Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daily Read: Curing the Inequality of Privacy Protections

Whose privacy counts? Whose privacy should count?

While these questions could be asked across many doctrines, one intersection occurs in the origins of privacy, including the tort remedies for its invasion. In his article Privacy's Double Standards, available on ssrn and forthcoming in Washington Law Review, Professor Scott Skinner-Thompson argues for the necessity of equal protection standards in privacy protection torts. Centered on the tort of public disclosure of private facts, Skinner-Thompson rightly observes that it has been applied unevenly, with privileged and celebrity plaintiffs prevailing (think: Hulk Hogan v. Gawker) when more marginalized plaintiffs (such as victims of revenge porn) have not, noting that this is perhaps not surprising given the origins of the tort in "Brahman society." Skinner-Thompson discusses these cases and numerous others to support this observation (and provides a nice appendix of his research methodology).

Edgar_Degas_-_Mrs_Jeantaud_in_the_Mirror_-_Google_Art_ProjectYet rather than simply detail the disparities evinced in the cases, Skinner-Thomson argues that just as the First Amendment has shaped the doctrines of torts, so too should constitutional equality principles be applied to the inequalities in tort remedies for invasions of privacy. He argues that "to better comply with constitutional equality principles, the substance of privacy tort law must be relaxed so as to ensure that individuals in marginalized communities are able to bring claims on the same terms as privileged individuals."

His specific recommendations for reshaping the tort doctrine of public disclosure of private facts:

  • All plaintiffs, and not just well-known ones, should be able to prevail in public disclosure tort claims" even if they have shared the information at issue (for example, their HIV status, sexual orientation, or intimate photographs) within certain confines."
  • All plaintiffs should be able to prevail in public disclosure tort claims even if the defendant has not shared the information with the world at large (for less well-known plaintiffs, the interest of the world can be limited, but, for example, disclosure of one's sexual orientation to one's small community church can be equally devastating).

As Skinner-Thompson makes clear, he is not arguing that a privacy tort plaintiff  " will be able to successfully bring an equal protection challenge to the way the public disclosure tort is operating," but it is to argue that this tort could be  - - - and should be - - - inflected with equal protection concerns.  

[image: Edgar Degas, Mrs Jeantaud in the Mirror, circa 1875 via]

April 17, 2018 in Equal Protection, First Amendment, Privacy, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

District Judge Holds Transgender Military Ban Subject to Strict Scrutiny

In her opinion and Order in Karnoski v. Trump, United States District Judge Marsha Pechman of the Western District of Washington has reaffirmed her previous preliminary injunction (December 2017) on the basis of the plaintiffs' likelihood to succeed on the merits of their Equal Protection, Due Process, and First Amendment claims in their challenge to the President's ban on transgender troops in the military, and further decided that the military ban is subject to strict scrutiny. (Recall that previous to Judge Pechman's preliminary injunction, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Doe v. Trump partially enjoined the president's actions and United States District Judge Marvin Garvis of the District of Maryland in Stone v. Trump issued a preliminary injunction against the United States military's ban on transgender troops and resources for "sex-reassignment" medical procedures).

The government's motion for summary judgment and to dissolve the preliminary injunction relied in large part on the President's new policy promulgated in March 2018. As Judge Pechman phrased it, the 2018 Presidential Memorandum

purports to "revoke" the 2017 Memorandum and “any other directive [he] may have made with respect to military service by transgender individuals,” and directs the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to “exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”

Nypl.digitalcollections.a20151f8-d3cf-5c25-e040-e00a18066189.001.wRejecting the government defendants' argument that the controversy was now moot, Judge Pechman concluded that the 2018 Memorandum and Implementation Plan "do not substantively rescind or revoke the Ban, but instead threaten the very same violations that caused it and other courts to enjoin the Ban in the first place." The judge acknowledged that there were a few differences, but was not persuaded by the government defendants' argument that the 2018 policy did not now mandate a “categorical” prohibition on service by openly transgender people.

Similarly, Judge Pechman found that the individual plaintiffs, the organizational plaintiffs, and the plaintiff State of Washington continued to have standing.

Most crucial in Judge Pechman's order is her decision that transgender people constitute a suspect class and thus the ban will be subject to strict scrutiny. (Recall that in the previous preliminary injunction, Judge Pechman ruled that transgender people were at a minimum a quasi-suspect class). In this opinion, she considers four factors:

  • whether the class has been “[a]s a historical matter . . . subjected to discrimination,”
  • whether the class has a defining characteristic that “frequently bears [a] relation to ability to perform or contribute to society,
  • whether the class exhibits “obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define [it] as a discrete group,"
  • whether the class is “a minority or politically powerless.”

After a succinct analysis, she concludes that suspect class status is warranted and because the "Ban specifically targets one of the most vulnerable groups in our society," it  "must satisfy strict scrutiny if it is to survive."

However, Judge Pechman did not decide on the level of deference the government defendants should be accorded. Instead, she concluded that

On the present record, the Court cannot determine whether the DoD’s deliberative process—including the timing and thoroughness of its study and the soundness of the medical and other evidence it relied upon—is of the type to which Courts typically should defer.

However, she did agree with the government defendants that President Trump was not subject to injunctive relief, but did remain as a defendant for the purpose of declaratory relief.

Thus, Judge Pechman directed the parties to "proceed with discovery and prepare for trial on the issues of whether, and to what extent, deference is owed to the Ban and whether the Ban violates equal protection, substantive due process, and the First Amendment."

[image, Revolutionary War era soldier, NYPL, via]

 

April 14, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Executive Authority, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Gender, Mootness, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Challenge to Maryland's Partisan Gerrymandering

In oral arguments in Benisek v. Lamone, the United States Supreme Court again confronted the the constitutionality of gerrymandering on the basis of political party. Recall that the Court heard arguments earlier in this Term in Gill v. Whitford involving the state of Wisconsin and centering on the Equal Protection Clause challenge. In Benisek, involving Maryland, recall that a divided three judge court denied the motion for preliminary injunction, but with Fourth Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer arguing that the redistricting of Maryland's Sixth District diluted the votes of Republicans in violation of the First Amendment.

The Benisek argument before the Supreme Court did center the First Amendment, but equal protection doctrine did surface in the context of comparing racial gerrymandering which is analyzed under the Equal Protection Clause. Arguing for Maryland, Steve Sullivan sought to distinguish the two doctrines, with Justice Kagan responding:

JUSTICE KAGAN:  But we would be looking at the same things.  We would be looking at the same kind of direct evidence, the same kind of statements.  We would be looking at the same circumstantial evidence that has to do with where the lines were drawn and how they were drawn.  So it's -- it's all the same kind of evidence, isn't it?

Sullivan sought to distinguish the two doctrines and stated that while there may be similar types of evidence, the Court had not applied "the First Amendment retaliation rubric to that analysis," as the challengers suggested. However, Chief Justice Roberts offered another comparison:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, one difference between -- one difference between the race and partisanship is that we've always recognized that a certain degree of partisanship is acceptable.  We've never recognized that a certain degree of racial discrimination is acceptable.

