Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson, again

Following the grand jury declining to indict Officer Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, the Brown family released a statement specifically calling for a "campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera." Yes, give everyone a camera--but do not expect it to have as conclusive an effect as you think it will. Video likely would not have changed the grand jury's decision. Perhaps it would have made him less likely to shoot, but I think the deterrent argument is open to debate right now.

A couple things for crim law experts:

1) Is it the grand jury's role to weigh and select between conflicting evidence in deciding whether to indict? The DA made much of the conflict between the physical evidence and the testimony of witnesses, as well as the inconsistency between different witnesses and between statements by particular witnesses. But is that the issue for a grand jury determining probable cause? Or is that supposed to be left for an open trial on culpability? Is it typical for the prosecutor to point out those inconsistencies now? Or is that for defense counsel at trial? Here are two arguments on that, noting that the DA spoke of the grand jury's job as to "separate fact from fiction." Is that wrong?

Now, I know prosecutors often will not seek an indictment if they believe they have enough for probable cause but not to convict, in light of possible witness-credibility problems. But does witness credibility often suggest the absence of probable cause?

2) It seems to me the question is what evidence the grand jury heard showing that Brown posed a continued threat to Wilson. The rule seems to be that a police officer is entitled to keep shooting until the threat is over. It appears that Wilson fired ten shots at a distance (following two fired at close range). The question must be whether any of those initial shots incapacitated Brown.

3) How common is it for the target to testify before a grand jury? How common is it for defense counsel to allow a client to do so?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 24, 2014 at 11:53 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Final Repost: Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference Call for Abstracts: "Law, Religion, and American Health Care"

Final Repost: The deadline is next Monday, December 1.

The Petrie-Flom Center invites abstracts for its 2015 Annual Conference: “Law, Religion, and American Health Care.” The conference will be held at Harvard Law School on May 8 and 9, 2015. 

The conference seeks to address the following topics:
  • Analysis of the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other federal, state, and local legal provisions that come into play at the intersection between religion and health care
  • The Affordable Care Act and employer-based health care coverage, including the contraceptives mandate and related court decisions
  • Legal obligations and accommodations of religious health care organizations
  • Protection (or not) of health professional conscience
  • Health care decision-making for minors with religious parents
  • Religious objection v. discriminatory behavior
  • Informed consent and information flow, e.g., religious objection to providing certain information, inclusion of religious information in consent disclosures, etc.
  • “Medicalization” of religious beliefs, e.g., regulation of homosexual conversion therapy
  • Abortion policy, including clinic protests and protections, and its relationship to religion
  • Embryonic stem cell policy and its relationship to religion
  • End-of-life care, including assisted suicide, and its relationship to religion
  • Complicity as both a legal and religious concept
  • Comparative analysis, e.g., between professions, health care practices, countries, etc.

Please note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive; we hope to receive papers related to the conference’s general theme but not specifically listed here. Abstracts are due by December 1, 2014.

For a full conference description, including the call for abstracts and registration information, please visit our website.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 24, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Just watch the video

This article explains. I have nothing to add--skip to 22:38, when the respondent's argument begins. Somehow, law professors are to blame for this.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 22, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 21, 2014

DOJ weighs in

Seeming to share my sense of where the burden should lie, Eric Holder released video urging law enforcement and protesters to collaborate on plans to keep the peace should protests occur in Ferguson. He reminded protesters that historically successful movements have relied on nonviolence, while calling on police to seek ways to keep order while respecting constitutional rights.  In addition, DOJ officials spoke with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon about the decision to declare a preemptive state of emergency, calling that an escalation of the situation that "sent the wrong message." DOJ also released a resource guide for policies and training on community policing and handling public protest (although it seems a bit late in the day for that).

This is a good reminder of the unique role that DOJ and the Attorney General can, and sometimes do, play in these sorts of localized conflicts, remaining above the simplified law-enforcement fray.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 21, 2014 at 01:57 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rules of engagement, ctd.

In looking at the rules of engagement offered by leaders of potential Ferguson protests (calling themselves the "Don't Shoot Coalition") as a whole, the central question becomes one of defaults. The default, they argue, must be that this is a peaceful assembly and expressive event that police should allow to go forward without interference unless there is genuine indication of significant threats to public safety. And even then, the default should be that those threats are from individual lawbreakers, who should be dealt with, and not the demonstration itself or the great mass of lawful speakers and speech.

Of the 19 proposed rules, consider: # 16 (allow "every latitude" for free assembly and expression); # 15 (tolerate minor lawbreaking); # 14 (tolerate an expansion of the scope, size, or duration of the protest); # 13 (figure out alternate routes for foot and street traffic); ## 7-8 (not military gear or equipment--this is one the police flatly rejected); # 18 (no attempts to preemptively or pretextually stop protesters from organizing and beginning). This is not to mention more common-sense rules, such as be professional and don't use excessive force (# 17--we  really need to state that rule?)

We can disagree over particulars. But the tenor seems right to me: Start from the presumption that this is lawful and deal with it when it isn't, rather than the other way around.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 20, 2014 at 09:40 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rules of engagement

One of the commentators on my earlier post asked what I would suggest as an alternative to calling out the National Guard. This is a start: Negotiations between law enforcement and protest leaders about "rules of engagement" in any upcoming protests following the grand jury decision. As Tim Zick described in his book, such negotiations have become a significant aspect of public protest, especially large, planned gatherings targeting specific times, places, and events. And while one would think that the First Amendment should be the only necessary rule of engagement, past events in Ferguson (and elsewhere) suggest that a clear body of rules, agreed upon and understood by all involved, might be a way to ease tensions from the start.

Unfortunately, one sticking point seems to be whether police will forego riot gear, armored vehicles, and tear gas in the first instance--in other words, police not working from a presumption that the gathering is a riot and protesters are combatants.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

You can't have it both ways

Fox News (yeah, I know) reports that the FBI is warning law enforcement officials nationwide that the failure of the grand jury to indict Off. Darren Wilson is "likely" to lead to violence. In particular, they are saying that police and property may be targeted and that there may be cyberattacks by people "exploiting" the event as a way to engage in unlawful activity. Of course, the FBI also "stressed the 'importance of remaining aware of the protections afforded to the all U.S. persons exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.'”

Sorry, but you cannot have it both ways. If you put law enforcement (and the national guard) on High Alert for attempts to undermine society, it is impossible for them to simultaneously remain aware of the First Amendment, for fear of guessing wrong. And since it is impossible to tell the exploiters from the exercisers, the only solution is to get everyone off the streets.

