RSSCategory: Law

The failure of mandated disclosures aimed at consumers

May 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

Who takes the time to read all of the disclosures that comes with software and products? Not most of us. A new book reviewed by Bloomberg says that this is not only ineffective, but harmful.

[I]s mandatory disclosure really that beneficial? During the housing bubble, having to sign 50 documents stuffed with financial disclosures didn’t stop people from taking out ill-advised subprime loans on overpriced houses. An alarming number of female college students are still attacked on campuses despite the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which imposes stiff crime reporting obligations on school administrators. And disclosure forms in routine transactions, from getting a car fixed to signing for a FedEx package, have become meaningless annoyances. A new book, More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure, takes the critique one step further: It argues that mandatory disclosures aren’t just useless but outright harmful in many cases.

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The God the Law Protects, according the the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court

May 2, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

This man and I do have some differences of opinion, it seems. It wouldn’t bother me much except that he is the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

“Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.

“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he continued. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.””

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Antonin Scalia’s recent misstep

May 1, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

The media is now hammering on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent misreporting of the facts of a case involving the EPA. It was a glaring error, indeed. As reported by the Associated Press:

The mistake in Scalia’s opinion concerned one section of about a page and a half in which he contended that the EPA was again asking for the authority to weigh costs against benefits in determining how large a reduction in emissions it mandates… Scalia went on to say the case “is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation.” He cited as authority the high court’s 2001 decision in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations, in which the court said that such an analysis was not allowed under a section of the landmark anti-pollution law. The author was Scalia. The problem is that it was the trucking group, not the EPA, that wanted the agency to use a cost-benefit analysis.

Scalia’s recent gaffe pales in comparison to Scalia’s repeated claim that he decides cases based on “textual originalism.” Scalia’s purported theory was was shown to be incoherent and self-serving in a comprehensive article by Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that article, Posner makes an airtight case that Scalia has bungled the legal analysis of dozens of cases. According to Posner, “originalism” is essentially a reckless embodiment of the confirmation bias. Judge Posner’s critique goes even further, however, accusing Justice Scalia of repeated disingenuous interpretations of the cases in order to attempt to lend credence to his pet theory.

I appreciate that the news media has caught Justice Scalia on a slipshod piece of writing. If only the media would now take the time to look at Scalia’s much larger and much more dangerous claim that he is dutifully following the directives of the nation’s Founders when he is actually carrying water for the Chamber of Commerce.

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Retired Justice Stevens: Add five words to the Second Amendment

April 12, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

In recent years, court decisions concerning the Second Amendment have lost any attachment to the “militia,” making the mention of “militia” in the amendment superfluous. Justice Stevens, who retired from the United States Supreme Court in 2010 recommends that we reestablish that connection by adding five words to the Amendment:

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Emotional claims that the right to possess deadly weapons is so important that it is protected by the federal Constitution distort intelligent debate about the wisdom of particular aspects of proposed legislation designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands. Those emotional arguments would be nullified by the adoption of my proposed amendment. The amendment certainly would not silence the powerful voice of the gun lobby; it would merely eliminate its ability to advance one mistaken argument.

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Formula for Predicting case outcomes at the United States Supreme Court

April 8, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

At Truthout, Mike Lofgren concludes that the formula for predicting future case outcomes of the United States Supreme Court is simple and that references to the Constitution are merely smokescreen. Roberts is well aware of this bait and switch: “Roberts is wise enough to know that and is wise enough to conceal his hand with occasional strategic references to the free speech or free exercise clauses in the First Amendment.” Instead of really upholding constitutional rights, the Roberts court Lofgren states that the cases are results oriented; they are about upholding the superior political privileges of rich interests in society. The unspoken basis is “freedom of contract notion (without government restrictions), from which many subsequent pro-corporation decisions have flowed, the court’s majority was basing its decision on economic ideology rather than constitutional interpretation.”

The Court’s recent ultra-narrow definition of “corruption” is a case in point. [More . . . ]

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True war heroes

March 29, 2014 | By | Reply More

Many of us “Support the U.S. Troops” in the Middle East even though we have no idea what they are doing on a day to day basis. There is no significant news reporting from the areas where the soldiers do whatever they do, so many Americans fills this vacuum with hopeful imagination. I don’t. I assume the worst. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and there is no sunshine where the U.S. military is operating in the Middle East. At any time over the past ten years, you could read 100 consecutive days of most any local newspaper, and you wouldn’t know anything about the day to day conduct of members of the U.S. military. You would barely know that we were at war. There have been no meaningful photos and no stories to advise us of what is really going on, where our heavily armed military encounters civilians.

Nonetheless, in our ignorance, we declare ALL troops to be heroes, clapping for them at baseball games and other social events, having no idea what they are actually doing. Imagine honoring any other profession, not having any self-critical information with regard to that person’s activities. “Ladies and Gentlemen, let me hear a round of applause for Joe, who is a great musician,”imagine everyone in the room clapping, even though none of them had ever heard of Joe, and none of them have heard him play even one note.

Sometimes we do learn what a soldier has actually done, and sometimes it is a actually the story of a hero. Take the case of Hugh Thompson, who stepped up to do what was right, at his own risk:

Returning to the My Lai area at around 0900 after refueling, he noticed that the people he had marked were now dead. Out in a paddy field beside a dike 200 metres (660 ft) south of the village, he marked the location of a wounded young Vietnamese woman. Thompson and his crew watched from a low hover as Captain Ernest Medina (commanding officer of C Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment) came up to the woman, prodded her with his foot, and then shot and killed her.

