“Sheldon Silver, the disgraced ex-speaker of the New York state Assembly, was sentenced to seven years in prison — less than the 12 years he was sentenced to previously” before an appeals court ordered retrial [Kaja Whitehouse, New York Post, more (wanted to keep some of the money); Adam Klasfeld/Courthouse News; our coverage over the years]
“Politicians Want to Start a Bank. What Could Go Wrong?” is the title of my new Wall Street Journal op-ed about New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s very bad idea.
The article will be paywalled for many, but you can read some of the journalistic coverage of the bank issue: Matt Friedman, Politico, Samantha Marcus/NJ Advance Media. Some articles I cite in my piece along with relevant links/research: The Economist on German Landesbanken, Aaron Fernando, The Progressive (citing German example, and noting current campaigns for city-owned banks in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and other cities); Erica Jedynak letter, MyCentralJersey.com (“A 2011 report based on research provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and other state agencies recommended the Massachusetts legislature not pursue the idea”).
Research on public-owned banks across the world suggests [that lending is politicized]. A 2002 paper from a Northwestern University economist found that areas with stronger political parties get lower interest rates from public banks. Political interference is likely the reason that public banks have been found to underperform compared to private banks in underdeveloped countries, according to a 2012 paper written by Taiwanese researchers.
On corruption rankings, Transparency.org on Germany; Five Thirty-Eight and Harvard Safra Ethics Center on U.S. states. On New Jersey’s outstandingly bad record for corruption: Olivia Nuzzi, Daily Beast and Philip Bump, Washington Post.
On Thursday I attended a Cato forum with Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington on their new book on the extraordinary Mississippi forensics scandal, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South.” Excerpt of blurb from event:
Over the past 25 years, more than 2,000 individuals have been exonerated in the United States after being wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. There is good reason to believe that tens or even hundreds of thousands more languish in American prisons today.
How this can happen unfolds in the riveting new book from Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington. The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist recounts the story of two Mississippi doctors—Dr. Steven Hayne, a medical examiner, and Dr. Michael West, a dentist—who built successful careers as the go-to experts for prosecutors and whose actions led many innocent defendants to land in prison. Some of the convictions then began to fall apart, including those of two innocent men who spent a combined 30 years in prison before being exonerated in 2008.
Balko and Carrington reveal how Mississippi officials propelled West and Hayne to the top of the state’s criminal justice apparatus and then, through institutional failures and structural racism, empowered these two “experts” to produce countless flawed convictions on bad evidence and bogus science….
The book recounts in detail the unlikely claims that can be put across for supposed autopsy and bite-mark evidence, especially when no well-informed lawyer appears on the other side to push back. In addition to an exceedingly high volume of autopsy reports for police, Hayne was also available for medical expert witness testimony in civil litigation. We’ve been on the story for ten years: see links here, here, here, here, and here.
Brad Smith, a former commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission, in the Washington Examiner:
…what we are now seeing is an outright attempt to rewrite history so as to whitewash the entire affair. Newsweek has gone so far as to call the scandal “fake news,” with one of its columnists calling it “a lie.” A Dec. 29 editorial by the Washington Post claims that there was “mismanagement … but not deliberate targeting.”…
The IRS itself eventually conceded that of 199 cases analyzed under this “Be On the Look Out,” or “BOLO” program, approximately 75 percent  “appear to be conservative leaning, while fewer than 10 appear to be liberal/progressive leaning groups.” In other words, the fact that the terms the IRS used to pull applications for extra scrutiny — terms such as “Tea Party” and “patriot” — snagged a few liberal groups doesn’t mean that the purpose and effect was not to target conservative organizations.
As the basis for whitewashing the IRS scandal, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and others have turned to a new TIGTA report concerning a different IRS program altogether. That program, called “Touch and Go,” swept up a mix of conservative and progressive groups. But that is precisely because it didn’t target groups based on politics, which was the problem with BOLO. Nothing in the latest TIGTA report contradicts TIGTA’s 2013 report revealing the IRS targeting, and TIGTA doesn’t claim that it does.
