President Donald Trump’s backing of a version of the First Step Act is a big deal. Among noteworthy features: retrospective relief on some overlong sentences currently being served. In this new Cato Podcast, Caleb Brown interviews Molly Gill of Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
- Repercussions of Supreme Court’s Janus ruling on bar associations’ compulsory extraction of dues from nonmembers [Maxine Bernstein, Oregonian] “State Supreme Court calls a ‘timeout’ for Washington Bar Association to review its rules” [Steve Miletich, Seattle Times] “ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) Cannot Survive the Supreme Court’s Recent Decisions in NIFLA and Matal” [Kim Colby, Federalist Society, earlier on rule banning some types of speech and expression by lawyers on anti-discrimination grounds]
- Pardoned former sheriff Joe Arpaio sues New York Times for libel [Quint Forgey, Politico; Joe Setyon, Reason; over the years]
- When may governments boycott private companies’ output because those companies promote disapproved ideas? [Eugene Volokh, more]
- First Amendment has consistently foiled Donald Trump’s designs against critics’ speech [Jacob Sullum; related, David Henderson] “The culture of free speech has been deteriorating for long enough that politics, sadly and predictably, is catching up.” [Matt Welch] “Threats of violence discourage people from participating in civic life. This is an unusually good opportunity to deter them.” [Conor Friedersdorf during Ford-Kavanaugh episode]
- “Fighting Words and Free Speech” [John Samples] “A New Podcast on Free Speech: Many Victories, Many Struggles” [same on Jacob Mchangama podcast series]
- “U.K. Supreme Court: Baker Doesn’t Have to Place Pro-Gay Marriage Message on Cake” [Dale Carpenter, Peter Tatchell, Lee v. Ashers]
- North Carolina’s heartbalm law strikes again, as judge orders man who slept with married woman to pay jilted husband $8.8 million [Virginia Bridges, Raleigh News & Observer, more on homewrecker tort]
- Cornell economist Rick Geddes explains the federal government’s postal monopoly [David Henderson]
- Trademark swagger: “Chicago Poke Chain Sends C&D To Hawaiian Poke Joint Demanding It Not Be Named ‘Aloha Poke'” [Timothy Geigner, Techdirt] “Shipyard Brewing Loses Its Lawsuit Over Ships and The Word ‘Head'” [same]
- “Man files lawsuit under False Claims Act against manufacturer of batteries for use in intercontinental ballistic missile launch controls, asks for $30 mil, settles for $1.7 mil. What follows is—in the trial court’s words—a “hellish” dispute over the man’s attorneys’ fees. Third Circuit: We feel you; the order reducing requested fees is affirmed in almost every respect.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, on U.S. ex rel. Palmer v. C&D Technologies]
- Using the law to suppress one’s competition: New York Taxi Workers Alliance cheers City Council’s move to cap Uber and ridesharing [Reuters] It’s totally normal and not at all suspicious that the city council president who wants tougher enforcement against Airbnb is also president of the state’s hotel lobby [Eric Boehm, Reason; Biloxi, Mississippi]
- For those still keeping score, it’s improper and prejudicial for the head of the nation’s law enforcement apparatus to declaim publicly against a criminal trial in progress, whether or not the defendant happens to be his own campaign manager [David Post, Volokh; April Post and podcast on inapplicable “fruit of the poisonous tree” claim]
The Supreme Court yesterday in a 5-4 decision upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban, citing the relevant statute’s extreme deference toward executive branch national security determinations on the entry of persons, as well as the Court’s own historic deference toward executive branch discretion in this area.
The four liberal justices dissented, but did not agree on reasoning. Breyer and Kagan went for a low-key, minimalist fix — keep the injunction in place while ordering additional factfinding about implementation — that might have begun as an effort to craft a narrow decision conservatives would join. Only two Justices, Sotomayor and Ginsburg, went along with the arguments that persuaded the Ninth Circuit judges below.
Both dissents, however, stressed the significance of improper animus / discrimination against religious belief, the same issue championed by the Court’s conservatives in Masterpiece Cakeshop earlier this month.
Legal buffs may be interested in Thomas’s concurrence in which he pronounces universal injunctions “legally and historically dubious.”
Finally, and of interest to all Americans, the Court through its majority opinion officially repudiated Korematsu v. U.S. (1944), the decision in which it once upheld forced wartime internment of Japanese-Americans. Korematsu had never been officially repudiated until today.
As we mentioned in a brief earlier item, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has “directed the Department of Financial Services to urge insurance companies, New York State-chartered banks, and other financial services companies licensed in New York to review any relationships they may have with the National Rifle Association and other similar organizations. Upon this review, the companies are encouraged to consider whether such ties harm their corporate reputations and jeopardize public safety.” [Cuomo press release] Maria T. Vullo, Superintendent of Financial Services for the state of New York, issued a guidance memorandum. In language not altogether typical of safety-and-soundness financial regulation, Vullo wrote:
While the social backlash against the National Rifle Association (the “NRA”) and similar organizations that promote guns that lead to senseless violence has in the past been strong, the nature and the intensity of the voices now speaking out, including the voices of the passionate, courageous, and articulate young people who have experienced this recent horror first hand, is a strong reminder that such voices can no longer be ignored and that society, as a whole, has a responsibility to act and is no longer willing to stand by and wait and witness more tragedies caused by gun violence, but instead is demanding change now.
Brian Knight writes at FinRegRag:
This request could easily be construed is a thinly veiled threat. While the NYDFS statement does not explicitly say that NY FIs (financial institutions) that may face regulatory sanction for failing to cut ties with the NRA, it doesn’t rule out the possibility either. If the NYDFS had no intention of threatening regulatory sanctions, they could clearly have added language taking the threat of enforcement off of the table. They didn’t, which indicates they want NY FIs to think there is a potential the government will come after them if they don’t end their relationships with groups like the NRA.
