Friday, June 28, 2013

Two Questions in the Aftermath of DOMA and Prop 8 Decisions

In the wake of the Court's decisions in United States v. Windsor, declaring section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, and Perry v. Hollingsworth, holding that the "proponents" of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal a federal judge's declaration of Prop 8's unconstitutionality, many questions remain. 

LADY_JUSTICE_15inchesHere are two.

The first question is the status of Proposition 8.  Recall that the federal district judge held Prop 8 made a sexual orientation classification that does not satisfy the rational basis standard and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause.   The district judge's opinion enjoined the enforcement of Proposition 8, an injunction which he then stayed.   Chief Judge Roberts' majority opinion in Perry describes district judge Walker's order as being broad: 

"After a 12-day bench trial, the District Court declared Proposition 8 uncon- stitutional, permanently enjoining the California officials named as defendants from enforcing the law, and “direct- ing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision” shall not enforce it. Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F.Supp. 2d 921, 1004 (ND Cal. 2010).

The ACLU and others are advising that the district judge's order renders Prop 8 unconstitutional as to all of California.  The  docket entry in the Ninth Circuit simply states:

Received copy of Supreme Court opinion dated 06/26/2013. The judgment or mandate of this Court will not issue for at least twenty-five days pursuant to Rule 45. Should a petition for rehearing be filed timely, the judgment or mandate will be further stayed pending this Court's action on the petition for rehearing. Supreme Court No: 12-144. [8682306] [10-16696, 11-16577].

One of the best discussions of this issue is by ConLawProf Marty Lederman over at SCOTUSblog. Lederman asks  "even if Judge Walker’s injunction should have been limited to the protection of the plaintiffs before him—so what?  That injunction nevertheless governs the case, and it will be operative, regardless of whether it should have been more tailored."    He concludes that Justice Kennedy, dissenting in Perry will be proven correct that “the Court’s opinion today means that a single district court can make a decision with far-reaching effects that cannot be reviewed.”

The second question is one that is being voiced less, but is worth considering: Why are there no opinions by Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Breyer?  Justice Ginsburg, who made headlines with her "skim milk" comment during oral argument in Windsor, could have effectively written a concurring opinion that might have counter-balanced some of the arguments in Alito's separate dissenting opinion regarding the function of marriage. ConLawProf David Cohen over at FeministLawProfessors ConLawProf  argues that the lack of opinions matters:

By remaining silent, not only are the liberal Justices depriving us from learning their particular views, but they are depriving future litigants the opportunity to use their strong reasoning to further their cause.  After all, the logic in today’s concurring opinions often becomes the logic in tomorrow’s majority opinion.

It might be added that perhaps one of these Justices could have provided a rigorous equal protection analysis.

There are certainly more questions raised by Windsor and Perry, but these two are central.

RR
[image via]

June 28, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Interpretation, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Recent Cases, Sexual Orientation, Teaching Tips, Theory | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Court Decides Baby Veronica: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

 

Bandolier_bag_-_detail
Badolier Bag of the Ojibwa Peoples
In an opinion by Justice Alito, a majority of the Court construed the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA, as not violated by the adoption of "Baby Veronica" by a white couple although her father is Native American.  The majority stated that it assumed that the biological father qualified as a "parent" under ICWA, but that the involuntary termination of his rights, if any, met ICWA.  The majority opinion is relatively brief (19 pages), but there are multiple opinions: a concurring opinion by Thomas, a concurring opinion by Breyer, a dissenting opinion by Scalia, and a lengthy dissenting opinion by Sotomayor, joined by Ginsburg and Kagan, and partially by Scalia.

 

These divisions were evident from the oral argument and our preview sets out the arguments and issues.

