Saturday, August 10, 2013

Daily Read: Blocked on Weibo by Jason Q Ng

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.

RR

 

August 10, 2013 in Comparative Constitutionalism, Fundamental Rights, International, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

DOJ To Seek Bail-In Preclearance for Texas Under Voting Rights Act

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.

SDS

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

North Dakota Federal Judge Enjoins North Dakota's Abortion Restrictions

 

300px-2009-0521-ND-StateCapitol
North Dakota State Capitol Building
Judge Daniel Hovland's 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.

RR

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

Second Judge Rejects Anti-Force-Feeding Case

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.

SDS

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)

Al-Awlaki on the Drone That Killed His Grandson

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.

SDS

July 18, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Secret Surveillance Court May Pull Back Curtain

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.

We posted on the recent spate of criticism over the FISC's secrecy here.

SDS

July 17, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Judge Strikes Restrictions on Guantanamo Detainees' Access to Counsel

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.

SDS

July 15, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Fundamental Rights, Habeas Corpus, News, Opinion Analysis, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Illinois Passes Concealed Carry

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.

SDS

July 9, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Fundamental Rights, News, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Planned Parenthood's Complaint Alleging New Kansas Abortion Law Violates First Amendment

Kansas' new abortion law that took effect July 1 - - - running 70 pages and known as Kansas HB 2253 - - - has already been the subject of a constitutional challenge.  HB 2253 seeks to restrict abortion and other reproductive services in numerous ways in accord with the legislative finding that "the life of each human being begins at fertilization."  The Complaint filed by the local Planned Parenthood organization, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid- Missouri, Inc. (CHPPKM) specifically challenges two provisions of the law on First Amendment grounds.

 

471px-Kirchner_-_Frauenkopf_vor_Sonnenblumen
"Head of a woman in front of sunflowers"
by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner circa 1920
(Recall sunflower is the state flower of Kansas)
First, the complaint in Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid- Missouri, Inc.v. Templeton, challenges mandated statements to be made by physicians, including a statement regarding fetal pain at a certain gestation age and a statement that "“the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."  CHPPKM argues that these statements are misleading, at times irrelevant (as when the fetus has not reached the required gestation age), or not subject to factualverification but instead are statements of philosophy and religion.   The funding situation sharply distinguishes this situation from Rust v. Sullivan, which involved federal Title IX funds, but the nature of the statements are also quite different.  A more analogous case involved the required "risk of suicide warning" upheld by the Eighth Circuit en banc in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds.   Even though there was some "uncertainty" as to the reliability of the studies purporting to show a link between abortion and suicide ideation - - - including the very meaning of the word "risk" - - - the majority in Rounds found that the provision survived by giving great deference to South Dakota.  One question will be whether the Tenth Circuit will be as deferential as the majority in its sister circuit or be as rigorous as the dissenting judges in Rounds.

 

Second, the complaint challenges the provision that compels CHPPKM "to place on the homepage of its public website both a hyperlink to a government website that contains the government’s viewpoint on abortion, and a scripted message of endorsement of the content on the government’s website, even where CHPPKM disagrees with the message."  In light of last month's decision by the United States Supreme Court in United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., - - - the prostitution pledge case - - - invalidating a requirement that organizations that received direct funding could not be compelled to espouse views that were not their own, this claim seems on firm First Amendment footing.  The distinction is a factual one - - - the hyperlink - - - although interestingly CHPPKM contends in its complaint this further complicates the matter because it cannot be expected to constantly monitor the government site.  Certainly, however, much of the language and reasoning in Chief Justice Roberts' majority opinion for the Court solidifies compelled speech doctrine.   And interestingly, compelled speech doctrine is being argued by anti-abortion organizations to challenge laws requiring "pregnancy crisis centers" to disclose the fact that they are not medical facilities. ( For example, a district judge held NYC's Local Law 17 unconstitutional in 2011; an opinion from the Second Circuit has been anticipated since oral argument over a year ago).  UPDATE: The Fourth Circuit's en banc opinion July 3 on a Baltimore ordinance.

A popular discussion of the controversy, including some of my own thoughts, is available on "KC Currents" broadcast by KCUR, a local NPR station.

RR

July 3, 2013 in Abortion, Cases and Case Materials, Federalism, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ninth Circuit Upholds Denial-of-Bail for Unauthorized Aliens

A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit this week upheld Arizona's Proposition 100, a ballot measure passed by Arizona voters that amended the state constitution to preclude bail for persons charged with certain serious felonies if the person entered or remained in the United States without proper authorization.

The ruling gives states some space for regulating unauthorized immigrants through the state criminal justice system, even as it reaffirms federal authority over immigration matters generally.  What makes Prop 100 valid, according to the court, is that (1) it's not punitive (it's regulatory), (2) it's reasonably related to the state's interest in preventing flight of individuals charged with crimes, and (3) it piggy-backs on federal immigration determinations (and doesn't make those determinations itself).

The court in Valenzuela v. County of Maricopa ruled that Prop 100 didn't violate due process, Eighth Amendment excessive bail, or the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and that it wasn't preempted by federal immigration law.

As to due process, the court held under the two-prong test in United States v. Salerno (1987) (1) that there was no punitive purpose (the purpose was regulatory) and (2) that Prop 100 wasn't excessive in relation to its legitimate alternative purpose (because states often categorically deny bail for classes of charges).  The court upheld Prop 100 as reasonably related to the state's (more than) legitimate interest in controlling flight risk.  (The court upheld Prop 100 against the Eighth Amendment challenge based on the same balance.)  The court also upheld Prop 100 against a procedural due process challenge.

As to the right to counsel, the court held that the initial appearance isn't a critical stage of prosecution triggering the right, and that "[b]oth we and the Supreme Court of Arizona have held that there is no constitutional right to an attorney at initial appearances."  Op. at 27.

Finally, with regard to preemption, the court held that Prop 100 doesn't regulate immigration or impermissibly create a state-law immigration classification (because it piggy-backs on the federal determination of immigration status); that Prop 100 isn't field-preempted, because it deals with bail determinations for state-law crimes (that Congress didn't intend to preempt); and that Prop 100 isn't conflict-preempted, because pretrial detention without bail does not impose incarceration for federal immigration law violations--"such detention is not meant to punish an alleged immigration violation but rather to ensure presence in Arizona to stand trial for alleged state-law crimes."  Op. at 35.

Judge Fisher dissented, arguing that Prop 100 is clearly punitive and is too rough a cut at achieving the state's interest:  Without any evidence that unauthorized immigrants released on bail have been or are less likely to appear for trial compared to arrestees who are lawful residents, the majority accepts Arizona's unsupported assertion that all unauthorized immigrants necessarily pose an unmanageable flight risk."  Op. at 37.

SDS

June 23, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Federalism, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Preemption, Procedural Due Process, Sixth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

President Obama on Drones, Guantanamo

President Obama spoke out today on his administration's use of drone attacks and argued (again) for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in a speech that looked to wind down the war on terror.  Politico reports here.

President Obama's speech came the same day as the administration released a "fact sheet" on U.S. policy standards and procedures for drone strikes and other hostile actions against terrorist suspects outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.  According to the document, there's a preference for capture (and other reasonable alternatives) over killing, but still the document sets out standards for the use of lethal force:

First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.

Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.  It is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.

Third, the following criteria must be met before lethal action may be taken:

1. Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;

2. Near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed;

3. An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;

4. An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S. persons; and

5. An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to the U.S. person.

Finally, whenever the United States uses force in foreign territories, international legal principles, including respect for sovereignty and the law of armed conflict, impose important constraints on the ability of the United States to act unilaterally--and on the way in which the United States can use force.  The United States respects national sovereignty and international law.

