Thursday, April 17, 2014
In his book series, We the People, Bruce Ackerman offers a rich description of how constitutional law comes to be changed by social movements. He also makes some normative claims about "popular sovereignty," "popular consent," "higher law," and "higher-lawmaking." In this essay, I examine these claims and find them to be both highly under-theorized and deeply problematic. Ackerman’s own presentation of what he considers to be an informal process of constitutional amendment illustrates the importance of formality in protecting the rights retained by the people. And he assumes a collective conception of popular sovereignty without considering the serious normative problems raised by majority and supermajority rule. Rule by a majority or supermajority is not the answer to the problem of constitutional legitimacy; it is the problem that requires a normative solution. As an alternative to collective or majoritarian conceptions of popular sovereignty, I identify an individualist conception that yields fundamentally different conclusions about the purpose of a written constitution, including the importance of written amendments in safeguarding the rights retained by a sovereign people, each and every one. Finally, in a Postscript I respond to Professor Ackerman’s reply to this essay.
(h/t Volokh Conspiracy)
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The U.S. Justice Department and Ohio officials have reached an agreement that will reduce the amount of time spent in isolation by young people in state juvenile correctional facilities, reports the Sandusky Register. Last month, federal officials filed a lawsuit asserting that youths are being held in seclusion for significant periods of time at four locations. “Numerous national studies have established that seclusion of youth with mental health disorders even for short periods of time can severely harm youth,” said the lawsuit. One youth was in seclusion for 19 days, and another for 21 days.The suit asked a court to end the practice of putting youths in seclusion for long periods of time and to provide better mental health treatment. Erie County Juvenile Court Judge Robert DeLamatre said the number of youth in state juvenile correctional facilities had declined dramatically, from about 2,300 in 2001 to 500 today. Ongoing litigation over the state system probably made some judges more reluctant to send youth into the state system, he said. “Certainly the lawsuit brought a spotlight on conditions, and things in the department that may be a little invisible to [judges.] We don’t know on a day to day business how that youth is being treated,” he said.
As the judicial and legislative branches have taken a more passive approach to civil rights enforcement, the President’s exercise of independent, extrajudicial constitutional judgment has become increasingly important. Modern U.S. presidents have advanced constitutional interpretations on matters of race, gender, HIV-status, self-incrimination, reproductive liberty, and gun rights, and President Obama has been especially active in promoting therights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons — most famously by refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Commentators have criticized the President’s refusal to defend DOMA from numerous perspectives but have not considered how the President’s DOMA policy fits within a principled commitment to LGBT equality that includes supporting and signing legislation, pursuing regulatory initiatives, filing complaints and other court papers, making formal and informal choices in law enforcement, and using the bully pulpit to sway public opinion. The President’s nondefense of DOMA not only derives normative force from his larger vision regarding substantive equality and individual rights, but it also demonstrates how certain features of the presidency — including accountability and expertise — can be instrumental in promoting equality-based claims. In this way, presidential constitutionalism can engage coordinate institutions — including the Supreme Court — in the development of constitutional law.
Friday, April 11, 2014
"Analyzing the SDNY's Amended 'Related Case' Rule: The Process for Challenging Nonrandom Case Assignment Remains Inadequate"
On October 31, 2013, the Second Circuit relied on a little-known Division of Business Rule to remove a well-respected and long-serving jurist from two high-profile stop-and-frisk cases. This highly unusual and unexpected move has stirred up an uproar of public support for the judge. But the Southern District of New York’s Division of Business Rule 13, the catalyst for a series of unprecedented procedural twists and turns, has been left unexamined. This essay refocuses the discussion on the overlooked rule at issue in Judge Scheindlin’s removal. First, it explains the consequences of Rule 13’s Division of Business label. Unlike local rules of civil procedure, Rule 13 is not subject to review by the Second Circuit, nor is it open to public comment. Creation and enforcement of a district court’s division of business rules are delegated to the court itself; unsurprisingly, decisions made pursuant to such rules are largely unreviewable. Next, this essay explains that precisely because it was a division of business rule, Rule 13 permitted case assignment decisions that might have raised red flags had they occurred pursuant to a local rule of civil procedure. This essay further argues that Rule 13 was only nominally a rule about relatedness. Instead, it functioned as a mechanism through which judges could pull certain cases onto their docket based on the cases’ subject matter. Rule 13 is the reason so many high-profile stop-and-frisk cases were sent to Judge Scheindlin, as opposed to being divvied up at random amongst all S.D.N.Y. judges. The essay also tracks how the stop-and-frisk cases were assigned, their odd procedural history on appeal, and recent hints of settlement.
