Author Archives: afscme

CourtListener

Source: Free Law Project, 2017

CourtListener is a free legal research website containing millions of legal opinions from federal and state courts. With CourtListener, lawyers, journalists, academics, and the public can research an important case, stay up to date with new opinions as they are filed, or do deep analysis using our raw data.

At Free Law Project, we have gathered millions of court documents over the years, but it’s with distinct pride that we announce that we have now completed our biggest crawl ever. After nearly a year of work, and with support from the U.S. Department of Labor and Georgia State University, we have collected every free written order and opinion that is available in PACER. To accomplish this we used PACER’s “Written Opinion Report,” which provides many opinions for free.

This collection contains approximately 3.4 million orders and opinions from approximately 1.5 million federal district and bankruptcy court cases dating back to 1960. More than four hundred thousand of these documents were scanned and required OCR, amounting to nearly two million pages of text extraction that we completed for this project.

All of the documents amassed are available for search in the RECAP Archive of PACER documents and via our APIs. New opinions will be downloaded every night to keep the collection up to date.

Related:
Free Law Project and Princeton/Columbia Researchers Launch First-of-its-Kind Judicial Database
Source: Free Law Project, Press Release, April 19, 2016

Today we’re extremely proud and excited to be launching a comprehensive database of judges and the judiciary, to be linked to Courtlistener’s corpus of legal opinions authored by those judges. We hope that this database, its APIs, and its bulk data will become a valuable tool for attorneys and researchers across the country. This new database has been developed with support from the National Science Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in conjunction with Elliott Ash of Princeton University and Bentley MacLeod of Columbia University.

At launch, the database has nearly 8,500 judges from federal and state courts, all of which are available via our APIs, in bulk data, and via a new judicial search interface that we’ve created.

The database is aimed to be comprehensive, including as many facts about as many judges as possible. At the outset, we are collecting the following kinds of information about the judges:
• Biographical information including their full name, race, gender, birth and death dates and locations, and any aliases or nicknames that a judge may have.
• Their educational information including which schools they went to, when they went, and what degrees they were awarded.
• The judicial positions they have held. The core of this data is a list of courts and dates for each judge, but it also includes details about their specific position, how they were nominated or elected, what the voting outcome was, who appointed them, the clerks they supervised, and nearly a dozen dates about the timing of their nomination process.
• The non-judicial positions they have held. The database aims to include comprehensive timelines of a judge’s full career both before before and after being a judge. This includes work in other branches of government, in private practice, and in academia.
• Any ratings that a judge has been given by the American Bar Association.
• Finally, we are gathering the political affiliation of judges. This information is coming from a few sources such as ballots (for elected judges) and appointers (for appointed judges).

We have collected all available public datasets and added a large amount of data ourselves. But there are many actors in the U.S. legal system and the database is far from complete. We hope that interested researchers will collaborate with us in contributing more data. Our goal is to put down a foundation of solid data that can be built on by the community and that can grow into the future.

In conjunction with this database, we’re also launching a project to gather and curate judicial portraits. At launch, we have gathered about 250 judicial portraits, mostly of federal judges. This is a small fraction of the number of judges in the database, and we’re looking for help gathering many more portraits. We’re hopeful that with community support we’ll be able to build a comprehensive database of judicial portraits. If you’re interested in helping or have ideas for where we might get more images of judges, please get in touch.

The Conservative Case for Unions

Source: Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic, July/August 2017

How a new kind of labor organization could address the grievances underlying populist anger. ….

…. Even before getting my small taste of what working-class Americans are experiencing in horse doctors’ doses, I had come to see the decline of unions as one of the country’s most pressing problems—and at least as much a social and political problem as an economic one. Old-style, mid-20th-century industrial unions had their flaws, unquestionably. But when unions work as they should, they serve important social functions. They can smooth the jagged edges of globalization by giving workers bargaining power. They are associated with lower income inequality, as the accompanying graph shows. Perhaps most important, they offer workers a way to be heard. “Unions provide a mediating function,” Matthew Dimick, a labor-law expert at suny Buffalo’s law school, told me. “Their social-capital function creates ties that reduce anomie and the sense of being abandoned and forgotten.” No other social institution, or at least none yet discovered, can serve that mediating function for workers. ….

…. In America, the modern conservative movement was founded on anticommunism and antiunionism. Senator Barry Goldwater (“Mr. Conservative”) built his career bashing unions. President Ronald Reagan, although a former union leader himself, made his bones by breaking the air-traffic controllers’ union. Just this past February, Republicans succeeded in their long push for a right-to-work law in Missouri. But the conservative war on unions is beginning to look like a Faustian bargain. If 2016 taught us anything, it was that miserable workers are angry voters, and angry voters are more than capable of lashing out against trade, immigration, free markets, and for that matter liberal democracy itself…..

After Work: Automation and Employment Law, Part Three

Source: Cynthia Estlund, OnLabor blog, August 4, 2017

Automation and Work: A Path Forward in the Face of Uncertainty
For over a century, workers and their organizations have struggled to raise labor standards and expand employee rights and benefits. Whatever the benefits to workers and the society, to any one private firm those laws represent a tax on employing human labor, and part of the calculus in decisions to contract out work or to replace people with machines. A logical though dispiriting response to plausible predictions of escalating net job losses would be to find ways to unburden the employment relationship.

There are arguments against any such response to the automation threat, and I discuss them in my paper. But they are partial and qualified. If we remain concerned (as I do) that labor and employment laws are contributing in some measure to net job losses, we would do well to consider whether it is possible to reduce the legal tax on employing human labor without undermining the quality and rewards of work for all those who work for a living in the future. The beginning of an answer lies, I believe, in separating the question of what entitlements workers (or people) should have from the question of where the attendant costs should fall…..

Related:

After Work: Automation and Employment Law, Part One
Source: Cynthia Estlund, OnLabor blog, August 1, 2017

The labor world took notice when Andy Stern emerged from a years-long deep dive into the future of work, and concluded that the future will bring a lot less work. His book, Raising the Floor, helped to spur a debate over the universal basic income (UBI), including on this blog. But the underlying issue of technology-related job loss has not yet engaged the close attention of labor and employment law scholars. That should change. Even more than firms’ flight from direct employment through fissuring, their replacement of human labor with ever more capable and cost-effective technology threatens the foundations of economic and social life, and calls for a reexamination of prevailing approaches to regulation of employment.

I recently posted a paper on SSRN about the problem of automation and job loss. Here I will take up three of its points in highly condensed form. This post will briefly review the debate on automation and job loss. The second post will discuss the role of labor costs, including those attributable to labor and employment law, in motivating firms both to automate and to contract out labor needs through “fissuring.” The third post will ask what can be done within the boundaries of labor and employment law to address the risk of impending job losses, considering the high degree of uncertainty about that risk….

After Work: Automation and Employment Law, Part Two
Source: Cynthia Estlund, OnLabor blog, August 2, 2017

Automation and Job Loss: What’s Law Got To Do With It?
The challenge of automation is in many ways continuous with the challenges of “fissured” work – to use David Weil’s influential formulation. In particular, both trends are driven in significant part by the costs and risks of employing human beings. According to investment banker Steven Berkenfeld, CEOs these days ask, “’Can I automate it? If not, can I outsource it? If not, can I give it to an independent contractor?’ Hiring an employee is the last resort.”

Part of the cost of employing humans stems from labor and employment laws. Some laws entail predictable direct costs, such as payroll taxes for social insurance programs, minimum wage and overtime laws, and the “pay or play” mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Other laws raise the cost of employing people by injecting risk, like the risk of litigation under laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Large corporate compliance departments, costing billions of dollars per year, are devoted in part to avoiding or managing these risks and liabilities…..

Government Employee Religion

Source: Caroline Mala Corbin, University of Miami – School of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-23, August 5, 2017

From the abstract:
Picture a county clerk who refuses to issue a marriage license to an LGBT couple or a city bus driver who insists on wearing a hijab. The clerk is fired for failing to fulfill job responsibilities and the bus driver for violating official dress codes. Both claim that their termination violates the First Amendment speech and religion clauses.

There is a well-developed First Amendment government employee speech jurisprudence. Less developed is the doctrine and literature for First Amendment government employee religion. The existing Free Exercise Clause jurisprudence usually does not specifically account for the government employee context. This Article attempts to fill that gap by developing a government employee religion doctrine based on the existing government employee speech doctrine.

Part I summarizes government employee speech doctrine. Part II imagines a parallel government employee religion doctrine and applies it to the opening hypotheticals. It concludes that government employees who are religiously opposed to an aspect of their job would lose their religion claims for multiple reasons. In contrast, employees who wish to wear religious garb have much stronger claims. Part III addresses two concerns with my proposed government employee religion doctrine. One criticism is that government employee speech doctrine is too flawed to serve as a model. Another is that speech and religion are too dissimilar to base one on the other.

The Effects of Terminating Payments for Cost-Sharing Reductions

Source: Congressional Budget Office, pub no. 53009, August 2017

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurers receive federal payments to cover costs incurred when offering plans with reduced deductibles, copayments, and other cost sharing to some people who purchase plans through the ACA marketplaces.

If those payments for cost-sharing reductions stopped after the end of this year, participating insurers would raise premiums to cover the costs. CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that ending those payments would increase the federal deficit, on net, by $194 billion from 2017 through 2026, mostly because that change would result in increased costs for premium assistance tax credits. The number of people uninsured would be slightly higher in 2018 but slightly lower starting in 2020….

Prevention Is Key (Er…Required): Will Your State Soon Mandate Workplace Violence Prevention Programs?

Source: Sean Kingston, JDSupra, August 4, 2017

It is no secret to hospital and other healthcare employees that their workplace is no longer a guaranteed safe zone. In fact, recent statistics released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicate that workplace violence is four times more prevalent in the healthcare and social services industries than in other private industries. Violence may come from many sources, including patients or those accompanying them, employees and those who have relationships with employees, and third parties with no business at the facility.

Responding to an outcry from nurses’ unions and patients’ rights groups, and following the lead of seven other states, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) recently enacted a new law (effective April 1, 2017) creating a standard for workplace violence prevention in the healthcare industry. While the breadth of coverage and depth of action required of employers in California now exceeds what can be found in any other state, it could be a sign of things to come for other states.

Because the national tide is turning to legislation that mandates workplace violence prevention programs, particularly in the healthcare context, all healthcare employers would be wise to emulate the practices required by CalOSHA. The federal OSHA and numerous state counterparts are working to assemble similar legislation. …

A Curated List of Environmental Laws That Both Protect The Environment and Support Economic and Job Growth

Source: USC Schwarzenegger Institute, Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook, 2017

Laws that protect the environment and the health of citizens, while simultaneously supporting economic and job growth, are being passed in state legislatures across the United States. These laws are more important than ever before and, increasingly, the work being done at the subnational level is having an impact on national and global decision making. The USC Schwarzenegger Institute and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators have partnered with one another to create this online resource that will help state legislators throughout America learn from their colleagues in other states. We hope to assist legislators who are interested in advancing smart environmental policies by sharing best practices and actual legislation that is working successfully in a number of states already.

Governor Schwarzenegger has long insisted that voters aren’t interested in Republican air or Democrat air but instead simply want clean air. That belief has guided our thought process when choosing the legislation to include in this database. We believe that lawmakers from both political parties and all 50 states will be able to use this resource to find creative legislative solutions to many of the environmental and public health issues facing the people and communities they represent.

This list, although extensive, is by no means complete. We look forward to expanding the list of legislation shared on this website and encourage you to recommend bills from your respective states that you believe can be helpful to legislators elsewhere in America.

BROWSE BILLS BY CATEGORY:
Air Quality
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Human Health
Climate Change

Can You Fire Someone for Attending a Rally of Racists?

Source: Jon Steingart, Daily Labor Report, August 14, 2017

A campaign to publicly identify participants in white supremacist rallies has been met with calls for employers to fire the protesters. That’s the dilemma Top Dogs in Berkeley, Calif., faced after Twitter user @YesYoureRacist shared a photo it said showed one of the hot dog restaurant’s employees at a demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. Participants carried torches and reportedly chanted “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” The next day, participants showed up carrying Nazi swastikas, Confederate battle flags, and insignia of white supremacist groups…..