Monday, June 24, 2013

Court Upholds Sex Offender Registration

The Supreme Court held, 7-2, in United States v. Kebodeaux that Congress has authority to require a former member of the Air Force to register as a sex offender for a sex crime that he committed while in the Air Force, and to punish him for failing to register.  We'll have more analysis shortly.  Here's our last post on the case.

SDS

June 24, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court to Review Recess Appointment Authority

The Supreme Court today agreed to review the President's recess appointment authority.  The Court granted cert. to the D.C. Circuit and agreed to hear an appeal in Noel Canning v. NLRB, the case testing the President's authority under the Recess Appointments Clause to appoint members to the NLRB during an intra-session recess in the Senate.  Our post on the D.C. Circuit's ruling--holding that the President lacks authority--including links to prior posts, is here.  

Recall that the D.C. Circuit ruled President Obama's appointments to the NLRB unconstitutional.  The Third Circuit followed suit.

The Supreme Court's move today gives the high court an opportunity to weigh in.

SDS

June 24, 2013 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Cases and Case Materials, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Takes First Amendment Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Case

The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in McCullen v. Coakley in which the First Circuit rejected a First Amendment challenge to a Massachusetts statute creating a fixed thirty-five-foot buffer zone around the entrances, exits, and driveways of abortion clinics. 

The First Circuit rejected the argument that the First Amendment doctrine governing buffer zones had shifted after the Supreme Court's decisions in Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc. (2011); Snyder v. Phelps (2011); and Citizens United v. FEC (2010).  

This grant of certiorari could signal a more robust recognition of First Amendment challenges to buffer zones.

RR

June 24, 2013 in First Amendment, Reproductive Rights, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Muslim Surveillance in NYC: Federal Complaint Challenges Constitutionality of Practices

4-nypd-casepage-mgb-150x150-v01The complaint in Raza v. City of New York details over 150 paragraphs of facts and alleges that NYPD practices have infringed upon the plantiffs' equal protection and First Amendment religion clauses rights, as well as state constitutional rights.  The plaintiffs are United States citizens as well as Muslim community leaders, as well as two mosques and one chartitable organization.  They allege that they have been "religiously profiled" and subject to surveillance, including infiltration of their organizations.

The complaint is worth reading for its specific facts of an extensive practice of surveillance of the named plaintiffs. Interestingly, the complaint does not include a Fourth Amendment claim but does include a First Amendment Establishment Clause claim, contending that the NYPD practice "fosters an excessive government entanglement with religion by, among other things, subjecting Plaintiffs to intrusive surveillance, heightened police scrutiny, and infiltration by police informants and officers."   More predictable are the equal protection and free exercise of religion claims.  

With the increasing public discussion of generalized surveillance, this challenge to a specific tageted practice within a city is worth watching.  Of course, it is not the first time that the NYPD has been challenged for its practices of surveillance.

RR
[image: logo of the plaintiff organization via]

 

June 23, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, Equal Protection, Establishment Clause, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Second Circuit on True Threats, The First Amendment, and the Passive Voice

A divided Second Circuit panel upheld the conviction of Harold Turner in its opinion in United States v. Turner for threats in a blog post against Seventh Circuit Judges Easterbrook, Bauer, and Posner.  Turner objected to the judges' ruling in National Rifle Association of America v. Chicago holding that the Second Amendment was not incorporated as to the states (and municipalities), later reversed by the United States Supreme Court in McDonald v. City of Chicago.  

 

The_tree_of_liberty_must_be_planted_immediately!_by_James_Gillray
"The tree of liberty must be planted immediately!" circa 1797.
Turner's blog post contended that the blood of these judges would "replenish the tree of liberty" and that they should be made examples lest other judges not understand the message "Obey the Constitution or die."  Importantly, not only did Turner say that the judges "deserve to be killed," he posted "photographs, work addresses, and room numbers for each of the three judges, along with a map indicating the location of the courthouse in which they worked, and a photograph of the building modified to point out “Anti-truck bomb barriers.”"  Also importantly, Turner's blog included references to the killing of family members of United States District Judge Joan Lefkow in 2005.

 

The jury was instructed as to the First Amendment and nevertheless convicted.  The panel majority concluded "based on an independent review of the record that the core constitutional fact of a true threat was amply established, and that Turner’s conduct was unprotected by the First Amendment." 

