Tort Creditors in Bankruptcy

(Source)   On December 15th, 2023, a federal jury awarded $148 million in damages  to two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, in a defamation suit  against former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had repeatedly accused the plaintiffs of manipulating ballots during the 2020 presidential election.  Unfortunately for Freeman and Moss, they now find themselves in a position that has become all too familiar for many successful tort claimants: Just one day after a federal judge ordered him to begin paying the judgment, Giuliani filed for bankruptcy, signaling that the plaintiffs can ultimately expect to recover only a fraction of the total amount they are owed. If these facts sound familiar, it may be because they bear a striking resemblance to the ongoing bankruptcy of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.  In December 2022, Jones filed for bankruptcy after he was ordered to pay $1.5 billion in a defamation suit brought by the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.  For nearly a decade, Jones had repeatedly asserted on his radio show the family members were secretly “crisis actors” involved in a government-orchestrated “false flag operation” to facilitate gun control legislation, causing the [read more]

Looks Like Lochner: will employers’ property interests consume their employees’ rights to physical and digital property access?

(Source) In Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid (2021), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act (“ALRA”) constituted a per se physical taking under the 5th Amendment’s Takings Clause (applicable to states through the 14th Amendment). The ALRA gave union organizers a “right to take access” to an agricultural employer’s worksites to help employees exercise their union rights.  This “right to take access” violated the Takings Clause in its infringement on a property owner’s right to exclude persons from their property.  Furthermore, the ability of union organizers to access worksites inconveniently distant from public spaces has enabled isolated workers to learn about and exercise their workplace rights. Think of workers in a ski town or at one of Orlando, Florida’s many amusement parks. There is no public property where workers can easily meet near their workplace to organize—all the surrounding land is the employer’s private property. As a result, the NLRB has interpreted the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) to permit permits non-employee union organizers to access an employer’s physical premises to organize workers. The Court in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid overturned a California law creating that right because it constituted a per se taking in [read more]

Right to Strike, Take a Hike! Evisceration of right to workplace speech continues.

(Source) On January 10th, 2023, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (No. 21-1449). Ready-mix concrete supplier Glacier Northwest appealed a Washington Supreme Court decision that barred its lawsuit against a union under Washington state tort law for allegedly intentionally destroying company property during a labor dispute. The Washington Supreme Court held that the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) preempted this sort of state tort suit. The events that gave rise to the suit unfolded while workers were actively bargaining for a collective bargaining agreement. The NLRA requires that employers and unions bargain in “good faith” by adhering to certain obligations. Failing to meet these obligations qualifies as an unfair labor practice (“ULP”), which is unlawful under the NLRA. Cement-mixer drivers in Washington, represented by the Teamsters Union and employed by Glacier Northwest, grew frustrated with the pace of bargaining and voted to strike by walking off the job— a common form of labor action protected by the NLRA. On the day of the strike, drivers scheduled to report to work early arrived as usual, loaded their trucks’ drums with cement, and conducted their morning deliveries. When the clock struck the coordinated [read more]

Times of (Not So) Good Behavior: The Need for a Supreme Court Code of Conduct

(Source) In recent times, the Supreme Court has faced record low approval ratings and a series of controversies. Despite this increasing unhappiness with the Court’s performance, there is not much the American public can do to change how the Court operates. The Court is incredibly insulated from public opinion and the political process. Justices serve for life and set their own ethical standards. Unlike the rest of the federal judiciary, no code of conduct explicitly applies to Supreme Court Justices. This state of affairs has led to concerns about impartiality, especially as related to the Justices’ spouses’ political and business activities. Given this reality, the Supreme Court should adopt a code of conduct for itself. A code of conduct will help maintain uniform standards of impartiality and help avoid impropriety. The most recent ethical controversy plaguing the Court surrounds Chief Justice John Roberts’ wife’s recruiting work. Jane Sullivan Roberts works at the legal recruiting firm Macrae and has received six-figure commissions for helping place top legal talent at law firms. Politico reported that some of these firms have argued cases before the Supreme Court, but the Chief Justice has never acknowledged these specific conflicts of interest or recused himself due [read more]

Invisible Wall – None to Low Burden for the Government to Exclude

(Source) Title 42 expulsion during Pandemic Section 265 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. § 265) promulgated that when the CDC determines by reason that there is a communicable disease in a foreign country and that if the suspension of the right to introduce the persons and property into the United States is in the interest of public health, the CDC shall have the power to prohibit, in whole or in part, the introduction of such person or property into the United States. Since March 2020, the CDC issued public health emergency order and allowed rapid expulsion of border crossers, which include asylum seekers, without a hearing which overrides immigration law that allows Asylum seekers to enter without authorization and apply at the ports of entry. The grant of asylum is purely discretionary, and even if the asylee established a well-founded fear of persecution under Title 8, they may still not be allowed to stay. When such asylum seekers are removed, they will typically be deported to their home country, where they allegedly will face persecution and torture. Such removal might violate International Convention Against Torture (“Torture Convention”) and Federal Statutes and Regulations (8 C.F.R § 208.16) if the claimed persecutions were true. Moreover, [read more]

Building Better Public Schools through Restorative Justice

(Source) Fremont High School in Oakland, California used to have the highest rate of suspension in its district, 1 in 3 students dropped out, and only 1 in 4 students qualified to attend public college in California.  But since the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) made a $2.5 million investment to expand its restorative justice program throughout the district in 2017, incidents leading to suspension have dropped dramatically and the number of students who qualify for college admission has “nearly tripled.”  OUSD is one of several school districts throughout the country to adopt restorative justice practices as an alternative to retributive justice over the past two decades.  David Ryan Castro-Harris of Amplify RJ defines restorative justice as “a philosophy and set of practices, rooted in Indigenous teachings, that emphasize our interconnection by repairing relationships when harm occurs while proactively building and maintaining relationships to prevent future harm.”  Restorative justice conferences bring together people who have caused harm, those who have been harmed, and stakeholders from the surrounding community.  All involved parties have the opportunity to share their experience and how the harm affected them before collaborating to find an appropriate solution.  Quantitative research suggests that these practices have a positive [read more]

The Farmworkers’ Health Crisis

(Source) To date, there are approximately three million farmworkers employed throughout the United States. They feed the world through their labor, bringing fruits, vegetables, and other crops to homes across the nation. But despite how critical their work is to our well-being, farmworkers often labor under substandard conditions, earn poverty wages, and face a myriad of health and other issues due to their living and employment conditions. These issues have come to prominence following the Half Moon Bay shootings, in which seven farmworkers were killed and an eighth was critically injured at California Terra Garden and Concord Farms. In the wake of this incident, two California state agencies investigating the Half Moon Bay farms—the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the Labor Commissioner’s Office—have unmasked that workers and their families “lived in trailers on the property, cooked outdoors in makeshift kitchens, used portable toilets, and had their rent deducted from their paychecks.” A San Mateo County supervisor has described the living conditions as “deplorable [and] heartbreaking.” Unfortunately, according to Director of Operations for Líderes Campesinas Irene de Barraicua, these living conditions are not an isolated incident, but rather “very typical images . . . for California.” To learn more [read more]

Burlington Vermont: An Example of Police Defunding Gone Wrong

                                                                                                           (Source) Burlington, Vermont used to be known as a bustling college town on the edge of Lake Champlain, with minimal safety issues, a beautiful environment, and progressive social efforts. There was crime, like in any city, but most of it was property-related so violence was minimal. Citizens could walk around at night feeling safe, the streets were clean, the homeless population was well taken care of, and it was known as a great place to live. However, this all changed in June 2020 when the city followed nationwide trends to defund its police force. The intention behind the defunding was good. Though Burlington’s police force was considered more progressive than many places, having already implemented mandates requiring body cameras and removing its ties to a federal program that gives military equipment to police departments; Burlington, like most places, had some trouble with its police force being unjustly prejudiced against people of color and mistreating people with mental illness. So, following the nationwide trend, citizens [read more]

LMAO: Labor Movement Already Online, while the National Labor Relations Act is stuck in analog

                                                                                                                (Source) In 2018, two Apple repair technicians launched a server on Discord so that they could privately discuss Apple tech issues with their colleagues. Named “AppleConnect”, the Discord server hosted 600 workers by Oct. 2021 who used anonymous identities to discuss frustrations with work. They then organized a union. The recent union win at Apple exemplifies a small portion of the success that workers have had in organizing unions by using digital tools like email and social media. Workers from Amazon to Starbucks and Mcdonald’s have leveraged digital organizing strategies to disseminate information about the benefits of forming a union and to coordinate in-person meetings, events, and actions. Union organizers use many tools in executing a digital organizing strategy. For example, Mapbox employees used a combination of private Slack for private communication, Facebook Groups for crowdsourcing information, and Signal for confidential discussions to organize [read more]

The Live Event Ticketing Industry Is Playing Monopoly

                                                                                                           (Source) January 25, 2010 marked the day when Live Nation, the largest producer of live concerts in the world, and Ticketmaster Entertainment, the world’s leading live entertainment ticketing and marketing company, completed their Department of Justice-brokered merger. At the time, officials touted the fact that the merger would encourage competition and drive ticket prices down. However, since then, Ticketmaster’s prices more than tripled over the past two decades. Today, various estimates show that Ticketmaster controls ticketing at 70-80% of major concert venues in the United States. The reality was that in 2010, two giant entertainment companies joined together to create a behemoth, dubbed Live Nation Entertainment. Rather than encourage competition, Live Nation stifled it, and its sway on the market allowed new subsidiary Ticketmaster to continuously increase ticket prices. A monopolist is a firm with significant and durable market power, but merely possessing monopoly power is not [read more]