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NYC

“Manitoba’s, one of the last punk rock dive bars in New York’s East Village, owned by former Dictators frontman “Handsome Dick” Manitoba, could be headed for a premature end. Its would-be executioner is not rising rents or gentrification, but the hefty cash settlement of a lawsuit” over disabled access, one of many filed by a Rye, N.Y. man in connection with the law firm of attorney Bradley Weitz [Anthony Fisher, Reason] Overlawyered readers have met Weitz before, here (earlier client sued over Soho pedicure station although having no feet) and here.

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  • Obama wants Hill to force paid leave on employers. What, his rule-by-decree powers didn’t stretch that far? [RCP, USA Today] Department of Labor, using funds taxed from supporters and opponents alike, happy to act as frank advocate for legislation [its blog]
  • Employers brace for salaried-overtime mandate, wrought by unilateral Obama decree [KSL, earlier at Cato]
  • Related: “Employers To Face More Litigation In 2015 As Plaintiff Lawyers Swoop In” [Daniel Fisher on Gerald Maatman/Seyfarth Shaw report] Here come more NLRB decisions too [Tim Devaney, The Hill]
  • Krugman on minimum wage: two economists in one! [Donald Boudreaux, Cafe Hayek via Coyote, @Mike_Saltsman ("Min wage in France is closer to $12/hr US. But Krugman still being inconsistent bc he's also backed $15 US minimum")]
  • Five pro-de Blasio unions — SEIU/1199, teachers, hotel workers, doormen/building staff, CWA District 1 — help enforce NYC mayor’s agenda [NYDN]
  • Testimony: “worst-kept secret” in Philly ironworkers’ union was that you could get ahead through violent “night work” [Philadelphia Inquirer; earlier on Quaker meetinghouse arson here and here, related here]
  • Loads of new compliance burdens: “Changes in California Employment Law for 2015″ [Baker Hostetler] And it wouldn’t be California without many more employer mandates pending in legislature [Steven Greenhut]

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“A former ING Financial Services trader sued the owners of Madison Square Garden (MSG) for booting him from the arena last year after he yelled ‘Carmelo, you stink’ during a New York Knicks game, a move he said cost him his job.” [Bloomberg]

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Following Mayor Bloomberg’s lead, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio bans Styrofoam take-out trays and coffee cups, along with packing peanuts used in shipping, on the grounds that they can’t be recycled [Eater NYC, city press release, earlier here and here]

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“An elderly Citi Bike rider is blaming his bike-crash injuries on the city for not making helmets mandatory — and wants $60 million from taxpayers and the bike-share firm in a federal lawsuit, new court papers show.” [New York Post, Gothamist, earlier on suit, related]

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When police begin to behave as an armed force unaccountable to civilian authority, it presents something of a moment of truth for many conservatives and Republicans who must decide which comes first for them, being pro-police or pro-rule-of-law.

Turning its back on elected and appointed civilian authority, New York’s paid constabulary has unilaterally reduced its writing of traffic tickets and minor summonses by 94 percent [New York Post] The job action hits New York City government in the pocketbook by stopping the lucrative flow of tickets, a tactic that has also been observed in other cities’ police labor disputes [Glenn Reynolds] It comes at a time when the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association is angling for higher pay from the city [NYDN on an earlier stage in the tensions], and, even more remarkably, when unions have been pushing a bill that would further insulate cops accused of wrongdoing from city disciplinary authority [E.J. McMahon, New York Post] “It amounts to a public act of extortion by the police,” contends the New York Times in an editorial [via Scott Greenfield, who also comments].

Does the ticketing strike endanger the city public? The answer could be embarrassing for the police unions either way: either it does, in which case the police have put public safety at risk as a bargaining chip, or it does not, which would tend to support Reynolds’ comment that much of “‘law enforcement’ is really just a system designed to squeeze money out of the citizenry.” [Conor Friedersdorf, who argues that conservatives in particular should spot what's wrong with "an armed, organized army rebelling against civilian control"]

In the past Republicans have tended to give police unions a pass for political reasons, but that may be changing [Lucy Morrow Caldwell, National Review; David Brooks, New York Times; Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast; Coyote] James Taranto at the WSJ recalls how some Wisconsin police refused to enforce the law against occupiers intent on taking down Gov. Scott Walker. Amity Shlaes, whose books include a biography of Calvin Coolidge, recalls Coolidge’s role as governor of Massachusetts in breaking the Boston police strike, which made him a national hero.