Among Turner's arguments that his blog statements did not constitute a "true threat" was his use of the passive voice.  For the majority, this was overly technical and belied the other statements regarding the location of these judges and the killing of another judge's family members.  Syntax could be important - - - but not here.

Dissenting Judge Rosemary Pooler - - - who, coincidentally, was a member of a Second Circuit panel (along with Sonia Sotomayor) holding that the Second Amendment was not incorporated against the states - - -carefully considered the "true threats" doctrine as compared to incitement/advocacy doctrines.  For Pooler,

Turner’s communications were advocacy of the use of force and not a threat. It is clear that Turner wished for the deaths of Judges Easterbrook, Posner, and Bauer. But I read his statements, made in the passive voice, as an exhortation toward “free men willing to walk up to them and kill them” and not as a warning of planned violence directed toward the intended victims. This reading is furthered by the fact that Turner’s words were posted on a blog on a publicly accessible website, and had the trappings of political discourse, invoking Thomas Jefferson’s famous quotation that “[t]he tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots,” Although vituperative, there is no doubt that this was public political discourse.

[citations omitted].  But Pooler continued that this did not mean that Turner's speech was constitutionally protected.  Instead, the question should be whether Turner's speech was an incitement protected - - - or not - - - under Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969).  She quotes the district judge on this point but concludes by noting that Turner was not charged under the incitement statute, but only the threat statute.

Judge Pooler seems to have the better view here, as the blog post was not directed to the persons threatened but exhorted others to act.  But the majority would view such a construction as overly technical.

RR
[image via]

June 23, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Interpretation, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tester Amendment on Constitutional Corporate Personhood

Senator Jon Tester this week introduced Senate Joint Resolution 18, a proposed constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United and revoke constitutional protections for corporations.  The proposed amendment, in relevant part, reads:

The words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected State and Federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Here's Tester's press release, explaining the need; here he is on YouTube:

 

The Washington Times, among others, have pushed back, arguing that Tester's amendment sweeps too broadly--and would take media corporations out from under their First Amendment protections.

SDS

June 23, 2013 in First Amendment, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ninth Circuit Affirms Injunction Against Judicial Endorsement, Expenditure Ban

The Ninth Circuit this week upheld in part a lower court permanent injunction against the enforcement of a Montana statute making it a criminal offense for any political party to "endorse, contribute to, or make an expenditure to support or oppose a judicial candidate" in a nonpartisan judicial election.

The ruling in Sanders County Republican Central Committee v. Fox is no surprise, after the Ninth Circuit ruled last fall that Montana's ban, at Mont. Code Ann. Sec. 13-35-231, insofar as it restricted endorsements and expenditures, violated the First Amendment.  

But the court also reversed the lower court's injunction against enforcing the ban on contributions.  It ruled that the earlier case didn't address the constitutionality of the state's ban on contributions and that the contribution ban wasn't before the court here.

This week's ruling means that Montana cannot enforce its ban against political parties endorsing or spending money in support of or in opposition to a judicial candidate in a nonpartisan judicial election.  But the state can enforce its ban against political parties making contributions to those judicial candidates.

SDS

June 23, 2013 in Campaign Finance, Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ninth Circuit Upholds Denial-of-Bail for Unauthorized Aliens

A divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit this week upheld Arizona's Proposition 100, a ballot measure passed by Arizona voters that amended the state constitution to preclude bail for persons charged with certain serious felonies if the person entered or remained in the United States without proper authorization.

The ruling gives states some space for regulating unauthorized immigrants through the state criminal justice system, even as it reaffirms federal authority over immigration matters generally.  What makes Prop 100 valid, according to the court, is that (1) it's not punitive (it's regulatory), (2) it's reasonably related to the state's interest in preventing flight of individuals charged with crimes, and (3) it piggy-backs on federal immigration determinations (and doesn't make those determinations itself).

The court in Valenzuela v. County of Maricopa ruled that Prop 100 didn't violate due process, Eighth Amendment excessive bail, or the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and that it wasn't preempted by federal immigration law.

