Friday, May 24, 2019

District Judge Enjoins Mississippi Restrictive Abortion Law

In an opinion in Jackson Women's Health Organization v. Dobbs, Judge Carlton Reeves has issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Mississippi Senate Bill 2116 which "bans abortions in Mississippi after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is as early as 6 weeks lmp."

The opinion is only 8 pages and begins "Here we go again."

The parties had been before the court before and Judge Reeves previously enjoined a Mississippi law banning abortions at 15 weeks lmp.   Judge Reeves in this opinion noted that the "State responded by passing an even more restrictive bill, S.B. 2116." Judge Reeves continued:

This Court previously found the 15-week ban to be an unconstitutional violation of substantive due process because the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that women have the right to choose an abortion prior to viability, and a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks lmp. If a fetus is not viable at 15 weeks lmp, it is not viable at 6 weeks lmp. The State conceded this point. The State also conceded at oral argument that this Court must follow Supreme Court precedent. Under Supreme Court precedent, plaintiffs are substantially likely to succeed on the merits of this claim.

[footnotes omitted].  Judge Reeves cited Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (201), the Supreme Court's most recent ruling on abortion.

 

 

May 24, 2019 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Third Circuit Upholds Philadelphia's Refusal to Refer Foster Children to Organizations that Discriminates on Basis of Sexual Orientation

In its opinion in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a unanimous panel of the Third Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction against Philadelphia for stopping its referral of foster children to organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in their certification of foster parents.

Much of the litigation centers on Catholic Social Services (CSS) which will not certify same-sex couples, even those who are legally married to each other, as foster parents.  Once Philadelphia became aware of the CSS policy, through investigative reporting, the city eventually suspended foster care referrals to CSS in accordance with the city's nondiscrimination policy which includes sexual orientation.  The plaintiffs, including individuals about whom the Third Circuit had standing doubts, sued for a preliminary injunction, which the district judge denied after a three day hearing.  On appeal, the Third Circuit agreed that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their First Amendment claims under the Free Exercise Clause, as well as the Establishment Clause and the Speech Clause.

Writing for the panel, Judge Thomas Ambro wrote that the Free Exercise Clause does not relieve one from compliance with a neutral law of general applicability, which the court found the nondiscrimination law to be.  Unlike Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission  and Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah (1993), there was no hostility towards religion evinced in the case.  As the court stated:

CSS’s theme devolves to this: the City is targeting CSS because it discriminates against same-sex couples; CSS is discriminating against same-sex couples because of its religious beliefs; therefore the City is targeting CSS for its religious beliefs. But this syllogism is as flawed as it is dangerous. It runs directly counter to the premise of  [Employment Division v. ] Smith that, while religious belief is always protected, religiously motivated conduct enjoys no special protections or exemption from general, neutrally applied legal requirements. That CSS’s conduct springs from sincerely held and strongly felt religious beliefs does not imply that the City’s desire to regulate that conduct springs from antipathy to those beliefs. If all comment on religiously motivated conduct by those enforcing neutral, generally applicable laws against discrimination is construed as ill will against the religious belief itself, then Smith is a dead letter, and the nation’s civil rights laws might be as well. As the Intervenors rightly state, the “fact that CSS’s non- compliance with the City’s non-discrimination requirements is based on its religious beliefs does not mean that the City’s enforcement of its requirements constitutes anti-religious hostility.”

On the Establishment Clause, Judge Ambro briefly concluded that there was no evidence that Philadelphia was attempting to impose its preferred version of Catholic teaching on CSS.

And in a similarly brief discussion of the free speech claim, Judge Ambro's opinion found there was no viable compelled speech claim or retaliation claim.

Finally, the Third Circuit opinion considered whether there was a possibly successful claim under Pennsylvania's RFRA statute and found that there was little chance of success on the merits, even given the higher standard of review.

This litigation has attracted much interest, with intervenors and amici, and the plaintiffs filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court for an injunction pending appeal or an immediate grant of certiorari in 2018, which was denied.  Another certiorari petition is almost sure to follow the Third Circuit's decision.

 

 

April 23, 2019 in Establishment Clause, Family, Federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Sexuality, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 15, 2019

SCOTUS Hears Oral Argument on Scandalous or Immoral Trademarks

The United States Supreme Court hear oral arguments in Iancu v. Brunetti,  a First Amendment facial challenge to Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), which prohibits the Patent and Trademark Office from registering  “immoral” or “scandalous” trademarks. 

Recall that Brunetti's apparel line, named "fuct," was denied a trademark and a divided Federal Circuit Court panel held the provision unconstitutional.  Recall also that the United States Supreme Court in Matal v. Tam (2017) held that the disparagement provision in Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a) violated the First Amendment, but despite the unanimous conclusion there were fractured rationales.

128px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Patent_and_Trademark_Office.svgIndeed, whether or not Tam resolved the issue in Brunetti was a centerpiece of the oral argument, with Justice Sotomayor essentially asking the Deputy Solicitor General, Malcolm Stewart, to distinguish Tam within the first few minutes.  Moreover, some of the unresolved issues in Tam — including the actual role of trademark registration, how trademark registration differs from direct prohibition, whether there could be any content (or viewpoint) basis on which to deny a trademark, and how the trademark program differs from other programs such as municipal advertising or government grants  — reappeared in the Brunetti argument.

