Occidental College, my alma mater, vexes me greatly

Hey, so I went to Occidental College.  Just like Mr. Obama (Emily Post says the title of "President" ends with the end of the term of office - yes, I checked).  Two differences stand out between us, I think.  I graduated.  And he's more famous.  Oh, plus I never inhaled.

So I mention Occidental College because I received correspondence from my alma mater today that struck me immediately as insipid and deeply troubling.  Here's what the e-mail said:

To the Occidental Community,

n Charlottesville last weekend, we saw the ugly face of racism and hate, naked and unadorned. White supremacy in all of its manifestations is an assault on the fundamental values of Occidental, the community of scholars of which we are a part, and the kind of country we want to be. Love of knowledge, intellectual rigor and mutual respect are essential in creating the kind of just, inclusive and loving community we all want to be a part of. As we welcome the Class of 2021 to campus next week, and throughout the coming months, let’s embrace these values as we continue our effort to create such a community here at Oxy.

Best,

President Veitch

A few questions came to mind immediately.  The first thing I asked myself was whether the current crop of incoming students needs to be told that white supremacists are bad.  It never came up when I was there, but I'm really confident that had I conducted a poll, 100% of my classmates would have, without hesitation, said, "Bad."  (A few might have first asked if it was some sort of trick.)  This would have been the easiest quiz, with the highest average score in the history of Occidental.

But, today, not so much.  The school has to tell them it's bad.  Here's my first tip to the admissions committee at Occidental:  if you think you need to tell incoming freshmen this, raise your standards. You are diluting the value of my degree.  Maybe there's a class action there.  Kidding. Probably.  No, kidding for sure.

The second thing I asked myself was why the President of Occidental didn't think to make any mention of the fact that Occidental also abhors the use of violence to silence even reprehensible hate speech.  I've heard quite a few political commentators in recent months suggesting that the First Amendment doesn't protect "hate speech."  Go check with a colleague that practices First Amendment law and see if they concur.  Surely it must be the case that as much as hateful viewpoints like white supremacy, misogyny, or other bigoted beliefs are contrary to fundamental values of Occidental, so, too, are any attempts to forcibly silence even unpleasant ideas.  However, as I am sure that President Veitch did not issue this letter without substantial thought and input, I have to wonder whether the omission of any warning to new students that violent suppression of speech will not be tolerated was intentional.

I can't say it isn't tempting to be sympathetic, for a moment, when a nutter white supremacist is receiving a beat down with a club.  But I would caution everyone to remember Neimoller's words:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

You can't send a message that criticizes what is, fortunately, a viewpoint considered by a vast majority of Americans as reprehensible while tacitly condoning vigilantism to silence that idea (if you actually doubt that, consider that a little more than 100 years ago, the KKK had membership in the millions, but a century later the membership was believed to be under 10,000). Violent repression of speech won't stop at the white supremacists.  It's already moved past that. Recall riots at Berkley, the birthplace of contrary viewpoint expression, to silence a speaker.  If thuggish retaliation against speech is allowed to build up a head of steam, it will be hard to stop.

Occidental's alumni should be very disappointed by the absence of a strong message renouncing violence to limit speech and encouraging civil dialog between members of the Occidental community at all times (with at least an implied reminder that anyone acting contrary to that principle will need to find themselves a new college to attend in short order).

I would note, in closing, that Occidental's website does a far better job of recognizing that dialog can often be challenging, but open discussion and critical thinking are central to the educational mission.  Why doesn't the President of Occidental know that?

DOJ switches teams in NLRB v. Murphy Oil

The DOJ announced on Friday, June 16, 2017, that it was reversing its position on the validity of class action waivers in arbitration agreements and would file an amicus brief in support of the employer's position in NLRB v. Murphy Oil.  I get that a change in administration can bring with it a change in policy, but this is unfortunate in that it overtly politicizes a legal analysis that should at least attempt to be a textual analysis that doesn't depend on which way the wind blows.  I suppose Judge Posner has the right of it when he argues that all the supposedly dispassionate judicial reasoning is just a veneer over personal preference and wanting anything as significant as this issue to be decided apolitically is laughably naive.  Still, I think the better approach for the DOJ would have been to undertake the equivalent of a noisy withdrawal, officially retracting its position and choosing to take a neutral position in the case.

Source: http://www.politico.com/story/2017/06/16/j...

Briefs on the merits are available in Troester v. Starbucks

Briefing on the merits is complete in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (S234969).  The California Supreme Court granted the Ninth Circuit's request to decide an issue of California law.  The issue, taken from the California Supreme Court's Case Summary page is:

Request under California Rules of Court, rule 8.548, that this court decide a question of California law presented in a matter pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The question presented is: Does the federal Fair Labor Standard Act's de minimis doctrine, as stated in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 692 (1946) and Lindow v. United States, 738 F.2d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 1984), apply to claims for unpaid wages under California Labor Code sections 510, 1194, and 1197?

If you are interested, I've made the Briefs available here.  A new sidebar link will also get you there.

E-DISCOVERY: State-by-state resources to set you in the right direction

Quite some time ago, I covered a few e-discovery resources on this blog.  You can find that old post here.

I'm adding another to that list (additions being long overdue).  This list has an interesting collection of state-by-state links.  It might set you in the right direction if you have to deal with e-discovery in a state in which you don't normally practice:

Electronic Discovery Law Throughout the United States

The California Rules of Court require revision or clarification regarding Motions for Preliminary/Final Approval of class action settlements

The California Rules of Court are just bursting with procedural rules designed to operate in conjunction with the Code of Civil Procedure.  However, while much effort clearly went into ensuring that the Rules work with each other in a smooth fashion, every now and then the Rules conflict with each other.  One area where I find this to be so arises in the context of motion page length when filing motions for preliminary (or final) approval of class action settlements. 

As most civil litigation practitioners in California would know off of the of their head, California Rules of Court, rule 3.1113(d) specifies that motions other than summary judgment or summary adjudication motions can be no longer than 15 pages, with 20 pages permitted for the summary adjudication and judgment motions.  There are no other listed exceptions in that rule. But California Rules of Court, rule 3.764(c) specifies that any motion seeking certification (or decertification) of a class action can be up to 20 pages in length.  Rule 7.764 then says that the remaining provisions of rule 3.1113 apply, apparently meaning that the page limit is intended as an exception to 3.1113.  The confusion arises in what is expected by Court ruling on motions for preliminary (or final) approval of class action settlements.  Those motions are required to discuss the key settlement terms, the settlement process, why the settlement if fair and adequate, and (and here's the rub), why certification of a settlement class is appropriate.  Now, that certification discussion is certainly more streamlined than on contested motion, but Courts still expect at least some discussion of certification requisites.  So, which page limit applies?  Is it 15 pages, or 20 pages, given that motions for preliminary (or final) approval of class action settlements discuss certification of a settlement class?