- Florida court blocks drug-related seizure of house as violation of Constitution’s Excessive Fines Clause [Orlando Weekly, opinion in Agresta v. Maitland]
- Deferred- and non-prosecution agreements (DPAs/NPAs) have ushered in a little-scrutinized “shadow regulatory state” [Jim Copland and Isaac Gorodetski, “Without Law or Limits: The Continued Growth of the Shadow Regulatory State,” Manhattan Institute report]
- Politicized prosecution: New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman throws book at bankers for not lending in Buffalo [Conrad Black via Tim Lynch, Cato]
- Would it improve prosecutors’ incentives if localities rather than state governments paid for incarceration? [Leon Neyfakh, Slate, via David Henderson]
- Andrew Pincus on the growing danger of enforcement slush funds [U.S. Chamber, more]
- “The Department of Justice, if it succeeds on its new theory, may have criminalized many instances of dull employee misconduct.” [Matt Kaiser, Above the Law; Peter Henning, N.Y. Times “DealBook”]
- A Brooklyn mess: new D.A. looking into 70 convictions obtained with evidence from retired detective Louis Scarcella [Radley Balko]
- 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.
“Ugly” question raised by arrest of New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver: how often do law firms trade cash to doctors for mesothelioma referrals? [Alison Frankel/Reuters, Science magazine, earlier] And from the New York Times:
…mesothelioma doctors and personal injury lawyers specializing in asbestos-related litigation have developed over the years what some medical ethical experts describe as an unseemly alliance.
For plaintiffs’ lawyers, mesothelioma patients are a bonanza, worth $1.5 million to $2 million on average per case, according to legal experts; individual cases can yield much more. The hunger for these clients is evident to anyone who has watched late-night cable television and seen the garish ads aimed at those afflicted with the disease….
A symbiotic relationship has emerged, with lawyers financing research on the disease for doctors who send along streams of potentially lucrative clients.
- “Silver’s perversion of a health-care grant that was earmarked for post-9/11 programs” [New York Daily News editorial] Columbia University closes its Mesothelioma Center, deeply involved in the scandal, which had been given a commendation by the New York Assembly in 2011 as its director quietly referred millions in cases to Silver [Daily News]
- Circle wagons first, name committee chairs later: Albany in panic over Silver nab [New York Post, Albany Times-Union]
- Lawyer referral fees, nonprofit cash figured in Lerach/Weiss scandal as well [Daniel Fisher, more]
- Eric Schneiderman, Kathleen Rice… “Law Firm at Center of Silver Scandal Donated Huge Sums” to Moreland Commission figures [New York Observer]
- More: New York Post on, inter alia, strong position held by Weitz & Luxenberg in New York courts; Wayne Barrett/Village Voice 2009 on Silver’s work in obtaining Chief Judge job for old friend Jonathan Lippman. And from Bob McManus at the New York Post: “Orange Is The New Silver.”
The New York governor was a lawyer by training — Gideon Kanner recalls his start as an eminent domain compensation lawyer in Queens — and drew insight from the experience. Bill Hammond of the Daily News:
— Bill Hammond (@NYDNHammond) January 3, 2015
During his term in office I wrote two pieces for the Wall Street Journal about Cuomo, one an opinion piece on New York’s finances, another a review of an unsuitably hagiographic biography; neither is online so far as I know. My view was that despite his lion-of-the-Left reputation, Cuomo had governed in a cautious rather than radical way, and by the same token had in no way been a transformational figure for his state: New York had largely the same set of governance problems when he left office as when he entered.
In New York that’s getting to be a regular pattern in the settlement of charges against financial firms; although Eliot Spitzer, known for creative methods of corporate decapitation, may have departed office, Spitzerism lives on. I explain in a new Cato post on the state’s Ocwen Financial pact.
Related: Tactics the federal government used to seize control of insurer American International Group (AIG) away from Hank Greenberg, now made public despite years spent resisting disclosure [Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times]
The coroner’s inquest, familiar to readers of Agatha Christie, might be worth importing to the U.S. to look into police-caused deaths [Josh Voorhees, Slate, on ideas of Paul MacMahon]
Related: “The Grand Jury System Is Broken” [John Steele Gordon, Commentary, written post-Ferguson, pre-Garner]; New York Times “Room for Debate“; New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asks for authority to take over prosecutorial authority in police shootings [WGRZ (auto-plays), New York Observer, Paul Cassell]; Harvey Silverglate via Todd Zywicki (don’t gut grand jury protections). And from Michael Bell, “What I Did After Police Killed My Son,” Politico: “In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified. …As a military pilot, I knew that if law professionals investigated police-related deaths like, say, the way that the National Transportation Safety Board investigated aviation mishaps, police-related deaths would be at an all time low.” (& Wisconsin aftermath)
- California may lead in number of arrested lawmaker scandals but jealous New York vows to catch up [NYDN]
- Will voters in hotly contested Massachusetts primary remember Martha Coakley’s central role in the Amirault travesty of justice?
