberties of those who oppose gay marriage. Increasingly, legislative and judicial actions sacrifice individual rights at the altar of antidiscrimination law.” Existing precedent affords a handy if narrow way to reverse New Mexico’s wrong-headed Elane Photography decision: “The Supreme Court’s ruling in Wooley guarantees the right of photographers, writers, actors, painters, actors, and singers to decide which commissions, roles or gigs they take, and which they reject.”
Related on bake-my-cake laws: in the absence of more robust rights to freedom of association, could we at least narrow what’s a public accommodation? [Scott Shackford, Reason; David Link, Independent Gay Forum (on precedent of landlord reluctance to rent to cohabitors] Earlier on photography and cake cases here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.
P.S. Cato podcast with Caleb Brown interviewing Ilya Shapiro on the topic.
- Follow the federal funding: “Stop giving out awards for arrests” [Andrew Sullivan]
- NYC cops shoot at mentally disturbed man, hit bystanders instead, charge him with their injuries [Scott Shackford, Popehat]
- Electric car owner charged with stealing 5 cents worth of power [Chamblee, Ga.: WXIA, auto-plays]
- Claims re: sex trafficking in US fast spiraling into absurdity. Keep going [Maggie McNeill, earlier] “Perverse Incentives: Sex Work and the Law” [Cato Unbound symposium] “California to Open Victim Compensation Funds to Prostitutes” [Shackford]
- Illegal ticket quotas at the LAPD, inmate beatings at the county sheriff’s jail: Los Angeles policing hit by multiple scandals [L.A. Times: editorial on charges against 18 sheriff’s deputies, LAPD ticket quota]
- Massachusetts crime lab test faker Annie Dookhan gets 3-5 year sentence [ABA Journal]
- “Overcriminalization in the states” [Vikrant Reddy, Texas Public Policy Foundation, draft; related Mother Jones] Conservatives call for reforms in New Mexico justice system [Rio Grande Foundation via @PatNolanPFM]
- Also: “Chief Judge For 9th Circuit [Alex Kozinski] Cites ‘Epidemic’ Of Prosecutor Misconduct” [Radley Balko]
Reacting to my Cato post, a couple of readers have responded, in effect: Isn’t the ACLU just a doctrinaire Left-liberal organization these days, rather than a bulwark of civil liberties? To which my answer is: I’d describe it as an organization with lively internal divisions, some factions of which push it in a doctrinaire Left direction, others of which want it to be more of a robust civil liberties organization. (As witness last year’s “Mayors vs. Chick-Fil-A” controversy, in which the ACLU of Illinois took a strong and clear civil libertarian stand while the ACLU of Massachusetts seemed to lean more toward a doctrinaire-Left position.) Some speak ironically of the “civil liberties caucus” that soldiers on thanklessly within the ACLU. I want to encourage that caucus and let it know it is appreciated. (& Stephen Richer/Purple Elephant, Coyote).