The Washington Legal Foundation recently published a graphics project/report called “Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties” that includes sections showing concurrent changes in six areas of law: mens rea, public welfare offenses and the responsible corporate officer doctrine; EPA criminal enforcement policies; DoJ criminal prosecution policies; attorney-client privilege; deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements; and proliferation of criminal laws, and sentencing developments. Read more, including updates, here.
- If tempted to idealize the U.K. justice system, be aware it was in a London court that Saudi millionaire beat rape charge by arguing that he “tripped” into sexual congress [New York mag]
- Dear Reuters: it would be great if you could report the full story behind a perp walk like Martin Shkreli’s [Ken White, Popehat]
- Better for ten innocents to be imprisoned than one businessperson go free: “The New York Times has come out against the creation of a minimum mens rea element for all federal crimes.” [Scott Greenfield, Scott Shackford] More: Orin Kerr; more Greenfield; Cato podcast on mens rea with Robert Alt.
- Obama Justice Department’s incursions on mens rea dovetail with its efforts on the responsible corporate officer doctrine [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, National Review]
- Escalating fines and fees, as well as a probation system under an incentive not to work, drag down poorer residents of Biloxi, Miss. [Radley Balko]
- How federal law came to define “sex trafficking” to include non-coerced adult prostitution [American U. law professor Janie Chuang quoted by Glenn Kessler, Washington Post “Fact Checker”, who also debunks wildly inflated figures from Attorney General Loretta Lynch]
- If only the late Gary Becker, a towering figure in law and economics, could have been persuaded to give up one of his less happy theories… [Alex Tabarrok]
How can you resist a debate between two of the nation’s most distinguished federal appeals judges — Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit and J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the Fourth — moderated by Tim Lynch? [more; coverage, Jacob Gershman, WSJ]
P.S. More on Judge Kozinski’s recent ideas on criminal justice reform (sample: let defendants choose jury or bench trial, study exonerations in depth, go after bad prosecutors) from Eugene Volokh and Radley Balko.
The urge to criminalize the other guy’s politics and advocacy seems to be running especially strong these days. If you doubt it, here’s another data point: a Latino advocacy group called Presente.org, following Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial comments critical of immigration, called for arresting Trump. Not only did this not stir any great outcry, but rival Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders has now hired Presente.org’s executive director to lead his Latino outreach.
One reason our elections and public debates are intensely fought is that they carry high stakes. Their stakes will be higher yet if the price of coming out on the losing side in an election or debate is to face potential prosecution.
David Kopel writes that “background check” laws pushed by the Bloomberg anti-gun campaign in states like Colorado and Washington have weird effects, whether intended is not entirely clear, on such topics as safe storage of firearms, the sharing of firearms during informal target shooting, and the legality of handgun possession by 18-21 year olds. This might be a sub-instance of a related problem noted by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: “Gun-control laws have a tendency of turning into criminals peaceable citizens whom the state has no reason to have on its radar.”
- Manufacturing while foreign: Holman Jenkins compares Department of Justice’s handling of General Motors case with those of Toyota and Takata [WSJ, paywall]
- “Electronic surveillance by the Drug Enforcement Administration has tripled over the past 20 years, and much of that increase has involved bypassing the federal courts.” [Brad Heath, USA Today via Balko]
- Sen. Hatch: criminal justice reform needs to include reform on issue of mens rea/criminal intent [John Malcolm, Daily Signal]
- Clinton administration tended to embed its anti-gun gestures in its then-popular carceral-state enactments [Jesse Walker on the 12-year lull in anti-gun legislation and whether it’s ending]
- New DoJ policy on corporate criminal prosecutions risks scapegoating [Thaya Knight, Cato] Despite transient surge early in Obama years, federal white-collar crime prosecutions have now fallen to 20-year low [TRAC Reports]
- A legal remedy should federal law enforcers falsely malign you in a press release? Dream on [Scott Greenfield]
- If you oppose high U.S. incarceration rate, but wish more corporate executives went to prison, check your premises [Matt Kaiser, Above the Law]
During pregnancy “occasional, small doses of diazepam (the generic name for Valium) are considered safe… But one morning a few weeks later, when Shehi was back at her job in a nursing home and the baby was with a sitter, investigators from the Etowah County [Alabama] Sheriff’s Office showed up at the front desk with a warrant. She had been charged with ‘knowingly, recklessly, or intentionally’ causing her baby to be exposed to controlled substances in the womb — a felony punishable in her case by up to 10 years in prison. The investigators led her to an unmarked car, handcuffed her and took her to jail.” [Nina Martin, ProPublica]
P.S. Expanded into a longer post at Cato at Liberty.
- More dangerous today than in past to be a cop in America? Available evidence suggests the opposite [Radley Balko, more]
- New York Times covers shaken-baby syndrome with look back at Louise Woodward trial [Poynter; Boston Globe on shaken baby syndrome in May; earlier]
- Study from National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) on gaps in indigent defense misses chance to highlight voucher/choice remedies [Adam Bates, Cato]
- The far reach of Sarbanes-Oxley: “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History” [Juliana DeVries, The Nation]
- “Has the ‘Responsible Corporate Officer’ doctrine run amok?” [Bainbridge, earlier on Quality Egg/U.S. v. DeCoster case and mens rea]
- Federal judge, in April: U.S. Attorney Bharara’s publicity tactics against Sheldon Silver strayed close to line [ruling via Ira Stoll]
- Suspending drivers licenses over unpaid tickets can push poor motorists into downward spiral [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Balko]
“I’m going to make sure that some employers go to jail for wage theft and all the other abuses that they engage in,” said unpaid-intern-using presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at a Labor Day rally in Illinois. [Tom S. Elliott, National Review] The elastic epithet “wage theft” has been used to describe employer practices ranging from permitting employees to send work-related email after hours to failing to anticipate claims that employees who applied for and happily worked at fixed-salary jobs should instead have been classified as hourly and paid overtime.