Learn more about Peltz-Steele v. UMass Faculty Federation at Court Listener (complaint) and the Liberty Justice Center. The case is now on appeal in the First Circuit as no. 22-1466 (PACER paywall). Please direct media inquiries to Kristen Williamson.
Showing posts with label Daily Show. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daily Show. Show all posts

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Let's laugh at them, not with them: Klobuchar cites serious stats, but occasions levity in Jackson hearing

On day 2 of the Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) borrowed a joke from The Daily Show's Trevor Noah.

Klobuchar remarked on the significance of a woman taking a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court to attain a 5-4 gender balance for the first time.  Of 115 confirmed justices in American history, Klobuchar counted, 110 have been men.  Klobuchar said that she had "reminded" Trevor Noah on The Daily Show of similar statistics relative to service in the U.S. Senate: "Of the nearly 2,000 people who have served, only 58 have been women.  And he responded that if a night club had numbers that bad, they'd shut it down."  Here's the 38-second clip:


It was Noah who actually quoted the Senate statistic from a book, Nevertheless, We Persisted (2018), an anthology for which Klobuchar wrote a foreword and which she touted at the time. Noah followed up, "I've been to gay clubs that have better ratios of men to women."  Klobuchar took the occasion in 2018 to speak against the Brett Kavanaugh nomination, pending at the time.  She put the appearance on Facebook.


Klobuchar appeared on The Daily Show also in 2017 and in 2019, the latter while running for President.  But none of those appearances marks the funniest intersection of Klobuchar and Noah in popular culture.  That honor goes to a 2019 tweet by Noah in which he lampooned Klobuchar for overusing a joke on the campaign trail.

Senators' interrogations of Jackson on Tuesday and Wednesday this week were at times cringeworthy, to use my wife's word.  In particular, the questioning by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were difficult to endure; even National Review Senior Fellow Andrew C. McCarthy, who opposes Jackson's appointment on other grounds, described Hawley's attack as "meritless."  The affair rubs in for me David Brooks's recent lament in The Atlantic on the divide between today's rabid right and the meritorious social value of genuine conservatism.

Both Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah are off this week, so between the stresses of a contentious Senate hearing and the ongoing war in Ukraine, I am sorely missing my daily doses of escapist levity. Fortunately, The Daily Show's Desi Lydic deposited a dose of satire on the web for us; don't miss it.


Friday, January 28, 2022

Breyer's tastiest torts, Disney's perspective problem play Paramount late night with Colbert, Noah

Late Show monolog mock-up
On Wednesday, Paramount's late-night television kindly obliged my classroom teaching with two legal references, one fit for my Wednesday torts class, and another for my Thursday comparative law class.

First, a gift for Torts II students, from Stephen Colbert: In a monolog on the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, Colbert on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert played on the word "torts" to joke about Justice Breyer's stated intention to refine his cooking skills in retirement.  "From Torts to Tarts," Colbert said (cue 2:31), suggesting a name and mock cover for a forthcoming Supreme Cookbook.

The U.S. Supreme Court of course does not often deal directly with torts, or civil wrongs, which are mostly matters of state law in the United States.  It's often a source of misunderstanding for foreign lawyers and new American law students who must learn that SCOTUS is not "the highest court in the land" (even besides that one) when it comes to torts.

 

That said, a good deal of tort law finds its way to the federal high court on all kinds of paths.  Federal courts routinely apply state law in multi-district litigation, including mass tort claims, and in matters involving both federal and state claims.  State tort claims can become mixed with federal questions in problems of constitutional defenses and preemption.  Federal "common law" persists in places of original federal jurisdiction, as in maritime matters.  And the trial of civil wrongs recognized in federal law, such as civil rights, can borrow the "machinery" of state tort law, both procedural, as in application of a statute of limitations, and substantive, as in apprehension of proximate causation.

For Law360, Emily Field and Y. Peter Kang yesterday detailed six must-know Breyer opinions in product and personal injury liability.  These are their six cases (with links to Oyez), which they flesh out in the article (subscription required)

  • Due process / civil procedure / personal jurisdiction: J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro (U.S. 2011), denying state personal jurisdiction for less than minimum contact by British machine manufacturer that marketed its product in United States (Breyer, J., concurring, joined by Alito, J., in plurality opinion of Kennedy, J., in 6-3 decision)
  • Due process / punitive damages / product liability: Philip Morris USA v. Williams (U.S. 2007), holding that federal constitutional due process precludes a state punitive damages award predicated on injury inflicted on non-parties, i.e., even like injury on persons like the plaintiff, but not before the court (Breyer, J., for the 5-4 majority, joined by Roberts, C.J., and Alito, Kennedy, and Souter, JJ.).
  • Preemption / product liability / warning defect: Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht (U.S. 2019), holding that FDA regulatory decision might or might not preempt state warning defect claim, and question is one of law for the court (Breyer, J., for the majority, in part unanimous, in part 6-3, joined by Ginsburg, Gorsuch, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Thomas, JJ.).
  • Preemption / product liability / design defect: Williamson v. Mazda Motor of Am., Inc. (U.S. 2011), holding that flexible federal regulatory standard did not preempt state claim against automaker (Breyer, J., unanimous decision).
  • Evidence / experts: Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael (U.S. 1999), extending test for admissibility of scientific evidence to other technical expertise (Breyer, J., unanimous decision).
  • Arbitration / class action: Green Tree Financial Corp. v. Bazzle (U.S. 2003), leaving to arbitrator to decide whether to permit class action when arbitration agreement was silent on the question (Breyer, J., for a plurality, 5-4 decision, joined by Ginsburg, Scalia, and Souter, JJ., and Stevens, J., concurring).

The article is Emily Field & Y. Peter Kang, 6 Breyer Product, Personal Injury Opinions Attys
Should Know
, Law360 (Jan. 27, 2022) (subscription required)

Second, a gift for Comparative Law students, from Trevor Noah: On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Noah reported on actor Peter Dinklage's criticism of Disney's planned live-action reboot of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937).  There have been other versions; the story is derived from fairy tales that were included in the first Grimms' in 1812.  Dinklage, who has dwarfism, wondered at the inconsistent wokeness of casting Latina actress Rachel Zegler as the lead, while continuing to work with a story about "seven dwarves living in a cave."

While acknowledging Dinklage's objection as legitimate, Noah admitted, "I've never watched Snow White and found the dwarves offensive.  All right?  But I do understand what he's talking about.  I genuinely do.  Because if that movie was called 'Snow White and the Seven Blacks,' I mean, that would be weird."

Noah's take nicely illustrates one dimension of the perspective problem in social research, and it's especially salient in comparative law.  Like Noah, I never thought about the seven dwarves as an insulting characterization of people with dwarfism.  But after hearing Dinklage's perspective from within the dwarfism community, I can perform a "mental rotation" (to use the psych term) and empathize.

The problem when researching law and society in an unfamiliar context, whether it's a shared physical condition, a religion, or a political state, is that my perspective is shaped by my own limited experience in ways that I might not even be conscious of.  The perspective problem can never be entirely eliminated in social research, but it can be mitigated.  It's helpful to think consciously about one's perspective to gain some cognizance of the limitations of one's research.

As to the Seven Dwarves of fairy-tale fame, Disney announced that it is "taking a different approach with these seven characters and ha[s] been consulting with members of the dwarfism community."  I look forward to what creative minds will yield.

Incidentally, in the same Daily Show, Noah did an excellent piece on insider trading in Congress.  Just last week I noted a publication on the subject by Spencer K. Schneider, a former teaching assistant of mine.  I added a video embed from Comedy Central to the bottom of that post.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Comedy of Roy Wood Jr. surfaces under-appreciated contributions of real historical black figures

Roy Wood Jr.
(photo by Lisa Gansky CC BY-SA 2.0)

I'm a big fan of Roy Wood Jr., and every installment of his "CP Time" bit on The Daily Show is an instant classic.  They're always funny, but often, also, are educational.

Last year during African American History Month, Wood talked about little recognized black explorers, such as Matthew Henson, an American who journeyed to the North Pole, and Abubakari II, a Malian royal said to have set sail for the New World more than a century before Columbus.

This year, on Wednesday night, he highlighted African American spies who contributed importantly in the history of war and civil rights, including Josephine Baker and Harriet Tubman.

Baker on a German poster in 1929
The piece reminded me of two memorable experiences learning about these women.  I first learned about Josephine Baker, an American-born French resistance agent in World War II, only recently, in a seemingly unlikely place, a 2019 exhibit at the Musée d'Orsay titled Black Models: from Géricault to Matisse.  In the brilliant, wide-ranging exhibit on the intersection of black culture and French history, Baker was featured among entertainers whose work was fused into a new French cultural identity in the 20th century.

