Trevor Burrus on the serious side of the case that elicited Cato’s humorous amicus brief the other day [Forbes]:
Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus… will be argued [before the Supreme Court] in April. The case is a challenge to Ohio’s bizarre statute prohibiting knowingly or recklessly making “false” statements about a political candidate or ballot initiative. In other words, the Ohio Election Commission (OEC) essentially runs a ministry of truth to which any citizen can submit a complaint. Amazingly, twenty other states have such laws.
Laws against lying in political speech are not administered by disinterested truth seekers, but by people with their own political convictions. They chill large amounts of truthful speech and deprive the public of hearing a robust debate on the issues. And, as we will see, they are used by political opponents to turn campaigning into litigation.
It’s actually on a serious subject: can a state (Ohio) purport to ban false, exaggerated or “truthy” speech about candidates, or does that impermissibly chill speech protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment? My colleagues Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus and Gabriel Latner co-authored it on behalf of political humorist/Cato fellow P.J. O’Rourke in the pending SCOTUS case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Read it here, alongside Ilya Shapiro’s summary, and here’s David Lat of Above the Law calling it the “Best Amicus Brief Ever.“
In the 1948 case of Shelley v. Kraemer, the U.S. Supreme Court held that racially restrictive real estate covenants, once a common practice, were not enforceable in court. Since then old covenants of that sort in title deeds have been a dead letter, but court clerks continue to copy them over as part of the historical transcription of title language that occurs in many real estate transactions. Now a couple described anonymously as John and Jane Doe, represented by attorney Zachary Gottesman of Cincinnati, have been suing county recorders around the state of Ohio asking for “an injunction requiring recorders to ‘sequester’ the offensive documents or, for those documents that have to be published, to redact the racially-offensive portions. They also ask for their attorney fees to be paid, punitive damages and any other relief the court deems just.” A lawyer representing the county clerks says they are legally obligated to copy, transcribe or otherwise make available the deeds as they find them, and that the anonymous filing of the lawsuit is improper. “Defendants,” argues the brief on their behalf, “cannot be held liable … in the same way a library or museum cannot be held liable for hate speech for maintaining a display of offensive historical documents,” he wrote. Please, don’t give the plaintiffs ideas for more suits. [Zanesville Times Recorder]
Someone needs to organize one pronto, to judge by stories like this one from Ohio, where parents say they need pro bono help against a Child Protective Services attempt to seize custody of their six year old daughter for “neglect” that appears to include letting her walk around the neighborhood [Free-Range Kids, Shackford]
P.S.: Another story from Australia last year; and a happier one from Canada.
Among the departing lawyers are those representing the state of Ohio in a public employee retirement fund-led class action; the state may not appreciate the fallout from Chesley’s efforts to fight disbarment in Kentucky over the fen-phen scandal. [Cincinnati Enquirer] Many of the one-time “Master of Disaster’s” bipartisan political ties, however, remain cozy:
Chesley noted that Hamilton County [= Cincinnati] Prosecutor Joe Deters, who has worked for Chesley as a private attorney for four years, continues to work at the firm.
Deters also works as a private attorney for the new firm created by Chesley’s former lawyers. Deters, a leader in Hamilton County’s Republican Party, praises Chesley, who has helped raise millions for Democrats…
At least the lawyers are getting some exercise [Cleveland Plain Dealer via Adler]:
Thursday was one of the strangest days in Ohio high school football history. Not a single down was played and it ended in total confusion…. The Ohio Supreme Court might have the final word….
Edgewood Superintendent Joe Spiccia said the plan Thursday night was to create a conflicting court order, which it did. … [OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried] said neither game will be played until the case is resolved by another court because if either game took place, it would be violating one of the two court orders.
Will the Obama administration’s much-publicized restrictions on new coal burning electric plants really crimp the economy of the Midwest? Or, given that the market for new plants appears to have tipped decisively toward natural gas for the foreseeable future, do they amount to a “regulatory nothing-burger?” [Jerry Rogers and Peter Van Doren (Cato), Forbes, via David Henderson]
The landmark in the Ohio town near Akron is one of only two survivors from a fashion for giant municipal flagpoles in the late nineteenth century; the other one is in Palmyra, N.Y. “The township trustees say they don’t want to own it anymore because of liability concerns.” [Recordpub.com via Robert Breugmann, Urbanophile]
Ohio TV station WOIO is re-enacting highlights of a local corruption trial with puppets. More: Lowering the Bar (“I think that all court proceedings should be reported in this way, but would settle for either puppet coverage of arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court or a full reenactment of the Rod Blagojevich trial.”)
At Capital Research Center, James Antle has a post-mortem on the defeat of Ohio Republicans’ ambitious attempt to turn around the public sector employment climate.
“U Raise ‘Em/We Cage ‘Em” t-shirts from a California law enforcement union [Radley Balko] From the same source, “NYPD cops demand the right to be corrupt.” And on Friday at Cato at Liberty, I gave my take on Ohio’s vote today on whether to approve a package of laws reining in public employee unionism.
More on Ohio’s S.B. 5, including political post-mortem: Michael Barone, Mark Steyn, Ted Frank, Mickey Kaus, Mytheos Holt. Philip K. Howard points out in the WSJ that the LIRR’s disability epidemic is “hardly unique – 82% of senior California state troopers are ‘disabled’ in their last year before retirement” [WSJ; more on LIRR, Nicole Gelinas] Radley Balko has another revealing police union vignette, this time from an incident in which an off-duty cop led another cop on a high-speed chase. And from Brian Strow [Western Kentucky], “Stop, Drop, and Roll: The Privileged Economic Position of Firefighters” [Library of Economics and Liberty]