May 22 roundup

  • My comment on the House-passed H.R. 5: “Proposed Equality Act would 1) massively expand federal liability in areas unrelated to sex, gender, or orientation; 2) turn 1000s of routine customer gripes into federal public-accommodations cases; 3) squeeze conscience exemptions hard. All are good reasons to oppose.” More: Scott Shackford, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Hans Bader, and earlier here and here;
  • America is not in a constitutional crisis: “Politicians have become incentivized to declare constitutional crises because it enhances their own importance as saviors and demonizes their opponents as illegitimate.” [Keith Whittington; Vox mini-symposium with Ilya Somin and others] Mike McConnell vs. Josh Chafetz on whether the current Congressional subpoena fights are really that different from politics of the past [Jonathan Adler] Calm, down-the-middle analysis of the issues raised by the Mueller report [Cato Institute chairman Bob Levy]
  • “Mercedes Goes To Court To Get Background Use Of Public Murals In Promotional Pics Deemed Fair Use” [Timothy Geigner]
  • Bizarro sovereign-citizen notions are found in the background of more than a few serious financial fraud cases [Ashley Powers, New York Times]
  • Divestment and sanctions by state governments aimed at other U.S. states is a bad idea that never seems to go away. Now it’s being floated in Maryland, against Alabama [my Free State Notes post]
  • “A federal judge in Texas wants you to know she’s sick and tired of whiny lawyers” [Justin Rohrlich, Quartz from December, Brad Heath on Twitter; Align Technology v. ClearCorrect, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore]

D.C. considers deputizing citizen parking enforcers

“A proposal before the D.C. Council would allow up to 80 regular citizens, 10 in each ward, to issue tickets to vehicles parked where they aren’t allowed — blocking crosswalks, in bike lanes, in front of bus stops.” What could go wrong? [Luz Lazo, Washington Post, also Laredo Morning Times]

Still, others say most people would prefer enforcement be left to trained, public employees.

“Public officials may be far from perfect .?.?. but there is that extra layer that at least you can train them and they are likely to have the time on the job that allows them to build up their expertise,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. They also have protocols to follow — and a job at stake.

“The cellphone evidence can go a long way, but it still doesn’t always tell the whole story,” he said. “A lot of times you are going to have people who are genuinely guilty and you will be enforcing the law as it was intended to be enforced. But traffic enforcement does have a lot of judgment calls.”

But Olson says he can see why the practice would be attractive to cities.

“The city gets more revenue without having to pay salaries,” he said. “The potential increase in ticket revenue would get their interest right away.”

Social media clues to an AFL-CIO shift

First the labor organization’s official account tweeted out a joke about dealing with an adverse employer, Delta, by way of a guillotine, though it later deleted the tweet as not consistent with its values. But then days later it ran in all apparent seriousness a video of a “Marxist, roofer” narrator urging viewers to seize the means of production (“Means TV” describes itself as “the first anti-capitalist worker-owned streaming platform”). This is not your mom’s or dad’s AFL-CIO [Christian Britschgi, Reason; Noah Rothman, Commentary] Time for some member unions to begin thinking of disaffiliating?

Supreme Court roundup

  • Will the liberal wing’s success at piecing together 5-4 majorities survive Justice Kennedy’s departure? [Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson, Bloomberg] Fundamental restructuring of Supreme Court becomes a popular campaign issue with Democrats, and the dangers in that [Ilya Shapiro, Washington Examiner] More: Gorsuch, Kavanaugh differ often, we can see clearly now [Jonathan Adler and update]
  • Federalist Society video on stare decisis with Roger Pilon, and related by Pilon on constitutional stare decisis;
  • The high court decides relatively few admiralty/maritime cases but has heard more than one of them this term; one artist’s whimsical illustration [@CourtArtist on Twitter]
  • In writing opinions, “the justices should be careful about naming politicians, especially when they name in order to make a point about the political process.” [Josh Blackman, The Atlantic]
  • A constitutional right to religious exemptions from otherwise applicable laws? Eugene Volokh still backs Scalia’s logic on that, but it’s looking as if Court’s conservative wing may not. Cleanup in the Lemon aisle: Michael McConnell on Maryland Peace Cross case [Volokh Conspiracy]
  • New resource: database of all Supreme Court nomination hearing transcripts that are yet available (with Kavanaugh’s still to come) [Shoshana Weissmann and Anthony Marcum, R Street]

“Conan O’Brien: Why I Decided to Settle a Lawsuit Over Alleged Joke Stealing”

People come up with the same joke independently from each other all the time. What to do when someone insists he has been stolen from? Late-night host Conan O’Brien: “This saga ended with the gentleman in San Diego and I deciding to resolve our dispute amicably. I stand by every word I have written here, but I decided to forgo a potentially farcical and expensive jury trial in federal court over five jokes that don’t even make sense anymore. Four years and countless legal bills have been plenty.” [Variety; Mike Masnick, TechDirt]

Liability roundup

  • Oakland jury tells Monsanto to pay $2 billion over claim that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though the consensus among scientists is that it doesn’t [Tina Bellon, Reuters, earlier] Both sides in glyphosate trial bombarded Bay Area residents with local paid messaging; did Monsanto use geofencing to run ads on phones inside the courthouse itself? [Scott Greenfield, ABA Journal] Was judge in previous Bay Area glyphosate case swayed by P.R. campaign aimed at her? [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine]
  • “Police say Rodriguez was looking at her phone while walking across tracks” [AP/KOIN; Oregon woman suing rail companies over injury]
  • Liability reform in Florida, so often stymied in the past, may have clearer road ahead with arrival of new state high court majority [John Haughey, Florida Watchdog]
  • Not just mesh, either: “Top 5 Eyebrow-Raising Provisions in Mesh Attorneys’ Retainer Agreements” [Elizabeth Chamblee Burch]
  • What is a Maryland General Assembly session without a special fast-track bill to hot-wire money to the benefit of asbestos lawyer Peter Angelos? But this year’s ran aground [Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters; John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine]
  • Car accident scam in eastern Connecticut reaped estimated $600,000 from as many as 50 staged crashes [AP/WTIC]

Illinois legislation would mandate corporate board quotas

The Illinois House has passed a bill “to require every publicly traded corporation headquartered here to include at least one woman and one African-American on its board of directors. The Senate version calls for a Latino as well. Corporations that fail to meet the quota would be fined up to $100,000.” Terrible bill, as well as a good way to discourage businesses from headquartering in Illinois. University of Chicago law professor Todd Henderson expects that if the bill passes courts will strike it down as unconstitutional [Chicago Tribune editorial] More: Hans Bader.

London police gather kitchen knives for destruction

From a verified police account in London, a city that’s been pursuing an anti-knife campaign. Note the foil (or is it an épée?), the spoon, and enough chef’s, paring, bread, and steak knives to get a half-dozen households launched on a lifelong mission of eating well.

May 15 roundup

  • “Banana Costume Copyright Assailed at Third Circuit” [Emilee Larkin, Courthouse News, earlier]
  • In a new piece for The Bulwark, I sort through some comments by presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg critical of identity politics;
  • Supreme Court’s decision in Apple v. Pepper, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining four liberals, takes a little nick out of Illinois Brick doctrine limiting antitrust suits [my new Cato post]
  • Ninth Circuit will soon hear case in which judge ordered Idaho prison system to provide inmate with transgender surgery; I’m quoted saying lower court decision amounted to battle of the experts [Amanda Peacher, NPR/KBSX, plus followup piece (“medical necessity” not a fixed standard, definitions of cruel and unusual punishment hitched in some ways to public opinion) and NPR “Morning Edition”; audio clip]
  • “The Moral Panic Behind Internet Regulation” [Matthew Lesh, Quillette] “A Single Global Standard for Internet Content Regulation Is a Recipe for Censorship” [Jacob Mchangama, Quillette] And Jonah Goldberg on right-wing rage at social media platform moderation;
  • Some politicos in Britain engage in “‘karaoke Thatcherism’, preaching low-tax, low-regulation mantras divorced from new challenges or detail,” then falling for truly bad ideas like laws to assure real estate tenants indefinite tenure against owners’ wishes [Ryan Bourne]