Thursday, March 21, 2013
Daily Read: US v. Windsor, the DOMA Case, Amicus Brief Cato Institute and Constitutional Accountability Center
Fourth in a Series: Guest Post by Allison Reddy, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, class of 2014
The brief of amici curiae of Cato Institute and Constitutional Accountability Center supports the position of Edith Windsor and argues for affirming the Second Circuit opinion. The Cato Institute is a think tank dedicated to public policy research furthering “the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” The challenge to DOMA is consistent with CATO's philosophy of limited governmental interference in issues of personal freedom, especially on the part of the federal government. The Constitutional Accountability Center, also a think tank, is dedicated to "fulfilling the progressive promise of our Constitution’s text and history." While the two organizations might differ on controversial cases such as Citizens United, here the organizations agree that DOMA should be held unconstitutional.
Interestingly, the brief does not use the umbrella argument technique and instead jumps right into the arguments, first discussing the equal protection guarantee embodied in the Fifth Amendment. According to their argument, the Constitution protects individuals, not groups, from “lawless action by the government.” The amicus continues to quote Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in JEB v. Alabama, which focused on the fact that individuality rises above association with a particular class. Therefore, any law designed to make individuals inferior under the law because of membership in a class is inherently odious. The argument progresses to discuss the plain meaning of the equal protection clause, which requires “equality under the law and equality of rights for all persons.” Citing the Civil Rights Cases, Yick Wo, and Justice Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, the brief makes a forceful case for the prohibition of class legislation. Framing DOMA as discrimination against gays and lesbians and denial of their right to “ordinary civic life in a free society” (Romer), the principles and case law undergirding equal protection require that DOMA be overturned.
The brief discusses the history of heightened scrutiny, both strict and intermediate. It supports the Second Circuit’s conclusion that intermediate scrutiny is appropriate. It argues, however, that the Court need not even reach a heightened scrutiny analysis, because DOMA fails even the most deferential rational basis review. However, without acknowledging the perhaps more “searching” scrutiny these cases apply, the brief uses Romer, Moreno, and Cleburne to support its conclusion. It does note that rational basis review, although deferential, “has never entailed judicial abdication in the face of arbitrary, invidious discrimination inconsistent with the equal protection guarantee,” citing Nat’l Fed’n of Independent Business v. Sebelius in support of this proposition. Accordingly, the Court should not abdicate its responsibility to protect gays and lesbians from DOMA’s discriminatory effects.
The brief further argues that because DOMA discriminates against gays in lesbians in almost every aspect of their lives, it violates the basic guarantee of equal protection under the law. DOMA was not a rational solution to a legitimate federal problem because it was obviously enacted in the spirit of animosity towards gays and lesbians, aiming to make them unequal to everyone else. Quoting the legislative history, the brief points out that “federal legislators sought to ‘express their disapprobation through the law,’ 142 Cong. Rec. 17,089 (1996), asserting that same-sex couples were ‘immoral, depraved,’ ‘unnatural,’ ‘based on perversion,’ and ‘an attack on God’s principles.’ Id. at 16,972, 17,074, 17, 082.” The brief goes on to eviscerate the rational bases proffered by BLAG in much the same manner as the Southern District, First Circuit, and Second Circuit.
This amicus brief reads much more forcefully than the Government’s brief. The way that this amicus brief essentially frames Romer, Cleburne, and Moreno as ordinary rational basis cases mirrors BLAG’s framing of those cases—except to support the opposite argument. At first blush, not acknowledging the more “searching” standard in these cases seemed glaring; however, this was obviously an intentional choice to construe these cases as minimally scrutinizing to support a finding that DOMA would fail even the most permissive review.
Moreover, by invoking the plain meaning of equal protection, this brief dispensed with the legal formalism. It argued that couching the arguments over DOMA in the language of federalism is a disingenuous approach to the issue and urges the Court reject BLAG's construction and confront DOMA in a forthright manner.
[posted and edited by RR]
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Third in a Series: Guest Post by Versely Rosales, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, class of 2014
The brief submitted by National Association of Evangelicals; The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; The Romanian-American Evangelical Alliance of North America; and Truth in Action Ministries supports the position of BLAG arguing for the constitutionality of DOMA.
The brief argues that rational basis review is the proper standard for evaluating legislation, like DOMA, that implicates questions of values, culture, and policy. The brief also argues that “moral and religious views voiced in support of DOMA do not detract from its validity.”
The rational basis argument:
This amicus brief first argues that rational basis governs because what is at issue in DOMA “is not a discrimination against a discrete and insular minority.” Instead, the issue is a “profound culture debate over the nature and meaning of marriage.” Further, because “homosexuals” have political power, they do not need extraordinary judicial protection from majoritarian interests. Thus, they can rely on the democratic political processes to engage in a debate over values, morals, judgments, and culture. Therefore, rational basis review is the only standard that allows for spirited democratic debate over the different visions of marriage that should prevail in the federal government. By applying anything other than rational basis, the Court would deprive the public of this debate. In particular, it would deny faith communities, who have a “long experience in these matters” and “unique perspectives,” to be heard by democratic decision makers.
Thus, the brief contends that the Second Circuit’s conclusion that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional stands on a “rickety foundation.” The Second Circuit is faulted for “creat[ing] the first new protected class in 35 years,” and being contrary to every federal court of appeals that has addressed the question. Further, this amicus brief notes several other reasons why heightened scrutiny is “plainly improper in this case.” First, heightened-scrutiny jurisprudence contains a strong presumption against creating new suspect classes as courts should be very reluctant to closely scrutinize legislative choices. Secondly, the Constitution presumes that unjust discrimination will be remedied through the ordinary democratic process. Thirdly, the Supreme Court’s refusal to recognize any new suspect classes confirms the necessity of a very cautious approach into sensitive areas.
