November 29, 2006

"Only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations."

"More than 100 of the other issuers vary their bills in size according to denomination, and every other issuer includes at least some features that help the visually impaired."

It hurts the blind and violates the Rehabilitation Act, a federal judge says.

This is an interesting manifestation of the notion that what other countries do says something about what American law means. (Discussed back here.)

69 comments:

Dave said...

Whether current practice violates the law or not should not be a consideration.

The price of manufacturing bills will go up if the US has to start printing different sized bills.

As always, ignorant lawyers/judges refuse to consider the costs to their interpretation/use of the law.

Gerry said...

I cannot say I am familiar with the rehabilitation act, but if it "prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in government program" just having some fun with the whole general principle behind this decision, I think the 9-11 phone system should be similarly struck down, as a government program which discriminates unfairly against the deaf.

Look- maybe it would be better if our money was in different sizes. If so, let Congress pass laws to make it so, after having the requisite debate. Judges demanding it is the wrong approach.

Simon said...

The ruling suffers manifest defects. It entirely fails to engage with the statutory text (save one brief sentence where it makes do with simply misrepresenting the text), it at least arguably misapplies existing precedent, and by the Judge's own admission, rests a construction on the Rehabilitation Act 1973 which both Congress and the Department of the Treasury have implicitly rejected. Like the case argued before the Supreme Court this morning, this is a case where a group is trying to achieve through the courts what it has failed to do through Congress.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Its an interesting issue I had never considered. It seems such an obvious problems for the blind that I'm surprised its just getting to the courts now, especially since its increasingly easy to avoid using paper money at all now.

Simon said...

Dave said...
"Whether current practice violates the law or not should not be a consideration."

Of course it should. That should be the primary consideration. The problem in this case is precisely that the judge failed to engage with what the law involved actually says, and instead engaged in a balancing test to determine whether the policy should be adopted that pitched, in effect, entitlement vs. cost. You might come to a different conclusion than this judge as to how much weight to put on each side of that scale, but I would contend that such a balancing test is the wrong basis for deciding this case. If the law actually mandates it, as the respondent concedes, the actual cost is a piffling amount of money; if the law doesn't compel it, then it's within the purview of the treasury and/or Congress. In neither event is there a need to engage in a balancing test.

RogerA said...

I find myself becoming more sympathetic to the concerns of the visually impaired as I get older. For the legally trained commenters a question: does the law provide any guidance in establishing principles of reasonableness in decisions such as this? Anything like cost-benefit analysis? Is it that far of a stretch, for example, to argue car manufacturers should be required to accommodate visually impaired drivers? Isnt there some principle in law about reasonably prudent men (persons?) as a standard that suggests there is some measure of reasonableness?

chickenlittle said...

If they force a change, I hope they get the sizes right. When I lived in Switzerland, the banknotes were scaled according to denomination. The 10 & 20 SFr notes were a smaller than our currency, while the 50 SFr was about the same. 100 SFr note, which you tended to have to carry because cash was king, were already too big to fit in American sized wallets. One time, I had a 500 SFr note that had to be folded to fit in a wallet. 1000 SFr notes, which never carried, were the size of a standard business envelope.

SteveS said...

This is an interesting manifestation of the notion that what other countries do says something about what American law means.

I haven't read the opinion, but after the quote about other countries, the judge goes on to say, "The fact that each of these features is currently used in other currencies suggests that, at least on the face of things, such accommodations are reasonable."

So it doesn't seem like he's making any commentary about what other countries do saying anything about what American law means. But, rather, he's looking to see how routinely other currency producers have implemented these types of changes as a way of establishing the reasonableness of the accommodation. As currency producers tend to be national governments, looking at other countries is a perfectly reasonable step, and not connected to their role in determining what our law means.

Gerry said...

But judges should not be deciding what is reasonable, unless Congress has specifically given them jurisdiction over deciding what is reasonable. Barring that, what is reasonable is a task which is best suited for legislatures.

Richard Dolan said...

Both in his comments and on his own blog, Simon argues persuasively that this decision never comes to grips with the controlling statute that the Court says it is applying. From a quick skim of the decision, that sounds right to me.

