February 01, 2012
First Circuit Rejects NOM's Challenges to Disclosure Laws Redux
In what the First Circuit calls the "second chapter" of challenges to the constitutionality of Maine's registration and disclosure laws regarding election-related advocacy, the court in National Organization for Marriage [NOM] v. McKee, essentially reaffirms its opinion last August in a case by the same name (and now to be known as NOM I). The cases stem from the hard-fought same-sex marriage ballot initiative in Maine in 2009. NOM II involves both NOM and American Principles in Action [APIA], although the court expressed doubt regarding APIA's standing as to some of the claims, and the principle arguments revolve around NOM.
The unanimous panel decision, authored by Judge Kermit Lipez, focuses on the "only substantively distinct issue" raised by this appeal as contrasted to NOM I: the constitutionality of the definition of "contribution" in the "ballot question committee" [BQC] provision, Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 21-A, §1056-B. The court concludes that the BQC provision, like the PAC provision at issue in NOM I survives the constitutional challenge.
The court quickly disposed of the First Amendment claims, on the basis of NOM I, but paid more attention to the assertion that the term "contribution" was unconstitutionally vague as a matter of due process, and that any reliance on subjective beliefs of a contributor were likewise void for vagueness. At issue were email communications such as:
"You can fight back! Can you help defend marriage in Maine and across the country, by donating $5, $10, or even, if God has given you the means, $100 or $500?"
The panel found that Maine can constitutionally require parties to determine whether or not a "reasonable listener would understand their advocacy as an invitation to contribute to a specific ballot question campaign"- - - such as that in Maine - - - based upon the specific earmarking words of the solicitor, in this case NOM.
The court engaged in such reasoning after specifically faulting the appellants' attorneys for poor lawyering in terms of the as-applied challenges:
Appellants, however, do not address in their brief the vagueness problem with respect to donations received following any specific communication they distributed or proposed. Rather, they assert in conclusory language that subsections B and C of section 1056-B "are unconstitutionally vague as applied to most of Plaintiffs' speech." They make glancing reference to the content of the emails, noting that "some of NOM's solicitations mentioned Maine," and query whether, as a result of those mentions, donors' knowledge of the Maine ballot measure would be enough to make their donations covered "contributions" and NOM a BQC. They do not explain why they were unable, or would be unable, to link particular contributions received to their advocacy efforts on the Maine referendum, focusing their arguments instead on the language of the statute generally.
Thus, appellants are not only unable to bring a facial vagueness challenge to section 1056-B, but their failure to develop their as-applied challenges also would allow us to reject those claims summarily if we were so inclined. [citations omitted]. Given the importance of the issues raised, however, and the resources expended by all parties in this extensive litigation, we choose to explain why their vagueness contentions would in any event be substantially, if not entirely, unavailing. [citations omitted].
As the panel succinctly stated, it saw "no constitutional problem with expecting entities like appellants to make pragmatic, objective judgments about the nature of the contributions they receive where their own conduct and communications are the primary elements in the determination."
While NOM's attorney has reportedly vowed to take the case to the United States Supreme Court, there seems to be little here that would merit a grant of a writ of certiorari.
However, with the same-sex marriage issuepossibly again on the ballot in Maine in 2012, there may certainly be more litigation.
February 1, 2012 in Campaign Finance, Due Process (Substantive), Elections and Voting, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 11, 2012
Fifth Circuit Vacates Preliminary Injunction of Texas Abortion Statute
Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit Edith Jones, well known for her conservative affiliations, authored the panel opinion for the Fifth Circuit vacating a preliminary injunction of Texas HB 15, an Act “relating to informed consent to an abortion.” The district judge had issued a preliminary injunction against seven subsections for violating the First Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause encompassing vagueness principles.
Judge Jones rejected the argument that the panel should defer ruling on the preliminary injunction given that the "district court has, notwithstanding this appeal, proceeded apace toward consideration of summary judgment" and therefore a "ruling on this interlocutory matter would become moot if the district court enters final judgment first." In declining to defer, Jones wrote that "this ruling will offer guidance to the district court, which is particularly important given our different view of the case." Should the district judge not hew to the Fifth Circuit's interpretation, a reversal is certain: Jones also made clear that for "the sake of judicial efficiency, any further appeals in this matter will be heard by this panel."
Texas HB 15 requires a sonogram, a display of the sonogram to the pregnant woman, make audible the heart auscultation of the fetus for the woman to hear, and explain to her the results of each procedure and to wait 24 hours, in most cases, between these disclosures and performing the abortion. A woman may only decline the explanation if her pregnancy is a result of a sexual assault or incest, she is a minor who has received a judicial bypass, or the fetus is abnormal.
The district judge found sections of HB 15 unconstitutional as compelled speech, but the Fifth Circuit's review of abortion cases led it to three conclusions:
First, informed consent laws that do not impose an undue burden on the woman’s right to have an abortion are permissible if they require truthful, nonmisleading, and relevant disclosures. Second, such laws are part of the state’s reasonable regulation of medical practice and do not fall under the rubric of compelling “ideological” speech that triggers First Amendment strict scrutiny. Third, “relevant” informed consent may entail not only the physical and psychological risks to the expectant mother facing this “difficult moral decision,” but also the state’s legitimate interests in “protecting the potential life within her.”
Applying these principles, the panel found that the sections of HB 15 "requiring disclosures and written consent are sustainable under Casey, are within the State’s power to regulate the practice of medicine, and therefore do not violate the First Amendment."
As to the three vagueness arguments under the Due Process Clause, Judge Jones found the first "novel" and "novelty suggests its weakness;" the second as not meriting the district judge's "skeptical interpretation" and that the "legislature had every right to maintain the integrity" of its statutory scheme; and the third, "at bottom, trivial."
Judge Patrick Higginbottom's brief concurring opinion is worth reading in full, both for what it says and for what it does not say. While it expresses some misgivings, it leaves little doubt of the result unless the case reaches the United States Supreme Court.
[image: Judge Edith Jones, via]
January 11, 2012 in Abortion, Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
January 03, 2012
Religious Groups Lack Standing/Ripe Claims to Challenge Hawai'i Civil Unions Law
The Civil Unions Law, Act 1, of Hawai'i became effective January 1, 2012.
In the last days of 2011, several religious groups sued for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the Act's implementation and prevent any enforcement against them. In a relatively brief opinion, federal district judge J. Michael Seabright denied the TRO in Emmanuel Temple v. Abercrombie.
The complaint seeking the TRO alleged that because Act 1 does not have a "religious exemption," the plaintiffs could suffer a First Amendment injury. However, the judge found that the claim was not justiciable because the plaintiffs lacked standing and their challenge was not ripe, noting that in many cases the "injury in fact" prong of the standing analysis coincides with an inquiry regarding ripeness.
