June 10 -- Advertisement
for "friendly" employee deemed discriminatory. In Bolton,
England, a government job listing center has refused to accept an advertisement
asking for a "friendly" applicant
to manage a travel agency's staff cafe. The travel agency's manager
said "we were told, 'It's discriminatory because some people may perceive
that they are friendly even if you don't'." A spokeswoman for the
government bureau that runs the job center service acknowledged that "somebody's
been a little over-zealous," but also said: "We've got to be very careful
when we get adverts so we don't discriminate against anybody." ("Jobcentre
comes under 'friendly' fire", BBC, Jun.
7). (DURABLE LINK)
June 10 -- Profiling:
a Democrat outflanks Ashcroft. On CNN last week, California
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke frankly of the need for some measure
of ethnic profiling in both air
passenger security and intelligence gathering -- a position that places
her considerably to the right of Attorney General John Ashcroft and his
colleagues in the Bush Administration, who continue to deny any such need.
(Chris Weinkopf, "Sanity, not bigotry, calls for profiling", L.A. Daily
9). (DURABLE LINK)
June 10 -- Sin-suit
city. In Las Vegas, ripples continue from the word that
some lawyers and activists are eyeing the hometown industry as their nominee
for Next Tobacco ("Organization: Casinos could be sued", Las Vegas
6; see May 31, May
20-21). And on the food-suit
front, a major British newspaper, the Independent, has claimed that
corporate machinations make healthful and low-calorie foods simply unavailable
to Middle Americans, an assertion that columnist Jacob Sullum calls "such
an audacious misrepresentation that I don't know whether to refute it or
simply stand in awe." (Andrew Gumbel, "Fast Food Nation: An appetite for
litigation", The Independent, Jun.
4 (profile of anti-tobacco and anti-food industry law prof John Banzhaf)(alternate
site); Jacob Sullum, "Big fat lie", Reason Online, Jun.
7). (DURABLE LINK)
June 7-9 -- "Tough
tobacco laws may not deter kids". Now they tell us dept.:
"Stopping kids from buying cigarettes
has become a centerpiece of anti-smoking campaigns, but a new study finds
that cracking down on merchants doesn't prevent underage smoking." (Jim
Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, Jun.
3; Caroline M. Fichtenberg and Stanton A. Glantz, "Youth Access Interventions
Do Not Affect Youth Smoking", Pediatrics, Jun.)
(via MedPundit, Jun.
5)(see Sept. 16, 1999).
June 7-9 -- "Legal
Fight Over Chemical Leak Ends With Whimper". "Attorneys
who won $38.8 million in West Virginia's first class action toxic
tort case have agreed to settle for a fraction of that amount after
a federal appeals court ruled their original victory was based on the testimony
of a witness who did not know what he was talking about." FMC
Corp. will instead pay only $1.35 million, which "will cover about $500,000
in litigation expenses but nothing for fees", according to the plaintiff's
counsel, attorney/author and former state chief justice Richard Neely.
(Peter Page, National Law Journal, Jun.
4). (DURABLE LINK)
June 7-9 -- Helmets
for roller skaters. First it was motorcycles, then bicycles,
and now the anti-fun brigade,
in the form of the California state senate, has voted to extend mandatory
helmet-wearing to riders of skateboards, non-motorized scooters and even
roller skates. ("Senate OKs helmet law for skateboarders", AP/Contra
Costa Times, May
17). (DURABLE LINK)
June 6 -- Airlines
sued over alleged profiling. "Washington is in its third
week of self-flagellation over why the U.S. government couldn't prevent
the Sept. 11 hijackers from commandeering four planes and slamming them
into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Meanwhile, with no
sense of irony, the ACLU, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee,
and some other groups are launching five separate lawsuits over cases of
men being removed from airplanes. The ACLU is party to three of the suits."
(Jonah Goldberg, "Flying While Arab", National Review Online, Jun.
5). The men were removed from planes or denied boarding in various
incidents late last year after airline employees or co-passengers deemed
them suspicious in behavior or appearance. "The airlines named in
the suits are American, Continental, Northwest and United. Most of
the companies responded strongly to the suits yesterday, denying allegations
of prejudice." ("Lawsuits Accuse 4 Airlines of Bias", Washington
5; Niala Boodhoo, "Rights Groups Hit Airlines with Post-Sept. 11 Suits",
Reuters/ Yahoo, Jun. 4).
Many opponents of passenger
profiling (including, frequently, officials within the Bush administration)
act as if it were flatly impermissible to apply even the slightest bit
more scrutiny to young male Arab fliers with Muslim first names than to
elderly Dutch nuns -- a position that at least has the merit of bright-line
clarity and consistency, however suicidal it could prove in practice.
Curiously, the lawyers filing the latest suits seem to be taking pains
to stake out a critique of profiling that is less absolutist and makes
more concessions to the threats made manifest last Sept. 11.
Thus Reginald Shuford, an ACLU lawyer based in New York, says his clients
are resigned to a "higher level of scrutiny when they fly, more security
checks" but suggests that further extra scrutiny becomes intolerable once
fliers have "cleared all security checks [and are] sitting on the airplane".