Earlier on unions’ role in impeding oversight of excessive-force claims. In 1992, protesting NYPD officers “blocked Brooklyn Bridge, tramped on cars, and assaulted reporters” [New York Times via @nickconfessore] while in 2011 some of their ranks attacked cameramen trying to cover ticket-fixing arraignments. Also from Memory Lane: the time Mayor Bloomberg, in one of his most irresponsible moments, urged police to strike to force policy changes.

A different view: Talking Points Memo hears from a self-described progressive cop in suburban New York. [edited shortly after posting to add new introduction] More: NPR (blue flu, “depolicing”, “rulebook protest”).

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NYC’s expediters

by Walter Olson on December 22, 2014

Can New York City really support an army of an estimated 8,300 “expediters” who run paperwork around to city offices, wait in line, haggle with officials, and generally navigate the bureaucracy on behalf of those who need permits, licenses and other municipal decisions? It’s a testimony to the dysfunction of the city’s governance [Kanner, Renn/Urbanophile]

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Liability roundup

by Walter Olson on December 20, 2014

  • From the Manhattan Institute “Trial Lawyers Inc.” project, “Wheels of Fortune” (PDF), twin report on lawyers’ exploitation of SSDI (Social Security Disability) and ADA cases;
  • Theodore Dalrymple on the flaws of the US litigation system [Liberty and Law]
  • Testimony: “after he inquired about the 40 percent fee charged by [co-counsel] Chestnut, [Willie] Gary threatened to ‘tie up [client] Baker’s money in the courts for years so he would never live to see it.'” [Gainesville Sun]
  • ATRA takes aim at rise of asbestos litigation in NYC ["Judicial Hellholes" series, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, New York Daily News ("national scandal")]
  • Another reminder that while plaintiff’s lawyers conventionally assail pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements, they routinely use them themselves [LNL]
  • New U.S. Chamber papers on litigation trends: “Lawsuit Ecosystem II“; state supreme courts review;
  • Changes ahead for class action rules? [Andrew Trask]

Eric Garner, asphyxiated during his arrest on Staten Island, had been repeatedly picked up by the NYPD for the crime of selling loose cigarettes. Washington Examiner:

The crime of selling “loosies” was not considered a serious one in the past. Many corner stores in New York City once sold them quietly upon request. But former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cartoonish anti-tobacco crusade changed that and everything else. Smoking in public places was banned. Punitive taxes and a legal minimum price of $10.50 were imposed in an effort to push prices ever-upward, so that a brand-name pack of 20 cigarettes now costs as much as $14 in New York City.

As a result, the illicit sale of loose and untaxed cigarettes became more commonplace.

I noted at yesterday’s Repeal Day panel at Cato that according to figures last year, New York’s unusually high cigarette taxes had brought it an unusual distinction: an estimated 60 percent of consumption there is of smuggled or illegal cigarettes, much higher than any other state. Another way to think of it is that New York has moved closer to prohibition than to a legal market in tobacco. [earlier 2003 Cato study]

In his history of Prohibition, Last Call, Daniel Okrent cites (among many other law enforcement misadventures) the fatal shooting of Jacob Hanson, secretary of an Elks lodge in Niagara Falls, New York, in a confrontation with alcohol agents — though Hanson had a clean record and was not carrying alcohol. At the time, many saw Hanson’s death as reflecting poorly on the Prohibition regime generally. For some reason, though, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has drawn fire from some quarters for making a parallel observation about Garner’s death. [BBC; note however that while Garner's frictions with the local NYPD seem to owe much to his repeated cigarette arrests, the proximate event leading to his arrest seems to have been his attempt to break up a fight]

Yale’s Stephen Carter: “On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce.” [Bloomberg View via Ilya Somin]

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Even when it’s all caught on video, in daylight, with witnesses. Even when the cop blatantly broke the NYPD’s very clear ban on chokeholds. Even when the victim was heard “gurgl[ing] that he could not breathe” and the cop was heard bantering afterward with colleagues.

The confrontation between officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. had several elements that worked to bolster Wilson’s defense, including evidence that Brown had assaulted Wilson in his car and contradictions in the testimony of eyewitnesses. By contrast, the case for a Staten Island grand jury to return at least some charge in the choking death of Eric Garner at the hands of officer Daniel Pantaleo would seem considerably stronger. (Garner had tried to break up a sidewalk fight before police intervened, then argued with police and was uncompliant when they intervened; in accounts after the death, police said he had frequently tangled with law enforcement because of his habit of hanging out on the sidewalk selling “loosies” — single cigarettes out of their packages, a tax violation.)

Some of yesterday’s Twitter discussion:

(This morning, New York Post columnist Bob McManus does defend it.)

