- “The Boston Public Health Commission has just banned the sale of all tobacco products at colleges. Not high schools. Colleges.” [Saletan, Slate]
- Sometimes the case caption seems to tell a little story all by itself [Lorraine Hodges v. Mt. Zion Temple d/b/a Zero Gravity Skatepark Oakland County, Mich., 12/1/2008 08-096435 NI Chabot (Pontiac), slip-fall on snow and ice]
- Consumer complaint site Ripoff Report is magnet for lawsuits [Citizen Media Law, Eric Goldman and again]
- EEOC hearing on English-in-the-workplace issues [Clegg, NRO “Corner”]
- Wiretapper Anthony Pellicano, helpful gnome behind the scenes for many powerful Hollywood lawyers, sentenced to 15 years behind bars [CNN, Patterico]
- “Hungary’s Constitutional Court says it has annulled a law giving rights to domestic partners because it would diminish the importance of marriage”; now just watch how many folks on both sides flip their opinion of judicial activism [AP/WHEC]
- No teaser rates for you! Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren wants new law empowering federal government to order withdrawal of “too-risky” consumer credit products [Consumer Law & Policy]
- Major new study of defensive medicine, conservatively estimated to waste $1.4 billion in Massachusetts alone [KevinMD, Boston Globe; Massachusetts Medical Society]
- Canada free speech: Islamic group files complaint against Halifax newspaper over cartoon of burka-wearing terror fan; two more libel suits aimed at online conservative voices; growing furor over complaint against Steyn/Macleans [National Post]
- More than 5,000 students committed crimes last year in Philadelphia schools, but none were expelled — consent decrees tying system’s hands are one reason [Inquirer]
- U.K.: Man threatened with legal action for flying pirate flag as part of daughter’s birthday party [Guardian]
- Bankruptcy judge doesn’t plan to accept at face value Countrywide’s claim that it generated false escrow documents by mistake in foreclosure [WSJ, WSJ law blog]
- Amid bipartisan calls to step down, Ohio AG Marc Dann [Apr. 19, May 6] hires an opposition researcher [Adler @ Volokh] on top of Washington lobbyist [Legal NewsLine], after being rebuked by judge for political suit [Dispatch]. And where’s that ethics form on the Chesley flight? [Dayton Daily News]
- Missouri med-mal claims fall sharply after legislated damages curb [Springfield News-Leader]
- More on Dartmouth prof Priya Venkatesan, the one who wants to sue her students — as suspected, she’s a devotee of deconstructionist Science Studies [Allen/MtC; earlier]
- Covert plan to sabotage Chinese economy? [Wilson Center event]
- What, never? Well, hardly ever: Docs continue to assail notion that various complications such as patient delirium, clostridium difficile infection, iatrogenic pneumothorax, etc. — not to mention falls — are “never events” [KevinMD various posts; earlier]
- Mich. high court agrees anti-gay-marriage amendment bars municipal health benefits for domestic partners, just what key proponents had claimed it wouldn’t do [Rauch @ IGF, Carpenter @ Volokh, earlier]
- Private service rates the safety of charter air providers — but can it afford the cost of being sued after giving a bad rating? [Three years ago on Overlawyered]
As we noted back on Mar. 20, 2005, some Religious Right campaigners appear to have talked out of both sides of their mouths on the question of whether their proposed anti-gay-marriage amendments in states like Michigan would put an end to the availability of existing health insurance benefits for the domestic partners of employees at public entities such as cities and universities. When urging voters to approve Proposal 2, these campaigners suggested that the measure would leave existing benefits undisturbed; once it was on the books, they supported efforts to invoke it to nullify the benefits. Now a Michigan appeals court has agreed that Proposal 2 does ban public-employee DP benefits. Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars has details (Jul. 5, 2006; Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, 2007; see also Nov. 22, 2006) on the, um, fancy footwork engaged in by two Religious Right litigation groups, the Thomas More Law Center and the Alliance Defense Fund. For more, see John Corvino, “A tragic lie in Michigan”, Between the Lines/Independent Gay Forum, Feb. 8; Jonathan Cohn, “Spouse Abuse”, The New Republic, Feb. 15; Andrew Sullivan, Feb. 15.
The Virginia legislature has voted to repeal the state’s law, the only one of its kind in the nation, prohibiting insurance companies from offering coverage of domestic partners as part of employer-provided health plans (see May 31, 2004, next-to-last paragraph). Gov. Mark Warner (D) has announced his intent to sign the bill. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce backed the repeal, citing principles of economic liberty: “If you believe in a free market, then restrictions like this don’t make any sense,” said Chamber vice president for public policy Stephen D. Haner. The repeal was strenuously opposed, however, by Religious Right figures such as Del. Robert Marshall (R-Manassas), and passed the House of Delegates by only a 49-48 margin (Pamela Stallsmith, “House backs letting firms extend health benefits”, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 25; Lou Chibbaro, Jr., “Va. DP ban repealed by 1 vote”, Washington Blade, Mar. 4; Tim Hulsey, Feb. 25).
On a related topic, last November Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment providing that “the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose” (see Nov. 2). At the time, opponents argued that the measure might well be interpreted to forbid cities, state universities and other public entities from offering domestic partnership benefits to their employees, but proponents of the measure dismissed that notion: a spokeswoman for Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, a group heavily backed by Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses, told the Detroit News “nothing that’s on the books is going to change. We continue to confuse this issue by bringing in speculation.” However, with the amendment now in effect, the state’s attorney general — to cheers from most of the amendment’s organized backers — has issued an advisory opinion stating that it does indeed prohibit the city of Kalamazoo from providing DP benefits to its employees after the expiration of their current union contract. (Ed Finnerty, “City under fire over same-sex benefits plan”, Kalamazoo Gazette, Mar. 17; Claire Cummings and Melissa Domsic, “Cox: No future same-sex employee benefits”, State News (Michigan State U.), Mar. 17). Don Herzog of Left2Right, who has assembled plenty of links on the story, aptly labels the sequence of events “Bait and Switch” (Feb. 11 and Mar. 18). Update: Feb. 17, 2007 (Mich. appeals court rules benefits illegal under amendment).
“The million-dollar federal payments that Congress designed to help the nearly 3,000 families of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have sparked feuds within hundreds of the families.” Stepfamilies, domestic partners, and surprise claimants asserting previously unsuspected overseas marital or blood relationships have all gotten into bitter disputes. Understatement alert: “When money is involved, there’s even more incentive to come forward,” says a NYC court official. (Martin Kasindorf, USA Today, Jan. 19). See Sept. 11.