This does not end well.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 18, 2014 at 09:21 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Prior restraint: How far have we really come?

In a comment to my earlier post on the preemptive state of emergency in Ferguson, Steven Morrison asks whether an advance state of emergency and deployment of troops amounts imposes such an extraordinary chill on speech as to amount to a de facto prior restraint. I think the answer is no. But the point made me think.

In a current work-in-progress, I discuss Walker v. City of Birmingham, in which the Court held that the Collateral Bar Doctrine applied even to the First Amendment and even as to a blatantly unconstitutional injunction. Anticipating civil rights marches during Easter week 1963, officials in Birmingham got a state judge to issue an injunction that repeated, word-for-word, the text of the city's unquestionably unconstitutional permitting ordinance* and prohibited movement leaders from leading or encouraging marches without a permit. When the marches went ahead anyway, the leaders were jailed for contempt of court for violating the injunction. A 5-4 Court upheld the convictions, insisting that the long-held obligation with an injunction is to challenge the injunction directly or obey it (in this case by getting a permit).

* In dissent, Justice Brennan derided this process of converting an ordinance to an injunction as "inscrutable legerdemain."

So my answer to the question in the title of the post is that we actually are moving backward where public assembly and expression are concerned. As corrupt as the events and officials in 1963 Birmingham were, they at least went through the pretense of judicial process. Here, with the stroke of a single executive's pen, the possibility of protest--even without any genuine threat of unlawful behavior--has been declared an emergency and a threat to civil society, justifying deploying military force and turning Ferguson into a battle zone.

Can we really say this is more respectful of First Amendment ideals than what happened fifty years ago?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 18, 2014 at 06:44 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Moral Panics and Body Cameras

That is the title of my new essay in Wash. U. L. Rev. Commentaries (and forthcoming in Wash. U. L. Rev.). The abstract is after the jump.

Obviously, I have been thinking about Ferguson quite a bit of late.

This Commentary uses the lens of "moral panics" to evaluate public support for equipping law enforcement with body cameras as a response and solution to events in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. Body cameras are a generally good policy idea. But the rhetoric surrounding them erroneously treats them as the single guaranteed solution to the problem of excessive force and police-citizen conflicts, particularly by ignoring the limitations of video evidence and the difficult questions of implementing any body camera program. In overstating the case, the rhetoric of body cameras becomes indistinguishable from rhetoric surrounding responses to past moral panics. 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 18, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Article Spotlight, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Inevitable conflict and the state of the First Amendment

This story reports on some planned protests in and around Ferguson when, as expected, a state grand jury declines to indict Off. Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. And this story reports that the governor has declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard in anticipate of protests when, as expect, the grand jury declines to indict.

But those moves together make violent conflict inevitable. Ferguson was defined, in part, by the way in which militarized police behaved like soldiers in a war zone and reacted to potentially peaceful assembly accordingly. How can it possibly go better if the solution is to bring in actual soldiers? Moreover, note the governor's logic--the possibility of people taking to the streets to protest against a perceived injustice, absent any indication that things will turn violent constitutes a state of emergency warranting immediate activation and placement of the state's military force.

The First Amendment at least purports to recognize public streets and sidewalks as places that "time immeorial" have been reserved for expression. But the governor seems to believe that the possibility of streets being used for that "time immemorial" purpose is, by its nature, a threat to public order.

Update: Here is another take on it. And to answer a commenter's question: There has to be a way to be prepared and to take precautions that does not involve treating the possibility of protest as an emergency that threatens civil society. This type of response is virtually guaranteed to produce violence: "We're in a state of emergency, you're on the street, we're going to move you off the street by force." And now we have either 1) protesters resisting, triggering violence or 2) protesters peacably leaving, but not being able to exercise their constitutional rights to peaceably assemble and speak. Surely there must be some middle ground.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 17, 2014 at 08:34 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Carlin's words, updated

George Carlin in the mid-'70s famously identified the seven words you can's say on television. In this review of the new legal show Benched,* NPR's Linda Holmes identifies the new prevailing rules as follows:

Basic Cable: SNOF (Shit, No Fuck), with an addendum for Breaking Bad to say "fuck" every 2-3 episodes, when it really mattered

Broadcast: NOSNOF (No Shit, No Fuck)

Pay Cable: ATFWYCSO (All The F Words You Can Spit Out)

This NPR piece from about a year ago offers a longer take on the subject. It shows that while we focus a lot on "shit" and "fuck," the word on Carlin's list that has universally come to be regarded as taboo is the one for women and/or their genitalia--no one thinks of using it, although the workarounds arguably are just as offensive. The piece also shows--still--how silly much of this is, at least for adult-centered programs.

By the way, I think I second Holmes's recommendation of the show, at least based on one episode. Although the premise is a bit offensive legally--woman lawyer has in-office meltdown (because, you know, women lawyers), still can get a job at the Public Defender's Office (because, you know, anyone can). But it has the potential to at least be funny.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 16, 2014 at 10:31 AM in Culture, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

JOTWELL: Pfander on Bruhl on lower-court precedent

The latest Courts Law essay comes from Jim Pfander (Northwestern), reviewing Aaron-Andrew Bruhl's Following Lower-Court Precedent (U. Chi. L. Rev. 2014), which considers how and when SCOTUS cites to lower-court authority.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 15, 2014 at 10:31 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

District court invalidates South Carolina SSM ban

And spend a lot of time talking about Fed Courts stuff. Of course, the discussion mostly demonstrates that, quite often, neither parties nor courts fully understand this stuff.

1) The suit named three defendants: A probate judge (authorized under state law to issue licenses); the attorney general; and the governor. The court held that the judge and the AG were proper defendants because both were responsible for enforcing the state ban--the judge by issuing (or refusing to issue) licenses and the AG by initiating state-court litigation and by defending the ban in court. But the court held that the governor was not a proper defendant, because other than a generalized power as the chief executive, she is not responsible for enforcing these laws. The court thus dismissed that claim under the Eleventh Amendment.

The Eleventh Amendment dismissal makes no sense (to the extent any of this makes sense). The state is not a named defendant, nor is the state the "real and substantial party in interest" in an action nominally against the individual officer that would require payment from the state treasury. This was a purely equitable action against a named officer; that she is not the correct officer does not convert it back into an action against the state.

Most courts facing the "wrong Ex Parte Young defendant" rely on standing as the basis for dismissal, on the theory that the plaintiff's injury is not "fairly traceable" to that defendant's conduct. I am still not a fan of that, as I think this is all about substantive merits. But it makes at least a bit more sense than saying that suing the wrong individual creates an action against a state.

