Author Archive

IRS back to hiring private collection agencies

We’ve posted several times about federal tax authorities’ on-again, off-again use of private tax collectors on contingency fees to collect back taxes. As with other varieties of law enforcement for profit in which the middleman is enabled to keep residual dollars, the practice seems to encourage the taking of a hard line against taxpayers, especially when the private collectors can use tactics and methods forbidden to government agents. Now, after a hiatus, the IRS is returning to the use of private collectors, a change in law for which Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) apparently deserve much of the credit, if credit is the right word [Alex Richards and Brad Wolverton, NerdWallet, earlier]

Montana legislature: ABA, take a hike with that 8.4 rule

In passing Senate Joint Resolution 15, the Montana legislature has expressed its view that it would be unconstitutional for the state to adopt the ABA’s controversial Model Rule 8.4(g), which purports to ban “discrimination” and “harassment” in the legal profession in such a way as to cut into rights of lawyers’ speech and association, some of them distinctive to their role as client advocates [text, status Gavel to Gavel] Eugene Volokh has more here. We’ve previously linked Volokh’s debates with prominent lawyers on the subject, and here’s another, under Federalist Society auspices, this time against Robert Weiner of Arnold & Porter. Earlier here, here, etc.

Steve Berman takes on pharmaceutical pricing

Profile of veteran class action and mass action lawyer Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro quotes me [Damien Garde, STAT]:

“You will search with some difficulty for people who successfully do what he does and do not have a big personality,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. “As is the case with birds, it helps both to deter competitors and intimidate enemies when you have a large feather display.”

Progressive politicos helped hotel industry as it schemed to strangle AirBnB

At the New York Times, Katie Benner investigates documents from the hotel industry’s intensive efforts to use government regulation to derail competition from AirBnB, which focused especially on cultivating “alliances with politicians, affordable housing groups and neighborhood associations” as well as hotel unions:

The association also sought help from politicians in Washington. In its documents, the group said it had worked with Senators Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Dianne Feinstein of California. The three Democrats sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in July “raising concerns about the short-term rental industry,” one of the hotel association documents said.

More: Eric Boehm, Reason.

Free speech roundup

  • “Keeping this case in a pending status gives us one hell of a club” — how Nixon used antitrust to intimidate media [Guy Rolnik, Stigler Center ProMarket] For ruthlessness in bullying hostile press, Nixon and LBJ had nothing on FDR and his New Dealers [David Beito]
  • In which I display impatience with Claremont Colleges student no-platformers who signed a letter defending speaker shout-downs and demanding that conservative student journalists be disciplined [Scott Greenfield, more from Heather Mac Donald, earlier on shout-down of Mac Donald] More: statement by FIRE president Greg Lukianoff on situation at UC Berkeley. And: the campus speech wars reach Hood College [my new Free State Notes post]
  • Three reasons, none of them flattering, why GOP lawmakers might sign onto wacky tollgate-for-adult-material scheme [Elizabeth Nolan Brown; Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, Daily Beast with more on promoter Chris Sevier and so-called Human Trafficking Prevention Act]
  • American Legislative Exchange Council, conservative group of state legislators that has itself been a target of anti-speech campaigns, launches Center to Protect Free Speech with focus on campus speech, donor privacy and commercial speech;
  • Flemming Rose: “I’m Not Willing to Sacrifice Freedom of Expression on the Altar of Cultural Diversity” [Reason interview with Nick Gillespie]
  • “But is it not shocking that virtuous characters should be defamed?” replied the Baron. “Let their actions refute such libels,” continued the President. An anecdote of Jefferson and Humboldt [David Post]

Environment roundup

  • Power to regulate interstate commerce includes power to keep property owner from evicting a prairie dog? Sounds rational to Tenth Circuit [Ilya Shapiro and David McDonald]
  • Dimock, Pa. episode was central to anti-fracking lore including movie “Gasland,” now judge has overturned $4 million verdict in case [Timothy Cama, The Hill]
  • “EPA Employees Organize Against Taxpayers” [NPR via David Boaz on Twitter]
  • Sweetheart consent decrees (“sue and settle”) enable agencies to bypass notice-and-comment rulemaking in adopting controversial rules, as with EPA natural gas plant rule [WLF]
  • Judge rebukes Delaware Riverkeeper in FERC pipeline case [Erin Mundahl, Inside Sources]
  • On the way out, President Obama designated vast tract of Atlantic ocean as “monument,” forbidding commercial fishing. Irrational as policy, as law, and as procedure [Jonathan Wood]

Interviewed about lawyers in America

Joseph Ford Cotto interviewed me for his publication, the San Francisco Review of Books, and has now published the results as a three-part series:

Part I. Is having more lawyers in society good for liberty? Should the government seek to equalize access to lawyers? Do consumers benefit from a glut of lawyers?

Part II. Does reality live up to the public image of lawyers as affluent? How might demand for lawyers decline in the future? Is medical liability reform still needed?

Part III (which links to the previous two). What are some less obvious costs of litigiousness? Which reasons to want to become a lawyer are good or bad, especially from a libertarian point of view? What about criminal law? And is legal practice too commercialized?

April 19 roundup

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), key vote on tort reform in upper house, plans Texas visit to raise funds from trial lawyers [Palmetto Business Daily]
  • “Indeed, most major law schools have fewer conservatives or libertarians on their faculty than can be found on the U.S. Supreme Court.” [Jonathan Adler, Martin Center]
  • Anti-craft-beer bill, Marilyn Mosby followup, legislature rescinds earlier Article V calls, Baltimore minimum wage in my latest Maryland roundup;
  • Man given $190 ticket for having pet snake in park off-leash. Off leash? [John Hult, Sioux Falls Argus-Leader]
  • As victim’s wife looks on, identity thief and 20-time illegal border crosser testifies that he fathered two of victim’s children [Brad Heath on Twitter citing Judge Bea ‘s opinion in U.S. v. Plascencia-Orozco, Ninth Circuit]
  • Central California: “State and federal legislation take new aim at predatory ADA lawsuits” [Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee]