Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

Sen. Durbin’s “Stand Your Ground” intimidation

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close ally of labor union and trial lawyer interests on Capitol Hill, is sending out hundreds of letters to groups linked to ALEC, the free-market group of state legislators that has occasionally involved itself in other issue areas like criminal and self-defense law, promising to shame those supporters at a public hearing for the notional link to the Trayvon Martin affair. (ALEC backed the passage of some state “stand-your-ground” laws, which as we have grown weary of repeating, did not form the basis for George Zimmerman’s successful claim of self-defense; a new Quinnipiac poll finds that American voters back “Stand Your Ground” laws by a 53-40 margin, so that campaign against these laws has evidently flopped badly)

Mostly these letters were designed to intimidate businesses that might support ALEC, but Durbin also sent one of the browbeating letters to the Cato Institute, which might have been a mistake. As related by colleague Ilya Shapiro:

Earlier this week, we received a letter from Durbin asking two questions (you’ll have to pardon the awkward grammar; this went out to hundreds of groups, so Durbin’s staff apparently had no time for proofing):

Has Cato Institute served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?

Does Cato Institute support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?

And, by the way, Durbin wants recipients of his polite inquiry to know, “I plan to convene a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to examine ‘stand your ground’ laws, and I intend to include the responses to my letters in the hearing record. Therefore, please know that your response will be publicly available.”

Well, I’m proud to say that Cato isn’t going along with this charade. Our president John Allison has responded to Durbin with a letter that I’ll quote in its entirety:

Dear Senator Durbin:

Your letter of August 6, 2013 is an obvious effort to intimidate those organizations and individuals who may have been involved in any way with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

While Cato is not intimidated because we are a think tank—whose express mission is to speak publicly to influence the climate of ideas—from my experience as a private-sector CEO, I know that business leaders will now hesitate to exercise their constitutional rights for fear of regulatory retribution.

Your letter thus represents a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is a continuation of the trend of the current administration and congressional leaders, such as yourself, to menace those who do not share your political beliefs—as evidenced by the multiple IRS abuses that have recently been exposed.

Your actions are a subtle but powerful form of government coercion.

We would be glad to provide a Cato scholar to testify at your hearing to discuss the unconstitutional abuse of power that your letter symbolizes.

Sincerely,

John Allison

The Wall Street Journal is on the issue today, and so is the Chicago Tribune, reproaching hometown Sen. Durbin for his propensity to “use the power of his high federal office as a cudgel against his enemies.” Incidentally, while Cato takes no official position so far as I know on “Stand Your Ground” laws, I have been active in discussing them: in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Caller, Bloomberg TV, Cato podcast and other places, and in many places here, including discussions of the campaign against ALEC here, here, here, and here (Paul Krugman at his most careless). Do you think I could ask the Senator to shame me by name at the hearing?

P.S. One of the rare occasions when my opinions diverge from Ira Stoll’s.

Cronyism in your school lunch

A manufacturer of Greek yogurt “paid $80,000 to Cornerstone Government Affairs to lobby Congress on its behalf, according to federal records.” And now Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York — upstate being a leading center of production for the premium product — has made sure it will be included in federally prescribed school lunches, even in places where local budgets and tastes might not have generated much demand for it. [The Hill; Ira Stoll]

P.S. And plenty of bad GOP behavior on the farm bill too, notes my colleague Mike Tanner.

May 7 roundup

  • In quiet retreat from STOCK Act, Congress dispenses with trading transparency for its staff [Prof. Bainbridge]
  • Deep-pocket quest: hotel named as additional defendant in Florida A&M hazing death [Orlando Sentinel, earlier]
  • “Keynes didn’t expect to have kids so he didn’t care about the future” wheeze long predates Niall Ferguson [Kenneth Silber; my new post at IGF, where I’ve also been posting lately on the topic of adoption]
  • Ten and five (respectively) reasons for a plaintiff’s lawyer to turn down a personal injury case [Eric Turkewitz, Max Kennerly]
  • Setback for man seeking to trademark “Eat More Kale” [AP, earlier]
  • Gawker is now on the UK “Warning: This bag of nuts may contain nuts” case [earlier]
  • Overlawyered’s Twitter feed just passed the 7,000-follower mark, while our Facebook page, which recently stood at 1,000 likes, has now surged to nearly 2,500. Thanks for following and liking, and if you’d like to engage with other parts of Cato on social media, check out this nifty guide by Zach Graves.

