Sunday, September 23, 2018
The student chapter of the American Constitution Society at Barry University School of Law and Texas A&M University School of Law are hosting the Fourth Annual Constitutional Law Scholars Forum at the Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law Campus, 6441 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32807.
The Constitutional Law Scholars Forum invites scholarly proposals on constitutional law at any stage of pre-publication development, from the germination of an idea to the editing stage. The Forum provides an opportunity for scholars and educators to vet their work-in-progress in a welcoming, supportive environment. (The Forum is not accepting proposals from students at this time.)
The deadline to submit proposals is December 1, 2018.
There are no conference fees and meals are provided.
Email proposals to Professor Eang Ngov, email@example.com, with “Constitutional Law Scholars Forum” in the subject line. Submissions should include a short abstract (300 words maximum) and biography (150 words maximum).
Professor Eang Ngov, firstname.lastname@example.org, office (321) 206 -5677, cell phone (571) 643-2691
Professor Meg Penrose, email@example.com
Thursday, September 20, 2018
The Ninth Circuit ruled in Fikre v. FBI that the plaintiff's due process challenges to his inclusion on the government's no-fly list were not moot, even though the government took him off the list during the litigation. The ruling means that the plaintiff's case challenging his inclusion on the no-fly list can move forward.
The case arose from Yonas Fikre's inclusion on the no-fly list and his several and significant resulting harms. Fikre alleged that his inclusion violated substantive and procedural due process, and he sought declaratory and injunctive relief. During the litigation, the government removed Fikre from the list, however, and moved to dismiss the case as moot. The district court granted the motion.
The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court ruled that Fikre's case came under the voluntary cessation exception to mootness--that signs pointed to the government opportunistically removing him, and that the government could reinstate him at any time. The court explained:
To begin, the FBI's decision to restore Fikre's flying privileges is an individualized determination untethered to any explanation or change in policy, much less an abiding change in policy. . . .
Moreover, the government has no assured Fikre that he will not be banned from flying for the same reasons that prompted the government to add him to the list in the first place, nor has it verified the implementation of procedural safeguards conditioning its ability to revise Fikre's status on the receipt of new information. . . .
Finally . . . we note that Fikre's removal from the No Fly List does not "completely and irrevocably eradicate the effects of the alleged violation[s]."
The ruling sends the case back to the district court for further proceedings.
Over at "First Amendment News" (FAN) by Ron Collins, a symposium of 15 women scholars on the current state of the First Amendment. In her forward, Kellye Testy comments on the "relative lack of women’s visibility in First Amendment jurisprudence," by noting that what “counts” as First Amendment scholarship is subject to a sexist lens and that protecting "free speech" can be a male preoccupation given that "men who have had “free speech” want to keep speaking," but "women’s speech has been restrained, both as a matter of formal law and of social practices, including violence."
A number of the contributions focus on free speech in the "Trump-era" or in the "internet-era" or both, including my own.
Here's the list of authors and titles, all accessible here:
Jane Bambauer, “Diagnosing Donald Trump: Professional Speech in Disorder”
Mary Anne Franks, “The Free Speech Fraternity”
Sarah C. Haan, “Facebook and the Identity Business”
Laura Handman & Lisa Zycherman, “Retaliatory RICO: A Corporate Assault on Speech”
Marjorie Heins, “On ‘Absolutism’ and ‘Frontierism’”
Margot Kaminski, “The First Amendment and Data Privacy: Between Reed and a Hard Place”
Lyrissa Lidsky, “Libel, Lies, and Conspiracy Theories”
Jasmine McNealy, “Newsworthiness, the First Amendment, and Platform Transparency”
Helen Norton, “Taking Listeners’ First Amendment Interests Seriously”
Tamara Piety, “A Constitutional Right to Lie? Again?: National Institute of Family and Life Advocates d/b/a NIFLA v. Becerra”
Ruthann Robson, “The Cyber Company Town”
Kelli Sager& Selina MacLaren, “First Amendment Rights of Access”
Sonja West, “President Trump and the Press Clause: A Cautionary Tale”
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
The Supreme Court yesterday declined to stay a lower court ruling that struck an FEC reg that created a disclosure loophole for 501(c)(4) organizations.
The reg allowed 501(c)(4)s and cooperating super-PACs to avoid statutory disclosure requirements. The district court ruled that the reg was at odds with statutory disclosure requirements.
Chief Justice Roberts last week issued an order (without opinion) staying the district court ruling, but yesterday the full Court vacated the Chief's order and denied the stay (also without an opinion).
