Posts Tagged ‘constitutional law’

Courts and political logjams

What one observer sees as a logjam or political gridlock, of course, can look to another like the welcome avoidance of bad legislation. But that’s not the only reason the courts are reluctant to assume one or another new power on the logic that the political branches have wrongfully failed to act in some area. In a new Cato at Liberty post, I cite a notable passage addressing this point in Monday’s Gill v. Whitford decision on redistricting.

Michael Greve on Epic Systems and arbitration clauses

On the Supreme Court’s modern development of doctrine favorable to private arbitration, George Mason lawprof Michael Greve is as usual stimulating and surprising [Law and Liberty] And NYU lawprof Sam Estreicher writes that “class action lawsuits are the wrong way to settle employment disputes….Epic Systems may well prove beneficial to workers, a qualified blessing in disguise.” [Bloomberg via Jonathan Adler] More: Christopher Murray, Federalist Society “Courthouse Steps” podcast.

Constitutional law roundup

  • “Allegation: Maplewood, Mo. officials trap low-income motorists in a repeated cycle of arrests and jailing over traffic violations by requiring them to pay fines and bonds irrespective of their ability to pay. A Fourteenth Amendment violation? The district court did not err, says the Eighth Circuit, in allowing the case to proceed.” [John Kenneth Ross, IJ “Short Circuit” on Webb v. City of Maplewood]
  • “Does the Excessive Fines Clause Apply to the States? You’d think we’d know that by now — but the Supreme Court hasn’t spoken to this.” [Eugene Volokh]
  • “SCOTUS Bingo: The Slaughterhouse Cases” [Sheldon Gilbert on Heritage “SCOTUS 101” podcast with Elizabeth Slattery and Tiffany Bates; Eighth Circuit occupational licensure case]
  • Should committing a crime unrelated to guns or violence lead to lifetime forfeiture of gun rights? [Ilya Shapiro and Matt Larosiere on Cato amicus brief in Kanter v. Sessions, Seventh Circuit]
  • “A Debt Against the Living: An Introduction to Originalism,” Federalist Society podcast with Michael McConnell and Ilan Wurman discussing Wurman’s new book]
  • A new and better Article V? [proposal for an “amendment amendment“]

Supreme Court roundup

  • After oral argument, case challenging agencies’ use of in-house administrative law judges (Lucia v. SEC) remains hard to predict [Ilya Shapiro, Cato; earlier]
  • In dissent from cert denial: “Justices Thomas and Gorsuch Argue for Rejecting Deference to Agency Interpretation of Agency Regulations” [Eugene Volokh, Ilya Shapiro and Matthew Larosiere on Garco Construction, Inc. v. Speer]
  • High court still gun shy [Trevor Burrus and Matthew Larosiere on refusal to review Maryland felon gun possession ban] Ninth Circuit ruling on zoning exclusion of firearms business deserves cert review [Shapiro and Larosiere on Teixeira v. Alameda County] Court denies cert in widely watched Defense Distributed First Amendment case on dissemination of plans for 3-D printed weapon [Smith Pachter, earlier] A historical look: “The American Indian foundation of American gun culture” [David Kopel]
  • “The Supreme Court’s grant of a Contracts Clause case for the first time in a quarter-century reminds me that a certain John G. Roberts wrote a student note on the Clause back in 1978 (available at 92 Harv. L. Rev. 86).” [Aditya Bamzai on Twitter]
  • University of Chicago Law Review special issue on Justice Scalia [Will Baude; other recent Scalia scholarship includes articles on his influence in implied rights of action and standing]
  • Case on cert petition before SCOTUS could clarify law on distribution of property after church schisms [Samuel Bray on Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina v. Episcopal Church]

“Checkpoint America”

“For over 60 years, the executive branch has, through regulatory fiat, imposed a ‘border zone’ that extends as much as 100 miles into the United States.” Within this zone, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) service can set up fixed or mobile checkpoints that require travelers, whether foreign- or native-born, to stop and submit to questioning and possible search “to get to work, go to the store, or make it to a vacation destination in the American Southwest.” Were the government to try using these same techniques at frankly internal checkpoints — in Omaha, say, or Indianapolis or Cheyenne — a range of constitutional protections would come into play to limit police discretion and protect citizens’ rights to go about their business freely. But the border, or areas within 100 miles of it, are different. One problem: since the coasts count as borders too, an estimated two-thirds of the American public lives in areas that are just one executive decision away from having a checkpoint system.

The Cato Institute is launching a new online initiative, “Checkpoint America: Monitoring the Constitution-Free Zone.” Patrick G. Eddington explains in the Cato Daily Podcast above, and in this blog post.

“Surprised by Neil Gorsuch’s ruling? You weren’t paying attention.”

In the case of a federal law providing for the mandatory deportation of lawful permanent residents convicted of a hazily defined “crime of violence,” Justice Neil Gorsuch steps comfortably into Nino Scalia’s shoes as the Court’s champion of void-for-vagueness invalidation of criminal laws whose contours were left overly unclear. “It doesn’t make him a squish. It makes him an originalist,” [Ilya Shapiro, Washington Examiner; opinion in Sessions v. Dimaya] More: Jay Schweikert, Cato.

Ninth Circuit finds public sector contingency fees constitutional

The use of contingency fees by governmental plaintiffs incentivizes sharp practice and overzealous litigation in lawyers charged with representing the general public; it also invites corruption and end runs around democratic legislatures intended at making law through litigation. All these evils manifested themselves in the tobacco and gun rounds of mass litigation, and there are some cases offering precedent for the proposition that their use can violate defendants’ rights to due process. Nonetheless, the Ninth Circuit has lately upheld a California district attorney’s hiring of outside law firms on a contingency basis against such a challenge [Amanda Bronstad, The Recorder] And the Supreme Court last month refused to review a challenge to the New Hampshire attorney general’s use of contingency-fee counsel in an opioids suit against Endo Pharmaceuticals [Peter Hayes and Steven M. Sellers, Bloomberg, in a piece surveying current use of public contingency fees more broadly]

March 14 roundup

When speaking of rights

When speaking of rights, note that the word “right” “means many things, and has long meant many things.” A statement such as “Governments do not have rights, only individuals have rights” might cohere and be worth discussion as an claim of political philosophy, but does not accurately track the usage of the word “rights” in the Anglo-American legal system, now or in the past. [Eugene Volokh, post series one, two, three, four]