Louisiana coastal suits: pork-barreling on the bayou

The Baton Rouge Advocate’s headline sums it up: “Gov. [John Bel] Edwards quietly picks top donors to handle coastal suit that could result in big payday.” The suit, against oil and gas companies over the impact of energy operations on coastal erosion, could result in gigantic contingency fees if successful. More: Chamber-backed Louisiana Record (“Lobbyists for attorneys picked by Edwards for coastal litigation team hold fundraiser for governor”), The Hayride (governor twists arms of local governments to join suit), Daily Iberian (no go, says editorial), New Orleans Times-Picayune, more Advocate, Insurance Journal background. More: WWL (representing parish governments could be the real jackpot).

Wisconsin “John Doe” sputters toward close

“On the third anniversary of predawn armed raids on Wisconsin homes in the name of politics, the U.S. Supreme Court has driven the final nail in the coffin of Wisconsin’s politically driven John Doe investigation. On [Oct. 3], the high court rejected a petition by Democratic prosecutors looking to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling last year declaring the campaign finance investigation unconstitutional.” But is it truly the final nail? M.D. Kittle reports as part of Wisconsin Watchdog’s series, “Wisconsin’s Secret War.”

Higher education and Title IX roundup

  • “Free Speech on Campus: A Challenge of Our Times,” recent speech by University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone;
  • University of Virginia puts professor on leave of absence after comments critical of Black Lives Matter [Hans Bader] “Yes, Brooklyn College really has a Director of Diversity Investigations.” One prof’s experience [David Seidemann/Minding the Campus]
  • “Lawyer: Why the lower standard of evidence in college sexual-assault cases is dangerous” [Robert Shibley] It’s rare for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to stick up in favor of due process rights for accused students, but that just happened in Wesley College case [Jake New/Inside Higher Ed, Tyler Kingkade/BuzzFeed, ED press release]
  • “Northern Michigan University had — and perhaps still has — a policy subjecting students to discipline if they share suicidal thoughts with their peers.” So how bad an idea is that? [Ken White, Popehat]
  • “Historically Black Colleges and Universities struggle with Title IX compliance” [American Sports Council on reporting by David Squires/The Undefeated]
  • “University Of Michigan Gets Lost In The Tall SJW Weeds” [Amy Alkon] Georgetown offers legacy status to applicants descended from university-owned slaves; showy gesture, but anything more? [Scott Greenfield] “American University Student Government Launches Campaign for Mandatory Trigger Warnings” [Robby Soave]

“You Have a Constitutional Right to Record Public Officials in Public”

Ilya Shapiro and Devin Watkins:

In a case out of California, two citizens were taking pictures of border crossings from public sidewalks of what they believed were environmental problems and unlawful searches. CBP [United States Customs and Border Protection] agents saw them, arrested them, seized their cameras, and deleted their pictures. The district court acknowledged that the recordings were protected by the First Amendment but found the government’s reasons for suppressing them to be so compelling that individual constitutional rights could be ignored in the name of national security.

Now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Cato has filed an amicus brief supporting the photographers’ ability to record government officials in public. Americans have a First Amendment right to record law enforcement agents because it’s a way of accurately depicting government operations. The ability to describe government operations allows citizens to criticize those actions and petition for redress of grievances—a core purpose of the First Amendment. Even a Homeland Security report on “Photographing the Exterior of Federal Facilities” recognizes “that the public has a right to photograph the exterior of federal facilities from publically accessible spaces such as streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas.”…

The Ninth Circuit will hear Askins v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Security later this fall.

ADA lawsuits up 63 percent

“Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III lawsuits are up 63 percent over 2015, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw. ADA Title III prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of disability. The act applies to a variety of businesses and restaurants, including warehouses, movie theaters, schools, office buildings, day care facilities, doctors’ offices and any new construction of same must comply with the ADA construction standards.”…’More lawyers are finding out that this is a very…lucrative practice,’ said [Seyfarth partner Minh] Vu. The number of suits filed in federal court may top more than 7,000; more lawsuits were filed in the first half of this year than in all of 2013, according to the law firm’s research.” [Insurance Journal]

Related: “Sunshine state attorney seeks website changes, and costs and fees, from snow shoe seller” [John Breslin/Florida Record, and thanks for quote]

Discrimination law roundup

  • Prof. Sam Estreicher proposes safe-harbor rule to overcome disincentives to hiring of costly or risky job seekers [SSRN via Workplace Prof]
  • “Muslim flight attendant for ExpressJet suspended, wouldn’t serve alcohol” [Detroit Free Press, earlier]
  • Profile of lawyer Joel Liberson, who’s talked many cities into suing banks for big bucks under Fair Housing Act [WSJ]
  • “Did the 7th Circuit finally kill McDonnell-Douglas?” [Jon Hyman on “burden-shifting” evidentiary framework in employment discrimination law]
  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights believes law should defer to religious conscience claims “only to the extent that they do not unduly burden” bans on discrimination [Stephanie Slade, Reason; report with nonpartisan sections written by Lenore Ostrowsky] Anti-discrimination laws as applied to private actors restrict liberty and sometimes force conscience [David Harsanyi, The Federalist] “Massachusetts: Churches may be covered by transgender discrimination bans, as to ‘secular events'” [Volokh]
  • “Unfair ‘Fair Housing’: The new Obama administration policy to ‘deconcentrate’ poverty is a threat to communities” [Howard Husock, City Journal; Kurtz, NRO]

October 12 roundup

  • RIP automotive journalism legend Brock Yates, an incisive critic of auto safety scares [Christopher Smith, CarThrottle, Corvair Alley]
  • New California law regulating trade in autographed collectibles might have unintended consequences [Brian Doherty]
  • Federal magistrate judge approves service of process via Twitter; suit alleged terrorism finance [US News]
  • Cf. Tom Wolfe, Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers: groups that “shut down” NYC planning hearing are funded by none other than city taxpayers [Seth Barron, New York Post]
  • Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., sometimes known in this space as America’s Most Irresponsible Public Figure, has taken job with personal injury firm Morgan & Morgan, known for billboards and TV ads [Daily Mail]
  • “The Coming Copyright Fight Over Viral News Videos, Such As Police Shootings” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]