Under the (now not stayed) district court ruling, the FEC has 45 days to come up with new regs that comply with the statute.
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
In need of a new playlist — something constitutional perhaps?
Try "27: The Most Perfect Album" available from WNYC Radiolab here.
A bit of text about each of the amendments, but the treasure is the linked songs. For example, the Third Amendment features Palehound and They Might be Giants. Not to be missed is the Fifteenth Amendment
Not to be missed are the Fifteenth Amendment pieces by Aisha Burns and Nnamdi Ogbonnaya. But the whole project is worth a listen - and one can play through the list.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
The UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law is calling for presenters and commenters for this exciting symposium, Dignity, Tradition, & Constitutional Due Process: Competing Judicial Paradigms, March 14-15, 2019, in Las Vegas.
The Court's determination regarding which paradigm to apply [a "deeply rooted" historical paradigm, or a "dignity" paradigm] depends, of course, on which receives at least five affirmative votes in any given appeal. Until his recent retirement, Justice Anthony Kennedy usually was the deciding vote. The probable confirmation of Hon. Brett Kavanaugh to Kennedy's seat may portend severely limited use of the dignity paradigm, if not its effective demise.
Our symposium . . . explores which of these two seemingly irreconcilable standards is correct, or whether there are one or more alternative approaches the courts should use.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
In its opinion in Nwanguma v. Trump, a panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled that the complaint against Donald Trump and his campaign for damages based on "inciting to riot" during a Kentucky event should be dismissed. Recall that the district judge denied Trump's motion to dismiss the complaint's count of incitement to riot based on events during a campaign event in Louisville, Kentucky on March 1, 2016. The complaint alleged that the candidate told the crowd “Get ’em out of here,” when the plaintiffs were "peacefully protesting" at a campaign rally, and as a result of the candidate's encouragement, three individual defendants pushed, shoved, and struck the three plaintiffs.
The Sixth Circuit's opinion, authored by Judge David McKeague, agreed with the district judge that the relevant precedents were Brandenberg v. Ohio (1969), Hess v. Indiana (1973), and the Sixth Circuit's en banc decision in Bible Believers v. Wayne County (2015). However, the Sixth Circuit criticized the district judge's analysis on some of the elements of the Kentucky incitement to riot statute as "decidedly thin." For Judge McKeague, seemingly the most important fact of the Trump speech was that Trump's repeated statement “Get ’em out of here" was followed by "don't hurt 'em." Thus, "any implication of incitement to riotous violence is explicitly negated": "If words have meaning, the admonition 'don't hurt 'em' cannot reasonably be construed as an urging to "hurt 'em.'"
After considering the elements of the Kentucky incitement to riot statute, Judge McKeague then considers the First Amendment protection that inheres in the definition of incitement to riot. Yet on both issues, Trump's "don't hurt 'em" statement figures prominently. Again, while in "the ears of some supporters, Trump's words may have had a tendency to elicit a physical response" they are undercut by the words "don't hurt 'em."
Judge Helene White's short concurring opinion argues that the "majority opinion elides salient details of Trump's speech that make this a closer case" for her than for the majority opinion which "overemphasizes the legal significance of the 'don't hurt 'em' statement." However, Judge White concurs because she concludes that the allegations do not meet the Kentucky statute's definition, and therefore the court should not have reached the First Amendment issue.
Eighth Circuit: Missouri Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Inter-PAC Contributions Violates First Amendment
In its brief opinion in Free and Fair Election Fund v. Missouri Ethics Commission, a panel of the Eighth Circuit agreed with the district judge that Mo. Const. Art. VIII §23.3 violates the First Amendment.
The Missouri constitutional provision, approved by voters in November 2016, prohibited political action committees (PACs) from receiving contributions from other political action committees. The PAC Free and Fair Election Fund quickly challenged the constitutional amendment contending that the inter-PAC transfer ban violated the First Amendment. The district judge and appellate panel agreed, reasoning that restricting the recipients to whom a PAC can donate "limits the donor-PAC’s speech and associational rights under the First Amendment," and thus "the challenged law must advance a sufficiently important state interest and employ means closely drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgment of First Amendment freedoms."
