Dwain Downing, an attorney in Arlington, Texas, says he is suing a Mansfield diner that ran out of soup at 2 p.m. during a Saturday lunch special. The server and on-site manager told Downing that while he didn’t have to order the sandwich, two sides, and soup special at all if the lack of soup made it unattractive to him, the restaurant’s policy was not to discount the $7.95 price or offer a third side dish as a substitute. “Downing demands $2.25 – the cost of an additional side at Our Place – plus $250 in legal fees.” Why didn’t he handle it through an online review, calling the owner on the phone or simply not coming back? “‘I’m a lawyer,’ Downing said Friday by phone. ‘And lawyers write letters.'” [Marc Ramirez, Dallas Morning News]
[Note: updated Friday 9:30 a.m., an hour and a half after publication, after it became clear that the original reporting was gravely flawed] According to KRIV, “the US Marshals Service in Houston is arresting people for not paying their outstanding federal student loans. Paul Aker …says seven deputy US Marshals showed up at his home with guns and took him to federal court where he had to sign a payment plan for the [$1500] 29-year-old school loan. Congressman Gene Green says the federal government is now using private debt collectors to go after those who owe student loans. Green says as a result, those attorneys and debt collectors are getting judgments in federal court and asking judges to use the US Marshals Service to arrest those who have failed to pay their federal student loans.”
But see: Scott Riddle with plenty of evidence that KRIV’s version of the story omits material facts (h/t commenter Matthew: Aker “wasn’t arrested for the debt itself. He was arrested for evading service and failing to show up for mandatory court dates.”) As for the guns, the marshals’ office said it sent reinforcements when an attempt to arrest Aker failed and the situation escalated. As Riddle notes, the original report had spread rapidly around news outlets, but corrections and clarifications are often slow to catch up.
Some serious constitutional conservatives, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Rob Natelson for the American Legislative Exchange Council, have been promoting the idea of getting two-thirds of the states to call for an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently made headlines by endorsing the notion. But I don’t think it’s a good one, as I argue in this new piece for the Daily Beast (the clickbait headline is theirs, not mine). It begins:
In his quest to catch the Road Runner, the Coyote in the old Warner Brothers cartoons would always order supplies from the ACME Corporation, but they never performed as advertised. Either they didn’t work at all, or they blew up in his face.
Which brings us to the idea of a so-called Article V convention assembled for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution, an idea currently enjoying some vogue at both ends of the political spectrum.
Jacob Sullum at Reason offers a quick tour of some of the better and worse planks in Abbott’s “Texas Plan” (as distinct from the question of whether a convention is the best way of pursuing them). Much more: Thomas Neale, Congressional Research Service report, 2014. (cross-posted, with some additions, at Cato at Liberty).
The Washington Post humors the super-silly liberal fantasy of impeaching Justice Scalia for discussing the affirmative action mismatch argument, an argument that 1) was briefed by lawyers in the case at hand, Fisher v. University of Texas; 2) has come up in the Court’s earlier racial preference jurisprudence and been endorsed by fellow Justice Clarence Thomas; 3) has been aired extensively in places like the Washington Post itself without the ceiling caving in. [Valerie Strauss, Washington Post “Answer Sheet”]
Of course the Washington Post itself would be a better newspaper if its writers on relevant beats took the time to read the paper’s own Volokh Conspiracy, which this week has been hosting a series of guest blog posts by Prof. Rick Sander, best known proponent of the mismatch theory.
Some have questioned whether Scalia was proceeding down a path irrelevant to the Court’s eventual ruling on constitutionality. Here is one possible source of relevance, per James Taranto’s discussion: “Kennedy, unlike Scalia and Thomas, endorsed [in an earlier university racial preference case] the premise that those benefits [specifically, educational benefits obtainable from greater diversity] constitute a “compelling interest” that would justify preferences if the other components of the strict-scrutiny test can be met.” Kennedy’s approach leaves open the possibility that this constitutional justification could be refuted by an empirical showing that the net benefits add up to less than a “compelling interest.”
Our readers and commenters knew more than we did about that case referenced week before last in which the New Mexico courts are deciding whether a Texas doctor can be sued under New Mexico’s relatively pro-plaintiff law over care delivered in the Lone Star State, following a patient’s referral by a New Mexico health insurance plan. Alarmed at the ruling, some Texas docs are threatening to not accept New Mexico patients. You can find more coverage of Montano v. Frezza by Josie Ortegon at El Paso’s KVIA, and the Texas Alliance For Patient Access has a website about the case, which has drawn amicus briefs from organizations that include the University of Texas System and Texas Medical Liability Trust. Samuel Walker of McGinn, Carpenter, Montoya, and Love provides a plaintiff’s-side view of the issues in the several related Frezza suits.
