From Institute for Justice’s “Short Circuit”: “Using publicly available descriptions of property boundaries, startup company draws lines on satellite photos, which helps its customers, community banks, visualize their property assets and identify issues (such as a property’s legal description not describing a completed shape). Mississippi regulators: That is the unlicensed practice of surveying, a civil and criminal offense. Fifth Circuit: There is no occupational speech exception to the First Amendment. The startup’s challenge should not have been dismissed. (This is an IJ case.)” In the 2018 case of NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court rejected a former doctrine that lower levels of First Amendment protection applied to “professional speech.” “The Board’s expansive regulatory theory would allow it to shut down Google Maps, Zillow and other map-based apps.” [Institute for Justice case page]
* As expected, Democrats took over both houses in the Virginia legislature, sweeping the D.C. and Richmond suburbs where they successfully nationalized the issues. Virginia has been a badly gerrymandered state, which figured as an issue in the campaign. Now that they are fully in charge of the process, Virginia Democrats will need to decide whether they actually believe in moving toward neutral and impartial redistricting methods that take the power of line-drawing out of the hands of interested parties.
* New York City voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to adopt ranked choice voting (RCV) in primary and some other elections. While I know this isn’t a universally shared view, I see a lot of merit in ranked choice voting and look forward to seeing more large jurisdictions experiment with it.
* Jim Hood, whose doings as Mississippi Attorney General have long furnished grist for this blog, looks to have fallen short in his bid for Mississippi governor.
- Man evicted from lodgings abandons his ailing fish. A suitable case for criminal prosecution? [Carissa Byrne Hessick; Clint Bullock and Chelsea Donovan, WECT]
- Guardianship and public administrator abuses will be one topic of elder abuse task force announced by Michigan attorney general [Beth LeBlanc, Detroit News]
- “Red Flag Law is sort of like the Department of Pre-Crime from the movies” [Cato Daily Podcast with Dave Kopel and Caleb Brown on emergency gun confiscation proceedings; related, Kopel testimony via Cato, earlier]
- “Man sues parents for getting rid of his vast porn collection” [Associated Press]
- Three candidates vie to replace long-serving Jim Hood: “AG candidate [Mark] Baker says Mississippi should end its alliance with private lawyers” [Brian Brueggemann, Legal NewsLine]
- “Is It Time to Revisit the Constitutionality of Unauthorized Practice of Law Rules?” [Michael Rosman, Federalist Society]
Investigation of asset forfeiture outrages in Philadelphia, where the D.A. “pursued nearly door-to-door confiscation of real estate” on some blocks [Ryan Briggs, Plan Philly] Texas police made more than $50 million in 2017 from seizing people’s property, but not everyone was guilty of a crime [Texas Tribune] How police departments in South Carolina make millions by seizing property [Anna Lee, Nathaniel Cary and Mike Ellis, Greenville News] “Civil Asset Forfeiture: An Overview & Conversation”, short video featuring Stefan Cassella and Darpana Sheth [Federalist Society] And this is how the Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, defends forfeiture [@PhilBryantMS on Twitter]
- North Carolina’s heartbalm law strikes again, as judge orders man who slept with married woman to pay jilted husband $8.8 million [Virginia Bridges, Raleigh News & Observer, more on homewrecker tort]
- Cornell economist Rick Geddes explains the federal government’s postal monopoly [David Henderson]
- Trademark swagger: “Chicago Poke Chain Sends C&D To Hawaiian Poke Joint Demanding It Not Be Named ‘Aloha Poke'” [Timothy Geigner, Techdirt] “Shipyard Brewing Loses Its Lawsuit Over Ships and The Word ‘Head'” [same]
- “Man files lawsuit under False Claims Act against manufacturer of batteries for use in intercontinental ballistic missile launch controls, asks for $30 mil, settles for $1.7 mil. What follows is—in the trial court’s words—a “hellish” dispute over the man’s attorneys’ fees. Third Circuit: We feel you; the order reducing requested fees is affirmed in almost every respect.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, on U.S. ex rel. Palmer v. C&D Technologies]
- Using the law to suppress one’s competition: New York Taxi Workers Alliance cheers City Council’s move to cap Uber and ridesharing [Reuters] It’s totally normal and not at all suspicious that the city council president who wants tougher enforcement against Airbnb is also president of the state’s hotel lobby [Eric Boehm, Reason; Biloxi, Mississippi]
