Among the countless activities banned by old British laws are carrying a plank down a busy sidewalk and beating a carpet in the street “unless the item can be classified as a doormat and it is beaten before 8 a.m.” “So voluminous and eccentric is Britain’s collective body of 44,000 pieces of primary legislation that it has a small team of officials whose sole task is to prune it…. Sifting out the obsolete legislation is the work of two lawyers and a researcher at Britain’s Law Commission, which is responsible for reviewing laws and recommending changes. Thanks to them, more than 200 measures are scheduled to be repealed” in 2016. [New York Times]
- If tempted to idealize the U.K. justice system, be aware it was in a London court that Saudi millionaire beat rape charge by arguing that he “tripped” into sexual congress [New York mag]
- Dear Reuters: it would be great if you could report the full story behind a perp walk like Martin Shkreli’s [Ken White, Popehat]
- Better for ten innocents to be imprisoned than one businessperson go free: “The New York Times has come out against the creation of a minimum mens rea element for all federal crimes.” [Scott Greenfield, Scott Shackford] More: Orin Kerr; more Greenfield; Cato podcast on mens rea with Robert Alt.
- Obama Justice Department’s incursions on mens rea dovetail with its efforts on the responsible corporate officer doctrine [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, National Review]
- Escalating fines and fees, as well as a probation system under an incentive not to work, drag down poorer residents of Biloxi, Miss. [Radley Balko]
- How federal law came to define “sex trafficking” to include non-coerced adult prostitution [American U. law professor Janie Chuang quoted by Glenn Kessler, Washington Post “Fact Checker”, who also debunks wildly inflated figures from Attorney General Loretta Lynch]
- If only the late Gary Becker, a towering figure in law and economics, could have been persuaded to give up one of his less happy theories… [Alex Tabarrok]
If you worry that local authorities will make overly cautious decisions on how to regulate self-driving cars — or that some of them are currently making overly cautious decisions on regulating ride-sharing — cheer up, because in the past the adoption of initial, highly cumbersome rules has tended to be followed by revisions in a more rational direction later, once the technologies become familiar. Take the progression of English motor vehicle law from its “red flag law” origins in 1865 to its significantly relaxed revision in 1896. Of course, that did take 31 years [Mental Floss]
- Uh-oh: “40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities” [Pew Research, Cathy Young on Twitter (“OK, NOW can we stop the ‘naww, political correctness isn’t a threat to free speech, it’s just about courtesy’ spin?”)]
- Breezy but informative guide to why Schneiderman & Co. might hope to find, amid the general rule that the First Amendment protects business speech about public policy, an exception/ loophole for business speech about public policy when it affects securities [Matt Levine, Bloomberg View; earlier on climate speech investigations here, etc.]
- “Lawsplainer: How The Sixth Circuit Stood Up To Hecklers (And Cops)” [Popehat on Michigan case of Bible Believers v. Wayne County, Dearborn protesters threatened with arrest for “disorderly conduct” arising from prospect of violence against them]
- Discrimination law: “Can Office Depot be forced to print flyers that it disapproves of?” [Eugene Volokh; compare Hands On Originals case in Kentucky]
- Scary: UK’s Muslim Council calls for controls on UK press coverage of Islamic issues [Ben Flanagan, Al-Arabiya] Prominent Labour MP says he would have “no problem” with reintroducing blasphemy laws [National Secular Society]
- Cook County sheriff sent letterhead takedown demands to Backpage.com over sex ads, but Supreme Court has looked askance at informal you’d-better-not-publish-this pressure by government [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- Portland, Ore. police department “encourages the reporting to law enforcement” of “offensive language used on social media” even when not illegal. It does? [Charles Cooke]
Lawyer’s letter evicting Adam and Eve from Paradise: “If you have not vacated the property by the specified date, Messrs Michael and Gabriel (Bailiffs) Ltd. will be instructed to take possession.” [Jot 101, from 1964 magazine Arrows: 87]
A Jamaican official says British Prime Minister David Cameron must “apologize personally” because “his lineage has been traced and his forefathers were slave-owners” Well, no. [Brendan O’Neill, The Spectator; Daniel Hannan; NY Times “Room for Debate”; earlier here and here, etc.] More on reparations here and here; I wrote about them at chapter length in Schools for Misrule.
In Britain authorities have filed legal charges under “malicious communications” (roughly hate speech) law against a series of persons accused of abrasive and insensitive Tweets and social media posts, often politically charged. The latest target is diversity officer Bahar Mustafa of the University of London, who defends the obnoxious tweet in question (hashtag #killallwhitemen) by reference to the notion that “she could not be guilty of sexism or racism against white men “because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.” [The Independent] Uh-huh.
Ken White: “In a sensible legal system [the tweet] shouldn’t generate anything more than an eye-roll. But in a feels-based legal system, it’s actionable.” As for “you censorious Guardians of Feels on the Left: if you thought that the norms you created wouldn’t be used against your ‘own side,’ …[that] is almost indescribably moronic. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.” [Popehat] “Purveyors of speech-scandals of every sort: you think it can’t happen to you?” On the use of the law by powerful people, compare also this George Galloway episode.
“Calais, France to sue Britain for being a magnet for migrants that are destroying Calais before they cross channel.” [Associated Press]
- March of “cyberbullying” law continues: “New Zealand passes law making it punishable by fine or jail time for “causing emotional distress” on the Internet [The Register]
- Wisconsin John Doe prosecutors tapped email and text communications of conservative activists, also got bank records [M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog]
- Rare instance where pro-speech, anti-harass groups agree: ICANN shouldn’t zap site-owner privacy [Online Abuse Prevention Initiative via @sarahjeong] More: Cathy Gellis, Popehat;
- “Researcher Headed To Australian Supreme Court In Attempt To Hold Google Responsible For Posts At Ripoff Reports” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
- When you vigorously deny an accusation, do you defame the accuser as a liar? [Popehat on Bill Cosby litigation]
- “They do this because they can.” [Mark Steyn on Preet Bharara’s “prosecutocracy” and the Reason subpoena, earlier here, here, etc.]
- Remember, badspeak can be evidence of wrongthink: “[London Mayor] Boris Johnson ‘could be breaching sex discrimination laws’ for defending Sir Tim Hunt over sexism row” [Independent]
King and government do not exercise absolute power but are themselves bound by law: the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary is today. Marking the sealing of the “Great Charter of Liberties” agreed to by King John, the Cato Institute held a panel discussion June 4 featuring Richard Helmholz (U. Chicago), Roger Pilon (Cato), Tom Palmer (Atlas Network, Cato), Richard Pipes (Harvard), Swaminathan Aiyar (Cato), and Juan Carlos Botero (World Justice Project), moderated by Ilya Shapiro and Ian Vasquez (Cato).
More: Carrie-Ann Biondi, The Objective Standard (“a profound development on the road to a civilized, rights-based society… toward properly limited government.”), Sheldon Richman (a study in unintended consequences and spontaneous social evolution), Roger Pilon (“We’re back in the fields of Runnymede, importuning our government for relief from its assumption of plenary power.”), Deepak Lal (India and Hong Kong have benefited enormously from it; mainland China, Egypt, and Russia feel its lack). [Slightly edited to add new introduction.]