Wednesday, December 11, 2013
In its long-awaited opinion in Koushal v. NAZ Foundation, the Supreme Court of India has reversed the 2009 decision of the Delhi High Court that §377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional under the India Constitution and upheld India's sodomy law as constitutional.
The Supreme Court decision noted that India's sodomy law was pre-constitutional - - - and derived from British rule - - - and also that the Court certainly had the power to declare the law unconstitutional as inconsistent with several provisions of the India Constitution, including
- Article 13 (Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights)
- Article 14 (Equality before law)
- Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth)
- Article 19 (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc.)
- Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty)
Nevertheless, the Court stated that there is a presumption of constitutionality given the "importance of separation of powers and out of a sense of deference to the value of democracy that parliamentary acts embody."
The Court's 98 page opinion authored by Justice Singhvi (who is interestingly scheduled to retire tomorrow, the day after the opinion was rendered), and without a dissenting opinion, criticizes the Dehli Court's reliance on non-national sources:
In its anxiety to protect the so-called rights of LGBT persons and to declare that Section 377 IPC violates the right to privacy, autonomy and dignity, the High Court has extensively relied upon the judgments of other jurisdictions. Though these judgments shed considerable light on various aspects of this right and are informative in relation to the plight of sexual minorities, we feel that they cannot be applied blindfolded for deciding the constitutionality of the law enacted by the Indian legislature.
For United States scholars, such concern for nationalism certainly echoes the dissenting opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the United States Supreme Court held unconstitutional a state law criminalizing sodomy. Yet in the India context, the fact that its constitutionalism is linked to British rule as well as the fact that the sodomy law is a product of colonialism (and is a law that the colonial power has since repudiated as former Australian High Court Judge Michael Kirby has analyzed as England's "least lovely" export) are distinguishing features.
Certainly, however, the problematizing of judicial review in the context of sexuality occurs in the United States cases as well as those from South Africa, an issue extensively discussed here.
And certainly, advocacy on behalf of "the so-called rights of LGBT persons" will be moving to India's Parliament.
[image of Supreme Court of India via]
Sunday, October 27, 2013
The Department of Justice for the first time notified a criminal defendant that evidence against him was obtained through a warrantless wiretap, according to the New York Times. The move gives the criminal defendant the standing to challenge warrantless wiretapes that the plaintiffs in Clapper v. Amnesty International lacked and invites his challenge of warrantless wiretaps. Our previous post on the issue is here.
The defendant, Jamshid Muhtorov, is charged with "provid[ing] and attempt[ing] to provide material support and resources, to wit: personnel . . . to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically the Islamic Jihad Union . . . knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization, that the organization had engaged in and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism, and the offense occurred in whole or in part within the United States" in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2339B. The notice says that the government
hereby provides notice to this Court and the defense, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. Secs. 1806(c) and 1881e(a), that the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 . . . .
The Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs in Clapper lacked standing to challenge warrantless wiretaps, because they couldn't show that they'd been, or would be, wiretapped under the specific statutory authority they sought to challenge. Now that the government has disclosed that its evidence resulted from warrantless wiretaps, Muhtorov has clear standing to challenge the wiretaps.
This merely puts the legality of the wiretaps before the courts; it doesn't answer the underlying question. For that, we'll have to await the ruling and appeals.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Human Rights Watch penned a letter to the Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly this week, urging the body to protect the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam as the Assmebly moves forward with the country's new constitution. Here's the press release.
The National Assembly has authority to revise the constitution; it is considering amendments during a session from October 21 to November 30, 2013. The government opened the draft constitution up for public and official comment on January 2, 2013, and received tens of thousands of submissions. But as HRW points out, some who campaigned for changes found themselves targets of government reprisal.
The letter urges the assembly to "ensure that the amendment process brings the constitution into conformity with Vietnam's obligations under international law so that it fully protects the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam, which will contribute to the country's development." In particular, the group is concerned about these:
-Weakened protections against arbitrary arrest;
-Expansion of the one-party state;
-Extension of control over the armed forces by the Communist Party
-Broad limitations on rights, broader than limitations recognized under international law;
-A weak judiciary and Constitutional Council.
The group also recognized some positive developments, including the more frequent references to human rights, and extension to both citizens and non-citizens; explicit reference to the right to life; a new ban on discrimination on political, economic, cultural, and social grounds; a new prohibition on gender discrimination; new criminal procedure rights; bans on forced labor and child labor; the establishment of a Constitutional Council; and the creation of a National Election Commission.
Friday, October 18, 2013
The states of Arizona and Kansas have announced that they will require voters to register separately for state and federal elections--using the standard federal form for federal elections, but using more stringent requirements for state registration.
The moves are a response to the Supreme Court's ruling this summer in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. That case held that the federal requirement under the National Voter Registration Act that states "accept and use" an approved and uniform federal form for registering voters preempted Arizona's requirement that voters present evidence of citizenship at registration. (Under this system, state voters could register for federal and state elections all at once, using the same standardized federal form, with the same requirements.) The result: the Court struck Arizona's proof-of-citizenship add-on to the standardized federal form.
So the states sought a work-around, so that they could retain a proof-of-citizenship requirement for some voter registration. And they came up with the only voter registration that they now seem to have control over: registration for state elections.
The states say that Inter Tribal applies only to federal elections, that they can design and use their own forms for state elections, and that voters who register using only the federal form are qualified only to vote in federal elections (and not state and local elections). To the states, this all means that a two-tiered system makes sense.
Under the two-tiered system, voters in those states could register for federal elections using the NVRA standardized federal form. But voters would have to show additional proof of citizenship--of the kind struck in Inter Tribal--in order to register to vote in state elections.
The moves harken back to practices in the Jim Crow South and stand as a barrier to voter registration. Ari Berman argues over at The Nation:
In the Jim Crow South, citizens often had to register multiple times, with different clerks, to be able to vote in state and federal elections. It was hard enough to register once in states like Mississippi, were only 6.7 percent of African-Americans were registered to vote before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And when the federal courts struck down a literacy test or a poll tax before 1965, states like Mississippi still retained them for state and local elections, thereby preventing African-American voters from replacing those officials most responsible for upholding voter disenfranchisement laws. . . .
Over 300,000 voters were prevented from registering in Arizona after its proof-of-citizenship law passed in 2004. In Kansas, 17,000 voters have been blocked from registering this year, a third of all registered applicants, because the DMV doesn't transfer citizenship documents to election officials.
At the very least, the two-tiered systems promise to complicate voter registration and maintenance of voter lists for the states.
Still: there's little or no evidence of voter fraud.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The Department of Justice will tell a criminal defendant in coming weeks that evidence used against him derived from eavesdropping, The New York Times reports. The disclosure--the first in a criminal case--will give the defendant standing to challenge the government's authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to conduct surveillance against non-U.S. persons outside the United States, even when they're communicating with people within the United States.
Recall that the Court ruled earlier this year in Clapper v. Amnesty International that human rights and media organizations and attorneys lacked standing to challenge Section 702 of the FISA, which authorizes the surveillance, because they couldn't show that they had been, or would be, targets of surveillance. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli represented to the Court in the case that prosecutors tell defendants when they're using evidence derived from FISA surveillance. In particular, he wrote in the government's opening brief in the case,
If the government intends to use or disclose any information obtained or derived from its acquisition of a person's communications under [FISA Section 702] in judicial or administrative proceedings against that person, it must provide advance notice of its intent to the tribunal and the person, whether or not the person was targeted for surveillance . . . . That person may then challenge the use of that information in district court by challenging the lawfulness of the . . . acquisition.
Government's Opening Brief at 8 (emphasis added).
But this turns out to be false, according to the NYT. The Times reports that SG Verrilli discovered that prosecutors weren't telling defendants, after all.
The discovery came in the fallout of a speech by Senator Dianne Feinstein. That speech, touting FISA, suggested that the government used FISA-derived communications successfully in several cases. But when defendants in two of those cases pressed prosecutors, the prosecutors said that they didn't have to say whether they used FISA-derived communications.
This prompted SG Verrilli to ask national security lawyers why nobody told him before he filed his brief (and made similar comments at oral argument). Government lawyers then argued over whether they had to disclose, with SG Verrilli taking the position that do. Verrilli's position apparently prevailed, and the government will disclose to a defendant in coming weeks.
The move will give standing to the defendant to challenge Section 702, notwithstanding Clapper. That's because the defendant will be able to show, with certainty, that he was subject to FISA surveillance--something the Court said that the Clapper challengers couldn't do.
But it's not clear whether prosecutors will disclose to already-convicted defendants who were convicted on FISA-derived communications, and, if so, what will happen in those cases. It's not even clear how many of those defendants there are.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The Idaho Supreme Court ruled today that a magistrate judge's order dismissing a party's motions because the party had been found guilty of contempt for for failing to pay child support violated the party's right to access the courts.
The case is notable because it invokes the Idaho Constitution's "Open Courts" provision--a common provision in state constitutions, but one that's relatively rarely litigated and has spawned a notoriously confused jurisprudence in the state courts. More: the court apparently reached out for the issue.
The case, State of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare v. Slane, involved a father's motions for child custody and modification of child support. The father had been previously judged in contempt of court for failing to pay court-ordered child support, and he was unable to purge the contempt when he filed his motions. A magistrate judge then dismissed the motions because of the father's inability to purge the contempt and pay back child support. A lower court upheld the magistrate's ruling.
The Idaho Supreme Court reversed for reasons dealing with the details of the contempt and the details of the magistrate's order. But then it added an alternative basis for its ruling: the magistrate's order violated the state constitutional open courts provision.
Article I, Section 18 of the Idaho Constitution says that "Courts of justice shall be open to every person, and a speedy remedy afforded for every injury of person, property or character, and right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial, delay, or prejudice."
This kind of "open courts" provision is common in state constitutions. Open courts provisions first appeared in early state constitutions (borrowing from language in Magna Carta), and later state constitutional drafters appear to have simply lifted the text--sometimes modifying it slightly, but without any real thought about what it means.
That's led to a notoriously confused jurisprudence among state courts in interpreting state constitutional open courts provisions. In short, many states have an open courts provision, but courts across states can't seem to agree on exactly what "open courts" means.
So the Idaho Supreme Court's ruling is notable for dealing with open courts--for giving it some dimension and definition, at least in this context. But it's notable for a couple other reasons, too. For one, the court seems to have reached for the issue. Neither party seems to have argued it (based on the briefs, at least), and it's dicta. (The court could have hung its hat on its analysis of the details of the contempt and the magistrate's order, but it added this alternative reason for striking the magistrate's order.) Moreover, in ruling the way that it did, the court overruled three of its own opinions (from the mid-twentieth century) "to the extent that they are inconsistent with this opinion."
The upshot of all this is that the father gets his motions reinstated.
Monday, September 30, 2013
AG Eric Holder announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice would file suit against North Carolina in federal court to stop its new restrictions on voting. We previously posted on the ACLU suit against the state here.
The complaint alleges that North Carolina HB 589 reduces early voting days, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting, prohibits the counting of provisional ballots cast outside a voter's precinct, and imposes a voter ID requirement--all in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. DOJ argues that the changes have both a discriminatory purpose and a discriminatory effect. The Department also seeks "bail-in" under Section 3(c) of the VRA.
