- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), key vote on tort reform in upper house, plans Texas visit to raise funds from trial lawyers [Palmetto Business Daily]
- “Indeed, most major law schools have fewer conservatives or libertarians on their faculty than can be found on the U.S. Supreme Court.” [Jonathan Adler, Martin Center]
- Anti-craft-beer bill, Marilyn Mosby followup, legislature rescinds earlier Article V calls, Baltimore minimum wage in my latest Maryland roundup;
- Man given $190 ticket for having pet snake in park off-leash. Off leash? [John Hult, Sioux Falls Argus-Leader]
- As victim’s wife looks on, identity thief and 20-time illegal border crosser testifies that he fathered two of victim’s children [Brad Heath on Twitter citing Judge Bea ‘s opinion in U.S. v. Plascencia-Orozco, Ninth Circuit]
- Central California: “State and federal legislation take new aim at predatory ADA lawsuits” [Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee]
I’ve got a new piece at the Institute for Humane Studies’ Learn Liberty explaining the basics of how politicians rig district lines to reward friends and punish foes, the entrenchment of an established political class that results, and how it might be combated. Snippet:
In a classic single-party gerrymander, the party in power packs opposition voters densely into as few districts as possible, thus enabling its own voters to lead by a comfortable margin in a maximum of districts. When a legislature is under split party control, the theme is often bipartisan connivance: you protect your incumbents and we’ll protect ours. Third-party and independent voters, as is so common in our system, have no one looking out for their interests….
Geographic information systems (GIS) methods now allow members of the public using inexpensive software to analyze the full data set behind a map. In several states, that has meant members of the public could offer maps of their own or make well-informed critiques of legislators’ proposed maps. In one triumph for citizen data use, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated a map drawn by lawmakers as clearly inferior to a map that had been submitted independently by an Allentown piano teacher.
Separately, I generally agree with what Aaron Blake writes in a new Washington Post piece: with so many other solid reasons to end gerrymandering, there’s no need to over-sell two arguments frequently invoked against it, the polarization thesis and the “GOP-fixed House” thesis.
On the much-noted trend in national politics toward ideological polarization, it seems clear that gerrymandering is but one contributing factor among many. The U.S. Senate, for which districting is not an issue, has followed a path not too far from that of the House, with virtually all Senate Democrats now to the left of virtually all Senate Republicans and stepped-up party-line cohesion on voting. And states with relatively fair districting maps have experienced polarization with the rest. So, yes, reform will probably make a difference at the margins for those who would like there to be more swing or contestable seats, but don’t expect miracles.
And while gerrymandering today on net benefits Republicans (which has not always been the case), it is probable for reasons Blake explains that fair/neutral districting would still have produced a GOP-run House in 2016. An important reason is that Democratic voters are so concentrated in cities.
For some of the many other reasons the cause is worth pursuing no matter which party (if any) you identify with, check out my IHS piece or, for somewhat more detail, my chapter on the subject in the new Eighth Edition of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers. I’ve previously written several pieces about my experience dealing with the problem in my own state of Maryland. [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]
My piece at the New York Post begins:
Having muscled their way to the front line in the nation’s political battles, state attorneys general are now in for getting roughed up along with the other partisan combatants.
The Republican Attorneys General Association, representing just over half the 50 state AGs, has voted to end a “rare bit of bipartisanship in the polarized environment of US politics,” to quote Reuters, which reported the news. It’s going to ditch an unspoken hands-off agreement with its rival Democratic Attorneys General Association under which each party targeted open seats only and held back from bankrolling challenges against the others’ incumbents.
Democrats are expected to respond in kind and start going after incumbent Republicans. If there were still any hope that the chief legal officers of the states could stay above the fray in some genteel way, it’s pretty much gone. Truth to tell, it’s been gone for years.
I run through some of the politicized doings of state AGs — from funneling lawsuit settlements to community-group chums, to organizing in packs to roam the national political scene fighting Presidents of both parties, to taking out after wrongful advocacy in such forms as “climate denial,” to the new prosecution over hidden filming of Planned Parenthood executives. Like or dislike this activity, there’s no doubt it’s political and that attorneys general need to make themselves accountable for it at election time.
It’s a common hope that public schools will maintain some semblance of broad political neutrality between the great parties and causes in U.S. society. But many have been failing badly at this [Frederick Hess and Chester Finn/U.S. News, AP/Fox News (San Francisco teachers’ union lesson plan)] Related: Washington Post [Montgomery County, Maryland; liberal excused-absence policy following street protests by high school students; dissident student injured]
I’ve got a letter in the Frederick News-Post responding to the paper’s editorial on these topics, which begins with the unfortunate headline “Hate speech is not free speech” and never recovers its footing from there. Related, from Eugene Volokh last year: “No, there’s no ‘hate speech exception to the First Amendment.” (& welcome Instapundit readers)
- Fuller investigation of that “reputation management” ruse of filing dummy court cases with the aim of getting critical web posts taken down [Eugene Volokh and Paul Alan Levy, Levy first and second followups, earlier here and here]
- “When Civic Participation Means Shaming A Non-Voter’s Kid” [my Cato post about an ill-considered public service announcement]
- Why America’s regulation problem is so intractable: Fortune magazine cover story [Brian O’Keefe]
- El Paso benefits from immeasurable advantage over neighboring Juarez, Mexico: rule of law and related American cultural attitudes [Alfredo Corchado, City Journal]
- Tort litigation in Pennsylvania is at its most intensive in a few counties, and residents pay the price [Peter Cameron, Scranton Times-Tribune, I’m quoted]
- California AG Kamala Harris orders BackPage execs arrested; Section 230 be damned? [TechDirt]
- “Nobody wanted to vote ‘against’ 9/11 families in an election year.” Which led to a series of absurd consequences when Congress took up Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA [Lowering the Bar, earlier here, here, etc.]
- Cute: animal rights group ambushes Orthodox with legal action on eve of Yom Kippur [Scott Greenfield citing Josh Blackman account]
- “Can U.S. Presidents Much Affect the U.S. Economy?” If so, it might be through regulatory burdens [David Henderson]
- Suit had much publicity but nearer to zero merit: Connecticut judge dismisses suit against gun manufacturer over Sandy Hook school shooting, citing PLCAA (Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act) [Hartford Courant]
- Did spate of violation-finding against local property owner proceed from retaliatory motives? “Councilman Says California City Used Code Enforcement as Payback” [Lompoc, Calif.; Matt Powers, Institute for Justice]
- Local man discusses third parties’ role in the national election [Frederick News-Post podcast, 37:09, I’m interviewed by reporters Danielle Gaines and Jeremy Bauer-Wolf; related article]
“On the third anniversary of predawn armed raids on Wisconsin homes in the name of politics, the U.S. Supreme Court has driven the final nail in the coffin of Wisconsin’s politically driven John Doe investigation. On [Oct. 3], the high court rejected a petition by Democratic prosecutors looking to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling last year declaring the campaign finance investigation unconstitutional.” But is it truly the final nail? M.D. Kittle reports as part of Wisconsin Watchdog’s series, “Wisconsin’s Secret War.”
- Ingenious tactic to get bad review off search engines: arrange and win a pretend lawsuit in some other state [Paul Alan Levy, more: followup]
- Law professor proposes to give out tax breaks based on race. Constitutional problems with that? [Caron/TaxProf]
- $2,250 for the legal right to thread existing barrels: presidential order expands definition of “manufacturer” under arms treaty, which leaves some gunsmiths nervous [The Truth About Guns]
- Political corner: Michael Greve reacts to Jonathan Rauch’s Atlantic article, “How Did Our Politics Go Insane?” [Liberty and Law] And for those following my commentary about the Gary Johnson campaign (see earlier), I’ve got a piece at Cato on his rocky relations with conservatives as well as a letter to the editor at the Baltimore Sun;
- On Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book, The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians [Carla Main, City Journal; Chris Edwards]
- But which way would the causation run? Econometric analysis finds “EU membership is positively associated with economic freedom.” [EPI Center] Will Brexit promote freer outcomes in areas like agricultural subsidy, or simply a return to national protection? [Simon Lester, Cato]
A little more political than my usual fare here: my new Reason piece on Gary Johnson’s candidacy and the rise of a libertarian middle.
On why Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is unlikely to move up to higher office soon, despite possible vacancies: “experts say keeping the powerful role of Attorney General in Democratic hands is key to the party’s agenda.” Remember when an attorney general was seen as some sort of neutral legal officer? [Washington Post]