Constitutional Law

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “After Perry & Windsor: A Conversation About The Supreme Court’s Rulings”

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…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Texan Claims Bar Exam Is Unconstitutional — Which Kind Of Proves Why We Need Bar Exams”

* 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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Terroristic Threat Laws & A Texas Teen: There But For The Grace Go We”

* 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]

That was tiring, huh?

A dizzying array of legal news delivered almost non-stop for an entire week. Emotional highs when DOMA is struck down, lows when a pillar of the legal landscape for nearly 50 years is swept aside, leaving millions of Americans even more concerned about their constitutional rights than they were before. There was an epic filibuster and failed jokes. This was a hell of a week to be covering the law.

As the frenzied week draws to a close, I decided to look back and compile my personal review of the major events of the week, gathered in one omnibus post.

So let’s take a look at the week that was ranging from Aaron Hernandez to the Supreme Court…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Five Stories That Made This an Exhausting Week of Legal News”

* Edith Windsor’s lawyer said she thought her client’s case was “simple,” but it proved to take a little longer than she thought to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. [New York Law Journal]

* Conservative pols are up in arms about the SCOTUS decisions, promising to file constitutional amendments, but like Rand Paul said, “As a country, we can agree to disagree.” [Washington Post]

* Nate Silver breaks down gay marriage by the numbers. By August, 30% of Americans will live in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized. [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]

* Wherein the ancient artifacts of a once storied and prestigious Biglaw firm are touted by a furniture liquidation company as “like new, for less!” Dewey know how embarrassing this is? [Am Law Daily]

* Sorry, Joel Tenenbaum, but the First Circuit affirmed your $675K debt to the RIAA. That’s what happens when you blame illegal downloads on burglars and foster kids. [Law & Disorder / Ars Technica]

* It looks like David Boies claimed two victories yesterday. The Court of Federal Claims gave Maurice Greenberg the green light to sue the U.S. over the terms of AIG’s bailout. [DealBook / New York Times]

The front of the Supreme Court building: ‘Equal Justice Under Law.’ (Click to enlarge.)

The Supreme Court was called to order at 10:00 a.m. sharp. The Chief Justice announced, “Justice Kennedy has our first opinion of the day in case number 12-307, United States v. Windsor. Everyone, in the bar members section at least, knew that this was the Defense of Marriage Act case.

That Justice Kennedy was announcing the opinion was significant; he wrote Lawrence v. Texas. Still, no one knew if the Court would reach the merits, since the Solicitor General had announced that the Executive Branch would not defend the constitutionality of DOMA.

Justice Kennedy is an orderly man. He set out the procedural background – Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were married legally in Canada, then came home to New York. Their same-sex marriage is lawful where it was performed and where they lived. Spyer died and left her estate to Windsor. Windsor sought to claim an estate tax exemption for the death of a spouse. DOMA prevented the IRS from recognizing Spyer as Windsor’s spouse. Windsor paid the tax, then challenged DOMA. She won in the district court and the Second Circuit. Justice Kennedy explained how a bipartisan committee found counsel to defend DOMA, and how DOMA was defended ably in the Supreme Court.

(As an aside, Paul Clement took heat for defending DOMA for Congress. When you think about it, if he hadn’t defended it well, the Supreme Court may not have thought it could reach the issue. Paul Clement may be the unsung hero of the DOMA decision.)

So, Kennedy concluded, the Court could reach the merits of whether DOMA is constitutional.

Though a hopeful sign for those who would cheer the demise of DOMA, the decision wasn’t entirely clear….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Supreme Court Holds That It Is Unconstitutional For The Government To Hate Gay People”

The headline in The Onion, which we noted earlier today, pretty much says it all: “Impatient Nation Demands Supreme Court Just Get To The Gay Stuff.” Today, the last day of the Term, SCOTUS granted our wish, issuing its long-awaited rulings on gay marriage in California and on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Last night, I attended the New York City Bar Association’s annual reception and cocktail party celebrating LGBT Pride Month. M. Dru Levasseur of Lambda Legal and Lisa Linsky were honored for their work advancing LGBT rights. In her eloquent remarks, Linsky noted that despite all the progress of our community, and regardless of what the Supreme Court rules today, many battles remain to be fought.

How many more battles, and of what intensity? Let’s find out what the Court just decided, on the tenth anniversary of the landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas….

Please note the multiple UPDATES added below.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Supreme Court Rules In Two Major Gay Marriage Cases”

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