The cases come in the wake of the Court's ruling this summer in Shelby County v. Holder striking Section 4(b) of the VRA, the coverage formula for the preclearance requirement. By striking Section 4(b), the Court rendered Section 5 preclearance a dead letter, unless and until Congress can rewrite it in a way that would pass muster with this Court--that is, likely never. Section 3(c) bail-in works very much like Section 5 preclearance, though. If acourt orders bail-in, it will retain jurisdiction over the state "for such period as it may deem appropriate and during such period no voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting different from that in force or effect at the time the proceeding was commenced shall be enforced unless and until the court finds that such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color . . . ."
The North Carolina and Texas cases are sure to raise two new fronts in the assault on the Voting Rights Act: challenges to congressional authority to enact Section 3(c) bail-in, and challenges to congressional authority under Section 2 to ban state laws that have a discriminatory effect (even if not a discriminatory purpose).
September 30, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Elections and Voting, Federalism, Fifteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Yesterday we wrote about the latest case in Kansas challenging evolution in the classroom. In a comment, reader Eli Bortman gave us the heads-up that yesterday's NYT included an article on the same issue in Texas. (Thanks, Eli.)
Here's a bit from the Times piece that helps explain the edu-ese and pseudo-scientific language in COPE's complaint in the Kansas case:
By questioning the science--often getting down to very technical details--the evolution challengers in Texas are following a strategy increasingly deployed by others around the country.
There is little open talk of creationism. Instead they borrow buzzwords common in education, "critical thinking," saying there is simply not enough evidence to prove evolution.
COPE went even further, though, arguing that the Kansas standards (with (secular) evolution as a centerpiece) themselves represent a kind of religious orthodoxy, and that Kansas in imposing this orthodoxy, without balancing it with "origin science," violated the religion clauses, free speech, and the Eqaul Protection Clause. In doing so, COPE adopts the language and legal claims of opponents of creationism and tries to create an equivalence between its position and the position of science--putting itself on par with science, both on the "science" and in its legal positions in relation to science, and casting science as a kind of religion. Then, after creating this topsy-turvey world where religion is science and science is religion, COPE asks the question: If "origin scientists" have an equal claim to the truth, doesn't it violate equality, speech, and religious principles to exclude their position from the curriculum?
This isn't new, but as the COPE complaint and NYT piece suggest, creationism advocates may be getting a little better at clothing their positions in official- and technical-sounding langauge, and in turning the same constitutional claims that proponents of a curriculum based on science have used against creationism right back on them, in support of creationism. The strategy is designed to frame the debate as one scientific theory against another scientific theory, not science against religion, and to put the competing policy and constitutional claims on par in order to gain traction under the religion clauses, free speech, and equal protection.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
The Fourth Circuit ruled last week in Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech v. Insley that a Virginia state ban on alcohol advertising in college newspapers violated the First Amendment as applied to student papers at Virginia Tech and U.Va.
The ruling means that the law can't ban these papers from running alcohol ads. But it also means that the law stay on the books and ineffect as to other student newspapers, unless and until they successfully challenge it, too.
Virginia law says,
Advertisements of alcoholic beverages are not allowed in college student publications unless in reference to a dining establishment . . . .
Student newspapers at Virginia Tech and U.Va. sued, arguing that the ban violated free speech. In a first round of litigation, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the ban didn't violate the First Amendment on its face. But the court remanded the case to determine whether the ban violated the First Amendment as applied to these two papers.
The court ruled last week that it did. In particular, the court held that the ban isn't appropriately tailored to the state's aim--that is, that the ban isn't more extensive than necessary to serve the government's interest--and thus violated the fourth prong of the Central Hudson test for regulations of commercial speech.
The problem was that the ban was designed to reduce under-age drinking, but the majority of the newspapers' readers were over 21. "Thus, the College newspapers have a protected interest in printing non-misleading alcohol advertisements, just as a majority of the College Newspapers' readers have a protected interest in receiving that information." Op. at 21.
