Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Solicitation for Sodomy Statute - As "Narrowly Construed"

The Supreme Court of Georgia has upheld the constitutionality of the state statute criminalizing the solicitation of sodomy, even as it narrowly construed it, and even as it reversed the conviction based upon insufficiency of the evidence.

HunsteinIn its 12 page opinion in Watson v. State, Justice Carol Hunstein (pictured right) writing for a unanimous court, reaffirmed two of the court's previous decisions:

  • Powell v. State (1998), limiting the construction of the sodomy statute pursuant to the "fundamental privacy rights under the Georgia Constitution" and
  • Howard v. State (2000), upholding the sodomy solicitation statute against a free speech challenge by  narrowly construing "the solitication of sodomy statute to only punish speech soliciting sodomy that is not protected by the Georgia Constitution's right to privacy."

 Thus, the rule the court articulates is that

an individual violates the solicitation of sodomy statute if he (1) solicits another individual (2) to perform or submit to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one and the mouth or anus of the other and (3) such sexual act is to be performed (a) in public; (b) in exchange for money or anything of commercial value; (c) by force; or (d) by or with an individual who is incapable of giving legal consent to sexual activity.

Under this redefined "scope of the statute," the court then finds that Watson's actions did not satisfy any of the possibilities required by the third element: it was not to take place in public, it was not commercial, was not by force (although Watson was a police officer) and was not to a person incapable of giving consent (although solicited person was 17, the age of consent in the state is 16).  In addition to reversing the conviction for solicitation of sodomy, the court reversed the conviction for violation of oath of office (of a police officer) that rested on the solicitation conviction.

While the Georgia Supreme Court's opinion is correct, redrafting a statute that remains "on the books" for prosecutors, defense counsel, and perhaps even judges who are less than diligent can result in a denial of justice.

The better course would have been to declare the solicitation of sodomy statute unconstitutional, requiring the legislature to do its job and pass a constitutional statute.  This was the option followed by the New York Court of Appeals - - - New York's highest court - - - when presented by a similar issue in 1983.  Having previously declared the state's sodomy statute unconstitutional in People v. Onofre (1980),  when the court was presented with a challenge to a prosecution under the solicitation of sodomy statute, the court in People v. Uplinger stated:

The object of the loitering statute is to punish conduct anticipatory to the act of consensual sodomy. Inasmuch as the conduct ultimately contemplated by the loitering statute may not be deemed criminal, we perceive no basis upon which the State may continue to punish loitering for that purpose. This statute, therefore, suffers the same deficiencies as did the consensual sodomy statute.

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Uplinger, and then dismissed certiorari as improvidently granted, in part because of the intertwining of state and federal constitutional issues and in part because there was not a challenge to the underlying decision that held sodomy unconstitutional, six years before Bowers v. Hardwick, the case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld Georgia's sodomy statute.

October 22, 2013 in Criminal Procedure, Due Process (Substantive), Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, State Constitutional Law, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 4, 2013

South Africa Constitutional Court Declares Portions of Statutory Rape Laws Unconstitutional

Img_teddy_phone-266x300The Constitutional Court of South Africa's unanimous opinion in The Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and Another v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and Another rendered on October 3, declares two aspects of the statutory rape and statutory sexual assault crimes unconstitutional. 

Before the Court was the criminal scheme in which two adolescents who had a sexual encounter with each other could both be guilty of having statutorily raped the other.  A "close in age" defense, when the parties' age difference was less than two years, was available in the statutory sexual assault situation, but not in the statutory rape situation in which "penetration" is required.

Written by Justice Sisi Khampepe, the opinion concludes that the criminal scheme violates the inherent right to dignity protected by §10 of the South African Constitution and the right to privacy protected by protected by §59 of the Constitution.  The Court's opinion also found that the criminal sanctions violated § 28(2) of the Constitution that provides that “[a] child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.”  It added that it is "trite that section 28(2) is both a self-standing right and a guiding principle in all matters affecting children, and that the criminal sanctions "exacerbate harm and risk to adolescents by undermining support structures, preventing adolescents from seeking help and potentially driving adolescent sexual behaviour underground."

Writing for the Court, Justice Khampepe resolves the required "means chosen" analysis thusly:

In my view, there are clearly less restrictive means available for achieving the stated purposes of the impugned provisions. First, assuming criminalisation could be shown to be an appropriate response to deter consensual sexual acts which carry the risks of psychological harm, pregnancy or the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, a narrowly focussed provision would target only those acts where these are potential risks. I have already noted that sexual penetration as defined goes well beyond sexual intercourse. Similarly, most of the acts falling within the ambit of sexual violation are not carriers of the recited risks. Thus, in relation to the purposes of preventing adolescents from suffering psychological harm, contracting sexually transmitted diseases and becoming pregnant, the impugned provisions are clearly and impermissibly over-inclusive. In any event, I am highly doubtful that the introduction of criminal prohibitions could ever be shown to be a constitutionally sound means of preventing the occurrence of such risks as teenage pregnancy. Certainly the respondents have put forward neither argument nor evidence to convince me otherwise.

Additionally, the Court noted that criminalization included sex offender status and registration requirements.

Declaring the sections invalid "to the extent that they impose criminal liability on children under the age of 16 years,"  the Court then suspended the declaration for 18 months to allow Parliament to "correct the defects" in the legislation.

This is an important opinion for childrens' rights and sexual rights.  

[image from The Teddy Bear Clinic via]

October 4, 2013 in Comparative Constitutionalism, Family, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sixth Circuit Rejects Secular For-Profit Company's Claim Challenging ACA Under RFRA

The Sixth Circuit's succinct and unanimous opinion in Autocam Corporation v. Sebelius sided with the Third Circuit's July opinion in Conestoga Wood Specialties and against the en banc Tenth Circuit's June majority opinion in Hobby Lobby on the issue of whether a for-profit secular business has a free exercise of religion right (as a person) under RFRA, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  There is some intertwining of the First Amendment free exercise of religion claim, but the Autocam decision rests on RFRA.

Autocam, like Conestoga Wood and Hobby Lobby, and its owners, argue that the regulations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“ACA”) requiring employers cover contraceptive methods for their employees - - - often called the contraceptive mandate - - - infringes on their religious rights.  Autocam, like the others, is a large corporation.  And a quick look at Autocam's "mission" on its website indicates no expression of a religious purpose, but only providing superior products. 

