Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In time for the new Court term, the incredibly useful and wonderful SCOTUSblog has revamped its look and its organization - - - in a new version it is calling "SCOTUSBlog 4.0."
The SCOTUS Wiki will be phased out, a smartphone version is available, the statistics are on the front "page", and the overall shift is "from a focus on news of the moment to also serving as an archival resource regarding all of the merits cases and the serious cert. petitions."
Monday, July 19, 2010
The Washington Post has launched its feature "Top Secret America." The project consists of three days of investigative reporting articles, the first one today entitled "A hidden world, growing beyond control."
The project also includes a searchable online database detailing private contractors and specific locations. The Editorial explanation is worth reading; here is a bit of it:
The articles in this series and an online database at topsecretamerica.com depict the scope and complexity of the government's national security program through interactive maps and other graphics. Every data point on the Web site is substantiated by at least two public records.
Because of the nature of this project, we allowed government officials to see the Web site several months ago and asked them to tell us of any specific concerns. They offered none at that time. As the project evolved, we shared the Web site's revised capabilities. Again, we asked for specific concerns. One government body objected to certain data points on the site and explained why; we removed those items. Another agency objected that the entire Web site could pose a national security risk but declined to offer specific comments.
We made other public safety judgments about how much information to show on the Web site. For instance, we used the addresses of company headquarters buildings, information which, in most cases, is available on companies' own Web sites, but we limited the degree to which readers can use the zoom function on maps to pinpoint those or other locations.
The feature should be of interest to anyone working on state secrets doctrine and theory. The extent of private involvement also implicates the state action doctrine and the problems with holding actors constitutionally accountable. The Washington Post explanation above also implicates First Amendment concerns.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the foundational text for the July Fourth "Independence Day" national holiday in the United States. Among the discussions of the document this year, two stand out.
First, there is the colloquy between Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on Day Two of the Kagan Confirmation hearings, in which Grassley invokes the Declaration of Independence to raise the issue of Kagan's views on the Second Amendment and the Court's interpretation in Heller and McDonald:
GRASSLEY: Well, it’s basic to our Declaration of Independence that says we’re endowed by our creator with certain -- certain individual rights, among them, you know, what it says, and we aren’t endowed by our government. So the question here is, are we endowed by our Constitution with this right or did it exist before the Constitution existed?
KAGAN: Well, Senator Grassley, I do think that my responsibility would be to apply the
Constitution as understood and previously applied by the court, and that means as understood and -- and interpreted by the court in Heller, and that’s what I would do. So I think that the -- the fundamental legal question would be whether -- that a case would present would be whether the Constitution guarantees an individual right to bear arms, and Heller held that it did, and that’s good precedent going forward.
GRASSLEY: I know the Declaration of Independence is not the law of the land, but it does express a philosophy of why we went to war and why our country exists. And you understand, I hope, that if we’re endowed by our government with certain rights, the government can take them away from us, whereas if we possess them ourselves and give them up from time to time to the government to exercise in our stead, then the government can’t take away something that’s inherently ours.
Do you believe that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is a fundamental right?
KAGAN: Senator Grassley, I think that that’s what the court held in McDonald.
GRASSLEY: And you agree with it?
KAGAN: Good precedent going forward.
[Transcript (available from WaPo here) Day Two, June 29, 2010, at 50].
Second, there is the feature from the New York Times, "Thoughts on a Declaration," in which the editors asked contributors to The Stone, “What is the philosophical theme, or themes, in the Declaration of Independence that should be recalled in today’s America?” The responses from philosophers Arthur C. Danto, Todd May, and J.M. Bernstein are then provided. While Todd May writes movingly of equality focusing on undocumented workers and Bernstein invokes Janis Joplin, the selection of three white male philosophers to answer a query about "today's America" is a rather startling statement.
[image: portraits and autographs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, via]
The Declaration of Independence may have been exclusively signed by white men, but as we interpret the document's philosophical relevance, is this exclusivity "good precedent going forward"?
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Welcome Back Feminist Law Professors Blog!
After a brief hiatus, Feminist Law Professors Blog is back with a new look. Cyber-space is not quite as "equal" without the blog's perspectives, including its famous "where are the women?" feature that calls attention to law review issues or conferences with a dearth of female participants.
Feminist Law Professors Blog also brings attention to feminist scholarship of interest to ConLawProfs. Its most recent posting, for example, highlights the work of Lisa Pruitt (pictured right) of UC Davis School of Law on "spatial inequality."
As Feminist Law Prof Bridget Crawford writes: "Pruitt's work seeks to revive legal consideration of spatial variations in provision of government services, a concern that waned following the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in San Antonio Independent Schools v. Rodriguez."
Read the rest of Crawford's post on Lisa Pruitt's work here.
Friday, June 25, 2010
The confirmation hearing of Elena Kagan to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court begins Monday, June 28, 2010, at 12.30pm.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has released the witness list:
American Bar Association Witnesses
Kim Askew, Chair of Standing Committee
William J. Kayatta, Jr., First Circuit Representative
Professor Robert C. Clark, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Austin Wakeman Scott Professor of Law, and former Dean, Harvard Law School
Justice Fernande "Nan" Duffly, Associate Justice, Massachusetts Court of Appeals, on behalf of the National Association of Women Judges
Greg Garre, Partner, Lathan & Watkins, former Solicitor General of the United States
Jennifer Gibbins, Executive Director, Prince William Soundkeeper
Professor Jack Goldsmith, Professor of Law, Harvard University
Marcia Greenberger, Founder and Co-President, National Women's Law Center
Jack Gross, plaintiff, Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc.
Lilly Ledbetter, plaintiff, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire
Professor Ronald Sullivan, Edward R. Johnston Lecturer on Law, Director of the Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard law School
Kurt White, President, Harvard Law Armed Forces Association
Robert Alt, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, United States Army (ret.)
Capt. Pete Hegseth, Army National Guard
Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, Benesch Law Firm
David Kopel, Esq., Research Director, Independence Institute
Colonel Thomas N. Moe, United States Air Force (ret.)
David Norcross, Esq., Blank Rome
William J. Olson, Esq., William J. Olson, P.C.
Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council
Stephen Presser, Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History, Northwestern University School of Law
Ronald Rotunda, The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Chapman University School of Law
Ed Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President & CEO, Americans United for Life
Capt. Flagg Youngblood, United States Army
In addition to its "noteworthy" sidebar (above right) making it clear that Kagan would be the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court if she is confirmed, the Senate Judiciary Committee website also includes the following materials relevant to the Kagan nomination and hearing:
Nomination and Hearing Materials, Information and Guidance
Saturday, June 19, 2010
While Franken acknowledges he is "one of the few non-lawyers in the room," and not an academic, he nevertheless delves into constitutional theory and recent cases to support his point that the Court's decisions matter to "ordinary people." He disavows originalism by linking it with Robert Bork and ultimately concludes: "Originalism isn't a pillar of our Constitutional history. It's a talking point." He critiques Roberts' "judges as umpires" metaphor with reference to a case by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1866. He discusses cases such as Lochner and Citizens United, but also Stoneridge, Conkright, Leegin, Iqbal, Exxon, Rapanos, Circuit City, and Ledbetter. He also mentions recent proposals to "prioritize" internet service and how that might impact the flow of information.
For those teaching summer school - - - perhaps a comparative constitutional law course outside of the States?? or a legal theory course for non-law students?? - - - this could be the foundation of a good class exercise. One could assign students to write a response or to select one of Franken's points and fully support it.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
SCOTUSreport is a new site from the Federalist Society.The site seeks to "collect in one place the key news and documents, as well as commentary from across the legal, political and philosophical spectrum, regarding the upcoming Supreme Court nomination."
Friday, April 2, 2010
SALTLAW is the new blog of SALT, Society of American Law Teachers, self-described as a "community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity and academic excellence."
SALT is known for its teaching conferences, its activism on behalf of social justice issues including those in constitutional law, and its members, including those featured on the blog: Angela Harris (pictured left) and Rhonda Copelon (pictured right).
The blog announcement makes clear that the "blog is not a forum for the expression of SALT’s positions, but a place where our members can publish commentary on emerging issues in law, politics, and education or where they can develop arguments about policies and problems that are persistent or seem intractable. The SALT Board has no list of topics that should be addressed or any agenda that it has set for this blog."
Instead, the plan is a "year-long schedule of regular and guest contributors who will add voice to progressive issues" and will "include both legal and non-legal issues" ranging from "conversations about the economic crisis to questions about U.S. torture policies to discussions about the lack of diversity in baseball management to the development of a hip-hop theory of justice."
The roster of planned bloggers is an impressive one featuring many ConLawProfs.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
But does “everyone” mean “everyone,” including those Canadians detained at Guantanamo Bay?Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
As excellent post by Canadian law student Daniel Del Gobbo at "The Court" (a blawg on the Canadian Supreme Court)" reviews the recent Canadian Supreme Court jurisprudence. As Del Gobbo notes, “everyone” has been previously found to include non-Canadians claiming Charter protections abroad where circumstances establish a nexus with Canada, and the plain language of section 7 extends its protection to “everyone”, not just citizens.
However, as Justice L’Heureux-Dubé rather sardonically observed in R. v. Cook,  2 S.C.R. 597, “I am not convinced that passage of the Charter necessarily gave rights to everyone in the world, of every nationality, wherever they may be, even if certain rights contain the word ‘everyone’.”