From the perspective of constitutional law, the case is noteworthy for its application of the doctrine of constitutional avoidance and equal protection.  At the end of the majority opinion, Justice Alito refers to the problem, noting that ICWA "was enacted to help preserve the cultural identity and heritage of Indian tribes, but" under the interpretation of the South Carolina Supreme Court that is being reversed, ICWA "would put certain vulnerable children at a great disadvantage solely because an ancestor—even a remote one— was an Indian."  Thus,

a biological Indian father could abandon his child in utero and refuse any support for the birth mother—perhaps contributing to the mother’s decision to put the child up for adoption—and then could play his ICWA trump card at the eleventh hour to override the mother’s decision and the child’s best interests. If this were possible, many prospective adoptive parents would surely pause before adopting any child who might possibly qualify as an Indian under the ICWA. Such an interpretation would raise equal protection concerns . . . .

The majority was thus seemingly convinced by the argument on behalf of the adoptive parents that such an interpretation of ICWA would be "basically relegating the child, the child to a piece of property with a sign that says, "Indian, keep off. Do not disturb." "

 

Sotomayor's opinion for the four dissenting Justices makes clear that the "majority does not rely on the theory pressed by petitioners and the guardian ad litem that the canon of constitutional avoidance compels the conclusion that ICWA is inapplicable here," but observes that the "majority nevertheless offers the suggestion that a contrary result would create an equal protection problem."  Sotomayor's opinion also seeks to call the majority to account for the tenor of the opinion:

 

The majority’s repeated, analytically unnecessary references to the fact that Baby Girl is 3/256 Cherokee by ancestry do nothing to elucidate its intima­ tion that the statute may violate the Equal Protection Clause as applied here. See ante, at 1, 6; see also ante, at 16 (stating that ICWA “would put certain vulnerablechildren at a great disadvantage solely because an ancestor—even a remote one—was an Indian” (emphasis added)). I see no ground for this Court to second-guess the membership requirements of federally recognized Indian tribes, which are independent political entities.

She later states,

The majority’s treatment of this issue, in the end, does no more than create a lingering mood of disapprobation of the criteria for membership adopted by the Cherokee Nation that, in turn, make Baby Girl an “Indian child” under the statute. Its hints at lurking constitutional problems are, by its own account, irrelevant to its statutory analysis, and accordingly need not detain us any longer.

It is Justice Thomas' concurring opinion, however, that most expansively engages with the doctrine of "constitutional avoidance," but his concern is not equal protection.  Instead, Thomas' 12 page opinion is devoted to the question of Congressional power:  "The threshold question, then, is whether the Constitution grants Congress power to override state custody law whenever an Indian is involved."  For Thomas, ICWA's grounding in the Indian Commerce Clause, Art. I, §8, cl. 3, and “other constitutional authority” that give Congress with “plenary power over Indian affairs,” is constitutionally suspect. 

Thomas balances the lack of Congressional authority with federalism concerns, and part of his rationale rests upon family law as being within the province of the states.   It will be interesting to see how this concern is articulated in tomorrow's anticipated decision in United States v. Windsor involving the constitutionality of the federal "Defense of Marriage Act."  

RR
[image: Badolier bag of the Ojibwa via]

 

June 25, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Second Circuit on True Threats, The First Amendment, and the Passive Voice

A divided Second Circuit panel upheld the conviction of Harold Turner in its opinion in United States v. Turner for threats in a blog post against Seventh Circuit Judges Easterbrook, Bauer, and Posner.  Turner objected to the judges' ruling in National Rifle Association of America v. Chicago holding that the Second Amendment was not incorporated as to the states (and municipalities), later reversed by the United States Supreme Court in McDonald v. City of Chicago.  

 

The_tree_of_liberty_must_be_planted_immediately!_by_James_Gillray
"The tree of liberty must be planted immediately!" circa 1797.
Turner's blog post contended that the blood of these judges would "replenish the tree of liberty" and that they should be made examples lest other judges not understand the message "Obey the Constitution or die."  Importantly, not only did Turner say that the judges "deserve to be killed," he posted "photographs, work addresses, and room numbers for each of the three judges, along with a map indicating the location of the courthouse in which they worked, and a photograph of the building modified to point out “Anti-truck bomb barriers.”"  Also importantly, Turner's blog included references to the killing of family members of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow in 2005.

