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]
“…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]
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.
“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]
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.
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.
The Howard University students’ feelings were hurt, it seems [Will Sommer, Washington City Paper via Huffington Post]:
Some of the “hazing” rules sound innocuous, if extensive, like being forbidden from wearing the sorority colors of pink and green or any colors that could be blended into pink and green. In one humorous moment, the lawsuit notes that the pledges, who were called the “sweets,” couldn’t even wear white pearls.
Other hazing allegations are more serious. At one point, the pledges were told not to talk to non-sorority members at Howard, according to the suit. “[Alpha Kappa Alpha members] on campus addressed the sweets by calling them weak bitches,” Compton’s mother wrote in a complaint to the sorority.
After Cofield’s mother, also an Alpha Kappa Alpha sister, complained, the two pledges found themselves ostracized in the sorority for being “snitch-friendly” or “snitch-sympathists.”…
The aspiring sisters say they’re being discriminated against because, as legacies, their mothers were also in the sorority. In other words, they’re being treated differently because of their “familial status”—a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. In addition to monetary damages, the would-be Alpha Kappa Alphas want the court to grant an injunction putting the pledging process on hold.
P.S. In 2008 we covered the “Oprichniki” lawsuit involving Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut (follow-up). And there’s a current controversy over what one alumna calls the “pretty tame” hazing dished out on a voluntary basis during a Bryn Mawr tradition known as Hell Week [Julie Gerstein/The Frisky, Philly.com]
Snags for the D.C. subway system [Washington Post via @andrewmgrossman]
The first shipment of the new [SmarTrip card] machines did not have the audio and Braille features required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But Metro thought it could roll out the machines and add the audio and Braille a couple of months later. When disability advocates raised concerns, Metro realized that going forward would violate the ADA, and the transit agency halted the rollout.
So nearly three weeks after every station was to have its own SmarTrip card dispenser, riders at nearly half of the stations in the Metrorail system are out of luck if they need to buy a card.
Riders who stay with paper Farecards are charged an extra dollar a trip.
In a free country you can’t keep out a restaurant because you dislike its owner’s politics [Boston Herald on Chick-Fil-A controversy, more on death through regulatory delay as a city tactic, mayor's letter in PDF; good discussions at Amy Alkon and Popehat/Ken] Comments: “Inclusion. He gives this as justification for excluding someone.” [Ken R at Alkon] “Also, has Boston ever been ‘at the forefront of inclusion’?” [@thad_anderson]
For a powerful vignette of what can happen in certain big cities when the ruling government nomenklatura comes to view the local merchantry as there by sufferance, see John Kass’s recent Chicago Tribune column, recalling the struggles of his Greek immigrant grocer father, via David Zincavage.
P.S. Speaking of taking outspoken stands on same-sex marriage, Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed covers a (very successful!) fundraiser I helped throw over the weekend for like-minded folks in Maryland and D.C. If you’d like to donate as part of the event, you can do so here.