- “This Massachusetts Lawmaker Wants to Throw Folks in Prison for Having Secret Car Compartments” [Scott Shackford; earlier on compartment bans here, here, and here]
- Traffic stops dangerous and intrusive. Why not focus them where they’re most needed? [Steve Chapman] More: a different view from Scott Greenfield;
- Why is AG Sessions enabling forfeiture end runs by police around their own state lawmakers? It’s not good federalism [Natalie Delgadillo, Governing] Angling to end suit, Philadelphia offers to end use of asset forfeiture funds for law enforcement [Robert Moran, Philadelphia Inquirer]
- White-collar prosecution: “Time To Revisit The Yates Memo?” [Robert Bork, Jr.]
- What happened when Rhode Island inadvertently legalized indoor prostitution [Elana Gordon, NewsWorks]
- What if U.S. Department of Justice policies had to be run through OIRA regulatory review for cost-benefit comparison, as many other agencies’ do? [Mark Osler, Marshall Project]
- Truly good news for both individual liberty and harm reduction: FDA grants reprieve for now to e-cigarettes/vaping [New York Times, Jacob Sullum/Reason, related; earlier on vaping, tobacco harm reduction, and the FDA here, here, and generally. Update: I’ve got a longer treatment up now at Cato;
- HUD seems finally to be backing off its long dispute with Westchester County, N.Y., long chronicled in this space and elsewhere [Howard Husock, City Journal]
- “Which side of the case is the federal government coming in on?” “Both, Your Honor.” [Rob Rosborough on DoJ’s intervention on opposite side from EEOC on question of whether Title VII covers sexual orientation, earlier on which here, etc.; Tony Mauro on DoJ split from NLRB on arbitration in Murphy Oil case; Thaya Brook Knight in March on constitutionality of CFPB] See also Marty Lederman, SCOTUSBlog, 2014;
- “Michigan Juror Rights Pamphleteer Free From Jail Pending His Appeal” [Jacob Sullum]
- Many satirical limericks later, Olive Garden’s parent company says its nastygram to a blogger “was auto-generated, and the company will take no further action.” [Charlotte Allen, Weekly Standard; earlier]
- There’s a delivery out front: “Florida man who drove dead body to lawyer’s office won’t be charged” [AP/ClickOrlando]
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced an expansion of the scope of civil asset forfeiture, under which government can seize and keep assets on suspicion without a criminal conviction or even the filing of a criminal charge. Reforms in the previous administration, which Sessions intends to roll back, limited some of the applications of the practice. [Chris Ingraham, Washington Post, Jonathan Blanks/Democracy Journal, C.J. Ciaramella/Reason, Steven Nelson/U.S. News, Dominic Holden and Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed] There had been warning something like this might be in the works.
My new piece at Cato begins:
In a memo dated June 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ended the practice by which the Department of Justice earmarks legal settlement funds for non-governmental third-party groups that were neither victims nor parties to the lawsuit. This is terrific news and a major step forward in respecting both the constitutional separation of powers and the private rights that litigation is meant to vindicate.
On the separation-of-powers aspects of these slush funds, I go on to recommend a vigorous dissent by Judge Janice Rogers Brown in the recent D.C. Circuit case of Keepseagle v. Perdue. Whole thing here.
There’s much that needs reforming about the Baltimore police department, but the collusive sweetheart agreement between two lame duck administrations, transferring power over department practices to outside activists and the usual monitor setup, has a great deal wrong with it. George Liebmann of the Calvert Institute, who has been critical of the settlement, wrote up his objections in a lengthy communication to the court, excerpted at Free State Notes.
More from Tim Lynch at Cato on the DoJ’s changing posture:
…Sessions is making a grave mistake if he thinks previous DOJ investigations did not uncover severe problems in American policing. The problems are there. The real question is how to address them. In the education area, teacher unions are the main obstacles to reform. Police unions are the major obstacle to sensible accountability measures for police organizations. But over the long run, local mayors and city councils must make a sustained commitment to proper oversight of police. It is unrealistic to expect the Attorney General or a federal monitor to do their jobs.