 

The jury was instructed as to the First Amendment and nevertheless convicted.  The panel majority concluded "based on an independent review of the record that the core constitutional fact of a true threat was amply established, and that Turner’s conduct was unprotected by the First Amendment." 

Among Turner's arguments that his blog statements did not constitute a "true threat" was his use of the passive voice.  For the majority, this was overly technical and belied the other statements regarding the location of these judges and the killing of another judge's family members.  Syntax could be important - - - but not here.

Dissenting Judge Rosemary Pooler - - - who, coincidentally, was a member of a Second Circuit panel (along with Sonia Sotomayor) holding that the Second Amendment was not incorporated against the states - - -carefully considered the "true threats" doctrine as compared to incitement/advocacy doctrines.  For Pooler,

Turner’s communications were advocacy of the use of force and not a threat. It is clear that Turner wished for the deaths of Judges Easterbrook, Posner, and Bauer. But I read his statements, made in the passive voice, as an exhortation toward “free men willing to walk up to them and kill them” and not as a warning of planned violence directed toward the intended victims. This reading is furthered by the fact that Turner’s words were posted on a blog on a publicly accessible website, and had the trappings of political discourse, invoking Thomas Jefferson’s famous quotation that “[t]he tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots,” Although vituperative, there is no doubt that this was public political discourse.

[citations omitted].  But Pooler continued that this did not mean that Turner's speech was constitutionally protected.  Instead, the question should be whether Turner's speech was an incitement protected - - - or not - - - under Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969).  She quotes the district judge on this point but concludes by noting that Turner was not charged under the incitement statute, but only the threat statute.

Judge Pooler seems to have the better view here, as the blog post was not directed to the persons threatened but exhorted others to act.  But the majority would view such a construction as overly technical.

RR
[image via]

June 23, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Federal Judge Declares Supreme Court Assembly and Display Statute Unconstitutional

In her opinion in Hodge v. Talkin, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Beryl Howell held unconstitutional the federal statute prohibiting assemblies and displays at the Supreme Court building or grounds.  The statute at issue, 40 USC §6135 provides:

It is unlawful to parade, stand, or move in processions or assemblages in the Supreme Court Building or grounds, or to display in the Building and grounds a flag, banner, or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization, or movement.

360px-Gitmo_protest,_Washington_2
Guantanamo Bay Protest Outside the Supreme Court 2007
As we have previously discussed, the Supreme Court building has been afforded special First Amendment status and even a non-protesting person with "Occupy Everything" on his jacket has been subject to arrest. 

Hodge, a college student, was initially arrested under §6135 for wearing a 3 x 2 foot sign that read "The U.S. Gov. Allows Police To Illegally Murder and Brutalize African Americans And Hispanic People."  After an agreement was reached in the criminal case, Hodge filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the statute. The judge held that Hodge had standing, despite some suggestions at oral argument to the contrary.

Judge Howell's extensive opinion recites the history of the statute, including the fact that the nearly identical precursor statute (40 USC §13k) was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Grace (1983), over the partial concurrence and dissent of Justice Thurgood Marshall, which she calls "prescient" in the latter part of her opinion.  However, Judge Howell distinguishes Grace by stating that the decision "focused only on the constitutionality of the Display Clause" "as applied to the sidewalks surrounding the Supreme Court’s grounds, but left unresolved the facial constitutionality of the Display Clause and Assemblages Clause."  Judge Howell then discusses the cases of the DC Court of Appeals that have "for decades affirmed convictions" but without "delving deeper into the constitutional analysis" than its initial cases. 

After describing the Supreme Court plaza, the judge assumed without deciding that the Government's argument that the plaza was a "nonpublic forum" was correct.  Nevertheless, the judge held that the statute was not a reasonable limitation on speech.  Judge Howell rejected both of the Government's proffered interests: “permitting the unimpeded ingress and egress of visitors to the Court” and “preserving the appearance of the Court as a body not swayed by external influence.” In discussing the unreasonableness of the "influence" interest, Judge Howell opined:

It is hard to imagine how tourists assembling on the plaza wearing t-shirts bearing their school’s seal, for example, could possibly create the appearance of a judicial system vulnerable to outside pressure.

She concluded that while "there may be a legitimate interest in protecting the decorum of the judiciary, the challenged statute is not a reasonable way to further that interest."  This also led to her finding that the statute was overbroad.  She considered the assemblage clause and the display clause of the statute separately, but again, her examples - - - preschool children, Court employees, and tourists in t-shirts - - - were key to the analysis. 

Finally, Judge Howell rejected imposing a judicial construction, such as an intent requirement, to save the constitutionality of the statute. 

Sure to be appealed, Judge Howell's careful and tightly reasoned 68 page opinion could prove to be an important step in fully applying the First Amendment to the place where the First Amendment is so often adjudicated.

RR
[image via]

UPDATE here

 

June 12, 2013 in First Amendment, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Marcia Coyle on the Roberts Court

Marcia Coyle, Chief Washington Correspondent for the National Law Journal, was kind enough to talk with me last week about her new book, The Roberts Court: The Struggle for the Constitution

Roberts Court

The book tells the full stories (including the fascinating back-stories) of four landmark and defining cases for the early Roberts Court--on race in schools (Parents Involved), guns (Heller), money in elections (Citizens United), and health care (the ACA cases)--and argues that these cases are at the center of a struggle for the Constitution in this new and evolving Court.  

Here's the audio, about 30 minutes:

 

Coyle Interview

SDS

May 20, 2013 in Interpretation, News, Scholarship | 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)

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.

800px-Troi
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)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Daily Read: Snyder on Frankfurter's Popular Constitutionalism

Can a judge - - - a Supreme Court Justice - - - be a practitioner of "popular constitutionalism"?  Was Justice Felix Frankfurter such a judge?

In his forthcoming article, Frankfurter and Popular Constitutionalism, ConLawProf Brad Snyder answers both questions with an enthusiastic and erudite "yes." 

Newsweek_Jan_16_1939_Felix_Frankfurter

Snyder's view of popular constitutionalism may be a broader than some, but his linking of judicial restraint with popular constitutionalism, especially when situated in the New Deal era, is sound.  Snyder concentrates on three of the most important and oft-criticized constitutional moments of Frankfurter's judicial career – the flag salute cases of Minersville School Dist. v. Gobitis (1940), reversed a mere three years later in West Virginia Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette (1943);  Brown v. Board of Education and its progeny; and Baker v. Carr (1962). 

Snyder concludes: "Frankfurter’s judicial reputation suffered at the hands of scholars intent on preserving the Warren Court’s legacy of protecting civil rights and civil liberties. Frankfurter’s Baker [v. Carr] dissent, however, has proven to be just as prophetic as some of Holmes’s and Brandeis’s dissents because it revealed the ugly underside of the Warren Court’s legacy – judicial supremacy."  

While others have certainly noted the vacillations of progressive and conservative judicial activism, Snyder's article calls for a renewed evaluation of Frankfurter and perhaps of popular constitutionalism.

RR
[image via]

April 1, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, History, Interpretation, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Scholarship, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Daily Read: Hutchinson on Political Power and Same-Sex Marriage

HutchinsonIn the oral argument for United States v. Windsor challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, Chief Justice Roberts expressed skepticism that gays and lesbians were politically powerless, announcing to Roberta Kaplan, representing Edith Windsor, "As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case."

ConLawProf Darren Hutchinson (pictured) provides an indepth examination, context, and prescient critique of Roberts' remark in his new article, Not Without Political Power': Gays and Lesbians, Equal Protection, and the Suspect Class Doctrine, available in draft on ssrn.  Hutchinson argues that the political powerlessness factor used to evaluate claims for heightened scrutiny under equal protection doctrine is "especially undertheorized and contradictory." 