The Justices seemed troubled by any argument that the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) could reject a trademark on the basis that a majority or "substantial segment" of people might find it objectionable, especially given changing morals and issues about which segments of the population (as Justice Ginsburg asked, would this include a composite of 20 year olds).

Justice Breyer was particularly interested in whether the PTO could reject racist trademarks. For Breyer, certain racial slurs  are "stored in a different place in the brain. It leads to retention of the word. There are lots of physiological effect with very few words."  While Malcolm Stewart stated that he thought racial slurs were taken off the table by Tam, in his rebuttal he stated that " with respect to the single-most offensive racial slur, the PTO is currently holding in abeyance applications that incorporate that word" pending the possibility that the present decision could leave open the possibility that that word might be viewed as scandalous.

While many of the other hypotheticals involved profanity, obscenity, or "dirty words" (FCC v. Pacifica), Justice Breyer's concern will surely be addressed by at least one opinion when the decision is rendered in Brunetti.

April 15, 2019 in Current Affairs, First Amendment, Gender, Oral Argument Analysis, Race, Speech, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Federal Judge Finds Charter School's Gendered Dress Code Violates Equal Protection

In his opinion in Peltier v. Charter Day School, Inc., Senior United States District Judge Malcolm J. Howard in the Eastern District of North Carolina held that the dress code of the Charter Day School corporation mandating that girl students wear skirts violated the Equal Protection Clause.

The bulk of Judge Howard's 36 page opinion concerned the threshold matter of state action given that Charter Day School (CDS) is a private nonprofit corporation. CDS described itself as a "traditional values" charter school and operated under North Carolina statutes allowing and regulating charter schools. Judge Howard determined that CDS had responsibility for the dress code (unlike another defendant), was viewed as a public school under state law, was performing an historical, exclusive, and traditional state function, and was subject to pervasive regulation including regarding suspensions for dress code violations.

On the Equal Protection Clause issue, Judge Howard noted that grooming and dress codes did not fit neatly into the doctrine of sex discrimination articulated in United States v. Virginia (VMI) (1996), noting that the CDS argued that intermediate scrutiny should not apply, but rather a "comparable burden" analysis. However, Judge Howard determined that even under a "comparative burden" analysis, the skirts requirement for girls did not "pass muster." Judge Howard stated that the skirts requirement was not consistent with community norms: women and girls have worn both pants and skirts in school and professional settings since the 1970s.

In considering the interests CDS asserted, including that the skirts requirement "helps the students act appropriately toward the opposite sex," Judge Howard found that there was no evidence to substantiate this, including a comparison to the days when there were exceptions to the only-skirts requirement. Moreover, the CDS board members could not explain when deposed how the skirts requirement furthered the goal. And while CDS stressed their students' good performance, there was no link between the performance and the skirts policy.

As Judge Howard implied, mandating girl students wear skirts has become anachronistic. However, as Judge Howard also noted, this does not mean that all gender-specific dress codes violate equal protection.  For more about school dress codes and enforcing gender norms, see Dressing Constitutionally.

Girls_in_pants_on_Franklin_Avenue _Minneapolis._(4419465360)

image: girls in pants in Minneapolis, 1929, via

March 30, 2019 in Equal Protection, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, State Action Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sixth Circuit En Banc Majority Upholds Ohio's Ban on Funding Planned Parenthood

In its en banc opinion in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Hodges, the Sixth Circuit reversed a permanent injunction by the district judge against Ohio Rev. Code §3701.034 which bars any state funding —  including government-sponsored health and education programs that target sexually transmitted diseases, breast cancer and cervical cancer, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, and sexual violence — to any organization that performs or promotes abortion. 

In less than 12 pages, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, writing for the 11 judge majority, rejected the claim that the Ohio statute was an unconstitutional condition on the due process right encompassing the right to abortion by stating that Planned Parenthood had no substantive due process right to provide abortions: "The Supreme Court has never identified a freestanding right to perform abortions."  Moreover, Sutton's opinion rejected the argument that

the Ohio law will deprive Ohio women of their constitutional right of access to abortion services without undue burden, because it will lead Planned Parenthood and perhaps other abortion providers to stop providing them. Maybe; maybe not. More to the point, the conclusion is premature and unsupported by the record.

In this way, the majority distinguished the United States Supreme Court's most recent abortion case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), albeit briefly (with one "cf." citation and one "see" citation).

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Helene White writing for 6 judges, criticizes the majority for not mentioning "much less" applying, 

the test the Supreme Court has recently articulated governing the unconstitutional-conditions doctrine. That doctrine prohibits the government from conditioning the grant of funds under a government program if: (1) the challenged conditions would violate the Constitution if they were instead enacted as a direct regulation; and (2) the conditions affect protected conduct outside the scope of the government program.

citing Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc’y Int’l (2013) [the "prostitution pledge" case].
The dissent concludes that because "(1) the funding conditions in this case would result in an undue burden on a woman’s right to obtain nontherapeutic abortions if imposed directly, and (2) the six federal programs have nothing to do with Plaintiffs’ performing abortions, advocating for abortion rights, or affiliating with organizations that engage in such activity, all on their own 'time and dime,' " the Ohio statute should be unconstitutional.

