Wednesday, October 10, 2018

High Court Declines to Intervene in ND Voter-ID Dispute, Allows Law to Go into Effect

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to intervene in a case challenging North Dakota's voter-ID law. The move allows the law to go into effect for the upcoming elections.

We previously posted on the case--on the Eighth Circuit's ruling--here.

The action (or lack of it) is significant, because of the nature of the law. As Pema Levy explains at Mother Jones, the ND law requires ND voters to show proof of a residential address in order to cast a ballot. But it says that PO boxes don't count. That matters, because Native American voters in ND often lack street address, and instead use PO boxes, because the U.S. Postal Service doesn't provide residential delivery in rural Native American communities.

The legislature enacted the law after the state elected Heidi Heitkamp to the Senate by a very slim margin, and with the strong backing of Native American voters. Heitkamp is the only statewide elected Democrat in the state.

Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Kagan, dissented. She wrote that not intervening in the case and vacating an Eighth Circuit stay risks voter confusion (because the law was halted by a lower court for the primaries), and that "the risk of disfranchisement is large."

October 10, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Seventh Circuit Upholds Wisconsin's Butter-Grading System

The Seventh Circuit last week upheld Wisconsin's butter-grading system against Dormant Commerce Clause, due process, and equal protection challenges. The ruling means that Wisconsin's butter-grading system stays on the books.

The case, Minerva Dairy v. Harsdorf, took on Wisconsin's law for grading butter, which makes it unlawful "to sell . . . any butter at retail unless it has been graded." To satisfy this requirement, butter may be graded either by a Wisconsin-licensed grader, or by the USDA voluntary butter-grading program. The plaintiff, an Ohio butter producer, argued that the law violated the Dormant Commerce Clause, due process, and equal protection.

The Seventh Circuit disagreed. The court ruled that the law didn't discriminate against interstate commerce, and so didn't violate the Dormant Commerce Clause. (The court didn't even apply Pike v. Bruce Church balancing, because the law didn't discriminate on its face or in effect.) The court also said that Wisconsin's butter-grading-licensing standards, which require a person to come to Wisconsin to test to be a Wisconsin-certified butter-grader, didn't discriminate, either (even though a would-be butter-grader who lives in or close to Wisconsin can get there easier than a would-be grader who lives farther away).

The court rejected the due process and equal protection challenges, too, because the law satisfied rational basis review.

October 9, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Commerce Clause, Dormant Commerce Clause, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 1, 2018

Court to Hear Arguments in Nondelegation Doctrine Challenge to Sex Offender Registration Act

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in Gundy v. United States, the case testing whether Congress violated the separation of powers by delegating too much authority to the Attorney General to determine whether the Sex Offender and Registration and Notification Act applies to pre-Act offenders. Here's my preview for the ABA Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (with permission):

FACTS

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act

In 2006, Congress enacted SORNA to “establish a comprehensive national system for the registration” of sex offenders. Before SORNA, every state had its own registration system, and the federal government required states to adopt certain unifying measures or lose certain federal funds. SORNA strengthened these baselines, but it also did more.

In particular, SORNA created—and required states to create, as a condition of receiving certain federal funds—criminal penalties for individuals who fail to comply with its registration requirements. SORNA created a federal three-tier system for classifying sex offenders based on the significance of their offense, and made it a federal crime to fail to register for a specified number of years (depending on the tier of the crime). (This was different than the classification system that many states previously used, which set requirements based on individualized risk assessments of the offenders.) The Act states that a person who (1) “is required to register under” SORNA; (2) “travels in interstate or foreign commerce”; and (3) “knowingly fails to register or update a registration as required by” SORNA is guilty of a federal crime punishable to up to ten years in prison. 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). It also requires states (again, as a condition of receiving certain federal funds) to “provide a criminal penalty that includes a maximum term that is greater than 1 year for the failure of a sex offender to comply with” SORNA’s registration requirements.

But Congress didn’t specify whether these new criminal provisions would apply to pre-Act offenders. (The question was important: legislators estimated that there were more than 500,000 pre-Act offenders when Congress passed the law.) Instead, Congress left it to the Attorney General. SORNA says: “The Attorney General shall have the authority to specify the applicability of the requirements of this subchapter to sex offenders convicted before the enactment of this chapter . . . and to prescribe rules for the registration of any such sex offenders . . . .” 34 U.S.C. § 20913(d).

This gives the Attorney General quite a bit of discretion. It allows the Attorney General to apply SORNA to pre-Act offenders immediately, or later, or not at all. It also allows the Attorney General to make a decision at one time, but to change course later, or under any new President, with regard to whether and how SORNA’s registration requirements would apply to pre-Act offenders.

In fact, the Attorney General exercised this discretion, at least to some extent. Attorney General Alberto G. Gonzales issued an interim rule about six months after Congress passed SORNA stating that SORNA would apply to pre-Act offenders. Since then, different Attorneys General issued different guidelines as to how it would apply, particularly with regard to offenders who had been released from prison for longer than SORNA’s maximum registration periods (for example, a person who was released more than 25 years before Congress enacted SORNA, but who would be subject to a maximum 25-year registration period under SORNA). As relevant to this case, Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidance in 2010 that SORNA credit pre-Act offenders with their entire prior period in the community, regardless of what a local jurisdiction might decide.

Gundy’s Conviction

In 2005, Herman Avery Gundy pled guilty in Maryland to sexual assault of a minor. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with ten years suspended and five years of probation.

In November 2010, Gundy completed his state sentence and was transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to serve a related federal sentence. The Bureau of Prisons transferred Gundy from Maryland to a prison in Pennsylvania. In July 2012, it transferred him from Pennsylvania to a halfway house in New York to complete his sentence. Gundy was released on August 27, 2012. He remained in New York.

In October 2012, Gundy was arrested in New York and charged with violating SORNA’s federal criminal provision. The indictment alleged that Gundy (1) was “an individual required to register” under SORNA based on his 2005 Maryland sex offense, (2) traveled in interstate commerce, and (3) “thereafter resided in New York without registering” as required by SORNA.

Gundy moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing, among other things, that SORNA could not constitutionally apply to him, because Congress delegated too much authority to the Attorney General to make a fundamentally legislative decision about whether SORNA applied to pre-Act offenders. The district court initially dismissed the indictment, but later, on remand from the Second Circuit, rejected Gundy’s constitutional argument. The Second Circuit affirmed, and remanded the case for trial. Gundy was convicted, and the district court sentenced him to time served and five years of supervised release. Gundy appealed, again arguing that SORNA could not constitutionally apply to him. The Second Circuit again rejected this argument. This appeal followed.

