Meritless lawsuits should not be welcome in our legal system: a woman who says she is descended from a slave photographed on the 1850 orders of scientist Louis Agassiz is suing Harvard for recovery of the early photo and for unspecified damages. [Joey Garrison, USA Today]
Ten years ago I wrote this piece for City Journal pronouncing slavery reparations dead as a national cause. Now, as Astead W. Herndon reports in the New York Times, presidential candidates are getting behind the word: Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) affirmed her support, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “also said she supported reparations for black Americans impacted by slavery — a policy that experts say could cost several trillion dollars, and one that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and many top Democrats have not supported.” Did I speak too soon?
One complication is that while candidates have begun using the word, it’s often to describe policies that wouldn’t fit the definition accepted up to now. For example, as I noted in the City Journal piece, beginning in the 1960s many programs were enacted aiding poor persons of all races, often conceptualized and argued for as an alternative to more explicit race-based reparations. Some of the candidates who now describe themselves as being for reparations are vague about whether they intend to go beyond support for new programs that are formally race-neutral. [Jeff Stein, Washington Post]
Something about the graphic for this symposium leads me to believe that it's not going to be a forum for the exchange of different points of view about the issue. I can't quite put my finger on it. pic.twitter.com/mQlgUgZkox
— Robert Anderson (@ProfRobAnderson) January 10, 2018
More on Penn’s fair-and-balanced reparations conference, and earlier conferences in its Edward V. Sparer Symposium series, here. My two cents on the reparations campaign here, or in greater detail in Schools for Misrule.
- Group letters by law professors opposing nominees should be treated with the respect due, normally zero [John McGinnis, Michael Krauss, Paul Caron/TaxProf with links to columns by Stephen Presser, Scott Douglas Gerber, and James Huffman]
- USA, courthouse to the world for compensation claims, even 100+ years later [Guardian on suit in Manhattan federal court by descendants of atrocities committed by Germans in what is now Namibia in early 1900s]
- Marvels of NYC tenant law: “Couple renting Chelsea pad hasn’t paid rent since 2010” [New York Post]
- Election results could mean 11th-hour save for embattled cause of consumer arbitration [Liz Kramer/Stinson Leonard Street LLP]
- Baltimore policing, family leave in Montgomery County, Uber/Lyft fingerprinting, getting money out of Howard County politics, and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup at Free State Notes;
- Speaking of ridesharing and regulation: “Without Uber or Lyft, Austin Experiences Skyrocketing DUI Rates” [Brittany Hunter, FEE]
- Clarence Thomas completes a quarter century of distinguished service on the Supreme Court, not that certain journalists will ever see past their loathing [Adam White, Weekly Standard; Ann Althouse]
- Hollywood actor’s lawsuit-related vengefulness against anonymous Twitter troll endures past death [Mike Masnick]
- United Nations panel: U.S. owes racial reparations [PBS]
- “Yesterday’s Antitrust Laws Can’t Solve Today’s Problems” [Tyler Cowen]
- “As a gay man, I’m horrified that Christian bakers are being forced to surrender their beliefs” [Neil Midgley, Telegraph on ruling by Belfast, Northern Ireland court of appeal]
- Another review of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book, The New Trail of Tears: How Washington Is Destroying American Indians [W. B. Allen, earlier] ABA Journal covers ongoing controversy over Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) [earlier]
- To what extent should law schools pursue missions other than that of training lawyers to practice competently? [Ken at Popehat]
- Survivors of woman slain in terror attack seek $200 million from county of San Bernardino [Courthouse News] A pertinent 2001 Elizabeth Cabraser quote about terrorism and litigation: “If we sue each other, the terrorists win. We need to be united.”
