Monday, June 18, 2018

SCOTUS Dodges Partisan Gerrymandering Challenges in Gill and Benisek

In its opinion in Gill v. Whitford involving a challenge to Wisconsin's alleged partisan gerrymandering the Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, with a concurring opinion by Justice Kagan (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor), found that the plaintiffs did not prove sufficient Article III standing to sustain the relief granted in the divided decision by the three judge court.  Additionally, in a per curiam opinion in Benisek v. Lamone, involving a challenge to alleged political gerrymandering in Maryland, the Court declined to disturb the three judge court's decision not to grant to a preliminary injunction.

Chief Justice Roberts' opinion for the Court in Gill admits that

Over the past five decades this Court has been repeat­edly asked to decide what judicially enforceable limits, if any, the Constitution sets on the gerrymandering of voters along partisan lines. Our previous attempts at an answer have left few clear landmarks for addressing the question.

The  Chief Justice's Gill opinion does little, if anything, to remedy this lack of "landmarks" in the doctrine. However, the Chief Justice's opinion continues that the Court's "efforts to sort through those considerations have generated conflict­ing views both of how to conceive of the injury arising from partisan gerrymandering and of the appropriate role for the Federal Judiciary in remedying that injury" and it is this set of "conflicting views" that the Chief Justice's opinion sets out to resolve. The 1024px-The_Gerry-Mander_Editresolution seems simple: to the extent that plaintiffs' "alleged harm is the dilution of their votes" in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, "that injury is district specific." In sum, the injury must be an individual one that arises from an individual's vote being diluted by the voter's placement in a "cracked" or "packed" district.  The Chief Justice's opinion concludes that while the individual plaintiffs had "pleaded a particularized burden along such lines," they failed to prove those facts at trial.

Yet this simplicity is less straightforward when combined with Justice Kagan's concurring opinion, which correctly notes that in addition to the Equal Protection Clause claim of vote dilution, "at some points in this litigation, the plaintiffs complained of a different injury — an infringement of their First Amendment right of association." [Indeed, the opinion for the three judge court seems to combine the equal protection and First Amendment claims.] On the First Amendment claim, Kagan writes:

when the harm alleged is not district specific, the proof needed for standing should not be district specific either. And the associational injury flowing from a statewide partisan gerrymander, whether alleged by a party member or the party itself, has nothing to do with the packing or cracking of any single district’s lines. The complaint in such a case is instead that the gerrymander has burdened the ability of like-minded people across the State to affiliate in a political party and carry out that organization’s activities and objects. Because a plaintiff can have that complaint without living in a packed or cracked district, she need not show what the Court demands today for a vote dilution claim. Or said otherwise: Because on this alternative theory, the valued association and the injury to it are statewide, so too is the relevant standing requirement.

Moreover, even on the equal protection vote dilution claim, Kagan's opinion instructs that the Court's determination of remand rather than dismissal means that

the plaintiffs—both the four who initially made those assertions and any others (current or newly joined)—now can introduce evidence that their individual districts were packed or cracked. And if the plaintiffs’ more general charges have a basis in fact, that evidence may well be at hand. Recall that the plaintiffs here al­leged—and the District Court found —that a unified Republican government set out to ensure that Republicans would control as many State Assembly seats as possible over a decade (five consecutive election cycles). To that end, the gov­ernment allegedly packed and cracked Democrats throughout the State, not just in a particular district (see, e.g., Benisek v. Lamone) or region. Assuming that is true, the plaintiffs should have a mass of packing and cracking proof, which they can now also present in district-by-district form to support their standing. In other words, a plaintiff residing in each affected district can show, through an alternative map or other evidence, that packing or cracking indeed occurred there.

 [emphasis added].  The Court remanded and declined to "direct dismissal" given that this "is not the usual case" because the it "concerns an unsettled kind of claim," the "contours and justiciability of which are unresolved." Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Gorsuch, wrote separately to disagree with the remand, arguing there is "nothing unusual" about the case and that the matter should be dismissed.

In the five page per curiam opinion in Benisek v. Lamone, the Court declined to disturb the three judge court's denial of a motion for preliminary injunction. Seemingly without irony, the Court noted that one rationale for the three judge court's denial of a preliminary injunction was its concern about assessing the merits of the partisan gerrymandering claim and its prediction it would be "better equipped to make that legal determination and to chart a wise course" after the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Gill. However, the per curiam opinion of the Court also reasoned that even if the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits, the  other factors in a preliminary injunction decision including the balance of equities and the public interest "tilted against" the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

In sum, the decisions in Gill and Benisek leave the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering as unsettled as before.

[image: "the gerrymander" via]

 

June 18, 2018 in Association, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Standing, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Zervos v. Trump: New York's Highest Court Refuses Appeal

On its own motion, the New York Court of Appeals (NY's highest court) dismissed the appeal by Donald Trump in Trump v. Zervos.

From its decision list, the court's entire "opinion" reads:

On the Court's own motion, appeal dismissed,without costs, upon the ground that the order appealed from does not finally determine the action within the meaning of the Constitution.

Motion for leave to appeal dismissed upon the ground that the order sought to be appealed from does not finally determine the action within the meaning of the Constitution.

Motion for a stay dismissed as academic.

Recall that in May, the appellate division in New York denied President Trump's motion for a stay, in a summary decision.  Recall that in March, the state trial judge ruled the lawsuit for defamation by Summer Zervos against now-President Trump could proceed, denying a motion to dismiss or to stay by Trump based on his presidential status. The trial judge decided that the holding of  the United States Supreme Court in its unanimous 1997 decision of Clinton v. Jones that then-President Clinton was subject to suit in federal court extended to state court.

Petitioning the United States Supreme Court for a stay would be the next step if the president wants to halt the defamation lawsuit against him for as long as he is president. Otherwise, the case will proceed including presumably discovery which would mean a deposition of the president.

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June 14, 2018 in Executive Authority, Executive Privilege, First Amendment, State Constitutional Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUS Rules Minnesota's Restriction on Voters' Political Apparel Violates First Amendment

In its opinion in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, the Court held that a provision of a Minnesota law regulating voters' political attire violates the First Amendment. Recall from our preview that  Minn. Stat. §211B.11, entitled "Soliciting near polling places," includes among its petty misdemeanor violations a prohibition of political attire: "A political badge, political button, or other political insignia may not be worn at or about the polling place on primary or election day." 

The Court's majority opinion, by Chief Justice Roberts, finds that the "polling place" on election day constitutes a nonpublic forum under the First Amendment; it is "government- controlled property set aside for the sole purpose of voting" and is a "special enclave, subject to greater restriction." The question as phrased by the Court was therefore whether "Minnesota’s ban on political apparel is 'reasonable in light of the purpose served by the forum': voting."  As in the oral argument, the Court considered the relevance of Burson v. Freeman (1992), in which the Court upheld a Tennessee statute which prohibited the solicitation of votes and the display or distribution of campaign materials within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place.

Analogizing to Burson, the Court upheld Minnesota's objective in prohibiting voters from wearing particular kinds of expressive apparel or accessories while inside the polling place.

[W]e see no basis for rejecting Minnesota’s determination that some forms of advocacy should be excluded from the polling place, to set it aside as “an island of calm in which voters can peacefully contemplate their choices.” Brief for Respondents 43. Casting a vote is a weighty civic act, akin to a jury’s return of a verdict, or a representative’s vote on a piece of legislation. It is a time for choosing, not campaigning. The State may reasonably decide that the interior of the polling place should reflect that distinction.

However, the Court found that the Minnesota statute failed to satisfy the reasonable standard in the means chosen to achieve its goal: "the unmoored use of the term 'political' in the Minnesota law, combined with haphazard interpretations the State has provided in official guidance and representations to this Court, cause Minnesota’s restriction to fail even this forgiving test." The Court found "political" far too broad (citing dictionary definitions) and likewise found that "issue oriented material" was also too broad (" A rule whose fair enforcement requires an election judge to maintain a mental index of the platforms and positions of every candidate and party on the ballot is not reason- able. Candidates for statewide and federal office and major political parties can be expected to take positions on a wide array of subjects of local and national import.") 

However, the Court gestured toward acceptable means chosen:

That is not to say that Minnesota has set upon an impossible task. Other States have laws proscribing displays (including apparel) in more lucid terms. See, e.g., Cal. Elec. Code Ann. §319.5 (West Cum. Supp. 2018) (prohibiting “the visible display . . . of information that advocates for or against any candidate or measure,” including the “display of a candidate’s name, likeness, or logo,” the “display of a ballot measure’s number, title, subject, or logo,” and “[b]uttons, hats,” or “shirts” containing such information); Tex. Elec. Code Ann. §61.010(a) (West 2010) (prohibiting the wearing of “a badge, insignia, emblem, or other similar communicative device relating to a candidate, measure, or political party appearing on the ballot, or to the conduct of the election”). We do not suggest that such provisions set the outer limit of what a State may proscribe, and do not pass on the constitutionality of laws that are not before us. But we do hold that if a State wishes to set its polling places apart as areas free of partisan discord, it must employ a more discernible approach.

The appendix lists thirty-four states prohibiting accessories or apparel in the polling place.

Dissenting, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justice Breyer, would have certified the issue of the interpretation of the statute to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court, in footnote 7, explained its decision not to certify, including that the request came "late in the day," but Sotomayor argued that "certification is not an argument subject to forfeiture by the parties" and is instead a matter of comity. Moreover, she contended that having an interpretation of the statute, including the term "political" (which she noted the Court had "little difficulty discerning its meaning in the context of [other] statutes subject to First Amendment challenges, citing cases), would "obviate the hypothetical line-drawing problems that form the basis of the Court’s decision today."

Thus, the import of Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky is that states can prohibit certain expressive apparel and accessories at the polling place on election day, but the courts must find the statutory definitions sufficiently defined as to be "reasonable." 

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June 14, 2018 in Elections and Voting, Federalism, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check it Out: NYT on Campus Free Speech

Check out Jeremy Peters's piece in today's NYT, In the Name of Free Speech, States Crack Down on Campus Protests.

June 14, 2018 in First Amendment, News, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Second Circuit: Police Use of LRAD May Violate Fourteenth Amendment

In its unanimous opinion in Edrei v. Maguire (Bratton), a panel of the Second Circuit upheld the the denial of a motion to dismiss a complaint alleging excessive force under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause by police officers using a LRAD - - - long-range acoustic device - - - during a protest. The defendants claimed both that the LRAD did not constitute excessive force and that they were entitled to qualified immunity because it had not been clearly established at the time of the 2014 protest that using a LRAD could be excessive force.

Chief Judge Robert Katzmann's opinion discussed LRAD, noting that the New York Police Department was using a "portable Model 100X, which also has loudspeaker and area denial functions."

The 100X’s product sheet boasts that it has a maximum volume of 136 decibels at one meter and the manufacturer guidelines caution not to use it within 10 to 20 meters of people. A diagram on the 100X’s control panel shows a red beam emanating from the front of the device and instructs: “DO NOT ENTER WITHIN 10 METERS DURING CONTINUOUS OPERATION.”

The plaintiffs, who were subjected to the LRAD during a protest in New York after "a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the NYPD officer who placed Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in a fatal chokehold." During the protest,

with no warning, NYPD officers discharged pepper spray. Several plaintiffs who had been watching the arrests began to flee. Seconds later the wail of a high‐pitched alarm began pulsing though the streets. The defendants had activated the LRAD’s area denial function. According to plaintiffs, they had not been ordered to disperse and no such order is audible on the video.

900px-Long_Range_Acoustic_Device_500X_in_New_York_CityThe plaintiffs reported physical injuries, including significant ear pain, prolonged migraines, vertigo, and ringing in the ears, and most sought medical treatment.

Judge Katzmann's opinion rejected the defendants' argument that the LRAD could not constitute "excessive force."  The opinion relied on the "shocks the conscience" test as it had been explained in the Second Circuit with regard to excessive force as considering several factors: “the need for the application of force, the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used, the extent of the injury inflicted, and whether the force was . . . [inflicted] maliciously or sadistically.”  The court held that this Second Circuit precedent was not changed by Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S. Ct. 2466 (2015), decided after the 2014 protest. Moreover, applying the standard to the allegations, the security threat was low, the proportionality of the force used was "stark," there were significant injuries, and there are no allegations that the police officers attempted to temper their use of force.

The court also rejected the police officers' claim to qualified immunity. The defendants argued that it was not clearly established at the time of the 2014 protest that "using force in crowd control violates due process."

But that is like saying police officers who run over people crossing the street illegally can claim immunity simply because we have never addressed a Fourteenth Amendment claim involving jaywalkers. This would convert the fair notice requirement into a presumption against the existence of basic constitutional rights. Qualified immunity doctrine is not so stingy.

Additionally, the court discussed the protestors First Amendment rights and stated that "Were this not enough, a wealth of cases inform government officials that protesters enjoy robust constitutional protections."

The court did stress that the opinion was a "narrow" one.  As an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a motion to dismiss, this is expected. Nevertheless, the opinion is certainly a victory for the plaintiffs in their due process challenge to the use of LRAD.

[image: LRAD 500 x in NYC during 2011 via]

 

June 13, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 4, 2018

SCOTUS Finds Colorado Civil Rights Commission Hostile to Religion in Masterpiece Cakeshop

In its opinion today authored by Justice Kennedy in Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Court found that the cakeshop owner's First Amendment Free Exercise Clause right was infringed upon by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Recall that the Civil Rights Commission had found the cakemaker violated the state equal accommodations statute protection on the basis of sexual orientation when the cakemaker refused to be employed for a same-sex wedding cake.

Justice Kennedy's opinion decides the controversy on the basis of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah (1993), in which the Court found that the City of Hialeah's prohibition of killing animals was aimed at the religion of Santeria, especially given the numerous exceptions in the ordinance. Here, Kennedy's opinion for the Court rejects the ALJ's conclusion that the Colorado anti-discrimination statute was a neutral law of general applicability (and thus should be evaluated under a rational basis test), finding instead that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in its adjudication of this case was not neutral but expressed hostility:  "The Civil Rights Commission’s treatment of his case has some elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs that motivated his [the cakemaker's] objection."

These expressions of hostility surfaced in the oral argument as we noted in a specific statement from Kennedy  quoting one of the civil rights commissioners ( "freedom of religion used to justify discrimination is a despicable piece of rhetoric") which Kennedy asked counsel to disavow. This foreshadowed the opinion's quotation of the commissioner  "Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

The opinion then stated:

To describe a man’s faith as “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use” is to disparage his religion in at least two distinct ways: by describing it as despicable, and also by characterizing it as merely rhetorical—something insubstantial and even insincere. The commissioner even went so far as to compare [cakemaker] Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti- discrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.

With the decision based on this, the Court admittedly sidesteps the more contentious issues and widespread issues of the case:

The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.

Perhaps another limiting factor is that the Court observes that the cakebaker's refusal occurred before Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) when Colorado law did not authorize same-sex marriages. However, the Court also pointed to language in Obergefell that religious objections to same-sex marriage are protected by the First Amendment.

Yet there is also the issue of arguably inconsistent rulings from the civil rights commission.

Justice Kagan, in a brief concurring opinion joined by Justice Breyer, stressed the fault found with the Civil Rights Commission that did not give the cakemaker's religious views “neutral and respectful consideration.” She argued that any "inconsistent" rulings could be explained: the cakemakers in other cases objected to placing words on the cakes that they found offensive; in Masterpiece, the cakemaker objected to the customers who were purchasing sentiments he would provide for others.

In dissent, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor, concluded that there was not sufficient evidence of "hostility" neither in the arguably inconsistent rulings nor in the statements.  As to the statements,

Whatever one may think of the statements in historical context, I see no reason why the comments of one or two Commissioners should be taken to overcome Phillips’ refusal to sell a wedding cake to Craig and Mullins. The proceedings involved several layers of independent decisionmaking, of which the Commission was but one.

First, the Division had to find probable cause that Phillips violated CADA. Second, the ALJ entertained the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment. Third, the Commission heard Phillips’ appeal. Fourth, after the Commission’s ruling, the Colorado Court of Appeals considered the case de novo. What prejudice infected the determinations of the adjudicators in the case before and after the Commission?

For Ginsburg, then, this was "far removed from the only precedent upon which the Court relies, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah (1993), where the government action that violated a principle of religious neutrality implicated a sole decisionmaking body, the city council."

Certainly, the Court's opinion rests on narrow grounds, perhaps unique to this case. But it nevertheless represents the Court chipping away at equality on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

 

 

 

June 4, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Opinion Analysis, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Seventh Circuit Upholds "In God We Trust" on Currency

The Seventh Circuit this week rebuffed a First Amendment challenge to the phrase "In God we Trust" on our currency by a non-theistic Satanist. The unsurprising ruling allows the government to continue to print that phrase on money.

The plaintiff challenged the phrase under the Establishment Clause, the Free Exercise Clause, and the Speech Clause, among others. The court rejected each.

As to the Establishment Clause, the court said that the phrase wasn't an endorsement of religion, that it didn't coerce religious beliefs, and that it wasn't based on a forbidden religious purpose. In short, the court said that the phrase is simply a part of our nation's heritage:

The inclusion of the motto on currency is similar to other ways in which secular symbols give a nod to the nation's religious heritage. Examples include the phrase "one nation under God," which has been in the Pledge of Allegiance since 1954, as well as the National Day of Prayer, which has existed in various forms since the dawn of the country and is now codified [in the U.S.C.]. Moreover, when the religious aspects of an activity account for "only a fraction," the possibility that anyone could see it as an endorsement of religion is diluted. In the case of currency, the motto is one of many historical reminders; others include portraits of presidents, state symbols, monuments, notable events such as the Louisiana Purchase, and the national bird. In this context, a reasonable observer would not perceive the motto on currency as a religious endorsement.

As to free exercise, the court said that the plaintiff's "claim fails because the motto's placement on currency has the secular purpose of recognizing the religious component of our nation's history."

As to free speech, the court rejected the plaintiff's claim that the phrase amounted to forced speech, because nobody would regard the phrase as the plaintiff's own speech.

The court also rejected the plaintiff's RFRA claim (no substantial burden on the plaintiff's practice of Satanism) and his equal protection claim (because the government had at least one legitimate objective, "acknowledging an aspect of our nation's heritage").

June 1, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ninth Circuit Upholds Montana's Campaign Disclosure Requirements

The Ninth Circuit yesterday upheld Montana's political committee reporting and disclosure requirements against First Amendment challenges by a group whose major purpose was not political advocacy. The ruling keeps these requirements on the books.

The case arose when the group Montanans for Community Development refrained from sending a pro-job-growth mailer that mentioned certain candidates in upcoming state elections, because it would have to comply with state political committee reporting and disclosure requirements. MCD sued, arguing that the requirements were unconstitutionally vague, that they were overbroad, and that they were unconstitutional as applied to MCD (as a group whose major purpose wasn't political advocacy).

The court, in a brief and unpublished opinion, rejected these claims. The court said that Montana law put a "person of ordinary intelligence [on] fair notice of what is prohibited" (and thus wasn't vague); that the requirements were substantially related to sufficiently important government interests of informing the electorate, deterring actual corruption and avoiding the appearance of corruption, and gathering data to enforce more substantive electioneering restrictions (and thus wasn't overbroad); and that "[p]olitical committee reporting and disclosure laws can extend beyond groups whose major purpose is political advocacy" (and thus survived MCD's as-applied challenge).

May 24, 2018 in Campaign Finance, Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Federal Judge Finds First Amendment Violation in Presidential Blocking on Twitter

In her Opinion in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, Naomi Reice Buchwald, found that the President's Twitter account, @realdonaldtrump, is in violation of the First Amendment when it blocks other Twitter users based on their political views.

Judge Buchwald's 75 page opinion is well-structured and well-reasoned, proceeding through the multiple and complex issues posed by the novel issue. The parties' extensive Stipulation formed the basis of the summary judgment order.

Judge Buchwald first found that the named plaintiffs and organizational plaintiff had standing as to both the President and Dan Scavino, the White House Social Media Director with access to the Twitter account. But she granted summary judgment in favor of  Defendant Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who did not have access to the Twitter account (and Hope Hicks, no longer at the White House, was dismissed as a Defendant).

On the First Amendment issue, Judge Buchwald concluded that the Twitter account was governmental in nature as was the act of blocking other Twitter users. The judge rejected the argument that blocking was not state action because the blocking functionality was afforded every user: "but the power to exclude is also one afforded generally to every property owner. When a government acts to 'legally preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is dedicated,' it behaves 'like the private owner of property.'" She also rejected the argument that because the Twitter account was begun in 2009 it was not governmental now:

Here, the President and Scavino’s present use of the @realDonaldTrump account weighs far more heavily in the analysis than the origin of the account as the creation of private citizen Donald Trump. That latter fact cannot be given the dispositive weight that defendants would ascribe to it. Rather, because the President and Scavino use the @realDonaldTrump account for governmental functions, the control they exercise over it is accordingly governmental in nature.

 Indeed, quoting from the parties' Stipulation, the Judge recounted:

With the assistance of Mr. Scavino in certain instances, President Trump uses @realDonaldTrump, often multiple times a day, to announce, describe, and defend his policies; to promote his Administration’s legislative agenda; to announce official decisions; to engage with foreign political leaders; to publicize state visits; to challenge media organizations whose coverage of his Administration he believes to be unfair; and for other statements, including on occasion statements unrelated to official government business. President Trump sometimes uses the account to announce matters related to official government business before those matters are announced to the public through other official channels.” Stip. ¶ 38. “For example, the President used @realDonaldTrump to announce on June 7, 2017, for the first time, that he intended to nominate Christopher Wray for the position of FBI director.” Stip. ¶ 38.

 But the real issue for the forum analysis was not the President's tweets, which the Judge held to be "government speech" not subject to First Amendment constraints as the United States Supreme Court recently explained in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

Instead, the "interactive space associated with each of the President’s tweets is not government speech and is properly analyzed under the Supreme Court’s forum precedents," and, Judge Buchwald concluded, is a "designated public forum."

As such, the designated public forum is subject to the First Amendment requirement that any governmental restrictions must be "narrowly drawn to achieve a compelling state interest.”

Here, the individual plaintiffs were indisputably blocked as a result of viewpoint discrimination. The record establishes that “[s]hortly after the Individual Plaintiffs posted the tweets . . . in which they criticized the President or his policies, the President blocked each of the Individual Plaintiffs,” Stip. ¶ 53, and defendants do “not contest Plaintiffs’ allegation that the Individual Plaintiffs were blocked from the President’s Twitter account because the Individual Plaintiffs posted tweets that criticized the President or his policies.”

This viewpoint discrimination is impermissible, Judge Buchwald concluded, and not justified by any personal First Amendment right advanced by the President. Judge Buchwald distinguished "muting" and "blocking" on Twitter - - - which the President had argued were indistinguishable - - - and concluded:

The audience for a reply extends more broadly than the sender of the tweet being replied to, and blocking restricts the ability of a blocked user to speak to that audience. While the right to speak and the right to be heard may be functionally identical if the speech is directed at only one listener, they are not when there is more than one.

Finally, Judge Buchwald rejected the argument that the court categorically lacked authority to enjoin the President: "No government official, after all, possesses the discretion to act unconstitutionally." Nevertheless, she  decided that a declaratory judgment should suffice: "we must assume that the President and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional."

 

 

May 23, 2018 in Current Affairs, Executive Authority, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Zervos v. Trump Stay Denied

In a terse ruling in Zervos v. Trump, the appellate division in New York cleared the stage for the defamation lawsuit against the president to move forward.

Recall that the trial judge, stating that "No one is above the law," ruled  the lawsuit for defamation by Summer Zervos against now-President Trump could proceed, denying a motion to dismiss or to stay by Trump based on his presidential status.

The entire appellate division opinion reads:

An appeal having been taken from an order of the Supreme Court, New York County, entered on or about March 20, 2018,

And defendant-appellant having moved for a stay of the action pending hearing and determination of the aforesaid appeal,

Now, upon reading and filing the papers with respect to the motion, and due deliberation having been had thereon,

It is ordered that the motion is denied.

May 17, 2018 in Executive Privilege, First Amendment, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Seventh Circuit Rejects Challenge to Erogenous Zoning

The Seventh Circuit ruled today that a retailer was not likely to succeed on its First Amendment challenge to Indianapolis's adult-store zoning regulations.

The case, HH-Indianapolis v. Indianapolis, arose when the plaintiff sought to open a retail establishment called "Hustler Hollywood" in Indianapolis. The corporation sought advice from city officials in order to avoid the "adult" designation under the city's changing zoning rules, and, in reliance on that advice, entered into a ten-year lease at a particular location. But when the corporation applied for a structural permit to remodel the property, the city determined that the retailer was either an adult bookstore or an adult service establishment--either way, not permitted in the zone where it was located (but permitted in other areas of the city, including a zone right across the street). The corporation declined to challenge the designation through the state courts and instead brought a First Amendment challenge in federal court.

The Seventh Circuit ruled that it was unlikely to succeed (and thus denied its motion for a preliminary injunction). The court said that the case fell squarely within the Supreme Court's "erogenous zoning" line: "There is simply 'no First Amendment objection' when the City exercises its zoning power to reduce the secondary effects of adult businesses, and HH has alternative avenues of communication."

The court said that the plaintiff's claim really amounted to a challenge to its designation as an "adult" retailer, and under state law belonged in state court.

May 7, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Ninth Circuit Judges Wrangle Over Right Standard for Political Contribution Limits

The Ninth Circuit this week denied rehearing en banc of a panel ruling upholding Montana's contribution limits against a First Amendment challenge. Through a forceful dissent and response-to-the-dissent, judges on the court wrangled over the right standard for contribution limits in the wake of Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC.

The long-running, up-and-down case, now Lair v. Motl, tests Montana's low contribution limits, designed to address the state's unique history with political corruption. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld the limits, and the full court voted to deny en banc review.

In dissent, Judge Ikuta, joined by Judges Callahan, Bea, M. Smith, and N.R. Smith, argued that the panel applied too lenient a standard. In particular, Judge Ikuta wrote that under McCutcheon and Citizens United, "the only state interest that justifies contribution limits is the prevention of acts that 'would be covered by bribery laws if a quid pro quo arrangement were proved.'"

In light of the Supreme Court's clarification, a state can justify imposing regulations limiting individuals' political speech (via limiting political contributions) only by producing evidence that it has a real problem in combating actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption. . . . [T]he government must provide evidence that 'the harms it recites are real and that its restriction will in fact alleviate them to a material degree.'" To meet this test here, a state must show that it has a realistic need to prevent acts that 'would be covered by bribery laws" by (for instance) presenting evidence that large monetary contributions were made "to control the exercise of an officeholder's official duties" or "point[ing] to record evidence or legislative findings suggesting any special corruption problem." One thing is certain: the state cannot carry its burden with evidence showing only that large contributions increase donors' influence or access.

Judges Fisher and Murguia responded, arguing that the dissent's test "has never been adopted by the Supreme Court or this court." "The evidentiary standard established by the Supreme Court requires that a state need only demonstrate a risk of quid pro quo corruption or its appearance that is neither conjectural nor illusory."

May 3, 2018 in Campaign Finance, Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Daily Read: The President and Defamation on Twitter by McKechnie

Apropos of the defamation complaint filed by Stephanie Clifford a/k/a Stormy Daniels which we discussed here, an excellent read is the article @POTUS: Rethinking Presidential Immunity in the Time of Twitter by Professor Douglas McKenchnie  (United States Air Force Academy; pictured) published in the University of Miami Law Review.

Douglas_McKechnieMcKenchie's article, published in 2017, considers the President's use of Twitter.  McKenchie argues that malicious defamation falls outside the “outer perimeter” of official presidential duties and thus presidential immunity is inapplicable. 

This addresses a broader issue than whether a sitting president can be sued, but uses a number of doctrines - - -  presidential immunity; immunity for executive branch officials; the constitutional implications of defamation; and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments’ prohibition on government action motivated by animus - - - to support its conclusion.

Worth a read.

May 2, 2018 in Equal Protection, Executive Privilege, First Amendment, Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stormy Daniels Sues Donald Trump for Defamation

In her complaint, Stephanie Clifford, a/k/a Stormy Daniels has sued Donald Trump in his individual capacity for defamation, based on his tweet responding to her allegations that she was threatened.

 

 

The tweet was actually a "quote tweet" retweeting this reply to an earlier Trump tweet:

The one-count complaint avers that Trump is not only attacking the truthfulness of Clifford, but also accusing her of a crime: fabricating a crime and an assailant, both of which are crimes under New York law. The complaint alleges that Trump "made his statement either knowing it was false, had serious doubts about the truth of his statement, or made the statement with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity." The complaint avers that not only has Clifford's reputation been damaged, but that she is receiving threats since Trump's statement and has hired bodyguards to protect her.

Recall that in a separate lawsuit, Clifford has sued Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen for defamation, raising the somewhat usual issues surrounding the First Amendment doctrine in defamation given that Stormy Daniels is a public figure and the matter is one of public concern.

However, the Clifford lawsuit against Trump while he is President also raises the specter of executive immunity. Recall that in Zervos v. Trump, a similar lawsuit for defamation against Trump filed in New York state court by Summer Zervos, the judge held that the lawsuit could proceed; the judge found that the rule in the United States Supreme Court's unanimous 1997 decision of Clinton v. Jones holding that then-President Clinton subject to suit in federal court extended to state court. 

One difference in the Clifford suit is that Trump made the allegedly defamatory statement while President; the statement in Zervos was made as a candidate (and the acts in Clinton v. Jones occurred before Bill Clinton became President). 

Also at issue could be the "status" of the Trump tweet: is it an "official statement"?  Or not even worth noting?

May 2, 2018 in Current Affairs, Executive Privilege, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Travel Ban Case

The Court heard oral arguments in Trump v. Hawai'i, releasing same-day audio in the case in recognition of its importance. Recall that the Court granted certiorari to the Ninth Circuit's opinion in Hawai'i v. Trump regarding Presidential Proclamation 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats”of  September 24, 2017, also known as E.O 3, or Travel Ban 3.0, or Muslim Ban 3.0. The Ninth Circuit, affirming a district judge, found Travel Ban 3.0 unlawful under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  The Court also took certiorari on the Establishment Clause issue. There were also constitutional issues involves standing.

Arguing for the United States and President Trump, Solicitor General Noel Francisco opened and repeatedly stressed that E.O. 3 was the result of a "worldwide multi-agency review." Yet the person of President Trump was a definite, if at times implicit, presence in the argument. For example, during the Solicitor General's argument Justice Kagan posed a hypothetical:

So this is a hypothetical that you've heard a variant of  before that the government has, at any rate,  but I want to just give you. 

So let's say in some future time a -­a President gets elected who is a vehement anti-Semite and says all kinds of denigrating comments about Jews and provokes a lot of resentment and hatred over the course of a campaign and in his presidency and, in course of that, asks his staff or his cabinet members to issue a proc -- to issue recommendations so that he can issue a proclamation of this kind, and they dot all the  i's and they cross all the t's.

And what emerges -- and, again, in the context of this virulent anti-Semitism – what emerges is a proclamation that says no one shall enter from Israel. 

**** “this is a out-of-the-box kind of President in my hypothetical.  And –

(Laughter)

**** And -- and who knows what his heart of hearts is.  I mean, I take that point.  But the question is not really what his heart of hearts is.  The question is what are reasonable observers to think -­

This discussion takes place in the context of whether the deferential standard of Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972) should apply, but also applies to the Establishment Clause problem of whether the EO has a secular purpose under McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005).

Belber_SuitcaseArguing for Hawai'i, Neal Katyal stated that Hawai'i did not rely on any campaign statements for intent, but only presidential statements, citing the President's "tweeting of these three virulent anti-Muslim videos" after the present EO was issued, and the presidential spokesperson being asked to explain these retweets saying, according to Katyal's argument, "The President has spoken about exactly this in the proclamation."

Chief Justice Roberts asked whether the taint of any presidential statements "applies forever."  Katyal stressed that the President had not disavowed the statements or moved away from them. 

Justice Breyer, among others, seemed concerned that the exceptions in the policy remained opaque, but Alito flatly stated that "it does not look at all like a Muslim ban."

Predicting outcomes from oral arguments is always a dubious enterprise, but this is undoubtedly a close case. Additionally, the Chief Justice's appearance at the President's State Dinner the evening before oral arguments has caused some to question his impartiality, or, at least the appearance of impartiality.

[image via]

 

April 25, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Establishment Clause, Executive Authority, First Amendment, Oral Argument Analysis, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sixth Circuit Strikes Ohio Statute Defunding Planned Parenthood

In its opinion in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Himes, a unanimous Sixth Circuit panel, affirming the district judge, found Ohio 's Revised Code § 3701.034 unconstitutional under the unconstitutional conditions doctrine. The Ohio statute prohibited all funds it receives through six non-abortion-related federal health programs, such as the Violence Against Women Act, from being used to fund any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions, or becomes or continues to be an affiliate of any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions. The statute was aimed at Planned Parenthood and similar organizations.

The state relied upon cases such as Maher v. Roe and Rust v. Sullivan, but the court's opinion, authored by Judge Helene White, stated:

Plaintiffs do not claim an entitlement to government funds. They acknowledge the government’s right to define the parameters of its own programs, and have complied with all program requirements. What they do claim is a right not to be penalized in the administration of government programs based on protected activity outside the programs.

Instead, Judge White wrote, the correct precedent was Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc’y Int’l (AOSI) (2013). Recall that in the "prostitution-pledge" case, the United States Supreme Court held unconstitutional under the First Amendment a provision of a federal funding statute requiring some (but not other) organizations to have an explicit policy opposing sex work. For the Sixth Circuit, AOSI "reiterated that the government may not require the surrender of constitutional rights as a condition of participating in an unrelated government program." In short,

the government cannot directly prohibit Plaintiffs from providing and advocating for abortion on their own time and dime, [ and thus ] it may not do so by excluding them from government programs for which they otherwise qualify and which have nothing to do with the government’s choice to disfavor abortion.

The Sixth Circuit found that the Ohio statute violated unconstitutional conditions based on constitutional infringements of both the Due Process Clause and the First Amendment. On the due process issue, the court found that the due process right to an abortion was at issue. The court rejected the "importation" of the undue burden standard into this analysis, but also reasoned that even under the undue burden analysis, especially in the United States Supreme Court's most recent abortion ruling in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the statute violated due process.

On the First Amendment claim, relating to the Ohio statute's denial of funds to any organization that promotes abortions, again the Sixth Circuit quoted Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc’y Int’l (AOSI): the government does not "have the authority to attach ‘conditions that seek to leverage funding to regulate speech outside the contours of the program itself.’ "

While there is some potential for a circuit split given the Seventh Circuit's opinion in Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Inc. v. Commissioner of Indiana State Department of Health, 699 F.3d 962 (7th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 569 U.S. 1004 (2013), the Sixth Circuit extensively analyzes the Seventh Circuit's opinion and concludes that because it was decided before Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc’y Int’l (AOSI), it is no longer persuasive.

 

April 19, 2018 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daily Read: Curing the Inequality of Privacy Protections

Whose privacy counts? Whose privacy should count?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

District Judge Holds Transgender Military Ban Subject to Strict Scrutiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[image: Winslow Homer, Blackboard, 1877, via

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

Daily Read: Stormy Daniels Sues Trump's Lawyer for Defamation

In an amended complaint Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, has added a count of defamation against President Trump's attorney, Michael Cohen, for defamation.

Recall that Ms. Daniels filed a complaint in state court against Trump and a LLC, Essential Consultants, which mentioned Michael Cohen, seeking a declaratory judgment regarding "hush money" and an agreement not to divulge certain facts. That lawsuit has been removed to federal court.  But the day after Ms. Daniels' widely watched interview on the news show "60 Minutes" aired, Daniels' attorney has filed an amended complaint adding Cohen as a defendant and alleging defamation:

  1. 2048px-Stormy_Daniels_at_AEE2008_Day2_3On or about February 13, 2018, Mr. Cohen issued a public statement. The entirety of the statement is attached hereto as Exhibit 3. In it, he states in part: “Just because something isn’t true doesn’t mean that it can’t cause you harm or damage. I will always protect Mr. Trump.” (emphasis added). Mr. Cohen’s statement was made in writing and released by Mr. Cohen to the media with the intent that it be widely disseminated and repeated throughout California and across the country (and the world) on television, on the radio, in newspapers, and on the Internet.
  2. It was reasonably understood by those who read or heard the statement that Mr. Cohen’s defamatory statement was about Ms. Clifford.
  3. Both on its face, and because of the facts and circumstances known to persons who read or heard the statement, it was reasonably understood Mr. Cohen meant to convey that Ms. Clifford is a liar, someone who should not be trusted, and that her claims about her relationship with Mr. Trump is “something [that] isn’t true.” Mr. Cohen’s statement exposed Mr. Clifford to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and shame, and discouraged others from associating or dealing with her.
  4. Mr. Cohen’s defamatory statement was false.
  5. Mr. Cohen made the statement knowing it was false or had serious doubts about the truth of the statements.
  1. As a result, Plaintiff Ms. Clifford has suffered damages in an amount to be proven at trial according to proof, including but not limited to, harm to her reputation, emotional harm, exposure to contempt, ridicule, and shame, and physical threats of violence to her person and life.

Unlike any claims against President Trump, there is no question of executive immunity, but the First Amendment contours of defamation will undoubtedly be relevant.  Given that Stormy Daniels is clearly a public figure, much more so than Summer Zervos who is suing President Trump for defamation, Daniels will need to satisfy the actual malice standard. (Recall that a state judge has held that Zervos's lawsuit against Trump is not barred by executive immunity.)

[Image: Stormy Daniels via]

 

 

March 26, 2018 in Current Affairs, First Amendment, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)