“The FDA may soon have the power to criminally charge restaurant owners who fail to publicly post calorie information on menus.” New Cato podcast with Ike Brannon, discussing his article with Sam Batkins in the Summer edition of Regulation. Earlier here, here, here, here, and here.
With three decision days remaining — today, tomorrow, and next Monday — Ilya Shapiro outlines the remaining seven cases and their importance, including Texas Dept. of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project (are defendants liable under “disparate impact” theories in housing discrimination law?) and King v. Burwell (interpreting Congress’s language on Obamacare subsidies).
Update: Both of those cases were decided this morning. In King v. Burwell, the Court broke 6-3 for the administration to uphold the IRS’s rewrite of ObamaCare subsidies. The Court keeps on hand a supply of what one observer called Get Out Of Bad Drafting Free cards, but as Justice Scalia noted in his “SCOTUScare” dissent, awards them only for certain laws. And the housing case was a big win for the left as Justice Anthony Kennedy joined the four liberals to uphold housing suits based on “disparate impact” theories. His opinion throws a sop or two about how disparate impact shouldn’t imply quotas, which I suspect will mean about as much as similar sops the Court has thrown over the years in employment and education, i.e., not much. (P.S. As one reader rightly objects, the problem in Burwell wasn’t so much bad drafting as drafting that failed of its intended coercive effect and therefore needed to be revised if there was to be a Plan B. More on King v. Burwell: Roger Pilon and Ilya Shapiro at Cato)
- “Courts remind EEOC again: Background checks don’t equal racism” [Todd Lebowitz, The Hill; my take on EEOC v. Freeman]
- Another lesson of Old Dominion (boozing truck driver) verdict: employers’ “open door” grievance policies may harbor potential liabilities [Jon Hyman]
- Caseloads: “Three Observations about the New EEOC Statistics” [Daniel Schwartz]
- “Employers seek to halt EEOC’s efforts to drum up plaintiffs for its ‘Onionhead’ lawsuit” [Hyman]
- Reform bills in House hopper include HR 548 (protects employer use of credit or criminal records), HR 549 (requires vote of commission to approve litigation against multiple defendants or over systemic/pattern-and-practice discrimination), HR 550 (requires disclosure of results of litigation that have reached judgment; requires certification that pre-filing conciliation has reached impasse, and allows judicial review of EEOC conduct during conciliation) More: Hearing Monday on these three and H.R. 1189, “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act”;
- “EEOC’s Strange War Against ObamaCare And Employer Wellness Plans” [Eric Dreiband]
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has “invited the public to comment on ‘significant existing EEOC regulations to determine whether they should be modified, streamlined, expanded or repealed,'” comments period ends April 20 [Insurance Journal; address to Public.Comments.RegulatoryReview @ eeoc.gov]
Above is an introductory video on King v. Burwell, the ObamaCare exchange subsidy challenge, from my Cato colleagues Michael Cannon and Trevor Burrus, introduced by Caleb Brown. Tomorrow you can stream this Cato reaction panel on the Court’s arguments featuring Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Simon Lazarus of the Constitutional Accountability Center, Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post; and Michael Cannon, moderated by Ilya Shapiro of Cato.
While I’ve mostly left the analysis of King v. Burwell to others at Cato (aside from gathering links to others’ work here at Overlawyered) I did respond when New York Times columnist Paul Krugman employed what I called “remarkably ugly and truculent” terms to assail the challenge, saying it could succeed only in a “corrupt” Supreme Court.
P.S. While the lawprof amicus brief on behalf of the Obama administration garbs itself in the wolf pelt of severe textualism, Jonathan Adler spies the fluffy sheep beneath.
And: an after-the-argument statement by Ilya Shapiro (“If the government wins here, then not only will Obamacare continue to be rewritten by the IRS, but any executive agency – and any future president – will be able to rewrite any law.”).
