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A question for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): “Is it your position that market forces are the primary reason that oil and gas prices fall, but speculation and energy market manipulation are the primary reasons that oil and gas prices rise?” [Mark Perry, AEI] But see: Arnold Kling (capitulation by upside speculators could cause price collapses).


Last fall the editors of the Vermont Law Review were kind enough to invite me to participate in a discussion on food and product labeling, part of a day-long conference “The Disclosure Debates” with panels on environmental, financial, and campaign disclosure. Other panelists included Christine DeLorme of the Federal Trade Commission, Division of Advertising Practices; Brian Dunkiel, Dunkiel Saunders; George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety; and David Zuckerman, Vermont State Senator and Farmer, Full Moon Farm.

Aside from my own segment above, you can find links to the other segments here. Plus: Environmental Health (VLS) summary of above panel.

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Around half the states, including Vermont, ban “happy hour” promotions at drinking establishments. At, Jon Street quotes me suggesting it’s past time for the Green Mountain State to drop its ban:

Walter Olson, a senior fellow for constitutional studies at The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Vermont Watchdog, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”

“When young people are starting out in the job world, they like moving to the sorts of places where there’s happy hour… It’s good for main streets that don’t want to go dead when the work day ends, good for restaurants trying to reach new customers, and good for tourism. The toll of drunk driving across America has plunged tremendously, both in states that have bans and in those that don’t, and it’s hard to see any difference there,” Olson said.

The happy hour controversy flared up earlier this year in Massachusetts [coverage: MSN, ABC, Consumerist, and Boston Globe (pro-happy-hour column by Farah Stockman)]. Texas alcoholic beverage regulators have a table of state laws here (PDF)


Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on November 18, 2013

  • “California AG files claim against school that hired its own students to boost employment numbers” — not a story about a law school, but it might have been [John Steele]
  • Hardly anyone took the constitutional challenge to ObamaCare seriously, at least it seems not at Yale [David Bernstein, Volokh; and speaking of law school ideology my book Schools for Misrule makes a great holiday gift]
  • Clinical legal education: “shift from service clinics to impact clinics is partly driven by clinicians’ search for status within the academy” [Margaret Drew and Andrew Morriss, SSRN]
  • Shorten law school to two years? [NYT "DealBook" on Obama comments, Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use] “UVM, Vermont Law School consider joint degree” [Burlington Free Press]
  • As “Old Media” shrinks, shouldn’t the number of law reviews do so too? [Gerard Magliocca]
  • Lighter regulation of UK law schools, and more pathways to practice? [John Flood]
  • Cleveland State law profs say “Satanic” $666 pay hike was retaliation for union activities [TaxProf]


That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.

My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.

… get “I Beat Trolls” t-shirt. []

In other news, “Vermont Declares War On Patent Trolls; Passes New Law And Sues Notorious Patent Troll” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]

Because, as the magazine explains, “Those states do not allow operation of a skill contest that requires an entry fee.” Which results in the following rather awesome disclaimer (via Petapixel):


Rubbing it in a bit about the unfreedom, no?


Misleading investigators about the circumstances of your hit-run won’t do it, apparently. The lawyer in question has served as a traffic court judge. [Legal Profession Blog, ABA Journal, Randazza]

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Sorry, locavores

by Walter Olson on March 30, 2010

We know you’re looking for small-scale, locally produced meat, but it’s been marginalized thanks to regulation among other causes:

The state [Vermont] has seven operating slaughterhouses, down from around 25 in the mid-1980s, [state meat inspection official Randy] Quenneville said. One is a state-inspected facility, meaning that meat inspected there cannot be sold over state lines. …

Mr. Quenneville said a number of small, family-owned slaughterhouses started closing when strict federal rules regarding health control went into effect in 1999.

Not entirely unrelatedly, here’s an article on underground restaurants in Boston, a trend that has spread from Portland, Ore.


