By Joseph Schuman
American farmers challenge new child-labor laws
A potential legal fight is brewing over proposed labor
restrictions for children on farms. And for Summary Judgment's
money, there's a small culture war in there as well.
The U.S. Labor Department says it is trying to assure
children's safety in a perilous industry by barring farm hands
younger than 16 years from operating combines and other power
equipment, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Children are
banned from working in coal mines, construction and even at the
meat slicer in a deli," U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Los
Angeles Democrat, tells the Journal. Dangerous farm work
"should be no different." The rate of childhood injuries on
farms has plummeted over the past decade, but farming still
suffers a fatality rate for young workers that is second only
to mining, and the rate is almost six-times worse than the
average for all industries.
But farmers say urban-living lawmakers and government
officials don't know what they're talking about. "Are we going
to outlaw children helping mom bake cookies in the kitchen
because they might get their hand in the blender?" farmer Scott
Neufeld, of Major County, Oklahoma says. Neufeld says that when
he was just 14, he was working 10-hour days driving a combine.
Other farms say the new rules will hurt their families by
keeping kids from driving tractors or riding horses to round up
cattle on ranches.
The Labor Department says the new rules would apply only to
youngsters who work at farms not owned and operated by their
parents, but it would still affect the many teens who work for
farms that don't belong to their immediate family. Neufeld says
that he'd be kept from hiring kids to move hay or tow his grain
carts during harvest. You can also hear an echo of the legal
fight over immigration laws in this debate:
Washington state cherry farmer Lorinda Carlson defends her use
of 13-year-olds and 15-year-olds to load cherries as a way to
employ kids for tasks most adults don't want to do. As a
9-year-old, she adds, picking cherries didn't hurt her, though
she once fell out of a tree.
"I felt abused at the time," she tells the Journal, "but I
learned a good work ethic."
Junior associates' bonuses may be safer than they
All you junior associates out there losing sleep over
end-of-the-year bonuses, take a deep breath and relax. There's
been a lot of talk about penny-pinching since Cravath, Swain &
Moore announced its relatively miserly bonus policy last month,
and some other big New York firms followed. But Bruce MacEwen,
a former in-house lawyer on Wall Street who now runs the Adam
Smith consulting group, tells the ABA Journal that despite the
challenging economy, firms can't afford NOT to pay respectable
"I think for firms to, heaven forfend, eliminate bonuses or
substantially cut them back would be seen by the market as a
sign of weakness," MacEwen says in reference to most Wall
Street firms. "Even a $10,000 bonus would be viewed as the
functional equivalent of zero."
The reason, he says, is that clients are watching. "Clients
are probably the constituency with the least voice in all of
this, or the voice that's least listened to in any event, but
the people that the firms are playing to, their audience, if
you will are primarily lateral associates," MacEwen says.
"Lateral associates want to be attracted to firms that seem to
be on top of the game, on top of the market." What's more,
there is evidence that legal spending is growing both
internally and on outside counsel, according to this Summary Judgments look at a survey of in-house lawyers.
Of course, it isn't that managing partners haven't played
with the idea of trimming bonuses, and a bunch of firm leader
even told MacEwen off the record that big bonuses in this
environment are "insane." But no one has the guts to go first.
"We are sheep as an industry, and it's extremely hard for any
firm to depart from the pack, even if it's the most sensible
business thing to do," MacEwen says. "So from a funny
perspective, I find the whole concept of associate bonuses
confirmation that law firms are not yet run like
Study shows white convicts got pardons much more than
Statistics rarely tell a whole story, but they can paint in
bold relief a truth that can't be ignored. Take the findings of
ProPublica's investigation into the racial disparities of
presidential pardons over the past decade.
Though the system aims to be fair, white convicts were
nearly four times as likely to receive pardons than minority
petitioners, especially if they were black. That held true even
when the type of crime, sentences and other factors were taken
into account, according to ProPublica, which pored over
previously unreleased records and related data for its
findings. During his presidency, George W. Bush used his
constitutional right to pardon or decline pardons to criminals
in 1,918 cases, mostly for nonviolent drug crimes or financial
Of all those candidates, 189 received pardons, and all but
13 of them were white. Seven black criminals and four Hispanic
criminals were pardoned, while one Asian and one Native
American got the restoration of their full citizen rights that
a pardon brings.