These instructions to NY FIs could also be seen as an attempt to suppress political speech that some New York policy makers disagree with. Whatever one thinks of the NRA, it is an organization engaged in legal political speech and advocacy. Cutting off the NRA’s access to financial services could change the political debate by reducing opposition to political efforts to tighten gun laws. The NYDFS release says, “This is not just a matter of reputation, it is a matter of public safety, and working together, we can put an end to gun violence in New York once and for all.” Given that the NRA does not make a product that could pose a direct risk to public safety, this release is clearly referencing the NRA’s political advocacy.
Knight compares the initiative to the Operation Choke Point episode, in which federal regulators steered banks away from dealing with various controversial but lawful lines of business, including some that were politically fraught. But in that episode, at least, the target enterprises were primarily engaged in the sale of goods and services and thus might in principle have faced financial risks related by fraud or unfulfillable obligations to customers.
The NYDFS order appears to be inherently about political speech. After all, there is no allegation that the NRA is committing fraud against its members. Rather, the argument is that the NRA’s positions are so dangerous that they are harmful to the community and pose a risk to the reputation of any FI that works with them. This could fairly be seen as an attempt to restrict the NRA’s ability to operate in the political arena and marketplace of ideals.
The guidance memorandum might thus accomplish by indirection what it would be plainly improper for the state to attempt directly:
There is no law that says a FI (financial institution) cannot do business with a gun rights group and such a law would almost assuredly be unconstitutional. However if the regulator declares that such an affiliation poses a reputational risk to the FI (that the regulator, not the market, determined existed), it has leverage to force the FI to comply.
The NRA has filed a suit against the governor and New York officials saying the program amounts to “coercion” aimed at depriving the association and its constituents of First Amendment rights. More: Scott Greenfield.
Meanwhile, in other news of regulatory retaliation — see also our tag on that — U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly urged the U.S. Postal Service to double its rates for handling packages shipped by Amazon.com, linked in his mind through founder Jeff Bezos with his journalistic nemesis the Washington Post. Postmaster General Megan Brennan is said to have “resisted Trump’s suggestion in private conversations in 2017 and 2018, telling him that package delivery rates are set by contract and reviewed by an independent commission” and that the Postal Service does not get a bad deal from its arrangements with Amazon and other e-commerce firms. [Reuters]
- Since political belief has not been made a protected class under New York public accommodations law, it’s no surprise — various memes notwithstanding — that a judge would find taverns entitled by law to deny service to a candidate’s supporters [Julia Marsh, New York Post]
- Florida: “Attorney faces federal prison after admitting role in $23M auto insurance fraud” [Paula McMahon/Sun-Sentinel, more]
- Pardons, double jeopardy, and now-departed Attorney General Eric Schneiderman: “Historically, New York was proud of providing greater constitutional protections than the feds offered, but that was before Trump.” [Scott Greenfield]
- Megan McArdle follows up on her Alfie Evans column (and thanks for mention) [Washington Post, earlier]
- Not your conventional presidential lawyer: two reports look at the legal practice of attorney Michael Cohen [Ilya Marritz and Andrea Bernstein/WNYC, Seth Hettena/Rolling Stone]
- Harshing the mellow: Regulation, taxes driving some cannabis culture back underground in California [David Boaz, Cato]
One-stop permitting, an idea with a considerable track record of success at the state level, may finally be coming to the federal government. “The agencies will work to develop a single environmental Impact Statement and sign a single record of decision and the lead agency will seek written agreement from other agencies at key points. [The memorandum] also seeks to try to quickly resolve interagency disputes.” [Reuters, Common Good]
On the legalities of the raid on Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, a good place to start is with Ken White’s for the New York Times (his earlier blog post). Also: “Lawyers should be reminding people, pundits and groundlings alike, that this is an extreme measure, a dangerous measure, that may be necessary” but should not be the occasion of glee [Scott Greenfield]
Meanwhile, the New York Times has managed to discover the worst argument.
- For best effect, read it aloud: “Do YOU appear in the form of water droplets? Are YOU found on grass and windows in the morning? If so you MAY be dew condensation.” [Andy Ryan]
- “Bezos could get out of Trump’s kitchen by telling the editors and reporters at his newspaper to shut up about the President.” [John Samples]
- Wave of ADA web-accessibility suits hit banks: “N.Y. lawyers sue 40-plus companies on behalf of blind man in a month” [Justin Stoltzfus, Legal NewsLine] More: Jonathan Berr, CBS MoneyWatch;
- “Law schools should not continue hiring faculty with little to no practical experience, little to no record of scholarship, and little to no teaching experience. ” [Allen Mendenhall, Law and Liberty]
- U.K.: “Couple claiming compensation for food poisoning exposed by holiday selfies” [Zoe Drewett, Metro]
- Federal judge: “every indication” that prominent Philadelphia personal injury firm “essentially rented out its name in exchange for referral fees” [ABA Journal]
Pennsylvania: “A Ligonier woman claims a car crash less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election was caused by the likeness of Donald Trump.” Trump House, a residence painted by its owner in flag colors and bearing a 12-foot-high cutout likeness of the 45th President, has become a local attraction and the lawsuit says another driver was distracted by it and struck the plaintiff’s Honda Civic. Plaintiff Kellie Roadman “claims property owner Leslie Baum Rossi was negligent for failing to properly mark the driveway and not receiving a permit from PennDOT…. The driver of the second car was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.” [Rich Chodolofsky, PennLive]