As to the state's interest in preventing alcohol abuse by those over 21, the court said that the ban did exact what the Supreme Court prohibited in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc.: it sought to "keep people in the dark for what the government perceives to be their own good." Op. at 22 (quoting Sorrell).
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Over at the New Yorker blog, Lincoln Caplan's piece, "Justice Ginsburg and Footnote Four" analyzes Ginsburg's discussion last week at the National Constitution Center, arguing that one of her statements "deserves more attention than it has gotten."
Ginsburg stated that her dissent last term in Fisher v. University of Texas Austin, regarding judicial review of affirmative-action plans of colleges and universities, "was inspired by a 1938 ruling not mentioned in the dissent—actually, by one of its footnotes." That most famous footnote - - - footnote four - - -of United States v. Carolene Products, is for many (including Caplan) the foundation of "a coherent justification for unelected justices to overturn legal decisions of elected officials when the fairness of the Constitution, and of democracy, is at stake."
Recall that the 1938 case of Carolene Products involved a federal statute regulating the shipment of "filled milk" (skimmed milk to which nonmilk fat is added so that it may seem to be like whole milk or even cream). It may be that this case was also on Ginsburg's mind during the oral arguments of another one of last term's cases: In her questioning of Paul Clement, who represented BLAG, in United States v. Windsor about the constitutionality of DOMA, she condensed his argument as saying that in granting same-sex marriages, states were nevertheless saying there were really "two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage." As we noted at the time, Ginsburg's allusion would have special resonance for those who recalled Carolene Products.
September 15, 2013 in Affirmative Action, Courts and Judging, Fifth Amendment, Food and Drink, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Interpretation, Recent Cases, Sexual Orientation, Supreme Court (US), Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, September 7, 2013
From an announcement:
19th Annual Mid-Atlantic People of Color
Legal Scholarship Conference 2014
Hosted by the University of Baltimore School of Law
January 23-25, 2014
– Conference Theme & Call for Papers –
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Beyond:
The Historical and Contemporary Implications of Progressive Action and Human Fulfillment
Honoring and Critiquing the 50th Anniversary of Johnson’s Vision
In May 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson unveiled his revolutionary plans for the Great Society. As he explained it, Americans “have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society. . . . The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice.”
According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, who wrote Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, Johnson’s Great Society would be based on “progressive action” and the “possibilities for human fulfillment.” This action and fulfillment meant that regaining control of our society required us to end policies that threatened and degraded humanity.
Johnson’s Great Society reforms, included the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare, Medicaid, Equal Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Social Security expansion, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Higher Education Act, Head Start, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965, and the Open Housing Act of 1968. These laws extended and expanded the Bill of Rights and continued and expanded the programs initiated in Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s and Truman’s Fair Deal in the late 1940s and early 1050s. As a result of LBJ’s programs, America’s official poverty rate declined throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.2 percent in 1974, down from 19 percent in 1964, and most recently settling at 15.1 percent in 2010. According to Dylan Matthews, who wrote Poverty in the 50 Years Since ‘The Other America,’ in Five Charts, Johnson’s Great Society programs, which included the War on Poverty, “made a real and lasting difference.” Moreover, according to Demos, an estimated 40 million Americans avoided official poverty due to such programs as food stamps and Medicaid.
Unfortunately, what is also true is that the Vietnam War, which Johnson escalated and only at the end of his administration moved to end, crippled his domestic economic policies and undermined his goals for true racial equality. Despite the War on Poverty and dramatic changes in Civil Rights, racially concentrated poverty remains with us. Since the Johnson years, America has weathered the recessions of the 1980s and early 1990s, the late ‘90s dot com bubble, our current recession, the national security encroachment on civil liberties, the rise and fall of the Occupy Movement, the waning of the Arab Spring, and two middle east wars since 9-11.
It is clear that Johnson’s Great Society programs have saved millions of Americans from the depth of official poverty. It also true that Johnson’s vision, to which he was truly committed, staggered and failed when the civil rights movement dovetailed with political marginalization, economic inequality, pervasive racial discrimination, and imperialist policies. The Moynihan Report, the Watts Riots and urban unrests, and the emotional and financial suck of Vietnam prevented Johnson from deeply redressing America’s lingering poverty.
At MAPOC 2014, we intend to explore the furthest implications of President Johnson’s domestic and foreign policies, especially the impact of these policies on progressive action and human fulfillment, as we collectively explore and analyze the contemporary implications of Johnson’s Great Society. From these implications, the conference planning committee is seeking papers and panel proposals on the following substantive but not exhaustive subjects:
-- A Hand Up: The Meaningful Tension Between Formal Equality and Substantive Outcomes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964
-- Beyond Legislative Bogs and Dangerous Political Animals: President Obama’s Legislative Agenda and the Limits of Second-Term Progressivism
-- Endangered Citizens?: Rights and Remedies after State v. Zimmerman
-- Equality, Choice, and Happiness: the Rise and Fall of DOMA
-- Guns or Butter: Social Welfare Programs, Modern Problems of Central Banks, Debt Slavery, and Foreign Policies
-- Medicare, Healthcare, and Welfare: the Poor, the Elderly, and the Needy
-- Moynihan and the Contemporary (In)Stability of the Black Family
-- Racial (Dis)Harmony Then and Today
-- Voting Rights: Shelby County v. Holder and the Promise of One Citizen, One Vote
Paper submissions must include a working title, bios, abstract, and contact information.
Panel proposals must also include the foregoing information for each of the panel’s participants, and the organizer’s contact information, all of which must be submitted together only by the organizer.
Submit Papers and Panel Proposals by September 30, 2013 to: Reginald Leamon Robinson, Howard University, Conference Chair and Founder, MAPOC 2014: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[image: LBJ, National Portrait Gallery, via]
September 7, 2013 in Conferences, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Race, Recent Cases, Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, August 26, 2013
New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie (pictured) signed New Jersey A3371 banning so-called sexual conversion or reparative therapy on minors into law earlier this month.
In his signing statement, Christie said:
At the outset of this debate, I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children. I still have those concerns. Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.
However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards. The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.
I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.
Despite Christie's careful articulation of his support for the bill, it was criticized and quickly challenged in a complaint filed in federal court in King v. Christie. The plaintiffs include Tara King, a licensed professional counselor, as well as National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (“NARTH”) and American Association of Christian Counselors (“AACC”). They argue that the law violates their First Amendment rights of free speech, rights of their clients to "receive information," and free exercise of religion, as well as clients' parental due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, in addition to concomitant rights under the New Jersey state constitution.
UPDATE: In Pickup v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit has upheld California's similar law banning sexual conversion therapy.
August 26, 2013 in Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Medical Decisions, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, August 10, 2013
As we think about surveillance of electronic communication in the United States, it's worth (re)considering China's surveillance and censorship of electronic interactions amongst its own citizens. Jason Ng's new book, Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China’s Version of Twitter (and Why) promises to be an engaging exploration of the multi-layered relationships between the Chinese government and "netcitizens" and - - - importantly - - - corporations.
Here's Jason Ng in conversation with Sharon Hom, the Executive Director of Human Rights in China.
Of special interest is the screen shot showing the search for the phrase "constitutional democracy" (at about 1:36). The discussion by Ng and Hom of creative work-arounds and corporate "tolerance" is also worth a listen.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
AG Eric Holder announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice will ask a federal district court in Texas to bail-in Texas for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. The move, the Department's first after the Supreme Court struck the Section 4 coverage formula for preclearance in Shelby County v. Holder, is part of Holder's announced strategy to use still-available portions of the Voting Rights Act (like bail-in and Section 2 litigation) to enforce voting rights.