CASE ANALYSIS

In order to protect Congress’s lawmaking authority within our separation-of-powers system—and to ensure that Congress does not cede this authority to the Executive Branch—the Court has set a standard for congressional delegations: it requires Congress to provide “intelligible principles” whenever it delegates authority to enforce the law to agencies within the Executive Branch. This is called the “Nondelegation Doctrine.”

Historically speaking, the Nondelegation Doctrine has been loose and quite permissive, giving Congress wide berth. Thus, the Court has said that a congressional delegation satisfies the Nondelegation Doctrine “if Congress clearly delineates the general policy, the public agency which is to apply it, and the boundaries of th[e] delegated authority.” American Power & Light Co. v. SEC, 329 U.S. 90 (1946). To date, the Court has found only two statutory delegations that violated the Doctrine, and both of those provided almost no guidance to the Executive.

Still, Gundy contends that SORNA’s delegation to the Attorney General to determine the Act’s application to pre-Act offenders violates the Doctrine. Gundy argues first that SORNA provides no intelligible principles to the Attorney General, because it doesn’t say “whether he should make any pre-Act offenders register; which offenders should be required to register; or even what he must (or must not) consider in deciding these questions.” He says that even the government concedes that SORNA allows the Attorney General to take no action at all, to wait years before taking action, and to reverse course at any time. Gundy claims this unbridled authority “can only be characterized as ‘legislative’ power[]” in violation of the separation of powers.

Gundy argues next that the Court should apply a heightened nondelegation standard in this context, and that SORNA violates the heightened standard, too. In particular, Gundy claims that SORNA delegates “significant power” to the Attorney General “to make policy decisions that bear directly on an individual’s liberty . . . ; disturb settled expectations of law . . . ; and infringe states’ sovereign interests (by regulating purely intrastate conduct and dictating to states, as a condition of federal funding, how they must regulate and criminalize conduct within their own borders).” Gundy contends that these features of SORNA require a heightened nondelegation standard, and that SORNA fails, because “the statute gives the Attorney General no meaningful guidance as to how to exercise these vast powers.”

The government counters that SORNA satisfies the traditional Nondelegation Doctrine. The government says that the Act identifies the official to whom it delegates authority (the Attorney General), and that SORNA’s text and history sufficiently provide a “general policy” that the Attorney General should pursue in making the determination. The government claims that SORNA thus easily satisfies the deferential traditional nondelegation standard.

To illustrate its point, the government contends that SORNA provides the Attorney General the exact same discretion as a hypothetical (and valid) statute that required all pre-Act offenders to register but authorized the Attorney General to grant waivers. Under this hypothetical (and, again, valid) statute, “the scope of [the Attorney General’s] authority . . . would be the same.” The government says that if Congress can enact this hypothetical statute (which it can), then it can also enact SORNA.

The government argues next that the Court need not address Gundy’s argument about a heightened nondelegation standard. The government contends that SORNA does not raise especial concerns that would justify a heightened standard, that the Court has already rejected a heightened standard, and that SORNA would satisfy any standard, anyway.

SIGNIFICANCE

This case addresses a key question left open the last time the Court took on SORNA, in Reynolds v. United States. 565 U.S. 432 (2012). In that case, the Court ruled that pre-Act offenders do not have to register under SORNA until the Attorney General validly specified that the Act’s registration provisions applied to them. In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, noted that SORNA potentially raised a nondelegation problem:

it is not entirely clear to me that Congress can constitutionally leave it to the Attorney General to decide—with no statutory standard whatever governing his discretion—whether a criminal statute will or will not apply to certain individuals. That seems to me sailing close to the wind with regard to the principle that legislative powers are nondelegable.

This case picks up that cue. That’s notable, because the Nondelegation Doctrine has been all but dormant since 1935. In that year, the Court ruled in Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388 (1935), and Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935), that two different statutes were unconstitutional. Since then, the Court has not ruled a single act of Congress unconstitutional under the Doctrine. This case could resurrect this long-dormant doctrine.

This could be especially significant in the broader context of a Court that seems increasingly skeptical, even hostile, to aggressive agency rule-making—what some describe as impermissible “lawmaking”—within the Executive Branch. This hostility comes out in the increasingly common arguments from some quarters against judicial deference toward agency rule-making under so-called “Chevron deference.” Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. 467 U.S. 837 (1984). Chevron deference says that the courts should defer to an agency’s interpretation of a statute, so long as the interpretation is reasonable. Opponents of Chevron deference call for greater judicial scrutiny of agency interpretations, in order to rein them in. (As this piece goes to print, Judge Brett Kavanaugh is fielding questions on this precise topic from Senators on the Judiciary Committee.) Arguments against Chevron deference share this feature with arguments against the deferential Nondelegation Doctrine: They both seek to control an Executive bureaucracy that some see as an unaccountable, lawmaking “fourth branch” of government.

Within this context, the Court’s ruling could contribute to a more general move by the Court to rein-in Executive agency actions. Such a move could shift power away from Executive agencies to Congress.

But on that point, it’s important to remember that in our separation-of-powers system there’s a third independent branch of government, the judiciary. And if the Court exercises its prerogative to shift power in this way—by tightening up the Nondelegation Doctrine, by doing away with Chevron deference, or by otherwise reining in agencies’ actions—it looks more like the Court is the branch that gets a boost in power.

October 1, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Nondelegation Doctrine, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court to Consider Death Penalty for Condemned Prisoner who Can't Remember Crime

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in Madison v. State of Alabama, the case testing whether the Eighth Amendment prohibits a state from executing a person whose medical condition prevents him from remembering his crime. Here's my preview from the ABA Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (with permission):

FACTS

In April 1985, Vernon Madison visited the home of his ex-girlfriend, Cheryl Green. Madison, who until a few days earlier had been living with Green, was there to collect some personal items.

At the same time, police officer Julius Schulte came to Green’s home in order to investigate a report that Green’s 11-year-old daughter was missing. Green’s daughter came home before Schulte arrived. Nevertheless, Schulte, at the request of Green’s neighbors, stayed at Green’s home to protect Green and her daughter until Madison left.

Madison at one point left Green’s property. But he returned with a pistol and shot Schulte twice in the head, killing him, as Schulte sat in his car. Madison also shot Green twice in the back.

Madison was convicted of capital murder, and the trial court sentenced him to death. The state appeals court reversed, however, concluding that Madison showed that the prosecutors excluded black veniremembers in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). After a second trial, Madison was again convicted of capital murder and again sentenced to death. But the appeals court again reversed his conviction, this time because the prosecutors introduced inadmissible evidence. Finally, after a third trial, Madison was again convicted and sentenced to death, and state appeals courts affirmed.

