- “In fact, none of the mass shootings that have grabbed headlines in the last few years would have been prevented by the gun controls proposed in response to them, and Obama’s new list of warmed-over ideas does not break any new ground in that respect.” [Jacob Sullum] More: Dave Kopel; Ken White at Popehat on the President’s rhetoric of rights; Jonathan Adler notes that ATF’s new guidance on who’s a gun dealer either restates existing law (yawn) or violates the Administrative Procedure Act (whee!); Eugene Kontorovich wonders whether that guidance is vague on purpose; and Josh Blackman writes that while most of the President’s orders don’t go much beyond “hortatory fluff” (no more letting attorneys set up gun trusts for MS-13 gang members!) they help lay the groundwork for more intrusive measures to come;
- “Judge tosses consumer suit claiming SeaWorld falsely asserts its whales are well-treated” [ABA Journal]
- In a single press release on Missouri mosque vandalism case, the U.S. Department of Justice misleads readers in two important ways [Eugene Volokh on legal significance of burned Koran, omission of ideological content in sprayed graffiti slogans]
- New Greg Ip book “Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe” [Tyler Cowen and more, Arnold Kling]
- Plaintiff’s lawyers “salivating at the prospects for big paydays” from self-driving car accidents [Bloomberg]
- Do “arms trafficking” rules extend even to domestic sharing of data files containing information on three-dimensional printing of guns? [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- So the Graubard Miller/Alice Lawrence mega-fee saga, often covered in this space, turns out to have a Sheldon Silver connection [Wayne Barrett]
So does this mean better days ahead for New York, a terribly misgoverned state? As one who has been writing about New York politics since way back, I can’t bring myself to be too optimistic.
I got interested in Silver originally because of his distinctive role as protector of New York’s trial lawyers… But legal policy was only one of the many pots in which Silver kept his fingers, as Steven Malanga and Seth Barron detail in separate articles at City Journal. New York sluices huge amounts of money in its gigantic social services apparatus through non-profits, and friends of Sheldon were there to profit. Real estate development in New York is subject to famously convoluted restrictions, and huge sums are at stake in its rent control and rent stabilization system. Again and again, Silver was there to broker deals for his friends behind the scenes….
So long as New York pursues failed policies like rent control, it will open huge leeway for hidden favoritism. And then, sure as day, in will move the Sheldon Silver types.
Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted on all seven criminal counts Monday in a corruption scheme that traded taxpayer cash and political favors for nearly $4 million in payoffs….The conviction of Silver — for decades one of the three most powerful politicians in the state — was a huge victory for anti-corruption crusading Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.
Appeal is expected. The scheme was one in which Silver helped direct state research funds to a Columbia University physician specializing in asbestos-related disease in exchange for the doctor’s referral of patients to the Silver law firm, which resulted in large legal fees to Silver for cases in which he did no work. Earlier on the charges against Silver here, here, here (and related).
While machine politicians are common enough in New York, Silver (in Wayne Barrett’s words) “for two decades presented himself as the personally devout, politically principled leader of the most progressive slice of New York political life.” Whatever his relations with other Democratic interest groups, Silver always put trial lawyers first.
- “Executive Power in the Age of Obama,” podcast interview with Prof. David Bernstein about his new book Lawless, from Encounter Books [Liberty and Law] And so many choices: Bernstein picks his top five acts of Obama administration lawlessness;
- Donations-wise, law firms love Hillary Clinton [Above the Law] as do teachers’ unions [RiShawn Biddle]
- “The Criminalization Of Politics: Is It Happening, And Is It A Problem?” David Lat covers the Federalist Society convention panel [Above the Law]
- Donald Trump’s fondness for legal threats can be traced back to his early association with infamous attorney Roy Cohn [Business Insider video with Michael D’Antonio; June 1989 Spy magazine “Those Who Can, Sue” noting the Trump/Cohn connection; a Steven Brill anecdote about Cohn and Ford Motor that I quoted in my first book] More: @andrewmgrossman on “Ex. 1 to defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion,” Trump on Kasich;
- “Sheldon Silver lied to us” [New York Daily News editorial] More: Lawyers for Silver “don’t plan to call any witnesses. They will instead enter some documents as evidence in their defense, offering a case so minimal that U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni used air quotes when referring to it.” [WSJ]
- Raunchy emails in Kathleen Kane saga: “Pennsylvania’s attorney general seems to have decided that if she has to go, she’s going to take others down with her.” [AP/Yahoo]
- Eternal return? Ex-con reinstalled as mayor of Bridgeport, Ct. played key role in cities-sue-gun-business episode [U.S. News, back then]
Dr. Robert Taub, a mesothelioma specialist at Columbia University, got sucked into the Albany ethical abyss and in particular the moneymaking schemes of former New York Assembly Speaker and longtime Overlawyered favorite Sheldon Silver [Bill Hammond, Politico/Capital New York, quotes me] The defense proffered by Silver’s lawyers draws heavily on the idea that look, this is the way New York works [New York Post]:
“It’s impossible, absolutely impossible,” argued defense lawyer Steven Molo, “for a member of the Assembly to … do the job that a person in the Assembly does and not have some sort of conflict of interest.
“That may make you uncomfortable,” he added, “but that is the system New York has chosen, and it is not a crime.”