Hutchinson's article is a tour de force of precedent deploying rhetoric of political powerlessness.  Of course, Hutchinson highlights Justice Scalia's well-known dissent in Romer v. Evans, the Colorado Amendment 2 case, noting that not only is it based on stereotypes but it "sounds exactly like a political document against gay and lesbian rights."  But Hutchinson does suggest that there is indeed a role for politics, however at a much more sophisticated level.  Rather than jettison any inquiry into political powerlessness as some scholars have argued, Hutchinson contends that a much more robust understanding of politics is necessary.

Ultimately, Hutchinson concludes that the present scholarly and judicial discourse

fails adequately to discuss the multiple factors that cause political vulnerability among gays and lesbians. While some gays and lesbians possess power, most of them do not. Poverty, gender, race, geography, and disability influence the ability of gays and lesbians to exercise political power.

Instead, he suggests that political science scholarship inform legal scholarship and judicial opinions, and that antisubordination legal scholarship inform wider discussions of equal protection.  Certainly, Hutchinson's article should inform anyone considering political powerlessness in the context of same-sex marriage and equal protection.

RR

March 28, 2013 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Interpretation, Profiles in Con Law Teaching, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Scholarship, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Supreme Court (US), Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Daily Read: Same-Sex Marriage and Supreme Court Analysis

What should the Supreme Court do in the Prop 8 (argued yesterday) and DOMA [update: argued today] cases?

Be clear!

464px-Lesser_Ury_Leser_mit_LupeThis is from the essay Toward a more perfect analysis, published in the SCOTUSBlog same-sex marriage sympoisum in September 2012:

The suggestions of clearly articulated standards and rigorous analysis are not simply the fantasies of a law professor.  While Supreme Court opinions need not be constitutional law examination answers, neither should they be confusing, or marred by sarcasm or sentimentality.  Students studying law should be exposed to more Supreme Court opinions demonstrating trenchant analysis rather than rhetorical politics.

Clearly articulated standards might also allow the lower federal courts as well as the state courts to engage in their own rigorous analysis rather than attempt to discern the correct standard from Supreme Court precedents that are unclear, internally inconsistent, or point in several directions.  This is not to say that the same-sex marriage issue should have been easily resolved by lower courts or that the applications of the standard are not difficult and value-laden.  However, the grappling of the lower courts for several years now regarding the actual holding of Romer v. Evans, as well as Loving v. Virginia, could have been avoided.

Regarding the suggested holdings in the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases, the Supreme Court’s clear conclusion that sexuality merits intermediate scrutiny review, like gender, would disentangle the equal protection doctrine from the animus inquiry.  While certainly animus can be operative, the inquisition into intent invites protestations of moral belief or religious conviction.  The false opposition between equality and morals needs to be abandoned.  Additionally, the linking of sexual orientation and gender as quasi-suspect should lead courts to find classifications based upon gender identity, transgender identity, or gender nonconformity as similarly subject to intermediate scrutiny review. Additionally, the Supreme Court’s definitive holding that marriage is a fundamental right meriting strict scrutiny review would extricate the issues from the federalism quagmire.

RR
[image via]

March 27, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Interpretation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Daily Read: Tolson on VRA's Section 5 and - - - Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment

The controversies surrounding the Court's impending decision in  Shelby County v. Holder regarding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act's "preclearance" provision (section 5) have been exacerbated by Justice Scalia's remarks about "racial entitlement."  Seemingly, at issue for the Justices - - - originalist and otherwise - - - is the meaning of the enforcement clauses of the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Amendments: "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Tolson
In a provocative new article, A Structural Theory of Elections, available in draft on ssrn, ConLawProf Franita Tolson (pictured) seeks to redirect our attention to section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment:

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Tolson's attention is not to the language that first introduced gender into the Constitution ("male inhabitants") or to the change in counting those male inhabitants ("excluding Indians") or to the subsequent change in voting age, but to the broad ability of Congress to change the apportionment for voting rights violations.  She argues that this previously under-emphasized language makes the Court's "congruence and proportionality" standard for evaluating Congressional power inapplicable in the voting and election contexts.

