Tinkering With The Mechanics Of Death (Of Public Sector Unions)

I’ve made no bones about my antipathy toward public sector unionism, a fundamentally flawed concept that never should have been.  And I remain a bit miffed at the “D” I was given on the issue by a socialist, if not anarcho-syndicalist, professor in college.  It’s not that unions don’t have their virtues or accomplish good things for their members, but that public sector unions are conceptually flawed.

If oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is any indication, the Supreme Court is about to suck the lifeblood out of public sector unions. Steven Greenberg calls this “a ticking time bomb.”

A decision for the plaintiffs in Friedrichs would tell the nation’s 6.2 million unionized state, city, county and school district employees that they can enjoy the benefits offered by their unions without having to pay for them. By some estimates, between 1 million and 2 million workers could be expected to stop paying union fees, at a cost to public-sector unions of $500 million to $1 billion a year.

Since public sector employees can’t be compelled to become union members, they can, per the Supreme Court’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Ed., be compelled to pay agency fees, justified as a fee for the service of negotiating a contract on behalf of non-union members of the collective bargaining unit. Continue reading

If It’s A Loophole, It Must Be Closed

No one credibly argues that domestic violence isn’t a problem, and a problem in need of fixing. Historically, police left violence within the home to families to work out, outside the legal system. This didn’t work very well, as it just left the victims of domestic violence to get beaten some more until they eventually ended up dead.

Of course, cops had a horse in the race, but then, there has been a significant shift in policy to not just taking domestic abuse very seriously, but a “zero tolerance” approach requiring police to make arrests in every instance, regardless of whether there was significant doubt about who assaulted whom, or whether it would be best, in the exercise of discretion, to give the participants a chance to work it out because destroying the family unit. Except when the perp was a cop, because, well, cops.

Add to this problematic mix the latest round of gun hysteria, and the New York Times has called for closing a “loophole.”

Yet shortcomings in federal and state law allow many domestic abusers to have access to firearms, even after courts have determined that the abusers pose a threat to their partners. Continue reading

The ACLU Is Totally Wrong, But Completely Right

At Fault Lines, Noel Erinjeri writes about the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Orleans Public Defender and its chief, Derwyn Bunton, following the decision to refuse to take on more cases than it can ethically and constitutionally handle.

In its introduction, the complaint on behalf of three detained defendants both explains the obvious and makes a critical error:

3. However, OPD has refused to accept Plaintiffs as clients due to budgetary shortages and excessive caseloads. OPD has instead placed Plaintiffs on a waiting list for appointed counsel. OPD’s refusal to represent Plaintiffs means that they must languish indefinitely in jail without counsel until OPD secures adequate resources to provide them with an attorney.

That these three defendants “languish indefinitely in jail” is certainly true. That they do so because of OPD, however, is certainly wrong. The Orleans Public Defender didn’t arrest them. They didn’t set bail. They certainly didn’t set unmakeable bail. And the OPD neither has the wherewithal to “secure adequate resources,” nor has somehow neglected to do whatever it is the ACLU apparently thinks they should have done to “secure adequate resources.” Continue reading

The Sweet Fumes of Chevron

Can you still hear it?  It was the thunderous applause of the 99% when first The Intercept, then the New York Times, ripped the proposal that a mens rea requirement of “knowing” be imposed upon regulatory offenses. All because the Koch Brothers supported the bill, and anything the Koch Brothers support must be evil.  So can you still hear it?

Wanna bet it’s still ringing in Juan Esquivel-Quintana’s ears? He’s no corporation, and it wouldn’t have helped him anyway, but he probably gets it after the Sixth Circuit’s split decision in Esquivel-Quintana v. Lynch.  He lost, after the majority held that they’re bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Oregon. At Volokh Conspiracy, Jonathan Adler explains.

At issue was whether a state law conviction of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor constituted a conviction for “sexual abuse of a minor” under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The majority, in an opinion by Judge Danny Boggs (and joined by Judge Deborah Cook) concluded Chevron deference was appropriate and that such a conviction did qualify. Judge Jeffrey Sutton dissented on this point, finding Chevron deference inappropriate.

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Nice Judgment You Got There, But You Still Have To Collect

The foremost gripe about cops getting qualified immunity for their violations of a person’s civil rights is that the individuals who commit the wrong skate from liability.  Cop does wrong. Cop shrugs. Cop walks away unscathed. It’s not exactly a utilitarian message to police to stop harming people, lying, concealing evidence, planting evidence, framing innocent people or killing kids for no reason.

But then, in those rare instances where qualified immunity doesn’t insulate the cop from liability, and you get a judgment against them, what’s next?  One of the most glaring disconnects in the law is that payment of the judgment doesn’t always happen, and this is particularly true when the judgment is for millions and the judgment debtor is a cop.

Have you met bankruptcy? Have you ever tried to get blood from a rock? Did it happen in Cleveland?

David Ayers says he feared for his life during the nearly 12 years he spent in a prison for a murder that evidence showed he did not commit.

The City of Cleveland says that it owes him nothing and that the judgment was against the two homicide detectives who helped convict him, not the city. It further argues that the judgment was erased in a bankruptcy filed by one of the detectives. Continue reading

The Other Big House

The New York Times reports that the government has quietly imposed a new requirement, the disclosure of cash buyers of expensive real estate.

Concerned about illicit money flowing into luxury real estate, the Treasury Department said Wednesday that it would begin identifying and tracking secret buyers of high-end properties.

It is the first time the federal government has required real estate companies to disclose names behind cash transactions, and it is likely to send shudders through the real estate industry, which has benefited enormously in recent years from a building boom increasingly dependent on wealthy, secretive buyers.

People who can afford to buy real estate in a all-cash transaction, and that means “without bank financing,” not just having Mr. Green at the closing table, are the government’s new targets.  It could be an indication of illicit money, or it could mean that some people are so fabulously wealth that they can afford what they buy out of savings. Or it could mean they just sold a place and have the proceeds available to purchase the next place. Continue reading

Is Northwestern’s President, Morton Schapiro, A Moron?

Many, myself included, wonder whether the required skillset of a university dean is the ability to rationalize the most ridiculous things with a straight face. Or is Northwestern University’s president, Morton Schapiro, a moron? Exhibit A, Schapiro’s attempt to rationalize “safe spaces.”

Some writers ask why our campus is so focused on how “black lives matter.” Others express a mixture of curiosity and rage about microaggressions and trigger warnings. And finally, what about those oft-criticized “safe spaces”? On this last topic, here are two stories. The first was told to me privately by another institution’s president, and the second takes place at my institution, Northwestern University.

Oh good, a feelzsplainer. Trigger warning: this essay would muster a pity C at best from a college sophomore, and will kill brain cells. Proceed with caution.

A group of black students were having lunch together in a campus dining hall. There were a couple of empty seats, and two white students asked if they could join them. One of the black students asked why, in light of empty tables nearby. The reply was that these students wanted to stretch themselves by engaging in the kind of uncomfortable learning the college encourages. The black students politely said no. Is this really so scandalous?

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Crazy Campus Consent Conundrum Collapses

Cynics. Can’t live with them but can’t deny they’re right. Of course, they may not be cynics, but rather people who refuse to be blinded by emotion and instead remain grounded in reason and fact.  But then, calling them cynics, as well as a host of other derogatory names, makes it easier to dismiss them without a second thought. Or even a first thought, because thinking is hard.

Few people have dedicated as much thought to the Catch-22 of the scenario constructed on college campuses as K.C. Johnson and Ashe Schow.

K.C. points out Georgia Tech’s zeal in destroying the lives of the accused without any semblance of due process.

With campus rape grabbing national headlines, Tech has expelled or suspended nearly every student it has investigated for sexual misconduct in the past five years, records show. And at Tech, officials finding a student responsible for “non-consensual sexual intercourse” must either expel the student or explain why they did not.