The judge found that any threat of enforcement of Act 1 against the plaintiffs was "highly speculative." A number of unforseeable events would have to occur:
- A couple would have to ask plaintiffs to use a particular facility of theirs - - - which presumably would have to be a "public accomodation" - - - for a civil union made possible by Act 1;
- Plaintiffs would have to wrongly refuse based upon a protected ground;
- The couple, having been denied, would have to file a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission;
- The state authorities would have to decide to proceed against plaintiffs.
The judge found it was equally speculative that a couple, having been denied, would chose to file a judicial action rather than an action with the Commission.
For ConLawProfs starting the semester with Article III justiciability, this could be the basis of a great class problem.
Situating the case outside that doctrinal framework, it is an example of religious groups filing federal actions against same-sex relationship recognition, as in New York, despite that state's religious exemption in the statute.
Further, it is yet another incident in the saga of same-sex marriage in Hawai'i; a good review and the latest litigation by same-sex couples challenging the civil union law for not providing marriage is here.
[image: Kahaluʻu Fishpond seawall and wedding chapel, Oahu, Hawaii, on National Register of Historic Places, via]
January 3, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Religion, Ripeness, Sexual Orientation, Standing, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 21, 2011
The Constitutional Issues Facing Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Joe Arpaio, who styled himself as "America's toughest sheriff" in his 1997 book and the 2008 sequel is facing some tough constitutional times. As elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Arpaio has long been controversial for his immigration and prison "get tough" stances.
The death yesterday of a Latino veteran who had been tased while in custody of the Maricopa County jails - - - informally called Arpaio's jails - - - might well result in a lawsuit.
A complaint filed yesterday on behalf of a woman who was shackled while she giving birth also addresses problems at the jails. In Mendiola-Martinez v. Arpaio, the plaintiff, a non-citizen, alleges she was imprisoned without bail for forgery when she was six months pregnant. During her labor, she was transferred to the medical center, gave birth by Cesarean section, was shackled before and after the surgery, was discharged while bleeding, shackled hands and feet, and walking through the hospital only in her hospital gown, and was taken back to jail. The complaint claims violations of the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment regarding deliberate indifference to medical needs, cruel and unusual punishment, and a denial of Equal Protection under the Fifth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The last claim alleges liability under Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Svcs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978), including a failure to train, supervise, and discipline employees. All these claims are buoyed by disapproval of the shackling of women in labor. As a press release from Mendiola-Martinez's attorneys summarizes the law:
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association oppose the shackling of women in labor or recuperating from delivery. In 2008, in Nelson v. Norris, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found the shackling of women prisoners during labor to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Arizona Department of Corrections eliminated the practice of shackling women in labor or in postpartum recovery in 2003. In 2007, the United States Marshal’s Service eliminated the practice of shackling women in labor. In 2008, the Federal Bureau of Prisons eliminated the practice of shackling women in labor.
The immunity of Joe Arpaio will surely be raised by his attorneys. The extent to which Arpaio is immune was also a question before the en banc Ninth Circuit last week in the unrelated case of Lacey v. Arpaio, in which reporters for the Phoenix New Times claim a violation of their First Amendment rights based in part on their midnight arrests. The en banc hearing vacated the previous Ninth Circuit panel opinion, causing some consternation and confusion in the oral argument, available for viewing here. Here's a synposis of the problem, via the Phoenix New Times, and verifiable by the video:
24:50 -- Sheriff Arpaio's lawyer Eileen GilBride gets her turn. At about 27 minutes, she begins to be hit with questions and hypothetical situations about the possibility of a conspiracy by the county officials. This stays interesting for several minutes.
38:30 -- GilBride's blunder: She doesn't realize that New Times has alleged a conspiracy because she apparently isn't familiar enough with the case. And she forgot the document that contains the part about the conspiracy allegation.
"You come to court without briefs?" Kozinski chides, waving some papers in the air.
GilBride plunges ahead on her bad recollection until called on it by Kozinski, who informs her that the conspiracy allegation is in the suit's opening brief.
40:15 -- The dress-down: "Coming to court without the briefs is poor lawyering in itself, but not knowing what's in the briefs is even worse," Kozinski says.
This could be a useful bit for ConLawProfs mentoring or judging moot court teams.
In addition to litigation woes, Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) is again the subject of negative Department of Justice findings. The December 15 letter concludes that the office has violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and has 60 days to take "clear steps" toward reaching an agreement with the Department of Civil Rights to remedy these violations, or there will be a civil suit seeking remedies. This letter states it is unrelated to a previous investigation that it specifically references: an investigation concluding that unconstitutional conditions existed at the jails with respect to (1) the use of excessive force against inmates and (2) deliberate indifference to inmates' serious medical needs. An agreement between the United States and MCSO was reached in October 1997. In this letter, police practices aimed at perceived immigrants are highlighted, with the letter concluding the practices " "are unconstitutional and are harming innocent Latinos."
The December 15 letter specifically focuses on Arpaio's role:
Sheriff Arpaio's own actions have helped nurture MCSO's culture of bias. For example, Sheriff Arpaio has frequently distributed racially charged constituent letters, annotating the letters with handwritten notes that appear to endorse the content of the letter, circulating the letters to others on the command staff, and/or saving the letters in his personal file. Many of these letters contain no meaningful descriptions of criminal activity-just crude, ethnically derogatory language about Latinos.
There is speculation that Arpaio will not run for relection as sheriff, as well as speculation he will run for the United States Senate.
[Photo of Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona speaking at the Tea Party Patriots American Policy Summit in Phoenix, Arizona, by Gage Skidmore, via]
December 21, 2011 in Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Medical Decisions, News, Oral Argument Analysis, Privacy, Race, Reproductive Rights, Speech, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
December 15, 2011
White House Proposes Rules on Domestic Workers to "Overrule" Long Island Health Care at Home v. Coke
Today, President Obama announced proposed rulemaking to revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act "to more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion" and " to limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services. Third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the exemption, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household."
This latter provision regarding home health care workers employed by contractors would change the result of Long Island Care at Home v. Coke, decided by the Court in 2007. As the President's announcement notes, the issue of FLSA coverage
gained national attention when, in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that Evelyn Coke, a home care worker who worked as much as 70 hours a week, was not entitled to overtime pay under existing regulations. Thus, any change to these rules requires action by Congress or the Department of Labor. There have been bills introduced in numerous Congresses to address this issue (including legislation that then-Senator Obama co-sponsored in the 110th Congress) but these bills have not moved forward. The Department of Labor is therefore now proposing regulations to change these rules and ensure that home care workers like Evelyn Coke will have basic wage protections.
Interestingly, Coke was a unanimous opinion that provoked little controversy when it was rendered.
I've elsewhere discussed Evelyn Coke in the context of legal theory regarding "servants." At the oral argument in Coke, which Evelyn Coke attended in a wheelchair, Justice Scalia joked regarding the meaning of "footmen" and Justice Brennan expressed concern for the families who needed home health care workers, but not for the workers themselves. Evelyn Coke died in 2009.
If the regulations are adopted, they would essentially "overrule" the Court's opinion, based as it was on regulatory and statutory construction. Thus, the issue is of general interest regarding separation of powers. The development is also of interest to ConLawProfs working on social change and poverty issues.
[image Library of Congress via]
Bill of Rights Day 2011
Today is Bill of Rights Day, marking the 220th anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.
In his Presidential Proclamation last week, Obama stated:
On December 15, 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, enshrining in our Constitution the protection of our inalienable freedoms, from the right to speak our minds and worship as we please to the guarantee of equal justice under the law. For 220 years, these fundamental liberties have shaped our national character and stirred the souls of all who dream of a freer, more just world. As we mark this milestone, we renew our commitment to preserving our universal rights and perfecting our Union.
Introduced in the First Congress in 1789, the Bill of Rights was born out of compromise. The promise of enumerated rights enabled the ratification of the Constitution without fear that a more centralized government would encroach on American freedoms. In adopting the first ten Amendments, our Founders put forth an ideal that continues to define our Nation -- that we can have both liberty and security, that we need not sacrifice the rights of man for the rule of law.
Throughout our country's history, generations have risen to uphold the principles outlined in our Bill of Rights and advance equality for all Americans. The liberties we enjoy today are possible only because of these brave patriots, from the service members who have defended our freedom to the citizens who have braved billy clubs and fire hoses in the hope of extending America's promise across lines of color and creed. On Bill of Rights Day, we celebrate this proud legacy and resolve to pass to our children an America worthy of our Founders' vision.
Some would argue, however, that the Bill of Rights does not enshrine "the guarantee of equal justice under the law" in the Constitution, given that the concept of individual equality does not appear in the Constitution until the Fourteenth Amendment passed after the Civil War. The Fourteenth Amendment also introduced the word "male" into the Constitution, in section 2 regarding voting, although section 1 uses the word "persons."
The "Bill of Rights" as ratified does primarily focus on "rights," but the original Resolution of Congress consisting of twelve amendments did not concern rights. Instead, they concerned Congress itself:
Article the first . . . After the first enumeration required by the first Article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which, the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
Article the second . . . No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
The latter became the 27th Amendment, ratified more than two centuries later in 1992.
- Amendment 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
- Amendment 2. A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
- Amendment 3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
- Amendment 4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
- Amendment 5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
- Amendment 6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
- Amendment 7. In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
- Amendment 8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
- Amendment 9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
- Amendment 10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
[image from National Archives via]
December 15, 2011 in Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Establishment Clause, Fifth Amendment, First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, History, Interpretation, Privileges or Immunities: Fourteenth Amendment , Race, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Religion, Second Amendment, Seventh Amendment, Sixth Amendment, Speech, Tenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 14, 2011
Sexual Violence in the Military: Not a Judicial Matter
The UK's Guardian has a lengthy and worth reading report entitled " Rape in the US military: America's dirty little secret" with the subtitle, "A female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire." The Guardian's article mentions a lawsuit of 28 plaintiffs "who claim to have been subjected to sexual assaults while serving in the armed force" against Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates "for a culture of punishment against the women and men who report sex crimes and a failure to prosecute the offenders."
In a 2 page opinion, Judge Liam O'Grady dismissed that lawsuit the same day as the Guardian article. Cioca v. Rumsfeld garnered much attention when it was filed in February, including a NYT article and a widely distributed video of Kori Cioca:
The judge's order concluded that Cioca and the other plaintiffs do not have a Bivens action (Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)), because such a remedy is not available when '"special factors counseling hesitation'" are present, and the "unique disciplinary structure of the military establishment" is a "special factor" that "counsels against judicial intrusion." In short "congressionally uninvited intrusion into military affairs by the judiciary is inappropriate."
This same reasoning of military deference was once prominent in challenges to the military's sexual orientation policy of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). More recently, of course, the courts were much less deferential, including the Ninth Circuit's injunction against the policy earlier this year, before the policy was repealed, and the Ninth Circuit's dismissal of the case as moot. Yet as we noted, the Ninth Circuit did more than dismiss the case as moot, it specifically stated that it
"vacate[d] the district court’s judgment, injunction, opinions, orders, and factual findings—indeed, all of its past rulings—to clear the path completely for any future litigation. Those now-void legal rulings and factual findings have no precedential, preclusive, or binding effect."
Thus, those DADT findings overcoming judicial deference to the military are declared to be void, although it does seem that they might not be entirely irrelevant.
December 09, 2011
Constitutional Challenge to Hawai'i Marriage Law in Federal Court
The second wave of challenges to marriage laws excluding same-sex couples began in Hawai'i. The Baehr v. Lewin decision from the Hawai'i Supreme Court in 1993 that the opposite-sex policy was a sex classification subject to strict scrutiny under the state constitution set off a chain of events. In Hawai'i, there was a successful state referendum in Hawai'i retaining the power for the legislature to decide the sex of parties to a marriage. Nationally, there was ultimately the federal statute DOMA (now in federal disfavor) as well as many other state DOMAs. However, there were also developments in other states that resulted in the opposite-sex requirement being relaxed.
The complaint in Jackson v. Abercrombie filed in the federal district of Hawai'i this week challenges the Hawai'i opposite-sex marriage requirement as violating the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The 27 page complaint includes an excellent chronology: a summary of the Hawai'i litigation and subsequent cases, including Perry v. Brown now before the Ninth Circuit. The complaint also alleges that same-sex marriage has gained in popular acceptance since Baehr v. Lewin and that the civil union law, effective in Hawai'i in 2012, is not an adequate substitute for marriage.
Most likely, a district judge would wait for the Ninth Circuit decision in Perry, but presumably the state of Hawai'i will respond.
[image: Hawai'i via]
November 10, 2011
Justice Stevens on Clinton v. Jones
The Court's unanimous opinion in Clinton v. Jones (1997), involving the postponement of the civil case by Paula Jones against then-President Clinton, is excerpted in most Constitutional Law casebooks, usually right after United States v. Nixon (1974), involving the subpoena duces tecum seeking Watergate material from then-President Richard Nixon.
The statement in the Clinton v. Jones opinion, authored by Justice Stevens, that the Jones litigation was "highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of petitioner’s time," seemed to have been proven false by subsequent events. In his new book, Five Chiefs, Justice Stevens, defends his statement:
[T]he Court had been confronted with the question whether either the Constitution or respect for the office of the president required a federal district court to defer the trial of a damages claim against President Clinton until after the end of his term. In a unanimous opinion that Bill [Rehnquist] assigned to me, we upheld the decisions of the lower courts denying the request for a stay of the trial. Among the arguments that we rejected was a claim that permitting the trial to proceed would violate the doctrine of separation of powers.
While I am not aware of any significant scholarly criticism of the legal analysis in my opinion, numerous commentators have rather enthusiastically suggested that only the village idiot could have authored one statement that I made. In my response to the argument that the burdens of the litigation would impair the president’s ability to discharge his official duties, I declare: "If the past is any indicator, it seems unlikely that a deluge of such litigation will ever engulf the Presidency. As for the case at hand, if properly managed by the District Court, it appears to us highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of petitioner’s time.” Clinton later gave deposition testimony that triggered his impeachment, which, in turn, obviously occupied a huge amount of his time. These events, it is argued, proved my comments to have been ludicrous.
That appraisal depends on a failure to recognize both the difference between the trial proceedings and the unforeseen impeachment. A postponement of the trial would not necessarily have justified a postponement of the president’s deposition. Indeed, as the president’s lawyers stated at oral argument, a delay in the trial would have increased the need for depositions because of the risk that key witnesses’ memories might fade. Given that case (Clinton v. Jones ) was settled, we will never know just how much time a trial would have consumed. We did know that our ruling did not give rise to the predicted avalanche of litigation. And the impeachment proceedings were certainly not a part of “the case at hand” referred to in our opinion.
Still the reaction to my words illustrates that an author is seldom the best judge of how readers will react to his work.
Note however that Court did not simply uphold "the decisions of the lower courts denying the request for a stay of the trial," as Stevens states. Instead, as Stevens' opinion for the Court stated:
we are persuaded that it was an abuse of discretion for the District Court to defer the trial until after the President leaves office. Such a lengthy and categorical stay takes no account whatever of the respondent's interest in bringing the case to trial. The complaint was filed within the statutory limitations period--albeit near the end of that period--and delaying trial would increase the danger of prejudice resulting from the loss of evidence, including the inability of witnesses to recall specific facts, or the possible death of a party.
Here's a quick overview of the case and developments from WaPo.
October 24, 2011
Bork’s “75 page” Memo to Goldwater on the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Unconstitutionality?
Did Robert Bork, as a law professor, write a “75 page” brief to Presidential Candidate Barry Goldwater arguing that the bill that would become the 1964 Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional?
Bork (pictured left) the controversial conservative and rejected Supreme Court nominee, has reappeared on the political scene as the co-chair of the legal advisory team of potential GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He has recently also made news for opining that women are no longer discriminated against and do not need constitutional attention.
Bork has also long been famous for his argument that the 1964 Civil Rights Act, including Title VII, is unconstitutional. Rand Paul has also made this argument, although at least one commentator distinguishes Rand Paul’s position from Goldwater’s based upon Goldwater’s “constitutional concerns” rooted in the “75 page brief” Bork sent to Goldwater as well as future Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s concerns.
When internet references to the “75 page” memo or brief mention a source, they cite to Richard Perlstein’s Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater. Speaking on C-Span (written transcript provided), Perlstein in 2001 discussed Goldwater’s agonizing over the 1964 Civil Rights Bill which was resolved by the influence of Rehnquist’s statements and Bork’s 75 page memo against the Act. In Perlstein’s book, he sources the Bork brief to James Perry, [A Report in Depth on] Barry Goldwater: A New Look at A Presidential Candidate. Perry’s “Report in Depth” is a “Newsbook” peppered with photographs, published by the National Observer in 1964. In the chapter “Men Around Goldwater,” the author names Bork as a “Goldwater favorite” and one of a number of law professors to whom “the Goldwater idea men went for advice” on the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. Perry wrote:
The Goldwater staff asked for an objective, legal analysis by Professor Bork of the civil-rights bill. They received a 75-page critique, which was used (along with other analyses) in preparing Mr. Goldwater’s statement against the bill.
Scholars wishing to read the “75-page critique” by Bork sent to Goldwater - - - or to Goldwater’s staff - - - will have a difficult time obtaining it, as I learned when I asked faculty law librarians. The memo is not in the seven volumes of Bork nomination materials compiled by Roy Mersky and J. Myron Jacobstein in their series of Supreme Court Nominees. The Mersky and Jacobstein Volume 14-F, however, does include Bork’s notorious piece for The New Republic, “Civil Rights—A Challenge,” (August 31, 1963), arguing that the Act would be a “loss of liberty,” as well as the New Republic Editors’ reply and Bork’s rejoinder (here). It is apparently not in the Goldwater papers at the Arizona Historical Foundation at Arizona State University or in the papers of Dean Burch, also at ASU, the Chair of the RNC in 1964. As for the papers of Robert Bork, there may be some at the Library of Congress, although apparently Bork retains the authority to grant access.
Does the “75 page” memo still exist - - - perhaps a Xerox of a carbon copy - - - in someone’s files? Did it ever?
Almost a half-century has passed. It is not that a missing document is nefarious (indeed, it sometimes seems a wonder that anything is preserved) or that Bork should be assumed not to have changed his opinions (indeed, he has recently stated that the “transition to a non-discriminatory society was much easier” than he thought it would be). But page-number precise references to a document that is not available is intriguing.
So, if you have a copy or have read a copy of that "75 page" memo, I’d love to hear from you.
[image: Robert Bork, 2007, via]
October 24, 2011 in Books, Commerce Clause, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, History, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Race, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Scholarship, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
October 17, 2011
Taser-Wielding Law Enforcement Officers Granted Immunity by Ninth Circuit
In an opinion today in the companion cases of Mattos v. Knight & Maui County and Brooks v. City of Seattle, the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc reversed two district judges who denied summary judgment motions by law enforcement officers that they were entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law.
In both situations, law enforcement officers wielded tasers against a woman who was arguably not threatening. Brooks entered a school zone, dropping her child off at school, and was charged with not adequately reducing her speed. Mattos was the victim of a domestic assault. Both women were tasered: Brooks because she refused to sign the citation and was placed under arrest, Mattos while she was asking why her partner was being arrested and attempting to defuse the situation. Brooks, 7 months pregnant was tasered three times; Mattos was subject without warning to a dart-taser.
