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Tyler Cowen and Arnold Kling salute the new Robert Litan book Trillion Dollar Economists, on how economists and their ideas have contributed to the world in practical ways ranging from auction design and financial innovation to telecommunications and prediction markets.

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Kevin from Lowering the Bar has a new book out on odd laws (more on how to buy it).

April 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2013

  • More on Maryland cyber-bullying law vs. First Amendment [Mike Masnick/TechDirt, and thanks for quote; earlier here, here]
  • Family of Trayvon Martin settles with homeowners’ association for an amount believed north of $1 million [Orlando Sentinel, earlier]
  • Best of the recent crop of commentaries on violent political terrorists of 1960s landing plum academic gigs [Michael Moynihan, Daily Beast, earlier]
  • First the New Mexico photographer case, now attorney general of Washington sues florist for not serving gay wedding [Seattle Times; earlier on Elane Photography v. Willock]
  • “‘Vexatious litigator’ is suspect in courthouse bomb threats in five states” [ABA Journal]
  • Cannon, meet moth: Ken instructs a guy at WorldNetDaily why hurt feelings don’t equal fascism [Popehat] “The Trick In Dealing With Government: Find The Grown-Up In The Room” [same]
  • A true gentleman and friend: R.I.P. veteran New York editor and publisher Truman Talley, “Mac,” who published many a standard author from Ian Fleming to Jack Kerouac to Rachel Carson to Isaac Asimov and late in his illustrious career took a flyer on a complete novice in the books that became The Litigation Explosion and The Rule of Lawyers [NYT/Legacy]

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Two personalities often linked in this space, Prof. Richard Epstein and Popehat’s Ken White, were both on Reddit yesterday doing an interactive feature called “Ask Me Anything.” Epstein’s is here, and White’s is here.

More: Epstein in response to a question on originalism: “The style of interpretation used by the founders was much more sophisticated than the attention to text. Implied limitations on government, as through the police power, were part of the picture, as were implied protections of the government, as with sovereign immunity. My new book out later this year, The Classical Liberal Constitution, addresses these issues.”

In response to a question about his rule-utilitarian rationale for libertarian principles: “My view is that the deontological explanations tend to fail because they cannot account for such common practices at Intellectual Property, taxation or eminent domain. The theory has no way to deal with forced exchanges, which is what taxation and eminent domain are about.”

On libertarianism and pollution: “externality control is an essential party of the overall libertarian theory, and that means control of nuisances. … It is a case where it is easier to mischaracterize a system than to understand it. Nuisance law has many distinctive remedial features and at times requires collective enforcement of the basic norm against invasion. But there is nothing about the theory which says that the way to make people happy and prosperous is to choke them.”

Also: why the movie Body Heat got the Rule Against Perpetuities wrong, and why he’s not a fan of the German way to organize legal academia.

And Ken White answers questions about when to talk to the police; pro bono cases he’s proud of having helped on; what to say to someone who wound up going to law school in part because of his blog; how having his identity “outed” affected his law practice; and three kinds of crazy case that result in Popehat posts.

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Ken at Popehat and Mike Masnick at TechDirt are on the case of Prenda Law, which is in the business of monetizing low-value copyrights to adult entertainment properties. The story, which recently resulted in the filing of defamation suits against Prenda critics, is highly convoluted, so I recommend scrolling down to earlier posts in the series (such as this one by Ken).

Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on January 22, 2013

  • “City to pay $22.5 million to bipolar woman released in high-crime area” [Chicago Sun-Times, Greenfield]
  • On Medicaid settlement clawback evasion, Obama acts in line with wishes of both plaintiff’s and defense sides, though against interests of federal Treasury [Ted Frank] Michael Greve on Delia v. EMA, the Medicaid recoupment case before SCOTUS [Law and Liberty]
  • From Sasha Volokh, a Glee-ful Torts exam [Volokh]
  • Congrats to Abnormal Use, repeat winner in Torts category of ABA Journal Blawg 100;
  • UK: personal injury firms say they’ll need to lay off workers if government carries through on reform of civil suits [Law Gazette]
  • “How the First Amendment affects tort law” [Beck, Drug and Device Law]
  • Bummer: after involuntary pot brownie incident, lawsuit names club where incident took place [NJLRA]

