Friday, November 20, 2020

Judge Richard Neely, RIP


Judge Richard Neely, former head of the WV Supreme Court, held a special place in my heart. I never met the man but early on in my career, Eric Helland and I wrote a paper on elected judges and tort awards(PDF):

We argue that partisan elected judges have an incentive to redistribute wealth from out‐of‐state defendants (nonvoters) to in‐state plaintiffs (voters). We first test the hypothesis by using cross‐state data. We find a significant partisan effect after controlling for differences in injuries, state incomes, poverty levels, selection effects, and other factors. One difference that appears difficult to control for is that each state has its own tort law. In cases involving citizens of different states, federal judges decide disputes by using state law. Using these diversity‐of‐citizenship cases, we conclude that differences in awards are caused by differences in electoral systems, not by differences in state law.

While researching the paper I found this quote from Neely and when I read it I knew we were going to be published in a good journal:

As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to injured in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone’s else money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families, and their friends will reelect me. (Neely 1988, p. 4).

That is what you call anecdotal gold.

To be clear, when Neely was looking for a law clerk he advertised:

“America’s laziest and dumbest judge” seeks “a bright person to keep (the judge) from looking stupid,” and gave preference to University of Virginia law students “who studied interesting but useless subjects at snobby schools.”

Neely spoke brutally honestly to break conventions and reveal underlying truths. Thank you Judge Neely for your candor as it surely helped me in my career.

       Lockdown reading in ... the Czech Republic 

       At Radio Prague International Ruth Fraňková reports that Czechs borrow record-high number of books from libraries, as readers stocked up for the latest lockdown a few weeks ago. 
       Municipal Library in Prague spokesperson Lenka Hanzlíková reports:

People used the last day we were open, which was October 21, to the full. Many of them borrowed up to 60 books, the maximum that can be borrowed at once, to make sure they have enough for the during of the closure. Traditionally the biggest demand was for fiction.

       Sixty books ! That's a lot to lug home. 


Confession time for Lendlease as Tax Office bears down on humungous tax rort