Hunting feral hogs and coyotes from a hot air balloon in Texas

How did I miss this news (AP)?

Texas lawmakers have approved the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons.

Texas’ growing hog population [an estimated two million] causes millions of dollars’ worth of damage to crops every year….

The state already allows the shooting of feral hogs from helicopters, but that is expensive and has not been very unsuccessful because the aircraft often scare the animals away. Hot air balloons are quieter and offer a more stable shooting platform.

The bill, passed unanimously in both houses, was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott ® Wednesday; I suspect that the governor will sign it.

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Trump’s trouble in justifying a waiver of Jerusalem Embassy Act

President Trump gives a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23. (Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press)

News reports today suggest that President Trump will exercise his waiver authority under the Jerusalem Embassy Act for the first time, delaying an opening of the U.S. Embassy to Israel in that country’s capital for six months.

The CNN report suggests the waiver, a reversal of his campaign promises, would be motivated by concern that moving the embassy could “prejudice” a diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that Trump hopes to broker. The problem is that the the Jerusalem Embassy Act provides that State Department budgets must be severely cut unless the president issues a waiver, and the reasons for waiver are limited, essential national security considerations. The considerations mentioned by CNN’s sources (and others) are diplomatic, not security ones.

On the other hand, if the White House does issue a waiver on national security grounds, it undermines the peace process. A basic assumption of any of the conventional “two-state solution” models is that Israel’s security would be guaranteed by U.S. commitments. But if the White House is unwilling to put the embassy in Israel’s capital because of vague threats of terror, it proves that there is no chance it would actually put its forces in harm’s way if needed to come to Israel’s aid, should the Jewish state be attacked after a peace agreement. In such a case, the threats of retaliation against U.S. targets would be more vocal, salient and real.

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Is professionalism the antidote to populism and political ignorance?

In an important recent paper for the Brookings Institution and a guest-blogging stint right here at the Volokh Conspiracy, Benjamin Wittes and Jonathan Rauch highlight the dangers of populism and political ignorance. They propose mitigating the danger by empowering political professionals to play a bigger role as “intermediaries” who constrain and channel public opinion:

“Americans—especially, but not exclusively Trump voters—believe crazy, wrong things,” runs a post-election Washington Post headline. The article, by columnist Catherine Rampell, worried about polls showing that more than a third of the public (and about half of Republicans) believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Hillary Clinton was involved with a satanic pedophilia ring (“Pizzagate”)—among many other things. “To me, they’re terrifying,” Rampell wrote of the public’s misconceptions. “They result in misused resources, violence and harassment, health risks, bad policy, and, ultimately, the deterioration of democracy.”

Political scientists might be excused for emitting an exasperated yawn. The literature on voter ignorance is one of the oldest, best established, and most dismaying in all of political science. Every so often, journalists and commentators dip into it and emerged “terrified.” In recent years, however, a wave of research has shown ignorance and irrationality to be even bigger problems than previously believed, and has cast new doubt on standard remedies. Neither theory nor practice supports the idea that more participation will produce better policy outcomes, or will improve the public’s approbation of government, or is even attainable in an environment dominated by extreme partisans and narrow interest groups….

Unfortunately, the country and the political-reform community have come to expect far too much from increased political participation. Participation is effective only when supplemented by intermediation, the work done by institutions (such as political parties) and substantive professionals (such as career politicians and experts) to organize, interpret, and buffer popular sentiment. In this essay, we argue that restoring and strengthening political institutions and intermediation belong at the center of a modern political-reform agenda.

I. Public Ignorance and the Limits of Political Professionalism.

I am a longtime admirer of the work of both Wittes and Rauch, and agree with much of their analysis in this paper. In particular, they are right to conclude that political ignorance and irrationality are dangerous menaces that are unlikely to be cured by increasing political participation, greater access to information, or other conventional remedies. I have tried to call attention to the gravity of these issues for many years, myself.

As Wittes and Rauch emphasize, most political ignorance is not the result of stupidity, but of largely rational behavior. For most people, including most smart people, it is actually rational to be ignorant about politics. If your only reason to learn about it is to cast a better-informed vote in an election, that turns out not to be much of a reason at all, because the chance that your vote will make a difference to the outcome is infinitesimally small (about 1 in 60 million in a presidential election, for example). Most people don’t know these exact odds, but they do intuitively realize that there is little payoff to devoting lots of time to studying government policy.

The same dynamic also makes it rational for most voters to do a poor job of evaluating the political information they do learn. Instead of weighing it objectively, many instead behave like “political fans,” overvaluing anything that reinforces their preexisting views and ignoring or dismissing whatever cuts against them. The rationality of political ignorance makes it difficult to overcome by educating voters or increasing the availability of information. The problem is not that the information is unavailable, but that most voters don’t want to make the effort to learn it.

While Wittes and Rauch do an admirable job of outlining the problem and how it may have gotten worse in recent years, I am more skeptical of their proposed solution. Some of their specific suggestions have merit. For example, I have come to agree with Rauch’s argument that party elites should have greater control over nomination processes.

But, overall, I am not convinced that empowering political professionals is the best way to counter voter ignorance. Far from offsetting public ignorance, professional politicians often have strong incentives to exploit it. Populist insurgents like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders may have taken the manipulation of political ignorance to new heights. But their tactics differ more in degree than kind from those of conventional politicians. Even Trump has yet come up with a lie as effective as Obama’s deceptive promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

Perhaps insulation from the democratic process can incentivize political professionals to abjure the manipulation of ignorance. But that in turn raises the difficult issue of how to keep them from serving their own interests or those of powerful pressure groups at the expense of the public. Moreover, politically insulated experts face serious knowledge limitations of their own.

II. The Foot Voting Alternative.

In many situations, the better approach to mitigating political ignorance is not to give up on empowering ordinary people, but to do so in a different way. Instead of putting our faith in political participation, we can instead give people more opportunities to “vote with their feet.” When people vote with their feet in the private sector, or by choosing which jurisdiction to live in within a federal system, they have much better incentives to acquire relevant information and use it wisely. Unlike ballot box voters, foot voters have the opportunity to make individually decisive choices that are likely to make a real difference. If you are like most people, you probably spent more time and effort acquiring information the last time you decided which TV or smartphone to buy than the last time you decided who to support for president or governor. That is likely because you knew that the decision about the smartphone would make a real difference, whereas the one about the presidency had only a miniscule chance of doing so.

We can enhance opportunities for foot voting by limiting government power and devolving it to lower levels. It is cheaper and easier to vote with your feet between states than between countries, and easier still to choose between localities or between competing alternatives in the private sector. There is also much that can be done to make foot voting easier for the poor and disadvantaged. Greater decentralization of power can also help mitigate the partisan bias and polarizatoin that both Rauch and I believe have exacerbated our political pathologies.

I certainly do not claim that decentralization and foot voting can overcome all the dangers of political ignorance. Probably no one strategy can do that. But I think it can be be a bigger and less risky part of the solution than increasing the role of political professionals, even though there are indeed some situations where we should rely more on the latter. Be that as it may, Wittes and Rauch deserve credit for taking the problem of political ignorance seriously, and for their valuable contribution to the debate over this crucial issue.

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Should a child’s name be changed to Faisel Ali Maqableh, from a more Anglo-sounding name?

Child name-change disputes often raise thorny issues, because the “best interests of the child” standard that most courts use leaves room for so many factors, some of which might be improper (and different people disagree on which ones). Here is one interesting case, Al-Maqablh v. Alley, decided last Friday:

Ali Al-Maqablh appeals from an order by the Trimble Family Court changing the name of his biological child from “Elias Miles Alley” to “Elias Miles Ali Alley.” Al-Maqablh moved the court to change the child’s name to “Faisel Ali Maqableh.” He argues the family court did not properly consider the best interest of the child in making its determination. Because we hold that the family court considered the best interest of the child, and there was no abuse of discretion, we affirm. …

Al-Maqablh and Alley met in June 2013. Al-Maqablh testified that he and Alley underwent three months of [religiously] mandatory abstinence before engaging in an Islamic wedding ceremony shortly thereafter. Both parties admit that this ceremony was not legally binding. Alley became pregnant in September 2013, and afterwards Alley and Al-Maqablh’s relationship began to deteriorate.

After the child was born, Alley named him “Elias Miles Alley.” Al-Maqalblh … [seeks] to change the child’s name to “Faisel Ali Maqableh.” … Al-Maqablh explained while he preferred a different first name, he was focused on the cultural importance of the child’s middle and last names and, traditionally, the middle name of the child is the father’s first name and the child’s last name is the last name of the father. Al-Maqablh testified that he had many successful relatives, including doctors and professors.

Dr. Hassan Qazzaz testified that he performed an Islamic marriage ceremony between Alley and Al-Maqablh but he did not issue a marriage license. He also testified that he explained Islamic culture to both parties.

Alley argued that the name Maqableh could result in the child’s being socially ostracized due to the prejudice inherent in her small community; she also noted that many people would probably mispronounce it. Alley argued Al-Maqablh currently refers to the child as Faisel while around friends and relatives, and he could continue to do so. She also noted that even though some members of her family have criminal records (which could potentially stigmatize the child’s last name), these crimes are old, occurred in a different county and she and other family in Trimble County are respected members of the community.

The family court found that changing the child’s name could increase the bond between the child and Al-Maqablh, would not alter Alley’s relationship with the child, would not result in insecurity or lack of identity for the child and could increase a sense of identity for the child, but the proposed name would likely result in regular misspellings and mispronunciations. It noted potential bullying or harassment in child’s rural community was a factor to consider with regard to the best interest of the child and changing the surname from that of Alley, the current custodial parent, could result in some embarrassment or inconvenience to Alley.

The family court … found that Alley did not agree to raise the child subject to Islamic traditions based on their ceremonial marriage because Dr. Qazzaz testified he did not counsel the couple about raising children and while mother referred to Al-Maqablh as husband, she asked Al-Maqablh whether they could create a modern Islamic-American family.

… Ultimately, the family court concluded:

… [T]his Court [is not persuaded] that it is in the child’s best interests to change his last name. However the Court does believe it is in the child’s best interests to have a link to both his father as well as heritage on his father’s side. Per [Al-Maqablh’s] testimony, changing the child’s middle name to Ali specifically marks him as “the son of Ali.”

To strengthen the bond between father and son, and to provide the minor child with a sense of identity, the Court orders the minor child’s name changed to Elias Miles Ali Alley.

… Al-Maqablh argues that the family court erred in its findings for several reasons. Al-Maqablh argues that although the parties’ marriage was not legally binding, the fact the parties had a traditionally Islamic wedding should be evidence of Alley’s consent to form a marriage consistent with Islamic values and, therefore, the child should bear his family’s name. Al-Maqablh argues that in his Middle Eastern cultural and religious tradition, a child’s name is extremely important because it reflects the child’s heritage and for a child to bear his mother’s surname instead of his father’s is very shameful and will result in ostracization. He asserts that his family is well-respected in the Islamic community and that many members of Alley’s family have a criminal history. Finally, Al-Maqablh argues that the family court’s order was culturally insensitive because it rejected giving the child his surname because the people in Trimble County might have difficulty pronouncing it or be racist.

Under the Kentucky Hazel v. Wells precedent, in situations where the parents have joint custody, any disputes are resolved under the “best interests of the child standard,” which considers (among others) the following factors:

Identification of the child as a part of a family unit; the effect on the child’s relationship with each parent; the motivation of the parties; the effect the failure to change the name will have in furthering the estrangement of the child from a father exhibiting a desire to preserve the parental relationship; the age of the child and how long the child has had the current name; the effect of the change of the child’s surname on the preservation and development of the child’s relationship with each parent; the degree of community respect associated with the present and proposed surname; the possibility that a different name may cause insecurity or lack of identity; the use of a particular surname for a substantial period of time without objection; the preference of the child if age and maturity permit; difficulty the child may experience with the proposed surname; and embarrassment or inconvenience that may result if the child’s surname differs from that of the custodial parent.

And the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision, holding that,

The family court properly applied [these] factors in making its determination. In determining the best interest of the child, the family court stated that it considered the child’s stability, fostering familial bonds and minimizing contention between the parents in determining the child’s name. It made a specific factual finding against Al-Maqablh’s claim that Alley consented to raise the child in accordance with his cultural traditions and, thus, name him in accordance with those traditions.

The family court thoughtfully addressed Al-Maqablh’s cultural concerns when it added the child’s middle name “Ali,” which it did in order to “strengthen the bond between father and son, and to provide the minor child with a better sense of identity[.]” Having reviewed the record, we can determine no abuse of discretion by the family court.

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Trump, Sanders, Corbyn, Macron and the attack on parties

[I’m delighted that Jonathan Rauch will be guest-blogging today and tomorrow about his new Brookings Institution paper, co-authored with Benjamin Wittes. Jonathan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; contributing editor at National Journal and the Atlantic; recipient of the 2005 National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize; and the author of several books, including “Demosclerosis” and “Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought.” This is the first of his two posts. — EV]

Why did the electorate put Donald Trump, of all people, in the Oval Office? When we ask that question (and we’ll be asking it for years to come), we need to make sure not to neglect the simplest yet also most profound form of the answer: Because they could.

Trump hijacked a party to which he did not, in any meaningful sense, belong. (And still doesn’t.) In that respect, he expresses a preexisting trend, one which crosses international borders. The institutional power of political parties and professionals is melting away — or, I should more accurately say, being stripped away, because it isn’t happening by accident. In France, for the first time, a president was just elected despite not being affiliated with any major party. (He led a self-created, self-styled movement, En Marche, but not an organized party.) In Britain, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is an unelectable (one hopes) extremist who grabbed control of the party with help of a well-intended but daffy rule allowing anyone who paid three pounds to participate in leadership selection.

Corbyn is likely to be walloped in the British election on June 8, but if he loses, even spectacularly, the Economist reports that he might hold on as Labour leader anyway. Why? “So that he can introduce a vital change in the rules for selecting his successor, reducing the proportion of MPs and MEPs needed to nominate a candidate from 15 percent of the parliamentary party to 5 percent. This would not only increase the chances of Labour’s next leader being another hard-leftist but also help to shift control of the party from the MPs to the grassroots.” Back here in the United States, followers of Bernie Sanders — the non-Democrat who made a credible run at hijacking the Democratic Party last year — are seeking to eliminate the power of Democratic Party officials and grandees to act as so-called superdelegates, in which role they represent the party establishment in the nominating process.

One of the things parties have done historically, and their most important single function and prerogative, is to serve as gatekeepers and gardeners in the process of choosing who runs for office. As gatekeepers, they block sociopaths, disrupters, extremists and others who would, if elected, obstruct the task of governing and tarnish the party’s brand. As gardeners, they identify and nurture political talent, by spotting people with talent, encouraging them to run and providing material and organizational support. In both roles, they ensure that politicians, in office, owe something to each other and to the party — which, in turn, helps to prevent the kind of hyper-individualistic political chaos that House Speaker Paul Ryan (for instance) finds himself contending with right now.

And here’s the important thing: No other organization in American life can reliably play the parties’ vetting role. Not interest groups. Not activists. Certainly not the voters.

Once upon a time, party gatekeepers would have slammed the door on Trump, when they possessed the power to do so. They might have bought him off with the offer of some other job, or they might have mobilized a coalition against him, or they might have found ways to keep him off the ballot, but they would have prevented him from reaching the cockpit and stealing the plane, because that was their job. As we saw, in 2016 they were helpless.

Corbyn, a screwball, is too close to power for comfort. Emmanuel Macron is an appealing and responsible figure, but how can he govern without a party? And how responsible will the next lone-ranger French president be, now that party backing is optional?

What we are learning today (relearning, because the Founders warned us) is that voters, like all consumers, make better choices when presented with better options. And when presented with options that are untested, unpredictable, unstable or unsafe — well, no guarantees.

Here are three propositions. Together, they form the basis of “political realism,” the idea that parties and machines and backroom dealmaking are essential to the task of organizing politics and that idealistic efforts to dismantle them have backfired.

First, the demotion and disempowerment of political intermediaries such as political parties and professionals — otherwise known as machines and hacks — have proved damaging, possibly catastrophic, for democratic governance. That’s the subject of this monograph.

Second, disintermediation happened largely on purpose, as a result of decades’ worth of well-intentioned but misguided reforms that attempted to broaden and equalize political participation. That’s the subject of this article.

Third, people who are worried about the future of democratic governance in America (and elsewhere) need to redirect their energies away from populist-inspired efforts to give ordinary people more voice. Instead, they need to focus much more on re-empowering our neglected and beleaguered political institutions, before it’s too late.

That last proposition is the subject of a new Brookings Institution paper by Benjamin Wittes and me. More about our findings tomorrow.

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Short Circuit: A roundup of recent federal court decisions

(Here is the latest edition of the Institute for Justice’s weekly Short Circuit newsletter, written by John Ross.)

Over at the worthy Simple Justice blog, IJ President Scott Bullock expounds on his life (born at Gitmo!) and times (fighting the good fight against eminent domain abuse). Click here to read the interview.

  • The FAA lacks the authority to impose rule requiring recreational drone users to register with agency (on pain of up to three years in prison), says the D.C. Circuit, handing a win over the DOJ to a pro se petitioner.
  • The NYPD forces two officers falsely accused by their exes of alcoholism into rehab. A violation of NYC’s Human Rights Law? NYPD: The law protects recovering alcoholics — not people falsely perceived to be alcoholics — from discrimination. Second Circuit: The state’s high court should weigh in.
  • Sitting en banc, the Fourth Circuit last week upheld a preliminary injunction against the Trump ban on immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries, declining the government’s invitation to “ignore evidence, circumscribe our own review, and blindly defer to executive action, all in the name of the Constitution’s separation of powers.” Says the court, “The deference we give the coordinate branches is surely powerful, but even it must yield in certain circumstances, lest we abdicate our own duties to uphold the Constitution.”
  • It’s certainly plausible that the NSA has intercepted communications between Wikimedia users in the U.S. and abroad, says the Fourth Circuit, so the open-source content provider has standing to challenge the NSA’s surveillance practices. Partial dissent: The other eight plaintiffs have standing, too.
  • Allegation: Lawyer representing two defendants involved in 1987 altercation secures deal whereby one pleads guilty to attempted murder and the other goes free. After peeling away layers of procedural complexities, the Fourth Circuit says it’s possible this was so bad a deal for the first defendant (who went on to run a major heroin trafficking operation in Baltimore, earning himself a now-commuted 50-year sentence) as to be unconstitutional.
  • Law enforcement locate and apprehend wanted man near Victoria, Tex., thanks to real-time data gleaned from his cellphone. Fifth Circuit: One doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such data; no Fourth Amendment violation here.
  • Bossier Parish, La., sheriff fires two officers who swapped wives, families, houses without getting divorces. Fifth Circuit: Which did not violate the officers’ constitutional rights.
  • Clark County, Ky., officer obtains warrant to search man’s computer and other devices for child porn. The man is arrested and sits in jail for over a year, but police do not search the seized devices, which do not in fact contain child porn. Sixth Circuit: The man may sue the officer.
  • Upon learning Wayne County, Mich., officer intends to impound his car (on suspicion he violated an ordinance punishable by citation and not impoundment), driver drives off, dragging the officer, who had grabbed ahold of the steering wheel. The officer shoots the driver dead. Sixth Circuit: Qualified immunity. Dissent: A senseless killing; the officer put himself in a dangerous situation.
  • Galesburg, Ill., officer reviews Amtrak rail bookings every day in search of suspicious travelers. A woman who had been arrested seven years prior (he doesn’t know whether she was convicted) who purchased a one-way roomette ticket from Flagstaff, Ariz., to Toledo, Ohio, two days before the trip meets his criteria. A search of her baggage yields contraband. Seventh Circuit: No need to suppress the evidence.
  • Minnesota woman’s son is diagnosed with gender dysphoria, but her health insurance does not cover the relevant medications or gender reassignment surgery. Sex discrimination prohibited by the Affordable Care Act? Her claim against the insurance company was improperly dismissed, says two-thirds of an Eighth Circuit panel.
  • A woman who dressed up as a “sexy cop” and posed for pictures with passersby in exchange for tips on the Las Vegas Strip is arrested for conducting business without a license. A violation of her First Amendment rights? A jury should decide, says the Ninth Circuit.
  • Georgia law does not permit negligence suits against dogs, so Draco, a Gwinnett County police canine, is off the hook for biting man accused of stealing a TV from his ex’s apartment, says the Eleventh Circuit. Separately, the officers who stood by as Draco permanently damaged the man’s arm are entitled to qualified immunity.
  • Man drives to several vending machines, tries to access coin vaults, manages to steal only 50 cents over the course of a week. Illinois appeals court: Forfeiture of his car would be an excessive fine.
  • Man attempts to pay 2013 speeding ticket, but the appropriate court has shut down and officials, despite repeated inquiries, do not reveal how to proceed. He does not receive notice that his license will be suspended (for failure to pay the ticket); he is later convicted for driving on a suspended license. Pennsylvania appeals court: It’s a valid conviction, but given the circumstances, maybe the trial court will let him challenge the license suspension.
  • And in en banc news, the Second Circuit will consider whether Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The Eleventh Circuit will not reconsider whether a just-executed inmate’s lawyer should be/have been allowed to have a cellphone at his execution, drawing a dissent from Judge Martin.

Back in 2010, Philadelphia police caught Elizabeth Young’s adult son selling marijuana. Young, now 71, was never charged with a crime (indeed, she was on bed rest recovering from blood clots at the time of her son’s arrest), but prosecutors moved to forfeit her home and car. Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the trial court, which allowed the forfeiture, “did not engage in the probing inquiry necessary before coming to a full and reasoned conclusion.” Young will get a new trial on her two defenses: that the loss of her property would be an unconstitutionally excessive fine and that she did not consent to her son’s activities. Click here to read IJ’s amicus brief, urging the court to consider law enforcement’s incentive to forfeit property (they keep 100 percent of the proceeds).

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Another libel takedown order

Check out this order, Motamedi v. Oesterblad (E.D. Mich. Aug. 5, 2015), submitted to Google with a request to deindex the websites listed as defamatory in the order; here’s an excerpt:



WHEREAS, Plaintiff, through counsel, having filed a motion entitled: PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR: ENTRY OF DEFAULT AGAINST DEFENDANT WEBEXPRESS, LLC AND DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST DEFENDANTS, which appears as docket number 18 on the CM/ECF system in this case.

WHEREAS, Plaintiff’s motion having been scheduled and brought on for hearing before the Court and submitted to the Court for decision on Thursday, July 31, 2015, before the honorable Judge Mark A. Goldsmith, presiding….

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED: that Plaintiff is awarded a money judgment in the amount of $5,270.19 for Plaintiff and against Defendants ….

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED: that to prevent further or future harm to Plaintiff’s reputation in the community and protect his employment from the dangers of labeling him as a “sex offender”, Plaintiff is awarded a permanent injunction against Defendants … compelling these Defendants to immediately remove any and all sex offender postings of Plaintiff caused by these Defendants, including but not limited to the sex offender postings presently on the following websites:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED: that to prevent further or future harm to Plaintiff’s reputation in the community and protect his employment from the dangers of labeling him as a “sex offender”, Plaintiff is awarded a permanent injunction against Defendants … compelling these Defendants to refrain from ever posting any similar sex offender posting concerning Plaintiff or otherwise posting defamatory statements concerning Plaintiff on the internet.


This Order is a final judgment and therefore resolves the last pending claim and closes the case.

Dated: August 5, 2015 s/Mark A. Goldsmith
United States District Judge …

This might raise all sorts of interesting questions: Should 47 U.S.C. § 230 allow injunctions ordering websites to remove material that had been found to be defamatory? Should the injunctions be binding on Google and similar sites, even if they weren’t named as defendants (a question pending before the California Supreme Court, in Hassell v. Bird)? If they aren’t (and this order indeed doesn’t claim to bind Google), should Google voluntarily deindex sites found to be defamatory? Should Google be suspicious of default judgments, because of the possibility that the defendant wasn’t properly served?

Alas, this is not the case to deal with these interesting questions — because it’s not a case. There is no Motamedi v. Oesterblad in the Eastern District of Michigan. The case number 2:13-cv-14541 (the number listed in the order) in that district corresponds to a completely different order. There is no Daniel Ro. Markus, the lawyer who, according to the order, was responsible for the case. The order submitted to Google was a forgery, like the ones discussed here (Lichterman and Aukerman), here (Arnstein), and here (Haas).

There is a Motamedi — indeed, such a forged order is useful only insofar as the URLs that it aims to get deindexed are real URLs that criticize real people. I got in touch with him, to see whether he was responsible for filing the order, or if this was done by some company he hired (in which case it might have been done without his knowledge that the order would be forged). I got a good deal of bluster from him and insistence that this was indeed a real order. Maybe he does believe that it is a real order, because he hired someone who duped him into thinking that a real order was procured — but he wouldn’t tell me who that someone might be.

And this should be instructive to all of us: Never trust a court document (a subpoena, an order, or anything else) from someone else’s case until you check it with the court records. Sometimes you can do it online for free, sometimes for a modest amount — and if you get the document as part of your business, it’s a cost of doing business — and sometimes by calling the clerk of court’s office. I wish that this weren’t so, and that you could trust documents that ostensibly come from the government. But you can’t.

For more on other Internet libel takedown orders and related matters — some of which are fraudulent or at least underhanded in other ways — see this set of posts.

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