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Washington D.C.

Selected as an international music ambassador for her outstanding playing, 13-year-old Avery Gagliano charmed audiences in Munich, Hong Kong and elsewhere with her renditions of Chopin, Mozart and other classical repertoire. Her parents could not charm the District of Columbia Public Schools, however, into treating ten days of travel by the straight-A student as excused absences, although they “drafted an independent study plan for the days she’d miss while touring the world” in performance. They’re homeschooling her now. [Petula Dvorak, Washington Post]

Sequel: The D.C. schools are now trying hard to portray it as all a big misunderstanding. More: Jason Bedrick, Cato.

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  • “Telling Employee He Is ‘Eligible’ For Bonus Not Enough to Create Contractual Obligation” [Chris Parkin/Daniel Schwartz; Connecticut appeals court]
  • Richard Epstein on Obama’s anti-LGBT-discrimination edict for federal contractors [Hoover "Defining Ideas"]
  • D.C. Circuit panel, Janice Rogers Brown writing, strikes down DC tour guide licensing scheme [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, WaPo, Orin Kerr]
  • “Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Public Workers Unions” [Dmitri Mehlhorn/Daily Beast]
  • “James Sherk of Heritage on Members-Only Bargaining” [On Labor]
  • As discrimination law gradually swallows all else: “Rep. Keith Ellison wants to make union organizing a civil right” [MSNBC]
  • NY Senate committee gives approval to “workplace bullying” law. On thin constitutional ice? [Hans Bader/CEI, earlier]

WashingtonSenatorsNow that we’ll be canceling trademarks of sports teams with disparaging names, here’s one that got away. [Washington Post]

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It squeezes some New Yorkers hard in order to provide what can be a $90,000-a-year windfall for a few [Josh Barro, New York Times] How has the policy worked in Washington, D.C. and nearby Montgomery County, Maryland? [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism]

More: Lots of goodies financed by taxpayers get thrown into the subsidy mix too, says Jim Epstein at Reason.

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March 5 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 5, 2014

  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights commissioners Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow: Administration’s new policy on race and school discipline likely to make schools more chaotic [Robby Soave, Daily Caller, 2011 related, earlier here, etc.]
  • French court: fan club members suffered legally cognizable emotional damage from Michael Jackson’s death [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • “The Newkirk incident demonstrates why cameras in the courtroom are a bad idea” [James Taranto, includes bonus New York Times disgrace]
  • Claim: advocates stymied firearms research over most of past two decades. Accurate? [Fox News]
  • Another look at the CPSC’s war on former Buckyballs CEO Craig Zucker [Jim Epstein, Reason, earlier]
  • Chris Christie use of monitorships in white-collar prosecutions draws renewed scrutiny [New Republic, earlier]
  • In which I am included in a list with George Will and Heather Mac Donald, all very flattering etc. etc. [Charles C. W. Cooke, NRO]
  • D.C.: disbarred lawyer sat for years as workers comp judge [Washington City Paper]
  • “German home-school family won’t be deported” although Supreme Court declines to hear asylum appeal [AP; discussion in comments earlier]

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I spoke on Thursday to the Bastiat Society chapter in Charlotte with some observations rooted in public choice theory about the “three-tier” system of state liquor regulation familiar since Prohibition. A few further links for those interested in the subject:

Maurice Owens fell down dramatically in an elevator at Washington, D.C.’s Potomac Avenue Metro station, and blamed it on a banana peel. Authorities say that not only did a surveillance camera show him dropping the peel himself, it also caught him glancing up at least three times at the camera itself before the incident. [Washington Post]

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“…based their search on a charge made by [his] estranged wife.” What, no armored vehicles? After tearing up the Georgetown home of businessman Mark Witaschek, police say they found some ammunition — which is unlawful to possess in D.C., even spent shells and casings, unless you are a licensed gun owner — but Witaschek says he is standing on principle and turned down a probation plea. [Washington Times]

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October 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 7, 2013

  • More regulation of online speech: what could go wrong? “‘Eraser’ law gives California teens the right to delete online posts” [ABA Journal, Eric Goldman, Scott Greenfield]
  • Gov. Brown signs bill to grant law licenses in California to illegal immigrants [Reuters]
  • “Court: website alleging police corruption shouldn’t have been shut down” [Ars Technica; Lafayette, Louisiana]
  • License to speak: Eugene Volokh and Cato Institute challenge licensing of DC tour guides;
  • Thanks to Keith Lee at Associates Mind for including us in list of recommended law sites;
  • St. Paul disparate-impact housing controversy: “How Mischievous Obama Administration Officials Scuttled An Important Supreme Court Case” [Trevor Burrus, see also]
  • Great circle of tax-funded life: public sector lobbying expenditures [Washington state via Tyler Cowen]

The Washington Post splashes an investigative story about the tax lien business, in which outsiders buy up delinquent municipal property tax liens sometimes amounting to mere hundreds of dollars, then roll in lawyers’ fees and costs that can push up the bill into many thousands, eventuating in the foreclosure of family homes. The narrative is less than clear about exactly how the process works, and even leaves the impression that a tax lien purchaser owed, say, $6,000 can walk away with all the proceeds from the foreclosure of a $197,000 house without having to hand any of it over to mortgage holders, let alone the original owner. And some of the solutions offered (let’s not allow lien foreclosures on elderly people!) would have unintended consequences that are also, to be polite, underexplained. Still, enough of the story is there that an important general principle comes through: it’s dangerous for the law to put opportunistic actors in a position to run up $450/hour legal fees pursuing adversarial process that might not actually have been needed to vindicate their interests.

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“Washington D.C. city council members are considering a bill that would give D.C. residents the strongest protections against the abuse of civil asset forfeiture in the country.” [John Ross] “Court Ruling Forces Nebraska Police to Return $1 Million Seized from a Former Exotic Dancer by Asset Forfeiture” [Ilya Somin, Lincoln Journal-Star] The American Bar Association, admittedly not a wholly disinterested party, “is supporting the right to a pretrial hearing to challenge court orders freezing assets that a defendant needs to retain counsel.” [ABA Journal] And not necessarily a forfeiture story, but worth pondering even if not: “Undercover Informant Plants Crack Cocaine in Smoke Shop, Business Owner Saved by Tape” [Scotia (Schenectady County), N.Y.; Krayewski]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2013

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Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on June 24, 2013

  • Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns blurs lines between 501c(4), New York City government sponsorship [Politico]
  • “Ordinary purposes” of derringer include carrying it around routinely with safety not engaged, argue lawyers in product liability case [Abnormal Use]
  • Connecticut’s confiscatory law: “State took guns of man for mischief night egg fight” [Greenwich Time]
  • “This kind of insurance doesn’t even exist.” Concern over D.C. councilor Mary Cheh’s proposal for mandatory $250K coverage for gun owners [Washington Times]
  • $60K New York City fine for tourist shop that sold gun-shaped lighters [Reason]
  • And more annals of gun hysteria: “Suspension over gun-shaped toaster pastry is now permanent mark on kid’s record” [Eric Owens, Daily Caller] Episode of Lego-sized toy gun ends more happily [LtB] “‘Playing with Toy Guns Desensitizes Children to Using Real Guns…’ Uh, Sez Who?” [Free-Range Kids]
  • “Defense of mass surveillance = defense of more gun control: To get bad guys, treat EVERYONE like a criminal.” [@ABartonHinkle]

Nick Sibilla of the Institute for Justice says the re-regulation plan has some devilish details:

Portions of the current proposal could cripple entrepreneurship. For starters, food trucks that park at an expired meter could face $2,000 fines for a first-time offense. From there on, fines would escalate quickly, reaching $4,000 for the second infraction, $8,000 for the third, and $16,000 onwards. In D.C., this would be a Class 1 infraction, the same legal category as possessing explosives without a license.

Earlier here; more background, NBC Washington.

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EPA-mandated diesel-engine governor shuts down ambulance carrying patient in cardiac arrest to emergency room. [WTTG; Washington, D.C.] The D.C. fire union says emissions-control engine governors, the result of an EPA mandate, have shut down rescue vehicles during missions at least three times since August. Following strenuous protests from rescue squads around the country, EPA last May waived the application of the rules for fire trucks and ambulances, but D.C. is apparently stuck with vehicles acquired before the waiver.

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Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on May 23, 2013

  • Andrew Cuomo threatened county sheriffs with retaliation unless they stopped publicly criticizing his gun plan [Albany Times-Union; his brutally coercive style in an earlier gun controversy]
  • Quick Obama signing predicted: “USA shows strong support for new global Arms Trade Treaty” [Amnesty International] Senate less enthusiastic about it [The Hill] A dissent: non-lefty Prof. Ku doesn’t think treaty poses big gun control danger [Opinio Juris]
  • “A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made” [NBC Washington] Time was when you could get the counselors on your case if you *didn’t* bring a Swiss Army knife on a nature trip [Free-Range Kids] “High School Student Expelled for Unloaded Gun Forgotten In Trunk” [same]
  • “Studios fret that New York’s gun laws could hamper film production” [NYTimes]
  • “Why maximal enforcement of federal gun laws is not always a good idea” [Kopel] “The Worst Gun Control Idea Has Bipartisan Support” (new mandatory minimums for firearm possession; Daniel Denvir, The New Republic)
  • D.C. council holds hearing on proposal for mandatory liability insurance for gun ownership; Mayor Vincent Gray doesn’t like idea [WaPo, Eric Newcomer/Examiner, Insurance Journal, CBS Washington; earlier here, etc.]
  • “Yes, They Are Coming For People’s Guns in California” [Brian Doherty]

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Food and farm roundup

by Walter Olson on April 10, 2013

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Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on March 12, 2013

  • Report: White House at pains to hush anti-gun groups from voicing their more extreme ideas [Washington Times]
  • If we were really serious about reducing gun violence… [Steve Chapman] Futility of gun buyback programs [Trevor Burrus podcast, Cato]
  • Lawyer hit with $20,000 sanction after federal judge says he didn’t adequately vet client’s dubious gun-malfunction case [Legal Intelligencer/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
  • No one’s talking about gun confiscation, right? Right? [Gateway Pundit, Christopher Fountain, more]
  • D.C. councilmember sponsors bill requiring gun owners to buy $250K liability insurance [WaPo, earlier] Discussion of mandatory liability insurance for gun owners with Jacob Sullum, Don Taylor of Duke, and Michael Barry of the Insurance Information Institute [Reason/HuffPost]
  • “Obama’s gun agenda is at least as much about provoking Republicans to say and do things to alienate women voters as it is about passing laws.” [@davidfrum]
  • “The Second Amendment Protects Both Keeping and Bearing Arms” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]