Crusaders & Criminals, Victims & Visionaries: Historic Encounters Between Connecticut Citizens and the United States Supreme Court

Connecticut Attorney General, 1986. A popularized constitutional history of thirty-one major Connecticut cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court over the past 200 years. Book is widely used in Connecticut high schools.

Sophisticated Sabotage: The Intellectual Games Used to Subvert Responsible Regulation

by Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro and David Bollier  Environmental Law Institute, 2004. Drawing upon dozens of law review articles, this book explains in rigorous detail how regulated industries exploit cost-benefit analysis, risk assessment and other contrived quantitative models to avoid health, safety and environmental regulation. An excellent explanation of how economics has overwhelmed law and thwarted government action by using contrived analytic models. Valuable for legislators, public policy analysts, journalists, law scholars and students.

The Great Hartford Circus Fire: Creative Settlement of Mass Disasters

With co-author Henry Cohn. Yale University Press, 1992. Chronicles the tragic 1944 fire at the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey circus in Hartford; its creative legal aftermath resulting in an unprecedented settlement of hundreds of cases; and the lessons for curbing the expensive, lengthy litigation that attends most contemporary mass torts.

Should Genes be Patentable?

In a ruling that shocked most patent lawyers, a federal court has ruled that human genes may not be patented. The case involved seven patents on genes are thought to be related to breast and ovarian cancer. The plaintiffs — women who have cancer along with genetic researchers and medical associations — argued that the patents are not legal for DNA, which is something that occurs naturally and is not invented, The plaintiffs also objected to how the patents inhibited their access to tests for breast cancer, because the patent precludes the development of competitive tests.

The ruling by Judge Robert W. Sweet sent shock waves through the biotech world because it threatens to invalidate thousands of other patents on genes and human tissue. On the other hand, the case is almost certain to be appealed, and any resolution could take years. Moreover, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 — in a case that opened the door to gene patents in the first place — that living things can be patented. Overcoming that precedent could be a formidable challenge.

Senators from AT&T, Exxon and OPEC?

If corporations are legally "persons," as the U.S. Supreme Court recently declared in its infamous Citizens United case — a ruling that opens the floodgates for corporate contributions to candidates — then why not run an actual corporation for Congress?

This is the brilliant idea of a small, politically progressive public relations firm, Murray Hill, in Silver Spring, Maryland. A Washington Post reporter called it a "cynical" move. I say it’s simply taking the Supreme Court at its word and showing the absurdity and repugnance of the Court’s ruling.

Murray Hill, Inc. recently announced its campaign by launching a website, YouTube ad, Facebook page, and paraphernalia sales. The website explains:

Property Outlaws

The pantheon of property law generally honors the great virtues of private ownership — while making the case that the public benefits from such arrangements.

Unfortunately, the benefits to the public are often more nominal than real. Drug makers frequently use their patents to extract exorbitant prices for life-saving drug compounds. Tech companies claim exclusive rights to common “business methods” and mathematical algorithms embedded in software. The record and film industries have expanded their copyright monopolies in numerous ways at the expense of the public domain and fair use rights.

As practiced, in short, property law tends to expand private prerogatives and suppress public benefits. Its priorities — to turn ownership into money — often trump those of democracy, community, free expression and life outside of the marketplace.

Online Collaboration Goes Legit

It is one thing to talk about the “virtual corporation”and online commons as new organizational forms. It’s quite another to have those forms be legally recognized. Yet in a little-noticed law enacted in June 2008, the State of Vermont has formally conferred “legal personhood”on online communities that wish to form limited-liability partnerships.

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