A “web of concealment and highly questionable ethical practices by experienced attorneys who should have known better”: a court has unsealed a scathing report on the conduct in the State Street case of a leading class action firm, Labaton Sucharow, and Garrett Bradley of the Thornton Law Firm in Boston. The court took particular notice of Labaton’s connections through a Houston middleman (to whom it had agreed to pay an undisclosed $4.1 million fee) to the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, which served as institutional plaintiff [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, Amanda Bronstad/NLJ] Earlier here and here.
- In Mississippi, a “mother has been forbidden from any contact with her newborn for 14 of the 18 months the child has been alive” because of unpaid misdemeanor fines [Radley Balko, WLBT/MSNewsNow; judge has now resigned, but similar practices reported to be common] Is Biloxi going to do better? [ABA Journal]
- “They … didn’t give it back”: outrageous tales of asset forfeiture from Alabama [Connor Sheets, AL.com]
- Efforts afoot in Lansing to write down nearly $595 million in unpaid Michigan drivers’ fees [Chad Livengood, Crain’s Detroit Business] Warren, Mich., residents invited to turn in neighbors on suspicion, win bounties from forfeiture funds [Scott Shackford]
- Ethical red flags: maker of heroin-cessation compound “marketing directly to drug court judges and other officials.” [Jake Harper, NPR]
- In Craighead County, Arkansas, private probation firms sue judges who cut them out of the process [Andrew Cohen, The Marshall Project]
- From Ohio “mayor’s courts” to asset forfeiture, prosecution for profit imperils due process [Jacob Sullum]
By agreeing to hear the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court has set up a potentially major decision on “whether applying Colorado’s public accommodations law to compel the petitioner to create expression that violates his sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the free speech or free exercise clauses of the First Amendment. My link-rich Cato post also goes on to discuss the sleeper case of Pavan v. Smith, which offers a glimpse of how a post-Scalia conservative wing may address issues following in the wake of Obergefell.
P.S. More from Erica Goldberg on the hubbub over Gorsuch’s dissent in Pavan.
- Jury tells Marriott to pay $55 million after stalker takes nude video of TV personality from adjoining hotel room [Business Insider]
- R.I.P. John Sullivan, long-time advocate for lawsuit reform in California [Sacramento Bee]
- Colleges, speed cameras, and surveillance on buses in my latest Maryland policy roundup; paid leave, publicly financed conference centers and criminalizing drinking hosts in the one before that;
- AAJ, the trial lawyers lobby, “panned companies’ method of fighting class actions as unfair after member accused it of using the same strategy” [John O’Brien, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
- In the 1920s, battling chain stores was part of the mission of the Ku Klux Klan [Atlas Obscura]
- Class-action lawyer Goodson, “husband of Supreme Court justice, recommended 2 firms that got state auditor contract” [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]
- “Indian court issues summons to Hindu monkey god Hanuman” Again? [Lowering the Bar]
- Justice Scalia’s death will make big difference in class action cases [Samantha Thompson, McGuireWoods via Andrew Trask]
- Manhattan Institute publishes new report in its Trial Lawyers, Inc. series, this one focusing on class actions and mass torts [James Copland and colleagues]
- Prof. Jason Johnston says House-passed class action reform would have modest effect [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine] More on H.R. 1927, which also includes asbestos-litigation provisions and passed the House 211-188 with no Democratic votes [Mark Hofmann, Business Insurance; Republican Policy Committee]
- “The Supreme Court’s next big class action controversy: ascertainability” [Alison Frankel, Reuters on Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo]
- Texarkana forum-shopping: “Attorney files motion to dismiss class action settlement between USAA and Goodson law firm” [Benjamin Hardy, Arkansas Times, Adams v. USAA h/t Arkansas Business]
- TCPA, law that launched a thousand telemarketing class actions, might stand for “Total Cash for Plaintiffs’ Attorneys” [Adonis Hoffman, The Hill]
- Arkansas passes first-in-nation law to protect photographers’ rights, including right to film public employees/officials [Dan Greenberg, The Arkansas Project] “Colorado, Texas and California Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Protect Rights of Citizens to Record Cops” [Carlos Miller, Photography Is Not A Crime] On the other hand: “Texas Bill Would Make It Illegal For You To Film A Cop Beating You” [Lowering the Bar, more (“if you tell me I can’t film you in public, no matter what, filming you in public is going to move way up my priority list”)]
- “‘Deactivated’ Facebook Account Is Discoverable In Litigation” [Eric Goldman]
- Public records request for Oakland dataset makes good introduction to privacy issues in automatic license plate recognition [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica] “Los Angeles Cops Argue All Cars in LA Are Under Investigation” [Jennifer Lynch, EFF]
- “Texas says it will stop collecting fingerprints of driver’s license applicants” [Dave Lieber, Dallas Morning News, earlier]
- “An elite that has lost the impulse to police itself” [Conor Friedersdorf; a contrary view, Stewart Baker podcast with Rebecca Richards, NSA director of privacy and civil liberties]
- “Stingrays and Police Secrecy” [Adam Bates, earlier]
- Taxopticon: “Newport News to begin scanning license plates to find delinquent taxpayers” [Theresa Clift, Daily Press (Virginia) via Amy Alkon]
Following the furor over RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) legislation in Indiana and Arkansas this week, I’ve got a new piece in today’s New York Daily News on the emergence of American business as the most influential ally of gay rights. Links to follow up some of the quoted sources: Reuters on Walmart, Tony Perkins/FRC on pieces of silver, Dave Weigel on how public opinion in polls tends to side with the small business owners. I wrote last year on the Arizona mini-RFRA bill vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer.
On the social media pile-on against a small-town Indiana pizzeria, see also the thought-provoking column by Conor Friedersdorf (more, Matt Welch). Also recommended on the general controversy: Roger Pilon, Mike Munger/Bleeding Heart Libertarians, and David Henderson on freedom of association, David Brooks on getting along, and Peter Steinfels on liberal pluralism and religious freedom.
Relatedly, Cato has now posted a podcast with my critical views (earlier) of the “Utah compromise” adding sexual orientation as a protected class while also giving employees new rights to sue employers over curbs on discussion of religion and morality in the workplace (h/t: interviewer Caleb Brown). For a view of that compromise more favorable than mine, see this Brookings panel.
Trial lawyer and inveterate Litigation Lobby booster Bruce Braley lost his Iowa senate bid (“He comes across as arrogant, and I think it’s because he is,” said an unnamed Democratic official.) Sen. Mark Pryor, chief Senate handler of the awful CPSIA law, lost big.
Massachusetts voters again rejected Martha Coakley, whose prosecutorial decisions we have found so hard to square with the interests of justice. The Wisconsin Blue Fist school of thought, which sees organized government employees as the natural and truly legitimate governing class, met with a rebuff from voters not only in Wisconsin itself but in neighboring Illinois (where Gov. Quinn, of Harris v. Quinn fame, went down to defeat) and elsewhere. Colorado voters rejected GMO labeling, while a similar Oregon bill was trailing narrowly this morning but not with enough votes to call.
California voters rejected Prop 46, to raise MICRA medical liability limits, require database use and impose drug testing of doctors, by a 67-33 margin, and also rejected Prop 45, intensifying insurance regulation, by a 60-40 margin (earlier).
I’ve written a lot at my Free State Notes blog about the governor’s race in my own state of Maryland, and unlike most others was not surprised at Larry Hogan’s stunning upset victory. The politics category there includes my letter to Washington Post-reading independents and moderates about why they should feel comfortable electing Hogan as a balance to the state’s heavily Democratic legislature, as well as my parody song about what I thought a revealing gaffe by Hogan’s opponent, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.
Readers who followed Overlawyered in 2009-10 will recall that the closest this site has ever come to a crusade was in covering the truly horrible Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, enacted after a media-fed tainted-toy panic, a law that needlessly drove out of business many small retailers and manufacturers of children’s goods posing no hazard whatsoever to consumers. Some will further recall that the chief Senate handler of the legislation was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), who cut a poor figure throughout as both ill-informed and dismissive about the side effects his own legislation was having.
Now Sen. Pryor is locked in a tight race for re-election with challenger Rep. Tom Cotton, and a group called the Arkansas Project has been reminding readers of Pryor’s record on CPSIA, digging up many new details in an August series written by Washington, D.C.-area policy analyst Marc Kilmer (who generously credits Overlawyered coverage as a source throughout). Most of the series can be found at this tag or via search. Here is a guide to individual installments in the series, supplemented by links to further coverage from our archives:
- Introduction, and some comments about dangerous toys (our overall coverage of CPSIA);
- Sen. Pryor’s role in the law, and its unreasonable testing burdens (our coverage of CPSIA and Congress, and the law’s testing burdens);
- The law’s awful effect on resale and consignment, and the closure of A Kidd’s Place in Conway, Ark (our coverage on resale);
- Why big toymakers (unlike small) are doing fine under the law, and some dubious claims of safety success (our coverage on toys);
- CPSIA’s role in saving kids from old books (our coverage of its effects on books and libraries);
- “Sen. Pryor Stops Kids from Eating All-Terrain Vehicles” (our coverage on minibikes and other motorized vehicles)
- How the law jumped the gun on phthalates, the bendy-plastic ingredient (our coverage of the law’s phthalate ban);
- Sen. Pryor’s non-response to the series.
Arkansas voters — and everyone who wants to learn how a Congress can fail spectacularly at its legislative responsibilities — should read this series in full.