Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The Treasury Department yesterday announced that it will propose new guidance for social welfare organizations that will better define the requirements for tax-exempt status for those organizations engaged in candidate-related political activities.
The new proposed guidance is aimed at 501(c)(4) organizations, which are organized under the IRC for social welfare purposes, but nevertheless engage in significant political activities. The 501(c)(4) form allows these organizations to fly under the radar while still engaging in politics. For example, 501(c)(4) organizations need not disclose their donors to the FEC, and they need not disclose all of their political activities to the IRS. (The Center for Responsive Politics notes that "Americans for Tax Reform, for instance, told the FEC it spent $15.8 million on independent expenditures in 2012, while it told the IRS it spent just $9.8 million.) An organization can retain its 501(c)(4) status so long as less than half (up to 49%) of its activity is political.
These "dark money" organizations have exerted dramatically increased influence in elections: "While nonprofit organizations spent just $5.2 million on federal elections in 2006, that number rocketed to more than $300 million by 2012," according to The Daily Beast. These organizations include tea party groups and others that the IRS targeted, leading to an IG report earlier this year, which led to the proposed rules.
The proposed guidance is designed to make it easier for the IRS to determine whether a social welfare organization exceeds the threshold for candidate-related political activities by better defining those activities. "These proposed rules reduce the need to conduct fact-intensive inquiries, including inquiries into whether activities or communications are neutral and unbiased." The likely net result is that some or many of these organizations will find that their activities now increase the percentage of "candidate-related political activity" in which they're involved, forcing them either to reduce their political activities or to lose their non-profit status.
The proposed guidance "defines the term 'candidate-related political activity,' and would amend current regulations by indicating that the promotion of social welfare does not include this kind of activity." In particular, the guidance defines certain communications, grants and contributions, and activities closely related to elections or to candidates as "candidate-related political activity."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has a statement here and a resource page here. The Center for Responsive Politics has a statement here and a resource page, with a nice graphic, here.
Friday, November 22, 2013
The Federal Election Commission split 2-2 and thus denied a request from the Tea Party Leadership Fund for an exemption from FEC disclosure requirements of names of individual contributors who contributed more than $200 to the group. The non-action means that the Tea Party Leadership Fund will have to disclose contributors like everybody else subject to the FEC's disclosure requirement. NPR reports here.
The Tea Party argued that its donors are subject to harassment and hostility from government officials and private actors--with over 1,400 pages of evidence. Two Commissioners reportedly agreed, and two disagreed. The two competing draft FEC opinions are here. The Commission, splitting 2-2, didn't accept either. That meant that the Tea Party's request was denied.
The Court upheld disclosure requirements against a facial challenge in Buckley v. Valeo. But it also said that the disclosure requirements might be unconstitutional as against a minor party that could show a "reasonable probability" that its contributors would be subjected to threats, harassment, and reprisals if their contributions were disclosed. Buckley at 69-74 (discussing NAACP v. Alabama).
Courts and the FEC have awarded an exemption under this standard only in very narrow cases, to the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party, minor parties that "rarely have firm financial foundation." On the other hand, a court in 2011 denied an exemption to ProtectMarriage.com, a group that raised $30 million and supported California's Prop 8 (banning same-sex marriage in the state). (Doe v. Reed, the Court's 2010 case, involved disclosure, but by way of a state's Public Records Act, not the FEC regs.)
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he's proposing changes to the Senate rules that would abolish the filibuster for most judicial and executive branch nominees. Reid's proposal would reportedly retain the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
Reid is reportedly prepared to go nuclear--that is, to change the rules by a simple majority vote.
Reid's proposal comes on the heels of three successful filibusters in as many weeks by Senate Republicans of President Obama's picks for the D.C. Circuit.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Among the materials released today as we discussed earlier, is the 87 page opinion by the Presiding Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, again difficult to name or cite given that the usual caption material is redacted:
But the opinion's footnote 27 with the portions redacted - - - and not redacted - - - does deserve special notice:
"For ease of reference, the term XXXXXXXXXXXXX is used to mean XXXXXXXXXXXXXX."
The Obama administration late Monday released a trove of documents related to NSA surveillance, including key FISA court rulings and other materials going back to the Bush administration. The NYT reports here. Lawfare is covering the release and analyzing particular documents here.
The materials include documents on government e-mail and domestic phone surveillance, including the Bush administration's 2006 application for initial approval by the FISA court to collect bulk logs of domestic phone calls and a FISA court ruling approving a program to track e-mails during the Bush administration.
Monday, November 18, 2013
The National Constitution Center and the Constitutional Accountability Center will co-host a Town Hall discussion tomorrow, Tuesday, November 19, 2013, at noon Eastern at the National Constitution Center and simultaneously web-cast here.
On the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, join constitutional scholars and Yale Law professor Akhil Amar, historian and Princeton University professor Sean Wilentz and Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center for a wide-ranging conversation about the constitutional legacy of Lincoln and the address itself.
Also check out David Gans's (CAC) excellent post over at the Text & History Blog at the CAC, The Gettysburg Address at 150: How Lincoln's Immortal Words Helped Transform the Constitution.
Senate Republicans once again successfully blocked a nominee for the D.C. Circuit. Today's vote, 38 to 53, fell seven short of the 60 needed to overcome the Republican filibuster of Robert Wilkins's nomination to the court. Politico reports here.
Some Senate Democrats are making more noise about using the nuclear option, that is, getting rid of the filibuster (the cloture rule) for judicial nominees. Republicans (still) say that the court isn't busy enough to fill the three vacancies, and that they're just doing the same thing that Democrats did when they blocked President Bush's nominee to the court, Peter Keisler.
Active judges on the court are evenly divided between those appointed by Democrats and those appointed by Republicans. But five of the court's six senior judges--who still sit and decide cases--are appointed by conservatives. Indeed, 15 of the last 19 appointments to the court were by Republican presidents.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Neil H. Buchanan (GW) argues at the Jurist.org that the President should just pay the nation's bills if Congress fails to increase the debt ceiling.
Buchanan summarizes an argument that he and Michael Dorf made over three articles last year in the Columbia Law Review--one, two, and three--that the President should do the least constitutional damage if ever faced with a trilemma involving taxing, spending, and a debt ceiling that don't add up.
Buchanan and Dorf argue that Congress would create this trilemma if it failed to increase the debt limit: Congress would have authorized a particular level of taxation; Congress would have authorized a higher level of spending; and Congress would have capped the debt limit at a level lower than authorized spending. All three are congressional acts that the President must enforce, but if the President enforces any two, he necessarily violates the third.
So: what to do?
Buchanan and Dorf argue that the constitution requires the President to take the action (1) that exercises as little legislative power as possible and (2) in a way that allows Congress to later enact legislation that can undo his actions, if it so desires.
Those two criteria mean that the President should, even must, violate the debt limit. That's because violating the debt limit (but complying with the taxing and spending measures passed by Congress) is the choice that's least legislative in nature, and the one that Congress can later undo (by enacting taxing and spending measures that add up).
Buchanan explains why this solution is novel--but also why it's right:
Bizarrely, the shared assumption among Republicans and Democrats alike has been that the president must simply default on the government's spending obligations, if he is ever faced with a trilemma. . . .
The reason that is so bizarre is that it simply presumes that duly-enacted spending laws can be ignored by the president. They cannot. We are not taking about choosing to increase or decrease future levels of spending, after all. We are, instead, contemplating having the president refuse to honor legal claims for payment from the federal government, choosing not to pay the government's legal obligations, in full, on the date that they are due.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
In a 15 page opinion (with extensive appendices) issue late Wednesday, In re Reassignment of Cases: Ligon; Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al., the Second Circuit clarified its removal of Judge Shira Scheindlin, which we discussed here. Calling her a "long serving and distinguished jurist of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York," the Second Circuit panel nevertheless again concluded that "reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice."
Recall that the underlying controversy involves Judge Shira Scheindlin's orders in Floyd v. City of New York and in Ligon v. City of New York regarding the NYPD's implementation of stop and frisk as violative of equal protection.
In today's opinion, the panel
"explains the basis for our order of October 31, 2013, directing the reassignment of these cases to a randomly selected district judge and supersedes that order. To reiterate, we have made no findings that Judge Scheindlin has engaged in judicial misconduct. We conclude only that, based on her conduct at the December 21, 2007 hearing and in giving the interviews to the news media in May 2013, Judge Scheindlin’s appearance of impartiality may reasonably be questioned within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 455 and that “reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice.”
