Posts Tagged ‘statutes of limitations’

California “climate science truth” bill would revive lapsed statutes of limitation

An extraordinary bill in the California legislature, promoted as making it easier to sue fossil fuel companies over their involvements in public debate, would lift the four-year statute of limitations of the state’s already extremely liberal Unfair Competition Law, otherwise known as s. 17200 — and retrospectively, so as to revive decades’ worth of time-lapsed claims “with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced anthropogenic-induced climate change.” Despite a 2004 round of voter-sponsored reform which curbed some of its worst applications, s. 17200 still enables what a California court called “legal shakedown” operations in which “ridiculously minor” violations serve as the predicate for automatic entitlement to damages, attorneys’ fees, and other relief.

Combined with the plans laid by California Attorney General Kamala Harris — part of the alliance of AGs that has sought to investigate not only oil, gas, and coal companies, but private advocacy groups and university scientists who have played a role in what is characterized as “climate denial” — the bill would begin laying the legal groundwork for an astonishingly broad campaign of inquisition and, potentially, expropriation. The bill was approved by a subcommittee and was further amended May 10 to provide that climate science-related claims of any age would begin a four-year reviver period as of next January. [Northern California Record; the left-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists has a piece supporting the bill]

Section 2(b) of the bill declares it the California legislature’s policy to promote “redress for unfair competition practices committed by entities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on the risks of climate change or financially supported activities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on those risks” [emphasis added] — a very clear signal that the target is public issue advocacy, and not merely (say) advertising that is directed at consumers in their capacity as buyers of gasoline at the pump. Last month, a federal court slapped down, as an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights, California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s demand for the donor lists of nonprofits that carry on operations in California.

Crime and punishment roundup

  • “Professional Responsibility: Prosecutors Run Amok?” video of panel from Federalist Society Lawyers’ Convention, with Judge Alex Kozinski, John Malcolm, George Terwilliger III, Darpana Sheth, moderated by Justice Keith Blackwell of the Supreme Court of Georgia;
  • Criminal punishment with no showing of mens rea (guilty state of mind) is just fine with a certain faction of progressives and that’s revealing [Scott Greenfield, earlier and generally, new Right on Crime website on criminal intent standards]
  • “Bill Cosby And Eliminating Statutes Of Limitation: A Truly Terrible Idea” [Joe Patrice, Above the Law]
  • An “emerging narrative in law enforcement circles: Cops aren’t shooting people nearly enough” [Radley Balko]
  • Police officer is struck and killed by passing car while attending to scene following alleged drunk driving crash. Can driver charged with original crash also be charged with manslaughter and homicide arising from officer’s death? [Ken Womble, Fault Lines on Long Island case of People v. James Ryan]
  • Labeling sex offenders’ passports? Really, what next? [Lenore Skenazy/New York Post, David Post/Volokh] “Why America Puts 9-Year-Old Kids on the Sex Offender Registry for Life” [same, Reason] “What new mean thing can we do to sex offenders to show how serious we are?” [Radley Balko]
  • “If you ignore levels, and just look at rates of change, crime rates in Canada track those in the United States to an astonishing degree. How can that be?” [Tyler Cowen on forthcoming Barry Latzer book, The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America]

Crime and punishment roundup

Update: Social Security still trying to collect decades-old parental debts

“The Social Security Administration, which announced in April that it would stop trying to collect debts from the children of people who were allegedly overpaid benefits decades ago, has continued to demand such payments and now defends that practice in court documents.” Robert Vogel, an attorney for clients whose refunds were seized, charges: “Their intention was to get the press off their backs and then go back to collecting their money. It’s just shocking that they believe that when someone turns 18, they automatically assume a crushing debt that was incurred by someone else.” [Marc Fisher, Washington Post; earlier here and here]

Statutes of limitation and the pancake box

The R.T. Davis Milling Co.’s Aunt Jemima brand of self-rising pancake mix was a big hit at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, thanks in part to the efforts of Nancy Green, the first of a series of women hired (after auditions) to promote the established brand, which had been named after a vaudeville tune of the day. (It is now owned by Pepsico’s Quaker Oats subsidiary.) Green’s popularity in the role won her a lifetime contract with the company which ended with her death in 1923, but now, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal]:

a lawsuit claims that Green’s heirs as well as the descendants of other black women who appeared as Aunt Jemima deserve $2 billion and a share of future revenue from sales of the popular brand.

If courts are to take statutes of limitation seriously, it is hard to see why such a suit does not deserve sanctions. If on the other hand courts are to begin ignoring statutes of limitation, Quaker might want to check into the packaging on its round box of breakfast oats, lest the heirs of William Penn (1644-1718) get any ideas. (& Debbi Baker, San Diego Union-Tribune; Amy Alkon, Advice Goddess)

Victory! Social Security suspends stale-debt collection program

Huge win for justice and good sense: facing a mounting public furor, “The Social Security Administration announced Monday that it will immediately cease efforts to collect on taxpayers’ debts to the government that are more than 10 years old.” [WaPo] Credit goes above all to the Washington Post and its reporter Marc Fisher for exposing the most outrageous features of the IRS’s refund-interception program last week, as recounted in this space; I like to think I helped as well by beating the drum early and repeatedly since then with Cato’s help. Overlawyered’s Facebook post on the subject has been seen by more than 60,000 people and shared more than 700 times in the past few days. (Have you liked us yet?)

The next step should be to establish for the public record how the provision in question got slipped into the farm bill, and at whose behest. Congress’s refusal to be forthcoming on this topic speaks volumes about its lack of a felt sense of responsibility toward the people it represents.

And a theme I’ve been repeating for almost as long as I’ve been writing about law: statutes of limitations developed in civilized legal systems for a reason. They protect us not only from cost, uncertainty, and the misery of legal process, but from injustice of a hundred other kinds, and they protect society itself from spiraling into a legal war of all against all. Stop trying to abolish them!

More: Ed Morrissey, Megan McArdle. And here’s a Cato podcast just out on the subject in which Caleb Brown interviews me on the topic:

Banking and finance roundup

  • “You can’t prove that favoritism influenced FDIC” in going easy on brass at Chicago bank [Kevin Funnell]
  • Securities and Exchange Commission won’t give up bid for more power in stale cases despite 9-0 SCOTUS loss [my new Cato Institute]
  • Is JP Morgan paying an enforcement price for Dimon’s outspoken criticism of regulators? [Prof. Bainbridge; WSJ (reporting claims that “it took Mr. Dimon too long to shed a combative stance with regulators… In April the bank’s two top regulators told Mr. Dimon and his board that they had lost trust in management.”)] More on Standard & Poor’s claims that it was targeted for retaliation by federal government [Peter Henning, NYT DealBook, earlier]
  • Judge rules against law passed by Chicago on bank-owned vacant buildings [Chicago Real Estate Daily]
  • Post-merger derivative claims: “Delaware refuses to feed the sharks” [Bainbridge]
  • Payday lending fight pits New York regulator against some Indian tribes [Funnell, Native American Financial Service Association]
  • Stay on the line to learn more about the Verizon/Vodafone deal, or just press the star key to sue now [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]