Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Closely Divided United States Supreme Court Allows Enforcement of Restrictive Texas Abortion Law

In a 5-4 decision in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott,  the United States Supreme Court has refused to vacate the Fifth Circuit's stay  of the district judge's injunction against the enforcement of the abortion restriction law known as  Texas HB 2, that had been the subject of the well-publicized filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis.

The Court's Order was accompanied by two opinions.  In the first, a concurring opinion authored by Justice Scalia and joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, the four factors for a stay are laid out:

(1) whether the State made a strong showing that it was likely to succeed on the merits,
(2) whether the State would have been irreparably injured absent a stay,
(3) whether issuance of a stay would substantially injure other parties, and
(4) where the public interest lay.

Justice Scalia's relatively brief opinion is primarily a refutation of the dissenting opinion, arguing that the

dissent would vacate the Court of Appeals’ stay without expressly rejecting that court’s analysis of any of the governing factors. And it would flout core principles of federalism by mandating postponement of a state law without asserting that the law is even probably un- constitutional. Reasonable minds can perhaps disagree about whether the Court of Appeals should have granted a stay in this case. But there is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards— which do not include a special “status quo” standard for laws affecting abortion.

The dissent, written by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, argued that the Fifth Circuit's issuance of the stay was "demonstrably wrong" in its application of the standards for issuing a stay based on six reasons:

  • the district judge's order maintained the status quo that existed in Texas prior to the hospital admitting privileges requirement;
  • the Fifth Circuit's stay disrupted that status quo, so that a "significant number of women seeking abortions" will be affected and that the "longer a given facility remains closed, the less likely it is ever to reopen even if the admitting privileges requirement is ultimately held unconstitutional;"
  • the Fifth Circuit agreed to expedite its consideration, again favoring the status quo;
  • the balance of harms tilts in favor of the applicants;
  • the "underlying legal question—whether the new Texas statute is constitutional—is a difficult question" that at least four Members of this Court will wish to consider irrespective of the Fifth Circuit's ultimate decision;" and
  • there was not a significant public interest consideration.

Given the four Justices who joined the dissent, it is clear that the decision not to vacate the stay was 5-4, although Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts did not join Justice Scalia's concurring opinion.

The restrictive abortion statute passed by Texas has been deeply divisive and the Court's decision demonstrates that the members of the Court are likewise deeply divided.

 

November 19, 2013 in Abortion, Courts and Judging, Gender, Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Daily Footnote: Redacted Definitions in FISA Court Opinion

Among the materials released today as we discussed earlier, is the 87 page opinion by the Presiding Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, again difficult to name or cite given that the usual caption material is redacted:

Page 1 FISA

 

But the opinion's footnote 27 with the portions redacted - - - and not redacted - - - does deserve special notice:

Fn 27

"For ease of reference, the term XXXXXXXXXXXXX   is used to mean  XXXXXXXXXXXXXX." 

 

November 19, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Interpretation, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Supreme Court Refuses to Grant Extraordinary Writ to Review FISA's Verizon Surveillance Order

In its routine order list today, the Court's list of "MANDAMUS DENIED" included "13-58 - IN RE ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER." 

The petition for writ of mandamus and prohibition or writ of certiorari was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and essentially sought review of an Order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  The order redacts the names of the parties from whom the "tangible things" are sought, but the petition describes the order as compelling "Verizon Business Network Services to produce to the National Security Agency, on an ongoing basis, all of the call detail records of Verizon customers."

Telefon,_Nordisk_familjebok

As one of its Questions Presented, the petition stated:

Whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exceeded its narrow statutory authority to authorize foreign intelligence surveillance, under 50 U.S.C. § 1861, when it ordered Verizon to disclose records to the National Security Agency for all telephone communications “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” 

The import of the Supreme Court's denial is both trivial and momentous.  On the one hand, there is little if anything to be read into the Court's refusal to exercise its highly discretionary power to grant a petition for a writ as it does in 1% of cases.  On the other hand, there is something to be inferred about the Court's interest in and willingness to supervise the unusual FISA given constitutional rights.

But the Court's failure to accept the case certainly does not mean the underlying issues will be so easily dispatched.

 

November 18, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, International, State Secrets | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Daily Read: "Reassignment" by Toby Heytens (or was it so unusual that the Second Circuit reassigned the "Stop and Frisk" cases?)

As we discussed last week, in  In re Reassignment of Cases: Ligon; Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al., the Second Circuit clarified its removal of Judge Shira Scheindlin and as to the removal of Judge Scheindlin, wrote that reassignment "while not an everyday occurrence, is not unusual in this Circuit" and in support cited nine cases from 1999 - 2011, and discussed that it occurs in other circuits.

Would that the panel had had Professor Toby Heytens' forthcoming article, simply entitled "Reassignment," available in draft on ssrn.  Heytens discusses more than 650 reassignment cases and concludes that circuit courts have

exercised that power in pretty much every type of case imaginable: criminal cases and civil cases, federal question cases and diversity cases, “big” cases and “small” cases. Reassignment has been going on since 1958, but the pace seems to be quickening: more than 20% of the cases in my 55-year dataset were decided during the last five years, at a rate of a little more than one every two weeks during that span.

US_Court_of_Appeals_and_District_Court_map.svg

Although Heytens begins his article discussing a contentious 1996 case from the Second Circuit, involving District Judge Jack Weinstein of New York, he finds that it is another circuit that has by far the most reassignments.  Guesses?  It's the Seventh Circuit.  Interestingly, the Seventh Circuit is the only one to have a circuit rule governing reassignments and thus allows for the circuit panel to simply cite the rule and not provide any rationale for the change.  Depending upon one's point of view, this may have obscured the "removal" of Judge Scheindlin or it might have portrayed it as a normal procedure.

Although not focused on Scheindlin, here's what Heytens says about the possible differences:

On one hand, this may seem problematic, because it violates the intuition that public reason-giving is an important part of justifying the exercise of coercive judicial power.

On the other hand, reassignment underscores that there can be virtues in circumspection as well. Appellate court decisions have many audiences: not just the trial judges and the parties, but also other judges, future litigants, and other interested readers. Both the Seventh Circuit’s approach of ordering reassignment via an unexplained reference to a circuit rule that may not mean anything to most readers and the First Circuit’s approach of separating the reassignment order from the underlying opinion can be seen as ways of reducing the salience of the decision to order reassignment and thus make the decision feel less like a public scolding.

 In the stop and frisk cases, the public scolding aspect of the Second Circuit's brief initial opinion predominated - - - at least in its reception by the public.  Indeed, the revised opinion seemingly took pains to refute that interpretation.  

In his conclusion, Heytens identifies the question of "whether more fine-grained methods of measuring judicial ideology reveal any interesting patterns about how appellate judges use reassignment" as one meriting further investigation.  Certainly the reassignment of Judge Shira Scheindlin in the highly controversial stop and frisk cases will prove fertile ground.  Moreover, the question of disciplining a judge's out-of-court activities, including those that might implicate the First Amendment, should also be added to the mix.

 [image of circuit courts of appeal map via]

November 18, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Second Circuit Clarifies Its Opinion to Remove District Judge

Bench_and_Bar_Vanity_Fair_5_December_1891In a 15 page opinion (with extensive appendices) issue late Wednesday, In re Reassignment of Cases: Ligon; Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al., the Second Circuit clarified its removal of Judge Shira Scheindlin, which we discussed here.   Calling her a "long serving and distinguished jurist of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York," the Second Circuit panel nevertheless again concluded that "reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice."

In a separate order and opinion, the panel denied the motion of Judge Scheindlin's attorneys to appear.

Recall that the underlying controversy involves Judge Shira Scheindlin's orders in Floyd v. City of New York and in Ligon v. City of New York  regarding the NYPD's implementation of stop and frisk as violative of equal protection. 

In today's opinion, the panel 

"explains the basis for our order of October 31, 2013, directing the reassignment of these cases to a randomly selected district judge and supersedes that order. To reiterate, we have made no findings that Judge Scheindlin has engaged in judicial misconduct. We conclude only that, based on her conduct at the December 21, 2007 hearing and in giving the interviews to the news media in May 2013, Judge Scheindlin’s appearance of impartiality may reasonably be questioned within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 455 and that “reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice.”

The explanation stresses that the opinion is based on the appearance of partiality rather than any "findings of misconduct, actual bias, or actual partiality on the part of Judge Scheindlin."  Again, this appearance of partiality is twofold.  First, there are the judge's statements on the record in a related case.  After quoting some of the statements, the panel concluded:

We believe that a reasonable observer viewing this colloquy would conclude that the appearance of impartiality had been compromised. We do not mean to suggest that a district judge can never engage in a colloquy with a party during which the judge advises the party of its legal or procedural options. However, we think, particularly in combination with the public statements described below, that a reasonable observer could question the impartiality of the judge where the judge described a certain claim that differed from the one at issue in the case before her, urged a party to file a new lawsuit to assert the claim, suggested that such a claim could be viable and would likely entitle the plaintiffs to documents they sought, and advised the party to designate it as a related case so that the case would be assigned to her.

(emphasis added).

Second, the panel considered - - - as the  "statements described below" - - - the judge's statements to the press.  While the panel noted the judge  "did not specifically mention the Floyd or Ligon cases in her media interviews," nevertheless, the context was critical.  And while "nothing prohibits a judge from giving an interview to the media,"

judges who affiliate themselves with news stories by participating in interviews run the risk that the resulting stories may contribute to the appearance of partiality. It is perhaps illustrative of how such situations can get out of the control of the judge that, later in The New Yorker piece, the article quotes a former law clerk of Judge Scheindlin: “As one of her former law clerks put it, ‘What you have to remember about the judge is that she thinks cops lie.’”

The panel opinion does not reference the First Amendment.  The panel did, however, reference the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, but only to disavow its mention in the earlier order.  Here, the Second Circuit panel of judges wrote,

We now clarify that we did not intend to imply in our previous order that Judge Scheindlin engaged in misconduct cognizable either under the Code of Conduct or under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. . . .

But as to the removal - - - or reassignment - - - the panel again found this to be the proper remedy.  Reassignment, the panel wrote, "while not an everyday occurrence, is not unusual in this Circuit."  In support of this, the panel cited nine cases from 1999 - 2011.  The panel also noted it occurs in other circuits.  [UPDATE: For scholarship on this topic, see here].

Thus, the opinion softens some of the original language, expanding on the relatively brief previous order, but does not waver from the conclusion or remedy.  If the original order was a "slap" as some people characterized it, this replacement is more of a stern lecture rendered in patronizing and disappointed tones.

[image via]

November 13, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Update on Stop and Frisk Judge's Removal by Second Circuit: Judge Shira Scheindlin Seeks Intervention

It was not only that a panel of the Second Circuit stayed Judge Shira Scheindlin's orders in Floyd v. City of New York and in Ligon v. City of New York  regarding the NYPD's implementation of stop and frisk as violative of equal protection.  But the panel - - -consisting of Judges John M. Walker, Jr, José A. Cabranes, and Barrington D. Parker - - - took the unusual move of removing Judge Scheidlin from the case, as we discussed here.

