Friday, August 2, 2013

No Standing for Nader in FEC Suit

The D.C. Circuit ruled today in Nader v. FEC that Ralph Nader lacked standing to sue to compel FEC enforcement against various organizations for violating election laws during their efforts to keep him off the presidential ballot in 2004.

Nader filed an administrative complaint with the FEC alleging that these organizations violated election laws in trying to keep him off the ballot.  The FEC dismissed the complaint, and Nader sued.  The district court granted summary judgment against Nader.  In its ruling today, the D.C. Circuit held that he lacked standing to sue.  

The court said that Nader lacked competitor standing, because he couldn't show that the FEC's determination injured his ability to fight the next election--becuase he didn't allege with certainty that he would actually run in the next election.  The court said that he lacked informational standing, because he wasn't seeking information "related to [his] informed participation in the political process."  Op. at 5.  Instead, he was seeking to force the FEC to "get the bad guys," op. at 5, and to support his on-going litigation growing out of the 2004 election.

SDS

August 2, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Third Circuit on Hazleton Immigration Ordinance Redux

The Third Circuit has had yet another opportunity to review the constititionality of the city of Hazleton's extensive immigration ordinances in its new opinion in Lozano v. City of Hazleton [Pennsylvania].   Recall that the United States Supreme Court granted the City's petition for a writ of certiorari and vacated the Third Circuit's previous  decision  in light of Chamber of Commerce of United States of America v. Whiting.

In 2010, the Third Circuit panel, affirming the district court, had rendered an extensive 188 page opinion in unanimously finding that the two ordinances of Hazleton, Pennsylvania regulating immigration were pre-empted by the federal immigration scheme.  The employment provision in Hazleton made it unlawful “for any business entity” to “recruit, hire for employment, or continue to employ” or “permit, dispatch, or instruct any person” who is an “unlawful worker” to perform work within Hazleton, and required employer affidavits.   The ordinances also had a housing provision making it unlawful for landlords to rent to unlawful residents.

 

Miners’_children_and_houses_near_Hazelton,_Pa.,_U.S.A,_by_Singley,_B._L._(Benjamin_Lloyd)
Miners' children, Hazleton Pennsylvania circa 1900

In its new opinion, the panel - - - again consisting of Chief Judge McKee and Judge Nygaard, with the previous designated judge now replaced by Judge Vanaskie - - - found that Whiting, as well as the Court's subsequent decision in Arizona v. United States regarding the notorious SB1070, did not command a different result.  Instead, the court again concluded that " both the employment and housing provisions of the Hazleton ordinances are pre-empted by federal immigration law.”

 

Regarding the employment provisions of the Hazleton ordinance, the Third Circuit panel found that the Court's opinions in Whiting and Arizona did alter some of its previous analysis, but that the employment provisions of the Hazleton ordinance were so broad in their coverage of both actors and activities that they were an obstacle to the federal immigration law and were thus pre-empted. 

As to the housing provisions, the court found:

No part of Whiting or Arizona considered provisions of a state or local ordinance that, like the housing provisions here, prohibit, and define “harboring” to include, allowing unauthorized aliens to reside in rental housing. Moreover, nothing in Whiting or Arizona undermines our analysis of the contested housing provisions here. On the contrary, the Court‟s language reinforces our view that Hazleton‟s attempt to prohibit unauthorized aliens from renting dwelling units in the City are pre-empted.

Thus, the Third Circuit reaffirmed its view that the Hazelton ordinance is unconstitutional as pre-empted.

In considering whether or not to pursue a second petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, the City of Hazleton will undoubtedly be considering the extensive litigation costs it has already expended and deciding whether it should spend even more, although reportedly some costs have been paid by private contributions.

RR
[image via]

August 1, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Opinion Analysis, Preemption, Recent Cases, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Divided Third Circuit Upholds New Jersey's Handgun Permit Law

In its opinion in Drake v. Filko, a panel of the Third Circuit has rejected a Second Amendment challenge to New Jersey's handgun permit law, N.J.S.A. § 2C:58 - 4.  Affirming the district judge, the majority opinion by Judge Ruggero Aldisert (who was appointed to the Third Circuit by President Lyndon Johnson) upheld the statutory "justifiable need” standard for a permit to carry a handgun in public.

