Friday, December 6, 2019

SCOTUS Grants Certiorari in First Amendment Challenge to Delaware Constitution's Judicial Appointment Provision

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Adams v. Carney, Governor of Delaware in which the Third Circuit held several sections of the Delaware Constitution regarding the selection of judges violated the First Amendment.

Centrally, the Delaware Constitution, Art IV §3 seeks to achieve a partisan balance in the judiciary and provides that appointments to the state judiciary "shall at all times be subject to the following limitations":

First, three of the five Justices of the Supreme Court in office at the same time, shall be of one major political party, and two of said Justices shall be of the other major political party.

Second, at any time when the total number of Judges of the Superior Court shall be an even number not more than one-half of the members of all such offices shall be of the same political party; and at any time when the number of such offices shall be an odd number, then not more than a bare majority of the members of all such offices shall be of the same major political party, the remaining members of such offices shall be of the other major political party.

Third, at any time when the total number of the offices of the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Judges of the Superior Court, the Chancellor and all the Vice-Chancellors shall be an even number, not more than one-half of the members of all such offices shall be of the same major political party; and at any time when the total number of such offices shall be an odd number, then not more than a bare majority of the members of all such offices shall be of the same major political party; the remaining members of the Courts above enumerated shall be of the other major political party.

In its opinion, the Third Circuit panel found that this political balancing violated the First Amendment, concluding that it was not within the protections for political policymakers of Elrod v. Burns (1976) and Branti v. Finkel (1980).  The Third Circuit found that even assuming that "judicial political balance is a vital Delaware interest," Delaware failed to demonstrate that this goal could not be realized using less restrictive means of infringing on the plaintiff's associational interests. 

And while the Third Circuit found that the plaintiff, a retired Delaware attorney who belonged to neither major party. lacked standing to challenge the Delaware constitutional provisions regarding Family Court and the Court of Common Pleas.  The United States Supreme Court, however, has directed briefing on the issue of Article III standing, presumably pertinent to the other provisions.

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December 6, 2019 in Association, Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

District Court Rules State Transportation Authority Immune from Federal Whistleblower Claim

Judge Randolph D. Moss (D.D.C.) ruled this week that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority enjoyed Eleventh Amendment immunity from a former employee's suit under the National Transit Systems Security Act. In so ruling, Judge Moss held that the NTSSA wasn't included in the state-sovereign-immunity-waiver provision in the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act. The ruling dismisses the case.

The case arose when a former WMATA employee sued the Authority for violating the NTSSA. That Act, a whistleblower-protection act, prohibits public transportation agencies from "discharg[ing]" or otherwise "discriminat[ing] against an employee" based "in whole or in part" on the employee's "lawful, good faith" provision of information relating to conduct that "the employee reasonably believes constitutes a violation of any Federal law, rule, or regulation relating to public safety or security" to "a person with supervisory authority over the employee."

WMATA, a creature of a compact between Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., moved to dismiss on state sovereign immunity grounds.

The plaintiff countered that WMATA waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity under the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act. The CRREA provides that

[a] State shall not be immune under the Eleventh Amendment . . . from suit in Federal court for a violation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the provisions of any other Federal statute prohibiting discrimination by recipients of Federal financial assistance.

The plaintiff argued that the NTSSA fell within the catch-all provision, because it specifically prohibits discrimination. He claimed that WMATA therefore waived immunity under the CRREA.

The court rejected this argument. The court acknowledged that the NTSSA banned "discrimination," but said that the discrimination outlawed in the NTSSA was not the same type of discrimination covered in CRREA, and that it therefore didn't fall within the CRREA's catch-all:

Each of the enumerated statutes [in the CRREA] prohibits class-based discrimination--that is, discrimination based on a personal characteristic, such as race, national origin, age, sex, or disability. Each is fairly described as a civil rights statute--the presumptive target of the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act. And each ensures that the benefits of federally funded programs are equally available to all, regardless of their race, national origin, sex, or disability. The NTSSA, in contrast, is a public safety statute, designed to ensure that employees of public transportation agencies and their contractors and subcontractors are not dissuaded from flagging potential violations of federal safety or security rules . . . . Although the NTSSA uses the word "discriminate," it does so in [a] very different manner than the CRREA and the enumerated statutes.

December 6, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Eleventh Amendment, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Second Circuit Says Deutsche Bank Must Turn Over Trump Financial Records to House Committees

The Second Circuit ruled that Deutsche Bank and Capital One have to comply with subpoenas issued by the House Financial Services and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for financial records related to President Trump and his businesses. The court denied a preliminary injunction to halt the disclosures. While the ruling is technically preliminary, the court noted that it's effectively a ruling on the merits.

The ruling is yet another blow to President Trump and his continuing quest to keep his financial records secret. (We posted most recently here, on the Supreme Court's stay of a D.C. Circuit mandate to Mazars to release his financial records.) It's also yet another candidate for Supreme Court review.