Two points about the decision were interesting. As to Ann's comment that "[t]his is an interesting manifestation of the notion that what other countries do says something about what American law means," I think that overstates the matter a bit. Perhaps Ann's comment was focusing on the Court's discussion of "meaningful access." Even in that context, the Court's use of foreign experience is more about what it is possible to do without creating serious administrative burdens, but never really addresses the burden of replacing all existing currency let alone the Gov't stated concerns about counterfeiting and the like. The larger point is that the Court never really comes to grips with what the Rehabilitation Act says, and thus never parses out what it means. Instead, the Court just rambles along at a vague policy level, and cites foreign stuff that may be relevant to that.

Second, the Court sua sponte says that that its decision meets the criteria for interlocutory appeal, and in substance invites the Gov't to take an appeal. That's not the norm, to say the least. It would also be hard to reconcile with the idea that this judge was bent on imposing his own policy preferences in any self conscious manner. Instead, it sounds like the judge was trying his best to get the quiz right, and may have just dropped the ball. Presumably, the Gov't will take the judge up on the Court's offer to certify the case for interlocutory appeal.

Bissage said...

Re Chickenlittle's 12:10 p.m.:

Damn! And I just bought a brand new money belt. Maybe I can still return it. Now, where did I put that receipt? I know it's around here somewhere.

Cedarford said...

Per your "foreign nation inspiration". I don't have a problem with the judge citing other nations that by design or accident have paper currency that is more easily distinguished by the blind. As opposed to the disingenuous Ginsberg-Breyer-Kennedy-O'Connor formulation that "many foreign nations think gay buggery is kosher, we should too, nevermind the other 130 nations that don't". The judge here, I believed properly notes on the feasibility of us changing our currency based on how other government issued currencies are printed. In short, it's doable.

But what is a problem is what Gerry said. Activist judges again inserting themselves in Congressional activities, seizing on one law Congress created to invalidate Congress's function in other spheres. Not to mention the Executive - since the decision on the design and issuance of currency is solidly an Executive function from the earliest days of the Republic.

If I was a lawyer, who was then made all-wise with no accountability through my campaign contributions or working for politicans in return for favor down the road leading to the robes and sinecure I covet...the temptation would be there to act on my prejudices and pet peeves. Which would make me the sort of person I detest in the judiciary.

I lost the opportunity for appointment to a service Academy because I had a disqualifying medical condition..ironically color-blindness...again, one of those (to me) stupid disqualifying conditions that arises from gov't "standards". And, like the judge in this case, I am convinced that that "discrimination" could be ended at the cost of only a few 1os of billions here and there to modify military equipment and
job tasks..and America is so wealthy and so great and powerful that a a small pile of billions shouldn't greatly imposition the people in a matter of minority rights
.

But is I was an all-wise lawyer in robes, with an activist bent, I am just one of thousands of similar inclinations determined to place my will above the Federal and State executive and legislature. With absolutely no sense of prioritization with other competing needs weighed.

Yeah, different bills may cost 5 billion in initial equipment cost and 1 billion a year later..which isn't that much...but what if that knocks the budget for reducing 95,000 fatal medical errors and misadventures out of the budget? Or kills funds for Sacramento levees? Or efforts to create 30,000 high tech jobs in a new industry coming 5 years down the road?

Which makes people like me a very bad deal for a Republic - and properly letting the Will of the People be expressed and carried out. I do share the activist judges basic conceit that I am smarter, I know better, and things I want changed would make everything better at what I think would be a minimal, acceptable cost to society....and I'm sure I could find a law out there somewhere or the petitioning lawyers could to give me legal cover.

Good thing I went into engineering and business instead.

I think the public is fed up with activist judges bypassing democracy...nobly intentioned or not. And meddling in spheres that were set up with an eye on the "bigger picture" that a court focused on one case and one "redress" is unable to perceive.

mcg said...

Incidentally, even if this is upheld or Congress decides to legislate an equivalent reform, it could be done without changing the size and shape of bills. For example, one could use Braille indentations, raised inks, perforations...

But in all honesty, I have to wonder whether it would be cheaper for the government to simply provide blind people with free or inexpensive access to handheld scanners.

mcg said...