Quoting McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), the Eighth Circuit reasoned:
There is only one legitimate state interest in restricting campaign finances: “preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption.” This interest is limited to preventing “only a specific type of corruption—‘quid pro quo’ corruption” or its appearance. A large donation that is not made “in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to . . . quid pro quo corruption.” Similarly, the general risk that a donor, through large donations, will “garner influence over or access to elected officials or political parties,” either in fact or in appearance, is insufficient to create quid pro quo corruption. Instead, “the risk of quid pro quo corruption is generally applicable only to the narrow category of money gifts that are directed, in some manner, to a candidate or officeholder.”
[citations omitted]. The Eighth Circuit held that the inter-PAC transfer ban "does little, if anything, to further the objective of preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption," distinguishing the 2016 Eleventh Circuit decision in Alabama Democratic Conference v. Attorney General of Alabama, because "unlike Alabama, Missouri limits the contributions that a PAC can make to a candidate, so the anti-corruption interest cited in support of the Alabama law is diminished here."
The Eighth Circuit further found that the transfer ban was not closely drawn: "the risk of corruption from PAC- to-PAC transfers is modest at best, and other regulations like contribution limits and disclosure requirements act as prophylactic measures against quid pro quo corruption."
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the injunction against the Missouri constitutional provision, perhaps setting up a circuit conflict on the constitutionality of inter-PAC transfers.
Monday, September 10, 2018
Check out Adam Serwer's piece in The Atlantic, The Supreme Court is Headed Back to the 19th Century. Here's a taste:
The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today is similarly blinded [like the Court in the late 19th century] by a commitment to liberty in theory that ignores the reality of how Americans' lives are actually lived. Like the Supreme Court of that era, the conservatives on the Court today are opposed to discrimination in principle, and indifferent to it in practice. Chief Justice John Roberts's June 2018 ruling to uphold President Donald Trump's travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries, despite the voluminous evidence that it had been conceived in animus, showed that the muddled doctrines of the post-Reconstruction period retain a stubborn appeal.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
In its unanimous judgment and opinions in Johar v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India has declared that §377 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibited "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" is unconstitutional. The Court overruled the 2013 judgment in Koushal v. NAZ Foundation which we discussed here.
The opinions of the Court, totaling just short of 500 pages, rest the decision on Articles
- 14 (equality)
- 15 (prohibition of discrimination, including sex)
- 19 (protection of speech and association) and
- 21 (protection of liberty against deprivation without due process)
of the Constitution of India. The opinions include extensive discussions of cases from other nations and jurisdictions finding that criminalization of same-sex relations is unconstitutional, including Lawrence v. Texas (2003) in the United States, overruling Bowers v. Hardwick (1986).
History owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries. The members of this community were compelled to live a life full of fear of reprisal and persecution. This was on account of the ignorance of the majority to recognise that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality. The mis-application of this provision denied them the Fundamental Right to equality guaranteed by Article 14. It infringed the Fundamental Right to non-discrimination under Article 15, and the Fundamental Right to live a life of dignity and privacy guaranteed by Article 21. The LGBT persons deserve to live a life unshackled from the shadow of being ‘unapprehended felons’.
The choice of "history" as being held accountable rather than the Court (and its previous opinion) may be deflective, but it is more of an acknowledgement that the United States Supreme Court gave in Lawrence (and which would have been arguably very appropriate).
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
In an extensive opinion in Whole Woman's Health v. Smith, District Judge David Alan Ezra ruled that Texas statute and regulations requiring internment (or cremation) for "embryonic and fetal tissue disposal" were unconstitutional. Judge Ezra's opinion occurred after a one-week bench trial in which the issue of cost of compliance was excluded.
Judge Ezra found that the Texas laws violated both the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
On the equal protection issue, Judge Ezra found that the Texas laws' distinction between "pre-implantation and post-implantation embryos and the facilities that handle them" was not rationally related to the legitimate government interest in "respecting potential life." Thus, even under the rational basis test, the laws did not survive.
On the due process issue, Judge Ezra applied the doctrine from the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, and found that the Texas laws
place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking pregnancy-related medical care, particularly a previability abortion, while offering minimal benefits.
By endorsing one view of the status and respect to be accorded to embryonic and fetal tissue remains, the State imposes intrusive burdens upon personal decisions concerning procreation, especially upon the right of the woman to chose to have an abortion. And most importantly, the evidence in this case overwhelmingly demonstrated that if the challenged laws were to go into effect now, they would likely cause a near catastrophic failure of the health care system designed to serve women of childbearing age within the State of Texas.
This failure, Judge Ezra makes clear, is not simply for women seeking an abortion, but for all women seeking pregnancy care for complications.