- “State of unions: Illinois’ big unionized workforce has become a big campaign issue” [Peoria Journal Star] Teachers’ union top priority: unseat GOP governors [Politico]
- In which I’m quoted saying relatively favorable things about left-leaning New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout (though “enjoyed interacting with” is a long way from “would consider voting for”) [Capital New York]
- Meet the trial-lawyer-driven group behind the Rick Perry indictment [Texas Tribune; more of what’s up in Texas]
- Senate incumbents Reid, Pryor, and Durbin and hopeful Bruce Braley among recipients of asbestos law firm money [MCR, Legal NewsLine] Key trial lawyer ally Durbin has slipped in polls [Chicago Sun-Times]
- Montana Democrats’ candidate for U.S. Senate looking a little Wobbly [Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon; A. Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch; #wobblydem]
[cross-posted and slightly adapted from Cato at Liberty]
I’ve got a guest post up at Reason on how bounty-seeking informants are bypassing the Internal Revenue Service tipster-reward program in favor of selected state False Claims Acts, such as New York’s, which enable richer recoveries for disloyal employees and others who charge defendants with underpaying taxes. Excerpt:
Will the spread of a culture of informants sow distrust and disloyalty in the workplace, while encouraging dissident executives and their lawyers to shake settlements out of risk- and publicity-averse targets by seizing on doubtful, gray-area legal theories? That’s part of the game too. Lately hedge funds and litigation finance firms have moved in to bankroll the filing of likely “whistleblower” cases. …
In Illinois, a single Chicago lawyer was reported in 2012 to have used that state’s whistleblower law to file at least 238 lawsuits against retailers, pocketing millions in settlements, over alleged failure to charge sales tax on shipping-and-handling.
Whole thing here.
P.S. More recent coverage of the runaway False Claims Act train: “Repeat whistleblowers reap millions of dollars in false-claims suits” [ABA Journal] David Ogden testifies for the U.S. Chamber on what needs to happen with the federal FCA [House Judiciary] “UK Commission Takes A Pass On U.S.-Style Whistleblower Bounties” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
- Administration tees up massively expensive regulation docket for after election [Sam Batkins, American Action Forum]
- More on FedEx’s resistance to fed demands that it snoop in boxes [WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
- Ethics war escalates between Cuomo and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, but is sniping in press suitable role for prosecutor? [New York Post, Ira Stoll]
- “Mom Hires Craigslist Driver for 9-Year-Old Son, Gets Thrown in Jail” [Lenore Skenazy]
- One-way fee shifts, available to prevailing plaintiffs but not defendants: why aren’t they more controversial? [New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Watch]
- Water shutoff woes sprang from Detroit’s “pay-if-you-want culture” [Nolan Finley, Detroit News]
- “CPSC Still Trying to Crush Small Round Magnet Toys; Last Surviving American Seller Zen Magnets Fights Back” [Brian Doherty]
- Congress responds to Veterans Administration health care scandal by throwing huge new sums at care [Nicole Kaeding, Chris Edwards, Cato] “Every Senior V.A. Executive Was Rated ‘Fully Successful’ or Better Over 4 Years.” [NYT via Instapundit] “VA Hospitals aren’t included on the federal government’s Hospital Compare web site” [White Coat]
- Canadian judge quashes as vexatious suit over non-admission to medical school [Winnipeg Free Press]
- Brain-damaged child cases: “14.5 Million Reasons Physicians Practice Defensive Medicine” [White Coat, Cleveland] “North Carolina Jury Deadlocks in John Edwards’ Malpractice Trial Against Doctor” [Insurance Journal, emergency medicine]
- “Medical Licensing in the States: Some Room for Agreement — and Reform” [Charles Hughes, Cato]
- “NY Launches Statewide Med Mal Settlement Program” [NYDN via TortsProf]
- “Unlucky Strike: Private Health and the Science, Law and Politics of Smoking” [John Steddon and David Boaz, Cato program] Here’s the long-awaited segue to complete prohibition: British Medical Association recommends banning tobacco permanently for persons born after 2000 [WaPo]
- Sneaky: California ballot language undoing MICRA liability limits “buried in an initiative titled The Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014.” [Yul Ejnes, KevinMD]