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Read My Latest Article: Using Online Tools to Assess Consumer Perceptions of Class-Action Food Litigation

How may researchers assess consumers’ perceptions of class-action lawsuits? And what are the implications of those perceptions?

Those simple questions lie at the heart of my latest law-review article, published this week. The short article, Using Online Tools to Assess Consumer Perceptions of Class-Action Food Litigation, appears in the prestigious Loyola Consumer Law Review, the only law journal dedicated solely to examining legal issues that pertain to consumers.

The piece, the lead article in the new symposium issue of the law review, takes a novel approach to understanding consumer perceptions of class-action litigation, an area of great importance and timeliness and one in which a dearth of research currently exists. In the article, I introduce an approach to using online tools—including everything from social media apps such Facebook and Twitter to message boards—to assess how consumers perceive class-action litigation. Specifically, the article focuses on the mushrooming area of class-action litigation pertaining to food (which I dub the “food class action,” or “FCA” for short). Examples I discuss in the article include the famed Subway “footlong” lawsuit and suits targeting candy maker Wrigley, brewer Pabst, and soft-serve ice cream giant Dairy Queen.

Here’s an excerpt:

Online tools allow consumers to share their perceptions of FCAs and, more generally, of class-action litigation. As this Article describes, such perceptions pertain to many of the key issues in such litigation, from their merits to the state of the American judicial system…. As calls for class-action reforms grow, those who establish and amend rules for; study; and participate in such litigation—among them policymakers, judges, attorneys, and scholars, respectively—should consider the perceptions and wishes of consumers to help inform the basis, shape, and parameters of any such reforms.

Publication of this article follows my appearance as an invited panelist at the Loyola Consumer Law Review’s annual symposium last year. Read the complete article here. To read more of my selected writings, click here.

My New Law-Review Article Tackles Federal, State, & Local Foraging Regulations

I'm thrilled to share news that my latest law-journal article is now available online. The article, Food Law Gone Wild: The Law of Foraging, is the first-ever law-review article to focus on foraging, which I define in the article as "the harvest of foods which are not cultivated by man but that grow spontaneously in the wild, regardless of whether the 'wild' is an urban, suburban, rural, or wilderness area." It's also the first comprehensive look at National Park Service regulations, state foraging laws, and municipal foraging rules.

The article appears in the new issue of the Fordham Urban Law Journal. I wrote the article in conjunction with my appearance last fall as a panelist at the law review's annual Cooper-Walsh Colloquium.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

[L]aws at all levels of government in America increasingly target foragers. In a few cases, these restrictions are smart policy. But many foraging rules at the federal, state, and local level are wrongheaded and draconian. In recent years, for example, an elderly Illinois man was fined for picking dandelion greens in a Chicago-area park. Another forager was fined for picking edible berries in a suburban Washington, D.C. park.

Laws pertaining to foraging reflect the ongoing tension between dueling policy goals. On the one hand, many people wish to protect and defend public and private ecosystems. On the other hand, many people long to spend time in nature and enjoy the fruits of those aforementioned ecosystems. Despite the growing number of regulatory issues pertaining to foraging, legal and other social science scholarship on this issue is virtually nonexistent.8 This lack of guidance is particularly problematic because foraging is increasingly popular and because federal, state, and local foraging rules vary wildly, and often conflict.

This Article seeks to address and eradicate this scholarly deficit. Part I provides a narrow definition of foraging, discusses American foraging demographics and the growing popularity of foraging, and describes the benefits of foraging and some potential risks. Part II provides a brief history of foraging traditions in the United States and discusses the factors behind the development of America’s anti- foraging laws. Part III provides a detailed look at current federal, state, and local anti-foraging laws in the United States, with a special focus on select state and local rules, regulations at all fifty-nine National Park Service National Park units, and caselaw. Part IV assesses the impacts of foraging rules and proposes foraging rules that cities, states, and the federal government should adopt. The Article concludes that the ancient and valued practice of foraging deserves legal primacy that protects both foragers and the lands upon which they choose to forage.

Read the entire article here

This is my second law-review article to be published this spring. My article on the field of Food Law & Policy, co-authored with Emily Broad Leib, was published recently by the Journal of Food Law & Policy. My other recent publications include an op-ed on federal regulation of animal slaughter and local food in The Hill and an op-ed in the Orange County Register on the U.S. Supreme Court's potential hearing of an appeal of California's foie gras ban.

I'll Discuss My Book, Class-Action Food Lawsuits in Trio of Midwest Law-School Appearances Next Month

Fresh off a talk earlier this month at the University of Washington Law School, where I discussed my critically acclaimed book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, I’ll be spending several days on the road next month to speak at three of the Midwest’s best law schools.

On March 5, I’ll give a book talk at the University of Missouri Law School in Columbia. Later in the month, on March 28, I’ll give another book talk, this one at University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. Both talks are sponsored by the law schools’ respective Federalist Society chapters.