The dissenting opinion also discusses the First Amendment argument, which the district court judge had credited but which the majority discounted because to prevail Ohio need only show that one limitation satisfied the Constitution and because "the conduct component of the Ohio law does not impose an unconstitutional condition in violation of due process, we need not reach the free speech claim." For the dissent, the free speech claim was not mooted and should be successful as in Agency for Int’l Dev. v. Alliance for Open Soc’y Int’l (2013).

 

 

March 12, 2019 in Abortion, Courts and Judging, Due Process (Substantive), First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Reproductive Rights, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Eighth Circuit Finds Schools' All-Girls Dance Team Violates Equal Protection

In its opinion in D.M. v. Minnesota State High School League, the Eighth Circuit held that an exclusion of male students from competitive dance teams violates equal protection.  The Minnesota State High School League, a voluntary association of high schools that controls extracurricular activities and sports throughout Minnesota, prevailed in the district court by arguing that the gender-exclusive policy was justified because girls' "overall athletic opportunities have previously been limited," while boys' have not.

Writing for the unanimous panel, Judge Michael Melloy recited the well-known standard for evaluating the constitutionality of sex classifications from United States v. Virginia (VMI) (1996) requiring an exceedingly persuasive justification, and that classification serves an "at least" important government objective that is substantially related.  While a compensatory justification intended to remedy past discrimination might survive in limited circumstances, Judge Melloy used the statistics provided by the state, reproducing them in table form, to demonstrate that there has not been a meaningful disparity in the rates of male and female participation in high school athletics.  Judge Melloy concluded that the "broad" arguments the state advanced of important government interests such as promoting safety, increasing competition, redressing past discrimination, and providing more athletic opportunities for female athletes, failed to rise to the level of exceedingly persuasive justifications.

The court's opinion did not delve into this additional language from United States v. Virginia (VMI) (1996), that the justification "must not rely on overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of males and females." It might have provided further support for the court's recognition that a dancing-is-only-for-girls policy violates equal protection.

The court did remand with instructions to issue preliminary injunctions on behalf of the boys who wanted to join the competitive dance teams at their respective high schools.

David_Klöcker_Ehrenstrahl_-_Children_playing_-_Google_Art_Project

[image: David Klöcker Ehrenstrahl, Children playing, 1651, via]

 

March 7, 2019 in Equal Protection, Gender, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Daily Read: Johnson v. Trump

In a complaint filed in United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Donald Trump and the Donald Trump Campaign, former campaign staffer Alva Jones seeks relief on three counts: battery as against Trump in his individual capacity for a forcible kiss; unequal pay based on gender under the Unequal Pay Act against the Campaign organization; and unequal pay based on race under 42 USC §1981 against the Campaign organization.

Card
The 39 page complaint in Jones v. Trump is filled with factual allegations, embedded tweets and photographs, and numerous footnotes.  The allegations substantiating the battery claim include recitations regarding previous allegations and statements regarding similar actions. 

Like the ongoing suit in New York state courts, Zervos v. Trump, for defamation linked to sexual harassment, one issue that defendant Trump could raise would be presidential immunity.  But the argument for any immunity is exceedingly weak given the United States Supreme Court's unanimous 1997 decision of Clinton v. Jones  holding that then-President Clinton was subject to suit in federal court. And any immunity does not extend to the campaign organization.

And as Ronan Farrow writes in the New Yorker:

The most legally significant aspect of Johnson’s suit may ultimately be something the complaint does not explicitly address: the pervasive use of nondisclosure agreements by Trump during his campaign and in his Administration. Johnson’s suit is at least the sixth legal case in which Trump campaign or Administration employees have defied their nondisclosure agreements. 

This will definitely be a case to watch, even if the constitutional issues are not the primary ones it certainly has constitutional dimensions.

February 25, 2019 in Current Affairs, Executive Authority, Executive Privilege, Gender, Race | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal District Judge Finds Male-Only Selective Service Registration Violates Equal Protection

In his opinion in National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, Judge Gray Miller of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas found that the Military Selective Service Act (MSSA) provision, 50 USC §3802(a), requiring males (but not females) between the ages of 18 and 26 to register with the Selective Service System (SSS) violated equal protection, as applicable to the federal government through the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause.

Judge Miller first rejected the Government's Motion to Stay, concluding that the case was ripe, as it involved only a question of law, and that considerations of separation of powers and discretionary power of the court did not merit a stay. Judge Miller noted that Congress "has been debating the male-only registration requirement since at least 1980 and has recently considered and rejected a proposal to include women in the draft."

DraftcardRenJuanAt the heart of this litigation is Rostker v. Goldberg (1981) in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the male-only selective service registration based on its reasoning that because women were not statutorily eligible for combat, men and women were not "similarly situated" for purposes of the draft.  The Government argued that Rostker should control. But, as Judge Miller stated, in the nearly four decades since Rostker "women's opportunities in the military have expanded dramatically" and in 2013, the Department of Defense officially lifted the ban on women in combat and in 2015 "lifted all gender-based restrictions on military service."  Judge Miller also rejected the Government's argument based on Trump v. Hawai'i (2018), that there should be considerable deference, finding "the Trump decision is tangential, at best."

Thus, Judge Miller applied the intermediate scrutiny merited by sex classifications as articulated by the Court most recently in Sessions v. Morales-Santana (2017), and using the language of United States v. Virginia (VMI) (1996): "The justification must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation. And it must not rely on overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences of males and females."

Judge Miller rejected both of the Government's two asserted interests. First, the Government argued that women's eligibility to serve in combat is distinct from the women's conscription because conscription could lead to trade-offs for the military, meaning that requiring women to register for the draft could affect women's enlistment by increasing the perception that they would be required to serve in combat. Judge Miller found that this argument "smacks of 'archaic and overbroad generalizations' about women's preferences." Additionally, Judge Miller observed that this argument "appears to have been created for litigation."  Second, the Government argued that Congress preserved the male-only registration requirement out of concern for the administrative burden of registering and drafting women for combat. But even if women are  statistically less physically suited for combat,

the relevant question is not what proportion of women are physically eligible for combat—it may well be that only a small percentage of women meets the physical standards for combat positions.  However, if a similarly small percentage of men is combat-eligible, then men and women are similarly situated for the purposes of the draft and the MSSA’s discrimination is unjustified. Defendants provide no evidence that Congress ever looked at arguments on this topic and then made a “studied choice” between alternatives based on that information.

Had Congress compared male and female rates of physical eligibility, for example, and concluded that it was not administratively wise to draft women, the court may have been bound to defer to Congress’s judgment. Instead, at most, it appears that Congress obliquely relied on assumptions and overly broad stereotypes about women and their ability to fulfill combat roles.“ Thus, Defendants’ second proffered justification appears to be an “accidental by—product of a traditional way of thinking about females,”’ rather than a robust, studied position.

[citations omitted].

Judge Miller issued a declaratory judgment that the male-only draft violates equal protection, but did not issue an injunction because the Plaintiffs did not request or brief it in their summary judgment motion and materials. 

[image: Viet Nam War era draft card via]

February 25, 2019 in Courts and Judging, Equal Protection, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 15, 2019

Divided Tenth Circuit: Sex-Specific "Topless" Nudity Ban Denies Equal Protection

In its opinion in Free the Nipple v. City of Fort Collins, the Tenth Circuit upheld the district judge's preliminary injunction against a public-nudity ordinance that imposes no restrictions on male "toplessness" but prohibits women from baring their breasts below the areola, Fort Collins, Colo., Mun. Code § 17-142 (2015). The district judge dismissed the First Amendment challenge, but later found that the plaintiffs had a likelihood of success on their Equal Protection Clause challenge and that a preliminary injunction from enforcing the statute was warranted.

Writing for the majority, Judge Gregory Phillips relied heavily on the United States Supreme Court's most recent decision on equal protection and gender, Sessions v. Morales-Santana (2017).  The majority first concluded that as a gender-based classification, the ordinance merited intermediate scrutiny. While the city agreed the classification was gender-based, it had argued that only "invidious discrimination" on the basis of gender merited intermediate scrutiny. Judge Phillips noted that only when the classification is facially neutral but has disparate impact is the issue if "invidiousness" relevant.

Lossy-page1-1534px-Photograph_of_Gerald_R._Ford _Jr. _and_Two_Unidentified_Men_in_Bathing_Suits_-_NARA_-_187031.tifThe city also argued that women's and men's breasts had important physical differences. Judge Phillips considered several sources, adding that although the court was "wary of Wikipedia's user-generated content," it agreed with the district judge that there were inherent physical differences between men's and women's breasts, but "that doesn't resolve the constitutional question." Instead, the majority opinion stressed that the court should beware of such generalizations and their potential to "perpetuate inequality."

In its application of intermediate scrutiny, the majority analyzed the three interests asserted by the city:

  • protecting children from public nudity,
  • maintaining public order, and
  • promoting traffic safety.

As to protecting children, the majority agreed with the district judge's finding quoting experts that the city's interest rested on negative stereotypes and citing Morales-Santana, the majority concluded that "laws grounded in stereotypes about the way women are serve no important governmental interest."

As to public order and traffic safety, the majority agreed that in "the abstract," these were both important governmental interests. However, the court stated that it suspected that the city was actually more concerned with the sex-object stereotype that the district judge had described, quoting experts. Moreover, it noted that the cases which the city relied upon held that the "nebulous concepts of public morality" actually justified the ban rather than interests in public order or traffic safety. The majority also concluded that the female-only toplessness ban was overbroad - and suggested that the city could "abate sidewalk confrontations by increasing the penalties for engaging in offensive conduct." In other words, the majority concluded that rather than criminalize women's behavior because it might incite some people, the city could criminalize people who acted on their incitement.

The majority candidly recognized that it had the "minority viewpoint" and other courts in divided opinions - including the Seventh Circuit - have rejected such challenges. 