Circseal2
Now, counsel on behalf of Judge Scheindlin, have filed a Request for Leave to File Motion to Address Order of Disqualification (here). In addition to rules of appellate procedure, the motion relies upon the First and Fifth Amendments.  Specifically, the motion alleges that discussion of important legal issues by members of the judiciary is crucial to public understanding of the rule of law and is consistent with the values of the First Amendment, and that the general discussions by the judge cannot be deemed to "run afoul" of the Code of Judicial Conduct and cannot justify a sua sponte order removing her as judge.

The removal of the judge has been roundly criticized, but now the Second Circuit has been asked to respond.

 

UPDATE:  NYT article here; Excellent post over at "Wait A Second!" with link the transcript from the "related case" hearing. 

November 6, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Is it the Supreme Court's Role to Fashion a Standard for the Meaning of Clothes?

The United States Supreme Court today heard oral argument in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation centered on the meaning of  “changing clothes” in section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The Seventh Circuit's opinion by Judge Richard Posner found in favor of U.S. Steel that donning and doffing the safety gear was not necessarily changing clothes, because

not everything a person wears is clothing. We say that a person “wears” glasses, or a watch, or his heart on his sleeve, but this just shows that “wear” is a word of many meanings.

Sandifer posnerHe included an image in the opinion (at right) and stated

Almost any English speaker would say that the model in our photo is wearing work clothes.

And indeed, Justice Ginsburg, during the oral argument at the Supreme Court did just that, but the discussion continued:

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But we're dealing with here, from the picture, that looks like clothes to me.

MR. SCHNAPPER: Your Honor, I think that your question raises an excellent point. One of the problems with the picture is that it withholds from you other information that you would use to assess whether to describe it as clothes. You don't know what -­

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Except you would look and say, those clothes probably have something special underneath them. I mean, in ordinary parlance I think that would be a proper use of diction.

MR. SCHNAPPER: If you saw an airbag jacket, you would probably call it clothes unless you are an equestrian. It looks like a jacket. If you saw a compression torsion -- a torso compression bandage in a photograph, you would call it clothes, because you don't have all the relevant information.

JUSTICE ALITO:  Why is it that the jacket and the pants in that picture are not clothes?

MR. SCHNAPPER: In our view -- well, let me -- part of it -- first of all, they are designed for a protective function, to protect you from catching fire.

In addition to the ruminations on the meaning of clothes, perhaps leading to a definitional rule, there were attempts to understand why it mattered in this interpretation of the statute.   The statute excludes from “hours worked”

any time spent in changing clothes or washing at the beginning or end of each workday which was excluded from measured working time during the week involved by the express terms of or by custom or practice under a bona fide collective-bargaining agreement applicable to the particular employee.

Thus an employee would need to be paid for putting on "gear."

But if the Court can't tell by simply looking, then what?  As Justice Kagan noted toward the end of the argument, the distinction between clothes and gear "seems the quintessential question of statutory interpretation to which we would normally defer to the agency," but in this case, the agency hasn't issued a regulation.  Justice Scalia offered his own explanation for the administrative failure to address the matter with a rule: "Too complicated is why." 

Thus, while Judge Posner's opinion did raise some constitutional considerations about agency and executive power regarding differing meanings driven by politics, the constitutional question implicit in the Supreme Court arguments involve the separation of powers and the role of the Court in statutory interpretation.

So it is up to the Court to "fashion a standard," as Eric Schnapper, representing Clifton Sandifer, phrased it during oral argument.

(cross-posted at Dressing Constitutionally)

November 4, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Oral Argument Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fifth Circuit Stays Injunction Against Texas HB 2 Abortion Restrictions

A few days ago, federal District Judge Lee Yeakel enjoined portions of Texas HB 2 in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott.

A Fifth Circuit panel has entered its opinion staying the injunction pending a full consideration of the merits, concluding that there is  "a substantial likelihood that the State will prevail in itsargument that Planned Parenthood failed to establish an undue burden on women seeking abortions or that the hospital-admitting-privileges requirement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion."  The panel also concluded that "the State has made a strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits" on its appeal on the partial injunction pertaining to medication abortions.

As to mandated hospital admitting provisions, the panel observed that the district judge's finding that the requirement failed a rational basis standard "overlooks substantial interests of the State in regulating the medical profession and the State’s interest in “‘protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession." Further, the panel held that the district judge's finding of an undue burden did not apply to "a large fraction" of the women seeking abortions in Texas.

Regarding the partial injunction on medical abortions, the Fifth Circuit panel found it is was overbroad, except in a single respect in which the injunction will remain in effect:

the district court’s injunction continues to apply pending appeal with respect to a mother who is 50 to 63 days from her last menstrual period if the physician who is to perform an abortion procedure on the mother has exercised appropriate medical judgment and determined that, due to a physical abnormality or preexisting condition of the mother, a surgical abortion is not a safe and medically sound option for her.

Otherwise, HB 2, the subject of the well-publicized filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis in now in effect.

 

October 31, 2013 in Abortion, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Gender, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Second Circuit Stays Stop and Frisk Opinion and Removes District Judge

220px-Shira_A._Scheindlin
In a brief opinion , a panel of the United States Court of a Appeals for the Second Circuit - - -John M. Walker, Jr, José A. Cabranes, and Barrington D. Parker - - - have issued a stay of the decisions of District Judge Shira Scheindlin (pictured right)  in Floyd v. City of New York and in Ligon v. City of New York, In both cases, Judge Scheindlin essentially found that the NYPD's implementation of stop and frisk violated equal protection.

The Second Circuit not only stayed the decisions, but also remanded the cases with the order they be assigned to a different judge:

Upon review of the record in these cases, we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Canon 2 (“A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.”); see also Canon 3(C)(1) (“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned . . . .”), and that the appearance of partiality surrounding this litigation was compromised by the District Judge’s improper application of the Court’s “related case rule,” see Transfer of Related Cases, S.D.N.Y. & E.D.N.Y. Local Rule 13(a), [footnote 1] and by a series of media interviews and public statements purporting to respond publicly to criticism of the District Court. [footnote 2].

In support, the opinion's footnote 1 provides:

In a proceeding on December 21, 2007 involving the parties in Daniels v. City of New York, No. 99 Civ. 1695 (S.D.N.Y. filed Mar. 8, 1999), the District Judge stated, “[I]f you got proof of inappropriate racial profiling in a good constitutional case, why don’t you bring a lawsuit? You can certainly mark it as related.” She also stated, “[W]hat I am trying to say, I am sure I am going to get in trouble for saying it, for $65 you can bring that lawsuit.” She concluded the proceeding by noting, “And as I said before, I would accept it as a related case, which the plaintiff has the power to designate.” Two of the attorney groups working on behalf of plaintiffs in Daniels, a case challenging the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practices, helped file Floyd the next month. See generally Joseph Goldstein, A Court Rule Directs Cases Over Friskings to One Judge, N.Y. Times, May 5, 2013.

In footnote 2, the court 's "see e.g." cite lists three articles:

While the Second Circuit's panel opinion includes the disclaimer that the judges "intimate no view on the substance or merits of the pending appeals, which have yet to be fully briefed and argued," it certainly expresses deep disapproval.

 

*UPDATE:  See Toobin's response to the ruling and use of the article he authored here

October 31, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Senate Republicans Successfully Filibuster Millett Nomination for D.C. Circuit

Senate Republicans today successfully filibustered Patricia Millett's nomination for the D.C. Circuit.  The Senate voted 55-38 to end debate and proceed to a vote on the nomination, but the body needed 60 votes under Senate rules.  The Republicans' move blocks the nomination, unless and until the Senate can muster 60 votes, or changes its rules.

Millett would fill one of three vacancies on the court.  The Republicans' move means that this exceptionally important court--often called the second most important court in the country--continues to operate three shy of a full bench.  The move also means that the court continues to be dominated by judges appointed by Republican presidents (despite Republicans' argues to the contrary).  (There's an even split among the active judges, but judges appointed by Republicans are dominant among the semi-retired.  Those semi-retired judges still sit and help decide cases.)  Finally, the move means that a supremely well qualified nominee who receieved bipartisan praise won't get the nod from the Senate, despite receiving a majority to proceed to a vote.

No word yet whether Democrats will use the nuclear option and try to change the filibuster rule to bypass Republican obstruction, or whether leaders will come up with some other way to proceed.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the roll-call (h/t Glenn Sugameli).

 

October 31, 2013 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Courts and Judging, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Texas District Judge Declares Portions of HB 2 Restricting Abortion Unconstitutional

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In his opinion in Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas v. Abbott, Judge Lee Yeakel has enjoined portions of Texas HB 2, passed in July (despite a well-publicized filibuster by state senator Wendy Davis) and slated to become effective October 29, 2013.

 The judge found unconstitutional the "admitting privileges provision" that provided:

A physician performing or inducing an abortion:
(1) must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that:
(A) is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced; and
(B) provides obstetrical or gynecological health care services

He concluded that the provision placed a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion and failed the rational basis test.  As to the substantial obstacle, the judge noted that hospital admitting privileges for physicians performing abortions can be difficult to obtain; for example a physician performing low-risk abortions may simply not have sufficient surgeries to qualify.  Moreover, many physicians are not within the 30 mile limit.  Regarding a rational relationship, the judge found that hospital emergency rooms admitting a patient and hospitals subsequently treating her do not disfavor a patient whose physician does not have admitting privileges.

Judge Yeakel did not declare unconstitutional HB 2's revision of physician prescription of abortion-inducing medications such as RU-486.  HB 2 essentially mandates following the FDA protocol, a protocol that is not usually followed and about which there is substantial disagreement.  Judge Yeakel, however, found that HB 2 did not impose an undue burden because the physician could perform a surgical abortion.  An exception, however, must be added if the physician determines that the health or life of the woman is at stake.

Texas is reportedly already appealing the decision.  It is not the first time that Judge Lee (Earl Leroy) Yeakel has rendered an opinion declaring portions of a Texas statute restricting abortion unconstitutional and been appealed.  Last year in Planned Parenthood Ass'n of Hidalgo Cty. v. Seuhs, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed Judge Yeakel's preliminary injunction involving a Texas regulation that expanded the Texas Women's Health Program prohibition of funding for health care not merely to abortions, but to any organization affiliated with abortion.

 UPDATE: FIFTH CIRCUIT STAY

October 28, 2013 in Abortion, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Government Notifies Defendant of Warrantless Wiretap, Tees Up Challenge

The Department of Justice for the first time notified a criminal defendant that evidence against him was obtained through a warrantless wiretap, according to the New York Times.  The move gives the criminal defendant the standing to challenge warrantless wiretapes that the plaintiffs in Clapper v. Amnesty International lacked and invites his challenge of warrantless wiretaps.  Our previous post on the issue is here.

The defendant, Jamshid Muhtorov, is charged with "provid[ing] and attempt[ing] to provide material support and resources, to wit: personnel . . . to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically the Islamic Jihad Union . . . knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization, that the organization had engaged in and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism, and the offense occurred in whole or in part within the United States" in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2339B.  The notice says that the government

hereby provides notice to this Court and the defense, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. Secs. 1806(c) and 1881e(a), that the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 . . . .

The Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs in Clapper lacked standing to challenge warrantless wiretaps, because they couldn't show that they'd been, or would be, wiretapped under the specific statutory authority they sought to challenge.  Now that the government has disclosed that its evidence resulted from warrantless wiretaps, Muhtorov has clear standing to challenge the wiretaps. 

This merely puts the legality of the wiretaps before the courts; it doesn't answer the underlying question.  For that, we'll have to await the ruling and appeals.

October 27, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Criminal Procedure, Fourth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Not So Fast Nadon: The Supreme Court of Canada's Would-Be Justice On Hold

As we discussed when we reported that Marc Nadon had been nominated to be the newest Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada, there existed a constitutional question regarding whether a judge on the Federal Court of Appeal was eligible for the Supreme Court. 

 

Marc-nadon
Marc Nadon, Portrait (prematurely?) on the Supreme Court of Canada website
It's a complex issue, especially for those not steeped in Canadian constitutional law, but luckily Canadian ConLawProfs Michael Plaxton and Carissima Mathen have made available on ssrn their excellent paper, Purposive Interpretation, Quebec, and the Supreme Court Act.

 

They set out the facts at the beginning of their discussion:

On 30 September 2013, the Prime Minister announced the nomination of Marc Nadon, a Federal Court of Appeal judge, to fill the seat vacated by Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish. The announcement was accompanied an unusual supporting document – an opinion  by a former Supreme Court Justice, The Honourable Ian Binnie.  Asked whether the Supreme Court Act permits the appointment of Federal Court judges, Binnie wrote a brief memorandum arguing that it does – a conclusion endorsed by another former Supreme Court Justice, Louise Charron, and Professor Peter Hogg.  After Nadon was sworn in, a Toronto lawyer launched proceedings in Federal Court to contest the appointment. This prompted Nadon to decline to participate in court hearings until the issue is resolved.  On October 22, in apparent response to these events, the federal government announced that it would introduce a “declaratory” change to the Supreme Court Act. It would also seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court of Canada as to whether Federal Court judges are qualified for appointment.

The Supreme Court of Canada action is now docketed here.

As Plaxton and Mathen describe the "apparent interpretive problem raised by Justice Nadon’s appointment," 

Section 5 of the Supreme Court Act states: “Any person may be appointed a judge who is or has been a judge of a superior court of a province or a barrister or advocate of at least ten years standing at the bar of a province.” Section 6 provides: “At least three of the judges shall be appointed from among the judges of the Court of Appeal or of the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec or from among the advocates of that province.” Mr Justice Nadon was, at the time of his nomination, neither a judge of a Quebec superior court nor a current member of the practicing bar. It is therefore not clear that he is “among the advocates” of Quebec within the meaning of section 6.

Ultimately, they conclude that the argument in favor of Nadon's eligibility privileges section 5 over section 6, with its purpose "to protect the authority and legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of Quebec citizens, advocates and jurists."

This controversy over eligiblity has certainly eclipsed the earlier concerns regarding Nadon's appointment contributing to the lack of gender balance and representation on the Court.  


October 24, 2013 in Comparative Constitutionalism, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Access to the Courts Includes Arbitration Proceedings, Divided Third Circuit Panel Holds

 The First Amendment includes a right of public (and press) access to trials.  But what is a "trial"?  Or, as the Third Circuit considered in its opinion in Delaware Coalition for Open Government v. Strine, is there a right of public access to a state sponsored arbitration program.  By a divided panel - - - with a separate opinion from each of  the three judges - - - the majority held that the First Amendment requires public access to state arbitration proceedings.

800px-Ferdinand_Brütt_Vor_den_RichternWhile the majority affirmed the district judge, the appellate panel disagreed with the standard the district judge applied.  The correct standard, according to the apellate panel, is the "experience and logic" test.  The test derives from cases applying the open access to a trial principle that the United States Supreme Court enunicated in Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia in 1980, including Press Enterprise v. Superior Court (II), in 1986, considering whether preliminary criminal hearings must be open to the public.  Thus, quoting from Press Enterprise II,  as the majority opinion by Judge Dolores Sloviter phrased it:

A proceeding qualifies for the First Amendment right of public access when “there has been a tradition of accessibility” to that kind of proceeding, and when “access plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.”

The history prong - - - asking whether there is a tradition of accessibility - - - rests upon a determination of the "kind" of proceeding in question.  Here, the parties disagreed whether the focus should be on "civil trials" or "arbitrations": the court provided an in-depth discussion of both.  The civil trial discussion traversed familiar ground, with the easy conclusion that civil trials and courtrooms are generally open to the public.  The arbitration discussion began with a mention of English arbitrations in the twelfth century, concluding with a finding that the "history of arbitrations reveals a mixed record of openness."  But, the court continued, the history shows that "arbitrations with non-state action in private venues tends to be closed."  This is distinct from the Delaware scheme at issue, "a binding arbitration before a [state] judge that takes place in a courtroom," which is more like a usual civil trial. 

On the logic prong, not surprisingly given the majority's discussion of history, public access was deemed to play a significant positive role.  Judge Sloviter's opinion revealed a pointed disagreement with Judge Jane Roth's dissent:

I agree with Judge Roth on the virtues of arbitration. I cannot help but question why the Delaware scheme limits those virtues to litigants whose disputes involve an amount in controversy of at least a million dollars, and neither of whom is a consumer. One wonders why the numerous advantages set forth in Judge Roth’s dissenting opinion (which apparently motivated the Delaware legislature) should not also be available to businesspersons with less than a million dollars in dispute. I see no explanation in Judge Roth’s dissent for the limitation to rich businesspersons.

In her dissent, Judge Roth states that she believes that I do not appreciate the difference between adjudication and arbitration, i.e., “that a judge in a judicial proceeding derives her authority from the coercive power of the state, while a judge serving as an arbitrator derives her authority from the consent of the parties.” Indeed I do.

Delaware’s proceedings are conducted by Chancery Court judges, in Chancery Court during ordinary court hours, and yield judgments that are enforceable in the same way as judgments resulting from ordinary Chancery Court proceedings. Delaware’s proceedings derive a great deal of legitimacy and authority from the state. They would be far less attractive without their association with the state. Therefore, the interests of the state and the public in openness must be given weight, not just the interests of rich businesspersons in confidentiality.

In his concurring opinion, Judge Julio Fuentes seeks to clarify that it is not the entire arbitration scheme that violates the First Amendment, but only the provision requiring the proceedings to be "confidential" and "not of public record" until they are appealed.

Thus, these high stakes commercial arbitrations allowed by Delaware law and performed by Delaware judges can continue - - - but they are no longer confidential.  This certainly seems the correct outcome if the First Amendment access to "trials" has substantive meaning.

[image via]

October 23, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FISA Court Says 24.4 Percent of Matters Involve Substantive Changes

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Presiding Judge Reggie Walton wrote to Senators Leahy and Grassley this week that "24.4% of matters submitted [to the FISA court] ultimately involved substantive changes to the information provided by the government or to the authorities granted as a result of Court inquiry or action."  Judge Walton wrote that "[t]his does not include, for example, mere typographical corrections."  The figure comes from a three-month study of FISA court matters, between July 1, 2013, and September 20, 2013, but Judge Walton wrote that "we have every reason to believe that this three month period is typical . . . ."

The letter is a follow up to a letter that Judge Walton sent to the Judiciary Committee on July 29, 2013 (included after the most recent letter).  It doesn't say how many matters the FISA court dealt with during the three-month period or give any other details.  It does say, however, that the FISA court will continue to collect statistics.

The two letters come amid continued scrutiny of the FISA court, following criticism this summer after the Snowden release.  The Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing on the FISA earlier this month.  In his opening remarks, Senatory Leahy described features of  his bill, S. 1215, the FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013:

Our legislation would end Section 215 bulk collection.  It also would ensure that the FISA pen register statute and National Security Letters (NSLs) could not be used to authorize bulk collection. . . .

In addition to stopping bulk collection, our legislation would improve judicial review by the FISA Court and enhance public reporting on the use of a range of surveillance activities.  The bill would also require Inspector General reviews of the implementation of these authorities . . . .

Senator Leahy's bill doesn't include the new privacy advocate that has gotten so much attention.  That office, dubbed the Office of the Constitutional Advocate, is in Senator Wyden's S. 1551.

October 16, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oral Arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action on Michigan's Prop 2

Today's oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) raised a raft of interesting hypotheticals, including this question: Is the Michigan's state constitution's equal protection clause, which mirrors the federal one, itself unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

Of course, the issue before the Court involves a different provision of Michigan's Constitution: Prop 2, adopted by voter referendum in 2006, and now Art I §26 of the state constitution. 

MichProp2The referendum occurred subsequent to the Court's upholding of Michigan University School of Law's affirmative action policy in Grutter v. Bollinger, even as the Court held unconstitutional the plan of the large undergraduate university as not sufficiently narrowly tailored.

Recall that the en banc Sixth Circuit majority in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Regents of the University of Michigan relied upon the so-called "political process" aspect of the Equal Protection Clause which asks whether a majority may vote to amend its constitution to limit the rights of a minority to seek relief, relying on Washington v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 458 U.S. 457 (1982) and Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U.S. 385 (1969).

The oral argument reflected a deep suspicion of the political process rationale, with the most serious questioning being directed at what the limits to such a doctrine might be.  Justice Alito returned to the issue several times, posing various hypotheticals about faculty admissions plans that might be overruled by a dean or president of the university.  Or maybe, he continued,

it's overruled by the regents. Maybe, if State laws allowed, it's -- it's overruled by an executive department of the State. Maybe it's overruled by the legislature through ordinary legislation. Maybe it's overruled through a constitutional amendment.  At what point does the political restructuring doctrine kick in?

Later in the rebuttal argument of the Petitioner, Justice Alito suggested an answer to his own question:

Seattle and this case both involve constitutional amendments. So why can't the law -- the law be drawn -- the line be drawn there? If you change the allocation of power in one of these less substantial ways, that's one thing; but when you require a constitutional amendment that's really a big deal.

Indeed, this was exactly the rationale of the en banc Sixth Circuit's majority opinion, as the opening passages to that opinion illustrated.

And Justice Kennedy, seemingly in his role as a "swing vote" - - - although Justice Kagan is recused - - - seemed to share the specific concerns of how to draw a line in the cases.

Justice Scalia certainly did not seem inclined to worry about drawing lines or allocations of power.  Indeed, he rejected the notion that Prop 2, now Article I §26 of the Michigan Constitution - - - despite its textual "on its face" use of a race - - - made a racial classification.  He chastised Mark Rosenblum, arguing on behalf of some of the respondents, for referring to Prop 2 as including a "facial racial classification":

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's not a racial classification. You should not refer to it that way.

MR. ROSENBAUM: It is a racial -­

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's the prohibition of racial classifications.

MR. ROSENBAUM: No, Your Honor.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Every prohibition of racial classification is itself a racial classification?

After further discussion, Justice Scalia asked,

In that sense, the 14th Amendment itself is a racial classification, right?

To which Rosenbaum replied that he was using the Fourteenth Amendment itself as measurement.  Yet this theme recurred, and had been part of the Petitioner's opening argument, including references to Michigan's equal protection clause.

Shanta3Scalia also outright dismissed an appeal to originalism.  When Shanta Driver (pictured right) on behalf of Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (and who is its National Chair), began her argument asking the Court to affirm the Sixth Circuit and "to bring the 14th Amendment back to its original purpose and meaning, which is to protect minority rights against a white majority, which did not occur in this case," Scalia interjected:

JUSTICE SCALIA: My goodness, I thought we've -- we've held that the 14th Amendment protects all 
races. I mean, that was the argument in the early years, that it protected only -- only the blacks. But I thought we rejected that. You -- you say now that we have to proceed as though its purpose is not to protect whites, only to protect minorities?

