- Astonishing investigation into feds’ “235 school shootings a year” statistic: “NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. …We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents.” [Anya Kamenetz, Alexis Arnold, and Emily Cardinali, NPR]
- Sentences that make you go back and read twice: “Mister Cookie Face lawyer Blake Hannafan also applauds the verdict and says 600 lb Gorillas ‘overreached.’” [AP/WHEC, Metro West Daily News on legal battle between Massachusetts dessert company and ice cream supplier]
- “In-N-Out Burger sends pun-filled letter to beer maker to address ‘brewing’ trademark issue” [ABA Journal]
- In Arkansas, socially conservative Family Council Action Committee enlists in the ranks against liability reform, and some less-than-charitable souls wonder whether $150,000 in donations from a Little Rock law firm might have had anything to do with that [Andrew DeMillo, AP]
- AG Brian Frosh’s embarrassing SALT suit, religious adoption fight, Cardin’s red meat thrown to Left, union influence in Montgomery County, Baltimore water supply, and more Maryland stuff in my new Free State Notes roundup;
- Federal court strikes down North Carolina’s U.S. House map as partisan gerrymandering, which could (or might not) lead to lively doings at the Supreme Court between now and Election Day [my new post at Cato]
- After parking lot shooting Pinellas County, Florida sheriff “claim[ed] his hands were tied by Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But that is not true” [Jacob Sullum, Reason, more; David French, NRO]
- Major USA Today story on origins of Baltimore’s devastating crime and murder wave [Brad Heath; Jonathan Blanks, Cato]
- Related: in Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force police scandal, plea bargains punished the innocent [Capital News Service investigation by Angela Roberts, Lindsay Huth, Alex Mann, Tom Hart and James Whitlow: first, second, third parts]
- California Senate votes 26 to 11 to abolish felony murder rule, under which participants in some serious crimes face murder rap if others’ actions result in death [ABA Journal, bill]
- New Jersey’s reforms curtailing cash bail, unlike Maryland’s, seem to be working reasonably well [Scott Shackford; longer Shackford article on bail in Reason; earlier here, here, etc.]
- “Miami Police Union Says Head-Kicking Cop ‘Used Great Restraint,’ Shouldn’t Be Charged” [Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times]
- “A Lawyer Who Helped an Exoneree Blow Through $750,000 Is Under Investigation” [Joseph Neff, Marshall Project]
- Department of State agency accreditation delays help worsen decline in international adoption [Kim Phagan-Hansel, Chronicle of Social Change]
- Fifth Circuit affirms sanctions award against ADA attorney Omar Rosales over “reprehensible misconduct” including “fabricating evidence” and “fraud on the court.” [Deutsch v. Phil’s Icehouse]
- Baltimore’s school mismanagement, GOP delegates cool on beer reform, non-citizen voting, Metro subway decay and more in my new Maryland roundup [Free State Notes]
- Eccentric English judge of olden days: “The Incoherence of Serjeant Arabin” [Bryan A. Garner]
- “L.A. Lawmakers Looking To Take Legal Action Against Google For Not Solving Long-Running City Traffic Problems” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt on controversy over Waze routing of traffic onto steep-graded street]
- BBC on Baltimore police gun trace task force scandal [Jessica Lussenhop] Didn’t even bother using the real kind: “Baltimore Cops Carried Toy Guns to Plant on People They Shot, Trial Reveals” [Drew Schwartz, Vice]
- Kentucky state police to media: do not put anything out about our investigations on social media “until OUR (KSP) press release is sent out.” Really? [Scott Greenfield]
- “In unmarked cars, Orlando, Fla. officers box in car whose occupants are suspected of not wearing seatbelts; the driver drives off; the police catch up, ram the car, and shoot the driver dead. Allegation: Contrary to the officers’ testimony, the driver wasn’t about to run over an officer when he was killed; he couldn’t have, as the car’s engine had died after police rammed the vehicle. Eleventh Circuit: Qualified immunity. (H/t: Police4aqi.)” [John K. Ross, “Short Circuit”]
- Police unionization may increase misconduct: “Our primary result is that collective bargaining rights lead to about a 27% increase in complaints of officer misconduct for the typical sheriff’s office.” [Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams, and John Rappaport via Jonathan Adler]
- Dept. will publish accounts of misconduct investigations, but with names of officers omitted: “NYPD Argues They Simply Can’t Be More Transparent About Its Violent Cops” [Molly Osberg, Splinter News]
- Michigan: “Seven Current and Former Police Officers Charged with 101 Felony Counts related to Fraudulent Auto Inspections”
[Attorney General Bill Schuette]
Taxpayers will shell out $100,000 so the city of Baltimore can bus public school students to an anti-gun rally. And that’s only the start of what’s wrong here, I write in a new Cato post. “A protest outing that is ardently enabled or even meticulously organized by the authority figures in your life can be like the ninth-grade English course that ruins Macbeth or Moby Dick for you.” I quote Lynda C. Lambert in the Baltimore Sun: “Part of protesting is finding your own way, for your own reasons….. Government sponsorship is destructive to these ends.”
My parting shot: “As for the separate question of whether compulsory attendance and truancy laws should be enforced against students for skipping school in a favored cause, I’ll see and raise: don’t enforce those laws against anyone period.”
- Why Baltimore’s Civilian Review Board hasn’t done much to fix its police crisis [J.F. Meils, Capitol News Service/Maryland Reporter]
- Three prosecutors with high national profiles who’ve put up dogged, maybe too dogged, resistance to actual-innocence claims [Lara Bazelon, Slate]
- Carceral liberalism: Advocates press to do away with statute of limitations for sex assault prosecutions [Scott Greenfield]
- “No charges have been filed against the cops. All of the officers involved are still employed by the department.” [Christina Carrega, New York Daily News on nearly $1 million award to Oliver Wiggins, unsuccessfully framed for DWI after police car ran stop sign and crashed into his vehicle]
- Founding-era views of duty-to-retreat vs. stand-your-ground might be more complicated than you think [Eugene Volokh]
- The trial penalty “is among the most important features of America’s criminal justice system, and yet there is no reference to it in the Constitution” [Clark Neily, Cato]
- Attitudes on law enforcement now function as culture war rallying point and vehicle of identity politics on both sides [Dara Lind] Good news on officer safety: “Line of duty deaths this year approached a 50-year low” [Ed Krayewski]
- SWAT deployment and police militarization — in rural Western Massachusetts [Seth Kershner, Valley Advocate] Trump still wrong on this issue [Eric Boehm]
- Would it be easier to address America’s high rate of fatal shootings by police if the focus were allowed to slip off race for a moment? [Conor Friedersdorf]
- Neighborhood police checkpoints employed in West Baltimore for several days in November, yet in 2009 DC Circuit, via conservative Judge Sentelle, found them unconstitutional [Colin Campbell and Talia Richman, Baltimore Sun; Elizabeth Janney, Patch]
- What should be done to address rising crime rates? Federalist Society convention panel video with Dr. John S. Baker, Jr., Heather Childs, Adam Gelb, Hon. Michael Mukasey, George J. Terwilliger III, moderated by Hon. David Stras;
- In Collins v. Virginia, Supreme Court has opportunity to reaffirm that home is truly castle against police search [Cato Daily Podcast with Jay Schweikert and Caleb Brown]
Act I: In a widely read Nov. 15 piece in Atlas Obscura, Priya Krishna reports on “the quest to save Baltimore’s Berger Cookie,” a beloved local food institution. “One of the most essential ingredients in the Berger Cookie is trans fats. Trans fats are what make the chocolate super creamy, prevent the fat and the water in the dough from separating (which would yield an overly crumbly cookie), and keep the cookie stable in both very warm and very cold settings.” However, the Obama administration enacted a federal ban on trans fats — for your own good, you know — which goes into effect next year.
Cookie producer Charlie DeBaufre, interviewed by Krishna, “refers to the past year as ‘frustrating and scary,’ as so many of his trans fat-free experiments have been failures. ‘I have spent $10,000 trying to get this worked out. I am not a big business. I don’t have an R&D Department. I have to shut down production for a few hours, still pay people for labor, and then most of the product gets trashed. It’s tough.'” More background in a piece I wrote for Cato last week.
Act II: Then a twist, reported by Sarah Meehan in the Baltimore Sun Nov. 21: the fudge supplier had managed to replace trans fats months ago and didn’t tell Berger’s. While early attempts to reformulate fudge frosting without trans fats had suffered from various quality defects, the new recipe was much improved to the point where neither consumers nor Berger’s had noticed.
So a happy if unexpected ending, at least for this one company, right? But the regulatory downside — you just knew there had to be one — was that in changing its recipe the fudge supplier had added more sugar, which appears to have boosted the calorie count and might have changed other things reported in the Nutrition Facts box as well. Since Berger’s says it didn’t know about the new formula, one inference might be that for a while it has been shipping cookies with a faulty calorie/nutrition count on the package. Hello to class action woes and, if the FDA is in a bad mood, regulatory liability?
- Police credibility under oath: “Judge Weinstein takes on testilying” [Scott Greenfield]
- “To resolve lawsuit filed by the DOJ, Seattle police department adopts policy requiring officers to attempt de-escalation (when possible) and use reasonable force to resolve tense situations. (A federal compliance monitor reports that officers’ use of force has since declined significantly without increased crime or injuries to officers.) Police officers: The policy violates our Second Amendment right to self-defense. Ninth Circuit: Novel but no.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, summarizing Mahoney v. City of Seattle]
- “The LAPD’s drone pilot threatens privacy despite policy assurances” [Matthew Feeney, Cato]
- Not just Hollywood and high places: sexual assault is “among the most pernicious and likely under-reported varieties of on-duty police misconduct” [Jonathan Blanks]
- “Hundreds Of Cases Dismissed Thanks To Baltimore PD Misconduct” [Tim Cushing]
- Body cameras worth pursuing even though results from Washington, D.C. study don’t show big effect on shootings or complaints [Matthew Feeney, Scott Greenfield]
From Chicago to Baltimore and beyond, don’t assume that consent decrees with higher levels of government (the U.S. Department of Justice included) are the best route to police reform. John McGinnis, Liberty and Law:
Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, has welcomed the lawsuit [by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan] and is looking to acquiesce in a consent decree which will create a new set of rules for the police department and a monitor to enforce them.
This collusive suit is a bad idea. To be sure, the Chicago Police Department needs reform, but this method reduces democratic accountability, imposes unnecessary costs, and most of all runs the risk of letting more people die from uncontrolled crime. And it is very unlikely to do what is most needed: eliminating or reducing the protections against discipline that police enjoy in union contracts or under civil service laws.
For an example of the kind of consent decree that is likely to be agreed upon, look at similar litigation in Baltimore….
…the greatest problem for lawful policing is that police departments have difficulty firing the few bad actors disproportionately responsible for civil rights violations because departments face constraints imposed by union contracts and civil service laws. The Baltimore consent decree does not rewrite these contracts or laws nor it is clear that it would have the power to do so. And I expect no different result in Chicago. Thus, the consent decree may retard the most important kind of police reform by giving a false sense of progress.