The Ninth Circuit held that in each case the law enforcement officers used excessive force. For example, the court summarized its conclusions regarding Brooks:
In sum, Brooks’s alleged offenses were minor. She did not pose an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others. She actively resisted arrest insofar as she refused to get out of her car when instructed to do so and stiffened her body and clutched her steering wheel to frustrate the officers’ efforts to remove her from her car. Brooks did not evade arrest by flight, and no other exigent circumstances existed at the time. She was seven months pregnant, which the officers knew, and they tased her three times within less than one minute,
inflicting extreme pain on Brooks.
As Judge Schroeder, concurring, noted, both women's conduct was nonthreatening:
I write separately only to emphasize the non-threatening nature of the plaintiffs’ conduct. Both were women, with children nearby, who were tased after engaging in no threatening conduct. In Mattos, a domestic violence victim wanted the officers outside her home so they would not awaken her children. In Brooks, the police stopped the pregnant plaintiff for speeding in front of her child’s school — when she refused to sign the traffic ticket and exit the vehicle, the police tased her. Her behavior may be difficult to understand, but it certainly posed no immediate threat to the officers.
Yet applying the increasingly stringent requirement after last term's decision in Ashcroft v. al-Kidd that there was a clearly established right at the time of the occurrence, the court found the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The test, as the court distilled it was that "every reasonable officer at the time of the respective incidents would have known—beyond debate—that such conduct violates the Fourth Amendment." (Emphasis added). The court rehearsed several taser cases and concluded that the actions the court found were excessive force were not - - - beyond debate - - - excessive force.
The dissenting and concurring opinion of Kozinski, joined by Bea, is less sympathetic to the women. For Kozinski,
Brooks and Mattos breached the covenant of cooperation by refusing to comply with police orders. When citizens do that, police must bring the situation under control, and they have a number of tools at their disposal.
The "traditional tools" such as choke-holds can be "distasteful" according to Kozinski; "The Taser is a safe alternative." It is certainly to be preferred to "pepper-spray," which Kozinski maligns in two separate instances, including rhetorically rejecting "pepper spray or some other noxious chemical, which would be absorbed into her bloodstream and go straight to the fetus" as an alternative to control Brooks.
Kozinski rejects any concern for the women's status as women:
I thought we were long past the point where special pleading on the basis of sex was an acceptable form of argument. Women can, of course, be just as uncooperative and dangerous as men, and I would be most reluctant to adopt a constitutional rule that police must treat people differently because of their sex.
The opinion as a whole, and certainly Kozinski's remarks regarding gender and pepper spray, have special resonance to recent events at the "occupation" of Zuccotti Park near Wall Street. The pepper spraying of a woman protester by a senior law enforcement officer was captured on video and distributed widely.
Chelsea Elliot, the woman in the video being pepper sprayed by an officer identified as Anthony Bologna, is reportedly bringing a civil suit for excessive force. The NYPD is reportedly also investigating Bologna and other senior officers.
For those teaching constitutional litigation, civil rights, and similar courses this semester, the video and the case would make a great pairing for discussion or an individual student project.
September 28, 2011
Town Clerk Update: NY Same-Sex Marriage Law and Town Clerk Seeking Religious Exemption
As the NYT reported yesterday, the clash between the same-sex marriage law in NY, the Marriage Equality Act, and the objections, religiously based, of public employees including town clerks, if fomenting.
As we previously discussed, while the Marriage Equality Act has a religious exemption, this does not cover town clerks who issue marriage licenses. And as we also previously discussed, the Alliance Defense Fund issued a memo to town clerks entitled "Your Right to Request An Accommodation of Your Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs Concerning Issuance of Marriage Licenses to Same- Sex Couples."
The NYT quotes the clerk in the rural community, Rose Marie Belforti, as saying "state law 'protects my right to hold both my job and my beliefs.' " While the article doesn not mention the memo, the state law claim is indeed discussed in the memo, which does not argue the First Amendment.
At issue may be the contours of "religious accommodation." According to the NYT article, the clerk's office is open only a limited number of hours, but same-sex couples desiring a marriage license needed to telephone in advance for a special appointment so that a substitute clerk could handle the matter. The Town Clerk is an elected position.
September 28, 2011 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, News, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 14, 2011
Anita Hill Conference
Anita Hill 20 Years Later: Sex, Truth, and Power, a conference, will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2011 at Hunter College, City University of New York, NYC.
Speakers include Devon Carbado, Lani Guinier, Judith Resnik, Charles Ogletree, Patricia J. Williams, and many others, with a Keynote by Anita Hill.
Registration Information here.
September 13, 2011
Equal Protection Problem?: California's Prison Release Program
The CDCR - - - California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation - - -has anounced its plan "aimed at reuniting low-level offenders with their families and providing inmates with rehabilitative services within the community."
As the LA Times notes, the plan is not simply motivated by rehabilitative motives. The United States Supreme Court last May in Brown v. Plata upheld the court-ordered release of prisoners to remedy unconstitutional conditions at California prisons.
SB 1266, signed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger, as originally drafted was applicable only to female inmates. However, as the LA Times noted, this "could not be done because of a constitutional ban against gender-based discrimination. So the phrase "primary caregiver" was added to the bill." The law establishes:
a program under which female inmates, pregnant inmates, or inmates who, immediately prior to incarceration, were primary caregivers of dependent children, as defined, who are committed to state prison may be allowed to participate in a voluntary alternative custody program in lieu of confinement in state prison.
Yet the current policy of the CDCR, as announced, reinstates the gender classification:
"Initially, the program will be offered to qualifying female inmates.
Participation may be offered at a later date to male inmates,
at the discretion of the Secretary of CDCR."
Moreover, the "primary caregivers of dependent children" may render the law gender-neutral, but it may impact upon other equal protection concerns. Preferring parents or primary caregivers over those who are not warrants rational basis scrutiny. There may also be due process concerns. Pregnancy, likewise, might raise constitutional concerns.
For ConLawProfs, this could be an excellent equal protection in-class problem, discussion, extra assignment, or even an examination.
For California, this could mean more litigation.
[image: The Prisoner by Evelyn deMorgan via]
September 06, 2011
Ninth Circuit: Arizona's Denial of Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Public Employees Violates Equal Protection
In a relatively brief opinion today, a panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district judge's finding that Arizona's denial of health care benefits to same-sex partners of public employees violated the Equal Protection Clause.
In Diaz v. Brewer, the Ninth Circuit panel considered a challenge by public employees, including several university faculty members, to "Section O," from House Bill 2013, which included a statutory provision, Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 38-651(O) that redefined “dependents” as “spouses,” and thus eliminate coverage for domestic partners allowed by a 2008 act.
On appeal, the state argued that the district court improperly construed the complaint's allegations as true and that the district court "impermissibly recognized a constitutional right to healthcare." The Ninth Circuit found both of these arguments rested on a "misunderstanding" of the district judge's opinion. The court stated:
The state is correct in asserting that state employees and their families are not constitutionally entitled to health benefits. But when a state chooses to provide such benefits, it may not do so in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner that adversely affects particular groups that may be unpopular. The most instructive Supreme Court case involving arbitrary restriction of benefits for a particular group perceived as unpopular is U.S. Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 (1973).