Lawyers for 177 Waco bikers are muzzled, but the McLennan County, Texas district attorney keeps talking, writes Tamara Tabo at Above the Law.
- Surprised this story of interstate lawsuit exposure hasn’t had national coverage: “Texas docs threaten to stop seeing New Mexico patients” [Hobbs, N.M., News]
- More on the Daraprim episode and the fiasco of FDA generic-drug regulation [Watchdog, earlier here and here] More: Ira Stoll/N.Y. Sun;
- Warrants, HIPAA be damned: Drug Enforcement Administration agents pose as Texas medical board to get at patient records [Jon Cassidy/Watchdog, Tim Cushing/TechDirt via Radley Balko]
- Litigation finance and champerty: the reaction is under way [MathBabe, earlier on pelvic and transvaginal mesh surgery speculation]
- No longer alas a surprise to see JAMA Pediatrics running lame, politicized content on topics like “youth gun carrying” [Jacob Sullum]
- “Shame, blame, and defame”: in alcohol regulation as in other public health fields, government-funded research can look a lot like advocacy [Edward Peter Stringham, The Hill]
- More adventures in public health: study finds dry counties in Kentucky have bigger problems with methamphetamine [Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post “WonkBlog”]
- News on legal policy front: Center for Class Action Fairness, founded and run by longtime Overlawyered co-blogger Ted Frank, merging into Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ted and all [CEI]
- Arnold Kling isn’t cheering Brookings Institution’s defenestration of well-known economist Robert Litan at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s behest. More: Sean Higgins, John Fund;
- Proposed anti-soft-drink laws favored by Michael Bloomberg & Co. have been mostly shot down, but New York Times eager to credit politicians anyway for the drop [more: Jacob Sullum];
- We interrupt the campaign season propaganda-fest with news of an actual issue sighting, on regulatory reform [Ira Stoll, Veronique de Rugy on Jeb Bush plan] After Obama initiative to eliminate red tape, agencies added $14.7 billion in regulatory costs [Sam Batkins, American Action Forum]
- Qualified immunity: “Shooting a 68-Year-Old Who Poses No Threat Violates Clearly Established Law” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- If you’ve read Steve Teles’s article on upward redistribution (as you should), read Michael Greve’s reaction and Ilya Somin‘s too;
- East Texas judge throws out 168 patent cases in one fell swoop [Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica, related on popularity of East Texas among trolls]
“West Virginia courts have a well-deserved reputation for favoring plaintiffs, but the state’s Supreme Court may have gone too far this year when it said drug addicts who broke the law to obtain narcotics could sue the doctors and pharmacies who supposedly fed their addiction.” Rulings like that, writes Daniel Fisher, are one reason West Virginia perennially ranks at the bottom in the U.S. Chamber’s ranking of state legal climates, and did again this year. Louisiana, Illinois, and California are other cellar-dwellers, while Alabama and Texas, despite extensive reforms and the success of business-oriented candidates in many judicial races, also languish in the lower ranks with continuing problems such as the litigation atmosphere of east Texas [Lou Ann Anderson/Watchdog Arena] More: Bob Dorigo Jones. Related, from ALEC: State Lawsuit Reform.
- Far-reaching, legally dubious new mandate: 37-page “Dear Colleague” letter from Washington launches new “education equity initiative” directing local schools to ensure all children “equal access to educational resources” [R. Shep Melnick, Education Next and WSJ]
- “‘Tag is not banned,’ [the school district] insisted.” [Fred Barbash, Washington Post; Lenore Skenazy; Mercer Island, Wash.]
- University of Texas now blurs racial preferences into “holistic” admission review, Supreme Court should take look [Ilya Shapiro]
- Feds vs. due process: Michigan State case goes well beyond itself-notorious OCR Dear Colleague letter [KC Johnson; related Hans Bader on Tufts and other cases] Emily Yoffe: not so fast on latest “one in five” study [Slate; more, Stuart Taylor Jr.] “You cannot build justice for women on injustice for men.” [powerful Wendy McElroy speech debating Jessica Valenti]
- Trashing copies of a student paper to keep content from being read? 171 Wesleyan students/alums: “Go for it!” [Popehat, Scott Greenfield] “Editorial independence remains a huge priority for us” says the Wesleyan Argus editor. Doesn’t sound as if her adversaries see it that way [Robby Soave, Reason]
- Robert Klitzman: Institutional Review Boards at research institutions could benefit from transparency and respect for precedent [via Zachary Schrag]
- Donald Trump’s battle with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over proprietary “Trump University” [Emma Brown, Washington Post]