I was a guest on Ray Dunaway’s program on Hartford-based WTIC discussing (audio) the new Minneapolis plan for race-conscious school discipline, which is likely to be replicated around the country as more cities and states fall into line with the new Department of Justice policy. Earlier here, and a somewhat different view from Coyote, who writes: “By the way, in today’s legal environment, any private employer who says they don’t put extra scrutiny on terminations of folks in protected classes, or don’t increase the warnings and documentation required internally before firing someone in a protected class, is probably a liar.”
The Obama Administration has repeatedly dodged cases in fear of judicial review of its controversial application of the disparate impact theory to mortgage lending and other aspects of the housing market, but its position has now met with a stiff rebuke from district court judge Richard Leon [Insurance Journal]:
“This is yet another example of an administrative agency trying desperately to write into law that which Congress never intended to sanction,” Leon wrote.
He called the rule “nothing less than an artful misinterpretation of Congress’s intent that is, frankly, too clever by half.”
Disparate impact by way of location? “Four environmental groups announced a federal complaint Thursday alleging that North Carolina’s hog farms discriminate against ethnic minorities because the stench and pollution from the swine operations disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans who live nearby.” [Raleigh News & Observer]
- In banking and FCPA cases, targets of DOJ prosecution are disproportionately firms domiciled abroad, and other countries do notice that [Jesse Eisinger, NYT “DealBook”]
- “Los Angeles’ Confused Suit against Mortgage Lenders” [Mark Calabria, Cato] Providence also using disparate impact suits in hopes of making banks pay for its housing failures [Funnell]
- Podcast discussion on Operation Chokepoint with Charles J. Cooper, Iain Murray, and Todd J. Zywicki [Federalist Society, earlier]
- New round of suits against banks based on ATMs’ imperfect wheelchair accessibility [ABA Journal, earlier here]
- Walgreen’s could save billions in taxes if it moved to Switzerland from U.S. Whose fault if anyone’s is that? [Tax Foundation]
- “Left unmentioned: how fed regulation and trial lawyers deter banks from protecting themselves with overdraft fees.” [@tedfrank on NYT report about banks’ use of databases to turn down business from persons with records of overdrawing accounts, a practice that now itself is being targeted for regulation]
- Scheme to seize mortgages through eminent domain stalling as cities decline to come on board [Kevin Funnell]
- Federal judge in Buffalo “dismisses EEOC’s largest pending pattern or practice lawsuit for failure to investigate” [Gerald Maatman, Jr. and Jennifer Riley, Seyfarth Shaw] U.S. magistrate judge in North Carolina orders sanctions against agency in lawsuit against law firm Womble Carlyle [Mary Kissel, WSJ]
- Commission’s campaign against employer use of criminal background checks meets resistance from nine state attorneys general [Penelope Phillips, Minnesota Employment Law Report] Federal judge in Maryland dismisses EEOC criminal-and-credit-background-check case against Freeman Companies using words like “laughable,” “unreliable,” “mind-boggling” [Nick Fishman, Employee Screen; Eric B. Meyer]
- Is regular attendance an essential job function for ADA purposes? Commission takes a hard line against employers who insist that showing up regularly is essential to a job without building a case individualized to the particular dispute [Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer’s Law Blog]
- Missed this one in October: Cato files amicus brief in lower-court case of EEOC v. Kaplan, on disparate impacts of credit checks in hiring [Ilya Shapiro]
- More epic losses by agency last year (earlier posts on that here and here) include Evans Fruit case [AP/Seattle Times] Defendants disadvantaged by agency’s prejudicial delay [Molly DiBianca on PBM Graphics and Propak Logistics cases; Anastasia Killian, WLF] Federal judge in Iowa orders agency to pay $4.7 million in attorneys fees to defendant trucking company CRST [Gerald Maatman Jr. and Howard Wexler, Seyfarth Shaw, ABA Journal, Wall Street Journal]
- “Does the EEOC Try To Intimidate Employers?” Merrily Archer v. Robert Young [Richard Cohen, Fox Rothschild; more from Merrily Archer on agency incentives; her major 2012 victory in the Picture People case, and a dissent]
- In commission’s view, two “incidents which ended in ambulance trips to the hospital” not enough to classify employee as safety risk absent individualized ADA determination [Joe Lustig]
My colleague Andrew Coulson:
Over the past several years, University of Rochester professor Joshua Kinsler has explored this question [of racial disparity in school discipline] using uniquely rich datasets. What he finds is that the variation in punishment between the races is largely explained by variation in discipline policies at the school level: black students are more likely to attend very strict schools. …
in order to achieve the administration’s goal of eliminating the racial discipline gap, schools that currently have many disruptive students and strict discipline policies will have to relax those policies.