Madison pursued a series of state and federal post-conviction, collateral challenges. Each of these was ultimately denied. The Supreme Court declined to intervene. Madison v. Thomas, 135 S. Ct. 2346 (2015).

During this period (and while he was in prison), Madison suffered multiple strokes that left him severely impaired. In May 2015, he suffered a basilar artery occlusion, which caused bilateral cerebral and occipital infarctions and resulted in increased brain pressure, white matter attenuation, and possible temporal lobe damage. In January 2016, he suffered a thalamic stroke, which left him disoriented, appearing “very confused,” and with significant memory loss. (Madison suffered other strokes, too, which “negatively impacted his cognitive and body functioning,” but the details are less clear.)

Madison now suffers from encephalomalacia, meaning that there are some areas of his brain where the tissue is dead. He also suffers from vascular dementia, cognitive deficits, severe memory loss, and other chronic conditions that have decreased his capacity to “rationally understand[] his circumstances.”

After the state Attorney General asked the Supreme Court of Alabama to set an execution date, Madison filed state-court post-conviction petitions claiming that he was incompetent to be executed. At a hearing to evaluate his competence, Madison presented evidence of his cognitive injuries, dementia and memory loss, and diminished capacity for understanding his circumstances. In particular, Madison’s expert, Dr. John Goff, a neuropsychologist, testified that Madison’s memory had significantly declined, that he could not remember important events and facts, that he had a borderline-intelligence IQ of 72, and that he could not perform basic cognitive functions. The court-appointed expert, Dr. Karl Kirkland, agreed that Madison suffered physical and cognitive decline as a result of his strokes, but that Madison remembered the details of his court cases and had “a rational understanding that he is to be executed for killing a police officer in 1985.”

The state court found Madison competent to be executed. Under state law, Madison could not appeal this finding. So he brought a federal habeas corpus suit, raising the same claims that he raised in the state-court proceedings. The federal district court denied Madison’s application, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court summarily reversed in Dunn v. Madison, 138 S. Ct. 9 (2017), although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in concurrence that “[t]he issue whether a State may administer the death penalty to a person whose disability leaves him without memory of his commission of a capital offense is a substantial question not yet addressed by the Court.”

After the state set Madison’s execution date, Madison filed a second state-court petition challenging his competency to be executed. The court rejected Madison’s petition, writing that it “did not provide a substantial threshold showing of insanity . . . sufficient to convince this Court to stay the execution.”

This appeal followed.

CASE ANALYSIS

The Supreme Court ruled in Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007), that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a state from executing a person whose mental capacity prevents him or her from comprehending the reason for his or her punishment or rationally understanding the punishment. Moreover, the Court held that the state must provide a minimum process for a convicted person to show that he or she lacks this mental capacity. The Court so ruled because important purposes of capital punishment—retribution against a person who recognizes the severity of his or her offense, and “community vindication”—are ill-served by executing a person who lacks this fundamental mental capacity.  

At the same time, however, the Court has never said whether Panetti applies to individuals, like Madison, who, because of cognitive impairments, simply cannot remember his or her crime. And it’s never said whether, independent of Panetti, the Eighth Amendment and its “evolving standards of decency” prevent a state from executing a person who cannot remember the crime. These issues are what this case is about.

Madison argues first that his cognitive impairments render him unqualified for the death penalty under Panetti. He claims that because of his impairments he cannot “understand the circumstances surrounding a scheduled execution,” and thus falls squarely within the Panetti rule prohibiting his execution.

Madison argues next that his execution would not serve the penological objectives of the Eighth Amendment. He contends that his impairments—including both his inability to understand why he will be executed and his inability to remember his crime—mean that his execution would not serve any retributive purpose, or any other penological objective, for that matter.

Finally, Madison argues that “advances in neurological science now make clear the nature of this incompetency.” This means that condemned prisoners can’t simply fake a cognitive impairment to cleverly get out from under the death penalty, and that a ruling in his favor will not open the floodgates to false claims of memory loss.

The state counters that the state court’s conclusions satisfy Panetti. It says that Madison’s cognitive impairments do not preclude him from understanding that he is being punished for killing Officer Schulte, “or from sharing the community’s understanding of crime, punishment, retribution, and death.” The state contends that while Madison may not remember his crime, understanding his punishment is different. And the state court properly concluded, under Panetti, that Madison understood his punishment (even if he cannot remember his crime) and thus qualified for the death penalty.

The state argues next that nothing about the Eighth Amendment prohibits a state from executing a person who cannot remember his or her crime. The state asserts that neither the common law, “objective indicia of society” and professional associational standards, nor the retributive and deterrence purposes of the death penalty would counsel against a state executing a person who does not remember the crime. The state writes, “Madison’s mental condition does not preclude him from understanding that he is being punished for murdering a police officer or that such a murder is a grave moral wrong,” and “Madison’s execution will serve as an example to others that the intentional murder of a police officer will be punished.”

Finally, the state argues that Madison’s approach would increase the potential for false claims of cognitive impairment and manipulation of the death-penalty system. The state says that Madison’s argument gives undue weight to a diagnosis of dementia; that Madison’s argument would open the door to incompetence claims due to other cognitive impairments; and that “a person’s assertion that he cannot remember his crime is not objectively verifiable.”

SIGNIFICANCE

This case addresses an important unanswered question in the Court’s Eighth Amendment jurisprudence: Does the Eighth Amendment prohibit a state from executing an individual who cannot remember his or her crime?

The question comes on the heels of a series of rulings in the last couple decades that restrict the application of the death penalty and mandatory lifetime imprisonment. Thus, the Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment forbids imposing the death penalty for nonhomicide crimes, Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407 (2008), and on mentally retarded defendants. Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). The Court held that the Amendment bars capital punishment for children, Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), and life sentences without parole for children who commit nonhomicide offenses. Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). Most recently, the Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a state from imposing a mandatory life sentence without parole for a juvenile defendant. (Bryan Stevenson, Madison’s attorney, argued that case.)

These were all closely divided, 5-4 rulings along traditional ideological lines (save for Graham and Atkins, which were both 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts concurring in Graham). Justice Kennedy not only sided with the majority in each of these cases, he also wrote the majority opinions in Miller, Kennedy, Graham, and Roper. In other words, Justice Kennedy was not only the swing vote on these issues, he was the Court’s leader on them.

Without Justice Kennedy on the Court, there may not be a majority to overturn the state court ruling here. (Among the Court’s conservatives, Chief Justice Roberts is probably the closest to the progressives on these issues, and yet he is probably less willing than Justice Kennedy to restrict the death penalty.) If Chief Justice Roberts joins the conservatives, the state court ruling will stand, whether or not the Senate confirms Judge Brett Kavanaugh in time for this case. (A Justice Kavanaugh seems likely, though not certain, to side with the conservatives, creating a likely 5-4 split against Madison. But even without a Justice Kavanaugh, a 4-4 split (along conventional ideological lines) would uphold the lower court ruling, without producing a precedential opinion.)

More generally, Justice Kennedy’s replacement seems likely to go against Justice Kennedy on any of these cases that carve out categorical exceptions to the death penalty and mandatory life sentences under the Eighth Amendment. If so, a new, conservative 5-4 majority could restrict or even undo much of the work that Justice Kennedy did on these issues.

October 1, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Senator Merkley Sues to Halt Kavanaugh Confirmation Process

Senator Jeff Merkley today sued President Trump, Senate colleagues, and others in federal court (D.D.C.) to halt the confirmation process of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Merkley argues that the defendants' actions violate the separation of powers and the Senate's constitutional role in providing advice and consent on Judge Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

The lawsuit relates to the defendants' failure to produce documents, not the more recent sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. The government will surely file a motion to dismiss based on the political question doctrine (itself a separation-of-powers matter), among others. The outcome of the case (and the confirmation process more generally) will set the standards for document release and Senate advice-and-consent for future judicial nominations, by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Here's the gist:

This case arises from the direct and substantial interference by President Trump and other agents of the executive branch in the ability of the Senate to examine the record and evaluate the fitness of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the President's nominee for a lifetime appointment as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. President Trump and agents of the executive branch interfered in the ability of Senator Merkley and the Senate to provide advice and consent by, inter alia, imposing a broad and unprecedented blockade on the Senate's and public's access to reams of key documents that directly bear on Judge Kavanaugh's views, experience, and character. This improper process regarding the production of relevant documents prevents Senator Merkley and his colleagues from properly exercising their constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on the qualifications of the nominee and deprives them of the ability to fully assess the nominee's fitness to assume the position of an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

***

The President and officers of the executive branch have interfered in the Senate's advice and consent responsibility in three critical ways: encouraging the Senate Majority to not request documents related to Kavanaugh's time while serving as Staff Secretary to George W. Bush; blocking access to an extensive set of documents related to the nominee's views and actions while serving in President George W. Bush's Office of White House Counsel; and blocking full access by all Senators and the public to documents delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee but marked "Committee Confidential."

Senator Merkley asks the court to order that

(a) Defendant Trump withdraw his excessive invocation of executive privilege and produce a privilege log for documents truly subject to executive privilege;

(b) Defendants McConnell, Grassley, Adams, and Stenger not hold or permit a vote on the nominee's confirmation, or otherwise act to advance the confirmation process, until the National Archives releases his records, including the records requested by Senator Grassley regarding the nominee's work at the Office of White House Counsel, and there is sufficient time for the U.S. Senate to review the documents and conduct a careful review of the newly released documents;

(c) National Archives expedite the production of the documents to the earliest date practical;

(d) Defendant Burck cease and desist from usurping the traditional role of the neutral professionals at the National Archives.

September 26, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, News, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ninth Circuit Rules No-Fly Challenger's Case Not Moot

The Ninth Circuit ruled in Fikre v. FBI that the plaintiff's due process challenges to his inclusion on the government's no-fly list were not moot, even though the government took him off the list during the litigation. The ruling means that the plaintiff's case challenging his inclusion on the no-fly list can move forward.

The case arose from Yonas Fikre's inclusion on the no-fly list and his several and significant resulting harms. Fikre alleged that his inclusion violated substantive and procedural due process, and he sought declaratory and injunctive relief. During the litigation, the government removed Fikre from the list, however, and moved to dismiss the case as moot. The district court granted the motion.

The Ninth Circuit reversed. The court ruled that Fikre's case came under the voluntary cessation exception to mootness--that signs pointed to the government opportunistically removing him, and that the government could reinstate him at any time. The court explained:

To begin, the FBI's decision to restore Fikre's flying privileges is an individualized determination untethered to any explanation or change in policy, much less an abiding change in policy. . . .

Moreover, the government has no assured Fikre that he will not be banned from flying for the same reasons that prompted the government to add him to the list in the first place, nor has it verified the implementation of procedural safeguards conditioning its ability to revise Fikre's status on the receipt of new information. . . .

Finally . . . we note that Fikre's removal from the No Fly List does not "completely and irrevocably eradicate[] the effects of the alleged violation[s]."

The ruling sends the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

September 20, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, Mootness, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

District Court Says Trump EOs Violate Federal Labor Law

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (D.D.C.) ruled yesterday in American Federation of Government Employees v. Trump that President Trump's executive orders sharply curtailing federal employees' collective bargaining and labor rights violate federal labor law. The ruling means that most of the EOs' limitations are invalid.

Together, the EOs set a timeframe for completion of collective bargaining negotiations; removed certain matters from the bargaining table completely; set certain procedures for negotiations; limited the extent to which federal employees could engage in union work during business hours; limited the government resources that union members could use for union activities; made it easier for the government to dismiss federal employees for unsatisfactory performance.

The court recognized that the EOs are subject to restrictions in statutory law, but that "the President could always theoretically claim that he possesses the inherent constitutional authority to take a given action, regardless of any conflict with a congressional statute and his resulting lack of statutory authority." "But Defendants have made no such assertion in the instant case; instead, they have 'expressly recognized statutory limitations on the President's authority to act in this area.'" The court, therefore, didn't rule on the constitutional question.

The government's omission of a constitutional argument might seem surprising, given the President's recent constitutional extrapolation from the Court's ruling in Lucia in an EO designed to rein in control over executive branch ALJs. That move seemed like an attack, under cover of Lucia and claimed plenary Article II authority over the executive branch, on civil service laws that in any way restrict the President's claimed authority to hire and fire whomever he wants. That attack would seem to apply equally here. But the government didn't press it.

On the statutory questions, Judge Jackson summarized:

[T]he Order provisions concerning matters such as the reduction of the availability of and support for official time activities [to engage in union-related work], and the specific prohibitions against bargaining over [certain matters], or hte unilateral narrowing of any negotiated grievance procedures, dramatically decrease the scope of the right to bargain collectively, because, in the [Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act], Congress clearly intended for agencies and unions to engage in a broad and meaningful negotiation over nearly every "condition of employment." Likewise, the Orders' requirements, such as the directive that agencies should "ordinarily" seek to conclude collective bargaining negotiations within five to seven months, or should limit the applicability of grievance procedures "[w]henever reasonable[,]" effectively instruct federal agencies and executive departments to approach collective bargaining in a manner that clearly runs counter to the FSLMRS's expectation of good-faith conduct on the part of negotiating parties. . . .

[T]he only challenged provisions of [the EOs] that can stand are those that neither contribute to a reduction in the scope of the collective bargaining that Congress has envisioned nor impede the ability of agencies and executive departments to engage in the kind of good-faith bargaining over conditions of federal employment that Congress has required.

August 26, 2018 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 24, 2018

Ninth Circuit Authorizes Bivens Claim Against ICE Official for Forging Doc in Deportation Case

The Ninth Circuit last week authorized a constitutional tort under Bivens against an ICE official for forging a document that would have led to the plaintiff's deportation. (H/t Theo Lesczynski.) The ruling means that the plaintiff's case can move forward.

The ruling is the second time in recent weeks that the Ninth Circuit authorized a Bivens action in a "new context." (The earlier case involved a Border Patrol officer's cross-border shooting of a Mexican youth.)

The case, Lanuza v. Love, arose when ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Jonathan Love submitted an I-826 form, forged with Lanuza's signature, at Lanuza's immigration hearing. The form indicated that Lanuza accepted voluntary departure to Mexico in 2000, breaking Lanuza's period of accrued continuous residency in the U.S. Without this continuous residency, Lanuza didn't qualify for cancellation of removal; and, based on the forged document, the immigration judge denied cancellation and ordered Lanuza removed. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed.

Lanuza then hired a new attorney, who discovered the forgery. (Among other things, the forged document referred to the "U.S. Department of Homeland Security," which did not yet exist at the time that Lanuza purportedly signed the form.) The agency then adjusted Lanuza's status to lawful permanent resident.

Lanuza brought a Bivens claim against Love for violation of his Fifth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed the case, but the Ninth Circuit reversed.

The court ruled that the case raised a "new context," but that no special factors counseled against a Bivens remedy. Indeed, the court said that certain factors favored a Bivens remedy in a case like this, where a government official submitted false evidence in a quasi-judicial proceeding:

Indeed, there are few persons better equipped to weigh the cost of compromised adjudicative proceedings than those who are entrusted with protecting their integrity. And, more often than not, the Judicial Branch, not Congress or the Executive, is responsible for remedying circumstances where a court's integrity is compromised by the submission of false evidence. Thus, it falls within the natural ambit of the judiciary's authority to decide whether to provide a remedy for the submission of false evidence in an immigration proceeding.

The court also denied qualified immunity.

The ruling sends the case back to the district court for proceedings on the merits.

August 24, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Fifth Circuit Rebuffs Faculty Challenge to Campus Concealed Carry Law

The Fifth Circuit last week rejected a challenge by faculty to a Texas law that allows concealed carry in public university classrooms. The ruling ends the challenge, and upholds the state Campus Carry Act and University of Texas at Austin policies permitting concealed carry.

The case, Glass v. Paxton, arose when faculty at the University of Texas challenge the Campus Carry Act and UT policies that permitted concealed carry for certain students on campus. Faculty challenged the Act under the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Equal Protection Clause. The court rejected each of those challenges.

As to the First Amendment, the court held that the plaintiff lacked standing because she couldn't show, under the "certainly impending" standard of Amnesty International, "that a license-holder will illegally brandish a firearm in a classroom."

As to the Second Amendment, the court rejected the plaintiff's argument that the concealed carry on campus wasn't "well regulated." The court said that the "well regulated" requirement is part of the Second Amendment's prefatory clause, and that the Court in Heller ruled "that the Second Amendment's prefatory clause does not limit its operative clause."

Finally, as to equal protection, the court said that Texas's interests in the law--public safety and self-defense--were sufficient to pass rational basis review. "Here, Texas's rationales are arguable at the very least."

August 22, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Equal Protection, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

D.C. Circuit Remands Metro's Ad Restriction for Reasonableness Determination

The D.C. Circuit ruled in American Freedom Defense Initiative v. WMATA that the D.C. Metro's restriction on certain advertisements was a view-point neutral regulation in a nonpublic forum. But the court nevertheless remanded the case for a determination whether the restriction was "reasonable."

The ruling sends the case back to the district court for further proceedings. "Reasonableness" is usually a very low bar (thus favoring Metro), but the Court just this Term determined that a view-point neutral regulation in a nonpublic forum wasn't "reasonable." That case, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, leaves the door cracked for AFDI on remand.

The ruling follows the recent Archdiocese of Washington v. WMATA, where the same court ruled that Metro's restriction on religious advertising was a permissible view-point neutral regulation in a nonpublic forum.

The AFDI case arose when AFDI sought to place an ad on Metro that, according to AFDI, was designed to "make the point that the First Amendment will not yield to Sharia-adherent Islamists who want to enforce so-called blasphemy laws here in the United States, whether through threats of violence or through the actions of complicit government officials." Around the same time, Metro was considering restricting ads, given the increasing number of complaints about ads disrespecting President Obama and ads on hot-button issues. A Metro employee told the Board that AFDI's proposed ad was the "straw that broke the camel's back," and the Board approved a temporary moratorium. The Board then rejected AFDI's ad under the moratorium, and later issued permanent restrictions on certain ads. The permanent policy, now in place, prohibits ads on "an issue on which there are varying opinions," politics (pro or con any candidate), religion (again, pro or con), and "industry position[s] or industry goal[s] without direct commercial benefit to the advertiser" (again, pro or con).

AFDI sued, arguing that the moratorium (but not the permanent policy) violated the First Amendment.

The court ruled first that the case was not moot. The court said that the permanent policy represented the same restrictions under the moratorium, and so AFDI's claim against the moratorium was still a live dispute, but now against the permanent policy. (Judge Karen LaCraft Henderson dissented on this point and thus would have dodged the merits.)

The court next said that Metro was a nonpublic forum (under Archdiocese of Washington), and that the restrictions were view-point neutral. The court rejected AFDI's arguments that the policy was view-point discriminatory because (1) Metro adopted the policy in response to AFDI (no evidence of this, and the straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back comment only meant that AFDI's ad, along with a whole bunch of other ads, led to the policy), (2) the policy was facially view-point based (not so under Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights), and (3) the religion restriction is inherently view-point based (AFDI didn't sufficiently develop or press this argument).

But while a view-point neutral regulation in a nonpublic forum usually satisfies the First Amendment, it also has to be reasonable. The court said that there was enough of a question here to remand the case for a determination of reasonableness under this Term's Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky (holding that a restriction on political attire in a poling place wasn't reasonable).

August 18, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Eighth Circuit Upholds Public Union Exclusive Representation Designation Against First Amendment Challenge

The Eighth Circuit this week held that a Minnesota law that authorizes public employees to organize and to designate an exclusive representative to negotiate employment terms with the state did not violate the First Amendment.

The case, Bierman v. Dayton, may represent a next front, after Janus, in First Amendment challenges to public-sector unions. The Eighth Circuit quoted the time-bomb in Janus (see below) that could well foretell the end of exclusive representation, even without a fair-share requirement.

The case tested Minnesota's Public Employee Labor Relations Act, as applied to in-home care providers for disabled Medicaid recipients. The Act permits those employees to organize and designate an exclusive bargaining representative, but it doesn't require fair-share fees for non-union members. Still, dissenting home-health-care workers challenged the Act, arguing that it compelled them to associate with a union that they want no part of. (Again: They were not charged an agency fee or fair-share fee. Their claim was that the state, merely by allowing their union colleagues to designate an exclusive bargaining representative, violated their First Amendment rights.)

The court flatly rejected this claim, pointing to Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight, which, the court said, squarely answered the question.

As to Janus's impact on this kind of case, the court wrote,

Recent holdings in [Janus] and [Harris] do not supersede Knight. Under those decisions, a State cannot compel public employees and homecare providers, respectively, to pay fees to a union of which they are not members, but the providers here do not challenge a mandatory fee. Janus did characterize a State's requirement that a union serve as an exclusive bargaining agent for its employees as "a significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts," but the decision never mentioned Knight, and the constitutionality of exclusive representation standing alone was not at issue. Of course, where a precedent like Knight has direct application in a case, we should follow it, even if a later decision arguably undermines some of its reasoning.

August 15, 2018 in Association, Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Judge Rebuffs Challenge to Special Counsel in Russian Interference Case

Judge Dabney L. Friedrich (D.D.C.) today rejected challenges to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office and authority by a defendant in the criminal case against thirteen Russian individuals and three corporations. The ruling in U.S. v. Concord Management says that the special counsel office is constitutional and that Special Counsel Mueller was acting within his authority in bringing this case. The ruling allows the case to go on.

We posted on another rejection to the special counsel just 11 days ago, here.

The court first ruled that the special counsel is an "inferior" office under the Appointments Clause and was validly appointed by the Acting AG. The court said that different features of the office pointed in both the "principal officer" and "inferior officer" direction under Edmond, but ultimately the revocability of DOJ's special counsel regulations mean that the office is "inferior":

The regulations' revocability is "[t]he crucial difference" between the Special Counsel regulations and a statute that seeks to bind the executive branch from without, and it is this different that ensures the Special Counsel is an inferior officer. That is, to the extent that the regulations threaten to impair the Acting Attorney General's ability to direct and supervise the Special Counsel, the Department of Justice may simply rescind or revise the regulations at any time. This ability to rescind or revise the regulations as needed means that the Special Counsel is subject to the Acting Attorney General's plenary supervision. It also makes the Special Counsel effectively removable at will: if the for-cause provision stands in the way, the Acting Attorney General need only rescind or revise the regulation in order to remove the Special Counsel.

The court also ruled that the special counsel was an "inferior office" under Morrison v. Olson.

The court went on to say that the office didn't violate the separation of powers. In particular, the court ruled that even if the special counsel regulations are nonbinding on the special counsel (as Concord argued), then "the Special Counsel would be subject to the Acting Attorney General's plenary control by statute. Because executive power would remain wholly within the executive branch, no separation-of-powers problem would arise." Moreover, the court said that the AG had plenty of statutory authority to issue the special counsel regs.

Finally, the court said that Special Counsel Mueller wasn't acting outside of his appointment authority in bringing this particular case.

August 13, 2018 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

D.C. Circuit Validates Forever-War

The D.C. Circuit yesterday rejected a habeas claim by a long-time (17 years) Guantanamo detainee who argued that the basis for his detention has "unraveled" and that the conflict that originally authorized his detention has ended. In so ruling, the court affirmed that the 2001 AUMF, along with the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, remain in force, strong as ever, and continue to authorize his detention.

The claimant, a Yemeni who, according to the government, trained with and fought alongside the Taliban, filed an earlier habeas petition in 2005. The courts rejected that petition, concluding that "the Government's account of Al-Alwi'd Taliban-related activities was supported by a preponderance of the evidence, thereby making Al-Alwi an enemy combatant who could lawfully be detained."

This time, however, he claimed that even if his earlier detention was authorized, the authority for his ongoing detention is stale. The court rejected that argument.

The court ruled first that the "[a]uthority to detain has not unraveled." It said that the AUMF retains its original force so long as "hostilities between the United States and the Taliban and al Qaeda continue." "Both [the AUMF and the National Defense Authorization Act] authorize detention until the end of hostilities. Although hostilities have been ongoing for a considerable amount of time, they have not ended."

The court ruled next that "[a]uthority to detain has not expired." The court said that "termination" is "a political act," and that it hasn't yet occurred. "The Executive Branch represents that armed hostilities between the United States forces and those entities persist."

The ruling underscores that the AUMF will remain in full force until the political branches say that hostilities have ended.

August 8, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ninth Circuit Says Cross Border Shooting Case Can Go Forward

The Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday in Rodriguez v. Swartz that a case against a U.S. Border Patrol agent for shooting and killing a Mexican youth across the U.S.-Mexican border can go forward. The court denied qualified immunity for the agent and ruled that the plaintiff had a valid Bivens claim.

This case is yet another cross-border shooting case, different than Hernandez v. Mesa. Recall that the Court remanded that case for further proceedings on the Bivens question. The Fifth Circuit held that Bivens did not provide a remedy in that case, because the case raised a new Bivens context, and because "extending Bivens would interfere with the political branches' oversight of national security and foreign affairs"; "would flout Congress's consistent and explicit refusals to provide damage remedies for aliens injured abroad"; and "would create a remedy with uncertain limits."

The Ninth Circuit ruling thus splits with the Fifth Circuit.

Rodriguez arose when a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a Mexican youth across the border for no apparent reason whatsoever, and without knowing the youth's nationality. The youth's representatives sued under Bivens.

The Ninth Circuit first denied qualified immunity to the agent. The court said that the Fourth Amendment applies to this kind of situation, that it clearly prohibits this kind of "seizure," and that it was clearly established at the time that the agent couldn't shoot the youth. The court distinguished Verdugo-Urquidez, saying that the agent in this case "acted on American soil subject to American law."

The court went on to rule that Bivens provided a remedy. The court said that while this case indeed presented a new Bivens context, Rodriguez had no other adequate remedy, and there were no "special factors" counseling hesitation.

Judge M. Smith dissented, arguing that Bivens did not extend to this case, and that the court's ruling created a circuit split and disregarded Supreme Court law.

