Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Prosecutors: “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak got secret cut of Illinois tobacco fees

The great tobacco settlement of the 1990s certainly is the scandal that keeps on giving, isn’t it? “On Tuesday, federal prosecutors…. charged that [influential former Chicago alderman Edward] Vrdolyak worked out a secret deal with other attorneys to collect as much as $65 million even though he’d done no work on the tobacco case [for the state of Illinois]. The indictment did not make clear just how much the former alderman actually pocketed. … The [Seattle-based Hagens Berman] firm has denied any attempt to conceal payments.” [Chicago Tribune]

By the time my book The Rule of Lawyers came out in its 2004 softcover edition, enough was known about the multistate tobacco settlement for me to call it a “gigantic heist.” More stories have emerged since then. How many more still haven’t come to light?

Police roundup

  • The stalker wore a badge: AP finds mass abuse by police of non-public databases to check out romantic interests, celebrities, journalists;
  • Union-backed bill: “Pennsylvania lawmakers approve ban on naming officers in shootings” [Philadelphia Daily News]
  • How Chicago’s FOP shapes coverage of police shootings [Chicago Reader] Reason coverage of police unions here, here (Cleveland demand to stop open carry), here (union contracts restrict oversight), etc.
  • Inside the Chicago Police Department’s secret budget of millions a year from seizures and forfeitures [Chicago Reader]
  • Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith about force’s use of dragnet of social media information about citizens: “The only people that have anything to fear about anything being monitored are those that are criminals and attempting to commit criminal acts.” Yes, that’s really what Smith said [Alison Knezevich/Baltimore Sun; in sequel, social media companies rescind access to the Geofeedia service]
  • “It ought to be possible to terminate cops short of criminal convictions for incidents like that involving [Freddie] Gray’s” [Ed Krayewski]

“Man pleads guilty in auto crash, then sues city alleging police siren and lights distracted him”

“A man who pleaded guilty to reckless driving in a suburban Chicago accident that injured multiple people last year is now pursuing a lawsuit over the crash.” William Kivit contends in his Cook County lawsuit that the city of Park Ridge “is to blame for the accident, because a city police officer distracted him by activating his siren and lights, causing him to run a red light and strike a car that was legally proceeding through the intersection.” The pursuing officer was himself found to have violated city policy on high speed chases and was terminated; a “police investigation had determined that Kivit was traveling between 79 and 90 mph at the time of the crash.” [ABA Journal]

Public employment roundup

  • Union representing Seattle school cafeteria workers threatens church for giving free pizza to students [Shift WA, KOMO]
  • Portland: “Police chief, police union urge officers not to attend citizen review panel hearings” [Oregonian] “The Most Inappropriate Comment from A Police Union Yet?” [Kate Levine, PrawfsBlawg; Tamir Rice case, Cleveland] “Maryland’s Police Union Rejects ‘Any and All’ Reforms” [Anthony Fisher, Reason back in January]
  • On-the-job porn habit got Wheaton, Ill. cop fired, but if he nabs psychiatric disability, he’ll draw 65% of $87K+ salary with no income tax [Chicago Tribune]
  • “Why TSA Lines Have Gotten So Much Longer” [Gary Leff, View from the Wing; Robert Poole, WSJ]
  • Unions are biggest beneficiaries of Congress’s transit subsidy spigot. Time to apply terms and conditions [Steven Malanga]
  • “HUD Can’t Fire Anyone Without Criminal Charges, Even Interns” [Luke Rosiak, Daily Caller] “Here’s Why It’s All But Impossible To Fire A Fed” [Kathryn Watson, Daily Caller]

First Amendment roundup

  • How the courts came to extend First Amendment protection to art, music, movies, and other expression not originally classed as “press” or “speech” [new Mark Tushnet, Alan Chen, and Joseph Blocher book via Ronald Collins]
  • Cato amicus: church enterprises should be eligible for recycling program on same terms as secular businesses [Ilya Shapiro and Jayme Weber]
  • “A Political Attack On Free Speech And Privacy Thwarted — For Now” [George Leef, Forbes on AFP v. Harris, earlier] Bill filed by Rep. Peter Roskam would keep IRS from collecting names of donors to nonprofits [Center for Competitive Politics]
  • Newly enacted Tennessee conscience exemption for psychological counselors and therapists avoids some of the dangers of compelled speech [Scott Shackford, Reason]
  • Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, benchslapped by Judge Richard Posner after sending credit card companies letters urging them to cut off dealings with Backpage.com, now seeks Supreme Court certiorari review [Ronald Collins, earlier here, here, and here]
  • One problem with that Mississippi law: it gives extra protection to some religious beliefs about sex and marriage but not others [Popehat; my guest appearance on Mike Slater show, San Diego’s KFMB]