(Why? He doesn't say.) Even Ibish Hussein, of the American-
Arab Anti- Discrimination Committee, acknowledges that it's "a tricky situation"
and says of refusals to fly passengers: "It's understandable, but it's
not acceptable." (Alexandra Marks, "New lawsuits aim to curb racism
aboard airplanes", Christian Science Monitor, Jun.
5). Despite this concessionary- sounding language, with its seeming
recognition of the unavoidability of judgment calls and gray areas, at
least three of the suits ask for the airlines to be subjected to punitive
damages. See also Eugene Volokh, Volokh Conspiracy weblog, Jun.
4. (DURABLE LINK)
June 6 -- Alexa
"Editor's Pick". The editors of indexing service Alexa
have selected various sites in the category of "Legal Reform", with you-know-who
leading the pack (June
5). This site's front
page clocks in at #94,327 in Alexa's traffic ratings, a little ahead
Postrel (#103,177) and nipping at the heels of Matt
Welch (#90,063) and Mickey
Kaus (#78,754) -- though we have no idea how reliable all these numbers
are. Update: not very reliable at all, says Glenn Reynolds
June 5 -- "Remove
child before folding". "Americans are not losing their
minds, but they are afraid of using their minds. They are afraid to exercise
judgment -- afraid of being sued." Not-to-be-missed George Will column
ties together overprotective playgrounds,
and public employee tenure and tips the hat to author Philip Howard's new
organization Common Good, which
intends to call public attention to legal excess on a regular basis (Washington
2). In April, Common Good released the results of its first study,
in association with the AEI-Brookings Joint Center, on defensive medicine:
"Concerns about liability are influencing medical decision-making on many
levels. From the increased ordering of tests, medications, referrals,
and procedures to increased paperwork and reluctance to offer off-duty
medical assistance, the impact of the fear of litigation is far-reaching
and profound." ("The Fear of Litigation Study: The Impact on Medicine",
AEI-Brookings Joint Center Related Publication, April (abstract),
text, PDF format) (DURABLE LINK)
June 3-4 -- Australian
party calls for banning smoking while driving. The Australian
Democrats, a small but non-fringe political grouping, have called for a
ban on smoking cigarettes while
driving. "If using mobile phones is illegal, so should cigarette
smoking in cars because of its capacity to distract drivers," said party
official Sandra Kanck in a statement. "Ms. Kanck called for legislation
to also ban smoking cigarettes in vehicles transporting children.
'Parents and other adults shouldn't subject young people to the carcinogenic
dangers of side-stream smoke in cars, yet it is common to see this happening,'
she said." ("Democrats call to ban smoking while driving", AAP/West
Australian, May 31; see Oct. 5, 2001,
Dec. 29, 1999). And although
anti-tobacco campaigners are crowing about a recent court verdict in Australia
against British American Tobacco, blogger "Max Power" (May
23) suggests the verdict may reflect one judge's idiosyncratic view
of company document retention obligations. (DURABLE
June 3-4 -- Penthouse
sued on behalf of disappointed Kournikova-oglers. Dignity
of the law dept.: The skin mag has already paid to settle the legal claim
of a woman whose topless images it mistakenly ran as those of Anna Kournikova,
and "now Miami, Florida lawyer Reed Stomberg has filed a class-action
lawsuit on behalf of himself and every other male who purchased the
June issue. Stomberg explains, 'The sole reason I paid the $8.99
was for the alleged Anna pictorial. I bought it for a friend of mine,
not to say I didn't take a quick peek at the pictures.'" (IMDB People News,
(& welcome WSJ
Best of the Web readers). (DURABLE
June 3-4 -- Sue
foodmakers for obesity? Of course! In response to
its publication (see May 27) of an article
critically examining the push for class actions against purveyors of calorie-laden
foodstuffs, Salon draws
a big sack of mail from its readers, including a couple of amusingly hysterical
attacks on author Megan McArdle (May
31). (DURABLE LINK)
June 3-4 -- "Top
Ten New Copyright Crimes". Satire making the rounds
on what could soon land you in trouble if ideas of creators'
rights continue to proliferate: "10. Watching PBS without making
a donation ... 9. Changing radio stations in the car when a commercial
comes on. ... 7. Getting into a movie after the previews, but just in time
for the main feature. ... 5. Inviting friends over to watch pay-per-view."
(Ernest Miller, LawMeme, May
2 & May 8). (DURABLE LINK)
June 3-4 -- Sick
in Mississippi? Keep driving. Malpractice-suit
crisis, cont'd: "You are driving through Mississippi and you develop
a serious pain in your side. What do you do? If you are smart, you keep
on driving until you reach the border." (Dick Boland, "Sue your way to
the morgue", Washington Times, May 25; see Apr.
5) Evidence that he may not entirely be joking: Ed Cullen, "Natchez
doctors eye Vidalia", Baton Rouge Advocate, May 19 (doctors in Natchez,
Miss. consider transferring practices to Vidalia, La., across the river).