- California state agency in charge of Prop 65 enforcement seeks to effectively reverse judge’s recent ruling and exempt naturally occurring acrylamide levels in coffee from need for warning [Cal Biz Lit] Prop 65 listing mechanism requires listing of substances designated by a strictly private organization, spot the problem with that [WLF brief in Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment]
- Yes, those proposals to ban plastic straws are a test run for broader plastic prohibitions [Christian Britschgi, Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Impact on disabled users, for whom metal, bamboo, and paper substitutes often don’t work as well [Allison Shoemaker, The Takeout] Surprising facts about fishing nets [Adam Minter, Bloomberg, earlier]
- “A closely watched climate case is dismissed; Will the others survive?” [Daniel Fisher on dismissal of San Francisco, Oakland cases] Rhode Island files first state lawsuit, cheered by mass tort veteran Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) [Spencer Walrath/Energy in Depth, Mike Bastasch/Daily Caller]
- Meanwhile back in Colorado: Denver Post, Gale Norton, other voices criticize Boulder, other municipal climate suits [Rebecca Simons, Energy in Depth, earlier here and here]
- Waters of the United States: time to repeal and replace this unconstitutional rule [Jonathan Wood, The Hill, earlier on WOTUS]
- “What you’re talking about is law enforcement for hire”: at least nine state AG offices “are looking to hire privately funded lawyers to work on environmental litigation through a foundation founded by” nationally ambitious billionaire and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg [Mike Bastasch]
“New York City’s attempt to hold five of the world’s biggest oil companies responsible for damage from global warming didn’t seem to impress a judge during oral arguments Wednesday to determine if a lawsuit can proceed.” Judge John F. Keenan grilled the city about its standing to sue, its own investments in the energy sector, and its attempt to dress up an already-lost challenge to emissions as a not-yet-tried challenge to sales of products resulting in emissions.
“Aren’t the plaintiffs using the product?” Keenan asked. “Does the city have clean hands?”
“Yes, the city uses fossil fuels,” [plaintiff’s attorney Matthew] Pava responded.
- “Leave your 13-year-old home alone? Police can take her into custody under Illinois law” [Jeffrey Schwab, Illinois Policy]
- So many stars to sue: Huang v. leading Hollywood names [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]
- Morgan Spurlock’s claim in 2004’s Super Size Me of eating only McDonald’s food for a month and coming out as a physical wreck with liver damage was one that later researchers failed to replicate; now confessional memoir sheds further doubt on baseline assertions essential to the famous documentary [Phelim McAleer, WSJ]
- If you’ve seen those “1500 missing immigrant kids” stories — and especially if you’ve helped spread them — you might want to check out some of these threads and links [Josie Duffy Rice, Dara Lind, Rich Lowry]
- “Antitrust Enforcement by State Attorney Generals,” Federalist Society podcast with Adam Biegel, Vic Domen, Jennifer Thomson, Jeffrey Oliver, and Ian Conner]
- “The lopsided House vote for treating assaults on cops as federal crimes is a bipartisan portrait in cowardice.” [Jacob Sullum, more, Scott Greenfield, earlier on hate crimes model for “Protect and Serve Act”]
Dusting off rarely used powers held under the Class Action Fairness Act, the U.S. Department of Justice and some state attorneys general have begun to file in opposition to class action settlements. In a case against defendants Ashburn Corporation and online discount wine retailer Wines ‘Til Sold Out (WTSO), which had already drawn objections from CEI’s Ted Frank, DoJ and AGs from 19 states succeeded in getting some settlement terms rewritten, in a deal then denied final approval by the trial judge, who saw additional problems. [Alison Frankel, Reuters; Perry Cooper, Bloomberg Law and more; Nicholas Malfitano, Legal Newsline] For Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, the wine case was the ninth in which his office had intervened against a class settlement it viewed as unfair [Brnovich press release] “If your state’s AG isn’t joining the briefs of the bipartisan coalition led by Arizona defending consumers against class action abuse, you should be asking their office some tough questions.” [@tedfrank on Twitter]
A New York appellate court has upheld an order that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pay counsel fees to the Competitive Enterprise Institute for having resisted required disclosure of the “AGs United for Clean Energy” secrecy agreement [Anna St. John, CEI; Chris White, Daily Caller]
