Thursday, December 18, 2014

The '60s, ctd.

Responding to how law schools handled testing on emotionally charged issues during the '60s, an alert reader points me to Harvard Law School's exam database, which seems to go back to Langdell.

In spring 1970,* Professor Cox's (presumably Archibald) Con Law exam (the link above takes you directly to this exam, beginning on p.335) asks whether a Black Panther can be prosecuted for criminal syndicalism for a speech discussing reasons to "tear down" and "burn" the town and how three men can do themselves. The hypo is fictionalized, but it is pretty clear who and what the prof is getting at and why (just as a fictionalized version of Michael Brown and Louis Head would not have covered anything). This exam was given two weeks after two students were killed and twelve others wounded when Jackson, MS police opened fire on an anti-war protest consisting of about 100 Black students).

* Yes, 1970 was still "the '60s"; the '70s did not begin until Watergate.

Another Con Law exam that same year, this from Prof. Kaufman (beginning on p. 341 in the link), asked students whether, as clerk to a court of appeals judge, they would recommend joining an opinion affirming rejection of a Fourteenth Amendment challenge to a municipality closing all its swimming pools. It later asked students to evaluate the constitutionality of a federal statute permitting students to transfer out of segregated schools and requiring public payment of transportation expenses for students to attend other schools.

So we have the Black Panthers and incitement during a civil rights protest, state efforts to avoid desegregation in places of public accommodation, and federal efforts to ensure integration, including bussing. Surely these were no less controversial or emotionally charged in May 1970 than Ferguson/police shootings is today. In fact, the pace of legal change (as opposed to just social disruption) was significantly greater then compared with now, so the times were even more unstable and even more likely to draw visceral reactions from students of varying political and identity stripes directly or indirectly affected by these issues.

Were these questions insensitive or inappropriate? One could argue that because there were far fewer students of color at Harvard in 1970 compared with at most schools today, there was less need for sensitivity to possible disparate emotional impact. Or, more precisely, less understanding of the need for sensitivity; Obecause we are more aware and more understanding of these issues and how they affect different students differently, we should be more willing to take that into account in drafting exams. In other words, we should not in 2014 emulate what law schools did int the benighted 1970s.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 18, 2014 at 05:09 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Law Teachers' Workshop at SEALS

This year, in addition to the terrific New Scholars' Colloquia (early-morning panels of papers from new scholars, with each presenter assigned a mentor/reviewer), the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) will be offering a New Law Teachers’ Workshop.  It will include a variety of panels designed to prepare the new (or newer) law professor for his/her new career. This also is in addition to the Prospective Law Teachers' Workshop, which does mock job talks and interviews for people (usually VAPs/Fellows) about to his the market.

Details (courtesy of SEALS macher Russ Weaver) after the jump.

Several things to note about the SEALS workshop.  First, it is relatively inexpensive ($150 registration fee for faculty from member schools and $175 fee for faculty from non-member schools which is a fraction of the cost of other comparable programs).  Second, in addition to being able to attend the New Law Teachers’ Workshop, attendees will have access to the entire SEALS meeting, including a rich variety of programs on pedagogy, research, publishing opportunities, etc., (see below) as well as programs on an array of substantive topics.  Included in the general SEALS programming are specific programs designed specifically for legal writing and clinical faculty.  Finally, and again for the same $150 fee, faculty from institutional member and affiliate schools will have the opportunity to participate in the New Scholars Workshop.  This latter workshop allows young faculty to present a work in progress, to have a mentor, and to receive feedback on their scholarly projects.

Listed below is the rich tapestry of programs available to SEALS attendees.  For this particular workshop, we will include the following panels:

 

Teaching Students Born In the Digital Age
As students get younger, and we professors age, the phrase “mind the gap” becomes increasingly pertinent. The panelists have ideas on how to connect with the newest generation to attend law school, from differing uses of mobile learning, such as pod casts, to using the Internet and multimedia in the classroom, videos, flipping the classroom, new technologies, and much more.

    Speakers: Professor Brannon Denning, Samford University's Cumberland School of Law; Professor Michael Rich, Elon University School of Law; Professor Maggie Thomas, Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center; Professor Laurie Zimet, University of California, Hastings, College of the Law

 

Becoming a Productive and Fulfilled Scholar. (Panel and Breakout Groups).
This panel of experienced scholars will discuss a variety of topics, including what a “scholarly agenda” is and how to develop one; alternate routes to tenure and self-fulfillment; using colleagues and research assistants in productive ways; the art or luck of publishing “well;” the importance of presenting at conferences; and how to enjoy, not dread, the scholarly process. The discussion will include the “nuts and bolts” of writing – where, when, what, and why. The panelists will then lead a breakout group to discuss these topics with participants in more depth in a roundtable format.