- Self-driving car revolution is coming quickly, but there might still be time for feds to mess it up [Randal O’Toole]
- “NYT throws hissy-fit, sues over use of thumbnails in critical book” [Rebecca Tushnet via Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
- New laws from Brussels could endanger thousands of historic guns in British museums [Telegraph]
- Drawing on the organization’s entire moral authority, i.e. none at all, United Nations panel calls for U.S. to pay slavery reparations [Independent, Vice]
- Aviary Attorney: “The hottest bird lawyering game to come out of 1840s France!” [Steampowered via Lowering the Bar]
- Fee-vergnügen: John Edwards, who knows a thing or two about tactical concealment, seeks to rep Volkswagen owners in mass litigation [Grist, Politico]
- Speaking of auto litigation: first General Motors ignition case goes to trial, automaker charges fraud, plaintiffs hire criminal counsel [Bloomberg, more]
- The Maryland redistricting project I was involved in this past fall has now resulted in a bill filed with the legislature by Gov. Larry Hogan [Danielle Gaines/Frederick News-Post, WBAL, Anjali Shastry/Washington Times, Baltimore Sun, earlier]
- Discovery and other procedural reforms in the federal courts: “Chief Justice Roberts on speedier civil litigation … and dueling?” [Howard Wasserman, PrawfsBlawg]
- Shackled Philly priest died in prison, accused by “Billy Doe.” But how well does Doe’s story hold up? Questions about another big sex assault story from Rolling Stone/Sabrina Rubin Erdely that preceded their U.Va./”Jackie” tale [Ralph Cipriano/Newsweek, Robby Soave/Reason].
- “Oversimplification is at the heart of a Coates-style approach to the reparations issue.” [John McWhorter on an unexpected bid to get me to side with Bernie Sanders; more on reparations, Glenn Loury and (missed this earlier) Jonathan Blanks, Rare, 2014]
- Federal Trade Commission went after LabMD on data security complaint. Unlike so many targets, LabMD chose to fight the FTC. And then… [Steven Boranian, Drug and Device Law, earlier]
A Jamaican official says British Prime Minister David Cameron must “apologize personally” because “his lineage has been traced and his forefathers were slave-owners” Well, no. [Brendan O’Neill, The Spectator; Daniel Hannan; NY Times “Room for Debate”; earlier here and here, etc.] More on reparations here and here; I wrote about them at chapter length in Schools for Misrule.
- “Lawyers Won 10x Fee Payoff By Avoiding Competition, Objector Claims” [Daniel Fisher, Center for Class Action Fairness on Capital One TCPA settlement]
- DMCA surprise: “Automakers are supporting provisions in copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and car enthusiasts from repairing and modifying their own vehicles.” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt; Pete Bigelow, AutoBlog]
- Comments deadline May 19 on proposed Indian Child Welfare Act regulations; American Academy of Adoption Attorneys files comments warning they go beyond statute, will harm kids [related group, earlier and general]
- Asbestos lawsuits are “economic engine” of rural Edwardsville, Ill. [Associated Press]
- Chicago pays damages to victims of police torture, suggestively labeled “reparations” [Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post, thanks for quote]
- Court dismisses pro se litigant’s handwritten “God v. gays” complaint for lack of basis for federal jurisdiction, other predictable deficiencies [Volokh, Lowering the Bar and followup]
- “Starbucks not liable in police coffee-spill case, jury decides” [WRAL, earlier]
Now this is welcome: the New York Times (via Ronald Bailey) has a column by George Johnson jumping off from the question of whether locating a giant telescope on Mauna Kea would unfairly desecrate the religious and ancestral heritage of (some) native Hawaiians. Johnson notes:
While biblical creationists opposing the teaching of evolution have been turned back in case after case, American Indian tribes have succeeded in using their own religious beliefs and a federal law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to empty archaeological museums of ancestral bones — including ones so ancient that they have no demonstrable connection to the tribe demanding their reburial. The most radical among them refuse to bow to a science they don’t consider their own. A few even share a disbelief in evolution, professing to take literally old myths in which the first people crawled out of a hole in the ground.
In this turn back toward the dark ages, it is not just skeletal remains that are being surrendered. Under the federal law, many ceremonial artifacts are also up for grabs. While some archaeologists lament the loss of scientific information, Indian creationism is tolerated out of a sense of guilt over past wrongdoings.
Even some scientists bow and go along in the spirit of reparations, while admitting the loss to human inquiry and future knowledge. Earlier on NAGPRA and the Kennewick Man controversy here, here, etc.