Monday, August 24, 2009
Hello Law Profs (and other readers!). As we all know, some stories generate sustained media attenion while others fly under the radar. Here is a list of cases you may have missed. It is my hope that these cases will help your transition into the school year.
In late July, the D.C. Circuit issued a case on standing. The plaintiffs, a conservative foundation committed to promoting patriotism, sued the Secretary of Defense to compel the University of California Santa Cruz to comply with the Solomon Amendment. Judge Ginsberg ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing, and particularly, had not presented evidence to prove that a favorable decision would redress the plaintiff's alleged injury. As the opinion focuses heavily on the redressibility prong - which is sometimes slighted by casebook authors - a professor might wish to use the case as a hypo on this prong in class.
In mid-August, The Third Circuit issued its opinion in Holk v.Snapple Beverage Corp. (My preliminary analysis of the case at the hearing stage is here.) The plaintiff filed a class action suit including state law claims alleging that a number of statements on Snapple’s labels - including the phrase "all natural" - were misleading. The defendant claimed that plaintiff's claims were pre-empted by federal labeling laws. The Third Circuit disagreed, ruling that federal law presented no obstacle to the state law claims. Overall, the case discusses each type of preemption thoroughly and would be good fodder for class discussion for that reason. Moreover, with the movement in this area recently (see Wyeth, et al.), those writing in the area will want to take note.
Equal Protection Issues
Death Penalty - North Carolina recently passed the "Racial Justice Act." The Act would allow criminal defedants in death penalty cases to introduce statistical evidence to prove racial discrimination influenced the decision to seek or impose the death sentence. If the defendant sucessfully carries the burden of proof, the death sentence may be vacated. Clearly, this statute would be relevant to any discussion of McClesky v. Kemp and related cases. Moreover, this case is a great example of how the federal constitution provides a floor, not a ceiling, where certain rights are concerned. More background on the movement leading to act can be found here.
Jury Selection - Feminist Law Professors has a wonderful piece by Colin Miller that explore the gap between Batson and J.E.B. In short, can a litigant strike a woman of color based on the intersection of her race and gender? A Mississippi court recently confronted with the issue in Ross v. State. Ross, an African American female defendant, complained that the prosecution struck all of the African American women from the panel. The court discussed various issues, but did not resolve the Batson/J.E.B. issue. Professor Miller takes the courts to task and effectively says, "Resolve the issue already!" He asserts that while pre-J.E.B. cases may have been justified in their reluctance to find a Batson violation on a race/gender dyad, post-J.E.B., there is little justification for premitting strikes which are predicated on both race and gender. The entire piece is well worth the read.
The ACLU has filed an amicus brief in a Florida case. At issue is whether the Florida State Constitution will permit the state to confine a woman to ensure she receives medical care during pregnacy. While the arguments focus primarily on Florida Constitutional law, important cases on reproductive rights such as Roe, Casey, and Stenburg.
That's it for this installment. Have a great school year!