On why Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is unlikely to move up to higher office soon, despite possible vacancies: “experts say keeping the powerful role of Attorney General in Democratic hands is key to the party’s agenda.” Remember when an attorney general was seen as some sort of neutral legal officer? [Washington Post]
- Do behavioral economists acknowledge policymakers’ own foibles? Not often it seems [Niclas Berggren via Bryan Caplan]
- China, not unlike our own attorney general-environmentalist alliance, is cracking down on the work of what it deems ideologically harmful nonprofits [ABA Journal]
- Barking mad: new ABA ethics proposal would deem it professional misconduct for lawyers to discriminate on various grounds, including “socioeconomic status,” in choosing partners, employees and experts [Eugene Volokh, Sara Randazzo/WSJ Law Blog]
- Virginia still has a law requiring annual safety inspection of your car, and it’s still a bad idea [Alex Tabarrok]
- Court in Canadian province of New Brunswick rules against honoring will that left estate to racist group [CBC]
- From the left, Paul Bland sees Monday’s Supreme Court decision in Spokeo v. Robins as a big loss for business defendants [Public Justice, earlier] Contra: Andrew Pincus, plus more from WLF.
So that you will respect us more, we now insist on being anonymous: the Virginia Senate has approved legislation exempting the names of police officers from disclosure under the state public records law. Sponsor Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr. (R-Chesapeake), noting “that he knew many police officers and their families — said: ‘The culture is not one of respect for law enforcement anymore. It’s really, “How, how can we get these guys? What can we do?” … Police officers are much more in jeopardy.’ … Although other states have made moves to shield the identities of some officers, none would go as far as the proposal in Virginia.” A spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police union, defending the bill, said that it “is not about trying to keep information from the public, to have secret police.” The immediate controversy that prompted the bill arose when the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Hampton Roads filed a request for information on police employment, following up on tips that officers fired from one department would find work at another. [Washington Post]
Insta-update: Panel in Virginia House unanimously votes to kill the bill [WAMU, thanks commenter Matthew S.]
- “And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven.” — Scalia, J., noting the commonness of violence in youthful entertainment over the centuries, in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2005), his landmark opinion confirming full First Amendment protection for videogames as works of expression [Jim Copland/City Journal, Owen Good/Polygon; contrasting Hillary Clinton position]
- Scalia made crucial fifth vote for many First Amendment liberties. Which ones are safe now? [Ronald Collins first, second posts]
- Wisconsin redux? Montana ethics official targets political adversaries with subpoenas [Will Swaim, Reason]
- Goaded by governments, Facebook now has big program in Europe “finding and then removing comments that promote xenophobia.” [Independent, U.K.] Sad to see Israeli official backing legal curbs on freedom of social media [Times of Israel]
- “Flemming Rose talks about the decision to publish 12 cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.” [“Free Thoughts” podcast with Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, Cato’s Libertarianism.org]
- 2016 workplan from ACLU doesn’t include free speech as a main concern, and some aren’t surprised by that [Ronald Collins]
- “Appeals Court Tells City It Can’t Use Its Terribly-Written Zoning Laws To Censor Speech” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Fourth Circuit, Norfolk, Va.]
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has granted an unusual absolute pardon to Davey Reedy, released six years ago after many years of imprisonment on an arson murder conviction after a house fire that killed his two small children. The case is one of dozens in which forensic methods formerly used for evaluating arson have been re-examined as poorly based and unreliable. “According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 38 people have been exonerated before Reedy for arson-related crimes since 1991.” [Washington Post; earlier]
From the Post’s Christmas Day story:
After his release in 2009, he has settled back in the Roanoke area with his family. The day McAuliffe called to tell him of his exoneration, Roberta Bondurant said, he was coordinating a volunteer project.
“He’s at a place and time in his life where he’s at peace with himself,” she said. “It doesn’t help him at all in the time he has left on this planet to hold bitterness for anyone who made a mistake along the way.”
After the Feminist Majority Foundation promoted a Title IX complaint against the University of Mary Washington, primarily based on the public Virginia university’s failure to crack down harder on student use of the independent Yik Yak social media gossip platform, UMW President Richard Hurley in June wrote an unapologetic letter crisply refuting many of the group’s contentions. What do you think happened next? Sponsors amended their complaint to allege that Hurley’s letter itself constituted unlawful retaliation against persons invoking Title IX protection. “The [U.S. Department of Education’s] Office for Civil Rights announced its intent to investigate the university this month.” And now a group of 72 women’s and civil rights organizations, including the respectable American Association of University Women and Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, have “announced a campaign to enlist the federal government in pressuring colleges to protect students from harassment via anonymous social-media applications like Yik Yak.” [Eugene Volokh; Hans Bader; Chronicle of Higher Education; Fredericksburg, Va. Free Lance-Star (Hurley letter)] One thing’s for sure, someone is retaliating against something.
More: Eugene Volokh is out with a don’t-miss followup post analyzing the FMF complaints in much more depth, and noting that Hurley is being charged with retaliation for “engaging in normal public debate”:
Readers might recall the recent attempt to use Title IX to shut down critical speech as retaliation, in the Northwestern University / Prof. Laura Kipnis controversy…. This complaint is yet another such attempt.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, though a publisher of a magazine [Ms.], doesn’t seem to care much about the First Amendment rights of students, or of accused university officials. Its complaint goes far beyond constitutionally unprotected and rightly punishable speech, such as true threats of violence.
Instead, it faults the university for not stopping criticism of feminist arguments and feminist arguers, whether vulgar criticism or other criticism. It faults the university for speaking out, without vulgarities or epithets, in its own defense. And the premise of the complaint thus seems to be that one side of a debate has the right to speak — to condemn and to accuse — but the federal government should step in to stop the other side from responding.
It’s like some weird inversion of the (itself bad) big-city trend toward “ban-the-box” laws restricting private employers’ right to ask about criminal records: Amherst County, Virginia, has passed a law under which the county can revoke the business license of any business that employs a convicted felon, or one convicted of a misdemeanor involving “moral turpitude.” [Eugene Volokh]
You can listen via guest host Rick Sincere’s column at the Virginia political blog Bearing Drift.
Remarkable story of official malfeasance in Albemarle County (Charlottesville), Virginia: though now released from prison, “Mark Weiner has lost more than two years with his young son and with his wife, he’s lost his job, he’s lost his family home, and he’s lost every penny he ever had in savings or retirement accounts.” [Dahlia Lithwick, Slate]
- “On what planet is it remotely constitutional to *raid someone’s home* and forbid them from speaking about it?” [Julian Sanchez on new at-length National Review account of Wisconsin John Doe raids; my earlier writing on the raids at Cato and here; Scott Shackford, Reason; Walker opponents still defending John Doe proceeding, to praise from (updated) left-leaning national Alliance for Justice and Center for American Progress]
- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoes bill to provide more transparency in state’s hiring of outside counsel [Legal NewsLine]
- BuckyBalls gone, Zen Magnets still standing: “Two Cheers for 10th Circuit’s Temporary Stay of CPSC’s New Magnet Safety Standard” [Mark Chenoweth, WLF]
- Arkansas governor vetoes “right of publicity” bill [Volokh]
- NY Times profiles prolific privacy lawsuit filer Jay Edelson, whose class action firm we’ve met before;
- Recusal motion gamesmanship from trial lawyers at Illinois Supreme Court [Richard Samp, WLF]
- Law faculty diversity: Republican women “were — and are — almost missing from law teaching.” [James Lindgren, SSRN via TaxProf; more from Lindgren]