February 12 roundup

Louisiana: a remedy for fake subpoenas?

The district attorney in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, which includes the city of New Orleans, pressured witnesses and crime victims into cooperating through the use of fake “subpoenas” warning them of fines or jail time for nonappearance. “The documents were neither authorized by a judge nor issued by a county clerk…. Cannizzaro’s office was producing them itself. Worse yet: Even though the subpoenas were unlawful, he really did jail people who didn’t obey them.” Can they sue him? [Zuri Davis, Reason]

Schools and childhood roundup

  • Most kids find whole milk the most palatable and there’s now evidence that it can also be a healthier choice for many. So why should the federal school lunch program prevent localities from offering it? [Change.org petition, Alice Park, Time 2016; Skeptical Cardiologist; Philip Gruber, Lancaster Farming] Don’t expect much from new changes to federal school lunch program [Baylen Linnekin]
  • Even when one parent’s a pediatric emergency room doc, a family can still be vulnerable to having their infant seized by Child Protective Services over ambiguous indicators of physical injury. A Wisconsin nightmare [Mike Hixenbaugh, NBC News; Lenore Skenazy]
  • Economist Emily Oster speaks on her book Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool [Cato event video, joined by Julie Gunlock and Chelsea Follett, and related Cato Daily Podcast with Oster and Caleb Brown]
  • “A 2019 report found that the number of small family child care providers (one person caring for children in his/her own home) declined by 35 percent from 2011 to 2017. … Unsurprisingly, during this same time child care licensing requirements increased dramatically.” [Angela Rachidi, AEI; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
  • On requirements for “community service hours” before graduation: “My line is that community service is for convicted criminals, but high school students are innocent.” [Arnold Kling]
  • “Florida 6-year-old arrested, handcuffed for elementary school tantrum” [Ebony Bowden, New York Post in September] “Pointing a finger gun lands 12-year-old Johnson County student in handcuffs” [Mará Rose Williams, Kansas City Star]

“L.A. leaders weigh a new idea to halt rent hikes: Force landlords to sell their buildings”

Los Angeles council members propose using eminent domain to seize apartment buildings to prevent rent hikes. The complex was built under a deal that required the developer/owner to hold rents below market levels for thirty years, and that period has now expired. [David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times; Christian Britschgi, Reason]

I think the scheme is premised in part on sponsors’ knowing that the city could proceed to make a low-ball offer premised on some combination of 1) uncertainty about whether judges would in fact award a fair market value sum that reflected actual market values, 2) the expected cost of litigation, and 3) other leverage the city might be able to bring to bear on the owners. Gideon Kanner, emeritus professor at Loyola L.A. Law and land use expert, has had a running feature for years at his blog called “Lowball Watch” with many examples of the low-ball offers routinely made in eminent domain proceedings.

The unstable politics of religious accommodation

Claims for accommodation of religious conscience are not inherently a “right” or “left” phenomenon, any more than is religion itself. That’s an old story — in case anyone had forgotten the sides Justices Brennan and Scalia took on the constitutional angle — but it comes to mind once more with an Arizona federal court’s decision in favor of four liberal believers moved to violate federal law out of sympathy for persons illegally crossing the southwest border. David French, The Dispatch:

Using RFRA [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, oft a target of liberal wrath in recent years], it overturned the convictions of four people affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Church who were prosecuted for “violations of the regulations governing the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge.” The defendants were convicted after entering the refuge without the necessary permits and “leaving supplies of food and water in an area of desert wilderness where people frequently die of dehydration and exposure.”

Questions of entitlement to religious exemption and accommodation from otherwise applicable law are best decided according to impartial principle, not on the basis of which team stands to benefit in the case at hand.

