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]
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.
[Updated to correct error on Lachlan Markay’s name, sorry]
- Michigan Supreme Court race: three seats at stake, including Stephen Markman’s [Charles Crumm/Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun, Collin Levy, WSJ]
- Notable state attorney general races include West Virginia, Missouri, Montana [Ballotpedia, Governing; Carrie Severino, NRO] Battle of the sleazy ads in Washington race [Seattle Times]
- “Fixed-income retiree” in Kaine ad turns out to be well-connected Virginia trial lawyer [Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner ] “33% of settlements is a fixed income, in a way” [Chris DeRose]
- Federal free-cellphone scheme enriches some political influentials [Washington Free Beacon]
- History of judicial elections in the US: rethinking the received account [Stuart Banner, Jotwell, on Jed Shugerman]
- After election, expect renewed push for limits on campaign spending [Ira Stoll]
- John Roberts’ doing? “Supreme Court not top campaign issue,” didn’t come up at debates [USA Today] Do libertarians fare better with Republican presidents’ Supreme Court picks, or just libertarian lawprofs? [Bernstein, Radia, etc.]
Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch criticizes the trial lawyers’ association for excluding the press from its annual convention, but the tactic seems to have worked pretty well in lowering the group’s lobbying profile and deflecting serious coverage of the parade of politicians, from Nancy Pelosi to Henry Waxman to DNC chair and Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who have made the pilgrimage as speakers to pay their respects. More: AAJ’s response.
Better late than never:
Virginia Tech has provided some of Seung Hui Cho’s medical records to a panel investigating the April 16 massacre, after negotiating with family members to waive their privacy rights….
The records were released after weeks of frustration among the eight panel members over not being able to analyze Cho’s mental health in the years leading to the massacre, the worst mass shooting by an individual in U.S. history….
…panel officials said Thursday that they will continue to press for additional records, which also are protected under state and federal privacy laws.
(Tim Craig, “Panel Given Some Medical Files on Cho”, Washington Post, Jun. 15). And from a Thursday news report, also in the Post:
Authorities’ abilities to identify potentially dangerous mentally ill people are crippled across the nation by the same kinds of conflicts in privacy laws that prevented state officials from being able to intervene before Seung Hui Cho went on his rampage at Virginia Tech, according to a federal report commissioned after the Blacksburg shootings that was presented to President Bush yesterday.
Because school administrators, doctors and police officials rarely share information about students and others who have mental illnesses, troubled people don’t get the counseling they need, and authorities are often unable to prevent them from buying handguns, the report says.
Vienna, Va. attorney Thomas J. Fadoul, Jr., who represents twenty victim families, has threatened to sue unless a family representative is appointed to the panel investigating the massacre so as to help “steer” its proceedings; Virginia governor Tim Kaine has replied that the panel was chosen so as not to include parties involved, and noted that the panel does not include any representative of Virginia Tech itself.
In Washington state, voters defeated I-330, a doctor-backed plan to limit medical malpractice awards and lawyers’ fees, by about a 54-46 margin, while also drubbing I-336. a lawyer-backed alternative (Seattle P-I, Seattle Times). California voters trounced, by a 61-39 margin, Proposition 79, which would have regulated drug prices via freelance lawsuits among other means; they defeated Proposition 78, a drug-industry-backed alternative, by nearly as wide a margin. (L.A. Times, Sacramento Bee). In Virginia, former Richmond mayor and Democrat Tim Kaine, who had been criticized by the American Justice Partnership (Nov. 2), won the governorship anyway (Wash. Post). Texas voters easily passed an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment that Houston attorney Warren Cole, chairman of the State Bar of Texas’ family law section, called “horribly drafted” and which would prohibit the recognition of any “legal status” that is “similar to marriage” (more from Cathy Young)(see yesterday’s post) (Dallas Morning News) (cross-posted at Point of Law).
Looking forward to next Tuesday’s election:
* The American Justice Partnership is blasting Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine, noting that while a practicing trial lawyer he was sanctioned by a court for filing a suit deemed meritless and that while mayor of Richmond he asked staffers to look into the possibility of having the city sue gun manufacturers. For an account of the 1989 suit, see AP coverage, Jan. 10, and this Commonwealth Conservative post, the comments section of which indicates the Kaine campaign’s response. The Kaine campaign’s response on the gun-suit issue is here.
* * In California, campaigning continues on Proposition 79 (see Oct. 26), which would among other provisions empower anyone to sue pharmaceutical companies for the vaguely defined offense of “profiteering”. (William Finn Bennett, “Libertarians blast both prescription drug initiatives”, North County Times, Oct. 29). The Civil Justice Association of California strongly opposes the measure, as should we all.
* Washington state doctors and lawyers continue to battle down to the wire on legal-fee limits (see Ted Frank, PoL, Sept. 12) and now the lawyers appear to have thrown in the towel on their counter-initiative so as to devote all resources to defeating the doctor-backed I-330. (Ralph Thomas, “Doctors, lawyers toss mud to tout message”, Seattle Times, Oct. 10; Seattle Times, “Lawyers’ new goal: Defeat I-330”, Oct. 31) (via KevinMD). Pro-I-330 forces have put up a website whose contents, like its name, are rather rude: TheirLipsAreMoving.com (if you need the reference to the old lawyer joke explained, visit the site). And Arizona doctors are studying the Washington initiative with an eye to possibly launching one of their own, despite trial lawyers’ threats of a revenge-initiative if they do (Phil Riske, “Doctors, lawyers still might square off on the ballot”, Arizona Capitol Times, Oct. 31).
The mother of two Mississippi boys injured in a fireworks accident has sued the company that manufactured the shell. Straightforward enough: if a company holds a fireworks display, one normally expects it not to leave behind undetonated fireworks. The newspaper account, however, hides some critical details in the back of the story:
A report filed by Pascagoula police Sgt. George Tillman stated that he was told that LaBarron’s father, Gregory Powe, told them, “See if it will light.” [Nine-year-old] Kaine Price lit the powder with a lighter.
Tillman’s report said he also spoke to Powe about the incident. “(Powe) advised that he had seen that the boys had poured the stuff on the sea wall. He advised that he said, I wonder if that stuff will light,” according to the report.
Powe told Tillman that he didn’t realize his statement might prompt the boys to light the explosive material.
(Brad Crocker, Pascagoula Mississippi Press, Sep. 26). It’s one thing to hold a fireworks company responsible because unsupervised children injured themselves with their explosives–though one would expect children of a certain age to be well aware that they shouldn’t be playing with lighters. But shouldn’t some societal culpability rest with a parent present who not only failed to intervene to stop children playing with explosives and a lighter, but egged on reckless behavior?
Mississippi recently adopted reforms that limit the damages of a defendant that is less than 30% responsible to 50% of economic damages and the defendant’s share of non-economic damages. But many other states allow a defendant who was only partially responsible to be required to bear the full share of damages if the other tortfeasors are judgment-proof under the principle of “joint and several liability.”