The explanation stresses that the opinion is based on the appearance of partiality rather than any "findings of misconduct, actual bias, or actual partiality on the part of Judge Scheindlin." Again, this appearance of partiality is twofold. First, there are the judge's statements on the record in a related case. After quoting some of the statements, the panel concluded:
We believe that a reasonable observer viewing this colloquy would conclude that the appearance of impartiality had been compromised. We do not mean to suggest that a district judge can never engage in a colloquy with a party during which the judge advises the party of its legal or procedural options. However, we think, particularly in combination with the public statements described below, that a reasonable observer could question the impartiality of the judge where the judge described a certain claim that differed from the one at issue in the case before her, urged a party to file a new lawsuit to assert the claim, suggested that such a claim could be viable and would likely entitle the plaintiffs to documents they sought, and advised the party to designate it as a related case so that the case would be assigned to her.
Second, the panel considered - - - as the "statements described below" - - - the judge's statements to the press. While the panel noted the judge "did not specifically mention the Floyd or Ligon cases in her media interviews," nevertheless, the context was critical. And while "nothing prohibits a judge from giving an interview to the media,"
judges who affiliate themselves with news stories by participating in interviews run the risk that the resulting stories may contribute to the appearance of partiality. It is perhaps illustrative of how such situations can get out of the control of the judge that, later in The New Yorker piece, the article quotes a former law clerk of Judge Scheindlin: “As one of her former law clerks put it, ‘What you have to remember about the judge is that she thinks cops lie.’”
The panel opinion does not reference the First Amendment. The panel did, however, reference the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, but only to disavow its mention in the earlier order. Here, the Second Circuit panel of judges wrote,
We now clarify that we did not intend to imply in our previous order that Judge Scheindlin engaged in misconduct cognizable either under the Code of Conduct or under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. . . .
But as to the removal - - - or reassignment - - - the panel again found this to be the proper remedy. Reassignment, the panel wrote, "while not an everyday occurrence, is not unusual in this Circuit." In support of this, the panel cited nine cases from 1999 - 2011. The panel also noted it occurs in other circuits. [UPDATE: For scholarship on this topic, see here].
Thus, the opinion softens some of the original language, expanding on the relatively brief previous order, but does not waver from the conclusion or remedy. If the original order was a "slap" as some people characterized it, this replacement is more of a stern lecture rendered in patronizing and disappointed tones.
Intelligence Squared will host a live, on-line debate tomorrow, Thursday, November 14, at 6:45 p.m. EST, titled Has the Second Amendment Outlived its Usefulness? The debate will feature Alan Dershowitz and Sandy Levinson (arguing yes) and David Kopel and Eugene Volokh (arguing no).
The stream will be interactive with a Twitter feed, so viewers can join the discussion. It'll also be available to watch on demand shortly after the event.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The Senate failed to break a Republican-led filibuster today on President Obama's nomination of Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit. The vote on the cloture motion was 56-41, but 60 votes are needed to close debate.
The move marks the second time in two weeks that Republicans have successfully filibustered President Obama's nominees to the D.C. Circuit. The last failed cloture vote came on October 31, on Patricia Millett's nomination.
Republicans complain that the President is trying to "stack" this court, often called the second most important court in the country. But that's not exactly right: Democratic Presidents still have a ways to make up with their nominees on the court, as we explained here. The American Constitution Society's JudicialNominations.org has more information about judicial vacancies, including the D.C. Circuit, here.
No word whether the Democrats will use the nuclear option (and eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominations), but TPM Livewire reports that Senate Grassley "dared Democrats to 'go ahead,'" warning that such a move would make it easier for future Republicans "to appoint judges like Antonin Scalia."
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Alex Seitz-Wald writes over at The Atlantic that we need a new Constitution, and he has some ideas about how to write it.
Seitz-Wald says that our Constitution is seriously out of step with the best and most recent thinking about constitution-making around the world. Indeed, he writes, "Almost nobody uses the U.S. Constitution as a model--not even Americans." More: our differences don't reflect anything especially unique about the United States. Instead, our Constitution is just, well, old.
It's also short, leaving too many holes. That means that the courts can step in to interpret and apply it, giving judges remarkable power. ("Where modern constitutions in other nations get specific, we get judicial activism.") It also ensures the kind of hyper-partisanship, and resulting government break-down, that has become common in our politics.
In contrast, other, more recent constitutions around the world are long and specific, filling in the holes we left open. They also create institutions that protect against the dangers of hyper-partisanship, and voting and participation rules that increase direct citizenship involvement.
But if ours is old and short, it's also uncommonly hard to change. So Seitz-Wald surveys some familiar proposals (an amendment convention called by the states under Article V) and some not-so-familiar ones (the German Pirate Party's "liquid democracy") to get us going. Whatever the process, Seitz-Wald concludes, "the status quo isn't working. We badly need a more perfect union."
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
ConLawProfBlog's own Ruthann Robson (CUNY) just posted her thoughtful take on the several oddities that arise when courts consider whether corporations are religious persons in Puzzling Corporations: The Affordable Care Act and Contraception Mandate over at Jurist.org. Robson exposes the inconsistencies, the hypocrisies, and the unintended consequences in the on-going cases and debates over whether a for-profit corporation is a religious-rights-bearing entity that can skirt the ACA's contraception mandate.
Robson has covered the issue--whether the ACA's contraception mandate violates a corporation's religious liberties (and the included issue whether a corporation can even have religious liberties)--here (Gilardi v. HHS), here (Eden Foods v. Sebelius), here (Autocam Corp. v. Sebelius), here (Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary of HHS), and, of course, here (Hobby Lobby).
Robson argues that the question whether a corporation can have religious liberties has several problems. First, the profit: historically, religious entities that enjoyed religious liberties (like those in Gonzalez v. O Centro Espirita and Church of the Lukumi Bablu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah) were nonprofits. But the Tenth Circuit ruled in Hobby Lobby that "sincerely religious persons could find a connection between the exercise of religion and the pursuit of profit." Next, "the secular shape of many corporations . . . is ill-suited to sectarianism. There is little, if anything, to alert a consumer or a job applicant that one is engaging with a religious entity." Finally, there's a slippery slope: treating a for-profit corporation as a religious-rights-bearing person could lead to exemptions for that corporation from all manner of federal requirements that interfere with the corporation's "beliefs."
Robson also shows why attributing the free exercise claims of shareholders to a corporation, or pass-through, is a problem. "In asserting religious rights, corporations seek to pierce their own corporate veils for the purposes of some sectarian principles such as contraception coverage for employees, but presumably to keep their protective masks in place regarding personal liability."
Treating all these claims as sincerely held religious beliefs probably gives them too much credit, though. As Robson reminds us, Eden Food's founder's case wasn't really a religious objection to the contraception mandate. Instead, it was a "laissez-faire, anti-government screed" (the Sixth Circuit's phrase, not Robson's), with decidedly "sexist and anti-worker" overtones (Robson's phrase, not the Sixth Circuit's). So Robson asks, "If a corporation can have a religion, is it coincidence that its most deeply held and sincere beleifs are in opposition to equality and democracy?"
Monday, November 4, 2013
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed suit last week to stop the government from enforcing the universal coverage provision (the individual mandate) in the Affordable Care Act. The group argues that the court should issue an order prohibiting the enforcement of the individual mandate, because President Obama lacked authority to delay enforcement of the employer mandate.
Recall that President Obama this past summer unilaterally delayed enforcement of the employer mandate--the ACA's requirement that employers with over 50 employees provide health insurance for their employees. The authority for this move, however, wasn't at all obvious. That's because the ACA says in pretty clear language that the employer mandate "shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013."
We commented at the time that the question of authority might not matter, because it wasn't clear that anyone would have standing to challenge the delay.
Enter the AAPS. The group argues that President Obama's delay of the employer mandate violates the separation of powers--that President Obama can't unilaterally delay enforcement of a statutory requirement. Still, it's not obvious why this group should have standing. Here's what the complaint says:
13. Defendant's shifting of the mandate for health insurance premiums from employers to only individuals causes the elimination of many cash-paying patients from the medical practices of [plaintiff McQueeney, an AAPS member] and other AAPS members. Defendant's shifting of the ACA insurance burden entirely onto individuals diverts their discretionary health care dollars towards insurance premiums, away from direct payments to physicians. This significantly reduces the customer base for AAPS members who have "cash practices" accepting direct payments from patients.
That may not sound like the strongest theory of standing.
But if standing's a weakness, there's more. The complaint alleges that "Defendant changes legislation passed by Congress in violation of the separation of powers in the Constitution, and the Tenth Amendment." (Emphasis added.) The Tenth Amendment? That seems surprising in this context, and unnecessary given the stronger arguments one might make about a President's inability to unilaterally delay the implementation of a mandate.
But if the invocation of the Tenth Amendment seems odd, there's yet even more. The complaint argues that President Obama lacked authority to delay the employer mandate, but asks for a court order stopping the enforcement of the individual mandate.
Between standing issues, a novel use of the Tenth Amendment, and redressability issues, this complaint has its problems.
The attorney who filed it, Andrew Schlafly, is a conservative activist, son of Phyllis Schlafly, and founder of Conservapedia, a conservative web-site that grew out of one of Schlafly's home-school courses.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Senate Republicans today successfully filibustered Patricia Millett's nomination for the D.C. Circuit. The Senate voted 55-38 to end debate and proceed to a vote on the nomination, but the body needed 60 votes under Senate rules. The Republicans' move blocks the nomination, unless and until the Senate can muster 60 votes, or changes its rules.
Millett would fill one of three vacancies on the court. The Republicans' move means that this exceptionally important court--often called the second most important court in the country--continues to operate three shy of a full bench. The move also means that the court continues to be dominated by judges appointed by Republican presidents (despite Republicans' argues to the contrary). (There's an even split among the active judges, but judges appointed by Republicans are dominant among the semi-retired. Those semi-retired judges still sit and help decide cases.) Finally, the move means that a supremely well qualified nominee who receieved bipartisan praise won't get the nod from the Senate, despite receiving a majority to proceed to a vote.
No word yet whether Democrats will use the nuclear option and try to change the filibuster rule to bypass Republican obstruction, or whether leaders will come up with some other way to proceed.
UPDATE: Here's a link to the roll-call (h/t Glenn Sugameli).
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Millett's nomination comes before the full Senate tomorrow, and there's indication that Republicans could filibuster. If so, Senator Leahy is quoted in the NYT, "I think that the pressure on changing the [cloture] rules would be almost insurmountable." Democrats will have 55 votes in the Senate tomorrow, after Cory Booker, newly elected Democrat of New Jersey, is seated. That means that they need to pick up five Republicans to close debate.
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee joined the fray, holding a hearing yesterday titled, "Are More Judges Always the Answer?" The thrust of the hearing--and one of the Republicans' argument against Millett's appointment: the D.C. Circuit doesn't do enough work to justify filling the seat. (There are currently three vacancies on the court.)
Republicans also argue that President Obama is trying to "stack" the court with judges who will be friendly to his regulatory agenda. (The court is now evenly split between judges appointed by Republican presidents and judges appointed by Democats.)
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The Eternal World Television Network, a Catholic media corporation, and the State of Alabama filed suit against the government yesterday, seeking to halt the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
EWTN argues that the mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the religion clauses, among other claims. Alabama says that the mandate intrudes on its "sovereign prerogative to regulate the insurance market in accordance with its own law and policy, without being contradicted by unlawful federal regulations."
The case is just the latest religious-based challenge against the contraception mandate. We posted most recently just yesterday, on the Sixth Circuit's ruling in Eden Foods. If Eden Foods seemed more political than religious-based--the plaintiff's "deeply held religious beliefs" "more resembled a laissez-faire, anti-government screed," according to the court--this case seems more political than religious-based for a different reason: EWTN is exempt under HHS regs, and if the mandate is valid Alabama simply has no claim. In other words: the plaintiffs don't seem to have much to complain about. We posted on the government's proposed regs exempting religious employers here; and we posted on the then-developing circuit split on the issue here.
EWTN says this about its accommodation under the regs:
This is a mere fig leaf. It would still require EWTN to play a central role in the government's scheme by "designating" a fiduciary to pay for the objectionable services on EWTN's behalf. This would do nothing to assuage EWTN's objections to the mandate.
The so-called "accommodation" also continues to treat EWTN as a second-class religious organization, not entitled to the same religious freedom rights as the Church it exists to serve. It also creates administrative hurdles and other difficulties for EWTN, forcing it to seek out and contract with companies willing to provide the very drugs and services that EWTN speaks out against.
As to Alabama, the State apparently seeks to protect itself and its citizens from the "immediate and continuing burdens" of the mandate. The State points out that its law expressly says that insurers do not have to provide contraception coverage in their plans. The claim sounds in federalism, but the complaint doesn't say why or how the federal mandate violates federalism principles. (Maybe that's because it doesn't.)
The plaintiffs also raise free speech, due process, and APA claims.
October 29, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Establishment Clause, Federalism, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Sunday, October 27, 2013
The Department of Justice for the first time notified a criminal defendant that evidence against him was obtained through a warrantless wiretap, according to the New York Times. The move gives the criminal defendant the standing to challenge warrantless wiretapes that the plaintiffs in Clapper v. Amnesty International lacked and invites his challenge of warrantless wiretaps. Our previous post on the issue is here.
The defendant, Jamshid Muhtorov, is charged with "provid[ing] and attempt[ing] to provide material support and resources, to wit: personnel . . . to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically the Islamic Jihad Union . . . knowing that the organization was a designated terrorist organization, that the organization had engaged in and was engaging in terrorist activity and terrorism, and the offense occurred in whole or in part within the United States" in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2339B. The notice says that the government
hereby provides notice to this Court and the defense, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. Secs. 1806(c) and 1881e(a), that the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 . . . .
The Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs in Clapper lacked standing to challenge warrantless wiretaps, because they couldn't show that they'd been, or would be, wiretapped under the specific statutory authority they sought to challenge. Now that the government has disclosed that its evidence resulted from warrantless wiretaps, Muhtorov has clear standing to challenge the wiretaps.
This merely puts the legality of the wiretaps before the courts; it doesn't answer the underlying question. For that, we'll have to await the ruling and appeals.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Fourth Circuit ruled in Colon Health Centers of America v. Hazel that two out-of-state medical providers alleged a sufficient challenge to Virginia's "certificate of need" requirement to survive a motion to dismiss. The court remanded the case for fact-finding on the dormant Commerce Clause question.
The court suggested that the requirement wouldn't ultimately survive. The case, when it comes back to the Fourth Circuit after remand, may be significant, if, as the concurrence says, "in Virginia, and throughout much of the country, state certificate of need regimens continue to grow and now regulate an enormous segment of the national economy." Op. at 27-28.
Virginia's certificate-of-need program requires medical providers that seek to launch a medical enterprise in the state to show a public need for the service that it seeks to offer. (Judge Wilson puts a finer point on it in dissent: "Plaintiffs would like to render medical services in Virginia with equipment they cannot utilize without first proving to the Commonwealth that the competition they bring with them will not harm established local health care providers.") The plaintiffs, two corporations that provide colon screening and treatment, alleged that the program violates the dormant Commerce Clause (among other constitutional claims, rejected by both the district court and the Fourth Circuit).
The court ruled that the plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts to survive a motion to dismiss and to trigger discovery and fact-investigation by the trial court. The court gave unusually specific directions to the trial court to find facts on the program's discrimination against interstate commerce in purpose and effect, recognizing that this fact investigation would also spill over into the lower-level balancing test under the dormant Commerce Clause for state laws that create an undue burden on interstate commerce.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Human Rights Watch penned a letter to the Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly this week, urging the body to protect the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam as the Assmebly moves forward with the country's new constitution. Here's the press release.
The National Assembly has authority to revise the constitution; it is considering amendments during a session from October 21 to November 30, 2013. The government opened the draft constitution up for public and official comment on January 2, 2013, and received tens of thousands of submissions. But as HRW points out, some who campaigned for changes found themselves targets of government reprisal.
The letter urges the assembly to "ensure that the amendment process brings the constitution into conformity with Vietnam's obligations under international law so that it fully protects the rights and liberties of all people in Vietnam, which will contribute to the country's development." In particular, the group is concerned about these:
-Weakened protections against arbitrary arrest;
-Expansion of the one-party state;
-Extension of control over the armed forces by the Communist Party
-Broad limitations on rights, broader than limitations recognized under international law;
-A weak judiciary and Constitutional Council.
The group also recognized some positive developments, including the more frequent references to human rights, and extension to both citizens and non-citizens; explicit reference to the right to life; a new ban on discrimination on political, economic, cultural, and social grounds; a new prohibition on gender discrimination; new criminal procedure rights; bans on forced labor and child labor; the establishment of a Constitutional Council; and the creation of a National Election Commission.