- One-woman false-accusation machine induced Pittsburgh police to file eight criminal cases against couple; one was jailed for six days and the other for six months before she admitted making it up [Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
- Regulation is the bane of a great many California small businesses, and that goes for Humboldt County marijuana growers too [David Boaz, Cato]
- One Billy Goat might have cause to regret picking trademark fight with another [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
- “Antitrust Jurisprudence Is the Right’s Greatest Legal Success” [John McGinnis, Law and Liberty]
- State Attorney General Election Tracker is a new resource from law firm Cozen O’Connor tracking campaign and election news from state attorney general elections across the country;
- “Iowa judge admits hundreds of his rulings were ghost-written by attorneys” [Clark Kauffman, Des Moines Register]
The use of contingency fees by governmental plaintiffs incentivizes sharp practice and overzealous litigation in lawyers charged with representing the general public; it also invites corruption and end runs around democratic legislatures intended at making law through litigation. All these evils manifested themselves in the tobacco and gun rounds of mass litigation, and there are some cases offering precedent for the proposition that their use can violate defendants’ rights to due process. Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit has lately upheld a California district attorney’s hiring of outside law firms on a contingency basis against such a challenge [Amanda Bronstad, The Recorder] And the Supreme Court last month refused to review a challenge to the New Hampshire attorney general’s use of contingency-fee counsel in an opioids suit against Endo Pharmaceuticals [Peter Hayes and Steven M. Sellers, Bloomberg, in a piece surveying current use of public contingency fees more broadly]
In a $850 million settlement of environmental claims by the state of Minnesota against 3M, private attorneys hired by the state will get $125 million, and the settlement fund is structured so as to evade the legislative appropriations power [Youssef Rddad, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press]
The “American public may soon pay for a billion-dollar wealth transfer from the pharmaceutical industry to state and local government,” writes Margaret Little:
Proceedings moving apace before Ohio U.S. District Judge Dan Polster bode the worst of all solutions to the opioid crisis – a swift global settlement modelled on the tobacco settlement of the 1990s. The result will inflict lasting damage on our constitutional order and do virtually nothing to solve the opioid crisis. Opioid abusers, just like smokers in the infamous tobacco settlement, stand to receive nothing. A single unelected federal judge will have feigned to have “solved” opioids, levied billions in unlegislated taxation, made drugs more costly and harder to secure for non-abusers while leading abusers to turn to heroin and fentanyl, and filled state and local coffers with revenue-by-judiciary while richly endowing trial lawyer barons – hand-picked by the judge – with billions in public funds. A swift education of the American public about this abuse of the judicial process is in order, not a swift settlement.
More: “After New York Sues Opioid Manufacturers, Drug Policy Experts Warn That Legal Action Won’t Save Lives” [Zachary Siegel, In Justice Today] The FDA is charged with setting uniform national policy on pharmaceuticals; will it allow regulatory power to be transferred pell-mell to MDL court or to the actors in a resulting settlement? [WLF] And from Jim Beck, Drug and Device Law:
…injuries from illegal opioid use are precisely the sort of injuries that the in pari delicto doctrine was designed to preclude from being recovered in litigation.
Well, what about the states as plaintiffs?…[W]ho can restrict the rights of physicians to prescribe drugs for off-label uses? That would be the states, in their traditional roles of regulators of medical practice…. States could ban precisely the off-label uses they are complaining about, but they haven’t.
California is prosecuting a man under state electronic-harassment law for posting five insults on an Islamic Center’s Facebook page [Eugene Volokh] A court filing by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra denies that the insults are protected speech or that the law is unconstitutional as applied. UCLA First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh writes, of California’s logic defending the prosecution: “This can’t possibly be consistent with the First Amendment.”
Related: New Jersey Supreme Court adopts narrow reading of criminal harassment statute so as to avoid covering repeated offensive speech which, though intended to annoy, does not invade privacy or put target in reasonable fear as to safety or security.