2) The AG instituted an original jurisdiction action against the probate judge in the State Supreme Court, seeking to enjoin him from issuing licenses in accordance with the Fourth Circuit's decision invalidating Virginia's ban. The supreme court stayed that action, pending resolution of an already-pending action in federal district court. The AG tried to argue that Rooker-Feldman barred jurisdiction over this action, because the issues were involved in the pending supreme court action. But the court easily swept that aside, finding 1) the state supreme court had stayed its action in deference to the federal proceedings, and 2) RF would not apply here, because the plaintiffs are not state-court losers challenging the validity of a court order or seeking to enjoin that order.

I must say, though--that the AG even brought this up reflects a misunderstanding of the recent direction of that doctrine.

3) The AG also tries to argue Younger abstention. Again, easily swept aside, since mere parallel litigation is not a basis for Younger abstention. Again, the plaintiffs want to enjoin enforcement of the SSM ban, not the state court proceedings. Again, the AG needs a Fed Courts class.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 12, 2014 at 01:51 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (11)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Washington & Lee Law Review: Exclusive Submissions

The Washington and Lee Law Review is opening an exclusive review program for articles until November 24, 2014, at 7:00 PM EST.  The Law Review will extend offers for publication by December 8, 2014.  All authors who submit articles to this program agree to accept a publication offer, should one be extended.  For more information and submission instructions, visit this description.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 10, 2014 at 04:33 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law Review Review, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flag burning?

Is a flag-burning amendment on the Republican congressional agenda? I have not heard anyone talking about it, but recent history suggests it is inevitable. The last time the Republicans controlled both houses, in the 109th Congress (2005-07), a proposal passed the House and failed the Senate by one vote. [Ed: A proposal was introduced in one house or the other every Congress from the Gingrich Revolution until the Democrats regained control in 2009]. Republicans will hold around 244 seats in the House and 52 or 53 (depending on the Louisiana run-off) in the Senate. With likely defections from Democrats who do not want to vote against such an amendment, the numbers would seem to be there.

Is this something that Republicans are going to expend time and energy on? Is it likely to pass?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 10, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday question

A former student just sent me the Columbia Law Revue video of a civ pro parody of Truly, Madly, Deeply. It's two years old at this point and I had not watched in awhile. One of the lines in it was "I'll play Neff's lawyer, fuck you like Pennoyer." This is a great line, because beyond the double entendre is the fact that Neff's lawyer, Mitchell, did fuck Pennoyer--Mitchell got the property off the default judgment against Neff and sold it to Pennoyer, who of course had to give it back to Neff. Now Pennoyer turned out ok--two-term governor of Oregon and mayor of Portland--but he did get screwed.

So here is the question for a weekend: Who in the entire 1L canon was screwed the worst? My sympathies are with Pennoyer and with Sister Antillico.

Others?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 9, 2014 at 10:42 AM in Howard Wasserman, Life of Law Schools | Permalink | Comments (17)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Bad Judge

No, not Judge Sutton (although, timing).

NBC canceled the show Bad Judge last week, because, by all reports no one was watching and the show was, well, worse than the judge. I never watched it because I could tell from previews that it was going to depict thoroughly illegal, improper, and unethical behavior as "heroic" and it would just drive me nuts.

But the Florida Association for Women Lawyers found the show even more objectionable; the group had sent a letter to NBC last month calling on it to cancel the show. It argued that the show "depicts a female judge as unethical, lazy, crude, hyper-sexualized, and unfit to hold such an esteemed position of power" and thus is "damaging to women in the legal profession." Fair enough, I suppose, although there have been shows and movies showing judges behaving similarly badly (if not necessarily sexually).

Unfortunately, the letter completely loses it near the end, arguing that the show is

dangerous to the extent those who hold preconceived notions about women judges will find their sexist beliefs reaffirmed. A misogynist who believes that women in power cannot control their sexuality, their bodies and their professional or personal conduct would have their views endorsed by this show.

It compared the show to All in the Family* for similarly having a leading character exhibit and express hateful views that confirm the beliefs of viewers holding similar hateful attitudes. Of course, this show is hyperbole (poorly done, but nonetheless) and Archie Bunker was the butt of the joke, not the heroic model to be emulated. So the letter is relying on the old "people are too stupid to get it" argument, a uniquely bad basis for restricting speech.

* Which, needless to say, will be the first, last, and only time anyone ever will compare these two programs.

But don't worry. Better Call Saul is coming soon.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 7, 2014 at 09:01 AM in Culture, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Here's your circuit split on marriage equality

A 2-1 decision from the Sixth Circuit, authored by Judge Sutton, with Judge Daughtrey in dissent. Media reports indicate the focus is on respecting the will of the voters and the state power to define marriage.

The Sixth Circuit remains majority Republican appointees (all by one of the Bushes), to the extent such crude measures tell us anything. So en banc seems unlikely, unless even Republican-appointed judges do not want to be on the wrong side of this. Still, it appears this is now teed-up for SCOTUS to resolve later this term.

Perhaps more later. Update: Well, the media reports are correct. Sutton's lengthy introduction, before the analysis: "And all come down to the same question: Who decides? Is this a matter that the National Constitution commits to resolution by the federal courts or leaves to the less expedient, but usually reliable, work of the state democratic processes?"

Sutton did make two cute rhetorical moves with Loving. First, he insisted that the Court assumed marriage only encompassed opposite-sex unions, since the Court did not say differently and because the couple in Loving where not same-sex. Second is this: "Loving addressed, and rightly corrected, an unconstitutional eligibility requirement for marriage; it did not create a new definition of marriage." But this seems too clever by a half--all definitions of a thing are based on eligibility requirements for the definition of that thing. Is Sutton really suggesting that Loving would have come out differently if, instead of the law saying "If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony," it said "marriage shall only be between two white persons or two black persons"?

Say this: Sutton hit every possible argument and issue surrounding marriage equality (although he soft-pedaled his discussion of the "marriage is for men and the women they accidentally knock-up" argument). So the opinion presents a good vehicle for thorough consideration (and reversal).

Finally, a question: Judge Daughtrey in her dissent described at length the facts underlying the claim by the Michigan plaintiffs. Under Michigan law, unmarried couples cannot jointly adopt, which means only one parent is the legal parent of the child and there is no guarantee that, if the legal parent dies, the child will be allowed to stay with the other, non-legal parent. But that imposes huge financial costs on the state, if it has to bring that child into the foster care system, not to mention the human and social cost to the child and the entire system. But if the ban on same-sex marriage imposes such costs, doesn't that render it irrational, if not based on animus?