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October 8 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 8, 2012

  • Karma in Carmichael: serial Sacramento-area filer of ADA suits Scott Johnson, often chronicled in this space, hit by sex-harass suit by four former female employees, with avert-your-eyes details [Sac Bee; News10, autoplays] One of Johnson’s suits, over a counter that was too high, recently helped close Ford’s Real Hamburgers, a 50-year-old establishment. [KTXL/The Blaze]
  • Fifth Circuit reverses decision holding Feds liable for Katrina flood damages [Reuters]
  • “Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril”: SCOTUS takes up first-sale doctrine in copyright law [Jennifer Waters, MarketWatch on Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons]
  • Rubber room redux: “New York Teacher Live-Streams $75,000 Do-Nothing Job” [Lachlan Markay, Heritage] Teacher charged with hiring hitman to kill colleague should have been fired decade ago [Mike Riggs]
  • “George Zimmerman sues NBC for editing 911 audio to make him sound racist” [Jim Treacher, Daily Caller]
  • Prof. Mark J. Perry has moved his indispensable Carpe Diem economics/policy blog in-house to AEI;
  • New York will require newly licensed lawyers to do pro bono [WSJ, Scott Greenfield, Legal Ethics Forum]

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If you don’t feel you can nominate Overlawyered in good conscience, Lowering the Bar would make a good blog to nominate.

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  • Why is the U.S. Department of Labor funding Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC), a group that stages protests in front of restaurants and has “harassed” patrons? Rep. Darrell Issa wants to know [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, Daily Caller]
  • Connecticut public workers who wrongly took food stamps get their jobs back, and no, you can’t read the arbitration decisions [Raising Hale]
  • Michael Fox’s pioneering employment law blog turns 10;
  • “Why Defending Employment Lawsuits Can Be So Expensive” [Daniel Schwartz]
  • What lawprofs are up to: proposal to gut the employee-misconduct defense [Pandya, Workplace Prof]
  • Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explains why he sees no contradiction in opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] while supporting gay marriage. Related: Jacob Sullum;
  • Hyper-regulation of employment in Italy cries out for reform [John Cochrane, Tom Smith, one deterrent]

The widely discussed blog post by Deirdre McCloskey is at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

In the light of the ongoing controversy over Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren’s ill-documented claims of Native American status, Point of Law — the website I launched and ran back when I was at the Manhattan Institute — has begun a featured discussion on the effects on legal academia of the ongoing pressure to hire by race (and sex and several other categories). Following an introduction by James Copland, I’ve kicked off the discussion with an opening post (“Better Scholarship Through Diversity?”). There’s plenty on the subject, of course, in my book Schools for Misrule from last year. Other participants in the discussion will include Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and, most likely disagreeing with us, Gerald Torres of the University of Texas.

May 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 22, 2012

  • Lacey Act madness: might Feds be empowered to disrupt summer concerts by seizing musicians’ Gibsons? [Bedard, DC Examiner; earlier; recent Heritage Foundation work; reworded to reflect comment from "Density Duck," below]
  • Contributors to new “Privatization Blog” include friend of this blog Coyote, e.g. here and here;
  • “Big Government Causes Hyper-Partisanship in the Judicial Appointment Process” [Ilya Shapiro] Fuels Culture War, too: “The faster the state expands, the more likely it is to violate your values” [Matt Welch]
  • Demagogy on expatriates: Schumer proposal for stiff tax on emigrants may have read better in original German [Ira Stoll, Roger Pilon/Cato, Paul Caron/TaxProf]
  • Georgia high court considers $459 million fax-spam verdict [AJC, AP, my take] “Hot fuel” class actions enrich the usual suspects [PoL]
  • New rebuttal to trial lawyer/HBO movie “Hot Coffee” [Victor Schwartz et al, auto-plays video] Ted Frank crossed swords with Litigation Lobby on the movie in January, particularly on the question of coffee temperature and the Liebeck case [PoL]
  • Overlawyered “will become the first [law] blog teenager this summer” [Bruce Carton, Legal Blog Watch] “I’ve been a fan of Walter Olson’s Overlawyered blog for years.” [Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess] Thanks!

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“Auto-litigation”

by Walter Olson on February 11, 2012

Kevin at Lowering the Bar has been collecting more cases in which plaintiffs have sued themselves.

Listicles and award contests from around the blawgosphere: Popehat on censorious clowns, Legal Ethics Forum, Trask on class action cases and articles, White Collar Crime Law Prof, Heritage on worst federal regs, Greenfield on best criminal law blawg post (and winner), Faces of Lawsuit Abuse (Chamber) on most ridiculous lawsuits, Balko on worst prosecutor (and finalists).

P.S. From The Week, “8 craziest lawsuits of 2011.” This in turn prompted a NYC personal injury attorney named David Waterbury, taking up valuable real estate at Eric Turkewitz’s, to write a counter-article saying the cases weren’t so bad, which involved me in the comments section after I observed Waterbury spreading the trial lawyer-favored line that the “Kara Walton” series of bogus lawsuit stories was a purposeful political fabrication.

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Several interesting reactions to my book already from around the blogosphere:

  • University of Illinois law professor Larry Ribstein (who commented at my speech there last week): “There was a good turnout and a lot of deserved buzz for this very interesting book. … The book deserves a lot of attention, particularly from law professors and their students as a source of critical perspective on trends in legal education. There is little doubt that the ideas Olson criticizes are hatched mainly in law schools rather than by practicing lawyers and judges, and have led to costly and questionable litigation.” And a response from Scott Greenfield, who says the book’s premise that law professors have great influence over the state of the law “warms the cockles of lawprofs’ hearts given that most of the legal profession considers their influence marginal at best.”
  • Ted Frank: “should be required reading for law students, and deserves a place on any Federalist Society member’s bookshelf.”
  • Alan Crede writes a lengthy and thoughtful review at Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Blog. He notes that on, e.g., the work of legal clinics, “the traditional taxonomy of liberal and conservative breaks down when you start to deal with many fine-grain legal issues.” And: “There are at least two law professors – Tim Wu and Elizabeth Warren (who is now in the Obama administration) – who possess rock star cachet in progressive circles” and can hardly be charged with any sort of airy unwillingness to engage with the demands of practical law reform. Crede generously concludes “whether you agree with Olson’s conclusions or not, there is a lot that you can learn from ‘Schools For Misrule.'”
  • Perhaps my favorite review so far (aside from the great one in Publisher’s Weekly) is from Ira Stoll at Future of Capitalism. It begins: “Of all the possible explanations for Barack Obama, one of the most intriguing is that, like Bill Clinton before him, he was both a law school graduate and a law school professor.” Stoll summarizes many of the book’s themes, particularly as regards “public interest”, human-rights and institutional-reform litigation, and includes this takeaway: “Any donor or foundation wanting to reshape legal education would find Mr. Olson’s book a fine place to begin.”

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Sure. What could go wrong with that? Relatedly, Ann Althouse wonders how we’ll all react next year when Group X demands the right to occupy the Wisconsin capitol for 10+ days. Consistently? (& welcome Instapundit readers).

More: “Did Wisconsin Police Violate the First Amendment through Selective Enforcement of Limits on Protests?” [Hans Bader]

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Behind the menacing letter in question, apparently: a baffling failure to grasp the context in which the phrase “Academic Advantage” appeared on the popular blog.

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Denis Dutton, 1944-2010

by Walter Olson on December 29, 2010

The creator of the wonderful Arts and Letters Daily (and a body of great work besides that on aesthetics and other subjects) will be sorely missed. Obits and appreciations: The Press (New Zealand), Nick Gillespie/Reason, Chronicle of Higher Education. For very many years, like Patrick at Popehat, until changing technology rendered the home page concept less relevant, I kept my home page set to the Daily, unrivaled as it was at its job of civilized web curation and casual tease-line artistry; now the L.A. Times speculates (via Virginia Postrel) on what will happen to it next.

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