Vaccination lies at a normally quiet but tricky intersection between science, public policy, and law. The leading anti-vaccine activist, British medical researcher Andrew Wakefield, sued the British Medical Journal last year after the BMJ retracted a 1998 paper Dr. Wakefield authored in the publication. The suit was dismissed last August.
In recent days, two news stories highlight ongoing controversy. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., lawyer and environmentalist, is an adherent of the view that the U.S. government is covering up a connection between the preservative thimerosal found in many vaccines and autism. He wrote a piece in Salon to that effect which Salon has subsequently retracted. Last week Kennedy gave a keynote address at a conference on autism in which he is reported to have likened childhood autism to Nazi death camps and said about the leading proponents of vaccination, "Is it hyperbole to say they should be in jail? They should be in jail and the key should be thrown away."
If you know the dangers of measles or for that matter whooping cough or
mumps, and you still choose to put others at risk should you be exempt
from the consequences of that choice? I can choose to drink but if I
run you over it is my responsibility. I can choose not to shovel the
snow from my walk but if you fall I pay. Why should failing to
vaccinate your children or yourself be any different?
Whichever way you look, there's a legal issue in sight.
The most powerful lever working for desegregation in Slovakia has been
the court system, which has been reinforced by antidiscrimination
statutes adopted in the past decade to bring the code into conformity
with European Union standards.
Inspired by the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in
Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregated schooling
unconstitutional, Vanda Durbakova, a Slovak civil rights lawyer, filed a
suit in 2010 against the Sarisske Michalany elementary school.
Last week, Race to the Top described recent affirmative action efforts in Brazil:
Sure, no surprise that the U.S. legal system is the world's most expensive. But, one and half times more than the Eurozone average? Wow. Corporate Counsel reports that was the conclusion of a study commissioned by the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) that compared liability costs as a percentage of a country’s gross domestic product.
The 13 countries included in the study have similar levels of regulation and legal protection, leading analysts to conclude that higher costs could be attributed to more frequent and/or costly claims.
The U.S. costs were about 1.7 percent of GDP. Countries on the low end of the range—the Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal—had costs around 0.4 percent. Legal liability costs in the U.S. were found to be about 50 percent more than costs in the U.K.
The ILR, which holds a dim view of the U.S. legal system generally, says that excessive litigation is putting U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage globally. Presumably that means that if the U.S. had the Eurozone's legal system the our economy would be outperforming Europe's even more than it already is doing now.
Lawyers especially know the obvious downsides of pro se litigation -- decreased chances of success, higher chances of gumming up the judicial system works. But a new study out of Canada points to some other downsides:
The study data illustrates a range of negative consequences experienced
by SRL’s as a result of representing themselves. These include depletion
of personal funds and savings for other purposes; instability or loss
of employment caused by the amount of time required to manage their
legal case; social and emotional isolation from friends and family as
the case becomes increasingly complex and overwhelming; and a myriad of
health issues both physical and emotionally.
Pope Francis's favorite movie is, according to this WSJ Law Blog post, the acclaimed 1987 Danish film, Babette's Feast. Such a fine choice; such a sensuous movie. And, also according to the WSJ Law Blog post, a movie that is the current subject of a international copyright dispute:
Under Danish copyright law, rooted in the European legal tradition of
“moral rights,” artists retain substantial control over the licensing of
their works. Artists can make deals allowing someone else to publish,
license, distribute or market their work. But those rights can’t be sold
to someone else without the blessing of the author, unless the transfer
is “usual or obviously presumed.” It’s the equivalent of a tenant who
must get landlord approval to sublet.
Oh, the horror — a judge who yearns to be a novelist and takes it out on a poor innocent opinion. The following recitation of facts from a recent Ontario opinion exemplifies the problem:
1. “You should get out of town,” the man said.
2. And so began the journey that resulted in my path intersecting
with Matthew Duncan’s path. And thence to these reasons, with a slight
detour through territory that might have confused Lewis Carroll.
3. I suppose that I should clarify that there was no menace in the
man’s directive to me to get out of town. He was a friend and a
colleague in two careers. His suggestion had been that he and I should
change positions for a fortnight, giving him exposure to the realities
of the northern reaches of Toronto, while I would enjoy a similar change
of environment in the more sylvan environs of Niagara Region. I might
even see a few plays in the evenings, he pointed out.
4. And thus I came to meet Mr. Duncan.
Apparently, this genre-bending has become enough of a problem in Canada that Slaw's Simon
Fodden, himself a sure-footed stylist, felt impelled to warn against it in this post, which includes observations like this:
[T]he common law, in its use of exemplars, i.e. stories with morals to be
drawn from them, has always run close to fiction, which once was also
meant to teach morally uplifting lessons. Judgments are full of facts
that are not strictly relevant or even material. In an important sense
not even the names of the parties are relevant. Knowing where to draw
the line is important, and judges must often be tempted to stray from
their field to greener fictional grass in the next meadow; but, as a
playwright once said Quod licet iovi, non licet bovi, which, in this case may be roughly translated as "Hey, judge, get off the grass!"
Answer: A t-shirt that says "I bust mine to kick yours." The AP reports that a Vermont judge told the wearer of the offending t-shirt that she would not proceed with the arraignment until he changed the shirt. The public defender then loaned his own suit coat to his client. The client wore the suit coat backwards, and pled not guilty.