- Judge expresses surprise at how many law firms want in on fees in Visa/MasterCard issuer settlement [NYSun]
- Mississippi bill would require a lawyer’s presence at real estate escrow closings; so rude to cite the profession’s self-interest as a factor [Clarion-Ledger]
- Following Coughlin Stoia’s lead, Mark Lanier announces he’s expanding into intellectual property litigation [The Recorder]
- Maryland legislation would require state-aided colleges and universities to report on what they’re doing to advance “cultural diversity” [Examiner via Bader/Open Market]
- New era at UK pubs? Under new directive, “employers will risk being sued if a bar worker or waitress complains of being called ‘love’ or ‘darling’, or if staff overhear customers telling sexist jokes.” [Daily Mail]
- ACLU just sued city of San Diego and snagged $900K in legal fees, but that’s no impediment to the city’s council’s enacting a special day of tribute to the group [House of Eratosthenes]
- George Wallace, who’s guestblogged here, hosts twin editions of Blawg Review #153 at his blogs Declarations & Exclusions and A Fool in the Forest, on piratical and Punchinello themes;
- Obama won’t support lowering drinking age [Newsweek]
- Such a shame for entrepreneurial plaintiffs, post-Proposition 64 if you want to sue a California business you might actually need to have been injured [CalBizLit]
- Time mag appeals $100 million Suharto libel ruling [IHT]
- Hey, no fair enforcing that fine print disclaiming liability for sweepstakes misprints [three years ago on Overlawyered]
Controversy continues over the extent to which litigation has tended to obstruct brush and understory removal as well as post-blaze recovery efforts in the fire zones: Damien Schiff (Pacific Legal Foundation), “Misguided litigation magnifies wildfires”, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 5); John Berlau, “The Environmentalist Fires”, American Thinker, Oct. 29; BioStock blog, Oct. 5. The Sierra Club defends environmental litigation in this Oct. 23 statement. Last year the Society of American Foresters last year released a study entitled “Forest Service Land Management Litigation 1989-2002”, which is available at the Society site. Earlier: Oct. 24, etc.
This Sunday’s Boston Globe magazine had a long feature piece which addressed the burning question, “Do We Really Need A Law To Protect Fat Workers?” The “law” in question would be a law which forbid “discrimination against overweight and unusually short people.” While I resemble that remark, you won’t be surprised to find me answering the question, “No,” in contrast to the politicians and activists who think it’s a great idea. The problem they face? Too many people inconveniently think that being overweight is a choice; they need to convince these skeptics that weight and race are really the same thing.
Although some people worry that the law would lead to a flood of lawsuits, the supporters of the bill pooh-pooh that notion, based on implausible statistics about disability discrimination lawsuits. Besides, their goal (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) isn’t really lawsuits at all:
Like the race laws, then, the weight-discrimination bill has a goal that extends beyond the legal system: to change the way we think. The idea is not to clog up the courts. Instead, it’s to create a society where hundreds of lawsuits aren’t needed, because there’s not as much to sue over – a society of people who have the legal right to say hurtful things and the compassion to know better than to act on them.
But if it does clog up the courts — the ADA only applies to those so obese that they can call themselves disabled, while the proposed Massachusetts law would apply to anybody who is overweight, which seems to be most of the population — it won’t be the author of the bill who suffers, but employees and business owners.
Of course, even if Massachusetts does pass this law, it wouldn’t be the worst; California already has far wackier anti-discrimination laws with its full-employment-for-lawyers Unruh Act. Unruh, despite listing the usual categories found in anti-discrimination laws (sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, and sexual orientation) actually has been interpreted by state courts to prohibit all “arbitrary” discrimination. As Cal Biz Lit explains:
In earlier cases, the courts have held the act to prohibit business discrimination based on :
• A customer’s association with a male with long hair and “unconventional” dress;
• Having children; and
• Status as a police officer (when the ACLU tried to kick a cop out of a meeting).