After the Committees subpoenaed the banks, President Trump, his three oldest children, and some of their organizations sued the banks and the Committees seeking to halt the disclosure. The plaintiffs raised statutory and constitutional claims, although the court noted that President Trump specifically identified himself only as a private citizen.

The court held that the plaintiffs weren't likely to succeed on any of their claims. As to the first statutory claim, the court held that the Right to Financial Privacy Act did not prohibit the disclosures, because the RFPA doesn't apply to Congress. As to the second statutory claim, the court ruled that 26 U.S.C. Sec. 6103 and its several relevant subsections didn't bar the Committees from seeking the records from the banks.

As to the constitutional claim, the court rejected the plaintiffs' contention that the Committees exceeded their power to investigate in issuing the subpoenas. The court noted the breadth of the subpoenas, but nevertheless held that the Committees had a valid legislative purpose (not focusing on possible illegalities committed by the President, but instead "on the existence of such activity in the banking industry, the adequacy of regulation by relevant agencies, and the need for legislation") and that the "public need" to investigate for that purpose "overbalances any private rights affected." On this balancing, the court wrote,

"[T]he weight to be ascribed to" the public need for the investigations the Committees are pursuing is of the highest order. The legislative purposes of the investigations concern national security and the integrity of elections, as detailed above. By contrast, the privacy interests concern private financial documents related to businesses, possibly enhanced by the risk that disclosure might distract the President in the performance of his official duties.

The court went on to hold that the subpoenas were sufficiently tailored to the Committees' legitimate purposes.

The court identified one request, however, that "might reveal sensitive personal details having no relationship to the Committees' legislative purposes," and others "that have such an attenuated relationship to the Committees' legislative purposes that they need not be disclosed." The court remanded to the district court and specified a procedure by which the court could exclude certain "sensitive documents."

As to all other documents not identified for exclusion or possible exclusion, however, the court ordered the banks to "promptly transmit[] to the Committees in daily batches as they are assembled, beginning seven days from the date of this opinion."

The court rejected the amicus government's separation-of-powers argument, holding that this case isn't about the separation of powers (because it involves a congressional request from a third party for information of the President in his personal capacity).

Judge Livingston dissented. She agreed with the majority that the plaintiffs lacked a likelihood of success on the merits of their statutory claims. But she disagreed about how to treat the constitutional claims. She argued that the case raises serious separation-of-powers concerns, and that the current record simply isn't well enough developed to evaluate those concerns. So she argued for a full remand, "directing the district court promptly to implement a procedure by which the Plaintiffs may lodge their objections to disclosure with regard to specific portions of the assembled material and so that the Committees can clearly articulate, also with regard to specific categories of information, the legislative purpose that supports disclosure and the pertinence of such information to that purpose."

December 4, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 2, 2019

SCOTUS Hears Oral Argument in NY Rifle v. City of NY on Second Amendment

The Court heard oral argument in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York regarding a New York City regulation that allows a person having a "premises license" — one the most restricted type of licenses —  for handguns to “transport her/his handgun(s) directly to and from an authorized small arms range/shooting club, unloaded, in a locked container, the ammunition to be carried separately,”  but further defines an "authorized" range/shooting club as limited to facilities located in New York City.  Recall that  the Second Circuit unanimously upheld the regulation.

There is a substantial mootness question here: the City of New York changed the regulation to allow for transport to another residence and a range or shooting club, whether or not those secondary places are within the City. Additionally, the state of New York amended its law to provide for the legality of transport. The Court had previously rejected a filed "Suggestion of Mootness" and instructed the parties to address the issue at oral argument.

Arguing for the NYSRPA, a state gun-rights organization, Paul Clement broached the subject of mootness in his introduction and Justice Ginsburg asked him "So what's left of this case? The Petitioners have gotten all the relief that they sought." While Clement argued they were entitled to an injunction, the mootness issue resurfaced again and again. Arguing for the United States, supporting the gun rights organization, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall contended the named plaintiffs could be entitled to damages and thus the case was not moot. On behalf of the City of New York, Richard Dearing argued that "changes in state and city law have given Petitioners everything they asked for and, indeed, more than that," and that rather than view the City's actions "skeptically," it is a "good thing and not a cause for concern when the government responds to litigation by resolving matters through the democratic process." As to any damages claim that might be added in the future by petitioners, Dearing argued that this would be a unique support for the courts exercising Article III power.

On the merits, an underlying argument concerns the level of scrutiny suitable for evaluating the law. The Second Circuit panel tracked the analytic structure articulated previously by the Second Circuit in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n v. Cuomo, decided in 2015. The Second Circuit concluded that intermediate scrutiny was the appropriate standard based on its analysis of two factors: "(1) ‘how close the law comes to the core of the Second Amendment right’ and (2) ‘the severity of the law’s burden on the right.' "  The level of scrutiny to be applied to gun regulations was a question left open by the Court's decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010). Yet the oral argument did not delve deeply into this issue. Wall argued that the Second Circuit had applied a "watered-down form of scrutiny" and the correct standard is simply that the "text, history, and tradition" mandate "real protection" for the Second Amendment, seemingly always strict scrutiny.

