Zen Magnets prevails in CPSC action

Six years into its battle, tiny-magnet maker Zen Magnets has won another key round against the Consumer Product Safety Commission in court, persuading a Colorado federal court to reverse a Commission order ordering a halt to its sales [Nancy Nord] A larger and at the time better known maker of tiny magnet sets, Buckyballs, folded under the Commission’s pressure. More on Zen Magnets’ fight here and here.

U.K.: “Accident management company ordered to pay record £70,000 in exemplary damages”

In what is believed to be the highest such award in the United Kingdom, MS Globenet Ltd. has been ordered to pay £70,000 [US $93,000] after being “found to be involved in 20 cases related to a major fraud ring, operating primarily in north London between 2012 and 2014.” An insurance company brought suit for “tort of deceit” and a judge found that the alleged accidents were fraudulent and that a director of the accident services firm “had been knowingly complicit in the fraud.” [Neil Rose, Litigation Futures; Insurance Times]

Judge skeptical toward New York City climate lawsuit

“New York City’s attempt to hold five of the world’s biggest oil companies responsible for damage from global warming didn’t seem to impress a judge during oral arguments Wednesday to determine if a lawsuit can proceed.” Judge John F. Keenan grilled the city about its standing to sue, its own investments in the energy sector, and its attempt to dress up an already-lost challenge to emissions as a not-yet-tried challenge to sales of products resulting in emissions.

“Aren’t the plaintiffs using the product?” Keenan asked. “Does the city have clean hands?”

“Yes, the city uses fossil fuels,” [plaintiff’s attorney Matthew] Pava responded.

[Larry Neumeister, AP/ABC News] More: John O’Brien/Forbes, Erin Mundahl, Inside Sources (15 state attorneys general file amicus brief on defendants’ side]

Higher education roundup

  • New York Times tackles a story of lopsided Title IX process [Michael Powell, NYT on Keith Mumphery Michigan State case] Federal court spanks Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island over kangaroo court [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus] U.S. Department of Justice “has filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit challenging the University of Michigan’s controversial speech code policies” [Nikita Vladimirov, Campus Reform]
  • “Judges,” he told the crowd, “cannot be intimidated,” and “Lawsuits are won and lost in the courtrooms, not in the streets.” Gail Heriot gives Stanley Mosk his due;
  • Suing for faculty positions: “While I find it regrettable that university faculties are so politicized that good candidates like Teresa Manning get rejected, I think it would be even worse to have some law or regulation against discrimination based on politics.” [George Leef]
  • “As many as one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges are now classified as disabled, largely because of mental-health issues such as depression or anxiety, entitling them to a widening array of special accommodations like longer time to take exams” [Douglas Belkin, WSJ]
  • Diversity follies in STEM [Heather Mac Donald, City Journal] University of Michigan employs 93 full-time diversity staffers [Mark Perry]
  • “Six Ideas to De-Politicize the American Campus” [Martin Center]

What Not To Wear, Minnesota polling place edition

In its decision yesterday in Minnesota Voters Alliance v Mansky, the Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law banning political apparel at polls ran afoul of the First Amendment. The ruling was 7-2, a classic line-up in which the conservatives, Ginsburg, and Kagan joined in a strong free speech stand while Sotomayor and Breyer were more deferential toward speech restrictions. Cato had urged in a brief that the law be overturned.

For the majority, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that while the aim of Minnesota’s law was constitutionally acceptable (keeping peaceful order and preventing electioneering at the polls) the details of its drafting were not. “A rule whose fair enforcement requires an election judge to maintain a mental index of the platforms and positions of every candidate and party on the ballot is not reasonable.” So the proposition is not that states can’t regulate the wearing of campaign paraphernalia into the polling place, but that Minnesota needs to come up with rules that are more readily enforced in an even-handed way. More: Eugene Volokh; Trevor Burrus; Andrew Grossman on Twitter (“decision is exceedingly narrow and will only hit the most outlier state laws. Still, a nice win for expressive rights.”)

Partisan gerrymandering: what the Court could do

At Five Thirty-Eight, Galen Druke provides a helpful breakdown of the different ways the Supreme Court might resolve or fail to resolve the Wisconsin and Maryland partisan gerrymandering cases, Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. Briefly, the Court could 1) find partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional, and accept the theory of either the Wisconsin or the Maryland case, which are quite different from each other; 2) find it unconstitutional and announce or at least gesture toward a standard other than those urged in the two cases; 3) duck the whole thing on grounds such as standing or mootness; 4) reject the Wisconsin and Maryland theories while leaving the door open (as in Vieth) for a future case to bring in the right theory; 5) reject the suits and all future claims of this sort as not justiciable, which would require Anthony Kennedy’s crossing to join the conservatives’ position in earlier cases; 6) kick the cases to next term, when they could be joined by a North Carolina case; or 7) splinter in some way that resolves the case without letting one of the above outcomes command five votes. A decision of some sort is expected by the end of the term June 25.

The government ordered us to say this, lead paint abatement edition

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates the renovation of homes and other buildings containing lead paint and other hazards, and it recently went after a high-profile pair of violators, namely Chip and Joanna Gaines of the popular HGTV show Fixer Upper, for not following its rules in renovations shown on the show. “In addition to the fines and cleanup costs, the [EPA] settlement instructed Chip Gaines to discuss lead safety in an episode of the show and promote it on social media.” [Umair Irfan, Vox]

AT&T Time Warner merger

My new piece at CNN begins by noting that antitrust law has moved on since the Truman era, even if the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t quite:

In 1948 the US Supreme Court ordered Hollywood studios to sell their movie theaters, following the then-popular idea that the government should police marketplace competition by restraining businesses’ vertical integration — or as we might put it these days, by ordering content kept separate from distribution.

The surprise in 2018 is not so much that US District Judge Richard Leon rejected the government’s challenge to the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger. That much was expected by most antitrust watchers. The shock came from the stinging way he rejected the government’s evidence — using language such as “gossamer thin” and “poppycock.”

CNN, of course, is owned by merger participant Time Warner. The question is not whether vertical integration will happen in video delivery, but whether older companies will be allowed to catch up. For Washington to block a merger like this, I suggest, “would be as futile as attempting to separate Net from Flix or You from Tube.”

June 13 roundup

  • Put a Plimsoll line on a T-shirt and you might hear from trademark lawyers [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica]
  • “Do Landlords Have a Duty to Evict Drug-Using Tenants (or Face Liability if Guests Die When Using Drugs with Them)?” [Eugene Volokh]
  • Interview with Judge Jeffrey Sutton about his new book on state constitutions, “51 Imperfect Solutions: States and the Making of American Constitutional Law” [Ilya Somin, parts one and two] Federalist Society teleforum with Judge Sutton, Randy Barnett, and Judge William Pryor;
  • “American Airlines bans insects, hedgehogs and goats as emotional support animals” [CNNMoney/WQAD] Peacocks begone: “JetBlue Updates Requirements for Emotional Support Animals” [press release]
  • Gov. Hogan vs. teachers’ unions, pension mandate, a socialist for MoCo County Executive?, and more in my latest Maryland roundup [Free State Notes]
  • “A Devastated Puerto Rico Must Still Contend with the Jones Act” [Cato Podcast with Colin Grabow and Caleb Brown, earlier]