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 6, 2014 at 04:55 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Seeeking balance in uncontested elections

It seems I am not alone in my confusion and concern about states not placing unopposed candidates on the ballots, as this list of stories suggests (H/T: My colleague Tom Baker). In Oregon two years ago, people were angry about having to pay to print GOP primary ballots with only one name. And there was an interesting controversy in Indiana about three years ago. In 2010, the state passed a law removing unopposed candidates for municipal office from the ballot. In 2011, several local bodies insisted on printing ballots that included unopposed candidates, even though it then required that two additional polling places be opened, at public cost. In early 2012, a bill to repeal the 2010 law unanimously passed the state Senate, although I have not been able to find out what happened after that.

Weighing against those cost considerations include the risk of voter enthusiasm, the dampening of interest (and thus willingness to vote) of supporters of the unopposed candidate, and possible down-ballot effects. On the other hand, the cost-saving concerns disappear when the ballots also contain candidates for national and statewide office and all those polling places are open anyway. For example, Miami-Dade County had to print ballots containing all the statewide offices, plus US House candidates, for the other districts that are within the county (for example, Joe Garcia's district) and the polling places within the district had to be opened. Similarly, the polling places within my district were all open and people within my district had to have ballots with all those statewide offices. Would it have really cost that much more money to include the US House race on those ballots?

None of these is of constitutional magnitude, of course, just of policy wisdom.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 6, 2014 at 02:04 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 03, 2014

Repost: Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference Call for Abstracts: "Law, Religion, and American Health Care"

The Petrie-Flom Center invites abstracts for its 2015 Annual Conference: “Law, Religion, and American Health Care.” The conference will be held at Harvard Law School on May 8 and 9, 2015.  

The conference seeks to address the following topics:

  • Analysis of the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other federal, state, and local legal provisions that come into play at the intersection between religion and health care
  • The Affordable Care Act and employer-based health care coverage, including the contraceptives mandate and related court decisions
  • Legal obligations and accommodations of religious health care organizations
  • Protection (or not) of health professional conscience
  • Health care decision-making for minors with religious parents
  • Religious objection v. discriminatory behavior
  • Informed consent and information flow, e.g., religious objection to providing certain information, inclusion of religious information in consent disclosures, etc.
  • “Medicalization” of religious beliefs, e.g., regulation of homosexual conversion therapy
  • Abortion policy, including clinic protests and protections, and its relationship to religion
  • Embryonic stem cell policy and its relationship to religion
  • End-of-life care, including assisted suicide, and its relationship to religion
  • Complicity as both a legal and religious concept
  • Comparative analysis, e.g., between professions, health care practices, countries, etc.

Please note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive; we hope to receive papers related to the conference’s general theme but not specifically listed here. Abstracts are due by December 1, 2014.

For a full conference description, including the call for abstracts and registration information, please visit our website.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 3, 2014 at 03:41 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Rotations

Thanks to our October visitors, who may be sticking around a few more days to say good-bye.

For November, we welcome back Michael Helfand (Pepperdine), Adam Kolber (Brooklyn), Jake Linford (Florida State), Kirsten Nussbaumer (Stanford), and Margaret Ryznar (Indiana-Bloomington). And Richard Re (UCLA) continues his semester with us.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 1, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Blogging, Housekeeping, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Popular votes

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States. But I just cast a ballot in Florida that did not have a slot for U.S. House on it. The representative for my district is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who ran unopposed with no pre-qualified possible write-in candidates. Under Florida Statutes § 101.151(b)(7), "[e]xcept for justices or judges seeking retention, the names of unopposed candidates shall not appear on the general election ballot. Each unopposed candidate shall be deemed to have voted for himself or herself."

Administratively, this makes sense, I suppose. Why print hundreds of thousands of ballots when it is only going to take one ballot to elect the candidate? And the states do control the time, place, and manner of holding House elections, so Florida can pursue such administrative choices and conveniences when the outcome is determined. Nevertheless, there seems something odd about the state essentially declaring as the winner of a popular election someone who never actually stood before her constituency for consideration at the relevant moment, which is when they are casting ballots. It also strips voters (inclduing me, I will confess) of the opportunity to use the ballot for expressive purposes, perhaps by leaving that space blank. While leaving the spot blank means I still would not have cast a vote in this contest, it would have been my choice not to cast that vote, not the state's.* And if other people did the same thing, there might be meaning to the difference between the votes Ros-Lehtinen received and the total votes cast by people in this district.

* I recognize, of course, that the Supreme Court has made clear that ballots are not intended to serve expressive purposes.

Finally, I presume that, while Florida is a strange place with strange laws, it is not alone in this practice.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 31, 2014 at 03:01 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tenure standards and recruiting

A new question for this ongoing exchange: If a school (not Harvard/Yale/Stanford) were to take the lead and up its tenure standard to 5-6 articles in five years (from its current 2-3 in the same period), how would that affect entry-level recruiting? Would people be scared off? Would it send a signal of scholarly commitment? Would it make absolutely no difference? Some other option?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 31, 2014 at 10:46 AM in Howard Wasserman, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Scholarly productivity, generational change, and empirical data

Following on my earlier post and Orin's follow-up: A colleague* shares this 1998 article by Deborah Merritt (Ohio State). The focus of the study is the connection between excellence in scholarship and in teaching.** But the piece studied faculty hired between 1986-90 and that cohort's scholarly productivity from the time of hiring until Summer 1996. The tables are worth a look. For example, she found that 30 % of that cohort had published two or fewer articles, while 11 % had published ten articles or more. The largest (a total of 47 %) was clustered around 2-4 articles.

    * Who also chides me for not bringing data to bear in my original post.

    ** For what it is worth, she did not find them inversely correlated.

But building on Orin's theme of generational change, the study seems dated. The interesting question is how much has changed if we were to run a similar study of people who began teaching in the last 10-15 years. My pure speculation is that we would see a slight upward shift, with that 30 % mark around six-seven articles or fewer.

I think of the late '80s as an important transition point, when a broader number and type of law schools began shifting to a focus on scholarship and began hiring faculty with an interest in publishing and imposing an obligation to do so. But the past 10-15 years have seen a second generational change, expanding on the broad scholarly commitment that took shape in the period that Merritt studied. In this latter period, we have seen the rise of VAPs and fellowships, the rise of PhDs, and the rise of people writing while clerking knowing they need it to get a teaching job --all of which contribute to a greater quantity of scholarship at the outset by people trying to get a job, which, for some percentage of people, will carry on throughout their careers.

Update: A reader points me to this study by Tracey George and Albert Yoon on the hiring process (before the bottom fell out of the market) and candidate details and qualifications, including pre-hiring pubs.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 30, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kentucky Law Journal: Exclusive Submission Window

The following was forwarded by Josh Douglas at Kentucky. If you have an August piece that did not place or you want to get a head start on February:
 
The Kentucky Law Journal is opening an exclusive submission window for articles until November 14, 2014, at 5:00 PM EDT. All papers submitted during this window will be reviewed for publication in Volume 103, Issue 4, set for publication in Spring 2015. By submitting your article during this window, you agree to accept a publication offer, should one be extended. This window is available for articles on all topics, including articles previously submitted to the Kentucky Law Journal, though resubmission will be required. Submissions should be between 15,000 and 25,000 words with citations meeting the requirements of The Bluebook.
 
Submissions should be sent via email to chrisheld.klj@gmail.com. Please include your article, a copy of your C.V. and a short abstract or cover letter.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 29, 2014 at 01:03 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tenure's "New Normal"

Building on the recent conversations about productivity and tenure standards: An untenured emailer asks: What is the "new normal" for tenure, whether as a matter of written standards or the "common law" of tenure? And, as I asked in Marcia's post, are schools upping the numbers, either in writing or in common law? Are we increasing the pressure on pre-tenured faculty, both by raising the bar and through the uncertainty? Relatedly, if you were writing tenure standards from scratch in the current writing and publishing environment, in the current scholarly environment, what would you adopt as the tenure standard?

The standard at FIU is three substantial scholarly works either published or accepted for publication at the beginning of the sixth year. That standard was adopted before I got here, although I imagine it was consistent with other schools at the time. As for creating a new standard, it seems to me that one article per year (and I agree with Orin that a new prawf should try to send something out in February of Year One) is more than reasonable, meaning a more approrpiate statutory minimum might be five pieces and a productive tenure applicant would be be in the 5-10 range. I would add that, to the extent coming in off a VAP is the new normal, many faculty would "count" anything written during the VAP but published after starting on the tenure track.*

    * So going Orin one better, someone coming off a VAP might be encouraged to hold that final VAP piece for the August cycle, which allows her to begin at her new school by immediately placing a piece.

Thoughts?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 29, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (21)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

JOTWELL: Vladeck on Richman & Reynolds on the appellate court crisis

The new JOTWELL Courts Law essay comes from our own Steven Vladeck, reviewing William M. Richman & Willliam L. Reynolds, Injustice on Appeal: The United States Courts of Appeals in Crisis (Oxford 2013).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 28, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Eleventh Amendment is a pain

This lawsuit, filed today, alleges that the NCAA violates the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying student-athletes (who, it alleges, are akin to work-study students). Named defendants are the NCAA and every Division I school, many of which are state schools; the suit seeks unpaid wages and an injunction requiring the schools to stop violating the FLSA (meaning that students be paid wages going forward). The problem: States cannot be sued by name under the FLSA, which is a Commerce Clause enactment on which Congress cannot abrogate sovereign immunity. And Ex Parte Young is not available for recovering the unpaid wages, so the plaintiff cannot retrench and sue the president of each state university.

Without even getting into the FLSA merits, this is a case in which the Eleventh Amendment is genuinely a barrier to relief. The plaintiffs' best move is to try to proceed with their claims against the private schools, then hope the Department of Labor will be persuaded by the arguments and will jump into the case.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 24, 2014 at 08:36 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

More scholarly outlets?

Zak started a conversation and Bridget Crawford asks a follow-up: When did it become the case that one post-law school is not sufficient to make one a viable candidate and that 2-3 post-school pieces are the norm? One possibility (raised by Bridget and Glenn Cohen in the comments to Zak's post) is the rise of the VAP and the time and writing expectations it provides.

I want to connect it several changes in scholarly publishing (which may be complementary to the VAP explanation):

   1) There are more outlets for scholarship. Most schools have several journals and the number seems to be rising. The number of speciality journals has increased, including "law-and-policy" journals that publish the same type of public-law stuff that already plays well in general law reviews.

   2) The "typical" article is shorter than it was 10-15 years ago, prompted by the guidelines adopted by several of the t14 reviews. The typical piece is 15-20k words, as opposed to 25-30k. This means, I suppose, that you can write two articles in roughly the time you used to be able to write one.

   3) The rise of on-line supplements and similar outlets for shorter scholarship provides an incentive and opportunity to publish one big piece and one small piece in a year.

I am not looking at FAR forms this year, so I do not know if any of these explanations is empirically supported. But I do know that all 3 have affected how and what I write. So it makes sense that they also might affect what VAPs and others planning for the market do (especially if they are getting advice from people in roughly the same position as me).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 23, 2014 at 11:13 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another voice on classroom technology

From Clay Shirky, a professor media studies at NYU. I especially appreciate the point that student distraction by technology is a biological inevitably; as he writes, "[h]umans are incapable of ignoring surprising new information in our visual field, an effect that is strongest when the visual cue is slightly above and beside the area we’re focusing on." This is important on two levels--one personal, one professial First, it gives lie to the "if you'd be more interesting in the classroom, they'd pay more attention" trope. Second, I can use it to explain to my wife why my eyes always move to watch sports on a tv screen in a restaurant.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 21, 2014 at 03:47 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Subject matter jurisdiction crossword

From Spencer Weber Waller (Loyola-Chicago): The Subject Matter Jurisdiction crossword puzzle.

The answer to 12-Down is "thetutor" (Spencer's TA); the answer to 15-Down is "Locke" (that section's torts professor). New York Times rules apply, so an answer can be more than one word. Have at it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 21, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Misunderstanding Rule 11

Via Slate, the lame-duck attorney general of Arizona cited FRCP 11 sanctions as a basis for no longer defending (or appealing, although that would be covered by FRAP 38) same-sex marriage bans. The argument, it seems, is that defending the bans (or appealing) would be seen as imposing unnecessary delay or expense or as a frivolous argument not warranted by existing law. Mark Stern at Slate and Josh Blackman both see this more as a political move. I want to suggest it must be, because the argument is wrong legally.

First, FRCP 11(b)(1) only prohibits actions done for the purpose of causing delay or expense. It is surely a legitimate purpose for government to obtain a definitive and binding Supreme Court ruling on an issue of constitutional import.