    Moderator: Professor Colin Marks, St. Mary's University School of Law

    Speakers: Professor Linda D. Jellum, Mercer University Law School; Professor Ronald Krotoszynski, The University of Alabama School of Law; Professor Nancy Levit, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law

 

Discussion Group: Advice for Newer Law Professors from Law School Deans
Building on the success of last year, this Discussion Group will bring together a panel of experienced deans to give their perspective on issues common to newer professors. These include things like juggling multiple service requests, navigating faculty meetings, setting reasonable expectations of availability with students, and evaluating advice from all the many people who will want to provide it. The discussion group will have ample opportunity for individual questions and for breaking into smaller groups.

    Moderator: Professor Jennifer Bard, Texas Tech University School of Law

    Discussants: Dean William Adams, Deputy Managing Director, American Bar Association, Section on Legal Education; Dean Luke Bierman, Elon University School of Law; Dean Nora Demleitner, Washington and Lee University School of Law; Dean Daisy Floyd, Mercer University Law School; Dean Jon Garon, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center; Dean Richard Gershon, The University of Mississippi School of Law; Dean Danielle Holley-Walker, Howard University School of Law; Dean Ian Holloway, Calgary Law School; Dean Alicia Ouellette, Albany Law School; Professor Elizabeth Pendo, Saint Louis University School of Law; Dean Christopher Pietruszkiewicz, Stetson University College of Law

 

Creating Successful Methods of Assessment, Including Essays and Multiple Choice Questions
The panelists for this session will explore formative and summative assessment tools, especially in light of the future implementation of A.B.A. Standard 302, Learning Outcomes. The tools include writing a meaningful exam and creating efficient formative assessments during the semester. Topics will include the basic mechanics of exam-writing, constructing useful formative tools, and related matters such as cultural implications, the relevance of disabilities, and the rationales behind open and closed book exams.

    Moderator: Professor Joel Mintz, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center

    Speakers: Professor Doug Chapman, Elon University School of Law; Professor Michael Coenen, Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center; Professor Eang Ngov, Barry University, Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law; Professor Nancy Soonpaa, Texas Tech University School of Law

 

Designing Effective First Year Courses and Upper Level Elective Courses
The panelists, who have spent many years designing effective courses and seminars,, will discuss syllabus design, how to make decisions about the allocation and amount of coverage, the selection of texts and supplemental reading material, the amount of reading to assign, setting outcomes for the course or seminar, and overall teaching philosophy. Each panelist will then lead a breakout group to discuss these issues in-depth with participants in a roundtable format.

    Moderator: Professor Susan Klein, University of Texas School of Law

    Speakers: Professor Kathy Cerminara, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center; Professor Howard Katz, Elon University School of Law; Professor Ben Madison, Regent University School of Law

 

Putting Your Teaching Philosophy to Work In the Classroom
The panelists, all dedicated and excellent teachers, will discuss their teaching philosophies and the differing methods they use to implement those philosophies. The panelists also will discuss concrete issues, such as the role of different learning styles, the best methods of controlling the classroom, time management, coverage of material, and teaching respect, professionalism and cultural awareness in the classroom. Each panelist will then lead a breakout group to discuss these issues with participants in depth in a roundtable format. Some of the breakouts will focus on nuts and bolts; other groups will pursue broader issues such as teaching philosophy.

    Speakers: Professor Enrique Armijo, Elon University School of Law; Professor Olympia Duhart, Nova Southeastern University, Shepard Broad Law Center; Professor Susan Kuo, University of South Carolina School of Law; Professor Connie Wagner, Saint Louis University School of Law

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 18, 2014 at 10:22 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The '60s

Paul rightly links the request by some students to delay exams in light of events in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, etc., to the '60s, when students were similarly protesting about the war, civil rights, etc.

Let me ask a different question that relates back to the issue of exams and coverage on hot-button subjects and contexts: How did professors handle discussing and testing on the subjects that ruled the day 40-50 years ago and how did students react? After all, just as students then were similarly too busy protesting the war to deal with exams, they were also similarly emotionally invested/triggered by these issues (after all, many of them were a student deferrment away from maybe fighting in the jungle). So did profs feel free to ask questions about protesters and demonstrators getting arrested? What about the constitutionality or wisdom of US conduct in Vietnam or Cambodia? What about the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act or C/R/A of 1964? And did students object to such questions when they appeared on tests? And if not, what should we make of that difference?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 17, 2014 at 07:21 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Suk, "The Trouble with Teaching Rape Law"

Adding to the conversation about teaching and testing on controversial or emotionally charged subjects, here is Jeannie Suk (Harvard) this week in The New Yorker. (H/T: My FIU colleague Eric Carpenter). Of course, sexual assault fits into the first category, in that the subject itself is emotionally charged regardless of the context in which it is presented or tested. Obviously, I share Suk's conclusion that it is too bad that we are moving in this direction--and that it is bad not only for law students, but also for law and legal reform.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 17, 2014 at 09:24 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

But can I wear my "Fuck the Draft" jacket?