The amicus brief of these religious organizations criticizes the Second Circuit opinion for failing to recognize that rational basis review is the proper standard of review for preserving the primacy of the democratic process in cases turning on fundamental issues of public policy, culture, and morality. DOMA is argued to be within this category because it has become monumental cultural conflict between two major visions of marriage: traditional marriage which is centered on procreating and raising children; and the more recent, genderless, adult-orientated notion where procreation and childrearing are not central to marriage’s meaning. The traditional marriage concept has deep roots and provides a mechanism for coping with the reality that sex between men and women generally results in pregnancy and childbirth. And, whether proven or not, it is reasonable to accept that children born from opposite-sex married relationships will benefit by being raised by two parents within long-term relationships. In addition, lawmakers cannot and should not rely on social science scholars on the effects of sexual minorities parenting children because, in part, such opinions are inherently tentative and often laden with value-based assumptions. Thus, lawmakers should be allowed to use their judgments and own experience, which have led them to believe that traditional marriage and family structure deserve distinctive legal protections.
The amicus brief also points out while the Court has never adopted “the genderless, adult-centered definition of marriage,” it has “long endorsed the strong legislative preference for man-woman marriage as the foundation of our society.” Given this historical preference, the Court should construe DOMA as a rational preference for the tried and familiar over the untried and novel.
The moral and religious views argument:
The second main argument of this amicus brief contends “moral and religious views voiced in support of DOMA do not detract from its validity.” Congress identified “defending traditional notions of morality” as one of the four “governmental interests” for the enactment of DOMA. The brief argues that Congress recognized that the issue of marriage has moral or religious aspects for many Americans and that cannot be divorced from the practicalities. Lawmakers have the right to protect this valued moral norm, and when they do so, it should not be labeled as invalid just because it happens to coincide with the tenets of some - - -or all - - - religions. To declare DOMA void merely because it adheres to traditional moral and religious belief would fly in the face of this Court’s ruling that the Constitution does not allow the government to treat religion and those who practice or teach it as being subversive to American ideals and therefore subject them to unique disabilities. “By scrutinizing a law reflecting, in part, religious values more severely than others, courts would effectively target such beliefs or religious support for unusual burdens or penalties.”
Interestingly, the brief ultimately argues that to subject DOMA to heightened scrutiny simply because of its “affiliation with traditional morality would raise First Amendment concerns.”
Contribution of the Brief:
This amicus brief supports the position of BLAG that DOMA is unconstitutional. But although BLAG agrees that traditional marriage coincides with religious sections of the citizenry, it does not emphasize the moral aspect of DOMA in its brief.
The Government brief does not agree with the assertion that what is at issue is a cultural debate. The Government clearly argues in its brief that DOMA is based on discrimination and it affects the distribution of benefits to a sub-section of society. The Government also disagrees with the Amicus brief’s most basic contention: Homosexuals are not a discrete and insular minority deserving of heightened scrutiny.
The argument that the First Amendment is relevant is unique; it is not shared by BLAG or the Government.
[posted and edited by RR]
March 20, 2013 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Daily Read: US v. Windsor, the DOMA Case, Amicus Brief of Scholars of the Constitutional Rights of Children in Support of Windsor
Second in a Series: Guest Post by Anetta Sookhdeo, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, class of 2014
The brief of the Scholars of the Constitutional Rights of Children (including Professor Tanya Washington, pictured) in support of Respondent, Edith Windsor, responds to several of BLAG’s assertions that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) advances the welfare of children by (1) providing a stable structure to raise unintended and unplanned offspring; (2) encouraging the rearing of children by their biological parents and (3) promoting childrearing by both a mother and a father. These goals are discredited by the Amici because they merely reflect a preference for children to be raised by opposite-sex parents.
The Amici assert that DOMA creates a classification based on children living in households headed by same-sex parents and those living in households headed by opposite-sex parents. Subsequently, children are harmed by treating these two classes differently, even though they are identically situated. To bolster this point, the Amici cite an October 2011 study that estimates about two million children make up the class of children being raised by LGBT parents. Of those, according to the United States Census, between three hundred thousand and one million children are being raised by same-sex couples. Moreover, these numbers are likely to increase as more states begin to legally recognize same-sex marriages.
Additionally, DOMA deprives children of important federal resources and protections by making households headed by same-sex parents ineligible to receive them. The Amici assert that these benefits and resources, which include the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Social Security payments to spouses and filing joint tax returns, are important safety features to protect children within family units. For example, the goal of the FMLA to promote stability and economic security of families is not extended to households where children are raised by same-sex parents. Whereas eligible opposite-sex married couples are eligible to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick child, spouse or parent, same-sex married couples are ineligible for this benefit. The Amici argue that children within these families being deprived of federal resources have the same need and interest in family security and stability and suffer an injury that is cumulative over the course of their lifetimes.
Furthermore, children suffer psychological harm as a result of DOMA symbolically expressing inferiority of families headed by same-sex parents. According to the Amici, the purpose and effect of DOMA is to stigmatize families with same-sex parents and, by extension, the children of those families. DOMA accomplishes this result by communicating to those children in households headed by same-sex couples that their family unit is “morally objectionable and functionally deficient.” The Amici argue that the Court has already spoken through Brown v. Board of Education and Plyler v. Doe those statutes which place a stigma on children and confer adverse psychological effects are unconstitutional.
The Amici’s second argument is that DOMA should be invalidated because it does not survive any level of scrutiny for punishing children based on moral disapproval for the conduct of their parents. The Court’s goal and history of protecting the right of children to “self-determination and to flourish fully in a society without being hampered by legal, economic and social barriers” is seen by the decisions in Levy v. Louisiana and Weber v. Atena Casualty & Surety Co. In these cases, the court decided that invidious classifications based on illegitimacy were impermissible. The Amici acknowledge that while the state may have a valid interest in promoting marriage and childbirth within marriages, the state is not permitted to exclude a group of children who have identical interests in the benefits at issue, simply because the group of children is disfavored.
In addition, the Amici argue that the outcome of Plyler indicates the Court’s view that a foundational mission of the Equal Protection Clause is “to work [for] nothing less than the abolition of all caste-based and invidious class-based legislation.” Plyler indicated that while states could disapprove of the presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States, they could not justify the imposition of disabilities on the minor children of undocumented immigrants. The Amici argue that, under the mission of the Court and past rulings, laws that discriminately determine legal, economic and social status of children are prohibited.
Lastly, the Amici argue that states may not enforce moral disapproval against children based on the relationship between their parents. The decision in Palmore v. Sidoti held that “Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.” Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429 (1984). Nor may the Court rely on such private biases which draw “impermissible, overbroad generalizations about different talents, capacities or preferences of males or females”. Caban v. Mohammed, 441 U.S. 380 (1979). The Amici urge the Court to find that DOMA gives effect to private bias against same-sex couples, particularly in regards to private biases about gender-role stereotypes in parenting, and should be found unconstitutional.
This brief bolsters the Government’s position by highlighting an argument that largely went unnoticed but is also at the heart of the issue being decided. The brief adds cases that were not before mentioned in the Government’s brief and provides additional avenues to argue that DOMA should be held unconstitutional. For example, the Government’s brief does not discuss Brown v. Board of Education, but here Brown is used as a primary case to advocate for invalidating a statute that adds a stigma against children of households headed by same-sex couples.
[posted and edited by RR]
Monday, March 18, 2013
Brief on the merits of the Amici Curiae United States Senators Orrin G. Hatch (pictured), Saxby Chambliss, Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Mike Crapo, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby, and Roger Wicker in support of respondent the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Amici were all sitting United States Senators who served in the 104th Congress House or Senate and voted for passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”). Their interest in writing this brief was to inform the Court of the important interests that DOMA was enacted to serve. Therefore, this brief does not explore the equal protection levels of scrutiny and their applicability to DOMA or discuss every interest in enacting DOMA, as the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (“BLAG”) did in their brief. Rather, the The Amici’s argument focuses on and expounds specifically federal interests that were considered and explained throughout DOMA’s legislative history, but which the Amici feel were ignored, misunderstood, or summarily dismissed in the courts below.
First, the Amici contend alongside BLAG that pre-DOMA law did not recognize same-sex marriage, and that DOMA merely reaffirmed the existing federal definition. Like BLAG, the brief cites to other federal statutes and benefits describing spouses as husband and wife, and explains that at the time federal benefit statutes were enacted, no state recognized same-sex marriages. Both briefs state that DOMA was a response to the Hawaii case, Baehr v. Lewin, but the Amici go as far to describe Congress’s view that Baehr was “part of an orchestrated legal assault being waged against traditional heterosexual marriage.” [Brief, pg. 2]
Second, the Amici echoed BLAG’s asserted interest of uniformity and certainty in the application of federal law. In addition to BLAG’s claim that a federal definition of marriage is necessary to ensure that couples in different states do not have different eligibility to receive Federal benefits, the Amici also explain that DOMA was enacted to avoid state by state and statute by statute litigation over whether a couple who had married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage would be “married” if they moved to another state. The outcome of this type of litigation would largely depend on whether a state had a strong public policy against same-sex marriage, which would vary state to state. DOMA was enacted to prevent this litigation, which would have varying and inconsistent results. The Amici further contend that there is nothing suspicious or novel about Congress preferring this uniformity over deference to state law – especially when Congress is confronted by an effort to change the definition of marriage contrary to history and tradition.
Third, similarly to BLAG, the Amici reject the argument that DOMA interferes with the autonomy of states to define marriage and claim that Section 3 of DOMA protects the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage. Like BLAG, the Amici reference Section 2 of DOMA as preserving and protecting the autonomy of each individual state. In addition, the Amici claim that Section 3 of DOMA preserves the traditional definition of marriage by removing the incentive that might otherwise encourage efforts to change state law to recognize same-sex marriage. The Amici state that if recognizing same-sex marriage would allow same-sex couples to obtain federal benefits, those seeking recognition by the courts would have a powerful weapon, especially in the cases of sympathetic plaintiffs.
Finally, the Amici devote the last section of their brief to the claim that support for traditional marriage is not unconstitutional animus. Although BLAG also contends that DOMA is not motivated by animus, the Amici specifically claim that the Court’s animus jurisprudence does not support invalidating an otherwise constitutional statute based on the subjective motivations of individual legislators. Thus, where, as here, there is sufficient legislative history to indicate the law is rationally related to some legitimate governmental interest, the law cannot be invalidated by the improper motives of some legislators. Moreover, the Amici argue, there is no basis to equate support for the traditional definition of marriage with unconstitutional animus. They contend it is not irrational or bigoted to oppose the redefinition of marriage that is unknown to history or tradition.
The Amici did not present any entirely new interests or arguments in support of DOMA, but rather further explained and detailed interests that have already been discussed in the BLAG brief and in the court decisions below. It was an opportunity for the Amici to present more rationales connecting the asserted interests to DOMA but did not necessarily help in understanding BLAG’s arguments. In addition, the Amici characterized the potential for recognition of same-sex marriage as an orchestrated conspiracy to undermine their view of marriage, which may not have been appropriate for a party’s brief given its strong language.
[posted and edited by RR]
Sunday, March 17, 2013
With the oral argument in United States v. Windsor testing the constitutionality of DOMA set for March 27 (the day after the related Prop 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry), the amicus briefs have been piling up (and one more, from General Edwin Meese III and John Ashcroft, will apparently be added).
Recall that in United States v. Windsor, the constitutionality of DOMA is being argued by BLAG, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives, while Windsor (as well as the United States Government) argues that DOMA is unconstitutional. This unusual configuration raises some standing issues, but the merits briefs focus on the constitutionality of DOMA under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.
In case you haven't had a chance to read each one of the amicus briefs, this week we highlight four briefs, in guest posts authored by CUNY School of Law students in Professor Andrea McArdle's "Judicial Writing Seminar." The student authors will briefly outline the arguments and then discuss what, if anything, the particular amicus brief adds to the parties' briefs.
Here's the line-up:
Meghan McLoughlin discusses the brief of Senators Orrin G. Hatch et. al in support of respondent BLAG.
Anetta Sookhdeo discusses the brief of the Scholars of the Constitutional Rights of Children in support of Windsor.
Versely Rosales discusses the brief of the National Association of Evangelicals; The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod; The Romanian-American Evangelical Alliance of North America; and Truth in Action Ministries in support of BLAG.
Allison Reddy discusses the brief of the CATO Institute and the Constitutional Accountability Center in support of Windsor.
Monday, February 25, 2013
Writing in a "Statement" accompanying the denial of certiorari in Calhoun v. United States today, Justice Sotomayor (joined by Justice Breyer) sought to "dispel any doubt whether the Court’s denial of certiorari should be understood to signal our tolerance of a federal prosecutor’s racially charged remark."
The prosecutor pressed Calhoun repeatedly to explain why he did not want to be in the hotel room. Eventually, the District Judge told the prose- cutor to move on. That is when the prosecutor asked, “You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you—a light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, This is a drug deal?”
For Sotomayor, such prosecutorial argument threatens to violate the equal protection guarentee as well as the defendant's right to an impartial jury. She also castigated the government's original position on appeal that the prosecutor's argument was merely "impolitic," and agreed with a Fifth Circuit Judge who noted that the prosecutor's argument clearly "crossed the line."
But the unusual posture of the case - - - including issues preserved for appeal - - - meant that Sotomayor's Statement was a statement, and not a dissent from the denial of certiorari. But a strong statement it certainly was:
I hope never to see a case like this again.
Friday, February 1, 2013
As Grand Central Station celebrates its centennial today, there are many celebrations and discussions, including this excellent one from "Transportation Nation" being aired on some NPR stations, including NYC:
The case to which the report refers is Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978), a staple of modern takings clause doctrine and theory. The owner of Grand Central - - - confusingly it was Penn Central - - - wanted relief from the NYC landmarks law which prevented the building of a large office building over Grand Central because it would destroy the historic and aesthetic features of the Grand Central. The United States Supreme Court rejected the takings argument. Writing for the Court, Justice Brennan noted that "the submission that appellants may establish a "taking" simply by showing that they have been denied the ability to exploit a property interest that they heretofore had believed was available for development is quite simply untenable." The opinion continued:
"Taking" jurisprudence does not divide a single parcel into discrete segments and attempt to determine whether rights in a particular segment have been entirely abrogated. In deciding whether a particular governmental action ha effected a taking, this Court focuses rather both on the character of the action and on the nature and extent of the interference with rights in the parcel as a whole.
Of course, the Court would vacillate from between this whole vs. fractional approach in subsequent cases, but the most recent takings cases seem to confirm Brennan's view.
For a trenchant discussion of the current state of "air rights" and takings doctrine, take a look at LawProf Troy Rule's Airspace and the Takings Clause, forthcoming in Washington University Law Review, and available in draft on ssrn.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The official announcement from the Pentagon should be forthcoming on Thursday.
In November, a complaint in Hegar v. Panetta was filed in the Northern District Court of California, arguing that the policy offended the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. More about the case is available from the ACLU.
ConLawProfs (and students) often encounter the gendered combat exclusion in discussions of Rotsker v. Goldberg (1981) in which the Justice Rehnquist's Court upheld male-only registration for the draft finding women were not "similarly situated" to men because women were not eligible for combat.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Writing about recent developments in the case of Bradley Manning (pictured), New Yorker commentator Amy Davidson considers how the charge of aiding the enemy by releasing information to the press has precedent in a Civil War prosecution - - - and how the possible sentence now is dramatically different.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
A unanimous Supreme Court (with Justice Kagan recused) ruled today in Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. U.S. that government temporary flooding may constitute a taking. The ruling is not particularly surprising and only reversed and remanded a lower court decision that read precedent to give temporary floods a pass under the Takings Clause. Justice Ginsburg wrote for the Court that temporary floods get no such pass and may well constitute a taking, depending on a number of well-settled factors.
We covered the oral argument here.
The case arose out of the Army Corps of Engineer's varying water release rates from the Clearwater Dam, upstream from the Commission's Management Area. The release rates caused a series of temporary floods in the Management Area during key tree-growing season, thus harming certain tree species and the wildlife that they supported. The Commission sued, arguing that the floods constituted a taking. The Federal Circuit read Supreme Court precedent to say that temporary floods (as opposed to permanent ones) were categorically exempt from the Takings Clause.
The Supreme Court reversed. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the Federal Circuit misread Court precedent and that even temporary floods could constitute a taking. How do we know when?
When regulation or temporary physical invasion by government interferes with private property, our decisions recognize, time is indeed a factor in determining the existence vel non of a compensable taking. . . .
Also relevant to the takings inquiry is the degree to which the invasion is intended or is the foreseeable result of authorized government action. So, too, are the character of the land at issue and the owner's "reasonable investment-backed expectations" regarding the land's use. . . . Severity of the interference figures in the calculus as well.
Op at 14-15.
The Court sent the case back to the Federal Circuit to take a crack at applying these factors.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Daily Read: Thirteenth Amendment Scholars Supporting Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act
Did Congress have power pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009?
The question of the Act's constitutionality is before the Tenth Circuit in an appeal arising from the first prosecution under the Act. In Hatch v. United States, the defendant challenges 18 U.S.C. § 249(a)(1), which provides:
Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person—
There seems to be little dispute that the three defendants admitted actions against the Native American victim, including branding the victim with a swatstika, fit within the terms of the statute. But did the statute exceed Congress' power pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment, or does the statute violate equal protection as guarenteed through the Fifth Amendment?
On the Thirteenth Amendment issue, ConLawProfs William M. Carter, Jr., Dawinder S. Sidhu, Alexander Tsesis, and Rebecca E. Zietlow, have filed an amicus brief, available on ssrn, argue that the Thirteenth Amendment's enforcement clause gives Congress broad powers. They contend that the hate crime section should be analyzed under a defential rational basis standard, both because of its provenance in the Thirteenth Amendment and, perhaps most interestingly, because the statute does not make a racial classification.
This is a terrific read of engaged scholarship as well as a providing a great grounding for a class exercise or student project.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Just when it seems as if the "takings clause revolution" is over, it re-emerges. This time, the property is not a "little pink house," but raisins.
The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Horne v. USDA. As we discussed last year, the Ninth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of a USDA regulatory scheme regarding raisins against a takings clause challenge. The central requirement at issue mandates that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year - - - this fluctuates yearly and by controlling raisins on the market is a means of indirectly controlling prices. The Hornes argued that "the requirement that they contribute a specified percentage of their annual raisin crop to the government-controlled reserve pool constitutes an uncompensated per se taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment."
Thursday, October 18, 2012
In a divided opinion issued today, the Second Circuit in Windsor v. United States, affirmed the district judge's conclusion that the defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) section 3 is unconstitutional. Recall that the United States position is being defended by BLAG, Bipartisan Leadership Advisory Group, reportedly at a cost to taxpayers of 1.5 million dollars.
Second Circuit Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote the majority opinion that Judge Droney joined. The panel held that Windsor had standing, that the suit was not foreclosed by the Court's 1971 summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, that DOMA was subject to intermediate scrutiny and that DOMA failed intermediate scrutiny, as well as that there was no need to certify any questions to New York's highest court.
The Second Circuit rejected the district judge's finding that the appropriate level of scrutiny was rational basis, holding that intermediate scrutiny is correct under the basic Carolene Products factors as articulated in Cleburne. The panel stated:
In this case, all four factors justify heightened scrutiny:
A) homosexuals as a group have historically endured persecution and discrimination; B) homosexuality has no relation to aptitude or ability to contribute to society; C) homosexuals are a discernible group with non-obvious distinguishing characteristics, especially in the subset of those who enter same-sex marriages; and D) the class remains a politically weakened minority.
The panel then applied the classic articulation of intermediate scrutiny, requiring that the "classification must be substantially related to an important government interest." The panel analyzed BLAG's stated interests - - -the “unique federal interests ” (which include maintaining a consistent federal definition of marriage, protecting the fisc, and avoiding “the unknown consequences of a novel redefinition of a foundational social institution”) and the encouragement of “responsible procreation” - - - noting that at oral argument "BLAG’s counsel all but conceded that these reasons for enacting DOMA may not withstand intermediate scrutiny." The panel, however, does evaluate the interests, concluding they are not being substantially served by DOMA.
Dissenting Judge Straub, in a lengthy opinion, contends that DOMA merits only rational basis scrutiny and that it satisfies this low standard.
October 18, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Fifth Amendment, Gender, News, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, August 17, 2012
Federal DC Judge Enjoins Small Business Affirmative Action Program as Applied to Military Simulators
In an extensive opinion in DynaLantic Corp. v. United States Department of Defense, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has enjoined the Small Business Administration and the Department of Defense from awarding procurements for military simulators under the Section 8(a) program without first articulating a strong basis in evidence for doing so.
In a nutshell, the judge found that the constitutionality infirmity resided in the agencies' failure to specifically determine "that it is necessary or appropriate to set aside contracts in the military simulation and training industry." Relying upon City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469 (1989) (plurality opinion), Judge Sullivan stated that " Croson made clear that the government must provide evidence demonstrating there were eligible minorities in the relevant market - in that case, the Richmond construction industry - that were denied entry or access notwithstanding their eligibility," and thus the agencies' lack of specific studies relating to the military simulation industry was fatal.
Yet Judge Sullivan rejected the facial challenge to Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act which permits the federal government to limit the issuance of certain contracts to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses. The corporation argued that the Section 8(a) program - - - a program that evolved from Executive Orders issued by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon in response to the Kerner Commission - - - violated the Equal Protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Applying the rigorous standard of United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745 (1987). requiring that the "challenger must establish that no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid,” Judge Sullivan carefully considered reams of studies, data, and information, as well as the corporation's arguments attacking the provision for being both overinclusive and underinclusive.
This litigation began in 1995 when the Navy determined it would award its contract for a flight simulator for the Huey helicopter (pictured above) through the Section 8 (a) program. DynaLantic's lawsuit was dismissed for standing, the D.C. Circuit reversed, and then protracted litigation continued as Congress reauthorized the program and a plethora of studies, evidence, and arguments accumulated.
As the educational affirmative action case of Fisher goes to the United States Supreme Court, DynaLantic is a reminder of the continued legacy of Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U.S. 200 (1995), as well as Croson in the government procurement context.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In what is becoming a common occurence, a federal judge held section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional.
Today's opinion in Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management, with BLAG (Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives) intervening to defend the law, is by Judge Vanessa Bryant of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Judge Bryant's thorough opinion, over 100 pages, treads by now familiar ground. Judge Bryant first rehearses the history ofthe Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), standing, and the (in)applicability of the Supreme Court's summary dismissal in Baker v. Nelson, 409 U.S. 810 (1972).
In applying Equal Protection doctrine to a classification based upon sexual orientation, the first task is to determine the level of scrutiny to be applied to sexual minorities. As Professor Julie Nice writes over at Jurist, this can put a court in a "dither" given the Supreme Court's "miminalism" on this issue.
But Judge Bryant attempted to be clear, both in her theoretical perspectives and doctrine. She first stated she "must not be tempted to tie conceptions of judicial restraint to historic notions of equality," but instead engage in a "rigorous examination of the fundamental meaning of the noble ideals established by our founding fathers as our guiding and enduring principles." (Opinion at 34-35). She then extensively applies the four common factors to determine whether a particular classification should be considered either a suspect or quasi-suspect class:
- (1) the history of invidious discrimination against the class burdened by the legislation;
- (2) whether the characteristics that distinguish the class indicate a typical class member's ability to contribute to society;
- (3) whether the distinguishing characteristics are ‘immutable’ or beyond the class members' control; and
- (4) the political power of the subject class.
Judge Bryant's opinion is especially worth reading on the "political powerlessness" prong in light of arguments regarding President Obama's opinions on sexual orientation. Having considered all four factors, the judge found that " homosexuals display all the traditional indicia of suspectness and therefore statutory classifications based on sexual orientation are entitled to a heightened form of judicial scrutiny." She then quickly defaulted to another rationale: "However, the Court need not apply a form of heightened scrutiny in the instant case to conclude that DOMA violates the promise of the equal protection as it is clear that DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster under even the most deferential level of judicial scrutiny."
Thus, Judge Bryant applied rational basis scrutiny requiring a "legitimate interest" that is reasonably served by the statute. The legislative history of DOMA advanced four interests for the statute: "(1) defending and nurturing the institution of traditional, heterosexual marriage; (2) defending traditional notions of morality; (3) protecting state sovereignty and democratic self-governance; and (4) preserving scarce governmental resources." In litigation, BLAG asserted five: 1) To employ caution in the face of a proposed redefinition of the centuries-old definition of marriage; 2) To protect the public fisc; 3) To maintain consistency and uniformity with regard to eligibility for federal benefits; 4) To avoid creating a social understanding of bearing, begetting, and rearing children separate from marriage; and 5) To recognize an institution designed to ensure that children have parents of both sexes. One by one, Judge Bryant considered the interests and their rational relationship to the statute, concluded that not one of them was sufficient.
Judge Bryant considers judicial review and the role of courts in a democracy at several points, and concludes:
"In sum, having considered the purported rational bases proffered by both BLAG and Congress and concluded that such objectives bear no rational relationship to Section 3 of DOMA as a legislative scheme, the Court finds that no conceivable rational basis exists for the provision. The provision therefore violates the equal protection principles incorporated in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Certainly this opinion will be appealed, as have the others, including three pending petitions in the United States Supreme Court. But with yet another federal judge finding DOMA unconstitutional, it would make a Supreme Court decision to the contrary look more and more problematical.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit in the D.C. District on behalf of relatives of victims of the government's targeted killing program. The plaintiffs, parents of Samir Khan and Anwar al-Aulaqi and grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi (Anwar's son), seek money damages against high-level government officials for authorizing targeted killings in violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Bill of Attainder Clause.
The case comes 19 months after Judge Bates (D.D.C.) dismissed an earlier suit by Anwar al-Aulaqi's father, seeking to stop the government from killing his son in the first place. Judge Bates ruled that al-Aulaqi's father lacked standing and failed to allege a violation of the Alien Tort Statute, and that the case raised non-justiciable political questions. (Judge Bates didn't rule on the government's state secrets claim.)
The case also comes on the heels of a couple of dismissed torture suits against high-level officials--Doe v. Rumsfeld (rejected because special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy) and Lebron v. Rumsfeld (same, and cert. denied).
All this is to say that the case faces some hurdles--political question, state secrets, Bivens special factors, and qualified immunity, to name a few.
The plaintiffs in the most recent case argue that the targeted killing were illegal under the laws of war, because the plaintiffs were not engaged in activities that presented a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death of serious physical injury; because something short of lethal force could have been used to neutralize any threat that they posed; because they were not directly participating in hostilities; because the government failed to take steps to avoid harm to bystanders; and because the killings didn't meet the requirements of distinction and proportionality.
We covered the government's likely justification for targeted killing here, here, here, and here (among other places, linked in these posts). We still don't have a complete legal justification from the government for the targeted killing program.
July 18, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Due Process (Substantive), Fifth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Political Question Doctrine, Procedural Due Process, Recent Cases, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
A sharply divided three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit ruled last week in Davis v. Billington that a Library of Congress employee did not have a Bivens claim against his supervisor and the Librarian of Congress for firing him for his speech. The court ruled that special factors counselled against extending Bivens, because Congress did "not inadvertently" omit damage remedies for employees in the plaintiff's position--employees of the Library of Congress, not the executive branch--in the comprehensive Civil Service Reform Act.
The case arose after Morris Davis, the Congressional Research Service Assistant Director of the Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division, penned some high-profile opinion pieces critical of the Obama administration for choosing to prosecute some Guantanamo detainees in federal courts and others in military commissions. Davis was also critical of the Bush administration handling of Guantanamo detainees.
Davis had some unique familiarity with these issues. He served as Chief Prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay until October 2007.
After the pieces came out, Daniel Mulhollen, Davis's supervisor, fired him. Davis sued Mulhollen and Billington, the Librarian of Congress, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and for damages against Mulhollan for violation of his First and Fifth Amendment rights under Bivens.
The court ruled that special factors counselled against extending a Bivens remedy, because Congress, through the comprehensive remedial scheme in the CSRA, did "not inadvertently" omit damage remedies for civil service members, like Davis, outside the executive branch.
Judge Rogers filed a lengthy and sharp dissent. She said that Congress omitted civil service members outside the executive branch from the CSRA remedial scheme based on separation-of-powers principles. That is, the legislative history of the CSRA shows that Congress didn't include legislative branch employees in the CSRA comprehensive remedial scheme because it didn't want the executive branch to have the power to adjudicate claims of legislative branch employees. The history shows, moreover, that Congress didn't have that same concern with respect to judicial adjudication. According to Judge Rogers, this all shows that Congress did not omit legislative branch employees becauase it wanted to leave them without a remedy. On the contrary, Congress seems to have left open the possibility of a judicial remedy--a Bivens action.
June 6, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Judge James E. Boasberg (D.D.C.) rejected the plaintiff's claims that Congress improperly delegated authority to Amtrak to develop and enforce passanger railway standards in violation of due process and nondelegation principles and granted summary judgment to the government in Association of American Railroad v. Department of Transportation. The ruling affirms Amtrak's role in standard-making under the Passenger Railroad Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and upholds Section 207 of that Act.
Section 207 requires the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to jointly develop standards to evaluate the performance of Amtrak's intercity passenger trains. It says:
[T]he Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak shall jointly, in consultation with the Surface Transportation Board, rail carriers over whose rail lines Amtrak trains operate, States, Amtrak employees, nonprofit employee organizations representing Amtrak employees, and groups representing Amtrak passengers, as appropriate, develop new or improve existing metrics and minimum standards for measuring the performance and service quality of intercity passenger train operations, including . . . on-time performance and minutes of delay . . . .
Under the Act, if the STB determines that Amtrak's failure to meet the standards is attributable to a rail carrier's failure to provide preference to Amtrak over freight transportation--that is, if a freight train makes an Amtrak train late--the STB may award damages against the host rail carrier. (Amtrak leases the rail lines that it uses from freight rail carriers.)
The AAR, representing its member freight rail carriers, sued the DOT, arguing that Section 207 violated due process, because it allowed a private, interested party, Amtrak, to regulate other industry participants. The AAR also argued that Section 207 effected an unconstitutional delegation of regulatory authority to a private entity.
The claims assumed that Amtrak was a private corporation--and the case thus turned on that assumption in the first instance. But Judge Boasberg, drawing on Lebron v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (1995), concluded that Amtrak was a governmental entity, at least as to the due process claim. Here's what he wrote:
The two hallmarks of government control that the Lebron Court found decisive--namely, that Amtrak was created by special law for the furtherance of governmental objectives and that the government retained the authority to appoint a majority of directors--moreover, has not changed. Indeed, when Lebron was decided, the President appointed only six of Amtrak's nine directors; he now appoints eight of the nine. The government, moreover, retains more than 90% of Amtrak's stock, appropriates for Amtrak more than a billion dollars annually, and sets salary limits for Amtrak's employees. In addition, Amtrak is required to submit annual reports to Congress and the President.
Op. at 11-12. Because Amtrak is a government entity, Judge Boasberg concluded, Congress did not delegate rulemaking authority to a private entity in violation of due process.
As to the delegation claim, Judge Boasberg concluded that Amtrak's status as a private corporation or government entity didn't matter, because the government retained ultimate control over the standards (even if Amtrak was involved in the process).
While the AAR is correct that [Section 207] in a sense makes Amtrak the FRA's equal--as opposed to its subordinate--Amtrak cannot promulgate the Metrics and Standards without the agency's approval. . . .
Conditioning regulation on a private party's assent . . . is not constitutionally problematic. Indeed, the Supreme Court has reasoned that through such schemes the government "merely place[s] a restriction upon its own" ability to regulate.
Op. at 18-19.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
This time, the opinion comes from federal District Judge Jeffrey White in Golinski v. United States Office of Personnel Management. Golinski is a staff attorney with the Ninth Circuit and in 2009 Chief Judge Kozinski ordered that Golinski's health benefits form listing her same-sex partner as wife be submitted by federal personnel authorities. The DOJ since decided not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA and such actions are being defended by BLAG - - - the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of
Golinski, a federal employee and described by the court as "a lesbian woman married under California law, who is unable to secure federal health benefits for her same-sex spouse," challenged Section 3 of DOMA as a violation of equal protection and due process under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Under equal protection doctrine, the court looked at the "various factors" to determine the level of scrutiny the sexual orientation classification merited:
- the history of invidious discrimination against the class burdened by the legislation;
- whether the characteristics that distinguish the class indicate a typical class member’s ability to contribute to society;
- whether the distinguishing characteristics are “immutable” or beyond the class members’ control;
- the political power of the subject class
After finding that there was no definitive precedent regarding the level of scrutiny that should apply, and applying the factors, the judge specifically held "that gay men and lesbians are a group deserving of heightened protection against the prejudices and power of an often-antagonistic majority."
In applying the heightened scrutiny standard, the judge considered the animus expressed by certain members of Congress in DOMA's legislative history, the judge then analyzed the government's stated interests: responsible procreation and child-rearing; nurturing the institution of traditional, opposite-sex marriage; defending traditional notions of morality; and preserving scarce government resources. For each interest, the judge concluded that that it did not "provide a justification that is substantially related to an important governmental objective."
The opinion then engaged in an "alternative analysis" under rational basis review - - - and also applied this to the BLAG's proffered additional hypothetical rational bases for passing DOMA:
- Congressional caution in defining a legislative term and maintaining the status quo
- Congressional caution in area of social divisiveness
- Any other possible basis
With many references to Judge Tauro's 2010 opinions holding DOMA unconstitutional, Judge White similarly decided that these post-DOMA rationales do not satisfy rational basis.
Judge White's conclusion considers the broader issues, including separation of powers and judicial review, in context:
The Court has found that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples. Even though animus is clearly present in its legislative history, the Court, having examined that history, the arguments made in its support, and the effects of the law, is persuaded that something short of animus may have motivated DOMA’s passage:
Prejudice, we are beginning to understand, rises not from malice or hostile
animus alone. It may result as well from insensitivity caused by simple want of
careful, rational reflection or from some instinctive mechanism to guard against
people who appear to be different in some respects from ourselves.
Board of Trustees of University of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 374-75 (2001) (Kennedy,
This case was presented by an employee of the judicial branch against the executive
branch, which ultimately determined it could not legitimately support the law. The law was
then defended by the legislative branch. The judicial branch is tasked with determining whether this federal law is unconstitutional. That is the courts’ authority and responsibility. “It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is” and,where it is so, to declare legislation unconstitutional. See Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803). As Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts said during his confirmation hearings: “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them. ... it’s [the judge’s] job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.” Confirmation Hearing on the Nomination of John G. Roberts, Jr. to be Chief Justice of the United States: Hearing Before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 109th Cong. 56 (2005) (statement of John G. Roberts, Jr.,
In this matter, the Court finds that DOMA, as applied to Ms. Golinski, violates her right
to equal protection of the law under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution by, without substantial justification or rational basis, refusing to recognize her lawful marriage to prevent provision of health insurance coverage to her spouse.
Apart from the substance, Judge White's opinion is a model of organizational clarity. For ConLawProfs looking for excellent opinions that demonstrate the organizational structure of equal protection doctrine, including alternative arguments, this is an opinion worth considering.
February 23, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, Sexual Orientation, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The D.C. Circuit ruled today in Al-Zahrani and Al-Salami v. Rodriguez that the Military Commissions Act revoked federal court jurisdiction over Guantanamo alien detainees' damages claims for constitutional torts. The ruling means that the fathers of two deceased Guantanamo detainees cannot pursue their federal court cases against government officials for their sons' deaths. They have no judicial remedy in U.S. courts for any violation.
Section 7 of the MCA reads as follows:
(1) No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.
(2) Except as provided in [section 1005(e)(2) and (e)(3) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005], no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.
28 U.S.C. Secs. 2241(e)(1) and (2).
The court held that subsection (2) revoked federal court jurisdiction over the fathers' claims under the Alien Tort Statute, the Federal Tort Claims Act, and the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.
The court distinguished Boumediene v. Bush, the 2008 case holding that subsection (1) unconstitutionally revoked the writ of habeas corpus in violation of the Suspension Clause. The court said that while the Boumediene Court didn't distinguish between subsections (1) and (2), its reasoning, based on the Suspension Clause, only applied to subsection (1), not subsection (2) (which doesn't implicate the Suspension Clause). So subsection (2) is still valid; and it bars the fathers' suit here.
The court rejected the fathers' argument that subsection (2) unconstitutionally deprived them of a remedy for a violation of a constitutional right. The court said that the Supreme Court's Bivens jurisprudence, which rejects claims for money damages when certain immunities apply or when "special factors" counsel against such claims, supports the idea that "Not every violation of a right yields a remedy, even when the right is constitutional." Op. at 7 (quoting Kiyemba v. Obama, 555 F.3d 1022, 1027 (D.C. Cir. 2009)).
Here, it means that Congress can validly revoke jurisdiction for this class of claims, and that the detainees' fathers--and any other alien detained at Guantanamo and claiming a violation of right--are out of luck.
February 21, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Fifth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)