On December 18, 2013, the S.D.N.Y adopted amendments to Division of Business Rule 13, seemingly in reaction to the circumstances that caused Judge Scheindlin’s removal. This essay ends with an analysis of the amendments, concluding that they do not do enough to explain why a judge decides to deem a case related to an earlier-filed matter. The amendments also do not create meaningful motion practice through which parties can challenge a relatedness decision. Rather, the district’s case assignment procedures remain shrouded in secrecy, and, most disturbingly, are still easy to manipulate. If a judge wants to overcome random case assignment and engage in subject matter-specific case shopping, the S.D.N.Y.’s Division of Business rules will not stop it.
CRL&P related posts:
- Debate: The Constitutionality of Stop-and-Frisk in New York City
- Across the Hudson: Taking the Stop and Frisk Debate Beyond New York City
- "Probabilities, Perceptions, Consequences and 'Discrimination': One Puzzle About Controversial 'Stop and Frisk'"
- "The Inverse Relationship between the Constitutionality and Effectiveness of New York City 'Stop and Frisk'"
- "Stop and Frisk Didn't Make New York Safer"
- While on the topic of stop-and-frisk...
Obama expected to use today's civil rights speech at the National Action Network to address voting rights. He should unequivocally state that the right to vote is political speech under the First Amendment.
Judge rules California's use of pepper spray on mentally ill prisoners violates their constitutional rights.
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act; and, LBJ gets lots of love. Others wonder whether SCOTUS's recent decisions signal danger for the Civil rights Act.
Federal judge rejects man's civil rights claim alleging that police cited him on suspicion of violating San Diego's anti-nudity ordinance because he was gay.
Oregon judge holds flashing headlights to alert other drivers of law enforcement is protected under First Amendment
The AP reports that an Oregon judge has ruled that the First Amendment protects drivers who flash their headlights to alert other drivers of the presence law enforcement as free speech. According to the judge, "The government certainly can and should enforce the traffic laws for the safety of all drivers on the road. However, the government cannot enforce the traffic laws, or any other laws, to punish drivers for their expressive conduct."
Hauling a truckload of logs to a Southern Oregon mill last fall, Chris Hill noticed a sheriff's deputy behind him and flashed his lights to warn a UPS driver coming the other way.
The deputy pulled over Hill on U.S. Highway 140 in White City and handed him a $260 ticket for improperly using his headlights, saying another deputy had seen the flashing lights from behind the UPS truck and alerted him to stop the log truck because of the signaling.
Outraged, Hill decided to fight the ticket, and on Wednesday, a Jackson County Justice Court judge dismissed the citation, finding that motorists flashing their headlights amounts to speech protected by the Oregon Constitution.
Judge Joseph Carter determined the law covering the use of high beams was valid, but was unconstitutional as it was applied by the deputy.
First Amendment protection of such conduct seems entirely reasonable to me. SCOTUS has routinely extended speech protection to generalized expressions, even when the reasoning for such expressions is not known. For example, it has protected signatures on referendum petitions, the wearing of black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War, and political yard signs. The Fourth Circuit recently even granted speech protection to support for a political candidate's campaign on Facebook by clicking the "Like" icon. Flashing one's headlights at another driver (for whatever reason) seems no less worthy of protection.
The most compelling detail in this story is that the driver who originally received the ticket represented himself.
As the article notes, Mr. Hill is an experienced driver who decided to fight the citation to protect himself against an increase to his insurance rate. So, he researched the issue and decided the free speech argument was applicable to the conduct for which he was ticketed. And the judge agreed.
Nicely played, sir! Nicely played indeed.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Court has done so not explicitly but through two judicial maneuvers, one substantive and the other procedural, that place tremendous trust in states: lowering the bar for the state interest prong of the constitutional analysis, and forbidding facial challenges to state rules on election administration. The Court has credited any state assertion of “election integrity,” even if that is not the actual impetus for the law under review. It also will reject a facial challenge to a state voting rule, thereby leaving the law in place until a plaintiff has gathered actual evidence of the law’s impact on particular voters. The Court has not treated Congress the same, demonstrating its willingness to invalidate a federal voting rule on its face even when Congress has asserted a more detailed rationale for the law. This Article uncovers this approach to constitutional challenges to voting regulations. It also explains why this current jurisprudence is both wrong and dangerous. It is wrong because the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government significant scope to promulgate election regulations, and states are subordinate to Congress under our constitutional structure. It is dangerous because the current deferential approach emboldens states to pass partisan-based laws with an eye toward affecting elections, and all a state needs to say to justify a new law is that it is seeking to ensure “election integrity.” The Court should reverse this current jurisprudence by requiring states to provide a more detailed justification for an election law and by allowing broader use of facial challenges to invalidate state voting laws, when necessary, before they are implemented. Voting, as a fundamental right, deserves robust protection from the courts. Scrutinizing state election laws more closely will help to achieve this worthy goal.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
"The Future of Voting Rights in Indian Country Following Shelby County and Inter Tribal Council of Arizona"
This past term the United States Supreme Court issued two decisions involving voting rights – Shelby County v. Holder and Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. The Court in Shelby County struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, and Inter Tribal Council held the National Voter Registration Act preempted Arizona’s election requirements. Scholars’ and practitioners’ focus on Shelby County has not considered the impact on Indian voters or reservation residents. This Article seeks to fill the gap by examining the Shelby County and Inter Tribal Council decisions, and strives to provide some insight and effective responses with regard to impacts on Native American voters across Indian country. It provides a comprehensive discussion of voting measures, actions, cooperative agreements and laws that should be considered and implemented by Indian tribes, states, the federal government, and Indian voters to address the void left by the two decisions.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
SCOTUS isn't ready to consider the ban on campaign contributions by corporations to political candidates.