Second, since SCOTUS has not spoken on the issue, it cannot be said that Arizona's constitutional arguments, even if a clear loser in the Ninth Circuit, are frivolous before SCOTUS. As Josh points out, neither SCOTUS's undoing of stays or cert. denials are binding precedent. And the state always can pose an argument for "modifying, or reversing existing law," perhaps by seeking en banc Ninth Circuit review. Or the state can skip unfriendly Ninth Circuit law by seeking cert before the court of appeals judgment. But any of those options requires that the state first defend and appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Surely FRCP 11 cannot be read to cut-off such litigation strategies.

Finally, let's be serious. When was the last time the government was sanctioned for defending the constitutional validity of one of its laws?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 20, 2014 at 06:07 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Whose job is it, FRE edition

I finally got around to reading the argument in Warger v. Schauers, dealing with whether FRE 606(b) prohibits inquiry into jury deliberations in trying to show that a juror was untruthful during voir dire. During the argument, counsel for respondent (the defendant, who won at trial) repeatedly argued that, if the Court believes it would be better to allow juror testimony on such claims, then it is a job for Congress to change the rule. Counsel repeated this point several times, always mentioning Congress as the source of any change.

But it is not Congress's job, at least not primarily--it is the Court's job, under the Rules Enabling Act. It is true that the original 606(b) from 1973 (it was amended once, in 2006) was affirmatively enacted by Congress as part of the original Federal Rules of Evidence. But since then, changes to the FRE follow the same procedure as changes to the FRCP or FRCrP, with the advisory committees and the Court taking the lead and Congress merely exercising a power to disapprove a submitted rule. And while Congress can always amend the rules through ordinary legislation, that is not the primary or presumptive way to make a change. When litigants talk about the meaning of the FRCP or the need for amendment, it is always discussed primarily in terms of the Court and the committees. I am wondering why it should be different with the FRE.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 20, 2014 at 01:56 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Audio at Oyez

Does anyone know why Oyez no longer offers audio of SCOTUS arguments with the transcript embedded into the audio (Compare this audio from last term with one from this term)? It was a great feature that made reviewing arguments easier and more engaging. True, you get the same effect by reading the transcript while listening to the recording. But I am curious why the site has stopped using a truly unique and beneficial feature.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 19, 2014 at 10:31 AM in Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Giving reasons

Richard's post on the problems created in Dart Cherokee by the court of appeals failure to explain its reasoning and Gerard Magliocca's CoOp post on recent examples of SCOTUS issuing procedural orders affecting constitutional litigation without explanation share a common theme--to what extent do courts, particularly reviewing courts, have an obligation to explain themselves. That obligation might be to reviewing courts, lower courts, current litigants, future litigants, or the public at large.

The problem is that the desire to provide explanation potentially butts against case-management concerns and the difficulty (if not impossibility) of providing reasoned explanations for every decision, including procedural decisions such as declination of discretionary review (the issue in Dart), cert. denials, and stays (or releases of stays) pending review. Courts do not have the time or resources to provide full-on reasons for every decision, particularly where reasons require consensus on a multi-member court. Then we have to figure out whether less-than-complete reasoning is better or worse than no reasoning at all. And we potentially fall back into the debates of the late '90s and early '00s about non-precedential opinions and the problems they create.

Importantly, neither Richard nor Gerard argues that courts should do this in every case, but only special cases--where failing to explain wuld effectively insulate a decision from review or the issues are signficant enough that special guidance is needed. I would reiterate that the decisions prompting the discussion involve particular procedural concerns rather than the ultimate merits.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 17, 2014 at 11:48 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Supremacy and uniformity

I generally have been understanding, if not sympathetic, to the Court's odd behavior with respect to marriage equality of late. I understood the underlying idea that the Court need not act if the circuits are taking care of business. And I am ok with the Court dropping hints in one direction (as it arguably did in denying the five cases at the beginning of the term). But two things give me some pause.

The first is this post by Mike Dorf arguing that the Court's refusal to get involved is not a problem at the inter-circuit level, but at intra-state level, where a federal court of appeals and state high court might disagree, creating some confusion. He offers an interesting example: A federal circuit court recognizes the right to marriage equality and the executive responds by ordering clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. But then a spousal privilege dispute arises in a state proceeding and the state supreme court refuses to recognize the privilege because, in its view, same-sex marriages are not constitutionally required. (The case has an added wrinkle--the state supreme court also disregarding the state executive's decision to issue the marriage license, which ought to be controlling). Nevertheless, it illustrates the multiple contexts and postures in which these issues arise.

The second was re-reading the justiciability discussion in Windsor in preparation for it (and Hollingsworth) in Fed Courts this week. I had forgotten how much Kennedy emphasized "the Supreme Court's primary role in determining the constitutionality of a law" and the Court's duty to address its constitutionality (what Scalia in dissent rejected as a "jaw-dropping . . . assertion of judicial supremacy"). Despite that rhetoric, the Court now seems in far less of a rush to perform that role.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 14, 2014 at 05:17 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Epstein on Black & Spriggs on precedent

The new JOTWELL Courts Law essay comes from Lee Epstein (Wash. U.), reviewing Ryan C. Black & James F. Spriggs II, The Citation and Depreciation of U.S. Supreme Court Precedent (J. Empirical Legal Stud.), which examines how the use of precedent changes and depreciates over time.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 14, 2014 at 10:11 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 13, 2014

First Annual Civil Procedure Workshop

We are pleased to announce the First Annual Civil Procedure Workshop, to be co-hosted by Seattle University School of Law, the University of Washington School of Law, and the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law. The Workshop will be held at Seattle University on July 16-17, 2015. Future conferences will take place at the University of Washington and the University of Arizona.

The Workshop will give both emerging and established civil procedure scholars an opportunity to gather with colleagues and present their work to an expert audience. We hope the Workshop will strengthen the study of procedure as an academic discipline. By assembling annually, colleagues will have regular opportunities to meet to exchange ideas, to collaborate, and to participate in a national conversation on civil procedure scholarship.

Scholars whose papers are selected will present their work in small panel sessions. A senior scholar will moderate each panel and lead the commentary. Confirmed participants for 2015 include Stephen Burbank, Scott Dodson, Myriam Gilles, Suzette Malveaux, Judith Resnik, Suja Thomas, and Tobias Barrington Wolff.
We welcome all civil procedure scholars to attend this Workshop. Those wishing to present a paper for discussion in the Workshop should submit a two-page abstract by December 15, 2014. While we welcome papers from both emerging and senior scholars, preference may be given to those who have been teaching for ten years or fewer. Workshop organizers will select papers to be presented by January 31, 2015. Please send all submissions or related questions to Brooke Coleman.

