Posts Tagged ‘constitutional law’

Proposal: small claims courts for police misconduct

A proposal from my Cato Institute colleague Clark Neily: small claims courts for low-level police misconduct. Ilya Somin praises it as among the few constitutional law ideas “that are simultaneously good, original, and potentially useful in the real world.” [Volokh Conspiracy] More: Howard Wasserman (similar ideas), Scott Greenfield and some other thoughts on small claims.

Supreme Court roundup

Not unconstitutional for county to jump off probation-for-profit carousel

“Craighead County, Arkansas officials use private company to run probation for people convicted of misdemeanors. The company charges probationers monthly fees, other fees on pain of arrest, which results in more fees. (On one day in 2016, of 34 defendants brought to court, only six were charged with crimes. The remaining 28 were in jail for failing to pay the company.) Voters elect new judges who promise to cease using the company, erase outstanding debts. Company: Which violates the Contracts Clause, Takings Clause. Eighth Circuit: Can’t sue the judges over that. The judges are entitled to modify probation conditions and discharge debts.” [John Ross, Institute for Justice “Short Circuit” summarizing Eighth Circuit ruling in Justice Network v. Craighead County]

Constitutional law roundup

  • “North Dakota legislators attempt to retroactively change the terms of contracts between manufacturers and dealers of farm equipment. Well, crack open your Con Law casebook because that violates the Contract Clause of Article I, Section 10. So holds the Eighth Circuit (over a dissent), treating the reader to a history of the clause from 1789 to the New Deal and beyond.” [IJ “Short Circuit” on Association of Equipment Manufacturers v. Burgum]
  • Subsidies conditioned on, and meant to promote, an official orthodoxy: California moves to approve $50 million state fund for film and TV production earmarked for producers who “share” state’s “values” on reproductive rights [Eugene Volokh]
  • Not your usual combination: Cato Institute, Brennan Center, and Sierra Club join in amicus brief to challenge President’s powers under National Emergencies Act to divert funds appropriated for other purposes to construction of U.S.-Mexico wall [David Post]
  • Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain on textualism and the future of the federal judiciary [Federalist Society]
  • “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law,” declares the constitution of Arizona. While judges in Washington have developed a distinctive jurisprudence based on the similar clause in their state’s constitution, the Arizona judiciary as yet has not [Timothy Sandefur]
  • Does the Commerce Clause really empower the U.S. Congress to criminalize acts of animal cruelty “affecting” interstate commerce, whatever that means? [Jacob Sullum]

Supreme Court roundup

A Cato-centric selection:

  • Massachusetts bans the most popular variety of self-defense firearms and that violates the Second Amendment, as SCOTUS should make clear [Ilya Shapiro and James T. Knight II on Cato Institute amicus brief in Worman v. Healey] Congress has never passed a law criminalizing the accessories known as bump stocks and the Executive branch can’t change that on its own [Trevor Burrus and James Knight, Guedes v. BATF]
  • Three more Cato certiorari amicus briefs: With return of Little Sisters case, Court should make clear that scope of accommodation under Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not for executive agencies to expand and contract accordion-like [Ilya Shapiro and Sam Spiegelman] Berkeley, Calif.’s ordinance requiring disclosure of the purported risks of cell phone radio frequency (RF) exposure poses First Amendment questions of forced commercial speech [Ilya Shapiro and Michael Collins on return to SCOTUS of CTIA v. Berkeley] Supreme Court has rejected attempt to use Alien Tort Statute to assert universal jurisdiction over human-rights abuses in overseas business, but Ninth Circuit still hasn’t gotten the message [Ilya Shapiro and Dennis Garcia, Nestle v. Doe]
  • Summing up the last Court term: speech by Miguel Estrada and a short video with Ilya Shapiro for the Federalist Society;
  • “Fearful that the Supreme Court will reject a broad interpretation of the CWA’s [Clean Water Act’s] scope, environmentalist groups have been seeking to settle the Maui case before the Court rules.” [Jonathan Adler on Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund]
  • Another case of surprise plain meaning? Advocates argue that Congress didn’t really end Indian reservation status for much of the state of Oklahoma even if everyone at the time thought it did [Will Baude on Sharp v. Murphy; earlier on surprise plain meaning]
  • “An Introduction to Constitutional Law: 100 Supreme Court Cases Everyone Should Know” [new book by Randy Barnett and Josh Blackman; described here, and discussed in this Cato video]

Cato Constitution Day video

The video of Cato’s 18th Constitution Day forum, held September 17, is now online, with a line-up of eminent speakers including Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog, Jan Crawford of CBS News, and Judge Thomas Hardiman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who in the annual B. Kenneth Simon Lecture discussed judicial independence and service during good behavior. I moderate the third panel, on Property Rights, Antitrust, and the Census.

