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U.S. House of Representatives

Thanks to the sensational revelations from Hoover’s Peter Schweizer on 60 Minutes and elsewhere, the public is now aware of the uncanny investment success that members of the U.S. Congress enjoy when they personally bet on the stocks of companies with business in the capital. But is it lawful for them to be trading on inside information? I take up that question in my new Cato at Liberty post. More: Bainbridge, Stoll, @AndrewBreitbart.


Updating our story of last December: A federal judge has given the go-ahead to former Rep. Steve Dreihaus’s suit against the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List for allegedly falsely characterizing his stands on issues during last year’s race, thus causing him to lose. Earlier, Driehaus had filed a complaint against the Anthony List under Ohio’s remarkable False Statements Law, “which criminalizes lying about public officials” and has been assailed by the ACLU among other groups as inconsistent with the First Amendment. [Seth McKelvey, Reason; Peter Roff, U.S. News]


An end to impunity

by Walter Olson on July 28, 2011

The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (LARA), versions of which have been discussed in this space for years, would reverse the 1993 gutting of Rule 11, the federal rule providing sanctions for baseless lawsuits, and would thus establish that lawyers, like other professionals, should expect to be responsible for compensating those they injure by negligence or worse. Early this month LARA won the approval of the House Judiciary Committee, but is unlikely to prevail (this term, at least) in the more Litigation-Lobby-friendly Senate. [Stier, ShopFloor; earlier here, etc.]

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February 13 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 13, 2011

The Ohio lawmaker gives his side of the story. Earlier here.


He bit into a sandwich wrap in 2008 and encountered an olive pit, and now he wants $150,000. [Cleveland Plain Dealer, Wonkette, Memeorandum]

P.S. Gawker finds video taken five days later on the House floor in which the Ohio representative “looks fine and talks normal” notwithstanding the “serious and permanent dental and oral injuries requiring multiple oral and dental surgeries.” And Daniel Fisher at Forbes:

No indication why Kucinich mulled this lawsuit for three years before filing it…..* The lawsuit alleges negligence and breach of implied warranty.

*Commenter “Mattie” says the SOL in DC for this type of suit is indeed three years, though it would be one year for some other torts.

Who besides the People’s Congressman would be willing to name America’s olive pit safety crisis and call out the Big Pit interests responsible?

P.P.S.: As someone was asking, wasn’t generous government-furnished health insurance — like the kind available to Members of Congress — supposed to cut down on the need for personal injury suits? And Matthew Heller at OnPoint News finds some precedent for the suit.

And further: That was fast, Kucinich says he’s settled the suit (Jan. 28).


A former Congressional candidate in Westchester County, N.Y. is suing 16 reporters, writers, campaign officials and others for $1 million apiece, saying they unfairly portrayed him as racist. Jim Russell ran unsuccessfully in the Nineteenth Congressional District against Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), one of those named in his suit; he came under heavy criticism during the campaign over his 2001 authorship of a 16-page article in a publication called the Occidental Quarterly. [White Plains, N.Y. Journal-News] Last week we noted a lawsuit by a losing Congressional incumbent in Ohio.


A 3-2 vote at the Consumer Product Safety Commission last week ensures that the federal government will put its imprimatur behind allegations about supposed hazards in consumer products — whether true or not. I explain in a new post at Cato at Liberty.

P.S. Kelly Young comments: “I wonder if they’d be willing to maintain a public database of complaints against federal employees?” More: Coyote (comparing relative sophistication of Amazon, TripAdvisor consumer ratings systems with primitive nature of CPSC’s); letter from Rep. Joe Barton, PDF; Washington Post; ACSH.


