An argument that policy and legal factors, including strict liability for wildfires, bars on recovering fire outlays in electric rates, and air-quality limits on prescribed burns, have brought California to its present blackout crisis. [Susan Shelley, L.A. Daily News]
- Supreme Court should step in to protect freedom of association against California’s push to obtain donor identities for controversial groups [Ilya Shapiro and James Knight on Cato certiorari amicus brief in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra, earlier]
- Civil liberties implications pretty dire if taken seriously: “Trump White House Mulls Monitoring the Mentally Ill for Future Violence” [Cato Daily Podcast with Julian Sanchez and Caleb Brown]
- Online platform liability: “all the ignorance about and hostility toward Section 230 of late has been infecting the courts.” Take for example the Ninth Circuit [Cathy Gellis, TechDirt]
- New book (not seen by me) by Bruce Cannon Gibney, The Nonsense Factory: The Making and Breaking of the American Legal System, draws a favorable review from Tyler Cowen and a less favorable one from Mark Pulliam;
- The loophole that lets 3.1 million persons — even millionaires — collect SNAP benefits even though they wouldn’t otherwise meet eligibility standards, and why some state agencies are fine with this [Angela Rachidi and Matt Weidinger, AEI]
- Mark your calendar for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Nov. 16: I’ll be a featured speaker (as will author Dave Daley) at “Reclaiming Our Democracy: The PA Conference to End Gerrymandering” [Fair Districts PA]
- Britain’s Labour Party conference pledges to take over private schools, confiscating endowments as well as land and property [Benjamin Kentish, Independent]
- New York Department of Education readies moves to place private and religious schools under much tighter government control [Peter Murphy, City Journal]
- Chicago teachers’ union sends delegation on “solidarity trip” to Venezuela [Mark Glennon, Wirepoints; Hannah Leone, Chicago Tribune]
- So-called Blaine Amendments bar religious schools in participating in voucher programs to which they would be admitted were they nonsectarian. A case of religious discrimination, and if so, violative of the First Amendment? [Ilya Shapiro and Dennis Garcia on Cato merits brief in Supreme Court case of Espinosa v. Montana, Trevor Burrus and Patrick Moran on certiorari stage brief]
- “The [California] draft curriculum says that ethnic studies courses created by districts from the proposed curriculum will… ‘critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, …capitalism, and other forms of power and oppression'” [Valerie Strauss, Washington Post/Lowell Sun; Elizabeth Castillo, Cal Matters; Joanne Jacobs]
- “Kamala Harris expresses ‘regret’ over California truancy law” [Katie Galioto, Politico; background; “Souvarine”, Daily Kos (“criminal penalties for parents of truant children” are among “the earliest and most enduring progressive victories”; also tracing publicity on the issue to a certain scribbler of “libertarian claptrap,” though I made clear I was building on the earlier work of, e.g., the Marshall Project)]
- Despite strenuous efforts in Seattle and D.C. suburbs to impose “equity lens” on school systems and train all sides about implicit bias and systemic racism, no sign that actual outcome gaps are likely to budge [Rebecca Tan, Washington Post]
If driving for a gig economy platform appealed to you because you could wrap the timing of the work around the other obligations in your life, the California legislature sends its sincerest condolences [Megan McArdle, Washington Post/Paducah Sun; Michael Munger, The Hill, Steven Greenhut in July; earlier here, etc.] More: Richard Epstein, Hoover.
- States increase pension crisis with payouts for unused vacation and sick time [Steve Malanga, City Journal] “The Politics of Public Pension Boards” [Daniel DiSalvo, Manhattan Institute last year]
- State personnel board ordered reinstatement: “San Jose State cop fired after beating gets job back, now with Los Gatos police” [Robert Salonga, East Bay Times via Peter Bonilla]
- Time for the bizarre “California Rule” on pensions to go [public employers may not reduce future pension benefits even when based on work not yet performed; Carol M. Matheis, Federalist Society last year, earlier here and here] “Why California’s Pensions Only Deepen Inequality” [Joe Mathews, Zocalo Public Square] “Some L.A. pensions are so huge they exceed IRS limits, costing taxpayers millions extra” [Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times, last December]
- “You’re Not Fired: Do Civil Servants Have a Property Interest in Their Job?” [Federalist Society animated Policy Brief with Greg Jacob]
- Court opinions and administration actions are restricting push-button access to dues from home health care workers and unions aren’t happy about that [Steven Malanga, City Journal]
- California Teachers Association, Service Employees International Union push initiative to end Proposition 13 limits on commercial property taxation [Steven Greenhut, Reason]
Judge William Alsup of the federal court in San Francisco has refused a motion to certify a privacy class action in which the named plaintiff would be a man who has “filed 10 other California Invasion of Privacy Act actions, none of which ever reached the class certification stage” but instead concluded with private settlements [Mario Marroquin, Legal NewsLine; Alison Frankel, Reuters]
“Wuest’s litigation history is more than unusual,” Alsup wrote. “This order finds that it shows a pattern of using the threat of class action to extract an undeserved premium on an individual claim. This pattern is further evidenced by the fact that in several of the bases, both Wuest and his counsel received settlement amounts disproportionate to maximum recovery allowed under the statute.
“The pattern is quite clear. The premium was something rightfully due to the ‘class’ but no absent putative class member ever got anything. Wuest and his counsel got it all.”
Securities and Exchange Commissioner Hester Peirce has some critical comments on the California legislation signed by outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown last year requiring corporations to adopt gender quotas in the composition of their board of directors. She notes that research may not support one of the law’s stated rationales, that of improving financial results through better corporate governance, and that the law proposes to “micromanage an aspect of corporate governance that corporations, boards, and shareholders seem perfectly capable of handling on their own.” Relatedly, if women directors have an effect on corporate governance that is any different from men’s, it may relate to factors other than their gender [Tyler Cowen on Alam, Chen, Ciccotello, and Ryan paper] More: Federalist Society teleforum with Anastasia Boden, Keith Paul Bishop on unanswered questions about the law’s application. Earlier, including the law’s doubtful constitutionality, here, here, and here.
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.
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]
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]