- “When you find yourself threatening to find more reasons to put even more citizens in jail in order to protect your revenue stream, it’s maybe time to take a step back and think about what you’re doing.” [Scott Shackford on Alabama forfeiture debate]
- How IRS spent $20 million on debt collection program that generated $6.7 million in payments [Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center]
- “Federal Judge Strikes Down New York City’s Dragnet That Seized Thousands Of Cars Without Warrants” [Nick Sibilla, IJ/Forbes]
- Prison phone calls and other captive markets: “Stop squeezing prisoners’ families for cash” [Megan McArdle]
- “The high price of being wrongly accused in Alabama’s ‘monetized’ criminal justice system” [Ashley Remkus, Al.com]
- “Cop Who Called Asset Forfeiture ‘A Tax-Liberating Goldmine’ Sued for Illegal Traffic Stop and Seizure” [C.J. Ciaramella; Kane County, Ill.]
Illinois “stalking” and “cyber-stalking” statutes criminalize (among other things),
- “knowingly engag[ing] in [2 more or acts] directed at a specific person,”
- including “communicat[ing] to or about” a person,
- when the communicator “knows or should know that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to”
- “suffer emotional distress,” defined as “significant mental suffering, anxiety or alarm.”
The statute expressly excludes, among other things, “an exercise of the right to free speech or assembly that is otherwise lawful.”
Despite that last exclusion, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the provisions as unconstitutionally broad under the First Amendment. (The Cato Institute and the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project had filed an amicus brief). Shouldn’t Illinois lawmakers have known better? [People v. Relerford]
New Illinois legislation signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner will force hairdressers, as a prerequisite of licensing, to take training in detecting evidence of domestic violence [Ann Althouse, New York Times] Earlier here (Ohio requires training in recognizing signs of human trafficking) and here (programs in at least eight states as of 2006, generally not however conscripting the beauty professionals’ participation).
More from Mark Steyn:
…in the Fifties one in 20 members of the workforce needed government permission to do his job. Now it’s one in three. The original justification for requiring a government permit to cut another person’s hair is that a salon contains potentially dangerous chemicals such as coloring products. Making the license conditional upon acing sexual-assault training courses is not just the usual Big Government expansion but the transformation of the relationship between a private business and the state.
- John Cochrane and Stephen Bainbridge on Dodd-Frank reform in a new administration;
- Gift of insider information to friends or family is insider trading, rules SCOTUS in Salman v. U.S. [Thaya Brook Knight, Bainbridge, WLF, Ira Stoll; earlier]
- Five state legislatures (California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut) now push private employers to enlist employees in state retirement plans. Caution needed [Vimbai Chikomo, AMI Newswire, SIFMA, NAIFA, Bloomberg in August on new rules; earlier here and here]
- “The Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act: Myth and Reality” [new Oonagh McDonald Cato Policy Analysis, Mark Calabria]
- Federalist Society podcast with Jason Johnston and Thaddeus King on class actions in consumer finance agreements;
- More on why de novo bank starts have become so uncommon [Kevin Funnell]
The great tobacco settlement of the 1990s certainly is the scandal that keeps on giving, isn’t it? “On Tuesday, federal prosecutors…. charged that [influential former Chicago alderman Edward] Vrdolyak worked out a secret deal with other attorneys to collect as much as $65 million even though he’d done no work on the tobacco case [for the state of Illinois]. The indictment did not make clear just how much the former alderman actually pocketed. … The [Seattle-based Hagens Berman] firm has denied any attempt to conceal payments.” [Chicago Tribune]
By the time my book The Rule of Lawyers came out in its 2004 softcover edition, enough was known about the multistate tobacco settlement for me to call it a “gigantic heist.” More stories have emerged since then. How many more still haven’t come to light?
13 years after Ross Sandler and David Schoenbrod’s groundbreaking book Democracy by Decree, small groups of litigators, experts, special masters and other insiders continue to run many government agencies under what are known as consent decrees, court-enforced agreements to resolve litigation. Children’s services are particularly affected: “the Illinois child-welfare system is burdened by 10 different consent decrees, including one that has lasted nearly 40 years.” But the decrees often work against the real interests of the intended beneficiaries, argue Maura Corrigan and John Bursch in a paper for the American Enterprise Institute. By design, it is made hard to get out from under a decree, which can leave the small controlling group in control indefinitely: Connecticut’s 25-year-old child-welfare consent decree “contains 22 outcome measures that all must be met and sustained for six months before exit,” which has never happened.
“In yesterday’s decision, the [Illinois Supreme Court] — as it did in a 2015 case dealing with state workers—relied on a clause in the Illinois Constitution that treats government pensions as ‘an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.'” It wasn’t relevant that Chicago’s pension scheme was $8 billion in the hole, or that most of the city’s public unions had agreed to a deal with Mayor Rahm Emanuel under which the city would step up its funding in exchange for lower COLAs and higher employee contributions. “The bottom line …is that, having just been whacked with a record $543 million property tax hike to pay for old city pension debt, taxpayers are going to have to dig deep again — at least $168 million more over five years, by 2020, and rising from there.” [Chicago Business] Chicago now confronts population loss, aging of resident base [Chicago Magazine, Illinois Policy, Aaron Renn, City Journal] More: “While the US Constitution is famously “not a suicide pact,” the Illinois constitution apparently is.” [Jack Henneman on Twitter]
A big win for plaintiff’s lawyers: “Rewriting decades of established law in Illinois, the [state’] high court — by a 4-3 margin — repealed the public-duty doctrine that holds local government entities, including fire and police departments, owe their duty to protect to the general public, not individual citizens. The lawsuit opens the way for individuals to sue governmental entities based on some claim of harm caused to them as a result of the public entity’s negligence.” [Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, Cook County Record, Municipal Minute; some related issues of government duty-to-protect exposure from the state of Washington]
Under an old Illinois law, not only can persons who lose at unlawful gambling sue the winners to claw back their losses, but if they fail to act, literally any other person can sue demanding that money. Citing this law, two women sued online-poker operators seeking to recover gambling losses of men who happened to be their sons (but could as easily under the law have been strangers). A Seventh Circuit panel, Judge Posner writing, has now upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the case (an intended class action) on the grounds that the Illinois law by its terms allows suit only against the other gamblers who won the poker games in question, not the house that collected a fee for presiding. [Courthouse News, Rakebrain; opinion in Sonnenberg v. Amaya Group Holdings via John Ross, Institute for Justice “Short Circuit”]
While on the subject of Judge Posner, Harvard Magazine has a Lincoln Caplan interview with him that is worth a read.
Wineries that ship to customers nationwide are among the latest targets of a Chicago attorney who has developed a lucrative freelance enforcement niche. Steven Diamond and his firm of Schad, Diamond and Shedden “have filed hundreds of suits against various companies in industries such as cookware, flowers and motorsports” and more recently beverage makers under “an Illinois law that requires businesses to collect sales taxes for the state, not only on what they sell, but on shipping-and-handling charges. A whistleblower rule allows anyone within the state to sue in the name of Illinois and collect any recovered funds.” [Wine Spectator] While a number of other states also tax shipping charges, Illinois authorities, unable to agree on how to interpret a relevant decision by their state’s high court, have given conflicting guidance on when taxes are owed. [Wines and Vines, Tom Wark, Schiff Hardin, WTAX]