foie gras is back

May 17, 2008

I got the call on Tuesday that the repeal was going to be put through at the Wednesday City Council meeting. So, I was down at City Hall yesterday morning at 9:15, and talked my way into the press box for the 4plus hour meeting. Anyone who ever wants to experience pure boredom should sit through a Chicago City Council meeting from start to finish. Foie gras was the last issue brought up and the one that all the reporters/cameras were there for. Here’s Dan Mihalopoulos and Mark Caro’s rendition of what went down, complete with video. I was right there in the press box with them, and their rendering is pretty spot-on. Mark turned toward me after the repeal was passed, 37-6, and we both said “that was great!” (sociologically interesting, politics in action, witnessing of yelling and lobbying, etc).

What the whole experience boils down to was seeing how easy it is to get anything through City Council, what with the length of the meeting, the fact that aldermen are up and down, chatting with each other, in the antechamber drinking coffee, and each sitting behind a 2 foot tall stack of papers/resolutions/ordinances.


Should Guantanamo Cases Involve Capital Punishment?

February 11, 2008

Col. Lawrence J. Morris and other military prosecutors decided today to seek the death penalty for six Guantanamo Bay detainees accused of carrying-out the September 11th attacks.  The WSJ Law Blog writes that in 2001 Morris favored a high-profile public trial for these suspects before the administration decided to interrogate them in secret.  Seven years later, the notion of a public trial for these detainees raises new questions that would not have presented themselves at the time of their capture: Read the rest of this entry »

Clinton v. Obama, Another Bush v. Gore?

February 11, 2008

The Wall Street Journal has this very interesting piece today about the possibility of the Clinton/Obama race ending in court.   The article develops the argument recently made by Matt Bai of the New York Times in his piece “Back Room Choices” that the Democratic nomination will ultimately be decided behind closed doors by superdelegates in the weeks leading up to the convention.  The author of this WSJ piece is Theodore Olson, counsel to George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore.

At the risk of sounding cynical, I find Olson’s arguments pretty convincing.  If the delegate count favors the candidate who won less of the popular vote, how do you think the candidacy should be decided?  Does this recreate the wheel of 2000?  If Olson is correct that Hillary will pursue the Florida and Michigan delegates, can the candidates resolve that issue outside of court?

Total Number of Civil Cases and Employment Discrimination Cases Filed in Federal Court: 1972-2006

February 7, 2008


 So you know, I work on employment discrimination.  Look at this massive plunge in employment discrimination filings.  The left axis is for all civil cases and the right for ED cases (everything classfied as 442 – Tit VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, EPA, PDA, 1981, and 1983).  This is the Donohue and Siegelman data in the earlier period (pre 1988) and now a replicaiton and explansion by me, bob, john, and peter all put together in one visually stunning powerpoint slide (kudos, ellen berrey!). 

So, not explained by the previous D&S theory about economic/employment cycles – and it is not all ADA.  its not all 1991 civil rights act damages either.  In fact, the 91 CRA had a backlash effect that is interesting, but for another post. 

We have BOATLOADS of data and can tell you lots about lots about lots.  But, this decline is a bit of a mystery.  Theories?

Lawyers, Rules and the NFL

February 5, 2008

Anyone watch the Super Bowl? I did, mostly. Two hundred years from now, George Will will be remembered for one thing, and one thing only — this bon mot: “Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” He is right, of course, but he left out the worst part — The Rules.

 Football is minutely governed by a seemingly infinite number of arcane, highly-nuanced rules (illegal batting?), many of which are incapable of consistent enforcement (if, as we are assured by the cognoscenti, offensive holding could be called on every play, but is not, then why call it at all?). Worst of all is the insistence on “getting it right,” which gave us video review, which involves grown men looking at a tape of a wide receiver falling to the ground frame by frame, over and over again as if it were the Zapruder film, in order to determine whether the ball shifted ever so slightly in his grasp before his knee kissed terra firma. Who the Hell cares? One thing we learn as lawyers is that most of the time, close enough is good enough. We stop striving for ideal justice, and try to get reasonably close to fairness in the short amount of time that we have on this Earth. We know that baseball has it right — yes, there are bad calls, but over time they even out, and if they have a disproportionate impact in the short run, well, that’s still a smaller price to pay than would be spent in a futile attempt to eliminate all error. Also, we suspect that a better world would have fewer rules, not more, and since sports are supposed to be a better world, we resent having our time on the couch interrupted by an achingly pious explanation of the application of the Tuck Rule. We get enough of that crap at work.

So, you can imagine how I felt when the Prince of Football Darkness threw that #%*%@ red flag after his team punted on 4th and 2, and then got the ball back on a 5 yard penalty when the video showed a 12th Giant player sprinting off the field, but about 2 feet from the sideline when the ball was snapped. If there was ever a case for the application of the “no harm, no foul” principle, this was it. But no — In the NFL, The Rules must be enforced, no matter how unjust their application, no matter how harsh the consequences. Some people actually like this. We call them fascists.

This is a long introduction to this link.

Things that make you go hmmmm.

January 22, 2008

Can you sue your realtor if you think you paid too much for your house?

If I were an economist,  I think I would say that the value of the house is exactly what you paid. I suppose you could have bad or misleading information, but it seems these folks are angry because it turned out they could have done better. Yeah, well, I feel the same way about my purchase of QQQ right before the tech bubble burst, but I am not suing the person who told me to buy it. ***I’m looking at you, MOM!***

Isn’t this the essence of a market? Especially in California, all you have heard for the past few years is that the market is “crazy,” which I take to mean unpredictable and weird. Thousands (millions?) of people had unpredictible and weird in their favor, but that means it is going to be crazy NOT in someone else’s favor.

I’m not an economist, though, so I should be sentitive to the fact that markets are social constructions, created by those in and around them and often reinforced and protected by law.  And, markets often have unequal disparate impacts on people with less money and power than others in the same market.  But the woman who describes herself as 114 pounds and owns a (roughly) $1.2M home in San Diego is not making me too sympathetic.

I should add that this seems like a standard tort tale which will, in the end net this woman nothing and yet fuel the litigation explosion MYTH. That’s right, myth. if you don’t believe me, you can read this, this, this , this , or pretty much anything by this guy .