- Washington Supreme Court: psychiatrist can be sued for failure to act when patient expressed homicidal thoughts, even though signs did not point to particular victim [Seattle Times, opinion in Volk v. DeMeerleer; compare Tarasoff duty-to-warn line of cases]
- University of Oregon, which suspended a law professor over an off-campus Hallowe’en costume, could use a refresher on free speech [Josh Blackman, Jonathan Turley, Hans Bader, Susan Kruth/FIRE, Eugene Volokh]
- Prenda Law saga continues: “Feds charge porn-troll lawyers in major fraud, extortion case” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica, indictment, our past coverage including this on attorney Hansmeier’s branching out into ADA web-accessibility complaints]
- Alas, incoming Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a big defender of civil asset forfeiture [George Will, syndicated/San Angelo (Tex.) Standard-Times]
- Oklahoma law will force restaurants, hotels among others to post signs aimed at discouraging abortion [AP, Eugene Volokh]
- Time to repeal the Community Reinvestment Act [Howard Husock]
- John Cochrane and Stephen Bainbridge on Dodd-Frank reform in a new administration;
- Gift of insider information to friends or family is insider trading, rules SCOTUS in Salman v. U.S. [Thaya Brook Knight, Bainbridge, WLF, Ira Stoll; earlier]
- Five state legislatures (California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut) now push private employers to enlist employees in state retirement plans. Caution needed [Vimbai Chikomo, AMI Newswire, SIFMA, NAIFA, Bloomberg in August on new rules; earlier here and here]
- “The Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act: Myth and Reality” [new Oonagh McDonald Cato Policy Analysis, Mark Calabria]
- Federalist Society podcast with Jason Johnston and Thaddeus King on class actions in consumer finance agreements;
- More on why de novo bank starts have become so uncommon [Kevin Funnell]
- With U.S. international adoption already down 75 percent, proposed State Department regulations could choke off much of remainder [SaveAdoptions.org, Jayme Metzgar/Federalist, National Council for Adoption]
- Baltimore police surveillance, redistricting, teacher’s union holidays: after a hiatus I’ve resumed Maryland policy roundups at Free State Notes;
- Facebook potluck group was being monitored: “Single Mother Facing Prison for Selling Homemade Mexican Dish to Undercover Cop” [Robby Soave]
- Brad Avakian, tormentor of small businesspeople under Oregon discrimination law, loses Secretary of State bid [Victoria Taft, IJR]
- Shipping & Transit LLC: “America’s Biggest Filer of Patent Suits Wants You to Know It Invented Shipping Notification” [Ruth Simon and Loretta Chao, WSJ] “Stupid Patent of the Month: Changing the Channel” [Daniel Nazer, EFF]
An Oregon jury has reached a verdict acquitting the occupiers of the Malheur wildlife refuge (earlier) of conspiracy charges. In seeking to explain this outcome, it may help to know about a detailed letter from a juror in the case, published in The Oregonian. Obviously, one juror’s view is not definitive in such a case.
I am indebted to reader J.B. for the following rough paraphrase of some themes and highlights of the juror’s letter:
* We didn’t intend to affirm or endorse the defendants’ views.
* We were certainly convinced that the defendants’ actions caused a lot of real-world disruption and damage.
* We don’t want to encourage other people to do stuff like that and regret the possibility that the acquittal might do that.
* The government had a complicated theory that, according to the law as the judge explained it to us, made the defendants’ subjective intentions more significant than the actual effects of their actions.
* We didn’t think the evidence about the defendants’ subjective intentions was strong enough to meet the legal standard for conviction under the government’s complicated theory as the judge explained the law to us.
* We’re frankly kind of puzzled as to why the government didn’t charge less complicated crimes like criminal trespass that might have been easier to get a conviction for.
All of which is not short enough to fit on a bumper sticker. The report by the Oregonian’s Maxine Bernstein, again, is here.