- Preview of testimony from Dr. Robert Taub, formerly of Columbia U., in upcoming asbestos-referral corruption trial of former New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver [NY Post]
- Class action procedure: “Big Changes to Rule 23 in 2018? Be Sure to Weigh In Now” [Paul Karlsgodt, Andrew Trask]
- In case it wasn’t clear already — but Overlawyered readers knew, didn’t they? — the aunt who sued her nephew wasn’t really upset with her young relative, she was trying to get at insurance money [New Jersey Civil Justice Institute]
- “Judge’s Solution To Lead-Paint Problem May Be A Public Nuisance Itself” [Daniel Fisher]
- “Randy Maniloff: Lawyers want to force teams to use ‘foul pole to foul pole’ netting to protect fans from injury” [W$J, earlier]
- House passes bill to re-toughen Rule 11 sanctions, prospects for getting past White House uncertain [Rep. Lamar Smith press release, Texans for Lawsuit Reform on Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act]
- Denver: “a case that lawyers say is the first product liability claim in the nation involving the legal marijuana industry” [Greenfield Reporter]
- More dangerous today than in past to be a cop in America? Available evidence suggests the opposite [Radley Balko, more]
- New York Times covers shaken-baby syndrome with look back at Louise Woodward trial [Poynter; Boston Globe on shaken baby syndrome in May; earlier]
- Study from National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) on gaps in indigent defense misses chance to highlight voucher/choice remedies [Adam Bates, Cato]
- The far reach of Sarbanes-Oxley: “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History” [Juliana DeVries, The Nation]
- “Has the ‘Responsible Corporate Officer’ doctrine run amok?” [Bainbridge, earlier on Quality Egg/U.S. v. DeCoster case and mens rea]
- Federal judge, in April: U.S. Attorney Bharara’s publicity tactics against Sheldon Silver strayed close to line [ruling via Ira Stoll]
- Suspending drivers licenses over unpaid tickets can push poor motorists into downward spiral [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Balko]
- Yes: “Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Lowered?” [New York Times “Room for Debate”]
- “New police radars can ‘see’ inside homes” [Gannett]
- “‘Shopping cart’ patent beaten by Newegg comes back to court, loses again” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]
- “Utah woman can sue herself over fatal car accident, ruling says” [Salt Lake Tribune, Lowering the Bar]
- “Large Product Liability Awards Made Comeback in 2014” [Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg]
- New York assembly ex-speaker Silver indicted; charges reduced from five to three [Reuters]
- “Your fruit may be patented.” [Dan Lewis, Now I Know]
- Sheldon Silver’s law firm reportedly loses its special status in courts [New York Post] “Ex-congresswoman could get payout from court tied to Silver” [same; former Rep. Carolyn McCarthy]
- “High School Teacher With Fear of Young Children Loses Disability-Bias Case” [EdWeek, h/t @aaronworthing]
- “Worth remembering that, if they had the power in the 1980s, the public health lobby would have forced us to eat a diet they now say is bad.” [Christopher Snowdon, earlier]
- Numbers confirm that AG Eric Holder’s forfeiture reform won’t directly affect great majority of cases [Institute for Justice via Jacob Sullum, earlier]
- Despite curiously thin evidence that they work, bans on texting while driving roll on, including Mississippi [Steve Wilson, Watchdog, thanks for quote, earlier here, etc.] Draft Ohio bill has numerous troubling features, including broad bar on future technologies, vague distraction ban, stiffer penalties without judicial discretion, mandatory court dates for minor offenses [Maggie Thurber, Ohio Watchdog, thanks for quote]
- Cop’s defense in sex assault of teen: he “[had] money problems and a bad guy scared [him]” [Trumbull, Ct.; Scott Greenfield, Connecticut Post]
- “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.” [Olivia Nuzzi]
Sheldon Silver’s arrest prompts Jeffrey Toobin to relate a war story regarding the now-defunct law firm known as Morris Eisen, P.C., “an outfit so extravagantly corrupt, so hilariously dishonest, and so creatively malign as almost to defy belief.” (I’ve written a number of times about the Eisen firm myself.) Eisen’s son-in-law, who had gotten his start with the firm, went on to found the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver had his no-visible-duties job and to which he occasionally sent lucrative asbestos referrals from his friends at the Columbia clinic and elsewhere.
Weitz & Luxenberg (which has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the federal investigation, and says it has asked Silver to take a leave of absence) is also a big political player nationally, not just in New York. As Kim Strassel notes at the WSJ, “Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top contributor from 2009 to 2014 was Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm played the same role for Bruce Braley, the trial-lawyer Democrat who just lost an Iowa Senate race.” The other large asbestos firm to receive lucrative patient referrals from Dr. Robert Taub’s now-discontinued Columbia University mesothelioma center is the Simmons firm of Illinois, another big political donor that Strassel says has been the single biggest backer of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Previously on the Silver arrest here and here. More: “Tarnished Silver: Speaker’s arrest upends most everything in Albany” [Andrew Hawkins, Crain’s New York (“his support for the teachers’ union has kept education reformers at bay”); Henry Goldman, Bloomberg; Wayne Barrett on Silver’s “Friends of Shelly” network of pals, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (“In his varied posts, Lippman has long overseen the very courts hearing the asbestos and other cases brought by Silver’s firm.”)
And this Joseph Nocera column from the weekend, which is particularly strong on Silver’s influence over the judiciary in New York, built up through methods all “perfectly legal.” But note this NYT correction stating that Nocera’s discussion of the judiciary in that column was “premised on several factual errors.” (More on that: New York Sun.) The New York Post believes the feds are sniffing around Manhattan trial courts.