Sunday, January 14, 2018

Judging balls and strikes in Husted

I am a few days late on this from the oral argument in Husted v. A Philip Randolph Institute, on whether an Ohio process of removing voters from voting rolls based, in part, on failure to vote violated federal law. (I listened to the audio rather than reading the transcript, but could not to so until this weekend).

On a substantive point, it is interesting to hear Paul Smith, the respondent's attorney, the Chief, and Justice Alito repeatedly talk past one another. Ohio's program goes as follows--if a voter fails to vote in a two-year period, a notice is sent to the voter's listed address; if the voter fails to return the notice card and does not vote in the next four-year period, she is removed from the rolls. The Chief and Alito repeatedly pushed Smith as to whether failure to vote could be used to confirm other evidence that a person had moved or died, in this case, the non-return of the card; Smith argued that the program relied on failure to vote (in violation of federal law), because the non-return of the card was not reliable evidence of moving and the state had no other evidence of the voter having moved other than the failure to vote. The Justices never seemed to catch that argument or how it differed from what they were saying.

On a fun point, Smith and Justice Kagan showed that judging really is about balls and strikes with the following exchange, on proximate cause:

MR. SMITH: * * * And calling the non-return of the notice the proximate cause is like saying when you strike out, the only proximate cause is strike two. It just doesn't -- it doesn't really make sense.

* * *

JUSTICE KAGAN: I don't understand why it's just -- it is proximate cause, but both -­ strike one, strike two, strike three. They're all proximate causes of the strikeout.

MR. SMITH: Well, I agree with that, Your Honor, as well.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 14, 2018 at 03:02 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (6)

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Argument preview: Hall v. Hall (Updated)

I have a SCOTUSBlog preview of next Tuesday's oral argument in Hall v. Hall, addressing when a judgment dismissing one action is final and appealable when multiple actions were consolidated for all purposes under FRCP 42.

On the papers at least, this one has the makings of a rout. The petitioner (who sought to appeal dismissal of one claim while another remained pending and who argues that consolidated cases remain separate for finality purposes) is represented by her trial counsel from the Virgin Islands, who does not appear to have argued before the Court; the respondent (who argues that there is no final judgment until all claims in the consolidated case are resolved) is represented by Neal Katyal. A group of retired federal district judges filed an amicus in support of the respondent.

Worse, the petitioner never engages on the critical issue in the case--how to treat actions consolidated for all purposes compared with actions consolidated for limited purposes, such as discovery or trial. The petitioner insists that consolidated actions retain their separate identities and that the case is controlled by the spare finality language of § 1291. There is no difference in the scope or nature of a consolidation,. But that position may be inconsistent with footnotes in Gelboim v. Bank of America (which involved a discovery-only MDL consolidation) that consolidation may be for all purposes and may require a different rule for finality and appealability. Rule 42(a)(2) contemplates consolidation as distinct from joining some issues for some purposes. And Gelboim seems to contemplate different types of consolidation. The question in Hall is how different types of consolidation affect finality. But the petitioner's lawyer never engages that question.

[Update: The petitioner's reply brief (which was filed after I submitted my piece) points to the trial court issuing separate Judgments in each case as evidence that the consolidation was for trial, not for "all purposes." It therefore does not matter how finality may be affected by consolidation for all purposes, because this consolidation was not for all purposes. As I noted in the preview, the nature of the consolidation is in dispute and something the Court may have to resolve. Given how loosely trial courts label orders as judgments or not, I am not sure this has as much explanatory power as petitioner hopes]

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 9, 2018 at 11:15 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, January 05, 2018

First principles of lawyering: don't lie to your client.

Howard noted the swirl of insanity in recent news about the Trump administration. One of the things that is becoming increasingly clear is just how hard it is for the lawyers to do their jobs in this administration, where even the lawyers need lawyers and good legal advice is routinely disregarded.

Many sources are now openly questioning the President's mental fitness. Not being a physician (and never having spoken to President Trump), I don't know what his mental state is or isn't. But even the hypothetical question raises an interesting issue: how should White House attorneys treat a President that they believe may lack the capacity to make decisions in the interest of the office?

A recent New York Times article stated that one White House attorney felt obligated to "mislead the president about his authority to fire the F.B.I. director," because he "was convinced that if Mr. Comey was fired, the Trump presidency could be imperiled." The NYT reporter talked to Professor Stephen Vladeck, who concluded that the action "shows that the president’s lawyers don’t trust giving him all the facts because they fear he will make a decision that is not best suited for him."

Assuming the facts as reported are true, I would agree with Professor Vladeck's conclusion. But I would also note that the rules of legal ethics do not permit lawyers to manage their clients by intentionally misleading them--even when lawyers believe that doing so is in the client's best interest.

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct specify that when dealing with a client believed to have "diminished capacity," (that is, "when a client's capacity to make adequately considered decisions in connection with a representation is diminished, whether because of minority, mental impairment or for some other reason"), then "the lawyer shall, as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship with the client."

The rules acknowledge that a lawyer may have modify the attorney-client relationship in some ways. For example, if the client is at substantial risk of harm and unable to act in his or her own best interest, the lawyer may take protective action by seeking to appoint a guardian ad litem or other person to act in the client's best interest. The lawyer may do so even if it means disclosing otherwise confidential information, though "only to the extent reasonably necessary to protect the client's interests." And the lawyer may also delay sharing information with the client in some cases; a comment to Model Rule 1.4, "Communication," provides that "[i]n some circumstances, a lawyer may be justified in delaying transmission of information when the client would be likely to react imprudently to an immediate communication. Thus, a lawyer might withhold a psychiatric diagnosis of a client when the examining psychiatrist indicates that disclosure would harm the client." But even this exception is narrow in time and does not take precedence over the lawyer's duty to avoid engaging in "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

A lawyer cannot ethically make a unilateral decision about what is in the client's best interest or mislead the client about what the law allows. It may be that the NYT reporter misunderstood what had happened. And certainly, even though the article asserts that the lawyer "never corrected the record" after his legal research concluded that Trump did have the authority to fire to the FBI director, Trump exercised that authority anyway--either advised by other lawyers or on his own initiative. 

But of course, representing the president is not an ordinary attorney-client relationship, and the situation as presented by the NYT article raises very difficult questions. If a lawyer for the president believes that he is incapable of making decisions in his own best interest--and perhaps incapable of acting prudently on information about his own legal options--what is the lawyer's ethical obligation? Is it possible to maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship? Is it wise to do so?

And if the lawyer cannot maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship, then what would cause less harm--trying to unilaterally manage the information the president is given and making decisions on his behalf, or going public with concerns about the president's fitness?

 

Posted by Cassandra Burke Robertson on January 5, 2018 at 05:07 PM in Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (9)

"Fire and Fury" is not The Pentagon Papers

There is a tendency (to which I have been susceptible) to treat Donald Trump's norm-breaking as a constitutional crisis. The latest is the response to the cease-and-desist letter that Trump's  private attorneys sent to the publishers of the forthcoming Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Ed Kilgore at New York Magazine paints the letter as the next step on the road to book banning and book burning, as reminiscent of the Nixon Administration's actions as to The Pentagon Papers (which are on everyone's mind).

That reaction seems overstated, even allowing that the President is a uniquely powerful figure. A cease-and-desist letter has no legal force; it is an act of bluster, allowing the lawyer to flash his fangs and sound smart.  The show of "force" behind it is not connected to Trump being President or wielding state authority, but to being a wealthy individual who can afford a high-priced blustering private lawyer and who has made a career out of this very tactic. There is no show of government force here. As Mike Dorf points out, the letter does not threaten to seek an injunction to halt publication of the book, so there is no explicit legal risk of prior restraint. It does float the possibility of suit for defamation or other torts.* But that suit could be based on excerpts already published (the demands retraction and apology for what has gotten out). And the letter reserves the right to even if the publisher caves to the threat and halts publication.

[*] Dorf shows the flaw in the threatened claim of tortious interference by inducing Steve Bannon to breaking his non-disclosure agreement.

So comparing this to DOJ obtaining an injunction barring publication, on pain of contempt of court, is way over the top. I do not see the difference between this letter and the letter Trump's lawyers sent during the 2016 campaign threatening to sue The New York Times for its reporting on the sexual-assault allegations against Trump. Both sought to make speech go away by the pressuring the speaker to retract and apologize for what already was out and refrain from publishing anything further, in addition to threatening a suit for damages. And even if the express demand to stop publication of a book constitutes a unique "prior restraint," the doctrinal treatment of prior restraint as categorically worse than post-publication liability has been questioned--the chill on speech and the threat to First Amendment values is no different, although there may be some procedural and proof differences.

