- I was part of an informative panel discussion of “Climate Change Litigation and Public Nuisance Lawsuits” organized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund [watch here] Podcast and transcript of an October update on state and municipal climate litigation with Boyden Gray [Federalist Society] And because it’s still relevant, my 2007 WSJ piece (paywalled) on how contingency fees for representing public-sector plaintiffs are an ethical travesty;
- New York securities case against ExxonMobil goes to trial [Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline; earlier] At last minute, NY Attorney General Letitia James, successor to Eric Schneiderman, drops the two counts requiring proof of intent, which the state had earlier deployed to accuse Exxon of deliberate misrepresentation. Still in play is the state’s unique Martin Act, which allows finding fraud without proof of intent [Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News]
- Ninth Circuit panel hears “children’s” climate case, Juliana v. U.S. [Federalist Society podcast with James May, Damien Schiff, and Jonathan Adler; related commentary, James Coleman]
- Bernie Sanders doesn’t really need legal arguments for retroactive criminal prosecutions if he’s got Jacobin on his side, right?
- “Lawyers are unleashing a flurry of lawsuits to step up the fight against climate change” [Darlene Ricker, ABA Journal]
- Who’s backing Extinction Rebellion, the lawbreaking group that blocked intersections in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere this fall? “The answer, in part, is the scions of some of America’s most famous families, including the Kennedys and the Gettys.” [John Schwartz, New York Times]
I joined the Lars Larson Show on Tuesday to talk about the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing a suit against Remington over the Sandy Hook massacre to proceed for now [earlier]. The current suit, as green-lighted by the Connecticut Supreme Court earlier this year over a dissent from three of its seven justices, claims that Remington violated the broad provisions on deceptive marketing of a state consumer protection law, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). It should be emphasized that the case is still at an early stage and that the Justices will probably be presented with further opportunities to pronounce on its compatibility with the federal law that pre-empts most gun suits, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
I’ve got a new post up at Cato at Liberty taking a more extended look at the ruling and what lies ahead for gunmaker litigation.
San Francisco’s resolution denouncing the National Rifle Association (earlier) might seem like so much empty wind. But there are practical reasons why such a designation poses a problem. I talk with
Caleb Brown for the Cato Daily Podcast.
Relatedly, and in no surprise, the NRA itself has sued San Francisco over the resolution, although there may be questions about whether a contractor at risk of losing city business might have a sounder claim to standing. [AP] Jacob Sullum cites “the poisonous tendency to portray one’s political opponents as mass murderers.” [Reason] And the supervisors may have a bigger group of co-thinkers out there than you might expect: 18% of voters polled “think it should be against the law to belong to pro-gun rights groups like the NRA.” [Eugene Volokh]
“A judge in Oklahoma on Monday ruled that Johnson & Johnson had intentionally played down the dangers and oversold the benefits of opioids, and ordered it to pay the state $572 million.” The state had asked for $17 billion. [Jan Hoffman, New York Times and sidebar on why J&J, the deepest pocket, was the only defendant left standing in the Oklahoma case; opinion; Paul Demko, Politico; Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post] Caleb Brown interviewed me for the Cato Daily Podcast:
For other skeptical views of the case, see Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine (“J&J had about 3% market share, sold abuse-resistant drugs, and Oklahoma didn’t present evidence of a single doctor who was misled by its marketing.”) and followup (problems with state’s legal theory), Jeffrey Singer/Cato, and Jacob Sullum, Reason (sweeping definition of public nuisance) and followup (other problems). [More: Jonathan Turley]
Particularly worth noting is Jacob Sullum’s account of the logical path traced by Judge James Hill in North Dakota in recently dismissing a suit against Purdue Pharma:
One of the claims against the company involved a public nuisance statute very similar to Oklahoma’s. Hill noted that “North Dakota courts have not extended the nuisance statute to cases involving the sale of goods.” He cited a 1993 case in which the Tioga Public School District #15 of Williams County, North Dakota, argued that the sale of acoustical plaster containing asbestos qualified as a public nuisance.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, which handled the case because it involved an out-of-state defendant, observed that “North Dakota cases applying the state’s nuisance statute all appear to arise in the classic context of a landowner or other person in control of property conducting an activity on his land in such a manner as to interfere with the property rights of a neighbor.” The 8th Circuit worried about the consequences of venturing beyond that “classic context”:
To interpret the nuisance statute in the manner espoused by Tioga would in effect totally rewrite North Dakota tort law. Under Tioga’s theory, any injury suffered in North Dakota would give rise to a cause of action under section 43-02-01 regardless of the defendant’s degree of culpability or of the availability of other traditional tort law theories of recovery. Nuisance thus would become a monster that would devour in one gulp the entire law of tort, a development we cannot imagine the North Dakota legislature intended when it enacted the nuisance statute.
Hill said he “agrees with the reasoning of the Eighth Circuit in Tioga.” As in that case, he said, the state in its lawsuit against Purdue was “clearly seeking to extend the application of the nuisance statute to a situation where one party has sold to another a product that later is alleged to constitute a nuisance.” Hill added:
The reality is that Purdue has no control over its product after it is sold to distributors, then to pharmacies, and then prescribed to consumers, i.e. after it enters the market. Purdue cannot control how doctors prescribe its products and it certainly cannot control how individual patients use and respond to its products, regardless of any warning or instruction Purdue may give.
Judging from the cases cited by Judge Balkman, Oklahoma courts have not read that state’s nuisance law to cover situations like this either—until now.
“When public officials or those running for office call out the political donations of people they don’t like, what’s the goal? Is it merely to shame them?” I comment in this new Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown.
More on the controversy over Rep. Joaquin Castro’s (D-Tex.) tweet: Katie Rogers and Annie Karni, New York Times; Bradley Smith, National Review, Christian Britschgi, Reason; and earlier episodes, not exactly parallel but with some points of similarity, involving Sen. Marco Rubio (Maduro-cozying restaurant owner) and the then-campaigning Donald Trump (“They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”).
I join Cato colleagues Ryan Bourne and Caleb Brown to discuss the rise and fall of tech monopolies over the years. Related here.
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
The Maryland gerrymander case, back for its third trip to the Supreme Court, was argued March 26. This Federalist Society animated video about the case has me as narrator. Jon Levitan at SCOTUSBlog rounds up commentary on the oral argument. The Brennan Center offers an annotated guide to the amicus briefs.
This past weekend I joined West Coast-based libertarian radio host Bob Zadek for an hour-long show on redistricting reform. I discussed the same issue as it applies to my own state of Maryland in a podcast with the Frederick News Post’s Emma Kerr and Colin McGuire, as well as an interview with host Sheilah Kast at WYPR’s “On the Record”.
Separately from my Cato and Overlawyered work, I am honored that on Monday Gov. Larry Hogan appointed me to serve together with Judge Alex Williams as co-chairs of a new emergency commission given the task of redrawing the lines of Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District so as to comply with a federal court order. Coverage of that at WBAL, Maryland Reporter, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and Capital Gazette, AP/ABC, Frederick News Post, Herald Mail (Hagerstown), WMAR, Maryland Matters, and many others. Maryland citizens are encouraged to apply to serve on the resulting commission; applications close December 10.