[More . . . ]

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The Fourth Amendment should be top secret

March 18, 2014 | By | Reply More

Here’s a well written article by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. Of course, it’s tongue in cheek.

But listen to the serious argument by an attorney who represented Homeland Security, and a response by Freedom of Press Foundation:

“You can’t debate our intelligence capabilities and how to control them in the public without disclosing all of the things that you’re discussing to the very people you’re trying to gather intelligence about,” he said. “Your targets are listening to the debates.” In fact, he continued, they’re listening particularly closely. For that reason, publicly debating intelligence techniques, targets and limits is foolish. As soon as targets figure out the limits of what authorities can touch, they’ll change their tactics accordingly. In his view, limits should be set in secret. A class of overseers with security clearances can make the necessary judgment calls.

Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, attempted to defend normal democratic debate. “What separates us from countries like Russia and China is that we can have these types of debates with an informed public that are completely aware of what types of surveillance are available to governments and what the legal standards are,” he argued. “We’re not specifically debating who the NSA is going to spy on, but whole surveillance regimes. If we didn’t debate that in this country, the Fourth Amendment would be classified. But it’s not.”

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Living in a dual state

February 18, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

Chris Hedges explains that U.S. citizens now live in a “dual state”:

We live in what the German political scientist Ernst Fraenkel called “the dual state.” Totalitarian states are always dual states. In the dual state civil liberties are abolished in the name of national security. The political sphere becomes a vacuum “as far as the law is concerned,” Fraenkel wrote. There is no legal check on power. Official bodies operate with impunity outside the law. In the dual state the government can convict citizens on secret evidence in secret courts. It can strip citizens of due process and detain, torture or assassinate them, serving as judge, jury and executioner. It rules according to its own arbitrary whims and prerogatives. The outward forms of democratic participation—voting, competing political parties, judicial oversight and legislation—are hollow, political stagecraft. Fraenkel called those who wield this unchecked power over the citizenry “the prerogative state.”  The masses in a totalitarian structure live in what Fraenkel termed “the normative state.” The normative state, he said, is defenseless against the abuses of the prerogative state. Citizens are subjected to draconian laws and regulations, as well as arbitrary searches and arrests. The police and internal security are omnipotent. The internal workings of power are secret. Free expression and opposition political activity are pushed to the fringes of society or shut down. Those who challenge the abuses of power by the prerogative state, those who, like Snowden, expose the crimes carried out by government, are made into criminals. Totalitarian states always invert the moral order. It is the wicked who rule. It is the just who are damned.

The fact that we feel free does not mean that we are free:

Societies that once had democratic traditions, or periods when openness was possible, are often seduced into totalitarian systems because those who rule continue to pay outward fealty to the ideals, practices and forms of the old systems. This was true when the Emperor Augustus dismantled the Roman Republic. It was true when Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized control of the autonomous soviets and ruthlessly centralized power. It was true following the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazi fascism. Thomas Paine described despotic government as a fungus growing out of a corrupt civil society. And this is what has happened to us. No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, can be described as free. The relationship between the U.S. government and the U.S. citizen is now one of master and slave. Yet the prerogative state assures us that our rights are sacred, that it abides by the will of the people and the consent of the governed.

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Colorado Supreme Court agrees to hear case involving paraplegic man who was fired for using medical marijuana.

January 29, 2014 | By | Reply More

There is some good news for Brandon Coats. He is a paraplegic man who had excellent job reviews as a customer service at DISH Network in Denver. He was a properly registered user of medical marijuana, which provided relief from the considerable pain he suffered. His employer fired him following a random drug testing, finding THC in his blood. He never used marijuana on the job and he was never under the influence on the job. Colorado attorney Michael Evans has represented Brandon Coats throughout this litigation. John Campbell and I (of Campbell Law, LLC) assisted Mr. Evans in the drafting the Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court. Two days ago, we were happy to learn that the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear this case. We will be assisting with writing the brief in the coming weeks.  Here is the Colorado Supreme Court’s  January 27, 2014 ruling.

In our Petition, we had asserted:

After prolonged treatment with various conventional, prescribed medications failed, a licensed Colorado physician recommended that Mr. Coats medically use marijuana. Mr. Coats registered and received state-approval for medical marijuana use. Thereafter, he used marijuana only in the privacy of his own home and after working hours, in compliance with Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14. . . . Despite satisfactory job performance, an absence of work place accommodation, and lack of impairment, DISH fired Mr. Coats solely based on an unknown amount of THC found in his body, the presence of which was the result of his exclusive use of medical marijuana in the privacy of his own home after work. Colorado’s Lawful Activity Statute prohibits employers from discriminating against or terminating employees for engaging in legal off-duty conduct. Both Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14 and § 16 permit the use of marijuana for Colorado residents like Mr. Coats.

In its recent Order, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to consider the following two issues:

Whether the Lawful Activities Statute, C.R.S. section 24-34-402.5, protects employees from discretionary discharge for lawful use of medical marijuana outside the job where the use does not affect job performance.

Whether the Medical Marijuana Amendment makes the use of medical marijuana “lawful” and confers a right to use medical marijuana to persons lawfully registered with the state.

For more information about this compelling case, see this article from the Denver Post.

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