- Get me Civics, and make it an emergency: West Virginia legislature “moves to withhold judicial retirement benefits until state supreme court overturns a ruling” [Gavel to Gavel]
- Do threats to publish intimate pictures of Jeff Bezos fall under provisions of criminal blackmail law? [Eugene Volokh]
- Manuel Reyes, head of the Puerto Rico Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution Chamber, argues that policy shifts have heightened the costs of the Jones Act [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown, earlier]
- Battle of the Ilyas: Ilya Shapiro vs. Ilya Somin on sanctuary city and state litigation [Federalist Society podcast]
- “Most comprehensive study to date on the effects of voter ID argues that these laws have no effects on overall turnout or on the turnout of any group defined by race, gender, age, or party affiliation,” or on real or perceived fraud; results “cannot be attributed to mobilization against the laws” either [Enrico Cantoni and Vincent Pons, National Bureau of Economic Research] [via]
- Worst Pigouvian tax idea of the year? Oklahoma lawmaker proposes taxing Uber surge pricing to combat DUI [Ryan Bourne]
- Michigan’s Oakland County seizes rental property owned by elderly man over $8.41 unpaid tax bill plus $277 in fees and interest, sells property for $24,500, keeps all the surplus cash for itself. Constitutional? [Joe Barnett, Detroit News]
- Pruning obsolete laws: “Teaneck Council repeals more than a dozen old laws, including ban on cursing” [Megan Burrow, North Jersey Record, quoting Councilman and longtime friend of this site Keith Kaplan]
- “What does the Constitution have to say about national emergencies, both real and imagined?” [Cato Daily Podcast with Gene Healy and Caleb Brown]
- Lawyer in drunk-driving case: my client’s chewing on her coat could’ve thrown off breath test [AP/WSBT (Berwick, Pa.)]
- Baltimore police corruption, tax policies that attract people, densifying MoCo and more in my latest Maryland policy roundup [Free State Notes]
- Busybodies in Bismarck: “North Dakota’s Excellent Food Freedom Act Is Under Attack Yet Again” [Baylen Linnekin]
Many groups on the left, following the example of the right, have been de-emphasizing or even abandoning the old 501(c)(3) format of tax-deductible charitable endeavor in favor of the 501(c)(4) format, which has fewer tax advantages but allows a wider range of frankly political activity.
For some on the progressive side, writes David Pozen, who teaches law at Columbia, this is in part a matter of giving up on the Supreme Court as an engine of far-reaching social change. “The 501(c)(3) form fit snugly into the postwar theory of legal liberalism, in which the federal courts were seen as the key agents of social reform and professionally managed nonprofits as their partners in that effort.” [The Atlantic]
I would add one observation, which is that this shift of focus from strategic litigation to electoral politics and organizing is exactly what many legal conservatives have been urging the left to do for two generations: if you want the law to change, don’t take your case to an unelected caste of elite judges, take it to the people.
The Tax Foundation has published its guide for this year to tax-related ballot initiatives. Among the measures: easier transferability of Prop 13 limited assessment to another home (California), new taxes on business to fund homelessness programs (San Francisco), replace flat with progressive income tax (Colorado), require two-thirds legislative vote for tax hikes (Florida), create taxpayer cause of action against unlawful expenditures (New Hampshire), carbon tax (Washington).
On Monday the Cato Institute published its annual Cato Supreme Court Review for the 2017-18 Supreme Court term. Included is my 7,000-word article on the Supreme Court’s cases last term on partisan gerrymandering, Gill v. Whitford (Wisconsin) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland). Several people have told me that I managed to make a dry and complicated subject understandable and even entertaining, which I take as the highest compliment.
The entire CSCR is online, and here are its contents. I assisted in the editing of the pieces by Joseph Bishop-Henchman on the Internet sales tax case South Dakota v. Wayfair, and by Jennifer Mascott on the government-structure case Lucia v. SEC.
