Monday, October 30, 2017

District Judge Partially Enjoins President's Transgender Military Ban

 In an Order and Opinion in Doe v. Trump, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly partially enjoined the president's actions to limits the service of transgender persons in the United States military. Judge Kollar-Kelly denied the motion for preliminary injunction regarding the Sex Reassignment Directive, but granted the motion for preliminary injunction regarding the Accession and Retention Directives.

Recall that this lawsuit, filed by lawyers for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) is one of several complaints challenging the president's military action, and included claims for a violation of equal protection, due process, and a nonconstitutional argument of equitable estoppel.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly's 76 page opinion, which begins with a recitation of the President's "statement via Twitter" on July 26, 2017, announcing that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” This was followed almost a month later by the TG TweetsPresident's Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security through the Office of the Press Secretary directing the halt of accession of transgender individuals into the military and the halt of all resources "to fund sex-reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel, except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex." The President's Twitter statement and the subsequent Presidential memorandum are the centerpiece of the Government's argument that the plaintiffs lack standing and that their claims are not ripe under Article III.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote:

Defendants have moved to dismiss this case, principally on the basis that the Court lacks jurisdiction. Although highly technical, these jurisdictional arguments reduce to a few simple points: the Presidential Memorandum has not effected a definitive change in military policy; rather, that policy is still subject to review; until that review is complete, transgender service members are protected; and any prospective injuries are too speculative to require judicial intervention.

These arguments, while perhaps compelling in the abstract, wither away under scrutiny.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly's opinion then spends the majority of the opinion discussing the standing and ripeness issues. As to the Surgery challenge, the opinion concludes that "none of the Plaintiffs have demonstrated an injury in fact with respect to the Sex Reassignment Surgery Directive," because none of the "Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are substantially likely to be impacted by the Sex Reassignment Surgery Directive"  In fact, the plaintiffs' medical procedures would be performed.  However, there was standing on the Accession and Retention Directives because although an Interim Guidance possibly protects some transgender service members and allows for waivers,

The President controls the United States military. The directives of the Presidential Memorandum, to the extent they are definitive, are the operative policy toward military service by transgender service members.

Moreover, "the injury in fact element of standing in an equal protection case is the denial of equal treatment resulting from the imposition of the barrier.”

Compared to the extensive analysis of the Article III issues, Judge Kollar-Ketelly's analysis of the equal protection claim based on the Fifth Amendment is much more succinct. The opinion first determines the level of scrutiny, deciding on intermediate scrutiny for two reasons.

First, "on the current record, transgender individuals—who are alone targeted for exclusion by the Accession and Retention Directives—appear to satisfy the criteria of at least a quasi-suspect classification," considering  whether they have "experienced a ‘history of purposeful unequal treatment’ or been subjected to unique disabilities on the basis of stereotyped characteristics not truly indicative of their abilities," and whether they have been as a group “relegated to such a position of political powerlessness as to command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process," and whether the group “exhibit[s] obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group.” Judge Kollar-Ketelly found that transgendered people satisfied these criteria, noting that although there was no binding precedent on this issue, other courts had reached similar conclusions and citing Evancho v. Pine-Richland Sch. Dist.

Second, Judge Kollar-Ketelly was "also persuaded that the Accession and Retention Directives are a form of discrimination on the basis of gender, which is itself subject to intermediate scrutiny. It is well-established that gender-based discrimination includes discrimination based on non- conformity with gender stereotypes."

In the application of intermediate scrutiny, Judge Kollar-Ketelly recited the rule of United States v. Virginia (VMI) (1996), and held that the Accession and Retention Directives relied on overbroad stereotypes and were not substantially related to the Government's stated interests.  The opinion then considered the question of deference in the military context:

Nonetheless, given the deference owed to military personnel decisions, the Court has not based its conclusion solely on the speculative and overbroad nature of the President’s reasons. A second point is also crucial. As far as the Court is aware at this preliminary stage, all of the reasons proffered by the President for excluding transgender individuals from the military in this case were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions and judgment of the military itself. As described above, the effect of transgender individuals serving in the military had been studied by the military immediately prior to the issuance of the Presidential Memorandum. In connection with the working group chaired by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the RAND National Defense Research Institute conducted a study and issued a report largely debunking any potential concerns about unit cohesion, military readiness, deployability or health care costs related to transgender military service. The Department of Defense Working Group, made up of senior uniformed officers and senior civilian officers from each military department, unanimously concluded that there were no barriers that should prevent transgender individuals from serving in the military, rejecting the very concerns supposedly underlying the Accession and Retention Directives. In fact, the Working Group concluded that prohibiting transgender service members would undermine military effectiveness and readiness. Next, the Army, Air Force and Navy each concluded that transgender individuals should be allowed to serve. Finally, the Secretary of Defense concluded that the needs of the military were best served by allowing transgender individuals to openly serve. In short, the military concerns purportedly underlying the President’s decision had been studied and rejected by the military itself. This highly unusual situation is further evidence that the reasons offered for the Accession and Retention Directives were not substantially related to the military interests the Presidential Memorandum cited.

The opinion also considered "the circumstances surrounding the announcement of the President’s policy":

the President abruptly announced, via Twitter—without any of the formality or deliberative processes that generally accompany the development and announcement of major policy changes that will gravely affect the lives of many Americans—that all transgender individuals would be precluded from participating in the military in any capacity. These circumstances provide additional support for Plaintiffs’ claim that the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not driven by genuine concerns regarding military efficacy.

Finding a likelihood of success on the merits of the equal protection claim, the opinion quickly dispatched the other considerations used in evaluating the issuance of a preliminary injunction, finding them met.

Expect the government to appeal as well as opinions in the other pending cases.

 

October 30, 2017 in Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Executive Authority, Fifth Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness, Sexuality, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Third Ciruit Issues Mixed Ripeness Ruling in Preenforcement Challenge to Escheat Law

The Third Circuit ruled this week that a case challenging Delaware's escheat law, prior to an investigation under the law, was ripe in one respect, even though it mostly was unripe. The ruling allows just one piece of the case to move forward--an as-applied procedural due process challenge.

The case arose when Delaware appointed a private auditing firm, Kelmar Associates, to investigate Plains All American Pipeline under the state's escheat law. Kelmar sent Plains a document request to initiate the investigation; Plains complained to the state; the state backed Kelmar; and Plains sued. Plains argued that the escheat law violated the Fourth Amendment, and the Ex Post Facto, Equal Protection, and Takings Clauses on their face, and the Due Process Clause as applied; it also argued that the law was void for vagueness and was preempted by federal law. It sought declaratory and injunctive relief.

The court applied its own "refined" test for ripeness, which looks to (1) the adversity of the parties' interests, (2) the conclusiveness of the judgment, and (3) the utility of the judgment. As to adversity, the court said that Plains couldn't demonstrate a sufficient harm, and that Plains didn't face an Abbott Labs Hobson's choice, to establish adversity. As to conclusiveness, the court said that Plains's challenges required further factual development for a ruling. And as to utility, the court said that the investigation currently requires Plains to do nothing: "Plains 'would take the same steps whether or not it was granted a declaratory judgment.'"

But, in contrast, the court ruled that Plains's as-applied procedural due process claim was ripe for review. The difference: Plains challenged the appointment of Kelmar as a violation of procedural due process. And because that harm already occurred, Plains could move forward to the merits. (Success on the merits, of course, is a different question.)

August 11, 2017 in Cases and Case Materials, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Court Temporarily Halts Trump's Sanctuary Cities Order

Judge William H. Orrick (N.D. Cal.) issued a nationwide temporary injunction halting President Trump's executive order that sought to clamp down on sanctuary cities.

The ruling was a broadside against the EO, handing the plaintiffs, Santa Clara County and San Francisco, a decisive preliminary victory on nearly all the points they raised. But at the same time, the ruling is preliminary, and holds only that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their various claims. It's also certain to be appealed.

The ruling comes closely on the heels of the Justice Department's move last week to begin enforcement of the EO by informing certain "sanctuary cities" that they could lose DOJ Justice Assistance Grants if they failed to provide "documentation and an opinion from legal counsel" that they were in compliance with Section 1373.

But the lawsuit challenged the EO on its face, and not just as applied to DOJ JAG grants. And that turned out to be critical in Judge Orrick's decision. In particular, Judge Orrick held that the plain language of the EO threatened all "federal grants" to sanctuary cities, notwithstanding the administration's attempts to narrow that language. (Judge Orrick flatly rejected attempts to limit the EO, taking judicial notice of a variety of public statements of President Trump and administration officials about the breadth of the program.) Because the EO put all "federal grants" on the chopping block, Judge Orrick said that it swept way too far. (Judge Orrick wrote that nothing in the injunction prohibited the administration from enforcing lawful conditions on federal grants, or enforcing Section 1373, or designating jurisdictions as "sanctuary jurisdictions.")

Judge Orrick ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their separation-of-powers claim, because "Section 9 [of the Order, which conditions federal grants on compliance with Section 1373] purports to give the Attorney General and the Secretary the power to place a new condition on federal funds (compliance with Section 1373) not provided for by Congress." This was particularly troubling, because Congress has several times declined to put like conditions on other federal immigration laws.

Judge Orrick also ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their Spending Clause claim, because (1) the conditions in the EO were not unambiguous (because it didn't exist when the states signed up for many of their federal grants, and because so much of the language is vague), (2) there's not a sufficient nexus between the federal funds at issue (from any federal grant) and compliance with Section 1373, and (3) the EO is coercive (because it could deny to local governments all their federal grants).

Judge Orrick also ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their Tenth Amendment challenge (because the EO would compel state and local governments "to enforce a federal regulatory program through coercion" and require state and local jurisdictions to honor civil detainer requests), their void-for-vagueness challenge (because so much of the EO is, well, vague), and their Due Process claim (because the EO contains no process before the feds could withhold already-issued federal grants).

In short, Judge Orrick ruled for the plaintiffs on all their claims. Just one went the other way: Judge Orrick declined to issue an injunction against President Trump himself.

Despite the lofty separation-of-powers and federalism issues that were (and are) at the core of the case, a good chunk of the ruling dealt with justiciability. Judge Orrick ruled that the plaintiffs had standing (because they suffered current budget uncertainty or a required change in policies to comply with the EO) and that the claims were ripe (because of the threatened injury, under MedImmune, Inc. v. Genentech).

April 25, 2017 in Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness, Separation of Powers, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

First Circuit Tosses Challenge to Buffer Zone Law

The First Circuit ruled yesterday that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge New Hampshire's abortion clinic buffer-zone law. The ruling ends the lawsuit and leaves the buffer-zone law in place, although it's not enforced (and that's why there's no standing).

The case arose from a pre-enforcement challenge to New Hampshire's law that permits (but does not require) a reproductive health care facility to establish a zone "up to 25 feet" onto public property adjacent to its facilities and to exclude members of the public from that zone through civil enforcement measures. Plaintiffs challenged the law soon after the Court handed down McCullen v. Coakley, striking Massachusetts's buffer zone.

But no New Hampshire clinic had established a buffer zone, and none was set to establish one. The plaintiffs therefore couldn't allege a harm, and the court kicked the case for lack of standing:

[T]he plaintiffs have not alleged that the Act has meaningfully altered their expressive activities, nor that it has objectively chilled their exercise of First Amendment rights. Because no facility in New Hampshire has yet demarcated a zone, and there is no present evidence that a zone will ever be demarcated, the plaintiffs' "alleged injury is . . . too speculative for Article III purposes." Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l.

The court also ruled that the case wasn't ripe.

January 12, 2017 in Cases and Case Materials, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Ripeness, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fifth Circuit Lets State AG Subpeona, Civil and Criminal Threats Against Google Stand

The Fifth Circuit ruled on Friday in Google v. Hood that a federal district court's injunction against Mississippi Attorney General James M. Hood III jumped the gun, and struck it. The ruling means that AG Hood's subpoena to Google remains live, and that he is not enjoined from bringing civil and criminal action against the web giant.

The case arose when AG Hood and certain other state AGs started expressing concerns that search engines weren't doing enough to stop copyright infringement, prescription drug and counterfeit product sales, and other "illegal and harmful" activity on the internet. Hood wrote to Google, and after some back-and-forth, issued a wide-ranging administrative subpoena, stating that there were "reasonable grounds to believe that Google Inc. may have violated . . . the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act."

Google sued in federal court, alleging that Hood's investigation violated Google's immunity under the Communications Decency Act, the Fourth Amendment, and the First Amendment rights of Google and its users, and seeking an injunction. The district court preliminarily enjoined Hood from enforcing the administrative subpoena and "bringing a civil or criminal charge against Google under Mississippi law for making accessible third-party content to Internet users (as threatened)."

Without touching the merits (even for likelihood of success, under the preliminary injunction standard), the Fifth Circuit struck the injunction. The court said that Google could bring the case in federal court, and that the district court did not err in not abstaining under Younger. But the court went on to say that Google's federal lawsuit was not ripe. That's because the subpoena was non-self-executing, and Hood had no independent authority to enforce it. (Instead, he has to enforce it through injunctive relief and a contempt motion in state court.) As to Hood's threats of civil or criminal enforcement: the court said that these were too "fuzzily defined," and that the court could not "on the present record predict what conduct Hood might one day try to prosecute under Mississippi law." In short: Google's case wasn't ripe, and the district court jumped the gun in issuing the injunction.

The ruling means that Hood can go ahead and try to enforce his subpoena in state court. He can also initiate any civil and criminal actions that Mississippi might allow. But when he does, he'll face Google's immunity and constitutional defenses in state court, and a likely second try in federal court.

April 11, 2016 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sixth Circuit Finds Ohio's False Campaign Speech Law Violates First Amendment

In a relatively brief opinion in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, a panel of the Sixth Circuit found that Ohio's false campaign statute, Ohio Rev. Code § 3517.21(B)(9),  violates the First Amendment.

Recall that the Sixth Circuit had previously decided that the constitutional challenge was not ripe for review, but that the United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed in June 2014.  On remand, District Judge Timothy Black concluded that the statute violated the First Amendment.

Hannah
Hannah Trapnel, a Quaker and a pretended prophet. Line engraving after R. Gaywood, 1823, via

The Sixth Circuit panel reasoned that any Sixth Circuit precedent supporting the view that falsehoods were categorically excluded from the First Amendment had been abrogated by United States v. Alvarez,  (the "stolen valor" case).  Instead, the panel found that the Ohio law both targeted core speech and was a content-based regulation, and thus strict scrutiny was applicable.  The Sixth Circuit reasoned that

Ohio’s interests in preserving the integrity of its elections, protecting “voters from confusion and undue influence,” and “ensuring that an individual’s right to vote is not undermined by fraud in the election process” are compelling.

However, the means chosen were not narrowly tailored:

in their (1) timing, (2) lack of a screening process for frivolous complaints, (3) application to non-material statements, (4) application to commercial intermediaries, and (5) over-inclusiveness and under-inclusiveness.

Additionally, the Sixth Circuit noted:

Ohio’s political false-statements laws have similar features to another Ohio election law that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional. In McIntyre [v. Ohio Elections Committee (1995)] , the Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s election law prohibiting anonymous leafleting because its prohibitions included non-material statements that were “not even arguably false or misleading,” made by candidates, campaign supporters, and “individuals acting independently and using only their own modest resources,” whether made “on the eve of an election, when the opportunity for reply is limited,” or months in advance. Ohio’s political false-statements laws have all of the same flaws. Such glaring oversteps are not narrowly tailored to preserve fair elections.

The use of McIntyre is an interesting one because the "right to be anonymous" recognized in McIntyre seemed to rest in part on the government interest in ensuring truthfulness and cited the Ohio campaign falsehoods law in support.

Given that the court did recognize as compelling the government's interests in addressing lies in campaigns, is there any possibility that a government could craft a narrowly tailored regulation?  It seems doubtful.

February 24, 2016 in Campaign Finance, First Amendment, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 24, 2015

D.C. Circuit OKs Case Against Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The D.C. Circuit on Friday ruled that a case challenging the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can move forward. At the same time, the court dismissed claims against Dodd-Frank's Financial Stability Oversight Council and the government's orderly liquidation authority.

The mixed ruling sends the plaintiffs' case against the CFPB and the recess appointment of Director Richard Cordray back to the district court for a ruling on the merits. We'll undoubtedly see this case back at the D.C. Circuit.

We last posted on a challenge to the CFPB here. (The D.C. Circuit dismissed that case for lack of standing.)

The State National Bank of Big Spring and a number of states brought the case, arguing four points. First, the Bank argued that the CFPB is unconstitutional, because, as an independent agency, it has to be headed by multiple members, not a single director (as it is). Moreover, the bank says that Congress's delegation to the CFPB violates the non-delegation doctrine.

Second, the Bank argues that President Obama appointed Director Cordray as a recess appointment during a three-day intra-session Senate recess, in violation of Noel Canning. (Cordray was subsequently confirmed by the Senate, but the Bank says his actions in the meantime are invalid.)

Third, the Bank claims that the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which monitors the stability of the U.S. financial system and responds to emerging threats and has statutory authority to designate certain "too big to fail" financial companies for additional regulation, violates the non-delegation doctrine and related separation-of-powers principles.

Finally, the states claim that Dodd-Frank's liquidation authority, which permits the government to liquidate failing financial companies that pose a risk to financial stability, violates the non-delegation doctrine and the Bankruptcy Clause's guarantee of uniform bankruptcy laws.

The court held that the bank, as an entity actually regulated by the CFPB, had standing. The court also said that the bank's claims were ripe, under Abbott Labs and Free Enterprise Fund (the PCAOB case).

But the court ruled that the Bank lacked standing to challenge the Council. In particular, it rejected the Bank's novel claim that the Bank was harmed because the Council designated one of the Bank's competitors as "too big to fail," thus giving the competitor a "reputational subsidy."

The court also held that the states lacked standing to challenge the government's liquidation authority. The states said that they invested pension funds in financial companies, that states are therefore creditors in possible future liquidations, that such liquidations could deprive the states of uniform treatment, and that as a result the states' current investments are worth less. The court said this was too speculative.

July 24, 2015 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Nondelegation Doctrine, Ripeness, Separation of Powers, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ninth Circuit Upholds Contribution Disclosure Requirement

The Ninth Circuit yesterday rejected a challenge to California's political contribution disclosure requirement by a group of political committees that backed Prop 8, the state constitutional ballot initiative that defined marriage only as between one man and one woman.  The ruling means that the California's disclosure requirement stays in place, and that Prop 8 Committees have to comply.

The Prop 8 Committees in ProtectMarriage.com v. Bowen challenged California's requirement that political committees disclose contributors who contribute more than $100, even after a campaign, arguing that some of their contributors had been harassed.  The Prop 8 Committees challenged the requirement both on its face and as applied.

The court rejected the challenges.  It applied the familiar "exacting scrutiny" standard to disclosures--that the requirement (and the burden it imposes) bears a "substantial relation" to a "sufficiently important" government interest.  As to the facial challenge, the court said that the state obviously had sufficiently important interests in disclosure during the campaign, and that the state still had sufficiently important interests even after the campaign:

A state's interests in contribution disclosure do not necessarily end on election day.  Even if a state's interest in disseminating accurate information to voters is lessened after the election takes place, the state retains its interests in accurate record-keeping, deterring fraud, and enforcing contribution limits.  As a practical matter, some lag time between an election and disclosure of contributions that immediately precede that election is necessary for the state to protect these interests.  In this case, for example, Appellants' contributions surged nearly 40% (i.e., by over $12 million) between the final pre-election reporting deadline and election day.  Absent post-election reporting requirements, California could not account for such late-in-the-day donations.  And, without such reporting requirements, donors could undermine the State's interests in disclosure by donating only once the final pre-election reporting deadline has passed.

As to the as-applied challenge, the court said they weren't justiciable: a request for an injunction to purge records of past disclosures is moot (and not capable of repetition but evading review); a request for an exemption from future reporting requirements is not ripe.  Judge Wallace dissented on the as-applied challenge.

 

May 21, 2014 in Campaign Finance, Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, First Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Mootness, News, Ripeness, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Susan B Anthony Fund v. Driehaus on Ohio's Prohibition of False Election Statements


The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari today in Susan B Anthony Fund v. Driehaus raising an issue of ripeness with the First Amendment issue in the background.

The background of the case involves "Obamacare," the pro-life/anti-choice Susan B Anthony (SBA) Fund, Congressperson Steve Driehaus (pictured)  and Ohio statutes that prohibit false statements in campaigns.   220px-Steve_Driehaus_official_photo

As the Sixth Circuit, explained, during the 2010 campaign, the SBA List wanted to put up a billboard in then-Congressman Driehaus's district criticizing his vote in favor of the Act. The planned billboard read: "Shame on Steve Driehaus! Driehaus voted FOR taxpayer-funded abortion." But the billboard never went up because the advertising company that owned the billboard space refused to put up the advertisement after Driehaus's counsel threatened legal action against it.

On October 4, 2010, Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission against SBA List claiming that the advertisement violated two sections of Ohio's false-statement statute. The first states that "[n]o person, during the course of any campaign for nomination or election to public office or office of a political party, by means of campaign materials . . . shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such campaign . . . [m]ake a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official." Ohio Rev. Code § 3517.21(B)(9). The second section prohibits posting, publishing, circulating, distributing, or otherwise disseminating "a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate." Id . § 3517.21(B)(10).

The Sixth Circuit held that the claim was not ripe, reasoning that it could not show "an imminent threat of prosecution at the hands of any defendant" and thus could not "show a likelihood of harm to establish that its challenge is ripe for review."  There was no hardship to SBA because its speech was not chilled, according to the Sixth Circuit:  the only speech involved was the billboard and SBA List's president appeared on television and promised to "double down" to make sure its message flooded the congressperson's district. 