Tolson's article is a closely reasoned and excellently researched argument for the broad enforcement powers of Congress intended by the Framers of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.  She ultimately contends "that requiring preclearance of all electoral changes instituted by select jurisdictions under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is actually a lesser penalty than reduced representation under section 2, and is thus consistent with Congress’s broad authority to regulate voting and elections under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments."

Tolson's article is certainly worth a read for anyone considering the issues at the heart of Shelby County v. Holder.

RR

March 13, 2013 in Elections and Voting, Federalism, Fifteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, History, Interpretation, Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Daily Read: Former Justice O'Connor on the Rachel Maddow Show

Today's "read" is the video of former Justice O'Connor on "The Interview" segment of the Rachel Maddow Show.   It raises ethics issues in an interesting way as well as gender in the Court and Bush v. Gore as not very "special" although also "important." 

  It starts at 5.35 below:

 

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

 

Update: more O'Connor here. And here.

RR

March 5, 2013 in Gender, History, Interpretation, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Daily Read: Andrew Cohen in The Atlantic on Shelby and the Voting Rights Act

Entitled "After 50 Years, the Voting Rights Act's Biggest Threat: The Supreme Court," Andrew Cohen's extensive article just published in The Atlantic is a must-read for anyone following the Court's pending oral argument (on Wednesday, February 27) in Shelby County v. Holder.  

Recall that the Court's grant of certiorari last November 9 put the Voting Rights Act (VRA) "in the crosshairs" of the Court - - - as we said at the time - - - noting that the VRA's constitutionality had been seriously questioned but ultimately evaded by the Court's 2009 decision in Northwest Utilities District of Austin v. Holder .  The DC Circuit had upheld the constitutionality of the preclearance provisions of the VRA.

 

LyndonJohnson_signs_Voting_Rights_Act_of_1965
"President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 while Martin Luther King and others look on"

Andrew Cohen's article provides a terrific contextualize of the politics, including the Court's politics, that surround the constitutional controversy.  Cohen writes that "racial polarization has intensified during the Obama Administration," with "'explicit anti-black attitudes'" around the country, "especially among Republicans," many of whom "sponsored and enacted some of the voter suppression laws of the 2012 cycle."  Cohen also argues that the Court essentially "invited many of the state voter suppression efforts of the past three years" by its decisions, including not only Northwest Utilities District of Austin v. Holder, but also the 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County, upholding a voter identification statute.  Cohen contends: "Having created the factual and legal conditions to undermine the federal law, the Court now is poised to say that it is weakened beyond repair."

Cohen concludes that the stakes in Shelby are very high:

If the Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, this year especially, given the record of the past three years, the justices who do so will reveal a disconcerting level of disconnect from the realities of modern American politics as they were expressed in the near-unanimous renewal of the Act in 2006. And the partisan ruling they would issue in this circumstance would be even more brazenly ideological and untethered from precedent than the Citizens United ruling issued in January 2010.

Cohen's timely, provocative, and well-argued article is definitely worth a read and would be a great suggested reading for law students considering the issue.

RR
[image via]

February 23, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Current Affairs, Elections and Voting, Fifteenth Amendment, History, Interpretation, Race, Supreme Court (US), Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fordham Symposium on New Originalism

The Fordham Law Review is hosting a symposium titled The New Originalism in Constitutional Law on March 1, 2013.  Details are here.

The schedule includes an all-star line-up.  Here's the description:

Originalism--the thesis that legitimate constitutional interpretation is bound by original meaning or intent--has emerged as an influential and controversial approach to how we interpret our Constitution.  While some claim that constitutional interpretation and legitimacy require unearthing the original meaning or intent, others assert that tethering current citizens and interpreters to the comprehension of long-dead people is the antithesis of good and proper democratic government.