Which brings us to Kinsler’s most important discovery: easing discipline policies in such schools causes overall student achievement to fall.
- Among convict’s assortment of doomed pro se arguments: blaming Nike for not warning that its shoes might be injurious when used in stomping a victim [Oregon, Lowering the Bar]
- Reinstated University of Colorado “deviance” prof: colleges sacrifice academic freedom to risk/liability fears [Chronicle of Higher Education]
- Wisconsin court ruling “deals major setback to John Doe probe into recall elections” [Daniel Bice and Dave Umhoefer, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, earlier] About that Wisconsin Blue Fist: “what it was noisy about was a desire to be the clunking fist of state power” [Ann Althouse]
- Obama Administration’s “pursuit of group justice actually leads to injustice to individual students” [Mona Charen, syndicated, on the new racial guidelines on school discipline, and thanks for quote]
- Andrew Trask’s picks of 2013’s most significant class action cases and articles;
- Slate legal columns, like horoscopes, should be labeled “for entertainment only” [Ramesh Ponnuru]
- Remembering the days when Americans filed legal challenges against parking meters [Brian Doherty]
Caleb Brown interviews me on the very, very bad new federal guidelines demanding that schools avoid disciplinary practices with “disparate impact” — in practice, those that result in more-than-proportional suspensions of minority or special-ed kids. Earlier here.
The Justice Department and Department of Education have sent out a Dear Colleague letter discouraging schools from pursuing strict discipline policies against student misbehavior, especially against “routine” or “minor” infractions; Education Secretary Arne Duncan cited tardiness and disrespect as examples of the latter. [Christian Science Monitor]
Assuming that the federal government has somehow acquired the legitimate constitutional authority to begin dictating the fine points of disciplinary policy to local schools in the first place — a big if — it might seem at first that much of this is innocuous. Some early coverage, for example, makes it sound as if the letter is mostly aimed at obtaining a reconsideration of zero-tolerance policies, long criticized in this space, as well as the sorts of suspensions and expulsions that are based on far-fetched dangers like finger guns or forbidden hugs.
Unfortunately, there’s much more. The letter represents the culmination of a years-long drive toward imposing tighter Washington oversight on school discipline policies that result in “disparate impact” among racial or other groups. Policies that result in the suspension of differentially more minority kids, or special-ed kids, will now be suspect — even if the rate of underlying behavior is not in fact uniform among every group. (Special-ed kids, for example, include many placed in that category because of emotional and behavioral problems that correlate with a higher likelihood of acting out in misbehavior. Boys misbehave more than girls.)
If the policy helps speed the correction of some overly harsh, mechanical school policies, both under the zero-tolerance rubric and otherwise, it may have some positive side effects. But the disparate-impact premise is a pernicious one that’s sure to create many new problems of its own. [Andrew Coulson, Cato; Scott Johnson, PowerLine]
More: in 2012 Senate testimony, Andrew Coulson pointed out that 1) compared with the alternatives, the use of out-of-school suspensions appears to improve the learning environment for other (non-disciplined) students by protecting them from disruption; 2) zero-tolerance policies were adopted in the first place in part as a defense for administrators against disparate-impact charges. In other words, the new supposed remedy (disparate-impact scrutiny) helped cause the disease to which it is being promoted as the cure. (& welcome Andrew Sullivan, Scott Greenfield, Hans Bader readers; cross-posted at Cato at Liberty)