Search Results for ‘durbin’

Sen. Durbin’s “Stand Your Ground” intimidation

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a close ally of labor union and trial lawyer interests on Capitol Hill, is sending out hundreds of letters to groups linked to ALEC, the free-market group of state legislators that has occasionally involved itself in other issue areas like criminal and self-defense law, promising to shame those supporters at a public hearing for the notional link to the Trayvon Martin affair. (ALEC backed the passage of some state “stand-your-ground” laws, which as we have grown weary of repeating, did not form the basis for George Zimmerman’s successful claim of self-defense; a new Quinnipiac poll finds that American voters back “Stand Your Ground” laws by a 53-40 margin, so that campaign against these laws has evidently flopped badly)

Mostly these letters were designed to intimidate businesses that might support ALEC, but Durbin also sent one of the browbeating letters to the Cato Institute, which might have been a mistake. As related by colleague Ilya Shapiro:

Earlier this week, we received a letter from Durbin asking two questions (you’ll have to pardon the awkward grammar; this went out to hundreds of groups, so Durbin’s staff apparently had no time for proofing):

Has Cato Institute served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?

Does Cato Institute support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?

And, by the way, Durbin wants recipients of his polite inquiry to know, “I plan to convene a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to examine ‘stand your ground’ laws, and I intend to include the responses to my letters in the hearing record. Therefore, please know that your response will be publicly available.”

Well, I’m proud to say that Cato isn’t going along with this charade. Our president John Allison has responded to Durbin with a letter that I’ll quote in its entirety:

Dear Senator Durbin:

Your letter of August 6, 2013 is an obvious effort to intimidate those organizations and individuals who may have been involved in any way with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

While Cato is not intimidated because we are a think tank—whose express mission is to speak publicly to influence the climate of ideas—from my experience as a private-sector CEO, I know that business leaders will now hesitate to exercise their constitutional rights for fear of regulatory retribution.

Your letter thus represents a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It is a continuation of the trend of the current administration and congressional leaders, such as yourself, to menace those who do not share your political beliefs—as evidenced by the multiple IRS abuses that have recently been exposed.

Your actions are a subtle but powerful form of government coercion.

We would be glad to provide a Cato scholar to testify at your hearing to discuss the unconstitutional abuse of power that your letter symbolizes.

Sincerely,

John Allison

The Wall Street Journal is on the issue today, and so is the Chicago Tribune, reproaching hometown Sen. Durbin for his propensity to “use the power of his high federal office as a cudgel against his enemies.” Incidentally, while Cato takes no official position so far as I know on “Stand Your Ground” laws, I have been active in discussing them: in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Caller, Bloomberg TV, Cato podcast and other places, and in many places here, including discussions of the campaign against ALEC here, here, here, and here (Paul Krugman at his most careless). Do you think I could ask the Senator to shame me by name at the hearing?

P.S. One of the rare occasions when my opinions diverge from Ira Stoll’s.

Supreme Court roundup

  • Nice little Supreme Court you got there, be a shame if anyone came around to mess it up, say Sens. Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Hirono, and Durbin in incendiary “enemy-of-the-court” brief [Robert Barnes, Washington Post/Laredo Morning Times; David French, National Review; James Huffman, Inside Sources]
  • Cato podcast triple-header, all with Caleb Brown: Trevor Burrus and Ilya Shapiro on Gundy v. U.S. and the limits of Congressional delegation, Ilya Shapiro and Clark Neily on the aftermath of double-jeopardy case Gamble v. U.S., and Trevor Burrus on the First Amendment case Manhattan Community Access Corporation v. Halleck (cable public access channel not a state actor);
  • Criminal forfeiture, where used, should track lines of individual owner and asset responsibility, not the loose all-for-one joint-and-several-liability standards of some civil litigation [Trevor Burrus on Cato certiorari petition in Peithman v. U.S.]
  • Federalist Society National Student Symposium panel on “The Original Understanding of the Privileges and Immunities Clause” with Randy Barnett, Rebecca Zietlow, Kurt Lash, Ilan Wurman, and moderated by Judge Amul Thapar;
  • On the independence of administrative law judges, issues left over from Lucia v. U.S. are now coming back up in SEC proceedings [William Yeatman on Cato Fifth Circuit amicus brief in Cochran v. U.S.]
  • Take-land-now, pay-later procedures may get pipelines built faster but at the expense of property owners’ rights. SCOTUS should act to assure just and timely compensation [Ilya Shapiro on Cato certiorari petition in Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline]

Free speech roundup

  • New, much-anticipated documentary Can We Take a Joke? When Outrage and Comedy Collide [on demand, Greg Lukianoff] More on the fining of comedian Mike Ward by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal [Guardian, earlier]
  • “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” [@donaldjtrump Sunday on Twitter] 25 years ago in my stump speech on lawsuit reform I criticized Trump for his use of legal threats to silence critics. More reportage on that history, a familiar topic around here [Frances S. Sellers, Washington Post, earlier here, etc.]
  • Eighth Circuit: Nebraska regulators improperly retaliated against financial adviser over (inter alia) his criticism of Obama [Eugene Volokh]
  • Nine senators (Boxer, Durbin, Franken, Markey, Reid, Sanders, Schumer, Warren, Whitehouse): we demand 22 right-of-center think tanks open their donation records to us [Carolina Journal]
  • “Copyright infringer issues bogus DMCA over someone calling him out. Then denies all of it” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • Lawsuit demanding R ratings on films with “tobacco imagery” deserves to be hit with SLAPP sanctions; “suing the MPAA to force censorship raises the stakes.” [WSJ Law Blog, Scott Greenfield]

“Dems Assigned Conservative Groups to Attack on Senate Floor”

Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of the Hoover Institution, the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, or the Acton Institute? Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon:

Democratic senators have been assigned conservative nonprofit groups to call out by name on the chamber floor in speeches on Monday and Tuesday criticizing corporations and advocacy groups for opposing Democratic climate policies, internal emails reveal.

…[Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse and his allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), have crafted a schedule for floor speeches on Monday and Tuesday that assigns each participating Senator at least one group to go after by name.

Most of the groups have already been targeted by state Democratic officials that have undertaken a coordinated legal campaign against oil giant ExxonMobil since last year. Many were named in subpoenas sent to the company by state attorneys general as part of that effort.

The ringmaster, once again, is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — yes, that Sheldon Whitehouse, whose hometown Providence Journal rightly called out his current campaign to sic the law on improper climate opinion as likely to “have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence.” The leader on the House side is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), also getting to be a familiar name.

One reason this is more sinister than your ordinary political sideshow: the proposed concurrent resolution urges right-leaning nonprofits “to cooperate with active or future investigations” of purportedly unlawful opinion-slinging. One of the most junior senators, Gary Peters of Michigan, apparently drew the short straw in the heresy posse and was assigned to attack my own Cato Institute (which publishes this site) at 6:30 this evening.

The senators participating in this appalling exercise besides Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, and Peters, all Democrats, are Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Some early reactions: “All that is lacking are their public confessions” — Ronald Bailey at Reason (whose associated Reason Foundation is among the targets). “‘Assigned’ groups to attack? That sounds like middle school mean girl behavior.” [C.B. on Facebook] Peter Roff at U.S. News on how the Senators can’t (yet) make dissent illegal but can make it costly. And a reminder: the “Exxon Knew” crowd knew Whitehouse’s RICO-for-speech theory was wrong because their own allies had told them, but went ahead anyway.

More, Matt Welch at Reason:

…Since the targets of this shaming exercise are not being afforded the courtesy to rebut the charges in the forum at which they are being smeared, consider this a prebuttal…

This coordinated campaign would be an assault on free speech even if it were not drenched in conspiratorial inaccuracy. Democratic lawmakers, attorneys general, and activists are systematically singling out free-market think tanks for potential criminal prosecution and one-sided disclosure requirements based on the content of the think tanks’ research and commentary. They are literally trying to criminalize dissent. If successful, they will establish as “fraud” or “racketeering” any future think-tank work that runs afoul of political orthodoxy. …

Sadly, this heavy-handed act of government intimidation will likely go as unnoticed as Hillary Clinton’s long track record against free speech. Why? Because generally speaking both the mainstream press and the organized left reserve their First Amendment outrage for politicians they disagree with. Their silence is shameful, and deafening.