Tubman NHP in 2018 (photo by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0)
In 2018, my family first visited the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, which opened in Maryland in 2013.  Situated amid the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, the museum is not on the beaten path, but it's worth every extra mile to visit.  Impassionedly curated, the exhibits comprise an encyclopedic history of civil rights of which I knew precious little, even having gone to grade school in Maryland and being schooled in constitutional law.  Tubman's vital contributions as a Union spy, as well as the real story of her military leadership, portrayed by an eponymous 2019 film, is featured among narratives every American should know about the future face of our $20 note.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Glued hair precipitates lawsuit talk, problem of liability exposure when products are misused

Trevor Noah and Dulcé Sloan had some fun on The Daily Show this week with TikToker Tessica Brown, who is considering suit against Gorilla Glue after using it on her hair sent her to the hospital.

I have some Gorilla Glue right on my desk.  I love the stuff, except how it hardens in the bottle before I can use it all, an apparently intractable malady of super glues.  I got out my reading glasses, and the tiny print on mine says:

WARNING: BONDS SKIN INSTANTLY.  EYE AND SKIN IRRITANT.  MAY PRODUCE ALLERGIC REACTION BY SKIN CONTACT.  Do not swallow.  Do not get in eyes.  Do not get on skin or clothing.  Do not breathe in fumes.  KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  Wear safety glasses and chemical resistant gloves.  Contains ethyl cyanoacrylate.  FIRST AID TREATMENT: If swallowed, call a Poison Control Center or doctor immediately.  Eyelid bonding: see a doctor.  Skin binding: soak skin in water and call a Poison Control Center.  Do not force apart. For medical emergencies only, call 800-....

 Image by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0
with no claim to underlying content
No mention of hair, so I guess the warning label will have to be longer now.  The hair incident prompted a Twitter response from Gorilla Glue, lamenting the misuse and wishing Brown well.

Whether and when to acknowledge an unapproved use of a product always has been an intriguing problem in the practice of product liability defense.  Foreseeability is a key part of the product liability test in many states, so a maker with actual knowledge of an off-label use is sometimes wrangled into having to warn against the absurd.  That leads to some funny results, as evidenced by the label collection that my friend Prof. Andrew McClurg has maintained since before the internet was a thing, now a feature on his legal humor website.

In the analog days, a sharply worded letter might have been an adequate response to the customer who wrote in with helpful intention to suggest how effective oven cleaner might be for mole removal.  Woe be to the product maker whose goods turned up in a book such as Uncommon Uses for Common Household Products, which taught people how to MacGyver products to exceed their design intentions.  (And there's a small but fascinating sub-genre of publisher-defense cases at the intersection of product liability and First Amendment law.)  At that point, it was time to update the warning label, if not issue an affirmative press release, because it would no longer be plausible to argue lack of foreseeability to a jury.  The anticipatory defense would have to shift focus to other theories, such as unavoidable dangerousness and consumer responsibility.

The democratization of mass communication through the internet and social media has accelerated the timeline.  So now we see quick responses to individual incidents, such as Gorilla Glue's on Twitter.

The instant case is not firmly in the genre of unintended uses, because Brown intended at least to use the glue for its adhesive property.  Still, I'll go out on a reasonably secure limb and say that any lawsuit arising from the instant incident, at least upon the facts as reported so far, would be frivolous.  More likely, the TikToker in question has accomplished her mission by being the talk of the electronic town.

UPDATE, Feb. 13, 2021: Princess Weekes at The Mary Sue cautions us not to be manipulated by defense tort reformers into too readily siding against Brown, like in the Hot Coffee case.  I don't think I've been so co-opted, but such an admonition is always well advised.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ted Lasso heads to UK, will coach AFC Richmond

From The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Oct. 6, 2020)
A new Apple TV+ show has Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudekis playing southern-drawl-wielding American football coach "Ted Lasso," as he is recruited to coach an English Premier League (PL) soccer squad.

Lasso's fictitious team in the Ted Lasso comedy series is "AFC Richmond," but Sudekis wore an authentic Manchester City FC (my team) hoodie for his interview with Trevor Noah on last night's Daily Show.

Financially regrettably, this show compels my wife and me to re-subscribe to Apple TV+.  We shelved the channel, pending new content, after we finished the highly gratifying For All Mankind (blog), and after I finished the sufficiently compelling if after all tritely pedantic Morning Show (both shows 2019, second seasons forthcoming).

Ted Lasso is a co-creation of Scrubs (2001-2010) creator Bill Lawrence, which scores dispositively in my playbook, though I don't think Lawrence has since re-created that Scrubs magic.  Ted Lasso is a spin-off, or spin-up, of NBC Sports promotional shorts imagining Lasso's appointment as head coach of Tottenhan Hotspur.

 

Incidentally, I'm a consistent critic of NBC's intellectual-property monopoly over PL broadcast rights in the United States.  NBC carves up the PL season so that one would have to subscribe to an impossible, and impossibly expensive, range of commonly owned services to follow a favorite team.  Americans would never tolerate such exploitation of American football broadcast rights.  NBC and the PL are greedily short-sighted, because inculcating loyalty to a single side is essential to sell British soccer to the American viewer in the long term.  It remains to be seen how UK regulators would react were NBC, since merging with Sky, to dare to try such such shenanigans there, where team loyalty is a multi-generational sacrament.  Other sports-loving countries won't have it.

Sports comedy is supremely watchable when it's well executed.  I thoroughly enjoyed Hank Azaria's Brockmire (2017-2020), though I have not watched baseball in many years.  And who can forget comedy-drama Sports Night (1998-2000)?  The West Wing (1999-2006) is too often credited for Aaron Sorkin's introduction of fast cuts and fast-paced dialog into small-screen canon, but it was on Sports Night that he pioneered the art.

The Sudekis interview appeared on The Daily Show just a day after Trevor Noah opened with some Premier League humor (cue to 1:13), noting Aston Villa's defeat of both Manchester United and Liverpool, the latter 7-2.  Noah is a Liverpool supporter.

Here is the trailer for Ted Lasso.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Teachable torts: Halloween haunted houses strain hallowed American right to make poor choices

As the sun sets in the U.S. East, I was prepared to let Halloween slide by on the blog, even though so many great tort-related items perennially crop up, and an eagle-eyed 1L Jason Jones sent me an excellent story about the super creepy McKamey Manor (YouTube) haunted house in Summertown, Tennessee (Guardian video coverage four years ago).  Then Professor Christine Corcos (of Media Law Prof Blog, via TortsProf List) alerted me to WaPo coverage of McKamey, and Ronny Chieng incorporated McKamey into his Halloween edition of "Everything is Stupid" on The Daily Show (here for the blog, not the classroom).


The "petition" referenced in the news coverage (linked above, top) refers to a Change.org petition, not a legal action.  Yet.  The case would be useful to consider tort claims, such as the infliction of emotional distress, as well as defenses, such as consent and assumption of risk, vitiation on public policy grounds, and the American ethos of personal responsibility.

Thanks to my TA, here's an even better item, funny without the dark angle, bringing a lawyer into the picture: the first two segments of Nathan For You s1e05.

Happy Hallows' Eve.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Who Dat lawsuit for 'negligence,' 'emotional anguish' is really a desperate mandamus plea

Controverted play in Rams vs. Saints conference championship game
(NFL image via GMA and Daily Show: fair use).
Full disclosure: I'm not a football (NFL) fan—rather a football (association) follower—but if I were, I would have a soft spot for the Saints, because I love New Orleans and married into a proud Louisiana family.

So it caught my attention when Roy Wood Jr. on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (Comedy Central, YouTube) asked whether in fact the "Saints Were Robbed," and then quoted from a lawsuit against Roger Goodell and the NFL claiming negligence and "emotional anguish."  I'm always intrigued by the scent of negligent infliction of emotional distress, which is a kind of chimera in American tort law.

The lawsuit, which can be downloaded from its attorney-author's website and was first reported by WDSU, is really a petition for mandamus, not a tort suit.  It does allege negligence on the part of Goodell and the NFL and asserts that they have the power under NFL rules to remedy the bad call of the Saints-Rams game.  As Roy Wood Jr. observed on The Daily Show, the petition dramatically alleges "emotional anguish" and "loss of enjoyment of life" by Saints fans.  It does not, however, assert any legal basis to order Goodell or the NFL to comply with their own rule book, even if that is what they would be doing by replaying all or part of the game.

On an SB Nation blog, an L.A. attorney and confessed Rams fan fairly if spitefully described the Who Dat petition as "one of the most frivolous lawsuits to be filed. Ever." Of course, Americans have a long tradition of working out sport frustrations in litigation—that I'm today a soccer fan is evidence of the struggle—so maybe professionalism should allow some latitude for that.