- King v. Burwell: next ObamaCare showdown at Supreme Court [Ilya Shapiro and Josh Blackman, David Bernstein on Cato brief, Adler v. Bagley Federalist video, Michael Greve with theory of Justice Kennedy riding off to Colorado with Dagny, earlier]
- “J&J says women being illegally solicited to join in mesh lawsuits” [Jessica Dye/Reuters, same on lawyers’ response, more on which]
- Invoking ACA, feds regulate non-profit hospitals to require periodic community needs assessment, limit collection methods [Treasury]
- Unless judges are vigilant, lawyers will take advantage of mass tort joinder to evade CAFA limits on forum-shopping [Steven Boranian, Drug & Device Law]
- Popular literature on IRBs/consent of research subjects can employ dubious definitions of “coercion” [Simon Whitney via Zachary Schrag]
- Qui tam lawyers vs. pharmaceutical companies, some empirical findings [Bill of Health]
- So that’s what “anatomical theatre” means: researcher checks into ostensible open-source medical journals and finds many “had suspicious addresses; one was actually inside a strip club.” [Fast Company on report finding that fake paper was accepted for publication by 17 journals]
- A student of David Henderson’s recalls the state of medicine under the Soviets: assignment to providers based on place of residence; the role of gifts, favors, and clout; how idealistic doctors became cynics; the black market as a safety valve. [EconLog]
“For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.” [New York Times via Jonathan Adler; Rich Lowry, New York Post (quoting Twitter: “Karma is a pre-existing condition.”; Michael Cannon, Cato (“one of the most wonderful things I have read in the course of my career”)]
- Furious over EEOC attack on wellness programs, CEOs threaten to suspend their support for ObamaCare [Reuters] Had it been common knowledge that CEOs covertly support ObamaCare, then? And isn’t the EEOC formally an independent agency not answerable to White House directives?
- If more editors handled situations this way, readers would think better of the press: Annalee Newitz of io9 offers “apology and analysis” for running tendentious, ill-reported article attacking animal-based research;
- Success of personal injury litigation is reshaping nursing home business in some states [WSJ]
- “With the Advent of Mandatory Paid Sick Leave in California, Here are a Few Sick Leave Excuses” [Coyote, related Massachusetts]
- Really, it’s not a shock-scandal that rules for human-subjects research might be written by actual scientists [Zachary Schrag, IRB Blog]
- In combating diseases of poverty, you’d think economic growth would top the list of remedies [Bryan Caplan]
- Judge slices $9 billion punitive Actos award against Takeda and Lilly by 99% [Bloomberg, earlier]
- “Grubergate, the Mini-Series” [Michael Cannon; more from Cannon on Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in King v. Burwell ObamaCare case]
Another hidden gift inside the Affordable Care Act: mandatory calorie labeling for many restaurant menus. Walter Olson comments on the complications and potential unintended consequences of such a mandate.
My new Cato podcast: the new FDA calorie labeling rules apply to not-so-big chains (20 +) of grocery stores and amusement facilities as well as restaurants, and make it less likely that servers and local managers will manage to vary from rigidly standardized recipes, menu listings and portion sizes based on knowledge of their local customers, temporary availability of attractive ingredients, and so forth. That won’t matter much for food servers who already design their offerings in a lab, but spells trouble for those whose offerings are more localized or unpredictable (earlier). Coverage by Ed Morrissey of what the scheme would mean for a 21-unit pizza chain is linked here.
In January, David Boaz commented on the parallel vending machine calorie label mandate:
In my experience, vending machines shuffle their offerings fairly frequently. If the machine operators have to change the calorie information displayed every time they swap potato chips for corn chips, then $2,200 [per operator per year] seems like a conservative estimate of costs. But then, as Hillary Clinton said when it was suggested that her own health care plan would bankrupt small businesses, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”
More: Baylen Linnekin. And Julie Gunlock recalls her own days working in a supermarket deli. Goodbye, making up prepared salads in single-serving containers from whatever produce happened to be in overstock at the time. Hello, food waste!
[cross-posted from Cato at Liberty and expanded with a P.S.]
Even by his standards, Paul Krugman uses remarkably ugly and truculent language in challenging the good faith of those who take a view opposed to his on the case of King v. Burwell, just granted certiorari by the Supreme Court following a split among lower courts. Krugman claims that federal judges who rule against his own position on the case are “corrupt, willing to pervert the law to serve political masters.” Yes, that’s really what he writes – you can read it here.
