Thursday, July 18, 2013
Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (D.D.C.) earlier this week rejected hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees' suit for an injunction against the government to stop it from force-feeding them. The ruling in Aamer v. Obama is the second recent case coming out of the federal courts rejecting an anti-force-feeding claim. Here's our post on the first.
Judge Collyer, like Judge Kessler in the earlier case, ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2241(e)(2), which deprives courts of jurisdiction to hear an action related to "any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement" of an alien detainee at Guantanamo.
Judge Collyer went on to address the merits, too. She wrote that the government is "responsible for taking reasonable steps to guarantee the safety of inmates in their charge," that there is no right to suicide or assisted suicide, and that the government has a legitimate penological interest in preventing suicide. Moreover, she wrote that the government has put controls in place so that the procedure really isn't so bad, and that the government made adjustments to the force-feeding schedule for the Ramadan fast.
July 18, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Scott Bombay, over at Constitution Daily, reports on a recent order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, directing the Justice Department to conduct a "declassification review" of a April 25, 2008, ruling and legal briefs involving Yahoo! The move could lead to release of documents that reveal some of the FISC's secret workings--in particular, according to Yahoo!, "how the parties and the Court vetted the Government's arguments supporting the use of directives" to gather information about subscribers without their knowledge. (Yahoo!'s interest is in showing that it vigorously defended its users' privacy.)
But Bombay notes that when the Justice Department finishes its classification job, there may not be much left of the ruling or the briefs to help us understand much of anything.
FISC Presiding Judge Reggie Walton ordered the Justice Department to report back to him by July 29 about when the documents could be ready for public inspection.
Lazarus says, referencing Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur's letter to Congressman Fred Upton, that delayed enforcement, or temporary postponements, of tax reporting and payment requirements are routine across Republican and Democratic administrations. Moreover, the administration's delay is well within the courts' zone of tolerance under the Administrative Procedure Act:
To be sure, the federal Administrative Procedure Act authorizes federal courts to compel agencies to initiate statutorily required actions that have been "unreasonably delayed." But courts have found delays to be unreasonable only in rare cases where, unlike this one, inaction had lasted for several years, and the recalcitrant agency could offer neither a persuasive excuse nor a credible end to its dithering.
In other words, the courts give the administration some room, and the administration's delayed enforcement of the employer mandate, just one year while the administration gears up for it, is well within that space.
Mazur's letter also cites the IRC:
The Notice [of delayed enforcement] is an exercise of the Treasury Department's longstanding administrative authority to grant transition relief when implementing new legislation like the ACA. Administrative authority is granted by section 7805(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.
This authority has been used to postpone the application of new legislation on a number of prior occasions across Administrations.
In response to the White House announcement that it will delay enforcement of the so-called employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans introduced two bills, H.R. 2667 and H.R. 2668, that would amend the ACA to delay the effective date of the employer mandate and the individual mandate, respectively.
The White House promised a veto, saying that legislation authorizing a delay for the employer mandate is unnecessary (because according to the White House it can do this unilaterally) and that legislation authorizing a delay for the individual mandate would raise health insurance premiums and result in fewer insured.
The bills were clearly designed to highlight the Republicans' complaint that the administration is treating businesses more favorably than individuals and to force the administration to own up to its more favorable treatment of businesses. The White House didn't bite. (The Hill covered the politics here.)
But there's still this problem: It's not at all clear on what authority the administration can delay the enforcement of the employer mandate. As we wrote earlier, the ACA says that the employer mandate "shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." That doesn't leave much wiggle room.
If the administration doesn't enforce the employer mandate until later, it's not clear that anyone could complaint (that is, that anyone would have standing to sue in federal court to compel enforcement). So the administration, as a practical matter, may not need a legal theory for delayed enforcement.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Representative Scott Garrett (R-NJ) introduced a resolution, H. Con. Res. 45, saying that President Obama violated Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution by postponing the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance or pay a fine. (Article II, Section 3 says that the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.") The Hill reports here; we posted on Michael McConnell's piece in the WSJ here.
According to the resolution, the Affordable Care Act sets a specific date, December 31, 2013, after which the employer mandate "shall" take effect:
Whereas section 1513(d) of such Act states that the employer mandate "shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013";
This is right, and it seems pretty firm.