In the middle of the month, on March 16, I’ll take part in what’s sure to be a fascinating symposium put on by the Loyola Consumer Law Review at Loyola University Law School in Chicago. The symposium, "A Classless Act: Have Class Actions Lost Their Effectiveness as a Consumer Protection Tool?", focuses on the abuse and diminishing effectiveness of class-action lawsuits.

I’ll sit on a mid-day panel, "Class Actions That Give Bad Names: A Look at What Some Call Frivolous Litigation," alongisde Loyola Law School Prof. Jim Morsch. My talk will focus on class-action litigation targeting food makers, including suits targeting Wrigley and Subway. Later on, I’ll contribute an article which expands on my remarks to the Consumer Law Review’s 2018 Symposium Issue.

I’m grateful for these invitations to speak to and with law students and faculty members next month!

Food Law Speaking, Writing, & Teaching Updates

I recently returned from Los Angeles, where I served as a guest faculty member at UCLA Law School, which played host to law students from around the country as part of the Food Law Student Leadership Summit. It's my third year of teaching at the (now) three-year old summit, which brings together smart and interested Food Law & Policy students from around the country for a series of seminars, lectures, and workshops on a variety of food-law topics.

My seminar at UCLA focused on the law as it applies to foraging (e.g., for mushrooms), which is the subject of one of two law review articles I'm currently writing. The foraging article will appear in an upcoming edition of the Fordham Urban Law Journal. The other article, which I wrote with my frequent collaborator Emily Broad Leib, is an update to our 2014 article on the field of Food Law & Policy. The earlier article appeared in the Wisconsin Law Review. Our current article will be published by the Journal of Food Law & Policy.

I've also been working on other writing assignments of late. One such article is out in print but not yet online. It's an essay for the American Bar Association's GP Solo magazine. The article focuses on federal GMO regulation. Here's an ABA summary of my article.

Did you ever wonder where your food comes from? GMOs Engender Passion (and That’s a Poor Basis for Lawmaking) by Baylen J. Linnekin explains what is a genetically modified organism and discusses current laws pertaining to GMO agriculture and foods (including a recent federal GMO-labeling law). Linnekin also explains the role of three U.S. agencies (the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency) in regulating GMO agriculture and food and highlights recent and ongoing controversies pertaining to GMOs. The author argues that people are free to tout what they believe are the wonders or horrors of GMO foods and discusses whether the government’s policy on GMOs should be a neutral one.

Did you ever wonder where your food comes from? GMOs Engender Passion (and That’s a Poor Basis for Lawmaking) by Baylen J. Linnekin explains what is a genetically modified organism and discusses current laws pertaining to GMO agriculture and foods (including a recent federal GMO-labeling law). Linnekin also explains the role of three U.S. agencies (the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency) in regulating GMO agriculture and food and highlights recent and ongoing controversies pertaining to GMOs. The author argues that people are free to tout what they believe are the wonders or horrors of GMO foods and discusses whether the government’s policy on GMOs should be a neutral one.

Stay tuned for a link to my ABA article once it's live online. If you're starved for Food Law & Policy readings, check out this piece from the recent Washington Lawyer magazine that quotes me and several colleagues.

Finally, here's an update on my upcoming speaking appearances. In January, I'll be giving a book talk at University of Washington Law School as part of the school's Social Justice Tuesdays. The talk is co-sponsored by the law school's Food Law & Policy Association and its Environmental Law Group. In March, I'll travel to Ann Arbor to give a book talk at University of Michigan Law School. That talk is co-sponsored by the school's Federalist Society chapter and its Food Law Society.

That's all for now. I expect that I'll have more updates next month.

Book Review, Anniversary, Speaking Appearances & More

My book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, just celebrated the one-year anniversary of its publication. I've been overwhelmed by the critical acclaim the book has received, and from the warm words about the book that many of you--friends, scholars, food-policy experts, farmers, food producers, and others--have shared with me since the book's publication.

Book critics have also had wonderful things to say about the book. For example, a very positive recent review published by Kirkus Reviews, which bills itself as providing "the most authoritative book reviews, recommendations and author interviews in publishing," calls Biting the Hands that Feed Us "a provocative critique of current food policy from a libertarian perspective." You can read praise from critics at Politico, Huffington Post, Booklist, Foreword, Reason, Men's Journal, Civil Eats, Acres U.S.A., the Midwest Book Review, and more here

Next month, I'll be giving a book talk at St. John's University Law School in New York City, and speaking as part of Fordham University Law School's annual Cooper-Walsh Colloquium. This year's colloquium is titled "Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple: A Conversation About Urban Food Policy." I'll also travel to rural Wisconsin for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund board meeting, the first in-person meeting since I joined the board last year. In November, I'll travel to UCLA Law School to serve as a guest faculty member at the 3rd Annual Student Food Law Summit. And this spring I'll be giving a book talk at University of Michigan Law School (date TBD).

As the summer turns to autumn, I hope your horizon appears as busy and bright as my own!