FOREWORD AND INTRODUCTION
ANNUAL KENNETH B. SIMON LECTURE
The Administrative Threat to Civil Liberties by Philip Hamburger
IMMIGRATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY
The Travel Bans by Josh Blackman
The Ghost Ship of Gerrymandering Law by Walter Olson
THE CRIMINAL LAW
Katz Nipped and Katz Cradled: Carpenter and the Evolving Fourth Amendment by Trevor Burrus and James Knight
Class v. United States: Bargained Justice and a System of Efficiencies by Lucian E. Dervan
THE FIRST AMENDMENT AND THE CULTURE WARS
Masterpiece Cakeshop: A Romer for Religious Objectors? by Thomas C. Berg
NIFLA v. Becerra: A Seismic Decision Protecting Occupational Speech by Robert McNamara and Paul Sherman
FEDERALISM AND GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE
Internet Sales Taxes from 1789 to the Present Day: South Dakota v. Wayfair by Joseph Bishop-Henchman
“Officers” in the Supreme Court: Lucia v. SEC by Jennifer Mascott
Looking Ahead: October Term 2018 by Erin E. Murphy
- Peer-to-peer car sharing platforms could reduce the costs of car usage, unless elements of rental car industry manage to strangle it through regulation [Jonathan M. Gitlin, ArsTechnica on Illinois Gov. Rauner’s veto of a bill to cripple startups] Are we headed toward a legal requirement that cars be designed to sense that a driver has high blood alcohol and not function then? Does it matter whether the car is self-driving? [Nicole Gelinas]
- “11th Circuit rages against ‘incomprehensible’ shotgun complaint, concludes lawyer’s intent was delay” [ABA Journal]
- Quackery and bluster define the lawsuit filed by NY, MD, NJ, and CT attorneys general against Congress’s curtailment of state and local tax (SALT) deduction [Reilly Stephens; more, Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center]
- “Conservative/Libertarian Faculty Candidates Are Hired By Law Schools Ranked 12-13 Spots Lower Than Equally-Credentialed Liberal Applicants” [James Cleith Phillips via Paul Caron/TaxProf]
- Coming next week: I’m set to host and moderate a Sept. 20 forum at Cato in D.C. on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Featured are three lawyers who have been involved in high-profile ICWA litigation, Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute, Matthew McGill of Gibson Dunn, and Charles Rothfeld of Mayer Brown and Yale Law School [details and registration; event not livestreamed, but video to be posted later]
- And now for something completely different: “Charles Evans Hughes and Chevron Deference” [Gerard Magliocca]
- Mark your calendar now for Cato’s Constitution Day September 17 with a star-packed program (plus me) [register; Facebook event]
- “Cato Did Remarkably Well at the Supreme Court” with an 11-3 record this term [Ilya Shapiro]
- Cakeshop crumbs: “The Scope of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Will Be Determined by the Concurrences” [Erica Goldberg] “Does Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Easy Inference of Hostile Intent Overturn Employment Division v Smith?” [Rick Hills] Plus: thoughts from Prof. Michael McConnell [Volokh] and from Douglas Laycock and Thomas Berg as part of SCOTUSBlog’s symposium on the decision;
- South Dakota v. Wayfair: Court approves state sales tax collection from out-of-state vendors [Caron/TaxProf first and second link roundup, Trevor Burrus and Matthew Larosiere, earlier]
- Ohio v. Amex: divided Court lays out antitrust principles for transaction platforms [Beth Farmer, SCOTUSBlog; Eric Fruits, Truth on the Market; Diego Zuluaga (“Don’t Blame American Express for the Plight of the Poor”)]
- Animal Science Products v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceuticals: Court considered question of deference allowable to foreign law and we didn’t have a culture war about it [Amy Howe, SCOTUSBlog; Cassandra Burke Robertson and Stephen Sachs, Prawfs]
A “union-backed activist group says Amazon should be charged with a crime for its threat to roll back job growth” if the Seattle City Council follows through with a controversial tax idea to assess larger firms a new per-employee tax. “The group, Working Washington, is asking Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to charge Amazon with a Class B felony: ‘intimidating a public servant,’ citing the company’s move to pause some construction and leasing in the city pending the outcome of the vote on the so-called ‘head tax.’…Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna called the group’s prosecution demand absurd, saying the law in question is aimed at protecting individual public employees from personal threat, particularly of physical force.” [Jim Brunner, Seattle Times] More: John Sexton.
Commenter @Living4Winter on Twitter: “It’s so fricken weird when Ayn Rand comes true.” On Monday the Seattle city council voted 5-4 to approve the tax; a final vote will come later and Mayor Jenny Durkan has signaled that she may veto the measure. [KOMO] Update: the council unanimously adopts a tax set lower, at $275 rather than $500 per worker. [Matt Day and Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times]
More: Eugene Volokh with a more thorough First Amendment legal analysis (Working Washington’s theory “would criminalize a vast range of ordinary political action” including “an advocacy group’s threatening to boycott a city if the city council doesn’t change some law that the threatener thinks unjust.”)
- “Former employee of red light camera company that bribed Chicago official (who is now serving 10 years) turns informant, seeks sizable cut of the $20 mil the company paid to settle the city’s suit. Seventh Circuit: The chutzpah!” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, on City of Chicago ex rel. Rosenberg v. Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.]
- “Why Religious Organizations Shouldn’t Lose Tax-Exempt Status Based on Public Policy, Post-Obergefell” [Sally Wagenmaker via Caron/TaxProf]
- The regulated American truck operator: “For the liberty minded professional driver, the situation looks bleak.” [“Gordilocks,” Glibertarians]
- Practice pointer: don’t make closing argument in a condition that could score .337 on a Breathalyzer afterward [Mike Frisch, Legal Profession Prof; Jefferson County, Ky.]
- Not a total shocker: study finds student editors at law reviews tend to accept articles matching their own ideologies [Prof. Bainbridge]
- Per a United Nations expert, 1) adopting fiscal austerity programs may put countries out of compliance with international human rights; 2) to remain in compliance, countries may be obliged to undertake crackdowns on financial privacy meant to extract more taxes. Oh, international human rights, how elastic thou art [Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.N.]
Congratulations! You may not have realized it was happening, but your municipality has put you in a special revitalization zone which means the property taxes you owe them will quintuple. That’s the message some suburban Maryland business owners got recently, subject of my new Cato piece. Excerpt:
Specialists in local and state government policy are full of ideas for business-by-business and location-by-location tinkering with tax rates, both downward (as part of incentive packages to lure relocating businesses) and upward (to finance special public services provided in some zones, such as downtown revitalization). But there is a distinct value in terms of both public legitimacy and the rule of law in having uniform and consistent taxation that does not depend on whether a property owner or business is on the ins or on the outs with the tax-setting authorities.