Posts Tagged ‘California’

Some costs of “red flag” laws

My letter to the editor at the Washington Post last Tuesday on red flag gun laws:

August 13, 2019

Red flag’ laws can have deadly consequences

The Aug. 9 front-page article “Results of ‘red flag’ gun laws uneven across 17 states, D.C.” quoted critics of Maryland’s “red flag” gun-confiscation law who find the law lacking on due process grounds. It might also have mentioned another kind of collateral damage done by the law this past November in its second month of operation, namely the death of 61-year-old Gary J. Willis of Glen Burnie, shot dead by Anne Arundel County police who had come to his door at 5 a.m. to present an order to confiscate his guns. Willis answered the door with a gun in his hand. He set it down but then became angry, picked up the gun, and, in an ensuing scuffle with an officer over the weapon, it went off without striking anyone. A second officer then shot Willis dead.

In the aftermath, because of confidentiality rules, neither press nor public could view the red-flag order that had set police on the fatal encounter. Defending the shooting afterward, the county’s police chief described any possible threat from Willis to others in the vaguest of terms, telling the Capital Gazette, “We don’t know what we prevented or could’ve prevented.” Family member Michele Willis, speaking to the Baltimore Sun, took a different view: “I’m just dumbfounded right now,” she said. “My uncle wouldn’t hurt anybody. … They didn’t need to do what they did.”

Walter Olson, New Market

It is true that in principle “red flag” laws can draw on the same respectable historic taproots of judicial power as, e.g., domestic violence restraining orders. [David French, National Review] One problem with that is that it’s not clear the current use of domestic restraining orders inspires confidence, due-process-wise. In two posts last week (first, second) Jacob Sullum, who also cites the work of Dave Kopel, critically examines the shortcomings of the red flag gun laws enacted so far, while California lawyer Donald Kilmer looks at his state’s existing law.

“Time cards for adjuncts?”

Legislation in the California assembly aims at heading off the prospect that private colleges and universities will require adjunct professors to begin operating on time card systems:

In recent years, a number of colleges and universities have settled faculty overtime violation lawsuits filed by the same California law firm — lawsuits that even many adjuncts say are frivolous. Stanford University, for example, last year settled for nearly $900,000 in a class-action suit regarding instructors in its continuing studies program. Attorney’s fees accounted for one-third of the settlement, so adjuncts involved were each entitled to a partially taxable $1,417. Kaplan University also settled, according to public documents. Other suits have been settled more quietly. Public institutions in California, whose adjuncts are generally unionized, have not been affected.

Private colleges and universities have responded to the ongoing legal threat by either making or planning to make their adjuncts document all of their working hours on time cards.

Tinker with its details as one will, wage and hour law necessarily proceeds on the premise of regimenting the workplace by the minute. That’s why the time clock is its symbol. [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed]

California Consumer Privacy Act: legislate in haste…

The California Consumer Privacy Act, drawn up hastily to avert a threatened ballot initiative, purports to create six new categories of data-related consumer rights, “including the right to know; the right of data portability; the right to deletion; the right to opt-out of data sales; the right to not be discriminated against as a user; and a private right of action for data breaches.” Although sometimes compared to the European GDPR, the two laws are different and compliance with the one enactment (which has been immensely expensive already) does not accomplish compliance with the other. Expect uncertainty, fines, the California specialty of entrepreneurial class-action litigation, and more tilting of compliance cost structures to the benefit of tech companies and advertising intermediaries big enough to afford to spread the high expense over large revenue streams [Alec Stapp, Truth on the Market; more: Al Saikali, Washington Legal Foundation; Petrina McDaniel, Elliot Golding and Keshia Lipscomb, Squire Patton Boggs]

Police union roundup

  • New research finds Florida extension of collective bargaining rights to sheriff’s deputies correlated with increase in violent incidents when compared with municipal forces, for which law did not change [Dhammika Dharmapala, Richard H. McAdams, and John Rappaport, Cato Research Briefs in Economic Policy #171]
  • “This Cop Is Getting $2,500 a Month Because Killing an Unarmed Man in a Hotel Hallway Gave Him PTSD” [Scott Shackford; Mesa, Arizona] “A Portland police sergeant was fired last year for suggesting to his fellow officers that they should shoot black people for no reason. More than a year later, he’s in line to receive a $100,000 settlement from the city.” [Joe Setyon]
  • “Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner drew up a list of cops he wouldn’t put on the stand because of their history of misconduct, and the local Fraternal Order of Police union sued.” [Scott Greenfield]
  • California police groups fight to stop new law making misconduct records public [Scott Shackford, and more, and yet more]
  • “Police Officer Claims He Feared For His Life After Shooting Family’s Roomba To Death” [humor/satire, Babylon Bee]
  • Camden, N.J.’s start-over-from-scratch approach to police employment seems to be producing some favorable results [Alex Tabarrok with charts from Daniel Bier]

June 5 roundup

  • Why New York City can’t build new infrastructure at reasonable cost (“Every factor you look at is flawed the way the MTA does business, from the first step to the end.”) [Josh Barro]
  • “‘He’s finally getting his due.’ Serial ADA filer faces charges as store owners rejoice” [Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee on tax charges against Scott Johnson, whose doings are often chronicled in this space] Flashback: vintage Sacramento billiards parlor Jointed Cue closes after being named in one of Johnson’s 1,000+ accessibility suits [Kellen Browning, Sacramento Bee last year]
  • “Four-Year Court Battle Between Deaf Advocates and Harvard Over Closed Captioning of Videos Proceeds to Discovery With Some Limitations” [Kristina M. Launey & Minh N. Vu, Seyfarth Shaw; earlier on takedown of Berkeley online courses]
  • More on copyright battle between state of Georgia and Carl Malamud over whether he can publish online the laws of Georgia with annotations commissioned and approved by the state under agreement with private publishers [Adam Liptak, New York Times; earlier]
  • Reviewing the harms of rent control: a view from Seattle [Kevin Schofield, SCC Insight]
  • California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) “imposes liability on cities that elect their representatives through an at-large system and have racially polarized voting.” Generous attorneys’ fee provisions have encouraged assembly-line filing of complaints [Federalist Society forum with J. Michael Connolly; Mark Plummer, LAist; Carolyn Schuk, Silicon Valley Voice (Sunnyvale); Robert Haugh, Santa Clara News Online]

Unions exploit California environmental law for leverage

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other California laws are notorious for delaying and driving up the cost of building projects. Aside from their uses for neighbors pursuing Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) goals, the environmental laws are also employed for leverage by labor unions who threaten to invoke them “to stop new construction unless they get a cut of the action. One developer is fighting back.” [Scott Shackford, earlier on CEQA]

California AG: it’s illegal to possess secret list of convicted cops

By filing routine public records requests, reporters obtained a hitherto unreleased list of thousands of California law enforcement officers convicted of crimes over the past decade. “But when [California Attorney General Xavier] Becerra’s office learned about the disclosure, it threatened the reporters with legal action unless they destroyed the records, insisting they are confidential under state law and were released inadvertently. The two journalism organizations have rejected Becerra’s demands.” The list includes “cops who stole money from their departments and even one who robbed a bank wearing a fake beard. Some sexually assaulted suspects. Others took bribes, filed false reports and committed perjury.” [Robert Lewis and Jason Paladino, East Bay Times]

Wage and hour roundup

  • Decision time coming up for administration on whether to reverse one of Obama’s worst initiatives, overtime for junior managers [Veronique de Rugy; Robin Shea]
  • California observes different rule on overtime for offshore oil workers than does federal government, exposing employers to huge retroactive back pay liability [Washington Legal Foundation, Supreme Court granted certiorari last month in Newton v. Parker Drilling]
  • Today in bad ideas: Philadelphia becomes latest jurisdiction to regulate shifts and scheduling in retail, hospitality [Juliana Feliciano Reyes, Philadelphia Inquirer/WHYY, Drinker Biddle/National Law Review, Max Marin/BillyPenn]
  • “I’m a restaurant employee in a city with a $15 minimum wage; here’s how it’s hurt me” [Simone Barron, Washington Examiner] Virginia could wind up with a $15 minimum law before long, tough luck for rural parts of state [Hans Bader]
  • “Nurses allege Corona, Calif. underpaid them, rounding down their time to the nearest quarter hour. Ninth Circuit: This can proceed as a class action. Five judges, dissenting from denial of en banc review: The only evidence in support of the nurses’ claim is a declaration from plaintiffs’ lawyers’ paralegal, which is plainly not admissible. ‘This doesn’t pass the straight-face test.'” [Short Circuit on Sali v. Corona Regional Medical Center, Ninth Circuit panel, denial of en banc rehearing]
  • “The Impact of The New German Minimum Wage” [Ryan Bourne]

Bans on Independent-Contractor Status Hurt Workers (Again)

In April of last year the California Supreme Court ruled that a large class of service workers historically categorized as independent contractors, those who are under contract with a host enterprise that performs the same kind of service they do, have to be treated as employees and brought under the full range of employment laws. Some labor advocates cheered, but many California workers did not. “I lost my entire staff,” said owner Anthony Giannotti of downtown Sacramento’s Bottle and Barlow barber shop. All seven of his barbers quit, he said. The ruling is expected to disrupt the marketplace for cosmetologists and tattoo artists, yoga and Pilates instructors, and even FedEx delivery personnel. [Angela Greenwood, CBS Sacramento in September]

California moves to curb slack-fill litigation

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]