- Dairy Queen manager charged with involuntary manslaughter following suicide of teen employee reportedly bullied on the job [AP, Missouri]
- Court orders new trial: carpenter, in school to argue against son’s school suspension over knife, had displayed knife he carries as part of work [Lancaster Online, Commonwealth v. Goslin]
- Desires for retribution aside, hanging homicide rap on dealers after overdoses unlikely to solve opiate problem [Mark Sine and Kaitlyn Boecker, Baltimore Sun]
- “Man wrongly convicted with bite mark evidence confronts bite mark analysts” [Radley Balko]
- Judge Neil Gorsuch and over-criminalization [C. Jarrett Dieterle, National Review]
- Debate over DoJ oversight of city police forces continues [David Meyer Lindenberg, Fault Lines (report on Chicago) and more]
- Online accessibility demands under the ADA: “Surge in website lawsuits continues” [Retail Law Advisor, background]
- Even with no trade war yet, jitters affect livestock growers through slump in cattle futures [Richard Parker, Dallas News] Federalist Society/American Branch of the International Law Association panel on trade law in Trump era [part of symposium with panels on international law generally, alliances and interventions]
- “There is yet another more level of nerdiness, courtesy of Professor David Noll. Anne Gorsuch signed the rule at issue in Chevron.” [Josh Blackman]
- Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act reintroduced as H.R. 522 and likely again to command majority support in House Judiciary Committee [Rep. Bob Goodlatte, earlier (in face of veto prospect, committee approved bill last term by 18-6 vote), more: Fox News, earlier]
- Did Obama DoJ civil rights chief Vanita Gupta act without lawful authority? [Thomas Berry, Cato Legal Policy Bulletin]
- A second Trump executive order on regulation establishes reform officials within agencies [Brian Knight, Reuters, text, earlier on first order]
The Democratic Party has selected as its DNC chair Thomas Perez, widely described as the Establishment choice. Perez didn’t give off much of an impression of moderation in the Obama cabinet, however, where he was a leading symbol of regulatory lawlessness, hauled up repeatedly by the courts for trampling employers’ rights. See, for example, Gate Guard (Fifth Circuit describes conduct of DoL as “vindictive,” “indefensible,” “bad faith”), the we-know-where-you-live “persuader” rule (blasted by ABA, enjoined by judge), and of course mid-level overtime (enjoined by judge). More: Dan McLaughlin (Perez’s manipulation of fair housing litigation); John Fund (hiring practices at DoJ civil rights division).
Re: President Trump’s firing last night of Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, from the previous administration, who declined to argue in court on behalf of his executive order on visa admissions, my own reaction was as follows:
* The most appropriate move for Yates would have been to resign. Noisy resignations are fine in circumstances like these.
* Given her announcement, her removal from the job was entirely routine and to be expected. The difference between what happened and a noisy resignation is not wide enough that anyone should care.
* The Saturday Night Massacre under Nixon misses the mark as an analogy for at least two reasons: Archibald Cox was an independent special prosecutor, a job designed purposefully not to be answerable to the executive branch leadership, and his charge was to investigate Watergate, that is, offenses by the White House.
Yesterday the city of Baltimore signed a 227-page consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice putting the city’s police department under wide-ranging federal control for the indefinite future (earlier).
The decree (document; summary of high points) mingles some terms that rise to genuine constitutional significance with others that no court would have ordered, and yet others that appear not to be requirements of the law at all, but at most best practices. Many are virtually or entirely unenforceable (“professional and courteous” interaction with citizens). Whether or not the decree results in the less frequent violation of citizens’ rights, it is certain to result in large amounts of new spending and in the extension of the powers of lawyers working for various parties.
In November David Meyer Lindenberg of Fault Lines, the criminal justice website, wrote this opinion piece about the failure of DoJ police reform consent decrees to live up to the high claims often made for them (more: Scott Shackford, Reason). Our consent decrees tag traces the problems with these devices in a variety of public agencies such as those handling children’s and mental health services, as well as the budgetary rigidity they often impose.
Since Congress passed enabling legislation in 1994 in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the Washington Post and Frontline reported in a 2015 investigation, “Twenty-six [police] investigations — a little more than half of them since President Obama took office — have led to the most rigorous outcome: binding agreements tracked by monitors. More than half were consent decrees, meaning they were approved and managed in federal court.” As of that point only Ohio, at 4 agreements, had had more than Maryland, at 3.
This 2008 report from the Alabama Policy Institute by Michael DeBow, Gary Palmer, and John J. Park, Jr. takes a critical view of the decrees’ use in institutional reform litigation (not specifically police), and comes with a foreword by Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the nominee to replace Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the U.S. Speaking of which, there’s something so weird about some liberals’ eagerness to hand the keys to big-city police departments over to Mr. Sessions. It’s as if they think once Main Justice is calling the shots it won’t think of using that leverage on issues like, say, sanctuary cities.