The effects of England’s 1696-1851 window tax can still be seen on its streets today [Dan Lewis, Now I Know]
For years this website has covered the injustices of structuring law, under which persons who deposit or withdraw sums deemed too close to the $10,000 reporting threshold, even if for reasons that prove innocuous, can face seizure of their accounts. Now, under a tax-bill provision unanimously adopted by Congress and signed by President Trump, “the IRS can now only seize property for structuring if it’s ‘derived from an illegal source’ or if the money were structured to conceal criminal activity.” [Nick Sibilla, Forbes; Jacob Sullum, Reason; earlier]
On June 13 “the U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation that stops the Internal Revenue Service from raiding the bank accounts of small-business owners. The Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act, passed as part of the Taxpayer First Act (H.R. 3151), is named after Institute for Justice clients Jeff Hirsch and Randy Sowers, two victims of the IRS’s aggressive seizures for so-called ‘structuring.’ Through structuring laws, the IRS has routinely confiscated cash from ordinary Americans simply because they frequently deposited or withdrew cash in amounts under $10,000. And by using civil forfeiture, the IRS can keep that money without ever filing criminal charges.” [Nick Sibilla, Institute for Justice] We’ve covered the problems with structuring law, as well as asset forfeiture, for many years.
- Court of appeals throws out class action against provincial lottery Loto-Quebec: “[The lead plaintiff] said she wouldn’t have bought the tickets had she known the odds were so slim.” [Canadian Press/CBC]
- And there was much rejoicing: Florida high court finally adopts Daubert, meant to curb use of faulty and unproven science in litigation [Karen Kidd, Florida Record, Beck]
- Fake car-crash claims alleged: “5 SoCal Chiropractors Busted In $6M Insurance Fraud Scheme” [CBS Los Angeles] “Three Men Found Guilty Of $31 Million Slip-And-Fall Scheme Involving Homeless People” [Jen Chung, Gothamist] Cambridgeshire, England: “Footage shows moment car ‘runs over foot’ of binman accused of crash-for-cash scam” [Alex Matthews, The Sun (U.K.)]
- If appellate review somehow leaves intact the scientifically baseless $2 billion Oakland verdict over glyphosate/Roundup, new changes in federal tax law might cut into plaintiffs’ winnings [Robert Wood, Forbes]
- Tamper proof? Old bottles of baby powder bought on eBay are central to plaintiffs’ claims that Johnson & Johnson baby powder may have contained asbestos fibers, a theory that has underlain several large verdicts [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine; John O’Brien, same; Jef Feeley and Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg]
- “Michigan’s lawmakers have passed legislation to reform the state’s worst-in-the-nation auto insurance market.” [Ray Lehmann, R Street/Insurance Journal, earlier]
- You don’t need to be a religious believer to think the Supreme Court should uphold the continued display of the Bladensburg war memorial cross [George Will/syndicated, Eugene “Jesse” Nash IV and Victoria Gomes-Boronat, Capital News Service] Cato filed a brief in the case [Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, Patrick Moran, and Michael Finch on The American Legion v. American Humanist Association]
- “The Second Amendment In The New Supreme Court” [Federalist Society conference with Renee Lerner, Stephen Halbrook, Mark W. Smith, and others; Halbrook on the Court’s decision to hear New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, earlier on which] Map of state changes liberalizing concealed carry law since 1986 [Eugene Volokh]
- In the spirit of balance, here’s a more cheerful and positive view of an Article V convention than the one I take [Paul Starobin, American Affairs Journal]
- “Bruno Leoni and the Search for Certainty in Law” [Alberto Mingardi, Law and Liberty]
- Oregon carbon emission credit system falls more heavily on out-of-state than on in-state suppliers, and the Dormant Commerce Clause has something to say about that [Ilya Shapiro on Cato cert amicus brief in American Fuel & Petroleum Manufacturers v. O’Keeffe]
- Would a wealth tax be constitutional? [Richard Epstein, Hoover]
- 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