And Justice Roberts surfaced the position that affirmative action was actually a detriment to those it sought to benefit, echoing some of the arguments in Thomas's dissent in Fisher, such as the so-called "mismatch theory."

Thus, while the arguments sometimes sought to distance themselves from the affirmative action battles that the Court re-engaged last term in Fisher v. UT, certainly Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is another such battle, albeit on slightly different doctrinal terrain.  It seems unlikely that it will have a different ultimate outcome.

 

October 15, 2013 in Affirmative Action, Courts and Judging, Equal Protection, Fourteenth Amendment, Oral Argument Analysis, Race, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Age Discrimination in the Supreme Court: Oral Argument in Madigan v. Levin

The facts of Madigan v. Levin argued today seem simple: Levin, an attorney working for the state of Illinois as an assistant state attorney was terminated in 2006 when he was 61 years old, being replaced by a younger attorney.  At least two other older attorneys were also terminated, replaced by younger attorneys.  

FromVanityFairWhether these facts, and the further facts to be determined, would substantiate a claim of age discrimination is the question to be decided on the merits.  But before any consideration of the merits, there is the thorny question of the grounding of the claim.  Can it be the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, ADEA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621?  What about the Court's decision in Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, holding that Congress had no power to abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity when it used its Fourteenth Amendment §5 power to pass ADEA?  And is Levin even an "employee" within the ADEA?  And what about GERA, the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 (Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1991), which has also run into abrogation of state immunity problems?   Which is why, perhaps, Mr.Levin, even after exhausting his administrative remedies with the EEOC, sought to bring a claim under the Equal Protection Clause, using the jurisdictional statute 42 USC §1983.   But the state argued that Levin's constitutional claims were precluded by the comprehensive scheme Congress had enacted to address age discrimination, the ADEA.

Affirming the district judge, the Seventh Circuit held that the ADEA did not bar a constitutional claim, with extensive analysis of the legislative history, but also reasoning in part that as a practical matter, this would mean that employees of state employers would be left without a federal damages claim because of the reasoning of Kimel. The Seveneth Circuit then ruled that the individual defendants did not enjoy qualified immunity, age discrimination being "clearly established" as a right under the Equal Protection Clause, with age classifications being scrutinized under the rational basis standard.  The Seventh Circuit's opinion seemed well-reasoned, but it conflicted with the decisions of the other circuits - - - Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth - - - that had decided that ADEA precluded equal protection claims based on age.

But while the attorney for the state of Illinois, Michael Scordo, did have a chance to articulate his finely crafted opening issue statement, Justice Ginsburg asked the first question, and the complex case became even more complex:

Mr. Scodro, there's a preliminary question before we get to the question you presented, and that is: What authority did the Seventh Circuit have to deal with the question under the Age Discrimination Act? I mean, it was -- it went to the Seventh Circuit on interlocutory review.

The procedural problem - - - did the Seventh Circuit have jurisdiction and thus does the Supreme Court have jurisdiction - - - had been flagged by an amicus brief of Law Professors,  including Stephen Vladeck as counsel of record, who argued that

the Seventh Circuit lacked “pendent appellate jurisdiction” on an interlocutory qualified immunity appeal to decide the question on which certiorari was granted, i.e., whether the remedial scheme created by Congress in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., displaces age-discrimination suits by state employees under the Equal Protection Clause and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

As for the United States Supreme Court? The law professors brief argued:

To be sure, as this Court’s prior decisions attest, because the Seventh Circuit had jurisdiction over the qualified immunity issue, the Supreme Court still has the power to proceed to the merits notwithstanding the pendent jurisdictional defect below. But compelling reasons of prudence, practice, and policy all favor vacating the decision below and returning this case to the district court, rather than rewarding the Court of Appeals’ jurisdictional bootstrapping.

As Justice Scalia noted, most of the oral argument was taken up with these procedural matters - - - what he labeled the "other stuff" - - - with limited discussion of the merits.

But there was some discussion of the merits.  In a colloquy with Justices Alito and later Kagan, the problem with the Equal Protection Clause claim got some attention.  The attorney for Levin, Edward Theobald, was pressed on whether Levin could possibly prevail given the rational basis standard.  Here's a snippet:

JUSTICE ALITO: And what if the Illinois legislature passed a statute that said: Now, forget about the ADEA. There is no ADEA. There is no state anti-discrimination law involved here. All we are talking about is equal protection. And they passed a law that said: All attorneys working for the State of Illinois must retire at the age of 60, because everybody knows, you know, once a lawyer passes 60, there's nothing left.

MR. THEOBALD: We're all in trouble.

JUSTICE ALITO: Would that be -- would that survive a rational basis review?

MR. THEOBALD: I don't believe so.

Of course, the Justices would not be in trouble if Illinois passed such a law; they are not only federal employees, they have life tenure, a benefit that is not universally applauded.

And they also have the power not only to decide the case, but also to decide that they do not - - - or should not - - - have the power to do so.

[image from Vanity Fair, 1903, via]

 

October 7, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Equal Protection, Oral Argument Analysis, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Daily Read: Justice Scalia Interview

NY Magazine Cover ScaliaJustice Scalia previously gave a brief interview to New York Magazine on "his childhood," and this week's magazine has an extensive interview with Jennifer Senior about almost everything else.

What newspapers does he read?  Is he softening on his views of homosexuality?  Does he believe in hell and the devil?  Are women protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?  What are his hobbies other than hunting?  His television viewing? Favorite novels?