Justice Kavanuagh, like Justice Thomas, had no questions, and whether or not the Court will dismiss the case as moot is difficult to predict, although it would seem to be a likely outcome. Note also that the Court's legitimacy should it reach the merits in this case will certainly be questioned; an amicus brief by several Senators has made that point and attracted attention.

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December 2, 2019 in Courts and Judging, Mootness, Second Amendment, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Supreme Court Stays D.C. Circuit's Mandate to Release Trump Tax Records

The full Supreme Court issued an order yesterday staying the D.C. Circuit's mandate to Mazars to release President Trump's financial records, including tax filings, pending a writ of cert. on or before December 5.

The order extends a previous stay issued by Chief Justice Roberts and prompts President Trump to seek Supreme Court review. But the very brief order itself signals nothing about whether the Court will grant review, or how it will rule if it does. There's no dissenting opinion.

The stay expires on December 5, at noon, if no writ of cert. is filed.

If the Court grants review, we could have a ruling this spring or summer. But we won't get the taxes in the meantime.

November 26, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

District Court Says McGahn Must Comply with House Subpoena and Testify

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (D.D.C.) ruled yesterday that former White House Counsel Don McGahn must comply with a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee and testify before the Committee. The ruling rejects the sweeping claim that high-level presidential advisors enjoy categorical testimonial immunity.

At the same time, the court held that McGahn could assert appropriate privileges (like executive privilege) to specific questions from the Committee.

The ruling deals a sharp blow to the Trump Administration and its attempts to categorically shield certain White House officials from testifying before Congress. It applies directly to McGahn, of course; but the reasoning applies equally, or even with greater force, to House testimony by senior presidential advisors in the impeachment inquiry. (Why "or even with greater force"? Because the House may be on even firmer ground in issuing any subpoenas in the course of an impeachment inquiry.)

The administration will surely appeal. (DOJ is representing McGahn and presented arguments on behalf of the executive branch.) As a result, we're unlikely to see McGahn testify anytime soon. If the parties continue to press the issue, it'll surely go to the Supreme Court. (The 2008 Miers case, which the court said was "on all fours" with this one, didn't go up on appeal, because the parties settled. That could happen here, too.)

The case arose when the Committee sued McGahn to enforce its subpoena against him to testify in its investigation into whether President Trump and his associates engaged in misconduct in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. DOJ, representing McGahn, argued that McGahn was a high-level presidential advisor who enjoyed absolute testimonial immunity before Congress.

The court ruled that it had jurisdiction over the case and then rejected DOJ's sweeping claim of immunity. In short, the court held that the issue was already decided by Judge Bates in 2008, in Committee on Judiciary v. Miers. Here's a nice summary (pp. 41-42 of the opinion):

Unfortunately for DOJ, and as explained fully below, these contentions about the relative power of the federal courts [as to lack of jurisdiction], congressional committee, and the President distort established separation-of-powers principles beyond all recognition. Thus, ultimately, the arguments that DOJ advances to support its claim of absolute testimonial immunity for senior-level presidential aides transgress core constitutional truths (notwithstanding OLC's persistent heralding of these and similar propositions). By contrast, textbook constitutional law readily reveals that, precisely because the Constitution bestows upon the Judiciary the power to demarcate the boundaries of lawful conduct by government officials, the federal courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to entertain subpoena-enforcement disputes concerning legislative subpoenas that have been issued to Executive branch officials. It is similarly well established that, because the Constitution vests the Legislature with the power to investigate potential abuses of official authority--when necessary to hold government officials (up to, and including, the President) accountable, as representatives of the People of the United States--then House committees have both Article III standing and a cause of action to pursue judicial enforcement of their duly authorized and legally enforceable requests for information. What is missing from the Constitution's framework as the Framers envisioned it is the President's purported power to kneecap House investigations that Executive branch operations by demanding that his senior-level aides breach their legal duty to respond to compelled congressional process.

Luckily for this Court, an existing precedent that is on all fours with the instant matter (Miers) already systematically dismantles the edifice that DOJ appears to have erected over the years to enshrine the proposition that a President's senior-level aides have absolute immunity with respect to legislative subpoenas that Congress issues in the course of its investigations . . . .

November 26, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Executive Privilege, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 24, 2019

District Court Gives Trump Limited Protection in Tax Returns Case

Judge Carl J. Nichols (D.D.C.) earlier this week ordered House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal to provide President Trump and the court contemporaneous notice if he seeks President Trump's tax returns under New York's TRUST Act. Judge Nichols further ordered Chair Neal not to receive the tax returns for 14 days after any request.

The order is designed to allow the court to determine whether a request is valid. Without the notice and delay requirements, Chair Neal could request, and receive, the records without President Trump's knowledge, let alone his challenge, then immediately mooting his claim.

New York's TRUST Act authorizes certain congressional leaders to request and receive certain public officials' state tax returns, including the tax returns of the president, without providing prior notice to the officials. After enactment, President Trump sued, arguing that the TRUST Act violated Article I, because such a request would lack a legitimate legislative purpose, and the First Amendment. He also sought emergency relief under the All Writs Act, asking the court for an order that would allow the parties to litigate the legality of any request for his state returns before New York authorities would release them (and thus render any challenge moot). 

Congressional Democrats moved to dismiss, arguing that they were immune from suit under the Speech and Debate Clause, and that President Trump lacked standing.

The court ruled that it couldn't yet determine whether Chair Neal would be immune from suit under the Speech and Debate Clause, because he hasn't yet requested the records. The court said that Speech & Debate immunity turns on whether any request would concern matters "on which legislative could be had," and thus turns on legislative purpose. But because nobody has made a request, the court can't determine the purpose of any request.

As to standing, the court ruled that President Trump has standing: because "[t]he risk of future harm to Mr. Trump thus requires just a single step by a single actor, Chairman Neal, who is a party to this litigation," "there is sufficiently substantial risk that future harm could occur to warrant limited relief under the All Writs Act." 

The court then ordered that Chair Neal inform President Trump and the court at the same time when he makes any request, and not to receive the tax returns for 14 days after. According to the court, this "will prevent Mr. Trump's claims from becoming ripe and then moot almost simultaneously without notice to him or the Court."

November 24, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

District Court Holds Military Commission Judge, Prosecutors, Marshall Immune from Suit by Former Officer

Judge James E. Boasberg (D.D.C.) dismissed portions of a case brought by a former Guantanamo military commission officer against a military commission judge and prosecutors and U.S. marshals for issuing and aggressively enforcing a subpoena against him. At the same time, the court transferred the plaintiff's Federal Tort Claims Act claim arising out of the same events to the District of Massachusetts.

The ruling means that Gill's claims against the individuals is dismissed, but his claim against the government will proceed in Massachusetts.

The case, Gill v. United States, arose when the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay issued a subpoena to Stephen Gill, a former legal advisor on Abd Al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Al-Nashiri's military commission case and current civilian, to testify in that case. Gill sought relief under military rules, but he received no response. Upon the request of the prosecutors in the case, military commission judge Colonel Vincent Spath then issued a "warrant of attachment" compelling Gill's testimony and commanding U.S. marshals to procure Gill's presence in Virginia to testify remotely.

Marshals then stormed Gill's home in Massachusetts, arrested and shackled him, searched his home, and forcibly transported him to Virginia. 

Gill filed a claim with DOJ under the FTCA. DOJ didn't respond, so he sued. He also sued Spath, the prosecutors, and the marshals under Bivens, arguing that they violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The district court dismissed Gill's Bivens claims, holding that the judge, prosecutors, and marshals enjoyed immunity. As to the judge, the court held that Spath served in a quasi-judicial role, and thus enjoyed absolute immunity. The court rejected Gill's argument that Spath issued the warrant in "complete absence of all jurisdiction" based on the D.C. Circuit's decision to vacate every single one of Spath's orders between November 2015 and April 2019 because of a conflict of interest. The court ruled that "even if Spath exceeded his grant of judicial authority, he did not act in the clear absence of jurisdiction." As to the prosecutors, the court held that they, too, were entitled to absolute immunity, because they were acting in their advocacy, not investigative or administrative, roles.

In any event, the court held further that all defendants were entitled to qualified immunity, because they didn't violate "clearly established" Fourth Amendment rights.

The court transferred Gill's FTCA claims and request for declaratory relief to the District of Massachusetts.

November 24, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

California High Court Strikes State Law Requiring Presidential Candidates to Disclose Taxes

A unanimous California Supreme Court ruled the state requirement that presidential candidates disclose their federal taxes violates the state constitution. The ruling is a significant victory for President Trump and the state's GOP.

The ruling notes that there are several pending lawsuits challenging the disclosure requirement under the U.S. Constitution. The California Supreme Court, however, limited its ruling to the state constitution. Because it's limited to the state constitution, it's final, and can't be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The California Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act prohibits the Secretary of State from printing on a primary election ballot the name of a candidate for President of the United States who has not filed with the Secretary of State the candidate's federal income tax returns for the five most recent taxable years. But the state constitution, article II, section 5(c), provides:

The Legislature shall provide for partisan elections for presidential candidates, and political party and party central committees, including an open presidential primary whereby the candidates on the ballot are those found by the Secretary of State to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States, and those whose names are placed on the ballot by petition, but excluding any candidate who has withdrawn by filing an affidavit of noncandidacy.

The state high court ruled that the Act impermissibly added a requirement for a candidate to be listed on the ballot, in violation of article II, section 5(c). As the court explained:

[A]rticle II, section 5(c) is most naturally read as conveying a rule of inclusivity for presidential primary elections that the Legislature cannot contravene. This reading is strongly supported by the history of the constitutional text that now appears in article II, section 5(c). This history establishes beyond fair dispute that this language was adopted to ensure that the ballots for parties participating in the presidential primary election would include all persons within said parties deemed to be "recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States," except for those candidates who filed affidavits of noncandidacy, so that voters in the primary election would have a direct opportunity to vote for or against these candidates.

Because the relevant provisions of the Act condition a presidential candidate's placement on the primary ballot on compliance with an additional requirement that is concededly not a reasonable measure of whether the candidate is "recognized" as such throughout the nation or California, it conflicts with the rule specified by article II, section 5(c), and is for that reason invalid.

 

November 21, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, News, Opinion Analysis, State Constitutional Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Seventh Circuit Rebuffs Claim for Pre-Janus Fair-Share Fees

The Seventh Circuit earlier this month rejected Mark Janus's claim for retroactive fair-share fees he paid to AFSCME, before the Court struck fair-share fees under the First Amendment in Janus.

The ruling is the first in a circuit court to address whether workers in a union shop are entitled to retroactive fair-share fees that they paid before Janus. District courts that have ruled on the issue are unanimous in rejecting the claims.

A contrary ruling--one putting public sector unions on the hook for retroactive fair-share fees--could be (even more) devastating to public sector unions.

Recall that the Court struck mandatory fair-share fees for public-sector unions in Janus. That was huge, because the case overturned a 1977 ruling, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that upheld those fees.

After Janus came down, the plaintiff in that case, Mark Janus, sued again, this time to get back fees he paid before the Supreme Court struck them. AFSCME argued that it collected those fees in good-faith reliance on Abood and therefore wasn't required to repay them.

The Seventh Circuit agreed with AFSCME. But it also emphasized the narrowness of its decision:

It is not true, as Mr. Janus charges, that this defense will be available to "every defendant that deprives any person of any constitutional right." We predict that only rarely will a party successfully claim to have relied substantially and in good faith on both a state statute and unambiguous Supreme Court precedent validating that statute.

The issue is brewing in several other circuits.

November 20, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

California District Court Strikes Conscience Rule

Judge William Alsup (N.D. Cal.) yesterday vacated the Trump Administrations "conscience rule" designed to allow healthcare workers to decline services if they have a religious objection to a procedure.

We posted recently on a similar ruling out of the Southern District of New York. Judge Alsup's ruling is narrower than the New York ruling, however, and says only that the rule goes well beyond statutory authorization. Both courts vacated the rule in its entirety.

Judge Alsup focused on how the rule's definitions expand conscience protections well beyond the statutory protections. As the court wrote, "[t]hese definitions . . . make the mischief . . . [and are] the heart of the problem."

In particular, the court held that the definitions of "assist in the performance of," "health care entity," "entity," "discriminate," and "referral" expand conscience protections far beyond what the relevant statutes authorize. The court ruled that the conscience rule was therefore contrary to law, and violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

The court described the conscience rule's effect this way: "Under the new rule, to preview just one example, an ambulance driver would be free, on religious or moral grounds, to eject a patient en route to a hospital upon learning that the patient needed an emergency abortion. Such harsh treatment would be blessed by the new rule."

Like the New York court, the California court held that the problems with the rule were so pervasive that it had no choice but to vacate the rule in its entirety.

The ruling means that the administration can appeal, or go back to the drawing board and re-write a conscience rule that comports with the law. But the administration can't enforce this rule.

November 20, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

CFP: ACS at Barry Law School

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2020                 Orlando, FL

 

The student chapter of the American Constitution Society and Law Review at Barry University School of Law and Texas A&M University School of Law are hosting the Fifth Annual Constitutional Law Scholars Forum at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law Campus in Orlando, FL.

The Constitutional Law Scholars Forum invites scholarly proposals on constitutional law at any stage of pre-publication development, from the germination of an idea to editing with a journal.  The Forum provides an opportunity for scholars and educators to vet their work-in-progress in a welcoming, supportive environment.  (The Forum is not accepting proposals from students at this time.)

The deadline to submit proposals is December 1, 2019. 

Barry University School of Law is located within close proximity to recreational activities: Universal Studios, Disney World, Epcot Center, Sea World, world class golf courses, and beaches.  Orlando offers an average temperature of 72-78°F in February/March. 

There are no conference fees and meals are provided.

 Abstract Submissions:

Email proposals to Professor Eang Ngov, engov@barry.edu, with “Constitutional Law Scholars Forum” in the subject line.  Submissions should include a short abstract (300 words maximum) and biography (150 words maximum).  Please include abstract and biography together on one page in Word format.

Conference Organizers: 

Professor Eang Ngov, engov@barry.edu, office (321) 206 -5677, cell phone (571) 643-2691

Professor Meg Penrose, megpenrose@law.tamu.ed

November 19, 2019 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 18, 2019

CFP: CUNY Law Review Democracy and Voting Symposium

“Democracy At Your Fingertips: Your Voice, Your Vote, Make It Count”

CALL FOR PAPERS FOR PUBLICATION

2020 CUNY Law Review Symposium

April 3, 2020

City University of New York School of Law

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CUNY Law Review (CUNYLR) will host its Spring Symposium at City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law in Long Island City on issues of democracy. The symposium is an opportunity for an interdisciplinary gathering of legal scholars, practitioners, and community advocates to engage in dialogue on contemporary legal issues.

Since its foundation, voting power in the United States was exclusively reserved for educated white men who owned property. A century of progress, where communities that were barred from suffrage saw gains in their access to the ballot box, continues to be threatened by concerted efforts to deny them their right to vote.

By bringing together legal scholars, practitioners, and community advocates working on the front lines of the movements for voter rights, we hope to raise awareness of these issues and develop innovative solutions to address the disenfranchisement of marginalized communities. We will use the theme of accessibility to ground our discussion, focusing on how marginalized communities can continue to gain access to the ballot and ensure that unjust laws and policies do not strip away their rights.

CUNY Law Review invites scholars, legal practitioners, advocates, and organizers to submit articles for consideration for publication in an upcoming volume of CUNY Law Review, dedicated to the symposium. We are particularly interested in publishing works that discuss the following areas:

  • 2020 Census
  • Voter disenfranchisement
  • Election security/hacking
  • Lack of oversight over ballot counting technology

Please send one-page proposals via email to mirian.albert@ live.law.cuny.edu and christina.das@live.law.cuny.edu. The editors will review the submitted proposals on a rolling basis, final deadline is  December 16, 2019. Please include “CUNYLR Symposium 2020 Publication Submission” in the subject line. Articles not selected for inclusion in the symposium volume may be considered for publication through the Law Review’s digital platform, Footnote Forum.

Proposals should contain the following information: 

  • Name and affiliation of the authors
  • Working title
  • An article abstract, no longer than 500 words
  • Expected article length
  • Whether attendance at the symposium is contingent on travel reimbursement

Please note that the due date for article drafts for selected articles is March 3, 2020 for the April 3 Symposium.

 

 

November 18, 2019 in Campaign Finance, Conferences, Elections and Voting | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chief Justice Stays D.C. Circuit Mandate to Release Trump Tax Records

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., issued an order today staying the mandate of the D.C. Circuit to Mazars to release President Trump's tax records.

Recall that the D.C. Circuit last week denied en banc review of a three-judge panel ruling that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform had authority to issue its subpoena for President Trump's financial records to his accounting firm, Mazars.

Chief Justice Roberts's brief order simply stayed the D.C. Circuit ruling "pending receipt of a response, due on or before Thursday, November 21, 2019, by 3 p.m. ET, and further order of the undersigned or of the Court." (The order is not a ruling on the merits, and does not foretell what the Court might do.) So we'll get more information on Thursday . . . .

November 18, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 15, 2019

Daily Read: Attorney General Bill Barr on Executive Power

In a speech at the Federalist Society's 2019 National Lawyers Convention, Attorney General William Barr expounded on separation of powers, arguing that Trump has been treated uniquely:

"It is no exaggeration to say that virtually every major policy of the Trump Administration has been subjected to immediate freezing by the lower courts. No other President has been subjected to such sustained efforts to debilitate his policy agenda."

Further Barr argued that

Indeed, measures undertaken by this Administration seem a bit tame when compared to some of the unprecedented steps taken by the Obama Administration’s aggressive exercises of Executive power – such as, under its DACA program, refusing to enforce broad swathes of immigration law.

The fact of the matter is that, in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of “Resistance” against this Administration, it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.  This highlights a basic disadvantage that conservatives have always had in contesting the political issues of the day.  It was adverted to by the old, curmudgeonly Federalist, Fisher Ames, in an essay during the early years of the Republic. 

In any age, the so-called progressives treat politics as their religion.  Their holy mission is to use the coercive power of the State to remake man and society in their own image, according to an abstract ideal of perfection.  Whatever means they use are therefore justified because, by definition, they are a virtuous people pursing a deific end.  They are willing to use any means necessary to gain momentary advantage in achieving their end, regardless of collateral consequences and the systemic implications.  They never ask whether the actions they take could be justified as a general rule of conduct, equally applicable to all sides. 

Conservatives, on the other hand, do not seek an earthly paradise.  We are interested in preserving over the long run the proper balance of freedom and order necessary for healthy development of natural civil society and individual human flourishing.  This means that we naturally test the propriety and wisdom of action under a “rule of law” standard.  The essence of this standard is to ask what the overall impact on society over the long run if the action we are taking, or principle we are applying, in a given circumstance was universalized – that is, would it be good for society over the long haul if this was done in all like circumstances?

For these reasons, conservatives tend to have more scruple over their political tactics and rarely feel that the ends justify the means.  And this is as it should be, but there is no getting around the fact that this puts conservatives at a disadvantage when facing progressive holy far, especially when doing so under the weight of a hyper-partisan media.

An interesting read in light of other events.

The video is available on YouTube here.

 

 

 

November 15, 2019 in Executive Authority | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

D.C. Circuit Denies Review in Trump Tax Case, Paves Way for Supreme Court Review

The D.C. Circuit yesterday denied en banc review of last month's panel ruling that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform had authority to issue its subpoena for President Trump's financial records to his accounting firm, Mazars.

The ruling is yet another blow to President Trump and his attempts to protect his taxes. But it also paves the way for Supreme Court review.

We posted on the panel ruling here. The panel held that the Committee acted within its powers, and not in violation of the Constitution, in issuing the subpoena.

Judges Katsas and Rao, both joined by Judge Henderson, separately dissented. Judge Katsas argued that the subpoena posed a "threat to presidential autonomy and independence . . . far greater than that presented by compulsory process issued by prosecutors" in United States v. Nixon "or even by private plaintiffs" in Clinton v. Jones. Judge Rao argued that "the Committee exceeded its constitutional authority when it issued a legislative subpoena investigating whether the President broke the law. Investigations of impeachable offenses simply are not, and never have been, within the legislative power because impeachment is a separate judicial power vested in Congress."

November 14, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments on Legality of DACA Rescission

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California (consolidated with Trump v. NAACP, and McAleenan v. Vidal) regarding the legality of the Trump Administration's rescission of the DACA program forestalling deportation proceedings against undocumented persons who have resided in the United States since childhood.

While the controversy implicates many constitutional issues, the argument before the Court centers on the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) regarding whether the rescission is subject to judicial review and if so, whether the rescission is supportable on the merits.  In part these questions revolve around the rescission memo by acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke (described by some as an "act of rebellion") and a subsequent June 2018 memo by DHS then-Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (who famously resigned) regarding the rationales for the rescission.

One question is the extent to which these memos adequately considered the issue of reliance on the DACA policy.  The Solicitor General contended that

to the extent there are any reliance interests, they're extremely limited. DACA was always meant to be a temporary stop-gap measure that could be rescinded at any time, which is why it was only granted in two-year increments. So I don't think anybody could have reasonably assumed that DACA was going to remain in effect in perpetuity.

Yet some Justices seemed to question the assertion that reliance interests were limited. For example, Justice Breyer stated,

But there are all kinds of reliance interests.

I counted briefs in this Court, as I'm sure you have, which state different kinds of reliance interests. There are 66 healthcare organizations. There are three labor unions.

There are 210 educational associations. There are six military organizations. There are three home builders, five states plus those involved, 108, I think, municipalities and cities, 129 religious organizations, and 145 businesses. . . .

And they all list reliance interests, or most of them list interest reliance -- interests applicable to them, which are not quite the same, they are not quite the same as those of the 700,000 who have never seen any other country.

And more pointedly, Justice Sotomayor implicated the President in the reliance interests:

I think my colleagues have rightly pointed there's a whole lot of reliance interests that weren't looked at, including the very President of -- current President telling DACA-eligible people that they were safe under him and that he would find a way to keep them here.

And so he hasn't and, instead, he's done this. And that, I think, has something to be considered before you rescind a policy.

Yet even if the Court were to find a violation of the APA (a conclusion which is by no means clear at all), the remedy — remand to the agency — is problematical.

Justice Gorsuch gave the Solicitor General an opportunity to respond to the remand remedy, but the SG did not take up this invitation, arguing that the memos were adequate. Later, Justice Breyer asked the Michael Mongan, the Solicitor General of California arguing for the state respondents, whether it was just playing “ping-pong” to send it back to the agency reach the same result but do it differently. Mongan argued that the result was not a foregone conclusion:

We don't truly know what the agency would do if confronted with a discretionary choice. If they knew that DACA were lawful, there's a new Secretary, and the administration has expressed broad sympathy for this population, and they very well might continue the policy or stop short of wholesale termination.

In many ways, the arguments and issues here mirror the citizenship question on the census controversy,  Department of Commerce v. New York in which the Court did remand in its decision in June.  Whether or not the Court will follow a similar path is difficult to predict. 

 

November 12, 2019 in Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Oral Argument Analysis, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Daily Read: Portrait of Justice Elana Kagan

In an extensive article in the New Yorker, Is the Supreme Court’s Fate in Elena Kagan’s Hands?, Margaret Talbot provides a profile of Justice Kagan, situating her in her role as the Court's "youngest liberal":

Kagan, who has long been admired by legal scholars for the brilliance of her opinion writing and the incisiveness of her questioning in oral arguments, is emerging as one of the most influential Justices on the Court—and, without question, the most influential of the liberals. That is partly because of her temperament (she is a bridge builder), partly because of her tactics (she has a more acute political instinct than some of her colleagues), and partly because of her age (she is the youngest of the Court’s four liberals, after Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor).