From Judge Susan E. Gash, presiding over the trial of NFL player Aaron Hernandez:

No person wearing clothing, or a button or other object attached to clothing, or carrying an object that displays any Patriots or other NFL team logo, football-related insignia, or words and/or a photograph that relate in any way to this case will be permitted entry to the Fall River Justice Center during any phase of the trial.

Does this seem excessive, especially as it applies not only to the courtroom, but within the entire building? And is it necessary to ban everything related to all of football, not just the Patriots or even just the NFL? Is it really that problematic for jurors to see any and all football-related things?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 16, 2014 at 04:48 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink | Comments (3)

Dodson on Twombly Creep

The following is by Scott Dodson (Hastings):

Yesterday’s Supreme Court’s opinion in Dart Cherokee held that a notice of removal need not be accompanied by evidence of the amount in controversy in a CAFA-removal case. The Court split 5-4 on the nerdy question of whether the Court could even review the issue itself because the Court of Appeals declined, in its discretion, to hear the appeal from the district court. That latter issue got quite a bit of play at oral argument, and coverage of the opinion’s resolution of that issue has overshadowed the Court’s decision on the merits, which pretty much everyone—myself included—thought fairly obvious.

But there’s something funny, and potentially important, in the merits part of the decision that people seem to be overlooking.

Section 1446(a), which sets the standards for a notice of removal, requires the defendant to file a notice “containing a short and plain statement of the grounds for removal.” This language mirrors Rule 8(a)(1), which sets the standards for pleading the jurisdictional basis for a claim filed in federal court, requiring a complaint to provide: “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction.” The parallel language is not coincidence. In drafting the removal standard, Congress meant to borrow and incorporate the liberalized pleading standard from Rule 8(a)(1), which contains the identical language “a short and plain statement of the grounds for,” and focuses on allegations of jurisdiction. Removal, after all, is concerned primarily with jurisdiction rather than the merits of the claim.

The Court has interpreted these standards before. For jurisdictional allegations, both in cases filed in federal court and in cases removed to federal court, the amount-in-controversy alleged in good faith by the plaintiff controls unless contested by the defendant. Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 276 (1977); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288 (1938). Thus, the standard for a “short and plain statement of the grounds for” the jurisdictional allegation of the amount in controversy for diversity jurisdiction is “good faith.”

This standard of a good-faith allegation leaves no room, at least prior to contestation by the defendant, for an evidentiary requirement. Dart was surely correct, then, in holding that a notice of removal requires no evidence beyond the good-faith allegation of the jurisdictional amount.

But, oddly, the Court did not phrase the question that way. The opinion sets the question presented a somewhat different way, with my emphasis added:

To assert the amount in controversy adequately in the removal notice, does it suffice to allege the requisite amount plausibly, or must the defendant incorporate into the notice of removal evidence supporting the allegation? That is the single question argued here and below by the parties and the issue on which we granted review. The answer, we hold, is supplied by the removal statute itself. A statement “short and plain” need not contain eviden­tiary submissions.

 The answer is correct: A “short and plain statement,” at least without other requirements, need not contain evidentiary submissions. But the italicized language is perplexing. It suggests that, though evidence is not required, the standard does require that the removal notice allege the requisite amount “plausibly.”

And, later, the opinion concludes (my emphasis added): “In sum, as specified in § 1446(a), a defendant’s notice of removal need include only a plausible allegation that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional thresh­old. Evidence establishing the amount is required by §1446(c)(2)(B) only when the plaintiff contests, or the court questions, the defendant’s allegation.” Again, last sentence is clearly correct. But the Court also seems to hold that the removal standard requires a “plausible” allegation of the amount in controversy.

Where in the world did the insertion of the “plausibility” standard come from? The Court offers neither citation for it, nor textual support for it, nor reasoning for it. Further, the Court’s reasoning repeats the proper standard of “good faith.” What’s up with plausibility?

The answer must be the infectious case Twombly, which established a new pleading standard of plausibility under Rule 8(a)(2) in federal court. This plausibility standard had never before been a part of any pleading regime; rather, Twombly imported it from the substantive antitrust context.

But importing plausibility to removal makes little sense. For one, removal already has a perfectly fine standard that has worked for 75 years: good faith. It is possible that the Court thinks that “plausible” is a useful, clarifying synonym for good faith. But it’s far from obvious that “good faith” and “plausible” are synonyms in this context. And there’s no indication that the standard of “good faith” was unclear (as if the gloss of “plausibility” would be helpfully clarifying).

For another, Twombly grafted plausibility onto Rule 8(a)(2), which has a different standard from either the removal standard or the Rule 8(a)(1) standard. True, all three standards use the same preliminary language requiring “a short and plain statement.” But the removal and Rule 8(a)(1) standards go on to use the phrase “of the grounds [for jurisdiction],” while the merits pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2) uses the different language “of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In developing the “plausibility” standard, Twombly focused on Rule 8(a)(2) and its unique concluding language: “The need at the pleading stage for allegations plausibly suggesting (not merely consistent with) agreement reflects the threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) that the ‘plain statement’ possess enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Twombly’s textual support for the plausibility standard—such as it is—has no bearing on jurisdictional allegations under Rule 8(a)(1) or § 1446(a).

For yet another, the rationale of Twombly maps poorly onto plausibility for removal allegations. Twombly foisted plausibility on merits allegations to guard against excessive discovery costs imposed on defendants at the behest of an implausible claim for relief: “Probably, then, it is only by taking care to require allegations that reach the level suggesting conspiracy that we can hope to avoid the potentially enormous expense of discovery in cases with no ‘“reasonably founded hope that the [discovery] process will reveal relevant evidence”’ to support a . . . claim.” Removal, of course, merely shifts the forum; discovery cannot be avoided simply by defeating removal. And, in removal, the notice is filed by the defendant, the putative beneficiary of the plausibility standard. Applying the plausibility standard to removal turns Twombly on its head.

So, in Dart, it appears that, without citation or, frankly, any reasoning at all, “plausibility” has snuck in to yet another place where it doesn’t belong: removal. If so, this opens the door to arguments that Twombly’s standard is even more broadly applicable than previously thought.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 16, 2014 at 04:28 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pfander on Dart

SCOTUS on Monday decided Dart Cherokee Basin Operative Co. v. Owens; the Court held that a notice of removal need only contain a short and plain statement of the amount in controversy and evidence is necessary only if the plaintiff contests the amount. It was a 5-4 decision, with Justice Scalia, joined by Justices Kennedy and Kagan and in part by Justice Thomas, in dissent, arguing that the Court lacked authority to review a court of appeals summary denial of discretionary review of a remand order. Justice Thomas also filed a separate dissent.

James Pfander and Daniel D. Birk (Northwestern) have a piece called Article III Judicial Power, the Adverse-Party Requirement, and Non-Contentious Jurisidction (Yale L.J., forthcoming); Dart fits with some of what they wrote there (see, especially, pp. 27-28 and 79-80). Jim emailed the following (posted with his permission):

Dart serves as a nice illustration of the work that a construct of non-contentious jurisdiction can do in simplifying the exercise of jurisdiction over some uncontested matters.  As you know, the problem in Dart arose from the one-sided and discretionary application for appellate review of the remand decision.  Justice Thomas, echoing a position first articulated by Justice Scalia in Hohn v. United States, argued that the petition in Dart was not a “case” in the appellate court and was therefore not a matter within the Court’s cert jurisdiction.  There were no adverse parties joined and nothing was contested.

It’s here that the construct of non-contentious jurisdiction can help.  If one recognizes that federal courts have long presided over uncontested applications for the certification or recognition of a claim of right, so long as they require the exercise of judicial judgment (as Brandeis explained in the leading case, Tutun v. United States), then the treatment of ex parte applications for discretionary review (as in Hohn and Dart) presents no real mystery.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 15, 2014 at 08:22 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Promissory estoppel in emotionally charged contexts

In searching for a line on controversial or emotionally charged exam questions, it may help to think about three distinct ways those contexts can tie into and affect a question:

1) Testing on a legal topic that is part of the course curriculum and is inherently emotionally charged, regardless of the factual context in which you place it. This includes pretty much all of the "what about this" examples that Eugene and I (in comments to my earlier post) offered--testing on the validity of same sex marriage bans or affirmative action or circumcision bans, questions involving sexual or racial harassment in employment, rape shields, campus sexual assault, hate speech, limiting immigration, etc.

2) Testing on a legal topic that is part of the course curriculum where the question arises in some emotionally charged context and the context affects the analysis of the topic. The Ferguson/Incitement question falls here. Incitement is obviously a core part of a First Amendment class; the context and the details of Ferguson are essential to the First Amendment analysis. Asking in my Civil Rights class whether NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo is entitled to qualified immunity in a § 1983 lawsuit by Eric Wilson's widow also would fall here.

3) Testing on a legal topic that is part of the course curriculum where the question arises in some cemotionally charged context but the context is more-or-less irrelevant to the analysis of the topic. In this category would be a promissory estoppel question based on the Steven Salaita case (discussed here, here, here, and elsewhere). The emotional charge here comes from competing views over whether Salaita is a victim of an academic-freedom-violative witchhunt for having the wrong views on Israel and Palestine or is instead an unreconstructed anti-Semite whose tweets are undeserving of academic freedom. But none of that has anything (or little) to do with his promissory estoppel claim.

So where does this framework leave us? Category # 1 presents the easiest case--students must be able to grapple with and analyze these questions and we have to be able to test on them. And that does not change if we put the question into a real-world factual context or not. So, for example, if I want to test on hate speech regulation, I should be able to put it in the context of nooses displayed on a a real college campus.

Category # 3 presents the hardest case, because the controversial context can seem most like a provocation. It thus is especially susceptible to the arguments that either a) it is unfair, unnecessary, and too hard for some  students to fight through the offense or distraction to get at the legal question or b) if you insist on using Salaita, you can bowdlerize his "crime" to somethinions are beneficial in g other than tweets and views that may be seen as anti-Semitic or that may anger people on one side or the other of the Israel/Palestine question. I would suggest that Category # 3 questions are important to showing the legal side to current events and in making a subject relevant to the real world. But this category also leaves us the most flexibility, as we can give a Salaita question without quoting his texts or detailing his viewpoints (which, again, have nothing to do with the estoppel claim).

Category # 2 is obviously somewhere in the middle, coming closer to # 1 or # 3 depending on the question, the subject, and the circumstances. For example, the Salaita case may demand a different answer in an Education Law or First Amendment class testing on academic freedom.

I still believe all three should be fair game for both class discussion and for exams/essays. Lawyers must not only "get their lawyer on" (as a commenter on a prior post put it) as to the topic, but also as to its application. But for those who want to try to draw some distinctions and workable lines, this may be a place to start the conversation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 14, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Procedure week at SCOTUS

I have recaps at SCOTUSBlog of this week's oral arguments in Gelboim v. Bank of America on finality in MDL cases and in United States v. Wong/United States v. June on the jurisdictionality of the FTCA's limitations periods.

I do not predict an outcome in either recap and I usually am bad at predicting these things. But I will go out on a limb: The Court reverses in Gelboim and holds that a judgment disposing of all claims in one action within an MDL is a final judgment. The Court affirms in both Wong and June and holds that the FTCA limitations periods are non-jurisdictional and subject to equitable tolling. (Apologies in advance to all three attorneys if I just jinxed your cases).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 12, 2014 at 10:56 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Much ado?

[Update: Eugene Volokh, Golstein's UCLA colleague, weighs in. He and I are in lockstep agreement (as always, he says it better than I did) about the need for law students to learn how to push through emotional investment and the seemingly boundless scope of the objections being leveled here. He adds two important points: 1) He gives the full question, which was much more detailed and provided students with the relevant facts and 2) Goldstein was not pressured by the administration to discard the question.]

Prof. Robert Goldstein at UCLA asked the following question on his First Amendment exam:

Write a memorandum for District Attorney Robert McCulloch on the constitutional merits of indicting Michael Brown's stepfather for advocating illegal activity when he yelled 'Burn this bitch down,' after McCulloch announced the grand jury's decision.

And outrage has resulted. Elis Mystal at ATL says Goldstein was asking students "to advocate for an extremist point that is shared by only the worst people in an exam setting," akin to making students "defend Holocaust deniers or ISIS terrorists." Goldstein apologized (Mystal has the text of his note to students) and is disregarding the question, saying the subject is "too raw" to be useful as an evaluative tool.

But what is really wrong with the question? I already have argued that Louis Head (Brown's stepfather) did not commit incitement as understood in Brandenburg, Hess, and Claiborne Hardware. Nevertheless, this seems like a legitimate question to ask a First Amendment class, one that ties legal education into the current world. One of the things I tell my students is that having a legal education means you inevitably look at everything through a legal lens. So why not use significant current event that raises a legitimate legal issue as a way to teach the issue? And the question did not require anyone to take or defend any particular position, much less one equivalent to Holocaust denial; it said to write a memo on the constitutional merits, which plainly leaves room to argue that a prosecution could not constitutionally be brought (which, again, I believe is the "correct" First Amendment answer).*

* If there is a defect in the question, it is that it assumes a detailed level of knowledge of what happened on the night of the grand jury announcement and when Head made his statements, all necessary for the Brandenburg analysis.

Does that much turn on requiring the memo to the DA? (Mystal seems to think so, hightlighted in his responses to commenters on his ATL post.) Does advising the DA mean the student only can say that the First Amendment would not be violated and that a prosecution is permissible--couldn't they also write  "no, you will be violating the First Amendment if you try to bring this prosecution, remember your obligations to do justice"? Would we not be having this conversation if students had been asked to write a memo for a criminal defense lawyer or for the ACLU figuring out whether they have a meritorious constitutional defense against any prosecution?

I did not use any Ferguson questions on my Evidence exam this semester, mainly because I used the events (especially the convenience-store video and the alleged theft) in class discussions to illustrate character and other acts. But I never would have thought twice about asking such a question, or about putting the students in the position of having to argue that such evidence is admissible in any prosecution (which, ironically, would have put them in the position of the defendant in that case).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 12, 2014 at 08:31 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (24)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video and public opinion

William Saletan at Slate reports on a recent study showing that more whites believe the Michael Brown grand jury was right but the Eric Garner grand jury was wrong. Saletan argues it is evidence, not race, that explains the difference--the "quantity, quality, and clarity of evidence differed between the two cases," namely the presence of "unflinching" video of Garner's death.

This is an important aspect of video evidence. It is not only what video can do in criminal and civil litigation. Video also plays a role in the public conversation over a particular incident or event, which in turn may affect more official responses, both in and out of court. Certainly that video will provide the key push if DOJ decides to pursue a civil rights prosecution in the Garner case.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 11, 2014 at 09:10 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

JOTWELL: Mulligan on Preis on causes of action

The new Courts Law essay comes from Lou Mulligan (Kansas), reviewing Jack Preis, How Federal Causes of Action Relate to Rights, Remedies, and Jurisdiction (Fla. L. Rev.) (forthcoming). Jack's article is terrific (it will be an essential piece if/when I return to writing about jurisdictionality) and so is Lou's review.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 11, 2014 at 05:04 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

SCOTUSBlog Preview: Jurisdictionality and the FTCA

I have a SCOTUSBlog preview of tomorrow's arguments in United States v. Wong and United States v. June, which jointly consider whether the timing requirements for filing claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act are jurisdictional or procedural and whether they are subject to equitable tolling.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 9, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Body cameras and and predictive analysis

Andrew Ferguson (UDC) argues at HuffPost that police body cameras can be used to track smaller, more routine police-citizen interactions that might be predictive of future, more severe wrongdoing by some officers. Worth a read.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 8, 2014 at 06:43 PM in Article Spotlight, Criminal Law, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another police video produces confusion

Wow. It does appear that an FBI civil rights investigation still is ongoing (the mayor's claims nothwithstanding) and a § 1983 surely will follow. But this suggest the key framing of the two limits on video (and thus of body cameras): 1) Video is not certain, so everyone (courts, officials, and the public) errs when elevating video over all other evidence (call this the Scott/Plumhoff issue), but 2) What video says to you is not the same as what it says to someone else (call this the Dan Kahan issue).

This means we should not necessarily be surprised by the Eric Garner grand jury or by Hammond's mayor. They simply saw something different on that video than I (and many other people) did.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 8, 2014 at 03:48 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

SCOTUSBlog Preview: Finality and MDL

I have a SCOTUSBlog preview of tomorrow's arguments in Gelboim v. Bank of America, which considers whether a decision dismissing all the claims in one action, where that action has been consolidated for pre-trial purposes with other still-pending actions through multi-district litigation, is a final and appealable order.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 8, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Why it's impossible to regulate racist speech

Too often, the people doing the regulating do not (or cannot) get humor and satire. Latest case in point: the English Football Association has brought "charges" against star player Mario Balotelli (who is Italian, of Ghanaian descent) over an Instagram post of the picture "Dont' Be Racist," which talks about how multi-ethnic and non-racist Mario is by reference to all the ethnic stereotypes he embodies.

In my view, it's pretty funny. But the FA says Balotelli violated a prohibition on "abusive and/or insulting and/or improper," aggravated by "reference to ethnic origin and/or color and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief." I posted the picture after the jump. Is it possible to sensibly see this as anything other than joke, reappropriating stereotypes to undermine them? Is this really abusive or insulting? Or is this simply what happens--when you try to regulate words, context inevitably gets lost.

Ihjp3kyc59bfu1hprnxj

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (9)

Friday, December 05, 2014

SCOTUS takes license plate case

SCOTUS (finally) granted cert to decide whether the slogans and messages on license plates ("Live Free or Die", "Choose Life", "Save the Manatee") constitute government speech or a forum for private speech (thus subject to limits on viewpoint discrimination). Although I never got around to writing about it, these cases have been percolating since I was still clerking. The case comes out of the Fifth Circuit and involves Texas denying a specialty plate to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which would have included a Confederate flag. I always have viewed the slogans as government speech and the plate number as the speech of the vehicle owner. But this will give everyone a chance to discuss Wooley, one of the Court's underrated First Amendment decisions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 5, 2014 at 04:11 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Prosecuting police--the role of the grand-jury pool

Alexi Lahav (U Conn) shares this op-ed by Ilaan Maazel suggesting reforms in policing police misconduct, including body cams (while recognizing they are not a panacea) and having all prosecutions handled by an independent special prosecutor rather than the local DA. In a Slate piece in September, Kate Levine suggested something similar (she specifically wanted to turn all cases over to federal prosecutors), which I questioned.

But in light of recent events, I am beginning to come around to the idea that Maazel and Levine are pushing. Moreover, I am coming around not only to the idea of requiring a special state prosecutor or the State AG, which Levine suggested and which I thought might work, but to the idea of making everything federal.

The focus in both the Brown and Garner cases has been on the respective local prosecutors and their supposed failures to be sufficiently aggressive. And the argument generally is that local prosecutors, by necessity, are always too close to the police.

But perhaps we also should consider the effect of the composition of a state as opposed to federal grand jury. Maybe part of the problem involves the likely decisions or actions of body drawn entirely from people in St. Louis County or Staten Island/Richmond County who are immersed in the local passions and politics; maybe a federal body drawn from the entire Eastern District of New York or Eastern District of Missouri, less immersed in those local passions and politics, can process things differently. Of course, it may not matter given modern media--everyone knows the details of high-profile cases such as these. But perhaps someone from Montauk or Cape Girardeau has a bit more distance from the events, a bit more distance from the local police, and thus a greater willingness to find a basis to pursue a criminal case.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 4, 2014 at 05:41 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Criminal Law, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Repost: First Annual Civil Procedure Workshop

Repost: Please note that the deadline for submissions is Monday, December 15.

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 December 4, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Yung on police, lethal force, and video

Corey Yung weighs in at CoOp with six other instances in which police officers were not prosecuted (or otherwise sanctioned) for using lethal force against unarmed minority men, even when events were captured on video. Go watch.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 3, 2014 at 06:44 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Video does not prevent "another Ferguson"

A grand jury has decided not to indict a NYPD officer in the choking death of Eric Garner--an event captured on a cell phone video. Apparently the video "said" something to the grand jurors quite different than what it said to many other people who have seen it. That the chokehold maneuver is forbidden by department regs did not change anything. Nor did the fact that the officer used physical force against someone for selling loose cigarettes.

To the extent we hope video will create greater accountability, this result suggests maybe not--it obviously does not make an indictment more likely (it also is further proof that video would not have made a difference in the Michael Brown case). Nor is it likely to produce deterrence--police can respond with force to even the most petty misconduct. So bring on those body cameras; just do not expect them to change much.

Meanwhile, NYPD is preparing for the "potential contingency" of public protest, which of course means mass arrests and forcefully moving people off the streets.

Update: Nia-Malika Henderson at WaPo suggests the non-indictment hurts Obama's body-camera arguments. But she comes around to the right point--cameras are good, but they are not the solution and they will not alone achieve significant change.

Update II: This NPR story describes a lot of the developments over the course of the afternoon, including a "die-in" at Grand Central Station and the mayor canceling his planned appearance at the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony tonight, which may be a target for protesters.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 3, 2014 at 03:13 PM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (15)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Michael Brown and the return of Brandenburg

A colleague asks a question:

Did Louis Head, Michael Brown's stepfather, commit incitement within the meaning of Brandenburg? Law enforcement apparently is investigating possible charges. Immediately following the announcement of the grand jury decision, Head was captured on video (embedded-go to 2:30 mark) shouting "Burn this motherfucker down" and "Burn this bitch down" (as people around him tried to calm him down).

Brandenburg requires that incitement be "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." The Brandenburg paradigm is a torches-and-pitchforks mob outside a poorly guarded jail and the leader saying "let's get that guy in there." We definitely have a mob here (although hardly in a poorly guarded area, since there were police in riot gear across the barricade and the National Guard was in the area). But I do not see how the state could show intent. There also is Hess v. Indiana, in which the Court overturned a conviction where the defendant was not addressing any persons or group and he was no louder than anyone else in the group. Certainly Head was at the center of crowd and he can be seen asking for a microphone or bullhorn, as if trying to address the crowd above the noise. But he also just appears to be one of many people shouting into the sky in a show of anger, in his case, immediately after embracing his wife, who had just broken down.* He just happened to be caught on camera, which raises an interesting question--if his words reached millions watching TV but not the people who did the actual rioting, can he be said to have incited the crowd?

* Yes, I acknowledge that this perception may be influenced by my views of the case and the First Amendment and that mileage may vary.

I have been kicking around an idea that the legal change to come out of Ferguson may be all about the First Amendment--militarized police responding to public gatherings, negotiations on rules of public protest, citizen video, unconstitutional move-along policies. A good old-fashioned incitement/advocacy of unlawful conduct argument would top that off.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 2, 2014 at 06:04 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, December 01, 2014

Free speech in the NFL

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Five St. Louis Rams players walked onto the field in the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture; the St. Louis Police Officers Association is demanding that the players be disciplined and that the team issue a public apology. The full statement from the association is angry and unprofessional (not to mention loaded with really stupid football puns); it quotes extensively from the organization's business manager, a fired police officer now serving in the state legislature who has been one of the few voices opposing body cameras.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is a coward and a liar. But will be really punish players for core political speech about a local and ongoing matter of public import? (Note: Yes, I know he can punish them; the question is will he and, if he does, how does he explain it away).

One last note: In the statement, the association refers to Darren Wilson (not by name) as the "now-exonerated officer." Is that an appropriate description of the process that was used?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 1, 2014 at 07:06 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink | Comments (8)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rotations

As we roll into a new month, we roll into a new set of visiting Prawfs.

Thanks to our November visitors--Michael Helfand (Pepperdine), Adam Kolber (Brooklyn), Jake Linford (Florida State), Kirsten Nussbaumer (Stanford), and Margaret Ryznar (Indiana-Bloomington); they may be sticking around for some final posts this week. Thanks also to Timothy Zick (William & Mary) and Leigh Osofsky (Miami) for their individual solicited posts.

And welcome to our December visitors--Kelly Anders (The Organized Lawyer); Miriam Cherry (Saint Louis); Josh Douglas (Kentucky); Franita Tolson (Florida State); and Steven Morrison (North Dakota). And Richard Re (UCLA) continues his semester-long stay.

And remember that we are always looking for voices to join the Prawfs conversation. If you are interested in joining us for a month in the coming year, please email me (howard.wasserman@fiu.edu) or Paul (phorwitz@law.ua.edu).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 30, 2014 at 12:01 PM in Housekeeping, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 28, 2014

JOTWELL: Steinman on Larson on factual precedent

The latest JOTWELL Courts Law essay comes from co-Section Editor Adam Steinman (now at Alabama), reviewing Allison Orr Larson Factual Precedents (U. Pa. L. Rev. 2013), which explores the extent to which factual conclusions in SCOTUS decisions should be binding on lower courts.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 28, 2014 at 03:09 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When "protests" become "riots"

Tim's final post talks about Monday's protests turning violent and destructive (and the process being repeated on Tuesday) as a tipping point, in which public (and media) support and attention shifts away from the protesters. I do not know if we have hit that point. There is still much to sort out about what has been happening on the ground the past few nights. And it appears that many of the unlawful mistakes we saw in July (mass arrests of even peaceful protesters, arresting people for recording) are being repeated. And the number of sympathy protests across the country (many far more peaceful) may suggest a deeper level of support.

Nevertheless, Tim's point about public sympathy reminded me of Walker v. City of Birmingham (which I wrote about last week) and what it indicates about the connection between public speech and public support. The events in Walker occurred during Easter Week 1963, four months before the March on Washington, when the violent response to peaceful were entering living rooms--arguably at or near the height of public support for the movement. But the case did not reach SCOTUS until 1967 (argued in March, decided in June). By that point, we had seen the same shift in public support and sympathy away from civil rights protesters and the movement, given the increasing militancy in the movement, as well as public concern about riots (on race, the war, etc.) throughout the country.

Brennan suspected that the changed social circumstances had influenced the majority in rejecting the protesters' First Amendment arguments. He closed his opinion with a sharp reminder that public fears about riots should not override the right to peaceful public protest. The first part remains applicable to current events:

We cannot permit fears of "riots" and "civil disobedience" generated by slogans like "Black Power" to divert our attention from what is here at stake -- not violence or the right of the State to control its streets and sidewalks, but the insulation from attack of ex parte orders and legislation upon which they are based even when patently impermissible prior restraints on the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Tim is correct that public sympathy wanes. The right of public protest should not wane with it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 26, 2014 at 10:31 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

Ferguson – What Now? (guest post)

 This is the final post on Ferguson from Timothy Zick:

Monday night, peaceful vigils and other protected forms of protest were largely overshadowed by acts of violence and destruction.  As headlines attest, the Ferguson “protests” have already been displaced in the news cycle by the Ferguson “riots.”  The facts are still coming in, but by most accounts police were not the instigators.  The commercial and other costs must be laid at the feet of the lawless, who engaged not in legitimate protest or demonstration but in petty and more serious criminal activities.  While their frustration may be understandable, their actions were obviously neither wise nor constructive.  The violence was not, as some have suggested, inevitable.  Whatever their underlying causes or motivations, the riots were a choice. 

There will be additional protests and demonstrations in Ferguson and elsewhere.  Hopefully they will be vocal, but peaceful, events.  The issues are worth demonstrating about.  But as I wrote in my previous post, public sympathy will not be with the protesters forever.  Last night may have been a tipping point.  The media will focus on Ferguson for a bit longer, but the news cycle will inevitably find other conflicts and the press will move on.  Many left behind will have expressed their outrage, or have been affected by the actions of those who did so.  What will be the legacy of the Ferguson protests (past, present, and future)? 

In the wake of last night’s events, hopelessness seems to be pervasive – particularly among many Ferguson residents, who have been witnesses to the conflict from the beginning.  The protests and demonstrations have not been empty or meaningless events. They have pricked the public conscience, highlighted grievances, jump-started conversations about social and political issues, and demanded attention from public officials.  It would be unfortunate if rioters tarnished or diminished some or all of these important accomplishments. What happens next depends on forces that lie beyond public streets and other public forums.  Too often, protesters do not follow action in the streets with concrete social and political activity.  Protests and demonstrations are not ends in themselves.  They can be catalysts for change, but only if organizations and associations work to channel their outrage and energy.  Expressions of outrage from civil rights leaders are fine.  But Ferguson desperately needs an organization, preferably a local group, to take the lead.  Other elements of the community can also work toward policy changes.  Rioters can trade bricks for ballots, residents can work toward rebuilding or strengthening community ties, and officials can follow through on promises made in the heat of the moment – or be held accountable by higher authorities.  What’s next for Ferguson is not at all certain.  The protests and demonstrations have created an opportunity and suggested an agenda that includes criminal justice reform and protection for civil rights.  For the sake of Ferguson itself, let’s hope that peaceful activists seize that opportunity.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 26, 2014 at 09:31 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

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 (13)

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)