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OpenMarket: Law and Constitution

  • Court Blocks Use of Tobacco Settlement As Slush Fund

    June 15, 2007
    The Mississippi Supreme Court has just upheld a court ruling blocking the diversion of $20 million a year from Mississippi's multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement to a private entity, the Foundation for a Healthy Mississippi. The money was diverted by the state's former attorney general, Mike Moore. The Foundation was created after the tobacco settlement precisely so that the state attorney general could siphon state money to it. The court ruled such appropriation of public funds could only be authorized by the state legislature -- not the state attorney general -- and that the state attorney general's diversion of the funds violated state law (Miss. Code § 43-13-405). The court could just as easily have relied on the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, which recognizes...
  • Michael Moore's "Sicko" - Diagnosis: PWNED

    June 15, 2007
    Michael Moore's new attack-umentary on the American health care system, Sicko, seems to be having viral problems of its own. A mysterious source has uploaded the entire movie to the web, and as a result, it is now freely available for (unauthorized) download by anyone with an Internet connection. Ad Age has the story:
    Last week, the Oscar winning director announced that he'd decided to stash a copy of "Sicko" in Canada, in case the Federal government decided to impound it over an apparently unauthorized trip to Cuba made during its filming. As it turns out, the hard part won't be getting the film released, but getting audiences to pay to see it now that its available for free. If the breach is as wide as it appears -- and this reporter downloaded a copy...
  • Social Workers Seize Children to Receive Adoption Bonuses

    June 15, 2007
    In England, as in the United States, local governments receive cash incentives from the national government for adopting out children. In England, this has led to the seizure of thousands of children from their natural parents by social workers hoping to receive bonuses. The Daily Mail, one of England's principal newspapers had a frightening story on June 8 about this. You have to read it to believe it. The idea behind the incentives was to give social workers an incentive to do their best to ensure that children already in orphanages or foster care will be adopted. But children already in foster care tend to be older, less desireable, and harder to find...
  • Weeping Judge Seeks $54 Million for Lost Pants

    June 14, 2007
    Marc Fisher of The Washington Post gives an entertaining account of the trial in which D.C. judge Roy Pearson is suing his dry cleaners for $54 million for losing his pants. The courtroom drama includes a hysterical Pearson crying like a baby and claiming that the loss of his pants was the most "outrageous" event in legal history.I have previously discussed the case, and the lawsuit-generating "consumer protection" law the judge is suing under, here and here. Here I discuss why this judge can be fired by the D.C...
  • Zero Tolerance Policies and the Abuse Excuse

    June 14, 2007
    Today, I published a letter to the editor in The Washington Post, contrasting the treatment of two women recently sent to jail. (Instapundit linked to my letter). The first woman is a Virginia mother sentenced to jail for 27 months in jail for serving alcohol at her son's 16th birthday party.The second is a Tennessee pastor's wife who will serve just a few months for killing her husband by shooting him as he lay in bed. I questioned the bizarre outlook of a criminal justice system that treats killing your husband as a less serious offense than serving alcohol to teenagers. The Virginia mom's plight is, fortunately, not the norm. By contrast, the Tennessee's wife's ridiculously short sentence for taking human life is...
  • Supreme Court Protects Non-Union Workers from Union Coercion

    June 14, 2007
    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Davenport v. Washington Education Association that it is not a violation of the First Amendment for a state to bar a labor union representing government employees from using non-union workers' dues for political causes if those workers have not affirmatively consented. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court, which erroneously held that it violates the First Amendment rights of a union to require it to gain the affirmative consent of non-union workers before using their dues for political purposes. (The non-union workers were compelled to pay dues to the union as a condition of their employment). As I have explained before, the Washington...
  • Victory for Property Rights in New Jersey

    June 13, 2007
    There's good news on property rights from New Jersey, of all places. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in Gallenthin Realty v. Borough of Paulsboro, has just limited takings of private property for redevelopment, ruling that under the state constitution, property cannot be seized by the government merely because it is not being used in the most economically productive possible manner. Instead, the property has to be blighted to justify seizure. This ruling limits the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court's bad decision in Kelo v. New London, which held that the federal Constitution doesn't...
  • Judge's Multi-Million Dollar Pants Suit Goes to Trial

    June 13, 2007
    Roy Pearson, a Washington, D.C. administrative law judge, is suing his drycleaners for $54 million for losing his pants and posting signs saying "satisfaction guaranteed." His ridiculous lawsuit is now being tried in the D.C. Superior Court, where it has become a media spectacle, with news crews from at least five countries observing the trial. The dysfunctional Washington, D.C. government apparently refuses to remove Pearson from his position as judge, despite his bizarre suit.  It refuses to remove him despite the fact that judges are supposed to exercise good judgment, and the fact...
  • Tobacco Settlement Too Greedy and Venal for Even the ABA

    June 13, 2007
    Yesterday, I said that trial lawyers received $14 billion (not million, billion) under the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA), in discussing how that lucrative settlement has triggered copycat lawsuits by other countries against the tobacco industry. Apparently, I was off by a billion dollars.  The trial lawyers received $15 billion, not $14 billion, under the MSA, according to the American Bar Association Journal. The American Bar Association (ABA) has seemingly never seen a tort reform proposal it liked, and almost invariably takes positions that enrich lawyers as a class. So it's striking that not even the ABA Journal can bring itself to defend the MSA.  It recently ran an...
  • More Nigerians Sue U.S. Tobacco Companies for Billions

    June 12, 2007
    More states in Nigeria are suing American tobacco companies for billions of dollars. The suit began when one state in Nigeria decided to sue U.S. cigarette manufacturers for $20 billion, claiming they were responsible for Nigerian smokers' sicknesses and health care costs. Now other Nigerian states are seeking to get in on the action, much as states in the United States filed me-too lawsuits against the tobacco companies after Mississippi began suing the tobacco companies. Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with well over 100 million people. It is home to millions of smokers --  and to a lot of underemployed lawyers who lost income when Nigeria's economy collapsed in the 1980s...

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