Regulation and administrative law roundup

Another company, Oracle, stands up to the federal contract cops

Among the most feared federal regulators, and one created largely through presidential strokes of the pen rather than by Congressional blueprint, is the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP. The agency’s investigators go on wide-ranging fishing expeditions seeking evidence of discrimination at large companies, most of which hold federal contracts of one sort or another. “Instead of holding firms accountable when they engage in real discrimination against their employees, the agency has become a government arm for securing high-dollar settlements on dubious grounds.” In its audits demanding large back pay sums, for example, the “government fails to compare like employees to like, and it doesn’t control for perfectly innocent variables that explain pay differences.”

As OFCCP has turned into a combination social engineer and extractor of big-ticket settlements, few big companies are willing to fight back, given the breadth of arbitrary power the agency holds over them as well as the distant threat of debarment or other sanctions. But recently two big tech firms have stepped forward as exceptions: Google, in a dispute we wrote about in 2017 on demands for employee documents, and now Oracle, which is suing rather than accept what it considers an unreasonable settlement demand. [Veronique de Rugy, syndicated/Casper Star Tribune; WSJ editorial; Kate Cox, ArsTechnica; Anthony Kaylin, ASE; Pamela Wolf, CCH]

More about University of California diversity oaths

Details continue to emerge about the University of California’s use of mandatory diversity statements in faculty hiring (earlier here, etc.) In Berkeley life sciences hiring “diversity statements were used at the outset of searches to eliminate candidates.. … No matter how good your scholarship, if you didn’t pass the diversity [advocacy] cutoff (a score of 11 in the second search), you were toast.” [Jerry Coyne; John Cochrane]

“UC Berkeley has publicized its rubric for assessing peoples’ diversity and inclusion statements. You get 5 points for ‘Clear and detailed ideas for…advancing equity and inclusion…through their research, teaching, and/or service.’ Note word ‘research’.” [Agnes Callard] What if you embark on research that bears on questions of equity and inclusion but it reaches findings that do not advance the cause?

UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge, a friend of this site, recently chose to submit and publish a diversity statement emphasizing his efforts to foster a more ideologically diverse atmosphere at his UC campus — testing whether diversity as such, or only some manifestations of it, are the goal [AEI “Carpe Diem”] It caused a stir [Bainbridge blog, reactions and emails; some faculty at campuses like UC Davis have begun to push back] Given that UC is a public university, the prospects for a legal challenge appear strong, and there is interest in mounting a suit [Brian Leiter]

Meanwhile at the national and federal level, a $241 million cluster-hire grant program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “is requiring every candidate to prove that they have already promoted diversity”; among those who may lose out are “minority candidates who have been doing things other than ‘changing the culture'” [Jerry Coyne]

February 5 roundup

  • If your personal injury lawyer instructs you not to file a claim with your health insurer concerning your medical care, you may instead be in the hands of a “lien doctor” [Sara Randazzo, WSJ, paywall]
  • Supreme Court passes up opportunity to decide whether the Constitution’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to business defendants, and also whether a state can conjure an excessive fine out of existence by conceptually slicing it up into smaller daily fines [Ilya Shapiro on Cato support for certiorari petition in Dami Hospitality v. Colorado; petition denied January 13]
  • Assessing (favorably) the Trump Administration record on regulation [Cato Daily Podcast with William Yeatman and Caleb Brown; Casey Mulligan, Economics 21]
  • Twelve scholars pick their favorite dissents in Canadian law, and the result might furnish something of a mini-education in the jurisprudence of Canada, where unions, for example, are deemed to have a constitutional right to strike [Double Aspect via Prawfsblawg]
  • Ben Barton of the University of Tennessee, whose books we’ve much admired, has a new one out on a topic dear to our heart, called Fixing Law Schools [Scott Jaschik interview, Inside Higher Ed via Caron/TaxProf]
  • This, except not disapprovingly: current administration retreats from predecessor’s moves to define international human rights as including economic welfare and social justice claims [JoAnn Kamuf Ward and Catherine Coleman Flowers, Columbia Human Rights Law Review]