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No, Not Free Speech

It came as no surprise that the Puddle posted about whether lawyers should pay to give presentations.  After all, what legitimate conference or CLE would have a Puddle reader speak?  There is little draw for a lawyer without any accomplishments whatsoever telling other lawyers, well, anything.

But even so, Andrew Cabasso didn’t come out completely in favor of lawyers trying desperately to manufacture credibility out of nothing to whip out their credit card for the chance to take the podium in front of others.

The idea of paying for a speaking gig is, well, a bit offensive. Especially when the host is already profiting from attendees, which is essentially double-dipping because the speaker [he means “host,” but editing is hard work] gets paid by the audience and the speaker. The audience gets information and CLE credits. The speaker just gets a bill.

When it comes down to it, you are doing your host a favor by helping them fill their programming and educating their audience. Preparing a speech and supplemental handouts takes considerable time and effort to put together. And the actual speaking gig itself is time that could otherwise be spent billing paying clients.

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Rubbed Wrong

The trial may be exactly what rape activists contend is the reason the police cannot be trusted to investigate or charge men accused of rape.

The trial came to an abrupt halt after a Las Vegas police detective took the witness stand and offered his unsolicited opinion that no crime had occurred. Detective Michael Fortunato gave that opinion as his explanation for not sending the victim for a sexual assault examination and for not seeking a warrant to search Goins’ home.

No crime?  The police in Henderson, Nevada disagreed. They charged 54-year-old massage therapist James Brian Goins with sexually motivated coercion. The story behind the charges is, well, creepy.

The woman claims Goins sexually assaulted her on July 29, 2013, after she went to his home studio in Las Vegas for a massage. Another woman claims Goins groped her during a massage on Aug. 6, 2013, at a Massage Heights franchise in Henderson. Continue reading

Sad Harvard Tears

If Harvard alumni want something to cry about, they would do well to consider that if they build that grand new engineering school, it would be the second best in Cambridge. That Harvard isn’t free, or discriminates against Asians, is a red herring.  They give extremely liberal financial aid to students, which Harvard can well afford, and if they didn’t discriminate against Asians, they would make up 90% [based on my personal, highly scientific, empirical study] of the students.

Diversity, you see, isn’t always as it seems. The unspoken ugly belly is that Asian students work hard, very hard, much harder than a lot of other groups, to succeed. Tiger Mom is part of it. A culture of hard work, sacrifice, effort, can’t be overcome by protests and rosy platitudes. But when we speak of diversity, it’s based on a Utopian disconnect with reality.

Asians are just as much a marginalized group as blacks or LatinX, as the latest craze calls them, since the gendered Spanish language fails to meet the bar of gender neutrality. But the concerns are different, and they don’t get the concern shown by the deeply passionate social justice feelers. Why do they hate Asians so much?

But then, there’s no place in the NBA for a 5’9″, middle-aged, Jewish white power forward. If disparate impact answered all questions, this would be a problem. It’s not. Those players are there because they are the best at the game. And they are, notably, black. Nobody wants to watch a basketball game on TV played by short, mediocre players, none of whom could dunk without an extension ladder. Continue reading


A few days ago, Judge Richard Kopf brought up his unfortunate ruling against a prisoner who complained of being served the vile and dreaded nutraloaf.

Prison Loaf, sometimes called Nutraloaf, disciplinary loaf, food loaf, confinement loaf, seg loaf, or a special management meal, is a food served in prisons to inmates who have misbehaved in various ways. It looks like meatloaf but it is all the ingredients of a meal ground up together. Prison loaf is usually bland, and often tastes awful, but prison wardens argue that nutraloaf provides enough nutrition to keep prisoners healthy without requiring utensils to be issued.

In my head, I juxtaposed the prisoner’s dilemma with the bitching of Oberlin College students, who had to suffer the indignity of an inauthentic bành mí.

Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw. “It was ridiculous,” Nguyen said. “How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”

Forget that baguettes are French. Instead, ponder how Nguyen would feel if he was forced to eat nutraloaf instead. At least it’s authentic. Authentic nutraloaf. Continue reading