Thus the court declared the laws and implementing regulations unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
In its Report entitled The Civil Rights Record of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. of the NAACP supports its opposition to the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.
At just shy of 100 pages, the Report details concerns regarding Kavanaugh's record in areas such as executive power, criminal justice, qualified immunity, voting rights, campaign finance, reproductive rights, Second Amendment, and access to justice issues such as standing and pro se litigants. But importantly, the Report makes clear:
even before considering the opinions he has authored, the speeches he has given, and his full legal record, the following is true: Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is tainted by the influence of reactionary groups in his selection by the President and by the President’s assertion that his nominees will target and overturn settled Supreme Court precedent. A woefully inadequate document production is thwarting the Senate’s “advice and consent” function and the ability of the American public to determine whether they want their Senators to support this nominee. And perhaps most significantly, the President’s credibility has been sapped by the ongoing investigations that raise questions about the legitimacy of his occupancy of the Oval Office and the vast powers it confers, such as the nomination of Supreme Court Justices. This highly unusual and critical context powerfully bears on our assessment of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Yet the report does delve deeply into Kavanaugh's decisions and reaches conclusions. For example, after a discussion of his decisions about campaign finance, the Report states:
Judge Kavanaugh’s campaign finance record provides four overarching themes. First, Judge Kavanaugh appears hostile to campaign finance regulations, seeming to be unwilling to uphold regulations beyond a narrow anti-corruption rationale. Second, Judge Kavanaugh’s BCRA interpretation [in Bluman v. Federal Election Committee] about the scope of issue-advocacy expenditures would allow foreign actors to engage in thinly veiled “issue advocacy” that deepens racial and religious division leading up to elections. Such a narrow interpretation of the BCRA prevents it from barring foreign actors who influence U.S. elections in concrete ways and increases the likelihood of the use of these racial appeals during the next federal election, an important tool of suppressing the votes of communities of color. Third, as evident in Emily’s List [v. Federal Election Commission], Judge Kavanaugh appears willing to reach out unnecessarily to decide issues in this context. Fourth, Judge Kavanaugh would likely revisit the soft-money limits on contributions to political parties as justice.
At several points, the Report suggests questions and specific focus for the Senate questioning. The hearings begin today.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
Check out Michael Kruse's The Weekend at Yale That Changed American Politics on the founding of the Federalist Society, at Politico.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
The American Constitution Society is pleased to announce a call for papers for a workshop on public law to be held the afternoon of Thursday, January 3, 2019, at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting in New Orleans. A committee composed to ACS's Board of Academic Advisors will select approximately 10 papers, and each selected author will have the opportunity to discuss his/her paper, as well as the paper of another author, in depth with two experienced scholars from the ACS network, which includes Erwin Chemerinsky, Pamela Karlan, Bill Marshall, Reva Siegel, Mark Tushnet, and Adam Winkler.
Papers can be on any field related to public law, including but not limited to: constitutional law, administrative law, antidiscrimination law, criminal law, environmental law, family law, federal courts, financial regulation, public international law, society welfare law, and workplace law.
The deadline for submissions is 11:50 p.m. on October 19, 2018. Submissions should be works that will not be published as of January 1, 2019.
Submissions should be emailed in Microsoft Word or PDF format to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate in the subject line "Submission for ACS Junior Scholars Public Law Workshop" and include the author's name, school, and contact information in a cover email. The cover email should also identify the field(s) in which the paper falls.
Tenure-track and tenured faculty, or faculty with similar status, who have been full-time law teachers for 10 years or less as of December 31, 2018, are eligible to participate. Co-authored submissions are permissible, but each of the coauthors must be individually eligible to participate in the workshop.
Authors are limited to one submission each. Selections will be made by November 16, 2018. Authors must arrange their own travel to the AALS Annual Meeting.
Inquiries may be sent to Kara Stein, at email@example.com.
Monday, August 27, 2018
In an extensive opinion, a three judge court in Common Cause v. Rucho (& League of Women Voters v. Rucho) held that North Carolina's 2016 redistricting plan was a product of partisan gerrymandering and violates the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.
