- Subpoena turnabout not fair play: Congressional Republicans investigating state AGs’ climate advocacy probe are lobbing subpoenas at private enviro groups that urged the anti-speech campaign. Knock it off, two wrongs don’t make right [Eli Lehrer and earlier] “You don’t need complicated models to figure out what happens when governments censor speech. The evidence on that question is solid.” [Steve Simpson]
- And speaking of fraud in policy advocacy (whatever that may mean) some varieties of it are plainly going to have no legal consequences whatsoever [Matt Welch channeling Virginia Postrel on California political class and high-speed rail]
- Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette says 40 anti-pipeline activists gathered and beat on the front door of his home for 30 minutes with his wife alone there [Detroit News]
- Pro-nuclear demonstrators blockade Greenpeace office in San Francisco, but wouldn’t the ultimate way to protest an odious environmental group be to respect the property rights of all concerned? [SFist]
- “It’s a shotgun approach”: injury lawyers find many defendants to blame after Flint public water fiasco [NPR via Renee Krake, Legal Ethics Forum]
- “District court voids Obama administration fracking regulations” [Jonathan Adler, Alden Abbott]
The Church of Anti-Discrimination, most confident of sects, will settle for nothing short of full establishment: under a California court settlement, ChristianMingle.com, which bills itself as the largest online Christian dating site, has agreed to establish search options for men seeking men and women seeking women. Two California men had sued under the state’s expansive Unruh Civil Rights Act. Owner Spark Networks, which admitted no wrongdoing, “agreed to pay each plaintiff $9,000 each and $450,000 in attorneys’ fees to the two men’s lawyers.” [Jacob Gershman and Sara Randazzo, WSJ Law Blog] At Patheos, David Smalley, who describes himself as a pro-gay atheist activist, says the episode is based on too broad a definition of public accommodation; declining to offer a particular service is not the same as offering it to the public but turning down some customers. “Since when can the government tell us what products or services we must offer to future customers? Every atheist, every liberal, and every business owner needs to fight for Christian Mingle’s rights to offer the products or services they choose, even if we disagree with their practices or philosophy behind it all.”
Appalling: Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has demanded papers of “major associations and think tanks involved in climate skepticism” that may be in the files of the ExxonMobil Corp. including groups to which Exxon has never given a dollar [The Hill; Mike Bastasch, Daily Caller] One of her targets, Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, responded with extremely rude language entirely unprintable in this space [same] Meanwhile, 19 Democratic members of Congress from California including Reps. Ted Lieu and Zoe Lofgren have written a letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to continue full speed ahead with her probe into wrongful climate opinion and to pay no attention to critics’ cries that the First Amendment might somehow be relevant [same] Attorney general Claude Walker of the Virgin Islands is fighting a sanctions motion by the Competitive Enterprise Institute over his overreaching subpoena [WSJ editorial] As for “the claim by activist groups and liberal politicians that they are doing to Exxon Mobil what they did to tobacco,” does that mean they’re planning on cartelizing the oil industry and bolstering its profits while making sure billions in contingent fees get siphoned off to the lawyers among their political donors? [Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal] Earlier here, here, etc., etc.
- Free-riding in MDLs, steering committees as old boy networks, and other things observed when a defense lawyer attends a plaintiff’s-side conference [Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law] Not entirely unrelated: Monopolies and gatekeepers in multidistrict litigation [Elizabeth Chamblee Burch/Mass Tort Prof first, second]
- 9th Circuit: consumers weren’t deceived by a dispenser whose design left some lip balm in the tube [Paul Hastings, California Appellate blog]
- “Lawsuit Alleges Firm Used Smartphone App to Secretly Troll for TCPA Cases” [Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, Bob Dorigo Jones]
- Laffitte v. Robert Half International: “California Supreme Court to decide how class action lawyers should be paid” [Alison Frankel back in December, and recent coverage: Perry Cooper, BNA/Class Action Litigation Report, Lawrence Schonbrun/Investor’s Business Daily, David Levine and Scott Dodson/SCOCABlog]
- “New commercial highlights ‘rampant venue shopping’ in Louisiana” [Chamber-backed Louisiana Record]
- Because stepping up incentives for bounty-hunting litigation is a big priority for today’s Congress: “False Claims Act Penalties Poised to Double” [Darby Allen and B. Scott McBride, Baker Hostetler]
- Forget about event permits unless you hire union? Feds arrest Boston mayor’s tourism aide on extortion charges [Connor Wolf/Daily Caller, Boston Herald, indictment, WCVB (auto-plays)]
- Georgia to feds: franchise law is state law, and you’re not free to tear up its terms to favor unions [International Franchise Association, Connor Wolf/Daily Caller]
- Unique California farm-labor law binds growers to “contracts” they never signed. Is that even constitutional? [Ilya Shapiro, Cato] Upstate farmers furious over Gov. Cuomo’s move to unionize farm labor in New York [City and State]
- NLRB strikes down innocuous handbook provision expecting employees to maintain “positive” workplace environment [Jon Hyman] “Is it time for a new NLRB rule on handbook policies?” [same]
- “Funding Ideology, Not Research, at University of California ‘Labor Institutes'” [Steven Greenhut, Reason]
- NLRB Philadelphia regional director, criticized over role in pro-union fund, suspended for 30 days [Law360, Labor Union Report]
The California Senate has shelved, at least for now, a bill that would lay the groundwork for a campaign of lawsuits against so-called climate deniers. The California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016 (Senate Bill 1161), which had passed two committee hurdles, would retrospectively lift what is now a four-year statute of limitations so as to allow unlimited lawsuits under the state’s notoriously pro-plaintiff Unfair Competition Law, or s. 17200, over advocacy related to climate change. While the deadline has now passed for the bill to be enacted on its own under ordinary legislative procedure, it could still pass this year under “gut-and-amend” procedures or a rules waiver. [Valerie Richardson/Washington Times and earlier, Andrew Stuttaford/National Review, Watts Up with That, thanks for quotes in all; earlier]
