The urge to criminalize the other guy’s politics and advocacy seems to be running especially strong these days. If you doubt it, here’s another data point: a Latino advocacy group called Presente.org, following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial comments critical of immigration, called forarresting Trump. Not only did this not stir any great outcry, but rival Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders has now hired Presente.org’s executive director to lead his Latino outreach.
One reason our elections and public debates are intensely fought is that they carry high stakes. Their stakes will be higher yet if the price of coming out on the losing side in an election or debate is to face potential prosecution.
Gerrymandering is rife across the country, resulting in artificially drawn districts intended to protect or defeat certain incumbents, maximize one party’s share of power, or achieve other political goals. My own state of Maryland suffers from a famously awful Congressional gerrymander, including the notorious District 3, compared with a “broken-winged pterodactyl” or the blood splatters from a crime scene.
I’ve had a chance to do something about this problem over the past three months as co-chair of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission, created by Gov. Larry Hogan in August to gather information and draft recommendations for a new and better way of doing things. Following public hearings, testimony from experts and considerable research, we filed our report with the governor on Tuesday.
Len Lazarick at Maryland Reporter sums up some of the key points. If enacted, our plan would make Maryland the only state in which elected legislators and the governor would no say at all — zero — in deciding who should sit on a line-drawing commission. Our plan follows several elements of California’s ground-breaking plan, including screening of volunteers and randomized pools, simplified and adapted to the circumstances of our smaller state. In addition to requiring congruence with county and city boundaries where possible, contiguity, and compactness, we would join a very few states in instructing the drafters of lines to ignore partisan indicators such as voter registration and past voting results, as well as the place of residence of incumbents or any other person.
Ben Carson’s lawyers to CafePress, printer of shirts and other message products: take down unauthorized merchandise supporting our guy. Paul Alan Levy responds [Metafilter] And candidate Donald Trump, whose lawyer-intensive ways it seems we were covering only yesterday — wait a minute, it was only yesterday — is making more news: “The presidential campaign of Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened legal action against a politically oriented clothing outlet for using the GOP front-runner’s name, which is trademarked, in its domain name and merchandise.” The outlet, Boston-based StopTrump.us, is trying to drum up opposition to Trump. [Igor Bobic and Cristian Farias, Huffington Post, via Eugene Volokh, who doesn’t think much of the claims]
Public figure Donald Trump, target of a Club for Growth attack ad, has responded in characteristic manner by firing off a cease and desist letter to the club [Business Insider, Chris Cilizza/Washington Post] Trump lawyer Alan Garten calls the ad:
“…replete with outright lies, false, defamatory attacks and destructive statements and downright fabrications which you fully know to be untrue, thereby exposing you and your so-called ‘club’ to liability for damages and other tortious harm,” Garten wrote.
Garten said he was only willing to offer the Club for Growth a “one-time opportunity to rectify this matter” and avoid “what will certainly be a costly litigation process.”
“In the event, however, that we do not receive these assurances, please be advised that we will commence a multi-million dollar lawsuit against you personally and your organization for your false and defamatory statements,” he concluded. “Please be guided accordingly.”‘
Four years ago I wrote about Trump’s long record of using litigation and its threat as a weapon against critics and journalists whose account of his business dealings he found displeasing, and questioned whether this pattern harmonized well with general Republican/conservative disapproval of the unnecessary use of litigation. Earlier on Trump. More: Jonathan Adler (“suit has no legal basis” and “is what is commonly known as a SLAPP suit — a suit that’s designed to shut people up.”)
Scott Walker has announced a far-reaching package of labor reforms going far beyond the cautious Republican norm, including abolishing the NLRB and transferring its power to other agencies, eliminating federal unions, making right-to-work the default federal labor law regime unless states opt out, repealing Davis-Bacon, and more. [Reason, Associated Press, Hot Air interview] Union leaders, quite understandably from their perspective, lost no time in speaking out loudly against Walker’s ideas. Why, one wonders, don’t more business people speak out as loudly against the ideas of Bernie Sanders?
“Cross-examination is the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth,” a great legal scholar once wrote. Fox News proved it — and generated a superior, entertaining debate — by aiming genuinely hard, personalized questions at the Republican front-runners. We know more now about which candidates are heedless of liberty and the U.S. Constitution, ill-prepared or inconsistent. Would that the press were this tough on all candidates.
I live-tweeted it last night and here are a few highlights, in earliest-to-latest chronological order:
I’ll be joining Cato Institute colleagues tonight (Monday) from 7 p.m. Eastern live-tweeting the first Republican presidential candidate debate of the election cycle at hashtag #Cato2016. Details here. Follow along! And please follow my own account on Twitter as well as Overlawyered’s.
Update: You can read the results here, including favorable mentions of Rick Perry’s legal reform and Carly Fiorina’s critique of Dodd-Frank, as well as a question I wish they’d asked Lindsey Graham and some cruel nicknames coined by P.J. O’Rourke.
Megan McArdle on child support and the difficulty of replacing social norms with law [Bloomberg View, my recent Cato post and podcast]
“Wisconsin Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson should drop her lawsuit” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial, earlier; AP (federal judge declines to block law’s implementation while suit is pending)]
CVS opposes certification of securities class action, saying government pension managers filing it were influenced by political donations from plaintiff’s law firm [Law360, reg]
“Has Conley v. Gibson really been overruled? (And did the Fourth Circuit just tee up the next big SCOTUS case on pleading?)” [Adam Steinman, Civil Procedure Blog, arguing from premises different from mine, on Fourth Circuit’s decision in McCleary-Evans v. Maryland Department of Transportation]
If the now-infamous investigation was supposed to be so super-duper-confidential that even the targets of the dawn home raids couldn’t be allowed to talk about it, then who tipped the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ahead of time to the raid on Cindy Archer’s home? [Watchdog; earlier]