When local governments lack a properly compliant attitude:
The federal monitor overseeing Westchester’s much-debated court settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over affordable housing asked County Executive Rob Astorino on Wednesday to remove a news release from the county’s website, saying it contains falsehoods….
[Manhattan-based attorney James] Johnson cast doubt on whether Astorino can say whatever he wants about the controversial 2009 settlement.
During a conference call with journalists shortly before Astorino’s news conference, Johnson said the settlement calls for the county to educate the public about the benefits of integration. Astorino, on the contrary, has been antagonistic toward much of the agreement, Johnson said.
Johnson says Astorino wrongly suggests that HUD is pressing for construction of more than the 750 units of “affordable” housing specified in the settlement; Astorino responds that HUD officials keep citing a study under which a much larger number of units would be required to bring the towns into compliance. Westchester voters elected Astorino in part because of his criticism of the much-disliked deal. [Newsday, paywall; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
In the New York legislature, bowling alleys are hoping to win a law protecting them from slip-fall liability arising after their customers wear store-rented shoes outside the building and either slip there or track snow or other slippery matter back inside. Weather hazards have been tripping up more customers of the ordinarily indoor sport, it seems, since the state enforced a complete indoor smoking ban. The trial lawyer association is dead set against the bill; its president claims that the bill “undercuts the constitutional right to a trial by a jury” — presumably on the theory that it somehow undercuts trial by jury for a legislature to roll back any instance of liability for anyone anywhere. That’s sheer nonsense, of course — otherwise, it’d have been unconstitutional for legislatures around most of the country to have abolished the old heartbalm torts of breach of promise to marry and alienation of affection. [Albany Times-Union via Future of Capitalism] More: Lowering the Bar.
A lawyer who’d been widely and scathingly criticized over his handling of a case — unfairly he thought — proceeded to sue bloggers and journalists for defamation, so many that the total of defendants reached 74. It’s over now, but a New York state judge declined to award sanctions, which may possibly say something about the difficulty of obtaining sanctions under today’s prevailing legal standards, especially in New York. [Tom Crane, San Antonio Employment Law Blog; Popehat ("Our legal system is so broken that it can take years to resolve even the most patently vexatious, harassing, and incompetently prosecuted lawsuits like this one.")]
P.S. “Loser pays would have been valuable here. Costs to each defendant would teach a memorable lesson.” [@erikmagraken]
By a 12-4 vote, the board of legislators of the suburban New York county has approved going to court against the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in the long-running dispute. HUD is still insisting that the county enact a “source of income discrimination” law barring private landlords from turning away Section 8 federally aided tenants, as well as critically reexamine zoning rules in its various towns. [Peter Applebome, NYT, Journal-News, Newsday] Earlier here, etc.
Enough that 33 states have so-called enacted At Rest laws, requiring that bottles spend time in an in-state warehouse before being sold to consumers. Although the laws limit competition, drive up prices to consumers, and make it harder to special-order less common labels, New York may join the list following generous donations to politicians from an in-state wholesaler. [New York Post] FTC attorney David Spiegel analyzed anti-competitive liquor laws in this 1985 article (PDF) in Cato’s Regulation magazine.
And: I’ve posted an expanded version at the Cato blog. (& Michelle Minton, CEI “Open Market,” who cites an informative column by Tom Wark, WineInterview.com, to the effect that the New York bill may be dead for now.) (Edited for accuracy 4/9: licensed New York wholesalers already own warehouses in both New York and New Jersey, and the bill would have protected the former from competition from the latter)
I’ve got a new piece at Reason on the long-running dispute between the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the government of Westchester County in suburban NYC. Claiming that Westchester has failed to follow through on promises of attracting more minority homeowners, HUD is suing the county and wielding funding cutoffs to get it to step up a large commitment to subsidized housing, override town zoning rules, and enact an ordinance forbidding private landlords from turning away Section 8 tenants. The WSJ editorialized yesterday on the subject. Further background: ironic that county is being penalized after seeking to cooperate [Gerald McKinstry, Newsday; Joanne Wallenstein, Scarsdale 10583]; former Democratic county legislator backs county executive Rob Astorino on so-called “source of income” legislation [Journal-News]; similar law already in effect in Washington, D.C. [Examiner]; earlier coverage here, here, etc., and my 2009 City Journal account.
P.S. Shortly after our piece, a Second Circuit panel ruled the county out of compliance. ProPublica, the foundation-supported reporting-and-opinion outfit, has been doing a series of reporting-and-opinion pieces taking the plaintiffs’ side, including this latest.
A Houston-based trial lawyer has some grandiose plans for snagging New York storm-insurance cases: Steve Mostyn “indicates his firm should be able to take on more than $1 billion in disputed claims — or half of all the Sandy litigation.” That’s assuming clients sign on, of course. One who did was a swim club owner from Pound Ridge who was frustrated dealing with New York lawyers and quickly signed a contract with Mostyn’s firm: “It is worth the 40 percent just for someone to listen to my story and be kind to me,” she said. [Austin American-Statesman]
A Cato Forum held January 9 and featuring Craig Whitney, author, Living with Guns, and a former New York Times reporter and editor; Alan Gura and Alan Morrison, who argued opposite sides of the Heller case; and as moderator, Cato senior fellow Ilya Shapiro.
Meanwhile, getting the jump on President Obama’s proposals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature of New York have rushed to passage a hasty new gun control package [Roger Pilon, Jacob Sullum, Bob McManus/NY Post, more from Sullum on "false urgency"]
Check-cashing businesses are perfectly legal, but the Long Island town of Hempstead doesn’t like them, so it’s used zoning to try to force them out of areas convenient to their clientele. New York’s highest court is considering the companies’ appeal. [Newsday]
New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has a particular niche among state courts: it’s liberal on many matters, as suits the state’s politics, but over the years has tended to take care that its commercial law is relatively predictable and efficient from a business perspective, since it would rather not risk tempting the state’s huge business sector to flee to other jurisdictions. With two vacancies on the court, Gov. Andrew Cuomo now has a chance to confirm the court’s historic path, or set it on a different one. [Lawrence Cunningham]
To get your power turned back on in the Rockaways, according to a spokesman for the Long Island Power Authority, you’re going to need a pre-inspection for your house not just from a licensed electrician, but from one licensed in NYC — nearby Nassau County, or upstate, won’t do. If occupational licensure makes any sense at all — and Milton Friedman had a thing or two to say about that — it certainly needs to be reconsidered under conditions of public emergency and disaster recovery, or so I argue in my new post at Cato at Liberty.
For more background on the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) as a political football, by the way, check out Nicole Gelinas in the New York Post. Also on disaster recovery, why this might be a good time to rethink municipal ordinances barring property owners from removing old trees [Chris Fountain]. And: “Can customers sue power companies for outages? Yes, but it’s hard to win” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
Some politicians just want there to be random shortages [WSJ editorial]:
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed the Craigslist website for the identities of people who advertised gas for sale at high prices. Mr. Schneiderman is doing this in the name of a New York law that forbids charging an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption in the market.”
Paul Caron, TaxProf, on one of the more closely watched tax rulings. Earlier here.