As to due process, the court held under the two-prong test in United States v. Salerno (1987) (1) that there was no punitive purpose (the purpose was regulatory) and (2) that Prop 100 wasn't excessive in relation to its legitimate alternative purpose (because states often categorically deny bail for classes of charges).  The court upheld Prop 100 as reasonably related to the state's (more than) legitimate interest in controlling flight risk.  (The court upheld Prop 100 against the Eighth Amendment challenge based on the same balance.)  The court also upheld Prop 100 against a procedural due process challenge.

As to the right to counsel, the court held that the initial appearance isn't a critical stage of prosecution triggering the right, and that "[b]oth we and the Supreme Court of Arizona have held that there is no constitutional right to an attorney at initial appearances."  Op. at 27.

Finally, with regard to preemption, the court held that Prop 100 doesn't regulate immigration or impermissibly create a state-law immigration classification (because it piggy-backs on the federal determination of immigration status); that Prop 100 isn't field-preempted, because it deals with bail determinations for state-law crimes (that Congress didn't intend to preempt); and that Prop 100 isn't conflict-preempted, because pretrial detention without bail does not impose incarceration for federal immigration law violations--"such detention is not meant to punish an alleged immigration violation but rather to ensure presence in Arizona to stand trial for alleged state-law crimes."  Op. at 35.

Judge Fisher dissented, arguing that Prop 100 is clearly punitive and is too rough a cut at achieving the state's interest:  Without any evidence that unauthorized immigrants released on bail have been or are less likely to appear for trial compared to arrestees who are lawful residents, the majority accepts Arizona's unsupported assertion that all unauthorized immigrants necessarily pose an unmanageable flight risk."  Op. at 37.

SDS

June 23, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Federalism, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis, Preemption, Procedural Due Process, Sixth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cato Explores Bond

The Cato Institute hosted a discussion last week featuring Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz, Judge Alex Kozinski, and Roger Pilon on Bond v. United States, the case involving federal prosecution of a defendant for spreading harmful chemicals on the property of her best friend, after learning that the friend was pregnant by her husband.  Our most recent post is here.  (Prosecution is under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, enacted to enforce the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention, a valid U.S. treaty.)

Cato's discussion is titled Can a Treaty Increase the Power of Congress?  That's also the way Cato framed the issue in its amicus brief.  Bond, however, in seeking cert., asked somewhat more subtle questions: whether the Court whether structural limits in the Constitution restricted congressional authority to enact legislation, and whether the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act might be interpreted so as to avoid this question.  Catos' brief in the case is here; Rosenkranz's related HLR article is here.

 

SDS

June 23, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Federalism, News, Tenth Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Who Loses When the Supreme Court "Procrastinates"?

Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic argues that we all do.  (H/t to Brian Roth.)  Cohen says that putting off the Big Four (and seven others) to the last week of June risks confusing the issues for the public--if only because there's not enough time and media space to adequately explore and critically analyze them:

My point is that I believe the Supreme Court doesn't just owe us a more timely resolution of (the increasingly fewer) cases it takes.  The justices also owe us all the opportunity to reasonably absorb the decisions they do hand down in a fashion that increases the chances those decisions will be accurately and adequately evaluated as quickly as possible.  The sound and fury next week, as the decisions rain down upon us like cicadas, will undermine that possibility.  And from an institution that is the least accountable and transparent anyway, that's a shame.

This is an important and correct conclusion, echoed by others.  The problem is particularly acute this Term, with four big opinions that overlap in equal protection.  We'll all be scrambling to make sense of the individual opinions next week, but also what they say as a body of law on constitutional equality.  

But Cohen's important conclusion doesn't depend on his unlikely "(cynical) theory" (also shared by others), that "perhaps it's time to ponder whether the Court is manipulating the timing of the release of its most divisive rulings to massage the impact of those rulings upon the court of public opinion"--that is, that the Court is doing this deliberately.  This kind of coordinated and calculated move seems implausible for a Court of nine independent justices, any one of whom might throw a wrench into the works at any time (by, e.g., insisting on modifying an opinion in reaction to a colleague's opinion, or some such).  This would require either a remarkable degree of coordination among the nine, or a remarkable degree of defection by a single or small group of justices, all toward the end of undermining public understanding and debate of the Court's work.  Whatever else we might say about the Court's foot-dragging, that seems extremely unlikely.

Still, Cohen's exactly right on the effect: issuing these rulings, and others, all in the last week of June, isn't good for for transparency, democratic legitimacy, or public understanding.  It isn't good for anyone.

SDS

June 22, 2013 in Courts and Judging, News | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sorting Out Fact and Fiction in NSA's Surveillance Program

The Newseum will host a special program NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at 4:00 p.m., at the Knight TV Studio in Washington, D.C.  More information is here; the program will be streamed live online at newseum.org.  

The program includes an introduction by ABA President Laurel Bellows and a panel of experts on national security law, free speech, and the press.  Harvey Rishikof, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and the National Security Advisory Committee, will moderate.  James Duff, president and CEO of the Freedom Forum and CEO of the Newseum, will deliver welcoming remarks.

SDS

June 21, 2013 in Conferences, Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers, Speech, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RR
[image via]

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

What's the Real Standard in Guantanamo Habeas Cases?

The D.C. Circuit this week denied a habeas petition of a Yemeni detained at Guantanamo Bay.  The ruling in Hussain v. Obama is unremarkable, given the lower courts' approach in these cases.  But a concurrence in the case sheds light on a problem: the lower courts are in fact applying the wrong standard.

If that's right--and the concurrence makes a good case that it is--then the courts are denying habeas petitions that shouldn't be denied.  The solution, according to concurring Judge Edwards: "The time has come for the President and Congress to give serious consideration to a different approach for the handling of the Guantanamo detainee cases."  Indeed.

The majority in the case applied the now-settled test for habeas petitions coming out of Guantanamo Bay: Whether the government has shown, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the detainee was "part of" al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces at the time of capture.  (The test purports to apply the government's detention authority under the AUMF, which permits the president to detain individuals who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such . . . persons.")  The majority rejected Hussain's arguments to adjust and tighten the test and concluded that it was easily met here.

But concurring Senior District Judge Edwards argued that the court actually and wrongly applied a lower "substantial evidence" test, not the more rigorous preponderance-of-evidence test that the court said it applied.  Judge Edwards argued that the evidence in this case--or lack thereof--only supported a conclusion that Hussain fell into the covered group by a substantial evidence standard, not by a preponderance of the evidence, even though the majority held that it met that higher standard.  Moreover, Judge Edwards wrote that the court implicitly shifted the burden from the government to Hussain in showing that he continued to affiliate with enemy forces after leaving Afghanistan.  

Despite these problems, Judge Edwards concurred in the result, because, he said, the law of the circuit compelled it.

Still, Judge Edwards concluded with a call for change: "The time has come for the President and Congress to give serious consideration to a different approach for the handling of the Guantanamo detainee cases."  Conc. at 5.

SDS

June 20, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, Habeas Corpus, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Can Aung San Suu Kyi Become Myanmar's President?

Reuters reports that the Myanmar Constitution may foil Aung San Suu Kyi's plans to become the country's next president in the general election in 2015.  According to the report, the Myanmar Constitution "bars anyone married to a foreigner or who has childrens who are foreign citizens.  Suu Kyi and her late husband, the British academic Michael Aris, had two children who are British."

Section 59(f) of the Myanmar Constitution requires that the president and vice-president

shall he himself, one of the parents, the spouse, one of the legitimate children or their spouses not owe allegiance to a foreign power, not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country.  They shall not be persons entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges of a subject of a foreign government or citizen of a foreign country.

The provision was apparently included to exclude Suu Kyi from the presidency.  

It also seems that an amendment is unlikely.  Section 436(a) requires a 75% vote in parliament, where current and former military have a lock, and a majority in a national referendum.  

SDS

June 19, 2013 in Comparative Constitutionalism, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Common Cause Takes Filibuster Challenge to D.C. Circuit

Common Cause this week pursued its case against the Senate filibuster at the D.C. Circuit when it filed its appellate brief, arguing that Judge Emmett G. Sullivan (D.D.C.) was wrong to dismiss the case last December and pressing its argument that the filibuster is unconstitutional.  Common Cause's press release is here; the brief is here.  We posted on Judge Sullivan's decision here.

Recall that Judge Sullivan dismissed the case, Common Cause v. Biden, for lack of standing and for raising a political question.  In its brief, Common Cause takes on Judge Sullivan's ruling and argues that the filibuster is unconstitutional.

As to standing, Common Cause argues that House-member-plaintiffs have standing to challenge Senate Rule XXII, the cloture rule that allows a filibuster if the majority can't muster 60 votes to close debate, because the Rule allowed a minority in the Senate to effectively nullify their votes in favor of the DISCLOSE and DREAM Acts.  Common Cause relies on language from Raines v. Byrd (1997), which says that "legislators whose votes . . . would have been sufficient to . . . enact a specific legislative Act have standing to sue if that legislative action . . . does not go into effect on the ground that their votes have been completely nullified" by a procedural violation of the Constitution.  (In Raines, the Court held that Senator Byrd lacked standing when he mounted a facial challenge to the Line-Item Veto Act but failed to show that his vote on any specific appropriation bill had been nullified by the Act.)

Common Cause also argues that it has standing in its own right, because the filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act frustrated its core mission of campaign reform.  It argues that it has standing based on its members, because they cannot learn the identities of certain campaign contributors.  And it argues that the "dreamer"-plaintiffs have standing, because the filibuster of the DREAM Act denied them the benefits of that Act.

As to political question, Common Cause says that rules of Congress are justiciable, that they must be constitutional, and that "[t]here is nothing in the record of the Federal Convention indicating that the Framers intended to delegate to either house the authority to depart from the principle of majority rule . . . ."  Brief at 15-16.

Finally, on the merits, Common Cause says,

Rule XXII's supermajority vote requirement is inconsistent with the rules of parliamentary practice that preceeded the adoption of the Constitution, the intent of the Framers as reflected in The Federalist Papers, the text of the Quorum and the Presentment Clauses, the exclusive list of exceptions to the principle of majority rule in the Constitution which specify when a supermajority vote is required, the provision of Article I, Sec. 3, cl. 4 that gives the Vice President the power to cast the tie-breaking majority vote when the Senate is "equally divided," and the first rules adopted by the Senate and the House immediately after ratification.

Brief at 56.

SDS

June 19, 2013 in Campaign Finance, Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arizona Voter Registration Case: No Pyrrhic Victory for the Feds

In response to Monday's ruling in Arizona v. InterTribal Council of Arizona, Inc., striking Arizona's requirement that voters show proof of citizenship above and beyond the oath of citizenship on the standard federal voter registration form, there's a debate about whether the case is a pyrrhic victory for the federal government.  Our most recent post on the case, with links to earlier posts, is here.

On one side, Mary Lederman argued over at SCOTUSblog that the case, for all its talk of federal supremacy over how federal elections are held, probably curtails federal authority over who may vote in them.  That's because Justice Scalia, writing for the Court, carefully reserved the power to determine who may vote in federal elections to the states.  Lederman seized on Justice Scalia's line that the Elections Clause "empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them" and argued that this principle puts in jeopardy current and possible future federal legislation requiring states to register certain persons to vote.  For example, he argued that the ruling threatens the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, UOCAVA, which requires a state to register for federal electiosn any person who resides outside the United States but would otherwise be qualified to vote in that state; any congressional restriction on state felon disenfrachisement laws; and even federal law upheld under Oregon v. Mitchell.  Rick Hasen made a similar point at The Daily Beast, followed up with a post on his own Election Law Blog.

On the other side, David Gans over at the Text and History blog at the Constitutional Accountability Center, argued that Lederman's argument "misses the enduring significance of Justice Scalia's sweeping reaffirmation that the Constitution gives Congress very broad powers to protect the right to vote in federal elections . . . ."  Gans and others seized on Justice Scalia's repeated and very strong language affirming federal authority under the Elections Clause--its "paramount power," without a presumption against preemption--to set the rules of the "Times, Places, and Manner" of congressional elections.

So who's right?

Both, it turns out--with an important caveat.  The ruling gives Congress broad authority under the Elections Clause to regulate the "Times, Places, and Manner" of congressional elections, including prescribing a federal form, using an oath on that form as evidence of citizenship, and requiring states to petition federal authorities (the EAC) to add a proof-of-citizenship requirement on that form (or to sue to get the EAC to add the requirement).  That's the core holding of the case--that the NVRA, with the prescribed federal form, including the oath, is a valid regulation of the "Times, Places, and Manner" of congressional elections that preempts contrary state law.

But the NVRA and the federal form spill over into the state-controlled power to determine who gets to vote, because they regulate the manner of determining an important qualification for voters, citizenship.  The Court said that to the extent that a federal law spills over and regulates voter qualification like this, the states must have an opportunity to petition federal authorities and ultimately to sue (under the Administrative Procedures Act) to enforce their own state voter eligibility requirements.  

So even under the Elections Clause, the case stands for vast federal authority--authority to set the "Times, Places, and Manner" of congressional election in a way that absolutely preempts state law, and more: to set those standards even when they spill over into regulation of who gets to vote, so long as the states have an opportunity--under a very loose standard--to preserve their power to set voter qualifications through administrative petitioning and APA action.  (Note that this administrative petitioning, by the Court's own reckoning, is informal and casual.  Note further that APA review is deferential.  Between the two, the principle puts the inertia behind federal regulation that spills over into regulation of voter qualification.)  

While the Court articulated these rules in the case--that is, that the feds have the absolute power over how to vote, while the states have the power over who gets to vote--even perhaps more clearly than it has in the past, it's not obvious that this breaks any new ground.  In particular, it's not obvious that it breaks any new ground reducing the power of the federal government or enhancing the powers of the states.  Indeed, if anything, the core holding of the case only underscores the vast power of the federal government at the expense of the states.  (While Justice Scalia's line dividing power between the feds and the states may eventually prove to be a "time bomb" (Hasen's phrase), the principal, driving holding of the case reaffirms federal authority.)

So here's the caveat: the Court said all this only with respect to the Elections Clause, but of course made no ruling on any other federal authority to regulate voter qualifications.  Thus the Court left in place vast federal power under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and left untouched the constitutional rights to travel and to vote.  Those authorities and rights, and others, might well support federal authority to enact the UOCAVA and maybe even to restrict certain state felon disenfrachisement laws.  If so, Monday's ruling doesn't do anything to those actual and potential federal laws.  

Moreoer, Monday's ruling does nothing to the federal laws upheld under Oregon v. Mitchell, or otherwise to undermine whatever holdings came out of that case.  (Justice Scalia's footnote 8 does nothing to the vitality or legitimacy of Mitchell, say what you will about the footnote or about Mitchell itself.)  Lederman argues that those laws might not withstand scrutiny under the Court's current approach to congressional enforcement power under the Reconstruction Amendments.  But, if so, that's a function of City of Boerne, not Monday's ruling.  Moreover, some or all of the laws upheld under Mitchell might well be upheld under different authorities.  As we know, the Court itself split sharply on the sources of authority in that case, suggesting that those laws might enjoy support under other authorities, not subject to the Elections Clause constraint that states have the power to determine who gets to vote.  

In short, Monday's ruling is a clear victory for federal authority under the Elections Clause, with a reservation of qualified state authority to determine who gets to vote in congressional elections even when Congress regulates the "Times, Places, and Manner" of congressional elections in a way that spills over into voter qualifications.  (Why "qualified state authority"?  Because the Court upheld a federal law that set a standard for voter eligibility, based on the oath on the federal form, so long as the states can petition the EAC and bring an action to court to supplement the oath if they can show that the oath is insufficient.  This putting-the-burden-on-the-state when the federal government prescribes a way to determine eligibility is a thumb on the scale in favor of federal power.  At the very least, it's an extremely unusual way to preserve and protect state power.)  But the ruling does nothing to other constitutional powers that Congress might use to validly enact federal law, and to preempt state law, regarding voter qualifications.  

SDS

June 19, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Elections and Voting, Federalism, Fifteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Privileges and Immunities, Privileges and Immunities: Article IV, Travel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Court Says Federal Law Preempts Arizona's Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement to Vote

The Supreme Court ruled today in Arizona v. InterTribal Council of Arizona, Inc. that the federal requirement under the National Voter Registration Act, NVRA, that the states "accept and use" an approved and uniform federal form for registering voters preempted Arizona's requirement that voters present evidence of citizenship at registration.  The ruling strikes Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement for users of the federal form, but also invites Arizona to try to get the federal Election Assistance Commission to provide state-specific instructions requiring proof of citizenship through an administrative process.  We posted on the case earlier here; our argument preview is here; our argument review is here.

