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San Francisco

Lawyers are warning that a bill to restrict consideration of criminal records in business hiring now pending in New York City would be even more burdensome to business than similar bills enacted in other cities and states, applying, for example, to businesses with as few as four employees, a lower threshold than usual. [Crain's] The bill prohibits inquiry about criminal record until after a provisional job offer is made, at which point a reluctant employer must withdraw the offer, painting a large “Sue Me” target on its chest.

To be able to reject an applicant because of a past conviction, employers would have to go through a rigorous process that, if not followed, would result in the presumption that a business owner engaged in unlawful discrimination, [Reed Smith's Mark] Goldstein said….

Additionally, the City Council bill would allow an applicant rejected because of a past crime seven days to respond. The job would have to be held open during that time….

In the bill’s current form, the business would bear the burden of proof in any resulting lawsuit by the job applicant, Mr. Goldstein said.

More: Nick Fishman, Employee Screen on unusually burdensome provisions of San Francisco “ban the box” law (“Employers can’t just sit back anymore and think that these laws are benign. At the least, they are creating an administrative nightmare. At worst, the plaintiff’s attorneys are standing by waiting for your first misstep.”)

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  • Sad and bad: “House Republicans vote to block Obama’s new pardon attorneys” [MSNBC, Jacob Sullum, my Cato take]
  • Ready for sorghum-patch unrest? More than 100 U.S. Department of Agriculture agents are armed with submachine guns [Matt Welch]
  • “Cop who punched Occupy Wall Street protester gets tax-free disability pension” [New York Daily News, video of punch]
  • “Officials could identify just one [Bronx] prosecutor since 1975 … disciplined in any respect for misbehavior while prosecuting a criminal case.” [City Limits via Radley Balko]
  • Georgia drug raid: flash-bang grenade thrown into crib badly burning toddler [Tim Lynch, PoliceMisconduct.net "Worst of the Month"]
  • New book by Sidney Powell critical of USDOJ explores Ted Stevens, Enron prosecutions, has foreword by Judge Alex Kozinski ["Licensed to Lie": Craig Malisow/Houston Press, Legal Ethics Forum, Amazon]
  • Two times over the legal limit, hmm. Would it help to flash my badge? [Prosecutorial Accountability on state bar discipline against San Francisco deputy d.a.]

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June 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on June 19, 2014

  • Heeding union and legacy air carriers, Congress nixes cheap flights to Europe [W.R. Mead/American Interest, Marc Scribner/CEI]
  • Kneecapping the opposition: lawprof wants to yank trade associations’ tax exemption [CL&P]
  • “Connecticut Supreme Court rules against man who got drunk and fell in bonfire” [Legal NewsLine]
  • Making reform of big-city government a conservative cause [Scott Beyer]
  • Judge: Pipe maker can sue qui tam law firm over press release calling products defective [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
  • British insurer group calls for action, says fraudulent accident claims up 18% in year [Insurance Journal]
  • Long, detailed look at forces behind the madness that is the San Francisco housing market [Kim-Mai Cutler, TechCrunch in April]

Win cash rewards! Under a proposed initiative in San Francisco, neighborhood snoop/informants could pocket 30 percent of fines and taxes imposed [David Kravets, Ars Technica]

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That was in happier days, when California State Sen. Leland Yee was winning national applause for his gun-control efforts. Yesterday the San Jose Mercury-News reported:

In a stunning criminal complaint, State Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major FBI operation spanning the Bay Area. … Yee asked whether he wanted automatic weapons, and the agent confirmed he did — about $500,000 to $2.5 million worth.”

Is it time to retire our “Do as we say” tag yet? Eliot Spitzer got exposed after crusading for longer sentences for “johns.” Czars of alcohol-abuse programs keep getting nabbed on the road after having a half dozen too many. Rep. Bob Filner groped his way to the podium to chair hearings on women’s issues.

Now there’s this. Maybe Sen. Yee came down so hard on private gun dealers because he wanted to muscle into the business himself.