2048px-Maryland_regions_map
The earliest moments of the oral argument offered a possible procedural escape hatch. The three judge court had denied the preliminary injunction and the possibility that any remedy could occur before the 2018 election seemed unlikely.  Moreover, the Justices questioned Michael Kimberly, attorney for the plaintiffs-challengers, regarding the lateness of the challenge, with Chief Justice Roberts asking about the elections that have been held in 2012, 2014, and 2016 before the challenge - - - relevant to the preliminary injunction factor of irreparable harm.

Justice Breyer offered a strategy for determining whether there are manageable standards and if so, what the standard should be.  (Recall that Justice Breyer outlined a several-step possible standard in the oral argument in Gill v. Whitford).  Justice Breyer noted that there are three cases - - - Wisconsin (Gill v. Whitford); Maryland (Benisek); and "the one we are holding, I think, is North Carolina" - - - with different variations. He began by asking the attorney for the challengers what he thought of reargument for the three cases:

JUSTICE BREYER:  * * * * What would you think of taking the three cases and setting them for reargument on the question of standard and there we'd have all three variations in front of us and we would enable people who have an interest in this subject generally to file briefs, and we'd see them all together and they could attack each other's standards or they could support each other's standards or they could attack any standard?  But there we'd have right in front of us the possibilities as -- as -- as thought through by lawyers and others who have an interest in this subject.

****
Winslow_Homer_-_Blackboard_(1877)I raise it because I want to think if there's some harm in doing that that I haven't thought of.  Is there some reason - would it be harmful to somebody? Because I do see an advantage.  You could have a blackboard and have everyone's
 theory on it, and then you'd have the pros and cons and then you'd be able to look at them all and then you'd be able see perhaps different ones for different variations and, you know, that's -- maybe there are different parts of gerrymandering that rises in different circumstances, dah-dah-dah. You see the point.

Later, in a colloquy with the attorney for Maryland, Justice Breyer again surfaced his proposal:

That's why I was thinking you've got to get all these standards lined up together, you know, and you have to have people criticizing each one back and forth and see if any of them really will work or some work in some cases and some work in other cases and it depends on the type you have.I -- I mean, that isn't squarely addressed by the lawyers because they're focused on their one case, et cetera.

Will there be a reargument?  It's difficult to tell.  But if there is, one might expect more than one brief that outlines the possible standards, with their advantages, disadvantages, and possible results in different cases, suitable for a "blackboard."

[image: Winslow Homer, Blackboard, 1877, via

March 28, 2018 in Association, Courts and Judging, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Oral Argument Analysis, Recent Cases, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Daily Read: Janet Calvo on DACA and State Professional Licensing

Who needs a professional license? In California, anyone wishing to be an accountant, acupuncturist, cosmetologist, court reporter, bedding salesperson, landscape architect, pharmacist, teacher, real estate agent, pest control operator, or teacher, among many others. Yet the type of immigration status that should be a prerequisite for obtaining a state professional license has not been consistent, at least until California did implement a remedy. And in New York, with a different array of immigration regulations for professional licensing, a different type of remedy was eventually decided upon.

Delia_Boccardo_make-upIn her article Professional Licensing and Teacher Certification for Non-Citizens: Federalism, Equal Protection and a State’s Socio-Economic Interests, in Columbia Journal of Race and Law, Professor Janet Calvo analyzes the intersection of Equal Protection doctrine and the Tenth Amendment to argue that states have the constitutional responsibility as well as the constitutional power to remove immigration barriers to state licensing requirements. Distinguishing among categories of immigration status raises equal protection concerns and, as the Second Circuit has held, constitutional violations. Additionally, licensing is a traditional state function which Congress can regulate to some extent but not totally commandeer.

As Calvo argues, California and New York each took a unique path to solving the licensing issue, yet taken together, they offer a map to other states, organizations, and communities seeking to address similar problems.

 

March 27, 2018 in Equal Protection, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Tenth Amendment, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Federal District Judge: Equal Protection Prohibits Policy Banning Transgender Student from Facilities

In his opinion in M.A.B. v. Board of Education of Talbot County, United States District Judge George Russell, III of the District of Maryland denied the motion to dismiss by the school board of a challenge to its decision to require M.A.B., a transgender boy, to use restrooms and locker rooms for girls.

Judge Russell first found that the school's decision violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), entering the murky waters left by the United States Supreme Court's stay and vacation of the Fourth Circuit's decision in G.G. v. Glouster County School Board after the Trump Administration change interpretation of the anti-discrimination policy.

Judge Russell also decided that the school's decision violated the Equal Protection Clause, in an extensive discussion relying upon the developing transgender equal protection doctrine, including the Seventh Circuit's 2017 decision in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District as well as the Eleventh Circuit's decision in Glenn v. Brumby, the only two circuits to have ruled on the issue, and district court cases in the school context such as Evanacho v. Pine-Richland School District and those regarding the transgender military ban such as Doe v. Trump and Stone v. Trump

Judge Russell found that classifications based on transgender status merit intermediate scrutiny for two reasons. First, he found that transgender classifications were tantamount to sex classifications, specifically discussing sex-stereotyping.

Second, he found that "transgender individuals are, at minimum, a quasi-suspect class," under a four-factor test similar to that first articulated in Carolene Products footnote 4:

  • whether the class has been historically “subjected to discrimination;”
  • whether the class has a defining characteristic that “frequently bears [a] relation to ability to perform or contribute to society;"
  • whether the class exhibits “obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group;”  and
  • whether the class is “a minority or politically powerless.” 

FootnoteJudge Russell then analyzed each of these factors, with an interesting reference in a footnote, and found them satisfied, concluding that intermediate scrutiny was appropriate, and quoting the standard as that articulated in United States v. Virginia (VMI). 

While Judge Russell's opinion seemed to cast some doubt on whether the school board's proffered privacy rationale could satisfy the "important" prong, especially as described in VMI, he noted that the procedural posture of the decision was a motion to dismiss. However, even assuming privacy was an important interest, he concluded that the means chosen - - - the banning of the transgender male student from male bathrooms and locker rooms - - - was not substantially related to the privacy interest. Again, Judge Russell quoted Whitaker rejecting the school board's attempt to distinguish it on the basis that locker rooms were not at issue in the Seventh Circuit case and stated that Whitaker's "reasoning applies with similar force."Judge Russell then countered the school board's argument that "if M.A.B. changing clothes in the designated restrooms makes him feel humiliated and embarrassed, as well as alienated from his peers, then students who use those restrooms for greater privacy will feel the same way," with four separate reasons why the argument was flawed. For example, Judge Russell wrote that the school board's argument "overlooks the entire context surrounding the Policy:  "It singles M.A.B. out, quite literally because it does not apply to anyone else at the High School, and marks him as different for being transgender."  On the contrary, Judge Russell wrote, "a boy who makes the personal choice to change clothes in a single-use restroom or stall does not experience any such singling out at the hands of his school."

Judge Russell, however, did not grant M.A.B.'s motion for preliminary injunction, given M.A.B.'s status for the current school year, but "aware that the parties likely hope for a resolution to this case before the following school year," directed "the parties to confer and submit to the Court a joint proposed scheduling order." 

March 14, 2018 in Equal Protection, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Yet Another Gerrymandering Case, but with Not-Your-Usual Standing Problem

Judge William Q. Hayes (S.D. Cal.) on Friday dismissed a challenge to a city's new single-member districts for its city council elections for lack of standing. The ruling means that the city's new districting plan stays in place.

The case, Higginson v. Becerra, arose when the City of Poway switched from at at-large system to a single-member-district system of elections for its four-member city council. The City made the change reluctantly, and only in response to threatened litigation by a private attorney, who wrote to the council that its at-large system violated the California Voting Rights Act. (The attorney argued that the at-large system, along with racially polarized voting in the City, effectively prevented Latinos from electing a candidate of their choice.) The council vigorously disagreed that its at-large system violated the CVRA, but agreed to change, anyway, in order to avoid litigation costs.

After the council drew its new single-member districts, Don Higginson, a voter in the new District 2, sued, arguing that the CVRA violated equal protection. His theory was a little unusual: "The CVRA makes race the predominant factor in drawing electoral districts. Indeed, it makes race the only factor given that a political subdivision, such as the City, must abandon its at-large system based on the existence of racially polarized voting and nothing more." (In other words: according to Higgerson, because there was racially polarized voting, any CVRA requirement to undo the effects of that voting in an at-large system violated equal protection.)

Higginson sued AG Becerra for injunctive relief (to stop him from enforcing the CVRA) and the City for injunctive relief (to stop it from using its single-member district map, as required by the CVRA (according to Higgerson)).

The court dismissed the case for lack of standing. The court said that Higginson's harm in not being able to vote for council-members in three of the four districts (because the CVRA required the change to single-member districts)--assuming this was even a cognizable harm--wasn't traceable to AG Becerra or the City. As to AG Becerra, the court said that the AG had not enforced the CVRA against the City, and therefore couldn't have caused Higginson's alleged harm. As to the City, the court said that it acted out of a desire to avoid litigation costs, not because it thought its at-large system violated the CVRA, and therefore it couldn't have caused his alleged harm in the name of CVRA compliance. (For the same reasons, the court said that Higginson failed to demonstrate that his requested relief would redress his alleged harm.)

Without causation and redressability, Higginson lacked standing, and the court dismissed the case.

February 26, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 23, 2018

Second Circuit Upholds NYC's Premises Handgun License Restriction

In its opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. City of New York, a unanimous panel of the Second Circuit, affirming the district judge, rejected a constitutional challenge to a New York City regulation regarding "premises license" for a handgun. Under 38 RCNY § 5-23, a person having a premises license “may transport her/his handgun(s) directly to and from an authorized small arms range/shooting club, unloaded, in a locked container, the ammunition to be carried separately.” The definition of "authorized" range/shooting club, however, includes a limit to facilities located in New York City and is the essence of the plaintiffs' challenge.  The New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, as well as three individual plaintiffs, argued that this limitation is unconstitutional pursuant to the Second Amendment, the dormant commerce clause, the right to travel, and the First Amendment. Their specific arguments centered on the two instances: that one plaintiff was prohibited from taking his handgun to his second home in Hancock, New York; and that all plaintiffs wanted to take their handguns to firing ranges and competitions outside of New York City. 

Picswiss_VD-46-60
On the Second Amendment challenge, the opinion for the panel by Judge Gerald Lynch tracked the analytic structure articulated by the Second Circuit in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. Cuomo, decided in 2015. Assuming that the Second Amendment applied, the court concluded that intermediate scrutiny was the appropriate standard based on its analysis of two factors: "(1) ‘how close the law comes to the core of the Second Amendment right’ and (2) ‘the severity of the law’s burden on the right.' "  The court found that the prohibition of a plaintiff from taking the handgun to his second home was not a substantial burden: he could have a handgun at his second home if he applied to that county and noted that the plaintiff did not even estimate the money or time it would cost to obtain a second premises license and handgun. Likewise, the court found that limiting their training opportunities to New York City - - - given that there are at least 7 training facilities in New York and one in each borough - - - was not a substantial burden. Moreover, "nothing in the Rule precludes the Plaintiffs from utilizing gun ranges or attending competitions outside New York City, since guns can be rented or borrowed at most such venues for practice purposes."

In applying intermediate scrutiny, the court found that public safety was an important interest served by the regulation. The court referred to a detailed affidavit by the Commander of the License Division who

explained that premises license holders “are just as susceptible as anyone else to stressful situations,” including driving situations that can lead to road rage, “crowd situations, demonstrations, family disputes,” and other situations “where it would be better to not have the presence of a firearm.” Accordingly, he stated, the City has a legitimate need to control the presence of firearms in public, especially those held by individuals who have only a premises license, and not a carry license.

Additionally, the city had an interest in enforcing the premises license - - - which again is distinct from a carry license - - - and under a prior rule allowing transport to ranges outside the city the Commander's affidavit concluded this had made it “too easy for them to possess a licensed firearm while traveling in public, and then if discovered create an explanation about traveling for target practice or shooting competition.”

After finding the regulations survived the Second Amendment, the court's treatment of the dormant commerce clause, right to travel, and First Amendment issues was more succinct. For both the dormant commerce clause and right to travel arguments, one of the most obvious problems in the plaintiffs' arguments was their failure to convincingly allege issues regarding crossing state lines. Under the commerce clause analysis, there was no showing that the city or state was engaging in protectionist measures and, as in the Second Amendment analysis, the plaintiffs were "free to patronize firing ranges outside of New York City, and outside of New York State; they simply cannot do so with their premises-licensed firearm." Similarly, the plaintiffs could travel, they simply could not bring their handgun licensed for a specific premises with them.

On the First Amendment, the court rejected the argument that being "forced" to join a gun club in New York City or not being allowed to join a gun club outside of the city qualified as expressive association. But even if it did, the rule does not mandate or forbid joining a specific club, again, the New York City rule "only their ability to carry the handgun that is licensed for a specific premises outside of those premises."

Thus, the Second Circuit rejected constitutional challenges that essentially sought to broaden a premises-only license into a carry-license for handguns.

[image via]

February 23, 2018 in Current Affairs, Dormant Commerce Clause, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Federal Judge Declares Florida's Felony Disenfranchisement Restoration Scheme Unconstitutional

 In his opinion in Hand v. Scott, United States District Judge for the Northern District of Florida Mark Walker declared Florida's re-enfranchisement scheme for persons convicted of felonies to be restored their right to vote unconstitutional under both the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

The court's decision was on cross motions for summary judgment and Judge Walker opens his opinion by describing the Florida scheme:

Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony. To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s Governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration. Until that moment (if it ever comes), these citizens cannot legally vote for presidents, governors, senators, representatives, mayors, or school-board members. These citizens are subject to the consequences of bills, actions, programs, and policies that their elected leaders enact and enforce. But these citizens cannot ever legally vote unless Florida’s Governor approves restoration of this fundamental right.

Florida’s Executive Clemency Board has, by rule, unfettered discretion in restoring voting rights. “We can do whatever we want,” the Governor said at one clemency hearing.  One need not search long to find alarming illustrations of this scheme in action. In 2010, a white man, Steven Warner, cast an illegal ballot. Three years later, he sought the restoration of his voting rights. He went before the state’s Executive Clemency Board, where Governor Scott asked him about his illegal voting.

“Actually, I voted for you,” he said. The Governor laughed. “I probably shouldn’t respond to that.” A few seconds passed. The Governor then granted the former felon his voting rights.

Spanish_Florida_Map_1803While the state can deny persons convicted of a felony the right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment as construed by the Court in Richardson v. Ramirez (1974), the issue before Judge Walker was whether the vote restoration process was constitutional. Seemingly, the state argued it had absolute discretion to restore voting rights. Judge Walker held that such discretion violated the First Amendment rights to free association and expression, and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

On the First Amendment claim, Judge Walker first articulated the right of free political association and then the right to vote as including a First Amendment right, interestingly relying in part on Citizens United.  Judge Walker writes that the unfettered discretion in vote restoration cannot survive exacting scrutiny.  Even if the government interest in limiting the franchise to responsible persons is valid, "Florida does not use the least-restrictive means to pursue its interests in preventing possibly irresponsible citizens from choosing their leaders."

Florida’s vote-restoration scheme is crushingly restrictive. The scheme crumbles under strict scrutiny because it risks—if not covertly authorizes the practice of—arbitrary and discriminatory vote-restoration. When a scheme allows government officials to “do whatever [they] want,” viewpoint discrimination can slip through the cracks of a seemingly impartial process. [citing record] Such discrimination can lead to a denial of “the fruits of their association, to wit: [former felons’] political impact”—or widespread, insidious bias to benefit the Governor’s political party. Touchston, 234 F.3d at 1154 (Tjoflat, J., dissenting). State officials’ potential political, racial, or religious biases cannot poison the well of vote-restoration.

Judge Walker discussed several instances of possible discrimination and disparities, but ultimately concluded that it was the possibility of discrimination from unfettered discretion that was crucial. Additionally, the Governor as ultimate arbiter was fatal:

 [t]he Governor has de facto veto authority over anyone’s restoration. All the component parts of the vote- restoration process that Defendants wave like shiny objects to distract from potential viewpoint discrimination—the investigations, case analyses, and hearings—mean nothing if the Governor alone has final authority to restore Plaintiffs’ rights.

Further, Judge Walker rejected the State's argument that the vote restoration scheme was akin to unreviewable executive clemency:

Executive clemency by its mere existence cannot serve as a legitimate, let alone compelling, state interest. No serious person would argue that an act of executive clemency that, for example, is motivated by race cannot run afoul of the Constitution simply because it is an act of executive clemency. This Court recognizes the novelty of a challenge to an executive clemency scheme. But “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177 (1803). And so, if a court finds unconstitutionality in an executive clemency scheme, its role is to strike the acts permitting the constitutional violation—not to declare its hands tied.

On the Equal Protection Clause claim, Judge Walker essentially applied rational basis scrutiny and found that the "violation in this case—the substantial risk of arbitrary and discriminatory vote-restoration based on an applicant’s identity and perceived voting preferences from partisan government officials— is worse than a coin flip."  Judge Walker stated that while the state may have a legitimate interest in limiting the franchise to responsible voters, the means chosen failed because it was at best, "arbitrary and disparate," interestingly quoting Bush v. Gore, on which the plaintiffs relied. Judge Walker added that at worst, the scheme would be discriminatory.

Judge Walker ordered additional briefings regarding remedies. Even if the state does not appeal, the question of remedies will be a difficult one.

Meanwhile, a ballot measure to restore voting rights to persons convicted of felonies has just been approved for the November ballot.

 

February 1, 2018 in Association, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

NAACP Challenges Recission of TPS Status for Haitians As Violating Equal Protection

In a Complaint filed in the United States District of Maryland in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. United States Department of Homeland Security, the NAACP challenges the Trump Administration's decision to rescind Temporary Protective Status (“TPS”) for Haitian immigrants, as a violation of equal protection. The complaint argues that the rescission springs from an intent to discriminate on the basis of race and/or ethnicity.

 

Essentially COUNT I of the Complaint, based on the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment, contents that there is sufficient governmental intent so that the classification should be deemed as a racial one. As ¶88 provides:

The inference of race and/or ethnicity discrimination is supported by the Administration’s departure from the normal decision-making process; the fact that the decision bears more heavily on one race than another; the sequence of events leading to the decision; the contemporaneous statements of decisionmakers; and the historical background of the decision. The Supreme Court has recognized these factors as probative of intentional discrimination. See Vill. of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977).

Subsequent paragraphs of the complaint track these Arlington Heights factors with more specificity. Earlier, the complaint in ¶ 79 mentions the President's notorious comments:

On January 11, 2018, during a White House meeting with several U.S. Senators, the President is alleged to have disparaged a draft immigration plan that protected people from Haiti, El Salvador, and some African countries, asking, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”President Trump is alleged to have further disparaged Haitians in particular, asking “Why do we need more Haitians?” and ordered the bill’s drafters to “take them out.”In this meeting, the President is further alleged to have expressed his preference for more immigrants from places like Norway, where the population is over 90 percent white. Haiti’s population, by contrast, is over 95 percent Black.

[footnotes omitted].  If there is a racial classification, the court would apply strict scrutiny requiring a compelling governmental interest that is served by narrowly tailored means.

Interestingly, the equal protection count also includes this simple statement and citation: "The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment also prohibits irrational government action. U.S. Dep’t of Agric. v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 (1973)."  Recall that the Court in Moreno found that a Congressional statute defining households for foodstamp eligibility as only including relatives - - - in order to exclude "hippie communes" - - - was irrational because a bare "desire to harm a politically unpopular group" could not constitute a legitimate government interest.  This "animus" doctrine, also evident in cases like Romer v. Evans and United States v. Windsor, is another way that the challengers could prevail on their equal protection claim. Thus, even if the court does not find there is a racial (or ethnic) classification meriting strict scrutiny, the court could decide that there is sufficient animus here to negate the legitimate interest required under rational basis, the most lenient standard.

510px-Coat_of_arms_of_Haiti.svg

It will be interesting to see how the Department of Justice responds.  Meanwhile, ConLawProfs teaching equal protection this semester could use this as the basis for a great problem.

 

January 24, 2018 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Fifth Amendment, Race, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 19, 2018

SCOTUS Stays North Carolina Redistricting Order

 The United States Supreme Court granted the application of a stay by North Carolina in Rucho v. Common Cause pending appeal of the three judge court decision. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor would have denied the stay.

Recall that a three judge court decision on January 9 gave North Carolina until January 29 to submit a new redistricting plan to the Court after finding that North Carolina's 2016 redistricting plan was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering under the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I §§ 2, 4.

Now Common Cause joins the other partisan gerrymandering cases before the Court: Recall that the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the issue of partisan gerrymandering in Gill v. Whitford in the earliest days of this Term.  Recall also that in early December, the United States Supreme Court added another partisan gerrymandering case to its docket, Benisek v. Lamone. 

  Nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e0-f70c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w

 

January 19, 2018 in Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Supremacy Clause, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Seventh Circuit Rules Against Territorial Plaintiffs in Absentee-Voting-Rights Case

The Seventh Circuit ruled that former Illinoisans who now live in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands lacked standing to challenge the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and lost on the merits in their claims against Illinois after the state rejected their requests for absentee-voter ballots.

The ruling means that former Illinoisans who reside in these territories won't receive an absentee-voter ballot from the state, unless Illinois changes its law.

The plaintiffs, former residents of Illinois but now residents of the territories, sued when Illinois denied them absentee-voter ballots for federal elections in Illinois. They claimed that the UOCAVA and Illinois law defined their territories as part of the United States and thus prohibited them from getting absentee ballots as overseas voters. They claimed that this violated equal protection and their right to travel.

The Seventh Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs didn't even have standing to challenge the UOCAVA. That's because while the UOCAVA defines "the United States" to include these territories, it doesn't prohibit Illinois from providing absentee ballots to the plaintiffs. Illinois law does that. As a result, the court said that the plaintiffs couldn't challenge the federal law, although they could still challenge state law.

As to state law, the court said that Illinois's classification didn't violate equal protection and its denial of absentee ballots didn't violate the right to travel. The court said that the plaintiffs have no fundamental right to vote in federal elections--"absent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 States have the right to vote in federal elections"--and no claim to heightened scrutiny. The court held that Illinois's distinction between Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands (on the one hand) and the Northern Marianas and American Samoa (on the other, where former Illinoisans can get an absentee ballot) passed rational basis review, because at the time that Illinois enacted the distinction, "these two territories were . . . more similar to foreign nations than were the incorporated territories where the plaintiffs reside." (The court said it was OK to look at the state's justification at the time of the distinction, in 1979, instead of now, because "even if . . . the Northern Marianas and American Samoa became more integrated into the United States, it would not help the plaintiffs [who are] injured specifically because Illinois defines their resident territories as within the United States.")

The court summarily rejected the plaintiffs' right-to-travel argument as "borderline frivolous."

January 18, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Daily Read: MLK and Affirmative Action

For Martin Luther King day, a good read is Professor David B. Oppenheimer's article Dr. King’s Dream of Affirmative Action, available on ssrn

Oppenheimer mentions the plans of the President and Attorney General Sessions to challenge affirmative action policies in higher education as a form of discrimination against white people and predicts that they will eventually use  Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as evidence that Dr. King would be supporting their position if he were still alive.  The President's Proclamation for MLK Day does not mention affirmative action (or civil rights), but does allude to King's most famous speech by including the arguably "color-blind" rejecting judgment based on "color of their skin" in favor of "content of their character." (The Proclamation states "Dr. King advocated for the world we still demand — where the sacred rights of all Americans are protected, rural and urban communities are prosperous from coast to coast, and our limits and our opportunities are defined not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.")

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_4Yet as Professor Oppenheimer argues it is simplistic - - - and incorrect - - - to conclude that Martin Luther King's political theorizing can be reduced to a convenient "color-blind" position. Oppenheimer writes:

While I have found no instance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ever using the term “affirmative action,” forty-eight years after his assassination his name is often invoked in the affirmative action debate by opponents of race-based affirmative action, who cite Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech as evidence that he supported “color-blind” policies, and thus presumably would have opposed race-conscious affirmative action. But when we examine the historical record it is clear that while Dr. King dreamed of a time when racism – and thus race – would be irrelevant, he was a supporter of both of these forms of affirmative action. On the one hand, he spent much of the last six years of his life actively promoting what we would describe today as race-conscious affirmative action, including the use of racial quotas in employment. Specifically, from 1962-68 Dr. King orchestrated and implemented “Operation Breadbasket,” a civil rights boycott campaign that demanded employment quotas for Black American workers based on their numbers in a workforce, neighborhood or city. Yet on the other hand, with regard to class-based affirmative action, Dr. King supported a massive war on poverty.  In advocating for special benefits for poor Americans he sometimes used color-blind language and pointed out that it would benefit poor whites as well as poor Blacks, while at other times he justified it as an example of the kind of reparations to which Black Americans were entitled under the equitable remedy of restitution for unpaid wages.

In his discussion of the constitutional law doctrine and theory surrounding affirmative action, Oppenheimer includes the United States Supreme Court's reaction to organized efforts to mandate affirmative action in Hughes v. Superior Court for Contra Costa County (1948) in which the Court stated:

that the picketing here involved, and upon which the judgment of contempt is based, was for the attainment of an unlawful objective, viz.: not to induce Lucky [grocery store] not to discriminate against, but, rather, expressly to compel Lucky to discriminate arbitrarily in favor of, one race as against all others in the hiring of a portion of its clerks; and that therefore the injunction was properly issued and the judgment of contempt should stand. With this position, upon the record here, we must agree.

Oppenheimer writes that while the Supreme Court was willing to affirm the legitimacy of protesting discrimination, but unwilling to give any approval to demands for proportional hiring, the demands for "proportional hiring nonetheless persisted, and would become a critical part of Dr. King’s campaign for racial justice in the last six years of his life."

It seems pretty clear that MLK supported what is now known as  "affirmative action."

 

 

January 15, 2018 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Race, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Eighth Circuit Rejects Challenge to Missouri's Onerous Hair-Braiding License Requirements

In a very brief opinion in Niang v. Caroll, a unanimous panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district judge's grant of summary judgment to Missouri against a challenge to the state's licensing requirements for "African-style hair braiders."  In short, the Missouri statutes require a license for barbers and cosmetologists that is granted only to those who complete a "costly and time-intensive training course - - - 1,000-hours for barbering and 1,500-hours for hairdressing" and passage of exam.  Moreover, Missouri conceded that "only about 10 percent of the required training courses is relevant to African-style braiders, and that almost all the exams do not test on braiding." 

The Eighth Circuit applied the most deferential of rational basis standards.  In rejecting the challengers' argument that the license requirement was not rationally related to any legitimate government interest, the court not only found that the state interests of protecting consumers and ensuring public health and safety were legitimate, but also recognized two other interests supplied by the district judge: stimulating more education on African-style braiding and incentivizing braiders to offer more comprehensive hair care.  As to the means chosen, the Eighth Circuit found that it was sufficiently reasonable: "the fit between the licensing requirement and the State’s interest is imperfect, but not unconstitutionally so." 

The Eighth Circuit also rejected the Equal Protection argument focused on the classification between braiders and barbers/cosmetologist, finding that the statutory definitions of "hair dressing" included braiding.

Lurking beneath the litigation, of course, is the racial classification, but this remains unaddressed.  Indeed, it would be a difficult argument on which to prevail absent other facts.