August 8, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Fifth Circuit Strikes State "Threat" Law

The Fifth Circuit ruled in Seals v. McBee that Louisiana's statute that criminalizes "threats" is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. The ruling strikes the state law.

The case arose when officers arrested Travis Seals for an unspecified reason and claimed that Seals resisted arrest and threatened them (with physical harm and legal action). The DA declined to prosecute. Seals then filed a civil action against officers for malicious prosecution, conspiracy, and a First Amendment violation. In particular, Seals said that the Louisiana statute that criminalizes "threats" was unconstitutionally overbroad. (The statute criminalizes "public intimidation," defined as "the use of violence, force, or threats upon [specified persons, including public officers and public employees] with the intent to influence his conduct in relation to his position, employment, or duty.)

The court first ruled that Seals had standing to sue, even though the DA disavowed bringing charges (but also that the government could bring charges as late as December 2019):

Seals's position mirrors that of the plaintiffs in United Farm Workers. He already bet the farm. And when he violated Section 14:122, he was arrested. Louisiana has disavowed prosecution but concedes that Seals actually violated the statute and is legally subject to prosecution. Moreover, Louisiana has introduced evidence of other enforcement actions that are currently being pursued. Viewed alongside a review of Louisiana's caselaw, that evidence shows that Section 14:122 is not a mere paper tiger but has a real history of enforcement. Because the scales are at least as balanced as in United Farm Workers, Seals, too, has standing to challenge Section 14:122.

The court ruled next that the statute was substantially overbroad in violation of free speech:

"[H]ere the statute sweeps so broadly, encompassing any number of constitutionally protected threats, such as to boycott communities, to run against incumbents, and to sue police officers. Hence it is overbroad."

August 5, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 3, 2018

Cities Sue Trump Administration for Sabotaging Affordable Care Act

A group of cities and a couple individuals filed suit yesterday against the Trump Administration, arguing that the Administration's efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the Take Care Clause.

The complaint takes aim at the "2019 Rule," a final rule promulgated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that "roll[s] back protections that the Act guarantees, make[s] it more difficult to enroll in ACA-compliant plans, and drive[s] up the cost of ACA-compliant plans." The plaintiffs argue the Rule violates the APA, because Administration officials "have failed to provide adequate reasons, and failed to adequately respond to comments, for many provisions of the 2019 Rule, such that they are 'arbitrary' and 'capricious.' In addition, as detailed above, many provisions of the 2019 Rule violate the [ACA], and therefore are not 'in accordance with law.'"

The plaintiffs also challenge various other well publicized Administrative efforts to undermine, sabotage, and eviscerate the Act, and argue that these violate the President's duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

The plaintiffs argue that they have standing, because the Administration's actions have increased insurance rates caused cities to pay more for uncompensated care.

August 3, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Sixth Circuit Says Mine Commission ALJs are Unconstitutional Under Lucia

The Sixth Circuit ruled this week in Jones Brothers, Inc. v. Sec'y of Labor that administrative law judges in the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission are "inferior officers" and were invalidly appointed under the Appointments Clause.

The very short ruling (on the merits) is a straight-line application of Lucia.

The case arose when the Mine Safety and Health Administration imposed a civil penalty on Jones Brothers for failing to comply with agency safety requirements. A Commission ALJ upheld the penalty, and the Commission itself affirmed.

The problem: The ALJ was appointed by the Commission's Chief ALJ, and not by the "department head" (the Commission itself).

The Sixth Circuit ruled that Mine Commission ALJs operated almost exactly like the SEC ALJs at issue in Lucia, and so were "inferior officers" under the Appointments Clause:

The Commission's administrative law judges are likewise established by statute . . . and exercise significant authority commensurate with their SEC counterparts. Like SEC administrative law judges, they preside over trial-like hearings. In that role, they shape the administrative record by taking testimony, regulating document production and depositions, ruling on the admissibility of evidence, receiving evidence, ruling on dispositive and procedural motions, and issuing subpoenas. Indeed, they exercise "nearly all the tools of federal trial judges."

And like SEC administrative law judges, they have the authority to issue initial decisions assigning liability and imposing sanctions. After 40 days, those decisions become final decisions of the Mine Commission unless the Commission decides to review them. But such review is available at "the sound discretion of the Commission," not as a "matter of right." This process is nearly identical to the SEC's review process.

The court said that Commission ALJs, like SEC ALJs, are therefore "inferior officers." And as "inferior officers," they have to be appointed by the President, a court, or a head of department. But they weren't: they were appointed by the Commission's Chief ALJ. So they're unconstitutional.

The court recognized that the Commission ratified the appointment of every ALJ. That works fine going forward, but for this case, the court, like the Supreme Court in Lucia, ordered that Jones Brothers get a new ALJ hearing before a validly appointed ALJ who is not the original ALJ.

The court spilled quite a bit of ink determining whether Jones Brothers forfeited the constitutional argument by not raising at the administrative stage. The court said that Jones Brothers did forfeit it, but that the forfeiture was excusable here.

August 2, 2018 in Appointment and Removal Powers, Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ninth Circuit Strikes (Yet Another) Blow Against Trump's Anti-Sanctuary Cities Policy

The Ninth Circuit struck another blow today against the administration's anti-sanctuary cities policy, ruling in San Francisco v. Trump that the President can't unilaterally withhold federal grants from sanctuary jurisdictions without Congress's say-so.

The ruling is just the latest in a line of similar rulings, and aligns broadly with the Seventh Circuit's ruling in the spring. This ruling is just a little bit different, however, in that it focuses principally on President Trump's original and sweeping Executive Order (and not AG Sessions's interpretive memo). The court rejects the government's attempt to narrow the test of the EO by focusing instead on AG Sessions's memo as the actual government policy. It said that the memo doesn't align with the EO (and is therefore itself ultra vires), and that in any event it's only a post-hoc justification to get the EO to pass muster in the courts.

While the ruling is an outright win for San Francisco and Santa Clara County, the court threw a bone to the administration by vacating the district court's nationwide injunction and remanding the case for reconsideration and further findings on that issue.

The facts--or at least their general outline--is all too familiar by now: In an effort to clamp down on sanctuary jurisdictions, the President ordered that sanctuary jurisdictions come into line with 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1373, which prohibits state and local jurisdictions from restricting their officers from communicating with federal immigration officials. (Other cases have also involved the "notice" and "access" conditions that AG Sessions purported to put on receipt of a certain federal grant in his memo. Those conditions required jurisdictions to provide notice to federal immigration enforcement officials of any detention, and access to state and local facilities for federal immigration enforcement. This ruling didn't deal with those, because it focused on the EO itself.)