In dissent, Judge Harris Hartz argued that intermediate scrutiny should not apply at all, in part because there are real differences between men and women as to their breasts, and that intermediate scrutiny should not be diluted by applying it in this instance. Instead, Judge Hartz argued that only rational basis should apply, which the ordinance easily passed.

The constitutionality of sex-specific nudity bans that apply to women's breasts is long-standing: our earlier discussion is here, linking to a discussion from Dressing Constitutionally about the 1992 New York case which the majority cites. Yet with the split between the Tenth and Seventh Circuits now apparent, it may be ripe for United States Supreme Court resolution.

[image: "Photograph of Gerald R. Ford, Jr., and Two Unidentified Men in Bathing Suits" via]

February 15, 2019 in Equal Protection, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Recent Cases, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Year-End Report by Chief Justice Roberts, 2018

For his 2018 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, the sexual harassment concerns which surfaced at the end of Chief Justice Roberts 2017 report (which we discussed here) occupied center stage. Opening with an anecdote about the importance of law clerks, the Chief Justice discussed the contribution that the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group has made, linking to its more than 140 page report issued in June. The Chief Justice noted that the report determined that "inappropriate workplace conduct is not pervasive within the Judiciary, but it also is not limited to a few isolated instances involving law clerks" and that "misconduct, when it does occur, is more likely to take the form of incivility or disrespect than overt sexual harassment" and frequently goes unreported.  The Chief Justice noted that committees have proposed changes to various codes of conduct and the employment dispute resolution plan.

Interestingly, the Chief Justice does not note that these codes exclude the United States Supreme Court itself, which is of continuing interest, and which the Chief Justice has alluded to in the past, as we last discussed here. Although he writes that "The Supreme Court will supplement its existing internal initiatives and experience of the other federal courts."

The Chief Justice again thanked judicial staff for working through numerous natural disasters, but again did not address the declining diversity of the federal bench, a lack we mentioned last year and which has seemingly only increased.

John_G._Roberts

image: John Roberts being sworn-in as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States by Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, 2005, via.

 

January 2, 2019 in Current Affairs, Gender, Interpretation, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 23, 2018

District Judge Enjoins Mississippi Abortion Law as Unconstitutional

In an opinion in Jackson Women's Health Organization v. Currier, United States District Judge Carlton Reeves enjoined the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks as unconstitutional.

Judge Reeves had previously entered a temporary restraining order, which this order and opinion makes permanent. Judge Reeves holds that Mississippi's H.B. 1510 is a clearly unconstitutional violation of due process under Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992) which makes viability the marker before which states may not ban abortions. Judge Reeves's opinion then asks "So, why are we here?" The opinion answers its own query by explaining that "the State of Mississippi contends that every court who ruled on a case such as this “misinterpreted or misapplied prior Supreme Court abortion precedent," and argues that the bill only "regulates" abortions. Judge Reeves concluded that the State "characterization" of the law as a regulation was incorrect; the law's very title stated it was "to prohibit." Additionally, Judge Reeves concluded:

The State is wrong on the law. The Casey court confirmed that the “State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child” and it may regulate abortions in pursuit of those legitimate interests.Those regulations are constitutional only if they do not place an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion.But “this ‘undue burden’/‘substantial obstacle’ mode of analysis has no place where, as here, the state is forbidding certain women from choosing pre-viability abortions rather than specifying the conditions under which such abortions are to be allowed.”There is no legitimate state interest strong enough, prior to viability, to justify a ban on abortions.

[footnotes omitted]. 

    Judge Reeves also expressed "frustration" with the Mississippi legislature passing a law it knew was unconstitutional, "aware that this type of litigation costs the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money," to "endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade."  Judge Reeves chastised the Mississippi Legislature for its "disingenuous calculations," augmented with a footnote (n.40) that begins "The Mississippi Legislature has a history of disregarding the constitutional rights of its citizens," and followed by citation and parenthetical explanations of a half-dozen cases.

    Judge Reeves' concluding section to the seventeen page opinion reiterates some of these concerns and adds that "With the recent changes in the membership of the Supreme Court, it may be that the State believes divine providence covered the Capitol when it passed this legislation. Time will tell." Judge Reeves specifically mentions the amicus brief of women in the legal profession regarding their abortions in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), and also adds:

The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the Court. As Sarah Weddington argued to the nine men on the Supreme Court in 1971 when representing “Jane Roe,” “a pregnancy to a woman is perhaps one of the most determinative aspects of her life.”As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined.

[footnotes omitted].

November 23, 2018 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Family, Federalism, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, Gender, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

CFP: Kavanaugh Nomination

CFP from Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John's University School of Law.

JCRED

An America Divided: The Kavanaugh Nomination

The nomination and subsequent appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States have sparked turmoil, outrage, and even more conflict to an already extremely divided America. Many agree, on the right and left, that the Senate hearings featuring Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh were historic, shocking and yet also affirming of deep-seated beliefs and fears. The hearings and subsequent events have revealed fundamental disagreement about fair and effective treatment of sexual violence survivors, about due process for those accused of sexual violence and about our collective expectations of the role, the demeanor, temperament and moral conduct of judges. . . .