Lyle Denniston argues (correctly) over at Constitution Daily, the blog of the U.S. Constitution Center, that administrative agencies enjoy some flexibility in enforcing federal law. In particular, agencies may sometimes require time to be able to write regs to effectively enforce the law.
But here the language of the ACA is clear on the date of its application, and the administration's delay doesn't seem to have anything to do with its ability to enforce the employer mandate. Instead, the delay seems designed to meet the concerns of business owners--a policy consideration, not an administrative one.
The best way for the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to work this one out would be to amend the ACA, to give employers another year--simply change that date to December 31, 2014. This is a simple step, but an unlikely one in the current political climate, where pols can score points instead of making policy.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Here's Michael McConnell's piece in the WSJ arguing that the White House's decision to defer the implementation of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates the President's duty to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." No word yet from the White House on the legal basis for deferring what appears to be a mandatory start-date in the Act: the employer mandate and penalty "shall apply" after December 31, 2013.
Monday, July 8, 2013
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, today asked the Supreme Court to vacate the order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, compelling the disclosure of domestic phone records by Verizon. We previously posted on the FISC order here.
EPIC filed a petition for a writ of mandamus directly with the Supreme Court, bypassing the usual route through the lower courts, because of the unique nature of the FISC order. EPIC claims that FISC Judge Roger Vinson ordered the disclosure of domestic phone records in violation of the FISC's statutory authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But EPIC says that under the FISA, the only court that can reverse Judge Vinson's order is the Supreme Court. Moreover, the order creates exceptional circumstances relating to the invasion of privacy, privileged communications, and the First Amendment that warrant mandamus relief. Thus, the mandamus petition.
On the merits, EPIC argues that Judge Vinson exceeded his authority under FISA:
[T]he FISC issued an order requiring disclosure of records for all telephone communications "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." The Business Records provision does not enable this type of domestic programmatic surveillance.
Specifically, the statute requires that production orders be supported by "reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation. . . . ." 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1861(b)(2)(A). It is simply unreasonable to conclude that all telephone records for all Verizon customers in the United States could be relevant to an investigation. Thus, the FISC simply "ha[d] no judicial power to do what it purport[ed] to do."
Petition at 18.
EPIC also argues that the order violates the separation of powers, insofar as it compels the disclosure of phone records of the judicial and legislative branches to the executive branch.
July 8, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Jonathan Hafetz (Seton Hall), author of Habeas Corpus After 9/11: Confronting America's New Global Detention System, wrote at Al Jazeera that "there appears to be real momentum behind new efforts to reform Guantanamo policies."
In particular, Hafetz points to loosened restrictions on the administration's transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, approved last week by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Still, the bill has to clear the full Senate, where it will surely meet some resistance, and, as Hafetz points out, the House version contains the old restrictions.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today issued an "amendatory veto" on Illinois HB 183, the state legislature's effort to provide for lawful concealed carrying of handguns, after the Seventh Circuit earlier this year ruled that Illinois's ban on concealed carry violated the Second Amendment.
Governor Quinn's amendatory veto sends HB 183 back to the legislature, along with his recommended changes to the bill. The legislature can override the veto as to the original HB 183 by a 3/5 vote in both houses; it can approve Governor Quinn's recommendations, however, by a bare majority in both houses. If the legislature so approves, and if the Governor certifies that the approval meets his recommendations, the amendatory-vetoed-bill becomes law.
The Governor may return a bill together with specific recommendations for change to the house in which it originated. The bill shall be considered in the same manner as a vetoed bill but the specific recommendations may be accepted by a record vote of a majority of the members elected to each house. Such bill shall be presented again to the Governor and if he certifies that such acceptance conforms to his specific recommendations, the bill shall become law. If he does not so certify, he shall return it as a vetoed bill to the house in which it originated.
Governor Quinn objected to the very loose standards for concealed carry in HB 183. In particular, the bill allows people to carry guns into establishments serving alcohol and into the workplace, and it contains no cap on the number of guns or the size or amount of ammunition clips that may be carried. Governor Quinn also objected to the bill's override of local authority to ban assault weapons--a provision not required by the Seventh Circuit's ruling (which went only to concealed carry).
The Seventh Circuit gave the state until July 9 to write a concealed carry law. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Quinn's move also raises the possibility that the General Assembly could fail to agree on either option and leave Illinois with a wide-open gun law that even sponsors of the concealed carry law have sought to avoid."