The Ninth Circuit carefully discussed Moreno - - - the "hippie food stamp case" as many students refer to it - - - and then articulated an equally careful analogy:
Here, as in Moreno, the legislature amended a benefits program in order to limit eligibility. Since in this case eligibility was limited to married couples, different-sex couples wishing to retain their current family health benefits could alter their status — marry — to do so. The Arizona Constitution, however, prohibits same-sex couples from doing so.
The Ninth Circuit was quite clear that it was applying rational basis scrutiny, as the district judge had also been, and held that Section O was based on a bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group.
The "framers of the Constitution," the court stated, quoting Justice Robert Jackson in Railway Express Agency v. New York, "knew, and we should not forget today that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally."
August 31, 2011
Federal Judge Enjoins Portions of Texas Abortion Statute
Federal District Judge Sam Sparks has enjoined portions of HB 15, an Act “relating to informed consent to an abortion.” H.B. 15, 82nd Leg., Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2011) in his Order in Texas Medical Providers Performing Abortion Services v. Lakey.
Judge Sparks certified both a plaintiff class of medical providers and a defendant class of state actors, then proceeded to consider the plaintiffs' constitutional objections one by one. In his 55 page opinion, Judge Sparks had little complimentary to say about the lawyering on both sides; indeed, he leveled sharp criticisms.
Judge Sparks also made clear his disapproval of the intent behind the Act that amended Texas' already restrictive abortion laws, stating in footnote 2: "It is ironic that many of the same people who zealously defend the state’s righteous duty to become intimately involved in a woman’s decision to get an abortion are also positively scandalized at the government’s gross overreaching in the area of health care." Yet this footnote was in the context of his rejection of Plaintiffs' equal protection arguments, which he found meritless: "In short, if the Texas Legislature wishes to prioritize an ideological agenda over the health and safety of women, the Equal Protection Clause does not prevent it from doing so under these circumstances."
Criticizing the "litany" of vagueness challenges by Plaintiffs and agreeing with the "Defendants’ characterization that 'plaintiffs have chosen to throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks,' ” Judge Sparks nevertheless found that three provisions of the Act were unconstitutionally vague:
- First, the phrase “the physician who is to perform the abortion,” a phrase used in section 171.012(a)(4), is unclear as it relates to both multi-physician procedures and unplanned physician substitutions.
- Second, the conflict between sections 171.012(a)(4) and 171.0122 creates unconstitutionally impermissible uncertainty regarding what will, and what will not, subject a physician or a pregnant woman to liability.
- Finally, section 171.0123 is unconstitutionally vague regarding the scope of a physician’s duty to provide paternity and child support information to women who choose not to get abortions.
In finding these sections unconstitutionally vague, Judge Sparks emphasized that the lack of clarity was balanced against the serious penalities, so that neither physicians nor women should have to trust Defendants’ representations about the meaning of the provisions or otherwise guess.
Most seriously, Judge Sparks found several provisions of the Act constitutionally infirm under the compelled speech doctrine of the First Amendment. Sparks distinguished Planned Parenthood of Se. Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), on which the Defendants largely relied, by noting that
the Pennsylvania statute in Casey simply required physicians to inform pregnant women about the risks of an abortion, the potential alternatives thereto, and the availability of additional informational materials related to those alternatives. By contrast, the Act under consideration here requires physicians to provide, in addition to those legitimate disclosures, additional information such as descriptions of “the presence of cardiac activity,” and “the presence of external members and internal organs” in the fetus or embryo. The Court does not think the disclosures required by the Act are particularly relevant to any compelling government interest, but whatever relevance they may have is greatly diminished by the disclosures already required under Texas law, which are more directly pertinent to those interests.
Judge Sparks also found troubling under compelled speech doctrine Section 171.012(a)(5) that requires a pregnant woman to complete and sign a specified election form that certifies her understanding of many of the Act’s various requirements. "The Court need not belabor the obvious by explaining why, for instance, women who are pregnant as a result of sexual assault or incest may not wish to certify that fact in writing, particularly if they are too afraid of retaliation to even report the matter to police. There is no sufficiently powerful government interest to justify compelling speech of this sort, nor is the Act sufficiently tailored to advance such an interest." Compounding this compelled speech was the section that required the patient's certification be placed in the woman's medical records and maintained by the facility for seven years - - - making it "difficult to avoid the troubling conclusion the Texas Legislature either wants to permanently brand women who choose to get abortions, or views these certifications as potential evidence to be used against physicians and women."
The Judge gave the severability clause of the Act effect, although he also enjoined "enforcement of any portion of the Act that conflicts with any of the above relief. This includes, but is not limited to, any penalty provision of the Act or any other statute that would impose a penalty for a person acting in compliance with this opinion."
"The Court is bound to respect legislative intent, but not at the expense of the Constitution," Judge Sparks concluded. Presumably, the preliminary injunction order will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit.
August 31, 2011 in Abortion, Cases and Case Materials, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Speech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack
August 23, 2011
Protection Against Domestic Violence as a Constitutional (Human) Right
Castle Rock v. Gonzales, decided by the United States Supreme Court in 2005, stands for the proposition that one does not have a due process right to have a restraining order enforced by law enforcement. In Castle Rock, Ms. Jessica Gonzalez had a restraining order against her husband, but despite the fact that he took their three children without permission and she contacted the police department three times and was essentially told to call back later each time, and Mr. Gonzalez murdered all three children without any police action, the Court found that she did not have any due process rights to have the order enforced.
Confronted with a case such as Castle Rock, students may ask whether there is anything else Ms. Gonzalez could do. The usual answer for ConLawProfs would be no, given that the nation's highest court has rendered its opinion. However, Ms. Gonzalez, now known as Jessica Lenahan, represented by American law professors and students at University of Miami's Human Rights Clinic took her case to an international forum - - - the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
The Commission has just made public its lengthy Report on the matter, finding that the restraining order was the only means available to Jessica Lenahan at the state level to protect herself and her children in a context ofdomestic violence, and the police did not effectively enforce it. The Commission concluded that these failures to protect Lenahan and her daughters constituted a form of discrimination in violation of the American Declaration, since they took place in a context where there has been a historical problem with the enforcement of protection orders; a problem that has disproportionately affected women sincethey constitute the majority of the restraining order holders.
Today, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women "urged the United States Government to reexamine its current policies on dealing with violence against women."
The constitutional effect of such rulings and "urgings" may be limited, but the interrelationship between domestic constitutional law and international human rights is worth surfacing in ConLaw classes.