The entire criminal information, which beggars belief in its colorful detail (Chinese gangs, Russian arms runners, Muslim insurgents in the Philippines) is here, with highlights summarized by Scott Lucas of San Francisco magazine. The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized: “Few observers of San Francisco politics are surprised by [Yee's] arrest on corruption charges.” Then there’s this sidelight: “Keith Jackson, accused by the FBI on Wednesday of being involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and a gun- and drug-trafficking conspiracy, was San Francisco’s top elected educator during the late 1990s.” [San Francisco Chronicle]

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Some “affordable housing”/squatting enthusiasts in San Francisco are encouraging the stratagem of renting someone’s apartment for a night or two on AirBnB, declining to leave, and settling in for what might prove a prolonged process of eviction under the city’s highly pro-tenant landlord-tenant laws. [San Francisco Bay Guardian, with comments questioning whether even San Francisco's law would actually reward such a ploy, via @marketurbanism]

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The federal EEOC has been helping prepare the ground with guidance indicating that it legally disfavors asking job applicants about criminal records across a wide range of situations. Meanwhile, activists in places like San Francisco seek local laws banning the practice in private employment, following successful campaigns to end it in the public sector. [San Francisco Chronicle]

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Housing roundup

by Walter Olson on June 12, 2013

  • Danegeld: Wells Fargo agrees to pay $42 million to settle activist groups’ exotic legal claims re: REO property; much will directly go to support the groups [BLT]
  • On horrors of San Francisco landlordship, “Pacific Heights” still all too realistic [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Problem in Thomas Perez/HUD/St. Paul affair was not that DoJ chose to settle in such a way as to minimize its losses, but that it had pursued such a weak case in the first place [Richard Painter]
  • Dean Zarras on HUD v. Westchester [Forbes; our two cents] HUD embraces disparate-impact theory [Kevin Funnell, Arnold Kling]
  • Why did the mortgage market collapse? [Foote et al via @tylercowen]
  • Shorter Ta-Nehisi Coates: flaws of rent-to-own housing in ’50s Chicago prove US economic arrangements are a plot to immiserate blacks [The Atlantic] Yet Sinclair’s The Jungle, set 40 years before, showed very similar housing scams being played on Slavic newcomers.
  • Minnesota high court dodges Fourth Amendment worries re: rental inspection program [Ilya Shapiro, Cato, link fixed now]

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First the city of San Francisco decided that homeowners were responsible for pruning and otherwise maintaining the municipally planted trees on the sidewalks in from of their homes. Now it’s hitting them with big fines for doing it improperly. [San Francisco Chronicle via Amy Alkon]

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We refer of course to the practice of dispensing with liability insurance [Sheila Weller, Vanity Fair]:

The Diggers broached the idea of a free clinic to two doctors, and Dr. David E. Smith, who had lived in the Haight for years, volunteered. He signed a $300-a-month lease for a suite at Haight and Ashbury, rounded up volunteers who utilized all the samples of penicillin, tranquilizers, and other supplies from the hospitals at which they interned, and started a clinic to treat patients suffering from bad acid trips or venereal disease —- all with no malpractice insurance, “which was totally insane,” says Smith today. On June 7, 1967, the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic opened for business with “a line around the block,” according to Smith.

More on the free clinic, one of the counterculture’s more celebrated innovations at the time, here and here; more on the practice of dispensing with liability coverage here, here, here, and here.

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If this account from DNALounge is to be believed, San Francisco police are highly eager for bar owners to install surveillance cameras to monitor everything customers do, and to commit to hand over the resulting footage to police without a warrant. Raise objections, and (according to the report) you might find the requirement being added as a condition to your permit. More: SFBay.ca.

Please don’t do these [in some cases alleged] things:

  • Calif.: “Judge accused of stealing elderly neighbor’s $1.6M life savings resigns from bench” [ABA Journal]
  • Stan Chesley joins a rogue’s gallery of disgraced litigators [Paul Barrett/Business Week, earlier here, etc.]
  • San Francisco’s Alioto firm: “Attorney and law firm must pay $67K …for ‘vexatious’ suit challenging airline merger” [ABA Journal, Andrew Longstreth/Reuters (Joseph Alioto: "badge of honor"), Ted Frank/PoL (sanctions are small change compared with enormous fees obtainable through merger challenges]
  • N.J.: “Lawyer takes state plea, will pay $1M to widow’s estate” [ABA Journal]
  • Texas: “State Rep. Reynolds charged with 7 others in barratry scheme” [SETR]
  • “Paul Bergrin, ‘The Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey,’ Convicted at Last” [David Lat/Above the Law, earlier]
  • “Attorney’s mug shot winds up next to his law firm’s ad, in marketing effort gone awry” [Martha Neil, ABA Journal]
  • Once the American legal profession reformed itself, but that was long ago [John Steele Gordon]