Illinois: unconstitutional to curb public employee pensions

“In yesterday’s decision, the [Illinois Supreme Court] — as it did in a 2015 case dealing with state workers—relied on a clause in the Illinois Constitution that treats government pensions as ‘an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.'” It wasn’t relevant that Chicago’s pension scheme was $8 billion in the hole, or that most of the city’s public unions had agreed to a deal with Mayor Rahm Emanuel under which the city would step up its funding in exchange for lower COLAs and higher employee contributions. “The bottom line …is that, having just been whacked with a record $543 million property tax hike to pay for old city pension debt, taxpayers are going to have to dig deep again — at least $168 million more over five years, by 2020, and rising from there.” [Chicago Business] Chicago now confronts population loss, aging of resident base [Chicago Magazine, Illinois Policy, Aaron Renn, City Journal] More: “While the US Constitution is famously “not a suicide pact,” the Illinois constitution apparently is.” [Jack Henneman on Twitter]

Police and prosecution roundup

  • Amid multiple scandals, why won’t office of Orange County, Calif. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas confirm name of county investigator alleged to have beaten defense attorney in courtroom hallway? [R. Scott Moxley/OC Weekly via Radley Balko, Voice of OC]
  • And from February: “former Los Angeles sheriff Lee Baca announced that he would plead guilty to criminal charges related to systemic misconduct in his department, specifically to a charge of lying to investigators in an effort to cover up that wrongdoing.” [Kevin Williamson]
  • Post-Ferguson investigation: problems with small-town municipal courts go way beyond North St. Louis County into outstate Missouri [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • Judge throws out mountain of tickets from Chicago traffic and speed cameras [TimeOut, Timothy Geigner/TechDirt, earlier]
  • Britain: following collapse of lengthy Operation Midland law enforcement inquiry into a fantasist’s wild tales of abuse (did senior Tories murder rentboys for fun?) vindicated officials and their families wonder where to turn to get their reputations back [Dan Hodges/Telegraph (citing Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe’s favorable reference to a second official’s statement that “The presumption that a victim should always be believed should be institutionalized”); Matthew Scott/Barrister Blogger, Richard Bartholomew]
  • Supreme Court nominee: “In Criminal Rulings, [Chief Judge Merrick] Garland Has Usually Sided With Law Enforcement” [New York Times; more on Garland’s D.C. Circuit rulings]

Police roundup

  • Open-minded: liberal-leaning Marshall Project publishes Heather MacDonald, often found on other side of criminal justice debates, on why police shootings of “unarmed” persons are not as clear-cut a matter as one might think;
  • “Report: Dashcam Equipment in Chicago Police Vehicles ‘Intentionally’ Destroyed” [Bryant Jackson-Green, Illinois Policy]
  • Sure-footed SWAT response to San Bernardino terror attack proved value of police militarization, right? Not so fast [Anthony Fisher]
  • In December Cato held a conference on “Policing America,” catch up with the videos here [Jonathan Blanks]
  • “Head of multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task force says forfeiture reform may spell the end of these roving, self-funded teams of drug-fighting cops who aren’t answerable to any local authority. He makes a good argument, but not the argument he thinks he’s making.” [that’s Radley Balko summarizing Tim Helldorfer, Memphis Commercial Appeal]
  • U.S. Department of Justice “Wants to Punish Abusive Ferguson Police with Massive Raises” [Scott Shackford, more on civil rights suit]

“CTA pays $4.3 million in wrongful-death settlement”

The Chicago Transit Authority in September “approved a $4.3 million payment to the family of a Pilsen woman who in 2009 was killed by a hit-and-run driver and then struck again by a CTA bus following the car.” The driver who struck Martha Gonzalez in a pedestrian crosswalk sped off and was never caught; the bus driver who subsequently hit Gonzalez’s body, who has subsequently retired, was not issued a traffic ticket in the incident. [Chicago Tribune, September]

Neil Steinberg: “Sued by a Lunatic”

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg reprints a column from 2000 about a lawsuit that ensued after he exchanged words with a young man waiting in line at the drugstore. The process dragged on through the Christmas season until just before the holiday itself: “It is days in a windowless, airless room, somehow both too big and claustrophobic, waiting for your case to be called, staring dully at tiles on the ceiling, hearing the headachy murmur of legalisms just out of earshot, noting the starched exhaustion of lawyers, the unease of regular folk. There are motions and counter-motions. Many times I recalled that Hamlet, listing reasons to kill himself in his famous ‘To Be or Not to Be’ soliloquy, puts ‘the law’s delay’ up high, right after the pangs of despriz’d love.”