Patterico's Pontifications

1/23/2004

PATTERICO’S SUGGESTION TO MINIMIZE FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS

Filed under: Law — Patterico @ 6:53 pm

At the Volokh Conspiracy, David Bernstein reports that a jury has rejected that ridiculous lawsuit against Southwest Airlines — you know, the one that claimed a stewardess’s recitation of “eenie meenie minie moe” was racially offensive. But, Bernstein says, the claim should have been rejected at the summary judgment stage.

Wrong. Southwest should not have had to waste money on a summary judgment motion, or a motion to dismiss. Southwest should not have had to spend one thin dime defending this suit.

My suggestion: judges should have the authority and the duty to review complaints when they are first filed — before any answer is filed. If the complaint is frivolous — as this one clearly was — the judge can say: “Mmmmmmm, I don’t think so,” and throw the complaint out. If the judge facially rejects a complaint in this manner, the plaintiff can seek a writ in the appellate court, ordering the trial judge to allow the complaint to move forward. The defendant would have no standing to file a brief. If the plaintiff fails to obtain the writ, sanctions for bringing the failed writ application would be automatic, in an amount determined by the appellate court (according to how frivolous the complaint was).

Of course, if judges lack backbone (as the one in this case clearly did), this mechanism will not be completely effective. But properly implemented, this procedure could go a long way towards reducing the burden of defending against patently frivolous lawsuits.

CLARK’S LATEST BACKPEDAL

Filed under: 2004 Election — Patterico @ 6:24 pm

Captain Ed describes it well.

SMASH MAPS THE COALITION OF THE WILLING

Filed under: War — Patterico @ 5:21 pm

Everybody needs to look at this map at Smash’s site, showing which European countries supported the U.S. in Iraq, and which didn’t. If you haven’t followed this closely, it may surprise you.

BEAR FLAG LEAGUE REVIEW

Filed under: Bear Flag League — Patterico @ 5:19 pm

Jockularocracy has the latest Bear Flag roundup.

STEVE LOPEZ HAS A GOOD COLUMN TODAY

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:04 am

I am often harsh with Steve Lopez, most recently in the post below. So it’s only fair that I point out when he writes a good column. He has a nice one today, about Indian gambling. It is marred by an inappropriate aside about the car tax. Otherwise, it is funny, smart, and on the money.

ANOTHER BONEHEADED STEVE LOPEZ PROPOSAL

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Politics — Patterico @ 12:22 am

By now, Steve Lopez is used to my calling his columns “boneheaded” — so he won’t be too shocked if I use that adjective to describe Wednesday’s effort, titled Surcharge Not Too Taxing for Wealthy. Lopez pushes a pet idea that we are sure to hear more about: a surcharge on California’s wealthiest:

So what would you say if I told you there’s a way to wipe out the entire state budget deficit, and it wouldn’t cost one red cent for the vast majority of Californians?

. . . .

[A couple of college professors] came up with a proposal [which S. Lo loves] that puts a surcharge on California residents with an income above $200,000, including a joint filing in which husband and wife make that much combined.

The surcharge would start at 0.5% for light heavyweights making $200,000, and climb to 7% for bombers hauling in $5 million a year or more. All told, this $200k-plus group accounts for just 3.1% of all tax returns, but has 35.9% of total personal income in the state.

The surcharge would generate a fat $13 billion a year, because California has more millionaires per capita than any state. (And Golden State billionaires, who account for more than one-fifth of the nation’s billionaires, have a net worth of $102.9 billion.)

Gee, Steve — what if this drives rich people out of the state? Well, Steve-o shows us he has given the matter serious thought:

Others called me a dope for a plan that would drive millionaires out of the state. But not all of them would leave. And if enough of them did, maybe it would burst the real estate bubble so more people could afford a house.

As long as “not all of them would leave,” we’d be in great shape, right?

Jeebus.

In economics, there’s a little concept called “unintended consequences,” Steve. You might want to read up on it.

Rather than reply to this nonsense on my own, why don’t I refer the reader to a serious reporter: Dan Weintraub. Writing over a year ago, Weintraub had this to say about the concept of soaking California’s rich:

[T]he most likely change in the personal income tax is something that would actually make the system even more volatile: raising tax rates on those with the highest incomes.

. . . .

Nobody knows how those wealthy taxpayers would react to such an increase. If they stayed in California, and didn’t change their behavior, the state treasury and those who rely on it for services would be better off. And certainly a tax increase of a few thousand dollars on someone making a half-million a year would seem unlikely to drive them from the state.

But if the increase prompted just a few thousand of the wealthiest taxpayers to flee California, then the revenue decline it would cause could make the past year’s drop seem mild. The truth is you could put thousands of laborers to work at good wages and probably not compensate for the lost income tax from one departed millionaire.

Even if it worked as intended, raising taxes on the wealthy would push California out on a fiscal limb that everyone already knows is weak. Had the higher rates been law during the late 1990s, the revenue growth the state experienced would have been even greater. And the decline, when it came, would have been even steeper.

Going further in that direction would make the state’s masses even more reliant on the good fortune of a few than they are today. And as the last few years have shown, in the long term that can be a very risky proposition.

But why listen to Dan Weintraub? Steve Lopez says it’s all good. Cheaper housing all around, and no downside! Where do we sign up?

UPDATE: Armed Liberal has more, including a reference to a more recent Weintraub article making similar points.


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