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September 28, 2005

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Eh Nonymous

Funny blawg, yes. Funny law, no.

Strategically putting forward bills is a waste of taxpayer money. Maybe not as big as (fill in your favorite pork item), but still a waste.

I once had dreams - fevered dreams - that one could hold legislators personally responsible for their misdeeds. No, not for the tax evasion, embezzlement, immigration and labor fraud, drunk driving, and other shenanigans which they regularly get up to. For their *official* misdeeds.

Tried to pass a facially unconstitutional law? Lose certain privileges for a month. Passed a law which violated the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments? No need to wait for another election, when the electorate must balance the dangers of the devil they know vs. starting all over with a new (very junior, totally prestige-free) representative. Why not simply jail them for a week?

I understand that there is an absolute privilege for members of Congress, for example, and that they can't be arrested for anything they say on the floor. Well, that's just a shame, in my view. If we can impeach the President for lying about sex, why not put Congresspersons in stocks for lying about stocks - and bonds? Or for committing things rather worse, in the scheme of things, than marital infidelity?

hardway

It is nice to see that the tort reformers will not let the human misery and suffering caused by the hurricanes to in any way impede their quest to eventually squelch all rights to a jury trial in this country for any person who suffers personal injuries. (Sorry, for the long sentence).
Rather than worry about how to provide basic services for the hurricane victims, and how to minimize future calamities, the right wing members of Congress are trying limit lawsuits. My, how appropriate!!

Ted

The two factual assertions Evan makes about the bill are both wrong.

1) The bill is not duplicative. The VPA of 1997 has no protection for entities, and only applies to a volunteers working for an organization that qualifies under 501(c)(3). HR 3736 applies to all volunteers, and includes protection for entities. This was documented on Overlawyered two weeks ago. Moral is: don't trust ATLA press releases, which have little fear of lying.

2) The Red Cross has turned down offers of assistance because of liability concerns. This has been well-documented, including on Overlawyered, which has other examples of liability fears getting in the way of relief efforts.

3) Evan's reasoning for why there can't possibly be an issue meriting legislation is fascinating. I look forward to Evan agreeing to dismiss with prejudice all his Vioxx cases because I know of two people who took Vioxx without ill health effects, and thus, by the same logic, there can't possibly be any problem with it.

4) What precisely is the harm from this legislation? What nefarious activity isn't being deterred because lawyers have one less potential source of profit?

Matt

"Moral is: don't trust ATLA press releases, which have little fear of lying."

The irony is rich in this one, Obi-Wan.

Evan

Ted: The question raised in the post is whether volunteers are really being "held back from joining the [hurricane] relief effort by the threat of lawsuits."

You respond to my two pieces of anecdotal evidence with one of your own that's based on an quote in an article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. This is the article quoted on Overlawyered, yet the link on Overlawyered doesn't work. Is your anecdotal evidence really "well-documented," and if so, where? I know your it's mentioned in Sensenbrenner's press release, but the press release is apparently just relying on that same article. Meanwhile, although both you and Sensenbrenner say it was "the Red Cross" that had problems, this was based on a quote from a "local spokesman" who I'm guessing doesn't speak for the national organization.

Maybe I'm wrong about this and need to be educated. If you know the facts, please let me know.

Evan

Ted: Here's a little more--

1. The local Red Cross spokeswoman at issue is Pam Hamlin, who is the spokeswoman for the American Red Cross' Florida's Coast to Coast Chapter, which handles seven Florida counties.

2. In the Overlawyered post, you quoted a newspaper article in which Hamlin said that the Red Cross cannot organize refugee housing due to "logistical and liability issues." She did not say that volunteers weren't pitching in due to a fear of lawsuits.

3. In fact, the Red Cross concern is not really about lawsuits at all. In another article, Hamlin said that the Red Cross provides short-term shelters but doesn't coordinate long-term housing. Meanwhile, according to still another article, Hamlin said that the Red Cross was helping the refugees who had moved to Florida in other ways.

4. In your comment, you linked to an Overlawyered post that you said "has other examples of liability fears getting in the way of relief efforts." The post, which I think includes only one example, is about a questionable FEMA rule and doesn't mention the problem of volunteers not volunteering due to fear of lawsuits. In fact, in the Overlawyered post, the volunteer wanted to volunteer.

Your comment confuses me, Ted.

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