Veteran journalist Claire Berlinski has a contrarian warning regarding the #MeToo momentum on sexual harassment and assault: “Revolutions against real injustice have a tendency, however, to descend into paroxysms of vengeance that descend upon guilty and innocent alike. We’re getting too close.” [The American Interest] Related, Emily Yoffe on the workplace and the Title IX example [Politico]
Harvey Weinstein, assisted by the law firm of celebrated attorney David Boies, “hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists.” At least one agent used false names and identities to insinuate herself into accusers’ and journalists’ circles. “Techniques like the ones used by the agencies on Weinstein’s behalf are almost always kept secret, and, because such relationships are often run through law firms, the investigations are theoretically protected by attorney-client privilege, which could prevent them from being disclosed in court.” [Ronan Farrow, The New Yorker]
Would it help to abolish confidentiality in settlements, as some urge? “California State Sen. Connie Leyva… said she plans to introduce a bill next year to prohibit nondisclosure agreements in financial settlements that arise from sexual harassment, assault and discrimination cases. The rule would apply to public and private employers, she said.” [Danielle Paquette, Washington Post “WonkBlog”] “Getting rid of NDAs reduces accusers’ bargaining power so they end up with lower money settlements or perhaps no settlements,” notes HLS Prof. Jeannie Suk Gersen on Twitter and at more length in The New Yorker. Might that impair their chance of getting a private lawyer interested in their case in the first place? “[We would be choosing] to impair the ability of private parties to resolve a dispute in favor of the public interest.” [Scott Greenfield]
The great tobacco settlement of the 1990s certainly is the scandal that keeps on giving, isn’t it? “On Tuesday, federal prosecutors…. charged that [influential former Chicago alderman Edward] Vrdolyak worked out a secret deal with other attorneys to collect as much as $65 million even though he’d done no work on the tobacco case [for the state of Illinois]. The indictment did not make clear just how much the former alderman actually pocketed. … The [Seattle-based Hagens Berman] firm has denied any attempt to conceal payments.” [Chicago Tribune]
By the time my book The Rule of Lawyers came out in its 2004 softcover edition, enough was known about the multistate tobacco settlement for me to call it a “gigantic heist.” More stories have emerged since then. How many more still haven’t come to light?
Overlawyered gets a mention today in a New York Post editorial today, but the greater credit should go to Prof. Larry Tribe for his willingness to be swayed by the evidence on the Internal Revenue Service targeting controversy (earlier). In a Cato post largely adapted from previous coverage here, I note in a P.S.: “If word of the D.C. Circuit panel decision has not gotten around as widely as it should, one reason is that some major news organizations have still, nearly three weeks later, not seen fit to cover it.”
Just published: my new Storify on the ignoble demise of what had been billed as one of the world’s biggest human rights lawsuits, the so-called Lago Agrio case against Chevron over pollution in Ecuador. We’ve covered it for years, before and after the tainted $18 billion verdict obtained by attorney Steven Donziger, and the Storify feature links to many of our key posts. Big-name environmental groups like the Sierra Club, 350.org, and EarthJustice promoted Donziger’s case long after they had reason to know better.
Yesterday, in a major ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the IRS over its targeting of conservative groups and said that it would have to face a lawsuit by two plaintiffs, reversing a lower court that had declared the dispute moot. The unanimous three-judge panel ruled that there is “little factual dispute” in the case and it is “plain…that the IRS cannot defend its discriminatory conduct on the merits,” that the wrongdoing included not only targeting itself but massively burdensome and intrusive examinations of targeted groups, and that despite the IRS’s claims to have ended the discriminatory treatment, there is evidence that it continues today. My new piece at Ricochet explains.
Sarah Westwood in the Washington Examiner also quotes me on the case: “This is a blistering rebuke to the IRS and its defenders.” Remember in June when the Washington Post ran an editorial dismissing this all as not much of a scandal? Here was my response then.
P.S. Kim Strassel passes the following along in her much-talked-about new book, The Intimidation Game: “So, yes, the president was saying—two months after the news broke—that the whole IRS thing was just a ‘phony scandal.’”