- For those still keeping score, it’s improper and prejudicial for the head of the nation’s law enforcement apparatus to declaim publicly against a criminal trial in progress, whether or not the defendant happens to be his own campaign manager [David Post, Volokh; April Post and podcast on inapplicable “fruit of the poisonous tree” claim]
The state of Mississippi insists that a company called Vizaline, by selling a program that uses satellite imagery to translate “metes and bounds” language into polygonal lines on a map, is practicing land surveying without a license, and should be made to shut down and refund all money it has earned in the state. Attorneys from the Institute for Justice say that virtual land measurement is not only not part of an occupation subject to licensure, but is a form of expression and communication and subject to First Amendment protections. [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica]
On Thursday I attended a Cato forum with Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington on their new book on the extraordinary Mississippi forensics scandal, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South.” Excerpt of blurb from event:
Over the past 25 years, more than 2,000 individuals have been exonerated in the United States after being wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. There is good reason to believe that tens or even hundreds of thousands more languish in American prisons today.
How this can happen unfolds in the riveting new book from Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist recounts the story of two Mississippi doctors—Dr. Steven Hayne, a medical examiner, and Dr. Michael West, a dentist—who built successful careers as the go-to experts for prosecutors and whose actions led many innocent defendants to land in prison. Some of the convictions then began to fall apart, including those of two innocent men who spent a combined 30 years in prison before being exonerated in 2008.
Balko and Carrington reveal how Mississippi officials propelled West and Hayne to the top of the state’s criminal justice apparatus and then, through institutional failures and structural racism, empowered these two “experts” to produce countless flawed convictions on bad evidence and bogus science….
The book recounts in detail the unlikely claims that can be put across for supposed autopsy and bite-mark evidence, especially when no well-informed lawyer appears on the other side to push back. In addition to an exceedingly high volume of autopsy reports for police, Hayne was also available for medical expert witness testimony in civil litigation. We’ve been on the story for ten years: see links here, here, here, here, and here.
- In Mississippi, a “mother has been forbidden from any contact with her newborn for 14 of the 18 months the child has been alive” because of unpaid misdemeanor fines [Radley Balko, WLBT/MSNewsNow; judge has now resigned, but similar practices reported to be common] Is Biloxi going to do better? [ABA Journal]
- “They … didn’t give it back”: outrageous tales of asset forfeiture from Alabama [Connor Sheets, AL.com]
- Efforts afoot in Lansing to write down nearly $595 million in unpaid Michigan drivers’ fees [Chad Livengood, Crain’s Detroit Business] Warren, Mich., residents invited to turn in neighbors on suspicion, win bounties from forfeiture funds [Scott Shackford]
- Ethical red flags: maker of heroin-cessation compound “marketing directly to drug court judges and other officials.” [Jake Harper, NPR]
- In Craighead County, Arkansas, private probation firms sue judges who cut them out of the process [Andrew Cohen, The Marshall Project]
- From Ohio “mayor’s courts” to asset forfeiture, prosecution for profit imperils due process [Jacob Sullum]
- Occupational licensure reforms advance in Mississippi and Arizona [Eric Boehm, Reason, first and second posts]
- I should live so long: “Will the New York Times’ Labor Reporting Ever Get the Facts Straight?” [Jim Epstein; coverage here of the NYT’s 2015 nail salon reporting embarrassment]
- Silliest claim about proposed salary-history-inquiry bans is that they would advance “transparency” in hiring [Seth Barron]
- Many states complicate offender re-entry after incarceration with needless licensing barriers and fingerprint checks [Eli Lehrer, Inside Sources]
- H.R. 1180 (“Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017”), introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), would curb some overtime litigation by allowing private sector comp time under some conditions [Evil HR Lady]
- Layers of irony: “Disability Services Company to Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit” [commission press release in EEOC v. ValleyLife (Arizona), h/t Roger Clegg]