If a creative lawyer hasn’t shoehorned obesity in there already, he will soon enough.
“Three homeless men mistakenly arrested last year on charges of sleeping too close to a pile of feces have settled a lawsuit against the city of Las Vegas for $45,000.” Police made the arrest although a sleeping-too-close-to-feces provision in one of the city’s ordinances had in fact recently been repealed. The ACLU of Nevada proceeded to sue:
The men sought $2 million each in compensatory and punitive damages. Their attorney E. Brent Bryson said Wednesday the $45,000 settlement was reasonable.
“The realities are that these individuals are not capable of maintaining and sustaining an ongoing litigation,” he said. “This quick money to them represents an ability for them to get back on their feet.”
Bryson collected a $15,000 fee from the settlement.
Two of the three men say they haven’t decided yet what to do with their $10,000 windfalls, a sum that will equally well pay for a fair bit of not-getting-back-on-their-feet should they choose to spend it that way. (“Vegas homeless men win $45,000 in suit over sleeping near feces”, AP/Las Vegas Sun, Mar. 29; “Homeless men win $45,000 settlement with City of Las Vegas”, KVBC, Mar. 29).
Richmond, Va.: “A high school art teacher has hired the ACLU to challenge his firing after a video of him moonlighting as a ‘butt-printing artist’ was widely circulated among his high school students.” Stephen Murmer was fired from his job at Monacan High School. (Matt Reed, “Backside artist to challenge firing”, AP/ABCNews.com, Jan. 24).
I have perused the decision by a federal district judge in Michigan declaring the NSA warrantless wiretapping program to be in violation of both FISA and the Fourth Amendment and have some thoughts.
While the decision contains a wealth of flowery language reminiscent of, say, a post by a libertarian blawger, it is rather weak on actual analysis. On the other hand, what little analysis it contains is spot-on accurate.
Not according to the ACLU of Southern California, at least. That’s the apparent lesson of a 1986 incident which drew little publicity at the time, but which David Bernstein recently investigated. The proprietors of the Alpine Village Inn in Torrance, Calif. were understandably outraged when a group of four customers came in wearing swastika pins and other Nazi regalia. It asked them to leave, but they refused and so it called the cops; its reward was to be sued by the ACLU under California’s Unruh Act for its failure to provide public accommodation to the Hitler fans. According to Bernstein’s informant, the restaurant’s insurer paid a settlement. (Feb. 24)
…because he doesn’t like the message printed on them, as Reason “Hit and Run” reports:
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has ordered the city to seize T-shirts that say “Stop Snitchin.” “‘It’s wrong,’ Menino said. ‘We are going into every retail store that sells the shirts and remove them.'”
Eugene Volokh (Aug. 29) finds particularly egregious — and at odds with the First Amendment — the practice of courts in various states of “discrimination in favor of religious parents and against irreligious ones, or in favor of more religious parents and against less religious ones, in child custody cases, on the theory that it’s in the child’s ‘best interests’ (that’s the relevant legal test) to be raised with a religious education.” For more on civil disabilities of freethinkers, see Jan. 21-23, 2000.
P.S. Reader John Steele Gordon writes to say, “It seems to me that the ACLU could much more profitably direct its jihad against religion at these cases, which do a great deal of harm to real people, than at carvings of the Ten Commandments on public property, which do not.” And here’s quite a bit more from Eugene.
Yet more: Reader Carl Fink, in response to John Gordon’s comment above, defends the ACLU:
The ACLU is just as likely to assist a religious person whose right to practice has been denied, as a nonreligious person whose tax money is being spent to promote a religion. To name one recent case, in State of New Jersey v. Lloyd Fuller, an ACLU attorney submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing for the rights of potential jurors to wear traditional Muslim (or by extension other religious) dress without being excluded from juries (see link).
What we object to is government enforcement of any religious policy, including religious EXCLUSION.