Federal judge rejects Texas legislators' claims to qualified immunity as to documents relating to state's voter ID law; VP Biden urges Democrats to combat efforts to restrict voting rights; and, New York likely will be the third state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Idaho asks federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit alleging that the state's new law prohibiting the filming of animal abuse violates the First Amendment.
SCOTUS declines to consider a challenge to NSA's mass surveillance program at this time.
Former SCOTUS justice Stevens wants to abolish the death penalty.
Monday, April 7, 2014
The Associated Press reports the results of its recent survey of state policies as to the identities of providers of execution drugs. It found that the "vast majority" of states protect the identity of their providers. The notable exceptions are Delaware, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. The article begins:
Dating to the days when the guillotine operator or the hangman wore a mask, a certain amount of anonymity has always surrounded executions. But that secrecy is increasingly coming under fire, with judges, death penalty opponents and lawyers questioning why so little can be known about a state's most solemn responsibility.
An Associated Press survey of the 32 death penalty states found that the vast majority refuse to disclose the source of their execution drugs. The states cloaked in secrecy include some with the most active death chambers — among them Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Most states have recently begun relying on loosely regulated "compounding pharmacies" for execution drugs but refuse to name them, citing concerns about backlash that could endanger the supplier's safety. But many states refuse to provide even more basic information — how much of the drug is on hand, the expiration date, how it is tested. Those who question the secrecy wonder how an inmate's constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment can be guaranteed if nothing is known about the drug being used to kill him.
"As far as we know, it could be coming from a veterinary source, it could be coming from some dark corner of the Internet," said Cheryl Pilate, a Kansas City, Mo., attorney who handles death row appeals. "We simply don't know."
The most prolific death penalty states have successfully deflected most challenges to secretive protocols. But momentum is building toward unlocking details.
CRL&P related posts:
- Judge blocks Missouri's access to execution drug
- NYTimes calls for end to 'barbaric, racist' death penalty
- When victims' families defend defendants against capital punishment
- Correcting a Fatal Lottery: A Proposal to Apply the Civil Discrimination Standards to the Death Penalty
- Oklahoma used already executed convicts as disposals for unused execution drugs
- Union requests changes to Texas's solitary confinement policy for death row inmates
- There's an alarming number of deaths in US jails
Family of Gulf War veteran who suffered from PTSD files a civil rights suit alleging excessive force by the police officers who killed him.
Conference committee of Missouri legislature to reconcile bills allowing state residents to sue federal agents enforcing federal gun laws; Kansas legislature passes a bill establishing uniform gun permitting regulations across the state; state raises questions regarding the findings of the plaintiff's expert in the case challenging Colorado's new gun regulations; and, AP documents NRA's efforts to expand gun rights.
Federal judge rejects motion to dismiss challenge to Missouri's secrecy as to the provider of its execution drugs.
The title of this post comes from this excellent essay by Professor Richard Hasen. It's particularly compelling given the Supreme Court's decision last week in McCutcheon v. FEC striking down the BCRA's cap on aggregate campaign contributions. The abstract states:
This essay, written for a Duke Journal of Constitutional law and Public Policy symposium, considers the constitutionality of limiting contributions to "Super PACs" and other groups which make independent expenditures in candidate elections. It begins by demonstrating that the same four interests which may justify limiting multi-million dollar contributions to candidates -- the anti-bribery interest, the anti-undue influence interest, the equality interest, and the public confidence interest -- apply roughly equally to the interests justifying limiting multi-million dollar contributions to Super PACs. It then demonstrates that thanks to the Supreme Court's crabbed definition of "corruption" in its Citizens United decision, contribution limits imposed on Super PACs appear unconstitutional despite the parallel interests justifying limiting contributions to candidates and outside groups. The Essay then considers whether treating Super PACs which are reliable surrogates for a candidate's campaign as "coordinated" with a candidate would be an acceptable means of limiting contributions to Super PACs (on grounds that coordinated spending counts as a contribution to a candidate).