The opinion is almost 300 pages with an additional comparatively brief 25 plus page concurring and dissenting opinion, but the three judge court is often discussing familiar matters. Recall that the court had reached this result in January 2018. However, recall also that the United States Supreme Court issued a stay shortly thereafter. In July 2018, the United States Supreme Court vacated the three judge court's decision in Rucho in light of Gill v. Whitford (2018), which, the three judge court states, "addressed what evidence a plaintiff must put forward to establish Article III standing to lodge a partisan vote dilution claim under the Equal Protection Clause." The three judge court's opinion in Rucho holds that standing was satisfied under the Gill test as to equal protection and further that "Gill did not call into question—and, if anything, supported—this Court’s previous determination that Plaintiffs have standing to assert partisan gerrymandering claims under Article I and the First Amendment."
As for the merits, Gill v. Whitford is not particularly useful; as we said when Gill was decided, it (with the per curiam decision in Benisek v. Lamone, "leave the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering as unsettled as before." Thus, the three judge court had little guidance to reconsider its previous conclusions.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the three judge court's decision today in Rucho, however, is the remedy: the court notes that the circumstances are unusual and writes:
we decline to rule out the possibility that the State should be enjoined from conducting any further congressional elections using the 2016 Plan. For example, it may be possible for the State to conduct a general election using a constitutionally compliant districting plan without holding a primary election. Or, it may be viable for the State to conduct a primary election on November 6, 2018, using a constitutionally compliant congressional districting plan, and then conduct a general election sometime before the new Congress is seated in January 2019. Accordingly, no later than 5 p.m. on August 31, 2018, the parties shall file briefs addressing whether this Court should allow the State to conduct any future election using the 2016 Plan. Those briefs should discuss the viability of the alternatives discussed above, as well as any other potential schedules for conducting elections using a constitutionally compliant plan that would not unduly interfere with the State’s election machinery or confuse voters. Regardless of whether we ultimately allow the State to use the 2016 Plan in the 2018 election, we hereby enjoin the State from conducting any elections using the 2016 Plan in any election after the November 6, 2018, election.
[emphasis in original].
The November election is in 70 days.
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (D.D.C.) ruled yesterday in American Federation of Government Employees v. Trump that President Trump's executive orders sharply curtailing federal employees' collective bargaining and labor rights violate federal labor law. The ruling means that most of the EOs' limitations are invalid.
Together, the EOs set a timeframe for completion of collective bargaining negotiations; removed certain matters from the bargaining table completely; set certain procedures for negotiations; limited the extent to which federal employees could engage in union work during business hours; limited the government resources that union members could use for union activities; made it easier for the government to dismiss federal employees for unsatisfactory performance.
The court recognized that the EOs are subject to restrictions in statutory law, but that "the President could always theoretically claim that he possesses the inherent constitutional authority to take a given action, regardless of any conflict with a congressional statute and his resulting lack of statutory authority." "But Defendants have made no such assertion in the instant case; instead, they have 'expressly recognized statutory limitations on the President's authority to act in this area.'" The court, therefore, didn't rule on the constitutional question.
The government's omission of a constitutional argument might seem surprising, given the President's recent constitutional extrapolation from the Court's ruling in Lucia in an EO designed to rein in control over executive branch ALJs. That move seemed like an attack, under cover of Lucia and claimed plenary Article II authority over the executive branch, on civil service laws that in any way restrict the President's claimed authority to hire and fire whomever he wants. That attack would seem to apply equally here. But the government didn't press it.
On the statutory questions, Judge Jackson summarized:
[T]he Order provisions concerning matters such as the reduction of the availability of and support for official time activities [to engage in union-related work], and the specific prohibitions against bargaining over [certain matters], or hte unilateral narrowing of any negotiated grievance procedures, dramatically decrease the scope of the right to bargain collectively, because, in the [Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act], Congress clearly intended for agencies and unions to engage in a broad and meaningful negotiation over nearly every "condition of employment." Likewise, the Orders' requirements, such as the directive that agencies should "ordinarily" seek to conclude collective bargaining negotiations within five to seven months, or should limit the applicability of grievance procedures "[w]henever reasonable[,]" effectively instruct federal agencies and executive departments to approach collective bargaining in a manner that clearly runs counter to the FSLMRS's expectation of good-faith conduct on the part of negotiating parties. . . .
[T]he only challenged provisions of [the EOs] that can stand are those that neither contribute to a reduction in the scope of the collective bargaining that Congress has envisioned nor impede the ability of agencies and executive departments to engage in the kind of good-faith bargaining over conditions of federal employment that Congress has required.
Saturday, August 25, 2018
Check out Jason Zengerle's feature in the NYT Magazine, How the Trump Administration is Remaking the Courts. Zengerle examines how President Trump, with the help (or "ruthless discipline") of Senate Republicans, is shaping the courts. And how he's doing this at a blistering pace. And how this compares to the gummed-up Senate in the Obama Administration.
