Monday, February 25, 2019
Judge Dabney L. Friedrich (D.D.C.) denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction in their challenge to ATF's new rule banning bump-stocks. The ruling in Guedes v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives means that the ban can go into effect as the case moves forward; it also telegraphs that the plaintiffs don't have a strong legal case, or really any legal case, against the rule.
We posted on the complaint here, with some background. (The ATF rule defines a standard bump stock as a "machinegun" under the National Firearms Act. Under the rule, effective March 26, 2019, current possessors of bump stocks must either destroy them or abandon them at an ATF office.)
Judge Friedrich ruled that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed on the merits of their claims. In particular, the court held that the NFA contained ambiguous terms (key parts of the definition of "machinegun," "single function of the trigger" and "automatically," are not separately defined), and under Chevron the ATF could define "machinegun" for itself. Moreover, the court said that the ATF didn't violate any procedure under the Administrative Procedure Act in adopting the reg. The court held that the plaintiffs' Takings Clause challenge should await future government compensation, instead of a preliminary injunction. And the court rejected the plaintiffs' statutory and constitutional challenges to Acting AG Whitaker's appointment:
The plain text and structure of [the AG Act and the Federal Vacancies Reform Act], however, demonstrate that they were intended to coexist: the AG Act provides a line of succession, and the FVRA gives the President discretion to depart from that line, subject to certain limitations met here.
As a constitutional matter, the plaintiffs argue that the Appointments Clause generally requires an acting principal officer to be either the principal officer's first assistant or appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. But that theory is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent and historical practice, both of which have long approved temporary service by non-Senate confirmed officials, irrespective of their status as first assistants.
Separately, the plaintiffs argue that the Appointments Clause at a minimum requires the role of an acting principal officer to be filled by an inferior officer and not a mere employee. . . . Whitaker's designation under the FVRA was a Presidential appointment. And if the temporary nature of Whitaker's service prevented him from becoming an officer, then the President was not constitutionally obligated to appoint him at all.
Monday, September 26, 2016
The United States Supreme Court hears only small fraction of cases: The Court hears about 80 cases a year, of the approximately 8,000 requests for review filed with the Court each year, flowing from the approximately 60, 000 circuit court of appeals decisions and many more thousands of state appellate court opinions. And of this small fraction, generally about half involve constitutional issues, including constitutional criminal procedure issues.
Not surprisingly then, with the new Term starting October 3, the traditional first Monday in October, there are only a handful of constitutional law cases included among the less than 30 the Court has already accepted.
The Court is set to hear two racial gerrymandering cases, both of which involve the tensions between the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause with underlying political contentions that Republican state legislators acted to reduce the strength of Black voters; both are appeals from divided opinions from three-judge courts. In Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, the challenge is to the three-judge court’s decision and order holding that a number of Virginia House of Delegates districts did not constitute unlawful racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Virginia concededly did consider race in the redistricting, but the more precise issue is an interpretation under current doctrine regarding whether race was the predominant (and thus unconstitutional) consideration. The three-judge lower court is faulted for requiring an “actual” conflict between the traditional redistricting criteria and race. The petitioners argue that “where a legislature intentionally assigns voters to districts according to a fixed, nonnegotiable racial threshold, “strict scrutiny cannot be avoided simply by demonstrating that the shape and location of the districts can rationally be explained by reference to some districting principle other than race.” If it were other-wise, they argue, even the most egregious race-based districting schemes would escape constitutional scrutiny. In McCrory v. Harris, a racial gerrymandering case involving North Carolina, the challenge is to a three-judge court’s decision finding a constitutional Equal Protection Clause violation. The plaintiff originally argued that the congressional map drawn by the NC Assembly in 2011 violated the Equal Protection Clause in two districts by making race a predominant factor and by not narrowly tailoring the districts to any compelling interest. North Carolina argues that the conclusion of racial predominance is incorrect and that it need not show that racial considerations were “actually necessary” as opposed to “having good reasons” under the Voting Rights Act. The North Carolina districts have been long controversial; a good timeline is here.
In another Equal Protection Clause case, the classification is sex rather than race. In Lynch v. Morales-Santana, the underlying problem is differential requirements regarding US presence for unwed fathers and unwed mothers to transmit citizenship to their child; the Second Circuit held that the sex discrimination was unconstitutional, subjecting it to intermediate scrutiny under equal protection as included in the Fifth Amendment. The United States argues that because the context is citizenship, only rational basis scrutiny is appropriate. This issue has been before the Court before. The last time was 2011 in Flores-Villar v. United States when the Court's per curiam affirmance by an "equally divided Court" upheld the Ninth Circuit’s finding that the differential residency requirement satisfied equal protection. In Flores-Villar, Kagan was recused. The Court hearing Morales-Santana, scheduled for oral argument November 9, will also seemingly be only eight Justices, but this time including Kagan.
Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo. v. Pauley also includes an Equal Protection issue, but the major tension is between the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the First Amendment and principles of anti-Establishment of Religion. Like several other states, Missouri has a so-called Blaine Amendment in its state constitution which prohibits any state monies being used in aid of any religious entity. It is concededly more expansive/restrictive than the US Constitution’s Establishment Clause in the First Amendment as the United States Supreme Court has interpreted it. Missouri had a program for state funds to be awarded to resurface playgrounds with used tires; the state denied the Trinity Lutheran Church preschool’s application based on the state constitutional provision. Trinity Lutheran argues that the Blaine Amendment violates both the Free Exercise Clause and the Equal Protection Clause, with the Eighth Circuit siding with the state of Missouri.
There are also several cases involving the criminal procedure protections in the Constitution. Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado involves a claim of racial bias on a jury in a criminal case. The Colorado Supreme Court resolved the tension between the “secrecy of jury deliberations” and the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury in favor of the former interest. The court found that the state evidence rule, 606(B) (similar to the federal rule), prohibiting juror testimony with some exceptions was not unconstitutional applied to exclude evidence of racial bias on the part of a juror. Bravo-Fernandez v. United States involves the protection against “double jeopardy” and the effect of a vacated (unconstitutional) conviction. It will be argued in the first week of October. Moore v. Texas is based on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, with specific attention to capital punishment and the execution of the mentally disabled. In short: what are the proper standards for states to make a determination of mental disability?
Finally - - - at least for now - - - the Court will also be hearing a constitutional property dispute. Murr v. Wisconsin involves the Fifth Amendment’s “Taking Clause,” providing that private property cannot be “taken” for public use without just compensation. At issue in Murr is regulatory taking. The Court granted certiorari to a Wisconsin appellate court decision regarding two parcels of land that the Murrs owned since 1995; one lot had previously been owned by their parents. Under state and local law, the two lots merged. The Murrs sought a variance to sell off one of the lots as a buildable lot, which was denied. The Murrs now claim that the denial of the variance is an unconstitutional regulatory taking. The Wisconsin courts viewed the two lots as the “property” and concluded that there was no regulatory taking.
We will be updating this post as the Court adds more cases to its docket.
UPDATE September 29, 2016: The Court granted certiorari to two important First Amendment cases.
September 26, 2016 in Cases and Case Materials, Courts and Judging, Criminal Procedure, Current Affairs, Elections and Voting, Equal Protection, Federalism, First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, Race, Religion, Sixth Amendment, Takings Clause | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
The issue of a federal regulatory scheme of raisins returned to the United States Supreme Court for another round of oral arguments today in Horne v. Department of Agriculture.
Recall that in a brief opinion in June 2013, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit and held that the Hornes did state a claim for regulatory taking. The claim arises from a regulatory program under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) of 1937, as amended, 7 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., that mandates that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year. By resisting the program, the Hornes have become "outlaws" or heroes of sorts.
While the Hornes continue to argue that the program constitutes a taking, in today's oral argument Michael McConnell representing the Hornes pressed the issue of the taking as a per se one rather than a regulatory one because the Department of Agriculture takes possession and title of the raisins.
The Deputy Solicitor General, Edwin Kneedler, rejected the Chief Justice's humorous suggestion that government would "come up with the truck and you get the shovels and you take their raisins, probably in the dark of night," by insisting that under the Order, the producer submits the raisins to the handler who divides them into two categories. The reserve raisins are separated for later sale, the proceeds of which are pooled and distributed back to the producers. However, Kneedler did admit that one can assume that the government committee takes title in order to sell the raisins.
There were also questions of even if there was a taking whether any "just compensation" was due. In other words, what if the government taking resulted in no loss - - - or even a benefit - - - to the Hornes?
But the Justices seemed bothered by the program, with Justice Scalia expressing this discomfort most blatantly: "Central planning was thought to work very well in 1937, and Russia tried it for a long time." Perhaps the program - - - and the 8 or 10 or maybe more programs that are similar - - - is simply a relic of another time.
However, as Justice Kagan made clear, whether the program was sensible or ridiculous was not for the Court to decide and, she implied, irrelevant to the taking analysis.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
In its opinion in Wilkins v. Daniels, a panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district judge and affirmed the constitutionality of the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animals and Restricted Snakes Act, which became effective January 1, 2014. The Act prohibits possession of dangerous wild animals - - - including tigers, lions, bears, alligators, and pythons 12 feet or longer - - - without a permit. The permit requirements include the implantation of a microchip under the animal's skin. The Act includes an exemption for individuals accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) or the Zoological Association of America (ZAA).
The exemption in the Act's scheme and the "chipping" requirement give rise to the constitutional challenges.
First, and perhaps most creatively, the challengers argued that the exemption for "individuals accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) or the Zoological Association of America (ZAA)" constituted compelled speech prohibited by the First Amendment. This compelled speech argument had two "distinct but interrelated" parts: a compelled association claim because the Act "forces" them to join either the AZA or ZAA and a compelled speech claim because the Act requires them to "subsidize the speech of their purely private political and ideological rivals,” the AZA or ZAA.
