Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

“Trump threatens to sue New York Times”

Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, following negative coverage including a story on his use of tax breaks in real estate development [The Hill]:

Vague lawsuit threats are usually the bumptious kind: there is no cause of action for “irresponsible intent.”

Donald Trump and libel litigation

Presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking today: “We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.” Trump also said of Amazon, whose Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, a newspaper that just ran an editorial seeking to rally opposition to Trump: “If I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

The President has no direct power to change libel law, which consists of state law constrained by constitutional law as laid out by the Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan. A President could appoint Justices intent on overturning the press protections of Sullivan or promote a constitutional amendment to overturn it. Assuming one or the other eventually was made to happen, further changes in libel law would probably require action at the state level, short of some novel attempt to create a federal cause of action for defamation.

But although Trump is unlikely to obtain the exact set of changes he outlines, the outburst is psychologically revealing. Donald Trump has been filing and threatening lawsuits to shut up critics and adversaries over the whole course of his career. He dragged reporter Tim O’Brien through years of litigation over a relatively favorable Trump biography that assigned a lower valuation to his net worth than he thought it should have. He sued the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic over a piece arguing that a planned Trump skyscraper in lower Manhattan would be “one of the silliest things” that could be built in the city. He used the threat of litigation to get an investment firm to fire an analyst who correctly predicted that the Taj Mahal casino would not be a financial success. He sued comedian Bill Maher over a joke.

I have been writing about the evils of litigation for something like 30 years, and following the litigious exploits of Donald Trump for very nearly that long. I think it very plausible to expect that if he were elected President, he would bring to the White House the same spirit of litigiousness he has so often shown as a public figure. (cross-posted at Cato at Liberty)

P.S. Also reprinted at Newsweek. And Ilya Somin cites further elements forming a pattern: Trump has expressed his wish to “have the FCC take some of his critics off the airwaves” and his regret that protesters at his events could not be dealt with in such a way that they “have to be carried out on a stretcher.” He also writes that should Trump proceed to appoint judges who strongly share his view of libel law, those judges “are unlikely to effectively protect other important speech rights and civil liberties.” And a late-January post from Patterico recalls Trump threats against the Washington Post (again), John Kasich, a t-shirt company, and a Jeb Bush PAC, to which might be added the Club for Growth, reporter Tim Mak, Scotland, Univision, and many more. Yet more: Mike Masnick, TechDirt.

February 3 roundup

  • To what extent should law schools pursue missions other than that of training lawyers to practice competently? [Ken at Popehat]
  • Survivors of woman slain in terror attack seek $200 million from county of San Bernardino [Courthouse News] A pertinent 2001 Elizabeth Cabraser quote about terrorism and litigation: “If we sue each other, the terrorists win. We need to be united.”
  • Self-driving car revolution is coming quickly, but there might still be time for feds to mess it up [Randal O’Toole]
  • “NYT throws hissy-fit, sues over use of thumbnails in critical book” [Rebecca Tushnet via Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • New laws from Brussels could endanger thousands of historic guns in British museums [Telegraph]
  • Drawing on the organization’s entire moral authority, i.e. none at all, United Nations panel calls for U.S. to pay slavery reparations [Independent, Vice]
  • Aviary Attorney: “The hottest bird lawyering game to come out of 1840s France!” [Steampowered via Lowering the Bar]

Behind the Times: arbitration and its critics

In its long-running campaign against arbitration as a contractually chosen alternative to its own services, the Litigation Lobby recently scored a coup in the form of a New York Times series intensely negative on the practice. I joined radio host Bob Zadek recently for a discussion of the issue.

More on arbitration recently from Jim Copland in the Wall Street Journal, from Daniel Fisher (“New York Times Cites The Wrong Case To Support Class Actions”) and Greg Herbers, Washington Legal Foundation (“Rebuffed Twice in Texas, the NLRB Takes its Crusade Against [Class-Action] Arbitration [Agreements] to California”).

