“What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection . . . But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.”
‘I do. I want to be seen. I want proof I existed [ . . . ] Most people do. Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know — they’d trade it all to know they’ve been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know we die. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.”
The Circle (affiliate link), the latest novel by Dave Eggers, is a work of speculative fiction centering on a hypothetical technology company called the Circle. Eggers sets the story on a glossy, mythical Silicon-Valley internet campus that unapologetically resembles some famous not-so-mythical ones. At the start of the tale, the Circle has recently overtaken Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Its TruYou technology has created unified accounts for its users’ online presences, linking all social media profiles and bank information, tying it to users’ actual offline identities. TruYou is a convenience, a means of better connecting online, but it also changes the tenor of Internet conversation. Since TruYou eliminates pseudonyms and anonymous activity, it also restores real-life accountability to online comments and interactions. People are nicer. Shopping is easier. Communicating is quicker. People send “zings.” They respond with “smiles” or “frowns.” The reader need not decode much in order to recognize this world….
This week, the Senate blocked the nomination of Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. President Obama nominated Wilkins to fill Judge David Sentelle’s seat. Failing to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, Wilkins won’t move forward to an up-or-down, simple-majority vote by the Senate.
Senate Republicans insist that the D.C. Circuit does not need any more judges in order to properly carry its current caseload. While Wilkins might be well-qualified to be a circuit judge, the Senate just isn’t hiring. President Obama said in a written statement, “When it comes to judicial nominations, I am fulfilling my constitutional responsibility, but Congress is not. Instead, Senate Republicans are standing in the way of a fully-functioning judiciary that serves the American people.” Democrats in the Senate, led by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), threaten to alter the rules governing judicial nominations to prevent filibustering.
Democrats’ and Republicans’ reasons for fixating on the D.C. vacancies are political and obvious. It’s an unusually influential court, issuing rulings on administrative and regulatory matters with nationwide implications. What about the rest of the country, though? While politicians in Washington fuss over the D.C. Circuit, what is being neglected elsewhere?
“[O]ne familiar with the profound debates that ushered our Federal Constitution into existence is bound to respect those who remain loyal to the ideals and dreams of ‘Our Federalism.’ The concept does not mean blind deference to ‘States’ Rights’ any more than it means centralization of control over every important issue in our National Government and its courts. The Framers rejected both these courses. What the concept does represent is a system in which there is sensitivity to the legitimate interests of both State and National Governments, and in which the National Government, anxious though it may be to vindicate and protect federal rights and federal interests, always endeavors to do so in ways that will not unduly interfere with the legitimate activities of the States. It should never be forgotten that this slogan, ‘Our Federalism,’ born in the early struggling days of our Union of States, occupies a highly important place in our Nation’s history and its future.”
Our Federalism. Our dear Federalism. Justice Black described this vaunted principle when deciding in 1971 that federal courts must show some restraint when interfering with state criminal prosecutions.
“Our Federalism,” though, only works when you work it. The many conservatives (myself included) who trumpet these principles in briefs, articles, and opinions ought to view this not simply as an academic matter but as a personal political responsibility as citizens.
For all the caterwauling on all sides about national politics and for all the petticoat-clutching over Our Federalism, it is shameful when those same folks can’t name a single member of their city council or school board or state supreme court. . . .
As Elie reported on Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel upheld part and struck down another part of a new Texas law regulating abortion. On Tuesday, the Attorney General’s office sought an emergency stay pending appeal and an expedited schedule for the appeal itself. As of press time, the Fifth Circuit has not ruled on the stay motion. The Circuit will hear the appeal, expedited or not, in the coming months.
In July, when the legislature debated the bill that would become the law now at issue, I wrote about it. I wrote about why I thought the specific provisions of this law were sensible. I wrote about why I thought those provisions were not “anti-woman” as the filibustering Wendy Davis claimed. I suggested a handful of concrete, practical, truly pro-woman measures that legislators could take if they want to genuinely advocate for the welfare of women — measures that don’t involve using abortion as a cure-all.
Now, prognosticating about the fate of the this law as it moves up to the Fifth Circuit raises some additional wrinkles for those who would frame the abortion debate as a matter of “pro-woman” pro-choicers and “anti-woman” anti-abortion advocates….
This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission released new proposed rules that would permit but regulate the offer and sale of securities through crowdfunding. Sounds pretty awesome, except maybe for the “regulate” part.
Crowdfunding, for those of you whose artsy friends have not already solicited Kickstarter donations from you, is an internet-based fundraising method. It typically involves musicians, filmmakers, artists, or designers gathering small financial contributions from a large number of individuals. In exchange for a pledge to the project or startup, backers usually receive some token of appreciation related to the project they are funding — a CD, tickets to live recording session of an orchestral arrangement of music from the Pokemon video game franchise, a signed copy of a book, well wishes from a psychic goat, etc. Websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo serve as exchanges where interested investors link up with aspiring artists, entrepreneurs, and inventors.
Currently, crowdfunded projects are not selling ownership rights in the projects to their financial contributors. Those who pledge money for you to open your dreamed-of cheese bar are not buying stock in your cheese bar. Offering contributors a share of future financial returns, after all, usually triggers the application of federal securities regulations. However, thanks to these new rules proposed by the SEC, pushed forward by 2012’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, this may now change. Subject, of course, to some oversight by the Feds. Let’s take a look at the rules and see if they are likely to Kickstart, er, jumpstart our nation’s business startups….