The Fordham Law Review is proud to present a symposium gathering a remarkable group of legal scholars, historians, and philosophers to discuss if, how, and why Originalism should inform constitutional analysis.

SDS

February 17, 2013 in Interpretation, News, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Daily Read: Sean Wilson's The Flexible Constitution

Sean Wilson (pictured) Wilsonprovides a compelling view of constitutional interpretation in his new book, The Flexible Constitution.  His work is often Dworkian in tone, although Wilson distinguishes himself from Dworkin's interest in moral reasoning.  Instead, Wilson writes that constitutional law problems are what "Wittgenstein described as aesthetical judgments - i.e. judgments that a connosseur would make" and Wilson stresses culture much more than morality.  (p. 83).

 

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Worth a special read is the book's Appendix, "The Philosophical Investigation," which provides a Wittigensteinian interrogation of the meaning of "the original meaning of the Constitution."  This would be a terrific exercise for a Constitutional Interpretation or Jurisprudence seminar.

RR

February 15, 2013 in Books, Interpretation, Teaching Tips, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Obama Retaking the Constitution

President Obama is finally wrapping himself in the Constitution, engaging conservatives in a constitutional dialogue, and moving to retake the Constitution for progressives, writes Simon Lazarus, senior counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, in the New Republic.

Lazarus argues that President Obama's Constitution draws on the spirit of 1776 to promote a progressive agenda, and not one that mandates just small government.  But President Obama's Constitution also "echoes that of the Reconstruction Congresses, which enacted the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments."  In particular, Lazarus says that President Obama sees the Constitution as authorizing Congress "to prevent private interference with the exercise of individual rights"--restricting certain private acts, and not, as some conservatives would have it, only restricting government.

Thus, in addition to yoking contemporary progressive goals to the vision of the Revolutionary War generation, Obama's emergent constitutional canon appears bent on revitalizing a cornerstone of the Civil War era's more unequivocally progressive vision.  Indeed, he seems already to have sparked an incipient dialogue around that prospect.

By engaging the right on the meaning of the Constitution, Obama has broken new ground.  For progressives, he has sketched a fresh template for countering their adversaries' long-unanswered constitutional narrative.

SDS

February 11, 2013 in Interpretation, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Seidman on Constitutional Disobedience

ConLawProf Louis Michael Seidman (Georgetown) shared a thumb-nail version of his "constitutional disobedience" at CBS Sunday Morning.  Drawing on dead-hand, anti-democratic, and pragmatic arguments, he contends that constitutional disobedience has both a history (as when past presidents have acted against the Constitution) and a virtue (as when we might ignore election results that would allow a presidential candidate rejected by the majority of Americans to assume office).  He also says that the better way to approach the document is as an inspiration, not a set of commands.

Here's his example from the gun control debates:

But what happens when the issue gets Constitutional-ized?  Then we turn the question over to lawyers, and lawyers do with it what lawyers do.  So instead of talking about whether gun control makes sense in our country, we talk about what people thought of it two centuries ago.

Worse yet, talking about gun control in terms of constitutional obligation needlessly raises the temperature of political discussion.  Instead of a question on policy, about which reasonable people can disagree, it becomes a test of one's commitment to our foundational document and, so, to America itself.

For the full version, check out Seidman's new book, On Constitutional Disobedience (OUP).

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SDS

January 27, 2013 in Interpretation, News, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama Fighting (Constitutional) Fire with (Constitutional) Fire

President Obama's recent and frequent constitutional references--from those in his inaugural address to those related to his administration's gun control actions--is part of a larger strategy to promote administration policies, argues Sean Sullivan over at The Fix: "Put simply, he's fighting fire with fire."  That's constitutional fire.  And the fire he's fighting is the constant barrage of constitutional claims against his policies and actions.  Sullivan:

When the Constitution has been brought up in the national political debate, it's typically been by the president's opponents, at least in recent years. . . .

What Obama is signaling [is] that he believes he can fight--and win--major battles on similar terms.