In writing about the exchange with The Times during the campaign, I argued that threatening to sue critics in the press was another norm Trump was destroying--public officials do not threaten to sue their critics because it is legally difficult-to-impossible under Sullivan and politically weak. But I do not think it poses a greater First Amendment threat than any other powerful public person threatening to sue his critics.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 5, 2018 at 05:00 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Common theme: Insanity swirls around this administration

About the only basis I could think of for one short post touching three disparate issues wafting from this administration:

1) Paul Manafort sued Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller, seeking a declaratory judgment and injunction invalidating Rosenstein's appointment of Mueller and the actions Mueller has taken in investigating and bringing charges against Manafort. Steve Vladeck is quoted in this Slate article arguing that the district may abstain on Younger/equitable grounds. I think Steve is right. Although not challenging the constitutionality of the statute of conviction (the typical Younger case), the action challenges the legal basis for a criminal prosecution and seeks an order that would require dismissal of the pending prosecution. The Slate piece is right--this lawsuit looks more political than legally sound.

2) Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan has asked DOJ to examine whether California Governor Jerry Brown and other officials in sanctuary jurisdictions are violating the federal law prohibiting harboring of aliens. This is far from my area. But it seems to me the statute requires a defendant to conceal or harbor a specific person; it is not enough to know that many aliens are present and not to do something to help the government some or all of them. It also seems that a state or local official should be able to assert a Tenth Amendment limitation on a statute that would criminalize officials for making state policy. If federal law cannot impress state or local governments to enforce federal law, it cannot allow for the arrest and prosecution of state and local officials who control those governments and who make and enforce those policies refusing to enforce federal law.

3) Does a news organization that receives one of the President's media awards wear it as a badge of First Amendment honor? As a Bizarro Pulitzer Prize?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 3, 2018 at 07:00 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Indiana tries to stop NFL kneeling--and would fail

An Indiana legislator has introduced legislation that would require the Indianapolis Colts to grant fans a refund if players kneel during the national anthem. Fans would have to demand the refund during the first quarter. The article does not say whether the fan would be permitted to stay at the game upon receipt of the refund.* The sponsor insists the law is constitutionally valid, because it does not stop anyone from kneeling. But it seems to me the law suffers from three obvious problems. 

[*] Otherwise, think of the perverse incentives. I am not offended by players kneeling. But I might claim to be if I could get my $ 200 back, still watch the game, and screw one of the worst organizations in the NFL

As the ACLU said in the article, the law infringes the Colts' First Amendment rights by sanctioning them (or setting them up for sanction) if they do not prohibit their players from kneeling. If we understand the team as exercising its First Amendment rights when it decides what its players can do, the law abridges that right and for reasons of disagreement with the team's speech in allowing its players to kneel.

A law also can violate a person's rights even if it does not prohibit some actions, by empowering or obligating private persons to take certain steps that harm that person. For example, courts have declared invalid ordinances that fine landlords for 911 calls to their properties; the laws have been found to violate the rights of (usually female) tenants who are deterred from seeking police protection from domestic violence out of fear that a 911 call leads to a fine on the landlord which leads to the landlord evicting the tenant to avoid future fines. (And these are the second generation of such ordinances--the first generation required licensed landlords to evict or prohibited them from renting to individuals who had made multiple 911 calls). The same logic is at work with this statute--the Colts are essentially being fined for not stopping the players from kneeling and so will prohibit kneeling to avoid the fine.

A different version of that scenario might set the Colts up to be sued for a First Amendment violation by players prohibited from kneeling, by causing the Colts to act under color of law. A private entity acts under color when it engages in some conduct under the "overwhelming coercion" of the government. Here, the Colts would bar players from kneeling on pain of having to offer refunds to fans that ask, which the team would be required to do by state law. Although it is less direct than a law requiring the team to stop the players from kneeling, the loss of money could constitute the necessary coercion.

This is probably moot because the law will not be passed and/or the NFL is going to force the NFLPA to accept a rule requiring players to stand (as the NBA now has). But it gives me a chance to link to this article describing the letters written by citizens to USOC and IOC head Avery Brundage* about Tommie Smith and John Carlos following their protest at the 1968 Olympics, which sound identical to the complaints being made about Colin Kaepernick and his NFL brethren.

[*] One of history's truly despicable sporteuacrats.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 2, 2018 at 03:36 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Year-End Report of the Federal Judiciary

The 2017 Year-End Report of the Federal Judiciary was released at 6 p.m. Sunday. No dueling or lumberjacks this year, although the Chief could not help but throw in a history lesson about The Great Hurricane of 1780.

The primary theme this year was how the judiciary responds (and responded in 2017) to natural disasters. This was followed by a brief discussion of the "new challenge" for 2018 of dealing with workplace sexual harassment in the judiciary, discussing his called-for AO working group to examine policies and practices, including codes of conduct, employee education, confidentiality and reporting rules, and rules for processing complaints. He closed with an expression of confidence that the "overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 31, 2017 at 06:41 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Zervos v. Trump, in federal or state court

Richard Primus discusses an amicus brief he wrote in Zervos v. Trump, the defamation lawsuit filed by a former Apprentice contestant in New York state court (Zervos claims Trump sexually assaulted her and that Trump's denials effectively defamed her as a liar). Trump has moved to dismiss, arguing that a sitting President enjoys immunity from suit in state court (stated differently, Clinton v. Jones applies only in federal court). Primus's brief (written for Steven Burbank, Richard Parker, and Lucas Powe) argues that state and federal courts are no different for purposes of the President's amenability to sue.

The existence of presidential immunity does not matter in this case, because Zervos will refile in federal court on diversity jurisdiction (Zervos is from California, Trump is probably from New York, but definitely someplace other than California). The surprise when Zervos filed suit was that she had filed in state court (in Trump's home state, no less) rather than federal court. It might have been a fear of anti-plaintiff federal procedure and a desire to take extensive (embarrassing) discovery that she is more likely to get in state court than federal court. But the same law applies and the jury pool in the Southern District of New York is the same (and as anti-Trump) as the County of New York, so it is not obvious Zervos is better off in state court than federal court.

From the other side, though, it is worth wondering why Trump is bothering to raise immunity in this case, because it will not end or even delay the lawsuit. Does he so badly want to be in federal court? Is he trying to protect the presidency apart from his personal interests (something he has not been inclined to do)? Is he trying to make Zervos work for it?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 21, 2017 at 10:27 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sexualized Misconduct

Michael Dorf has two posts on the Alex Kozinski saga. In discussing the various allegations against the now-former judge, Dorf uses the term "sexualized misconduct" to describe some of Kozinski alleged behavior. That term captures actions outside of employment (such as his comments and unwanted touching of women during visits to law schools) and conduct of a sexual nature that does not constitute harassment or discrimination. I want to consider the latter and figure out whether it exists.

Consider some of the things Kozinksi and others have been accused of doing: Showing or talking about porn to female clerks and employees, talking about sex and one's own sexual activity (although without explicitly propositioning the listener), asking about the listener's sexual activity (although without explicitly propositioning the listener), telling sexually explicit stories and jokes that are not at the expense of the listening employee.

This behavior is boorish and obnoxious. It is "sexualized misconduct"--misconduct that involves sex. But is it unlawful discrimination/harassment/hostile environment "because of sex"--what Title VII requires by its terms and the 14th Amendment requires by interpretation? And when does discussion of sexual things cross the line into unlawfulness? Are all discussions of anything sexual, at least between male supervisors and female employees, per se hostile environment? Or (as one law prof correspondent suggested) is it evidence of a hostile environment, but requiring a broader contextual judgment? Is sex and sexual activity different than politics or sports, so women are going to be disadvantaged by such talk? On one hand, many of the sexual conversations objectify women in some way (Kozinski's "knock chart," for example); so even if women are as willing and able in the abstract to talk about sex as men, they remain differently situated for purposes of such conversations. On one other hand, to say yes relies on stereotypes and assumptions about women and how they react to discussions of sex, sexuality, and sexual activity compared with men.

So how does or should the law treat sexualized misconduct in the workplace that does not involve unwanted touching or propositions? Is everything sexual off-limits and should it be?

Note some broader consequences if the answer to that question is no. It creates a divide between elite high-profile professions and workplaces and everyone else. Even if not prohibited by Title VII, sexualized misconduct disgusts the public and creates sufficient anger and backlash to drive a judge from the bench* or a television personality from the airwaves.** But it is not going to effect the manager at Wal Mart, whose misconduct would be outside the reach of Title VII but outside the public eye (or public interest) as to cause him to lose his job.

[*] Yes, Kozinski allegedly did far more than talk about sexual activity, so this is not the only reason he was driven from the bench.

[**] Ditto.

