No escape from gas liens for Philadelphia landlords

John K. Ross, Short Circuit: “When tenants fail to pay gas bills, Philadelphia’s municipal utility allows debts to pile up for years without notifying landlords, then puts a lien on the property—effectively making the landlords liable for the debt. When landlords complain, the utility tells them to file a complaint with a state agency that has no jurisdiction to address their complaints. Third Circuit: No due process problem here.” [Augustin v. City of Philadelphia]

Free speech roundup

  • Senators have big plans for government regulation of social media but U.S. Constitution keeps getting in way [John Samples, Cato; David McCabe, Axios, earlier] “Censorship breeds censorship envy, and that’s true of private suppression by massively influential platforms such as Facebook as well as of governmental censorship.” [John Samples, Eugene Volokh]
  • Is it lawful for a state lawmaker to block someone on Twitter who’s publicly discussed ways of murdering him? [Dorit Reiss, PrawfsBlawg, earlier]
  • European Parliament delays adopting online copyright directive that critics said would result in Internet content filtering and royalties for linking [Thomas McMullan/Alphr, BBC earlier]
  • Is the ACLU OK with French catcalling law? [Robby Soave] With using government to keep the wrong sorts of people from owning radio outlets? [Scott Shackford, related]
  • Federalist Society telecast on Ninth Circuit decision on Idaho “ag-gag” law with UCLA lawprof Eugene Volokh and Andrew Varcoe of Boyden Gray & Associates;
  • “Arrests for offensive Facebook and Twitter posts soar in London” [Sadie Levy Gale, Independent] Downhill in Denmark: “How the Right Abandoned Free Speech in Europe” [Cato podcast and Reason interview with Jacob Mchangama]

Banking and finance roundup

  • “State-run retirement plans are the wrong way to protect the poor” [Andrew G. Biggs, AEI]
  • Fifth Circuit panel: Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) “is unconstitutionally structured and violates the separation of powers” [Jonathan Adler] Unconstitutional structure afflicts Consumer Finance Protection Bureau too [Ilya Shapiro on Cato amicus brief in Fifth Circuit case of CFPB v. All American Check Cashing, earlier here, etc.]
  • Study: financial advisers in Canada who are not subject to fiduciary duty have personal investments similar to their clients [Peter Van Doren]
  • Regulation can have a lulling effect. Might it even breed financial illiteracy? [Diego Zuluaga, Cato]
  • “As I predicted, the ratchet effect is going to save Dodd-Frank. Sigh.” [Bainbridge]
  • “SEC proposes to limit whistleblower awards” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]

“Plea Bargaining: Good Policy or Good Riddance?”

Cato held a conference on plea bargaining last month:

Today, more than 95 percent of criminal convictions in the United States are obtained through plea bargains. As the Supreme Court observed in 2012, “criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials.” Compared with jury trials, plea bargains are efficient and inexpensive, and they free up resources that might otherwise be devoted to securing convictions in cases where the defendant’s guilt is not seriously in doubt.

But plea bargaining has a dark side as well. Given the imbalance of resources between prosecutors and most defendants, together with the array of tools that prosecutors can bring to bear in any given case, such as mandatory minimum sentences, charge-stacking, and witness inducements, it is fair to ask how many guilty pleas are truly voluntary. A growing body of evidence suggests that false confessions may not be nearly as rare as we would hope, and indeed the specter of coercion casts a shadow over the entire plea-bargaining process.

The panel featured the Hon. Joseph Goodwin, a federal judge in West Virginia who has announced that he would no longer accept plea bargains except when there are truly extenuating, case-specific circumstances; New York City criminal defense attorney and popular law blogger Scott Greenfield, and University of Illinois law Prof. Suja Thomas, with Cato’s Clark Neily moderating. You can watch or download it here.