So does this mean better days ahead for New York, a terribly misgoverned state? As one who has been writing about New York politics since way back, I can’t bring myself to be too optimistic.
I got interested in Silver originally because of his distinctive role as protector of New York’s trial lawyers… But legal policy was only one of the many pots in which Silver kept his fingers, as Steven Malanga and Seth Barron detail in separate articles at City Journal. New York sluices huge amounts of money in its gigantic social services apparatus through non-profits, and friends of Sheldon were there to profit. Real estate development in New York is subject to famously convoluted restrictions, and huge sums are at stake in its rent control and rent stabilization system. Again and again, Silver was there to broker deals for his friends behind the scenes….
So long as New York pursues failed policies like rent control, it will open huge leeway for hidden favoritism. And then, sure as day, in will move the Sheldon Silver types.
“Since 2010, the state [of New York] has sought to fire 30 prison guards accused of abusing inmates through a convoluted arbitration process that is required under the union contract. Officials have prevailed only eight times, according to records of disciplinary cases released under state Freedom of Information Law requests.” [Tom Robbins, The Marshall Project; earlier on difficulty of investigating Attica abuse allegations, and related on correctional officers’ bill of rights laws]
Small banks and other regulated businesses now live at the permission of arbitrary regulators in a legal system that no longer protects individual rights. That’s the message of a letter sent to shareholders earlier this year by Frank H. Hamlin III, CEO of the small Canandaigua National Bank in upstate New York. In particular, Hamlin cites the way the office of New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has pushed around two other upstate banks (not his) on ill-defined redlining charges based on doing too much of their lending in the suburbs. I write about it in a new post at Cato at Liberty.
Investigators tried to look into the beating of an inmate by guards at New York’s famously tough Attica prison, still remembered for a lethal 1971 uprising, but ran into trouble: “Under their union contract, corrections officers are obligated to answer questions only from their employers and have the right to refuse to talk to outside police agencies. State Police investigators attempted to interview 15 guards; 11 declined to cooperate.” The subsequent sending of a “Notice of Discipline” to five officers on charges of excessive force “prompted an immediate rebellion among Attica’s corrections officers, who began a by-the-book work slowdown. Such job actions are not uncommon, officials acknowledge, with the only victims being the inmates whose meals, programs and visitors are all delayed.” [Theodore Ross, New York Times, in major article on aftermath of Attica, N.Y. prison beating](& welcome Instapundit readers)
- 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]
- Latest Yank expatriate to get caught in IRS’s overseas tax/FATCA trap? None other than London mayor Boris Johnson [Robert Wood, Forbes]
- “He washes any hint of influence-peddling through the purifying font of his law firm, just as other Albany leaders do.” [Mark Cunningham, New York Post]
- Now why would Texas trial lawyer Steve Mostyn spend $1.2 million trying to get Charlie Crist elected governor of Florida, a different state? [Nancy Smith/Sunshine State News, earlier on Mostyn]
- Yes, that opinion-TweetWatch project at Indiana U. funded with federal NSF dollars was intensely if covertly political [Charlotte Allen, Minding the Campus]
- Qui tam/whistleblower plaintiff bar finds bright spot in election with elevation of Iowa Sen. Grassley who has so often been helpful to them in past [WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
- Considerable turnover in election results for state attorneys general (due to open seats, of course; you thought incumbent AGs get defeated?) [NAAG, Bingham McCutchen/Lexology]
- “John Doe froze conservative speech, targets say” [M.D. Kittle/Wisconsin Reporter, earlier]
Don’t take my word for it, take New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s:
Mr. Cuomo conceded that the scaffold law was among the “infuriating” things about doing business in New York, but couldn’t be changed because of the strength of its supporters, particularly the state trial lawyers association.
“The trial lawyers are the single most powerful political force in Albany,” he said. “That’s the short answer. It’s also the long answer.”
As Andrew Hawkins explains at Crain’s New York Business, which interviewed Cuomo, the scaffold law is New York’s alone-in-the-country legal regime ascribing 100% liability for gravity-related workplace injuries to businesses found to have contributed any fault, even if the predominant cause was a worker’s drunkenness or decision to violate safety rules. Because awards are high, some estimate that the law will contribute $200 million to construction costs at the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuilding project alone compared with a law more typical of what is found in other states. The law has been under vigorous attack for some time by a New York business coalition, to no avail.
Attorneys for the state, which has a record of zealously guarding its “I [Heart] NY” promotional logo, have sent a threat to a model train company over a discontinued replica model of a real-life train that used the logo [Joe Patrice, Above the Law] [Corrected: state, not city]
Last year New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s income from prominent personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg, where he is of counsel, was between $350,000 and $450,000, a disclosure eagerly awaited by some Gotham reporters since details about Silver’s financial arrangement with the firm have previously been kept under wraps. Silver also has a relationship with Counsel Financial, which lends money for the furtherance of lawsuits. “Critics have suggested that the two-year gap between the old and new reporting requirements gave Silver enough time to front-load his salary from Weitz & Luxenberg before the new rules went into effect, thus making it appear he has a smaller salary when he had to finally publicly disclose it. Those close to Silver have dismissed such speculation.” Silver’s Assembly salary is $122,500. [New York Daily News; Ira Stoll]