If successful, bail-in would mean that Texas would be subject to the preclearance requirement, notwithstanding the Court's ruling in Shelby County. That's because the Court in Shelby County struck the coverage formula for preclearance (in Section 4 of the VRA), but didn't touch other portions of the VRA, including the bail-in provision in Section 3(c). (It also didn't touch Section 5, the preclearance provision.) Under the bail-in provision in Section 3(c), the DOJ can seek continued federal court monitoring of an offending jurisdiction, a freeze on the jurisdiction's election laws, and a requirement that the jurisdiction get permission, or preclearance, from the court or the DOJ before it makes any changes to its election laws.
AG Holder cited the federal court's rejection of preclearance to Texas's redistricting, which the court said had both the purpose and effect of discriminating in the vote, as support for his action. (Recall that the Supreme Court vacated that federal court's rejection of preclearance shortly after it handed down Shelby County.)
If successful, AG Holder will subject Texas again to preclearance. This approach, seeking individual jurisdiction bail-in under Section 3(c) of the VRA, is a more tailored way to target particularly offending jurisdictions than the coverage formula in Section 4, struck by the Court in Shelby County. Still, it may face some of the same problems that Section 4 faced in Shelby County--particularly, it may run up against the new "equal state sovereignty" doctrine that we wrote about here.
July 25, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Elections and Voting, Fifteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
opinion in MKB Management, Inc. v. Burdick grants a preliminary injunction against North Dakota House Bill 1456 passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor, which would make it a criminal offense to perform an abortion if a “heartbeat” has been detected, thereby banning abortions beginning at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, with limited exceptions. As the plaintiffs, who run the only abortion clinic in North Dakota, argued, abortions before six weeks are exceedingly rare, in part because a woman rarely knows she is pregnant before that time.
A woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability has consistently been upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the forty years since Roe v. Wade. See e.g., City of Akron v. Akron Ctr. for Reprod. Health, Inc., 462 U.S. 416, 420 (1983) (a woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy) (overruled on other grounds); Casey, 505 U.S. at 846 (a woman has a right to an abortion before viability without undue interference from the state); Stenberg, 530 U.S. at 921 (a woman has the right to choose an abortion before viability); Gonzales, 550 U.S. 124 (the state may not prevent “any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy”).
Indeed, Judge Hovland stated:
It is crystal clear from United States Supreme Court precedent that viability, although not a fixed point, is the critical point.
(emphasis in original). He characterized the Defendants’ arguments as "necessarily rest[ing] on the premise that every Court of Appeals to strike a ban on pre-viability abortion care has misread United States Supreme Court precedent." He stated that "until" Roe v. Wade and Casey are "overturned by the United States Supreme Court, this Court is bound to follow that precedent under the rule of stare decisis."
After briefly assessing the traditional standards for a preliminary injunction, Judge Hovland enjoined North Dakota House Bill 1456 which was to become effective August 1.
Where and on what basis the "viability" line can be drawn remains uncertain in the continuing abortion debates, but six weeks is certainly too early.
July 23, 2013 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (D.D.C.) earlier this week rejected hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees' suit for an injunction against the government to stop it from force-feeding them. The ruling in Aamer v. Obama is the second recent case coming out of the federal courts rejecting an anti-force-feeding claim. Here's our post on the first.
Judge Collyer, like Judge Kessler in the earlier case, ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2241(e)(2), which deprives courts of jurisdiction to hear an action related to "any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement" of an alien detainee at Guantanamo.
Judge Collyer went on to address the merits, too. She wrote that the government is "responsible for taking reasonable steps to guarantee the safety of inmates in their charge," that there is no right to suicide or assisted suicide, and that the government has a legitimate penological interest in preventing suicide. Moreover, she wrote that the government has put controls in place so that the procedure really isn't so bad, and that the government made adjustments to the force-feeding schedule for the Ramadan fast.
July 18, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, Habeas Corpus, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Nasser al-Awlaki writes in the NYT today that "[t]he Obama administration must answer for its actions and be held accountable" for the targeted killing of his grandson, Abdulrahman. Al-Awlaki is also the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, also targeted and killed in a drone strike.
Al-Awlaki writes just a day before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia will hear oral arguments on the government's motion to dismiss his case (on Friday). [UPDATE: The argument is tomorrow, Friday.] We previously posted on that case here; the Center for Constitutional Rights has its case resource page here. The government argues that the issue is a political question, that special factors counsel against a monetary damages remedy, and that officials enjoy qualified immunity.
Al-Awlaki's earlier suit, to stop the government from killing his son Anwar, was dismissed. That court ruled that al-Awlaki lacked standing and failed to allege a violation of the Alien Tort Statute, and that the case raised non-justiciable political questions.
Here's our post on the DOJ white paper, the administration's analysis (leaked) on why targeted killing of U.S. citizens is legal.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Scott Bombay, over at Constitution Daily, reports on a recent order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, directing the Justice Department to conduct a "declassification review" of a April 25, 2008, ruling and legal briefs involving Yahoo! The move could lead to release of documents that reveal some of the FISC's secret workings--in particular, according to Yahoo!, "how the parties and the Court vetted the Government's arguments supporting the use of directives" to gather information about subscribers without their knowledge. (Yahoo!'s interest is in showing that it vigorously defended its users' privacy.)
But Bombay notes that when the Justice Department finishes its classification job, there may not be much left of the ruling or the briefs to help us understand much of anything.
FISC Presiding Judge Reggie Walton ordered the Justice Department to report back to him by July 29 about when the documents could be ready for public inspection.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Judge Royce C. Lamberth (D.D.C.) ruled last week in In re Guantanamo Bay Detainee Litigation that Joint Detention Group, or JDG, restrictions on Guantanamo detainees' access to counsel violated the detainees' right to habeas proceedings in federal court. The ruling was the second last week that invoked an increasingly personal challenge to President Obama and his policies on detention at Guantanamo Bay. We posted on the other case, involving forced-feeding, here.
The court struck new and invasive search protocol for detainees before and after they meet with counsel; restrictions on the locations within the facility where certain detainees can meet with counsel; and even the new vans that guards use to transport detainees to meetings with counsel. (The new vans are designed such that detainees have to sit in stress positions while traveling to their meetings with their attorneys.) The court struck the restrictions under Turner v. Safley (1987), which set out factors to balance the interests in prison administration against the prisoners' fundamental rights. In short, the court held that the restrictions had no "valid, rational connection" to the legitimate government interest of security, and that the government could serve that interest in other ways without unduly affecting the prison.
The case is notable for its close oversight of the conditions at Guantanamo that interfere with the detainees' access to their attorneys, and thus their access to habeas. It's also notable for the courts increasingly personal appeals to, and critiques of, President Obama, his announced policies, and the way those policies play on the ground. Judge Lamberth started the opinion with this:
On May 23, 2013, President Obama promised, concerning detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, that "[w]here appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee." This matter concerns whether the President's insistence on judicial review may be squared with the actions of his commanders in charge of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Currently, it cannot.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The Illinois state legislature today voted in both houses to override Governor Quinn's "amendatory veto" of the state's concealed carry bill. The move means that Illinois is the last state in the Union to allow concealed carry of a firearm, with none of the changes recommended by Governor Quinn. We posted most recently here.
The move also meets a deadline set by the Seventh Circuit in ruling Illinois's prior ban on concealed carry unconstitutional, in violation of the Second Amendment. If the state had not enacted a concealed carry law (with licensing and certain restrictions), the Seventh Circuit ruling would have meant that Illinoisians could carry a concealed weapon without a license, permit, training, or other restriction.
State AG Lisa Madigan had asked for, and received, more time from the Supreme Court to determine whether to appeal the Seventh Circuit's ruling. (The full Seventh Circuit denied en banc review.) In light of the legislature's move today, she indicated that the case is moot.