- Federal judge Wolf mulls appointing special master to investigate possible fee fraud in class action against State Street Bank [Boston Globe]
- Two lawyers start fighting on an airplane over a shared armrest, and it makes the papers [New York Post]
- Philly proposes mandatory sensitivity training for owners, employees of 11 gay bars [Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations report via Heat Street]
- Finally, some constraints on Mississippi Attorney General and longtime Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood? [Mississippi Business]
- One view of emergent controversy: “The Case Against National Injunctions, No Matter Who Is President” [Samuel Bray, LawFare, more from same author]
- “Court To Review Target’s $10M Customer Data Breach Settlement” [Consumerist; Minneapolis Star-Tribune; Ted Frank’s Center for Class Action Fairness is objecting]
- In or near Kansas? I’m speaking next week in Topeka at a Washburn University School of Law conference on the future of employment law [Feb. 23, details]
- Another day, another lawsuit charging a social media company with material support for terrorism. This time it’s Twitter and IS attacks in Paris, Brussels [Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare; Tim Cushing, Techdirt] More: And yet another (Dallas police officer versus Twitter, Facebook, and Google; listed as one of the filing attorneys is 1-800-LAW-FIRM, no kidding, complaint h/t Eric Goldman);
- “Woman Sues Chipotle for $2 Billion for Using a Photo of Her Without Consent” [Petapixel]
- “Hot-Yoga Guy and His Cars Are Missing” [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
- From Backpage.com to unpopular climate advocacy, state attorneys general use subpoena power to punish and chill [Ilya Shapiro]
- Dept. of awful ideas: California assemblyman proposes registry of hate crime offenders [Scott Shackford]
- But oh, so worth it otherwise: “Not one Kansas state senator is a lawyer, making compliance with obscure statute impossible” [ABA Journal]
- In the mail: “No Child Left Alone: Getting the Government Out of Parenting,” forthcoming book by Abby Wisse Schachter [more: Pittsburgh Tribune Eric Heyl interview]
- Neighbor reports Winnipeg mom to child services for letting kids play in fenced-in back yard [Canadian Press/National Post via Amy Alkon]
- “Public space in Germany is not held hostage by liability lawsuits; Berlin playgrounds are not designed by lawyers.” And they’re awesome [Anna Winger, New York Times]
- Controversy intensifies further on Scotland’s Named Person scheme [Scottish Mail on Sunday (“complete stranger” will be assigned as Named Person to each child over school holidays), Gerald Warner/CapX, earlier here and here]
- Omar Mateen’s road to becoming a security guard: “He had issues. All the records were discarded by the school system, per statute. Clearly, if his employer had access to his juvenile record, he would be the last person to own a weapon.” [Yahoo]
- Kansas Supreme Court orders state legislature to increase funding for poor districts [ABA Journal, earlier here, here, etc.]
- Left-right cooperation on school reform begins to break down amid demands to toe social justice line [Robert Pondiscio]
- Federal Circuit court of appeals says government can’t deny trademark as “disparaging” just because it frowns on its expressive content, implications are favorable for Washington Redskins in their legal case [Eugene Volokh, Paul Alan Levy, In Re Simon Shiao Tam opinion, case won by past Overlawyered guestblogger Ron Coleman]
- Mentally ill man walks into San Diego county recorder’s office, submits properly filled-out deed transferring major sports stadium to his name, chaos ensues [San Diego Union Tribune]
- Lawsuit against prolific California class action firm includes details on how it allegedly recruits plaintiffs, shapes testimony [Daniel Fisher]
- New Jersey: “Man Sues Because Alimony Checks Were Mean To Him” [Elie Mystal/Above the Law, ABA Journal]
- Blustery Texan Joe Jamail, “greatest lawyer who ever lived” or not, was no stranger to Overlawyered coverage [Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly (“We only overpaid by a factor of five, and that felt like a win”), Daniel Fisher (city should have cut down beloved oak tree in road median because “it isn’t open season on drunks”)] Jamail’s best-known case gave me chance to write what still might be my all-time favorite headline, for a Richard Epstein article in what is now Cato’s (and was then AEI’s) Regulation magazine: “The Pirates of Pennzoil.”
- Hotel security camera footage may help decide whether Eloise tainted-sandwich tale will end up shelved as fiction [New York Post]
- Your War on Drugs: shopping at garden store, throwing loose tea in trash after brewing combine with police goofs to generate probable cause for SWAT raid on Kansas family’s home [Radley Balko] More: Orin Kerr.
- Many states have liberalized rules on family homeschooling, now comes the backlash from proponents of tighter regulation [NY Times]
- Kansas Supreme Court decrees higher school spending, estimated taxpayer cost upwards of $500 million [Greg Weiner, Law and Liberty, Wichita Eagle; earlier] After all, judicially directed school munificence worked so well in nearby Kansas City, Missouri [via @David_Boaz]
- Scaring ourselves to death: the insanity of school active shooter drills [Radley Balko]
- University of Virginia’s resistance to assault hoax weaker than Duke’s, possibly because pressure on skeptics to shut up has intensified [KC Johnson/Stuart Taylor, Jr./Real Clear Politics] Hans Bader on curious provisions of feds’ settlement with Harvard [Examiner, earlier]
- “Oklahoma court declines to order [high school] football game replayed for blown call” [Paul Cassell, more]
- Ohio judge rules principals, superintendent open to being sued personally over school shooting [Insurance Journal]
- “Wow. How fun is this? A merry go round welded stationary. So kids don’t get hurt. Way to go, New York!” [Lenore Skenazy]
Should we cheer or boo when outspoken professors at state universities become the target of public records demands filed by antagonists seeking their emails and correspondence? As we had occasion to note during the Douglas Laycock controversy in May and June, there’s plenty of inconsistency on this question on both left and right. Some who cheer FOIA requests when aimed at scholars supportive of the environmental and labor movements, for example, later deplore them as harassment when the tables are turned, and vice versa.