Jeffrey Toobin on recess appointments

Don’t the New Yorker’s readers deserve a better law analyst than Jeffrey Toobin? In his rant against the Canning decision, notes Ed Whelan, “Toobin asserts that there has never before been a ‘legal challenge’ to the scope of a president’s authority to make recess appointments. Somehow he missed the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling in 2004 — highlighted prominently in the D.C. Circuit opinion — in which liberal law professor Laurence Tribe and others challenged one of President Bush’s recess appointments.” [“Bench Memos“]

P.S. Mike Rappaport on another datum omitted by Toobin amid his fevered charges of judicial partisanship: “Prior to Judge Sentelle’s decision, the only judicial opinion to adopt the same position was written by liberal 11th Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett, following a brief filed for Ted Kennedy by liberal Marty Lederman.”

Jeopardy: “New York Times editorials” for $100

A. “Buried in the middle of the penultimate paragraph.”

Q. “Where, amid a long rant against the D.C. Circuit’s decision striking down most recess appointments by the President (“A Court Upholds Republican Chicanery”), would you expect the Times to concede that the practice of holding pro forma sessions to stymie such appointments was pioneered under Democratic Senate rule as a way of restraining President George W. Bush?

No prizes, as distinct from amusement value, in demonstrating what the New York Times thought of the practice back then.

More on the Canning v. NLRB decision: Trevor Burrus/Cato, massive link roundup at How Appealing, John Elwood, Point of Law roundtable, Michael Fox/Employer’s Lawyer (implications for NLRB), @markcalabria (implications for Richard Cordray CFPB appointment), Michael Greve, Mike Rappaport.

Defending the filibuster, and being consistent about it

My colleague John Samples argues for the venerable instrument of Senate obstruction [Philadelphia Inquirer] And some sort of prize should go to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) who chided “one of the major newspapers in our country” — he probably meant the New York Times — for siding with anti-filibuster Democratic ultras this time around, though it had taken exactly the opposite position when Republicans controlled the Senate. “We’ve got to be consistent.” [Dave Weigel]

U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

President Obama, along with a number of Senators and longtime ADA advocates, have urged rapid Senate ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, hailed in some quarters as an “international ADA”. Sen. Jim DeMint and other senators have objected to the super-fast-track proposed ratification schedule, arguing that the measure might affect the rights of homeschooling families caring for disabled children and that, in general, opponents deserve a right to be heard. If Senators take a closer look at the ambitious views of the treaty held by various disabled-rights and international-law advocates — one advocate says it could revolutionize the legal rights of the mentally ill, for example — they might find further reasons for caution. [hearing]

Hey, EEOC….

… can we have a heart-to-heart talk about some of what’s wrong with your new guidelines restricting employers from asking about job applicants’ criminal records? [Robin Shea] More: Diane Katz/Heritage, Ted Frank, Federalist Society podcast with Maurice Emsellem, Dominique Ludvikson and Dean Reuter, Brian Wolfman/Public Citizen (favorable to rules). Amy Alkon rounds up several more links, regarding which it should be noted that the EEOC has traditionally conceded an employer’s right to consider an embezzler’s rap sheet when filling a bookkeeping job — but not necessarily an axe-murderer’s rap sheet, since that’s not demonstrably “job-relevant.” Don’t you feel reassured now?

In related news, Roger Clegg reports that the House has passed a provision blocking EEOC enforcement of the guidance, which is encouraging as a preliminary matter; the Senate, however, is very likely to take a different position, and the rider will have no effect if the Senate view prevails. [NRO]

February 29 roundup

  • Jackpot justice and New Jersey pharmacies (with both a Whitney Houston and a Ted Frank angle) [Fox, PoL, our Jan. 3 post]
  • New Mexico: “Trial lawyers object to spaceport limits” [Las Cruces Bulletin]
  • Dodd-Frank: too big not to fail [The Economist] Robert Teitelman (The Deal) on new Stephen Bainbridge book Corporate Governance After the Financial Crisis [HuffPo] Securities suits: “trial lawyers probably won’t be able to defend a defective system forever” [WSJ Dealpolitik]
  • Uh-oh: U.K. Labour opposition looks at unleashing U.S.-style class actions [Guardian] “U.K. Moves ‘No Win, No Fee’ Litigation Reforms to 2013” [Suzi Ring, Legal Week]
  • More on controls on cold medicines as anti-meth measure [Radley Balko, Megan McArdle, Xeni Jardin, earlier here, here, here]
  • Recognizable at a distance: “In Germany, a Limp Domestic Economy Stifled by Regulation” [NY Times]
  • Fewer lawyers in Congress these days [WSJ Law Blog]