Posts Tagged ‘Washington D.C.’

Washington, D.C.: unions versus property rights (yours)

Washington, D.C.: a pending council bill on AirBnB and similar arrangements, “backed by a large hotel workers union, would ban the rental of whole units without the owner or occupant being present, and prevent hosts from renting out more than one unit at a time. It would also create a special enforcement division within the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory ­Affairs to conduct inspections, and empower third parties — such as neighborhood groups or housing affordability advocates — to sue for violations.” Hotel owners have their own, “less draconian” scheme to restrict AirBnB use in the popular tourism city. [Lydia DePillis, Washington Post “WonkBlog”]

Higher education roundup

A shared-driveway neighbor war

“Thus passed another tense moment in what local officials say has become the town of Chevy Chase’s lengthiest, costliest, and most litigious neighborhood spat in recent memory. What began as a contested building permit six years ago has spiraled into a clash of wills, spawning five lawsuits, two misdemeanor convictions, arrests, anger-management classes, and a [no-contact] court order.” [Terrence McCoy, Washington Post] Last month we noted what one resident called the “farcically overregulated” state of land use controls in the affluent Maryland community, which is located just over the border from Northwest D.C.

May 6 roundup

Latest high-stakes offense: lost-dog posters in D.C.?

It’s unclear whether the District of Columbia’s $300 penalty for affixing signs in public places is per offending sign or per offending course of conduct, which means that when Roger Horowitz and friends put up thousands of fliers about his lost dog Ollie, he might have been flirting with a very substantial liability; according to Horowitz, the sum of $750,000 came up in a conversation with a police officer. [NBC Washington] For more examples of how cumulative statutory damages or fines for individually paltry offenses can multiply into seemingly disproportionate outcomes, see also junk-fax and TCPA class actions.

Estate of late D.C. mayor is suing his kidney donor

“One of Kim Dickens’ kidneys helped keep Marion Barry alive in 2008. But the late Ward 8 councilmember’s estate isn’t eager to return the favor, according to a new lawsuit filed against Dickens by widow Cora Masters Barry.” The suit says Dickens’ foundation continues to use the image of the late Washington mayor, sometimes nicknamed “Mayor-for-Life”, in its promotion despite demands that it stop doing so. “This looks to be the first fight over Barry’s estate, which otherwise left behind little in terms of assets.” [Washington City Paper]

“Short Circuits” on transit police arbitration

Our friends at the Institute for Justice have recently gone public with a beta version of what had been an internal newsletter, called Short Circuits, providing condensed (and sometimes acidulous) summaries of cases out of the federal courts of appeals. You can subscribe here. One of recent interest:

WMATA, a transit agency that serves the greater D.C. area, fires two police officers. (One allegedly struck a passenger and lied about it. The other allegedly altercated with a companion and lied about it.) Arbitrators order the pair reinstated, but by then their Maryland certification has lapsed, and, after the transit police chief voices strenuous opposition to their recertification, Maryland commissioners refuse to recertify the two. WMATA can’t have uncertified officers, so they are fired again. 4th Circuit: Which is cool.

Washington, D.C.: “Court orders man to stop smoking in his own home”

Lawyers Brendan and Nessa Coppinger moved into their row house in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood last September. They have now gotten a judge to agree to a temporary restraining order prohibiting their neighbor, Edwin Gray, from smoking or allowing anyone to smoke on his property. The Coppingers say the smoke is getting onto their premises through openings between the connected structures and “is harming them and their children”; they also want cash damages. The Gray family has owned the house next door for 50 years. [AP/ABC13 via ABA Journal; Washington Post]

Benjamin Freed at Washingtonian was kind enough to quote me at length making several points about this and similar litigation: 1) it would have been thrown out over most of the course of legal history because courts insisted that nuisance and similar claims (in this case couched as “negligence, nuisance, and trespassing”) exceed a de minimis standard and, in a claim for damages, required proof of actual harm going well beyond “you hit me with a molecule and that could kill me”; 2) smoking is uniquely disapproved nowadays which means some courts are willing to entertain de minimis claims that they would not for other common neighborhood nuisances; 3) if carcinogenic smoke drifting across property lines is to be stopped, both backyard grills and barbecues and common fireplaces are in trouble, at least if courts behaved logically — a very big if, of course. (It should be noted that the lawsuit includes some claims — such as that an unrepaired chimney at the Grays’ is contributing to the smoke problem — that might fit more readily into traditional legal categories.)

The temporary court order, incidentally, also bars the Gray family from allowing any smoking of now-legal marijuana in their house, which prompts this additional thought:

“It does make you wonder why conservative opponents of marijuana would bother to fight legalization in DC when instead they can let it go through and get rich suing over it,” Olson says.

Whole thing here.