Lawyers’ pro bono publico work has long since expanded past the provision of legal services to indigent persons to include a range of ideological, social-change, and “impact” litigation and legal work. While such figures as Second Circuit chief judge Dennis Jacobs and my former Manhattan Institute colleague Heather Mac Donald have proposed critiques of its excesses over the years, big-firm pro bono is still wrapped in a cocoon of self-congratulation, spun in part from unexamined premises about (among other issues) who should count as the poor and what as the public interest. Mark Pulliam has a two-part series at Law and Liberty (and thanks for the citations in each): first, second based on a longer article on his Misrule of Law blog. My views of what is in the public interest don’t always line up with Pulliam’s, but in a way that reinforces one of his points here, doesn’t it?
Last month we noted that the ACLU had filed a brief on the side of the NRA in its regulatory-retaliation First Amendment suit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The brief “strikes me as quite sound legally,” writes Eugene Volokh, who quotes and annotates its text. But the action has roused passionate opposition within the organization itself, reports Mark Joseph Stern at Slate. For example, the ACLU’s New York affiliate declined to join the brief and its officials issued a public statement critical of it. Among their arguments: the NRA “has enormous resources and is fully able to present its First Amendment claim.” Others argue that the dispute is at least in part fact-intensive and does not rest entirely on First Amendment issues, since Cuomo had denounced a particular insurance product marketed by the NRA as unlawful — although the governor’s own statements make clear that his call for regulators to squeeze the group’s finances went beyond that, and indeed included a call for them to put the squeeze on groups with advocacy missions similar to the NRA’s. Yet other factions within the ACLU charge that for it to side with the NRA is to advance “white supremacy.” More: Scott Greenfield.
The legal role the ACLU is playing here, it should be noted, is amicus, as distinct from pro bono defense. As Howard Wasserman, writing at PrawfsBlawg, notes:
The resources argument (putting aside whether it has any merit) strikes me as inapposite in this case. The ACLU is not representing the NRA in this case, so any expenditure of ACLU resources does not relieve the NRA of the burden to spend money on its own lawyers to make its own arguments. The benefit of the ACLU’s brief, on which it did expend some of its limited resources, is to the NRA’s legal position, not to its wallet. An argument that the ACLU not only should not represent well-resourced parties* but should not provide amicus support for well-resourced parties seems over-inclusive, tying the merits of a party’s constitutional position to the money in its bank account.
- Craft brewery regs, Peter Angelos has another special bill in Annapolis, county council vetoes on development, and more in my latest Maryland roundup [Free State Notes]
- Oh, that pro bono: celebrity lawyer’s pro bono contract for sex accusers included up to one-third commission on selling their stories to media outlets [John Solomon and Alison Spann, The Hill]
- Forget that Viking cruise down the Mississippi River, Jones Act makes it a no-go [WQAD] “The Jones Act costs all Americans too much” [Bloomberg View editorial; earlier here, etc.]
- Cato Daily Podcast with firearms policy expert David Kopel on interstate right to carry and restricting bump stocks;
- Not-so-nastygram in beer biz: “As far as cease and desists go, this is about as good as it gets.” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
“The law firm Goodwin Procter, which laid off nearly 40 lawyers and staff last year, is asking the taxpayers of Worcester and Lowell, Mass., to pay the firm more than $1.75 million in legal fees for ‘pro bono’ work on behalf of aggressive beggars fighting city crackdowns.” [Ira Stoll, Future of Capitalism]
- Skull and crossbones to follow: San Francisco pols decree health warnings on soft drink, Frappuccino billboards [Steve Chapman]
- Judge criticizes feds’ punitive handling of AIG rescue as unlawful, but says no damages are owed to Hank Greenberg [Bloomberg, Thaya Knight/Cato, Gideon Kanner who predicted outcome, W$J]
- Congress resisting Obama/HUD scheme to force communities to build low-income housing [Jonathan Nelson/Economics21, Marc Thiessen, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing or AFFH]
- California, following New York, proposes 50 hours of mandatory pro bono work for prospective lawyers [John McGinnis]
- Five part Renee Lettow Lerner series on historical role and present-day decay of juries [Volokh Conspiracy, introduction, parts one, two, three, four, five] Related: Mike Rappaport and follow-up on Seventh Amendment, Liberty and Law.
- Latest Scotland drunk-driving blood threshold: Drivers “warned that having ‘no alcohol at all’ is the only way to ensure they stay within the limit” [Independent via Christopher Snowdon]
- How not to argue for bail reform: Scott Greenfield vs. NYT op-ed writer [Simple Justice]
- Karma in Carmichael: serial Sacramento-area filer of ADA suits Scott Johnson, often chronicled in this space, hit by sex-harass suit by four former female employees, with avert-your-eyes details [Sac Bee; News10, autoplays] One of Johnson’s suits, over a counter that was too high, recently helped close Ford’s Real Hamburgers, a 50-year-old establishment. [KTXL/The Blaze]
- Fifth Circuit reverses decision holding Feds liable for Katrina flood damages [Reuters]
- “Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril”: SCOTUS takes up first-sale doctrine in copyright law [Jennifer Waters, MarketWatch on Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons]
- Rubber room redux: “New York Teacher Live-Streams $75,000 Do-Nothing Job” [Lachlan Markay, Heritage] Teacher charged with hiring hitman to kill colleague should have been fired decade ago [Mike Riggs]
- “George Zimmerman sues NBC for editing 911 audio to make him sound racist” [Jim Treacher, Daily Caller]
- Prof. Mark J. Perry has moved his indispensable Carpe Diem economics/policy blog in-house to AEI;
- New York will require newly licensed lawyers to do pro bono [WSJ, Scott Greenfield, Legal Ethics Forum]
- “A Patient Dies, and Then the Anguish of Litigation” [Joan Savitsky, NYT, more]
- “Kern County’s Monstrous D.A.” [Radley Balko]
- “Former N.Y. Judge Sentenced to 27 Months in Jail for Attempted Bribery” [NYLJ]
- “ADA Online: Is a Website a ‘Place of Public Accommodation’?” [Eric Robinson, Citizen Media Law, background here and here]
- “The New Climate Litigation: How about if we sue you for breathing?” [WSJ editorial]
- Saratoga school district agrees to overregulate, rather than ban, students’ bikes [Free-Range Kids, earlier]
- “Head of BigLaw pro bono department fails to pay income taxes for 10 years? How’s that happen?” [WSJ Law Blog]
- Municipal subprime suits: “The Most ‘Evil’ Lenders Are Also, Conveniently, The Richest” [Kevin Funnell; more at Point of Law]
It’s a little-heralded gem, as I can confirm from personal experience [Somin, Volokh]
The Center for American Progress is hosting two panels on the topic “Legal Services for the Poor in an Economic Downturn,” this Wednesday, July 8. I’m on the first panel with Peter Edelman and Don Saunders from 12 to 1. A “light lunch” will be served at 11:30. I’ve spoken before on this topic in rooms where I was the only person on the center-right, but it’s always nice to see a friendly face.
The founding dean of the ideologically charged new law school at the University of California, Irvine, is already taking a hand in Orange County public affairs by suing the town of Laguna Beach on behalf of homeless persons: he and his public-interest-law colleagues “want a federal judge to enjoin enforcement of Laguna’s anticamping ordinance until the city builds more no-strings-attached homeless housing.” [Heather Mac Donald, WSJ] More: Chemerinsky offers to debate Mac Donald.