Orleans Parish, Louisiana (= county, in this case coterminous with the City of New Orleans) funnels the revenue from many criminal fines and fees into a judicial services fund which, while it does not pay judges’ salaries, does cover many related expenses including staff salaries, conferences and office supplies. Judges themselves help determine the volume of inflow to the fund by their rulings in cases. Now a unanimous Fifth Circuit panel has ruled that given the fund’s substantial dependence on such revenue, the parish “failed to provide a neutral forum” and thus violated defendants’ constitutional right to due process [Nick Sibilla/Forbes, ABA Journal; opinion in Cain v. White]
“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has a rejected a products liability claim against Apple alleging that a woman’s neurobiological response to looking at a text message on her iPhone 5 while behind the wheel was the cause of a car crash that killed two people and paralyzed a child.” [John Council/Texas Lawyer, Tim Cushing/TechDirt; Meador v. Apple]
- “An important win for property owners”: Supreme Court rules 8-0 that protected species habitat doesn’t include tracts containing no actual dusty gopher frogs and not inhabitable by them absent modification [Roger Pilon, George Will, earlier on Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Cato Daily Podcast with Holly Fretwell and Caleb Brown (“The Frog Never Had a Chance”)]
- Proposed revision of federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) would expand definition of domestic violence to include nonviolent “verbal, emotional, economic, or technological” abuse. Vagueness only the start of the problems here [Wendy McElroy, The Hill]
- Bad ideas endorsed by the American Bar Association, part 3,972: laws requiring landlords to take Section 8 tenants [ABA Journal; earlier on “source of income discrimination” laws]
- Minneapolis “Healthy Foods Ordinance” drives up costs for convenience stores, worsens food waste, pressures ethnic grocers into Anglo formats [Christian Britschgi]
- New York Attorney General-elect Letitia (Tish) James has been zealous about suit-filing in recent years, quality another matter [Scott Greenfield]
- “Plaintiff wins $1,000 in statutory damages for technical violation of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (Debt collector illegally used the words ‘credit bureau’ in its business name.) After plaintiff’s lawyers seek $130k in fees, district court awards them the princely sum of $0. Fifth Circuit: Just so. While fees are ordinarily mandatory, ‘special circumstances’ obtain here: The record suggests that the plaintiff colluded with her lawyers to generate this ‘outrageous’ fee-heavy lawsuit in Texas instead of in her home state of Louisiana.” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit” on Davis v. Credit Bureau of the South]
- Newspaper execs who faked circulation numbers ended up copping pleas. Law deans who fudged employment stats don’t need to worry, do they? [Morgan Cloud and George Shepherd via Paul Caron]
- Back in The Excuse Factory I wrote about the unplanned consequences of age discrimination law and the prohibition of automatic retirement ages and it’s nice to see a wider consensus forming even if nothing, absolutely nothing, ever gets done to fix it [Saul Levmore and Martha Nussbaum, WSJ]
- Fair use: “Man who sued over Facebook childbirth livestream slapped with $120k in fees” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica]
- “Stop Faking Service Dogs: Loving your pet too much is putting people with real disabilities at risk” [Wes Siler, Outside, our tag on service animals] More: Michael Ollove, Stateline;
- Fifth Circuit reverses $663 million Eastern District of Texas False Claims Act award over sale of guardrails to highway authorities [U.S. ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Industries, Mark Curriden/Texas Lawbook, our earlier critical commentary]
- “Why Conservatives Should not Sic Antitrust on Silicon Valley” [John McGinnis, Liberty and Law]
Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy sorts through the complications of a Fifth Circuit case that has arguable Fifth, Fourth, and First Amendment angles.
- “SEAT Act: Top Senators Sponsoring Bill to Outlaw Low Cost Carriers, Raise Airfares” [Gary Leff, View from the Wing]
- “Trump’s Safe and Sane ‘Regulatory Reform’ Idea” [Cass Sunstein/Bloomberg, earlier Sunstein on Trump regulatory initiatives]
- Changing law and economics shape street protest [Tyler Cowen] Arizona’s bad idea on protestors involves racketeering charges, forfeiture, and more [Coyote]
- “Rights And Reality: Georgia Cop Jails Ex-Wife For Facebook Gripe” [Ken White, Popehat]
- “Opponents of same-sex marriage cynically…manufacture[d] a baseless controversy in the Texas Supreme Court” to attack City of Houston’s spousal benefits, but as the Hon. Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit had already stated in persuasive guidance, Obergefell “is the law of the land.” [Mark Pulliam, Law and Liberty; a second view from Josh Blackman]
- Idea making some headway: adapting use of class action and similar aggregate litigation procedures to administrative adjudication [Sergio Campos, Jotwell]
Missed this one from 2011, with Judge Jerry Smith writing for a Fifth Circuit panel: “Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court. We find no error and affirm.” [Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District]
Last month we told the story of a Texas business that managed to clobber the U.S. Department of Labor in court over its challenge to the company’s use of independent contractors. The Fifth Circuit granted the company a substantial award in legal fees to punish the department for its bad faith in litigation.
Now, Coyote relates a personal encounter in which he runs into a man at a Houston steakhouse who turned out to be the owner of that company, Gate Guard:
I refused to believe him until he showed me a picture of him with the check. He had had it blown up into one of those huge golf tournament checks. I told him he was my hero and tried to buy him drinks the rest of the night, but when I got up to leave, I found he had actually paid my tab. I drank that evening on the Department of Labor’s dime, I guess.
Was the L.A. Times’s reporting manipulated in hopes of helping federal prosecutors win a case? If so, the effort sure backfired [Ken at Popehat, with commentary on the “too-cozy too-credulous relationship between law enforcement and the press”] And from the Fifth Circuit, also on prosecutorial misconduct: “The online anonymous postings, whether the product of lone wolf commenters or an informal propaganda campaign, gave the prosecution a tool for public castigation of the defendants that it could not have used against them otherwise, and in so doing deprived them of a fair trial.” [ABA Journal]
Tamara Tabo has some choice things to say following judges’ unanimous rebuff to a bogus ethics complaint against Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones: “Using professional misconduct proceedings to harm an ideological rival is worrisome. …It was weakly supported, politically motivated, self-serving, and opportunistic. It’s dirty pool.” Among jurists on the panel that recommended dismissal of the complaint was respected D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, a Clinton appointee [Above the Law, opinion] We cast a dubious eye on the allegations earlier here, here, and here.
Petitioners in the case, to quote the opinion, “include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); the NAACP (Austin Chapter); the National Bar Association (Dallas Affiliate – J.L. Turner Legal Association); the Texas Civil Rights Project; La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE); legal ethics experts, and law professors specializing in judicial ethics.” They should each reflect upon the costs to an independent judiciary of leveling unsubstantiated allegations for political motives. More: Jonathan Adler.