Constitutional Law

This week, a Louisiana court became the first federal district court to uphold a state ban on same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Windsor. Judge Martin Feldman of the Eastern District of Louisiana granted the state’s motion for summary judgment in Robicheaux v. Caldwell. Finding that the claims of same-sex couples did not implicate a fundamental right triggering heightened scrutiny of the state law, he applied rational basis review to the challenge. Judge Feldman rejected arguments that sexual orientation warrants intermediate or heightened scrutiny based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Windsor, as well as Equal Protection arguments against the Louisiana ban based on sex discrimination.

“Many states have democratically chosen to recognize same-sex marriage,” he writes. “But until recent years, it had no place at all in this nation’s history and tradition. Public attitude might be becoming more diverse, but any right to same-sex marriage is not yet so entrenched as to be fundamental. There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage.”

American attitudes about LGBT people have changed. The fight for same-sex marriage has come far, fast. African Americans, women, disabled people, and members of other disenfranchised groups should envy the speed with which the LGBT community has achieved so much success. Not only have laws changed, but popular moral sensibilities have changed as well. In 2008, opposing marriage equality would put you in the company of most California voters. In 2014, expressing moral opposition to homosexuality can get you in big trouble. You can even face retroactive stigma — Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla who was ousted in 2014 because of his support of California’s Prop 8 in 2008, can attest to that.

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Former White House press secretary and gun regulation activist James Brady died last week. The coroner has apparently ruled Brady’s death a homicide. Nothing new happened, the coroner is simply saying that the bullet to the head that Brady took 33 years ago killed him. As murders go, this was an extremely long-tailed killing. Crim law professors of the world rejoice: life just delivered your next issue spotter.

But can a death three decades after a shooting open the door to a murder prosecution?

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Girls in my high school briefed cases all the time, it was no big deal.

* According to Patron Saint RBG, the Supreme Court has never really come around on “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.” Gay people are doing well, though, so good for them. [New York Times]

* Two law professors and a consultant built a model that predicts SCOTUS decisions with 69.7 percent accuracy, and justices’ votes with 70.9 percent accuracy. For lawyers who are bad at math, that’s damn near perfect. Nice work! [Vox]

* An Alabama abortion clinic statute which required that doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals was ruled unconstitutional. Perhaps this will be the death knell for these laws. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Idaho’s Supreme Court rejected Concordia Law’s bid to allow grads to sit for the bar before the ABA granted it provisional accreditation. Too bad, since lawyers are needed in Idaho. [National Law Journal]

* Before you go to law school, you can learn how to gun with the best of them. That’s right, you can practice briefing cases before you even set foot in the door. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

We recently asked readers to submit possible captions for this picture:

Now that readers have voted on the finalists, it’s time to announce our worthy winner….

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* When it comes to bans on same-sex marriage, for Justice Anthony Kennedy, animus is a “doctrinal silver bullet” — the fact that there was no animus involved in the enactment of many of them may be problematic at the high court. [New York Times]

* Relying on some obscure Supreme Court precedent, the Fifth Circuit saved Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic after striking down as unconstitutional a state law that would have required doctors to have hospital admitting privileges. [National Law Journal]

* Given the situation over at Bingham McCutchen, people are starting to wonder about whether all the guaranteed contracts to members of merger partner McKee Nelson’s partnership helped to shape the firm’s current financial plight. [Am Law Daily]

* Hot on the heels of Cooley Law canceling its first-year class at Ann Arbor and announcing tentative plans to close the campus, the ABA approved the school’s affiliation with Western Michigan. Yay? [MLive.com]

* Here’s one way to become a lawyer without racking up massive amounts of debt: you could try to “read” the law like Abraham Lincoln, and work as a law firm apprentice. That sounds delightful. [New York Times]

The Constitution of the United States is a flawed document… [its] thinly veiled language… basically reaffirmed the legality of slavery.

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, explaining something historically accurate and entirely obvious to anyone with a third-grade education. But that hasn’t stopped right-wing commentators from freakingthe hellout, decrying Kennedy for suggesting that human bondage may undermine their totemic reliance on “original intent.” Because when the only justification for your preferred jurisprudence is that the Framers farted laser beams, a nuanced view of the Constitution isn’t in the cards.

* Have you all called the Breaking Bad law firm number yet? Because it works, so go for it! [Legal Cheek]

* How to make airlines more profitable: make everyone sit on bicycle seats! [Lowering the Bar]

* Ilya Somin explains why the D.C. Circuit’s interpretation in Halbig isn’t absurd. And it’s not absurd. It just reflects the hilariously cynical conservative opposition to giving their own citizens tax breaks. [The Volokh Conspiracy / Washington Post]

* Ohio State fired its band director amid sexual harassment allegations. To fire a guy, Ohio State must have dotted every “i” in this investigation. [USA Today]

* Speaking of sexual harassment, the Navy’s Blue Angels are the subject of a sexual harassment suit. And somehow it involves a blue and gold penis seen from space. [Slate]

* The Chevron battle over Ecuador continues. Turns out the star witness Chevron paid upwards of $1 million to testify took 50 days of prep to finally get his ever-shifting story straight. [Huffington Post]

* There’s a new book out called Kate’s Escape from the Billable Hour (affiliate link). We haven’t read it, but apparently this tale of “a burnt-out, second-year attorney working in the dysfunctional world of Big Law” mentions ATL. So they definitely did their research. [Amazon]

* Watch a drunk guy give cops a lesson in Con Law. Video after the jump…. [Barstool Sports]

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Amal Alamuddin, ready to graduate from law school

* There’s a very good chance that if you go in-house, you could wind up making more money than even the wealthiest of Biglaw partners. But how much more? Take a look at the latest GC compensation survey. [Corporate Counsel]

* GM has hired outside counsel to review the way the company handles its litigation practices. Since we’re not sure which, we’ll take bets on whether this “well-respected outside law firm” is Wachtell or Jenner & Block. [WSJ Law Blog]

* A federal judge in California ruled that the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional. It seems that allowing a defendant to live with the “slight possibility of death” violates the Eighth Amendment. Damn you, appeals! [New York Times]

* “He hasn’t been charged with anything at the moment and we’ll deal with the charges when they’re filed.” Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is currently being represented by Yale Law lecturer Eugene R. Fidell, a recognized military law expert (and husband of noted legal journalist Linda Greenhouse). [New Haven Register]

* We all know that George Clooney’s fiancée, Amal Alamuddin, has both beauty and brains. What we didn’t know is that she poses for incredibly embarrassing pictures, just like the rest of us. [Us Weekly]

* How do Americans feel about the Supreme Court’s recent cellphone privacy ruling, Riley v. California? [Digital Constitution / Microsoft]

The Supreme Court released its opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday, holding that the HHS contraception mandate violates an employer’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, even when the employer is a for-profit corporation closely held by individuals who object to the mandate on religious grounds. Following the decision in McCullen v. Coakley, the abortion clinic buffer zone case, Hobby Lobby is the second case in a week where the Court told us how much each side of a fundamentally divided issue can ask of the other, under the law. They are hard cases to talk about without questioning the good faith or good sense of the other side. Nearly everyone thinks either Hobby Lobby or McCullen was a bad decision.

The only thing more frustrating than a bad high-profile Supreme Court decision may be the public’s response to any high-profile Supreme Court decision. For proof, one need only look as far as some of the tweets on SCOTUSblog’s Twitter feed….

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Ted Olson and David Boies (photo by yours truly)

We do treat [gays] the same. None of them can get married to each other. That’s called equal protection. Are you familiar with that clause?

Stephen Colbert, speaking about same-sex marriage last night while interviewing David Boies and Ted Olson, the lawyers behind the legal challenge to Proposition 8 and the authors of a new book, Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality (affiliate link).

(More about Boies and Olson and their book, plus video footage of their Colbert Report appearance, after the jump.)

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