Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ninth Circuit Upholds Montana's Campaign Disclosure Requirements

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

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

The court, in a brief and unpublished opinion, rejected these claims.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

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Check it Out: Epps on Indicting the President

Check out Garrett Epps's piece at The Atlantic on whether the President can be indicted. Epps surveys the legal opinions on this, and asks several scholars, only to conclude that "[w]e just don't know, and we won't know, whether it's allowed until we open the box . . . ."

May 23, 2018 in Executive Authority, Executive Privilege, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Supreme Court Strikes Federal Sports Betting Ban

The Supreme Court ruled today that federal law prohibiting states from authorizing sports gambling violates the anticommandeering principle. The ruling in Murphy v. NCAA strikes the prohibition the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and opens the door to state-authorized sports gambling across the country.

While the ruling is potentially quite significant with regard to sports gambling, it does not restrict Congress from regulating or prohibiting sports gambling directly. Congress could enact a new law doing just that.

As to the constitutional law: The ruling says that the anticommandeering principle applies both when Congress requires states to act (which we already knew), and when Congress prohibits states from acting (which we didn't yet know, at least not for sure). That could have implications in the sanctuary cities litigation, which involves, among other things, the federal prohibition against state and local governments from restricting their officers in cooperating with federal immigration agents.

The case arose when New Jersey challenged the prohibition on state-authorized sports gambling in the PASPA under the anticommandeering principle. New Jersey sought to revoke its law prohibiting sports gambling, but the NCAA sued, arguing that New Jersey's proposed revocation violated the PASPA's provision that forbids a state "to sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize by law or compact . . . a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme" based on a competitive sporting events and forbids "a person to sponsor, operate, advertise, or promote" those gaming schemes if done "pursuant to the law or compact of a governmental entity." (New Jersey did this once before, but was stopped in the lower courts. The Supreme Court denied cert. in that earlier challenge.) (Importantly, PASPA does not make sports betting a federal crime. Instead, it authorizes the Attorney General and professional and amateur sports organizations to sue to halt violations.) New Jersey countered that PASPA violated the anticommandeering principle insofar as it prohibited the state from repealing its ban on sports betting. The lower courts ruled against the state, but the Supreme Court reversed. Justice Alito wrote for the Court.

The Court first held that New Jersey's repeal fell within PASPA's ban on "authorizing" sports betting: "When a State completely or partially repeals old laws banning sports gambling, it 'authorize[s]' that activity."

The Court then ruled that PASPA's prohibition violated the anticommandeering principle. The Court said that it didn't make a difference whether Congress directed a state to act, or prohibited a state from acting; either way, "state legislatures are put under the direct control of Congress."

The PASPA provision at issue here--prohibiting state authorization of sports gambling--violates the anticommandeering rule. That provision unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do. And this is true under either our interpretation or that advocated by the respondents and the United States. In either event, state legislatures are put under the direct control of Congress. It is as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals. A more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine.

***

It was a matter of happenstance that the laws challenged in New York and Printz commanded "affirmative" action as opposed to imposing a prohibition. The basic principle--that Congress cannot issue direct orders to state legislatures--applies in either event.

The Court said that PASPA's prohibition on state "licensing" of sports betting similarly violates the anticommandeering principle.

Finally, the Court said that PASPA's prohibition on states from "operat[ing]," "sponsor[ing]," or "promot[ing]" sports gambling schemes, its provisions that prohibit a private actor from "sponsor[ing], operat[ing], advertis[ing], or promot[ing]" sports gambling schemes "pursuant to" state law, and its provisions prohibiting the "advertis[ing]" of sports gambling all cannot be severed and therefore go down, as well.

Justice Thomas concurred in full, but wrote separately "to express [his] growing discomfort with . . . modern severability precedents." In particular, Justice Thomas argued that the Court's severability "precedents appear to be in tension with traditional limits on judicial authority."

Justice Breyer concurred, except to the severability holding on the provision regulating private actors.

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sotomayor and in part by Justice Breyer, dissented. Justice Ginsburg argued that (assuming arguendo that the state-authorization provision amounted to commandeering) the Court improperly failed to sever the prohibition on state and private-party operations, because they can stand alone.

May 14, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Tenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 7, 2018

Seventh Circuit Rejects Challenge to Erogenous Zoning

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

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

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

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

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

Abrams on the Right to Be Forgotten and Free Speech

Check out Floyd Abrams's piece at the NYT, When 2+2 Might Equal 5, on the "right to be forgotten," and how it clashes with the First Amendment.

May 7, 2018 in News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Ninth Circuit Judges Wrangle Over Right Standard for Political Contribution Limits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ninth Circuit Says California Medical Waste Management Act Violates Dormant Commerce Clause (but Officials get Qualified Immunity)

The Ninth Circuit ruled in Daniels Sharpsmart, Inc. v. Smith that California's Medical Waste Management Act likely violates the Dormant Commerce Clause, but that officials who imposed a fine under the Act enjoy qualified immunity against a money-damages suit.

The case arose when Daniels, a sharps-container developer, shipped its medical waste out of California for disposal. Daniels originally shipped to another state and incinerated the waste, but later switched to states that permitted waste disposal using other methods.

This didn't sit well with California regulators, who sought to enforce the state Act's requirements that all medical waste be treated by incineration and that "[m]edical waste transported out of state shall be consigned to a permitted medical waste treatment facility in the receiving state." Regulators told Daniels that his waste had to be incinerated, even if the law of another state permitted an alternative method, and that Daniels would be penalized it if didn't incinerate all of its biohazardous waste that originated in California. Daniels continued to ship waste out of California and dispose of it in other ways, and the California regulators imposed a hefty penalty. Daniels sued.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Act likely violated the Dormant Commerce Clause. The court applied the "direct regulation emanation" of the Dormant Commerce Clause, which forbids a state from regulating transactions that take place across state lines or entirely outside of the state's borders. Referencing circuit precedent, the court wrote:

Rather, California has attempted to regulate waste treatment everywhere in the country, just as it tried to regulate art sales and Nevada tried to regulate rules violations procedures everywhere in the country. Of course, that could also have the effect of requiring Daniels to run afoul of other states' regulation of medical waste disposal within their jurisdictions, if California law directed something different from their requirements.

Therefore, Daniels will likely succeed on its claim that the Department officials' application of the [Act] constitutes a "per se violation of the Commerce Clause." Were it otherwise, California could purport to regulate the use or disposal of any item--product or refuse--everywhere in the country if it had its origin in California.

But the court went on to hold that state officials enjoyed qualified immunity against Daniels's suit for monetary damages. That's because "a reasonable official, who is not knowledgeable about the arcane considerations lurking within the dormant Commerce Clause doctrine, could reasonably, if erroneously, believe that the Department could control what was done with California waste in another state."

The court reversed the lower court on this point, noting that the lower court wrongly applied law "at a high level of generality" when it concluded that "[t]he extraterritoriality doctrine has been clearly established for decades."

May 3, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Commerce Clause, Dormant Commerce Clause, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Texas, et al., Sue to Stop DACA

The State of Texas, along with six other states, sued the government today to halt the DACA program. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Texas, Brownsville, follows the pattern that Texas used to stop DAPA. (Recall that the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Texas in the DAPA lawsuit, and the Supreme Court affirmed by an equally divided Court, but setting no nationwide precedent.) Here's the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and supporting memorandum.

The challenge comes on the heels of yet another ruling that President Trump's rescission of DACA is unlawful.

Texas argues that DACA violates the Immigration and Naturalization Act (quoting the Fifth Circuit's ruling in the DAPA case); that it violates notice-and-comment requirements in the Administrative Procedure Act; and that it violates the Take Care Clause.

Texas is joined by Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

May 2, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

District Court Tosses Manafort's Civil Case Challenging Mueller's Authority

Judge Amy Berman Jackson (D.D.C.) on Friday dismissed Paul Manafort's civil case challenging the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel, and therefore Meuller's authority to prosecute him. The ruling will almost certainly withstand any appeal and thus ends Manafort's civil challenge to Mueller's authority. It has no effect on Manafort's criminal case, or his ability to challenge Mueller's authority in that case.

Manafort original pleading challenged his indictment and future actions by Mueller, arguing that Mueller's appointment was invalid and that his indictment exceeded Mueller's authority. But Manafort subsequently refined his claim and sought only prospective relief: an order declaring Mueller's appointment order invalid (but only as to paragraph (b)(ii), authorizing the Special Counsel to investigate "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation") and "enjoining the Special Counsel's future ultra vires exercise of authority under that Order." Manafort backed away from his earlier and much broader claims, because circuit law would certainly foreclose those. But by seeking only prospective relief, Manafort did himself in.

Judge Jackson ruled that "Manfort's situation falls squarely within the scope of" Deaver v. Seymour, the 1987 case in which the D.C. Circuit extended Younger abstention and held that the subject of a criminal investigation cannot bring a civil action to attack an impending federal prosecution (except when the criminal case chilled First Amendment rights, not applicable here). In short:

[A] civil case is not the appropriate vehicle for taking issue with what a prosecutor has done in the past or where he might be headed in the future. It is a sound and well-established principle that a court should not exercise its equitable powers to interfere with or enjoin an ongoing criminal investigation when the defendant will have the opportunity to challenge any defects in the prosecution in the trial court or on direct appeal. Therefore, the Court finds that this civil complaint must be dismissed.

Moreover, Judge Jackson ruled that Manafort lacked standing, because he couldn't plead imminent harm, and because his claim wasn't ripe. (Remember that he refined his case to ask for only prospective relief.)

April 29, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check it Out: Shugerman on Mueller Protection (and Scalia's Dissent in Morrison)

Check out Jed Shugerman's piece in Slate, Stare Scalia, arguing that some Senator's obsession with Justice Scalia's dissent in Morrison v. Olson "is leading them to make sloppy mistakes."

Shugerman wrote after Senator Ben Sasse said during last week's Judiciary Committee debate over the Mueller protection bill that "[m]any of us think we are bound" by Justice Scalia's lone dissent in Morrison.

Here's Steve Vladeck and Eric Posner's letter to the committee explaining why Sasse's position is wrong. Here's our coverage of the Committee's hearing last September on these same issues.

April 29, 2018 in Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

SCOTUS Upholds Inter Partes Review Against Article III Challenge

The Supreme Court this week upheld a congressionally authorized practice called "inter partes review" that allows for reconsideration and cancellation by the Patent and Trademark Office of an already-issued patent. The Court said that inter partes review didn't violate Article III (by assigning a role of the judiciary to the PTO) or the Seventh Amendment.

The case tested inter partes review against Article III, on the argument that inter partes review represents an impermissible delegation of a core judicial function to an executive agency.

The Court, drawing on precedent, said that patents fell within the "public-rights doctrine," which permits executive or legislative bodies to determine matters "arising between the government and others." And moreover, inter partes review "involves the same basic matter as the grant of a patent" in the first place, and is therefore only a kind of "second look at an earlier . . . grant" by the PTO.

Justice Breyer wrote a concurrence, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, saying that "the Court's opinion should not be read to say that matters involving private rights may never be adjudicated other than by Article III courts."

Justice Gorsuch, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, dissented, arguing that the practice cut into the unique Article III role and independence of the courts and impermissibly assigned the role to the PTO. (Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch (joined by Justice Kennedy) also dissented in Patchak, the case earlier this Term holding that a congressional act instructing courts to dismiss a certain class of cases didn't violate Article III, even when the act was targeted at a particular pending case, for similar reasons. These dissents are well worth a read.)

April 26, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Check it Out: Greenhouse on the "New Civil War"

Check out Linda Greenhouse's piece at the NYT, The Supreme Court and the New Civil War, arguing that the President's policies are turning Rehnquist-era federalism principles on their head.

April 26, 2018 in Federalism, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Check it Out: NYT Editorial on Presidential War Powers and the Kaine-Corker AUMF Bill

It concludes:

Congress needs to be more involved in decisions like those about when and where America fights terrorists. But the Kaine-Corker bill would not make Congress take enough responsibility for how these decisions are made and would give presidents too great an ability to keep spreading the war on terrorism.

April 25, 2018 in Executive Authority, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ninth Circuit Says Monkey Has Article III Standing

The Ninth Circuit ruled today that a monkey had Article III standing to sue for copyright infringement. But the court also ruled that the monkey lacked statutory standing under the Copyright Act, so dismissed the claim.

The case, Naruto v. Slater, arose when wildlife photographer David Slater left his camera unattended in a reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, to allow crested macaque monkeys to photograph themselves. Naruto, one of the monkeys, did just that, and Slater published his picture in a book of "monkey selfies." Naruto, through his next of friend PETA, sued for copyright infringement.

The Ninth Circuit ruled that Naruto had Article III standing. The court said that circuit precedent tied its hands--the Ninth Circuit previously ruled in Cetacean Community v. Bush that the world's whales, porpoises, and dolphins could have Article III standing to sue, although they lacked statutory standing under the relevant environmental statutes--and went on to urge the Ninth Circuit to reverse that precedent.

But the court further held that Naruto lacked statutory standing under the Copyright Act, because that Act doesn't permit a monkey to sue. It dismissed Naruto's case on this ground.

The court ruled that PETA didn't have next-of-friend standing, because it didn't assert a relationship with Naruto, and because "an animal cannot be represented, under our laws, by a 'next friend.'"

April 23, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Check it Out: Yale J. on Regulation Symposium on Lucia

Check out the Yale Journal on Regulation's symposium on Lucia v. SEC, the case testing whether SEC ALJs are principal officers under the Appointments Clause (and, if so, appointed in violation of the Clause). The Court will hear oral arguments in the case on Monday.

April 20, 2018 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

DNC Sues Trump, Russia, Assange for Hacking Servers, Aiding Trump

Here's the Democratic National Committee's complaint against President Trump, the Trump campaign and aides, Russia, Russian agents, Julian Assange, and others for hacking into the DNC servers and releasing electronic communications in aid of then-candidate Trump.

The complaint, filed today in the Southern District of New York, alleges violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, RICO, the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Trade Secrets Act, and state torts.

The DNC claims harms to its computer systems, harms to its communications and relations with various constituencies, threats against employees, and "significant interruption and disruption of its political and fundraising activities throughout the United States."

April 20, 2018 in News, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Seventh Circuit Affirms Nationwide Injunction Against Sessions's Clamp Down on Sanctuary Cities

The Seventh Circuit today affirmed a lower court's nationwide injunction against two portions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions's clamp-down on sanctuary cities. The ruling--a significant victory for Chicago and other sanctuary jurisdictions--means that the government cannot enforce the "notice" and "access" conditions on sanctuary cities' receipt of federal law-enforcement JAG grants.

We posted on the lower court's ruling here.

Recall that the lower court ruled that Chicago demonstrated a likelihood of success in its challenge to two key conditions that AG Sessions imposed on sanctuary cities--the notice condition and the access condition--and imposed a nationwide preliminary injunction against the enforcement of those conditions. (The notice condition requires sanctuary jurisdictions to comply with a DHS request to provide advance notice of any scheduled release date and time for a particular alien. The access condition requires sanctuary jurisdictions to allow federal agents to have access to any correctional facility to meet with aliens and interrogate them.) (The lower court did not enjoin the enforcement of the third condition, that sanctuary jurisdictions certify compliance with 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1373.)

The government argued that the lower court erred on the merits and that it exceeded its authority in issuing a nationwide injunction. The Seventh Circuit disagreed on both counts.

The court ruled that AG Sessions lacked unilateral authority to impose the notice and access conditions on receipt of a federal grant, because that's Congress's job:

The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement. But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds. In fact, Congress repeatedly refused to approve of measures that would tie funding to state and local immigration policies. Nor, as we will discuss, did Congress authorize the Attorney General to impose such conditions.

The court found nothing in the INA that authorized the AG to impose these conditions, and it rejected the government's claim that general statutory authority for the Assistant Attorney General, under 34 U.S.C. Sec. 10102(a)(6), authorized the AG to impose these conditions. That subsection says that "[t]he Assistant Attorney General shall . . . exercise such other powers and functions as may be vested in the Assistant Attorney General pursuant to this chapter or by delegation of the Attorney General, including placing special conditions on all grants, and determining priority purposes for formula grants." (Emphasis added.) The court said that "[t]he inescapable problem here is that the Attorney General does not even claim that the power exercised here is authorized anywhere in the chapter, nor that the Attorney General possesses that authority and therefore can delegate it to the Assistant Attorney General. In fact, as set forth above, the Byrne JAG provisions set forth the duties of the Attorney General and do not provide any open-ended authority to impose additional conditions."

Two judges went on to say that the district court was well within its authority to grant a nationwide injunction:

The case before us presents an example of the type of case in which a district court should properly be able to apply an injunction nationwide. The case presents essentially a facial challenge to a policy applied nationwide, the balance of equities favors nationwide relief, and the format of the Byrne JAG grant itself renders individual relief ineffective to provide full relief.

Judge Manion dissented from this portion of the ruling.

April 19, 2018 in Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Check it Out: Chesney and Vladeck on the Corker-Kane AUMF

Check out Profs. Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck's National Security Law Podcast on The Corker-Kane AUMF. Here's Chesney's primer at Lawfare, and here's the text.

April 18, 2018 in Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

District Court Says No Standing to Sue President for Ethics Disclosure

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (D.D.C.) ruled yesterday that an attorney appearing pro se lacked standing to sue President Trump for alleged deficiencies in his financial disclosure report that he was required to file as a candidate. The ruling ends this challenge.

The case, Lovitky v. Trump, arose when attorney Jeffrey Lovitky obtained a copy of then-candidate Trump's financial disclosure report from the Office of Government Ethics and discovered what he believed to be deficiencies in the reporting. Lovitky sued, arguing that the report included President Trump's personal debts and business debts, and that this "commingl[ing]" of personal and non-personal liabilities "mak[es] it impossible to identify which of the liabilities listed on the financial disclosure report were the liabilities of the President, in violation of [federal law]." Lovitky sought mandamus relief that would "direct[] the President to amend his financial disclosure report . . . for the purpose of specifically identifying any debts he owed during the [relevant] reporting period." Lovitky also sought declaratory relief.

The court ruled that Lovitky lacked standing to sue, because his requested relief wouldn't redress his claimed injuries. (The court didn't address whether he had a sufficient injury for standing purposes, because he lacked redressability.) As to mandamus, the court surveyed circuit law allowing mandamus against the president as to a ministerial duty, but, quoting the D.C. Circuit, noted that "[i]t is not entirely clear . . . whether, and to what extent, these decisions remain good law after [the Supreme Court's plurality opinion in Franklin v. Massachusetts]." Ultimately, the court said that because of this ambiguity it "would hesitate to issue mandamus even if Defendant's duty to specifically disclose personal liabilities were ministerial, but because the Court has found that it is a discretionary duty, the Court cannot do so."

As to declaratory relief, the court noted that it, too, wasn't obviously available against the president post Franklin. Regardless, the court said that because mandamus wasn't available, and because the Declaratory Judgment Act doesn't create an independent basis for jurisdiction, declaratory relief had no jurisdictional hook, and the court therefore lacked jurisdiction.

April 11, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 9, 2018

District Court Upholds Massachusetts's Assault Weapons Ban

Judge William G. Young (D. Mass.) last week rejected a Second Amendment challenge to Massachusetts's assault weapon ban. Judge Young held that covered rifles fell outside the Second Amendment and thus enjoyed no constitutional protection.

The case, Workman v. Healey, tested the state's ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines. The state ban was styled on the federal assault weapons ban, but, unlike Congress, the Massachusetts Legislature made the ban permanent. Plaintiffs sued in early 2017, arguing that the ban violated the Second Amendment.

The court disagreed. Judge Young wrote that the banned weapons fell outside the core of the Second Amendment and enjoyed no constitutional protection. He declined to apply any level of scrutiny and simply upheld the ban. The court explained:

Consequently, "Heller . . . presents us with a dispositive and relatively easy inquiry: Are the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines 'like' 'M-16 rifles,' i.e., 'weapons that are most useful in military service,' and thus outside the ambit of the Second Amendment?" The undisputed facts in this record convincingly demonstrate that the AR-15 and [large-capacity magazines] banned by the Act are "weapons that are most useful in military service." As a matter of law, these weapons and [large-capacity magazines] thus fall outside the scope of the Second Amendment and may be banned.

The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the AR-15 is a popular firearm, and therefore enjoys Second Amendment protection:

Yet the AR-15's present day popularity is not constitutionally material. This is because the words of our Constitution are not mutable. They mean the same today as they did 227 years ago when the Second Amendment was adopted. The test is not the AR-15's present day popularity but whether it is a weapon "most useful in military service."

Judge Young went on to quote Justice Scalia from Scalia Speaks.

The court also rejected the plaintiffs' claims that the ban is vague (because it doesn't define what "copies or duplicates" of assault weapons means) and that enforcement violated the Ex Post Facto Clause (because the state attorney general issued a notice that could punish existing ownership of banned weapons).

April 9, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Interpretation, News, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (1)