We welcome full-length traditional law review articles with a maximum of 75 pages, as well as shorter essays and commentaries with a minimum of 10 pages. Authors will be selected based on brief abstracts of their articles, essays or commentaries. We aim to ensure an array of perspectives, methodologies and expertise.

SUBMISSION DEADLINES:
Abstract Deadline: November 12, 2018
Selected Authors Notification Date: November 30, 2018
Final Manuscript Submission Deadline:
January 15, 2019

full call and submission details here

 

 

October 23, 2018 in Conferences, Gender, Interpretation, Scholarship, Supreme Court (US) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 15, 2018

District Judge Dismisses Stormy Daniels' Claim of Defamation Against Trump

In his 14 page opinion as a minute order in Cliffords v. Trump, the federal judge dismissed the claim of Stormy Daniels (a/k/a Stephanie Clifford) against President Trump for defamation.  Recall the claim was based on Trump's tweet  "A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!" Daniels' complaint claimed that Trump was not only attacking the truthfulness of  Daniels, but also accusing her of a crime: fabricating a crime and an assailant, both of which are crimes under New York law. The complaint alleges that Trump "made his statement either knowing it was false, had serious doubts about the truth of his statement, or made the statement with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity."

The judge, however, found:

Mr. Trump's statement constituted "rhetorical hyperbole" that is protected by the First Amendment.

Additionally, the judge denied a motion to amend the complaint:

ShoppingThe Court holds that Mr. Trump's tweet is "rhetorical hyperbole" and is protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiff cannot amend the Complaint in a way that challenges this holding. During argument on this matter, Plaintiff suggested that she could amend her Complaint to "shore up the malice allegations" and to "provide context for the statement to show that, in fact, it was not political nature at the time it was made." (Transcript * * * ) The former amendments are futile because this Court rules that Mr. Trump's tweet is protected by the First Amendment. The issue of malice is irrelevant to this holding. The latter amendments are futile because there is no way for Plaintiff to amend the Complaint to transform the tweet from "rhetorical hyperbole" into an actionable statement. * * * * Plaintiff cannot change Mr. Trump's tweet or the basic context of the tweet. Nor can Plaintiff withdraw factual allegations that she has made in pleadings before this Court. In the other litigation before this Court, Ms. Clifford argues that Mr. Trump sought to silence her as a strategy to win the Presidential election, a clear argument against the legitimacy of Mr. Trump's Presidency. Mr. Trump issued the tweet as a rejoinder against an individual challenging him in the public arena. This is the definition of protected rhetorical hyperbole. The Court denies Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint.

The result is not surprising given reports that after a hearing several weeks ago,  Judge James Otero indicated he would be dismissing the action.

The judge also awards Trump attorneys fees.

 

October 15, 2018 in Books, Current Affairs, First Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

CFP: Women and the Law

 

2019 Detroit Mercy Law Review Symposium: Women and the Law

Call for Papers and Presentations

Deadline: November 9, 2018

The Law Review at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law will be hosting its 103rd annual symposium: Women and the Law.

Call for Proposals

The Detroit Mercy Law Review is accepting proposals for the 2019 Symposium: Women and the Law. The Detroit Mercy Law Review Symposium will take place on Friday, March 8, 2019 (International Women’s Day) in Detroit, Michigan. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the history of women in the law, how women have impacted the law, how the law impacts women today, how future legal decisions could affect women’s rights (e.g. if Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) were to be overturned), what challenges women still face in the legal profession, the role of gender in the law, and any other topic regarding women and the law.

Proposals should be approximately 250-500 words, double-spaced, and detail the proposed topic and presentation.

Submission Procedure

The deadline to submit proposals is Friday, November 9, 2018 at 5PM EST. All proposals should be submitted to Samantha Buck, Symposium Director, at bucksl AT udmercy.edu. Please indicate whether your proposal is for a presentation only or if you would also like to publish an article with the Detroit Mercy Law Review on your presentation topic. If you are interested in submitting an article, it will be due to the Law Review on Friday, March 15, 2019. Please submit a current CV or resume along with your proposal. We will notify chosen speakers by November 30, 2018. Preference will be given to those willing to submit an article for publication.

October 13, 2018 in Conferences, Gender, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Daily Read: Some Women Legal Scholars on the First Amendment

Over at "First Amendment News" (FAN) by Ron Collins, a symposium of 15 women scholars on the current state of the First Amendment. In her forward, Kellye Testy comments on the "relative lack of women’s visibility in First Amendment jurisprudence," by noting that what “counts” as First Amendment scholarship is subject to a sexist lens and that  protecting "free speech" can be a male preoccupation given that "men who have had “free speech” want to keep speaking," but  "women’s speech has been restrained, both as a matter of formal law and of social practices, including violence."

A number of the contributions focus on free speech in the "Trump-era" or in the "internet-era" or both, including my own.