A round of commentary on legal blogs this morning sheds light on whether Krugman knows what he’s talking about.
“Once upon a time,” Krugman claims, “this lawsuit would have been literally laughed out of court.” [Citation needed, as one commenter put it] The closest Krugman comes to acknowledging that a plain-language reading of the statute runs against him is in the following:
But if you look at the specific language authorizing those subsidies, it could be taken — by an incredibly hostile reader — to say that they’re available only to Americans using state-run exchanges, not to those using the federal exchanges.
New York City lawyer and legal blogger Scott Greenfield responds:
If by “incredibly hostile reader,” Krugman means someone with a basic familiarity with the English language, then he’s right. That’s what the law says. … There is such a thing as a “scrivener’s error,” that the guy who wrote it down made a mistake, left out a word or put in the wrong punctuation, and that the error was not substantive even though it has a disproportionate impact on meaning. A typo is such an error. I know typos. This was not a typo. This was not a word misspelled because the scribe erred. This was a structural error in the law enacted. Should it be corrected? Of course, but that’s a matter for Congress.
While some ObamaCare proponents may now portray the provision as a mere slip in need of correction, as I noted at Overlawyered in July, “ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber had delivered remarks on multiple 2012 occasions suggesting that the lack of subsidies for federally sponsored exchanges served the function (as critics had contended it did) of politically punishing states that refuse to set up exchanges.”
Josh Blackman, meanwhile, points out something incidental yet revealing about Krugman’s column: its homespun introductory anecdote about how his parents discovered that they had been stuck with a mistaken deed to their property, fixed (“of course”) by the town clerk presumably with a few pen strokes and a smile, couldn’t possibly have happened the way Krugman said it did. Property law, much more so than statutory construction, is super-strict about these matters.
If your deed is incorrect, you cannot simply get the “town clerk” to “fix the language”. … Mistakes are enforced by courts. That’s why [everyone] should purchase title insurance. …
So this is the exact opposite example of what Krugman would want to use to illustrate why King is “frivolous.” If courts applied property doctrine to the construction of statutes, this case would be over in 5 seconds. The government loses.
To be sure, there may be better arguments with which to defend the Obama administration’s side of the King case. But do not look for them in Paul Krugman’s commentary, which instead seems almost designed to serve the function of pre-gaming a possible defeat in King by casting the federal judiciary itself as “corrupt” and illegitimate.
P.S. “Krugman’s column in today’s NYT on King is the liberal equivalent of a Rush Limbaugh tirade.” [Gerard Magliocca] Krugman not notably consistent on views of statutory interpretation [Simon Lester] ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber caught on camera saying “lack of transparency” key to passing the bill; he “may believe that American voters are stupid, but he was the one dumb enough to say all this on camera” [Peter Suderman, Mickey Kaus (“I am big. It’s the electorate that got small.”)] How to argue the administration side in a less unhinged way than Krugman does [David Ziff via Jonathan Adler]
- ObamaCare challenge: D.C. Circuit vacates Halbig decision for en banc rehearing [Roger Pilon, earlier]
- ACLU and SEIU California affiliates oppose trial lawyers’ higher-damages-plus-drug-testing Proposition 46 [No On 46, earlier] As does Sacramento Bee in an editorial;
- Rethinking the use of patient restraints in hospitals [Ravi Parikh, Atlantic; legal fears not mentioned, however]
- Certificate of need regulation: “I didn’t know the state of Illinois had a standard for the maximum permissible size of a hospital room.” [John Cochrane]
- In China, according to a study by Benjamin Liebman of Columbia Law School, hired malpractice mobs “consistently extract more money from hospitals than legal proceedings do” [Christopher Beam, The New Yorker]
- Overview of (private-lawyer-driven) municipal suits on painkiller marketing [John Schwartz, New York Times, earlier] More: Chicago’s contingency deal with Cohen Milstein on opioid lawsuit [LNL] More: Rob Green, Abnormal Use.
- “So In The End, The VA Was Rewarded, Not Punished” [Coyote]