Posts Tagged ‘law enforcement for profit’

Public employment roundup

  • From 2014, missed earlier, and relevant to bounty-hunting and public sector incentive systems: George Leef reviews Nicholas Parrillo’s Against the Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government [Regulation]
  • “Los Angeles’ Pension Problem Is Sinking The City” [Scott Beyer]
  • Firefighter unions throw their weight around in Arizona local politics [Jessica Boehm, Arizona Republic]
  • Public employee pay studies: “In this instance, I’d argue that casual intuition has a higher signal-to-noise ratio than does formal empiricism.” [Arnold Kling]
  • Public sector employees aren’t sicker than comparable private employees but do take more illness/injury days off [Steven Malanga, City Journal]
  • Mayor concedes there’s no “rational justification” for California city’s six-figure pensions, but that’s what the union got in its contract [Eric Boehm, Reason]

IRS back to hiring private collection agencies

We’ve posted several times about federal tax authorities’ on-again, off-again use of private tax collectors on contingency fees to collect back taxes. As with other varieties of law enforcement for profit in which the middleman is enabled to keep residual dollars, the practice seems to encourage the taking of a hard line against taxpayers, especially when the private collectors can use tactics and methods forbidden to government agents. Now, after a hiatus, the IRS is returning to the use of private collectors, a change in law for which Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) apparently deserve much of the credit, if credit is the right word [Alex Richards and Brad Wolverton, NerdWallet, earlier]

Dial O for opportunism

“More than 25 years after its passage, a federal telemarketing law hasn’t just created a cottage industry for lawyers – it has spawned a group of professional plaintiffs like [Melody] Stoops who are armed with several cell phones for the purpose of receiving debt collection calls often intended for other individuals.” [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine]

Forethought goes into the question of how to be legally injured by unlawful calls in the manner most lucrative under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA):

Individuals receiving calls they believe to be in violation have two options to try to maximize recovery.

-Answer the phone, tell the company to stop calling and hope the calls keep coming. Those calls could be construed as “willful” violations of the TCPA and lead to triple damages; or

-Don’t answer the phone, never tell the company to stop calling but chronicle how many times it does. This would lead to only $500 claims but keeps the company calling.

The “wait and build damages” strategy can sometimes pay off nicely:

“Mr. Spencer is seeking to exploit the TCPA to recover a $2.7 million jackpot in statutory penalties because he inadvertently received – on a five-dollar disposable cell phone that he seldom used – emergency text alerts that the previous user of his cell phone number had requested,” AT&T’s attorneys wrote in November while asking for summary judgment.

“(Spencer) waited for the text alerts to accumulate, and then filed this lawsuit seeking millions of dollars unrelated to any alleged harm that he experienced.”

Later entries in the three-part series include part two, “the story of a Polish immigrant who has allegedly made more than $800,000 with a phone number belonging to his ex-wife,” and part three, on a defendant firm that struck back with racketeering suit against a prolific California attorney who has filed many TCPA claims. (earlier)

P.S. And related, just out today: junk-fax suits, covered here extensively in the past, “are active in industries that still rely on faxes for conducting business, such as hospitality and health care, a review of court filings shows. Recent lawsuits complain of unwanted faxes hawking medical supplies, pet medications, air conditioners and mortgage refinancing.” TCPA is nicknamed Total Cash for Plaintiffs’ Attorneys [Sara Randazzo, Wall Street Journal]

Environment roundup

  • YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) movement in San Francisco, other cities says build more housing to tame housing costs [Alex Tabarrok] Zoning laws sometimes respond to tiny-house movement, and sometimes don’t [Curbed]
  • Federalist Society convention panel on Justice Scalia’s property rights jurisprudence with John Echeverria, James W. Ely, Jr., Roderick Hills, Jr., Adam Laxalt, Ilya Somin, Judge Allison Eid moderating;
  • Your regulated residence: “Santa Monica Moves to Make All New Homes Net-Zero Energy” [Mental Floss]
  • “King County, Washington, Caught Digging Through Residents’ Trash” [Christian Britschgi/Reason; see also on Seattle composting regulations]
  • “EPA to big cities: Stop killing rats with dry ice” [Aamer Madhani, USA Today]
  • “Policing for profit in private environmental enforcement” [Jonathan Wood; Clean Water Act citizen suits]

Liability roundup

  • “Big Bucks and Local Lawyers: The Increasing Use of Contingency Fee Lawyers by Local Governments” [Michael Maddigan, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Class actions: “The New Rule 23 Is Available for Public Comment,” comment period ends Feb. 15 [Andrew Trask]
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association urges Supreme Court to review Third Circuit case approving liability for FAA-approved part design [AOPA, Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp.]
  • “An FCC ban on arbitration of privacy claims would be the anti-consumer-protection approach” [Geoffrey Manne & Kristian Stout, Truth on the Market]
  • Montana case could bypass Daimler limits on state-court jurisdiction in cases under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, Washington Legal Foundation urges certiorari [BNSF v. Tyrrell]
  • Insurers brace for new tilt of adverse doctrine as American Law Institute mulls Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance [Nicholas Malfitano, Legal Newsline/Forbes]

Louisiana coastal suits: pork-barreling on the bayou

The Baton Rouge Advocate’s headline sums it up: “Gov. [John Bel] Edwards quietly picks top donors to handle coastal suit that could result in big payday.” The suit, against oil and gas companies over the impact of energy operations on coastal erosion, could result in gigantic contingency fees if successful. More: Chamber-backed Louisiana Record (“Lobbyists for attorneys picked by Edwards for coastal litigation team hold fundraiser for governor”), The Hayride (governor twists arms of local governments to join suit), Daily Iberian (no go, says editorial), New Orleans Times-Picayune, more Advocate, Insurance Journal background. More: WWL (representing parish governments could be the real jackpot).

Where a conflict of interest policy for prosecutors would have helped

The city of Woodbury, Minn. employs a local law firm on contract to “prosecute certain criminal matters on the City’s behalf.” Lawyers from this firm filed a criminal action against Mr. Sample over an alleged domestic assault even as, at the same time, the firm was representing his alleged victim in civil actions including a restraining order. It “later asked another firm to prosecute the criminal case against Sample [on the grounds] that it had a conflict of interest.” Mr. Sample’s later section 1983 suit alleged that the law firm’s dual role at the time of the filing had violated his constitutional rights; the Eighth Circuit ruled that the prosecutors themselves enjoyed absolute personal immunity, but — such immunity not extending to towns — ordered further consideration of Sample’s claim that the town should be liable for not instituting a conflict-of-interest policy that would have headed off the problem before it happened. [Sample v. City of Woodbury et al.]

“It’s what I do”: professional TCPA plaintiff had 35 cellphones

“Melody Stoops admits she was in the ‘business’ of bringing lawsuits against companies over calls they made to her cell phones without her permission.” Storing the prepaid-service phones in a shoebox when not in use, she waited for robocalls from solvent companies, which are mostly banned under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. “She has filed at least 11 TCPA cases in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and has sent at least 25 pre-litigation demand letters.” A judge has now disallowed her standing to sue on one of the cases, saying she cannot claim that the calls were a nuisance, invasion of privacy, or economic injury given that she obtained the phones with the goal of suffering legal injury. [Jessica Karmasek, Legal Newsline/Forbes]

Frontiers of forfeiture: emptying pre-paid bank cards

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has become the latest law enforcement body to begin using “ERAD readers,” devices that allow police to freeze and seize any funds on pre-paid debit and credit cards, now used by many poorer and younger persons as a favored financial vehicle. The devices also allow police to obtain some data about conventional credit and ATM cards, but not, it appears from coverage, to freeze and seize funds in those accounts on the spot. “If you can prove can prove that you have a legitimate reason to have that money it will be given back to you,” said a police spokesman. Oklahoma “is paying ERAD Group Inc., $5,000 for the software and scanners, then 7.7 percent of all the cash the highway patrol seizes.” [Aaron Brilbeck/News 9 Oklahoma, Clifton Adcock/Oklahoma Watchdog, Scott Greenfield (highway patrol’s views of what is and is not suspicious confer a great deal of arbitrary power), Justin Gardner/Free Thought Project last October on Arizona use]

Plus: “New Mexico Ended Civil Asset Forfeiture. Why Then Is It Still Happening?” [NPR] A car is stopped for “swerving,” and soon police have confiscated the $18,000 its owner was carrying for payroll and other expenses of her southern California janitorial business [ACLU of San Diego, p. 7, “It happened to me: Janitorial business”]