- Report: TV comedy incorporated old footage of videogame from YouTube clip, then sent clip’s originator takedown notice based on its having content identical to that in show [Damien McFerran, NintendoLife]
- Claim of negligent security: Planned Parenthood sued over Denver abortion clinic shooting [Reuters]
- Trail of fraudulent overbilling in latest False Claims Act leads back to — well, the NYC government [New York Daily News, U.S. Attorney press release]
- Hillary Clinton continues to recite untruths about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), the federal gun liability law; we’ve made that point a number of times, but now Dave Kopel has a post going into more detail;
- Why Coyote yearns to exit California businesses: “my mental bandwidth is consumed by regulatory compliance”;
- “Judge of bogus ‘postal court’ files purported judgments, claims only nouns have legal meaning” [ABA Journal] “Sovereign citizen” talk found in various other parts of the English-speaking world, also Germany where some argue Weimar Republic is still in effect [Lowering the Bar; sequel (“Sovereign Citizens Also Bothering Scotland”); our folk law heading]
An extraordinary bill in the California legislature, promoted as making it easier to sue fossil fuel companies over their involvements in public debate, would lift the four-year statute of limitations of the state’s already extremely liberal Unfair Competition Law, otherwise known as s. 17200 — and retrospectively, so as to revive decades’ worth of time-lapsed claims “with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced anthropogenic-induced climate change.” Despite a 2004 round of voter-sponsored reform which curbed some of its worst applications, s. 17200 still enables what a California court called “legal shakedown” operations in which “ridiculously minor” violations serve as the predicate for automatic entitlement to damages, attorneys’ fees, and other relief.
Combined with the plans laid by California Attorney General Kamala Harris — part of the alliance of AGs that has sought to investigate not only oil, gas, and coal companies, but private advocacy groups and university scientists who have played a role in what is characterized as “climate denial” — the bill would begin laying the legal groundwork for an astonishingly broad campaign of inquisition and, potentially, expropriation. The bill was approved by a subcommittee and was further amended May 10 to provide that climate science-related claims of any age would begin a four-year reviver period as of next January. [Northern California Record; the left-leaning Union of Concerned Scientists has a piece supporting the bill]
Section 2(b) of the bill declares it the California legislature’s policy to promote “redress for unfair competition practices committed by entities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on the risks of climate change or financially supported activities that have deceived, confused, or misled the public on those risks” [emphasis added] — a very clear signal that the target is public issue advocacy, and not merely (say) advertising that is directed at consumers in their capacity as buyers of gasoline at the pump. Last month, a federal court slapped down, as an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights, California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s demand for the donor lists of nonprofits that carry on operations in California.
California’s unique Unruh Act provides automatic bounty entitlements (often $4,000, plus attorney’s fees) to successful discrimination complainants without having to show any actual injury from their treatment. For many years this has led to a distinctive cottage industry of ADA filing mills that mass-generate accessibility complaints against California businesses to settle for cash, often based on minor instances of noncompliance in facilities open to the public. Correcting the bad incentives created by the Unruh Act appears to be politically out of bounds, but now, at least, following a multi-year push from the business community, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed SB 269, which lays out two escape paths from liability for smaller businesses: by hiring a Certified Access Specialist (CASp) they can get 120 days to fix any violations, and by providing a 15-day grace period before legal penalty for small business to fix the most minor violations, typically involving signage and surface display. [KXTV, NorCal Record, L.A. Daily News] “The number one complaint [in 2015]? Non-compliant loading zones. Number two? Problems with parking lot signage.” [Capital Public Radio]
Meanwhile, in Fresno, some disabled plaintiffs are now suing the lawyers who solicited their involvement in mass ADA filings, saying they broke promises, behaved deceptively, and kept nearly all the proceeds for themselves. [KFSN]:
One of the places the Moores sued is a donut shop in Reedley and one of the problems was with the signage.
The shop had a disabled parking only sign up, but it didn’t have the half that states “Minimum Fine $250” and without that part, this is a violation.
What the Moores may not have known is Doughnuts To Go is managed by Lee Ky, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
“Here I am all my life in a wheelchair and I get around in the community just fine,” Ky explained.
Ky says she never had any accessibility problems at her own store, but she made some updates after she was sued for violations and settled with the Moore Law Firm to make the lawsuit go away.
So when an Action News reporter showed her the video of Ronald Moore, the man who sued her, lifting his wheelchair into his SUV, then walking up to the driver’s seat, she was pretty upset.
“I wish I could be him sometimes,” Ky said. “I wish I could just get up and then walking and all the sudden becoming in the wheelchair. It looks bad.”
Young persons in California will have at least three years’ practice voting to take away the rights of other persons before they acquire a full set of rights themselves. [CNN]
P.S.: “Old enough to be executed, but not to have a final smoke. California logic.” [Scott Greenfield on Twitter]