Autocam

 

The Sixth Circuit interestingly found that while Autocam as a corporation had standing to assert its claims, the Kennedy family as members (owners?) of a "closely held corporation" did not have shareholder standing:  "Generally, shareholders of a corporation cannot bring claims intended to redress injuries to a corporation, even when the corporation is closely held."  The Kennedys argued that this rule should not apply in RFRA claims, but the court found nothing in RFRA to support their view.  Further, the court rejected their claims they were individually harmed or that a "pass through" theory could be applied.

As to the merits of the corporation's assertion of personhood under RFRA, the court found that RFRA did not support such an interpretation, and moreover, "Reading the term “person” in the manner suggested by Autocam would lead to a significant expansion of the scope of the rights the Free Exercise Clause"  protected prior to Employment Division v.  Smith and the enactment of RFRA. 

By affirming the denial of the preliminary injunction by the district judge, the Sixth Circuit panel has entered the fray of a circuit split on the issue.   With its unamious opinion, it does tilt the "count" toward a nonrecognition of religious rights of secular for proft corporations (recall that the en banc Tenth Circuit opinion was closely divided and the Third Circuit panel opinion was also split; additionally earlier this month a senior district judge in the Tenth Circuit applied applied Hobby Lobby to a for-profit nursing home chain.)  However, the Sixth Circuit opinion adds little new to the analysis of this issue increasingly ripe for Supreme Court review.

September 18, 2013 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Family, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Standing, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tenth Circuit Upholds Utah's Sexual Solicitation Statute

Sexual solicitation statutes suffer from challenges based upon overbreadth and vagueness.  In its opinion in Bushco, Inc. v. Shurtleff, a panel of the Tenth Circuit upheld amendments to Utah's statute, reversing the district judge on the unconstitutionality of one of the provisions.

 

Kaufmann Solicitations of Folly
"Beauty Directed by Prudence Rejects with Scorn the Solicitations of Folly" circa 1780
The “Sex Solicitation Amendments,”  House Bill 121 amended Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1313 by adding two new provisions: § 1313(1)(c) and § 1313(2):

 

1. A person is guilty of sexual solicitation when the person: ... .

c. with intent to engage in sexual activity for a fee or to pay another person to commit any sexual activity for a fee engages in, offers or agrees to engage in, or requests or directs another to engage in any of the following acts:
    i. exposure of a person’s genitals, the buttocks, the anus, the pubic area, or the female breast below the top of the areola;
    ii. masturbation;
    iii. touching of a person’s genitals, the buttocks, the anus, the pubic area, or the female breast; or
    iv. any act of lewdness.

2. An intent to engage in sexual activity for a fee may be inferred from a person’s engaging in, offering or agreeing to engage in, or requesting or directing another to engage in any of the acts described in Subsection (1)(c) under the totality of the existing circumstances.

The Tenth Circuit, like the trial judge, rejected the First Amendment challenges, applied the test for expressive conduct from the 1968 case of United States v. O'Brien, and found that all the O'Brien prongs were satisfied.  It did note, however, an as-applied challenge to overbreadth was possible.

On the vagueness claim, the panel found that § 1313(1)(c) was not unconstitutionally vague, again affirming the district judge.  However, the Tenth Circuit panel disagreed with the trial judge's conclusion that the subsequent provision - - - § 1313(2) - - - was unconstitutionally vague.  Instead, the Tenth Circuit panel found that the language "under the totality of the existing circumstances" would constrain a police officer's discretion rather than encouraging arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement as the district judge had reasoned.

The Tenth Circuit's opinion demonstrates how difficult it is to prevail on a challenge to a sex solicitation challenge.  Interestingly, it was Bushco, Inc, an escort service company, that appealed from its partial victory in the district court, with the State Attorney filing a cross-appeal.

 [image via]

September 10, 2013 in Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Texas State Appellate Court Finds "Improper Photography" Statute Unconstitutional

630px-PSM_V21_D054_The_binocular_cameraCan a state criminalize "improper" photography?

Texas Penal Code 21.15 seeks to do just that, providing:

A person commits an offense if the person: (1) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another at a location that is not a bathroom or private dressing room: (A) without the other person’s consent; and (B) with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

While Texas courts had previously upheld the statute, the Texas Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in San Antonio, ruled on a pretrial writ of habeas corpus that the statute was unconstitutional in its opinion in Ex Parte Thompson.

In its relatively brief discussion, the unanimous three judge panel held that "the statute not only restricts an individual’s right to photograph, a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, but the statute also restricts a person’s thoughts, which the U.S. Supreme Court has held is 'wholly inconsistent with the philosophy of the First Amendment.'"  [citations omitted]. 

The court, however, rejected the argument that the statute was a content restriction, instead finding that it was "imposing time, place, and manner restrictions that are unrelated to content," and thus merited "intermediate scrutiny" under United States v. O’Brien.  While O'Brien - - - the draft card burning case - - - is generally thought to be applicable to expressive conduct, the panel here uses O'Brien's factors to ultimately conclude that the statute is facially overbroad "reaching a substantial amount of constitutionally protected conduct," and relying in part on the Supreme Court's 2010 opinion in United States v. Stevens, declaring the federal "crush porn" statute unconstitutional.

The opinion's analysis and use of precedent might trouble some First Amendment scholars and it will be interesting to watch whether the case reaches the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [thanks to commentator for clarifying Texas court system].

 

RR
[image via] 

September 1, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ninth Circuit Upholds California Ban on Reparative (Sexual Orientatation Conversion)Therapy Against First Amendment Challenge

A panel of the Ninth Circuit today upheld the validity of California's SB 1172, prohibiting licensed therapists from performing what is known variously as sexual conversion therapy, reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on minors under the age of 18.

In its 36 page opinion in the consolidated cases of  Pickup v. Brown and Welch v. Brown, the court reversed the senior district judge's opinion in Welch v. Brown enjoining the statute, and affirmed the opinion of a different district judge in Pickup v. Brown that had found the statute constitutional, and dissolved its own injunction pending appeal issued last December.

