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]
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”).
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]
- 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]
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:
Is there anyone defending the Garner homicide non indictment? I don't see how it's not at least negligent homicide.
— tedfrank (@tedfrank) December 3, 2014
(This morning, New York Post columnist Bob McManus does defend it.)
“I cant breathe.” pic.twitter.com/eJvmhnSsSv
— Andrew Kirell (@AndrewKirell) December 3, 2014
Typically, the Twitter law degree crowd gets angry a lot – but my timeline is filled with apoplectic ACTUAL lawyers #EricGarner
— Keith K (@kkaplan) December 3, 2014
1928, NY Judge tells jury police can't just "shoot and kill any offender who may not yield to his command…" pic.twitter.com/Ic3hRHnbT2
— profloumoore (@loumoore12) December 3, 2014
— Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib) December 3, 2014
Seeing lots of "Garner story shows cop cameras don't work" tweets. But transparency isn't meant to be a solution. Just exposes the problem.
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) December 3, 2014
Be skeptical of "untaxed cigarettes" myth. Didn't appear until day after death, when it suddenly b/c part of narrative. Unmentioned at 1st.
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) December 3, 2014
Pass a law against something very petty – realize that it will be enforced with LETHAL FORCE against someone who persistently violates it.
— Arthur Kimes (@ComradeArthur) December 3, 2014
— Walter Olson (@walterolson) December 3, 2014
By the way: the guy who recorded the video of Eric Garner being murdered? HE was indicted. Of course. http://t.co/fpLIc1se7q
— Christopher Bowen (@superbus) December 3, 2014
— Walter Olson (@walterolson) December 3, 2014
modest proposal: when there is a civilian death at the hands of law enforcement, a public defender is named to be the special prosecutor
— Chris Tolles (@tolles) December 3, 2014
— Walter Olson (@walterolson) December 3, 2014
Frustrated by Grand Juries? Read this 2003 Cato paper by W. Thomas Dillard, Stephen Ross Johnson, and Timothy Lynch: http://t.co/zFOGr8J9Ke
— Matt Welch (@MattWelch) December 4, 2014
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.
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]