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OpenMarket: Law and Constitution

  • $200 Billion Class Action Lawsuit Over "Light" Cigarettes Appealed

    July 10, 2007
    Today, the federal appeals court in New York heard the appeal of trial judge Jack Weinstein's decision to certify a $200 billion class action lawsuit against the tobacco companies for selling "light" cigarettes. Why Judge Weinstein was wrong to certify a class action in Schwab v. Philip Morris, and how his ruling would further enrich wealthy trial lawyers and their allies, is explained here.
  • Ambushed by the Unruh Act

    July 9, 2007
    California's Unruh Act is a trial lawyer's dream, and a nightmare for the rule of law. It has been interpreted to ban "discrimination" against customers based on an infinite variety of categories, few of them even listed in the Act. Its text broadly declares everyone to be "equal" and bans discrimination "no matter" what the plaintiff's race, sex, religion, etc., but does not expressly say that the categories it lists are the only categories covered by the law. So courts in California have held that all sorts of categories, ranging from the commonplace to the bizarre, are protected against discrimination by California law. The Unruh Act's protected classes include men with long hair, John Birch society members, ACLU members, and Holocaust deniers, all of whom are deemed protected against any "discrimination."
  • Bong Hits 4 Jesus Fallout

    July 9, 2007
    Julie Hilden has an interesting column at Findlaw on the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding a teenager's suspension for holding up a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner across the street from his high school, and how the ruling may affect other First Amendment cases.
  • More Foreign Lawsuits Against Tobacco Companies

    July 5, 2007
    Back in 1998, in the Master Settlement Agreement, the big tobacco companies agreed to pay 46 states billions of dollars in perpetuity, supposedly to defray states' health care costs. In exchange, the states passed laws protecting big tobacco companies against price competition from their smaller rivals, enabling them to pass on the costs of the settlement to consumers. The billions paid out under the Master Settlement inspired foreign countries to get into the act, suing the tobacco companies in hopes of receiving billions of dollars of their own. Nigerian states are now suing the tobacco companies for roughly $30 billion. Leading the pack is the northern Nigerian state of Kano, which claims that the tobacco companies...
  • Racial Set-Asides Cost D.C. Taxpayers

    July 5, 2007
    Washington, D.C. has a minority set-aside program that results in taxpayers of all races paying hundreds of millions of dollars more in taxes to pay for low-quality goods and services. Jonetta Rose Barras has a column in today's Washington Examiner about how affirmative-action contractors receive enormous sums for shoddy work. An earlier version of the minority set-aside program was struck down by the federal courts in O'Donnell Construction Co. v. District of Columbia, 963 F.2d 420 (D.C. Cir. 1992). The current version of the program sounds no better. It is a mystery that no one is challenging it. George Will has a column today in the Washington Post on the Supreme Court ruling against the use...
  • Scooter Libby's Sentence Commuted

    July 2, 2007
    Bush has just commuted Scooter Libby's sentence, eliminating his prison sentence, while leaving his $250,000 fine intact. That is what I recommended here. (I was expressing my own views, not speaking on behalf of CEI, which has not taken any position on the case). Orin Kerr took the contrary position, provoking numerous comments from lawyers debating the issue. Supporters of having Libby serve his entire sentence argue it is hypocritical for Libby's conservative defenders to criticize his perjury conviction while supporting impeachment of Bill Clinton for perjury in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit. (I discussed the Paula Jones lawsuit...
  • California Loots Safe-Deposit Boxes for State Spending Spree

    July 2, 2007
    To finance mushrooming government spending, California is seizing as "abandoned" property the contents of bank safe-deposit boxes held by customers with currently active bank accounts. The state seized $80,000 worth of Carla Ruff's jewelry and sold it on eBay for a fraction of its value. It also seized and shredded the deed to her house and her birth certificate. She discovered this only years later, since the state sent her no notice at the time it seized her property, even though it had her documents and could easily have contacted her. The state did this even though Ruff's possessions were being held in the very San Francisco bank in which she had an active bank account, simply because...
  • Do We Want Cuba and Burma Regulating our Naval Operations?

    July 2, 2007
    George Mason University Professor (and CEI Adjunct Scholar) Jeremy Rabkin has an important op-ed in the Washington Post today on that ole devil, the Law of the Sea treaty. Rabkin and his co-author, former assistant attorney general Jack Goldsmith, provide an illuminating example of the awkward position in which the U.S. could find itself under the conditions of the treaty:
    Suppose the United States seizes a vessel it suspects of shipping dual-use items that might be utilized to build weapons of mass destruction or other tools of terrorism. It's not a wild supposition. Under the Proliferation Security Initiative, the United States has since 2003 secured proliferation-related high-seas interdiction...
  • The Hidden Costs of CAFE standards

    July 2, 2007
    Charles Krauthammer has an interesting column today on the perils and hidden costs of higher CAFE standards, which would order automakers to increase the gas mileage of their cars and trucks.
  • Entrepreneurs' victory as House passes Sarbox relief

    June 30, 2007
    Entrepreneurs savored a small but significant victory last night in a surprise House vote that extended for one year an exemption for small public companies from burdensome requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley act. The measure's success and support from a significant number of Democrats once again illustrates that Sarbanes-Oxley relief is has become a populist issue. Much of the public now correctly associates Sarbox with the burdens it places on honest entrepreneurial firms such as the Max & Erma's regional hamburger chain, rather than its intended effort rein in companies like Enron.

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