August 17, 2011
What's Rational About Rational Basis Review?: Same-Sex Marriage Litigation in Perspective
This is from SCOTUSblog's same-sex marriage symposium featuring discussions about the Proposition 8 litigation and DOMA litigation, both of which may be heading for the United States Supreme Court.
My contribution focuses on the rational basis standard of review:
The federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 are both subject to judicial review under a standard at least as rigorous as rational basis.
There are serious and worthwhile arguments that courts should employ a more rigorous standard of review than rational basis in same-sex marriage litigation. However, federal district judges in two important decisions that may be heading to the United States Supreme Court have concluded that DOMA and Proposition 8 cannot survive even the low standard of rational basis. Considering DOMA Section 3, federal district judge Joseph Tauro in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management declined to decide whether the federal statute should be subject to strict scrutiny “because DOMA fails to pass constitutional muster even under the highly deferential rational basis test.” Similarly, ruling on Proposition 8 in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, federal district judge Vaughn Walker held that although the “trial record shows that strict scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review to apply to legislative classifications based on sexual orientation,” the application of “strict scrutiny is unnecessary,” because “Proposition 8 fails to survive even rational basis review.”
Judge Tauro’s decision is on appeal to the First Circuit, while Judge Walker’s decision is awaiting resolution of the important issue of whether the proponent/intervenors have standing to appeal to the Ninth Circuit, with a certified question presently before the California Supreme Court. Whether the rational basis standard of review should be used to evaluate DOMA is also before Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York in Windsor v. United States. The Department of Justice is not defending the constitutionality of DOMA in Windsor, having concluded that DOMA fails to meet the heightened level of scrutiny it has determined should be used for sexual orientation classifications. The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of The United States House of Representatives (BLAG), defending DOMA in Windsor, filed its Memorandum on August 1, vigorously asserting that rational basis is the correct standard and that DOMA easily satisfies it.
It’s most likely that the Supreme Court will use rationality review, or some form of it, when reviewing the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. The classic formulation of the rational basis test is an ends/means test requiring that the government interest must be “legitimate” and the means chosen to effectuate that interest must be “reasonably” related to that interest. This is the formulation for review under the equal protection and due process challenges at issue in same-sex marriage cases. Rational basis is also operative when courts review challenges to laws based upon the First Amendment and the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. A rational basis test is also used when the Court reviews whether Congress has exceeded its enumerated powers under the Commerce Clause (United States v. Lopez), the Necessary and Proper Clause (United States v. Comstock), or the Copyright Clause (Eldred v. Ashcroft).
Even when there is agreement on the articulation of the rational basis test, which is not as consistent as one might hope, its application might be characterized as irrational. In Ysursa v. Pocatello Educ. Ass’n, the Court deemed legitimate a state interest in avoiding the appearance of state involvement in partisan politics, and found that this interest was reasonably related to a prohibition of payroll deductions for union dues by public – and by private – employers. In Railway Express Agency, Inc. v. New York, the Court deemed legitimate a government interest in traffic safety, but held the city could reasonably believe that drivers would be less distracted by owner-advertising on vehicles and more distracted by the same advertising if the vehicle was owned by someone else. In the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson the Court held that the Louisiana legislature’s mandate of separation of the races on railways was “reasonable”; the approved purpose was conforming to the “established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of the public peace and good order.”
In the context of laws that limit legally recognized marriages to opposite-sex couples, the proffered legitimate goal telescopes into an interest in maintaining heterosexual hegemony. For example, in seeking to “defend” marriage against attack by non-heterosexuals, Congress specifically articulated its purposes of encouraging responsible [heterosexual] procreation and child-bearing; defending and nurturing the institution of traditional heterosexual marriage; defending traditional [heterosexual] notions of morality, and preserving scarce resources [for heterosexuals].
Yet whether or not one considers these interests “legitimate” is not an inquiry solved by logic. Instead, it rests upon whether one believes that heterosexuality is the preferred form of human sexuality and whether one believes the government, federal or state, should act to guarantee heterosexuality. Moreover, these interests raise the specter that they are not legitimate because they are based on animus or the desire to harm a politically unpopular group of gay men and lesbians. In United States Department of Agriculture v Moreno, the Court found a congressional definition of “household” was not legitimate because the legislative history indicated the purpose of the definition was to exclude “hippies” from receiving food stamps.
This purpose prong of the rational basis test applied to DOMA and Proposition 8 also raises the problem of the governmental entity itself. Congress explicitly stated its interests in DOMA, although in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management the Obama Administration, then defending DOMA, sought to update the congressional interests. As Judge Tauro noted, the United States was arguing that “the Constitution permitted Congress to enact DOMA as a means to preserve the ‘status quo,’ pending the resolution of a socially contentious debate taking place in the states over whether to sanction same-sex marriage.” Judge Tauro rejected such an interest as legitimate given the federal government’s exceedingly limited role in matters of marriage and family law, a subject within the province of the states under the Tenth Amendment. Judge Tauro might also have analogized to the gender classification case of United States v. Virginia (VMI) in which the Court repudiated governmental justifications that were “invented post hoc in response to litigation,” albeit under a higher standard than rational basis review.
Because Proposition 8 was a state-wide voter referendum, the government interests are not articulated with specificity. If discerning legislative intent is difficult, certainly discovering intent of voters is even more difficult. Moreover, because the state of California refused to defend Proposition 8 in the federal challenge, it was left to the proponents in Perry v. Schwarzenegger to articulate the interests of the “government.” According to pleadings and quoted by Judge Walker, these interests were reserving marriage as a union between a man and a woman and excluding any other relationship from marriage; proceeding with caution when implementing social changes; promoting opposite- sex parenting over same-sex parenting; protecting the freedom of those who oppose marriage for same-sex couples; treating same-sex couples differently from opposite-sex couples; and “any other conceivable interest.” Presenting only two witnesses, both experts, the proponents focused on the interest of heterosexual marriage as producing offspring who were biologically related to both partners in the marriage.
Assuming there is a legitimate interest, applications of the rational basis test proceed to determine whether the means chosen can be said to reasonably (or rationally) serve that interest. For example, if one accepts as a legitimate governmental goal the encouragement of heterosexual procreation and child-rearing, then the extension of marriage to opposite-sex couples who do not (or cannot) have children becomes subject to different notions of what is “reasonable.” The denial of marriage to same-sex couples who do have children also becomes subject to different notions of reasonableness, especially as it connects to heterosexual procreation and marriage. For Judge Walker in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the logical link was non-existent: “Proposition 8 does not make it more likely that opposite-sex couples will marry and raise offspring biologically related to both parents.” In other words, the denial of marriage to some people will not affect the actions of other people.
