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OpenMarket: Law and Constitution

  • Gender Bias in the Courts -- and in The Washington Post

    August 21, 2007
    For a glaring example of gender bias in the courts (and the media), you need look no further than The Washington Post story today by Tamara Jones, in which she commiserates with convicted felon Teressa Turner-Schaefer, who spent a mere 11 months in jail for killing her husband after an argument. Now Turner-Schaefer gets to collect $400,000 in life insurance for killing her husband. In a plea bargain, she pleaded guilty to the crime of involuntary manslaughter, which, amazingly enough, doesn't bar you from collecting life insurance taken out on the person you killed. It's not surprising that the prosecutors let her plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, even if they thought she deliberately murdered her husband. Prosecutions of wives for killing their husbands are among the...
  • 1998's Lowered Status, and the Supreme Court's Global Warming Decision

    August 15, 2007
    NASA's recent downgrading of 1998 as the warmest recorded year in the US should automatically overturn the Supreme Court's global warming decision, no?  After all, the majority opinion in that bitter 5-4 split expressly noted the view that “1998 was the ‘warmest year on record.'”  So since 1998 now turns out to have been a tiny bit cooler than 1934, that voids the Court's ruling, right? Wrong. At...
  • Carney on LOST

    August 10, 2007
    In his new column, Tim Carney looks at the unprincipled shortsightedness of companies supporting the Law of the Sea Treaty.
    [T]he American Petroleum Institute supports U.S. ratification of the treaty, as does the International Association of Drilling Contractors. Why would these companies want the U.S. to endorse a global regulation—including environmental regulation or the power to prohibit exploration, mining, and drilling in some areas—and taxation of their industry? The answer is in the word "global." While Americans as a people are hardwired to resist giving real authority to supranational bodies—we're skeptical of the UN, and we reject outright subjecting ourselves to the International Criminal Court—...
  • Why Americans Are Getting Fat

    August 10, 2007
    Judge Richard Posner has an insightful discussion of why Americans are getting fatter and fatter. He discusses factors contributing to the obesity epidemic, such as political correctness and the growing social acceptance of obesity. He rightly doesn't finger McDonalds as the culprit, the way Morgan Spurlock did. When I worked at McDonalds, I lost ten pounds over the course of a summer, while consuming little but McDonalds' food, and eating mostly Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, and Chicken McNuggets. A Big Mac is healthier and has a better protein-to-fat ratio than high-brow foods like foie gras or Quiche Lorraine. Judge Posner is on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and is perhaps the most prolific author in the American judiciary, having published innumerable books on almost every...
  • More on Bad Court Ruling Against Terminally Ill

    August 8, 2007
    "Terminally ill patients do not have a constitutional right to be treated with experimental drugs, even if they likely will be dead before the medicine is approved, a federal appeals court said Tuesday." So reports the AP in the Washington Post. I explained yesterday why the court's decision was wrong and its reasoning was shoddy. Additional commentary on the court's decision can be found at the widely-read Volokh Conspiracy law blog.
  • Drug Maker Faces Lawsuit by Corrupt, Kooky Foreign Government

    August 8, 2007
    Pfizer is seeking the dismissal of a $2 billion lawsuit by the Nigerian state of Kano. Pfizer's purported offense was to give children an experimental drug during a 1996 meningitis epidemic. Kano State claims to be suing out of concern for children's health. As I have previously noted, this is a deeply ironic posture for Kano to take, since it is responsible for reviving the terrible disease of polio by thwarting polio vaccinations of children. As a result, polio, which was once on the verge of being wiped out throughout the world, spread from Kano State into neighboring countries in Africa, reaching as far as the Middle East. Kano State has also permitted Muslim...
  • Court Rejects Terminally Ill Patients' Chance to Live, Upholds FDA Red Tape

    August 7, 2007
    The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 8-to-2 in Abigail Alliance v. Von Eschenbach that terminally ill people cannot challenge the FDA's ban on drugs that have passed an initial safety review, but have not yet completed the FDA's entire, years-long clinical testing process. The court's opinion is fully of shoddy reasoning. The Court claims its decision does not infringe patients' constitutional right to life, even though the FDA bans drugs that doctors view as the last, best hope for their patients, because "the collective judgment of the scientific and medical community is expressed through the FDA's clinical testing process." Survey after survey has shown that doctors think the FDA is too slow in approving drugs, as critics of the court's decision have...
  • Search of Crooked Congressman's Office Declared Illegal

    August 3, 2007
    Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson was caught with a $90,000 bribe in his freezer. That didn't stop his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus from rallying around him, his constituents from reelecting him, or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from keeping him on sensitive Congressional committees. Nor did it stop a federal appeals court from ruling today that the FBI's search of his office supposedly violated the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause. Jefferson's argument that the Speech or Debate Clause shields him should have been rejected, as I and several other commenters have...
  • FDA Tobacco Regulation Clears Senate Committee

    August 2, 2007
    A Senate committee has just voted 13-to-8 in favor of the bill to give the FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products and the tobacco industry. The bill has been criticized on health grounds because it would make it harder to market reduced-harm tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco products, to smokers, who would otherwise smoke cigarettes, which are much more likely to cause cancer. It has also been criticized for violating First Amendment rights to advertise and for undermining competition in the tobacco...
  • Tobacco Settlement Bars Smokers' Punitive Damage Claims

    August 1, 2007
    A court has just ruled that a multibillion dollar tobacco settlement bars punitive damages in lawsuits by smokers against tobacco companies. In 1998, 46 states entered into a tobacco settlement with the major tobacco companies, which agreed to pay the States roughly $250 billion over the first 25 years of the settlement, and more in perpetuity. Federal district judge Charles Brieant has just ruled in Mulholland v. Philip Morris that smokers in New York can't seek punitive damages against the tobacco companies, because New York is one of the states that joined that tobacco settlement, known as the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), which the judge ruled bars further punitive damages claims in member...

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