Posts Tagged ‘Iowa’

“Iowa judge rejects theory of ‘implicit bias'”

In a much-watched (earlier) lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of up to 6,000 blacks not hired or promoted by the state government of Iowa, a judge rejected a theory that hiring and promotion were tainted by unconscious “implicit” bias. Judge Robert Blink did not find persuasive the expert testimony proffered for the plaintiff’s theories, and said plaintiffs had not identified a particular discriminatory practice responsible for their situation as required by law. He also noted that blacks appeared to fare better in the state employment process than they did in private sector hiring. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller “noted that much of the case involved blacks who were passed over for jobs after sending in applications in which they did not list their race.” [AP/NPR, Des Moines Register]

P.S. Thanks to commenter wfjag for directing our attention to this December AP dispatch with its truly wince-making example of Lead Plaintiff Fail:

The lead plaintiff in a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed by black workers against the state of Iowa is expected to plead guilty Wednesday to using her position at Iowa Workforce Development to carry out a fraud scheme in which she embezzled $43,000 in benefits meant for jobless Iowans. … Her claims have been front and center during the lengthy litigation….

Free speech roundup

  • Keeping prosecutors busy? Georgia lawmaker files bill that would make Internet defamation a crime [Fulton County Daily Report]
  • Sarkozy calls for law banning visits to pro-terror websites [Ken Paulson, First Amendment Center]
  • “Ron Paul Campaign Drops Effort To Identify Anonymous Videographer” [Paul Alan Levy]
  • Playboy caused how many divorces? Junk science in the service of big-government conservatism [Andrew Stuttaford, NRO] How Santorum’s plans to get porn off internet go beyond GWB’s [Josh Barro] Contra Santorum, “arrival of Internet was associated with reduction in rape incidence” [Steve Chapman]
  • “Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal File An Anti-SLAPP Motion Against Andrew Wakefield” [Popehat]
  • Iowa passes law penalizing animal rightsers who spy on farms [Reuters, earlier] Illinois turns thumbs down on “ag-gag” proposal [Steve Chapman]
  • “What’s happened to free speech in Britain?” [Alex Massie, John O’Sullivan/NRO, earlier here and others]

Iowa sued on charge of subconscious bias

Class action lawyers are suing the government of Iowa on an theory that “subconscious” bias resulted in employment discrimination against black employees and job-seekers. “The plaintiffs — up to 6,000 African-Americans passed over for state jobs and promotions dating back to 2003 — do not say they faced overt racism or discriminatory hiring tests.” Instead, they are relying on the work of an expert witness who is the developer of something called an Implicit Associations Test meant to measure subconscious bias. The controversy invites courts to revisit some issues of statistical and indirect proof that came up, without necessarily being resolved, in the landmark Supreme Court case of Wal-Mart v. Dukes. [AP via Justin Shubow, FedSoc Blog]

Eighth Circuit: Applicant for lawprof position can sue school over bias against conservatives

Update: Adam Liptak covers this case today in the New York Times and generously quotes me:

Walter Olson, a fellow at the Cato Institute, the libertarian group, and the author of “Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America,” said there was nothing unusual about the number of Republicans on Iowa’s law faculty.

“What would count as freakish would be to find two dozen registered Republicans on a big law faculty,” Mr. Olson said. “Law schools are always setting up committees and task forces to promote diversity on their faculty, which can serve to conceal an absence of diversity in how people actually think.”…

Mr. Olson said he had mixed feelings about the Eighth Circuit’s decision, saying it may have identified an instance of a real problem while allowing it to be aired in the wrong forum.

“I have serious misgivings about asking the courts to fix this through lawsuits,” Mr. Olson said. “It threatens to intrude on collegiality, empower some with sharp elbows to sue their way into faculty jobs, invite judges into making subjective calls of their own which may reflect their assumptions and biases, all while costing a lot of money and grief.”

“At the same time,” he added, “there’s a karma factor here. Law faculties at Iowa and elsewhere have been enthusiastic advocates of wider liability for other employers that get sued. They’re not really going to ask for an exemption for themselves, are they?”

(& Althouse, Leef/Phi Beta Cons, Horwitz, Instapundit, State Bar of Michigan, Bainbridge, Elie Mystal/Above the Law, Kent Scheidegger/Crime and Consequences, Andrew Kloster/FIRE and earlier, Federalist Society blog, earlier)

[Original post:]

“A woman who alleges she was denied a job at the University of Iowa College of Law because of her conservative politics can proceed with a discrimination lawsuit against the school’s former dean, a federal appeals court ruled [last month].” [WSJ Law Blog, Ryan Koopmans/On Brief: Iowa Appellate Blog, Risch/PrawfsBlawg, Ilya Somin/Volokh (arguing “that ideological discrimination in faculty hiring by state universities doesn’t violate the Constitution”)] The court found it significant that of approximately fifty professors who vote on faculty hiring matters at the school, per the lawsuit’s allegations, “46 of them are registered as Democrats and only one, hired 20 years ago, is a Republican.” (Who was the one?)

In Schools for Misrule last year, I made the case that prominent law schools suffer from an egregious ideological imbalance, to the point where their own declared mission suffers in a number of ways. Beyond that, I agree that there is a particular logic in asking government-run institutions, such as the University of Iowa, to be open to a plurality of legitimate viewpoints. Even so — as readers who remember an earlier book of mine, The Excuse Factory, will have guessed — I have severe doubts that lawsuits by disappointed job applicants will really do much to improve fairness in the workplace and counteract arbitrariness in hiring decisions. Such lawsuits seem equally likely to provide a legal weapon to contentious applicants whether or not their talents are clearly superior, invite outside arbiters to apply subjective standards of their own, and take a great toll in collegiality, time, expense and emotional wear and tear, all while encouraging defensive employment practices that help no one. Still, this is not the view of law faculties at places like Iowa, which have tended to cheer on the expansion of employer liability year after year with great enthusiasm. So it may be rather hard for them to mount a convincing complaint when they are made to drink from the cup they have prepared for the rest of society.

November 11 roundup

Law schools roundup

Just four weeks to official publication date (now March 1) for my book, and it seems as if everyone’s talking about the state of the law schools:

  • Bruce Antkowiak (Duquesne): “Why Law Schools Must Reform” [Dan Hull, WSJ Law Blog] “Law Schools: Tournaments or Lotteries?” [Kevin Carey, Chronicle of Higher Ed] Law schools still reluctant to grapple with oversupply problem [George Leef, Pope Center] Oregon joins trend toward restoring mentorship/apprenticeship as part of legal training [AtL] “…because there was no compelling need for additional law graduates” [1985 Missouri decision via AtL]
  • Study: free representation from Harvard legal clinic actually worsened outcomes for jobless claimants [Greiner/Pattanayak via Ayres/Freakonomics (“Iatrogenic legal assistance?”), Hoffman/ConcurOp, more, yet more]
  • Critical Race Theory makes good? Noted CRT-er Angela Onwuachi-Willig in line for possible appointment to Iowa high court [Wenger, ConcurOp]
  • “The rise and fall of law faculty blogs” [Kerr]
  • Too much heed paid to “consent,” “autonomy”? Noted feminist Prof. Robin West praises Ohio State’s Marc Spindelman for proposal to have more lawsuits over HIV transmission [Jotwell] Some high-profile lawprofs call for less online freedom in pages of new book [“The Offensive Internet”; Citron, Greenfield, Ron Coleman]
  • All publicity is good dept.: along with the glowing advance notices, my forthcoming Schools for Misrule has also drawn brickbats [Brian Leiter; some ABA Journal commenters].

AgSec Vilsack: no intention of banning bake sales

As the Associated Press reported recently, the school nutrition bill to be signed by President Obama today includes provisions giving the federal government authority to regulate (among much else) the frequency of school bake sales. Following a public furor, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack now says he has no intention of using the authority to do that — which may or may not signify much over the long term, since cabinet secretaries depart regularly and his successors will be free to revisit the issue. [ABC/KBOI, Kyle Wingfield/Atlanta Journal-Constitution] Local governments in places like New York City and even Iowa have lately been regulating or abolishing bake sales on nutritionist grounds. I joined Ray Dunaway on Hartford’s WTIC NewsTalk 1080 this morning to discuss the update.