Check out Emily Bazelon's piece in the NYT Magazine, When the Supreme Court Lurches Right: What happens when the Supreme Court becomes significantly more conservative than the public?
Bazelon traces the history of politics and the Court, and writes,
Maybe a mobilized Democratic Party can somehow overcome all the barriers of Republican entrenchment as it did in the 1930s . . . . If a new dominant national alliance emerges to the left of the Roberts Court, maybe the justices will find a way to become a part of it. Or the Republicans could remain in power because they make a persuasive case to the voters, not because the court aids in eroding the democratic process. In other words, maybe Dahl turns out to be right. Let's hope so. The democracy may be riding on it.
Friday, August 24, 2018
The Seventh Circuit's opinion in Beley v. City of Chicago finds no constitutional violation when the City of Chicago refuses to register sex offenders in certain circumstances (such as having no fixed address or an address outside of an approved zone) despite the requirement of the Illinois Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), making it a felony for a sex offender not to register in a new city, including Chicago.
For example, as the court described one plaintiff:
Douglas Montgomery is a sex offender who tried unsuccessfully to comply with SORA. After he completed a twenty- year sentence for aggravated criminal sexual assault, he re- ported to the Department to register. He was turned away, however, because he produced neither an identification card nor proof of a fixed address. When Montgomery told the in- take officer that he was homeless, the officer responded that the Department was “not registering homeless people right now.” Nearly seven months later, after arresting Montgomery for violating several ordinances, Chicago police discovered that he had failed to register under SORA. They charged him with that violation, though he was ultimately acquitted.
The Seventh Circuit rejected the procedural due process challenge to the city's policy by holding that the "ability" to register as a sex offender is not a cognizable liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment, so no due process is necessary. The court rebuffed each of the plaintiffs' arguments that there was a liberty interest. First, the court stated that SORA's "registration requirement burdens sex offenders" rather than being "an aspect of their liberty." Second, the court stated that "the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees procedural protection for state action that deprives someone of a cognizable interest in life, liberty, or property, not for state action that jeopardizes that interest." Third, the court rejected the argument that freedom from the threat of incarceration constituted a liberty interest. And fourth and finally, the fact that the two named plaintiffs actually were deprived of their liberty was not available because they chose "to define the deprivation as the denial of registration" and are "stuck with that theory," although the City owed them due process when they were arrested.
Without a cognizable liberty interest, there was no need to determine what process was due.
The Ninth Circuit last week authorized a constitutional tort under Bivens against an ICE official for forging a document that would have led to the plaintiff's deportation. (H/t Theo Lesczynski.) The ruling means that the plaintiff's case can move forward.
The ruling is the second time in recent weeks that the Ninth Circuit authorized a Bivens action in a "new context." (The earlier case involved a Border Patrol officer's cross-border shooting of a Mexican youth.)
The case, Lanuza v. Love, arose when ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Jonathan Love submitted an I-826 form, forged with Lanuza's signature, at Lanuza's immigration hearing. The form indicated that Lanuza accepted voluntary departure to Mexico in 2000, breaking Lanuza's period of accrued continuous residency in the U.S. Without this continuous residency, Lanuza didn't qualify for cancellation of removal; and, based on the forged document, the immigration judge denied cancellation and ordered Lanuza removed. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.
Lanuza then hired a new attorney, who discovered the forgery. (Among other things, the forged document referred to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security," which did not yet exist at the time that Lanuza purportedly signed the form.) The agency then adjusted Lanuza's status to lawful permanent resident.
Lanuza brought a Bivens claim against Love for violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed the case, but the Ninth Circuit reversed.
The court ruled that the case raised a "new context," but that no special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy. Indeed, the court said that certain factors favored a Bivens remedy in a case like this, where a government official submitted false evidence in a quasi-judicial proceeding:
Indeed, there are few persons better equipped to weigh the cost of compromised adjudicative proceedings than those who are entrusted with protecting their integrity. And, more often than not, the Judicial Branch, not Congress or the Executive, is responsible for remedying circumstances where a court's integrity is compromised by the submission of false evidence. Thus, it falls within the natural ambit of the judiciary's authority to decide whether to provide a remedy for the submission of false evidence in an immigration proceeding.
The court also denied qualified immunity.
The ruling sends the case back to the district court for proceedings on the merits.