First Amendment

Tax Day was earlier this week. Like many Americans, I said some prayers — and a few curses — and hoped that Turbo Tax made sense of my mid-year move from D.C. to Texas, my investment roll-overs, my handful of I-9s and W-2s. I did my damnedest to be “true, correct, and complete,” as the IRS insisted. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admitted via Twitter that he has “absolutely no idea whether our tax returns and our tax payments are accurate,” though, of course, he didn’t say that he knew that they weren’t accurate.

Campaign for Liberty, Ron Paul’s 501(c)(4) organization, announced this week that it’s actually pretty sure that its tax recent filings are incomplete, even if true and correct. (Two out of three ain’t bad?) According to C4L, the organization refused to divulge the names of its donors when it filed its IRS 990 forms. The IRS fined Campaign for Liberty just shy of $13,000, plus growing interest for each day the fine goes unpaid.

How did Campaign for Liberty respond? Not as you might expect….

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Let’s buy a senator!

[This] is a decision that substitutes judges’ understandings of how the political process works for the understanding of Congress; that fails to recognize the difference between influence resting upon public opin­ion and influence bought by money alone; that overturns key precedent; that creates huge loopholes in the law; and that undermines, perhaps devastates, what remains of campaign finance reform.

– Justice Stephen Breyer, issuing a scathing dissent in the Supreme Court’s decision in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case. Today, the court ruled in a 5-4 decision to strike down aggregate limits on campaign contributions from individuals to federal political candidates.

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Ten years before Julia Roberts won an Oscar for her portrayal of super-paralegal Erin Brockovich, she gained fame for her role as Vivian, a prostitute not afraid to speak her mind, such as when she guesses (incorrectly) based on her wealthy john’s “sharp, useless look” that he is a lawyer.  Twenty-four years ago yesterday, “Pretty Woman” debuted in theaters and went on to gross an estimated $463 million. This week, On Remand looks back at one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time and the Roy Orbison song that inspired both the movie’s title and a group of controversial rappers from Florida who are no strangers to courtrooms….

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“But otherwise you’re good to serve on this jury, right?”

* What’s a good excuse for getting out of jury duty? Apparently not “having a heart attack RIGHT NOW!” [Lowering the Bar]

* The hits from the CATO amicus brief keep on coming. They commit a footnote to mocking Chief Justice Roberts. [Election Law Blog]

* The Attractive Convict is suing over the use of her mugshot in banner ads. Your redemption is coming, Scumbag Steve! [IT-Lex]

* David Healey, formerly of Weil Gotshal and currently of Fish & Richardson, is filming a movie based on his earlier book. And it stars Sean Young! That’ll work well. [Times of Sicily]

* Does a public-school donor’s request to thank God in an inscription constitute an Establishment Clause violation? [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Supreme Court will hear the case of the NC Dental Board’s efforts to limit the teeth-whitening industry to dentists. Will this ruling spell trouble for state bar associations applying a death grip to all legal services? [WRAL]

“Best amicus brief ever” might not be saying much. Parakeets are pretty indifferent to the liners of their cages.

Every now and then, though, we come across amicus briefs that are a little unusual or interesting. Like one with somewhat surprising or high-profile signatories — say, NFL players, or leading Republicans in favor of gay marriage. Or one that takes the form of a cartoon. Or one that’s just bats**t insane.

Today we bring you an amicus brief that will make you laugh out loud — which shouldn’t be surprising, given that it’s being submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a leading humorist….

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Ed. note: Please welcome Jenny M. Brandt, who will cover celebrities and the law. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

Dax Shepard somewhat recently wrote in the Huffington Post of his support of the legislation signed into law in September aimed at curbing paparazzi from aggressively photographing children. Interesting. How could such a law comport with the First Amendment? Though there are several more paparazzi regulations that an organization called the Paparazzi Reform Initiative seek to enact, SB 606 is noteworthy because it was signed into law and because Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry were public supporters — they even testified before California’s Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of the bill.

Although it was previously illegal for a person to intentionally harass a child because of his parent’s employment (really? weird), SB 606 made it so that actually photographing or attempting to photograph a minor without his parent’s consent in a way that “seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes” is harassment and punishable in the county jail for up to one year. The new language essentially specifies that if the conduct that seriously alarms the child is photographing him, then it is illegal, thereby implicating the First Amendment….

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Judge Richard Posner

From the Above the Law mailbag: “Is ATL ever going to call out Judge Posner for being so needlessly nasty to litigants?”

Ummm, no. I’m a big fan of Judge Richard Posner, who is brilliant and hilarious. (Yes, hilarious — if you doubt that, check out the awesome podcast that he and I did together, which you can download and listen to during your commute or at the gym.)

But in the interest of fairness, I will make this reader’s case. This correspondent cited the recent oral argument in Notre Dame v. Sebelius, which we alluded to yesterday, in which Judge Posner dispensed some benchslaps to Matthew Kairis, head of litigation in the Columbus office of Jones Day. The reader also mentioned the argument on remand in the Conrad Black case, alleging that Posner “was particularly nasty to Miguel Estrada, seemingly piqued that Estrada got him reversed by SCOTUS.”

Let’s focus on the Notre Dame v. Sebelius argument, since it just happened. How bad was it?

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Kate Moss

* For the first time, a federal appeals court extended First Amendment protections reserved for trained journalists at traditional news entities to bloggers. Yippee, thanks Ninth Circuit! [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

* If you want a Biglaw firm with a really generous 401(k) plan, look no further than Sullivan & Cromwell. It’s the most generous law firm plan in the country, with O’Melveny & Myers in second place. [BenefitsPro]

* A brain-dead patient in Texas is being used as an incubator because a state law requires hospitals to continue life support for pregnant women. Calling this the “cruelest pregnancy” is much too kind. [New York Times]

* Here are some depressing facts: not only are lawyers 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than non-lawyers, but they also rank in fourth place in terms of suicides per profession. Call someone if you need help. [CNN]

* Florida A&M must be absolutely thrilled that the ABA canceled the school’s show-cause hearing. It appears that the law school will be able to keep its accreditation, for now. [Tallahassee Democrat]

* If you’re a parent considering going to law school with a young child at home, congrats, because you must be rich to be toying with an idea like that. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Playboy is suing Harper’s Bazaar for using its pictures of Kate Moss without permission. The men’s mag wants $150K per picture posted on the luxury mag’s website — that’s one lavish lapin. [Independent]

“Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, in oral arguments for McCullen v. Coakley

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley, a constitutional challenge to a Massachusetts law creating buffer zones, sometimes called “zones of exclusion,” around abortion clinics. The law at issue, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266 § 120E ½ (2007), provides in part as follows: “No person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of 35 feet of any portion of an entrance, exit or driveway of a reproductive health care facility.” Eleanor McCullen, one of the challengers of the law, is a 76-year-old grandmother who in the past has stood on public sidewalks near abortion clinics in order to initiate one-on-one, non-confrontational conversations with women seeking abortions. The petitioners claim that, over the years, hundreds of women have accepted offers of help from McCullen and the other petitioners. They argue that the new law violates their right to free speech.

The First Circuit opinion below characterizes the plaintiffs’ appeal as advancing “a salmagundi of arguments, old and new, some of which are couched in a creative recalibration of First Amendment principles.” That opinion finds that “[t]he Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others.”

Unfortunately, the First Circuit is wrong about each of those points. Even more unfortunately, this law does the exact opposite of what most of us would hope . . . .

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Is belief in old St. Nick unreasonable?

One of the great things about religious liberty is the ability to believe unreasonable things.

– Professor Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern Law, speaking yesterday at the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention, on a panel about religious freedom.

(If you’re curious, a little explanation appears after the jump.)

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