Yet another court found that that the inducement of marriage could rationally be reserved for opposite-sex couples because they needed it more. In 2006, New York’s highest court in Hernandez v. Robles contended that because heterosexual relationships lead to children and that because “such relationships are all too often casual or temporary,” the legislature could “choose to offer an inducement—in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits—to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other.” The court reasoned that this inducement rationale “does not apply with comparable force to same-sex couples” who can become “parents by adoption, or by artificial insemination or other technological marvels, but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse.” Thus, the New York Legislature “could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in opposite-sex relationships will help children more.” This past June, the New York Legislature apparently changed its sense of the inducement rationale and passed the Marriage Equality Act. The New York State Attorney General has filed an amicus brief in Windsor advocating the unconstitutionality of DOMA Section 3 because New York has “consistently expressed and implemented its commitment to equal treatment for same-sex couples.” Interestingly, the brief does not mention Hernandez v. Robles.
The existence of a reasonable relationship (or any relationship at all) and the legitimacy of the purpose are not simple logical deductions accomplished at the level of proof theory mathematics. The Proposition 8 proponents’ motion to vacate the judgment in Perry after Judge Walker revealed his sexual minority status expresses this reality. In denying the motion, the new district judge assigned to the case now known as Perry v. Brown stated a judge could be impartial and was “capable of rising above any personal predisposition.” However, there is also a larger problem. If Judge Walker is disqualified for “bias,” then all judges must be. While bias allegations are more likely to be leveled against minorities, including women, as the judge ruling upon the motion to vacate noted, no decision-maker is immune. Indeed, the purposes and reasonable relationships argued by the proponents of Proposition 8 and the BLAG now defending DOMA implicate everyone. If one is married or not married, if one is a parent or not, if one is a parent who is married or not, if one was a child of parents who were married to each other throughout one’s childhood or not, one has particular experiences and interpretations of those experiences that would influence one’s assessment of “rational basis.”
This does not mean that there is unbridled discretion and the absence of any standards. However, it does mean that the interests one is willing to recognize as legitimate for governmental action and the inferences one is willing to make are not purely rational. Marriage, family, and sexuality are not susceptible to scientific calculations. Neither is law.
August 17, 2011 in Commerce Clause, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Speech, Supreme Court (US), Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
The ERA as 28th Amendment: Ann Bartow on Constitutionalizing Women's Rights
Professor Ann Bartow (pictured) argues that the Constitution needs a 28th Amendment - - - the ERA.
In an article almost as pithy as the ERA itself, Bartow discusses the history of women's rights, the failed ERA, and why current constitutional law and statutory enactments fail to adequately secure gender equality. She also invokes current 14th Amendment controversies including so-called "birthright citizenship."
A commitment to equality across gender identification, gonads, chromosomes, or any other maker of sex that is specifically articulated in a Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution would productively cut off debates about the Fourteenth Amendment and ignite engagement in projects pitched at increasing substantive equality for all
Bartow's essay is part of a Constitutional Amendment Symposium by Tennessee Law Review (not yet available on the law review website) that promises some interesting constitutional interventions.
At nine pages, this would make an excellent first assignment for courses in Constitutional Law, Individual Rights, and Gender courses.
August 01, 2011
Planned Parenthood of Kansas v. Brownback: Federal Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction
In a Memorandum and Order today, Judge J. Thomas Marten of the United States District of Kansas, enjoined the enforcement of the Kansas defunding of Planned Parenthood statute, Section 107(l) of H.B. 2014, 84th Leg. (Kan. 2011). The judge enjoined the Kansas state defendants from any further enforcement or reliance on athe state statute and directed them to allocate all Title X funding for State Fiscal Year 2012 without reference to Section 107(l), and to provide continuation grant funding to the Planned Parenthood.
The Kansas statute, Section 107(l) of H.B. 2014, which took effect on July 1, 2011, defunds Planned Parenthood by providing that Kansas subgrants of Title X funds are "exclusively prioritized" to public entities, or secondly, to hospitals or federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs). As Planned Parenthood is a private entity which is neither a hospital nor a FQHC, it cannot successfully apply to Kansas to receive Title X funds.
Planned Parenthood argued that the statute violated the Supremacy Clause, in that in conflicted with federal law under Title X, and that the statute violated its First Amendment rights. The judge found there was a substantial likelihood of success on both of these claims.
First, however, the judge considered the state's argument that any relief was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The state defendants argued that the requested relief therefore must include an order for the State to sign a contract with and pay money to Planned Parenthood, thereby violating the State’s sovereign immunity. Rejecting this argument, the court stated that it found "the injunctive relief sought by Planned Parenthood will not violate the Eleventh Amendment, as it seeks an order which would simply preclude the defendants from any decision allocating Title X funding on the basis of the allegedly unconstitutional Section 107(l).”
As to Planned Parenthood's pre-emption claim, the judge noted that there were several cases holding that a state's imposition of additional eligibility requirements under Title X are invalid as creating an unconstitutional conflict. The state statute did not simply render uncertain whether or not Planned Parenthood could receive state funding; it made it impossible for the organization to be funded.
Regarding Planned Parenthood's First Amendment claim, the judge distinguished it from unconstitutional conditions cases such as Rust v. Sullivan. Here, it was not that there were conditions attached to the funding, but that an organization was deemed ineligible based entirely on "participation in unrelated political conduct. This punitive aspect of the statute, arising from the plaintiff’s protected association with abortion related services, renders the statute unconstitutional." Thus, the judge focused on the First Amendment right of association.
Discussed in both of the Planned Parenthood claims was the legislative intent of the statute. Was the intent of the statute directed at Planned Parenthood? The judge soundly rejected the state defendants "suggestion that the statute was simply designed to prioritize funding to entities who have a higher percentage of poor clients" as a post-hoc, “litigation-spawned” attempt to find some alternative, benign rationale for the statute. The judge also considered the statement of the amendment's sponsor, Lance Kinzer, including on the floor of the House and on his facebook page:
Delighted to announce that the KS House just approved my floor amendment to deny Title X funding to Planned Parenthood for the balance of FY2011. The vote was 91-26, a great victory on the first pro-life floor vote
of the session.
Similarly, Governor Brownback, who signed the statute into law, was quoted by The Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World as hailing the Kinzer amendment on the grounds that it would “zero out funding of Planned Parenthood.” The judge found these were not isolated statements, but indicative of legislative intent both to "punish" Planned Parenthood in contravention of its free association First Amendment rights and to contradict the direct mandate of the federal law.
August 1, 2011 in Abortion, Association, Cases and Case Materials, Current Affairs, Eleventh Amendment, Family, Federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Preemption, Privacy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack