Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Evening Review: The Missing Dissenting Opinion in Hosanna-Tabor by Professor Leslie Griffin

As a rule, there is something unsatisfying about a constitutional law opinion from the United States Supreme Court without a well-reasoned and scholarly dissent. 

The Court's opinion earlier this year in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC is no exception to that rule, despite a  short concurring opinion by Justice Thomas and the much longer concurring opinion by Justice Alito in which Justice Kagan joined.   The Court in Hosanna-Tabor recognized the so-called "ministerial exception" barring a lawsuit against a religious organization by an employee seeking relief pursuant to federal anti-discrimination laws, including the ADA.

LeslieGriffinProfessor Leslie Griffin supplies the necessary countervailing arguments in her forthcoming article The Sins of Hosanna-Tabor, available on ssrn.  Professor Griffin (pictured left) who co-authored the Brief of Amici Curiae Law and Religion Professors in Support of Respondents and who appeared at the AALS Conference panel discussing the case was well-situated to provide a quick and thorough analysis, with excellent research that is mostly absent from the Court's opinions. 

Griffin's critique of the case is insightful and pointed, discussing the factual context and reorienting it as a retaliation case, providing some useful historical perspectives, and seeking to reconcile the 1990 case of Employment Division v. Smith.  As Griffin argues, after Hosanna-Tabor, "Individual religious believers are subject to the rule of Smith, while institutions are not. Institutional religious freedom allows the firing of ministerial employees for any reasons, even non-religious ones."  This does seem incoherent, although as Griffin notes, the "rule always favors employers."  

The broad insulation of religious employers from anti-discrimination laws for anyone who is deemed a minister  is the import of Hosanna-Tabor.  While the Court declined to decide exactly who is a minister, the implication seems to be that this determination must rest on the sincere belief of the employer, lest there be Establishment Clause issues.  The Court also declined to express a view "on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct by their religious employers.”   Griffin uses her in depth knowledge of the area to explore the implications of this opening.

Griffin's article is worth reading for anyone teaching or writing about Hosanna-Tabor and should certainly be excerpted in Casebooks.   It's an important dissenting opinion.


April 28, 2012 in Disability, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Gender, Religion, Scholarship, Teaching Tips | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Has Scalia Crossed a Line in Arizona v. United States?

UPDATE: SCALIA's dissenting opinion and Court's June 25 decision here]

Justice Scalia, long known for his scathing written opinions, is under increasing scrutiny - - - and criticism - - - for his comments/questions during oral arguments.  The critiques focus on both content and tone of his performance on the Bench and are especially pronounced with regard to Arizona v. United States, the case involving the constitutionality of certain sections of Arizona's notorious immigration law known as SB1070.  As we discussed, the oral arguments seemed less about preemption (a sometimes technical and dry issue) and more about federalism and immigration policy unmoored from the statutory and Supremacy Clause considerations.

In a case about borders, several commentators are suggesting that Scalia needs to better monitor his own boundaries. 

For example, Dana Millbank in a Washington Post column compares Scalia's rhetoric to that of the "street protestors" stating that they were "nearly identical" in "tone and substance."  Millbank argues that although "[t]echnically, Scalia was questioning counsel," at times "he verged on outright heckling" of the Solicitor General. 

Similarly, in an article in UK's the Guardian, US political science professor Scott Lumieux notes that Scalia's remarks in Arizona v. United States were "yet more Fox News-style posturing by Scalia," continuing a pattern Lumieux also discusses from recent oral arguments including those concerning the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the ACA. 

And in a article entitled "Scalia Reveals How Little He Knows About Immigration Policy," Neil Pippenger in The New Republic refrains from characterizing Scalia's tone, but relates Scalia's "policy suggestion" intended to solve Mexico's objections:

“Well, can’t you avoid that particular foreign relations problem by simply deporting these people?”

A few people sitting near me gasped as Scalia continued: “Look, free them from the jails”—here, [Solicitor General] Verrilli tried to interrupt him, but the justice would not be cut off—“and send them back to the countries that are objecting!”

An mp3 and transcript of the oral arguments in Arizona v. United States is now available at Oyez, so one can hear and read the basis for such criticisms.  Of course, without visual broadcast, those not in the courtroom must rely on the representations of others in that regard.  However, the transcript and audio certainly lend credence to the critiques.

[image: Justice Scalia at speaking engagement via]

April 28, 2012 in News, Oral Argument Analysis, Preemption, Supremacy Clause, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 27, 2012

House Republicans Move Toward Contempt Citation Against AG Holder

The LA Times reports that Representative Darrell Issa, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has drafted a 48-page contempt-of-Congress citation against AG Eric Holder for withholding documents related to the Committee's investigation into "Fast and Furious." According to the story, the Speaker gave the go-ahead to move the citation forward.

We posted most recently on contempt of Congress citations in the Miers, Bolton, and Rove cases and the alleged politicization of the Justice Department in the Bush administration. Those posts, with links to resources, are here and here.


April 27, 2012 in Congressional Authority, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Live Streaming of "Living Originalism" Conference

On April 27 and 28, 2012, Yale Law School will host a conference on constitutional interpretation and change in conjunction with the publication of Professor Jack Balkin’s book, Living Originalism (Harvard University Press 2011), with many exciting panelists.

Not at the conference?  Watch the live stream.


April 27, 2012 in Conferences, History, Scholarship, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Florida's Mandatory Drug Testing for State Employees Enjoined

Rick ScottJudge Ursula Ungaro of the Southern District of Florida has permanently enjoined the Executive of Order of controversial Florida Governor Rick Scott (pictured in caricature at right) requiring drug testing of all prospective state employees and random testing of all state employees in her opinion in AFSCME v. Scott.  

Scott's fondness for drug-testing has not fared well in the federal courts.  His previous efforts to have all public entitlement recipients drug-tested was similarly enjoined as unconstitutional last year.  In this opinion, Judge Ungaro distinguishes the drug-testing policies that were upheld under the Fourth Amendment as being tailored to address a specific, serious problem.  "In contrast, the rationale for the Governor’s policy consists of broad prognostications concerning taxpayer savings, improved public service, and reductions in health and safety risks that result from a drug-free workplace."  Judge Urango stated that his  "explanation of the EO’s concern with public safety offers a particularly telling example of the speculative nature of the public interest behind the testing policy," quoting from the brief that: 

Even a desk-bound clerk may become violent with other employees or the public, may present a danger when driving in a car in the workplace parking lot, or may exercise impaired judgment when encountering any of the myriad hazards that exist in the workplace environment (from stacks of heavy boxes, to high staircases, to files in high shelves, to wet floors, to elevators and escalators.)

For Judge Ungaro, "the Governor’s safety rationale for the EO essentially relies on the Governor's common sense belief that because illegal drug use exists in the general population, it must also exist among state employees."   Common sense as articulated by the state's governor is not weighed heavily in evaluating a drug-testing program, unsupported by any individualized suspicion, that is "judged by balancing its intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests."

The judge also rejected the Governor's analogy to financial disclosure statements by government employees: "the Governor’s reasoning is hardly transparent and frankly obscure." 

Before reaching the substantive Fourth Amendment claim, the judge carefully considered the standing of AFSCME, a union, to bring the action.  Governor Scott argued that the union did not suffer an "injury in fact" because only the individuals who actually have a Fourth Amendment right are injured, not an association.  However, the judge found convincing the union's argument that it would have to devote considerable energy to representing individual union members selected for testing and will have to devote similar energies to engage in collective bargaining on the issue, deflecting its energies from other issues.  Moreover, the judge found the union had associational standing to assert the rights of its members.  As to new hires, who are not union members, the judge found that the new hires could be union members by the time of the testing, and that new hires included union members who were applying for transfers or promotions.