The panel briefly and accurately set out the doctrine and classic First Amendment cases, but the court's analysis is digestable to its conclusion that there was no compulsion, by association or subsidy: "There are fifteen ways appellants can comply with the Act: the permitting requirement and fourteen exemptions." As the panel concluded, "[m]ere unwillingness to conform their conduct to the permitting requirements or the other thirteen exemptions does not mean that the Act compels appellants to join the AZA or ZAA."
Second, the challengers argued that microchipping requirement violated the Takings Clause. The panel found the challenge not ripe because there was no pursuit of state compensation. But, on the merits, the panel found that there was not a taking, stressing the physical taking (rather than the regulatory taking) aspect that seemed to be the central argument. The court analogized to other types of "property," accepting the State's argument that if the Act’s microchipping requirement to be ruled a taking, “laws requiring license plates on cars, warning labels on packaging, lighting on boats, handrails in apartment buildings, and ramps leading to restaurants” would be suspect.
The court rejected these constitutional challenges that, while innovative, seemed to have little support in the doctrine. The arguments also had little political appeal - - - the court notes in its opinion that the Ohio Act was prompted by an incident in which "an Ohio man released over fifty exotic animals before committing suicide."
Friday, August 9, 2013
NPR's "All Things Considered" today featured a segment on "The Raisin Outlaw of Kerman, California," none other than Marvin Horne, of Horne v. Department of Agriculture, decided by the Court in June. Recall that the Court, in a unanimous opinion, reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the Hornes did not state a claim for a regulatory taking. At issue are marketing orders promulgated by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) of 1937, as amended, 7 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., that mandate that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year - - - this fluctuates yearly and by controlling raisins on the market is a means of indirectly controlling prices.
As NPR phrases it, "For not agreeing to participate in behavior that in many other industries would be considered collusion, the federal government sued the Hornes for hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncollected raisins and fines." (emphasis in original).
For anyone following takings clause doctrine (or agricultural matters and food law), this is worth a listen.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
A sharply divided Supreme Court (5-4) today ruled in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District that a government's demand for a monetary exaction from a property owner as a condition of receiving a development permit is subject to the unconstitutional conditions doctrine in Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n and Dolan v. City of Tigard and the Takings Clause.
The ruling means that a local government cannot require a property owner to pay money in exchange for a building permit unless there is a "nexus" and "rough proportionality" between the government's demand and the effects of the proposed land use. This is an expansion of the Nollan/Dolan doctrine that creates likely heightened judicial scrutiny of local land-use regulations and fees. Although it's not clear exactly how far this expansion extends--and whether these claims, like Koontz's, would ever be successful--the ruling restricts local governments in the way they create conditions for land-use permits and is therefore a likely victory for property owners.
Nollan and Dolan say that when the government demands a property exaction in exchange for a land-use permit, there must be a "nexus" and "rough proportionality" between the exaction and the proposed land use. If there's no "nexus" and "rough proportionality," then the condition is a government taking, and, under the Takings Clause, the government owes just compensation. The cases represent a version of the unconstitutional conditions doctrine, because they're designed to protect against the government exacting unreasonable conditions in exchange for land-use permits, without paying just compensation for those unreasonable exactions, in violation of the Takings Clause. ("Nexus" and "rough proportionality" protect against government coercion of a property owner, by imposing unreasonable government exactions, unrelated to the property development.)
Those cases were relevant here, because Koontz sought to develop his land in Florida, but the District said it wouldn't grant a permit until Koontz (1) deeded to the District a conservation easement on his property or (2) hired contractors to make imrpovements to District-owned wetlands several miles away.
The Court ruled that Nollan/Dolan applied to both conditions. The Court ruled 5-4 that the Nollan/Dolan rule applied to monetary exactions (the second alternative condition), because, the Court said, monetary exactions implicate the central concern of those cases: the risk that the government might use its power in land-use permitting exact an unreasonable sum of money from a property owner that doesn't have anything to do with the proposed development. Justice Alito wrote for the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas.
The dissent argued that this holding "runs roughshod over Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel" and "threatens to subject a vast array of land-use regulations, applied daily in States and localities throughout the country, to heightened constitutional scrutiny." Justice Kagan wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor.
(The dissent also argued that the case could be disposed of around Nollan/Dolan, because (1) "the District never demanded that Koontz give up anything (including money) as a condition for granting him a permit" and (2) "no actual taking occurred," leaving Koontz just a state-law basis for monetary damages, but the dissenters "cannot see how, and so would spare the Florida courts.")
All nine Justices agreed, however, that the Nollan/Dolan rule applied to the first alternative condition. The question here was whether that rule applied where, as here, the government demands a condition before it approves a permit (rather than denying a permit for failure to meet the condition). All nine said yes. But because the government didn't take anything--it simply declined to grant a permit until a condition was satisfied--the property owner cannot get just compensation (although he might be entitled to monetary relief under state law).
