- Now watch out for the next phase of the “ban the box” effort, which will demand that private employers not be allowed to ask about applicants’ criminal records [Open Society via @georgesoros]
- “We have one restaurant in Seattle, and we probably won’t be expanding there. That’s true of San Francisco and Los Angeles, too.” [Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith via David Boaz]
- New York Times reporting vs. nail salons: the video [Reason, earlier] The other Greenhouse effect, in this case Steven: Times “sees the labor beat as having essentially an advocacy mission.” [Adam Ozimek]
- The lawsuits of September: “the EEOC has once again rushed to file a blitz of federal court complaints just under the fiscal year wire” [Matthew Gagnon, Christopher DeGroff, and Gerald Maatman, Jr., Seyfarth Shaw]
- I was a guest on Ray Dunaway’s morning drive time show on WTIC (Hartford) talking about cop fitness tests and the blind barber suit, you can listen here:
- NYC Commission on Human Rights — with an assist from Demos and New Economy Project — runs public ads saying “There’s no evidence that shows a link between credit reports and job performance. That’s why NYC made it illegal to use credit reports in employment decisions.” The “Suburbanist” responds: “We will punish those who depart from our null hypotheses regarding their business. Human rights indeed.”
- What are the biggest legal questions facing employers? “What is work?” and “Who is an employee?” are a start [Jon Hyman]
Poynter: “A blockbuster investigation from The New York Times that provoked officials to intervene in poor workplace conditions in nail salons throughout New York ‘went too far in generalizing about an entire industry,’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Friday morning.” That’s, well, cautiously worded: as critics have demonstrated, the series got basic facts wrong and its falsehoods have hurt thousands of New Yorkers, especially struggling immigrants, in multiple ways.
Major congratulations to Jim Epstein, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and the others at Reason and elsewhere who relentlessly exposed the faults in the Times coverage. And Sullivan’s letter is revealing about just why editors until now ignored Epstein’s Reason coverage, which blew up some of the series’ central allegations about advertised pay rates in the Chinese-language press and about supposed clusters of health effects. “The Times has not responded [because] editors think the magazine, which generally opposes regulation, [is] biased.” Some Twitter responses:
— Michael Calderone (@mlcalderone) November 6, 2015
— Virginia Postrel (@vpostrel) November 6, 2015
The New York Times, which can scarcely mention firearms policy without invoking the Gun Lobby, runs a big feature endorsing the claims of arbitration opponents that is curiously evasive about the role of the Litigation Lobby. Daniel Fisher, Forbes:
The writers who penned today’s New York Times Page One expose of arbitration clauses say they examined thousands of court documents and interviewed hundreds of lawyers, yet they fell for a rookie mistake: They confused class-action plaintiffs for the real thing….
The “article splayed across four pages of the Sunday Times” profiles the owner of the Italian Colors restaurant, the named plaintiff in a class action against American Express that went to the Supreme Court, as if he were typical of “plaintiffs [who] sprang up spontaneously and went out and hired lawyers to vindicate their rights?
Who were his lawyers? The Times doesn’t think you need to know. But here’s the main one: Gary B. Friedman, an attorney who specializes in suing credit-card companies. He recently suffered a bit of bad press when a federal judge in New York threw out a proposed settlement of another class action against Amex because Friedman had displayed “improper and disappointing conduct” by communicating sensitive information to a lawyer for the other side. The judge criticized Friedman for “blatant collusion” by negotiating a settlement with the defense that was “contrary to the wishes of the putative class.”
Now why couldn’t the enterprising Times reporters find room in such a large story for a mention of Friedman? Perhaps because he represents the real face of consumer class actions. These aren’t lawsuits by little guys like Carson trying to vindicate their rights against big corporations. Most are lawsuits by wealthy attorneys trying to get wealthier, by using the mechanism of the class action — originally developed to allow courts to declare classes of plaintiffs in civil-rights cases — to present companies with an offer they can’t refuse: Settle and pay us a rich fee, or risk a devastating loss in court.
Fisher summarizes: the Times “reports without skepticism the plaintiff-lawyer version of the story.” That’s a shame on a topic where even such a liberal figure as California Gov. Jerry Brown, who recently vetoed an anti-arbitration bill, acknowledges there are genuine concerns on both sides.
Our coverage of contractually agreed pre-dispute arbitration — including both the practical and the freedom-of-contract arguments for it — goes back to the early days of this site, including Coyote (“Here is how you should think about this proposed law: Attorneys are the taxi cartels, and arbitration is Uber. And the incumbents want their competitor banned.”), James Taranto on the Times as “two papers in one,” Andrew Pincus on arbitration as still pretty much the Litigation Lobby’s number one target. Much coverage also at Point of Law, including Ted Frank on a familiar-sounding law firm’s use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses.
P.S. I’ll bet he has: “Having worked extensively with Silver-Greenberg on this series over the past several months…” [Deepak Gupta, Public Citizen]
And: more thoughts at Cato at Liberty, including links to Cato work and discussion of why consumers so seldom switch from one provider to another in search of more favorable fine print on class action availability.
After the New York Times wildly muffed that big outrage story on worker pay at nail salons — and the first installment in Jim Epstein’s series makes a compelling case that it did — Andrew Cuomo’s inspectors descended in force to see what violations they could find. That’s when, to the great detriment of workers and salon owners alike, the real chaos began.
More: Part III of the series is on the supposed miscarriage/cancer epidemic conjured up by the Times. If you like the way Epstein first chipped and then cracked the paper’s well-glossed claws, watch what he does with the solvents.
- “Rightscorp’s Copyright Trolling Phone Script Tells Innocent People They Need To Give Their Computers To Police” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- “‘Affordable housing’ policies have made housing less affordable” [Matt Welch, L.A. Times]
- South Mountain Creamery case: “Lawmakers Call for Return of Cash Seized From Dairy Farmers” [Tony Corvo/Heartland, quotes me, earlier on this structuring forfeiture case]
- Be prepared to explain your social media trail, like by like: “Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2035” [Orin Kerr]
- From Eugene Volokh, what looks very much like a case against assisted suicide, embedded in a query about whether state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) might cut a legal path to it [Volokh Conspiracy]
- “The complaint also indicated that the injuries could affect Reid’s ability to secure employment” after Senate exit [Roll Call on Majority Leader’s suit against exercise equipment firm over eye injury]
- Amazon responds to NYT’s “everyone cries at their desk” hatchet job on its workplace culture [Jay Carney, Medium]
- “The employees ran away and refused to talk to us…Even if we’re there to help them.” [NYT cheers New York nail salon raids, earlier on paper’s crusade against the salons]
- And now, the Times’s campaign to damn the Amazon: “The Liberty To Work Under Tough Bosses” [John McGinnis]
- Rule by White House decree begins to rile its employer targets: “Defense Contractors to Obama: Enough With the Executive Orders” [Defense One]
- “Lawsuit Reform Alliance Estimates $200m in Additional Costs for LaGuardia Airport Project Due to the ‘Scaffold Law'” [its press release, earlier on law]
- “Mandated Paid Maternity Leave: A Bad Idea for Women” [Abigail Hall, Independent Institute via Alkon, related Peter Suderman on family leave mandates]
- Describing most public assistance programs to working families as subsidy for low-wage employers is “flatly wrong.” [Gary Burtless, Brookings, earlier on such claims, more from Tim Worstall (“McDonald’s Profits Are Not Subsidized By Welfare Payments To McDonald’s Employees”)]
- Wisconsin-style “Moral Monday” protests against North Carolina’s GOP administration have some familiar backing [News and Observer, more on phenomenon from John Locke Foundation]
- Former NYT Peking correspondent Richard Bernstein, who now co-owns two nail salons, challenges Times blockbuster on prevalence of labor exploitation at NYC salons [New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Nolan Brown and followup, Times rebuttal. More: Bernstein rejoinder]
- More details on how studios used Mississippi attorney general’s office as cut-out against Google [Mike Masnick, TechDirt, earlier here and here, more on AG Jim Hood]
- Of course licensing laws “are only there to protect consumers and are enforced in a totally neutral way that has nothing to do with viewpoints or political pull (lol).” [Coyote on Boston mayor’s “not welcome in our town” message to Donald Trump]
- Speaking of Donald Trump, would his lawyer threaten litigation to intimidate reporter Tim Mak? Only in a totally classy way [Daily Beast, S.E. Cupp/New York Daily News (Cohen, 2011: “I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished”), earlier from the vaults on Trump’s use of litigation]
- Things class-action lawyers sue over: “Beggin’ Strips Don’t Have Enough Bacon” [Reuters, New York Post]
- As Lois Lerner targeting scandal drags on, time for Congress to impeach IRS officials? [Mike Rappaport, Liberty and Law]
- Welcome to AFFH-land: Bharara, on behalf of feds, says Westchester County should pay for not squeezing Chappaqua hard enough to approve housing project [Journal-News, earlier here and here]
Get me rewrite! The New York Times’s initial story on the departure of interim chief executive Ellen Pao from social media community Reddit lacked egregious bias, so the paper went back to insert some. (More: Twitchy, citing my Twitter contribution.) Amid widespread mockery of the second version’s opinionated tone, the paper then published yet a third version pulling back from some of its friskier social justice pronouncements. Pao, as readers may recall, was the plaintiff in an earlier Silicon Valley suit over alleged gender discrimination and retaliation, a suit that failed before a jury but drew much favorable coverage along the way in the NYT and elsewhere.
The close working relationship between some state attorneys general and private trial lawyers — in which the AGs hire the lawyers to represent their states for a percentage fee of the haul — is not a new topic to us here at Overlawyered, but it’s nice to see it getting aired at length in the Dec. 18 New York Times piece by reporter Eric Lipton. The title gives a good introduction: “Lawyers Create Big Paydays by Coaxing Attorneys General to Sue” and in fact the private lawyers who commonly pitch the suits are themselves sometimes former state attorneys general, such as Michael Moore of Mississippi (of longstanding fame here), Patricia Madrid of New Mexico, Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island, Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma, and Peg Lautenschlager of Wisconsin. A few excerpts:
- Law firm donations to AGs or “party-backed organizations that they run” “often come in large chunks just before or after” inking contracts to represent the state. A sidebar chart, “Political Gifts from Plaintiffs Lawyers,” confirms that most of the money flows to partisan attorney general associations ($3.8 million to Democrats and $1.6 million to Republicans over a decade) or state parties ($1.5 vs. $445,000) as opposed to candidates directly ($2 million vs. $240,000, not counting AGs running for governor).
- When various AGs signed a brief to the Supreme Court supporting the plaintiff’s side in a securities litigation case, it was after being sedulously cultivated to do so by the lawyers.
- “…at least three former attorneys general are pitching painkiller abuse cases to states nationwide, although no state has yet publicly signed up.” More on the Chicago and California-county painkiller cases here.
- Yes: “‘Farming out the police powers of the state to a private firm with a profit incentive is a very, very bad thing,’ said Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado, a Republican and a former United States attorney.”