Most wrenching decision?:

Probably the most wrenching was Morrison v. Olson, which involved the independent counsel. To take away the power to prosecute from the president and give it to somebody who’s not under his control is a terrible erosion of presidential power. And it was wrenching not only because it came out wrong—I was the sole dissenter—but because the opinion was written by Rehnquist, who had been head of the Office of Legal Counsel, before me, and who I thought would realize the importance of that power of the president to prosecute. And he not only wrote the opinion; he wrote it in a manner that was more extreme than I think Bill Brennan would have written it. That was wrenching.

But later, he comes back to the opinion:

As to which is the most impressive opinion: I still think Morrison v. Olson. But look, we have different standards, I suppose, for what’s a great opinion. I care about the reasoning. And the reasoning in Morrison, I thought, was devastating—devastating of the majority. If you ask me which of my opinions will have the most impact in the future, it probably won’t be that dissent; it’ll be some majority opinion. But it’ll have impact in the future not because it’s so beautifully reasoned and so well written. It’ll have impact in the future because it’s authoritative. That’s all that matters, unfortunately.

It's not what he terms his most "heroic" decision, however, reserving that for a very different sort of opinion.

I mean the most heroic opinion—maybe the only heroic opinion I ever issued— was my statement refusing to recuse.

From the case involving Vice-­President Cheney, with whom you’d gone hunting?

I thought that took some guts. Most of my opinions don’t take guts. They take smarts. But not courage. And I was proud of that. I did the right thing and it let me in for a lot of criticism and it was the right thing to do and I was proud of that. So that’s the only heroic thing I’ve done.

 Scalia's 2004 Memorandum in Cheney v. United States District Court for the District of Columbia is here and a good discussion of the controversy from Michael Dorf is here.

Given the standards of recusal - - - despite continuing controversies - - - there is little reason that Scalia or any other Supreme Court Justice should not give as many interviews as possible, even if they might reveal "bias." 

 UPDATE:

Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate has an excellent analysis of the interview, including asking for the interviewer's perceptions about the interview: Are Jennifer Senior and Justice Scalia as far apart as they seem?

I asked Senior whether this [perception] felt accurate. She replied, “It's embarrassing, but the overlap between our worlds is almost nonexistent. It explains why the left and the right both responded so enthusiastically to this piece. Each side sees its own view, affirmed. One sees a monster and the other sees a hero. It's extraordinary, actually. The O'Reilly constituents think he's speaking sense; the Jon Stewart vote thinks virtually everything the guy says is nuts.”

October 7, 2013 in Books, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Executive Authority, Fourteenth Amendment, Interpretation, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fifth Circuit Reverses Prior Restraint of Total Ban on Plaintiffs' Website

Germany_in_XXI_century._Criminal_policeIn an unanimous opinion in Marceaux v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court judge’s protective order requiring that the Plaintiffs, current and former police officers in the City of Lafayette, Louisiana, “take down” their website - - - "http://www.realcopsvcraft.com" - - - used to communicate their cause.  (Note: the website is presently not operable).

The underlying lawsuit by the Plaintiff police officers claims that the government Defendants sought to “prevent police officers from reporting certain civil rights abuses and corruption” within the police department and “retaliated against them for objecting to these practices.”   The website had “an image of the Lafayette Police Chief, a party in this suit; excerpts of critical statements made in the media concerning the Lafayette PD Defendants; certain voice recordings of conversations between the Officers and members of the Lafayette Police Department; and other accounts of the Lafayette PD Defendants’ alleged failings.”  The website seemed to have been once owned by the Plaintiffs’ attorneys, but they “eventually transferred ownership of the website”  to one of the police officers.

The appellate court rightly viewed the district judge’s order to cease the website as a prior restraint, but sought to “balance the First Amendment rights of trial participants with our affirmative constitutional duty to minimize the effects of prejudicial pretrial publicity,” citing the classic case of Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (1966). 

In this civil case, theFifth Circuit, however held that there was not sufficient evidence to "establish a nexus between the comments and the potential for prejudice to the jury venire through the entirety of the Website."  The panel found that ordering a removal of the website was not sufficiently “narrowly tailored” to "excising maters with a sufficient potential for prejudice to warrant prior restraint."

But the panel stated it did not intend to "tie the hands of the district court" in addressing some of the content of the website.  As to the specific content of certain recordings made by the Plaintiffs and placed on the website, the panel did discuss the "ethics" of this, noting both the that ABA position is that a lawyer who records the conversation of another does not necessarily violate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct AND that the recordings were not made by an attorney.  Thus, the district judge's conclusion that the recordings had to be omitted from the website because they were "unethically obtained" was disapproved.

This rather brief - - - 12 page - - - opinion is well reasoned and would make an interesting class exercise for First Amendment, especially should the website "go live" again.

[image circa 1900 via]

 

October 1, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Speech, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Court Allows "Fast and Furious" Subpoena Case to Move Forward

Judge Amy Berman Jackson (D.D.C.) today denied AG Eric Holder's motion to dismiss a case brought against him by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee seeking to enforce its subpoena for documents related to DOJ's infamous February 4, 2011, letter denying that gun-walking in the "fast and furious" program had taken place.  (The subpoena wasn't over the "fast and furious" program itself; instead, it was for any documents related to the government's February 4 denial.)  Our latest post on the case, with background and links to earlier posts, is here.

Judge Jackson ruled in Committee on Oversight v. Holder that the case is justiciable, and that there's no good reason for the courts to decline to hear it.  The ruling doesn't touch the merits.

The ruling means that the case will move forward on the merits question--whether executive privilege protects the subpoenaed documents--unless the parties settle.

Judge Jackson wrote that the case was a straightforward application of Committee on the Judiciary v. Miers:

And five years ago, another court in this District carefully considered and rejected the same arguments being advanced by the Attorney General here.  In a case involving a different Congress and a different President, [Miers], the court concluded in a persuasive opinion that it had jurisdiction to resolve a similar clash between the branches.

Op. at 4.

September 30, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Privilege, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)