The Workshop will provide meals for registrants. Participants must cover travel and lodging costs. We will provide information about reasonably priced hotels as the date approaches.

Feel free to contact us with questions:

Brooke Coleman (Seattle), colemanb@seattleu.edu
Liz Porter (UW), egporter@uw.edu
Dave Marcus (Arizona), dmarcus@email.arizona.edu

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 13, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Too old to root?

My wife grew up in Baltimore, so our family is rooting for the Orioles in the ongoing American League Championship Series--as I told a student, I now am an Orioles Fan-in-Law. And it is utterly exhausting to care this much about a team and to so badly want it to win.

So my question: Does there come a point when we are old to root passionately for a team? Mind you, I am not talkng about caring about sports--I regularly watch (and obviously write about) baseball and other sports and it always will remain a pleasure.* I am talking about living and dying with a particular team, the way I did as a kid or even a younger adult. I was catatonic for days after the Cubs blew the 2003 NLCS and my wife understood. But 11 years later, in a series that it does not even really involve "my team," I cannot work up the energy to be sad or worried about losing. And it even is hard for me to watch, because it feels like too much work to care.

    * Although the NFL and I are on a break right now, my response to domestic violence and the gladiatorial nature of the game.

Worse: Maybe the dirty secret is that I am glad and take relief that the Cubs (and, to a lesser extent, Northwestern, my college rooting interest) regularly stink, because it saves me the pain of disappointment when they (inevitably) lose.

Now get off my lawn.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 12, 2014 at 11:56 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, October 10, 2014

More on prosyletizing police

On Wednesday, I discussed a lawsuit brought by an Indiana woman who alleges that a police officer, at the end of a traffic stop, asked her about accepting Jesus as her lord and savior and gave her literature about an area Baptist ministry.

In my Civil Rights class on Thursday, we had an extended discussion of the case (the timing of the suit was perfect--we were finishing Qualified Immunity) that drove home for me the real chance that the officer will be able to successfully argue that the right was not clearly established. There probably is no case law on factual point--a police officer distributing religious material during a traffic stop without an explicit threat or punishment. Cases about proselytizing teachers are analogous (the complaint repeatedly alleges that the plaintiff did not feel free to leave, setting up a similar captive-audience situation combined with an implicit threat of punishment), but perhaps distinguishable in context. While there likely were department regs setting out proper conduct during a traffic stop, there likely was not an express prohibition on proselytizing. And there is a question of whether the stop was still ongoing. Is this the equivalent of selling foster children into slavery (Judge Posner's favorite example), so obvious that general anti-establishment principles are sufficient to clearly establish? Can we say the officer was "plainly incompetent" in believing it was constitutionally permissible to do this?

Update: On speaking with a colleague, I may be slightly more optimistic, as he points to two more avenues through which this right might be clearly established. First, officers are trained and should know that they cannot exceed the scope of a traffic stop in a way that is explicitly or implicitly coercive--to ask the driver on a date, to ask the driver for money, to sell their daughter's girl scout cookies, or to discuss who the driver is going to vote for in the next sheriff election; what the officer did here is not different in any meaningful way. Second, officers should know generally that they cannot stand in the public square and proselytize while in uniform and on-duty; that should put them on notice that they cannot do it during a traffic stop. Again, it all involves moving from general principles, so much depends on how willing the court is to see those general principles as establishing broad obligations of which a reasonable officer should have been aware.

Ultimately, it may not matter, as my guess is the officer (indemnified and represented by the city) will settle, as the case is not worth much money. But it reflects just how difficult life can be for § 1983 plaintiffs.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 10, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

More fan crowd-funding

Fans of Ole Miss stormed the field following the team's win over Alabama (sorry, Paul) last weekend; the acts cost the school about $ 75,000--a $50,000 fine by the conference and about $ 25,000 to replace the goalposts and other damage to the field. Fans crowd-funded the total amount and more in a matter of hours. In our Catalyzing Fans paper, we considered fans raising money to pay an athlete's fine. 

This is an interesting move, although with two important distinctions. First, the fines/costs were the result of the fans' own conduct, so it makes sense for them to pay it. It does not raise the moral hazard problem of fans essentially indemnifying player misconduct; here, they were paying for their own misconduct. Second, the school was involved--fans contacted the athletic department about contributing and the school set-up a special site. But since Ole Miss (as opposed to the Cleveland Cavaliers) is a not-for-profit entity, the direct giving makes sense.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 8, 2014 at 03:04 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clearly established?

Back in June, we learned that at least the Eighth Circuit believes the right to burn a flag is clearly established. I wonder what the Seventh Circuit will think of the right not to have a police officer proselytize and hand-out information about a church in the course of a traffic stop.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 8, 2014 at 01:47 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law Review Review | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The politics of sports

Here is (somewhat lengthy) video of a Ferguson protest outside Busch Stadium in St. Lousi before last night's National League Division Series game between the Cardinals and Dodgers. One fan wears a Cardinals jersey with "I am Darren Wilson" on the back; many fans engage the protesters with some not-unexpected-but-unfortunate racist vitriol.

But this highlights my long-held point that sports and politics are inextricably mixed. The protesters picked an ideal forum: Millions of people watching, thousands of people milling about, and an event that touched on civic pride and heart--all to protest conditions and issues that call some of that pride into question, prompting some reactions that illustrate precisely why that pride should be questioned.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 7, 2014 at 12:10 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 06, 2014

Is it unseemly for SCOTUS to wait? (Updated)

Calvin Massey tries to figure out why SCOTUS declined to take a marriage-equality case. One possibility he offered is that "the Court is just avoiding the issue, hoping that the circuit courts will do the job for them," a possibility Massey calls "unseemly."

But is it unseemly and, if so, why? One reason to have "One Supreme Court" is to ensure uniformity of federal law. But if that uniformity comes anyway, is it really necessary that SCOTUS speak (or, as Dahlia Lithwick put it, lead) on any particular issue? Is there anything inherently wrong with SCOTUS waiting for a circuit split or for a circuit to get it "wrong"? Especially when the denial of cert. drops such a big hint to lower courts (particularly the Sixth Circuit, which seemed, based on oral argument, to be most inclined to uphold a state ban) to fall in line or risk being reversed later in the term?

Update: Neil Siegel frames the denials in line with the halfway decision in Windsor, as a Bickelian Court deciding as little as possible while dropping hints to direct the further conversation. Pivoting off that, it shows that our understanding of Bickel and passive virtues must be court-specific. Whereas Bickel likely imagined leaving the national conversation to the political branches and outside the Article III judiciary, here, it is unlikely any states will be suddenly motivated to legislate marriage equality. Instead, the conversation that SCOTUS is encouraging is in the lower federal courts, tasked with reading tea leaves (in Windsor and now in the cert. denials) and moving the discussion forward.

But is that what Bickel had in mind? Certainly multiple regional districts and circuits allow more "national conversation" and evolution than one final-and-thus-infallible decision of one Supreme Court. But these decisions still are being made by the same body of unelected-and-unaccountable life-tenured federal judges, drawn from the same pool and sharing the same orientation as the members of SCOTUS. That seems a very different conversation from the one Bickel imagined in promoting, for example, standing (which applies to all federal courts).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 6, 2014 at 05:27 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

The many (too short) lives of Dan Markel

The just-completed Yom Kippur Holy Day is, in part, a day for thinking about death--our own and those of our friends and loved-ones who have passed away. So it was inevitable to think about Dan's before-his-time death. But the rabbi's sermon at Friday evening's Kol Nidre drove home the incredibly broad range of people and lives Dan touched and the serendipity of those often-intersecting lives. The rabbi and her husband were friends with Dan--all three had been Dorot Fellows in Israel and met several years ago at a Fellows reunion. So the rabbi spoke from the heart about the tragedy of losing their close friend in such a tragic way. And it just so happened that I was in the audience, someone who knew Dan from a different phase of his life.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 6, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The drawbacks of heightened expectations

The NFL has been raked over the coals recently for its (mis)handling several incidents of domestic violence by players. In some ways, this seems unfair, in that we seem to be asking the NFL to do more and do better with domestic violence than anyone else. Domestic abuse is a society-wide problem and no other institution--not the judiciary, not universities, not law enforcement--has not shown much more skill in understanding or handling the problem. In any event, why should professional sports leagues play any role (much less a special one) on the subject. It is not clear that there is a higher rate of domestic violence among professional athletes (it may depend on what the comparison is). And one could argue that teams and leagues should not care about players' off-field conduct, just as most employers don't care about what their employees do outside of work.

At another level, though, I wonder if it is fair to hold sports to a higher standard because of their history--a history that sports, leagues, and teams readily promote. Baseball regularly touts that it was ahead of society on integration--Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers six years before Brown and two months before President Truman desegregated the military. The NBA has financially propped up the WNBA for almost twenty years, allowing for the longest-running professional teams-sports league. Creating athletic opportunities for women and girls is Title IX's most-visible achievement and what makes possible genuinely popular women's sporting events--University of Connecticut basketball, the US Women's National Soccer Team, etc.). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made noise about the NFL being a moral leader; this is laughable (especially with Goodell as its head), but we should be able to take him at his word as to his intent, which means he bears the burden of figuring it out ahead of the curve.

So if sports and leagues have taken the lead in the past on some social issues and if they get much PR mileage out of that past, is it unreasonable to expect them to take the lead on this issue, when they clearly want to be involved? And if they fail so spectacularly, is it unreasonable to criticize them for that failure?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 2, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Balance of video

This piece in Sunday's Times offers a different perspective on the race to equip police officers with body cameras--they are law enforcement's response to increasingly ubiquitous amateur citizen videos, which the piece describes as "hav[ing] become part of the fabric of urban democracy." This turns the narrative somewhat on its head. Supporters of the right to record (including me) have generally argued that the citizen's right is essential in response to increasing police-controlled recording (through dash cams, street cameras, recorded station-house interviews, and other surveillance). As I put it once, citizen recording produces "a balance of power in which all sides can record most police-public encounters occurring on the street and in the stationhouse. Big Brother is watching the people, but the people are watching him."

But articles such as this one suggest that police see that balance as having shifted too far towards the public. Body cams--the latest technology--now are seen as a way for the government to restore that balance.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 30, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

JOTWELL: Wasserman on Redish & Aronoff on judicial retention

I have the new Courts Law essay, reviewing Martin Redish (Northwestern) and Jennifer Aronoff's The Real Constitutional Problem with State Judicial Selection: Due Process, Judicial Retention, and the Dangers of Popular Constitutionalism. They argue that judicial life tenure is required as a matter of Due Process, where any other form of retention risks judges being influenced in their decisionmaking by concerns of how to keep their seats on the bench. I have taught for years that retention is the bigger deal than selection in terms of judicial independence (something my daughter also decided to ask about at dinner last night); they finally made the argument.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 29, 2014 at 10:31 AM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Petrie-Flom Center Annual Conference Call for Abstracts: "Law, Religion, and American Health Care"

The Petrie-Flom Center invites abstracts for its 2015 Annual Conference: “Law, Religion, and American Health Care.” The conference will be held at Harvard Law School on May 8 and 9, 2014.  

The conference seeks to address the following topics:

  • Analysis of the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and other federal, state, and local legal provisions that come into play at the intersection between religion and health care
  • The Affordable Care Act and employer-based health care coverage, including the contraceptives mandate and related court decisions
  • Legal obligations and accommodations of religious health care organizations
  • Protection (or not) of health professional conscience
  • Health care decision-making for minors with religious parents
  • Religious objection v. discriminatory behavior
  • Informed consent and information flow, e.g., religious objection to providing certain information, inclusion of religious information in consent disclosures, etc.
  • “Medicalization” of religious beliefs, e.g., regulation of homosexual conversion therapy
  • Abortion policy, including clinic protests and protections, and its relationship to religion
  • Embryonic stem cell policy and its relationship to religion
  • End-of-life care, including assisted suicide, and its relationship to religion
  • Complicity as both a legal and religious concept
  • Comparative analysis, e.g., between professions, health care practices, countries, etc.

Please note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive; we hope to receive papers related to the conference’s general theme but not specifically listed here. Abstracts are due by December 1, 2014.

For a full conference description, including the call for abstracts and registration information, please visit our website.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 29, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sponsored Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rotations

As September turns to October, our thanks to our September visitors--Seema, Irina, Richard, and Jennifer--for helping kick-off the new school year.

For the new month, we welcome a slate of returning GuestPrawfs: Mark Kende (Drake), Geoffrey Rapp (Toledo), Marcia McCormick (Saint Louis), Zak Kramer (Arizona State), Orin Kerr (GW), and David Orentlicher (Indiana-Indianapolis). [Update: And Richard Re (UCLA) will continue his extended visit with us]

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 29, 2014 at 08:01 AM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)