Constitutional Law

I was on a fast-moving segment on HuffPost Live this afternoon called “Legalese It,” where host Mike Sacks runs through a bunch of overlooked legal items from the past week. Since I was on vacation for half of the week, I learned a lot! For instance, did you know that Michigan had an anti-begging statute on the books from the 1920s that was just struck down so they can put a big “Spare Some Change” sign in Detroit?

Okay, that’s not why it was struck down, but still. Also it seems that North Carolina is trying to restrict voting to five white guys chosen at random by Reince Priebus and Obama is now in favor of legislative prayer, as if nobody told him he can’t run for a third term.

Looks like I missed a lot, but that didn’t stop me from talking about it on the web. Specifically, I got to talk about how Eric Holder and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are now friends when it comes to stopping USAIR and American Airlines from combining to own all the railroads on the Monopoly board…

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[T]he city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution.

– Judge Shira Scheindlin (S.D.N.Y.), in a ruling declaring that the New York Police Department’s hotly debated stop-and-frisk tactics violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

(Continue reading to see Judge Scheindlin’s glorious 195-page opinion. It’s a legal document that should be on every lawyer’s required reading list.)

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Howard Dean

* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the legal wrangling: Eric Holder’s use of the VRA’s “bail in” provision to circumvent the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby may prove to be trouble. [National Law Journal]

* The Fifth Circuit upheld warrantless cellphone tracking yesterday, noting that it was “not per se unconstitutional.” We suppose that a per se victory for law enforcement is better than nothing. [New York Times]

* The pretty people at Davis Polk are fighting a $1.4 million suit over a headhunter’s fee with some pretty ugly words, alleging that the filing “fails both as a matter of law and common sense.” [Am Law Daily]

* Howard Dean is rather annoyed that he’s had to go on the defensive about his work for McKenna Long & Aldridge after railing against Obamacare. Ideally, he’d just like to scream and shout about it. [TIME]

* The ABA is concerned about Florida A&M, and sent a second warning about the school’s imminent failure to meet accreditation standards. Well, I’ll be damned, the ABA actually cares. [Orlando Sentinel]

* Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is suing to prevent a clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A silly little lawsuit won’t stop this guy from doing what he thinks is right. [Legal Intelligencer]

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two eagerly anticipated rulings in major gay marriage cases. In United States v. Windsor, the challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, the Court held that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal, vacated the decision of the Ninth Circuit, and remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. This left the district court’s ruling intact and had the effect of allowing same-sex marriages to take place in California (although there’s some litigation winding its way through the courts on this matter).

Now that we have the decisions, let’s take a deeper dive into them. What do they reflect about the Court’s role in society? And what can we expect from future SCOTUS rulings in this area?

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A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Scalia views the Constitution as a living document.

– A notable correction issued by the Huffington Post, after the publication incorrectly characterized the views of Justice Antonin Scalia, an originalist. Six months earlier, HuffPo quoted Justice Scalia as stating that the Constitution is “dead, dead, dead.”

There are legitimate arguments that bar exams have a deleterious effect on the delivery of legal services. The presence of bar exams certainly artificially limits the supply of licensed attorneys, which is partially responsible for the lack of attorneys servicing low-income and impoverished clients. Certainly, the bar exam creates barriers to entry, which raises the cost of lawyer services. And, in conjunction with the ABA’s restrictive requirements, the fact that bar exam eligibility in many states is tied to ABA accreditation is one factor that allow law schools to charge exorbitant costs.

I’m generally a fan of bar exams, but there are reasonable arguments against them. But this guy who seems to be preparing to fail his second bar exam is not making one. He’s saying the bar exam in an unconstitutional restriction on his free speech.

I might have been more sympathetic if he called the bar an unconstitutional infliction of cruel and unusual punishment…

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* You’ve seen Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg give Justice Antonin Scalia the finger in prose, but now you can hear what it would sound like in operatic form as composed by a recent law school graduate. [NPR]

* The Fourth Circuit upheld Obamacare’s employer mandate against Liberty University, calling it a constitutional tax, just like the individual mandate. Now’s a perfect time for a sip of Campari. [WSJ Law Blog]

* The Fried Frank toner bandit was sent to the slammer, but alas, it’s unlikely that the firm will be able to recover any of its losses. Too bad, it could use the cash after its 2012 performance. [Am Law Daily]

* Crisis? What crisis? The dean of UC Davis Law refuses to trim class size, but that doesn’t really matter — the application cycle is handling the situation quite nicely. [Sacramento Business Journal]

* Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Kathleen Kane won’t defend the state against a lawsuit seeking to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage. She’s choosing the people over politics. [New York Times]

* With his trial quickly drawing to a close, George Zimmerman is growing increasingly worried about his future. Let’s face it, even if he’s acquitted, living in hiding isn’t a very good look for him. [ABC News]

“What I said was terrible, mean and downright stupid…. I wasn’t trying to scare anyone, I was trying to be witty and sarcastic. I failed and I was arrested.”

– Justin Carter, in a letter to District Judge Jack Robison

On February 14, in New Braunfels, Texas, Justin Carter was arrested on terroristic threat charges. Carter, then age 18, had been posting on a Facebook page for the game League of Legends. When a friend called Carter crazy, Carter allegedly volleyed back that, yeah, he was messed up in the head and that he was going to “shoot up a kindergarten, watch the blood rain down and eat the beating heart out of one of them.” A Canadian woman who viewed the comment reported Carter to law enforcement officials.

Carter’s father insists that his son immediately followed his first Facebook comment with “LOL” and “JK,” clear indications that Carter was . . . laughing out loud and joking when he wrote. Lest you think that explicitly stating that you are joking is enough to insulate your comments from criminal liability, Justin Carter was arrested, then charged by the Comal County Criminal District Attorney. In Comal County, txtspk cannot save you….

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* Ed O’Bannon asks the NCAA to agree in writing not to retaliate against any current athlete that joins his lawsuit against the organization. How sad is it that a non-profit organization committed to helping students needs to be reminded not to retaliate against students? In other news, NCAA Football 14 (affiliate link) came out today. [USA Today]

* More SCOTUS Term analysis. Tom Goldstein, Adam Liptak, and Jess Bravin have been invited to explain to the Heritage Foundation what an awesome term it had. [Heritage]

* The Shelby County decision completely lacks any foundation for the argument that the Voting Rights Act violates the Constitution. Yeah, but besides that… [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* What is wrong with soccer fans? Referee stabs player and then ends up like Ned Stark. [Legal Juice]

* Mayer Brown reports that Mexican leaders are lining up behind energy sector reform. [Breaking Energy]

* Ever wonder about the extent of Internet censorship around the world? Here’s a handy chart showing how Google is censored in various countries around the world. [io9]

* Obama caves to Republican requests to suspend law. Republicans label Obama tyrannical for suspending that law. Bravo. [Wall Street Journal]

Last week, I tested out a longer-form article picking up other stories from the week and stuff that got overlooked and put together a sort of “week in review.” Folks seemed to like it according to our handy-dandy analytics, so we’re trying it again to see if it was just a fluke of the busiest legal news week of the year.

So here are three bits of legal news from the holiday-shortened week that was, including the George Zimmerman trial’s technical difficulties, a lot of butthurt FISA judges, and… wait, is that an honest to God Third Amendment case?!?

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