How do the blind identify money?

mcg said...

http://www.brytech.com/noteteller/

I am certain this could be miniaturized further. I see nor reason it couldn't become a keychain item. For example, it could be designed just to read a corner.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What next? Mandatory shopping helpers to keep the blind from buying the wrong cereal box or whole milk instead of lowfat? Maybe we should have separate packaging in braille on all of our foods and raised labels on every apple so the blind can tell a Granny Smith from a Red Delicious.

This is crazy. Sorry you are blind. Not my fault. I'm short. I demand that all cabinets in the world be placed at the correct hight for MY convenience.

Political correctness and professional victimhood is going to kill us all.

The professional victims should take a page from this kid's book

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpBm4KoWsrY

Simon said...

mcg said...
"[I]n all honesty, I have to wonder whether it would be cheaper for the government to simply provide blind people with free or inexpensive access to handheld scanners."

Or, perhaps, to provide access to some sort of substitute for cash. What if the government created a plastic card that could be carried around in their wallets, one that had some sort of magnetic strip that allowed them to pay for goods and services just by swiping it through some sort of "terminal," which would automatically charge the correct amount to them. I know it sounds futuristic, but I think it could work. Gosh - if only such technology already existed in wide deployment, that would save us a lot of trouble in creating one.

Tristram said...

Has anyone condsidered the NON-governement cost of compliance? ATMs, Vending Machines, Change Machines, self checkout lines in stores, cash register drawers (especilly in transition)?

And this is all private business stuff, not (just) taxpayer money.

Leland said...

I agree with steves that Ann's quoted headline, when put into context, is simply to illustrate what is reasonable. The first comment is a case to that point, is it very costly? If other countries have done it, then we know what the true costs for correcting this "injustice" (I'm not exactly sure I agree that this is an injustice).

One interesting thing to consider is that the Treasury Department does many things to coins to help the visually impaired distinguish between denominations. For instance, the dollar and quarter are roughly the same size, but the dollar has a smooth edge while the quarter has a grooved edged to help identify it by touch. If the Treasury has put visual impairment consideration in coinage, why not then paper currency?

However, I'm with Joseph Hovsep in finding it interesting that this becomes an issue now when I rarely handle bills or coins at all anymore.

the pooka said...

I think the public is fed up with activist judges bypassing democracy...

Happily, my own impression is that the public is fed up with a tiny, vocal, disgruntled minority's obsession with so-called "activist judges." The silly JAIL for Judges initiative in S.D. went down in flames, as did three less facially-batshit-crazy measures in other states. And, as Richard Dolan correctly notes, the judge's position regarding an interlocutory appeal of the decision hardly marks him as an "activist."

VW: pklds. This, perhaps?

SteveWe said...

Legally, I think the judge is distorting one law to fit an intended outcome. This is why citizens complain about legislating from the bench.

Operationally, it's easy to accommodate the blind. I also spent a lot of time in Switzerland and had first-hand contact with people in a home for the blind. Every bill had dots printed using engravure, so they were raised and could easily be felt. Different sized bills are a pain and could not be used in vending machines. The Swiss employed high-denomination coins (up to 10 CHF) of unique size and edge milling.

WV: lgqgnv -- Lac Geneva.

Knemon said...

"Happily, my own impression is that the public is fed up with a tiny, vocal, disgruntled minority's obsession with so-called "activist judges.""

You're both right!

For there is no "public." There are one, two, many publicS.

Fritz said...

Illiteracy is the reason notes in other countries were different sizes. That makes the decision even more of a farce.

Joe said...

"Only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations."

To bad the statement is demonstrably false. Why color got into this, I'll never know since being blind presumably includes the inability to distinguish between colors.

The economic benefits of having bills be the same size is huge, but by no means unique to the United States.

(Of course we are talking about a government that fails to appreciate that nobody likes dollar coins and changing the artwork on them yet again isn't going to change that.)

PS. I use cash so rarely that when I see someone use any large denominations, I'm quite surprised.

Paul Brinkley said...

They should just replace all paper money with poker chips and cards. Like in Casino Royale.

Yeahhhhh.

(Grocer: "That'll be 74.35, sir."
Me: "I'm going all-in." [ssshhhove])

Fatmouse said...

STOP MESSING WITH THE DAMN MONEY!

How many friggin' times in the past few years have bureaucrats justified their jobs by forming committees to redesign cash yet again? And why do all the changes have to result in absolutely ass-ugly pieces of paper?

The new ten is hideous. The new color scheme looks like someone ate a real ten, partially digested it and puked it back up.

Paul Brinkley said...

They should just replace all paper money with poker chips and cards. Like in Casino Royale.

Yeahhhhh.

(Grocer: "That'll be 74.35, sir."
Me: "I'm going all-in." [ssshhhove])

Leland said...

Has anyone condsidered the NON-governement cost of compliance? ATMs, Vending Machines, Change Machines, self checkout lines in stores, cash register drawers (especilly in transition)?

Yes, this is the really disconcerting aspect. It's one thing to change paper size, and another to retrofit everything designed to handle the money. Raised ink may not be a big deal, but changes in sizes is.

Still, not only are coins already designed with visually impaired in mind, they are already available as alternative solution. Between coins and plastic (US Federal and local governments use plastic debit cards for distributing money for many services), the visually impaired are already serviced.

Maybe the treasury can add a few more coins to represent $10s and $20s.

Simon said...

Joe,
Without meaning to imply that I think you're wrong (for the purposes of this case, I don't really care), but if it is so "demonstrably false" that "[o]nly the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations," I would have thought that you would have provided at least one or two verifiable examples of other countries that do so?

Pogo said...

Maybe we can start levelling all people to one compulsory uniform ability, like in Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
.

Mortimer Brezny said...

In writing his opinion, this judge violated his duty to provide the blind equal access to the court system. The opinion was not printed in Braille.

Zeb Quinn said...

What about separation of powers, Althouse? Coining money is a specific and express power exclusive to the Congress. Is this even a place the judiciary can go?

HD_Wanderer said...

Who's going to pay for the nation's cash registers to be updated to hold the newly re-sized bills? I always thought that the reason the $2 bill never caught on was because retail stores had no place in the drawer to put them. They effectively were pulled out of circulation whenever they hit a store because the cashier had to drop them in with the checks to get them to fit.

PatCA said...

The cost to both private and public agencies will be astronomical, once lawsuits such as this ripen. http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060910-7705.html

At my college campus, we no longer put podcasts of classes or panel discussions on line because we are required to make them accessible to every disability: written transcripts are very expensive.

It wouldn't be so onerous if organizations were allowed to respond to requests for accomodations from individual users; it's another thing entirely when they are required to anticipate and accomodate every possible disability imaginable.

Simon said...

Zeb,
I don't think there's much mileage in the separation of powers argument. It's kind of appealing at first glance, but as my co-blogger Pat noted this morning, Congress has already delegated to the executive branch (specifically, to the Secretary of the Treasury) the authority to "engrave and print United States currency and bonds of the United States Government," the authority to 31 USC §5114(a), and (more significantly here) to "issue United States currency notes ... in a form and in denominations of at least one dollar that the Secretary prescribes," 31 USC §5115(a). So if it were apt to this case to argue that only Congress has the authority to define money, you'd find that such a rule doesn't return to the status quo ante so much as amount to a revolution in non-delegation doctrine.

But in any event, I don't think that's an apt argument in this case, because the Judge - at least in theory - is not purporting to be mandating the form of the currency (indeed, he specifically disclaims such responsibility), he is saying that Congress has already mandated that the currency be in a certain form. That is, the question in this case is precisely whether or not Congress exercised in 1973 - unnoticed by itself, the treasury department, or anyone else - the power that you refer to.

Bill Woods said...

Would different-sized bills even make sense? Can a blind person reliably tell the difference between, say, a 10- and 12-cm piece of paper? The differences among the various coins can be much more obvious.

Michael Farris said...

I live in Poland and bills are different sizes and have raised symbols in the corners (circle, diamond etc). The symbols eventually are unfeelable but the size differences differences mean anyone who needs to can learn to tell them apart that way.

As far as I know, that's standard practice in just about every european country (meaning most Althouse readers will hate the idea).

I've always been amazed that the US is so behind in this particular area. A little thought a long time ago would have gone a long way.

Fritz said...

Michael F,
There you go with your empty Euro attitude. Literacy is why Europeans developed a tradition of size for denomination of paper currency. US Treasury issuance of paper currency didn't happen until the mid 19th century during our Civil War. By that time, we had a universal education system. There was no purpose, we all read the same language. Next thing to happen, the Judge will require our notes in spanish!