Of course, that divide exists even if sexualized misconduct is because of sex and even as to conduct that moves into propositions and touching. Plaintiffs must show that harassment was "severe and pervasive" as to change the conditions of employment. Susan Estrich's defense of Kozinski warned about "bringing men down for conduct that, even if true, does not rise to the level of harassment," which I (perhaps in a forgiving mood) interpret as referring to conduct that is not sufficiently severe and pervasive to be a violation of Title VII or the Constitution. The public becomes disgusted and angry about misbehavior that might not rise to the level of a violation, driving out those in high-profile positions. Meanwhile, the manager at Wal Mart gets away with conduct that may be far worse because of difficulties of proof and the imbalances in the legal system. One way of thinking about this is that the public is holding those in positions of power to higher standards--it is not enough to refrain from unlawful conduct, they also should refrain from disgusting, boorish, and obnoxious conduct (at least of a sexual nature). Another way is that the law, as it is being applied at all levels, has not caught up with where public attitudes are moving (at least for the moment).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 20, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Petersen withdraws

Story here.I am happy to be wrong (if surprised) about that one.

Stories about the signs of his lacked of qualification have focused on his lack of trial experience and have quoted defenders rejecting the premise that experience as a trial lawyer is a "precondition" to being a district judge. But as I argued, his lack of trial or litigation experience was not the real problem (although commenters here have disagreed). The problems were his lack of knowledge of basic legal concepts and his arrogant believe that he did not need that legal knowledge. Petersen tried to minimize this as his "worst two minutes" that should not have outweighed his 20 years of public service. But those worst two minutes revealed so much (about his legal knowledge or his character) that the balance seems appropriate.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 18, 2017 at 07:19 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (13)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Glossary of Judicial Terms

From Garrett Epps in The Atlantic.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 17, 2017 at 10:27 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, December 15, 2017

About that Judiciary Committte Hearing

Matthew Spencer Petersen, an FEC commissioner and a nominee to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, had a rough time at his confirmation hearing Wednesday when he was unable to answer probing legal questions requiring nuanced analysis (asked by Republican Sen. John Kennedy). These included "Do you know what a motion in limine is," "Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is," and "How about the Pullman abstention doctrine."* Kennedy also asked Petersen if he had "read" the FRCP and FRE.

[*] I am proud to say that I teach each of those things in my courses. My new pitch to upper-level students during course-selection time will be "If you want to be a federal judge, take my courses."

A couple of thoughts about the entire thing:

1) Kennedy began by asking the full panel of Petersen and four other nominees whether any had tried cases to verdict or taken depositions. The "never tried a case" thing has been a recurring theme with several of Trump's district-court nominees, but I am not a fan. There is benefit to having judges from various backgrounds on all courts, including legislative-branch and non-judicial executive-branch experience (which would not allow a nominee to have tried or litigated a case). That a district-court judge has never litigated a case (not "tried," since most cases do not go to trial) should not be disqualifying.

2) Petersen sort-of tried the latter move by describing his role in supervising the FEC attorneys who litigate on behalf of the FEC and who thus deal with the FRE and FRCP and motions before judges--"no, I have not argued the motion, but I have overseen the lawyers who do and I am familiar with this work." But that set him up for the questions revealing he did not know anything about what these lawyers do.

3) The problem is that Petersen apparently had never heard of basic legal concepts. It was not that he could not ask answer questions about their appropriate scope or how they should apply. He could not give basic definitions or describe the basic ideas behind these doctrines. The real revelation here was less Petersen's unfitness (although he is unfit), but his arrogance. He was so certain he will be confirmed and that this was a dog-and-pony formality that he did not take two hours to look up the basic definition of legal issues or become less-than-minimally conversant about basic procedural issues that he hopes to spend the next forty years dealing with. He believed he could walk in, sit through the couple hours before the committee members, and be home free to a lifetime appointment. And that may be more disqualifying that not knowing basic legal principles. Watching Petersen, he did not appear embarrassed or bothered or ashamed by the spectacle.

4) No one "reads" the FRCP or the FRE, so the question itself was bad. Were Petersen smarter, he might have responded "I have not read them like a book, because that is now how one deals with a code. But I am happy to answer questions about specific rules or overarching ideas contained within the FRCP." That might have stopped Kennedy in his tracks (see below). But Petersen could not have answered those next-level questions, so this option was not open to him.

5) [Added thought]: The questions Kennedy asked were effective in making Petersen look stupid. But the questions could not have shown much about Petersen's qualifications, regardless of his answers. He would not have shown himself fit by saying "A motion in limine (Latin: "at the start", literally, "on the threshold") (Latin pronunciation: [ɪn ˈliːmɪˌne] in LEE-min-ay) is a motion, discussed outside the presence of the jury, to request that certain testimony be excluded" or "Younger abstention, named for Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), is less permissive to the federal courts, barring them from hearing civil rights tort claims brought by a person who is currently being prosecuted for a matter arising from that claim in state court" (those are cut from the first sentences of the Wikipedia definitions). Yet he did not do that basic work (see # 3).

6) Am I alone in doubting that Sen. Kennedy knows what Younger or Pullman is? Or, at least, that he would be unable to have asked more than "have you heard of it" questions?

7) Petersen will be confirmed. Kennedy will vote in favor, both in committee and on the floor. So I will not even be able to use this as a sales pitch, because the students can always say "well, Matthew Petersen is on the D.D.C. and he doesn't know Younger, so why should I."

8) Here is the video, if you have not seen it. Regardless of outcome, it is worth watching

 

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 15, 2017 at 10:47 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (13)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nazis and free speech

Apropos of nothing: Nazis are the focal point for all sides in the debate over free speech. Those seeking a narrower approach to free speech want a rule that specifically and explicitly excludes actual Nazis from First Amendment protection; consider one comment to this post and the repeated  position of Elie Mystal in this RadioLab "More Perfect" Debate. Those who defend the current expansive understanding of free speech consider protection for Nazis, especially in Skokie, as a high point in the fight for free speech.

No conclusion to be drawn; just an observation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 10, 2017 at 03:10 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, December 01, 2017

Drifting justices

Richard Primus takes down the arguments that Chief Justice Roberts has become (or always has been) a secret liberal and has "moved left." Primus argues that it is not Roberts who has changed but the questions presented to the Court--the questions have moved right, shifting the conclusions Roberts reaches and the Justices with whom he aligns, even without him have changed. And none of this could have been accounted for when Roberts was being vetted, so this should not be regarded as a case of failed vetting.

This is an intriguing argument to which I would add a few thoughts.

1) On the vetting point, Primus focuses on Roberts twice rejecting aggressive conservative theories surrounding ACA, which were not on Republicans' minds when vetting Roberts in 2005 (when the individual mandate was a Republican idea). Roberts has voted the straight conservative line on those issues for which he would have been vetted--reproductive freedom, religious liberty, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and voting rights. Put differently, while the questions presented have moved rightward on these issues, they have not reached the point of outflanking Roberts to the right.

2) Primus' framing offers a new way of thinking about Justice Frankfurter, where the questions presented moved leftward, leaving him straddling, if not dissenting, on many. For Frankfurter, it was a shift of constitutional issues--from the scope of federal power to individual rights. But the basic idea of the legal questions moving and the Justice staying in place holds.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 1, 2017 at 09:11 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (21)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Carpenter – Post-Oral Argument Thoughts

The following guest post is by past guest-Prawf Andrew Ferguson (UDC).

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the much awaited Fourth Amendment case of the term – Carpenter v. United States.  Fourth Amendment nerds from all over the country flocked to the Supreme Court like it was a constitutional solar eclipse. 

Carpenter involves the warrantless collection of historic cell phone records for location information covering 127 days.  Suspected of being involved in a series of armed robberies (ironically enough of cell phone stores), police used Timothy Carpenter’s cell phone location data to tie him to the crimes and obtain a conviction.  Carpenter appealed arguing that obtaining this information without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The reason for the buzz of interest is because the case presents a real legal puzzle.  In a world where almost all of our digital devices work through third parties, the idea that law enforcement can simply obtain the data from our smart devices without a warrant means that our modern culture of self-surveillance has also potentially created a governmental surveillance state.  At the same time, the third party records in Carpenter were owned, controlled, and used by the phone companies, raising questions of who owns this data, who controls it, and does sharing it for one purpose also mean sharing it for all other purposes including government investigation? 

Much (almost instant) commentary has already been posted on this case, but two things are clear: first, the stakes for the future of the Fourth Amendment are quite high and demand an answer; and second, no Justice or advocate has a completely coherent answer to how the third party doctrine should apply in the digital age.

As to the stakes – almost any digital device you can imagine connects to third party providers (and creates third party records) in order to make the magic of “smart” devices happen.  In an interconnected world filled with smartphones, smart cars, smart homes, and smart medical devices, ubiquitous communication by email, text, Tweet, or chat, you share your data with private companies.   In a world of data trails, you are a potential police target at all times.  Your smartphone, your smart car, your fitness band provide exact geo-locational clues to your whereabouts.  Your location is being tracked, and police have recognized the utility of this information to prove criminal acts and patterns.  Data trails provide a wealth of clues to past and present criminal activity

As to the debate in the high court, the Supreme Court was, perhaps not surprisingly, divided.  Questions of how to distinguish decades old precedent mixed with questions about new future-oriented technology.  Hypotheticals about modern subpoena power mixed with queries about the Writs of Assistance.  John Adams got a shout out.  So did Stephen Henderson’s idea of a Fourth Amendment time machine.  So did the empiricists’ amicus brief.  Again, for Fourth Amendment nerds it was a party. 

At least from the questions at oral argument, it can be intuited that some Justices wish to rethink the existing third party records doctrine, and others wish to see how to make it fit a digital age.  (As a disclosure, I helped author one of the amicus briefs on behalf of Mr. Carpenter).  Theories abounded, with no clear resolution of how the Justices would decide. 

But one question – signaling perhaps a new way of thinking about the Fourth Amendment – seemed to trouble at least a few members of the Court – namely what rights (property based or otherwise) do the consumers of smart devices have over their own data.  This is a huge question in the digital age.  How does the Fourth Amendment protect smart data?  How do we conceptualize who owns or controls the location data coming from Carpenter’s cell phone?  

Here is how Justice Gorsuch framed the question to Carpenter’s lawyer Nathan Wessler of the ACLU:

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Mr. Wessler, I'm sorry, one quick question. Focusing on the property-based approach, putting aside reasonable expectation for just a moment, what do we know about what state law would say about this information? So say -- say a thief broke into T Mobile, stole this information and sought to make economic value of it. Would you have a conversion -- would your client have a conversion claim, for example, under state law? Have you explored that at all?

Similar questions were put to the government’s advocate, Michael Dreeben:

JUSTICE GORSUCH: Mr. Dreeben, I'd like to -- I'd like to drill down on that and return to Justice Kagan's question. You know, the facts here wind up looking a lot like Jones.

One thing Jones taught us is -- and reminded us, really, is that the property-based approach to privacy also has to be considered, not just the reasonable expectation approach.

So, if we put aside the reasonable expectation approach for just a moment, Katz, Miller, Smith, and ask what is the property right here, let's say there is a property right. Let's say I have a property right in the conversion case I posited with your colleague. So that if someone were to steal my location information from T-Mobile I'd have a conversion claim, for example, against them for the economic value that was stolen.

Wouldn't that, therefore, be a search of my paper or effect under the property-based approach approved and reminded us in Jones?

            The question likely arises from a law review article written by William Baude and James Stern in the Harvard Law Review called The Positive Law Model of the Fourth Amendment and in Richard Re’s response essay, The Positive law Floor.  Both articles were cited in Carpenter’s brief and apparently caught the attention of the Court.  But, as anyone who has read those thoughtful pieces knows, positive law when it comes to the Fourth Amendment gets confusing and contested pretty quickly in practice.  It is not that the Positive Law model doesn’t offer some helpful ways to conceptualize the possible future rules, but it is hard to operationalize because positive law is messy. 

So, in the spirit of the ongoing debate, I offer my own thoughts to the intuition that Justice Gorsuch was reaching for – that there is some property-like element to our smart data – but with a different conceptual hook.  

My argument is not about positive law, but about the ownership/security interests we have in the data we create.  Smart data (including location data) is partially ours, and because it comes from our effects, we can claim some control over it.  The argument turns on the simple principle that the Fourth Amendment protects not simply the physical integrity of “persons, papers, homes, and effects” but also the information that comes from those constitutional derived sources (which would include Timothy Carpenter’s cell phone – as an effect – and its smart data).  As I wrote in The “Smart” Fourth Amendment:

The Fourth Amendment--at its core--protects “informational security” …. Underlying the protection of persons, papers, homes, and effects and behind the expectation of privacy lies a desire to guard personal information from government intrusion.

In other words, it is not the corporal person, alone, that deserves protection, but also the information about the person. It is not the sheaf of papers, but the revealing personal details in those words that matter. It is not the physical home that is as important as what happens in the home. …

In this longer work on how the Fourth Amendment should adapt to new “smart” technologies, I developed the idea of “informational security” the principle of why the Fourth Amendment should protect smart data, again similar to Justice Gorsuch’s intuition that there is some property/security right to control the locational information created by individuals through the use of smartphones.  [In the following excerpt from the article, I deleted the footnotes for easier reading.]

 

[I]nformational security is not an abstract concept, but arises from those particular constitutionally referenced sources. The Fourth Amendment secures someone, something, or somewhere. Information obtained from a constitutionally recognized source--effects, houses, persons, papers--gains derivative protection due to the source of the information. Focusing attention on a derivative constitutional source provides a useful and relatively easy guidepost to identify which types of information deserve constitutional protection.

Such derivative protection also covers information at some remove from the actual constitutionally protected interest. Charlie Katz's voice exited the closed glass door and was captured by the microphone taped on top of the phone booth. Antoine Jones's travel coordinates left the car and was captured by satellite technology. David Riley's smartphone communications data existed both on the phone and outside of it (in the cloud). Yet, the protections of the Constitution carried to these intangible, invisible, separate pieces of personal information. The constitutional protections of persons, houses, papers, and effects might, thus, be better characterized as protections of the information emanating from those constitutionally protected interests.

 

As laid out in more detail in the article, one can trace through the history of the Fourth Amendment and see this emphasis on protecting informational details arising from constitutionally protected sources (effects, homes, persons, papers).  For questions about whether we have any property rights in our own smart data, this can be an important consideration. 

            For example, in terms of effects:

Central to the protection granted effects has been securing personal information about those effects. The sparse Founding Era literature suggests a focus on protecting objects which revealed something about the owner--religion, culture, status, or family associations. Searching and seizing a colonist's religious objects was not offensive simply because it interfered with property rights, but because searching revealed personal information about family and faith. Rummaging through bedroom drawers was not solely about the inviolate nature of property but, as the early history suggested, also about revealing information that might be contained in those drawers. Interpreted one way, the protection of effects has largely been the protection of what the personal effects revealed or contained.

Similarly, while Justice Scalia attempted to ground his Jones argument in property rights, the harm of affixing the GPS device was not in any real sense to physical property (the car was undamaged). The real harm was exposing the revealing personal data about the effect (car). Placing the device on the car might have been a seizure, but what made it a search was collecting the locational data intercepted by police (the “use of that device to monitor the vehicle's movements”). The “use” in that case was the capturing of data trails via satellite transmissions communicated by cell phone to a government computer. By using the car to track its owner, the government invaded the informational security of the effect. Justice Scalia's Jones analysis requires both parts--trespass plus use--and as Justice Alito argues in his concurrence, neither alone should constitute a search under Scalia's reasoning. In holding that this interception/collection was a Fourth Amendment search, Justice Scalia implicitly acknowledged the centrality of informational security. What mattered was securing the information coming from the effect, not just securing the effect itself.

The concurring Justices in Jones also focused on the personal information revealed from the GPS device. The reason a twenty-eight-day tracking of locational data became a search rested solely on the informational exposure that resulted. Such collection of personal data points (touching on associational, health, and other private travels) became of constitutional significance when the data trails could be revealing of private, personal actions. The expectation of privacy was not about expectations from the effect (the car) itself, but the information to be inferred about the travels of the car. This personal information essentially radiating off the car is what created the constitutional harm.

The article goes on to discuss the other constitutionally protected terms and the quirks and problems with the theory of informational security, but at its core the article offers a way to get to a property-oriented approach to data protection without diving into positive law.  (Although, candidly, there are 84 pages of my article not excerpted that add a whole host of complexity to it). 

So, if the Supreme Court is looking for a reason to protect smart data under the Fourth Amendment, it offers a starting point for debate.  And, the best thing about the Carpenter argument day was that for one shining moment, everyone was focused on thinking about the Fourth Amendment and how it should apply to the digital age.  Can’t wait for the decision. 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 29, 2017 at 06:41 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Criminal Law, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Who heads the CFPB and how to find out?

Marty Lederman deconstructs (and questions) the OLC memo concluding that the President's appointment of Mike Mulvaney was lawful and controlling. Sam Bray argues that the answer is a quo warranto action filed by the AG or the US Attorney for the District of the District of Columbia.

On Sunday, Leandra English filed suit in the District of D.C., seeking a TRO and declaratory judgment (with a passing reference to a writ of mandamus) that she is the lawful Acting Director and that the Mulvaney appointment is invalid. The suit names Trump and Mulvaney as defendants, for a declaration barring Trump from appointing any other Acting Director and barring Mulvaney from asserting the authority of the office.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 26, 2017 at 10:28 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Reminder: Discovery is a two-way street

Attorneys for Alabama Media Group responded (copy of letter, free from typos and grammatical errors, in story) to the insane and incoherent letter from Roy Moore's attorney. In addition to standing by the story and denying the claims in the initial letter, AMG's lawyers say they expect litigation "would also reveal other important information about your clients" and makes a counter-demand that Moore preserve and maintain documents, materials, and information that "is or could remotely be relevant in any manner to any of the claims that you have made." This includes information relevant to Moore's "romantic relationships or physical encounters (whether consensual or not)."