Thus, the Sixth Circuit did not reach the First Amendment issue regarding Ohio's prohibition of false speech.  On this issue, the Court's opinion holding unconstitutional the criminalization of false statements in the federal "Stolen Valor" Act in its 2012 opinion in United States v. Alvarez is sure to assume center stage.  The Court will decide if there should be another chance to consider whether falsity should be categorically excluded from First Amendment protections of speech.

January 10, 2014 in Courts and Judging, Elections and Voting, First Amendment, Ripeness, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Federal District Judge Upholds Most of New York's SAFE Act Against Second Amendment Challenge, Striking Some Provisions

In an opinion rendered on December 31, Judge William M. Skretny declared several provisions unconstitutional but upheld most of New York's SAFE Act in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Cumo

Judge Skretny, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District, sitting in Buffalo, applied intermediate scrutiny under the Second Amendment,  drawing on the "post- Heller rulings that have begun to settle the vast terra incognita left by the Supreme Court."  He concluded that the SAFE Act's definition and regulation of assault weapons and its ban on large-capacity magazines further the state’s important interest in public safety, and do not impermissibly infringe on Plaintiffs’ Second Amendment rights.  However, he concluded that the seven-round limit did not satisfy intermediate scrutiny both on the governmental interest and the means chosen.

The plaintiffs also challenged ten specific provisions of the SAFE Act as void for vagueness and thus violative of due process:

  • “conspicuously protruding” pistol grip
  • threaded barrel
  • magazine-capacity restrictions
  • five-round shotgun limit
  •  “can be readily restored or converted”
  • the “and if” clause of N.Y. Penal Law § 265.36 g muzzle “break”
  •  “version” of automatic weapon
  • manufactured weight
  • commercial transfer

 The judge found three unconstitutional - - - the “and if” clause of N.Y. Penal Law § 265.36, the references to muzzle “breaks” in N.Y. Penal Law § 265.00(22)(a)(vi), and the regulation with respect to pistols that are “versions” of automatic weapons in N.Y. Penal Law § 265.00(22)(c)(viii) - - - concluding that these provisions were vague and "must be stricken because they do not adequately inform an ordinary person as to what conduct is prohibited."

The opinion also rejects the dormant commerce clause challenge to the provision of the SAFE Act that effectively bans ammunition sales over the Internet and imposes a requirement that an ammunition transfer “must occur in person.”  The government had argued that the challenge was not ripe given that the section does not go into effect until January 15, 2014, but Judge Skretny decided the question was one of mere "prudential" ripeness and that the claim should be decided.  Applying well-established dormant commerce clause doctrine, the judge found first that the SAFE Act did not "discriminate" against out of state interests and moving to the "balancing test" under Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. (1970), the "incidental effects on interstate commerce" were not "excessive in relation to a legitimate local public interest."

788px-Ted_Noten_Murdered_Innocence_2005

Judge Skretny's 57 page opinion is scholarly and closely reasoned with specific findings.  Yet the Second Amendment issues certainly reflect the fact that there are no established standard for judicial scrutiny of the regulations of the "right to bear arms.  Recall that the Fifth Circuit's use of intermediate scrutiny in NRA v. AFT (regarding a federal restriction applying to persons less than 21 years of age)  and in NRA v. McCraw (regarding Texas restrictions also applying to persons less that 21 years of age) are both being considered on petitions for writs of certiorari by the United States Supreme Court.   Sooner or later, some sort of analytic framework for deciding Second Amendment issues will be established by the Court.  Until then, federal judges are left to navigate what Judge Skretny called the "vast terra incognita" of Second Amendment doctrine.

[image via]

January 2, 2014 in Courts and Judging, Dormant Commerce Clause, Due Process (Substantive), History, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness, Second Amendment, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Court Reverses Ninth Circuit Raisin Takings Clause Opinion

800px-Single_raisinIn a relatively brief opinion in Horne v. Department of Agriculture by Justice Thomas writing for a unanimous Court, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the Hornes did not state a claim for a regulatory taking. 

Recall that the Hornes are involved in the raisin business and the Ninth Circuit had upheld a regulatory scheme that mandates that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year - - - this fluctuates yearly and by controlling raisins on the market is a means of indirectly controlling prices.

The precise nature of the Hornes' involvement in the raisin business - - - whether they are handlers or producers - - - is important to the controversy.  But, the Supreme Court held, not as important as the Ninth Circuit ruled.  Instead, the Court held that

The Ninth Circuit confused petitioners’ statutory argument (i.e., “we are producers, not handlers”) with their constitutional argument (i.e., “assuming we are handlers, fining us for refusing to turn over reserve-tonnage raisins violates the Fifth Amendment”).

Thus, the Ninth Circuit should have reached the merits of the Takings Clause claim.

Moreover, the argument that the Hornes' claim was not ripe was also incorrect.  They were subject to enforcement proceedings and they are free to raise their Takings Clause defense before the USDA and the courts.

Although a somewhat technical decision sounding in "jurisdiction," the Court has opened the way for a regulatory Takings Clause claim against an agricultural scheme seeking to control prices and supply.

RR
[image of raisin via]

 

June 10, 2013 in Fifth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness, Supreme Court (US), Takings Clause | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 1, 2013

HHS Proposes New Rules on Contraception Coverage, Exempts Religious Employers

HHS today issued proposed new rules on the contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act, including new exemptions for religious employers.  The proposed rules come on the heels of a spate of litigation by religious employers challenging the contraception coverage requirement as violating their religious liberties.

The D.C. Circuit most recently rejected these claims based on the administration's promise to issue new regs exempting religious employers, but the court also retained jurisdiction over the case, holding it in abeyance, to monitor the administration's adoption of new rules.  The United States District Court for D.C. similarly recently rejected the claims, but declined to retain jurisdiction and dismissed the case.

According to HHS, the proposed rules allow non-profit religious organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds to side-step the ACA's contraception mandate, but still give employees free access to contraception.  Here's how it'll work:

The proposed rules lay out how non-profit religious organizations, such as non-profit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.

With respect to insured plans, including student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer.  The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

With respect to self-insured plans, as well as student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their third party administrator.  In turn, the third party administrator would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

The proposed rules also simplify and clarify the definition of "religious employer" for the purpose of exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement.

The proposed rules are the first step in issuing new regulations.  HHS will collect comments on the rules until April 8, 2013, and then move forward on finalizing them.

SDS

February 1, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Establishment Clause, Free Exercise Clause, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Ripeness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 28, 2013

District Court Dismisses Archbishop's Contraception Challenge

Judge Amy Berman Jackson (D.D.C.) on Friday dismissed the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington's challenge to the HHS regs pursuant to the Affordable Care Act that required insurers to provide coverage for preventive care, including contraception, for women.  The ruling comes on the heels of the D.C. Circuit's ruling just last month that a similar challenge was not ripe.

Judge Jackson cited the D.C. Circuit ruling, Wheaton College v. Sebelius, and ruled that the Archbishop's challenge was similarly not ripe.  (Recall that the D.C. Circuit reasoned that HHS committed to changing its regs, so that the contraception requirement wouldn't cover the religious employer in that case.)  The D.C. Circuit wrote, "We take the government at its word and will hold it to it."  So too Judge Jackson.

Unlike the D.C. Circuit, however, Judge Jackson did not hold the case in abeyance.  Instead, she outright dismissed it, writing that the Archbishop could bring a new case if and when the government enforced a contraception mandate against it.

SDS

January 28, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Challenge to Proposed San Francisco Ordinance Banning Nudity

Proposed Ordinance 120984 banning public nudity, scheduled for vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on November 20, is already the subject of a constitutional challenge filed in federal court.

This pre-enforcement - - - indeed, pre-adoption - - - challenge suffers from a lack of Article III ripeness,  but an adoption of the ordinance and the passage of 30 days for the ordinance to become effective would cure that defect. 

800px-Golden_Gate_Bridge_at_sunset_1

On the merits, the complaint alleges that the proposed ordinance violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause.  One of the more interesting arguments flows from one of the proposed ordinance's two exceptions: any person under the age of five years, and "any permitted parade, fair, or festival held under a City or other government issued permit." 

The more generalized First Amendment challenge to a law banning nudity is not likely to suceed under the federal constitution.  However, the California constitution could certainly be construed to protect nude expression.  And even more compelling are the political and social arguments presented to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that focus on San Francisco's identity as a haven for free expression, including nudity. 

Reports from SF weekly here and here.

RR
[image via]

UPDATE:  Federal District Judge Edward Chen granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint in his Order (January 29, 2013).

 

November 15, 2012 in Equal Protection, First Amendment, Ripeness, Speech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another Catholic School Challenge to Women's Health Regs Dismissed

Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle (D.D.C.) dismissed Wheaton College's case against Secretary Sebelius over federal regs under the ACA that require covered employers to provide women with certain forms of preventive care, including all FDA-approved forms of contraception, without cost sharing.

The case is the second in as many months dismissed for lack of standing and ripeness in the D.C. District.  We posted on the earlier case, Belmont Abbey College v. Sebelius, here.  This case, by a different judge, now makes it even less likely that any of these suits will succeed.

(There are two other district court rulings.  In one, State of Nebraska ex rel. Bruning v. Sebelius, Judge Warren Urbom (D. Ne.) dismissed claims by religious organizations, individuals, and the state itself for lack of standing--the same ruling as in Belmont Abbey and Wheaton College, but also including individual and state plaintiffs.  In another, Newland v. Sebelius, Judge John Kane (D. Co.) granted a preliminary injunction to a private corporation, not a religious organization covered under the safe harbor.  Newland is different than the other cases, because it was brought by a private corporation with no protection under the safe harbor.)

The most recent case, Wheaton College v. Sebelius, involved the same and very similar issues as those in Belmont Abbey--that is, whether the government's "safe harbor" and commitment to reconsider its regs left the plaintiff without standing and the case without ripeness.  Like Judge Boasberg in Belmont Abbey, Judge Huvelle said yes on both counts.

Judge Huvelle rejected Wheaton College's argument that it might be subject to litigation as too speculative.  She also rejected Wheaton College's argument that it might be subject to a new government position at any time--just as the D.C. Circuit ruled in Chamber of Commerce v. FEC that the Chamber of Commerce might have been subject to an FEC enforcement proceeding at any time, even with an FEC evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.  Judge Huvelle wrote that Chamber of Commerce was different, because here the government's commitment not to act against employers that qualify for the safe harbor (including Wheaton College) "was the product of sustained agency and public deliberation, and it represents a final decision, that has been reiterated twice."  Op. at 11.

SDS

August 27, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Ripeness, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Florida Judge Overturns "Medical Privacy Concerning Firearms" Act

Judge Marcia Cook (S.D. Fl.) last week ruled in Wollschlaeger v. Farmer that the Florida's law restricting health care providers from asking whether a patient owns a firearm violates free speech.  The ruling permanently enjoins the state from enforcing four provisions of the act and from disciplining health care providers who violate them.  We posted on the case previously--when Judge Cook granted a preliminary injunction--here.

The ruling is a blow to state efforts to restrict health care providers from talking and asking patients about gun ownership.  But the ruling makes clear that any worries about discrimination against gun owners was based on only the thinnest actual evidence.  (In other words, the law protected against something that didn't exist--at least in any widespread, systematic way.)  Thus, this case isn't a ruling on a clash between First and Second Amendment rights--because the state failed to show that there was any real interference with Second Amendment rights driving the law.  This is a pure free speech case, and the state's stated interests just don't hold up.

A group of doctors and health care providers brought the case challenging Florida's ban--which prohibits doctors and health care providers from talking or asking patients about firearms ownership.  The plaintiffs claimed that the law chilled their speech about preventive health issues.  Judge Cook agreed.  The state's biggest problem, according to Judge Cook, was that it didn't show that the law was tailored to meet any particular problem--that the state failed to show that there was any widespread infringement on the right to bear arms or any widespread discrimination against gun owners by health care providers.

Florida Statutes 790.338 provides:

(1) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . may not intentionally enter any disclosed information concerning firearm ownership into the patient's medical record if the practitioner knows that such information is not relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or to the safety of others.

(2) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . shall respect a patient's right to privacy and should refrain from making a written inquiry or asking questions concerning the ownership of a firearm or ammunition by the patient or by a family member of the patient, or the presence of a firearm in a private home or other domicile of the patient or a family member of the patient.  Notwithstanding this provision, a health care practitioner or health care facility that in good faith believes that this information is relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others, may make such a verbal or written inquiry.

. . .

(5) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . may not discriminate against a patient based solely upon the patient's exercise of the constitutional right to own and possess firearms or ammunition.

(6) A health care practitioner . . . or a health care facility . . . may not discriminate against a patient based solely upon the patient's exercise of the constitutional right to own and possess firearms or ammunition.

After ruling that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge these four provisions of the law, and that the challenge was ripe, Judge Cook ruled that these provisions violated the First Amendment.  She wrote that the provisions were content-based restrictions on speech, subject to strict scrutiny; that they were a ban on (especially protected) truthful, non-misleading speech; and that the state's interests didn't stand up.

The state said that it had interests in protecting patients' Second Amendment rights, protecting patients' access to health care in the face of discrimination (against those who own firearms), protecting patients' privacy rights, and regulating professionals.  

But Judge Cook ruled that the state couldn't show any widespread infringement on patients' Second Amendment rights, access, or equal treatment.  The law was based entirely on a handful of anecdotes.  Moreover, the law itself contains protections for patients--for example, allowing them not to answer questions about firearms ownership.  The state's interests, Judge Cook ruled, were therefore insufficient to withstand strict scrutiny analysis.

They were also insufficient to withstand a less rigorous balancing under Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, a case setting the free speech bar lower when a state seeks to regulate a lawyer's speech.

Judge Cook also ruled that two clauses were unconstitutionally vague: "relevant to the patient's medical care or safety, or the safety of others"; and "unnecessarily harassing."  Those phrases, she said, do not give sufficient guidance to health care providers as to what speech is covered and what speech is not.

SDS

July 4, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness, Second Amendment, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ninth Circuit: Religious Marijuana Case Can Move Forward

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled this week that the Oklevueha Native American Indian Church of Hawaii's action under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act seeking declaratory and injunctive relief barring the government from enforcing the Controlled Substances Act against them could move forward.  The court ruled in Oklevueha Native American Chuch of Hawaii v. Holder that the plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were ripe and that the plaintiff had associational standing.

The case arises out of the plaintiffs' claim that they fear federal prosecution for its members' cultivation, consumption, possession, and distribution of marijuana for religious purposes.  The plaintiffs say that the federal government already seized a pound of marijuana from FedEx that was addressed to a church leader and intended for Oklevueha use.  They now fear federal prosecution.

The district court dismissed the case for lack of ripeness and lack of associational standing, but the Ninth Circuit reversed.  The Ninth Circuit ruled that the plaintiff's case was a valid preenforcement claim, becuase (1) the church articulated a "concrete plan" to violate the law, (2) the government communicated a specific warning or threat to enforce the law against the church, and (3) there was a history of past prosecution or enforcement under the statute.  As to (2), the court ruled that the unusual posture of the case couldn't render the case unripe:

Plaintiffs need not allege a threat of future prosecution because the statute has already been enforced against them.  When the Government seized Plaintiffs' marijuana pursuant to the CSA, a definite and concrete dispute regarding the lawfulness of that seizure came into existence. . . .  This case is unique in that unlike most enforcements of criminal statutes, the seizure did not result in a criminal proceeding that could have afforded Plaintiffs the opportunity to assert their constitutional and statutory challenges to the enforcement of the CSA against them.  But it does not follow that because this enforcement and seizure of property did not provide Plaintiffs a process in which to raise their claims, those claims are not now ripe.

Op. at 3807.  The court also ruled that the plaintiffs' case was prudentially ripe, and that the church had associational standing.

SDS

April 12, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Ripeness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

. . . and Candidate Rick Perry has filed an appeal to the Fourth Circuit

422px-RickPerry2006Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry has appealed from the district court's order denying his First Amendment claim for a preliminary injunction. 

In the emergency motion for injunction pending appeal, Perry's attorneys argue that the requirements for laches - - - lack of diligence by plaintiff and prejudice to defendant - - - were not satisfied.  

RR
[image: Governor Rick Perry, 2006, via]

UPDATE here

January 15, 2012 in Association, Current Affairs, First Amendment, News, Ripeness, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Religious Groups Lack Standing/Ripe Claims to Challenge Hawai'i Civil Unions Law

The Civil Unions Law, Act 1, of Hawai'i became effective January 1, 2012.  

 

800px-Oahu-Kahaluupond-seawall&chapel

In the last days of 2011, several religious groups sued for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the Act's implementation and prevent any enforcement against them.  In a relatively brief opinion, federal district judge J. Michael Seabright denied the TRO in Emmanuel Temple v. Abercrombie

The complaint seeking the TRO alleged that because Act 1 does not have a "religious exemption," the plaintiffs could suffer a First Amendment injury.  However, the judge found that the claim was not justiciable because the plaintiffs lacked standing and their challenge was not ripe, noting that in many cases the "injury in fact" prong of the standing analysis coincides with an inquiry regarding ripeness.

The judge found that any threat of enforcement of Act 1 against the plaintiffs was "highly speculative."   A number of unforseeable events would have to occur:

  • A couple would have to ask plaintiffs to use a particular facility of theirs - - - which presumably would have to be a "public accomodation" - - - for a civil union made possible by Act 1;
  • Plaintiffs would have to wrongly refuse based upon a protected ground;
  • The couple, having been denied, would have to file a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission;
  • The state authorities would have to decide to proceed against plaintiffs.

The judge found it was equally speculative that a couple, having been denied, would chose to file a judicial action rather than an action with the Commission.

For ConLawProfs starting the semester with Article III justiciability, this could be the basis of a great class problem. 

Situating the case outside that doctrinal framework, it is an example of religious groups filing federal actions against same-sex relationship recognition, as in New York, despite that state's religious exemption in the statute.

Further, it is yet another incident in the saga of same-sex marriage in Hawai'i; a good review and the latest litigation by same-sex couples challenging the civil union law for not providing marriage is here.

RR
[image: Kahaluʻu Fishpond seawall and wedding chapel, Oahu, Hawaii, on National Register of Historic Places, via]

January 3, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Equal Protection, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Religion, Ripeness, Sexual Orientation, Standing, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Indiana Immigration Law (SEA 590) Enjoined by Federal Judge

Indiana has joined several other states, most notably Arizona, in passing statutes intended to regulate immigration.  The Indiana statute, SEA 590 set to become effective July 1, has been partially enjoined by a federal district judge in a 39 page Order

The judge enjoined both provisions challenged by plaintiffs:

  • Section 19 of SEA 590, which amends Indiana Code § 35-33-1-1(1), by adding new sections (a)(11)-(a)(13), authorizing state and local law enforcement officers to make a warrantless arrest of a person when the officer has a removal order issued for the person by an immigration court, a detainer or notice of action issued for the person by the United States Department of Homeland Security, or has probable cause to believe the person has been indicted for or convicted of one or more aggravated felonies.
  • Section 18 of SEA 590, to be codified as Indiana Code § 34-28-8.2, which creates a new infraction under Indiana law for any person (other than a police officer) who knowingly or intentionally offers or accepts a consular identification card as a valid form of identification for any purpose.

The opinion considers standing issues, as well at the standards for preliminary injunction, but found both sections 19 and 18 unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement.

As to section 19, the judge found it troubling under both pre-emption and Fourth Amendment principles.  On pre-emption, the judge stated that :

Clearly, it is not the intent or purpose of federal immigration policy to arrest individuals merely because they have at some point had contact with an administrative agency about an immigration matter and received notice to that effect. Authorizing an arrest for nothing more than the receipt of an administrative notification plainly interferes with the federal government’s purpose of keeping those involved in immigration matters apprised of the status of their cases, but not arresting them.

As to the Fourth Amendment issue, the judge noted that the State conceded that "nothing under Indiana Judge parker law makes criminal the receipt of a removal order, a notice of action or detainer, or a person’s having been indicted for or convicted of an aggravated felony."   Section 19 expressly provides that state and local enforcement officers 'may arrest' individuals for conduct that all parties stipulate and agree is not criminal."   While the State argued that the statute would only be enforced in circumstances in which the officer had a "separate, lawful reason for the arrest," the judge found that construction "fanciful" and would " in effect, read the statute out of existence."  The judge thus found the statute violative of the Fourth Amendment.

On section 18, the judge similarly considered pre-emption, but also an equal protection and due process challenge.   On pre-emption, the treaty power was also implicated, and planitiffs argued that the provision interferes with rights bestowed on foreign nations by treaty as well as with the federal government’s responsibilities for the conduct of foreign relations.  The State rejoined that the statute does not directly conflict with any treaty nor does it impede the federal government’s ability to manage foreign affairs, because Section 18 is merely an "internal regulation outlining acceptable forms of identification within the State of Indiana that does not single out or conflict with any identifiable immigration policy or regulation."  The judge reasoned that the provision targeted "only one form of identification – CIDs issued by foreign governments" and moreover, regulated CIDs "in the broadest possible terms, restricting not just what state agencies may accept as valid identification but prohibiting what identification may be shown and accepted for purely private transactions."   With regard to equal protection, the judge cited United States Dep’t of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 534 (1973), noting that this "targeting" was a "bare desire to harm a politically unpopular group."  Thus, the judge found this provision unconstitutional as well.

The District Court Judge, Sarah Evans Parker (pictured above) was appointed to the bench by president Ronald Regan in 1984; an interesting profile of the judge, with video interviews, appeared earlier this year from Indiana Business Journal. 

RR

June 26, 2011 in Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Foreign Affairs, Fourth Amendment, Preemption, Ripeness, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)