- Did the Supreme Court err in Employment Division v. Smith when it ruled that the Free Exercise Clause provides no exemption from burdens on religious conscience resulting from neutral and generally applicable laws? [Federalist Society Rosenkranz Debate with Michael McConnell and Philip Hamburger] Will the Court revisit Employment Division, as four Justices (Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh) recently suggested? [Eric Baxter on Ricks v. Idaho Contractors Board]
- Maryland: “Don’t suspend drivers’ licenses over fines/fees unrelated to road safety” [my new Free State Notes]
- “A motley group of powerful companies have their knives out for Section 230, which shields platforms from lawsuits over content posted by users.” [David McCabe, New York Times; Gigi Sohn on Twitter]
- Did U.S. Customs destroy an African musician’s uniquely crafted instrument, or was it damaged in transit? Stories differ [Isobel van Hagen and Sarah Kaufman, NBC News; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
- R.I.P. David N. Mayer, emeritus professor at Capital Law and constitutional scholar who did important work on the views of the Founders and on the Contracts Clause [Roger Pilon, Cato]
- Another Emoluments suit fizzles for lack of standing, as I predicted three years ago [Megan Mineiro, Courthouse News (suit on behalf of individual members of Congress); sage advice from Grover Norquist]
- “Small claims court for copyright” idea, now moving rapidly through Congress, could create a new business model for troll claimants [Mike Masnick, TechDirt; EFF on CASE Act] A contrasting view: Robert VerBruggen, NR;
- “If Boston is weirdly NOT full of good restaurant/bar/cafes for its size, and if people don’t want to stay after they hit 26 or so, these throttled [liquor] licenses are one of the real structural reasons why.” [Amanda Katz Twitter thread]
- Push in California underway to join a trend I warned of five years ago, namely states’ enacting laws to encourage tax informants with a share of the loot [McDermott Will and Emery, National Law Review]
- Baltimore food truck rule challenge, single-member districts, sexting prosecution, and more in my new Free State Notes roundup;
- “For years the Westchester County DA, Jeanine Pirro, now a Fox News host who opines on justice, rejected Deskovic’s requests to compare the DNA evidence against a criminal database. Deskovic was not exonerated until 2006, after he had served 16 years” [Jacob Sullum, Reason]
- Come again? “Louisville judge rules Kentucky speed limit laws unconstitutional” [Marcus Green, WDRB]
- Hearse driver in HOV lane to highway patrol: you mean I can’t count the corpse as a passenger? [Michelle Lou, CNN]
- “Caterpillar Now Going After All The Cats For Trademark Cancellations” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt, earlier]
- Before trying to open a storefront business in San Francisco you might look to this advice from commercial real estate brokers about the city’s zoning and permit hurdles, and please quit using words like “bonkers” or “flabbergasting” [Robert Fruchtman Twitter thread]
- “Lawyer engaged in ‘sustained campaign of unfounded litigation,’ disbarment recommendation says” [ABA Journal; Waukegan, Illinois]
- Breaking from two other federal appeals courts, Third Circuit rules that Amazon as a platform can be sued under strict liability principles over defective items sold by third-party vendors on its site [Brendan Pierson, Reuters] Should the ruling stand, implications for online marketplaces are dire [Eric Goldman]
- New challenges for Mathew Higbee, high volume copyright enforcement lawyer, and his clients [Paul Alan Levy, more, earlier]
Her car was in the shop for work when a mechanic drove it on an expired license. What the city of Chicago did to her then shouldn’t happen to anyone [Elliott Ramos, WBEZ/ProPublica, Institute for Justice on its suit representing Veronica Walker-Davis and Jerome Davis, earlier]
An especially outrageous angle from an earlier Ramos/WBEZ story, quoted in our earlier coverage: “Chicago has impounded and sold off nearly 50,000 cars for unpaid tickets since 2011. Not a dime of the sales went toward the ticket debt; instead, the city and its towing contractor pocketed millions.”
“A proposal before the D.C. Council would allow up to 80 regular citizens, 10 in each ward, to issue tickets to vehicles parked where they aren’t allowed — blocking crosswalks, in bike lanes, in front of bus stops.” What could go wrong? [Luz Lazo, Washington Post, also Laredo Morning Times]
Still, others say most people would prefer enforcement be left to trained, public employees.
“Public officials may be far from perfect .?.?. but there is that extra layer that at least you can train them and they are likely to have the time on the job that allows them to build up their expertise,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. They also have protocols to follow — and a job at stake.
“The cellphone evidence can go a long way, but it still doesn’t always tell the whole story,” he said. “A lot of times you are going to have people who are genuinely guilty and you will be enforcing the law as it was intended to be enforced. But traffic enforcement does have a lot of judgment calls.”
But Olson says he can see why the practice would be attractive to cities.
“The city gets more revenue without having to pay salaries,” he said. “The potential increase in ticket revenue would get their interest right away.”
“The cop actually hauling him to the station [for warning motorists that there were cops ahead] was more to the point, telling the man he was arresting him for ‘interfering with our livelihood,'” according to the complaint in the subsequent lawsuit. [Tim Cushing, TechDirt; Stamford, Ct.] We covered a similar ruling in Florida in 2012.
“Parking enforcement officers in Saginaw, Michigan, who use chalk to mark the tires of cars to track how long they have been parked are violating the constitution, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.” [Amanda Robert, ABA Journal] In particular, the court found that chalking was a trespass and a search meant to obtain information that was not reasonable under a probable-cause or community-caretaker standard, nor under an exception allowing orderly regulation of road traffic, since in the court’s view it was aimed primarily at obtaining revenue rather than mitigating public hazard. Orin Kerr has more analysis at Volokh Conspiracy.
Update, from Orin Kerr: “The Sixth Circuit has issued an amended opinion in the chalking case clarifying the limited scope of its holding.” Quoting the amended opinion: “Taking the allegations in Taylor’s complaint as true, we hold that chalking is a search under the Fourth Amendment, specifically under the Supreme Court’s decision in Jones. This does not mean, however, that chalking violates the Fourth Amendment. Rather, we hold, based on the pleading stage of this litigation, that two exceptions to the warrant requirement — the ‘community caretaking’ exception and the motor-vehicle exception — do not apply here. Our holding extends no further than this. When the record in this case moves beyond the pleadings stage, the City is, of course, free to argue anew that one or both of those exceptions do apply, or that some other exception to the warrant requirement might apply.”
“The rational basis test is hard to fail, says the Middle District of Tennessee, but Tennessee’s policy of rescinding the driver’s licenses of people who fail to pay criminal fines and fees is up — or maybe down — to the task.” [John K. Ross, IJ “Short Circuit,” on Robinson v. Purkey; Dave Boucher, Nashville Tennesseean]
A number of states have banned driver use of handheld cellphones, but the Ohio legislature has now gone further by enacting a ban on distracted driving that
retains [such a ban] while also expanding distracted to include “Engaging in activity that is not necessary for the vehicle’s operation and that impairs, or reasonably would be expected to impair, the driver’s ability to drive safely.”
The new law provides no further explanation of the new definition, leaving it to the discretion of officers and the courts. It is thought that this definition could be applied to any kind of distraction that is related to an accident, including consuming food and beverages or adjusting car systems like climate and radio.
The problem here with vagueness and enforcement discretion go beyond the scope of the penalty, which for now is only $100. [Tim Zubizarreta, Jurist; Scott Greenfield; Tim Cushing on Twitter (“a blank check for pretextual stops”); earlier]