Half a century ago, selling the Tennessee Valley Authority was regarded as a free-marketeers’ politically impossible dream. Now guess who’s for it — and who’s against. (Hint on the latter: R-Tenn.) [Knoxville News via Future of Capitalism]
P.S. More on this welcome Obama initiative from Chris Edwards: “former Cato chairman Bill Niskanen was barred by Congress for even looking into TVA reform when he was on President Reagan’s CEA.” So progress marches on. And: Fortune 1933 article on TVA.
Nice $22,000 you’re carrying, Mister Motorist, but I think it would look nicer in the police department’s bank account [News Channel 5 Nashville via Radley Balko]. Driver George Reby, a professional insurance adjuster from New Jersey, was then permitted to go on his way since he “hadn’t committed a criminal law [violation],” as the police officer later explained to a reporter. It happened in Monterey, Tenn., not Monterrey, Mexico.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, I’ll be giving a lunchtime talk on Schools for Misrule in Nashville at Vanderbilt Law School, hosted by the student Federalist Society chapter there. It’s open to the public, so drop by and say hello.
Murfreesboro: “A former MTSU student accused of stabbing a Lady Raider basketball player to death at Raiders Crossing Apartments in 2011 is suing the complex and its management company for failing to separate the two despite knowing they had problems with one another. … The attorney [Joe Brandon Jr.] included Twitter postings by Stewart as supporting evidence of a negative and deteriorating relationship between the two women.” [The Tennessean]
Sinking deeper into substance abuse, a prominent Tennessee judge spins ever further out of control. How long does it take before he’s removed and the public alerted to his problem? Way too long for comfort [Knoxville News Sentinel]
If you run a home office in Nashville, you mustn’t let clients visit, while in Montgomery County, Maryland, employees may not pick up paychecks at a home-based business [Radley Balko; Harvey Jacobs, WaPo]
Recent clips on a subject treated in much more detail in Schools for Misrule:
- Claim: Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s reforms to public sector labor law violate international human rights [HRW, Mirer/Cohn, FoxBusiness (views of Marquette lawprof Paul Secunda)] Related: UAW threatens charges against automakers [ShopFloor]
- Per some advocates, “right to health” has emerged as an “established international legal precept” even if it is “still to be fully embraced in the United States” [Friedman/Adashi, JAMA]
- GWB at risk of arrest if he visits Europe? Or are some of his enemies just posturing? “Bush trip to Switzerland called off amid threats of protests, legal action” [Atlantic Wire, WaPo, Daily Dish and more, Frum Forum, more and yet more]
- Oh, good grief: Tennessee solon “proposes law to make following Shariah law a felony” [Tennesseean] More states prepare to join unsound “ban all recogition of international law” movement [Ku, OJ] Background: Volokh.
- For those interested in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recently given a favorable nod by the Obama administration, a copy of the text is available here [CWB]
- “Conceptualizing Accountability in International Law and Institutions” [Anderson, OJ]
- Human rights initiative in UK: “Rapists and killers demand right to benefits” [Telegraph] European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Acts “merely pretexts for judicial activism, argues Alasdair Palmer” [Telegraph]
- Claim: U.S. is odd-country-out in international law. Reality check please [Bradford, Posner et al, OJ]
- Opponents charge trying Pennsylvania 13 year old for murder as adult could violate international law [AI]
Add another to our list of tavern patrons who discovered that dancing on the bar was not as safe a pastime as they initially assumed. This time the scene of the accident, and target of the resulting lawsuit, is Nashville’s Coyote Ugly Saloon. Her attorney says Ms. Barnes “‘had had a few drinks’ but was not drunk.” [Tennessean via Day]
Update to the Hamilton County medical malpractice case we discussed in May. Four jurors have signed affidavits claiming that they were “coerced” by the judges’ instructions demanding a verdict into finding for the plaintiff rather than deadlocking the jury; one or two others deny that this happened. (Chattanooga Free Press, Jun. 14, Jun. 24, and Jun. 28; h/t J.T.)
While the “Allen charge” the judge gave appears to violate Tennessee law (which, unlike federal law, disapproves of such instructions), reading between the lines of the news stories, it seems that the defendants sandbagged any objection. As one can see, the journalist did not know enough law to ask the follow-up question “Did you object at the time to the jury instruction?”, which would be the critical inquiry. (Though it is possible that she did know, but had that part of her story cut by editors.) If this is the best grounds of appeal for the defendants, and plaintiff’s lawyers are correct that there was no objection at the time, the defendant is facing a steep uphill battle. Generally, courts don’t like to go wading elbows deep to scrutinize the jury deliberations; otherwise, every trial would be followed by a collateral trial into the claims of jurors, and losing parties would have the incentive to lobby jurors to testify against their verdict. (I learned this the hard way in my first appellate briefing as a junior associate.)
I expressed skepticism this summer that the Exxon Shipping v. Baker decision was a positive sign for the Court’s punitive damages jurisprudence. After the replay of Philip Morris v. Williams and, now, the Court’s denial of certiorari in DaimlerChrysler v. Flax this week, I can say I was right.
As readers of Overlawyered know, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated $13.3 million of punitive damages over a good-faith dispute over a van’s seat back design (in an accident caused by a drunk driver), giving no credit to the fact that the design in question was safer than federal safety standards, or to Exxon Shipping’s suggestion that punitive damages greater than a 1:1 ratio were possibly constitutionally inappropriate where compensatory damages were substantial and the defendant’s actions were not intentional or done for profit. As I described the case back then:
In 2001, Louis Stockell, driving his pickup at 70 mph, twice the speed limit, rear-ended a Chrysler minivan. Physics being what they are, the front passenger seat in the van collapsed backwards and the passenger’s head struck and fatally injured 8-month old Joshua Flax. The rest of the family walked away from the horrific accident. Plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Butler argued that Chrysler, which already designed its seats above federal standards, should be punished for not making the seats stronger — never mind that a stronger and stiffer seat would result in more injuries from other kinds of crashes because it wouldn’t absorb any energy from the crash. (Rear-end collisions are responsible for only 3% of auto fatalities.) Apparently car companies are expected to anticipate which type of crash a particular vehicle will encounter, and design accordingly.