Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Ninth Circuit Grants Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus of Death Row Inmate on Equal Protection and Due Process Grounds
In a divided opinion in Ayala v. Wong, the Ninth Circuit today granted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus based on equal protection and due process grounds.
As the opinion describes, during the
selection of the jury that convicted Ayala and sentenced him to death, the prosecution used its peremptory challenges to strike all of the black and Hispanic jurors available for challenge. The trial judge concluded that Ayala had established a prima facie case of racial discrimination under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), but permitted the prosecution to give its justifications for the challenges of these jurors in an in camera hearing from which Ayala and his counsel were excluded. The trial judge then accepted the prosecution’s justifications for its strikes without disclosing them to the defense or permitting it to respond.
The failure to disclose the prosecution's rationales and allow defense counsel to demonstrate they were pretextual violates the process the Court mandated in Batson. In Alaya's case, this was compounded by what the opinion labels "the state’s later loss of a large portion of the record." This portion included juror information and the court concluded that because "the state’s loss of the questionnaires deprived Ayala of the ability to meaningfully appeal the denial of his Batson claim, he was deprived of due process."
In a dissenting opinion as lengthy as the majority, Judge Consuelo M. Callahan accuses the majority of not honoring the procedural obstacles to Alaya's claim, of making unwarranted suppositions, and of opening the floodgates. She writes:
In essence, the majority holds that because the record does not affirmatively negate the existence of a possible racial bias, the existence of such a bias may be assumed. Under this approach all Batson challenges in federal habeas petitions must be granted because no one can disprove a negative.
Yet the converse would also be true, of course. If Alaya's petition were not granted, it would allow judges to deny all litigants, including criminal defendants, the ability to refute the proffered race-neutral explanation, and to absolutely insulate a Batson claim from appellate review.
[image: The Jury by John Morgan, 1861, via]
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
A federal district judge has enjoined specific provisions of Ohio’s election code that disqualify provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct or cast with deficiencies in the ballot envelope form, when the ballot’s deficiency is the result of an error by the poll worker. In the 61 page opinion in the consolidated case, SEIU v. Husted, Judge Algenon Marbley first describes the "turbulent saga of Ohio’s provisional voting regime." The bulk of the opinion is a carefully reasoned application of equal protection principles to the various provisions as part of the likelihood of success on the merits prong for granting a preliminary injunction.
Marbley's opinion considers four equal protection challenges: the Wrong-Precinct Ballot Prohibition; Ballot Envelope Deficiencies; Disparate Impact of Poll-Worker Error by County; and Unequal Treatment of Provisional Voters. The most extensive analysis focuses on the wrong precinct issue, especially given the part that poll workers play in the process resulting in errors.
The Judge does cite Bush v. Gore several times, including quoting the statement that "[h]aving once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.” Bush, 531 U.S. at 104-05. As expected, the Sixth Circuit case of Hunter v. Hamilton Cnty. Bd. of Elections, 635 F.3d 219 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Hunter I”) is also prominent, not only for its adoption of Bush v. Gore language but because many of the same issues are involved. The opinion is sure to be quickly appealed to the Sixth Circuit, even as a complaint challenging Ohio's early voting regime on the basis of equal protection is also being litigated.
[image: 1850 map of Ohio via]
Thursday, August 23, 2012
In a brief opinion, a panel of the Ninth Circuit interpreted the Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to provide no property interest in continued employment necessary for a due process claim by a Special Assistant to the Governor. More precisely, the Ninth Circuit deferred to the opinion of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, having certified the questions to the Supreme Court and attaching the court's opinion as an appendix to its own.
The Commonwealth Constitution, Article III, section 22, establishes an "Office of Special Assistant to the Governor for Women's Affairs," and provides that the "governor shall appoint a person, who is qualified by virtue of education and experience, to be the special assistant" and the "special assistant may be removed only for cause."
In Peter-Palican v. Government of Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Ms. Peter-Palican argued that the new governor's termination of her as Special Assistant to the Governor for Women's Affairs violated her due process rights.
The Ninth Circuit held that the "removal for cause" did not extend beyond the term of the governor who appointed her, adopting the Commonwealth's Supreme Court decision. Thus, Ms. Peter-Palican did not have the requisite property interest as a threshold for a due process inquiry.
The Ninth Circuit's determination that the Commonwealth Supreme Court is the final arbiter of its constitution comports with general federalism principles, although the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands is not a state. Indeed, its status is rather unique, governed by the "Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in Political Union with the United States of America," approved by Congress, and signed by President Ford in 1976. The Covenant exempts specific portions of the Constitution as well as specific federal laws (importantly, immigration and minimum wage laws) unless adopted by the Commonwealth.
The "removal for cause" provision in a constitution would seem to provide some protection from changing elected officials such as governors. Perhaps if the position were not a "special assistant to the governor" the Commonwealth Supreme Court - - - and the Ninth Circuit - - - would have viewed the matter differently.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Federal DC Judge Enjoins Small Business Affirmative Action Program as Applied to Military Simulators
In an extensive opinion in DynaLantic Corp. v. United States Department of Defense, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has enjoined the Small Business Administration and the Department of Defense from awarding procurements for military simulators under the Section 8(a) program without first articulating a strong basis in evidence for doing so.
In a nutshell, the judge found that the constitutionality infirmity resided in the agencies' failure to specifically determine "that it is necessary or appropriate to set aside contracts in the military simulation and training industry." Relying upon City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469 (1989) (plurality opinion), Judge Sullivan stated that " Croson made clear that the government must provide evidence demonstrating there were eligible minorities in the relevant market - in that case, the Richmond construction industry - that were denied entry or access notwithstanding their eligibility," and thus the agencies' lack of specific studies relating to the military simulation industry was fatal.
Yet Judge Sullivan rejected the facial challenge to Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act which permits the federal government to limit the issuance of certain contracts to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses. The corporation argued that the Section 8(a) program - - - a program that evolved from Executive Orders issued by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon in response to the Kerner Commission - - - violated the Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Applying the rigorous standard of United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745 (1987). requiring that the "challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid,” Judge Sullivan carefully considered reams of studies, data, and information, as well as the corporation's arguments attacking the provision for being both overinclusive and underinclusive.
This litigation began in 1995 when the Navy determined it would award its contract for a flight simulator for the Huey helicopter (pictured above) through the Section 8 (a) program. DynaLantic's lawsuit was dismissed for standing, the D.C. Circuit reversed, and then protracted litigation continued as Congress reauthorized the program and a plethora of studies, evidence, and arguments accumulated.
As the educational affirmative action case of Fisher goes to the United States Supreme Court, DynaLantic is a reminder of the continued legacy of Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U.S. 200 (1995), as well as Croson in the government procurement context.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
In in an opinion exceeding 100 pages, Judge Alan Kay, Senior District Judge for the District of Hawai'i, upheld the Hawai'i marriage scheme in Jackson v. Abercrombie. The plaintiffs had argued that Hawai'i Constitution Article 1, Section 23 stating that “[t]he legislature shall have the power to reserve marriage to opposite- sex couples,” and Hawaii Revised Statutes § 572-1, which states that marriage “shall be only between a man and a woman,” violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution. Governor Abercrombie's Answer agreed with the plaintiffs' constitutional arguments. However, Defendant Fuddy, Hawai'i Director of Health, and Intervenor Hawai'i Family Forum, opposed the plaintiffs, and the Judge resolved the case on Summary Judgment.
Those conversant with same-sex marriage jurisprudence in the United States will recall that Hawai'i is a landmark in the second-generation litigation: In Baehr v. Lewin, 852 P.2d 44 (Haw. 1993), the Hawai'i Supreme Court found the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the state constitution. This decision prompted the state constitutional amendment, Article I, Section 3, referenced above (and interestingly in terms of judicial review, not prohibiting same-sex marriage but allocating that power only to the legislature and not to the courts). It also prompted Congress to pass DOMA - - - the Defense of Marriage Act - - - constitutionally suspect at present.
Judge Kay rehearses these histories at length. However, he rests his rejection of the plaintiffs' constitutional challenges on a "decision" of the first-generation of same-sex marriage litigation: The United States Supreme Court’s summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972) (mem.). For Judge Kay: "Baker is the last word from the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of a state law limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples and thus remains binding on this Court." (Opinion at 46).
Most courts considering the issue have rejected the 1972 summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. Thus, Judge Kay also provides an "alternative analysis" under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. He applies rational basis review, concluding that "marriage" can be reserved to opposite-sex couples because the legislature can rationally choose to encourage the stability of relationships that have the ability to "procreate naturally" and choose to promote the raising of children by "a mother and a father." Judge Kay also credits the legislature's rational choice to "proceed with caution" in an area of social change:
Hawaii could rationally conclude that by enacting the reciprocal beneficiaries act, followed years later by the civil unions law, and retaining the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman, it is addressing a highly-debated social issue cautiously. By doing so, it may observe the effect of the reciprocal beneficiaries and civil unions laws before deciding whether or not to extend the title marriage, along with the already conferred legal rights, to same-sex couples.
Yet Judge Kay's ultimate rejection goes further. He writes that "to suddenly constitutionalize the issue of same-sex marriage “would short-circuit” the legislative actions that have been taking place in Hawaii." (Opinion at 118). Certainly, the judicial restraint arguments are familiar by now, but to write in 2012 that the plaintiffs seek to "suddenly constitutionalize the issue of same-sex marriage" is odd. Indeed, it is undermined by Judge Kay's own opinion with its careful history of second-generation litigation since 1990 and his reliance on a summary dismissal in 1972.
The plaintiffs are doubtless preparing their appeal to the Ninth Circuit.
August 12, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Orientation, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
In a brief Order today, a panel of the Ninth Circuit has issued an emergency stay of Arizona's restrictive abortion law, despite a federal district judge's holding yesterday that the law was constitutional.
In the Isaacson v. Horne order, the Ninth Circuit stated:
The court enjoins enforcement of the provisions of Arizona House Bill 2036 that place restrictions upon and criminalize the performance of abortions from 20 weeks gestational age, pending appeal. 2012 Ariz. Legis. Serv. 250 (H.B. 2036) (West) (to be codified as Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-2159);
The Ninth Circuit also expedited the briefing and oral argument schedule.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In a relatively brief opinion in Isaacson v. Horne, federal judge James Teilborg rejected constitutional challenges to Arizona House Bill 2036 (“H.B. 2036”), signed into law by the Governor in April 2012, restricting all abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later, except in "medical emergency." The judge evaluated the legislative findings of "the documented risks to women’s health and the strong medical evidence that unborn children feel pain during an abortion at [20 weeks] gestational age."
The opinion's reasoning largely rests on two extensive quotations. First, the judge quotes from Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 879-80 (1992), regarding the definition of “medical emergency,” concluding that the Arizona statute is within the broad definition. Second, the judge relied on Gonzales v. Carhart, 550 U.S. 124 (2007) and its description of one type of procedure. The judge then credited the legislature's fetal pain rationale, finding that "by 7 weeks gestational age, pain sensors develop in the face of the unborn child and, by 20 weeks, sensory receptors develop all over the child’s body and the children have a full complement of pain receptors." The judge did add that as an additional legitimate interest, the "instance of complications is highest after twenty weeks of 20 gestation" supported the interest in the pregnant woman's health.
The Center for Reproductive Rights will undoubtedly appeal.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
In a 7-4 en banc opinion today in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds, the Eighth Circuit disagreed with the panel opinion and the district judge and upheld the constitutionality of a South Dakota statutory provision requiring the disclosure to patients seeking abortions of an “[i]ncreased risk of suicide ideation and suicide,” S.D.C.L. § 34-23A- 10.1(1)(e)(ii).
Planned Parenthood contended that requiring a physician to present the suicide advisory imposes an undue burden on abortion rights and violates the free speech rights of the physician. The court conflated the undue burden (due process) claim and the physician First Amendment claim: "In short, to succeed on either its undue burden or compelled speech claims, Planned Parenthood must show that the disclosure at issue “is either untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the patient’s decision to have an abortion.”
Judge Gruender's opinion for the majority seemingly acknowledged that there was no evidence that abortion caused suicidal ideation. Instead, the issue was the "accepted usage of the term 'increased risk' in the relevant medical field." The opinion found that based on the medical usage, the statutory requirement "does not imply a disclosure of a causal relationship," instead it is merely a disclosure that "the risk of suicide and suicide ideation is higher among women who abort compared to women in other relevant groups, such as women who give birth or do not become pregnant."
The majority rejected the relevancy of Planned Parenthood's argument that certain underlying factors, such as pre-existing mental health problems, predispose some women both to have unwanted pregnancies and to have suicidal tendencies, resulting in a misleading correlation between abortion and suicide that has no direct causal component. Planned Parenthood argued that the required disclosure would be misleading or irrelevant to the decision to have an abortion because the patient’s decision would not alter the underlying factors that actually cause the observed increased risk of suicide. But the majority found that a correlation - - - seemingly for any reason - - - was sufficient: "the truthful disclosure regarding increased risk cannot be unconstitutionally misleading or irrelevant simply because of some degree of 'medical and scientific uncertainty,' as to whether abortion plays a causal role in the observed correlation between abortion and suicide."
In contrast, the four dissenting judges, in an opinion by Judge Murphy, stated that the "record clearly demonstrates" that "suicide is not a known medical risk of abortion and that suicide is caused instead by factors preexisting an abortion such as a history of mental illness, domestic violence, and young age at the time of pregnancy." The dissenting opinion read the statutory provision to require doctors to tell a pregnant woman that a greater likelihood of suicide and suicide ideation is a "known medical risk" to which she "would be subjected" by having an abortion. S.D.C.L. § 34-23A-10.1(1)(e) (2005) (emphasis added). This causal language troubled the dissenting judges, who concluded that the suicide advisory places an undue burden on a pregnant woman's due process rights and violates a doctor's First Amendment right against compelled speech.
Both opinions rehearse and discuss the social science and psychological studies before the court and both opinions admit the studies are flawed. However, by rejecting the necessity for causation in a warning about a medical procedure given for informed consent, the majority rests its opinion on correlation even if there is "some degree of 'medical and scientific uncertainty" as to the reasons for any correlation.
[image:Sappho Leaping into the Sea from the Leucadian Promontory, circa 1840, via]
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit in the D.C. District on behalf of relatives of victims of the government's targeted killing program. The plaintiffs, parents of Samir Khan and Anwar al-Aulaqi and grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi (Anwar's son), seek money damages against high-level government officials for authorizing targeted killings in violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Bill of Attainder Clause.
The case comes 19 months after Judge Bates (D.D.C.) dismissed an earlier suit by Anwar al-Aulaqi's father, seeking to stop the government from killing his son in the first place. Judge Bates ruled that al-Aulaqi's father lacked standing and failed to allege a violation of the Alien Tort Statute, and that the case raised non-justiciable political questions. (Judge Bates didn't rule on the government's state secrets claim.)
The case also comes on the heels of a couple of dismissed torture suits against high-level officials--Doe v. Rumsfeld (rejected because special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy) and Lebron v. Rumsfeld (same, and cert. denied).
All this is to say that the case faces some hurdles--political question, state secrets, Bivens special factors, and qualified immunity, to name a few.
The plaintiffs in the most recent case argue that the targeted killing were illegal under the laws of war, because the plaintiffs were not engaged in activities that presented a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death of serious physical injury; because something short of lethal force could have been used to neutralize any threat that they posed; because they were not directly participating in hostilities; because the government failed to take steps to avoid harm to bystanders; and because the killings didn't meet the requirements of distinction and proportionality.
We covered the government's likely justification for targeted killing here, here, here, and here (among other places, linked in these posts). We still don't have a complete legal justification from the government for the targeted killing program.
July 18, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Due Process (Substantive), Fifth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Political Question Doctrine, Procedural Due Process, Recent Cases, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, July 12, 2012
The doctrine of DeShaney v. Winnebago is a harsh one. As the Fifth Circuit recently noted: "The law yesterday and today is bare and bald: No DeShaney special relationship exists between a public school and its students. Absent a special relationship, any analysis of the defendant’s conduct as deliberately indifferent to the rights of the student is, under DeShaney, irrelevant."
Yet today's Freeh Group Report may test the limits of DeShaney. The just released report, available on Larry Cata' Backer's Penn State Faculty Senate Blog, details the events at Penn State that eventually led to the arrest and convicton of coach Jerry Sandusky for sexual abuse of ten children. The focus would not necessarily be on the university officials "failure to report" but on the "special relationship" that university officials fostered.
[image: Penn State Nittany Lion mascot via]
Thursday, June 21, 2012
In a relatively brief (and almost unanimous) opinion today - - - a mere 23 pages - - - the Court decided FCC v. Fox Television Stations (together with FCC v. ABC, Inc.) involving fleeting expletives and fleeting nudity.
Justice Kennedy's opinion for the Court spends the first 11 pages discussing the regulatory scheme and reciting the complicated history of this litigation. Recall that the precise issue before the Court prompted confusion at oral argument.
The opinion resolves - - - or perhaps sidesteps - - - this disarray by deciding the case on Fifth Amendment Due Process grounds, holding that the FCC regulations were unconstitutionally vague. As Kennedy wrote, the "void for vagueness doctrine addresses at least two connected but discrete due process concerns: first, that regulated parties should know what is required of them so they may act accordingly; second, precision and guidance are necessary so that those enforcing the law do not act in an arbitrary or discrimina tory way." The opinion the added: "When speech is involved, rigorous adherence to those requirements is necessary to ensure that ambiguity does not chill protected speech."
Thus, while the Court does not resolve the case on First Amendment grounds, it certainly uses First Amendment concerns to animate the due process analysis.
Yet the analysis itself is truncated and interestingly augmented by a discussion of what the Court did not hold:
- "First, because the Court resolves these cases on fair notice grounds under the Due Process Clause, it need not address the First Amendment implications of the Commission’s indecency policy."
- "This leads to a second observation. Here, the Court rules that Fox and ABC lacked notice at the time of their broadcasts that the material they were broadcasting could be found actionably indecent under then-existing policies. Given this disposition, it is unnecessary for the Court to address the constitutionality of the current indecency policy as expressed in the Golden Globes Order and sub sequent adjudications."
- "Third, this opinion leaves the Commission free to modify its current indecency policy in light of its determination of the public interest and applicable legal requirements. And it leaves the courts free to review the current policy or any modified policy in light of its content and application."
The decision is not quite unanimous not only because Justice Sotomayor did not participate, but because Justice Ginsburg concurred in the judgment only, writing a brief concurring opinion:
In my view, the Court’s decision in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U. S. 726 (1978), was wrong when it issued. Time, technological advances, and the Commission’s untenable rulings in the cases now before the Court show why Pacifica bears reconsideration. Cf. FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 556 U. S. 502, 532–535 (2009) (THOMAS, J., concurring).
Thus, it seems that the indeterminate status of fleeting expletives and nudity in regulated media continues.
Friday, June 15, 2012
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit today rejected a U.S. citizen's Bivens action against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for developing, authorizing, and implementing policies that led to his torture while in U.S. custody in Iraq. The panel, following an earlier similar ruling from the Fourth Circuit, Lebron v. Rumsfeld, held that special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy--special factors "pertaining to military, intelligence, and national security."
The ruling comes on the heels of the Supreme Court's rejection of the plaintiffs' cert. petition in Lebron and while a similar suit is now pending before the en banc Seventh Circuit. (A three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit earlier ruled that the plaintiffs in that case did have a Bivens remedy against Rumsfeld.)
The case means that U.S. citizens won't have a civil damage action for constitutional violations against U.S. officials in the D.C. Circuit, even when the violations resulted from torture while in U.S. custody. With two circuit rulings now on the books--this case, Joe Doe v. Rumsfeld, and Lebron--and with a Seventh Circuit ruling against the plaintiffs now all but certain, and with the Supreme Court's rejection of cert. in Lebron, it now seems all but certain that other circuits faced with the question will follow suit, and that therefore U.S. citizens won't have a civil damage action for constitutional violations against U.S. officials anywhere.
The case also gives extraordinary authority to the executive to evade suits for detention and mistreatment--even torture--of U.S. citizens. Congress, of course, could change this by authorizing such suits. But don't look for that to happen anytime soon--or ever.
The D.C. Circuit ruling closely follows the Fourth Circuit's earlier ruling. That is, the court today ruled that the "special factors" of military, intelligence, and national security foreclose a civil damage remedy for constitutional violations by U.S. citizens. Here's the court's special factor analysis:
In his complaint, Doe challenges the development and implementation of numerous military policies and decisions. The complaint would require a court to delve into the military's policies regarding the designation of detainees as "security internees" or "enemy combatants," as well as policies governing interrogation techniques.
Doe's allegations against Secretary Rumsfeld implicate the military chain of command and the discretion Secretary Rumsfeld and other top officials gave to [military] agents to detain and question potential enemy combatants. The allegations raise questions regarding Secretary Rumsfeld's personal control over the treatment and release of specific detainees. Litigation of Doe's case would require testimony from top military officials as well as forces on the ground, which would detract focus, resources, and personnel from the mission in Iraq. And . . . allowing such an action would hinder our troops from acting decisively in our nation's interest for fear of judicial review of every detention and interrogation.
Op. at 10-11.
The court also found persuasive--another "special factor" counseling against a Bivens remedy--that Congress did not authorize such suits under the Detainee Treatment Act, or any other statute.
Because the court ruled against Doe on Bivens, it did not rule on Rumsfeld's defense of qualified immunity.
June 15, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The Supreme Court of British Columbia today issued its lengthy opinion in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), authored by Justice Lynn Smith, a former dean at the Faculty of Law of the University of British Columbia. Smith's opinion concluded that the assisted suicide prohibition in the Canadian Criminal Code infringes sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Section 7 - - - " Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice," and Section 15(1) - - - "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability" are often be analogized to due process and equal protection by those trained in the US constitutional system.
However, Judge Smith made little use of US constitutional precedent and did not give much credence to the Canadian government's reliance on Washington v. Glucksberg, in which the US Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to an assisted suicide ban. [¶ 1118 of Opinion]. Instead, Judge Smith extensively canvassed the state of assisted suicide laws in US states and other nations, producing a scholarly survey and discussion of the issues. Insisting that "context is vital," Judge Smith's decision is nuanced and careful.
to the extent that they prohibit physician-assisted suicide by a medical practitioner in the context of a physician-patient relationship, where the assistance is provided to a fully-informed, non-ambivalent competent adult patient who:
(a) is free from coercion and undue influence, is not clinically depressed and who personally (not through a substituted decision-maker) requests physician-assisted death; and
(b) is materially physically disabled or is soon to become so, has been diagnosed by a medical practitioner as having a serious illness, disease or disability (including disability arising from traumatic injury), is in a state of advanced weakening capacities with no chance of improvement, has an illness that is without remedy as determined by reference to treatment options acceptable to the person, and has an illness causing enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to that person and cannot be alleviated by any medical treatment acceptable to that person.
[¶ 1393]. For some, this type of decision is reminiscient of legislation, but the declarations are suspended for one year allowing Parliament time to correct the constitutional problems. Yet defering the opinion's effective date for a year has obvious costs given the court's own discussion. For plaintiff Gloria Taylor the plaintiffs had sought an "immediate constitutional exemption that would allow her to avail herself of a physician-assisted death at such time and subject to such terms and conditions that the Court allows or requires." Judge Smith's opinion grants such an exemption and sets out its terms.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Wedding ceremonies on Hawai'ian beaches may be the stuff of some fantasies, but they may also require permits from the state as any other commercial activity on state land would. In its opinion in Kaahumanu v. Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Ninth Circuit upheld Hawai'i's permitting scheme, except to the extent it allowed the state to alter the permits once issued.
The permitting scheme applies to ceremonies all state-owned beaches, even if there are three people at the wedding, if the officiant is receiving compensation. It prohibits tables, chairs, tents, and strictures demarcating the area, while allowing flowers, leis, chairs for the elderly/infirm, and "unamplified musical instruments including a conch shell."
The Ninth Circuit's unanimous panel opinion easily found that one of the plaintiffs, a wedding and events professional association, had standing, and quickly proceeded to the gravamen of the constitutional claim.
As the court expressed it, the First Amendment challenge posed three questions:
- First, do wedding ceremonies constitute “speech” protected by the First Amendment?
Second, what is the nature of the forum?
Third, are the challenged restrictions on commercial weddings permissible in the forum?
The Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) contended that weddings were not speech at all and thus excluded from First Amendment protection. Applying the "particularized message" expressive conduct test from Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405 (1974), the court had "no difficulty" concluding that wedding ceremonies were protected expression: "The core of a wedding ceremony’s “particularized message” is easy to discern, even if the message varies from one wedding to another."
The forum issue was not so easily resolved - - - and indeed, remained unresolved. The panel seemed hesitant to render an opinion that might be used in other contexts. Moreover, while the DLNR contended that "all unencumbered state beaches are nonpublic forums" and the plaintiffs contended that "they are all traditional public forums," the court ruled that Hawai’i’s unencumbered state beaches were not so easily categorized. Instead, the beaches "vary from heavily trafficked beaches to isolated beaches accessible only by foot or watercraft," and on the present record, it was "difficult to put all of Hawai’i’s unencumbered state beaches into a single forum category." Thus, the court assumed - - - without deciding - - - that "unencumbered state beaches in Hawai’i are, as Plaintiffs contend, a traditional public forum." Thus, the panel stated it would assess the validity of all regulations "that we uphold under the most exacting test for restrictions on forum access." On the contrary, the panel assessed the particular provisions of the regulation that it did not uphold under the most lenient standard. The panel summarized its First Amendment holding thusly:
In sum, we hold that DLNR’s regulation requiring a person to obtain a permit for commercial weddings on unencumbered state beaches is narrowly tailored to a significant governmental interest, is content-neutral, leaves ample alternative spaces for hosting a wedding, and does not vest too much discretion in the government official when issuing the permits. We hold that the limitation on accessories, insurance requirement, and the indemnification/hold-harmless clause also satisfy the tra- ditional public forum standard. However, we hold invalid the grant of discretion to DLNR to revoke, or add terms to, a per- mit under the least exacting standard of review for a nonpublic forum.
The panel opinion also briefly referred to the plaintiffs' freedom of religion arguments, rejecting them because that while the regulation may have an incidental effect on specific religious "implements or physical symbols," this does not "render it impermissible." Seemingly, a more specific as-applied challenge, perhaps also stating a RLUIPA claim, might be taken more seriously.
Additionally, the court rejected the Equal Protection and Due Process claims: while recognizing that the "right to marry" is a fundamental right, the DLNR’s "regulation of commercial weddings on unencum- bered state beaches does not impinge on the right to marry."
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Judge James E. Boasberg (D.D.C.) rejected the plaintiff's claims that Congress improperly delegated authority to Amtrak to develop and enforce passanger railway standards in violation of due process and nondelegation principles and granted summary judgment to the government in Association of American Railroad v. Department of Transportation. The ruling affirms Amtrak's role in standard-making under the Passenger Railroad Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and upholds Section 207 of that Act.
Section 207 requires the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to jointly develop standards to evaluate the performance of Amtrak's intercity passenger trains. It says:
[T]he Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak shall jointly, in consultation with the Surface Transportation Board, rail carriers over whose rail lines Amtrak trains operate, States, Amtrak employees, nonprofit employee organizations representing Amtrak employees, and groups representing Amtrak passengers, as appropriate, develop new or improve existing metrics and minimum standards for measuring the performance and service quality of intercity passenger train operations, including . . . on-time performance and minutes of delay . . . .
Under the Act, if the STB determines that Amtrak's failure to meet the standards is attributable to a rail carrier's failure to provide preference to Amtrak over freight transportation--that is, if a freight train makes an Amtrak train late--the STB may award damages against the host rail carrier. (Amtrak leases the rail lines that it uses from freight rail carriers.)
The AAR, representing its member freight rail carriers, sued the DOT, arguing that Section 207 violated due process, because it allowed a private, interested party, Amtrak, to regulate other industry participants. The AAR also argued that Section 207 effected an unconstitutional delegation of regulatory authority to a private entity.
The claims assumed that Amtrak was a private corporation--and the case thus turned on that assumption in the first instance. But Judge Boasberg, drawing on Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (1995), concluded that Amtrak was a governmental entity, at least as to the due process claim. Here's what he wrote:
The two hallmarks of government control that the Lebron Court found decisive--namely, that Amtrak was created by special law for the furtherance of governmental objectives and that the government retained the authority to appoint a majority of directors--moreover, has not changed. Indeed, when Lebron was decided, the President appointed only six of Amtrak's nine directors; he now appoints eight of the nine. The government, moreover, retains more than 90% of Amtrak's stock, appropriates for Amtrak more than a billion dollars annually, and sets salary limits for Amtrak's employees. In addition, Amtrak is required to submit annual reports to Congress and the President.
Op. at 11-12. Because Amtrak is a government entity, Judge Boasberg concluded, Congress did not delegate rulemaking authority to a private entity in violation of due process.
As to the delegation claim, Judge Boasberg concluded that Amtrak's status as a private corporation or government entity didn't matter, because the government retained ultimate control over the standards (even if Amtrak was involved in the process).
While the AAR is correct that [Section 207] in a sense makes Amtrak the FRA's equal--as opposed to its subordinate--Amtrak cannot promulgate the Metrics and Standards without the agency's approval. . . .
Conditioning regulation on a private party's assent . . . is not constitutionally problematic. Indeed, the Supreme Court has reasoned that through such schemes the government "merely place[s] a restriction upon its own" ability to regulate.
Op. at 18-19.
As the Washington Post reports, members of the House of Representatives "voted 246 to 168" on PRENDA, HR 3541, the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, that bans sex-selective and race-selective abortions. While the 246 majority voted for PRENDA, it "failed to pass as House Republicans brought it up under a suspension of normal rules that required it to earn a two-thirds majority vote."
PRENDA defines "‘‘sex-selection abortion’’ as an "abortion undertaken for purposes of eliminating an unborn child of an undesired sex," and ‘‘race-selection abortion’’ is "an abortion performed for purposes of eliminating an unborn child because the child or a parent of the child is of an undesired race." The bill is similar to one in Arizona that did become law; the few other states that do have statutes focus on sex-selection.
As I've written elsewhere:
The specter of sex-selection prohibitions in abortion statutes is said to pose a political dilemma for feminists,who can be “torn” between “support for reproductive autonomy” and “distaste for sex-‐selection practices driven by a gendered and patriarchal society.” It also provokes opposing logical constructions. On one account, if there is right to an abortion for any or no reason, this includes a right to an abortion even for a problematical reason.165 On an opposing account, “[t]he right to not have a child for any reason does not logically encompass the right not to have a child for any specific reason.” Whatever the logic, however, an interrogation of a woman’s “reason” for having an abortion demonstrates a distrust of women similar to the distrust apparent in other abortion restrictions that treat women have abortions quite differently than ungendered patients providing informed consent for other medical procedures. However, unlike other abortion restrictions such as mandatory ultrasounds or waiting periods, sex-‐selective prohibitions are not cast as being beneficial to women or assisting decision-‐ making; rather, they clearly seek to remove the power of a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy in service to a larger societal and state interest.
Indeed, PRENDA's findings on sex include:
(subsection L) Sex-selection abortion results in an unnatural sex-ratio imbalance. An unnatural sex- ratio imbalance is undesirable, due to the inability of the numerically predominant sex to find mates. Experts worldwide document that a significant sex-ratio imbalance in which males numerically predominate can be a cause of increased violence and militancy within a society. Likewise, an unnatural sex-ratio imbalance gives rise to the commoditization of humans in the form of human trafficking, and a consequent increase in kidnapping and other violent crime.
PRENDA bases this finding on the experience of nations such as China, mentioning "son preference" but not China's accompanying one-child policy. For some, the interest in prohibiting sex-selective abortion is a "manufactured controversy." For others, PRENDA may be part of an election year strategy.
For those teaching a summer course in ConLaw, this could be the basis of an excellent problem. ConLawProfs might want to also consider the constitutional provisions on which Congress grounds its power, including the Thirteenth Amendment.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Two Indybay photojournalists are seeking dismissal of charges against them including conspiracy to commit vandalism/trespass in conjunction with an Occupy event in an otherwise vacant building in Santa Cruz last November.
According to the motion to dismiss filed by the defendants, Bradley Stuart Allen and Alex Darocy, were singled out. They aver that they were only in the building a short time and only some of the persons in the building for the four night occupation were prosecuted. Indeed, they argue that during "the four days, at least one member of the Santa Cruz City Council entered the building, but she was not among those charged with any crimes" and likewise a "photographer from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, (the County’s principal newspaper) also entered and took photographs, but he has not been charged." They therefore argue that the charges are selective prosecution in violation of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.
The ACLU of Northern California has filed an amicus brief in support of the motion to dismiss on the grounds of the First Amendment. The ACLU memo focuses on "vicarious liability" and finds especially problematical statements offered by the State at the preliminary hearing such as the defendants “were there to publicize the protest for the group. The photographs they took, the articles they posted... The defendants served as the public information officers for the occupiers ....”
The ACLU memo argues that the defendants are entitled to First Amendment protections: "the constitutional protections for the press extend beyond the institutional press to anyone who would gather information about matters of public interest and disseminate it to the public, citing both Citizens United v. Federal Election Com'n, and the recent First Circuit case of Glik v. Cunniffe. Moreover, "the Occupy movement, and the actions of November 30, are clearly newsworthy; indeed, advocacy for social and political change lies 'at the core of the First Amendment.'"
At the heart of the ACLU's argument is the contention that "had they published photos that portrayed the Occupiers in a bad light the government could not be making these arguments and, accordingly, would likely not be prosecuting them." Thus, the ACLU argues that it is the "content and viewpoint of their reporting" that has resulted in the prosecution.
The ACLU's First Amendment argument of viewpoint/content discrimination under the First Amendment is parallel to the Defendant's argument of selective prosecution violative of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses.
The hearing is set for May 8.
Monday, April 2, 2012
In a much-anticipated opinion today, the United States Supreme Court in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington (NJ), upheld the authority of jail authorities to strip search a person accused of a minor crime.
The case involved a claim for damages by Albert Florence, an African-American man stopped for a traffic infraction who was then taken to jail because of a years-old failure to appear charge. Upon his detention at two different jails, Mr. Florence was stripped searched at each. More explanation from Florence and his attorney is in the video below:
Writing for the 5-4 majority, Kennedy's relatively brief opinion could be summed up in a single word: deference.
Two of the five justices in the majority - - - Alito and Roberts - - - wrote separate concurring opinions that stressed the limits of the Court's opinion. Alito phrased it thusly:
I join the opinion of the Court but emphasize the limits of today’s holding. The Court holds that jail administrators may require all arrestees who are committed to the general population of a jail to undergo visual strip searches not involving physical contact by correctionsofficers. To perform the searches, officers may direct the arrestees to disrobe, shower, and submit to a visual inspection. As part of the inspection, the arrestees may be required to manipulate their bodies.
Undergoing such an inspection is undoubtedly humiliating and deeply offensive to many, but there are reasonable grounds for strip searching arrestees before they are admitted to the general population of a jail.
He later added that:
It is important to note, however, that the Court does not hold that it is always reasonable to conduct a full strip search of an arrestee whose detention has not been reviewed by a judicial officer and who could be held in available facilities apart from the general population.
Justice Breyer, dissenting and joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, provides numerous examples of problematical, humiliating, and unnecessary strip searches, noting that the majority failed to discuss specifics. Instead, Breyer writes, the "majority is left with the word of prison officials in support of its contrary proposition. And though that word is important, it cannot be sufficient."
But if the Court's single word is "deference," then of course the jail officials word is almost always sufficient.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-125(a)(6) (Repl. 2009) provides that a person commits sexual assault in the second degree if the person is a teacher in a public school in a grade kindergarten through twelve (K-12) and
engages in sexual contact with another person who is:
(A) A student enrolled in the public school; and
(B) Less than twenty-one years of age.
In a 4-3 opinion, the Arkansas Supreme Court in Paschal v. State declared the statute unconstitutional as applied to the criminal conviction of David Paschal, a high school teacher, for a "months-long sexual relationship" with an eighteen-year-old student. Pashal had been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment
on each of three sexual-assault convictions and given ten years’ suspended sentence for a fourth sexual-assault conviction.
Pashal relied upon Lawrence v. Texas as well as interpretations of the Arkansas Constitution protecting adult consensual sex. While the Arkansas court had previously upheld the criminalization of sex by a member of the clergy who is "in the position of trust or authority over the victim and uses the position
of trust or authority to engage in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual activity," the court here noted that § 5-14-125(a)(6) was a "strict liability" statute that did not mention trust or authority.
It was on this interpretation of the statute that the majority and dissent bitterly disagreed. The majority opinion, footnote 10, stated: "We find appalling the statement from one of the dissenting justices that the majority’s interpretation of the statute condones a teacher’s misuse of trust or authority." Later in the same footnote the majority writes that the "dissent's manufacturing" of the issue of the teacher's awareness of a position of authority "is both injudicious and irresponsible."
Essentially, the majority found persuasive the fact that the victim was an adult. The state conceded the sexual relationship was consensual, and without more, the statute was unconstitutional as applied.
[image: "The Schoolmaster" by Charles Green circa 1875 via]
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
"Joe the Plumber," as Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (pictured left) became known, gained public exposure when he interacted with Presidential Candidate Obama in October 2008 and later endorsed the Republican Candidate John McCain. Wurzelbacher, a resident of Ohio, alleged that state officials accessed state databases to retrieve information about him, including his child support and unemployment records.
In its opinion in Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district judge's judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendants.
On his First Amendment retaliation claim, Wurzelbacher failed to meet the standard requiring allegations that:
(1) the plaintiff engaged in constitutionally protected conduct;
(2) an adverse action was taken against the plaintiff that would deter a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in that conduct; and
(3) the adverse action was motivated at least in part by the plaintiff’s protected conduct.
The Sixth Circuit found that Wurzelbache's general claims of emotional distress caused by his knowledge that databases had been searched for his name was inadequate to allege the necessary adverse action. Importantly, any information gleaned from the database searches was never disclosed. Even if this was an "adverse action," it was not the kind of action that would deter a "person of ordinary firmness" from continuing to speak.
Wurzelbacher similarly failed to allege sufficient facts for a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment informational privacy rights. For the Sixth Circuit, these informational privacy rights must meet the substantive due process standard that “the interest at stake relates to those personal rights that can be deemed fundamental or implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.”
Wurzelbacher may not be a trail-blazing opinion, but it does demonstrate the lack of constitutional remedy for state officials "doing research" on a person who has come to their attention for political reasons.
[image: Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, circa 2008, via]