Handgun_collection

The majority declined to "definitively declare that the individual right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense extends beyond the home, the “core” of the right as identified by Heller," referring to the Supreme Court's controversial 2008 decision of Heller v. District of Columbia finding that the Second Amendment should be interpreted as including an individual right. Yet the majority moved on to assume that even if the individual right extended beyond the home, does a "requirement that applicants demonstrate a “justifiable need” to publicly carry a handgun for self-defense burdens conduct within the scope of that Second Amendment guarantee.  It concluded that the “justifiable need” standard of the Handgun Permit Law is a longstanding regulation that enjoys presumptive constitutionality under the teachings articulated in Heller, noting that a "close analogue to the New Jersey standard can be found in New York’s permit schema," which was upheld by the Second Circuit as we discussed last November.

The majority acknowledged that this could well settle the matter.  But "in this new era of Second Amendment jurisprudence," it decided it was important to proceed to apply the means-end scrutiny under its circuit precedent.  And as in most means-end inquiries, the level of scrutiny was a central issue.  Predictably, the challengers argued for strict scrutiny, but their argument rested upon an analogy to First Amendment prior restraint doctrine.  The court rejected that analogy, canvased the Second Amendmen levels of scrutiny being applied in the circuits, and concluded that "intermediate scrutiny" was the correct standard, and articulated it thusly:

under intermediate scrutiny the government must assert a significant, substantial, or important interest; there must also be a reasonable fit between that asserted interest and the challenged law, such that the law does not burden more conduct than is reasonably necessary.

After an extensive discussion, the majority found that the NJ law satisfied this standard.

In a dissenting opinion as lengthy as the majority opinion, Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman disagreed with almost every aspect of the majority's well-reasoned opinion.  Judge Hardiman argued that the Second Amendment should apply outside the home, argued that NJ's gun restriction was historically not longstanding, and while agreeing that intermediate scrutiny was the correct standard, disagreed that it was satisfied.

While the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari in the Second Circuit opinion upholding NY's limitation on concealed gun laws, a petition for certiorari will most probably be filed in this Third Circuit case.  At some point, the Court may again take up the confusing issues left in the wake of its two controversial decisions in Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. City of Chicago.

RR
[image via]

 

August 1, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Police Officer, the Quota Complaint, and the First Amendment

800px-NYPD_cars_line_up

NYPD Officer Craig Matthews was critical of the alleged quota system responsible for unjustified stops, arrests, and summonses in his precinct in New York City and suffered adverse employment actions.    His claim of a First Amendment violation raises the specter of Garcetti v. Ceballos, decided by the Court in 2006.  Citing Garcetti, as well as Second Circuit precedent, a district judge dismissed Matthews' complaint last year. The Second Circuit reversed in a summary order, finding that discovery was required to inquire into the "nature of the plaintiff’s job responsibilities, the nature of the speech, and the relationship between the two.”  On remand, the case was reassigned to a different judge, discovery ensued,  but Matthews was again unsuccessful.  

Judge Englemayer 's opinion in Matthews v. City of New York grants summary judgment to the defendant.

While the subject matter of Officer Matthews' speech was clearly a matter of public concern, the officer spoke "pursuant to his public duties" and as an employee rather than a citizen.  Judge Englemayer's opinion contains an excellent rehearsal of the Supreme Court's precedent, starting with Pickering and continuing to Garcetti.  But the crux of the argument rests upon the Second Circuit case of Jackler v. Byrne,  a rare post-Garcetti case finding for the employee.  The judge distinguishes Jackler on specific facts: 

Officer Matthews made a series of truthful reports about his concerns; unlike Jackler, he was neither compelled to retract those statements nor to file a false report.

Judge Englemayer goes on for an additional ten pages, engaging in a "fact-specific inquiry" regarding  whether Matthews' complaints were made "pursuant to his official duties."  It is definitely a careful and considered opinion, yet it is sure to be appealed.  With the continuining attention to stop and frisk policies, including the possibility of police "quotas," Matthews' case raises important issues not necessarily solved by current First Amendment doctrine.

RR

July 30, 2013 in Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New York Appellate Court Rules NYC's Large Size Soda Ban Violates State Constitution

The super-size soda ban, a program advocated by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is not constitutional according to the unanimous opinion from a state appellate court in New York Statewide Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce v. NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

The court affirmed a state trial court's decision that the NYC regulation prohibiting sugary drinks in restaurants, movie theaters and arenas that exceed 16 ounces was an unconstitutional exercise of power by a city agency, as well as arbitrary and capricious.  A good discussion of the trial court's decision is here.