This was not as brazen as the New York Times letter from October 2016, which expressly dared Trump to sue. But both are interesting examples of an emerging genre of legal writing.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 19, 2017 at 11:46 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

154th anniversary of Gettysburg Address

This remains funny and this is newly funny. And this is the perfect day for Lincoln's successor to demonstrate his unique ideas of government and presidential leadership--leaving American citizens in foreign jail because the father of one of them is not sufficiently appreciative or supportive of him.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 19, 2017 at 03:20 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Irrepressible Myth of David Boies?

Much has been written about David Boies representation of Harvey Weinstein and the conflicts with his representation of The New York Times as representing the fall of a liberal legal icon and of one of the great lawyers of his generation.

But a question asked out of genuine ignorance: What is the basis for that reputation and is it earned? I know of Boies from three cases: US v. Microsoft, Bush v. Gore, and Hollingsworth v. Perry; I do not believe I knew his name before the first of these. He lost the first (and one of my memories of listening to that argument was that he sounded as if he was caught off-guard by an equal-protection question). He had the second reversed on appeal. In the third, he won an important trial-court victory that enabled millions of Californians to marry, carried symbolic weight,* and perhaps catalyzed the litigation movement that led to Obergefell two years later. But it did not achieve the single great judicial declaration on marriage equality that he (and Ted Olson) set out to achieve and for which he is often given credit in movies, books, and other media. It was an important case on the path to marriage equality, but far from the important case. As legal precedent, it carried less weight than, for example, the case brought in Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, or Indiana, all of which produced binding circuit precedent.

[*] The symbolism arguably cut in both directions. On one hand, it was the first federal-court declaration that same-sex marriage bans violated the federal Constitution (following several state-court/state-law decisions) and it affected the biggest state in the country. On the other hand, California.

I am not suggesting that Boies has not been a successful lawyer; he clearly has been. And I am sure that he took on and won many other big (and perhaps even historic) cases. But he is being described as the Clarence Darrow of his generation, now fallen in his final act. And I wonder about the reality of that.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 16, 2017 at 01:29 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Two hours of First Amendment training

Greg Thatcher, a professor of public health at Fresno State, has settled a First Amendment lawsuit claiming he erased students' chalked messages on campus sidewalks. Thatcher will pay $ 1000 to each of the students, pay $ 15,000 in attorney's fees to the Alliance Defending Freedom, and undergo two hours of "First Amendment training" with ADF. Two thoughts.

I hope "First Amendment training" does not become the new "diversity training" or "sexual harassment training."

I think there is an interesting under-color-of-law question here. Is everything a professor does on a public-university campus during school hours under color? He was not in the classroom, his office, or his building. He is dressed like he is going to the gym (although, in fairness, so do I on non-teaching days). In the encounter, he sometimes strikes a position of a competing speaker and sometimes strikes a position of an authority enforcing (erroneously understood) campus-speech regulations. And it is not clear enforcing those rules is any part of his job, although students may not understand that. He did tell/order/ask some of his students to erase the messages with him, which reflects an exercise of his obvious authority.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 14, 2017 at 08:42 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 13, 2017

First Amendment Day at SCOTUS

SCOTUS granted cert in three First Amendment cases today. The big one is National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, a challenge to a California law requiring that crisis pregnancy centers provide notice that publicly funded family-planning services are available elsewhere and that unlicensed clinics are unlicensed; the Court took it as a compelled-speech case and a vehicle to resolve a circuit split over the standard for "professional speech" (the Ninth Circuit applied intermediate scrutiny, while the Fourth Circuit applied strict scrutiny in invalidating similar regulations in Maryland.

The political valance of the case is interesting, as Dahlia Lithwick argues. The plaintiff here is a crisis-pregnancy center, resisting regulations that, in the name of protecting women's health, require the clinics to disclose information about the limits of their services (not providing abortion or contraception) and directing patients elsewhere for those services. But if these regulations violate the First Amendment, so should regulations in many states requiring clinics to provide pre-abortion counseling or to provide arguably false medical information about links between abortion and breast cancer, suicide, and mental-health consequences, designed to dissuade women from going through with the procedure.

Incidentally, this case meets the procedural posture I was looking for: The trial court denied a preliminary injunction, the court of appeals affirmed, and SCOTUS granted cert (to reverse, if I had to predict).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 13, 2017 at 07:59 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The overwhelming effect of stays pending appeal

The Second Circuit denied a stay pending appeal of the denial of an injunction barring suspension of NFL running back Ezekiel Elliott. The court referred to it as an "injunction pending appeal," which is wrong and the improper terminology makes the media reporting on this more confusing than usual.

Tracing the history of this case is a Fed Courts or Remedies problem all its own: 1) Elliott was suspended for six games and an arbitrator upheld the suspension; 2) a judge in the Eastern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the suspension (allowing Elliott to play); 3) the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court lacked jurisdiction, grounds that were arguably incorrect, although the result was probably right (barring Elliott from playing); 4) the union and player filed suit in the Southern District of New York; 5) a district judge granted a TRO (allowing Elliott to play); 6) the same judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction (barring Elliott from playing); 7) the Second Circuit granted a temporary stay of the denial of the preliminary injunction (allowing Elliott to play) pending fuller consideration of the motion to stay; 8) the Second Circuit today denied a full stay pending appeal, allowing the judgment denying the preliminary injunction to go into effect, meaning the suspension goes into effect and Elliott will not be able to play on Sunday (unless SCOTUS gets involved).

Even more than in the marriage-equality litigation, the stay question dictates the result in these cases. Although the Second Circuit granted expedited appeal, it is not clear that the case will be resolved before Elliott has missed six games. The question is the weight the likelihood-of-success prong bears in these cases--it is hard to overturn an arbitrator's decision, so Elliott was not likely to succeed in having the denial of the injunction reversed. And that may have convinced the court of appeals there was no irreparable harm in having the suspension take effect.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 9, 2017 at 05:09 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

More jurisdictionality from SCOTUS

My opinion analysis for Hamer v. NHSC is up on SCOTUSBlog. As I predicted, the Court unanimously (through Justice Ginsburg, who cares most deeply about these issues) held that FRAP 4(a)(5)(C)'s 30-day limit on extensions to file notices of appeal was not jurisdictional, then punted issues of waiver, forfeiture, and equitable exception to the Seventh Circuit for initial consideration. A few additional thoughts.

Despite mentioning it at argument, the Court did not mention or cite Scott Dodson's arguments that the rule is jurisdictional because it allocates cases between courts, but the label matters less than the consequences (waiver, forfeiture, equitable exception, etc.) that a rulemaker attaches to the rule. Jurisdictional rules are mandatory only if Congress makes them mandatory; non-jurisdictional rules can be mandatory if Congress makes them mandatory. The Court did speak of timing rules "governing the transfer of adjudicatory authority from one Article III court to another," which smacks of the allocation concept that Scott uses. But the Court could not move past the label above the effects of the rule (which are not dictated by the label).

The "clear and easy" rule of decision the Court announced is that "If a time prescription governing the transfer of adjudicatory authority from one Article III court to another appears in a statute, the limitation is jurisdictional; otherwise, the time specification fits within the claim-processing category." This does not mention the Arbaugh rule that a rule is jurisdictional only if Congress speaks in jurisdictional terms. But the synthesis is that Congress can speak in jurisdictional terms, while the Court under the REA never can speak in jurisdictional terms.

In an email, Scott identifies some problems and open questions from describing the issue as the timing for transferring adjudicatory authority from one court to another. This would make timing limits in transfer-of-venue statutes or statutes governing the time for filing cert. petitions jurisdictional. Another question is whether the same rule applies to transfers of authority from state court to federal court, which would make timing requirements for removal and cert. petitions from state courts jurisdiction. Or it would mean that the time for filing a petition from federal court would be jurisdictional, while the time for filing a petition from state court might not be. Scott argues that these open questions show that the rule is not so "clear and easy."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 8, 2017 at 08:58 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Are The Bangles no longer welcome at Reed College, either?

Read the intro. Whatever else is happening, this demonstrates a point that came out in the comments to this post: The level of offense and the level of evil that protesters see in objectionable speech is beyond what we saw previously, which explains the more-intense reactions and confrontations between speech and counter-speech.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 4, 2017 at 05:18 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (9)

Monday, October 30, 2017

New ACS Brief on Local Voting Rights

The ACS has just published my new issue brief -- a condensed version of a longer GW Law Review article -- on local expansions of the right to vote. Here is the abstract:

The right to vote is a fundamental right inherent in the U.S. Constitution and all state constitutions. Most scholarship on this right focuses on only federal or state law and omits discussion about how local law may also confer this right. In his new Issue Brief, “Expanding Voting Rights Through Local Law,” Professor Joshua A. Douglas of the University of Kentucky explores how cities and towns across the country are expanding the right to vote in municipal elections to include sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, noncitizens, nonresident property owners, and others. He argues that municipalities can serve as “test tubes of democracy” that may experiment with different voting rules, and these expansions can then spread to other municipalities and even up to states or Congress. Douglas concludes that when examining these local laws, courts should defer to those that expand the franchise, while training a more skeptical eye on laws that restrict voter access.