Labor and employment roundup

  • Now watch out for the next phase of the “ban the box” effort, which will demand that private employers not be allowed to ask about applicants’ criminal records [Open Society via @georgesoros]
  • “We have one restaurant in Seattle, and we probably won’t be expanding there. That’s true of San Francisco and Los Angeles, too.” [Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith via David Boaz]
  • New York Times reporting vs. nail salons: the video [Reason, earlier] The other Greenhouse effect, in this case Steven: Times “sees the labor beat as having essentially an advocacy mission.” [Adam Ozimek]
  • The lawsuits of September: “the EEOC has once again rushed to file a blitz of federal court complaints just under the fiscal year wire” [Matthew Gagnon, Christopher DeGroff, and Gerald Maatman, Jr., Seyfarth Shaw]
  • I was a guest on Ray Dunaway’s morning drive time show on WTIC (Hartford) talking about cop fitness tests and the blind barber suit, you can listen here:
  • NYC Commission on Human Rights — with an assist from Demos and New Economy Project — runs public ads saying “There’s no evidence that shows a link between credit reports and job performance. That’s why NYC made it illegal to use credit reports in employment decisions.” The “Suburbanist” responds: “We will punish those who depart from our null hypotheses regarding their business. Human rights indeed.”
  • What are the biggest legal questions facing employers? “What is work?” and “Who is an employee?” are a start [Jon Hyman]

NYT public editor: yes, nail salon series had problems

Poynter: “A blockbuster investigation from The New York Times that provoked officials to intervene in poor workplace conditions in nail salons throughout New York ‘went too far in generalizing about an entire industry,’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Friday morning.” That’s, well, cautiously worded: as critics have demonstrated, the series got basic facts wrong and its falsehoods have hurt thousands of New Yorkers, especially struggling immigrants, in multiple ways.

Major congratulations to Jim Epstein, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, and the others at Reason and elsewhere who relentlessly exposed the faults in the Times coverage. And Sullivan’s letter is revealing about just why editors until now ignored Epstein’s Reason coverage, which blew up some of the series’ central allegations about advertised pay rates in the Chinese-language press and about supposed clusters of health effects. “The Times has not responded [because] editors think the magazine, which generally opposes regulation, [is] biased.” Some Twitter responses:

New York Times blasts arbitration. What’s missing?

The New York Times, which can scarcely mention firearms policy without invoking the Gun Lobby, runs a big feature endorsing the claims of arbitration opponents that is curiously evasive about the role of the Litigation Lobby. Daniel Fisher, Forbes:

The writers who penned today’s New York Times Page One expose of arbitration clauses say they examined thousands of court documents and interviewed hundreds of lawyers, yet they fell for a rookie mistake: They confused class-action plaintiffs for the real thing….

The “article splayed across four pages of the Sunday Times” profiles the owner of the Italian Colors restaurant, the named plaintiff in a class action against American Express that went to the Supreme Court, as if he were typical of “plaintiffs [who] sprang up spontaneously and went out and hired lawyers to vindicate their rights?

Who were his lawyers? The Times doesn’t think you need to know. But here’s the main one: Gary B. Friedman, an attorney who specializes in suing credit-card companies. He recently suffered a bit of bad press when a federal judge in New York threw out a proposed settlement of another class action against Amex because Friedman had displayed “improper and disappointing conduct” by communicating sensitive information to a lawyer for the other side. The judge criticized Friedman for “blatant collusion” by negotiating a settlement with the defense that was “contrary to the wishes of the putative class.”

Now why couldn’t the enterprising Times reporters find room in such a large story for a mention of Friedman? Perhaps because he represents the real face of consumer class actions. These aren’t lawsuits by little guys like Carson trying to vindicate their rights against big corporations. Most are lawsuits by wealthy attorneys trying to get wealthier, by using the mechanism of the class action — originally developed to allow courts to declare classes of plaintiffs in civil-rights cases — to present companies with an offer they can’t refuse: Settle and pay us a rich fee, or risk a devastating loss in court.

Fisher summarizes: the Times “reports without skepticism the plaintiff-lawyer version of the story.” That’s a shame on a topic where even such a liberal figure as California Gov. Jerry Brown, who recently vetoed an anti-arbitration bill, acknowledges there are genuine concerns on both sides.

Our coverage of contractually agreed pre-dispute arbitration — including both the practical and the freedom-of-contract arguments for it — goes back to the early days of this site, including Coyote (“Here is how you should think about this proposed law: Attorneys are the taxi cartels, and arbitration is Uber. And the incumbents want their competitor banned.”), James Taranto on the Times as “two papers in one,” Andrew Pincus on arbitration as still pretty much the Litigation Lobby’s number one target. Much coverage also at Point of Law, including Ted Frank on a familiar-sounding law firm’s use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses.

P.S. I’ll bet he has: “Having worked extensively with Silver-Greenberg on this series over the past several months…” [Deepak Gupta, Public Citizen]

And: more thoughts at Cato at Liberty, including links to Cato work and discussion of why consumers so seldom switch from one provider to another in search of more favorable fine print on class action availability.