Posts Tagged ‘constitutional law’

Stupid but constitutional

David Lat, in a brief assemblage of Antonin Scalia anecdotes, gives this one:

“…A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional.”

“I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says—Whack! [Pounds his fist.]—STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! ­STUPID BUT ­CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one.”

And now Charlie Eastaugh on Twitter has posted the above picture. If you’d like your own new version, he sells that too.

P.S., a Twitter exchange shedding more light:

Emoluments Clause lawsuits likely to fizzle

My first piece for Quartz: why lawsuits over President Trump’s foreign business interests are likely to be more a nuisance than a knockout blow, even if his opponents identify potential violations of the Emoluments Clause. Excerpt:

Two aspects of the Clause in particular must be causing Trump’s lawyers angst: It’s worded as a no-fault provision, and it sets no minimum threshold. That means a present or emolument could tip the scales, even if it’s meant innocently on both sides and is very small. And the realities of an international hospitality and real estate business make for lots of possible triggers both large and small.

Even if Trump fails to comply with the Clause, however, the courts aren’t obliged to provide a broad remedy. A case that manages to get over the standing hurdle might result in a narrow ruling ordering the president’s business, say, to refund a single disputed payment. Before resorting to wider injunction powers, as groups like CREW urge, judges would need to consider what’s known as the political question doctrine under which the courts have chosen to say out of some issues they see as better suited for other branches of government—or for voters—to address.

Earlier here and here.

Emoluments Clause suit likely to run aground on standing

A fresh-outta-the-gate lawsuit asks the courts to step in to prevent President Donald Trump from violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause through his business dealings. So, Josh Blackman asks, what’s its argument for standing under Article III? Basically, it’s that “because CREW is spending time on Trump’s emolument issue, they are not able to do things they would otherwise do.” That’s remarkably weak, even under what’s left of such liberal precedents as Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman (1982), and unlikely to persuade the courts. The ACLU is biding its time while preparing a stronger eventual case for standing by looking for a hotel or other competitor that can plausibly claim to have lost business because of transactions involving the Trump Organization and foreign states that (it expects to argue) violate the clause. Even if litigants succeed in obtaining standing in some case, they will still face a daunting barrier in the state of the doctrine on justiciability and political questions, which could lead the courts to step back and defer to Congress as the appropriate branch to devise a remedy. Earlier here.

More: Jonathan Adler on Twitter comes to similar conclusions about standing — “It’s as if complaint is just a PR exercise” — and notes that Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky, who backs the new suit, argued earlier that Texas and other states, for lack of injury, had no standing to challenge the Obama administration’s DAPA immigration action. “If no standing because Texas had ‘choice’ not to issue drivers licenses, CREW has a choice not to worry about emoluments.” And from Derek Muller:

Trump’s business interests and the Emoluments Clause

Given the complex ongoing dealings between the Trump Organization and foreign governments, the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution will require Congress to “decide what it is willing to live with in the way of Trump conflicts” — and it should draw those lines before the fact, not after. That’s what I argue in a new Philadelphia Inquirer piece. Excerpt:

…Trump points out that the president is exempt from the conflict-of-interest laws that bind Congress and the judiciary, but that doesn’t mean he will escape scrutiny from public opinion or from the body of federal law as a whole, including the Emoluments Clause.

That clause reads in relevant part: “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] , shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”…

The wording of the clause itself points one way to resolution: Congress can give consent, as it did in the early years of the Republic to presents received by Ben Franklin and John Jay. …

…it can’t be good for America to generate a series of possible impeachable offenses from a running stream of controversies about whether arm’s-length prices were charged in transactions petty or grand. …

There is no doubt that doing the right thing poses genuine difficulties for Trump not faced by other recent presidents. If he signals that he understands the nature of the problem, it would not be unreasonable to ask for extra time to solve it.

For more detail, Randall Eliason has a helpful explainer, e.g. on why Emoluments Clause issues do not map well onto the concept of “bribery.” (Bribery is subject to a separate ban, while both presents and some other payments can violate the Emoluments Clause even if given and received with the purest of motives.)

Update: With Trump’s announcement this morning that he intends to step back from management involvement with the Trump Organization, I’ve adapted this post into a longer piece at Cato at Liberty on what comes next. I quote Prof. Bainbridge, who’s got a second round of observations here.

Yet more: memos shed light on how the Department of Justice has construed the obligations of the Emoluments Clause over many decades. And the Washington Examiner, which recently welcomed Tim Carney as new opinion editor, suggests an “occluded trust.”

Clint Bolick on state constitutions

Some state constitutions predate the U.S. Constitution, and many provide broader protection for individual rights and tougher constraints on government action than does the federal document. Aside from differently worded provisions on such matters as takings for public use and firearms liberty, for example, some states have “gift clauses” in their constitutions that have been interpreted to prohibit corporate subsidies, or clauses prohibiting legislation meant to advance parochial or local interests alone. Justice Clint Bolick of the Arizona Supreme Court speaks with Cato’s Caleb Brown on the possibilities for using these state constitutional provisions to advance liberty.

Related: Eugene Volokh discusses “Originalism: The Primary Canon of State Constitutional Interpretation,” a new article by Jeremy M. Christiansen.

Can Congress compel states to ban things?

The Supreme Court’s “anti-commandeering” doctrine holds that the federal government lacks authority under the Constitution simply to order state governments to implement federal programs or act affirmatively in other ways. Did Congress overstep this bound when it enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), a federal statute that with some exceptions forbids states to “authorize” sports gambling “by law”? That question has come up in a case in which New Jersey sought to repeal some of its old gambling laws. [Ilya Shapiro and David McDonald on Cato’s amicus brief participation supporting New Jersey’s petition for Supreme Court review in Christie v. NCAA et al.]

Constitutional law roundup

“You Have a Constitutional Right to Record Public Officials in Public”

Ilya Shapiro and Devin Watkins:

In a case out of California, two citizens were taking pictures of border crossings from public sidewalks of what they believed were environmental problems and unlawful searches. CBP [United States Customs and Border Protection] agents saw them, arrested them, seized their cameras, and deleted their pictures. The district court acknowledged that the recordings were protected by the First Amendment but found the government’s reasons for suppressing them to be so compelling that individual constitutional rights could be ignored in the name of national security.

Now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Cato has filed an amicus brief supporting the photographers’ ability to record government officials in public. Americans have a First Amendment right to record law enforcement agents because it’s a way of accurately depicting government operations. The ability to describe government operations allows citizens to criticize those actions and petition for redress of grievances—a core purpose of the First Amendment. Even a Homeland Security report on “Photographing the Exterior of Federal Facilities” recognizes “that the public has a right to photograph the exterior of federal facilities from publically accessible spaces such as streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas.”…

The Ninth Circuit will hear Askins v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Security later this fall.