Judge Susan Graber, writing for the unanimous panel also consisting of  Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Judge Morgan Christen, Judge Graber summarized the holding thusly:  

SB 1172, as a regulation of professional conduct, does not violate the free speech rights of SOCE practitioners or minor patients, is neither vague nor overbroad, and does not violate parents’ fundamental rights.

 

Lossy-page1-424px-Le_psychiatre.tif
"Le psychiatre" by Jeylina Ever, 2010
The panel held that SB 1172 did not merit heightened scrutiny under the First Amendment. Construing circuit precedent, it distilled several relevant principles:

 

(1) doctor-patient communications about medical treatment receive substantial First Amendment protection, but the government has more leeway to regulate the conduct necessary to administering treatment itself;
(2) psychotherapists are not entitled to special First Amendment protection merely because the mechanism used to deliver mental health treatment is the spoken word; and
(3) nevertheless, communication that occurs during psychotherapy does receive some constitutional protection, but it is not immune from regulation.

(emphasis in original).  The panel concluded that there is a continuum between speech and conduct, and that SB 1172 landed toward conduct, "where the state's power is great, even though such regulation may have an incidental effect on speech."   Applying a rational basis standard, the court rejected the claim that California legislature acted irrationally.

The court quickly dispatched the remaining arguments including that SB 1172 violated the right of "expressive association" as between counselors and clients, that SB 1172 was void for vagueness, that SB 1172 was overbroad, and that SB1172 violated the parents' fundamental due process rights over their children.

This is an important and well-reasoned decision likely to be persuasive to other courts, including the federal district judge deciding the constitutional challenge to New Jersey's similar statute.

RR
[image via]

August 29, 2013 in Family, First Amendment, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conference on Sex and Reproduction, Feminism and Legal Theory Project at 30

CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

The Feminism and Legal Theory Project at 30: A Workshop on Sex and Reproduction: From Privacy and Choice to Resilience and Opportunity?

EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW

November 15-16, 2013

more information here

SCHEDULE:

Friday, November, 15th
3-4 pm RECEPTION IN MACMILLAN LAW LIBRARY (location TBA)

247Celebrating the formal opening of the Catherine G. Roraback (pictured in watercolor left) Archive at Emory Law School .The workshop will be dedicated to Katie and her pioneering work on behalf of reproductive rights and justice.

Amy Kesselman (SUNY New Paltz), Vanessa King (Emory University School of Law)
  
4:30 - 6:30 pm  History of Sex and Reproduction
Bleeding Across Time: First Principles of US Population Policy | Rickie Solinger
Women versus Connecticut: Insights from the Pre-Roe Abortion Battles | Amy Kesselman (SUNY New Paltz)
Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roe: Ammi Rogers and the Legal History of Anti-Abortion Norms | Lolita Buckner Inniss  (Hamilton College, Cleveland Marshall College of Law)
6:30 - 8 pm DINNER

Saturday, November 16th
8:30 - 9:00 am CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST
 
9:00 - 11:30 am Discourses Surrounding Sex and Reproduction Issues: Law, Religion and Medicine
Medical, Scientific, and Public Health Evidence in Supreme Court Jurisprudence: Reimagining the Feminist Health Movement | Aziza Ahmed (Northeastern University School of Law)
Abortion Law and Medical Practices | Sheelagh McGuinness (School of Law, University of Birmingham) and Michael Thomson (School of Law, University of Leeds)
The Role of 'Nature' in Debates about Sex and Reproduction | Sean Coyle (School of Law, University of Birmingham)
Abortion Liberalization Policies around the World: Hidden Differences in the Diffusion Process | Elizabeth Heger Boyle (University of Minnesota), Minzee Kim (Ewha Women's University, South Korea), and Wesley Longhofer (Goizueta Business School, Emory University)
(University of Florida)
11:30 am - 12:30 pm LUNCH
 
12:30 - 2:45 pm Feminist Discourses: Sex, Reproduction and Choice
Infertility, Adoption, Alternative Reproduction, and Contemporary Legal Theory | April L. Cherry (Cleveland-Marshall School of Law)
Reproductive Rights and the Right to Reproduce: Is there a Place for the Non-Marital Mother? | Twila L. Perry (Rutgers University School of Law-Newark)
Choices Under the Shadow of Population Policy: Compuslory motherhood Challenged and Remade in Taiwan (1970s-2000s) | Chao-ju Chen (National Taiwan University)
Testing Sex: Non-invasive Prenatal Genetic Testing and Sex Selection |  Rachel Rebouche (University of Florida, Levin College of Law) 
3:00 - 5:15 pm Regulating Sex and Reproduction
Markets and Motives for Sex and Reproduction | Mary Ann Case (University of Chicago Law School)
A Fiduciary Theory of Health Entitlements | Margaux Hall (Columbia Law School)
Schrodinger's Child: Identity and Non-Identity in Reproductive Decision-Making | Jennifer S. Hendricks (University of Colorado Law School)
Procreative Pluralism |  Kimberley Mutcherson (Rutgers Law School, Camden)

 

RR

August 27, 2013 in Abortion, Conferences, Family, Gender, History, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Scholarship, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Jersey's Prohibition of Sexual Orientation Conversion Challenged

New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie (pictured) signed New Jersey A3371 banning so-called sexual conversion or reparative therapy on minors into law earlier this month. 

DSC_3546_smallIn his signing statement, Christie said:

At the outset of this debate, I expressed my concerns about government limiting parental choice on the care and treatment of their own children. I still have those concerns. Government should tread carefully into this area and I do so here reluctantly. I have scrutinized this piece of legislation with that concern in mind.

However, I also believe that on issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards. The American Psychological Association has found that efforts to change sexual orientation can pose critical health risks including, but not limited to, depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate. Based upon this analysis, I sign this bill into law.

 

 Despite Christie's careful articulation of  his support for the bill, it was criticized and quickly challenged in a complaint filed in federal court in King v. Christie.  The plaintiffs include Tara King, a licensed professional counselor, as well as National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (“NARTH”) and American Association of Christian Counselors (“AACC”).  They argue that the law violates their First Amendment rights of free speech, rights of their clients to "receive information," and free exercise of religion, as well as clients' parental due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, in addition to concomitant rights under the New Jersey state constitution.

RR

UPDATE: In Pickup v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit has upheld California's similar law banning sexual conversion therapy.

 

August 26, 2013 in Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Medical Decisions, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Robson's Dressing Constitutionally

ConLawProf's own Ruthann Robson (CUNY) just published her fascinating new book Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy from Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes (Cambridge, also available at amazon.com).  NPR's All Things Considered has a segment here; the Feminist Law Professors blog covered it here; and Robson's SSRN page for the Introduction and Table of Contents is here.

Dressing Constitutionally

We'll post an interview with Robson soon.  In the meantime, take a look at Robson's book blog, dressingconstitutionally.com.  And here's the abstract from SSRN:

The intertwining of our clothes and our Constitution raise fundamental questions of Robson hierarchy, sexuality, and democracy.  From our hairstyles to our shoes, constitutional considerations both constrain and confirm our daily choices.  In turn, our attire and appearance provide multilayered perspectives on the United States Constitution and its interpretations.  Our garments often raise First Amendment issues of expression or religion, but they also prompt questions of equality on the basis of gender, race, and sexuality.  At work, in court, in schools, in prisons, and on the streets, our clothes and grooming provoke constitutional controversies.  Additionally, the production, trade, and consumption of apparel implicate constitutional concerns including colonial sumptuary laws, slavery, wage and hour laws, and current notions of free trade.  The regulation of what we wear -- or don't -- is ubiquitous.

SDS

August 13, 2013 in Books, Gender, News, Scholarship, Sexuality, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

No Constitutional Violation in Aggressive Child Protection Case

In its opinion in D.B. v. Kopp, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district judge's dismissal of an equal protection "class of one" claim against Grant County (Wisconsin) and certain officials because they "overzealously

442px-Albert_Roosenboom_The_Young_Doctor
"The Young Doctor" 19th Century
investigated and maliciously prosecuted" D.B., a six year old, who was "playing doctor" with two five year olds. 

 

The mother of the five year old twins was the adult who discovered the interaction and who "reported the incident to her sister-in-law, who happened to be the regional supervisor in charge of the state agency that administers family and children’s services."  The father of the twins was a public official in the town.  D.B. alleges that he was singled out, "charged" with sexual assault although the twins admitted their actions were the same, and that D.B. was "subjected to an overbearing investigation and unjustified court proceedings based on improper political favoritism."

In rejecting the claim, the Seventh Circuit found that the fact that the twins' mother witnessed D.B.'s actions was sufficient to support the state's actions. It reasoned that while

political connections may also plausibly explain why D.B. was targeted for investigation and the twins were not. But the test for rationality does not ask whether the benign justification was the actual justification. All it takes to defeat the plaintiffs’ claim is a conceivable rational basis for the difference in treatment.

(emphasis in original).  The opinion added that:

We are not suggesting that this was a well-administered investigation, or a wise exercise of prosecutorial discretion, for that matter. Our decision today should not be understood as an endorsement of this use of state power, which strikes us (assuming the allegations are true) as a troubling overreaction to a situation that could and should have been handled informally. It’s easy to understand why the twins’ mother would be alarmed and upset, but it’s also reasonable to expect that the response by Grant County officials would be measured and proportionate. As the district court aptly put it, accusing a six-year-old boy of first-degree sexual assault shows “poor judgment at best.” But poor judgment does not violate the Constitution.

Surely, there might be cases in which "poor judgment" would "violate the Constitution," but the court finds this is not one of those cases.

RR
[image via]

[corrected: Seventh Circuit]

August 6, 2013 in Equal Protection, Family, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fourth Circuit En Banc on Baltimore's Disclaimer Mandate for Limited-Service Pregnancy Centers

Baltimore_SealThe Fourth Circuit en banc today issued its opinion in Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, Incorporated v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore reversing the district court's granting of a preliminary injunction against the ordinance requiring a limited-service pregnancy center "provide its clients and potential clients with a disclaimer substantially to the effect that the center does not provide or make referral for abortion or birth-control services."  Essentially, the city's concern is that certain pregnancy centers can be mistaken (or even masquerade as) reproductive medical centers but only offer specific counseling that women not terminate their pregnancies.

The challengers argued that the ordinance was facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment and the district judge granted summary judgment in their favor.  For the en banc majority, however, "the summary judgment decision was laden with error, in that the court denied the defendants essential discovery and otherwise disregarded basic rules of civil procedure." 

The majority opinion, authored by Judge King, in which Chief Judge Traxler and Judges Motz, Duncan, Keenan, Wynn, Floyd, and Thacker joined, stressed that its conclusion was procedural and that it did not express a view on the ultimate merits.  Nevertheless, as in most cases, the merits and procedural issues are intertwined.  For example, one of the crucial issues here is whether the speech being regulated is commercial or not.  As the majority stated,

The district court’s denial of discovery and failure to adhere to the summary judgment standard marred its assessment of, inter alia, the City’s contention that the Ordinance targets misleading commercial speech and thus is subject to rational basis (rather than strict) scrutiny. While the strict scrutiny standard generally applies to content-based regulations, including compelled speech, see Turner Broad. Sys., Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S. 622, 641-42 (1994), less-demanding standards apply where the speech at issue is commercial. Disclosure requirements aimed at misleading commercial speech need only survive rational basis scrutiny, by being “reasonably related to the State’s interest in preventing deception of consumers.” Zauderer v. Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court, 471 U.S. 626, 651 (1985) (explaining that, “because disclosure requirements trench much more narrowly on an advertiser’s interests than do flat prohibitions on speech, warnings or disclaimers might be appropriately required in order to dissipate the possibility of consumer confusion or deception” (alterations and internal quotation marks omitted)); accord Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz, P.A. v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 1324, 1339-40 (2010).

There are two dissenting opinions.  The first, by Judge Wilkinson, derides the majority for failing to acknowledge "the dangers of state-compelled speech."  He notes that the Supreme Court "only recently reiterated" the importance of the doctrine in Agency for Int’l Development v. Alliance for Open Society Int’l, Inc., the prostitution pledge case.  Wilkinson accuses the majority of being enchanted with "extended procedures" and argues that it only authorizes a "fishing expedition" against the plaintiffs.  The second dissent, authored by Judge Niemeyer, and joined by Judges Shedd, and Agee, as well as Wilkinson, contends that the ordinance governs noncommercial speech, mandates specific speech, and should be subject to strict scrutiny. 

The judges did agree - - - amongst themselves and with the district judge - - - that St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Congregation Incorporated and Archbishop William E. Lori lacked standing to be co-plaintiffs, but this issue is a divisive one.  Indeed, there is an overdue Second Circuit panel opinion in the appeal of a district judge's conclusion that NYC's similar Local Law 17 was unconstitutional

Moreover, the First Amendment challenges to pregnancy center "disclosures" as compelled speech mirror the First Amendment challenges to abortion provider "disclosures" as compelled speech, as in statutes from Kansas and South Dakota.  The government's interest in preventing "misleading" speech or in providing full disclosure is exceedingly similar in both situations.

For scholars (including student scholars) looking for a terrific topic combining the First Amendment and reproductive rights, theses cases offer much.

RR

 

July 3, 2013 in Abortion, Courts and Judging, Family, Federalism, First Amendment, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Planned Parenthood's Complaint Alleging New Kansas Abortion Law Violates First Amendment

Kansas' new abortion law that took effect July 1 - - - running 70 pages and known as Kansas HB 2253 - - - has already been the subject of a constitutional challenge.  HB 2253 seeks to restrict abortion and other reproductive services in numerous ways in accord with the legislative finding that "the life of each human being begins at fertilization."  The Complaint filed by the local Planned Parenthood organization, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid- Missouri, Inc. (CHPPKM) specifically challenges two provisions of the law on First Amendment grounds.

 

471px-Kirchner_-_Frauenkopf_vor_Sonnenblumen
"Head of a woman in front of sunflowers"
by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner circa 1920
(Recall sunflower is the state flower of Kansas)
First, the complaint in Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid- Missouri, Inc.v. Templeton, challenges mandated statements to be made by physicians, including a statement regarding fetal pain at a certain gestation age and a statement that "“the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being."  CHPPKM argues that these statements are misleading, at times irrelevant (as when the fetus has not reached the required gestation age), or not subject to factualverification but instead are statements of philosophy and religion.   The funding situation sharply distinguishes this situation from Rust v. Sullivan, which involved federal Title IX funds, but the nature of the statements are also quite different.  A more analogous case involved the required "risk of suicide warning" upheld by the Eighth Circuit en banc in Planned Parenthood v. Rounds.   Even though there was some "uncertainty" as to the reliability of the studies purporting to show a link between abortion and suicide ideation - - - including the very meaning of the word "risk" - - - the majority in Rounds found that the provision survived by giving great deference to South Dakota.  One question will be whether the Tenth Circuit will be as deferential as the majority in its sister circuit or be as rigorous as the dissenting judges in Rounds.

 

Second, the complaint challenges the provision that compels CHPPKM "to place on the homepage of its public website both a hyperlink to a government website that contains the government’s viewpoint on abortion, and a scripted message of endorsement of the content on the government’s website, even where CHPPKM disagrees with the message."  In light of last month's decision by the United States Supreme Court in United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., - - - the prostitution pledge case - - - invalidating a requirement that organizations that received direct funding could not be compelled to espouse views that were not their own, this claim seems on firm First Amendment footing.  The distinction is a factual one - - - the hyperlink - - - although interestingly CHPPKM contends in its complaint this further complicates the matter because it cannot be expected to constantly monitor the government site.  Certainly, however, much of the language and reasoning in Chief Justice Roberts' majority opinion for the Court solidifies compelled speech doctrine.   And interestingly, compelled speech doctrine is being argued by anti-abortion organizations to challenge laws requiring "pregnancy crisis centers" to disclose the fact that they are not medical facilities. ( For example, a district judge held NYC's Local Law 17 unconstitutional in 2011; an opinion from the Second Circuit has been anticipated since oral argument over a year ago).  UPDATE: The Fourth Circuit's en banc opinion July 3 on a Baltimore ordinance.

A popular discussion of the controversy, including some of my own thoughts, is available on "KC Currents" broadcast by KCUR, a local NPR station.

RR

July 3, 2013 in Abortion, Cases and Case Materials, Federalism, First Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Tenth Circuit Recognizes For-Profit Corporations as Having Religious Freedom and Free Exercise Rights

In the contentious and closely-watched case of Hobby Lobby, Inc. v. Sebelius, the Tenth Circuit has rendered its opinion concluding that a for-profit corporation has free exercise of religion rights under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the First Amendment.

Hobby Lobby challenges the constitutionality of the so-called "contraception mandate" under the Affordable Care Act that require health insurance plans to provide contraception coverage to employees.  We've previously discussed the issue and the circuit split here. 

800px-HobbyLobbyStowOhio

The federal district judge had rejected Hobby Lobby's claim, noting that it was a for-profit completely secular company - - - it is a corporation operating 514 arts and crafts stores in 41 states.  The federal district judge also denied the injunction as to the for-profit corporation Mardel, a Christian supply and bookstore chain, and to the family owning both the corporations through a management trust.  Hobby Lobby sought extraordinary relief from the United States Supreme Court after a Tenth Circuit panel declined to issue a stay; Justice Sotomayor in her role as Tenth Circuit Justice then rejected the claim, ruling that the privately held corporations did not "satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek."

The Tenth Circuit granted the request for initial en banc review - - - thus, there is no Tenth Circuit panel opinion - - - and issued a lengthy set of opinions from the eight judges, one judge being recused. The majority opinion on pages 8-9 details the rationales of the individual judges.  But the essential division is 5-3 over the issue of whether a corporation, even a for-profit secular corporation, has a right to free exercise of religion under RFRA and the First Amendment.  The majority concluded there was such a right and that the corporations demonstrated a likelihood of success for prevailing on the merits. 

Judge Timothy Tymkovich's more than 65 page opinion for the majority concluded that  

Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm. But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.

Only a plurality of judges would have resolved the other two preliminary injunction factors  - - - balance of equities and public interest - - -  in Hobby Lobby and Mardel’s favor, thus the remand.

The majority, however, held

as a matter of statutory interpretation that Congress did not exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protections. Such corporations can be “persons” exercising religion for purposes of the statute. Second, as a matter of constitutional law, Free Exercise rights may extend to some for-profit organizations.

(emphasis added). The opinion often conflates RFRA (which recall, is only applicable as to federal laws) and First Amendment.  However, in specifically considering First Amendment doctrine, the majority's argument derived from two strands.  First, it noted that individuals may incorporate for religious purposes and keep their Free Exercise rights - - - such as churches, citing Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 525 (1993) (holding that a “not-for-profit corporation organized under Florida law” prevailed on its Free Exercise claim).  Second, it then noted that "unincorporated individuals may pursue profit while keeping their Free Exercise rights," citing United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252 (1982) (considering a Free Exercise claim of an Amish employer); Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961) (plurality opinion) (considering a Free Exercise claim by Jewish merchants operating for-profit).

It then characterized the government's argument as being that these "Free Exercise rights somehow disappear" when "individuals incorporate and fail to satisfy Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3)."  The majority found this distinction to be one that cannot be supported by First Amendment doctrine.  It did, however, implicitly limit the facts under which for-profit corporations could be found to have free exercise rights: 

The government nonetheless raises the specter of future cases in which, for example, a large publicly traded corporation tries to assert religious rights under RFRA. That would certainly seem to raise difficult questions of how to determine the corporation’s sincerity of belief. But that is not an issue here. Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not publicly traded corporations; they are closely held family businesses with an explicit Christian mission as defined in their governing principles. The Greens, moreover, have associated through Hobby Lobby and Mardel with the intent to provide goods and services while adhering to Christian standards as they see them, and they have made business decisions according to those standards. And the Greens are unanimous in their belief that the contraceptive-coverage requirement violates the religious values they attempt to follow in operating Hobby Lobby and Mardel. It is hard to compare them to a large, publicly traded corporation, and the difference seems obvious.

Thus, the majority stated that it did not share any concerns that its holding would prevent courts from distinguishing businesses that are not eligible for RFRA’s - - - and presumably the First Amendment's - - - protections.

While the analysis of substantial burden that follows is important, it is the holding that a secular for-profit corporation has a sincerely held religious belief that entitles it to assert a free exercise claim is the centerpiece of the controversy. 

Indeed, Chief Judge Briscoe, joined by Judge Lucero, call the majority's opinion on this point

nothing short of a radical revision of First Amendment law, as well as the law of corporations. But whatever one might think of the majority’s views, the fact remains that they are wholly unsupported by the language of the Free Exercise Clause or the Supreme Court’s free exercise jurisprudence, and are thus, at best, “considerations for the legislative choice.”

The ability of for-profit corporations to have Free Exercise rights under the First Amendment - - - along with their Free Speech rights as articulated in the still-controversial Citizens United v. FEC, decided in 2010 and liberally cited in Hobby Lobby - - - is highly contested.  This may certainly be going (back) to the United States Supreme Court.

RR
[image via]

June 28, 2013 in Campaign Finance, Congressional Authority, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Privacy, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Court Decides Same Sex Marriage Cases: DOMA (Windsor) and Proposition 8 (Perry)

The Court decided both cases presenting the issue of the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage.

In the DOMA - - - Defense of Marriage Act - - - case,  the Court's  5-4 opinion by Justice Kennedy in United States v. Windsor, argued in March, affirmed the Second Circuit's finding  that section 3 of  DOMA is unconstitutional.

In its relatively brief opinion (26 pages), the majority first found that BLAG, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the House of Representatives, had sufficient status to confer standing, or at least the case provided "sufficient adversarial presentation for the Court to decide to get to the merits."   Recall that BLAG formed to defend the statute  after the Obama Administration decided not to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in February, 2011  and that the Court appointed ConLawProf Vicki Jackson to brief and argue BLAG's standing.  Dissenting, Justice Scalia argued that the standing and merits decisions by the Court "both spring from the same diseased root: an exalted notion of the role of this court in American democratic society," not referencing his position in yesterday's decision in Shelby County v. Holder holding a different act of Congress unconstitutional. 

On the merits and holding section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, Kennedy articulates the federalism rationales so central to the First Circuit's holding that DOMA was unconstitutional.

The opinion then reaches the equal protection issue (under the Fifth Amendment given that DOMA is a federal statute) and concludes:

The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.

Importantly, the decision seems to be applying rational basis review, although it does little to provide a clear analytic framework or solve problematics of rational basis review. Indeed, it introduces a notion of "careful consideration" which is certainly not strict scrutiny, but likewise eschews the intermediate scrutiny favored by the Second Circuit's decision in Windsor  and seems to apply to the "animus" aspect of rational basis with "bite."

In the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, also argued in March, and also reltively brief at 17 pages, the Court's opinion by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by - - - Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan  - - - held that there was no standing for the "proponents" to appeal and thus vacates the Ninth Circuit panel opinion that held Proposition 8 unconstitutional.   The Ninth Circuit, in a careful opinion, had affirmed the opinion of Judge Vaughn Walker who presided over an extensive trial in federal district court, after which he held Prop 8 made a sexual orientation classification that does not satisfy the rational basis standard and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause.  (Recall that Judge Walker's own sexuality became an issue in the case, but both a district judge and the Ninth Circuit rejected claims of bias).   Although the case attracted much scholarly attention, many commentators believed that standing was problematic.

The Court concluded:

We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.

The dissenting Justices - - - Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor - - - credited the California Supreme Court's opinion on standing (answering the certified query from the Ninth Circuit) and Kennedy's dissenting opinion noted that the initiative process made the "proponents" not mere private parties:

In the end, what the Court fails to grasp or accept is the basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this. The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government, not the other way around. Freedom resides first in the people without need of a grant from government. The California initiative process embodies these principles and has done so for over a century.

The dissenters also noted the "irony" in the majority's position: "A prime purpose of justiciability is to ensure vigorous advocacy, yet the Court insists upon litigation conducted by state officials whose preference is to lose the case."

The familiar liberal/conservative split of Justices is not apparent in Perry, since the issue os resolved on standing, but dominates Windsor.  Yet in both cases, sharp disagreements about the democratic process are apparent.

RR

June 26, 2013 in Equal Protection, Family, Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Standing, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Court Decides Baby Veronica: Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

She later states,

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

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

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

RR
[image: Badolier bag of the Ojibwa via]

 

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

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Court Decides "Prostitution Pledge" Case: Federal Statute Violates First Amendment

661px-World_mapThe United States Supreme Court today decided United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., involving a First Amendment challenge to a provision of federal funding statute requiring some (but not other) organizations to have an explicit policy opposing sex work. It held the provision unconstitutional and affirmed the Second Circuit opinion, which the Circuit had  refused to review en banc, and which conflicted with a Sixth Circuit opinion. 

The Court's opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, is relatively brief - - - a mere 15 pages - - - first acknowledges that the provision in the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 would clearly violate the First Amendment's compelled speech doctrine if it were a direct regulation of speech.  In terms of an attached condition to spending - - - the unconstitutional conditions doctrine - - - Roberts explained that

the relevant distinction that has emerged from our cases is between conditions that define the limits ofthe government spending program—those that specify the activities Congress wants to subsidize—and conditions that seek to leverage funding to regulate speech outside the contours of the program itself.

He elaborated on this distinction by contrasting Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Washington, decided in 1983 and upholding a requirement that nonprofit organizations seeking tax-exempt status under 26 U. S. C. §501(c)(3) not engage in substantial efforts to influence legislation, with FCC v. League of Women Voters of California, decided in 1984, holding unconstitutional a condition on federal financial assistance to noncommercial broadcast television and radio stations that prohibited all editorializing, including with private funds.  

The opinion then both distinguished and relied upon Rust v. Sullivan, an opinion that was central to oral argument and the briefs.  The Court noted that the Government's only positive precedent was Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, but held that it was essentially inapposite.  Instead, although the lines could be difficult to draw, the Court held that

the Policy Requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program. It requires them to pledge allegiance to the Government’s policy of eradicating prostitution. 

The opinion closed by reciting West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette's famous quote:

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

If some will not be surprised about Roberts' position given his expressions at oral argument, even fewer will be surprised by Justice Scalia.  Dissenting, Justice Scalia - - - never a fan of unconstitutional conditions doctrine - - - joined by Justice Thomas finds Barnette a "distraction" from the real issues.  He criticizes the majority's distinction between central and not, but also finds that there is no coercion.  He analogizes to "King Cnut’s commanding of the tides" to conclude there is "no compulsion at all," simply "the reasonable price of admission to a limited government-spending program that each organization remains free to accept or reject."  Of course, the majority, by considering whether or not a condition is central, essentially held that the price of admission was simply not "reasonable."  But for Scalia, requiring an "ideological commitment" as a condition to government funding should be acceptable, and the "real evil" of the opinion is a type of floodgates argument:  "One can expect, in the future, frequent challenges to the denial of government funding for relevant ideological reasons."   More broadly, he extends his argument beyond funding, stating that while one may be a Communist or anarchist, members of the legislature, judiciary, and executive are bound by the Constitution to take an oath affirming it, Art. VI, cl. 3. 

RR
[image via]

June 20, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, Gender, International, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality, Speech, Spending Clause | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Daily Read: Angela Onwuachi-Willig on Inter-Racial Love and Marriage

While for many Conlawprofs Loving v. Virginia is the "face" of love and marriage across racial divides, looking both backward and forward from the 1967 case can add depth to teaching and scholarship about the issue.  9780300166828(And if it seems not to be an issue any longer, a quick look at the "controversy" caused by a cereal advertisement featuring an interracial couple and their child is worth considering).

Professor Angela Onwuachi-Willig's new book, According to Our Hearts: Rhinelander v. Rhinelander and the Law of the Multiracial Family, just published by Yale University Press, provides that depth.

Her exploration focuses on Rhinelander v. Rhinelander, a case that did not involve a constitutional issue, except to the extent that racial categorizations always implicate issues of constitutionalism and equality. As Onwuachi-Willig describes in a piece in the UC Davis Law Review,

Alice Beatrice Jones was a working-class woman, who met Leonard Kip Rhinelander, a wealthy white male descendant of the Huguenots and heir to millions of dollars, in the fall of 1921. . . . [They married in a private ceremony and] Just two weeks later, on November 26, 1924, Leonard filed for annulment of his marriage to Alice. He argued that Alice had lied to him about her race. Leonard claimed that Alice had committed fraud that made their marriage void by telling him that she was white and by failing to inform him that she was of “colored blood.”

Rather than litigate her whiteness as many expected, she argued that he knew her racial status. 

 The trial of the Rhinelanders proved to be shocking on many fronts. It involved racy love letters, tales of pre-marital lust and sex, and the exhibition of Alice’s breasts, legs, and arms in the courtroom to prove that Leonard, who had seen her naked before marriage, would have known that she was colored at the time of their nuptials. What was most scandalous about the Rhinelander case, however,  was the trial’s end. The jury returned a verdict for Alice, determining that Leonard knew her racial background before marriage yet married her anyway. 

Onwuachi-Willig's book also provides contemporary arguments that current law fails to protect interracial couples, especially given the privileges that continue to be accorded on the basis of marriage.

As we wait for both Fisher v. UT and the same-sex marriage cases of Perry and Windsor, or as we contemplate their meanings once the opinions are rendered, Onwuachi-Willig's book is an important and pleasurable read.

RR

 

May 31, 2013 in Books, Family, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, History, Race, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Federal Complaint for Unconstitutional Sex Assignment Surgery on Infant

400px-3D_gender_symbol.svgThe surgical "assignment" of sex/gender to an infant born with "ambiguous" genitals is a problem that has garnered much attention.

The Constitutional Court of Colombia issued a series of opinions beginning in 1995, analyzed in a 2004 law review article by Kate Haas, Who Will Make Room for the Intersexed?, that recognize a constitutional right of children, albeit limited, with regard to the surgery.  A ground-breaking symposium issue of Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender in 2005 engages with many of the legal issues and proposed solutions, often recognizing the limits of constitutional remedies in the United States given that the surgeries are usually the result of private action.

But a complaint filed this week, M.C. v. Aaronson, by the Southern Poverty Center claims a violation of both substantive and procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by South Carolina doctors who performed genital surgery on a child in state custody (foster care).  M.C., now 8 years old, brings the case through his adoptive parents. 

