“Craighead County, Arkansas officials use private company to run probation for people convicted of misdemeanors. The company charges probationers monthly fees, other fees on pain of arrest, which results in more fees. (On one day in 2016, of 34 defendants brought to court, only six were charged with crimes. The remaining 28 were in jail for failing to pay the company.) Voters elect new judges who promise to cease using the company, erase outstanding debts. Company: Which violates the Contracts Clause, Takings Clause. Eighth Circuit: Can’t sue the judges over that. The judges are entitled to modify probation conditions and discharge debts.” [John Ross, Institute for Justice “Short Circuit” summarizing Eighth Circuit ruling in Justice Network v. Craighead County]
Two politicians with whom I regularly disagree have proposed a national cap on credit card interest of 15% a year. Because they are well known figures, the proposal is likely to get some attention.
Per one reporter, the current median card interest rate of 21.36% breaks down to 17.73% for high credit scores and 24.99% for people with low credit scores. Who do you think will be denied credit altogether under a 15% cap? Are they better off with an option of 24.99% credit, or with no option of credit at all?
Since the idea of interest caps is anything but new, economists have had a long time to study this issue, as I noted in this earlier post. One recent study looked at Arkansas, a state with a throwback constitutional provision capping allowable interest rates at 17 percent. The effect is to keep some otherwise common financial products from being offered in the state, as a result of which many Arkansans “drive to neighboring states to take out small-dollar installment loans.”
Why think that the government can set price ceilings well below market clearing levels without causing shortages of the affected good or service? More fundamentally, why should the government stand between two parties in a willing transaction? More: Steve Horwitz.
P.S. Did someone bring up postal banking?
- “Arkansas Passes Bill to Prevent Sale of ‘Cauliflower Rice'” [Bettina Makalintal, Vice via Anthony M. Kreis (“Carolene Products of our time”, and more on that celebrated filled-milk case]
- Ted Frank has another case raising the cy pres issues the Supreme Court just sidestepped in Frank v. Gaos [Marcia Coyle on rewards-program class action settlement in Perryman v. Romero]
- Feds recommend 12 year sentence for copyright and ADA troll Paul Hansmeier [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
- Didn’t realize New York City still had such a substantial fur industry – much of it in the district of an elected official who’s keen to ban it [Carl Campanile, New York Post]
- “Who’s Afraid of Big Tech?” Cato conference with Matthew Feeney, Alec Stapp, Jonathan Rauch, Julian Sanchez, Peter Van Doren, and John Samples, among many others [panels one (“Big Brother in Big Tech”), two (“Is Big Tech Too Big?”), three (“Free Speech in an Age of Social Media”)]
- Looking forward to this one, due out from New York lawyer James Zirin in September: Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits [St. Martin’s Press]
The Arkansas constitution caps allowable interest rates for lending at 17 percent. Is the effect more to protect consumers, or deprive them of desired choices? A study [Ben Lukongo and Thomas W. Miller Jr., Mercatus]
- Sorry, Denver cops, but you can’t keep a journalist from photographing an arrest on the street by telling her she’s violating the health-privacy law HIPAA [Alex Burness, Colorado Independent on handcuffing of editor Susan Greene]
- Conor Friedersdorf interviews Scott Greenfield, criminal defense blogger and longtime friend of this blog, at the Atlantic;
- Claim in new article: “extremely broad criminal statutes, no less than vague and ambiguous criminal statutes, are constitutionally problematic for depriving ordinary people of ‘fair notice’ about how the legal system actually works” [Kiel Brennan-Marquez guest series at Volokh Conspiracy: first, second, third]
- “We Cannot Avoid the Ugly Tradeoffs of Bail Reform” [Alex Tabarrok; Scott Greenfield] New York should learn from Maryland on risks of unintended consequences [New York Post, and thanks for mention] And a Cato Daily Podcast on bail reform with Daniel Dew of the Buckeye Institute and Caleb Brown;
- In Little Rock and elsewhere, police use of criminal informants creates disturbing incentives that can challenge both probity and accountability [Jonathan Blanks, Cato on Radley Balko account of Roderick Talley raid episode]
- Call to scrap juries in UK rape trials (because they acquit too often) is met with criticism [Matthew Scott, Spectator]
- “For instance, linalool, which is cited as a cockroach insecticide by the law firm, is found in plants like mints and scented herbs. While it’s also used in insecticides, it’s not poisonous for humans…” [Aimee Picchi, CBS News on suit claiming that LaCroix flavored water wrongly claims “all natural” status]
- “Appeals Court Strikes $8.7M in Legal Fees Based on Coupons in Class Action Settlement” [Ted Frank objection in ProFlowers and RedEnvelope class action; Amanda Bronstad, The Recorder] “Judge: Lawyers must justify fee requests for investor suits withdrawn vs Akorn over proxy disclosures” [Ted Frank objection in investor class action against Akorn Inc.; Jonathan Bilyk, Cook County Record]
- Study: class action lawsuits hit innovative companies the hardest [Alex Verkhivker, Chicago Booth on study by Elisabeth Kempf of Chicago Booth and Oliver Spalt of Tilburg University]
- “It’s Possible Woman Suing Over Sugar In ONE Protein Bars Never Actually Ate One” [Mary Ann Magnell, Legal NewsLine] And it is surprising how many reports continue to indulge the notion that typical consumer class actions spring from consumer grievance as opposed to lawyers’ entrepreneurial spotting of chances [ABA Journal on slack-fill suits]
- “DOJ Tells Court: Class Lawyers Already Got $60M in Fees. Now They Want More? [Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal on Native American farmer case] “noting that it was difficult for him to believe the few boilerplate documents entered into the record took hundreds of hours to create. ” [D.M. Herra, Cook County Record; Western Union text messages]
- “State Street settlement fiasco has Arkansas lawmakers questioning state’s role in class actions” [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine, earlier here, etc.]
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.