Here's the list of authors and titles, all accessible here:

Jane Bambauer, “Diagnosing Donald Trump: Professional Speech in Disorder”

Mary Anne Franks, “The Free Speech Fraternity”

Sarah C. Haan, “Facebook and the Identity Business”

Laura Handman & Lisa Zycherman, “Retaliatory RICO: A Corporate Assault on Speech”

Marjorie Heins, “On ‘Absolutism’ and ‘Frontierism’”

Margot Kaminski, “The First Amendment and Data Privacy: Between Reed and a Hard Place”

Lyrissa Lidsky, “Libel, Lies, and Conspiracy Theories”

Jasmine McNealy, “Newsworthiness, the First Amendment, and Platform Transparency”

Helen Norton, “Taking Listeners’ First Amendment Interests Seriously”

Tamara Piety, “A Constitutional Right to Lie? Again?: National Institute of Family and Life Advocates d/b/a NIFLA v. Becerra”

Ruthann Robson, “The Cyber Company Town”

Kelli Sager& Selina MacLaren, “First Amendment Rights of Access”

Sonja West, “President Trump and the Press Clause: A Cautionary Tale”

September 20, 2018 in First Amendment, Gender, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Texas Federal Judge Rules Texas Fetal Remains Law Unconstitutional

In an extensive opinion in Whole Woman's Health v. Smith, District Judge David Alan Ezra ruled that Texas statute and regulations requiring internment (or cremation) for "embryonic and fetal tissue disposal" were unconstitutional.  Judge Ezra's opinion occurred after a one-week bench trial in which the issue of cost of compliance was excluded.

Judge Ezra found that the Texas laws violated both the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

On the equal protection issue, Judge Ezra found that the Texas laws' distinction between "pre-implantation and post-implantation embryos and the facilities that handle them" was not rationally related to the legitimate government interest in "respecting potential life." Thus, even under the rational basis test, the laws did not survive.

On the due process issue, Judge Ezra applied the doctrine from the Supreme Court's decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, and found that the Texas laws

place substantial obstacles in the path of women seeking pregnancy-related medical care, particularly a previability abortion, while offering minimal benefits.

By endorsing one view of the status and respect to be accorded to embryonic and fetal tissue remains, the State imposes intrusive burdens upon personal decisions concerning procreation, especially upon the right of the woman to chose to have an abortion. And most importantly, the evidence in this case overwhelmingly demonstrated that if the challenged laws were to go into effect now, they would likely cause a near catastrophic failure of the health care system designed to serve women of childbearing age within the State of Texas.

This failure, Judge Ezra makes clear, is not simply for women seeking an abortion, but for all women seeking pregnancy care for complications.

Thus the court declared the laws and implementing regulations unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement.

September 5, 2018 in Abortion, Due Process (Substantive), Equal Protection, Gender, Medical Decisions, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 6, 2018

Federal Judge: Injunction Against Transgender Military Ban Retained

United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelley has reaffirmed the injunction of  the ban on transgender individuals in the military, first announced on Twitter by the President in Doe v. Trump in two opinions.  Recall that in October, the judge issued a lengthy opinion and a preliminary injunction against the ban as likely to violate equal protection.

The case returned to Judge Kollar-Kotelley after an unsuccessful appeal and attempt to stay the preliminary injunction. The government moved to dismiss, essentially rearguing its contentions regarding standing.

In a 34 page opinion, the judge again rejected these arguments. But the government newly argued for dismissal and dissolution of the preliminary injunction because the 2018 "Mattis Implementation Plan" represents a “new policy” divorced and distinct from the President’s 2017 policy directives that were previously enjoined by this Court, and that the Mattis Implementation Plan does not harm the Plaintiffs in this case. However, the judge held that "whatever legal relevance the Mattis
Lossy-page1-1024px-Revolutionary_War_era_soldier_(NYPL_b13075512-em1481).tifImplementation Plan might have, it has not fundamentally changed the circumstances of this lawsuit such that Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, or that the need for the Court’s preliminary injunction has dissipated." In evaluating the Mattis Implementation Plan, the judge stated:

the Mattis Implementation Plan in fact prohibits transgender military service—just as President Trump’s 2017 directives ordered. It is true that the plan takes a slightly less direct approach to accomplishing this goal than the President’s 2017 tweet and memorandum. Instead of expressly banning all “transgender individuals” from military service, the Mattis Implementation Plan works by absolutely disqualifying individuals who require or have undergone gender transition, generally disqualifying individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and, to the extent that there are any individuals who identify as “transgender” but do not fall under the first two categories, only allowing them to serve “in their biological sex” (which means that openly transgender persons are generally not allowed to serve in conformance with their identity).

[emphasis in original]. In short, she concluded that "whatever legal relevance the Mattis Implementation Plan and associated documents might have, they are not sufficiently divorced from, or different than, the President’s 2017 directive." 

However, in a separate and relatively brief opinion, she did grant the government's motion to dismiss Donald Trump as a defendant. The government moved to dismiss the president as a defendant and for a protective order regarding discovery. Judge Kollar-Kotelly concluded that

Through this lawsuit, Plaintiffs ask this Court to enjoin a policy that represents an official, non-ministerial act of the President, and declare that policy unlawful.  Sound separation-of-power principles counsel the Court against granting these forms of relief against the President directly.

She noted that confrontation between the judicial and executive branch should be avoided whenever possible, but such confrontation 

can be easily avoided here, because dismissing the President will have little or no substantive effect on this litigation. Plaintiffs argue that the acts of the President himself are central to this case, and the Court agrees. But dismissing the President as a Defendant does not mean that those acts will not be subject to judicial review. The Court can still review those acts and, if Plaintiffs are successful in proving that they are unconstitutional, Plaintiffs can still obtain all of the relief that they seek from the other Defendants.

Given that the President is no longer a defendant, the judge ruled the motion for a protective order regarding discovery was moot, but

the Court reiterates that dismissing the President as a party to this case does not mean that Plaintiffs are prevented from pursuing discovery related to the President. The Court understands that the parties dispute whether discovery related to the President which has been sought by Plaintiffs is precluded by the deliberative process or presidential communication privileges, and the Court makes no ruling on those disputes at this point.

While the plaintiffs had argued that dismissing the president was not warranted, Judge Kollar-Kotelly's dismissal has little bearing on the ultimate resolution of the case, a conclusion she reiterated several times. It also has little effect on the present status of the case; the accompanying order emphasized that "The injunction remains in force as it applies to all other Defendants" (italics in original).

 

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August 6, 2018 in Courts and Judging, Equal Protection, Executive Authority, Gender, Medical Decisions, Mootness, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 18, 2018

Third Circuit Upholds School Policy on Gender Identity Use of Facilities

In its opinion in Doe v. Boyertown Area School District a unanimous panel of the Third Circuit upheld the school district's gender policy for facilities, affirming the district judge, against a challenge by some students that the inclusive policy violated their constitutional "bodily privacy" rights and Title IX.

The school policy allowed "transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with the students’ gender identities as opposed to the sex they were determined to have at birth." The court rejected the argument of some non-transgender students that the policy violated their right to privacy. Even if the school policy were to be subject to strict scrutiny, there was a compelling interest in the protection of transgender students and the means chosen were narrowly tailored. In assessing the claim of the cisgendered students who challenged the school policy, the court stated:

we decline to recognize such an expansive constitutional right to privacy—a right that would be violated by the presence of students who do not share the same birth sex. Moreover, no court has ever done so. As counsel for the School District noted during oral argument, the appellants are claiming a very broad right of personal privacy in a space that is, by definition and common usage, just not that private. School locker rooms and restrooms are spaces where it is not only common to encounter others in various stages of undress, it is expected. The facilities exist so that students can attend to their personal biological and hygienic needs and change their clothing.

Moreover, the court rejected the challengers' reliance on "a case involving an adult stranger sneaking into a locker room to watch a fourteen year-old girl shower," noting that it was "simply not analogous to the present situation "involving transgender students using facilities aligned with their gender identities after seeking and receiving approval from trained school counselors and administrators."

The court likewise rejected the Title IX and state tort law claims, again affirming the district judge.

While the court discusses and relies upon Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, in which the Seventh Circuit in 2017 affirmed a preliminary injunction requiring the school to allow transgender students to access facilities consistent with their gender identity, the policy upheld here was the Boyertown school district's affirmative policy allowing such access. Thus, there seems to be a clear path for school districts to avoid losing if there is litigation.

 

June 18, 2018 in Due Process (Substantive), Fourteenth Amendment, Gender, Opinion Analysis, Sexuality | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Zervos v. Trump Stay Denied

In a terse ruling in Zervos v. Trump, the appellate division in New York cleared the stage for the defamation lawsuit against the president to move forward.

Recall that the trial judge, stating that "No one is above the law," ruled  the lawsuit for defamation by Summer Zervos against now-President Trump could proceed, denying a motion to dismiss or to stay by Trump based on his presidential status.

The entire appellate division opinion reads:

An appeal having been taken from an order of the Supreme Court, New York County, entered on or about March 20, 2018,

And defendant-appellant having moved for a stay of the action pending hearing and determination of the aforesaid appeal,

Now, upon reading and filing the papers with respect to the motion, and due deliberation having been had thereon,

It is ordered that the motion is denied.

May 17, 2018 in Executive Privilege, First Amendment, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Puerto Rico District Judge Rules on Gender-Marker Birth Certificates

In a relatively brief opinion in Arroyo-Gonzalez v. Rossello-Nevares, United States District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico Judge Carmen Consuelo Cerezo ruled that the present practices of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico regarding change in birth certificates was unconstitutional.

Here is the essence of Judge Cerezo's opinion:

By permitting plaintiffs to change the name on their birth certificate, while prohibiting the change to their gender markers, the Commonwealth forces them to disclose their transgender status in violation of their constitutional right to informational privacy. Such forced disclosure of a transgender person’s most private information is not justified by any legitimate government interest. It does not further public safety, such that it would amount to a valid exercise of police power. To the contrary, it exposes transgender individuals to a substantial risk of stigma, discrimination, intimidation, violence, and danger. Forcing disclosure of transgender identity chills speech and restrains engagement in the democratic process in order for transgenders to protect themselves from the real possibility of harm and humiliation. The Commonwealth’s inconsistent policies not only harm the plaintiffs before the Court; it also hurts society as a whole by depriving all from the voices of the transgender community.

The judge thus set out the process to enable a new birth certificate to be issued in Puerto Rico.

 

April 22, 2018 in Due Process (Substantive), Gender, Opinion Analysis, Privacy | Permalink | Comments (0)