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Showing posts from October, 2006

Updates on Nothing

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I am back from Canada. The fine folks at ieCanada throw a nice annual meeting. Next week, I am moderating a panel at the Judicial Conference of the Court of International Trade. Although talking to a room full of lawyers is never as much fun as talking to real people, it should be a good program. In the category of sure signs that the ecosystem is a mess I note the following. First, a skunk has recently taken up residence in my yard. I have seen him (I assume it is male) three times in the past month. Most recently, he walked right up onto my back deck. Second, my new garbage pails are being gnawed and whatever is doing it is smart enough to go right for the locking mechanism. Lastly, outside my office today, hanging upside down (as one would expect) on a concrete step, was a small bat. At first, I thought it was a dead bird but it was clearly covered in fur, not feathers. Also, it had tiny little claw at the top (because it was upside down). It was a bat . This sounds like the ope

By Request

I know a lot of people in the customs law business. Occasionally , I disagree with my colleagues. For the most part, that leads to a polite exchange of ideas and, maybe, an agreement to disagree. It's different, however, when I commit my opinions to the public through this blog. When someone disagrees with a blog post, I have the choice of ignoring it or letting the world know about. Today, by the express request of a friend and the implied rebuke of the Federal Circuit, I address an apparent error in my thinking. The relevant context here is International Custom Products v. United States . When the case was decided at the CIT , I wrote a post that was hard on the government and congratulated the Court for keeping CBP on the straight and narrow. The basic facts as presented were that the importer received a ruling and went about its business based on the ruling. Much later, Customs investigated the product and its use. As a result of this investigation, Customs issued a

See You In Toronto

If any of you happen to be headed to the ie|Canada annual meeting on Monday through Wednesday, I'll be there. Please say hello. I'll be talking on U.S. penalty law and manning the Barnes/Richardson booth at the trade show where we will try hard to give away an iPod.

What Goes Around

When I started in this practice, a decade before 9/11, there were always Special Agents sniffing around importers looking for revenue and admissibility violations. My first really big project involved a multi-year investigation of one of the biggest companies in the world. The investigation went on so long that I became relatively friendly with the lead agent and auditor. It was the auditor's job to follow up on the agent's theories and hunches about the bad things the client had allegedly done. I'm happy to say that, in the end, it did not amount to much more than several prior disclosures. Today, things appear to be very different. The agents have been peeled off into a different agency altogether. They spend most of their time, it would appear, working to keep us safe from terrorists and narcotics. Which is, of course, laudable. For the past five years, it has been rare, at least in my experience, to deal with a Special Agent on a matter involving commercial enforcement

Animal Stories

If you grew up in Chicago and know what a " Boogie Check " is, click here to instantly feel old. You are the same people who see Bob Sirott on the 10:00 news and say, "How did that top-40 radio goof get on TV?" And, if you are anything like me, you have listened to Steve Dahl for more than 25 years; although now I tend to hear only the part from 6:55 to 7:00 when I get off the train and into my car. So, for today's barely-on-topic post I have this animal story of a canine Amber Alert . I am not making fun of this story. CBP dogs are important tools in the fight against terrorism and smuggling--both drugs and people. I once had a client who was stopped while trying to leave the country without declaring that he was in possession of more than $10,000 in cash. CBP , it would seem, has cash sniffing dogs. While I am not poking fun at the missing dog, it is interesting (at least to me) that this seems to be the number one CBP story of the moment. I suspect tha

Zero Sum Games?

No good Friday questions this week. Most of the searches were pretty basic ones like "customs law." So, I'll just pass on this good article on steel dumping from the Chicago Tribune . The gist of the article is that the U.S. steel industry and the U.S. auto industry (including foreign-owned producers in the U.S.) are at odds over whether a dumping order on corrosion-resistant flat-rolled steel. The U.S. steel companies, which are now relatively profitable, have been protected by antidumping duties on goods from six countries since 1993. This, of course, helped the U.S. companies compete with imports by offsetting the allegedly unfair low price of imported steel. The thing to keep in mind is that for every producer of steel desiring protection from injury caused by low-priced imports, there are multiple consumers of that steel who feel they are paying unfairly high prices. And who are among the biggest steel consumers? Car companies. Not to mention appliance manufacture

Nothing of Moment

I try and keep my off topic posts to a minimum. I've started using tags to let you skip what you may not find of interest. At the same time, I have not posted much of late. So, to make up for that, here are some links I find interesting in their almost absurd focus on the narrowest of topics. Project Posner : Do we need a searchable database of opinions by a single federal appellate judge? Last time I looked, Lexis and Westlaw would both do that with a simple search. Yes, I know that Project Posner is free. I also know he is a prolific writer with lots of fans. But think about the time, effort, and bandwidth involved. This smacks of someone with too much time on their hands. But, to redeem the project, I suggest you read this case in which the plaintiff tried to challenge the constitutionality of the ban on the importation of switchblade knives. Interesting reading for, as Judge Posner puts it, "aficionados of federal jurisdiction." Bike Rack Blog : I

Above Water

Lately, I have been swamped. I have been thinking mostly about the nuances of administrative law and of pleading. The reasons for both of these things will likely be public in the next few weeks. Today, however, I wasted an enormous chunk of the day. Illinois recently imposed a requirement that lawyers engage in Continuing Legal Education. I understand and applaud the idea behind this new rule. The bar wants to be certain that lawyers are aware of developments in the law. It is a means of protecting the public. Almost every other state bar has a CLE requirement. I get that. The problem for me and--judging by my visitor data--probably you, is that your run-of-the mill CLE is not particularly useful for a customs lawyer. Today, I spent three hours listing to several speakers talk about evidentiary issues that arise in trials, making objections, preserving the record, etc. I am sure it was a great seminar. The people around me were taking copious notes and laughing knowingly

Greetings, Finland

Today's Friday question comes from Jyvskyl , Finland . That's great. I love having visitors from far away lands. But, here is the odd part: the search this visitor used to get to my blog was "transaction value method NAFTA ppt ." So, someone in Finland want to know how to certify goods for duty free treatment in trade between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. There is something odd in that transaction, but who am I to judge? Under NAFTA, goods can be certified as originating in North America (and, therefore, entitled to preferential treatment) if they satisfy detailed rules of origin. Some of these rules are based on the percentage of North American value in the finished product. The regulations provide for two ways of calculating regional value content (" RVC "). My friend in Finland is interested in the transaction value method. Under this method, the RVC is calculated as follows: RVC =(TV- VNM )/TV x 100 TV stands for transaction value, which is

Importing Price Controls

For almost a year now, Customs has had a policy of seizing prescription drugs imported from Canada via mail. That policy is about to change. The Wall Street Journal reported today that CBP will stop that practice due to pressure from legislators. The prime mover behind the policy change appears to have been Florida Senator Bill Nelson. According to Nelson, CBP has seized drug shipments to 40,000 Americans from Canada. There are lots of arguments about this as a policy question. A couple years ago, I chaired an ABA panel on this issue. Speakers raised questions about the safety of drugs not subjected to FDA scrutiny on the one hand. On the other side, some questioned whether CBP should be used as a mechanism for protecting intellectual property rights for big companies that can generally afford to take care of themselves in court. But, the most interesting thing I heard came from a Canadian health-care industry consultant who had pretty compelling evidence that much of what is