“Top House Ethics Lawyer to Step Down” [BLT headline]

November 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 9, 2010

  • White House panel’s counsel: no evidence corner-cutting caused Gulf spill [NYT, Reuters] Furor ensues [WaPo]
  • Report: grief counselors assigned to Democratic congressional staffers [Maggie Haberman, Politico]
  • “Lawyer Sues for Humiliation and Lost Business Due to Misspelled Yellowbook Ad” [ABA Journal, South Dakota]
  • Argument today in important Supreme Court case, AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion: will courts respect freedom of contract in consumer arbitration context, or yield Litigation Lobby the monopoly it seeks over dispute resolution? [Ted at PoL]
  • No search warrant needed: armed deputies in Orlando storm unlicensed barbershops, handcuff barbers [Balko, Reason "Hit and Run"]
  • After Colorado hit-run, banker allowed to plead down to misdemeanors lest his job be at risk [Greenfield]
  • FDA to decide whether to ban menthol in cigarettes [CEI]
  • Reshuffling blackjack decks is not “racketeering” [ten years ago on Overlawyered]


October 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 12, 2010

  • Representing Prof. Michael Krauss, Ted Frank will file objection to class action settlement [CCAF]
  • Not without condescension, Harvard historian/New Yorker writer Jill Lepore asks why Woodrow Wilson’s so disliked these days; Radley Balko offers some help [The Agitator, NYT "Room for Debate"]
  • China needs true private property rights, according to Charter 08 document, which helped Liu Xiaobo win Nobel Peace Prize [Tyler Cowen]
  • Axelrod “foreign funders under every rug” demagogy might be turned against his own allies [Stoll; New York Times refutes earlier Obama talking point; Atlantic Wire; Sullum]
  • R.I.P. influential class actions and mass torts scholar Richard Nagareda [Vanderbilt Law School]
  • “Web Seminar Makes Case for Patent Troll Lawsuit Targets to Fight Back” [Washington Legal Foundation Legal Pulse]
  • Contrary to WSJ report, if Congressional staffers are profiting in stock trades by way of insider knowledge, they probably do face some risk of legal liability [Bainbridge; a not entirely unrelated inside-trading controversy]
  • Underpublicized: “California’s Proposed ‘Green Chemistry’ Regulations Move Forward” [Wajert]


October 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 9, 2010

  • Update: “Tax Panel Rejects Lawyer’s Bid to Deduct Spending for Sex” [NYLJ, William Barrett/Forbes, earlier] And: “Musings on laws affecting adult entertainment, alcoholic beverages and other ‘vice’ industries” [Meeting the Sin Laws blog]
  • Mississippi: judge jails lawyer for not saying Pledge of Allegiance [Freeland]
  • More on much-written-about Israeli “rape by fraud” case [Volokh, more, earlier here and here]
  • “Tribune bankruptcy talks complicated by emergence of pugnacious hedge fund” [Romenesko; earlier on involvement of hedge funds in bankruptcies]
  • More disturbing tales from Connecticut probate court [Rick Green, Hartford Courant, earlier]
  • Marc Williams of the Defense Research Institute responds to Ted Frank’s criticism of many defense lawyers [PoL]
  • Advice for Australians: to fix your litigation system, look to Germany’s success [Ackland, Sydney Morning Herald]
  • Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.) & ’70s band Orleans threaten suit against GOP remix ["Orleans Reunion Tour"]

“One of the countless drawbacks of being in Congress is that I am compelled to receive impertinent letters from a jackass like you in which you say I promised to have the Sierra Madre mountains reforested and I have been in Congress two months and haven’t done it. Will you please take two running jumps and go to hell.”

– Congressman John McGroarty, engaged in constituent service (1934).

(via Magliocca/Concur Op).


Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, posted documents purporting to show that Toyota held onto safety documents it was supposed to turn over to opponents in litigation. Turns out the documents had been shoddily snipped, edited and mischaracterized to advance the charges against the automaker. [Christine Tierney, Detroit News via Henry Payne, NRO; more background on whistleblower controversy, The Recorder last year]

In the health care bill.

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Watch what you say about Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) [Adler/Volokh, WeaselZippers, Orlando Sentinel]

The Progressive Policy Institute (!) criticizes a provision almost snuck into the health-care bill that would have been a windfall for trial lawyers at the expense of the rest of us. Earlier and earlier on Overlawyered, which was the first to publicize the provision.

Or at least something traveling under that name, if Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is right. [Legal NewsLine] More: “CBO: Tort reform would reduce deficit by $54 billion” [Ed Morrissey/Hot Air] Liability insurance premiums in Georgia fell by 18% after state capped noneconomic damages [American Medical News]

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