This well-crafted opinion is certainly a blow to Governor Scott's controversial and somewhat breezy approach to law.  Rather than appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, perhaps Scott will attempt a more carefully crafted Executive Order.

[image: Caricature of Governor Rick Scott by DonkeyHotey via]


April 26, 2012 in Fourth Amendment, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

President Obama Expands Drone Authority in Yemen

President Obama this month authorized expanded use of drones in Yemen, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.  Under the expanded authority, the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command can use drones to fire on targets based only on their "signatures"--those patterns detected through intelligence that indicate that a target is an operative or otherwise poses a threat against U.S. interests.  Prior to the expansion, the CIA and USJSOC only had drone authority in Yemen to fire on targets based on individual identity and close vetting, so-called "personality" strikes.

The administration has yet to provide a comprehensive legal justification for its use of drones in Yemen--which last September killed alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki and, mistakenly, his non-targeted son.  AG Eric Holder gave us all the legal justification we know (on the pre-existing Yemen drone program, not the expanded one) in a speech last month; we covered that speech here

Bruce Ackerman argued in Sunday's Washington Post that expanded drone use in Yemen exceeds congressional authorization under the AUMF.

According to reports, the expanded authority in Yemen still falls a little short of the broader drone authority in Pakistan.


April 26, 2012 in Executive Authority, News, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Padilla Takes Torture Case to Supreme Court

Jose Padilla filed a cert. petition with the Supreme Court this week, asking the Court to review the Fourth Circuit's ruling rejecting his Bivens claim against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials allegedly involved in his torture.

This case could be a first foray for the Court into the spate of cases since the attacks of 9/11 that allege torture by U.S. government officials and their private-sector collaborators.  In particular, despite several similar Bivens cases percolating in the lower courts, the Supreme Court has yet to rule on this precise question: Whether a U.S. citizen can sue government officials for torture while in military custody, when the detention may (or may not) be related to national security.  (We last posted on one of these cases, Vance v. Rumsfeld, recently argued before the en banc Seventh Circuit.  (The three-judge panel ruled that the plaintiffs' torture suit could move forward.))  The Court has also not yet taken up a case involving another barrier to torture suits, the state secrets privilege.

Padilla sued Rumsfeld, et al., for violation of his rights, and authorization of violation of his rights, while he was detained at the Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, for two years as an "enemy combatant."  Padilla sued under Bivens, the 1971 case authorizing an individual cause of action against federal officers for violations of the Fourth Amendment; subsequent cases have restricted Bivens claims when "special factors" counsel against a judicial remedy. The defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing just that--that "special factors" counseled against a Bivens remedy.  The district court dismissed the case (on this ground, and also on qualified immunity grounds), and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

Padilla, represented by Ben Wizner and a team at the ACLU, argues that the Fourth Circuit's ruling is contrary to Carlson v. Green (1980), a case extending the Bivens remedy to a prisoner's Eighth Amendment claim that federal officers were deliberately indifferent to his mistreatment in federal custody:

Petitioners' claims here fall squarely within the heartland of Bivens and Carlson.  As in Carlson, petitioners allege mistreatment while in federal custody.  And as in both Bivens and Carlson, the traditional circumstances for permitting Bivens relief are plainly present: petitioners seek to hold individual federal officers accountable for grave abuses of a prisoner in federal custody, and there is no adequate alternative remedy.

Padilla also argues that the Fourth Circuit effectively turned the Bivens "special factors" analysis into an executive trump card in military matters, weildable any time somebody tries to sue the military.  Padilla says that this is a misreading of Bivens and the Court's precedents, which show that "special factors" "embody judicial deference to the legislative, rather than the executive, prerogative."  Padilla also argues that it frustrates checks-and-balances and undermines principles of separation-of-powers (by allowing too much power to be consolidated, unchecked, in the executive).