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Aware of New York City’s penchant for prosecuting persons found in possession of knives commonly used in construction and design work, sculptor Jonathan W. “therefore chose the Spyderco UK Penknife… a non locking, slip joint folder, which should have been in the clear. But that wasn’t good enough for the NYPD (who arrested him), the DA (who charged him), or even his public defender (who recommended he plead guilty).” [The Truth About Knives] Earlier on NYC’s crazy “gravity-knife” law here and here.

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New York law “mandates that the city pay for storing furniture and personal belongings for homeless people.” The city has paid more than $200,000 so far for Andrea Logan’s, part of a program whose costs to the city now exceed $14 million a year. [New York Post]

Horror story in Queens points up flaws of the city’s deed-transfer system, and also of its pro-tenant housing court regime: “After Darrell Beatty failed to appear in August, a judge approved an eviction, but it was stayed last week when Beatty claimed he had health problems.” [New York Post]

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October 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 10, 2014

My new Cato piece on New York’s crazy “gravity-knife” law, picking up on an excellent Village Voice investigation by Jon Campbell. More: Scott Greenfield.

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September 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 26, 2014

  • Was California workers’ comp claim against NFL by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer-turned-P.I.-lawyer inconsistent with his mixed martial arts prowess? [Tampa Bay Times, Lakeland Ledger, earlier and more on California workers' comp and professional football]
  • Salt Lake City’s $6,500 stings: “Secret Shopper Hired to Punish Lyft & Uber Actually Prefers Them” [Connor Boyack, Libertas Institute]
  • Are libertarians undermining public accommodations law? (If only.) [Stanford Law Review, Samuel Bagenstos and Richard Epstein via Paul Horwitz]
  • Why NYC is losing its last bed and breakfasts [Crain's New York via @vpostrel]
  • U.S. continues foolish policy of restricting crude oil and gas exports, time for that to change [David Henderson first and second posts]
  • So it seems the New York Times is now committed to the theory that Toyotas show mechanical unintended acceleration;
  • OK, the future Kansas politician was at the strip club strictly on attorney business when the police arrived. Was he billing? [Politico]

Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on September 5, 2014

  • Willingness of Connecticut courts to order accommodation of mental disorders is not limitless, as in case of “dazed and confused” teacher who “frequently reported to the wrong school or for the wrong class” [Chris Engler at Dan Schwartz's Connecticut Employment Law Blog; Langello v. West Haven Board of Education]
  • “‘Seinfeld’ diner sued for not being handicap-friendly” [NY Post] Florida lawyers descend on New Jersey to file ADA suits [N.J. Civil Justice Institute]
  • “Plaintiffs want to expand lawsuit against Disney for how it treats guests with autism” [Orlando Sentinel]
  • It’s “sad that we need a federal appellate court to remind us” that ADA’s protection of alcoholism does not actually immunize worker fired after repeatedly driving municipal employer’s vehicles drunk [Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer Law Blog]
  • “Employers beware: EEOC appears to be stepping up disability discrimination enforcement” [Hyman] EEOC sues Wal-Mart over firing of intellectually disabled employee [Rockford Register-Star, EEOC]
  • Nice crowd your ADA racket attracts, California [Modesto Bee]
  • Argument: Employers that use “emotional intelligence” measurement in evaluating job applicants may be violating ADA rights of those with autism [Michael John Carley, HuffPo]

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Police roundup

by Walter Olson on September 4, 2014

  • Spectacular investigative report from Radley Balko on fines, fees, and revenue-driven law enforcement in the towns north of St. Louis [WaPo] Reading it, I’m pretty confident my two cents a couple of weeks ago was on the right track;
  • Talk about wrong turns: some self-styled progressives want to seize the moment to extend federal government control further over local police management [BuzzFeed, Scott Greenfield ("czar" idea)]
  • More reporting on how we got police militarization [ProPublica, Newsweek]
  • Race, police, and political power in Ferguson [Charles Cobb guest-posting at Volokh] Richard Epstein on not jumping to factual conclusions (link fixed now);
  • N.Z.: “Police union’s election year wishlist” [Radio New Zealand (via @EricCrampton who comments: "Short version: any restriction on liberty that makes their job easier"); yesterday's post]
  • Pretextual pot busts? Zimring’s curious defense of NYC “broken windows” policing [NYP]
  • Yes, there’s a SWAT lobby in Washington, D.C., behaving as you’d expect [Tim Mak, Daily Beast] “If Democrats Seek to ‘Rally Blacks’ Against Police Militarization, They Might Start with the Congressional Black Caucus” [Nick Gillespie; Zaid Jilani, Vanity Fair]
  • “Police Officers and Patents of Nobility” [Coyote] “Man shot, paralyzed over unpaid parking tickets” [Balko; Lehigh County, Pa.]