The ruling is a strong statement of federal authority over the states when Congress acts pursuant to its Elections Clause power.  But the case doesn't change the basic federalism framework that the Court uses in its ordinary preemption cases (under the Supremacy Clause)--including its presumption against preemption in those cases--and it of course says nothing about the likely direction the Court will take in Shelby County, the pending decision on the challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  

Justice Scalia wrote for the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  Justice Kennedy, writing separately, concurred in part and concurred in the judgment.

The case arose out of Arizona's Proposition 200, a ballot initiative that required county recorders to reject any voter registration application not accompanied by a proof of citizenship.  The problem is that the NVRA requires states to "accept and use" a uniform federal form designed by the Election Assistance Commission; and the federal form only requires an applicant to attest, under penalty of perjury, that he or she meets the state voting requirements (including citizenship).  (The EAC rejected Arizona's request to include a state-specific instruction on the federal form that applicants must provide proof of citizenship.)

So the question in InterTribal was whether the NVRA requirement that states "accept and use" the federal form preempted Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement.  The Court ruled that it did.

Congress enacted the NVRA pursuant to its authority under the Elections Clause.  The Elections Clause, Article I, Sec. 4, cl. 1, provides:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the places of chusing Senators.

The Court recognized that the Clause was designed to give Congress certain authority over federal elections in order to ensure that states wouldn't undercut the federal government by refusing to provide for the election of representatives to Congress.  Thus, the preemptive power of the Clause, even if a "default," is sweeping:

In practice, the Clause functions as "a default provision; it invests the States with responsibility for the mechanics of congressional elections, but only so far as Congress declines to pre-empt state legislative choices." . . .  The power of Congress over the "Times, Places and Manner" of congressional elections "is paramount, and may be exercised at any time, and to any extent which it deems expedient; and so far as it is exercised, and no farther, the regulations effected supercede those of the State which are inconsistent therewith."

Op. at 5-6 (citations omitted).  More, the Court rejected Arizona's argument that there is a presumption against preemption in the Elections Clause context.  It said that when Congress regulates under the Elections Clause, "it necessarily displaces some element of a pre-existing legal regime erected by the States."  Op. at 11 (emphasis in original).  "Moreover, the federalism concerns underlying the presumption in the Supremacy Clause context are somewhat weaker here.  Unlike the States' 'historic police powers,' . . . the States' role in regulating congressional elections--while weighty and worthy of respect--has always existed subject to the express qualification that it 'terminates according to federal law.'"  Op. at 12 (citations omitted).  

Thus, the Court said that there was no reason not to give the congressional requirement that states "accept and use" the federal form its plain meaning.  And that meaning prohibits the states from adding a proof-of-citizenship requirement over and above what the federal form already requires.  

The Court noted that the "alternative means of enforcing its constitutional power to determine voting qualifications"--petitioning the EAC to alter the federal form, and challenging the EAC's rejection of a petition under the Administrative Procedures Act--"remains open to Arizona here."  Op. at 16.

Justice Kennedy concurred, but wrote separately to take issue with the Court's creation of "a hierarchy of federal powers so that some statutes pre-empting state law must be interpreted by different rules than others, all depending upon which power Congress has exercised."  He would have applied a presumption against preemption in this case--and any case involving federal legislation under the Elections Clause--but thought that that presumption was satisfied here.

Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that the Voter Qualifications Clause and the Seventeenth Amendment reserve the power to the states to determine qualifications of voters in federal elections.  The Voter Qualifications Clause, Article I, Sec. 2, cl 1., says that "the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature" in elections for the federal House of Representatives.  The Seventeenth Amendment contains similar language for elections for the Senate.  Because both parties' interpretations of the "accept and use" language were plausible, according to Justice Thomas, these other provisions tilt the scale in favor of Arizona--and state determination of voter qualifications.

Finally, Justice Alito dissented, arguing that the NVRA language is ambiguous, but "their best reading is that the States need not treat the federal form as a complete voter registration application."  

SDS

 

June 17, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Elections and Voting, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Preemption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Court Strikes Arizona's Proof-of-Citizenship Requirement

The Supreme Court ruled today in Arizona v. InterTribal Council of Arizona, Inc. that the National Voter Registration Act, NVRA, preempts Arizona's requirement that voters show evidence of citizenship before registering to vote using the federal form.  Justice Scalia wrote for the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  Justice Kennedy joined in part.  Justices Thomas and Alito dissented.

The Court held that the NVRA's requirement that states "accept and use" the federal form preempted, under the Elections Clause, Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement.  