The "fact sheet" makes some changes in emphasis and language, but seems to basically leave in place the substance of the three-part test outlined earlier this year in the White Paper.  The "fact sheet" emphasizes rule-of-law principles and broad government decisionmaking and oversight over hostilities, but it does not specifically address or define "imminence" or the process by which the administration will designate a person a target.  (Recall that the White Paper looked specifically at the question when lethal force could be used against a U.S. citizen who is a senior leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force; the "fact sheet" sweeps in a broader class of potential targets.  Recall, too, that the White Paper defined imminence rather broadly, and it counterbalanced a target's interest in life with the U.S. interest in forestalling attacks on other Americans, under Mathews v. Eldridge.)  The upshot: only time will tell whether the Fact Sheet represents a real change in the way the administration actually executes drone attacks.  

SDS

May 23, 2013 in Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, News, Procedural Due Process, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

The ACLU and 19 other organizations sent a letter this week to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel opposing the military's force-feeding hunger-striking detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  According to the ACLU, 29 detainees are currently being force-fed.  We previously posted on a ruling by New York's high court upholding the practice of force-feeing in New York prisons.

The military's standard operating procedures (SOP) on fasting and force-feeding changed just recently (published on Al Jazeera), loosening protections against force-feeding.  (The earlier SOP is here.)  Most notably, the recent changes to the SOP charge the military commander of the base, not a medical doctor, with determining who is a hunger striker.

Here's the ACLU's legal case against force-feeding, from this week's coalition letter to Secretary Hagel:

Force-feeding as used in Guantanamo violates Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which bar cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.  It also could violate the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of prisoners "regardless of nationality or physical location."  Indeed, a 2006 joint report submitted by five independent human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly the U.N. Commission on Human Rights) found that the method of force-feeding then used in Guantanamo, and which appears to remain in effect today, amounted to torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States ratified in 1994.  The report asserted that doctors and other health professionals authorizing and participating in force-feeding prisoners were violating the right to health and other human rights, including those guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States ratified in 1992.  Those concerns were reiterated this month by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and three UN Special Rapporteurs.

While the letter focuses on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, there may be other problems with force-feeding, too.  For example, force-feeding may infringe on hunger-striking detainees' free speech.  But First Amendment claims by hunger-strikers in regular detention in the U.S. have not been successful; Guantanamo Bay detainees would almost certainly face even steeper First Amendment challenges in the courts.  There's also the right to refuse medical treatment.  As Michael Dorf (DorfonLaw.org) argues at jurist.org, "five Justices in [Cruzan v. Dir. Missouri Dep''t of Health] did say that they thought that competent adults have the right to refuse forced feeding, even if death will result."  But that runs up against Washington v. Harper, holding that prison officials could override a prisoner's objection to forcibly being administered medication, assuming it's in the prisoner's medical interest.

Anyway, as Dorf points out, some Guantanamo detainees might have a hard time even bringing a case.  Judge Kessler (D.D.C) dismissed a detainee force-feeding case in 2009, based on the jurisdiction-stripping provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.  That provision says,

Except as provided in paragraphs (2) and (3) of section 1005(e) of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any other action against the United States or its agents relating to any aspect of the detention, transfer, treatment, trial, or conditions of confinement of an alien who is or was detained by the United States and has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

The difference here is that some of the hunger-strikers now have been cleared for release--the U.S. just can't find a place to send them.  Those detainees are not "determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or [are] awaiting such determination," and are not barred by 2241(e)(2) from bringing suit.

SDS

May 15, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Medical Decisions, News, Speech, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Kansas Outlaws Federal Gun Laws

Kansas thumbed its nose at the federal government and its current and future gun laws recently in SB 102, the Second Amendment Protection Act, which declares federal gun laws unenforceable in the state.  

In particular, SB 102 says that the state legislature "declared" that firearms and accessories "manufactured commercially or privately and owned in Kansas and that remain within the borders of Kansas . . . have not traveled in interstate commerce" and therefore are not subject to federal regulation, including any federal registration requirement, under the Commerce Clause.  In short, the law seeks to insulate firearms and accessories that are made and kept only within the state from federal regulation under the Commerce Clause.  This reading of the Clause would deny the federal government authority to regulate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce--a well settled congressional authority.  (The law also says that component parts imported from other states don't transform an otherwise Kansas-made firearm into an item in interstate commerce.)  To that extent, the law seems well tailored to test this long-standing aspect of congressional Commerce Clause authority--the power to regulate intrastate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.  If so, that's unlikely to go anywhere.  (Even in last summer's ACA/individual-mandate case, the Court gave no indication that it would wholly reconsider Congress's power to regulate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce.)

More, SB 102 outlaws enforcement of federal law--even by federal law enforcement.  Enforcement of federal law is a felony in Kansas, but the legislature gave federal law enforcement officials this gift: Kansas won't arrest or detain them prior to, or during the pendancy of, any trial for a violation.  In other words, the charge, trial, and conviction are all just part of the political theater surrounding this obviously invalid law.

(In addition to the substantive portions of the law, SB 102 also includes the usual statements for this kind of law--statements about the Tenth Amendment (in support of a robust idea of states' rights) and the Second Amendment (as an absolute bar to any gun regulation).  It also has a section on the Ninth Amendment.)

Attorney General Eric Holder shot back, reminding the state of the Supremacy Clause, and concluding that "the United States will take all appropriate action, including litigation if necessary, to prevent the State of Kansas from interfering with the activities of federal officials enforcing federal law."

Governor Brownback responded, arguing that the measure enjoyed wide bi-partisan support in the state.  He said that this meant that "[t]he people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will.  It is my hope that upon further review, you will see their right to do so."

SDS 

May 3, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Federalism, Fundamental Rights, News, Preemption, Second Amendment, Supremacy Clause, Tenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 29, 2013

States Can Restrict FOIA Laws to Own Citizens, Court Says

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled today in McBurney v. Young that a state can restrict its own freedom of information law to its own citizens without violating the Privileges and Immunities Clause or the dormant Commerce Clause.  We covered oral arguments here.

The ruling puts an exclamation point behind the idea that there's no fundamental right to public records.  If there were any doubt going into the case, this ruling settled the matter: Our Constitution doesn't require freedom of information.  If you want it, take it up with your legislature.

The case arose out of two out-of-state claimants' efforts to get Virginia state records through the state FOIA.  One of those claimants, McBurney, sought records related to the state's 9-month delay in enforcing a child support order that he had against his ex-spouse, a Virginia resident.  The other, Hurlbert, sought state real estate tax records on half of his clients.  The state didn't provide the requested records pursuant to its FOIA, however, because its FOIA extends only to state citizens.  (It did provide most of the records through other means.)  Both McBurney and Hurlbert sued, arguing that the FOIA violated the Article 4 Privileges and Immunities Clause and the dormant Commerce Clause.  

The Court disagreed.  In an opinion by Justice Alito, the Court said that the FOIA doesn't interfere with a fundamental right in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause.  It said that the FOIA doesn't violate the opportunity to pursue a common calling, because the law wasn't designed to provide a competitive advatage for Virginia citizens.  It doesn't violate the right to own or transfer property in Virginia, because Virginia makes the necessary records available through the clerks of its circuit courts (even if not through its FOIA).  The FOIA doesn't violate the right to gain equal access to Virginia courts, because its citizens-only application leaves open "reasoanble and adequate" access to the courts (because state procedure allows discovery and subpoenas, which would provide noncitizens with any relevant and nonprivileged information, and state law allows equal access to judicial records).  And it doesn't violate a claimed right to gain access to public information on equal terms, because, well, there is no such right.

The Court also rejected Hurlbert's dormant Commerce Clause claim, ruling that Virginia's FOIA neither regulates nor burdens interstate commerce.  "[R]ather, it merely provides a service to local citizens that would not otherwise be available at all."  Op. at 13.

Justice Thomas joined the opinion but wrote separately to remind us of his view that "[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution."  

SDS

April 29, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Dormant Commerce Clause, Federalism, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Privileges and Immunities: Article IV | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Constitutional Issues in the Tsarnaev Case

The Obama administration announced today that it would not hold alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, as some (perhaps most prominently Senator Lindsay Graham) have advocated.  Adam Serwer argues at Mother Jones that this was an easy case:

Under current law, the fact that Tsarnaev shares an ethnicity and religion with other extremists is insufficient grounds to detain him militarily.  The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which Graham vocally supported, defines as eligible for military detention "a person who was part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."  There's no evidence yet that the suspects in the Boston bombing acted with the support of or at the behest of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.  Unless that evidence emerges, it wouldn't be legal to hold Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, even if he and his brother were motivated by extremist religious beliefs.

Serwer quotes Benjamin Wittes, saying "It's actually not a close question."  Wittes set out his case against detention as an enemy combatant on Lawfare.  CRS has a terrific backgrounder, titled Detention of U.S. Persons as Enemy Belligerents, here.

There's still some buzz about the Miranda question.  New York v. Quarles (1984) created the "public safety" exception; the case is here.  The Obama FBI issued this memo, obtained first by the NYT, on October 21, 2010, interpreting the exception and possibly expanding its scope for terrorist suspects.  (Wittes posted these reflections on the memo on Lawfare.)  Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian writes here; Emily Bazelon at Slate writes here; and Sandy Levinson and Jason Mazzone go back and forth at Balkinization here.  CRS has a good introduction to some of the issues, Terrorism, Miranda, and Related Matters, here.

SDS

April 22, 2013 in Fundamental Rights, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Oral Argument Preview: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl and the Constitutional Issues

The oral arguments in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, on certiorari to the South Carolina Supreme Court will be held on April 16.  The case, also known as “Baby Veronica,” is an emotional struggle over custody of a small child.

On one view, the Court’s task is a relatively simple one of statutory interpretation, including the definition of “parent” in the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA.  The petitioners, the adoptive couple, articulate the questions presented as:

(1) Whether a non-custodial parent can invoke the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901-63, to block an adoption voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent under state law.

(2) Whether ICWA defines “parent” in 25 U.S.C. § 1903(9) to include an unwed biological father who has not complied with state law rules to attain legal status as a parent.

The questions presented by the respondent birth father, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, and by the respondent Cherokee Nation, and by the United States as amicus curiae supporting the respondent, all likewise focus on ICWA, albeit with a different persuasive cadence.   These articulations stress the positive acts of the biological father.  For example, as the biological father phrases the parenting definition question:

Whether an Indian child’s biological father who has expressly acknowledged that he is the child’s father and has established that he is the father through DNA testing is the child’s “parent” within the meaning [of ICWA].

The Brief of the United States as amicus curiae, supporting the respondent father and tribe has a similar issue statement, asking whether the state courts properly applied ICWA

 to award custody of an Indian child to her biological father over an adoptive couple, where the father acknowledged and established his paternity and no remedial measures had been taken to avoid termination of his parental rights.

However, the case is not merely one of statutory interpretation, but raises important, if not always obvious, constitutional issues.

First, Congressional intervention in child welfare must rely on a particularly enumerated power of Congress, the usual one being the Spending Clause.  For Native Americans, however, Congressional power is often labeled “plenary,” although it is grounded most specifically in the Indian Commerce Clause, Art. I §3 cl. 8.   ICWA was intended to prevent the removal of Native children from their parents - - - as well as their tribes - - - a history that many of the amicus briefs discuss in depth. 

  757px-1890s_Carlisle_Boarding_School_Graduates_PA

 

Second, and relatedly, this Congressional power over Native children raises federalism issues, especially given that child custody and adoption are generally within the state’s police powers.  In the case of Baby Veronica, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the trial judge’s application of ICWA to deny the adoption and award custody to the Native father. Yet the very existence of ICWA arguably intrudes upon state police powers.

Third, and most stealthily, the case may present issues of due process and equal protection.  In the brief on behalf of Baby Veronica through her Guardian ad Litem authored by Paul Clement, the arguably “erroneous interpretation” of ICWA “raises serious constitutional issues.”  In this argument, the best interests of the child standard - - - the usual touchstone in child adoption and custody - - - aspires to a constitutional right of the child.  Moreover, the state court’s decision violated the baby’s equal protection and due process rights.

For example, the brief analogizes to the equal protection case of Palmore v. Sidoti:

In Palmore, this Court struck down the use of racial classifications to remove a child from an appropriate custody placement. This case is no different. Baby Girl’s Indian blood quantum was the sole reason the lower court ordered her removed from the loving, stable home she had lived in since birth and placed with a biological father whose failure to timely care for her extinguished any parental rights he might otherwise have had under state law or the Constitution.

Less successfully, the brief attempts to articulate a liberty interest of the child:

And “to the extent parents and families have fundamental liberty interests in preserving such intimate relationships, so, too, do children have these interests, and so, too, must their interests be balanced in the equation.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 88 (2000) (Stevens, J., dissenting).

Yet ultimately, the brief argues that there is an (unconstitutional) racial classification if ICWA is applied too broadly.  Clement argues that ICWA should be interpreted to limit "its application to adoption and custody proceedings involving children who are either domiciled on a reservation or have some other tribal connection beyond biology."  

These limitations are crucial to preserving the Act’s constitutionality, ensuring that the Act’s differential treatment of Indians operates only to promote tribal sovereignty and the unique interests of Indians as tribal citizens, and not as invidious racial discrimination that arbitrarily trumps Baby Girl’s liberty interests.  [ICWA's] definition of parent, properly interpreted, avoids these difficulties by declining to give an unwed Indian father rights based on biology alone that no non-Indian unwed father enjoys. 

Moreover, ICWA's constitutional interpretation rests upon limiting its "application to children in the pre-existing custody of an Indian parent or other circumstances in which there is a distinct connection to tribal interests."

Clement - -  who so recently represented BLAG supporting the constitutionality of DOMA in United States v. Windsor - - - here has quite a different view of equality and federal power.  

While it is unlikely that these constitutional arguments assume center stage, they may infuse the statutory interpretation of ICWA so squarely before the Court.

RR
[image circa 1890 via]

April 15, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Fundamental Rights, History, Interpretation, Race, Sexuality, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

School May Ban Rubber Fetus Dolls

A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit ruled yesterday in Taylor v. Roswell Independent School District that a school can ban students' distribution of rubber fetus dolls without violating free speech, free exercise, or equal protection.

The case arose when members of a student group, Relentless, distributed rubber fetus dolls to fellow students at two schools, without required administration permission.  The dolls were said to have the weight and size of a 12-week-old fetus.  Relentless members apparently distributed them to educate fellow students and to protest abortion.  But that message only backfired:

Both schools experienced doll-related disruptions that day.  Many students pulled the dolls apart, tearing the heads off and using them as rubber balls or sticking them on pencil tops.  Others threw dolls and doll parts at the "popcorn" ceilings so they became stuck.  Dolls were used to plug toilets.

Op. at 7-8.  And on and on.

The administration stepped in and stopped the distribution, even though it allowed students to distribute other non-school-related items (like Valentine's Day items), and even though it previously permitted Relentless to distribute other things like McDonald's sandwiches to teachers.  (Maybe not surprisingly, those things didn't cause the same kinds of disruptions.)

So Relentless members sued, arguing that the administration violated free speech, the Free Exercise Clause, and equal protection.

The Tenth Circuit rejected each of these claims.  As to free speech, it said that the case did not involve content-based discrimination, and that nobody contested the administration's ability to confiscate dolls that were used to harm school property or for lewd or obscene expressions of their own.  Instead, the case involved private, non-school-related speech, and "[a]pplying Tinker, we hold that the District did not violate Plaintiffs' free speech rights because it reasonably forecasted that distribution of the rubber dolls would lead to a substantial disruption."  Op. at 16.  The court also held that the pre-approval policy looked like a licensing scheme, but with plenty of procedural safeguards (inluding two appeals) and substantive constraints on official discretion--and in the special environment of a school, where the First Amendment doesn't give students the same free speech rights that they may have, say, in the public square.  Finally, the court held that the pre-approval policy wasn't unconstitutionally vague, because a student of ordinary intelligence would know when he or she needs to get a license, and how.  The court said that the plaintiffs failed to show any arbitrary enforcement.

As to the Free Exercise Clause, the court held that there was no evidence of discriminatory purpose on the part of the administrators--that the ban on fetal doll distribution was neutral--that therefore rational basis review applied, and that the administrators had a rational reason for banning the doll distribution--that is, stopping the "doll-related disruptions."  As to equal protection, the court said that the plaintiffs couldn't show that they were treated differently than anyone else seeking to distribute items at school and so couldn't show a violation of equal protection.

SDS

April 9, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Daily Read: Linda Greenhouse on Federalism and Same-Sex Marriage

In her column in the NYT last week, Linda Greenhouse wonders whether the federalism argument in the challenge to DOMA in United States v. Windsor is a "Trojan horse." 

Greenhouse has this reminder about federalism and family law:

There is much that’s questionable about this assertion of implicitly boundless state authority over family affairs. A famous pair of Supreme Court decisions from the 1920s armed parents with rights under the Due Process Clause to educate their children as they see fit, in resistance to state laws. Pierce v. Society of Sisters gave parents the right to choose private or religious schools despite an Oregon law that required public school education for all. Meyer v. Nebraska struck down a state law that barred the teaching of modern foreign language (the law’s post-World War I target was German.)

Nor is this ancient history. In 2000, the court struck down a state law in Washington that gave grandparents the right to visit their grandchildren over the parents’ objection. Justice O’Connor wrote the court’s opinion, Troxel v. Granville, which was joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist.

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Moreover, she extends the argument outside marriage and family law:

Substitute “marriage” for “criminal procedure” and you time-travel into last week’s argument. But you will listen in vain for the voice of Justice William O. Douglas, who brushed away concerns about what he dismissively called “this federalism” to ask: “Has any member of this court come out and said in so many terms it’s the constitutional right of a state to provide a system whereby people get unfair trials?”

As usual, Linda Greenhouse is worth a read, for ConLaw Profs and ConLaw students.

RR
[image via]

April 8, 2013 in Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Federalism, Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Interpretation, Oral Argument Analysis, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Sixth Amendment, Supreme Court (US), Theory | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 5, 2013

No Right to Possess Gun for Drug Trafficking

A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ruled this week in United States v. Bryant that the Second Amendment does not protect a right to possess a gun for drug trafficking.  With the ruling, the Second Circuit joins the Seventh and Ninth Circuits in rejecting Second Amendment challenges to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 924(c), providing criminal sanctions for using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.

The Second Circuit seized on language in D.C. v. Heller that says that the Second Amendment protects "the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home," and that "the Second Amendment protects a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home."  (Emphasis added, both times.)  The court ruled that possession of a gun for a drug trafficking crime is (obviously) not possession for a lawful purpose, and therefore federal law can punish such possession without running afoul of the Second Amendment.  The court explained:

Here, Bryant may have purchased and possessed the Remington shotgun for the "core lawful purpose" of self-defense but his right to continue in that possession is not absolute.  The jury determined there was sufficient evidence to convict Bryant of drug trafficking and also to convict him of possessing a firearm in connection with that drug trafficking. . . .  Thus, once Bryant engaged in "an illegal home business," he was no longer a law-abiding citizen using the firearm for a lawful purpose, and his conviction for possession of a firearm under these circumstances does not burden his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

(Citations omitted.)

SDS

April 5, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

N.C. Bill Takes on First Amendment, Supremacy, Judicial Review--All in One Fell Swoop

North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill earlier this week that declares the state exempt from the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.  The bill is apparently a reaction to an ACLU suit filed last month against the Rowan County Board of Commissioners for opening its meetings with explicitly Christian prayers.

But the bill doesn't just take aim at the Establishment Clause.  It also challenges federal supremacy and takes on federal judicial review.  Here are some of the whereases:

Whereas, [the Establishment Clause] does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools; and . . .

Whereas, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States prohibits the federal government and prohibits the federal courts from expanding the powers of the federal government beyond those powers which are explicitly enumerated; and

Whereas, the Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional; therefore, by virtue of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the power to determine constitutionality and the proper interpretation and proper application of the Constitution is reserved to the states and to the people; and

Whereas, each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion . . . .

Here's the punch-line:

Section 1. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

Section 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivision of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SDS

April 3, 2013 in Establishment Clause, Fundamental Rights, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)