Monday, July 1, 2013
The Alabama Constitutional Revision Commission is considering a proposal to rewrite a section of the state constitution that allows racially segregated schools. The provision is an embarrassment (to say the very least), but state voters can't seem to vote it out of the state constitution. (Voters failed to strike it twice in the last 10 years. The latest vote, in 2012, likely failed because some argued that the amendment didn't go far enough--because it wouldn't have repealed the provision saying that there's no constitutional right to a public education.)
This, the week after the Supreme Court struck the coverage formula for the preclearance provision in the Voting Rights Act--a case brought by Alabama's own Shelby County.
The provision, Section 256, as amended by Amendment 111, approved by voters in 1956, reads:
It is the policy of the state of Alabama to foster and promote the education of its citizens in a manner and extent consistent with its available resources, and the willingness and ability of the individual student, but nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as creating or recognizing any right to education or training at public expense . . . .
To avoid confusion and disorder and to promote effective and economical planning for education, the legislature may authorize the parents or guardians of minors, who desire that such minors shall attend schools provided for their own race, to make election to that end, such election to be effective for such period and to such extent as the legislature may provide.
The Commission today considered a new Section 256, deleting the reference to segregated schools and the lack of right to education, and stating simply that "The legislature shall establish, organize and maintain a system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of children thereof." But the Commission couldn't agree on final language and sent the revision to a subcommittee.
The Commission also rejected a provision that would have provided a stronger veto for the governor. (The legislature can currently override a veto with a bare majority in both houses. The proposal would have required a 3/5 vote in both houses.)
Friday, June 21, 2013
The Newseum will host a special program NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at 4:00 p.m., at the Knight TV Studio in Washington, D.C. More information is here; the program will be streamed live online at newseum.org.
The program includes an introduction by ABA President Laurel Bellows and a panel of experts on national security law, free speech, and the press. Harvey Rishikof, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and the National Security Advisory Committee, will moderate. James Duff, president and CEO of the Freedom Forum and CEO of the Newseum, will deliver welcoming remarks.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
The D.C. Circuit this week denied a habeas petition of a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo Bay. The ruling in Hussain v. Obama is unremarkable, given the lower courts' approach in these cases. But a concurrence in the case sheds light on a problem: the lower courts are in fact applying the wrong standard.
If that's right--and the concurrence makes a good case that it is--then the courts are denying habeas petitions that shouldn't be denied. The solution, according to concurring Judge Edwards: "The time has come for the President and Congress to give serious consideration to a different approach for the handling of the Guantanamo detainee cases." Indeed.
The majority in the case applied the now-settled test for habeas petitions coming out of Guantanamo Bay: Whether the government has shown, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the detainee was "part of" al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces at the time of capture. (The test purports to apply the government's detention authority under the AUMF, which permits the president to detain individuals who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such . . . persons.") The majority rejected Hussain's arguments to adjust and tighten the test and concluded that it was easily met here.
But concurring Senior District Judge Edwards argued that the court actually and wrongly applied a lower "substantial evidence" test, not the more rigorous preponderance-of-evidence test that the court said it applied. Judge Edwards argued that the evidence in this case--or lack thereof--only supported a conclusion that Hussain fell into the covered group by a substantial evidence standard, not by a preponderance of the evidence, even though the majority held that it met that higher standard. Moreover, Judge Edwards wrote that the court implicitly shifted the burden from the government to Hussain in showing that he continued to affiliate with enemy forces after leaving Afghanistan.
Despite these problems, Judge Edwards concurred in the result, because, he said, the law of the circuit compelled it.
Still, Judge Edwards concluded with a call for change: "The time has come for the President and Congress to give serious consideration to a different approach for the handling of the Guantanamo detainee cases." Conc. at 5.
Monday, June 10, 2013
The Ninth Circuit today dismissed a case first challenging the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretap program (the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP) and later requesting destruction of records retained from that program. The case, In re National Security Agency Telecommunications Records Litigation, was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights. CCR's information page, including links to earlier filings and rulings, is here.
The Ninth Circuit dismissed the case in a very brief, unpublished decision that relied on the Supreme Court's ruling in Clapper v. Amnesty International. Recall that the Court in that case dismissed a challenge to the government's surveillance program under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The Court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing, because they could not demonstrate that they were injured by the Act.
So too, here, the Ninth Circuit said. The court ruled that CCR had the same "highly attenuated chain" of alleged injury with one difference: the Amnesty International plaintiffs challenged a program with judicial oversight (by way of the FISC), whereas the CCR case challenged a program with no judicial oversight. Still, the Ninth Circuit said that "CCR's asserted injury relies on a different uncertainty not present in Amnesty Int'l, namely, that the government retained 'records' from any past surveillance it conducted under the now-defunct TSP."
The ruling puts an end to CCR's efforts to destroy any records that the government retained under the TSP. Indeed, it puts an end to efforts to determine whether the government even retained any such records at all.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
The National Security Agency is collecting telephone metadata of U.S. customers of Verizon, first reported The Guardian. The NSA sweeping effort appears to have been in place for years, but The Guardian first published a top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order just last night. The remarkably short order, issued pursuant to a provision in the PATRIOT Act, 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1861, directs the telecommunications company to turn over "telephony metadata" on communications between its subscribers in the United States and abroad and wholly within the United States. ("Metadata" includes identifying information like the originating and terminating phone numbers, and the time and duration of calls. It does not include the substantive content of the communication or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer.)
The order also prohibits any person from disclosing that the FBI or NSA sought or obtained any information under the order.
The White House defended the efforts, while reactions on Capitol Hill were mixed. There's a ton of reporting and commentary; here are some links:
- Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt at the NYT have a nice piece here;
- politico.com has a piece on 5 things you need to know;
- The Guardian has a series of reports, links are here.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
President Obama spoke out today on his administration's use of drone attacks and argued (again) for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in a speech that looked to wind down the war on terror. Politico reports here.
President Obama's speech came the same day as the administration released a "fact sheet" on U.S. policy standards and procedures for drone strikes and other hostile actions against terrorist suspects outside the United States and areas of active hostilities. According to the document, there's a preference for capture (and other reasonable alternatives) over killing, but still the document sets out standards for the use of lethal force:
First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.
Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.
Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:
1. Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;
2. Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;
3. An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;
4. An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and
5. An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to the U.S. person.
Finally, whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally--and on the way in which the United States can use force. The United States respects national sovereignty and international law.
The "fact sheet" makes some changes in emphasis and language, but seems to basically leave in place the substance of the three-part test outlined earlier this year in the White Paper. The "fact sheet" emphasizes rule-of-law principles and broad government decisionmaking and oversight over hostilities, but it does not specifically address or define "imminence" or the process by which the administration will designate a person a target. (Recall that the White Paper looked specifically at the question when lethal force could be used against a U.S. citizen who is a senior leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force; the "fact sheet" sweeps in a broader class of potential targets. Recall, too, that the White Paper defined imminence rather broadly, and it counterbalanced a target's interest in life with the U.S. interest in forestalling attacks on other Americans, under Mathews v. Eldridge.) The upshot: only time will tell whether the Fact Sheet represents a real change in the way the administration actually executes drone attacks.
Monday, May 20, 2013
A divided three-judge panel of the Third Circuit last week invalidated President Obama's recess appointment of Craig Becker as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. The ruling, National Labor Relations Board v. New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation, marks the second time a federal appeals court invalidated President Obama's "intrasession" recess appointments. The first came earlier this year from the D.C. Circuit, in the Noel Canning case. We posted on that case when it came down, and more recently when the government filed for cert. review at the Supreme Court.
The Third Circuit, like the D.C. Circuit before it, ruled that "the Recess of the Senate" in the Recess Appointments Clause refers only to the period between sessions of the Senate, or intersession breaks, and not breaks while the Senate is in session, or intrasession breaks. Because President Obama appointed Becker while the Senate was holding pro forma sessions every three or four days--during intrasession breaks--the court said that Becker's appointment was invalid. And because Becker's appointment was invalid, the NLRB lacked a quorum to issue a bargaining order to a New Jersey nursing facility that was at the center of the dispute.
Judge Greenaway, Jr., wrote a lengthy dissent, stating that "[t]he Majority's rationale undoes an appointments process that has successfully operated within our separation of powers regime for over 220 years."
As we said, the government has already filed its cert. petition in the Noel Canning case. Now with this ruling, the Court is all but certain to take the question up and issue a final ruling on "intrasession" recess appointments.
Friday, May 3, 2013
The general perception that Congress has been recalcitrant regarding President Obama's nominees to the federal bench can be tested against the Congressional Research Service report, President Obama’s First-Term U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: An Analysis and Comparison with Presidents Since Reagan, authored by Barry J. McMillion.
During the first terms of the five most recent Presidents (Reagan to Obama), the 30 confirmed Obama circuit court nominees were tied with 30 Clinton nominees as the fewest number of circuit nominees confirmed. The percentage of circuit nominees confirmed during President Obama’s first term, 71.4%, was the second-lowest, while the percentage confirmed during G.W. Bush’s first term, 67.3%, was the lowest.
For district judges, the report declares:
President Obama’s first term, compared with the first terms of Presidents Reagan to G.W. Bush, had the second-fewest number of district court nominees confirmed (143 compared with 130 for President Reagan) and the second-lowest percentage of district court nominees confirmed (82.7% compared with 76.9% for President G.H.W. Bush).
As to the timeliness of the process, the report states:
President Obama is the only one of the five most recent Presidents for whom, during his first term, both the average and median waiting time from nomination to confirmation for circuit and district court nominees was greater than half a calendar year (i.e., more than 182 days).
The 31 page report has many specific details and statistics. It's definitely worth a read for anyone interested in the federal judiciary.
Friday, April 26, 2013
The Obama Administration filed its Petition for Writ of Certiorari yesterday in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the case testing whether President Obama's recess appointments of three NLRB members satisfied the Recess Appointments Clause.
Recall that the D.C. Circuit ruled that they didn't. (Here's our coverage of the lower court ruling, with links to resources.) That court held that the Recess Appointments Clause permits a recess appointment only during an inter-session recess of Congress (i.e., a recess that occurs between one enumerated session of Congress and the beginning of the next), not an intra-session recess (i.e., a recess that occurs during the course of a session), and that it permits a recess appointment only for vacancies that arise during an inter-session recess. The court said that because President Obama made the appointments during an intra-session recess of Congress, and because the vacancies did not arise during an inter-session recess of Congress, the appointments were invalid.
The government seeks review of both issues--whether the President can exercise the recess-appointment power during an intra-session recess, and whether the President can fill a vacancy that existed (even if not arose) during a recess.
It's a good bet the Court will take this. There's a circuit split, and the stakes are high. As the government explains:
[The decision below] would deem invalid hundreds of recess appointments made by Presidents since early in the Nation's history. It potentially calls into question every order issued by the National Labor Relations Board since January 4, 2012, and similar reasoning could threaten past and future decisions of other federal agencies.
Petition at 11-12.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Garrett Epps writes in the Atlantic that if originalism's aim was to keep judges from writing their personal views into the law, it has been "an abject failure." His evidence? Chief Judge David Sentelle's ruling in Noel Canning v. NLRB, the D.C. Circuit's January ruling striking President Obama's recess appointments to the NLRB.
Epps criticizes Judge Sentelle's ruling as putting a 1755 definition over the consistent executive practice based on a practical concern, getting the government's business done, and judicial precedent:
For at least a century, presidents--with congressional acquiescence--have interpreted [the Appointments Clause] as giving them the ability to make appointments any time when the Senate is not in session. But Chief Judge David Sentelle looked up the six-word entry for "the" in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, and found that its "original public meaning" was "noting a particular thing," meaning that there can be one and only one "recess" of the Senate.
Epps notes that the Noel Canning rule would have voided 232 appointments under President Reagan, 78 under President G.H.W. Bush, 139 under President Clinton, and 171 under G.W. Bush. Appointees include Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Eagleburger.
Epps points to a recent Congressional Research Service report, The Recess Appointment Power After Noel Canning v. NLRB: Constitutional Implications. The CRS issued a companion report, Practical Implications of Noel Canning on the NLRB and CFPB.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
President Obama today sent three nominations for full terms at the NLRB to the Senate--a renomination of Board chair Mark Pearce, a Democrat, and nominations of two Republicans. The President nominated two Democrats to full terms in February.
The nominations come just months after the D.C. Circuit ruled in Canning v. NLRB that the President's recess appointments to the Board were invalid. According to TPM, the administration plans to appeal that decision, but in the meantime it "has prompted more than 100 businesses to claim the board lacks authority to take action against them becuase two of its members are not there legitimately."