Saturday, July 1, 2023

Court Says Free Speech Trumps Antidiscrimination for Website Designer

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Colorado's anti-discrimination law violated the free-speech rights of a website designer who does not wish to create custom wedding websites for same-sex couples.

The ruling leaves the anti-discrimination law in place, but prohibits enforcement that would compel speech.

The Court didn't define "speech," however, at least not with any precision. The case therefore promises to bring new rounds of litigation as individuals and businesses seek to get out from under anti-discrimination laws--including laws that prohibit discrimination by sexual orientation or, apparently, any other characteristic--by defining their products and services as "speech." In short, we don't know exactly how far this ruling extends--to what kinds of objections based on what kinds of characteristics, and what constitutes "speech."

The ruling, while dealing with free speech (not religion), also follows the Court's trend in its Religion Clause cases of inviting and compelling religion and religious beliefs to play a greater and greater role in public life. That's because the plaintiff in the case, Lorie Smith, who owns 303 Creative, objects to creating custom wedding websites for same-sex couples because of her religious beliefs. But just to be clear: nothing in the ruling protects only a person or business who objects based only on religion; instead, the ruling prohibits the government from applying anti-discrimination laws in a way that would compel a speaker to communicate in violation of any of their beliefs.

The case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, tested whether Colorado's anti-discrimination law (which prohibits discrimination by public accommodations because of sexual orientation, among other characteristics) impermissibly compelled Smith, who sought to provide custom wedding websites for customers, to create websites for same-sex couples. The Court said yes: the Colorado law compelled Smith to speak against her beliefs in violation of the First Amendment.

Justice Sotomayor wrote a lengthy and scathing dissent, joined by Justices Kagan and Jackson.

July 1, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Religion, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court Strikes Biden Student-Debt Relief

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Biden Administration's student-debt relief plan exceeded authority under the HEROES Act. That is: the Court said that the plan's illegal.

The ruling means that the plan won't go into effect. But President Biden quickly announced that his Administration would move to implement a similar plan under the Higher Education Act (which gives the Administration greater authority than the HEROES Act). But that'll take some time to implement, because it requires rulemaking processes. President Biden announced short-term relief in the interim.

Even these moves won't end the story, however. Given the political opposition to student-debt relief, we'll certainly see a spate of new lawsuits challenging any action the Administration takes.

The case, Biden v. Nebraska, tested the Secretary of Education's 2022 plan to cancel student-loan debt up to $10,000 for any borrower with income less than $125,000 (or $250,000 for couples) and up to $20,000 for any Pell Grant borrowers. All told, the plan would cancel about $430 billion in federal student loan debt, with about 90 percent of the benefits going to borrowers with incomes under $75,000.

As authority for the plan, the Secretary pointed to the HEROES Act. Under that Act, the Secretary "may waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs . . . as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency" and "as may be necessary to ensure" that student debtors "are not placed in a worse position financially in relation to that financial assistance because of their status as affected individuals."

States and individuals sued, arguing that the Secretary exceeded his authority under the HEROES Act. In particular, the plaintiffs said that the plan wasn't a "waiver" or "modification," but instead was a top-to-bottom overhaul of the law, in violation of the separation of powers. (The president can enforce the law, not make it.)

The Court agreed. The Court parsed the phrase "waive or modify" and concluded that the plan far exceeded anything that the phrase could support. In sum,

The Secretary's comprehensive debt cancellation plan cannot fairly be called a waiver--it not only nullifies existing provisions, but augments and expands them dramatically. It cannot be mere modification, because it constitutes "effectively the introduction of a whole new regime." And it cannot be some combination of the two, because when the Secretary seeks to add to existing law, the fact that he has "waived" certain provisions does not give him a free pass to avoid the limits inherent in the power to "modify." However broad the meaning of "waive or modify," that language cannot authorize the kind of exhaustive rewriting of the statute that has taken place here.

The Court went on to apply the major questions doctrine from West Virginia v. EPA. The Court said that the plan was unprecedented, and had "staggering" "economic and political significance," and that Congress had not clearly authorized it. Importantly, the Court rejected the government's argument that the major questions doctrine applied only to government regulatory programs, not government benefit programs.

Justice Barrett concurred, arguing that the major questions doctrine squares with textualism ("The doctrine serves as an interpretive tool reflecting 'common sense as to the manner in which Congress is likely to delegate a policy decision of such economic and political magnitude to an administrative agency.'") and the Court's power ("the major questions doctrine is neither new nor a strong-form canon," from footnote 2), and arguing that the major questions doctrine "reinforces" the Court's holding "but is not necessary to it."

Justice Kagan dissented, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Jackson. She argued that "the Court today exceeds its proper, limited role in our Nation's governance," first by accepting the case at all (because the states lack standing) and next by rejecting the plan, which "fits comfortably within" the HEROES Act authority.

 

July 1, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Courts and Judging, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 30, 2023

Supreme Court (Effectively) Ends Affirmative Action in Higher Education

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that race-based affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause, respectively.

Still, the Court didn't categorically overturn all race-based affirmative action programs; instead, it seemed to leave a theoretical possibility that a school could design a program to meet its tightened test. But at the same time, under the ruling it's hard to see how a school could "narrowly tailor" a program to serve a sufficiently "compelling interest" to meet the strict-scrutiny test that the Court applied in the cases.

The ruling doesn't address whether programs at the military academies violate equal protection. And it suggests that schools could use race-neutral means to achieve racial diversity, including considering student admission essays that focus on a student's race (by overcoming racial adversity, for example). But the Court also cautioned that schools shouldn't use this kind of admission statement in ways that would undermine the Court's core holding--that government labeling by race (for any purpose) is highly suspect, and subject to the most rigorous judicial scrutiny.

All this means that schools that seek racial diversity will scramble now to figure out how to achieve it in race-neutral ways. And that, in turns, means that we'll see new rounds of litigation for years to come, challenging those efforts as merely alternative forms of racial discrimination in disguise.

In short, the Court in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College held that the schools' programs didn't satisfy strict scrutiny, because (1) their interest (achieving the educational benefits of diversity) was too loosely defined to be "compelling," and (2) their programs don't serve this interest, anyway, because the racial categories that the schools use are "imprecise." Moreover, the Court said that the schools' use of race stereotypes applicants of the same race (by assuming they all think alike), harms certain students of other races, and lack an endpoint.

The Court noted in footnote four that the ruling doesn't necessarily apply to the U.S. military academies--that they have "distinct interests" that might set them apart. The Court also  noted that "nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise." But the Court quickly warned that schools shouldn't use this opening to side-step its ruling--to use race, but try to put it under the radar.

Justice Thomas concurred, writing "to offer an originalist defense of the colorblind Constitution; to explain further the flaws of the Court's [affirmative action] jurisprudence; to clarify that all forms of discrimination based on race--including so-called affirmative action--are prohibited under the Constitution; and to emphasize the pernicious effects of all such discrimination." Justice Gorsuch concurred, joined by Justice Thomas, "to emphasize that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964" also (in addition to the Equal Protection Clause) prohibits the schools' race-based affirmative action programs. Justice Kavanaugh concurred, arguing that the ruling "is consistent with and follows from the Court's equal protection precedents . . . ."

Justice Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent, joined by Justices Kagan and Jackson, arguing that the ruling "stands in the way [of the promise of Brown v. Board of Education] and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress."

Justice Jackson wrote an equally scathing dissent, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. She wrote "to expound upon the universal benefits of considering race in this context" and to point out how the plaintiffs' position and the Court's ruling "blinks both history and reality in ways too numerous to count."

Both dissents offered a fabulous history lesson on race . . . and a thorough rejoinder to Justice Thomas's "originalist" view.

June 30, 2023 in Affirmative Action, Cases and Case Materials, Equal Protection, Fourteenth Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Supreme Court Rejects Strong Independent State Legislature Theory

The Supreme Court today flatly and unequivocally rejected a strong version of the independent state legislature theory (ISL)--the theory that state legislatures have plenary authority over rules for federal elections in their states. But it left open federal judicial review of state-court decisions on state election laws that are out of line (to one degree or another, the Court didn't specify) with state law.

ISL is the theory that a state legislature--and a state legislature alone--can set state election law for federal elections. It's based on a literal reading of the U.S. Constitution's Election Clause, which says "the Legislature" of each state shall prescribe "[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives . . . ." According to ISL, "the Legislature" means the state legislature alone, and not the broader lawmaking authority of the state under the state constitution (which includes state-court judicial review of state legislative acts, the governor's signature or veto, etc.). The Constitution's Electors Clause reads similarly, and similarly grants authority to "the Legislature" to direct the process for the appointment of the state's electors in a presidential election.

The ruling means that state courts can continue to rule state election laws unconstitutional under the state constitution, and that they can continue to interpret state election laws in light of their own state law. In other words, state courts continue to have the power of judicial review in the area of state election law. But at the same time, state court review itself is subject to federal court review if the state court goes too far out of line. (Again, how far we do not know.)

It's not clear how this'll all play out. But there are some certainties. For one, the Court flatly rejected the strong version of ISL--that state legislatures have plenary power to set state election law for federal elections, without review by state courts and not subject to state constitutional requirements. For another, to the extent that former President Trump's team relied on the strong version ISL to overturn the electoral results in several states in the 2020 presidential election (it was central to that effort), and to the extent that the Court's approach to ISL is the same under the Elections Clause and the Electors Clause (they appear to be exactly the same), the Court closed the door to these kinds of shenanigans in future presidential elections. In particular, today's ruling seems to flatly foreclose any effort by a state legislature to circumvent existing state law and state-court rulings and unilaterally appoint electors to whomever it wishes.

And just to put an exclamation point behind all of that, Chief Justice Roberts wrote the Court's opinion (joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Jackson). That's significant, because Chief Justice Roberts dissented in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court's latest foray into the Elections Clause, upholding Arizona's independent redistricting commission against an ISL-type challenge. Chief Justice Roberts argued that the Court got it wrong, with a full-throated defense of ISL.

Less clear, however, is how the Supreme Court may intervene in future state-court cases involving more run-of-the-mill (but nevertheless hugely important) state election-law issues--what standard it'll use to assess those rulings, how much deference the Court will give to state courts to interpret their own state laws and state constitutions, and how the Court is likely to rule in those cases.

The case, Moore v. Harper, arose when the North Carolina legislature gerrymandered its congressional districts. Plaintiffs sued in state court, arguing that the gerrymander violated the state constitution. (They didn't sue in federal court or raise a federal claim, because the Supreme Court ruled in Rucho v. Common Cause that partisan gerrymandering claims under the federal Constitution are nonjusticiable "political questions.") The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs, ruled the congressional map unconstitutional under the state constitution, and remanded the case to the state trial court to oversee the drawing of a new map.

North Carolina legislative leaders sought Supreme Court review, arguing that the state supreme court violated the federal Constitution's Elections Clause by overturning the state legislature's election law (the congressional districting map). After the Court agreed to hear the case, however, the state supreme court (after a judicial election) reversed course and ruled that partisan gerrymandering isn't justiciable under the state constitution. The court withdrew and "overruled" its earlier decisions.

After that latest move by the state supreme court, the case raised two issues at the U.S. Supreme Court: (1) Is the case moot in light of the state supreme court's latest ruling, and (2) does the state supreme court's first ruling (the one overturning the legislature's partisan gerrymander under the state constitution) violate the federal Elections Clause.

As to mootness, the Court held that the case still presented a live controversy, because the state supreme court's most recent ruling didn't change that court's first judgment that halted the state's use of its gerrymandered map. (It only ruled that the question was nonjusticiable.) Moreover, the Court said that federal law authorized it to hear the case. "The record shows that Harper I finally decided the Elections Clause question, the judgment in that case continues to bind the parties before us, and the 2021 congressional maps would again take effect in North Carolina were we to reverse. Accordingly, we have jurisdiction under both Article III and [28 U.S.C. Sec. 1257(a)]."

As to the merits, the Court held that the idea that state courts can review state legislative acts under the state constitution and state laws was hard-wired into our federal constitutional system even before the framing, that state-court judicial review is therefore part of the state's lawmaking authority, and that state-court judicial review is part of "the Legislature" under the Election Clause. The Court said that Court precedent supported this result.

The Court went on to say that the Supreme Court could still review those state-court rulings that are out of line with the federal Constitution or state law (including the state constitution). But it didn't provide a standard or rule for this kind of review, instead leaving it open for future cases.

Justice Kavanaugh concurred, noting that the Court didn't set a standard, but arguing for the standard that Chief Justice Rehnquist pushed in Bush v. Gore: "whether the state court 'impermissibly distorted' state law 'beyond what a fair reading required.'"

Justice Thomas dissented on mootness (joined by Justices Alito and Gorsuch) and on the merits (joined only by Justice Gorsuch). He also noted the Court's lack of standard for future cases,  saying that he "would hesitate long before committing the Federal Judiciary to this uncertain path," especially in "an advisory opinion, in a moot case . . . ."

June 27, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Political Question Doctrine | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Clarifies True Threats, Requires Subjective Recklessness

The Supreme Court today clarified the "true threats" threats exception to the First Amendment, holding that true threats require that a speaker had a subjective understanding of the threatening nature of their statements, under a recklessness standard. In short, "The State must show that the defendant consciously disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening in nature."

In so ruling, the Court rejected an objective standard--that a reasonable person would understand their statements as threats. As a result, the Court narrowed the range of unprotected true threats, and protects more threats, again, so long as the speaker didn't have a subjective understanding of the threatening nature of their statements.

The ruling is consistent with a string of cases in recent years narrowing the familiar "categories" of unprotected speech.

The case, Counterman v. Colorado, arose out of a series of threatening Facebook posts by Billy Counterman and directed at a local singer and musician. As a result of the posts, the recipient "stopped walking alone, declined social engagements, and canceled some of her performances, though doing so caused her financial strain."

Counterman was convicted under a Colorado stalking statute. He raised a free-speech defense, but the Colorado courts rejected it, applying an objective standard and holding that the statements were objectively threatening.

The Court reversed. It ruled that the First Amendment requires a subjective standard--that Counterman had a subjective understanding that his statements were threatening. The Court said that anything else would chill too much otherwise protected speech.

The Court went on to set the subjective bar relatively low, however, at recklessness. Here's why:

In advancing past recklessness, we make it harder for a State to substantiate the needed inferences about mens rea (absent, as is usual, direct evidence). And of particular importance,we prevent States from convicting morally culpable defendants. For reckless defendants have done more than make a bad mistake. They have consciously accepted a substantial risk of inflicting serious harm.

Justice Sotomayor concurred, joined in part by Justice Gorsuch. She wouldn't've "reach[ed] the distinct and more complex question whether a mens rea of recklessness is sufficient for true-threats prosecutions generally," although she agreed with the Court that a subjective, reckless standard was appropriate here. She wrote, "Furthermore, requiring nothing more than a mens rea of recklessness is inconsistent with precedent, history, and the commitment to even harmful speech that the First Amendment enshrines."

Justice Thomas dissented, taking aim at New York Times v. Sullivan and the Court's use of that case in crafting the subjective, reckless standard.

Justice Barrett dissented, joined by Justice Thomas, arguing that the Court's reckless standard "unjustifiably grants true threats preferential treatment" under the First Amendment.

 

June 27, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis, Speech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Allows Suit Against Out-of-State Corporation that Registers and Agrees to "any cause of action"

The Supreme Court ruled today that a plaintiff can sue an out-of-state corporation in a state where the corporation registered as a foreign corporation and agreed to appear in the state courts on "any cause of action" against it.

The ruling reaffirms a longstanding caselaw on state courts' jurisdiction over foreign corporations.

The case, Mallory v. Norfolk Southern, arose when a former railroad worker sued the railroad under the Federal Employers' Liability Act in Pennsylvania state court. At the time, Mallory resided in Virginia; Norfolk Southern was incorporated and headquartered in Virginia; and Mallory suffered harms while an employee in Ohio and Virginia.

But under Pennsylvania law, a foreign corporation that seeks to do business in the state must register, and agree to appear in Pennsylvania courts on "any cause of action" against them.

The Court ruled today that the Pennsylvania law meant that Mallory's suit against Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania's courts didn't violate due process. In so ruling, the Court applied Pennsylvania Fire Insurance v. Gold Issue Mining & Miling, a 1917 case that the Pennsylvania courts thought the Supreme Court had implicitly overruled. Not so, said the Court today, and it wasn't the Pennsylvania courts' job to say so, anyway.

June 27, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 25, 2023

High Court Says States Lack Standing to Challenge Biden Immigration Enforcement Priorities

The Supreme Court ruled that Texas and Louisiana lacked standing to challenge the Biden Administration's immigration-enforcement priorities. The 8-1 ruling--on justiciability, not the merits--means that the priorities stay in place.

The ruling is a win for the Biden Administration and its enforcement priorities. The ruling also deals a blow to states trying to sue to challenge non-enforcement decisions by the Executive Branch. This could have wide-ranging implications in the states-sue-the-federal-government-over-everything times that we live in.

The case, United States v. Texas, arose when DHS Secretary Mayorkas promulgated priorities for enforcement of federal immigration law. Secretary Mayorkas issued the priorities in order to deal with a chronic lack of resources to fully enforce immigration law against an estimated 11 million unauthorized noncitizens. The priorities focused enforcement efforts on suspected terrorists and dangerous criminals who recently entered the country without authorization. The lack of full congressional funding was nothing new. Congress has failed to fully fund DHS enforcement efforts for 27 years, and five presidential administrations have had to make similar enforcement decisions, one way or another.

Still, Texas and Louisiana didn't like the Biden Administration priorities, so they sued. They argued that Secretary Mayorkas violated federal immigration law, which says that DHS "shall" arrest and detain certain unauthorized noncitizens. They said that the priorities would cost them money (the basis for their standing), and that they violated the government's obligations under immigration law (on the merits). The district court ruled in their favor; the Fifth Circuit and the Court both declined to stay that judgment; and the Court then granted cert. before judgment.

The Court ruled that the states lacked standing based on precedent or longstanding historical practice. In particular, the Court said that the states couldn't point to anything supporting third party standing to sue the government over a prosecution decision when the plaintiff was neither prosecuted nor threatened with prosecution. In fact, just the opposite: the Court pointed to Linda R.S. v. Richard D. (1973) as precedent cutting the other way.

The Court went on to riff on judicial review of decisions not to prosecute--and why that's a bad idea. At the same time, the Court acknowledged that it has reviewed exercises of prosecutorial discretion in certain areas.

Justice Gorsuch concurred, joined by Justices Thomas and Barrett, focusing on the lack of redressability. Justice Barrett concurred, joined by Justice Gorsuch, and argued that the Court got it wrong not to focus on redressability. Justice Alito dissented.

June 25, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Fifth Circuit Says President Can Impose Vaccine Mandate on Guardmembers, but not Punish Them for Noncompliance

The Fifth Circuit ruled that President Biden likely lacked authority to enforce a federal COVID vaccine mandate on state national guard members who aren't called up for federal service. The ruling gives state governors broad authority to decline to enforce (and thus undermine) certain federal readiness requirements on state national guard members.

The case, Abbott v. Biden, tested the federal government's authority to punish not-called-up state national guard members for failing to comply with the federal COVID vaccine requirement. (Everybody agreed that the federal government could punish national guard members who are called up to federal service. But that wasn't at issue in the case.) Governor Abbott argued that President Biden lacked authority to punish, and that punishment was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The Fifth Circuit ruled for Abbott. The court said that under the Constitution's militia clauses, the President can impose a vaccine requirement, but the President can't punish not-called-up guard members for noncompliance. The court's analysis turned on the language of the "organizing clause," which says (with emphasis),

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

The court held that only the states, and not the federal government, could enforce the vaccine mandate against not-called-up guard members, because enforcement is part of "governing." The court said that enforcement is not part of "disciplining" (which would have allowed the federal government to enforce even against not-called-up guard members), because "disciplining" at the founding meant educating and instructing, not enforcing or punishing.

As to the APA issue, the court remanded the case for further consideration of whether federal punishment was arbitrary and capricious in light of Abbott's argument that punishing guard members would undermine the guard's ability to do its job. The court quoted Abbott's argument:

Guardsmen are not mere supplement to the federal military, but a vital part of each State's ability to secure its citizens' property, liberty, and lives--a vitality that is sapped by drumming Guardsmen out of militia service [as punishment for failure to take the vaccine]. The Defendants' failure to weigh those considerations before upending the Texas National Guard's chain of command requires that the Enforcement Memoranda be set aside.

June 13, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, War Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 9, 2023

District Court Rebuffs Challenge to Private Securities Regulator

The D.C. District ruled that a securities firm failed to show that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority was likely unconstitutional. The court denied the firm's motion for a temporary restraining order against FINRA enforcement action.

The arguments against FINRA play on familiar separation-of-powers themes that the Supreme Court has developed and used in recent Terms to limit the power of administrative agencies. But those arguments haven't gained traction in challenges to FINRA, and the D.C. District's ruling in Scottsdale Capital Advisors v. FINRA aligns with other federal courts that have ruled FINRA constitutional.

FINRA is a private corporation that's responsible for regulating broker-dealers in the securities industry. Under the Securities and Exchange Act, FINRA enforcement actions are subject to internal review and appeal, and de novo appeal to the SEC. If the SEC rules against a firm, the firm can seek judicial review.

In this case, FINRA initiated enforcement action against Alpine Securities Corporation. Alpine moved for a TRO, arguing that FINRA was unconstitutional on several grounds. In particular, Alpine claimed that FINRA's double-insulation structure impermissibly encroached on executive authority, that FINRA board members are "officers" who haven't been validly appointed, that the Exchange Act improperly delegates lawmaking power to FINRA, that FINRA's proceedings violate due process and the right to a jury, and that forced association with FINRA violates the First Amendment.

The district court rejected all but the First Amendment claim on the ground that FINRA's not a state actor. (As to private non-delegation, the court said that the Act didn't impermissibly delegate lawmaking power to a private entity, because FINRA is subject to SEC control. But even assuming FINRA were a state actor, the court said that the Exchange Act didn't delegate lawmaking authority in violation of the non-delegation doctrine, because the Act gave FINRA "intelligible principles" to act.)

As to Alpine's First Amendment claim, the court said that the government had "a significantly compelling government interest embodied in the Exchange Act to justify mandatory FINRA membership": "to 'prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, promote just and equitable principles of trade, foster cooperation and coordination' among all industry players, 'remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest."

June 9, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Court Strikes Alabama's Congressional Map, Reaffirms VRA Redistricting Test

The Supreme Court today upheld a lower court's ruling that Alabama's congressional map likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court applied (and reaffirmed the validity of) a longstanding test for Section 2 redistricting claims--a test that many expected the Court to narrow or even overrule. The ruling means that Alabama has to add a second majority Black district to its seven-district congressional map.

The ruling is surprising and significant, given that the Court has sharply curtailed other portions of the VRA in recent Terms. This case goes directly against that trend, and provides a sign that the Court will fully enforce the VRA in the redistricting context--even as it's eviscerated the VRA's preclearance requirement and all but eviscerated the Act's Section 2 protections against other voting procedures.

The case, Allen v. Milligan, tested Alabama's congressional map. The map include one majority Black district out of seven congressional districts, even though Black residents accounted for 27 percent of Alabama's population, and even though the legislature could easily--and more sensibly--have drawn a second majority Black district.

A three-judge district court held that the map likely violated Section 2--indeed, that it wasn't even a close case--and preliminarily enjoined the state from using the map in future elections. The Supreme Court stayed the injunction last year, allowing Alabama to use the map for the 2022 mid-terms. But today the Court affirmed the lower-court ruling.

The Court held that the lower court properly applied the time-tested framework for assessing redistricting plans under Section 2. Under that framework, from Thornburg v. Gingles, a plaintiff must first satisfy three preconditions: (1) that the "minority group must be sufficiently large and [geographically] compact to constitute a majority in a reasonably configured district"; (2) that "the minority group must be able to show that it is politically cohesive"; and (3) that "the minority must be able to demonstrate that the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it . . . to defeat the minority's preferred candidate." If a plaintiff can establish the three Gingles preconditions, then the courts look to the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the political process is not "equally open" to racial minority voters.

In affirming the lower-court ruling, the Court leaned heavily on precedent--the many cases applying the Gingles framework to redistricting--and thus validated and reinforced the approach. (Again, this stands in stark contrast to the Court's evisceration of the preclearance requirement and Section 2's application to ordinary voting restrictions in recent Terms.)

At the same time, the Court flatly rejected Alabama's several arguments to overturn or significantly narrow Gingles and adopt some version of a race-blind requirement to redistricting.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court, including Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Kavanaugh (for all but a portion), and Jackson. Justice Thomas dissented, joined by Justice Gorsuch and in part by Justices Alito and Barrett. Justice Alito dissented, joined by Justice Gorsuch.

The principal cleavage involved whether and how race could play a role in a plaintiff's "illustrative" maps. In Section 2 redistricting litigation, a plaintiff offers illustrative maps to demonstrate that the state could have created another majority-minority district, consistent with the VRA. In practice, this allows a plaintiff to satisfy the first Gingles precondition. The justices hotly disputed whether a plaintiff's illustrative maps can consider race at all, if so how much, and whether the plaintiffs' maps in this case considered race too much.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that a plaintiff can consider race in drawing illustrative maps, but that race can't predominate. He wrote that the plaintiffs' maps met that test. Justice Kavanaugh did not join this portion of the Chief's opinion, but he nevertheless concurred "that Alabama's redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as interpreted in Thornburg v. Gingles," and that Section 2 "requires in certain circumstances that courts account for the race of voters so as to prevent" the dilution of racial minority voters' votes.

Justice Thomas argued that Section 2 doesn't apply to redistricting (a portion of his dissent not joined by Justices Barrett and Alito); that any benchmark for a Section 2 challenge must be race neutral; that the plaintiffs' illustrative maps were impermissibly race-based; and that Section 2 as construed by the Chief would exceed congressional authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Justice Alito argued that under Gingles race cannot predominate in a plaintiff's illustrative maps. He "would vacate and remand for the District Court to apply the correct understanding of Gingles in the first instance."

June 8, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Elections and Voting, Fifteenth Amendment, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Says Individual Can Sue to Enforce Rights Under Federal Nursing Home Reform Act

The Supreme Court ruled today that an individual can sue to enforce rights under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act. The Court declined the defendant's invitation to rewrite the law on individual suits to enforce rights in spending-power legislation, and reaffirmed its long-standing approach to individual suits under such acts.

The ruling is a win for plaintiffs, insofar as it didn't disturb the Court's approach to individual lawsuits to enforce rights in conditioned-spending programs.

The case, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski, arose out of a nursing-home patient's lawsuit against the home for administering certain restraints and discharging him without meeting certain preconditions, both in violation of the FNHRA. The home argued in response that Talevski couldn't sue (under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983) to enforce provisions of the FNHRA, because Congress enacted the FNHRA under its spending power. (The FNHRA is a conditioned-spending program: Congress imposes conditions under the FNHRA on states when they accept federal funds--in this case, Medicaid funds--and the federal government can enforce those conditions by withholding federal funds. The conditions are different than an ordinary federal regulatory requirement, enacted under one of Congress's regulatory powers (like the Commerce Clause), because states that object to the conditions can opt out by declining federal funds.)

The home argued that individual plaintiffs could never sue under Section 1983 to enforce rights under conditioned-spending programs. The argument went like this: conditioned-spending programs are like contracts between the federal government and a state; an individual protected by anything in a conditioned-spending program is a third-party to the contract; and common law at the time of the adoption of Section 1983 did not allow third parties to sue to enforce contractual provisions.

The Court flatly rejected this argument. The Court said that the common law was ambiguous on this point, that a plaintiff's suit was more like a tort (not a third-party enforcement of a contract), and that Court precedent long recognized that individuals could sue to enforce rights in conditioned-spending programs.

The Court went on to apply that precedent and say that the FNHRA unambiguously conferred individual rights, and that nothing in the statute precluded private enforcement of those rights.

Justice Jackson wrote the majority opinion, joined by all but Justices Thomas and Alito. Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurrence arguing that these cases may raise anti-commandeering problems--an issue for another day. Justice Barrett wrote a concurrence, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, emphasizing that the standard for individual enforcement of rights in spending-power legislation is high.

Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that Congress's spending authority is much narrower than the Court has acknowledged, and that it doesn't include a regulatory power (including power to authorize individual lawsuits to enforce rights in conditioned-spending programs). Justice Alito also dissented, joined by Justice Thomas, arguing that the remedial scheme in the FNHRA forecloses any individual cause of action to enforce the rights in the Act.

June 8, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Spending Clause | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Court Halts Florida's Ban on Transgender Care for Minors

A federal district court this week preliminarily enjoined Florida officials from enforcing the state's ban on medical care for transgender minors against the three plaintiffs and their healthcare providers.

The court in Doe v. Ladapo held that the ban likely violated equal protection and the right to parent. In short, it said that Florida had no good reason for the ban, especially in light of the overwhelming medical evidence supporting treatment, and that its stated purposes were plainly pretextual.

The ruling follows Brandt ex rel. Brandt v. Rutledge, a ruling from the Eighth Circuit and the only circuit court ruling on the issue.

June 7, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Equal Protection, Family, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Says NLRA Doesn't Preempt Employer's State Lawsuit Against Union

The Supreme Court ruled last week that the National Labor Relations Act didn't preempt an employer's state lawsuit against a union for damages resulting from a strike. The ruling is a blow to employees' right to strike under the NLRA and the role of the National Labor Relations Board in determining the scope of that right.

The case, Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. Teamsters, arose when employees of Glacier, a cement company, began a strike when they were slated to deliver cement. Because wet cement dries quickly, Glacier had to figure out how to save or dispose of cement already in the trucks, and what to do to protect its trucks.

Glacier sued the union in state court for lost cement, but the union argued that the employees' right to strike in the NLRA preempted the suit. The state supreme court sided with the union, and Glacier took the case to the Court.

The Court, in an 8-1 ruling by Justice Barrett, reversed. The Court ruled that the right to strike in the NLRA was a qualified (not absolute) right, and, citing NLRB precedent, that it didn't protect workers who failed to take "reasonable precautions" to protect the employer's property. The Court acknowledged that under Court precedent the NLRB preempts state law even when the two only arguably conflict--Garmon preemption, after San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon--but it held that the union's strike wasn't even arguably protected, because the employees so clearly failed to take "reasonable precautions" to protect Glacier's property (at least on Glacier's complaint, as this was all on the pleadings).

The ruling allows Glacier's case to move forward in the state courts.

Still, there may be a hitch. That's because after the state supreme court ruled, the NLRB general counsel filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the NLRB on behalf of Glacier's employees. The complaint alleged that Glacier violated the employee's right to strike under the NLRA. The NLRB hasn't yet ruled on the complaint. But if it concludes that Glacier violated the employees' right to strike, any state court ruling for Glacier would conflict, and under ordinary conflict preemption, the state case would have to be dismissed. (The NLRB could conclude that the employees have a right to strike, even though the Supreme Court said the opposite, because the NLRB will conduct a full adversarial hearing on the evidence, while the Court ruled only on Glacier's complaint.)

Justice Thomas concurred, joined by Justice Gorsuch, and argued that the Court should reconsider Garmon preemption in an appropriate case. Justice Alito also concurred, joined by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, arguing that the case was even easier than the majority said, because the employees intentionally damaged Glacier's property.

Justice Jackson filed a lone dissent. She argued that the Court had no business hearing the case until the NLRB ruled on the complaint (because that's how Garmon preemption is supposed to work, and a ruling for the employees would mean that the NLRA and state tort liability would at least arguably conflict), and that in any event the Court misapplied the "reasonable precaution" rule.

June 7, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Federalism, News, Opinion Analysis, Preemption | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Court Curtails EPA Authority Under Clean Water Act

The Supreme Court today curtailed EPA's authority to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The sharply divided ruling is a victory for property owners and a blow to federal regulatory authority over certain wetlands.

The case, Sackett v. EPA, tested whether and how EPA could regulate wetlands that aren't connected on the surface to "waters of the United States." Five justices said that EPA could only regulate wetlands that are connected on the surface to "waters of the United States." (Two of the five would've limited the Act even further, so that EPA couldn't regulate any wetlands, unless they were actually navigable waters of the United States.) Four justices disagreed and argued that the CWA authorized EPA to regulate wetlands that were connected to waters of the United States, even if that connection wasn't on the surface.

All nine agreed that the lower court applied the wrong test.

The CWA prohibits the discharge of pollutants into "navigable waters," defined as "the waters of the United States" and waters that are "adjacent" to them. EPA regulations provide that "adjacent wetlands are covered by the Act if they 'possess a "significant nexus" to' traditional navigable waters." This means that wetlands are "adjacent" when they "neighbor" covered waters, even if the wetlands and the covered waters are separated by dry land.

The plaintiffs, Michael and Chantell Sackett argued that EPA's regulation violated the CWA when EPA ordered them "to restore the Site," including wetlands, after they backfilled their property to build a home.

The Court ruled for the Sacketts and agreed that EPA's regulation violated the CWA. The court held that the CWA authorizes EPA to regulate only those wetlands that are "as a practical matter indistinguishable from waters of the United States," such that it is "difficult to determine where the 'water' ends and the 'wetland' begins." This means that the CWA covers only those wetlands that have "a continuous surface connection to bodies that are 'waters of the United States' in their own right, so that there is no clear demarcation between 'waters' and wetlands." 

The Court said that EPA needs "clear [statutory] language" if it seeks "to significantly alter the balance between federal and state power and the power of the Government over private property." The Court said that the CWA (even its use of "adjacent") didn't provide this clear authority. The Court also said that EPA's interpretation "gives rise to serious vagueness concerns in light of the CWA's criminal penalties," because the EPA's interpretation may not define the statute "with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited" and "in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement."

Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Gorsuch, argued that the CWA is even narrower, extending only to actually navigable waters of the United States--those that are "capable of being used as a highly for interstate or foreign commerce." Under this approach, the CWA probably wouldn't apply to any wetlands. He tied this standard to Congress's Commerce Clause power, and then took aim at the Court's Commerce Clause jurisprudence, arguing that today it "significantly depart[s] from the original meaning of the Constitution."

Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Kavanaugh, and Jackson argued (in separate concurrences) that the Court's approach erroneously narrowed the CWA. They argued that "adjacent" waters under the CWA include not just "adjoining" wetlands (as the majority would have it) but also "wetlands separated from a covered water only by a man-made dike or barrier, natural river, berm, beach dune, or the like." Justice Kavanaugh (joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson) argued for this more expansive reading. Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Jackson, went further, arguing that the Court erred in creating and applying the plain statement rule and that the Court (once again) mangled an environmental statute in order to achieve its preferred policy objectives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 25, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, Congressional Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

County Violates Takings by Keeping Property Surplus Over Tax Arrears

The Supreme Court ruled today that a county violates the Takings Clause when it seizes and sells property for taxes due, but retains the surplus value above the outstanding tax bill. The ruling means that Hennepin County, Minnesota, owes property owner Geraldine Tyler the $25,000 surplus that it retained after satisfying her overdue tax bill.

The case, Tyler v. Hennepin County, arose when the County seized and sold Tyler's property after she failed to pay $15,000 in taxes. The County sold the property for $40,000 and kept the extra $25,000. Tyler sued, arguing that the County violated the Takings Clause.

A unanimous Court agreed. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that history and precedent both say that the government can't take more than it's owed, and that a taxpayer is entitled to the surplus.

Justice Gorsuch wrote a concurrence, joined by Justice Jackson, arguing that the lower courts also erred in dismissing Tyler's Eighth Amendment Excessive Fines Clause claim.

May 25, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis, Takings Clause | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Supreme Court Dodges Thorny Section 230 Issue

The Supreme Court today dodged a claim that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protected Google from liability for recommending terrorist videos on its YouTube platform. At the same time, the Court said that Twitter wasn't liable for terrorist content on its platform under a federal law that creates liability for aiding and abetting terrorism.

The two cases--Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh--arose when victims of terrorist attacks sued the platforms for allowing ISIS to post videos, and thus recruit members for terrorist activities. The plaintiffs in both cases claimed that the platforms aided and abetted terrorist activities in violation of federal law. Google countered that Section 230 shielded it from liability. (Section 230 says that "[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information by another information content provider.")

The Court ruled in Taamneh that Twitter did not "aid and abet" terrorist activities under federal law simply by allowing ISIS material on its platform. Because the plaintiffs' claims in Gonzalez were similar, the Court didn't reach Google's Section 230 defense; instead, the Court remanded the case for determination of liability in the first place in light of Taamneh.

As a result, we don't have a ruling on Section 230's application to interactive online platforms. The issue in Gonzalez was whether FaceBook acted simply as a neutral platform for third-party posts (in which case Section 230 would provide protection) or instead whether it added its own value to third-party content through its search-engine algorithms, recommendations, and other features (in which case Section 230 might not provide protection).

Lower courts have generally granted broad immunity to websites under Section 230. The lower court in Gonzalez relied on a common "neutral tools" test, which says that a website's algorithm that uses "neutral" sorting criteria for recommendations means that the website is simply publishing third-party content (and not transforming that content into its own communication), and thus gets Section 230 immunity.

The fact that the Court granted cert. in Gonzalez--on the Section 230 issue--suggested that it might have something significant to say. But at the same time, Taamneh always provided an off-ramp. In today's rulings, the Court took it.

May 18, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Overdetention is One Thing; Getting Judicial Relief is Quite Another

The Fifth Circuit acknowledged yesterday that detaining a prisoner beyond their release date is a classic violation of due process. But it said that a prisoner's claim was barred by qualified immunity. This, despite a recent DOJ report finding "systemic overdetentions" by the Department and Department "deliberate indifference to the systemic overdetentions."

The case, Taylor v. LeBlanc, arose when the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections "overdetained" prisoner Percy Taylor. According to the court, "Department officials gave him credit for time served in pre-trial detention, but only for one (rather than both) of his two consecutive sentences." As a result, Taylor spent more than a year (a year!) longer in prison than he should have.

Taylor sued the Department secretary (LeBlanc), arguing that LeBlanc should have delegated authority to calculate release dates to an attorney, not to the non-attorney officials who misread the release-date law, and that LeBlanc's failure to do so was objectively unreasonable.

The court disagreed. It wrote that "Taylor does not point to anything that suggests the Constitution requires these determinations be made by attorneys." Taylor gets qualified immunity; case dismissed.

May 17, 2023 in Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis, Procedural Due Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 6, 2023

South Carolina Supremes Strike Six-Week Abortion Ban Under State Constitution

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the state's ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy violated the state constitution's right to privacy.

In doing so, the court broke with the historical approach that the Supreme Court used last summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, when it overturned Roe v. Wade. The Court in Dobbs used only history before and leading up to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment didn't protect a right to abortion, whereas the South Carolina Supreme Court also considered the place of women in political society at the time of the adoption of the provision at issue and events that have "transpired since the amendment was adopted."

The court based the ruling on Article I, Section 10, of the South Carolina Constitution, which says: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and unreasonable invasions of privacy shall not be violated." The provision sounds like the Fourth Amendment, with the addition of a specific right to privacy. But the court rejected a reading that would've limited the privacy part to government searches and seizures; it said that the privacy part wouldn't be doing any work if it were so limited, and that it therefore must grant a more general right to privacy.

The court also rejected a reading of the provision that depended on what the provision's framers thought at the time of adoption in the mid-1960s, given that women weren't included in the framing committee and given that the state "had neither permitted women to serve on juries in this state nor ratified the Nineteenth Amendment."

The court then wrote that "[w]e cannot relegate our role of declaring whether a legislative act is constitutional by blinding ourselves to everything that has transpired since the amendment was adopted." It said the Court specifically "declined to do so in the context of 'separate but equal' education in Brown v. Board of Education, then quoted this passage:

[W]e cannot turn the clock back to 1868 when the Amendment was adopted, or even to 1896 when Plessy v. Ferguson was written. We must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation. Only in this way can it be determined if segregation in public schools deprives these plaintiffs of the equal protection of the laws.

The approach is a notable break from the Supreme Court's historical approach in Dobbs, when it considered history only before and leading up to the Fourteenth Amendment, and certainly not "everything that has transpired since the amendment was adopted." The South Carolina Supreme Court put a fine point on this break by noting that the Court itself didn't limit its historical assessment to pre-Fourteenth Amendment history in other unenumerated-fundamental-rights cases like Loving, Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.

January 6, 2023 in Abortion, Cases and Case Materials, Fourteenth Amendment, Fundamental Rights, News, Opinion Analysis | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

SCOTUS Stays District Court Title 42 Ruling, Sets State Intervention for Argument

The Supreme Court stayed a district court ruling that vacated the Trump Administration's Title 42 policy and set states' motion for intervention in the case for oral argument in the February sitting.

The ruling means that the Title 42 policy can stay in place, and that the Court will rule later this year whether twelve states led by Republican attorneys general can intervene in the case on the merits.

We last posted here.

The case arises out of the Trump Administration's Title 42 policy, which turned away immigrants--including immigrants who were entitled to apply for asylum--because the Administration determined under federal law that immigration posed a "serious danger" of "introduc[ing]" a "communicable disease." A district court ruled the policy invalid, however, and halted it. States then moved to intervene, arguing that the Biden Administration wouldn't sufficiently defend it on appeal. (The Biden Administration, in fact, is appealing the district court ruling. But it also moved to halt the policy earlier this year, saying that it's no longer justified. In other words, the government is saying that the Trump Administration had authority to implement Title 42 in the first place, and that it has authority to revoke it now that it's no longer necessary and justified. The states take all this as evidence that the Biden Administration won't sufficient defend the policy on appeal.) But they moved quite late, and the D.C. Circuit rejected their motion. They then applied to the Supreme Court for expedited review of the D.C. Circuit's denial, and a stay of the district court's ruling striking the policy.

The Court granted both requests. It stayed the district court's ruling (which allows Title 42 to remain in place) and set the states' motion for intervention for oral argument in its February sitting. The Court ordered the parties to brief this single question: Whether the State applicants may intervene to challenge the District Court's summary judgment order.

Justices Sotomayor and Kagan noted without comment that they'd deny the application. Justice Gorsuch dissented, joined by Justice Jackson, arguing that the Court need not, and should not, get involved in this dispute, at least on an expedited basis. He wrote that there's no rush to determine whether the states can intervene in this dispute over a policy that everyone agrees has "outlived its shelf life" (because it's no longer justified by COVID).

The Court's ruling specifically says that it "does not prevent the federal government from taking any action with respect to [the Title 42 policy]." But another case does, at least for now: A different federal district court ruled in an entirely different case that the Biden Administration's revocation of the Title 42 policy was unlawful. The Administration appealed that ruling to the Fifth Circuit (where the case is pending). In the meantime, the Administration considers itself barred from revoking Title 42.

All this means that Title 42 remains in place, even though everyone seems to agree that it's no longer justified by COVID.

December 28, 2022 in Cases and Case Materials, Executive Authority, News, Opinion Analysis, Separation of Powers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Kentucky Supremes Strike State Private-School Funding Program

The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled this week that a state private-school funding program violated the state constitution. The ruling ends the program, unless and until state voters approve it in a ballot initiative.

The program created a nearly dollar-for-dollar tax credit for Kentucky taxpayers (individuals and corporations) who contribute to account-granting organizations (AGOs). AGOs then allocate taxpayer contributions to education opportunity accounts (EOAs) for eligible students. Students can use EOAs for qualifying educational expenses, including public school tuition, tutoring services, textbooks and instructional materials, and the like. In the eight state counties with more than 90,000 residents, students can use EOAs for private-school tuition. The court described the program more simply:

In simple terms, taxpayers, whether individuals or business entities, who otherwise owe state income tax can instead send that money to nonpublic schools via an AGO, reducing their tax liability and the state coffers by a corresponding amount. As the circuit court correctly observed, the legislation "allows this favored group of taxpayers to re-direct the income taxes they owe to the state to private AGOs, and thereby eliminate their income tax liability." This diversion of owed tax liability monies is made possible by the significant amount of state resources employed to create and operate the EOA program.

Kentucky's high court ruled that the program violated Section 184 of the state constitution. That provision says that state public-school (or "common school") funds can be used only for public-school education, unless Kentuckians vote otherwise. It reads,

The interest and dividends of said [common school] fund, together with any sum which may be produced by taxation or otherwise for purposes of common school education, shall be appropriated to the common schools, and to no other purpose. No sum shall be raised or collected for education other than in common schools until the question of taxation is submitted to the legal voters, and the majority of the votes cast at said election shall be in favor of such taxation. . . .

The court said that the program violated the plain terms of the Section by diverting public funds to private-school education.

The court noted that state voters could approve the program, pursuant to the terms of Section 184. If so, the program could come back. For now, though, the ruling ends the program.

 

 

 

December 17, 2022 in Cases and Case Materials, News, Opinion Analysis, State Constitutional Law | Permalink | Comments (0)