The substantive due process claim is a relatively obvious one, building on established United States Supreme Court cases finding a right to be free of coerced medical procedures including Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990).  The right is a bit muddled, however, given that the highly discredited 1927 case of Buck v. Bell has never been actually overruled; the declaration that castration was as unconstitutional penalty for a crime in Skinner v. Oklahoma rested on equal protection grounds. 

The procedural due process claim is more novel, contending that the minor was entitled to a pre-deprivation hearing before the surgery.  Such a hearing would presumably be of the type that Erin Lloyd recommended for all minors (whether in state custody or not) in her article From the Hospital to the Courtroom: A Statutory Proposal for Recognizing and Protecting the Legal Rights of Intersex Children in the Cardozo Journal of Gender and Law Symposium issue. 

An accompanying lawsuit filed in state court alleges medical malpractice and failure to obtain informed consent, raising the same underlying facts and many of the same issues, but under state law.

Southern Poverty Center has produced a video featuring the parents and outlining the facts of the case:

 

 This is definitely a case to watch.

RR
[image via]

May 16, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Comparative Constitutionalism, Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Medical Decisions, Procedural Due Process, Sexuality, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Daily Read: More to Say on the First Amendment and Sex Worker Rights

Over at the Best Practices Policy Project, "dedicated to supporting organizations and advocates working with sex workers, people in the sex trade," two City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law students, Kat Thomas and Lauren Parnes, provide their perspectives on Monday's Supreme Court oral argument United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. which we discussed here.

Because they were in the courtroom, they were able to add the fact that several of the Justices - - - including Chief Justice Roberts - - - nodded in agreement with this point made by David Bowker, Counsel for Alliance for Open Society:

on the government’s theory, the government can give you — can give anyone in the country a dollar in Medicare funds and say, okay,  now that you’ve taken a dollar of our money, we want you to profess your agreement with the Affordable Care Act, and we want you to never say anything inconsistent with that in your private speech. That is — that is wildly inconsistent with the First Amendment. That’s exactly what’s happening here. The only difference is the subject of prostitution. That’s what makes it less palatable.

The palatableness of the subject matter for the Justices and counsel alike is further explored by Thomas and Parnes.  Worth a read.

RR

April 24, 2013 in First Amendment, Sexuality, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oral Arguments in USAID v. Alliance for Open Society, the "Prostitution Pledge"

The Court heard oral arguments today, sans Justice Kagan, in United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., involving a First Amendment challenge to a provision of federal funding statute requiring some (but not other) organizations to have an explicit policy opposing sex work. 

 

Courtesan_in_a_Window,
Courtesan in a Window, 18th C.
The United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (“Leadership Act”), 22 U.S.C. § 7601 et seq. provides: "No funds made available to carry out this chapter, or any amendment made by this chapter, may be used to provide assistance to any group or organization that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking, except that this subsection shall not apply to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Health Organization, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or to any United Nations agency"

 

In other words, a NGO must have a "prostitution pledge" - - - actually, an anti-prostitution pledge - - - as a condition of receiving funds, unless it is one of the "grandfathered" NGOs.   The question is whether this pledge is compelled speech and whether any compelled speech is sufficient to distinguish the situation from Rust v. Sullivan.  The Second Circuit had held the provision unconstitutional.

Arguing as Deputy Solicitor General in support of the provision's constitutionality, Sri Srinivasan stressed that the Congressional requirement was "germane" to the government's goal in "partnering" with private organizations.  Justice Scalia, in addition to finding the term "partnering" a "terrible verb," seemed to voice sentiments consistent with his previous conclusions in funding cases that the government can choose to spend its money as it wished. Interestingly, Justice Alito was more troubled, as he expressed in his first comment and question to the Deputy Solicitor General:

JUSTICE ALITO: I'm not aware of any case in which this Court has held that it is permissible for Congress to condition Federal funding on the recipient's expression of agreement with ideas with which the recipient disagrees. I'm not aware of any case in which that kind of compelled speech has been permitted.  And I would be interested in -- and it seems to me like quite a -- a dangerous proposition. I would be interested in whatever limitations you think there might be on that rule, which seems to be the general rule that you're advocating. Other than the requirement of germaneness, is there anything else.

 Alito soon thereafter posed an example mentioned in an amicus brief about the ability of government funding schools, and again, Srinivasan repeated the requirement of "germaneness."  Later, Alito mentioned another example, mixing advocacy of guns and receiving health care, and Srinivasan again answered similarly.

Justice Ginsburg's concerns were similar, with an addition of the question of the recipients as foreign NGOs as a distinguishing feature from precedent as well as a practical issue. 

David Bowker, arguing for Alliance for Open Society and other organizations, attempted to distinguish a funding criteria from mandated speech once the fnding decision had been made, although this led into a discussion of viewpoint discrimination rather than compelled speech.  Later, Bowker brought it back to the distinction based upon Rust v. Sullivan, in  a colloquy with Justice Sotomayor:

MR. BOWKER: And what Rust says, and I – I think we fall back on Rust, which we think is just on all fours with where we are here, and that is what the government cannot do -- and I think this answers your question -- is outside the government program the government cannot control private speech. And it was critical in that case -- Justice Rehnquist, at pages 196 and 197, said, "The doctors there and the public health organizations there are free to engage in their own private speech and their own activities, and they are not required to endorse any viewpoint they don't, in fact, hold." And here -­

It was not until the Government's rebutal that one of the oddest features of the statute was raised, when Sotomayor stated,

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: I would have less problem accepting your message if there weren't four major organizations who were exempted from the policy requirement . . .

There seems to be a bit of selection on the government in terms of who it wants to work with. It would seem to me that if you really wanted to protect the U.S., you wouldn't exempt anybody from this.

In his last moments of argument, Srinivasan, responding to Justice Ginsburg, argued that the exemptions made "good sense" given that three of the four have members that are sovereign entities.  Unfortunately, the rationale supporting that fourth entity was not explored.

The hypotheticals and examples raised by the Justices in oral argument showed some concern about just how far Congress could extend a provision similar to the one about prostitution in the Leadership Act.  The distinction between funding and compelled speech doctrines was often obscured, making the outcome uncertain.  More certain is that Justice Kagan's perspective will be sorely missed.

RR
[image via]

April 22, 2013 in First Amendment, Foreign Affairs, Gender, International, Medical Decisions, Oral Argument Analysis, Sexuality, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)