August 20 roundup

  • UK: “British newspapers can legitimately mock parrots and compare them to psychopaths, the press regulator has ruled, after an unsuccessful complaint that the Daily Star misrepresented the emotions of a pet bird.” [Jim Waterson, Guardian]
  • Cato scholars regularly crisscross the country talking to students. Book one (maybe me) at your campus this Fall [Cato Policy Report]
  • Local-government preemption, single-use plastics, lemonade stands, Sen. Cardin on redistricting: my new post at Free State Notes recounts my experience attending the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference;
  • Can a police officer be criminally prosecuted for refusing to risk his life to stop a school shooter? [Eugene Volokh on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School case]
  • I’m quoted on press freakout over new proposed religious liberty regs: “This is a narrowly drawn rule for a minority of federal contractors. It’s really not that radical and not that new.” [Brad Palumbo, Washington Examiner]
  • Beware proposals that would transform antitrust law into general bludgeon for avenging all sorts of grievance against big business [Glenn Lammi, WLF]


  • The mocked parrot will cancel its subscription.


  • “Can a police officer be criminally prosecuted for refusing to risk his life to stop a school shooter?”

    Well, doesn’t that depend on (a) the statute and (b) the facts?

    In theory, if the statute was clear, then yes. Omission under a legal duty has always supported criminal liability. In the case of refusing, obviously, there are judgments to be made about causation etc., but some pretty nebulous causation theories have supported criminal liability. The best argument, I would think, under existing law, would be some sort of reliance issue–if the police officer lied about what he was doing so that other police acted differently to the detriment of the victims,, then there are theories that could support criminal liability in that case.

    Police in general ought to worry about the “omission under a legal duty” issue—when a cop commits police brutality in the presence of other cops and the other cops do nothing . . . . .

    • It seems like your analysis relates more to civil liability than criminal. A breach of a legal duty is only criminal if some provision makes the particular breach subject to criminal penalties.

    • The big problem with your analysis on a civil liability front, SCOTUS long ago gave cops absolute immunity against suits for failing to protect someone. As a matter of federal slaw, cops have no duty to protect anyone under any circumstances.

  • In regards to the Florida deputy case:
    An interesting wrinkle is that the people that he “pledged” to protect, were, by law, prevented from protecting themselves.
    It is akin to the Fire Dept. making extinguishers illegal in your residence, and then refusing to respond to a fire.

    • ed,
      That kind of puts an end to the “you don’t need a gun, the Police are there to protect you” argument.

    • Well, not quite–fire extinguishers don’t kill people.

      But the point is well-taken.

      • I’m fairly certain one could kill someone with a fire extinguisher without too much difficulty. It’s a heavy, rigid, club-like object – a natural bludgeon. But that’s beside the point, as guns don’t kill people, either.

        • And your comment makes my point.