The American Way

John Lott is suing Steven Levitt.

"Freakonomics'' co-author Steven Levitt and HarperCollins Publishers Inc. were sued for defamation by former Yale Law School researcher John Lott, whose work Levitt discusses in the best-selling book.

Lott said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday in Chicago that Levitt, a University of Chicago economist, defamed him when he wrote that other scholars have been unable to replicate Lott's research linking lower crime rates with the right to carry guns. The passage amounts to an allegation that Lott falsified his results, according to the suit.

Not to be outdone, a former liaison of Washingtonienne Jessica Cutler is suing her for, apparently, telling the truth.

The case brought by a former counsel to Senator Mike DeWine alleges that Jessica Cutler invaded his privacy in 2004 by publishing sexually explicit facts about a relationship with him.

Cutler was fired from DeWine's staff after the sex Web log created a public sensation.

The suit says that Cutler's Web site described "in graphic detail" their intimate amorous and sexual relationship.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

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Anyone who sues over

Anyone who sues over something like this knows he's caught, because if he knew he had the evidence on his side he wouldn't bother suing. I was agnostic about Lott's studies before, but now I know they're bunk.

At least, in the criminal

At least, in the criminal sphere, if one person of two agrees to an invasion of their privacy, there is no violation. I'm thinking specifically of wearing wires and wire-tapping. Under federal law, if one person in a telephone conversation allows another to listen in, there is no violation of privacy. Likewise, if someone agrees to tape a conversation, the other conversant can't sue for violation of privacy.

I presume something like this will hold in the civil law.

- Josh

Josh, I think there is a


I think there is a presumption that you won't tape your sexual encounters secretly and then expose them after you divorce/break up with your partner. Agreeing to a sexual encounter is not the same as agreeing to being a porn star.

I'm no lawyer but I didn't think there were any clear social norms on whether you are allowed to discuss your sexual encounters after the fact. I thought the presumption was that you could but that it was unseemly. Certainly it lowers your chances of future encounters should you have expose a past partner to ridicule.

Also, I think you are legally wrong. I should be but isn't that way. In many instances it is illegal for one party to a conversation to record it. Politicians aren't dumb and they need the freedom to know they are not being recorded while negotiating bribes. So they have criminalized it and given it a penalty that is proportional to the crime they are trying to get away with, bribery. Proportional but a little more severe. Thus the whisleblower faces more time than the actual criminal when a bribe is recorded "illegally".


Matt, Yes, that sounds like


Yes, that sounds like a warning sign. Also if you are ever holding stock in a company that appoints a politician or federal reserve agent to their board of directors then you know something is afoot.


Brian, Speaking of


Speaking of companies, the rule I applied to Lott is a variation on what I'll call Graham's Heuristic of Litigation: "When you see a big company threatening patent suits, sell. When a company starts fighting over IP, it's a sign they've lost the real battle, for users."

So, since Netflix is suing

So, since Netflix is suing Blockbuster for ridiculous software patent violations, we should sell Netflix and buy Blockbuster?

I'm pretty sure that most large company's legal departments operate completely independently of the rest of the organization. Patent laws says that if you don't aggressively and hyperactively defend your IP turf, they won't let you defend it when it is actually violated. They're like foaming-at-the-mouth attack dogs collared to inattentive owners.

Obviously this is not the case with these person vs. person suits, of which I think the second is the most silly. If you don't want your exploits known about, don't engage in them with people you obviously can't trust, like your office intern.