Essentially, the issue is whether NYC Health Code §81.53, known as the "portion cap rule" is within the power of the Department of Health.  The short answer by the judicial branch: no. 

800px-Sodas

In today's opinion, the court held that the NYC

Board of Health overstepped the boundaries of its lawfully delegated authority when it promulgated the Portion  Cap Rule to curtail the consumption of soda drinks. It therefore violated the state principle of separation of powers. In light of the above, we need not reach petitioners' argument that the subject regulation was arbitrary and capricious. Before concluding, we must emphasize that nothing in this decision is intended to circumscribe DOHMH's legitimate powers. Nor is this decision intended to express an opinion on the wisdom of the soda consumption restrictions, provided that they are enacted by the government body with the authority to do so. Within the limits described above, health authorities may make rules and regulations for the protection of the public health and have great latitude and discretion in performing their duty to safeguard the public health.

Doctrinally, the decision is most pertinent to New York state constitutional law and administrative law scholars and practitioners.  It has broader interest, however, to those interested in the powers of governments to enact regulations that (arguably) promote health.

RR
[image via]

July 30, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Separation of Powers, State Constitutional Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Divided Third Circuit Panel: Corporations Do Not Have First Amendment Free Exercise Rights

 

Conestoga wood
Product featured on the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation website
In a divided opinion, a panel of the Third Circuit in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation v. Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services has held that a private for-profit secular corporation, in this case making wood cabinetry and employing almost one thousand people, does not meet the threshold for raising a claim that the ACA's requirement that its health insurance include contraceptive coverage for its employees.

 

Writing for the majority, Judge Robert Cowen, joined by Thomas Vanaskie, acknowledged in a footnote the contrary decision of a majority of the Tenth Circuit en banc in Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, but simply stated it respectfully disagreed.  Instead, affirming the district judge, the majority skillfully articulated the two possible theories under which a for-profit secular corporation might possess Free Exercise rights and rejected both.

First, the majority rejected the notion that the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation could "directly" exercise religion in accord with Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm’n (2010).  The majority noted that Citizens United was grounded in the notion that the Court has a long history of protecting corporations' rights to free speech and that there was no similar history regarding corporations' religious rights:

In fact, we are not aware of any case preceding the commencement of litigation about the Mandate, in which a for-profit, secular corporation was itself found to have free exercise rights.  Such a total absence of caselaw takes on even greater significance when compared to the extensive list of Supreme Court cases addressing the free speech rights of corporations. 

The majority distinguished religious organizations, such as those involved in  Gonzalez v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006) or  Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), because these are not "secular, for-profit corporations." 

Second, the majority rejected the so-called "pass through" theory in which for-profit corporations can assert the free exercise rights of their owners.  The majority noted that the Hahn family own 100 percent of the voting shares of Conestoga and that the Hahns practice the Mennonite religion.  However, it  rejected the theory that had been applied by the Ninth Circuit in two non-ACA mandate cases, stating the theory "rests on erroneous assumptions regarding the very nature of the corporate form."  For the majority, it is a "fundamental principle"  that "incorporation‘s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created the corporation."  Rather, "by incorporating their business, the Hahns themselves created a distinct legal entity that has legally distinct rights and responsibilities from the Hahns, as the owners of the corporation."  Moreover, because

Conestoga is distinct from the Hahns, the Mandate does not actually require the Hahns to do anything. All responsibility for complying with the Mandate falls on Conestoga.

(emphasis in original).

The majority's RFRA analysis is exceedingly brief, simply stated that since the corporation cannot exercise a religion it cannot assert a statutory RFRA claim.

In a 66 page dissent that is twice as long as the majority opinion, Judge Kent Jordan criticizes the majority for concluding that the "Hahns' choice to operate their business as a corporation carries with it the consequence that their rights of conscience are forfeit."  Judge Jordan's dissent is clearly deeply felt, stating that

the government claims the right to force Conestoga and its owners to facilitate the purchase and use of contraceptive drugs and devices, including abortifacients, all the while telling them that they do not even have a basis to speak up in opposition. Remarkable.

I reject that power grab and would hold that Conestoga may invoke the right to religious liberty on its own behalf.

 Indeed, Judge Jordan's dissent demonstrates how deeply the divisions abide on this issue.  Coupled with the similarly split opinions in Hobby Lobby, in which the majority agrees with Judge Jordan, it's clear that if - - - and most likely when - - - this issue reaches the United States Supreme Court, it will be very contentious.

RR

July 29, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Gender, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)