Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

A crisis of democratic legitimacy for the U.S.?

At National Review, Lyman Stone challenges the currently popular idea that American electoral processes are in the grip of a crisis of democratic legitimacy. While there is real room for process improvement, as with the issue of gerrymandering, it is less clear that imperfections in our electoral system 1) have worsened a lot or 2) are especially different from than those found in other mature democratic systems. It is also far from clear that over the long run the imperfections systematically benefit one “side”: at the moment Republicans hold more seats than their share of votes would predict, but one needn’t go far back in time to find periods when Democrats held the same sort of edge.

Two areas where the U.S. is unusual: we have low voter turnout, well below that of most advanced countries, and each member of our House of Representatives represents a very large number of people.

October 17 roundup

  • Antitrust legislation once targeted the unstoppable rise of chain stores A&P and Sears, both now bankrupt [my new Cato post, quoting Joe Nocera, Bloomberg (“The next time you hear somebody say that the dominance of Walmart or Amazon or Facebook can never end, think about Sears. It can — and it probably will.”)]
  • When you wish upon a suit: visitor grabs Disney cast member and screams at her after she asks him to move out of parade route, later pleads no contest to disorderly conduct, now wants $15,000 [Gabrielle Russon, Orlando Sentinel]
  • Tomorrow (Thurs.) at noon Eastern, watch a Cato panel on “Coercive Plea Bargaining” with Scott Hechinger of Brooklyn Defender Services, Bonnie Hoffman of the NACDL, and Somil Trivedi of the ACLU, moderated by Cato’s Clark Neily. Could you resist taking a plea bargain if faced with a false accusation? [Marc John Randazza, ABA Journal]
  • “I am a Democrat. But this may be the dumbest thing I have seen…. the Speech or Debate Clause makes about as clear as anything in the Constitution that a court cannot enjoin legislative officials from taking a fundamental legislative action such as a vote.” [Howard Wasserman on suit by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asking court to, among other things, order delay of Senate vote on Kavanaugh nomination]
  • An ideological screen for CLE? Following demands from tribal attorneys, Minnesota bar authorities order shelving of continuing legal education class on Indian Child Welfare Act developments taught by attorney Mark Fiddler, who often handles ICWA cases on side adverse to tribes [Timothy Sandefur]
  • Left-leaning Florida Supreme Court nixes plan to let incumbent Gov. Rick Scott fill vacancies, entrenching its leftward lean for a while at least depending on outcome of governor’s race [Spectrum News 9]

Annals of nastygrams: Roy Moore’s lawyer to Alabama press

Lawyers, grammarians and connoisseurs of nastygrams will be studying this one for a long time: attorney Trenton Garmon, representing Alabama Senate candidate (and longtime Overlawyered favorite) Roy Moore, has sent a demand letter to Alabama press outlets instructing them that they had better not run certain negative stories. [Elliot Hannon, Slate; Ed Kilgore, New York mag] More: Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar.

November 15 roundup

Individual liberty and the Israel Anti-Boycott Act

A bill sponsored by roughly half the members of Congress would — so we are warned by New York magazine, at least — “make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel” and “make avoiding the purchase of Israeli goods for political reasons a federal crime.” While those claims may be somewhat overstated, I argue in a new post at Ricochet that the proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act “is plenty bad enough. By punishing boycott participation grounded in political belief, it would infringe on individual liberty.” And: “It is not a proper function of law to force Americans into foreign commerce they personally find politically objectionable, whether their reasons for reluctance be good, bad, or arbitrary. The furor would make a good occasion to revisit the 1979 law itself in light of principles of individual liberty; at a minimum, we should decline S. 720’s invitation to extend it further.”

Podcast on FICALA, the class action reform bill

Andrew Grossman (Baker & Hostetler), longtime friend of this site, and Howard Erichson of Fordham spoke last month to a Federalist Society online audience on pending class action reform proposals, resulting in this podcast. Description:

On Saturday, March 11 the House passed the Fairness in Class Litigation Act by a vote of 220-201. The stated purpose of the Act is to “(1) assure fair and prompt recoveries for class members and multidistrict litigation plaintiffs; (2) diminish abuses in class action and mass tort litigation; and (3) restore the intent of the framers…by ensuring Federal court consideration of interstate controversies of national importance consistent with diversity jurisdiction principles” (H.R.985, 2017).

The Bill amends the federal judicial code’s standards for the certification of class action. For example, the bill requires that proposed class members to show that they suffered the same type and degree of injury. The bill also limits the amount and timing of attorney’s fees in a class action. Attorney’s cannot be paid more than the class members, and they must be paid after the class members receive payment….

Earlier on FICALA here and here.

April 19 roundup

  • 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]

Bonfire of the Obama regs: the Congressional Review Act

“The revival of Congressional activity under the CRA is a welcome development and shows that Congress is taking seriously its responsibilities both as ultimate lawmaker and in oversight of federal agencies,” said Olson. I’m quoted among other regulation-watchers [Aileen Yeung, Western Wire] More on the belated vitality of the Congressional Review Act: Brian Mannix/Law and Liberty; Kim Strassel/WSJ; Paul Larkin/Heritage.

“Dems Assigned Conservative Groups to Attack on Senate Floor”

Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of the Hoover Institution, the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, or the Acton Institute? Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon:

Democratic senators have been assigned conservative nonprofit groups to call out by name on the chamber floor in speeches on Monday and Tuesday criticizing corporations and advocacy groups for opposing Democratic climate policies, internal emails reveal.

…[Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse and his allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), have crafted a schedule for floor speeches on Monday and Tuesday that assigns each participating Senator at least one group to go after by name.

Most of the groups have already been targeted by state Democratic officials that have undertaken a coordinated legal campaign against oil giant ExxonMobil since last year. Many were named in subpoenas sent to the company by state attorneys general as part of that effort.

The ringmaster, once again, is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — yes, that Sheldon Whitehouse, whose hometown Providence Journal rightly called out his current campaign to sic the law on improper climate opinion as likely to “have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence.” The leader on the House side is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), also getting to be a familiar name.

One reason this is more sinister than your ordinary political sideshow: the proposed concurrent resolution urges right-leaning nonprofits “to cooperate with active or future investigations” of purportedly unlawful opinion-slinging. One of the most junior senators, Gary Peters of Michigan, apparently drew the short straw in the heresy posse and was assigned to attack my own Cato Institute (which publishes this site) at 6:30 this evening.

The senators participating in this appalling exercise besides Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, and Peters, all Democrats, are Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Some early reactions: “All that is lacking are their public confessions” — Ronald Bailey at Reason (whose associated Reason Foundation is among the targets). “‘Assigned’ groups to attack? That sounds like middle school mean girl behavior.” [C.B. on Facebook] Peter Roff at U.S. News on how the Senators can’t (yet) make dissent illegal but can make it costly. And a reminder: the “Exxon Knew” crowd knew Whitehouse’s RICO-for-speech theory was wrong because their own allies had told them, but went ahead anyway.

More, Matt Welch at Reason:

…Since the targets of this shaming exercise are not being afforded the courtesy to rebut the charges in the forum at which they are being smeared, consider this a prebuttal…

This coordinated campaign would be an assault on free speech even if it were not drenched in conspiratorial inaccuracy. Democratic lawmakers, attorneys general, and activists are systematically singling out free-market think tanks for potential criminal prosecution and one-sided disclosure requirements based on the content of the think tanks’ research and commentary. They are literally trying to criminalize dissent. If successful, they will establish as “fraud” or “racketeering” any future think-tank work that runs afoul of political orthodoxy. …

Sadly, this heavy-handed act of government intimidation will likely go as unnoticed as Hillary Clinton’s long track record against free speech. Why? Because generally speaking both the mainstream press and the organized left reserve their First Amendment outrage for politicians they disagree with. Their silence is shameful, and deafening.

The senators’ action this week is no hyperbolic one-off: Prosecuting ungood climatology is baked right into the Democratic Party Platform. The two major Democratic nominees for president agree.

[Updated to correct error on Lachlan Markay’s name, sorry]