That Friday tale from the Washington, D.C. Metro system was just the start. “The North Miami police officer who shot an unarmed, black mental health worker caring for a patient actually took aim at the autistic man next to him, but missed, the head of the police union said Thursday.” [Miami Herald] Meanwhile, in Oregon, a gross-receipts tax proposal backed by public employee unions and schools lobby could spell the end for Powell’s Books of Portland. [Interview with Emily Powell on Measure 97, Business Tribune]
We earlier this year noted the New York City Human Rights Commission guidance directing that businesses may be fined if they do not use customers’ desired pronouns in relation to questions of gender, including preferred usages such as “ze” and “hir.” Now Eugene Volokh, who wrote about the earlier story, points out a recent Oregon settlement in which pronoun issues (the employee prefers to be called “they”) appeared to play an important part:
The school district agreed to settle the claim for $60,000 “as compensation for actual damages, emotional distress and attorney fees,” and with the district promising to “develop official guidance documents for administrators/staff that address working with transgender staff”; the documents, to be developed together with “TransActive and the District equity team,” will address, among other things, “pronoun usage.” “[V]iolations of the guidance will be grounds for discipline.”
But it is not at all clear, as Volokh notes, that it is respectful of co-workers’ rights to require them on pain of official discipline to employ “highly conspicuous, nonstandard usage.” Should instances of not doing so be defined as “harassment” or “discrimination,” they can bring with them serious legal consequences. Public employers such as school districts do have some legitimate managerial interests which can call for, e.g., standardizing forms of address in their workplace. On the other hand, novel pronoun coinages relating to gender are often praised as a way “to convey an idea about language and how language should be” — put more sharply, to convey particular ideological stances about issues of gender identity. We already know that under current interpretations of First Amendment law, government cannot require ordinary non-political employees on pain of dismissal to affirm propositions such as “Live Free Or Die” or the Pledge of Allegiance. A similar principle might extend — or? — to rules exacting affirmative ideological avowals of other sorts. More: Hans Bader, CEI.
- 21 professors, including Bartholet, Epstein, and McConnell, write letter to Department of Education Office of Civil Rights [OCR] challenging its directives on campus sexual harassment [Ashe Schow, Washington Examiner] Student suing Colorado State over multi-year suspension adds OCR as a defendant [Scott Greenfield; more, George Will]
- President Obama has been saying things students need to hear about intellectual freedom at commencements [Howard and Rutgers, Jonathan Adler] “Does Obama understand that his own government is responsible for the safe-space phenomenon he frequently decries?” [Robby Soave]
- Protesters these days disrupting and physically shutting down a lot of pro-Israel campus speeches and events on US campuses [Observer; UC Irvine]
- “Jokes, insensitive remarks, size-ist posters”: from a distance the doings of the University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team can seem kind of hilarious. Maybe not up close [Robby Soave/Reason, Catherine Rampell/Washington Post] “Towson U. [Maryland public university] implements ‘hate/bias’ reporting system to ensure ‘anti-racist campus climate’” [The College Fix]
- Read and marvel at the arguments being deployed against Prof. Dale Carpenter’s proposal for bolstering free expression at the University of Minnesota [Susan Du, City Pages] “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus” [Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch]
- Faculty at George Mason University law school unanimously affirm commitment to renaming school after Justice Antonin Scalia [Lloyd Cohen, Michael Greve]
- Department of Justice: we’re going to use that Dear Colleague Title IX letter as a basis for prosecution, and colleges are going to need to crack down on speech if they want to stay in compliance [Eugene Volokh, Scott Greenfield, and FIRE, on University of New Mexico case] A brief history of how we got here from the Dear Colleague letter [Justin Dillon and Matt Kaiser, L.A. Times; my Commentary piece three years ago anticipating the basics] Why won’t even a single university challenge this stuff in court? [Coyote, earlier]
- Dangers of “safe spaces”: Mike Bloomberg’s Michigan commencement address is getting noticed [Bloomberg View, Deadline Detroit, Soave] “Slogans Have Replaced Arguments” [John McWhorter]
- Compulsory chapel will make no provision for adherents of dissenting sects: Oregon State plans training incoming freshmen in “social justice learning,” “diversity,” and “inclusivity.” [Robby Soave]
- Running various departments at George Mason U. along lines recommended by Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”: no problem. Naming law school after Antonin Scalia: that might politicize things [Michael Greve via Bainbridge]
- USC cancels visiting panel of gaming industry stars because it’s all-male [Heat Street]
- Harvard aims sanctions at students who join off-campus, unofficial single-sex clubs [The Crimson, FIRE, background Althouse, Greenfield]
- Margot Honecker, hated DDR education minister, filled schools with indoctrination, informants. Glad that era’s over [Washington Post, Telegraph, SkyNews obituaries]
“Oregon is making hormonal birth control legally available without a doctor’s prescription, and California is set to follow suit. This is great policy, and the rest of the country should follow this example.” [Megan McArdle]