We posted most recently on the case here and here.  We'll have more analysis soon.

Map_of_USA_AZ.svg

SDS

June 17, 2013 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Preemption | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tenth Circuit Allows Compelled Speech Claim for Oklahoma License Plate

In a divided opinion in Cressman v. Thompson, the Tenth Circuit has allowed a First Amendment compelled speech challenge to Oklahoma's license plate (pictured below).

  2010_Oklahoma_License_Plate

 

For those familiar with Wooley v. Maynard (1977), the case seems as if it is a mere reprise.  However, unlike Maynard's objection to the New Hampshire license plate motto "Live Free or Die," Cressman objects to the image on the license plate.  For the dissenting judge, this distinction makes all the difference.  In a nutshell, the brief dissent contends that Cressman can not clear the basic hurdle of "speech."  As dissenting judge Kelly explains:

In 2009, Oklahoma changed its standard-issue license plate to incorporate a representation of Allan Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow,” on permanent display at Tulsa’s Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art.  Though awarded the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association’s best plate of the year award for 2009, Mr. Cressman considers his display of the image on the license plate to be compelled speech.   . . . .Mr. Cressman has connected the image on Oklahoma’s license plate to the sculpture and that sculpture to a Native American legend. He asserts that the license plate promotes “pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, and/or animism,” all of which are antithetical to his religious beliefs.  However, he has not alleged facts from which we can reasonably infer that others are likely to make the same series of connections.

For the majority, it was sufficient that Cressman alleged that the image had an ideological message at the complaint stage.  The court's analysis of symbolic speech and the "particularized message" cases - - - think flags and parades - - - supported this conclusion.  The majority also discussed the compelled speech precedent.  From this, the majority concluded the district judge should not have dismissed the complaint.  The majority declined to enter a preliminary injunction, however, ruling that the State should have the opportunity to present its interests.  The majority very clearly held, however, that Wooley v. Maynard remains viable precedent, despite some arguments that it has been undermined.  The majority also very clearly held that Cressman had standing, except as to one individual defendant.

On remand, the district judge will be considering whether Cressman's plausible allegations can be proven as true.

RR

June 14, 2013 in Federalism, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Supreme Court Reacts Swiftly Regarding Protests at its Plaza

Presumably reacting to the decision of Judge Beryl Howell declaring the Supreme Court protest-ban statute, 40 USC §6135, unconstitutional which we discussed yesterday,  the Court has issued a new policy, "Regulation Seven"  (h/t Lyle Denniston).  

800px-US_Supreme_Court_-_originalThe regulation provides:

This regulation is issued under the authority of 40 U.S.C. § 6102 to protect the Supreme Court building and grounds, and persons and property thereon, and to maintain suitable order and decorum within the Supreme Court building and grounds. Any person who fails to comply with this regulation may be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment pursuant to 40 U.S.C. § 6137. This regulation does not apply on the perimeter sidewalks on the Supreme Court grounds. The Supreme Court may also make exceptions to this regulation for activities related to its official functions.

No person shall engage in a demonstration within the Supreme Court building and grounds. The term “demonstration” includes demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers. The term does not include casual use by visitors or tourists that is not reasonably likely to attract a crowd or onlookers.

Approved and Effective June 13, 2013

Importantly, the regulation addresses several of the issues Judge Howell found relevant in her decision.  First, it emphasizes "conduct" rather than simply wearing a t-shirt with a slogan or carrying a sign.  However, the regulation does seem to include "speechmaking" in this broad category of "like forms of conduct."  Second, the regulation requires this conduct as "reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers."  This emphasizes the effect, but also implies some sort of intent requirement in the "reasonably likely."  Third, the regulation specifically excludes the "casual use by visitors or tourists."  This would presumably exclude the t-shirt wearing preschoolers that Judge Howell referenced in her opinion, as well as the solitary person arrested for wearing a jacket that bore the phrase "Occupy Everything."

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court's reservation for itself of making exceptions and the remaining prohibition of expression of "views" could certainly prompt serious First Amendment challenges to the regulation.

As for the statute and its constitutionality, this narrower regulation may indicate some level of agreement with a conclusion that 40 USC §6135 is overbroad and unreasonable.

RR

June 13, 2013 in Courts and Judging, First Amendment, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)