April 25, 2012 in Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, Fundamental Rights, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Oral Argument in Arizona v. United States

The oral argument today in the closely watched Arizona v. United States, involving the constitutionality of several provisions of Arizona's notorious SB 1070 that the DOJ argues are pre-empted by federal law and which the lower courts agreed.  

These four provisions at issue are:

  •     Section 2(B): requires every Arizona law enforcement officer to verify the immigration status of every person stopped, arrested, or detained if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country unlawfully;
  •     Section 3: criminalizes the failure to carry an “alien registration document;'"
  •     Section 5(C): criminalizes undocumented immigrants applying for employment or being employed;
  •     Section 6:  authorizes warrantless arrests if based upon probable cause that a person has committed a deportable crime.


During the oral argument Justice Sotomayor quickly interrupted Paul Clement, arguing for Arizona,with a focus on the controversial stop provision:

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: -- could I interrupt, and turning to 2(B), could you tell me what the State's view is -- the Government proposes that it should be read on its face one way, and I think the State is arguing that there's a narrower way to read it. But am I to understand that under the State's position in this action, the only time that the inquiry about the status of an individual rises is after they've had probable cause to arrest that individual for some other crime?

Sotomayor persisted raising the "critical" issue of how long and under what circumstances the state would detain someone.  After some discussion, including queries by Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, Justice Scalia asked whether any such problems were "immigration" problems or Fourth Amendment problems.  Yet the questions on 2(B), in conjunction with Section 6, continued to dominate, until Justice Roberts shifted the inquiry:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Counsel, maybe it's a good time to talk about some of the other sections, in particular section 5(C).  Now, that does seem to expand beyond the Federal government's determination about the types of sanctions that should govern the employment relationship.

You talk about supply and demand. The Federal government, of course, prohibits the employment, but it also imposes sanctions with respect to application for work. And the State of Arizona, in this  case, is imposing some significantly greater sanctions.

Clement admitted that Arizona was imposing "different" sanctions, but that the state only targeted employment that was already prohibited by federal law, making it a "weak case for preemption."  Later, Clement answered another question from Justice Sotomayor by saying that there was a "big difference" between "Congress deciding not as a matter of Federal law to address employees with an additional criminal prohibition, and saying that that decision itself has preemptive effect. That's a rather remarkable additional step."   He then essentially argued that the Congressional immigration statutes were out-of-date.

Roberts again took charge and turned the argument to Section 3, the state crime of failure to carry a registration document, which Clement argued was "parallel" to the federal requirements. 

Arguing for the United States, Solicitor General Verrilli had barely finished "may it please the Court," when Chief Justice Roberts posed this query:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Before you get into what the case is about, I'd like to clear up at the outset what it's not about. No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it? I saw none of that in your brief.

When Verrilli answered "That's correct,"  Roberts again repeated his statement:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Okay. So this is not a case about ethnic profiling.

Justice Scalia quickly articulated a states rights perspective.  Responding to the federal government's position that "the Constitution vests exclusive authority over immigration matters with  the national government," Scalia asked:

  1. JUSTICE SCALIA: All that means, it gives authority over naturalization, which we've expanded to immigration. But all that means is that the Government can set forth the rules concerning who belongs in this country. But if, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona, Arizona has no power? What does sovereignty mean if it does not include the ability to defend your borders?

Chief Justice Roberts explicitly stated "I don't see the problem with section 2(B)," perhaps explaining his earlier effort to clarify that the case was not about "racial profiling." 
Yet the argument did return to this issue.

VERRILLI: . . . . Now, we are not making an allegation of racial profiling; nevertheless, there are already tens of thousands of stops that result in inquiries in Arizona, even in the absence of S.B. 1070. It stands to reason that the legislature thought that that wasn't sufficient and there needed to be more.
And given that you have a population in Arizona of 2 million Latinos, of whom only 400,000 at most are there unlawfully --

JUSTICE SCALIA: Sounds like racial profiling to me.

GENERAL VERRILLI: And they're -- and given that what we're talking about is the status of being unlawfully present --

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Do you have the statistics as to how many arrests there are and how many -- and what the -- percentage of calls before the statute [SB1070]?