The Court remanded the case to the Florida Supreme Court for a determination whether Koontz is entitled to any monetary relief under state law. If the dissent is right, this is a futile effort.
Monday, June 10, 2013
In a relatively brief opinion in Horne v. Department of Agriculture by Justice Thomas writing for a unanimous Court, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the Hornes did not state a claim for a regulatory taking.
Recall that the Hornes are involved in the raisin business and the Ninth Circuit had upheld a regulatory scheme that mandates that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year - - - this fluctuates yearly and by controlling raisins on the market is a means of indirectly controlling prices.
The precise nature of the Hornes' involvement in the raisin business - - - whether they are handlers or producers - - - is important to the controversy. But, the Supreme Court held, not as important as the Ninth Circuit ruled. Instead, the Court held that
The Ninth Circuit confused petitioners’ statutory argument (i.e., “we are producers, not handlers”) with their constitutional argument (i.e., “assuming we are handlers, fining us for refusing to turn over reserve-tonnage raisins violates the Fifth Amendment”).
Thus, the Ninth Circuit should have reached the merits of the Takings Clause claim.
Moreover, the argument that the Hornes' claim was not ripe was also incorrect. They were subject to enforcement proceedings and they are free to raise their Takings Clause defense before the USDA and the courts.
Although a somewhat technical decision sounding in "jurisdiction," the Court has opened the way for a regulatory Takings Clause claim against an agricultural scheme seeking to control prices and supply.
[image of raisin via]
Friday, February 1, 2013
As Grand Central Station celebrates its centennial today, there are many celebrations and discussions, including this excellent one from "Transportation Nation" being aired on some NPR stations, including NYC:
The case to which the report refers is Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978), a staple of modern takings clause doctrine and theory. The owner of Grand Central - - - confusingly it was Penn Central - - - wanted relief from the NYC landmarks law which prevented the building of a large office building over Grand Central because it would destroy the historic and aesthetic features of the Grand Central. The United States Supreme Court rejected the takings argument. Writing for the Court, Justice Brennan noted that "the submission that appellants may establish a "taking" simply by showing that they have been denied the ability to exploit a property interest that they heretofore had believed was available for development is quite simply untenable." The opinion continued:
"Taking" jurisprudence does not divide a single parcel into discrete segments and attempt to determine whether rights in a particular segment have been entirely abrogated. In deciding whether a particular governmental action ha effected a taking, this Court focuses rather both on the character of the action and on the nature and extent of the interference with rights in the parcel as a whole.
Of course, the Court would vacillate from between this whole vs. fractional approach in subsequent cases, but the most recent takings cases seem to confirm Brennan's view.
For a trenchant discussion of the current state of "air rights" and takings doctrine, take a look at LawProf Troy Rule's Airspace and the Takings Clause, forthcoming in Washington University Law Review, and available in draft on ssrn.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
A unanimous Supreme Court (with Justice Kagan recused) ruled today in Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. U.S. that government temporary flooding may constitute a taking. The ruling is not particularly surprising and only reversed and remanded a lower court decision that read precedent to give temporary floods a pass under the Takings Clause. Justice Ginsburg wrote for the Court that temporary floods get no such pass and may well constitute a taking, depending on a number of well-settled factors.
We covered the oral argument here.
The case arose out of the Army Corps of Engineer's varying water release rates from the Clearwater Dam, upstream from the Commission's Management Area. The release rates caused a series of temporary floods in the Management Area during key tree-growing season, thus harming certain tree species and the wildlife that they supported. The Commission sued, arguing that the floods constituted a taking. The Federal Circuit read Supreme Court precedent to say that temporary floods (as opposed to permanent ones) were categorically exempt from the Takings Clause.
The Supreme Court reversed. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the Federal Circuit misread Court precedent and that even temporary floods could constitute a taking. How do we know when?
When regulation or temporary physical invasion by government interferes with private property, our decisions recognize, time is indeed a factor in determining the existence vel non of a compensable taking. . . .
Also relevant to the takings inquiry is the degree to which the invasion is intended or is the foreseeable result of authorized government action. So, too, are the character of the land at issue and the owner's "reasonable investment-backed expectations" regarding the land's use. . . . Severity of the interference figures in the calculus as well.
Op at 14-15.
The Court sent the case back to the Federal Circuit to take a crack at applying these factors.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Just when it seems as if the "takings clause revolution" is over, it re-emerges. This time, the property is not a "little pink house," but raisins.
The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Horne v. USDA. As we discussed last year, the Ninth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of a USDA regulatory scheme regarding raisins against a takings clause challenge. The central requirement at issue mandates that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year - - - this fluctuates yearly and by controlling raisins on the market is a means of indirectly controlling prices. The Hornes argued that "the requirement that they contribute a specified percentage of their annual raisin crop to the government-controlled reserve pool constitutes an uncompensated per se taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment."