August 17 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 17, 2009


January 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 12, 2009

  • Airline off the hook: “Couple drops lawsuit claiming United is liable for beating by drunken husband” [ABA Journal, earlier]
  • Why is seemingly every bill that moves through Congress these days given a silly sonorous name? To put opponents on the defensive? Should it do so? [Massie]
  • With police payouts in the lead, Chicago lays out more money in lawsuits than Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Dallas put together (but NYC still #1 by far) [Chicago Reader]
  • Who’s behind the website Bill Childs does some digging [TortsProf]
  • When not busy carrying out a mortgage fraud scheme from behind bars at a federal prison, inmate Montgomery Carl Akers is also a prolific filer of lawsuits, appeals and grievances [Doyle/McClatchy]
  • Alcohol policy expert Philip Cook on Amethyst Initiative (reducing drinking age) [guestblogging at Volokh]
  • Must Los Angeles put career criminals on public payroll as part of “anti-gang” efforts? [Patterico]
  • Some “local food” advocates have their differences with food-poisoning lawyer Bill Marler [BarfBlog, which, yes, is a food-poisoning policy blog]; Marler for his part is not impressed by uninjured Vermont inmates’ “entrails in the chicken” pro se suit [his blog; more from Bill Childs and in comments; update: judge dismisses suit]


Toldjah so: The Virginia Supreme Court has unanimously ruled against Lisa Miller of Winchester, who has been ignoring a duly issued Vermont court order providing her former lesbian partner Janet Jenkins with rights of visitation to the child they had been raising together. Miller’s defiance of the law had been backed by Liberty Counsel, the ironically named pro bono group headed by the dean of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University School of Law, as well as other conservative religious figures such as Chuck Colson. Despite misreporting to the contrary in some quarters of the conservative press, the case had nothing to do with recognition of the former couple’s Vermont civil union, nor did it eventuate in an award of custody (as distinct from visitation) to Jenkins. (AP/Newport News Daily Press; Ed Brayton and more; our earlier coverage).

“Nutraloaf” is full of wholesome ingredients, but a class action on behalf of Vermont prison inmates claims it is punishment to eat and should be assigned only after disciplinary proceedings. (Wilson Ring, AP/Examiner, Mar. 22)(via Mike Cernovich at the happily revived Crime and Federalism).


Lost ski areas

by Walter Olson on January 25, 2008

There are more than 1,000 documented nationwide, including 113 in Vermont alone. The “1970s were hard times for operators of ski areas. There was an energy crisis, which not only cut down leisure driving by potential customers but saddled areas with higher energy prices. At the same time, liability insurance costs spiked. The histories of dozens of small ski areas end with the conclusion that it could not reopen one winter because the owners could not afford their insurance premiums.” (Bill Pennington, “Vermont’s Forgotten Trails and Frozen Lifts of Winters Past”, New York Times, Jan. 25).

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December 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2007

  • “Of all the body parts to Xerox!” Another round of stories on efforts to reduce liabilities from office holiday parties [ABA Journal, Above the Law, and relatedly Megan McArdle]
  • New edition of Tillinghast/Towers Perrin study on insurance costs of liability system finds they went down last year, which doesn’t happen often [2007 update, PDF]
  • Vermont student sues Burger King over indelicate object found in his sandwich; one wonders whether he’s ruled out it being a latex finger cot, sometimes used by bakery workers [AP/]
  • Good discussions of “human rights commission” complaints against columnist Mark Steyn in Canada [Volokh, David Warren and again @ RCP, Dan Gardner; for a contrasting view, see Wise Law Blog]
  • Having trousered $60-odd million in fees suing Microsoft in Minnesota and Iowa antitrust cases, Zelle Hofmann now upset after judge says $4 million in fees should suffice for Wisconsin me-too action [Star-Tribune, PheistyBlog]
  • Australian rail operator will appeal order to pay $A600,000 to man who illegally jumped tracks, spat at ticket inspectors, hurt himself fleeing when detained [Herald Sun]
  • Lawyers’ fees in Kia brake class action (Oct. 29, Oct. 30) defended by judge who assails honesty of chief defense witness [Legal Intelligencer]
  • Who deserves credit for founding Facebook? Question is headed for court [02138 mag]
  • Yes, jury verdicts do sometimes bankrupt defendants, as did this $8 million class action award against a Kansas City car dealer [KC Star, KC Business Journal]
  • Dispute over Burt Neuborne’s Holocaust fees is finally over, he’ll get $3.1 million [NY Sun]
  • So long as we’re only fifty votes behind in the race for this “best general legal blog” honor, we’re going to keep nagging you to vote for Overlawyered [if you haven't already]


In June 2004, 21-year old Vermont resident Samantha Perreault went out drinking with a couple of friends, Norman Poulin and Justin Lawrence. After three rum and cokes each, they left; Lawrence hopped on one motorcycle, and Poulin and Perreault got on another and followed him. Although they may not have been legally drunk, they had had several drinks, it was night, and they were driving 70 mph. Lawrence lost control of his motorcycle and crashed. Poulin, attempting to avoid Lawrence, also lost control and crashed. Perreault, unfortunately, was killed.

