Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Owner sues customer over negative reviews of dog obedience business

Jennifer Ujimori posted negative reviews on Yelp and Angie’s List after being dissatisfied with her experience with a Burke, Va. dog obedience class. Now the owner is suing her for damages. [Washington Post] Unlike D.C., Maryland and more than half the states, Virginia has not enacted a law (sometimes labeled “anti-SLAPP” statutes) that “allow for the quick dismissal of cases a judge deems to be targeting First Amendment rights.” I’m scheduled to be a guest on Washington, D.C.’s Fox 5 (WTTG) to discuss the case around 8:30 this morning (Friday).

Update: here’s the clip:

“Roanoke County police launch ‘No Refusal’ sobriety checkpoints”

“During this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, motorists in Roanoke County who are suspected of driving while impaired and refuse breath tests could be ordered to submit to blood tests. … According to state law, anyone who operates a motor vehicle on a road has consented to have samples of blood, breath or both taken for a test to determined the level of alcohol or drugs in his blood.” [Roanoke Times; earlier on “no refusal” blood tests for drivers here, here, here, etc.]

School bake sales defended in Virginia

S’more local autonomy that way: despite federal pressure in the other direction Virginia lawmakers are moving to enable more school bake sales [Laura Vozzella, Washington Post] Columnist Petula Dvorak finds the debate “ridiculous”: “The classic school bake sale to raise cash for sports equipment, class trips or charitable causes is actually an essential part of a curriculum,” teaching lessons of “entrepreneurship, independence, self-reliance, creation of a product.” Earlier on school bake sales here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.

Police use of force roundup

This is your Fairfax County Police Department on forfeiture

“And for those who had cash seized from them — one player had more than $20,000, the regular player said — the police agreed to return 60 percent of the money, and keep 40 percent. … in Virginia state courts the local police agency may keep 100 percent of what they seize.” In a Fairfax SWAT raid on unlawful private gambling nine years ago, an officer shot and killed Sal Culosi, an optometrist who “had no criminal record and no known weapons.” [Washington Post, earlier (Radley Balko: Culosi incident in 2006 “wasn’t even the first time a Virginia SWAT team had killed someone during a gambling raid”)]

Food roundup

  • “It is one of the first times that two big craft brewers have been in a lawsuit against each other.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
  • Hee hee: poll finds more than 80 percent of public favors “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” cf. comparable polls on GMO labeling [Ilya Somin]
  • Chicago crackdown on paid private dinner parties comes after Michelin awards two stars to local restaurant that started that way [Illinois Policy]
  • “Is Foodborne Illness on the Rise?” [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “The Queens’ Tea in Salt Lake City sued by another queen over name” [Salt Lake Tribune]
  • Virginia legislator’s bill would end inspection of home kitchens used to produce food for direct sale [Watchdog, earlier on “cottage food” laws, related E.N. Brown]
  • “There’s a very simple reason you don’t find favors in king cakes anymore: We have too many lawyers in America” [WSJ, earlier]

Monticello’s brush with ruin-by-litigation

Myron Magnet has a new article in City Journal on how George Washington’s country seat at Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s at Monticello were saved from war, insult, neglect, and legal hazard. From his discussion of Monticello:

What had happened to the house in the meantime was what happens to any property tied up in litigation: it fell once more into a Dickensian state of ruin. As the suits dragged on, Uriah Levy’s old overseer, Joel Wheeler, “took care” of Monticello and sometimes lived in it. While he grew increasingly blind, paint peeled, glass broke, shutters and gutters disappeared, grime deepened, and the roof and terraces rotted. Wheeler dug up the lawn for a vegetable garden on one side and a pigpen on the other. Cattle wintered in the cellars, and Wheeler winnowed grain on the parlor’s parquet floor. On his watch, judged Wheeler’s successor, Thomas Rhodes, Monticello “was wantonly desecrated.”

Whole thing here.

Critics hit U.Va. Prof. Douglas Laycock with FOIA

Prof. Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia is among the nation’s leading law-and-religion scholars. Many of his positions on church-state matters would normally be taken for quite liberal; for example, he argued the recent Supreme Court case of Town of Greece v. Galloway on behalf of those objecting to sectarian prayer of any sort before town council meetings. At the same time, as noted on an earlier occasion, Prof. Laycock happens to favor a broad application of religious-accommodation laws such as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. This has led him to support proposals for state RFRAs with broad definitions, like the one recently vetoed in Arizona, and also to file an amicus brief on behalf of employer Hobby Lobby in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby.

Now comes the price to pay [Charlottesville Daily Progress]:

Laycock, who is married to UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan, is the subject of a Freedom of Information Act records request by two UVa student activists — Gregory Lewis and Stephanie Montenegro. In an open letter to the professor, Lewis and Montenegro said that while they respect Laycock’s right to academic freedom, they believe his writings supporting controversial religious freedom laws are holding back progressive causes such as access to contraceptives and gay marriage.

An outside group has been promoting the action [C-ville.com]:

“His work, whether he understands it or realizes it or not, is being used by folks who want to institute discrimination into law,” said Heather Cronk, co-director of Berkeley, California-based LGBT activist group GetEQUAL. …

Through the activist group Virginia Student Power Network, GetEQUAL found two UVA students willing to take up the cause of calling out Laycock: rising fourth-year Greg Lewis and now-alum Stephanie Montenegro. Last week, the pair sent an open letter to Laycock asking him to consider the “real-world consequences that [his] work is having.” They also submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking e-mails between Laycock and various right-wing and religious liberty groups. … Meanwhile, GetEQUAL has launched a national e-mail campaign calling out Laycock for his role in shoring up the legal arguments of those who support “religious bigotry.”

If the issue of FOIA-ing U.Va. professors rings a bell, it’s because it’s happened at least twice before. Around 2009 Greenpeace, the environmental activist group, FOIAed the university demanding correspondence and documents relating to former professor Patrick Michaels (now at Cato), who had espoused skeptical views on global warming. Then allies of former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli filed a FOIA request seeking similar documents for Michael Mann, a prominent advocate of global warming theories. [C-ville.com, WaPo]

No one could doubt that Laycock’s views on religious accommodation are part of a set of intellectually derived convictions that run through decades of his work. (In addition to opposing such forms of church-state entanglement as officially sponsored prayer, he supports the right of gays to marry.) It’s simply a matter of trying to arm-twist a tenured, well-recognized scholar who takes a position that the Forces of Unanimity consider wrong.

Of course, the student activists deny that anything like that is on their minds:

Lewis said they’re not trying to smear Laycock, and they’re not trying to undermine academic freedom. They just want a dialogue, he said.

Prof. Bainbridge isn’t buying it:

[B.S.] You don’t start a dialogue with FOIA requests. ….It’s time to start fighting back.

It might also be time for legislators to clarify state open-records laws to determine under what circumstances they can be used to go after academics, and consider altering them, where appropriate, to provide for financial or other sanctions when they are misused.

Note also: conservative-leaning groups have launched a series of FOIA requests seeking records of professors at state universities in North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Texas. The left-leaning Institute for Southern Studies has a critical account here. (& welcome readers from Steve Miller, IGF; Paul Caron, TaxProf; Jonathan Adler, Volokh; Ramesh Ponnuru/NRO “Corner”; Prof. Bainbridge; Will Creeley/FIRE; Dahlia Lithwick, Slate; Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View)