- UK: “British newspapers can legitimately mock parrots and compare them to psychopaths, the press regulator has ruled, after an unsuccessful complaint that the Daily Star misrepresented the emotions of a pet bird.” [Jim Waterson, Guardian]
- Cato scholars regularly crisscross the country talking to students. Book one (maybe me) at your campus this Fall [Cato Policy Report]
- Local-government preemption, single-use plastics, lemonade stands, Sen. Cardin on redistricting: my new post at Free State Notes recounts my experience attending the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference;
- Can a police officer be criminally prosecuted for refusing to risk his life to stop a school shooter? [Eugene Volokh on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School case]
- I’m quoted on press freakout over new proposed religious liberty regs: “This is a narrowly drawn rule for a minority of federal contractors. It’s really not that radical and not that new.” [Brad Palumbo, Washington Examiner]
- Beware proposals that would transform antitrust law into general bludgeon for avenging all sorts of grievance against big business [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
My letter to the editor at the Washington Post last Tuesday on red flag gun laws:
August 13, 2019
Red flag’ laws can have deadly consequences
The Aug. 9 front-page article “Results of ‘red flag’ gun laws uneven across 17 states, D.C.” quoted critics of Maryland’s “red flag” gun-confiscation law who find the law lacking on due process grounds. It might also have mentioned another kind of collateral damage done by the law this past November in its second month of operation, namely the death of 61-year-old Gary J. Willis of Glen Burnie, shot dead by Anne Arundel County police who had come to his door at 5 a.m. to present an order to confiscate his guns. Willis answered the door with a gun in his hand. He set it down but then became angry, picked up the gun, and, in an ensuing scuffle with an officer over the weapon, it went off without striking anyone. A second officer then shot Willis dead.
In the aftermath, because of confidentiality rules, neither press nor public could view the red-flag order that had set police on the fatal encounter. Defending the shooting afterward, the county’s police chief described any possible threat from Willis to others in the vaguest of terms, telling the Capital Gazette, “We don’t know what we prevented or could’ve prevented.” Family member Michele Willis, speaking to the Baltimore Sun, took a different view: “I’m just dumbfounded right now,” she said. “My uncle wouldn’t hurt anybody. … They didn’t need to do what they did.”
Walter Olson, New Market
It is true that in principle “red flag” laws can draw on the same respectable historic taproots of judicial power as, e.g., domestic violence restraining orders. [David French, National Review] One problem with that is that it’s not clear the current use of domestic restraining orders inspires confidence, due-process-wise. In two posts last week (first, second) Jacob Sullum, who also cites the work of Dave Kopel, critically examines the shortcomings of the red flag gun laws enacted so far, while California lawyer Donald Kilmer looks at his state’s existing law.
As population and the job base in the Washington, D.C. area continue to expand, households face a crunch in the price of housing, made worse by the reluctance of local governments to permit residential construction near most of the major employment centers. A unanimous county council in Montgomery County, Md. has now made it slightly easier for homeowners to create in-law units or backyard cottages, but along the way had to face down noisy opposition. I tell the story in a new Cato post.
- Lawyer don’ts: Don’t steal your client’s book advance [Rebecca R. Ruiz, New York Times on Michael Avenatti indictment]
- “This isn’t science, it’s witchcraft”: latest verdict against Bayer/Monsanto in Roundup weedkiller/non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma case rests on ultra-loose standards of causation [David Bernstein, related video, earlier]
- Blazing sunset: Idaho legislature fails to reauthorize state’s code of more than 8,000 regulations, which expire. Between now and July 1, Gov. Brad Little “gets to pick and choose which ones to reinstate as emergency regs until legislature meets again.” [James Broughel, Mercatus]
- News blackout on STEM Charter School shooting (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) has judicial origins: entire court file in murder case against older of the two shooters “is ‘suppressed’ from public inspection. This even over the express request of the prosecutor” to have the judge unseal most records [Eugene Volokh]
- Baltimore corruption and development, red flag law, Montgomery Countyites for private toll lanes, Yuripzy Morgan show and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup;
- A point I’ve been making for years about the Electoral College: one of its underrated benefits is in bolstering election integrity by much shortening the list of jurisdictions in which a material chance of fraud might throw overall result into doubt with consequences for legitimacy [Stephen Sachs and followup]
- My comment on the House-passed H.R. 5: “Proposed Equality Act would 1) massively expand federal liability in areas unrelated to sex, gender, or orientation; 2) turn 1000s of routine customer gripes into federal public-accommodations cases; 3) squeeze conscience exemptions hard. All are good reasons to oppose.” More: Scott Shackford, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Hans Bader, and earlier here and here;
- America is not in a constitutional crisis: “Politicians have become incentivized to declare constitutional crises because it enhances their own importance as saviors and demonizes their opponents as illegitimate.” [Keith Whittington; Vox mini-symposium with Ilya Somin and others] Mike McConnell vs. Josh Chafetz on whether the current Congressional subpoena fights are really that different from politics of the past [Jonathan Adler] Calm, down-the-middle analysis of the issues raised by the Mueller report [Cato Institute chairman Bob Levy]
- “Mercedes Goes To Court To Get Background Use Of Public Murals In Promotional Pics Deemed Fair Use” [Timothy Geigner]
- Bizarro sovereign-citizen notions are found in the background of more than a few serious financial fraud cases [Ashley Powers, New York Times]
- Divestment and sanctions by state governments aimed at other U.S. states is a bad idea that never seems to go away. Now it’s being floated in Maryland, against Alabama [my Free State Notes post]
- “A federal judge in Texas wants you to know she’s sick and tired of whiny lawyers” [Justin Rohrlich, Quartz from December, Brad Heath on Twitter; Align Technology v. ClearCorrect, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore]
- Oakland jury tells Monsanto to pay $2 billion over claim that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, though the consensus among scientists is that it doesn’t [Tina Bellon, Reuters, earlier] Both sides in glyphosate trial bombarded Bay Area residents with local paid messaging; did Monsanto use geofencing to run ads on phones inside the courthouse itself? [Scott Greenfield, ABA Journal] Was judge in previous Bay Area glyphosate case swayed by P.R. campaign aimed at her? [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine]
- “Police say Rodriguez was looking at her phone while walking across tracks” [AP/KOIN; Oregon woman suing rail companies over injury]
- Liability reform in Florida, so often stymied in the past, may have clearer road ahead with arrival of new state high court majority [John Haughey, Florida Watchdog]
- Not just mesh, either: “Top 5 Eyebrow-Raising Provisions in Mesh Attorneys’ Retainer Agreements” [Elizabeth Chamblee Burch]
- What is a Maryland General Assembly session without a special fast-track bill to hot-wire money to the benefit of asbestos lawyer Peter Angelos? But this year’s ran aground [Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters; John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine]
- Car accident scam in eastern Connecticut reaped estimated $600,000 from as many as 50 staged crashes [AP/WTIC]
“We’re not interested in charging children or putting them in jail or fining them,” says a campaigner for Maryland’s “cyber-bullying” law, “Grace’s Law 2.0,” which is drafted to do exactly those things. “What we want to do is change the behavior so the internet is more kind,” says the same campaigner regarding the new law, which would encourage online users to turn each other in for potential 10-year prison terms over single instances of certain kinds of malicious, abusive speech, and is being billed as going farther than any other law in the country, as well as farther than the earlier Maryland law passed in 2013.
Bruce DePuyt at Maryland Matters reports that Senate Judiciary Chair Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County):
said the 2013 law required that abusive comments be sent to the individual and be part of a pattern of conduct. With the rise of social media, that proved to be too high a hurdle, he said.
Under the new law, “a single significant act can land you in trouble,” he told reporters.
Due credit to the ACLU of Maryland, which called out this dangerous venture in speech regulation:
Toni Holness, the group’s public policy director, said in February that the bill fails to adequately define what constitutes a “true threat.”
Holness also was concerned about other words in the bill that had not been defined: encourage, provoke, sexual information, intimidating, tormenting.
“There’s way too much prosecutorial discretion in these terms that are not defined,” she said.
I criticized the bill in February and noted language from Zirkin suggesting that the Court of Appeals, as distinct from the legislature, would sort out its constitutionality. Before that, I criticized the 2015 law as itself going too far (more). DePuyt reports that Zirkin may approach U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) about introducing a similar bill on the federal level. Let’s hope Raskin says no to that bad idea. [cross-posted from Free State Notes; see also earlier]
Related: an Ohio student has been arrested and faces expulsion over a Twitter account on which he made vicious comments about female classmates; whatever view the law takes of the prospective expulsion of 18-year-old Mehros Nassersharifi by Perrysburg High School, his arrest, on charges of telecommunications harassment, may overstep the First Amendment [NBC24, Hans Bader, Eugene Volokh (reworded to reflect fuller accounts which make clear that the student’s offensive speech went further than simply “rating” of classmates)]
- Estonia introduces artificial intelligence algorithms to adjudicate small claims disputes [Eric Niiler, Wired]
- “The Connecticut Ruling: Another Attempt to Blame the Gun for Gun Crime” [Joyce Lee Malcolm, Law and Liberty on 4-3 Connecticut Supreme Court ruling finding state consumer law not preempted by federal PLCAA (Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act)] “But will the Supreme Court allow Connecticut to circumvent federal law?” [Scott Greenfield] Remington will seek certiorari review at U.S. Supreme Court [Dave Collins, AP/WTIC]
- In Pennsylvania, there’s “a feeling that law firms can get judges fired” after a worker’s comp judge who angered “one of the state’s most politically connected law firms…quickly lost her job” [William Bender, Philadelphia Daily News]
- Nanny staters vs. comptroller’s moves to modernize alcohol marketing regulation, no action on Sixth District gerrymander, Angelos asbestos bill tripped up, critics are right to oppose push to abolish child-abuse statute of limitation, heads should roll in business lobby after minimum wage fiasco, and more in a Sine Die (end of legislative term) roundup at my Maryland blog Free State Notes;
- “Harm Reduction: Shifting from a War on Drugs to a War on Drug-Related Deaths,” videos of Cato Institute conference with Jeffrey Singer, Maia Szalavitz, Ed Rendell, Clark Neily, Jeffrey Miron, Michael Cannon, and others [parts one, two, three, four, Jeffrey Singer overview blog post] and related Cato podcasts with Daniel Ciccarone on prohibition as crisis driver, Scott MacDonald on heroin-assisted treatment, Darwin Fisher on supervised injection, and Adrianne Wilson-Poe on cannabis and opioid overdose;
- “How Are State Supreme Court Justices Selected?” [Federalist Society Policy Brief video with Chris Bonneau and Brian Fitzpatrick]
This is only tangentially related to Overlawyered (unless you are a big fan of the posts on redistricting reform and the Supreme Court’s pending Lamone v. Benisek) but one of the projects I’m involved in as a civically active Marylander, the Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering, sent a proposed new Sixth and Eighth District map to Governor Larry Hogan last week, which he promptly introduced as a bill in the legislative term that ends soon. And yesterday, again by a unanimous vote, we approved our final report to send to the governor.
You should also listen to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the subject:
Let’s pump up @GovLarryHogan’s #fairmaps bill, Maryland. Call your representative and tell them you’re sick and tired of gerrymandering and want them to support the bipartisan commission’s map: https://t.co/9eGqRImJox pic.twitter.com/ljA7tfDVTG
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) March 29, 2019
More coverage, mixing the Supreme Court case from last week with mentions of our remedial efforts: Samantha Hogan, Frederick News Post (with picture) and earlier, Bruce DePuyt and Robin Bravender, Maryland Matters (also with good pictures), Tamela Baker, Herald-Mail (Hagerstown), Jennifer Barrios, Washington Post, Kimberly Eiten/WJZ, Dominique Maria Bonessi, WAMU.
Also, Nina Totenberg’s approach to Schwarzenegger on the Supreme Court steps became a viral meme and I’m in it:
Walk up to everyone you want to interview the way Nina Totenberg walks up to the Terminator pic.twitter.com/iwruCvPxbg
— Mary E. Harris (@marysdesk) March 27, 2019
New from me and Cato colleague Ryan Bourne in the Washington Post:
One thing we’ve learned in this year’s debate over a statewide $15 minimum wage, now set to become law after the legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto today, is that affluent central Maryland doesn’t want to listen to hard-hit rural Maryland….
In the debate over the $15 minimum wage, lawmakers from [already high-wage] Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Howard County were nearly unanimously in favor, with most delegates supporting strong versions of the scheme. Meanwhile, most lawmakers from depressed parts of the state were passionately opposed.
Guess who had the numbers to outvote whom?…
Affluent sections of Maryland can vote for $15 without much worry that a large share of their job base will disappear. Poor counties can’t.
Whole thing here (update: unpaywalled version). Related: Highly informative Jacob Vigdor/Russ Roberts interview on the Seattle studies, and on the strategies that employers (restaurants in particular) use to adjust [David Henderson, Econlib] More on the problems of applying a uniform law to portions of the country with seriously different wage levels and costs of living [Daniel McLaughlin, NRO] Some observations of mine at an earlier stage of the Maryland debate [Free State Notes] Ryan Bourne on adjustments at Whole Foods following its accession under political pressure to a $15 minimum [Cato].