Friday, October 5, 2012
Oral argument this week in Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States revealed little certainty in the test—much less the result—in a Takings Clause claim when the government releases water from an upstream dam, temporarily flooding and damaging downstream property. Even after a barrage of probing questions and hypotheticals, the parties struggled to convey a clear test that would yield determinate results beyond this case. Still, it seemed that they both might agree that a strict formalistic test—judging a “permanent” flood a taking, but a “temporary” flood a non-taking—may not be the best choice. But as to any new test, and how it might apply in new cases, it seems, the best either party could say is: It depends.
The case arose out of a series of planned releases of water from the Clearwater Dam by the Army Corps of Engineers. These releases were deviations from the Corps’ operating plan for the Dam and were approved by a working group comprised of interested individuals and groups. The Arkansas Commission claimed that the releases caused annual temporary flooding on its property, the Dave Donaldson Black River Wildlife Management Area, 110 miles downstream from the Dam, which permanently damaged unique hardwood trees and the wildlife they support. The lower court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, ruled that the releases and the resulting floods did not amount to a taking, because they only produced temporary flooding, not permanent flooding.
It may not be a big surprise that the parties and justices struggled with a clear test, given the challenges in figuring out whether the government’s temporary release of water at a remote dam and the resulting flooding on downstream property effected the kind of taking that the Takings Clause is designed to address—especially when the releases were designed to protect other public interests at and around the Dam. The problem is that a temporary flood looks a little like a nonintrusive trespass—maybe like, as Justice Breyer asked, a Department of Interior employee trampling paths on private land (on the one hand)—and a little like a physical invasion by the government that causes permanent damage (on the other). If the former, it looks less like a taking (and more like a trespass); if the latter, it looks more like a taking. Another problem: the releases 115 miles upstream from the Management Area may not have been the direct cause of its flooding, that is, there may have been other, contributing causes. And we don’t know what’s the relevant baseline for comparison: The water level in the Management Area before the Dam was constructed? The water level after the Dam was constructed, under the normal water release plan? The water level based on the deviations? Or some other baseline? Finally, temporary flooding doesn’t necessarily result in long-term damage or deprivation or property (because the water might simply recede); permanent flooding does. All these problems were on full display at the argument this week.
The lower court navigated these issues in a categorical way, saying that permanent floods are takings while temporary floods are not—an easy answer, even if perhaps overly formalist, and one that the Federal Circuit said was rooted in precedent. In this case, said the lower court, the floods were temporary—no taking.
Arkansas disagreed. It argued that the test for determining whether a government flood is a taking should look to whether the government action is direct, predictable, and substantial—a totality-of-the-circumstances approach that looks to the facts. Arkansas said that the totality pointed to a taking here, but might not in other similar situations.
The government argued that the flooding and any resulting damages were too loosely related to the Corps’ releases. After all, the releases occurred 115 miles upstream—enough distance to allow any number of contributing and intervening acts to break the causal chain. In any event, according to the government, any flooding on the Management Area was just an incidental result of the Corps’ operation of the Dam. In other words, the Corps didn’t target the releases to flood the Management Area; instead, it designed the releases to serve other public interests, with the incidental effect of flooding.
On balance, the parties and the Court seemed to move beyond the lower court’s formalistic approach into a new, more holistic test based on the circumstances. But neither party could produce a coherent, workable test that could apply to this case and beyond.
One possibility is that the Court could craft a test based on the directness of the government action, the predictability of the action, or the substantial nature of the action, or some combination of those and even other factors, and remand for application. Another possibility: the Court could write its test and apply it. In any event, there weren’t enough strong signals from the justices to predict a result, but, on balance, the Court seemed to lean toward a taking.
Friday, September 14, 2012
A state judge has declared sections of the controversial 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 unconstitutional as violative of state constitutional provisions. This follows a federal district judge also declaring portions of Act 10 unconstitutional in March.
In today's 27 page opinion in Madison Teachers Inc. v. Walker by state judge Juan Colas rejected the challenges based on the state constitutional provision limiting special sessions and the takings clause, as well as arguments that the controversy was nonjusticiable.
However, the judge found Act 10 violated the free speech, free association, and equal protection state constitutional protections, construing them as consistent with federal interpretations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Much of the judge's reasoning stressed that Wisconsin did not come forward with any arguments. The judge also found that there was a violation of the Wisconsin constitutional provision guaranteeing Milwaukee home rule.
[image: protests of Act 10 via]
Monday, November 14, 2011
An interesting segment on NPR's Morning Edition comparing Ayn Rand's economic thoughts to pronouncements of current politicians. Rand is the author of the novels Atlas Shrugged (1957) and The Fountainhead (1943).
The highlight is a 1959 interview with Rand by Mike Wallace, who asks about the United States' political direction of "the gradual growth of social, protective legislation, based on the principle that we are our brothers' keepers."
These programs are destroying individual liberties, Rand says, especially the freedom of producers, entrepreneurs, businessmen. The government has no right to take their property, she says.