"I'm just astounded by those numbers," Roger Adams, head of
the Justice Department's pardons office from 1998 to 2008,
tells ProPublica, adding that he could think of no department
practice that would have skewed the results. "I can recall
several African Americans getting pardons." Following a pardon
scandal at the end of the Clinton administration, Bush said
soon after he took office that the White House would mostly
rely on the pardon recommendations of career attorneys at the
Office of the Pardon Attorney. In nearly every case, Bush
followed the recommendation of the office, and Obama has
adhered to the policy.
During this time, the Office of the Pardon Attorney was
allowed to consider subjective criteria, including "attitude,"
marital status, financial stability, a candidate's candor and
other factors that defy statistical measurement. The Justice
Department pointed this out in a statement issued to ProPublica
on Friday. "Nonetheless, we take the concerns seriously," the
DOJ said. "We will continue to evaluate the statistical
analysis and, of course, are always working to improve the
clemency process and ensure that every applicant gets a fair,
A Google-EU sit-down looms amid uncertainty for both
Google's European lawyers must be working overtime right
now ahead of a planned meeting this week between Eric Schmidt,
chairman of the uber-Internet giant, and European Union
Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. The reason is the
Commission could present Schmidt with a list of concerns about
Google's business practices -- or plans for an actual antitrust
The Financial Times reports that the Commission's antitrust
team in Brussels is narrowing its focus to specific practices,
such as how Google's search engine demotes the ranking of rival
websites while promoting its own. Google denies any deliberate
anti-rival bias is at play in the rankings. But the FT says
this marks a turning point in the nearly two-year-old inquiry.
Speaking to reporters last week, Almunia suggested the meeting
with Schmidt wouldn't be a showdown, but rather a detailed
"exchange of views."
That's probably not going to make the get-together any
easier for Schmidt and his legal posse. In the past as
Microsoft so infamously learned the targets of European
antitrust litigation usually don't learn details of the case
against them until a formal case is laid out. And by that
point, they're faced with the choice of settling, or going to
the mattresses to fight demanding financial sanctions.
What better way to follow laundered money that launder it
The Drug Enforcement Administration is one of the U.S.
government's lead bloodhounds in the global hunt for laundered
money. The DEA is also, it turns out, a major facilitator of
money laundering as part of a secret effort to track the funds
of Mexican narcotraffickers.
The idea is for the good guys to follow the money -- which
in this case, means for the feds to move the money themselves
to destinations handpicked by criminals. Current and former law
enforcement officials tell the New York Times that undercover
DEA agents have been shipping hundreds of thousands of dollars
in illicit cash across borders to accounts chosen by members of
drug cartels or to shell accounts set up the DEA.
While the agency has had such operations in other countries
for years, the approach in neighboring Mexico is fairly new and
has raised some delicate diplomatic concerns, the Times points
out. the practice also evokes past government operations that
blurred the line between surveillance and abetting crime that
had disastrous results.
It's impossible to read the Times story without wondering
how it will echo this week in Washington, where congressional
critics in recent months pounced on a similar cross-border
effort that went bad. House Republicans just last week were
still railing against the now notorious Fast and Furious
operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms
and Explosives - which allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico
in a bid to stalk gun trafficking, but lost track of the guns.
Will they jump on the facilitated money laundering as well?
One former DEA official acknowledges that during the
operation, his rule "was that if we are going to launder money,
we better show results. Otherwise, the DEA could wind up being
the largest money launderer in the business, and that money
results in violence and deaths." Current DEA officials refused
to go on the record. But all the former officials who spoke to
the paper rejected comparisons between Fast and Furious and the
money laundering. That's partly because money poses less of a
public threat than guns, but also because money can more easily
be traced to the criminal leaders.
"These are not the people whose faces are known on the
street," ex-undercover agent and author Robert Mazur tells the
Times. "They are super-insulated. And the only way to get to
them is to follow their money."
Summary Judgments for Dec. 2
Summary Judgments for Dec. 1
Summary Judgments for Nov. 30
Follow us on Twitter: @ReutersLegal