This week the Supreme Court, via a one-line order by Justice Anthony Kennedy, dismissed an appeal in Brown v. Plata for want of jurisdiction. Thousands of law students enrolled in Fed Jur and Fed Courts classes this semester may argue that there’s nothing sexy about jurisdiction, even by law’s substantially reduced standards for “sexiness.” The dismissal of Plata, though, has some significant effects for millions of people.
In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Kennedy that overcrowding in California prisons caused continuing violations of prisoners’ Eighth Amendment rights to adequate health care and that the overcrowding problem required a population limit. (Justice Scalia dissented, joined by Justice Thomas. Justice Alito also dissented, joined by the Chief.) As a result, California Governor Jerry Brown needed to drastically improve prison conditions or drastically reduce the state’s prison population by releasing inmates.
A flurry of state appeals and motions to change the original order ensued. Then, on September 24 of this year, a three-judge panel gave Brown until the end of January to meet its original order to remove more than 9,600 inmates from California prisons by the end of the year, absent successful negotiations with the plaintiffs. In an attempt to sufficiently improve prison conditions, Governor Brown negotiated a deal with legislators to spend $400 million on improvement of health care services to California prisoners, but he believed he needed more time in order to fully comply by the panel’s deadline. He filed an an appeal for a stay with SCOTUS….
This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. In McCutcheon, the Court will rule on whether certain campaign finance restrictions violate the First Amendment. ATL’s Joe Patrice offered his thoughts on the oral arguments yesterday. Today, I offer an alternative perspective.
Currently, byzantine election laws restrict the total political contributions that a person can make in a two-year period, as well as the number of candidates a person can contribute the maximum amount to. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is a suburban Alabama businessman, the owner and founder of an electrical engineering firm. McCutcheon wanted to contribute $1,776 (a very patriotic sum, indeed) to 27 candidates across the country. Each of those individual contributions in isolation was legal, falling below the $2,600 maximum amount allowed for individual contributions. Yet, had McCutcheon done so, his total contributions would have run afoul of the maximum total allowed, currently $48,600.
Supporting political causes and candidates of your choice is an exercise of your First Amendment rights. Like all constitutional rights, though, it is subject to an overriding compelling governmental interest. In the case of campaign finance restrictions, your speech rights are trumped by the government’s interest in preventing political corruption or the appearance of political corruption.
Here, McCutcheon was expressing his political values, innocently — even laudably — participating in the democratic electoral process as he contributed up to 2600 bucks to individual candidates . . . until he supported one candidate too many. Suddenly, the First Amendment no longer safeguards his political expression. Suddenly, the threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption is so great that democracy just cannot stand if Shaun McCutcheon is allowed to give a penny more to support a candidate who shares his values….
I nearly did not write this post this week. (I’ll pause while some of you wish that ‘nearly’ weren’t a part of that sentence.) I started the week with a mild toothache. By the time I reached my dentist on Tuesday morning, that niggling pain had bloomed into an infection that spread from my tooth to my jaw bone to the soft tissue of my face. Despite oral penicillin (and Vicodin!), I developed a high fever, the left side of my face swelled to grotesque proportions, and my jaw seized shut. I ended up in an ER on IV antibiotics.
While portions of the federal government ground to a halt due to insufficient funds, I held ice packs to my head and prayed quiet prayers about septicemia and the relative impermeability of the blood-brain barrier. Vaguely, in the background, I knew Congress and the president were arguing about health care. About funding the PPACA. Obamacare.
My heart goes out to folks harmed by the federal government shut-down this week. I also agree with those who are dismayed that Capitol Hill can’t reach a consensus sufficient to end the current crisis. It’s their job to find workable agreements, after all. That much, I hope most of us can agree on. Since we’re not here to agree, let’s talk a bit about Obamacare, the source of this week’s trouble in Washington . . . .
In Washington, D.C. on Monday, Aaron Alexis gunned down twelve people. As if designed to preempt the scripted reactions of those who fight for an anemic interpretation of the Second Amendment, the Navy Yard massacre included no assault weapon. Alexis committed his crimes in a virtually gun-free zone. His background had been checked in order to gain the active security clearance he held prior to the shooting. While I’m usually game for a good discussion of the proper limits of the Second Amendment, that alone cannot sensibly be the focus here.
Neither is the matter so simple as switching the sound bite of choice from “gun control” to “mental health and gun control.” Most states, as well as the feds, already substantially limit lawful access to firearms by the mentally ill. Even Texas does.
If the law can deprive felons of their Second Amendment rights, gun control measures that restrict the rights of entire classes of potentially dangerous citizens are not off the table. Even as a conservative, my defense of your individual right to bear arms stops right about when you start having auditory hallucinations. But it’s long past time to start responding to horrors like what occurred this week at the Washington Navy Yard with less talk about guns and more talk about mental illness . . . .
On Tuesday night, President Obama asked Congress to delay a vote authorizing military action against Syria. During the same speech, however, he reserved what he claims is his right as commander-in-chief to act independently if Congress fails to go along with his proposals.
Sen. Bob Corker, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, earlier said that members of the administration would be “far better off if they seek authorization based upon our national interests, which would provide the kind of public debate and legitimacy that can only come from Congress.”
Better off? A unique legitimacy coming only from Congressional approval? Is that just a helpful suggestion to the president or a claim of actual authority?
Let’s all hope for diplomatic solutions with the Assad regime. Let’s hope for consensus at home. But let’s also hope for thirty-hour work weeks, traffic-free commutes, and calorie-free cheese. Then, let’s talk about who gets to decide where American forces go when push comes to shove….
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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