In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and…
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First Amendment Rights: Good News from the IRS on Donor Privacy

In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and First Amendment expression, there’s actually good news to report.

In fact, that positive development comes from none other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which few people typically consider a font of good news.

Specifically, the IRS just announced a proposed rule to stop requiring nonprofit organizations to file what’s known as a Form 990 Schedule B, which exposes sensitive donor information not only to the federal government and potential rogues like former IRS official Lois Lerner, but also people who seek to access and use that information to target people on the basis of political belief.

As we at CFIF have long asserted, this welcome move will help protect the…[more]

September 12, 2019 • 11:07 am

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Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
Only a Partial Win at Supreme Court Against Globaloney Environmental Lawsuit Print
By Quin Hillyer
Wednesday, June 22 2011
The American people are safer from judicial overreach as a result of Monday’s decision. But until Massachusetts v. EPA is overturned, those who value limited government will still be choked by regulatory smog.

The Constitution and the concept of judicial restraint each won one huge victory on Monday in an environmental lawsuit out of Connecticut, but only by confirming an earlier encroachment on both the Constitution and right reason. That earlier encroachment still bedevils both constitutional law and public policy.

The case decided Monday, American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut, involved a suit filed by eight states and several land trusts against five power companies, alleging under “public nuisance” theory that the companies’ air emissions contribute to global warming and thus interfere with public rights by risking human health, rising sea levels and other ills alleged by global warming cultists.

Connecticut’s suit is one of three lawsuits (others emanate from Mississippi and Alaska) wending their way through the federal courts that could open the door for literally thousands of “jackpot justice” environmental claims.

These suits threaten not only to hobble the power companies but to add tremendous regulatory costs resulting in major hikes in consumer energy prices. Worse, they threaten to upend the legal tradition that makes a defendant liable only for specific harms clearly caused by the defendant’s actions or products.

The suits also ask the judiciary to fulfill a policy-making role wholly beyond the traditional, proper – in other words, limited – authority given to judges to merely interpret existing law rather than legislate from the bench. Connecticut explicitly asks courts to set emissions standards, displacing the functions usually borne by Congress and/or executive outlets such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fortunately, eight justices (Justice Sotomayor recused herself) unanimously agreed that this assumption of judicial authority “cannot be reconciled” with the constitutional order. “Federal judges lack the scientific, economic, and technological resources an agency can utilize in coping with issues of this order,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for a unanimous court. 

The decision is thus a blow to the plaintiffs’ bar, stopping lawyers from this particular avenue of concocting billion-dollar cases out of thin air at the expense of consumers, company stockholders including pensioners and what Ginsburg called any “other defendants fitting the description [of] ‘large contributors’ to carbon-dioxide emissions.”

The bad news, however, is that the high court’s reasoning not only leaves in place, but reinforces, a horrible 2007 decision that enthroned global warming blarney as the law of the land. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the court substituted its own judgment for that of the experts at EPA by ordering the reluctant agency to “regulate greenhouse gases” under terms favorable to interpretations advanced by global-warming believers.

The EPA under President G.W. Bush had ruled “a causal link” between greenhouse gases and global warming “cannot be unequivocally established” – but the court, in its arrogant unwisdom, insisted that “the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized” and that greenhouse gas emissions “contribute to climate change.”

Having thus ordered the agency to reconsider, the court now relies on the agency’s reconsideration, and subsequent regulation of greenhouse gases, to tell Connecticut that only the EPA can set emissions standards. The states, and eventually the plaintiffs’ lawyers, may not ask judges to do what the EPA has the authority to do – but only now that the EPA is exercising such authority the way the Supreme Court wishes.

The court should have jettisoned Connecticut’s lawsuit on the perfectly reasonable grounds that the link between alleged injuries and any action by the utilities is too tenuous for a court to recognize. Instead, it relied on Massachusetts v. EPA to put the power in the hands of the Obama EPA rather than the hands of lower court judges.

As Justices Alito and Thomas drily noted in a very short concurring opinion, the justices effectively are forced into “the assumption” that the 2007 Massachusetts case was correctly decided only “because no party [in the Connecticut case] contends otherwise.” It is true that if the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions, then state courts applying tort law should not substitute their judgments for that of the EPA.

The problem is, the Obama EPA and the Supreme Court in the Massachusetts case both have based their judgments on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body rocked by scandal for manipulating data, suppressing inconvenient information and failing to welcome scientific peer reviews. Rather than having the EPA or judges regulate carbon dioxide, nobody should regulate carbon dioxide.

In short, this is bad tort law theory being overturned not because it is bad tort law, but because of reliance on bad science and bad earlier judging. Those latter two wrongs have led to a right result, but for the wrong reasons.

The American people are safer from judicial overreach as a result of Monday’s decision. But until Massachusetts v. EPA is overturned, those who value limited government will still be choked by regulatory smog.

Question of the Week   
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists using which one of the following?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"There's an old joke often expressed well into banquets and conferences, where a speaker says, 'We're at the point where everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.' We're already at that point with the Democratic primary debates. Tonight was a three-hour ordeal, and candidates largely repeated the arguments they made in the previous two debates. There's not much…[more]
 
 
—Jim Geraghty, National Review
— Jim Geraghty, National Review
 
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