If for no other reason, you should read it because it starts with a reference to The West Wing! (Ah, if only Jed Barlet was our president...)

 

Posted by Josh Douglas on October 30, 2017 at 03:35 PM in Article Spotlight, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

An overbroad defense of universal injunctions

Judge Leinenweber of the Northern District of Illinois denied a stay pending appeal of a universal (he called it nationwide) preliminary injunction barring enforcement of certain funding conditions against sanctuary cities. This is the first extended defense of universal injunctions (more than in the original order granting the injunction).  (H/T: Josh Blackman)

The gist of Judge Leinenweber's defense is that the attorney general's authority does not vary by jurisdiction. And similar universal jurisdictions have been upheld, in which relief inured to non-parties as well as parties. The court also finds support from the per curiam in Trump v. IRAP, where the Court allowed the injunction to stand as to those "similarly situated" to the plaintiffs, which matches the injunction here applying to cities and states similarly situated to Chicago. Most tellingly, the court rejected the argument that similarly situated plaintiffs can file their own lawsuits and use the first decision as precedent because "judicial economy counsels against requiring all these jurisdictions (and potentially others) to file their own lawsuits to decide the same legal question." The court recognized reasons to be "cautious" before entering such injunctions and that they should not be the "default," citing the recent work of Bray, October guest Michael Morley, and UCLA's Michigan's Maureen Carroll. He pointed to concerns for forum shopping, conflicting injunctions, and interference with law development within a circuit, then explained (in a sentence or two) why those "not insignificant concerns" do not overcome the benefits of a universal injunction in this case.

The problem remains that the argument prove too much. As Sam Bray argues, it logically requires (or at least permits and encourages) a district court to issue a universal injunction in every constitutional challenge to federal law. Because the proposed funding conditions challenged here do not differ from any federal law.  The authority of federal officials to enforce every federal law does not vary by jurisdiction. Judicial economy always favors one lawsuit over many lawsuits. There would be a flood of similar lawsuits by everyone affected by every federal law.* Federal uniformity and the unfairness of disparate application of federal are present with respect to every federal law. Despite the court's rhetorical attempt to limit such injunctions to "extraordinary" cases, every case is extraordinary as he defines it; the reasoning applies to federal immigration laws, federal regulations of immigration attorneys, and federal law regulating any conduct.

[*] The solution is supposed to be FRCP 23(b)(2) class actions. But the growth of universal injunctions makes that rule superfluous.

Leinenweber closes with a paean to the rule of law and the role of the courts in ensuring the rule of law is enforced, which is undermined (in reality or in perception) if the attorney general can enforce "likely invalid" laws against other persons even while under an injunction as to some. Several responses. That is true of every federal law, making such injunctions the norm. The rule of law also includes limitations on the scope of a district court's lawmaking and remedial authority as compared with a court of appeals or SCOTUS; it therefore is as undermined by one district judge barring enforcement of federal law as to everyone in the world in all circumstances everywhere in the world. And without saying so, it also rests on a model of pure judicial supremacy--the Article III judge has spoken and the attorney general's authority to disagree, outside of that litigation, ceases to exist.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 15, 2017 at 03:10 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Argument on ATS in Jesner v. Arab Bank

SCOTUS heard argument on Wednesday in Jesner v. Arab Bank, considering whether a corporation can be sued under the  common law cause of action under the Alien Tort Statute. I listened to the audio and have a few thoughts on the procedure, without getting into the substantive question of corporate liability.

The Court a good job (certainly better than four years ago in Kiobel) talking about the issues without conflating jurisdiction and merits. Everyone spoke about causes of action and the scope of the norms that are part of federal common law and can be enforced through that cause of action, without speaking about jurisdiction in a sloppy way.

Justice Gorsuch asked petitioner/plaintiff counsel what the continued point of the ATS is, given that § 1331 grants jurisdiction over claims grounded in federal common law incorporating international law. Counsel explained that the ATS is like the maritime-jurisdiction grant, a more specific grant in the Judiciary Act of 1789 through which Congress could make absolutely clear that such cases could be brought in federal court. What neither mentioned (and what you would expect Gorsuch to remember, given his Originalist obsession) is that the 1789 Act did not include general "arising under" federal-question jurisdiction, necessitating these subject-specific grants. To the extent § 1350 is vestigial or superfluous with modern § 1331, it is not alone.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 14, 2017 at 10:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Argument: Hamer v. NHSC

Here is my SCOTUSBlog recap of Tuesday's argument Hamer v. NHSC. Justice Ginsburg was as engaged in this argument as I think I ever have seen her. She even had some love for the arguments of Scott Dodson (Hastings), who filed an amicus brief putting forward his theory that a jurisdictional rule is any rule, regardless of source, that places a case in one court and out of another. She asked petitioner's counsel about Scott's argument; his response was that Scott's formulation is "incorrect" because inconsistent with prior cases and the Rules of Civil Procedure, although without explaining whether or why that formulation is normatively wrong. No one else followed on Ginsburg's question.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 10, 2017 at 10:09 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, October 09, 2017

"Thanks, Iowa Supreme Court!"

Today in my Election Law class we covered state regulation of false or misleading campaign advertisements. (The doctrine is generally that even blatantly false ads enjoy First Amendment protection.) It is one of my favorite class periods of the semester because I show some pretty incredible political ads. The one below is perhaps the most outlandish. It aired during the Iowa judicial retention election in 2010, just after the Iowa Supreme Court had issued a ruling that effectively legalized same-sex marriage. The ad is worth two minutes of your time. (All three justices up for retention lost.)

(Although I find the ad amusing, I also think it's offensive and harmful.)

The debate during this class is always spirited, with some students arguing that the government should be allowed to regulate patently false campaign speech -- especially if it is about the election itself (such as "Republicans should vote on Tuesday; Democrats should vote on Wednesday") -- while other students take a more absolutist First Amendment approach. The debate has perhaps become even more interesting these days given the current tenor of our political discourse.

Posted by Josh Douglas on October 9, 2017 at 02:17 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Police as prosecutors

A lawsuit in Manhattan civil court is challenging a program in which NYPD lawyers prosecute summons cases, pursuant to a delegation by the Manhattan DA. The apparent impetus for the move was that the DA generally does not send attorneys to summons court, resulting in many cases being dismissed, in turn forming the basis for constitutional claims arguing that officers lacked probable cause to issue the summons. The police department requested the delegation so it could litigate summons cases or offer a resolution would require the defendants to admit liability, barring a subsequent lawsuit. Plaintiffs claim this is a conflict of interest for the police, which violates due process, undermines the adversary system, and raises a hint of selective prosecution. Plaintiffs allege that the police are pursuing only claims against those cited while engaged in expressive activity (the plaintiffs were cited for actions during a police-reform march, and the charges against one of them were dismissed when the judge found the arresting officers' testimony contradicted by video of the events).

For you crim/crim pro/PR scholars in the audience: What is the problem here, as a legal or ethical matter? Because I do not see it. A lot seems to be about the intent of the delegation and the police lawyers' strategy--to protect officers from subsequent civil suits. But that seems like one, valid influence on prosecutorial discretion, whether the DA or its delegee is exercising that discretion. As for the focus on people cited for expressive conduct, that sounds in selective prosecution, a defense that is hard to prove and as much of a problem (or non-problem) with or without the delegation. What am I missing? 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 8, 2017 at 11:49 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (5)

Gill and Congressional Authority (A Response to Prof. Morley)

It's October, so that means two great things: baseball playoffs (go Nationals!) and continued commentary on election law.

Michael Morley starts us off with some interesting commentary on Gill v. Whitford, the partisan gerrymandering case that the Supreme Court just heard last week. His conclusion is basically that if the Court recognizes a standard for partisan gerrymandering under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, then that could open the door to substantial congressional intrusion into state and local redistricting, particularly allowing Congress "to attempt to influence and reshape the partisan outcomes of state and local races."

My response? Not bloody likely!

First, it is somewhat unlikely that Congress would even gain this extra power. Virtually everyone agrees that the case will come down to Justice Kennedy's vote, and he has indicated before -- and indicated again during the oral argument -- that a claim for partisan gerrymandering should rest within the First Amendment, not the Fourteenth Amendment. Congress does not have an explicit enforcement power under the First Amendment. If the plaintiffs win this case and the Court recognizes a judicially manageable standard to root out the most egregious gerrymanders, it is more likely to do so under the First Amendment's protection of free speech and free association. That would not give Congress any extra powers. [UPDATE: In the comments Howard correctly notes my error in not thinking about incorporation, in that Congress would have the power to enforce the First Amendment against the states via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (And geez, I even teach incorporation in Con Law II! How could I overlook it here?!) Perhaps the argument for Congressional authority would be, textually-speaking, stronger if the Court recognizes the harm under the Equal Protection Clause. Either way, this just shows why I shouldn't try to blog and watch baseball at the same time! My apologies for the mistake.]

Second, even if the Court recognizes the injury under the Fourteenth Amendment, it is highly unlikely that Congress would try to "enforce" this new standard to influence state and local elections, as Prof. Morley suggests. Joey Fishkin, in a comment to Prof. Morley's post, noted that Congress gained the power to "enforce" the one-person, one-vote standard after Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), and yet Congress has never tried to legislate under that standard. There is nothing to suggest that Congress would suddenly decide to use its newfound power to influence state and local elections when it has not done so in other contexts.

Moreover, Congress already has the power to dictate rules against partisan gerrymandering for congressional elections. Justice Scalia explicitly pointed to this power in his decision in Vieth, the 2004 case that split the Court, as one reason the Court should stay out of partisan gerrymandering claims. Congress certainly has the constitutional power to try to influence the outcome of federal elections by enacting rules about partisan gerrymandering, yet it has never done so. If it has not attempted to influence its own elections (such as by passing rules intending to protect incumbents), there is little reason to think that a newfound power after Gill would cause Congress to decide to use this power for state and local elections.

Third, as Prof. Morley acknowledges (and Asher Steinberg echoes in his comment), the Supreme Court is highly likely to apply City of Boerne's "congruent and proportional" test to any Congressional "enforcement" under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment, tempering a partisan-based congressional action. Thus, there would be a high burden for Congress to justify any regulation of state and local elections in the name of enforcing a new rule about partisan gerrymandering. In fact, the Supreme Court has generally been less deferential to Congress, as compared to states, in its election rules. States have a much easier time justifying their election rules than does Congress, notwithstanding Congress's plenary power to override state rules under Article I, Section 4. Surely any federal laws that have the intent or effect of influencing the outcome of state and federal elections would face this same close judicial scrutiny.

Finally, even if Congress both had this power and used it to pass new election laws, would that be so terrible? The likelihood of a new law that has a clear partisan valence is highly unlikely given that, at least under current Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to pass legislation. A party would thus need a supermajority to engage in such blatant overreach. Moreover, most congressional regulation of the election process has been a net positive: from the Voting Rights Act to the Help America Vote Act, Congress has legislated to fix clear problems in the election system, not to engage in partisan warfare. The most likely use of congressional power, then, would be to eliminate the worst abuses of state and local partisan gerrymandering.

In sum, while Prof. Morley is theoretically correct that a decision recognizing a new test for egregious partisan gerrymanders could increase Congress's power, there is little reason to think that, practically speaking, Congress would ever actually use this power in the way that Prof. Morley fears.

(Full disclosure for me: I signed onto Pam Karlan's amicus brief in favor of the plaintiffs in this case.)

Posted by Josh Douglas on October 8, 2017 at 10:26 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (10)

Saturday, October 07, 2017

University of Wisconsin bans counter-speech

An intentionally provocative headline, but not too far off. The Board of Regents adopted a policy that "students found to have twice engaged in violence or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others' free speech would be suspended. Students found to have disrupted others' free expression three times would be expelled." (H/T: Steven Lubet). The  linked article contains quotations capturing both sides of this: The regent who says the policy promotes listening and that "drowning out another speaker" does not qualify as freedom of speech, compared with the student who argues that the First Amendment is supposed to be messy and contentious.

The policy is glaringly vague (what is "disorderly conduct," what is "disruption"), etc.).  I expect the university to try to clear that up in its implementing regulations. Meanwhile, I wonder if a constitutional challenge now would be deemed unripe, since the policy is not yet at the point of implementation. In any event, I do not see how the university could write regulations that are clear enough to pass constitutional muster. If the counter-demonstrating, where the counter-demonstrators outnumber and outshout the original speakers, does that necessarily become disruption? Even if listening is a worthy goal to promote, can the state give people a choice between listening (which sounds compelled) or staying away, with talking back no longer an option?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 7, 2017 at 02:59 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (17)

Friday, October 06, 2017

Cy Vance, Campaign Contributions, and Decisions Not to Prosecute

In the past few days, two stories have broken about Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and questionable campaign contributions.  In two separate cases—a case involving two of President Trump’s children and a case involving film studio executive Harvey Weinstein—Vance decided not to pursue criminal charges against high profile individuals, and he also accepted campaign contributions from lawyers associated with those individuals.

I do not know what will end up happening to Vance (some are calling on the NYS Attorney General to investigate him). But I wanted to sketch a few thoughts about the larger issues implicated by these stories.

First, contributions in prosecutorial campaigns are worthy of significant scrutiny.  We’ve seen a little bit of scrutiny in recent months—notably some sustained scrutiny over the donations of bail bondsmen in the Brooklyn DA race. But that scrutiny has been sporadic, and incomplete.  I recently began a project looking at prosecutorial campaign contributions across the country, and my preliminary results show that contributions from the bail industry are more the exception than the rule.  Of the races I’ve looked at so far, lawyers represent the largest class of donors.  This isn’t surprising—I imagine most candidates for local office rely on their personal network for campaign contributions, and because candidates for district attorney are necessarily lawyers, their personal network will contain a lot of lawyers.  But relying on lawyers for campaign contributions can be problematic because those lawyers may end up representing clients whose matters will come before the candidate if he or she becomes the DA.  Can we trust DAs to assess those cases fairly if the defense attorney is a past or potential future donor?

That brings me to my second thought—whether we can rely on campaign finance reporting laws to control these conflicts of interest.  Hypothetically, if a prosecutorial candidate takes a campaign contribution from a potential defendant or his attorney, then the press could write about it and voters could vote that prosecutor out of office.  But I’m not optimistic.  Although information about who has donated to a prosecutor’s campaign is ordinarily public, information about which cases a prosecutor decides not to prosecute often is not.  Unless an alleged crime is the subject of public attention—as Harvey Weinstein’s arrest was, or as Ivanka and Trump’s business dealings have become—it may be nearly impossible to identify cases in which a DA has declined to prosecute an individual who is suspected of criminal wrongdoing.  Unlike campaign contributions to elected judges—where the identity of all parties and attorneys appearing before the judge is public knowledge—the press and the public generally do not know (and often cannot find out) what cases a prosecutor decides not to pursue.

To be clear, there are very good reasons why prosecutors don’t ordinarily explain their reasons for not charging an individual.  Among other things, case-by-case explanations could be quite harmful to the individual in question.  As James Comey’s comments about his recommendation not to prosecute Hillary Clinton illustrate, such an explanation can include very damning information and commentary about an individual and her actions.  And if criminal charges are not filed, then the individual may not be able to clear her name (especially if the individual is not as prominent or as powerful as Clinton).  But when the public does not know that an individual has been under investigation, then the donor status of that person’s lawyer (or the person herself) may loom even larger in the decision not to prosecute.  DAs don’t have to worry about the appearance of impropriety if no one knows enough to pay attention. 

Now, in light of the Trump and Weinstein stories, more reporters may decide to dig into Cy Vance’s decisions.  The list of his campaign donors is publicly available and if line prosecutors in Vance’s office are willing to leak to the press, we may see more stories that link campaign contributions and decisions not to prosecute.  But I’d be surprised if we ever get all of the stories.  And we may never get any stories about prosecutors in cities that don’t have as many investigative reporters as NYC.

Because of this, I think that it is worth talking about reform in this area.  Some have suggested that private campaign contributions ought to be forbidden in prosecutorial elections.  And the Supreme Court’s decisions about campaign contributions to judicial campaigns tell us that there are due process limits on these issues.  If you have any other ideas, feel free to share them in the comments or to email me directly.  My study of prosecutors and campaign contributions is just getting underway, and so I’ll be thinking about these questions for a long time to come.

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on October 6, 2017 at 10:23 AM in Carissa Byrne Hessick, Criminal Law, Current Affairs, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (14)

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Hamer Time

I wrote a SCOTUSBlog preview of Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, to be argued next Tuesday; the case considers the jurisdictionality of FRAP 4(a)(5)(C), which limits extensions of time to appeal to 30 days beyond the original appeals period.