"I imagine that you're talking now about taxes," Wallace says. "And you believe that there should be no right by the government to tax. You believe that there should be no such thing as unemployment compensation, regulation during times of stress."
"That's right," Rand replies. "I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute, laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy."
A video of the interview is available in 3 parts; here's part 1:
While the usual constitutional law link might be Lochner, Rand's interview could prompt an interesting discussion of Commerce Clause, Takings Clause, or Taxing Clause, or Campaign Finance cases - - - and of course the Affordable Care Act (last discussed here).
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The raisins so prominent in morning cereal and children's snacks are "heavily regulated" agricultural commodities under marketing orders promulgated by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) under the authority of the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act (AMAA) of 1937, as amended, 7 U.S.C. § 601 et seq.
In its opinion in Horne v. USDA, the Ninth Circuit upheld the imposition of civil assessments under the regulations and upheld the constitutionality of the regulatory scheme. The central requirement at issue mandates that a certain percentage of a raisins be put in "reserve" each year - - - this fluctuates yearly and by controlling raisins on the market is a means of indirectly controlling prices.
The Hornes' administrative and statutory claim was that they had reorganized their raisin business and were no longer subject to the regulations because they were no longer "handlers" but only "producers."
Their major constitutional claim was that even if subject to the regulations, "the requirement that they contribute a specified percentage of their annual raisin crop to the government-controlled reserve pool constitutes an uncompensated per se taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment." They also claimed that the penalities imposed for their “self-help” noncompliance (caused by their reorganization in an attempt to escape from the regulations) violated the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause.
The Ninth Circuit panel opinion has an excellent rehearsal of regulatory takings doctrine, which clearly does not support the Hornes' claim. However, as the opinion notes,the Hornes claim that the Ransin Marketing Order is a physical taking because there is an annual “direct appropriation” of their reserve-tonnage raisins. The panel rejected this construction: "Though the simplicity of their logic has some understandable appeal—their raisins are personal property, personal property is protected by the Fifth Amendment, and each year the RAC “takes” some of their raisins, at least in the colloquial sense—their argument rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of property rights and instead clings to a phrase divorced from context."
Instead, as the panel reasoned,
the Raisin Marketing Order applies to the Hornes only insofar as they voluntarily choose to send their raisins into the stream of interstate commerce. Simply put, it is a use restriction, not a direct appropriation. The Secretary of Agriculture did not authorize a forced seizure of forty-seven percent of the Hornes’ 2002-03 crops and thirty percent of their 2003-04 crops, but rather imposed a condition on the Hornes’ use of their crops by regulating their sale.
The panel then cited a Ninth Circuit opinion from 1938 - - - Wallace v. Hudson-Duncan & Co., 98 F.2d 985 - - - rejecting a takings challenge to a reserve requirement under the walnut marketing order. The panel therefore joined the Court of Federal Claims, which not long ago decided the same question under the Raisin Marketing Order, Evans v. United States, 74 Fed. Cl. 554 (2006), aff’d, 250 Fed. Appx. 321 (Fed. Cir. 2007); in accord with a smiliar case rejecting a challenge to the reserve program under the almond marketing order, Cal-Almond, Inc. v. United States, 30 Fed. Cl. 244 (1994).
On the Eighth Amendment claim, the panel applied the test from United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321(1998), considering whether the assessment is imposed, at least in part, for punitive and not merely remedial purposes, and whether the fine is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the offense for which it is imposed. Affirming the district judge, the panel found the fine was remedial and the infractions serious. It also noted that the fines were not as "steep" as those authorized by the statute.
The panel's conclusion notes the Hornes' frustration with the raisin regulatory scheme, but observes that the judicial role "is limited to reviewing the constitutionality and not the wisdom of the current regulation." The Hornes' remedy, the opinion suggests, is with the Secretary of Agriculture.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
New Jersey - - - like Wisconsin and Florida amonsgt other states - - - has acted to limit public employee compensations and benefits. And, as in Wisconsin and Florida, public employees have filed a lawsuit alleging constitutional infringements.
The bill S-2937/A-4133 is an extensive overhauling of the public employee pension and health care benefits of New Jersey employees. Governor Christie promoted the bill and is expected to sign it.
The complaint, filed in federal court, alleges violations of both federal and state law. Like the Florida complaint, it alleges impairments of the obligations of contracts, although it includes the federal provision, as well as a takings clause claim. There is also a federal tax claim.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Some will be watching today's "Superbowl" in the Cowboys Stadium as a sports event, but for constitutional law fans, the 1.3 (or so) billion dollar Stadium is an example of the Fifth Amendment's Taking Clause in action. First, there is the taking of private property for public use. In the case of the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the state and local government used eminent domain powers in residential areas. Second, there is public financing used to support a privately owned by "public use" project, reportedly 3.25 million for the Cowboys Stadium. In 1999, Professor Dale Rubin named the process a "constitutional disgrace" in his law review article on public aid to professional sports teams.
More recent articles, many authored by students, explore the Takings Clause problems in building and maintaining a sports stadium. Two excellent examples are Erin A. Stanton's, Home Team Advantage?: The Taking Of Private Property For Sports Stadiums, 9 N.Y. City L. Rev. 93 (2005), and Peter Asselin's Supporting The Home Team ... In More Ways Than One: An Analysis Of The Public Financing of Philadelphia's New Sports Stadia, 3 Rutgers J. L. & Urb. Pol'y 389 (2006).
[image: Cowboys Stadium via]
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its 99 page final determination regarding the mining permit for Arch Coal, Inc.’s Spruce No. 1 mine, located in southern West Virginia (pictured below). The EPA rescinded the Clean Water Act approval for what would have been one of the largest surface mining sites in Appalachia. The EPA's action is controversial. There are sure to be challenges, just as there are challenges to the recently issued guidance protocols that increase scrutiny on mountaintop coal operations. Indeed, there is a lawsuit filed on behalf of the State of West Virginia filed by the then-Governor of West Virginia, the recently elected United States Senator Manchin. While such litigation typically raises administrative law claims, the denial of a mining permit may also raise the specter of possible constitutional challenges.
The Fifth Amendment's takings clause may provide the constitutional grounding for asserting claims of regulatory takings, especially for those coal and mineral interest owners whose coal cannot be economically mined by more traditional below ground methods.
Professor Patrick McGinley at the West Virginia College of Law analyzes such challenges in his recent work Bundled Rights and Reasonable Expectations: Applying the Lucas Categorical Taking Rule to Severed Mineral Property Interests, 11 Vermont Journal of Environmental Law 525 (2010), available on the journal website. In Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992), the Supreme Court held that the government must pay just compensation for takings that deprive an owner of “all economically beneficial use” of the owner’s property. The rule is often referred to as the “categorical” or “total takings” rule because the reviewing court need not examine the owner’s expectations in the property.
McGinley argues that “the expectations of owners of less-than-fee interests in one mineral–coal–do not deserve the additional protection of Lucas’s categorical rule.” Id. at 529. He arrives at this conclusion “based upon the consideration of the historic limited expectations of severed coal interest ownership.” Id. Professor McGinley explains:
[W]hen the property owned is a severed coal interest or a more ephemeral interest such as [a] fractional royalty interest . . . , the bundle of rights metaphor seems an inappropriate way to describe the owner’s rights. While there are exceptions, as a general rule, one who owns a possessory interest in coal has, at most, the “right” to sell the coal in place if she can find a buyer; to use the surface to access the reserve; to extract the fuel from the land; and to transport it to market for sale. . . . For owners of non-possessory or non-executory interests in minerals . . . , their “bundle of rights” is sparse indeed. Their rights are narrowly limited to entitlement to a small percentage of the sale price of a mineral extracted from the land and carried to market–such owners do not even possess the right to walk freely upon the land from whence the mineral may be mined. Such ownership “right” is illusory unless and until the mineral is actually mined.
Id. at 571 (citations omitted).
While he disclaims the application of the Lucas categorical rule, McGinley concludes that “Penn Central’s examination of takings claimant’s distinct investment-backed expectations should continue to be applied to claims of regulatory takings of coal property interests severed from fee simple estates in land.” Id. at 529.
Thus, McGinley argues that coal operators and mineral rights owners will find no satisfaction in regulatory takings under the Lucas categorical rule. Nevertheless, the recent EPA action regarding the Spruce No. 1 mine and the 2009 announcement by the EPA that the Obama Administration is taking "unprecedented steps to reduce environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining" will most likely raise regulatory taking issues under the Fifth Amendment.
(with J. Zak Ritchie)
[image: from cover of EPA final determination on mining permit for Arch Coal, Inc.’s Spruce No. 1 mine]
Thursday, November 11, 2010
The FDA this week unveiled its new proposed cigarette warning labels under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed on June 22, 2009. Here are a some sample approved warning labels, from the FDA web-site:
As you might imagine, manufacturers aren't happy. They vow to sue--again, as it turns out. Commonwealth Brands, Conwood, Discount Tobacco City, Lorillard, National Tobacco, and R.J. Reynolds sued last year challenging the Act's labeling requirements under the First Amendment, the Takings Clause, and the Due Process Clause. The District Court for the Western District of Kentucky issued a split decision; here are the highlights:
Ban on Color and Graphics Violates First Amendment. The Act requires tobacco labels and advertisements to be in black text on white background, with no graphics. (The idea is to deter children, who are more attracted to colorful labels with things like cartoon camels.) The court ruled that the ban swept too broadly: "Congress could have exempted large categories of innocuous images and color--e.g., images that teach adult consumers how to use novel tobacco products, images that merely identify products and producers, and colors that communicate information about the nature of a product . . . ." It thus violated the Central Hudson commercial speech test.
Ban on Event Sponsorship and Merchandise Do Not Violate First Amendment. The Act bans tobacco companies from sponsoring sporting, social, and cultural events in the name of a tobacco product in order to prevent positive association between these events and tobacco and marketing to youth. It also bans the use of tobacco product names on merchandise give-aways. The court defered to Congress in finding that sponsorship and merchandise advertisements can reach children, and therefore the bans were sufficiently tailored to withstand First Amendment scrutiny.
Authorization of Regulatory Power Not Unconstitutional Delegation. The Act permits state and local governments to enact more stringent standards. The court ruled that this was not an unconstitutional delegation of authority, because it wasn't a "delegation" or "authorization"; it simply did not preempt state efforts to regulate in this area.
Warning Labels Not Unconstitutional. The Act requires warning labels on the top 50% of the front and rear panels of packages with color graphics that depict the negative health consequences of smoking. (Examples above.) The court ruled that this requirement meets the Central Hudson standard--sufficiently tailored to advance the government's substantial interest.
Modified Risk Tobacco Products Labelling Not Unconstitutional. The Act prohibits labelling that suggests that a tobacco product is less harmful than other tobacco products. The court ruled that the requirement was not a viewpoint-based restriction on speech and was not unconstitutionally vague.
Ban on FDA Approval Claims Unconstitutional. The Act prohibits a statement that implies that the tobacco products are safer because they comply with FDA standards. The court ruled that this ban applies to more than mere commercial speech and that it failed strict scrutiny.
Ban on Outdoor Advertising Not Ripe. The Act bans outdoor advertising within 1,000 feet of a school or playground. The court ruled that this was not ripe, because the FDA hadn't yet issued its final regulations (which allowed the Secretary to modify the ban in light of "governing First Amendment case law").
Ban on Gifts Not Unconstitutional. The Act bans gifts that manufacturers sometimes give away with a purchase of their products. The court ruled that any impact on free speech was incidental and outside the scope of the First Amendment.
Takings: No Jurisdiction. The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims that the Act violated the Takings Clause by depriving them of their "trademarks, trade dress, packaging, and advertising without just compensation." The court ruled that the plaintiffs must bring this claim under the Tucker Act in the Court of Federal Claims.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Is the "takings revolution" over? This conference "explores the regulatory takings issue as it relates to land use and environmental regulation" and "brings together a diverse group of leading scholars and experienced practitioners to discuss cutting-edge issues raised by recent and pending court cases and new regulatory initiatives."
"Some topics to be discussed include the Supreme Court's recent Stop the Beach Renourishment decision, the future of the "judicial takings" theory, takings questions raised by sea level rise and other consequences of climate change, controversial new decisions applying an expansive interpretation of the Penn Central analysis, and recent takings cases involving water and endangered species laws."
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The question of whether there can be a judicial taking under the Fifth Amendment's takings clause was not definitely decided by the Court in its opinion today in Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection.
The underlying controversy concerns the littoral interests of waterfront property owners; it can seem more a property law issue than a constitutional law issue as the oral argument illustrated. Writing for the Court, Justice Scalia ultimately concluded that the Florida Supreme Court did not violate the takings clause, but first discussed water rights under Florida law and common law. However, when Scalia opined that the takings clause "applies as fully to the taking of a landowner’s riparian rights as it does to the taking of an estate in land," (plurality, opinion at 11), he was not speaking for the majority, but only a plurality of four justices (Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and himself). Likewise, it is only in the plurality portions of the opinion where there is an acceptance of a judicial taking: "It would be absurd to allow a State to do by judicial decree what the Takings Clause forbids it to do by legislative fiat." (plurality, opinion at 12).
Concurring in a separate opinion, Kennedy and Sotomayor noted "certain difficulties that should be considered before accepting the theory that a judicial decision that eliminates an “established property right,” constitutes a violation of the Takings Clause." One of their "difficulties" is an originalist one:
Indeed, it is unclear whether the Takings Clause was understood, as a historical matter, to apply to judicial decisions. The Framers most likely viewed this Clause as applying only to physical appropriation pursuant to the power of eminent domain. See Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U. S. 1003, 1028, n. 15 (1992). And it appears these physical appropriations were traditionally made by legislatures. See 3 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States §1784, p. 661 (1833).Courts, on the other hand, lacked the power of eminent domain. See 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries 135 (W. Lewis ed. 1897). The Court’s Takings Clause jurisprudence has expanded beyond the Framers’ understanding,as it now applies to certain regulations that are not physical appropriations. See Lucas, supra, at 1014 (citing Mahon, 260 U. S. 393). But the Court should consider with care the decision to extend the Takings Clause in a manner that might be inconsistent with historical practice.
(Kennedy Opinion at 7).
In a different separate concurring opinion, Breyer joined by Ginsburg contended that a judicial takings doctrine would open the floodgates and allow federal judges to decide matters of complex state property law. Essentially, Breyer and Ginsburg argued for judicial restraint.
Stevens took no part in the decision, presumably because he owns beachfront property in Florida.