Del Gobbo goes on to discuss the jurisprudence relating to section 7's applicability to Canadians detained at Guantanamo Bay including Canadian Supreme Court's recent denial of leave to appeal in Slahi v. Canada (Justice) and Canada (Prime Minister) v. Khadr. More on Slahi here; on Khadr here.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
The United States Supreme Court may have blocked the actual broadcast of the Proposition 8 trial, but the enterprising folks behind www.marriagetrial.com are re-enacting the trial, using the transcripts and the reports from bloggers and tweeters.
The "episodes" will be available on YouTube. Here is the trailer:RR
January 31, 2010 in Cases and Case Materials, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Gender, Recent Cases, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Teaching Tips, Television, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, January 29, 2010
Easy access in chronological order to our posts on the Proposition 8 trial is available:
January 29, 2010 in Cases and Case Materials, Current Affairs, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Family, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Interpretation, News, Recent Cases, Reconstruction Era Amendments, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Teaching Tips, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Google's newest enhancement has the potential to change the way we research constitutional law.
Here's an announcement from the "Official Google Blog"
Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the "Legal opinions and journals" radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many of us in the U.S. such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, which explore the acceptability of "separate but equal" facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role.
The blog entry also has this populist proclamation:
As we worked to build this feature, we were struck by how readable and accessible these opinions are. Court opinions don't just describe a decision but also present the reasons that support the decision. In doing so, they explain the intricacies of law in the context of real-life situations. And they often do it in language that is surprisingly straightforward, even for those of us outside the legal profession. In many cases, judges have gone quite a bit out of their way to make complex legal issues easy to follow. For example, in Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court justices present a fascinating and easy-to-follow debate on the legality of internment of natural born citizens based on their ancestry.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Could Long Island actually secede from New York?
Our previous post from May 14 is here. It seems the Daily Show has caught up with us. The segment from last night's show (in that typically offensive style) is here:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Long Island Wants to Secede|
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
Calculating ideologies is an occupation (some might say an occupational hazard) of political scientists. According to well known political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn, on their website here,
Their "The Ideological History of the United States Supreme Court, 1937 - 2007," provides a graphic representation (with some interactive features and downloadable) of their analysis of the "liberal" and "conservative" ideologies of United States Supreme Court Justices.
Who is the bluest (most liberal) judge?
Who is the reddest (most conservative) judge?
There is also a link to a video analysis of "Souter's Leftward Drift."
Of course, for some Constitutional Law Professors, the ascription of "liberal" and "conservative" ideologies and outcomes is not easily reducible to numbers. While there may be a more-or-less agreed upon assignment of conservative/liberal ideologies in a case such as Roe v. Wade, other cases on the website's timeline such as Boy Scouts of America v. Dale and Kelo v. City of New London may be subject to more dispute.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Executive Policy by Website: Do changes to whitehouse.gov matter? Don't Ask Don't Tell Changes and Changes Again
According to a few progressive websites, whitehouse.gov has been undergoing some changes and these changes are being "tracked."
For example, Pro Publica has introduced Change Tracker, which lists all additions, deletions, and changes to whitehouse.gov, available here. (There are also instructions on how to use Change Tracker for other websites).
On Think Progress and AmericaBlog, reports are that the "civil rights" pages of whitehouse.gov have been rewritten to "walk back" Obama's committment to terminate the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy governing sexual minorities in the military. According to Think Progress:
The website used to emphasize Obama’s firm commitment to repealing the discriminatory policy:
President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
However, after changes apparently made last night, the previous full, earnest paragraph was slashed to one half of a sentence promoting only “changing” the law “in a sensible way”:
[Obama] supports changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security, and also believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation.
However, today Pro Publica (courtesy of the "handy Changetracker tool") noted that
last night the White House reinserted language saying President Obama supports the “repeal” of Don't Ask Don't Tell. The new phrasing: "He supports repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and national security."
One senses that there is some meaning in all these changes, but what is it?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Minnesota recount litigation goes on and on - - - more than four and a half months after the election, the Senate race between Franken and Coleman is still not finalized.
An insightful piece on Slate by Richard Hasen ponders the relevance of Bush v. Gore. As Hasen notes, the Court sought to limit Bush v. Gore to the particulars of 2000, the Court has not relied upon it, and appellate courts have not developed it.
Nevertheless, the opinion is cited and is obviously still "in the books," not to mention on the internet.
Hasen's brief piece is well worth reading, if only for this great closing:
In the end, Coleman doesn't have a strong equal-protection argument. Then again, most of us thought George W. Bush didn't, either.