Both Poulin and Lawrence were prosecuted for criminal negligence, but Lawrence, apparently, was not also charged with driving without a motorcycle license. Feeling that Lawrence’s punishment was insufficient, Perreault’s father has now filed a $21 million lawsuit. Did he sue Poulin? No; apparently he forgave Poulin. Did he sue Lawrence? Of course not; Lawrence doesn’t have deep pockets. No; he sued the state of Vermont.

The Plainfield resident says officials in the Department of Public Safety and Office of the Attorney General showed disregard for his daughter and for the law by failing to fully prosecute a man involved with her death.

“I don’t want anybody else to go through this,” Perrault said Friday. “I think she deserved more than this.”


“By the state not doing anything, they’re saying it’s okay for you to drive without a license,” Perreault says. “I’ve gone through all the right channels, called the state police, called (the Office of the Attorney General). All I’m getting is blown off.”

In addition to seeking monetary damages, Perreault is also demanding that Lawrence be charged and prosecuted for driving without a license.

Of course, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for someone whose daughter is killed. And the lawsuit isn’t likely to succeed, as the article notes; the state is probably immune, and “failure to prosecute” isn’t a cause of action anyway. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the lawsuit reflects an all-too common mindset that picking a random big number out of a hat and filing a lawsuit against someone with deep pockets is the right approach whenever one is annoyed. (No, the case probably won’t last as long, and cost taxpayers as much, as the Roy Pearson pants lawsuit, but it certainly won’t be free, and will contribute to congestion in the courts which slows down — and thus raises the cost of — legitimate lawsuits.)

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May 1 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 1, 2007

  • Jack Thompson, call your office: FBI search turns up no evidence Virginia Tech killer owned or played videogames [Monsters and Critics]

  • How many zeroes was that? Bank of America threatens ABN Amro with $220 billion suit if it reneges on deal to sell Chicago’s LaSalle Bank [Times (U.K.), Consumerist]

  • Chuck Colson will be disappointed, but the rule of law wins: Supreme Court declines to intervene in Miller-Jenkins (Vermont-Virginia lesbian custody) dispute [AP; see Mar. 2 and many earlier posts]

  • Oklahoma legislature passes, but governor vetoes, comprehensive liability-reform bill [Point of Law first, second, third posts]

  • Good primer on California’s much-abused Prop 65 right-to-know toxics law [CalBizLit via Ted @ PoL]

  • “Defensive psychiatry” and the pressure to hospitalize persons who talk of suicide [Intueri]

  • Among the many other reasons not to admire RFK Jr., there’s his wind-farm hypocrisy [Mac Johnson, Energy Tribune]

  • “Screed-O-Matic” simulates nastygrams dashed off by busy Hollywood lawyer Martin Singer [Portfolio]

  • “Liability, health issues” cited as Carmel, Ind. officials plan to eject companion dogs from special-needs program, though no parents have complained [Indpls. Star; similar 1999 story from Ohio]

  • First glimmerings of Sen. John Edwards’s national ambitions [five years ago on Overlawyered]
(Edited Tues. a.m. to cut an entry which was inadvertently repeated after appearing in an earlier roundup)

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“Let kids sue parents”

by Walter Olson on February 6, 2007

Such a grand idea from an anti-smoking campaigner up North: “Children should be able to sue their parents for exposing them to harmful second-hand cigarette smoke, an Alberta doctor says.” Dr. Larry Bryan, who worked on a provincial commission that planned out anti-tobacco measures, “says banning puffing in cars or homes would be very difficult to enforce. But he believes the message would come across loud and clear if smokers were held legally responsible for their actions through exposure-related lawsuits. “(Michelle Mark, “Let kids sue parents”, Edmonton Sun, Feb. 4).

Meanwhile, regulation creeps forward on other fronts: “Texas will join a handful of states that prohibit foster parents from smoking in front of children in their homes and cars when a new state rule takes effect January first. Under rules passed this year, foster parents can’t smoke in their homes if they have foster children living there. They also can’t smoke while driving if children are in the car. Other states with similar smoking laws include Vermont, Washington and Maine.” Roy Block, president of the Texas Foster Family Association, says rules of this sort discourage Texas families from stepping forward to offer themselves as foster parents; most states do not exactly enjoy a surfeit of applicants well-qualified on other grounds (“Texas To Prohibit Foster Parent Smoking”, AP/WOAI, Dec. 4).