1024px-IBK-20

For Constitutional Law professors looking for a good example of "anything goes" rational basis as exemplified by Railway Express Agency v. New York (1949) (which the Eighth Circuit does not cite), as well as Dandridge v. Williams (1970) and  Heller v. Doe (1997), both of which the court does cite, this brief opinion is noteworthy.

For persons who want to practice the profession of braiding without being subject to onerous and irrelevant licensing requirements, the remedy may have to be in the legislature.

[image by  Chidi "Lex Ash" Ashimole  via]

January 13, 2018 in Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Race, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 12, 2018

SCOTUS to Hear Texas Redistricting Case

The United States Supreme Court has announced it will hear Abbott v. Perez, a redistricting case decided by a three judge court in Texas.

Recall that the lengthy opinion under both the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act included a finding of intentional racial discrimination by the Texas legislature.  The three judge court found that the plaintiffs could demonstrate "either through direct or circumstantial evidence that the government body adopted the electoral scheme with a discriminatory purpose, that the body maintained the scheme with discriminatory purpose, or that the system furthered pre-existing intentional discrimination." 

Texas_counties_map

The addition of Abbott v. Perez to the Court's docket heralds the 2017-2018 Term as a major one for redistricting, adding to the partisan gerrymandering cases of Gill v. Whitford (argued in October) and Benisek v. Lamone, and continuing to confront issues of racial gerrymandering as in last term's cases of Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections and Cooper v. Harris.

 

January 12, 2018 in Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Fifteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Race, Recent Cases, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Federal District Judge Rejects Challenge to Alabama Voter Identification Law

In his opinion in Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Merrill, United States District Judge L. Scott Cooler granted summary judgment to the state in a challenge to Alabama's Photo Identification statute, Ala. Code § 17-9-30, passed in 2011 and first operative in 2014.  Plaintiffs argued that the photo identification law violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and the Fifteenth Amendment's guarantee that the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Because the Alabama voter photo identification statute did not make an explicit racial classification, the plaintiffs had the burden of demonstrating that the statute had both racial intent and racial effect as the United Sates Supreme Court made clear in Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp. (1977) and Washington v. Davis (1976).  Judge Cooler recited the Arlington Heights factors for intent - - - usually the more difficult prong to prove - - - but then determined that "such an undertaking is not necessary in this case," because plaintiffs did not show effect.  Judge Cooler concluded that in this case, "the Photo ID Law does not in fact discriminate on the basis of race." (emphasis in original).

Essentially, Judge Cooler rejected the relevance of expert testimony regarding the racial impact:

Also according to Dr. Siskin, 1.37% of white registered voters, 2.44% of Black registered voters, and 2.29% of Hispanic registered voters may not currently have an acceptable photo ID. Frankly, the discrepancy in photo ID possession rates among white, Black, and Hispanic registered voters in Alabama is miniscule. In other words, it appears that very few registrants of any racial group may presently be affected by the Photo ID Law. Nonetheless, the numbers show that Black and Latino registered voters are almost twice as likely as white voters to lack an acceptable photo ID for voting. Although Secretary Merrill’s expert’s numbers differ somewhat (Dr. Hood estimated that .87% of white, 1.44% of Black, and 1.26% of Hispanic registered voters lack photo ID), Secretary Merrill does not dispute that registered voters of color in Alabama are statistically more likely than white voters to lack the required photo ID.

Interestingly, Judge Cooler continued with an allusion to the high voter turnout in the hotly contested Alabama Senate race:

It is worth noting that any conclusions reached from this evidence must be qualified by the fact that the studies were completed in July 2016, and the actual possession rates are certainly in flux as voters who want them obtain photo IDs. Indeed, since the analyses were done, there has been a Presidential election and a special election to choose Alabama’s U.S. Senator. Many people who may not have had ID more than a year ago could have gotten one since, particularly if they wanted to participate in those elections.

But in the end, Dr. Siskin’s estimate does not matter. This is because a person who does not have a photo ID today is not prevented from voting if he or she can easily get one, and it is so easy to get a photo ID in Alabama, no one is prevented from voting.

 Judge Cooler then discussed the requirements for obtaining photo identification and concluded:

In sum, the “impact” of the law should not be measured by how many people lack a given ID at a given point in time, but by whether someone without an ID can easily get one. In Alabama, the law has no discriminatory impact because it does not prevent anyone from voting, not when free IDs are issued in every county, or at home, under conditions that any registered voter can meet.

Returning to the issue of intent, Judge Cooler found that "there is no evidence that the Alabama Legislature believed that a photo ID law would disadvantage minority voters, particularly after providing means for people without an ID to receive one free of charge."  Not surprisingly, Judge Cooler also denied the plaintiffs' claim under the Voting Rights Act.

Given the contentious state of efforts to prevent "voter fraud" that may be linked to efforts to suppress the vote by non-white voters, this is sure to be appealed.

Alabama_A&M_GOTV_rally

UPDATE: Notice of Appeal and Statement from LDF-NAACP here

January 11, 2018 in Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Fifteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Race, Reconstruction Era Amendments | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Three Judge Court Holds North Carolina Redistricting Unconstitutional

In an extensive and well-crafted opinion in the consolidated cases of Common Cause v. Rucho and League of Women Voters v. Rucho, a three judge court found North Carolina's 2016 redistricting plan was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering under the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I §§ 2, 4.

Recall that the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the issue of partisan gerrymandering in Gill v. Whitford in the earliest days of this Term.  Recall also that in early December, the United States Supreme Court added another partisan gerrymandering case to its docket, Benisek v. Lamone. 

Fourth Circuit Judge James Wynn's almost 200 page opinion for the majority, joined by Senior District Judge Britt, first discusses the facts involved in the North Carolina redistricting, some incidents and players of which will be familiar from the Supreme Court's opinion in Cooper v. Harris, a racial gerrymandering case challenging only two districts and arising from an earlier North Carolina redistricting.

This is the 2016 plan at issue in Common Cause and League of Women Voters:

NorthCarolina2016USHouseDistricts

Judge Wynn's opinion carefully resolves the question of standing and justiability.  Important to the justiciability analysis is the issue of judicially manageable standards, and Judge Wynn writes a robust support for social science, noting that the "Supreme Court long has relied on statistical and social science analyses as evidence that a defendant violated a standard set forth in the Constitution" and citing cases under the Equal Protection Clause such as Yick Wo v. Hopkins, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, and City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.  (It is interesting in this regard to (re)consider Chief Justice Roberts's statements during the oral argument in Gill v. Whitford disparaging social science.) 

Judge Wynn wrote:

To hold that such widely used, and relied upon, methods cannot provide a judicially manageable standard for adjudicating Plaintiffs’ partisan gerrymandering claims would be to admit that the judiciary lacks the competence—or willingness—to keep pace with the technical advances that simultaneously facilitate such invidious partisanship and provide an opportunity to remedy it.

On the merits of the Equal Protection Clause claim, Judge Wynn's opinion found that there must be an intent to discriminate on a partisan basis and that there was such an effect, and then the burden would shift to the governmental defendant to prove that a legitimate state interest or other neutral factor justified such discrimination. Here, Judge Wynn's opinion concluded that all were resolved in the challengers' favor.  On the First Amendment claim, Judge Wynn considered several strands of doctrine:

Against these many, multifaceted lines of precedent, the First Amendment’s applicability to partisan gerrymandering is manifest. How can the First Amendment prohibit the government from disfavoring certain viewpoints, yet allow a legislature to enact a districting plan that disfavors supporters of a particular set of political beliefs? How can the First Amendment bar the government from disfavoring a class of speakers, but allow a districting plan to disfavor a class of voters? How can the First Amendment protect government employees’ political speech rights, but stand idle when the government infringes on voters’ political speech rights? And how can the First Amendment ensure that candidates ascribing to all manner of political beliefs have a reasonable opportunity to appear on the ballot, and yet allow a state electoral system to favor one set of political beliefs over others? We conclude that the First Amendment does not draw such fine lines.

Nevertheless, with no clear framework for resolving the First Amendment issues, Judge Wynn found that the Equal protection framework was most applicable, and again satisfied by the plaintiffs.
 
Finally, the court found that North Carolina's "2016 Plan’s invidious partisanship runs contrary to the Constitution’s vesting of the power to elect Representatives in “the People.” U.S. Const. art. I, § 2," and to disfavor a class of candidates and dictate the outcome of an election as prohibited by  art. I §4.

In a brief separate opinion, concurring in part and dissenting in part, District Judge Osteen, Jr., disagreed as the standard for proving intent in Equal Protection but concluded the standard was met; disagreed on the merits of the First Amendment claim; and agreed that there was a violation of Article I.

Judge Wynn's opinion gave North Carolina until January 29 to submit a new plan to the Court, but one wonders if North Carolina will also be aggressively pursuing remedies at the United States Supreme Court, especially given Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. 

 

January 9, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ninth Circuit on Idaho's Ag-Gag Law: Portions Violate First Amendment

In its opinion in Animal Defense League Fund v. Wadsen, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit largely affirmed the injunction of Idaho's so-called "Ag-Gag" law, Idaho Code § 18-7042.

Recall that Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill concluded that portions of the statute violated the First Amendment and enjoined them in 2015. The Idaho statute created a new crime, “interference with agricultural production" and provided that

A person commits the crime of interference with agricultural production if the person knowingly:
(a) is not employed by an agricultural production facility and enters an agricultural production facility by force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass;
(b) obtains records of an agricultural production facility by force, threat, misrepresentation or trespass;
(c) obtains employment with an agricultural production facility by force, threat, or misrepresentation with the intent to cause economic or other injury to the facility's operations . . .
(d) Enters an agricultural production facility that is not open to the public and, without the facility owner's express consent or pursuant to judicial process or statutory authorization, makes audio or video recordings of the conduct of an agricultural production facility's operations;
(e) ****

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit majority opinion, authored by Judge Margaret McKeown and joined by Judge Richard C. Tallman, affirmed the finding that subsections (a) and (d) violated the First Amendment, but held that subsections (b) and (c), criminalizing misrepresentations to obtain records and secure employment are not protected speech under the First Amendment and do not violate the Equal Protection Clause. In his partial dissent, Judge Carlos Bea argued that subsection (a), criminalizing misrepresentations to enter a production facility,should survive constitutional review.

Nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e0-5cd6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.wWhat might be called the ethical center of the litigation is exemplified by the famous novel The Jungle (also discussed by the federal district judge) in which Upton Sinclair highlighted conditions in the meat-packing industry and which was based on the author's time working incognito in a packing plant. But the majority opinion also observes that the appeal "highlights the tension between journalists’ claimed First Amendment right to engage in undercover investigations and the state’s effort to protect privacy and property rights in the agricultural industry."

But the doctrinal center of the court's analysis of the Idaho statute criminalizing misrepresentation is the United States Supreme Court's fractured opinion in United States v. Alvarez (2012), holding unconstitutional the federal "stolen valor" statute criminalizing falsely claiming to have been awarded a military medal.

Nypl.digitalcollections.37f230d0-089e-0133-f34a-58d385a7b928.001.vIn short, the majority found that subsection (a)'s misrepresentation provision was protected speech under Alvarez subject to exacting scrutiny, which it did not survive, especially given the potential for selective prosecution and its overbreadth. On the other hand, subsection (b) pertaining to obtaining records was not protected speech under Alvarez because unlike subsection (a)'s "false statements made to enter property, false statements made to actually acquire agricultural production facility records inflict a property harm upon the owner, and may also bestow a material gain on the acquirer" and the provision is aimed at conduct. Somewhat similarly, subsection (c)'s criminalization of obtaining employment is not protected speech under Alvarez since the statements were made for material gain. The majority interestingly observed that it was almost as if "the Idaho legislature drafted this provision with Alvarez by its side," but interestingly did not observe that this provision would have criminalized Upton Sinclair as he researched his novel. Finally, subsection (d), the recordings clause, was not within the false statements analysis of Alvarez, but was a content-based prohibition that failed strict scrutiny.

With the proliferation of ag-gag laws, this Ninth Circuit opinion is sure to be relied on by the Tenth Circuit as it considers a district court 2017 decision in Animal Defense Fund v. Herbert holding Utah's ag-gag law unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

 [Images from NYPL public domain collection] 

 

January 4, 2018 in Equal Protection, First Amendment, Food and Drink, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Second Circuit Finds Denial of Permit to "Wandering Dago" Food Truck Unconstitutional

In its unanimous panel opinion in Wandering Dago, Inc. v. DeSito, the Second Circuit reversed the district court and held that the the denial of a permit to operate a food truck at the Empire State Plaza in Albany violated the First Amendment as well as the Equal Protection Clause. 

Recall from our discussion of the district court's 2016 decision that the issue involved a program in a facility owned by the state of New York and operated by the state Office of General Services (OGS) under Commissioner RoAnn Desito. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, OGS administered "The Empire State Plaza Summer Outdoor Lunch Program," permitting vendors to operate food trucks for limited hours on the plaza, intended to provide "lunch options to the approximately 11,000 State employees who work at Empire State Plaza, as well as for visitors to the Capitol, State Museum, performing arts center" and various monuments and memorials in New York's capital city.

WD Food TruckAs the list of applicants was being processed, the application for "Wandering Dago" attracted attention of OGS employees, one who "recognized the term 'dago' as 'a highly offensive term for Italians,'" and after conducting a "computer search" to determine whether this was true, his conclusion was not only "confirmed" but it was "revealed" that the term has been "used to refer to people of Spanish and Portuguese descent, as well as Italians." OGS denied the application "on the grounds that its name contains an offensive ethnic slur and does not fit with OGS' policy of providing family-friendly policy." Wandering Dago's application the next year was similarly rejected.

The Second Circuit's opinion, authored by Judge Susan Carney, concluded that the case was clearly governed by the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Matal v. Tam ("The Slants" case) finding that the "disparagement" provision in the trademark statute constituted viewpoint discrimination and failed strict scrutiny.  The district judge's decision was rendered before the Supreme Court's opinion, but she had rejected the applicability of the en banc Federal Circuit's  opinion in  In Re Simon Shiao Tam because she concluded the lunch program was a nonpublic forum.  For the Second Circuit, however, the rejection of Wandering Dago's application based on viewpoint merited strict scrutiny under the First Amendment whether or not that "speech is categorized as commercial speech, speech in a public forum, or speech in a nonpublic forum."

Moreover, the Second Circuit held that the government's rejection of the lunch truck was not shielded by the doctrines of government speech (or government contractor speech).  The district judge had held that the lunch program was "government speech," relying on Walker v. Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans in which the Court found that Texas's program of specialty license plates was government speech and therefore not subject to the First Amendment. The Second Circuit opinion contains a full discussion of the record, but ultimately finds it "implausible" that the public would view the Wandering Dago truck as New York's speech. The Second Circuit again analogized to Matal v Tam, in which the Court rejected a government speech claim.  As in Matal, the United States government did not "dream up" the trademarks, it "merely registered them," and similarly here, the New York Office of Government Services did not "dream up" the food truck's branding.

The Second Circuit applied strict scrutiny, even while noting that New York did not argue it could satisfy the standard, in order to "complete the analytical picture."  Not surprisingly, the court found that the denial of the permit failed strict scrutiny.

More surprisingly, the Second Circuit also reversed the district judge's grant of summary judgment to the government on the Equal Protection Clause claim.  In a brief passage, the court found that there was selective enforcement of the permit scheme with "intent to inhibit or punish the exercise of constitutional rights." This finding rested on New York's granting of permits to other vendors applying to participate in the Lunch Program, including the “Slidin’ Dirty” truck. Thus, the court concluded that Wandering Dago was being discriminated against for its free speech constitutional rights "in branding itself and its products with ethnic slurs."

While it is possible that New York will seek certiorari, it seems more likely that the state will accede to the decision and perhaps change its lunch program to make it less a permit scheme and more a government-sponsored "speech" event.

 

January 4, 2018 in Equal Protection, First Amendment, Food and Drink, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Third Circuit Remands County-Based Signature Requirements for Political Parties to Appear on Ballot

In its opinion in Constitution Party v. Cortes, a Third Circuit panel found fault with the district judge's injunction imposing on the Constitution Party, as well as the other plaintiff small political parties - - - known in the opinion as the Aspiring Parties - - - a requirement of county-based signature-gathering requirements.  The case arose out of a challenge to Pennsylvania's scheme for allowing small parties on the ballot. After finding this previous scheme unconstitutional, the district judge considered remedies, eventually adopting the remedy proposed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Under this scheme, the aspiring parties candidates could be placed on the ballot provided that they gather a certain number of signatures and that these signatures be from 10 different counties (or from 5 counties for some offices) of Pennsylvania's 67 counties.

Pennsylvania-counties-map

The issue was whether these county-requirements were unconstitutional vote dilution under the Equal Protection Clause.

Relying on Reynolds v. Sims (1964) and Gray v. Sanders (1963), the panel acknowledged that geographical inequalities in state voting violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, a principle that was extended to signature-gathering requirements for ballot placement in Moore v. Ogilive (1969).  The test, from the First Amendment case of  Anderson v. Celebrezze (1983), which the court stated applied also to the equal protection context, required the court to

 first consider the character and magnitude of the asserted injury to the rights protected . . . that the plaintiff seeks to vindicate. It then must identify and evaluate the precise interests put forward by the State as justifications for the burden imposed by its rule. In passing judgment, the Court must not only determine the legitimacy and strength of each of those interests; it also must consider the extent to which those interests make it necessary to burden the plaintiff’ s rights. Only after weighing all these factors is the reviewing court in a position to decide whether the challenged provision is unconstitutional.

The court noted that county-based signature-gathering requirements have "fared poorly" under the Anderson doctrine and discussed cases, it was nevertheless true that in some instances these requirements survived. The focus should be on the "real-world impact" of the voting restrictions.  And it is a fact-intensive one. 

Looking at the district judge's order, which had been fashioned under significant time pressure before an upcoming election, the Third Circuit panel found the absence of fact-finding fatal.  It therefore vacated and remanded the case, noting that the district judge could certainly issue the same or a similar injunction if it engaged in a fact-intensive analysis and found the restrictions constitutional under Anderson.

On remand, it may be difficult for the parties to muster the kind of evidence that would be necessary to demonstrate how the county-specific requirement for signatures satisfy precise state interests that are not undermined by vote dilution.

 

December 13, 2017 in Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Another District Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Transgender Military Ban

 A third district judge has issued a preliminary injunction against the President's ban on transgender troops in the military.  In her opinion in Karnoski v. Trump, United States District Judge Marsha Pechman of the Western District of Washington issued a preliminary injunction on the basis of the plaintiffs' likelihood to succeed on the merits of their Equal Protection, Due Process, and First Amendment claims.

Recall that after several tweets this past July, embedded President Trump issued a Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security through the Office of the Press Secretary directing the halt of accession of transgender individuals into the military and the halt of all resources "to fund sex-reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel, except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex." Recall that in October, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Doe v. Trump partially enjoined the president's actions denying the motion for preliminary injunction regarding the Sex Reassignment Directive based on a lack of standing and granting the motion for preliminary injunction regarding the Accession and Retention Directives. Recall that in November, United States District Judge Marvin Garvis of the District of Maryland in Stone v. Trump issued a preliminary injunction against the United States military's ban on transgender troops and resources for "sex-reassignment" medical procedures. 

In Karnoski, Judge Pechman finds that the individual plaintiffs, the organizational plaintiffs, and the State of Washington all have standing to challenge the Presidential Memorandum and that the claims are ripe. She does grant the motion to dismiss as to the procedural due process claim.

On the merits, Judge Karnoski's analysis is succinct.  She concludes that the policy "distinguishes on the basis of transgender status, a quasi-suspect classification, and is therefore subject to intermediate scrutiny." She then states that while the government defendants "identify important governmental interest including military effectiveness, unit cohesion, and preservation of military resources, they failed to show that the policy prohibiting transgender individuals from serving openly is related to the achievements of those interests." Indeed, she concludes, the reasons proffered by the President are actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions, and judgment of the military itself," quoting and citing Doe v. Trump.

Departing from the earlier cases, Judge Pechman also finds the plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on a substantive due process claim based on a fundamental liberty interest:

The policy directly interferes with Plaintiffs' ability to define and express their gender identity, and penalizes plaintiffs for exercising their fundamental right to do so openly by depriving them of employment and career opportunities.

On the First Amendment claim, Judge Pechman concludes that the "policy penalizes transgender service members but not others for disclosing their gender identity, and is therefore a content based restriction."

She then quickly finds that on balance, the equities weigh in favor of the preliminary injunction.

With this third court finding the Presidential Memorandum has constitutional deficiencies, the transgender ban is unlikely to go into effect by January 1.  Additionally, the Pentagon has reportedly announced that the ban will not take effect.

 

 

December 11, 2017 in Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Executive Authority, First Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Ripeness, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)