Eli Blake said...

How would it make the cost higher?

They presently use different templates, different dyes and (with the addition of the code strip) different paper for the various denominations, size wouldn't make a bit of difference. The cost would probably be at best a fraction of what they pay now to make three different kinds of nickels and a quarter for each state.

What irks me about the whole situation is this:

For whatever reason (and I don't understand what that is), even small steps that we could take to make life better for some people, as a society we don't want to take, purely for reasons of our own comfort. Yeah, we all like the feel and look of greenbacks, but my question is this: if it helps blind people without seriously inconveniencing the rest of us, then why the heck not?

Someone did raise the question of vending machines, but it seems to me like with the spasm of currency redesigns that we have been going through lately, this would be the ideal time to fix this problem too so that when we are done redesiging the currency the vending machine makers can look forward to a long stretch of stability.

vegetius said...

Wow what a great idea!!! Damn the cost-benefit full speed ahead. And after the currency is changed I want the same thing done to postage stamps and coupons in my daily paper

Pogo said...

Next judicial disability fixes:
Blind driving
Deaf piano tuners
5'0" female NBA stars
Voting dead
White NAACP leaders
Male pregnancy

Simon said...

Michael,
"As far as I know, that's standard practice in just about every european country (meaning most Althouse readers will hate the idea)."

Well, look, I don't have any objection to the legislative branch looking to how other countries have handled certain problems. That isn't the nature of the objection to the use of foreign law. I will have a paper talking about this available some time in the next week or two (it's basically done, I'm waiting on comments from a handful of people I asked to take a look and offer suggestions), but in the meantime, I'd just refer back to my previous comment on the subject (see footnote 11), which is that "[t]he question is not whether or not American law should resemble natural law, foreign law, or even the laws of the planet Krypton; the question is who gets to decide ... [I don’t argue] that it is improper or invalid for legislators to consult or consider such materials when writing, amending and passing positive legislation. What I deny is that Judges have the power to import foreign customs, not [whether or not] such customs can be imported."

If Congress - or, for that matter, the Secretary of the Treasury, pursuant to the statutory authorization cited in my comment above - chooses to look to Poland, Holland, you know, wherever, in determining the requirements and features of legal tender, I don't have any objection to that whatsoever. My objection is the use of such comparative materials to decide propositions that they cannot possibly have any bearing on, specifically, the meaning of an American statute (that is, one that does not explicitly reference foreign law, see JPMorgan Chase Bank v. Traffic Stream (BVI) Infrastructure Ltd., 536 U.S. 88 (2002), or that is not implementing legislation for a treaty) or, a fortiori, the United States Constitution.

Sigivald said...

Simon: Don't forget that there are non-State costs to changing the size of money.

Every device that accepts or emits money will need to be changed to handle the new bills, as will bill-counting devices, though those are less common.

But every vending machine and ATM in the country would need to have the bits that emit or accept money be replaced or modified to properly handle the new bills.

That's not a trivial cost, it's an immense one.

(When sizes don't change, but colors and such do, emitting money doesn't change, and accepting money should require only a firmware upgrade in the machine, since I believe they use optical scanners to diffentiate the bills anyway.

That is comparatively cheap; with network-connected ATMs, they might even be able to do it live, remotely.

But changing size is likely to require mechanical changes in both directions, to keep from jamming/clogging the feed path, and so the repositories can properly hold the bills. And that's immensely expensive.)

If, vis-a-vis Eli and Fritz, we wish to make such a change to help the blind, it's probably best to emboss a pattern, or cut it into an edge.

Both are, of course, much easier to forge/fake up than the note itself, but so few people do business with the blind regularly enough to make it worthwhile, that I doubt such fakery would happen very often. It certainly couldn't be more common than simply lying to a blind man about what change you gave him...

And the costs of that sort of change would be much lower than changing the size or shape of bills; existing vending and teller machines should need no modifications at all to handle such bills.

Simon said...

Eli,
As always, you miss the point. The question here isn't whether the greenback should be changed, it's whether or not Congress already decided to make that change, and if not, whether the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has the authority to impute a completely new requirement into the statute.

If Congress passes a law that mandates this change, I'm agnostic about whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Same thing as the discussion of Ledbetter yesterday - I'm not arguing that the statute is wise, only that it says what it says, and the courts should follow it, regardless of how unfair or unjust they might think the result.

If this judge thinks we should have different-sized bills for different value money, that's not a silly position at all. But he should advance it the same way anyone else who wants to vote on the wisdom of laws goes about it - run for Congress. If an impeached Judge like Alcee Hastings can get elected to Congress, you'd think that so to could be a distinguished one.

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...

My grandfather was blind. He marked his money with a fold or other distinguishing trick as he received it. He also always organized his wallet with little dividers. As a failsafe, he could always count on the honesty and kindness of strangers if friends and family weren't around.

But really, it wouldn't cost that much to phase in newly minted money with small tactile identifiers in one corner similar to braile. A blind person's sense of touch is nearly superhuman (yeah, that's a sexy superpower eh). I wouldn't be surprised if they could already differentiate between the new 20 with it's multicolor emboss and older versions

Anybody else ever wonder about the braile on the buttons of the drive-up ATM?...hmmm

Steven H. said...

Just a quick note on dollar coins. Having lived in European countries where there were 1- and 2-pound and -euro coins, I found them very convenient. I think the reason dollar coins aren't catching on here is because they are virtually the same size and weight as a quarter.

Jim said...

I have bought a paper drill that is effective in drilling "god" out of an entire stack of bills, which serves well to irritate the christianists. I recommend that the gummint use this technique forthwith for all bills.
The hole size could easily be varied, enabling the blind to determine the denomination and at the same time enjoy the absence of god.

Knemon said...

"That's not a trivial cost, it's an immense one."

Insensitive sight-fascist!

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

This is like chickens when you slam the hen-house door ...

There is, in the lower right corner, on the reverse of each 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar note issued in the last half generation a very dark, 14 mm high denomination number printed on a light background.

With 20-20 vision it can be distinguished easily at 15 feet. A person with 20-600 vision will be able to distinguish that number at 6 inches. Legally blind is 20-200.

Half a percent of the American population are legally blind. Only ten percent of them are totally blind (worse than 20/600, or a B2 classification from the International Blind Sports Association).

Yup. There's a plan. Totally change our currency for about 150,000 people. Anybody ever hear of optical character recognition and sythetic voice? How do you think all those money-grabbing machines figure out denomination?

Somebody needs to get a grip. The solutions are already out there, and most blind people can even get subsidies to implement them.

Apart from failure to address the islamist threat I've rarely seen such utter stupidity in the name of political correctness and victim politics. This is SO stale.

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...

Hi Jim welcome to reality, just passing through?

The blind already enjoy the absence of God monetarily speaking since they can't atcually read the text, hence the term "blind"

Of course you probaly won't take this Christianist's word for it so I invite you to take a sharp object, your own eyes and a bottle of your favortie Scotch and attempt to prove me wrong.

Anon Y. Mous said...

Now they're going after radio.

Zeb Quinn said...

Simon,

Me, I'm unimpressed with the delegation argument. Somebody has to do it. Surely it was never contemplated that Congress --the Congresscritters themselves-- were literally to be the ones to physically go about coining the money. My political question argument would be that it's a power solely within the purview of the legislative branch and the judiciary ought not be intruding upon any scheme Congress has devised.

If there's a problem with blind people seeing money, take it up legislatively.

jpe said...

This is an interesting manifestation of the notion that what other countries do says something about what American law means.

Not so much. It tells us about facts, not law. The US was making the factual burden that printing money is a heavy burden for a government. The proper response is to point out that every other government does just that. This tells us that the fact asserted is wrong.

This has nothing to do with the pull of extrajurisdictional law and everything to do with disproving poor factual assertion.

Revenant said...

The US was making the factual burden that printing money is a heavy burden for a government. The proper response is to point out that every other government does just that. This tells us that the fact asserted is wrong.

Actually, this tells us that the judge has fallen victim to a common logical fallacy.

According to the article, what the US government argued was that using a variety of sizes and textures for money would make it harder to prevent counterfeiting. That lots of other countries use different sizes and textures does nothing to disprove that assertion. The judge's response is akin to responding to the claim "teaching birth control methods in school encourages promiscuity" by saying "lots of countries teach birth control in school". Unless you follow that up by demonstrating that those countries don't have accompanying problems with promiscuity, you haven't proved jack. In addition, the unique position of the dollar as the standard world currency could well merit taking extra precautions against counterfeiting that aren't necessary in, say, Turkey.