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  • California Supreme Court: fee shift in disabled-rights claim can go to winning defendant, not just plaintiff [Jankey v. Song Koo Lee, Bagenstos/Disability Law]
  • That’s Olsen with an “e”: “Lawmaker wants to protect cities from frivolous lawsuits over A.D.A.” [California Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen; L.A. Times] “Gas stations confront disabled-access lawsuits” [Orange County Register] Serial ADA filer hits New Orleans [Louisiana Record] ADA drive-by suits in Colorado and elsewhere [Kevin Funnell]
  • And this lawyer follows a see-no-evil policy regarding ADA filing mills: “I refuse to pass judgment on other attorneys here.” [Julia Campins]
  • Child care center could not turn away applicant with nut allergy because Iowa disabled-rights law said to have expanded its coverage of categories when the U.S. Congress expanded ADA, though Iowa lawmakers enacted no such expansion [Disability Law]
  • Feds join in LSAT accommodation suit [Recorder]
  • Official in San Francisco’s mayoral Office on Disability files disability-bias claim [KGO]
  • “Testing employees for legally prescribed medications must be done carefully” [Jon Hyman]

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on January 8, 2013

  • New thinner-isn’t-healthier study should give pause [Paul Campos, NYT]
  • Inspectors order Minnesota soda shop to yank candy cigarettes, bubble gum cigars [Daily Caller]
  • Cleveland might have its own version of Pike Place or Reading Terminal Market, if not for… [Nick Gillespie]
  • Regulators took it down: “San Francisco’s Libertarian Food Market Is Closing” [Baylen Linnekin]
  • How brutal is vegetarianism to animals? [Mike Archer via Tyler Cowen]
  • Crazy: S.F. mulls zoning ban on new restaurants to protect existing ones [Linnekin] How Chicago suppresses food trucks [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • Federal calorie labeling rules will burden restaurants [Wash. Times]

December 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 4, 2012

  • Wendy Murphy brings her believe-the-accuser shtick to the University of Virginia [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus]
  • UK: foster parents in Rotherham might want to take care not to belong to the wrong political party [Telegraph]
  • “The Disappearance of Civil Trial in the United States” [John Langbein, Yale Law Journal & SSRN]
  • “Liability Is ‘Wrong’ Solution for Rating Agencies” [Mark Calabria, Cato at Liberty] Mere days later: “Sixth Circuit Rejects Ohio Pension Fund Suit Against Rating Agencies” [Adler]
  • “Yes, it is now illegal to be fully nude in San Francisco *unless you are in a parade*” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Once lionized in press: “Former Ohio AG Loses Law License for 6 Months Over Ethics Violations While In Office” [ABA Journal, Adler]
  • Facebook says it may go after some lawyers who’ve repped adversary Ceglia [Roger Parloff, Fortune]

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Lowering the Bar on the complaint in a San Francisco trip-fall case:

Sure, you could write “plaintiff tripped on the curb,” but that almost makes it sound like it might have been plaintiff’s fault. Writing instead that “the curb disrupted the motion of plaintiff’s foot” makes it clear that the curb was the bad actor here. …

The curb’s co-defendant, Gravity, settled before trial.

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“The mother of a Washington state parolee who accidentally shot himself to death during a gunfight with San Francisco police last year has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.” [Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle]

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A San Francisco nonprofit named Consumer Action is in the habit of pocketing cy pres moneys — leftover funds that are supposed to go “as nearly as possible” to class relief — from class actions against credit card companies and other mass marketers. Does Consumer Action have any connections to lawyers who file class action suits, and if so, are those connections significant? [Ted Frank, Point of Law] (Bad link fixed now; text edited August 5 per discussion below.)

[A Consumer Action executive has been in touch to take issue with this post, pointing out, among other things, that the two personages mentioned in the Point of Law post are no longer married to each other, and arguing that the group's work is independent of class action lawyers. I have reworded the post to reflect these concerns.]

August 6 update: Letter from Consumer Action’s Linda Sherry follows, continued after jump:

Dear Mr. Olson,

I am writing to you to clarify certain points made in your recent blog post, “Consumer Action, chez Sturdevant” (http://overlawyered.com/2012/08/consumer-action-chez-sturdevant/) based on a post by PointofLaw.com (http://www.pointoflaw.com/archives/2012/07/damned-if-you-do-files-chase-bank-credit-card-class-action.php).
Patricia Sturdevant, currently the president of Consumer Action’s Board of Directors, is employed as Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Planning at California Department of Insurance. She has been divorced from attorney James Sturdevant since 1996. Mr. Sturdevant’s firm has no formal connection to Consumer Action, however we admire of Mr. Sturdevant’s track record as a consumer attorney and consider him one of many valued supporters. These supporters also include corporations, foundations, public interest groups and individuals.

[click to continue…]

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