The senators’ action this week is no hyperbolic one-off: Prosecuting ungood climatology is baked right into the Democratic Party Platform. The two major Democratic nominees for president agree.

[Updated to correct error on Lachlan Markay’s name, sorry]

Banking and finance roundup

  • “Why We Could not Bail Out Mortgage Borrowers” [Arnold Kling]
  • Here come the Wall Street pay clawback rules [John Carney/WSJ MoneyBeat Blog, more, yet more] Jesse Fried on “Rationalizing the Dodd-Frank Clawback” [SSRN via Bainbridge]
  • Price controls on credit card interchange fees: “the folks who supported the Durbin amendment [to Dodd-Frank] should be ashamed of themselves” [Bill Isaac, quoted by Kevin Funnell]
  • New light on whether Treasury handling of Fannie and Freddie bailouts violated existing creditor or shareholder rights [Peter Van Doren, Cato]
  • “Dollar Value of Securities Class-Action Settlements Surges” [WSJ Law Blog on Cornerstone Research analysis, Insurance Journal]
  • Some reasons to think that actual tax evasion falls far short of what was speculated in the wake of the Panama Papers story [Tim Worstall] Legal confidentiality was breached in that episode. Should we be celebrating? [Tyler Cowen] Economist mag proposes more regulation of offshore, not so fast [Bainbridge first, second]

Liability roundup

  • Cohen Milstein contracts with attorney general on opioid claims: “New Hampshire’s fleet of private pirate lawyers” [editorial, Manchester Union-Leader] Transparency in Private Attorney Contracting (TiPAC) legislation would help [Tiger Joyce] New Louisiana AG Jeff Landry cancels Buddy Caldwell contracts with outside law firms [Louisiana Record] States with governor-appointed AGs have seen fewer scandals than the majority in which the post is elected [Phil Goldberg, RCP]
  • Judge declines to dismiss Newtown families’ suit against rifle maker Remington Arms, PLCAA notwithstanding [Connecticut Post] Sandy Hook gun lawsuit “almost surely won’t succeed, nor should it.” [USA Today editorial] More: David French [extremely narrow ruling went to jurisdiction only, PLCAA as bar to recovery explicitly not at issue]
  • Sen. Dick Durbin, long a guardian of trial lawyer interests, leads opposition to federal bill on transparency in asbestos claims [Illinois Business Daily]
  • Judge tosses one wrongful death suit against Porsche over Paul Walker crash, another still pending [EOnline, earlier] GM ignition bellwether trials going exceptionally badly for plaintiffs as judge dismisses all but one claim in spun-out-on-black-ice case [Daniel Fisher]
  • Litigation destroys business confidentiality and that’s by design [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law]
  • “Justice Scalia’s Product Liability Legacy” [Anand Agneshwar and Emily M. May (Arnold & Porter), Lexology]
  • After State Farm defeats hailstorm claim, judge threatens to sanction Texas attorney Steve Mostyn [Southeast Texas Record]

Environment roundup

  • Judge Royce Lamberth: EPA “offensively unapologetic” about its failures to comply with FOIA requests [Josh Gerstein/Politico, Washington Post, Courthouse News]
  • Cato President and CEO John Allison to Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.): “Your letter of February 25, 2015 is an obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don’t like. … you abuse your authority when you attempt to intimidate people who don’t share your political beliefs.” [Patrick Michaels, Cato; earlier Allison rebuff to intimidating tactics by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)]
  • Smithfield Foods questions plaintiffs’ lawyers’ client recruitment methods in North Carolina farm-nuisance suit [Wilmington Star News]
  • “Can Market Urbanism Revive U.S. Cities?” [Scott Beyer]
  • Addressing sweetheart don’t-force-us-to-regulate consent decrees: “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act” would “require regulatory agencies to give public notice when they learn of a lawsuit that could eventually impose a federal rule” and “[give] outside parties an opportunity to intervene in the court case” [American Action Forum, U.S. Chamber in 2013]
  • After nine-year battle, Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service will let Native American pastor use sacred eagle feathers [WSJ via Becket Fund, Kristina Arriaga, Daily Caller, earlier on eagle feathers and the law here, here, etc.]
  • “Yes, Gov. Whitman, states may choose which federal laws to implement” [Jonathan Adler]

Sheldon Silver and lawyers in politics

Sheldon Silver’s arrest prompts Jeffrey Toobin to relate a war story regarding the now-defunct law firm known as Morris Eisen, P.C., “an outfit so extravagantly corrupt, so hilariously dishonest, and so creatively malign as almost to defy belief.” (I’ve written a number of times about the Eisen firm myself.) Eisen’s son-in-law, who had gotten his start with the firm, went on to found the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver had his no-visible-duties job and to which he occasionally sent lucrative asbestos referrals from his friends at the Columbia clinic and elsewhere.

Weitz & Luxenberg (which has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the federal investigation, and says it has asked Silver to take a leave of absence) is also a big political player nationally, not just in New York. As Kim Strassel notes at the WSJ, “Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top contributor from 2009 to 2014 was Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm played the same role for Bruce Braley, the trial-lawyer Democrat who just lost an Iowa Senate race.” The other large asbestos firm to receive lucrative patient referrals from Dr. Robert Taub’s now-discontinued Columbia University mesothelioma center is the Simmons firm of Illinois, another big political donor that Strassel says has been the single biggest backer of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

Previously on the Silver arrest here and here. More: “Tarnished Silver: Speaker’s arrest upends most everything in Albany” [Andrew Hawkins, Crain’s New York (“his support for the teachers’ union has kept education reformers at bay”); Henry Goldman, Bloomberg; Wayne Barrett on Silver’s “Friends of Shelly” network of pals, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (“In his varied posts, Lippman has long overseen the very courts hearing the asbestos and other cases brought by Silver’s firm.”)

And this Joseph Nocera column from the weekend, which is particularly strong on Silver’s influence over the judiciary in New York, built up through methods all “perfectly legal.” But note this NYT correction stating that Nocera’s discussion of the judiciary in that column was “premised on several factual errors.” (More on that: New York Sun.) The New York Post believes the feds are sniffing around Manhattan trial courts.

Politics roundup

  • California may lead in number of arrested lawmaker scandals but jealous New York vows to catch up [NYDN]
  • Will voters in hotly contested Massachusetts primary remember Martha Coakley’s central role in the Amirault travesty of justice?
  • “State of unions: Illinois’ big unionized workforce has become a big campaign issue” [Peoria Journal Star] Teachers’ union top priority: unseat GOP governors [Politico]
  • In which I’m quoted saying relatively favorable things about left-leaning New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout (though “enjoyed interacting with” is a long way from “would consider voting for”) [Capital New York]
  • Meet the trial-lawyer-driven group behind the Rick Perry indictment [Texas Tribune; more of what’s up in Texas]
  • Senate incumbents Reid, Pryor, and Durbin and hopeful Bruce Braley among recipients of asbestos law firm money [MCR, Legal NewsLine] Key trial lawyer ally Durbin has slipped in polls [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Montana Democrats’ candidate for U.S. Senate looking a little Wobbly [Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon; A. Barton Hinkle, Richmond Times-Dispatch; #wobblydem]

“How the patent trolls won in Congress”

Sen. Harry Reid seems to have been central:

“We felt really good the last couple of days,” said the tech lobbyist. “It was a good deal—one we could live with. Then the trial lawyers and pharma went to Senator Reid late this morning and said that’s it. Enough with the children playing in the playground—go kill it.”…

Trial lawyers are heavy donors to Democratic politicians, including Reid. … The long history of the divide over other kinds of legal tort reform loomed over the bill, which was dubbed the Innovation Act in the House. The fact that it was the trial lawyers’ lobby that reportedly delivered the death blow suggests that the rift only got wider as debate dragged on.

Key Litigation Lobby allies like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) spoke out against the legislation on the Senate floor. [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica]