- “Lawmakers must act now to close New York’s double jeopardy loophole,” claims New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. Its what? [Kenneth Lovett/New York Daily News, Jacob Sullum/Reason, Jed Shugerman/Slate (defending closing of “loophole”), Jonathan Blanks on Twitter, earlier]
- Speaking of pardon powers, Debra Saunders quotes me in column on Presidential pardons, Martha Stewart, Rod Blagojevich, Marc Rich, etc. [Las Vegas Review Journal/syndicated]
- “California Town Hired Private Law Firm to Sue Citizens, Then Tried to Conceal Massive Costs” [Scott Shackford, earlier on Indio, Coachella, etc.] Bill passed by California assembly “would put an end to a practice in which several cities have been contracting with private prosecutors to handle nuisance abatement cases, then billing the impacted citizens thousands in lawyers’ fees.” [same]
- “In light of the [Aaron] Persky recall, here are some studies on the impact of elections on judicial behavior. The story is consistent: elections make judges harsher, and there may be other costs as well (like lower-skilled people becoming judges).” [John Pfaff Twitter thread, earlier here, here, and here]
- “CBP Sued For Seizing $41,000 From Airline Passenger, Then Refusing To Give It Back Unless She Promised Not To Sue” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
- Even when suspects are in fact guilty, lies told to justify searches “corrupt the law in order to enforce it. That’s not how policing is supposed to work.” [Jonathan Blanks on Joseph Goldstein, New York Times investigation of police perjury (“testilying”)]
- Cato Daily Podcast on changes in the Endangered Species Act with Jonathan Wood of the Pacific Legal Foundation and Cato’s Caleb Brown;
- In 1971 Judge J. Skelly Wright of the D.C. Circuit let loose the craziness by reading NEPA, passed a year earlier, as giving private parties the right to challenge government actions [Richard Epstein, Hoover “Defining Ideas” via John Cochrane]
- Ambassador Nikki Haley says U.S. will not support U.N. global pact on environment [Ben Evansky, Fox News]
- Recent Federalist Society audio features on Clean Water Act include Jonathan Adler and Timothy Bishop on deference and Peter Prows, Tyler Welti, Jonathan Wood, and Tony Francois on exemptions;
- Tree, tree, go away: some of what’s wrong with the California scheme to mandate solar panels on all new homes [John Cochrane]
- “The Defeat of California Senate Bill 827 and the Future of the Struggle to Curb Zoning” [Ilya Somin]
It’s almost as if making life inconvenient for drivers is seen as a goal in itself: “City staff [in California’s capital city of Sacramento] are drafting an ordinance that would ban building new gas stations, drive-throughs, and other auto-related businesses within a quarter mile of any of the city’s 23 light rail stations. …Other businesses ‘not considered transit-supportive’ — car lots, auto repair businesses, manufacturing sites, wholesale outlets — would still be allowed, but only if the city grants them a special permit.” [Christian Britschgi, Reason]
- New suits claim lack of web accessibility features in online employment applications violates California’s ADA equivalent law [Kristina M. Launey & Myra Villamor, Seyfarth Shaw]
- Sugar in candy? Who knew? [John O’Brien and John Breslin, Legal Newsline/Forbes] Slack-fill lawsuits reveal nonfunctional void within class-action industry [Baylen Linnekin]
- Musical instruments in court: the stories behind six famous gear disputes [Jay Laughton, Reverb last year]
- “Secret of David Copperfield’s signature trick revealed in slip-and-fall suit by audience volunteer” [ABA Journal]
- Given Congressional presence in area, California not entitled to use foie gras regulation to impose its views of duck and goose husbandry on producers outside state [Ilya Shapiro and Reilly Stephens on Cato cert amicus in Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d’Oies du Quebec v. Becerra]
- “The earliest versions of the “People’s Court” TV show used law professors as the judges. They were picked because they were articulate and looked like judges but weren’t state bar members; for bar members, being on the show was seen as unlawful advertising.” [@OrinKerr linking Roger M. Grace, Metropolitan News-Enterprise in 2003]
The Sierra Pacific/Moonlight Fire scandal developed after the state of California and federal governments combined legal forces to go after a forest products company seeking to recoup millions of dollars spent fighting a fire that they claimed the company helped cause. Over the course of the ensuing litigation, judges charged a California state agency with “egregious and reprehensible conduct,” blasted the office of then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris for less-than-professional conduct, and brought in question the conduct of the U.S. Department of Justice under then-AG Eric Holder. We covered the story here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Now a new book on the story by author Joel Engel is out entitled “Scorched Worth: A True Story of Destruction, Deceit, and Government Corruption.” The author has an excerpt in the Weekly Standard (“What happens when the government lies about you in court?”). Here’s a fuller description of the book, from publisher Encounter:
To effect just outcomes the justice system requires that law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges be committed—above all—to doing justice. Those whose allegiance is to winning, regardless of evidence, do the opposite of justice: they corrupt the system. This is the jaw-dropping story of one such corruption and its surprise ending.
On Labor Day 2007, a forest fire broke out in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada and eventually burned about 65,000 acres. Investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the United States Forest Service took a mere two days to conclude that the liable party was the successful forest-products company Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), founded as a tiny sawmill nearly sixty years earlier by Red Emmerson.
The investigative report on the fire declared that SPI’s independent logging contractor had started the conflagration by driving a bulldozer over a rock, creating a spark that flew into a pile of brush. No fire had ever been proven to start that way, but based on the report the U.S. Department of Justice and California’s attorney general filed nearly identical suits against Emmerson’s company. The amount sought was nearly a billion dollars, enough to bankrupt or severely damage it. Emmerson, of course, fought back.
Week by week, month by month, year by year, his lawyers discovered that the investigators had falsified evidence, lied under oath, fabricated science, invented a narrative, and intentionally ignored a mountain of exculpatory evidence. They never pursued a known arsonist who was in the area that day, nor a young man who repeatedly volunteered alibis contradicted by facts.
Though the government lawyers had not known at the start that the investigation was tainted, they nonetheless refused to drop the suits as the discovery process continued and dozens of revelations made clear that any verdict against Emmerson’s company would be unjust.
Scorched Worth is a riveting tale that dramatizes how fragile and arbitrary justice can be when those empowered to act in the name of the people are more loyal to the bureaucracies that employ them than to the people they’re supposed to serve. It’s also the story of a man who refused to let the government take from him what he’d spent a lifetime earning.
The book can be ordered here.
A mini-roundup: “How State Pension Funds — and 401k Managers — Prioritize Politics over Returns” [Ike Brannon, Cato/Forbes.com, more; related, Eric V. Schlecht, Economics 21] “The California state teacher retirement system open letter to Apple about ‘smartphone addiction’ provides another point in favor of giving these workers individual accounts with a private provider.” [Caleb Brown on Twitter] “Those shares belong to the college savers, not him”: Illinois treasurer uses 529 funds to push Facebook, other firms on political issues [Cole Lauterbach, Illinois News Network]
- Wearing two hats: mayor of Imperial Beach, Calif. suing oil companies is also with an environmentalist group [Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times] “Cross Examination Is Going To Be Brutal” given local officials’ earlier statements [Karen Kidd, Forbes, citing Richard Epstein]
- Municipalities’ suits ignore important goal of California law “that emissions should be reduced, not simply shifted out of state due to high costs and burdensome regulations” [Dorothy Rothrock (CMTA), Sacramento Bee]
- Washington Legal Foundation webinar on public nuisance suits with Richard Faulk of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Neil Merkl of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP;
- “Schwarzenegger to Sue Big Oil for ‘First Degree Murder’” [Edward Isaac-Dovere, Politico]
- “What is a non-mood-affiliated way to get up to speed on climate change issues?” [Tyler Cowen and commenters; brief Cowen explainer on mood affiliation]
- “Whether it is lawsuits against opioid manufacturers or lawsuits against oil companies, public policy should be crafted in the statehouse, not the courthouse.” [David Yates, Southeast Texas Record]
On California judicial elections and the Judge Aaron Persky recall, it looks as if Berkeley law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and I come down on the same side [Maria Dinzeo, Courthouse News]:
“I want judges deciding cases based on the law and the facts, not public opinion,” he said in an interview Thursday.
Chemerinsky, who has denounced the recall effort against Persky as misguided, again came to the judge’s defense and called the move to unseat him [over a sexual assault sentence perceived as lenient] “troubling.”…
Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Robert Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, said situations like Persky’s can be an easy launchpad for agitators looking to whip up voters.
“It’s very common and easy for rulings that other judges of many different stripes and philosophies agree was the correct decision to get turned into something people can rail against, like saying they’re soft on crime or soft on sexual assault,” Olson said. “It’s easy to make judges look bad for doing what may be a good job.
…“We don’t want a judiciary that keeps an eye on popularity polls when deciding guilt or innocence.”
Four incumbent judges on San Francisco Superior Court are also being targeted at the polls for defeat because, although Democrats themselves, they were appointed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Earlier this month, California Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson and Toni G. Atkins introduced a bill, SB 826, that would require a publicly held corporation with its principal places of business in California to have a minimum number of women directors.” [Keith Paul Bishop, Cal Corporate Law, via Prof. Bainbridge, who asks: “How is this constitutional?”]
“[The legal filing] is also plainly a publicity stunt, intended to get you to watch a Bigfoot documentary on Netflix. While writing about it arguably plays into this tactic, I am going to do it anyway because even a petition intended as a publicity stunt should be better than this one.” [Lowering the Bar]