The Essay concludes that while the doctrinal move to an expanded definition of coordination to deal with the problem of Super PACs is completely understandable, given the state of current doctrine, the effort would be unlikely to be successful. Courts would be likely to reject a broad coordination rule as infringing on the First Amendment rights of those involved with independent Super PACs. Instead, coordination is the sideshow and the fight over the meaning of corruption is the main event. Reformers must convince the Supreme Court to return to the broader definition of corruption which extends anticorruption to include not just the prevention of bribery but also the prevention of undue influence. That day may not come until the Supreme Court personnel changes, but it is the linchpin for the successful resuscitation of meaningful campaign finance regulation in the United States.
CRL&P related posts:
- In Defense of 'Super PACs' and of the First Amendment
- The Last Rites of Public Campaign Financing?
- Citizens United exception permits state regulation of 'outside influence' in domestic politics
- Race or Party? How Courts Should Think About Republican Efforts to Make it Harder to Vote in North Carolina and Elsewhere
- Old School/New School Speech Regulation
Friday, April 4, 2014
Today, WaPo reporter Jaime Fuller provides this intriguing historical summary of political spending and attempts by federal and state governments to regulate campaign finance. She begins by recounting the early efforts of a young George Washington to persuade voters by the then-common practice of treating--whereby candidates provided banquets of food and liquor at the polling place; she ends, of course, with the Supreme Court's decision earlier this week in McCutcheon v. FEC.
After recounting Washington's electioneering efforts in 1757, Fuller jumps to the campaign finance law passed by Congress in 1867 making it illegal to solicit donations from naval yard workers. However, the intervening years were not bereft of efforts to curb seemingly excessive spending in campaigns.
Colonial assemblies and state goverments routinely attempted to reduce the influence of money in politics. As Chilton Williamson documents in his book American Suffrage From Property to Democracy, 1760- 1860, "Colonial assemblies tried to curb these electoral abuses by a spate of laws...against the treating of electors[.]" Richard Dinkin notes, for example, the Maryland colonial assembly's attempt to limit such practices, citing a 1768 election law:
[T]hat on any petition for treating, this house will not take into consideration, or regard the greatness or smallness of any treat, but will in all cases, in which any person or persons,...directly or indirectly give, present, or allow to any person having a voice or vote in such election, any money, meat, drink, entertainment or provision, or make any present, gift reward, or entertainment,...whatsoever, in order to be elected, or for being elected, will declare the election of such person voice.
Additionally, the move from public to private voting by the adoption of the Australian ballot--or secret ballot--was often viewed as an effort to curtail campaign spending. In fact, the eventual popularization of the Australian ballot in the U.S. is commonly attributed to Henry George's 1883 article titled Money in Elections. Notably, he writes:
To begin with what I conceive would be the greatest single reform. By adopting the Australian plan of voting, now for some years in successful operation in England, we could abolish at one stroke all the expense of printing and distributing tickets, and all the expense and demoralization consequent on the employment of “workers,” and very much lessen the importance of party nominations and party machinery. Under that plan the ballots are printed at public expense, and contain names of all persons duly registered as candidates. When the voter approaches the poll he is handed one of these ballots. He enters a compartment, where a pencil or pen and ink are provided, and, concealed from observation, strikes off the names of those he does not which to vote for, or as in England, indicates by a mark those he prefers, and then folding up the ballot, presents it… [T]he corruption of primary politics, and the practice of selling votes in nominating convents, would be destroyed, and the practice of blackmailing candidates by the so-called indorsement of political clubs whose only object is to make money, would be destroyed…[T]he practice of buying votes, and that of coercing voters by error of discharge from employment, would be in large part, if not altogether, broken up by the difficulty of telling how a man voted. There would be no putting a ticket in a man’s hand and keeping an eye on it until deposited.
CRL&P related posts:
- A surprising story about unsurprising circumstances: political partisanship burdening the right to vote
- Facebook "like" and First Amendment protection for the right to vote
- Remembering Tinker: The right to vote as expressive conduct
- Felon disenfranchisement, political power, and the First Amendment right to vote
LATimes examines how McCutcheon decision might strengthen political parties; Reason.com's Root examines upcoming First Amendment political speech case challenging Ohio's bar on false statements about political candidates.
County commissioners in Texas allegedly violated the First Amendment rights of a candidate for the vacant county constable position by asking illegal questions during his interview.
Volunteer law enforcement officer testifies that Colorado's new restrictions on gun purchases and magazines sizes affect training, but former police chief disagrees; and, Fort Hood gun store receives unwanted attention after most recent shooting.
Texas executes inmate after SCOTUS rejects motion to stay pending an investigation by inmate's lawyers into the source of drugs used to kill.