The court simply held that under the separation of powers and Congress's Article I, Section 8, power of the purse, it's for Congress, not the Executive, to put conditions on federal spending. The court said that "because Congress has the exclusive power to spend and has not delegated authority to the Executive to condition new grants on compliance with Section 1373, the President's 'power is at its lowest ebb,'" under Justice Jackson's Youngstown framework. And at the lowest ebb, "[b]ecause the Executive Order directs Executive Branch administrative agencies to withhold funding that Congress has not tied to compliance with Section 1373, there is no reasonable argument that the President has not exceeded his authority." In sum:

Absent congressional authorization, the Administration may not redistribute or withhold properly appropriated funds in order to effectuate its own policy goals. Because Congress did not authorize withholding of funds, the Executive Order violates the constitutional principle of the Separation of Powers.

The court flatly rejected the administration's (pretty incredible) argument that its move to condition funds "is all bluster and no bite, representing a perfectly legitimate use of the presidential 'bully pulpit,' without any real meaning . . . .":

[E]ven if we ignore the statements made by and on behalf of the Administration outside the context of this litigation, the Administration's interpretation of the Executive Order strains credulity. And consideration of those statements suggests that the Administration's current litigation position is grounded not in the text of the Executive Order but in a desire to avoid legal consequences.

(Interestingly, the court said nothing about the constitutionality of Section 1373 itself. That provision is now questionable, in light of Murphy v. NCAA, as a possible "commandeering" of state governments in violation of the anti-commandeering principle. Judge Fernandez, in dissent, distinguished Murphy in a footnote by saying that the Court's articulated "principles behind the anticommnadeering rule" don't apply to Section 1373. But it's not clear how the plain ruling itself doesn't apply to Section 1373. More to come on this, I'm sure.)

The court then vacated the district court's nationwide injunction, because "the present record does not support a nationwide injunction." The court remanded "for a more searching inquiry into whether this case justifies the breadth of the injunction imposed."

(Along the way, the court also ruled that the plaintiffs had standing and that the case was ripe for judicial review.)

Judge Fernandez dissented, arguing that the case wasn't ripe and, in any event, that the EO was constitutional, because, by its plain terms, it only applies "to the fullest extent of the law."

August 1, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

D.C. Circuit Denies Injunction Against Transit Rule Banning Religious Content

The D.C. Circuit ruled yesterday in Archdiocese of Washington v. WMATA that the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority rule that bans religious content advertising on buses did not likely violate free speech. The court denied the Archdiocese's motion for a preliminary injunction.

Judge Kavanaugh was an original member of the panel, but recused himself from the ruling.

The ruling sides with the government on a key free-speech question: Is religious content necessarily a viewpoint? The court said no.

The case involves WMATA's Guideline 12, which closes the public-transit authority's advertising space to issue-oriented ads, including political, religious, and advocacy ads. (Importantly, the Guideline banned by pro- and con- ads on each topic.) When WMATA, acting pursuant to the Guideline, rejected the Archdiocese's request to place religious ads on buses, the Archdiocese sued, arguing that the denial violated free speech, the Free Exercise Clause, and RFRA, among others. The Archdiocese moved for a preliminary injunction, but yesterday the D.C. Circuit rejected that request.

The court ruled that the Archdiocese was unlikely to succeed on its free speech claim, because buses are a non-public forum, and Guideline 12 permissibly discriminates based on the content, not viewpoint, of the message.

The court rejected the Archdiocese's argument that any content restriction on religious speech was necessarily a viewpoint based restriction on speech because there's a religious viewpoint on any matter. "Notably, there is no principled limit to the Archdiocese's conflation of subject-matter restrictions with viewpoint-based restrictions as concerns religion. Were the Archdiocese to prevail, WMATA (and other transit systems) would have to accept all types of advertisements to maintain viewpoint neutrality, including ads criticizing and disparaging religion and religious tenets or practices."

The court distinguished Rosenberger, Lamb's Chapel, and Good News Club--all of which struck government bans on religious speech as viewpoint-based discrimination. The court said that those cases involved religious-viewpoint discrimination within a defined content of speech. But here, the government simply banned the content of all religious speech, again, both pro- and con- (or otherwise). 

[F]ar from being an abrogation of the distinction between permissible subject matter rules and impermissible viewpoint discrimination, each of these cases represents an application of the Supreme Court's viewpoint discrimination analysis, of which Guideline 12 does not run afoul. In each, the Court held that the government had engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination because the challenged regulation operated to exclude religious viewpoints on otherwise includable topics. An examination of each case demonstrates the contrast between the breadth of subjects encompassed by the forums at issue and WMATA's in which, unlike the restrictions struck down by the Court, Guideline 12 does not function to exclude religious viewpoints but rather proscribes advertisements on the entire subject matter of religion.

The court also said that the Archdiocese didn't demonstrate a likelihood of success on its other claims. As to Free Exercise, the court said that Guideline 12 was merely a religiously-neutral rule of general applicability, with no evidence of religious animus, and therefore valid under rational basis review.

August 1, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, News, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Ninth Circuit Strikes State Restriction on Open Carry

A sharply divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled this week that Hawaii's restriction on the open carrying of firearms violates the Second Amendment.

The ruling fills a gap--and is in tension with--the en banc Ninth Circuit's previous say-so in Peruta II that the Second Amendment doesn't protect concealed carry. (Ninth Circuit law now says the Second Amendment protects open carry, but not concealed carry.) For that reason, the case is primed for en banc review.

The case, Young v. Hawaii, tested Hawaii's limitation on the open carry of firearms to those "engaged in the protection of life and property." The court first said that open carry "falls within the core of the Second Amendment." This required some careful navigating around the en banc court's prior ruling in Peruta II, and even taking that ruling on. The court, after surveying and glossing the history, simply concluded that "even though our court has read these cases to exclude concealed carry from the Second Amendment's protections, the same cases command that the Second Amendment must encompass a right to open carry."

The court went on to say that Hawaii's restriction fails at any level of scrutiny:

Restricting open carry to those whose job entails protecting life or property necessarily restricts open carry to a small and insulated subset of law-abiding citizens. Just as the Second Amendment does not protect a right to bear arms only in connection with a militia, it surely does not protect a right to bear arms only as a security guard. The typical, law-abiding citizen in the State of Hawaii is therefore entirely foreclosed from exercising the core Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense. It follows that [Hawaii's restriction] "amounts to a destruction" of a core right, and as such, it is infirm "[u]nder any of the standards of scrutiny."

The ruling drew a sharp dissent, on all points. Between that, and the tension with Peruta II, this isn't the last we'll see of this case. Look for en banc review.

July 28, 2018 in Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis, Second Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)