Talbot is good at relating Kagan's background and her written opinions:

Although Kagan didn’t become a historian, her opinions at the Court often read as though a historian might have written them. It’s not because she stuffs them with references to the Founding Fathers—some of her colleagues do that more often, and more clumsily—but because she knows how to weave an internally coherent and satisfying narrative, incorporating different strands of explanation and event.

Like any historian worth reading, Kagan avoids getting mired in the details. Her best opinions often begin by sounding broad political themes, as though she were gathering people around her to tell a story about democracy.

Definitely worth a read (or a listen) at the New Yorker.

191118_r35427[image via New Yorker].

November 11, 2019 in Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

District Court Strikes Trump Administration "Conscience Protections" for Healthcare Workers

Judge Paul A. Engelmayer (S.D.N.Y.) struck the Trump Administration rule designed to allow healthcare workers to decline services if they have a religious objection to a procedure. 

We posted on the final rule here.

The ruling deals a significant blow to the Administration's efforts to expand "conscience protections" for healthcare workers beyond what federal statutes currently provide.

The court held that the Health and Human Services rule exceed statutory authority, violate the law, and violated the separation of powers and the Spending Clause. The court held that it did not violate the Establishment Clause.

The rule provides, among other things, that a healthcare worker can decline to participate in a procedure when the worker has a religious or moral objection, that the worker's employer can't discriminate against the worker based on the worker's beliefs, and that HHS can revoke all HHS funding to any employer who violates these provisions. HHS purportedly adopted the rule under authority of 30 statutory provisions that recognize the right of an individual or entity to abstain from participation in medical procedures. 

The court ruled that the sweeping rule went well beyond HHS's statutory authority, and that the agency therefore exceeded its statutory authority in enacting the rule. It also held that the rule violates Title VII and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. And it held that HHS's reasons for enacting the rule were not sufficient (among other things, "HHS's central factual claim of a 'significant increase' of complaints of Conscience Provision violations is flatly untrue."); that HHS's explanation for changing course was insufficient; and that HHS failed to consider the rule's application to medical emergencies and its interplay (and conflict with) Title VII. Finally, the court held that the rule's sweeping definition of "discrimination" "was not a logical outgrowth of the Rule as proposed." 

The court also ruled that HHS violated the separation of powers by adopting a rule that allowed the agency to withhold all federal funding, exceeding the agency's authority under federal law. It held that the rule violated the Spending Clause as against state plaintiffs, because the conditions on receipt of federal funds are ambiguous and impermissibly coercive. 

However, the court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the rule violated the Establishment Clause, "because the Rule, on its face, equally recognizes secular ("moral") and religious objections to the covered medical procedures."

The court vacated the entire rule (and declined to sever offending portions, given that the APA violates "are numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching") and held it invalid as to any plaintiff. 

November 6, 2019 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Establishment Clause, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, Spending Clause | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Another Defamation Lawsuit Against Trump Connected to Sexual Misconduct

In a 28 page complaint filed in New York state courts opening the case Carroll v. Trump, E. Jean Carroll has sued the president for one count of defamation.

The argument is that the president is "sued here only in his personal capacity" and implicitly that there is no presidential immunity, noting cases in which President Trump has been a plaintiff in his personal capacity, and further citing "a related case" of Zervos v. Trump in which Trump is a defendant. Recall that a New York appellate court considering Zervos earlier this year held that Trump was not immunized from defending a lawsuit in state court.

Screen Shot 2019-11-04 at 3.38.53 PMInterestingly, this paragraph avers that Trump is a "resident" of New York; Trump announced a few days ago that he had filed a "declaration of domicile" in Florida. There are other aspects of personal jurisdiction and there is no amount in the complaint that might satisfy the threshold for removal to federal court for diversity purposes.

The complaint provides a compelling explanation of E. Jean Carroll's silence about the 1995 or 1996 event in which she alleges Trump raped her in a department store dressing room as well as the rationales for changing her mind, including the death of her mother and the burgeoning #MeToo movement response to Harvey Weinstein.

As to the substantive allegations, Carroll highlights three statements — made on June 21, 22, and 24 — that were widely disseminated and accused Carroll of lying about the incident, of inventing the incident for book sales, of inventing the incident for a "political agenda," of lying about incidents with other men, and stating that Trump did not know her, had never met her, and that she was "not his type."  On reputational damages, the complaint avers that since the defamation she lost the "support and goodwill" of many of the readers of her advice column, resulting in "roughly 50% fewer letters" to which she could respond, noting that as an advice columnist she requires a "steady flood of compelling letters" seeking her advice.

Expect Trump's answer — or more probably motion to dismiss — to raise the same immunity defense as in Zervos despite the appellate court decision and perhaps a jurisdictional argument.

 

November 4, 2019 in Current Affairs, Executive Authority, Executive Privilege, First Amendment, Gender, News, Recent Cases, Supremacy Clause | Permalink | Comments (0)