If there’s any group you might expect to take a consistent position on these questions, it’s the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), its members being prospective targets of such requests and thus at the very center of the issue. So what’s their opinion?
In 2011, when politically liberal University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon was the target of a FOIA request by state Republicans, AAUP sent a strongly worded letter on its letterhead denouncing the move as a threat to academic freedom. The group likewise came to the defense of environmentalists targeted by conservatives.
This spring, an AAUP document on “Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications” (see pp. 12-14) was moderately critical of FOIA requests targeting University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus and his journal editor over a much-criticized study providing social conservatives with ammunition against changes in family law favorable toward gays. Since no one suspects the AAUP’s leadership of sympathy with the content of Regnerus’s work, this suggested that the skepticism toward FOIA might be founded on principle.
Not long afterward, however, when prominent (and politically unclassifiable) University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock came under FOIA attack from gay rights activists who disapproved of his courtroom work on religious liberties, the AAUP was quoted in the press talking in a more vague and reticent way of “balance” and saying it weighs in on particular controversies rather than taking general stands.
Now turn to the University of Kansas, where Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University’s business school is under FOIA attack, accused of being too close to the free-market economics favored by donors from the Koch family of Wichita (who have also given much support over the years to the Cato Institute, which publishes this site). So what do you know? The state AAUP chapter is actually leading the charge against Hall, its members have raised funds to support the public records demand, and its state president vocally insists that there’s no danger whatsoever to academic freedom in allowing, as a group once put it, “fleeting, often casual e-mail exchanges among scholars to be opened to inspection by groups bent on political attack.”
You might start to wonder whether the AAUP is going to hold to any consistent position at all beyond the convenience of the moment. (& George Leef, Phi Beta Cons; reprinted at Minding the Campus) Update: Judge halts process to review proposed email release [Will Creeley, FIRE]
Kansas: “A federal jury Tuesday awarded a former McPherson police officer who was found sleeping on duty almost $1 million in wages and damages. Matthew B. Michaels alleged the city violated his civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Kansas Wage Payment Act. He was fired from the McPherson Police Department in July 2012. Michaels said he was discriminated against because of a sleep apnea disability.” [McPherson Sentinel]
- “Tenured Wisconsin Prof Sues Former Student Over Online Comments on Her Teaching” [Caron/TaxProf]
- Recent Paul Alan Levy profile: “The web bully’s worst enemy” [Washingtonian] HHS signals it won’t pursue case against blogger [Levy, earlier] Arizona Yelp case angle [Scott Greenfield]
- Get your ideas out of town: threats against hotel “have escalated to include death threats, physical violence against our staff and other guests” [Deadline Detroit; “men’s rights movement” conference]
- UK police investigate Baptist church after “burn in Hell” sign reported as “hate incident” [Secular Right]
- Please don’t give him ideas: “Should it be against the law to criticize Harry Reid?” [Trevor Burrus, Boston Herald]
- “MAP: The places where blasphemy could get you punished” [Washington Post]
- Only three states – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas — have laws inviting vengeful secret John Doe probes [Ilya Shapiro, earlier]
The Kansas Board of Regents has adopted a broad new policy barring employees, including faculty, from “improper use of social media,” which include content that “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or is “contrary to the best interests of the university,” with some narrow exceptions such as “academic instruction within the instructor’s area of expertise (emphasis added)” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, among other groups, have argued that the new policy “authorizes punishment for constitutionally protected speech, and … leaves professors unsure of what speech a university might sanction them for,” the result being a chilling effect on both free speech and academic freedom [FIRE, NPR]. The policy was adopted at the behest of critics of one professor’s controversial anti-gun tweet, and Charles C.W. Cooke at NRO says conservative regents should have been among the first to realize that professor-muzzling is not the way to respond.
KSU’s Dan Warner did a series of posters (Creative Commons permissions) skewering the new policy, including the one above; more on that here.
- Shakedowns as speech? “Patent trolls are getting First Amendment protection for their demand letters” [ABA Journal]
- Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp decries press attention to $5K settlement over son’s bike mishap [Hutchinson News, more]
- NY Times covers story of copyright takedown on Marx-Engels works and mentions my Cato Institute post;
- After Pfizer’s attempt to expatriate itself for tax reasons, which other big companies with high overseas earnings might be next? [Washington Post]
- I’m quoted on rethinking of divorce law [Jennifer Hickey, Newsmax]
- Language Log quotes our post last year re: “La trahison des woncs”
- Shameless ad from UFCW, union that reps employees at Pennsylvania state stores, insists that grocery-store beer sales must be forbidden For the Children [PennLive, Tim Cavanaugh, Jacob Sullum; on factual controversy, MediaTrackers]