The government's claim regarding counterfeiting could might be false. But pointing to fifty million Elvis fans who like their bills different sizes doesn't prove that. :)

LoafingOaf said...

This case's citation of foreign countries strikes me as different from when a justice cites a foreign court to expand the Consitution's right to privacy or re-define what the consitution means by "cruel and unusual punishment" with respect to the death penalty.

In those cases, the justices are re-writing the constitution because they think the times have changed, and they selectively search for whatever support they can find, including in foreign countries, in order to do what they already had decided they want to do - change the meaning of the constitution to what they think it should be in this day and age.

I haven't read the Robertson opinion, but from the article it appears he's merely attacking the government's argument that making money more usable by the blind would be unreasonable because it would harm their ability to stop conterfeiters. He's not changing the law; he's simply more persuading by the plaintiff's factual argument. He's saying he's unpersuaded by the counterfeit burden seeing how it's not an unreasonable problem for every other country on earth that prints paper money.

I'd have to read the statute and how its been interpretted by the courts to decide if this judge is right on the law, but I agree with him that it's not a persuasive argument to say that they can't take any steps to make money more usable for the blind because it would undermine stopping counterfeiters, given that this isn't the case in every other country. He's also not ordering a specific change in the money; he's saying they need to get to work on it. It's amazing that they've been changing our money for years now and haven't been working on this already.

Birkel said...

Prof. Althouse,

Do you remember the arguments against the ERA? One of them, as I remember, was that judges would find separate bathrooms discriminatory based on the plain language of the proposed amendment in spite of the fact that "Congressional intent" disavowed that potential result. Proponents of the ERA scoffed at the conjecture saying such a result was obviously out of bounds.

Can anybody seriously argue that had the ERA passed judges would have operated to exactly the claimed end? I think not.

the pooka said...

I actually thought Jim's idea was quite good: It's cheap, solves the problem, and gets around the whole ATM issue. And pissing off the Christianists is the sweet, creamy frosting on top...

Joe said...
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Joe said...

Examples of money sizes:

Canadian bills are all the same size. (According to Wikipedia, they have a braille-like feature, which is interesting.)

Venezuela has the same size bills. (Or did, it could have changed recently. As an aside, I have a crispt 1981 10 Bolivar note, which is now worth about half a cent, that I use as a bookmark. It's close to the same size as a US dollar.)

When I was in Israel in 2003, I don't recall paper money being of different sizes. Wikipedia confirms this.

I could go on, but, while common, varying bankote size is by no means universal. I also found it interesting that in some countries that have different bill sizes, not all bill sizes are different. I also found it interesting that several countries are now using polymer or plastic based notes that are much more durable, particularly New Zealand and Mexico (being phased in now).

LoafingOaf said...

According to the article, what the US government argued was that using a variety of sizes and textures for money would make it harder to prevent counterfeiting. That lots of other countries use different sizes and textures does nothing to disprove that assertion.

At the very least, it casts an awful lot of doubt on the government's assertion. Citing all the other countries that print money was apparently the plaintiff's rebuttal to the government's claim. The judge described the government's argument as "utterly unpersuasive," so it doesn't sound like they presented much evidence to show that any further steps to make money easier for the blind would make it unreasonably difficult to fight counterfeiters.

In addition, the unique position of the dollar as the standard world currency could well merit taking extra precautions against counterfeiting that aren't necessary in, say, Turkey.

You might have an argument there that the USA has to take greater precautions with their currency. But the judge cited countries like Britain, Canada, and Japan, not Turkey. Don't those countries worry about counterfeiters, too? If the changed in money in Canada or Britain or Japan has caused a significantly larger counterfeit problem, isn't it the burden of the government to present that evidence? Did they?

LoafingOaf said...

I read Althouse's post before dashing off to the food store. The article says there are elextronic devices the blind can carry but they are slow and unreliable. I paid for my groceries in one of those self-serve lines and the money reader quickly and reliably knew which bills I was inserting, which made me think of this article. Why are the portable devices for the blind unreliable? Or are they just a pain in the butt to carry around?

LoafingOaf said...

I think the 9-11 phone system should be similarly struck down, as a government program which discriminates unfairly against the deaf.

If you call 911 and don't hang up, help will go to that address whether you speak or not.

Birkel said...

Loafing Oak,

No other country in the world has to worry about counterfeiting like the US does. Don't be silly arguing that other countries' experiences have bearing on the US experience vis-a-vis counterfeiting.

LoafingOaf said...

Has anyone condsidered the NON-governement cost of compliance? ATMs, Vending Machines, Change Machines, self checkout lines in stores, cash register drawers (especilly in transition)?

So phase it in over a period of time. All those machines have to be replaced eventually anyway. Seems like my bank gets a new ATM machine every few years as it is. And how do you know those self-checkout lines can't just stick an adapter of some sort on their existing machine? I'm not saying you don't make a valid point. I just will not automatically dismiss helping out the blind like a lot of people here seem inclined to do.

Also, they can leave one dollar bills the same as they are, which is what most people use in vending machines.

For those who are suggesting the judge is an "acitivist" or whatever, he's trying to interpret a statute eneacted by Congress. Congress makes laws that are often very vague and open to interpretation precisely because they want to leave it to the courts to work it out in various contexts.

Here's the statute:

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.

Are blind people being "denied the benefits of" our money? The article explains that blind people are able to use money to some extent (by making folds in it, etc), just not as well as the rest of us. I'd have to read all the case law on what "denied the benefits" has been interpretted to mean.

But it is the job of the courts to apply that vague language to various factual situations. He's not being activist. He's applying the law to a case and it's just very unclear how it should be applied. Blame Congress for that. A reasonable person could go either way on this case.

Revenant said...

You might have an argument there that the USA has to take greater precautions with their currency. But the judge cited countries like Britain, Canada, and Japan, not Turkey. Don't those countries worry about counterfeiters, too?

I'm sure they do, but none of those currencies has anywhere near the status of the dollar. The dollar is a usable currency in most of the third world and is the standard currency against which most of the developed world values things. That makes it a much more attractive target for counterfeiters. Hezbollah, for example, doesn't run Yen counterfeiting rings -- it runs dollar counterfeiting rings.

Besides, the judge's emphasis of the large number of countries that use mixed-size bills makes the unimportance of most of those countries fair game. That's why his position was fallacious -- he relied on the behavior of a large number of irrelevant nations as a measure of how THIS nation could reasonably conduct itself.

Revenant said...

He's applying the law to a case and it's just very unclear how it should be applied

That's nonsense. It is entirely clear that Congress did not see the size of our money as discriminatory against blind people, or Congress would have included instructions to change the size of the money in the initial law.

Wickedpinto said...

If I was born without a penis, yet still male, can I sue the porn industry for not supplying me with a penis I can masturbate with?

If blind people can match their socks, they can match their money.

In fact, I think that they can match their money MUCH more easily than they can match their socks.

As a specific parallel, do blind people pay $50 for porn, only to have someone else tell them that they just bought the 6 disc set of the female wimbeldon tournament?

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Y'all are missing the 'elephant.' If someone is so severely blind as not to be able to see that big number on US currency, then (s)he is also not going to be able to VOTE without some special assistance. Blind people have assistants, some with two legs, some with four.

My father was blind for several years late in life. He got help. Get over it.

Anyone so blind as to miss the big numbers on a US bank note -- identical in size to those in Canada, BTW -- is also unlikely to be able to distinguish one colour from another. The "braille-like" thingies on Canadian currency are in fact a series of black bars designed to be read by machines, not people.

Funny thing. US currency is perhaps the ugliest and most politically incorrect in the world. Yet it's the one everybody wants, everybody will take, anywhere and which is used as the world's reference currency.

Of the $600 Billion or so in US currency, nearly $400 Billion is held overseas, and they don't give a rat's A$$ whether blind people can use it or not.

bearbee said...

The government discriminates against blind people........

When I see words such as 'discriminatory' or 'discrimination' I assume an act that is intentionally biased or unfair and meant to cause inconvenience or some sort of injury.

It seems to me one could argue that an action will always be discriminatory against one group or another.

Is there a legal definition of 'discrimination'?

just curious....