“A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked a San Francisco law requiring health warnings on advertisements for soda and other sugary drinks in a victory for beverage and retail groups that sued to block the ordinance.” The ruling, by a unanimous 11-member en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit, found that thelaw violates First Amendment rights of commercial speech. [AP/BakersfieldNow; American Beverage Association v. City and County of San Francisco]
Jameela Jamil (“The Good Place”) wants to ban airbrushing in magazines and advertisements, warning BBC readers that, “If you buy the products airbrushing is used to advertise, you won’t look like the person in the photograph.”
“If this comes as a surprise to you, please exercise caution before stepping out of doors or in front of a mirror,” I reply in my new op-ed in southern California newspapers. “Here in the land of liberty, fortunately, we recognize that to ban display of someone’s airbrushed image even if they’re fine with the idea would constitute a trifecta of coercion, stomping on personal autonomy, freedom to contract with others, and freedom of the press.” Read it here.
We’ve posted often about lawyer-driven slack-fill lawsuits, in which class action filers claim that food, cosmetic, and other products sold by weight have excessive empty space in their packaging. (Laws governing food packaging allow for empty space that serves a function such as protecting the product from damage or shoplifting, but there is room for much disagreement on what is or is not needed for functionality.) The suits’ outcomes can seem random if not whimsical: Ferrara Candy recently agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle claims [Douglas Yu, Confectionery News] while the makers of Fannie May and Junior Mints successfully obtained dismissal of suits against them in federal courts [Scott Holland, Cook County Record; Bloomberg]
California has been a hotspot of slack-fill litigation, but now the California legislature has passed a bill, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September, expanding the list of safe-harbor defenses that manufacturers (prospectively, in future suits) can assert against slack-fill claims. While the changes are limited in scope and will still allow many suits to go forward, it is noteworthy for California’s legislature to take even symbolic steps against the state’s busy class action industry. [Sarah L. Brew, Tyler A. Young, Emily R. Bodtke and Rita Mansuryan, The Recorder; Robert Niemann and Jill Mahoney, Washington Legal Foundation]
The “One a Day” brand of multivitamins was introduced in 1940. As the company diversified its product offerings in the intervening years it should probably have transitioned over to some other brand name. That way a California court would not have green-lighted a suit by a man suing because the label says he should take two Vitacraves a day instead of one [William Sassani, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
Sweden’s advertising ombudsman has ruled the much-shared “Distracted Boyfriend Meme” improperly presents women as “sex objects” and is “a stereotypical picture of men seeing women as interchangeable”. While the industry panel itself has no power to impose a legal ban, its views might prove consequential since the Stockholm city council has enacted a ban on sexist billboards in public spaces. [Catherine Edwards, The Local]
A Southern California class action firm “is accused of bribing cash-strapped 20-somethings to serve as lead plaintiffs and submit false testimony.” The firm, Newport Trial Group, is active in many categories of litigation readers of this site may find familiar, including suits over alleged food and cosmetic mislabeling, slack fill, and failure to advise customers that their phone calls were being recorded, and its founder has also been listed as counsel in multiple suits against large corporations over web accessibility and claims of patent infringement by non-practicing entities. [Jenna Greene, American Lawyer Litigation Daily courtesy Texans for Lawsuit Reform]
Ironically, the complicated and protracted litigation that led to the new setback arose not from the numerous suits the law firm or its founder filed against household-name national companies, but from one against a purveyor of nutritional items and supplements such as colloidal silver. Excerpt:
The district court judge, James Selna, explained his reasoning in a June 12 decision that does not bode well for the firm.
Natural Immunogenics, he wrote, “has put forth sufficient evidence to support its contention that defendants operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture litigation.”
“Specifically, NIC has established that in camera review may reveal evidence that defendants have a pattern of manufacturing litigation, which involves the [Newport Trial Group] defendants identifying companies vulnerable to false advertising or wiretap litigation, recruiting individuals to serve as lead plaintiffs, instructing the individuals on exactly what steps to take to give them the appearance of having suffered actionable injuries, and concealing and misrepresenting the contrived nature of the lawsuits from the courts.”
- State by state survey of 140 bills around the country on hot topics related to religious accommodation, including adoption, service refusals, campus speech, health care, etc. [Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News] And don’t forget to mark your calendar for two weeks from today when Cato will host our half-day conference on adoption, foster care, and pluralism with an array of fine speakers;
- What ails long-haul trucking in a time of prosperity? Federal break regulations, electronic monitoring, artificial constraints on parking among factors [Virginia Postrel, Bloomberg]
- Antitrust debates cut across political spectrum [Daniel A. Crane, Cato Regulation magazine] “Solicitor General Inveighs Against Antitrust-Law Revolution in SCOTUS ‘Apple v. Pepper’ Amicus Brief” [Corbin Barthold, WLF]
- These seem like well-planned-out laws: Google suspends running campaign ads in Washington and Maryland following states’ enactment of new disclosure laws [Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun, Jim Brunner and Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times, Scott Shackford]
- “Missouri appeals court tosses $55 million Johnson & Johnson talc-powder verdict” [Reuters, earlier (courts reverse two other big verdicts) and generally]
- “What Secretary Carson Should Know about Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)” [Vanessa Brown Calder, earlier]
Two things that can both be true:
1) we should find a better system than cash bail;
2) in the mean time bail bond services provide a needed service for some families.
Or as I put it in my new National Review piece:
This week Google and Facebook announced that they would stop accepting ads for bail-bond services. It’s the perfect moral gesture for our times: It makes a grand statement, keeps pressure groups happy, reminds us that the tech giants have weight to throw around, and leaves its intended beneficiaries no better and perhaps imperceptibly worse off.
I go on to discuss stigmatization as a substitute for policy, which sorts of practices if adopted would probably serve as a substitute for cash bail, and the widely held notion that mass incarceration in the contemporary U.S. arose from a plot to expand business revenue. The piece concludes:
If one is going to be suspicious of mercenary motives in the justice system, I recommend starting with the providers among whom defendants’ families do not get to pick and choose in their hour of need in a relatively competitive market. That would include probation providers and jail phone-call providers — and, yes, some firms involved with private prisons.
Of course, those companies aren’t big advertisers, since the only customer they need to convince is the law-enforcement agency. So Google and Facebook are spared the need to worry about what posture to strike toward them.
Whole thing here. For a different view, here’s Google’s Senior Counsel on Civil and Human Rights writing together with the chairman of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce and general counsel for Koch Industries. [Malika Saada Saar and Mark Holden]
- Dangerous and misguided: Michigan pursues prosecution on charges of jury tampering of man who handed out “jury nullification” pamphlets on public sidewalk outside courthouse [Jay Schweikert, Cato; Jacob Sullum, earlier here, here, etc.]
- “‘Worst of Both Worlds’ FOSTA Signed Into Law, Completing Section 230’s Evisceration” [Eric Goldman] Among first casualties: Craigslist personals [Merrit Kennedy/NPR, Elizabeth Nolan Brown] And Elizabeth Nolan Brown joins (no relation) Caleb Brown on a Cato Daily Podcast;
- Is reprinting thumbnail headshots fair use? [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- “16 Pulse survivors sue Google, Facebook, Twitter for ‘supporting’ ISIS” [Daniel Dahm, WKMG Orlando]
- Not the group it used to be: ACLU calls for government-owned broadband, claims First Amendment may require as opposed to forbid state-operated communications infrastructure [Randolph May and Theodore Bolema, Free State Foundation] More: Scott Greenfield;
- Cato amicus commercial speech triple-header: Virginia’s ban on promoting happy hours (bars may hold them, but not promote them off premises) is an irrational leftover of Prohibition [Ilya Shapiro] While some commercial speech can be mandated, Ninth Circuit goes too far in upholding government-ordered scripts [Shapiro and Meggan Dewitt on structured-mortgage-payment case Nationwide Biweekly Administration v. Hubanks] Sign laws face tough scrutiny under 2015’s Reed v. Town of Gilbert, and Tennessee’s billboard law, which applies even to noncommercial speech, may run into trouble [Shapiro and Aaron Barnes]
California law compels “crisis pregnancy centers” whose mission is to provide alternatives to abortion to advise clients that the state of California offers free or low-cost abortion, contraception, prenatal counseling, and other services to eligible women. An instance of compelled speech that rises to the level of a First Amendment violation? [Ilya Shapiro as part of SCOTUSblog symposium on NIFLA v. Becerra; Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Meggan DeWitt, Cato]
Related: Courts should apply strict scrutiny to compelled-disclosure laws requiring firms to disparage own products or take part in public debate [Shapiro and DeWitt on cert petition in CTIA v. Berkeley, on Berkeley, Calif. law requiring cellphone vendors to warn customers of radio frequency exposures even though the FCC has found no scientific evidence to link to any illness]