Sullivan says this much is clear: Obama isn't going to "let his opponents monopolize one of the nation's most revered documents in the highest-stakes political and policy debates."

SDS

January 22, 2013 in Interpretation, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Daily Read: Pam Karlan on the 2011 United States Supreme Court Term

Pamela Karlan's "Democracy and Disdain" is the Forward to Harvard Law Review's annual Supreme Court issue for the 2011 Term and is a compelling - - - indeed, necessary and delightful - - - read.  Karlan's central thesis, as the title aptly communicates, is that the Roberts' Court has little but disdain for the democratic process.  By "Roberts' Court," of course, she means the five Justices who usually form the majority, including Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.  

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Professor Karlan (pictured) concludes that this disdain will ultimately bring the Court into disrepute, comparing the present state of affairs unfavorably with the Warren Court:

The Roberts Court’s narrow substantive reading of enumerated powers maps fairly closely onto the contemporary conservative political agenda. To the extent that the conservative agenda gains popular acceptance, the Court may garner acclaim as a guardian of constitutional values. But if the public rejects that agenda, or remains sharply divided, the Court risks being perceived as simply another partisan institution. The Court’s current status rests in substantial measure on its having been on the right side of history in Brown v. Board of Education. Only time will tell whether the Court will retain that status given the choices the Roberts Court is making.

Karlan is adept at comparing the present Court to previous ones, not only including the Warren Court.  Spoiler alert: When she quotes Justice Roberts, she might not be quoting the 2012 John Roberts but the 1936 Owen Roberts, a device she uses to especially good effect.  Also to good effect is her usage of other justices, colloquies in oral argument, the occasional poet, and theorist.  The writing is broad and engaging without being precious.  It makes her analysis of the cases even more trenchant, situated in larger themes and trends.

Of course, not all ConLawProfs will agree with Karlan's views of the Court, including one subsection entitled "Protecting Spenders and Suspecting Voters," and another "Suspecting Congress."    And Karlan's argument is hardly unique, as anyone who recalls Rehnquist Court scholarship, including the excellent 2001 article "Dissing Congress," by Ruth Colker and James J. Brudney can attest.  And it is especially noteworthy that  the Court did uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, a case that Karlan extensively discusses and more interestingly, situates within the Term's other less notable decisions. 

But this is a must read article before beginning the new semester. 

And after that, read George Wills' Washington Post op-ed, Karlan's response, and responses in the Harvard Law Review Online Forum by Randy Barnett and Stephen Calabresi.

RR
[image of Pamela Karlan via]

January 7, 2013 in Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), Elections and Voting, Fifteenth Amendment, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, History, Interpretation, Race, Recent Cases, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Scholarship, Separation of Powers, Supremacy Clause, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Daily Read: Kende on Revolution and Pragmatism in Constitutionalism

Revolution and Pragmatism?  Aren't they oppositional concepts, and indeed, opposing realities? 

KendeMark Kende (pictured) argues that we shouldn't be so sure.  In his article, Constitutional Pragmatism, The Supreme Court, and Democratic Revolution, forthcoming in Denver University Law Review and available in draft on ssrn, Kende demonstrates that the usual conceptions of "pragmatism" are incomplete.  He advances several types of pragmatic impulses that are consistent with the US constitutional revolution and subsequent jurisprudence such as "common sense,transitional, political, democratic, economic, empirical, common law,flexible, critical, and comprehensive pragmatism."  He also discusses the types of constitutional pragmatism that are less consistent with revolution: prudential and efficiency-oriented pragmatism. 

Kende aims to provide a typology of pragmatism, as a grounding for considering "constitutional pragmatism more intelligently, as well as see its complexity and ubiquity."  For Kende, it is pragmatism - - - rather than originalism or living constitutionalism - - - that has the most descriptive, and perhaps prescriptive power.

Kende's article is an excellent intervention in the ongoing debates of constitutional interpretation.

RR

December 7, 2012 in Interpretation, Scholarship, Supreme Court (US), Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)