Constitutional law roundup

  • Does the Constitution allow Arizona to frame a new tax in such a way that de facto, though not de jure, nearly all of it falls on out-of-state residents? [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Writer and star of one-act play “isn’t a fan of America’s founding charter — which may be why her audiences are such big fans of hers.” [Andrew Ferguson, The Atlantic]
  • Pentagon has lately developed aerial surveillance technology with near-panopticon capabilities. OK to deploy over home territory? [Cato video with Patrick G. Eddington, Arthur Holland Michel, and Jenna McLaughlin on Michel’s book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All]
  • Ilya Shapiro discusses New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. the City of New York [National Constitution Center We the People podcast; earlier here, here, and here] “Maryland’s gun permit system is challenged — and it’s probably unconstitutional” [my post at Free State Notes] “3-D Printed Guns & the First Amendment” [Federalist Society Policy Brief video with John Stossel and Josh Blackman]
  • Tradcons are kidding themselves if they imagine they can get a better constitutional deal outside the current legal conservative movement with its commitment to a broadly fusionist originalism, argues John McGinnis [Liberty and Law] “Originalism as ideology” [Michael Greve]
  • “Guam officials seek to hold referendum allowing voters to express their opinion about the future of the relationship between Guam and the United States but will only permit ‘Native Inhabitants of Guam’ to vote. Ninth Circuit: Which means restricting voting based upon race, which is explicitly prohibited by the Fifteenth Amendment.” [Institute for Justice “Short Circuit” on Davis v. Guam]

Yes, liability suits can endanger Constitutional rights

In March the Connecticut Supreme Court, over a dissent from three of its seven justices, ruled that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) did not pre-empt a state unfair-trade-practice statute for purposes of allowing suits against the maker of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook massacre — this even though the firearm in question was never marketed or sold to the killer, who stole it from his mother who had purchased it lawfully long before. As expected, gunmaker Remington has now filed a certiorari petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking for a ruling clarifying the scope of the federal law.

The Cato Institute together with the Independent Institute has filed an amicus brief in the case [Trevor Burrus, Cato] urging the high court to review the Connecticut decision and accord the intended broad effect to Congress’s pre-emption of state litigation intended to achieve gun control by other means.

The brief emphasizes two lines of argument that I find exactly to the point. First, under the right circumstances, the workings of tort lawsuits can impinge on individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution: exorbitant libel verdicts can menace freedom of speech, and similarly stretching of tort and public nuisance law can endanger Second Amendment rights. It is worth making explicit the parallels between the Supreme Court’s acknowledgment of the first in New York Times v. Sullivan and Congress’s recognition of the second in its passage of PLCAA.

It is noteworthy that in both cases the line-drawing came in response to litigation campaigns intended to challenge, or chip away at, the rights in question. By organizing costly libel suits against defendants that included the New York Times, some Southern partisans hoped to silence voices critical of the status quo in their part of the country (and deter others). Decades later, advocates of gun control teamed up with government officials in a litigation campaign intended to force the firearms industry into negotiations by threatening it with bankruptcy through litigation costs, whether it won or lost its cases.

Writes David Kopel: “In both cases, the stakes are the same: whether the Supreme Court will allow the misuse of tort suits to destroy an enumerated right.” What the Supreme Court is being asked to do in this case, namely give effect to Congressional intention in a statutory interpretation case, is less ambitious and far-reaching than what it was asked to do in Sullivan, namely craft entirely new Constitutional law to respond to the problem.

Colorado Supreme Court: Excessive Fines Clause applies to corporations

Taking up an issue that the U.S. Supreme Court has never pronounced on — whether or not the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to corporations as well as to individuals — the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that it does. Cato, together with the Independence Institute, had filed an amicus brief in the case [Eugene Volokh; Jodee R. Rankin, Washington Legal Foundation; decision in Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Workers’ Compensation v. Dami Hospitality, LLC; earlier]

Supreme Court roundup

  • Nice little Supreme Court you got there, be a shame if anyone came around to mess it up, say Sens. Whitehouse, Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Hirono, and Durbin in incendiary “enemy-of-the-court” brief [Robert Barnes, Washington Post/Laredo Morning Times; David French, National Review; James Huffman, Inside Sources]
  • Cato podcast triple-header, all with Caleb Brown: Trevor Burrus and Ilya Shapiro on Gundy v. U.S. and the limits of Congressional delegation, Ilya Shapiro and Clark Neily on the aftermath of double-jeopardy case Gamble v. U.S., and Trevor Burrus on the First Amendment case Manhattan Community Access Corporation v. Halleck (cable public access channel not a state actor);
  • Criminal forfeiture, where used, should track lines of individual owner and asset responsibility, not the loose all-for-one joint-and-several-liability standards of some civil litigation [Trevor Burrus on Cato certiorari petition in Peithman v. U.S.]
  • Federalist Society National Student Symposium panel on “The Original Understanding of the Privileges and Immunities Clause” with Randy Barnett, Rebecca Zietlow, Kurt Lash, Ilan Wurman, and moderated by Judge Amul Thapar;
  • On the independence of administrative law judges, issues left over from Lucia v. U.S. are now coming back up in SEC proceedings [William Yeatman on Cato Fifth Circuit amicus brief in Cochran v. U.S.]
  • Take-land-now, pay-later procedures may get pipelines built faster but at the expense of property owners’ rights. SCOTUS should act to assure just and timely compensation [Ilya Shapiro on Cato certiorari petition in Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline]