February 13 roundup

  • Michigan’s Oakland County seizes rental property owned by elderly man over $8.41 unpaid tax bill plus $277 in fees and interest, sells property for $24,500, keeps all the surplus cash for itself. Constitutional? [Joe Barnett, Detroit News]
  • Pruning obsolete laws: “Teaneck Council repeals more than a dozen old laws, including ban on cursing” [Megan Burrow, North Jersey Record, quoting Councilman and longtime friend of this site Keith Kaplan]
  • “What does the Constitution have to say about national emergencies, both real and imagined?” [Cato Daily Podcast with Gene Healy and Caleb Brown]
  • Lawyer in drunk-driving case: my client’s chewing on her coat could’ve thrown off breath test [AP/WSBT (Berwick, Pa.)]
  • Baltimore police corruption, tax policies that attract people, densifying MoCo and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
  • Busybodies in Bismarck: “North Dakota’s Excellent Food Freedom Act Is Under Attack Yet Again” [Baylen Linnekin]

In the New York Post: “Trump is chipping away at Obama’s remade federal courts”

Are the federal courts really becoming a lost cause for liberal Democrats? My new piece for the New York Post, complete with detailed map, examines claims that Trump administration nominations are transforming the lower federal courts, with results that, as the cliche goes, will last for generations. But “the nature of the courts in our system is not that one side wins any permanent victories on judicial selection. And that’s a good thing.” Over the eight years of the Obama presidency, of the 13 federal appeals courts, the number with a majority of Republican appointees fell from 10 to 4; even though Trump has had a higher number than usual of holdover vacancies to fill, that number for the moment remains 4.

“Sheriff Says Use of Camera to Zoom in on Defense Attorney’s Notes Was ‘Inadvertent'”

The courtroom camera in San Juan County, Washington “zoomed back out and then panned to the left to the defense counsel’s table and zoomed down directly on [her] yellow legal pad….” So why’d it do that? The sheriff appears to have argued that releasing the video in question “‘could expose weaknesses in court security,’ but it’s a little late for that. In any event, there is a more interesting question still to be answered, namely why the sheriff can control a courtroom camera from his office.” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]

Liability roundup

Cato joins amicus brief challenging Indian Child Welfare Act

“For Congress to impose a racialized and non-neutral regime on parents and children is not only unwise and unfair, but unconstitutional.” The Cato Institute has joined an amicus brief challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in the Fifth Circuit case of Brackeen v. Bernhard. I’ve got more details in a new post at Cato at Liberty. Earlier on ICWA here.

Green emergencies and grownups

“An end to industrial civilization, but like in a totally pro-union way.” My two cents at Ricochet on the politics of this week’s “Green New Deal” boomlet, the land of pure imagination that exists beyond trade-offs, and the likelihood of universal high-speed rail’s getting even through its preliminary litigation stages, let alone built and operating, within ten years.

Medical roundup

  • Sued if you do, sued if you don’t: drugmaker faces lawsuits over failure to provide Fosamax warning that FDA told it not to provide [Jim Copland, James Beck on Merck Sharp & Dohme v. Albrecht, pending at Supreme Court]
  • On new APA masculinity guidelines, Sally Satel cuts to the point: will they improve the success of therapy for people seeking help? [Washington Post]
  • What does it mean to say the opioid litigation might follow the tobacco model? [Rob McKenna, U.S. Chamber] Citing fate of earlier gun lawsuit filed by city of Bridgeport, state judge dismisses four lawsuits filed by Connecticut cities against opioid industry [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine]
  • I do miss the days when leaders of the public health profession focused on communicable diseases like typhus rather than running after Bloomberg grants to promote soda bans [Joel Grover and Amy Corral, NBC Los Angeles]
  • Cooking the books on infant mortality: about those Cuban life expectancy stats [David R. Henderson]
  • As artificial intelligence begins to make inroads into medical diagnosis, liability issues loom large [Beck, see related linked earlier]

First, a medical emergency — and then CPS takes your child

Diane Redleaf led a symposium at Cato Unbound in November in which I participated (more here and here) on the formidable power of Child Protective Services. And now The Atlantic has published an article in which Redleaf explores some of the themes of her newly published book They Took the Kids Last Night: How the Child Protection System Puts Families at Risk. Not surprisingly, there are horror stories galore:

After detecting a second possible rib fracture, Texas CPS authorities demanded that the family abide by a restrictive safety plan. The parents, in turn, pointed out that the fractures were quite possibly the result of birth trauma or a potential genetic condition, and asked the state for an independent evaluation, but their request was denied. The family was compelled to use its own resources to gather five medical opinions from a geneticist, an endocrinologist, an obstetrician, a maternal- and fetal-medicine specialist, and a neonatologist. All took the family’s side, but the CPS-affiliated pediatrician still pressed to keep the investigation open, until the family’s lawyer intervened. The CPS investigation against the family stayed open for 71 days, with round-the-clock supervision imposed on the family for 55 days.

As well as ideas for improving the system:

The CPS system needs some sensible checks to protect the innocent. “When in doubt, call the hotline” inevitably leads to unnecessary stress for wrongly accused families. Unless there’s reason to fear imminent harm to a child, a medical review for “reasonable suspicion” should precede rather than follow the decision to place a call. States need to use neutral decision makers. Relatedly, doctors who work directly with the state need to disclose their roles so that parents have a genuine and fair choice about how to respond to allegations against them; parents shouldn’t mistake physicians tasked with evaluating the merits of a hotline call for members of their child’s medical-care team.

Full piece here.

February 6 roundup

  • Local crackdowns on home-sharing can do a lot of harm [Christina Sandefur, Federalist Society teleforum] Sandefur on laws banning working from home [Regulation mag, Cato Daily Podcast]
  • “Apparently the ad [about a 9-year-old daughter willing to do household chores for neighbors] generated multiple phone calls from paranoid neighbors thinking I was using my child as a slave,” and next thing the sheriff called [Lenore Skenazy; Woodinville, Wash.]
  • Seventh Circuit rules against “disparate impact” age discrimination claims for job applicants, and a Forbes columnist writes as if it had decided to abolish disparate treatment claims for them as well [my Twitter thread on botched coverage of Kleber v. CareFusion Corp.]
  • “The Law Merchant and Private Justice. A Conversation with Professor Barry Weingast” [Kleros]
  • “Disabilities Rights Group Files Lawsuit Against San Diego, Scooter Companies” [Rachel Kaufman, Next City]
  • Ideology vs. kid placements: “Some 440,000 kids are in foster care in the U.S.; if we shut down [theologically conservative] faith-based foster agencies, those children will have a much harder time finding homes.” [Naomi Schaefer Riley, City Journal, earlier here, here, etc.]