The discussions of preemption were often less focused on Congressional intent than on generalized federalism concerns, although at one point Chief Justice Roberts seemed to highlight the only precedent that mattered.  Attempting to engage in an analogy, Verrilli argued:

  1. . . . . if you ask one of your law clerks to bring you the most important preemption cases from the last years, and they rolled in the last -- the last hundred volumes of the U.S. Reports and said, well, they are in there. That -- that doesn't make it --

  2. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What if they just  rolled in Whiting?


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That's a pretty good one.

The analogy was never completed. 

But if Arizona v. United States mimics Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting, decided last May and upholding the Legal Arizona Workers Act, we can expect a fractured opinion ultimately finding in favor of Arizona.


April 25, 2012 in Oral Argument Analysis, Preemption, Supremacy Clause, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Canadian Perspectives on Revisiting Roe v. Wade

Canadian Law Prof Sonia Lawrence (pictured right) starts her Jotwell post "Womb as Wedge" this way:

Sitting in Toronto or maybe Bristol, we have a tendency to watch American politics with both fear and amusement, rather like (or so I hear) some people watch Jersey Shore or Keeping up with the Kardashians: Who are these people? Why do they behave this way?

LawrenceQuestions worth asking, certainly. 

    But Lawrence quickly dismisses this view as smug and self-satisfied. In her review of Linda Greenhouse and Reva Siegel, Before (and After) Roe v. Wade: New Questions about Backlash, 120 Yale L.J. 2028 (2011), available on ssrn, Lawrence confirms the Greenhouse and Siegel view that "the focus on Roe is not just a faulty conclusion – it is a rhetorical strategy in and of itself."  And increasingly, it is not a strategy confined to the United States.

    Indeed, Lawrence argues that abortion law and politics in both Canada and the UK have become "Americanized," discussing Carol Sanger's recent lecture, as well as a motion to reconsider Canada's criminal code defining human being to be debated April 26.

    Thus, in a relatively short piece, Lawrence offers more "new questions" about "backlash" and Roe v. Wade," providing essential comparative constitutional law perspectives.



April 25, 2012 in Abortion, Comparative Constitutionalism, Fundamental Rights, Gender, History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preview of Oral Arguments in Arizona v. United States

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Arizona v. United States on the issue of the constitutionality of Arizona's notorious SB 1070, signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer two years ago.  The law was controversial from the beginning for a variety of reasons, but the case before the Court focuses on the pre-emption issue as brought before the federal courts by the Department of Justice. 

Arizona-mapThe DOJ was mostly successful in the lower courts.  The Court granted the review sought by Arizona of the Ninth Circuit opinion upholding the district court's preliminary injunction against specific provisions of as SB 1070.  We've previously outlined some of Arizona's arguments on certiorari.

The oral arguments have attracted much attention.  Lyle Dennison at SCOTUSblog has a lengthy, detailed, and incisive analysis, though many readers will be most interested in his outcome bottom line: "With Justice Kagan not taking part, a 4-4 split among those who are taking part would simply uphold — without a written opinion — the Ninth Circuit decision barring enforcement of the four provisions at issue."  Kevin Johnson posts over at Immigration Law Prof blog and surfaces an interesting possible outcome.  Findlaw has a quick review, ACS has a good discussion, and The Tuscon Sentinel has particularly excellent discussion in a "primer."  The NYT has a great graphic of copy-cat SB 1070 statutes in other states.

After the oral argument, there is sure to be much analysis, prediction, and the inevitable wait for the opinion due before the end of the term.

And of course, political responses.  Given that the Court's task is the interpretation of a statute and that the "touchstone" of preemption is Congressional intent, Congress can always legislate.  While immigration legislation is never easy, at least one Senator is vowing to propose a statute including what seems to be express preemption.


April 24, 2012 in Federalism, Preemption, Supremacy Clause, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)