Although I did not discuss this in the preview, it bears watching how Justice Gorsuch approaches jurisdictionality. He demonstrated some iconoclastic views on procedural issues in his few cases from the April sitting last Term, often running counter to the rest of the Court, to the Court's recent doctrinal trends, and to recent precedent. Might he be inclined to return to drive-by jurisdictional rulings, counter to the Court's trend of the past decade?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 3, 2017 at 10:36 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

More from Bray on universal injunctions

Two weeks ago, the Northern District of Illinois imposed a universal/nationwide injunction against the new funding conditions imposed against "sanctuary cities." The court justified the scope because there was "no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago or that the statutory authority given to the Attorney General would differ in another jurisdiction." In a WaPo op-ed, Sam Bray argues that this represents the next step in making the universal/nationwide injunction the new, unjustified, default in constitutional litigation against federal law. An injunction should be nationwide unless the challenged law and legal issues are limited to the plaintiff or to the jurisdiction in which the action is brought--which never will be true of federal law. Sam calls on someone--Congress, the Advisory Committee, or SCOTUS--to stop the "remedial irresponsibility." This injunction is of a piece with another low-profile universal injunction issued in May in the Western District of Washington in a challenge to federal regulations of attorneys in immigration proceedings--the government's stated desire to continue enforcing the regulation was sufficient to justify the expanded scope, a basis that similarly applies to all federal law.

Unfortunately, I am not sure who is going to put the brake on this practice.

Expecting Congress to do anything is beyond wishful thinking.

SCOTUS has, implicitly and probably unthinkingly, approved the practice by affirming the universal injunction in U.S. v. Texas (the DAPA case) and by leaving the injunction in place as to those "similarly situated" to the plaintiff in IRAP (the travel ban case). Both decisions were bound-up with other procedural concerns. Texas was affirmed by an Segall-ian evenly divided Court . In IRAP the Court was trying to figure out how to remold the substantive injunction in the guise of granting cert. and staying the injunction pending appeal; it did not have the time or attention to consider injunctive scope in terms of plaintiffs protected. And with the case likely moot, we start all over again.

The Advisory Committee is an interesting actor that I had not considered. But it would take too long to get anything done, given the committee process. And the Committee may be as surprised as everyone else that this practice has become so pervasive--the current language of Rule 65 combined with the existence of Rule 23(b)(2) injunctive class actions should tell district courts that they cannot issue an injunction protecting everyone in a class without a class.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 1, 2017 at 10:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sports and Speech: From the ridiculous to the sublime

I have not weighed in on the craziness about protests in the NFL, because so much of this (from both sides) is more noise than signal. For now, I want to flag to recent pieces:

1) Jonathan Eig writes that the public hated Muhammad Ali when he was speaking (and acting) out against the war at the time he was the loudest and angriest; it was only after he became harmless (because of his medical condition) and less adversarial in his views that he became beloved. The same is happening with Colin Kaepernick, to a limited extent. As some people praise him for starting a movement, he remains out of a job. And the message he was trying to get across--inequality and systemic mistreatment of African Americans--has been replaced by a league-approved anodyne message of "unity" and objection to "division."* Perhaps Kaepernick will get a job, although I doubt it. More likely, he will be praised 15 years from now, when he no longer can play football (and have a high profile to make an expressive effect), for standing up for his beliefs.

[*] Hint: If the only goal was to be "united" and not "divided," we would not need a First Amendment.

2) This story about a fan ejected from Yankee Stadium for shouting the location of pitches in Spanish. The umpire removed him for "cheating" by tipping the Yankee batters to the location of pitches. This is beyond stupid. First, the idea that he is remotely helping the batter to hit a 95-mph pitch is nonsense--the pitch is in the catcher's glove before the batter would hear anything. Second, there are 40,000 fans shouting the location of pitches--it is what fans do and are expected to do.

To the extent there is a lawsuit, I am curious how the status of current Yankee Stadium is resolved. Old Yankee Stadium (the one used, pre- or post-renovation, from 1923-2008) was owned by New York City and there were some good arguments that, in using the stadium, the Yankees acted under color and became bound by the First Amendment. A district court held that in 1978, in a lawsuit brought by female sportswriters who were barred from the lockerrooms during the 1976 World Series. And some good arguments were pled in a lawsuit filed by a fan who had been removed for failing to stand for "God Bless America," but the case settled. Public funds paid for more than 50 % of construction of the current stadium, although I do not know the details about ownership and control.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 27, 2017 at 02:09 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (11)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Barnette at 75

John Q. Barrett reminds us that next June is the 75th anniversary of West Virginia Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, which makes the short list of most important First Amendment decisions, both for its principles and its rhetoric. Given everything going on in the world of sports since last week, both are being put to the test.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 25, 2017 at 04:37 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (12)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hecklers and counter-speakers (again)

Mark Tushnet, writing on Vox and Balkinization, argues that the counter-speakers/hecklers/audience members who attempt to shout down other speakers engage in constitutionally protected activities and the First Amendment is violated by many of a state university's efforts to stop hecklers. Mark argues that the speaker and the hecklers are "symmetrically situated with respect to speech" and that the intuitive "first come, first served" rule fails to capture the complexity of situations or to recognize that it is not always clear who is "first" in any situation. (If the speaker is inside the auditorium and the hecklers are outside, the hecklers are first in that outdoor space).

Mark captures well a lot of what I have been thinking and arguing about this, that deriding hecklers/protesters/counter-speakers as exercising the dreaded heckler's veto misses the mark. Labeling this  as "noisy interference" also is too simplistic, as it fails to capture the expressive nature of what many hecklers do. And all of this comes on the heels of a poll showing that a majority of college students believe it is ok to shout-down speakers.

Mark is searching for a rule or balance that does not inevitably take content into account. One answer might be that it depends on the precise forum,. On this, perhaps we distinguish between a limited-space auditorium that must be reserved and open areas on campus; audience members have greater counter-speech rights in the latter than the former. Or we distinguish between the speaker stage and the audience, so a heckler can shout from the audience, but not run on stage and grab the microphone.

But Mark's arguments show that the content problem arguably never goes away (something I had not crystallized previously). Consider audience members in an auditorium, with the speaker on stage. Mark argues that, even if the speaker has priority over the audience, all members of the audience are symmetrically situated. We can imagine a situation in which the crowd of speaker-supporters is loud and raucous, to the point that their cheering and shouts of "USA! USA!" or "you said it" cause the speaker to pause or make it impossible for him to hear. I doubt anyone would want these supporters removed. So what is the difference between audience members whose jeering and shouts of "fascist" (Mark uses  Joe Wilson's "You lie") cause the speaker to pause or make it impossible for him to be heard? Content and viewpoint.

We might get around the problem by distinguishing the nature of the forum and the expression in that forum0--an academic lecture as opposed to a political or partisan rally. But that highlights the complexity of the problem and the absence of easy answers--the precise point Mark is trying to make.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 24, 2017 at 06:02 PM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (14)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

(Final?) Posner-Rakoff dialogue

I am late on this, but here is the most recent (final?) dialogue between Richard Posner and Jed Rakoff, published a few weeks after Posner's resignation frmo the court.. The conversation began from the question of whether judges should rely on their “common sense” (what Posner has described as “pragmatism” in judging), a binary that Posner properly rejects. I like the conversation over the competing roles and competencies of trial as opposed to appellate judges, both in the U.S. and in other systems.

I also like that Rakoff threw in one of my favorite jokes about a trial judge, appellate judge, and Supreme Court Justice (I tell it with a law professor) who go duck hunting.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 23, 2017 at 10:42 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tocqueville and judicial departmentalism

Dahlia Lithwick wrote about the litigation of the Joe Arpaio pardon, with the district judge hearing from numerous amici about the constitutional validity and effect of the pardon. The article ends by quoting one amicus, Ian Bassin of Project Democracy: "Thankfully, in America it’s the courts who get the last say on what the Constitution allows."

As I have been arguing again and again in defense of judicial departmentalism, this is not  true as a normative matter, at least not in the absolute sense in which it is presented here, as simply the way it works in America. It may be true as a practical matter in a substantial number of cases, because many constitutional issues wind up in court and the court must decide the constitutional issue to decide the case and the executive does not have discretion to decline to enforce that resulting judgment. When constitutional questions end up in court, the judiciary will get the final word.

This got me thinking of Alexis de Tocqueville, who famously said that "[s]carcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question." (Mark Graber in 2004 revisited Tocqueville's thesis; he argued the statement was not as true as Tocqueville said, but may be more true in current times than it was during the Jacksonian Period in which Tocqueville was writing, as more political questions first get resolved into constitutional questions). Tocqueville's thesis affects just how much judicial supremacy we get in a judicial-departmentalist scheme. The more political questions that are resolved into judicial questions, the more the judiciary is going to get the last word, because the courts must decide the constitutional issues and the executive must enforce those judgments.

The political question of the Arpaio pardon is resolving into a legal question because the pardon touches on pending litigation. But that makes this pardon unusual--most pardons come before any charges have been brought (Nixon) or after the person has been convicted, sentenced, and served some portion of the sentence. So Bassin's comment about the judiciary getting the last word is accurate in this case, because of the unique posture of the pardon. But he is correct only to the extent Tocqueville was correct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on September 22, 2017 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Judge Posner retires

Effective Saturday, September 2 (tomorrow). Official Seventh Circuit announcement is here.

Posted by Administrators on September 1, 2017 at 06:19 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Palin v. NYT dismissed

Judge Rakoff of the Southern District of New York has dismissed Sarah Palin's defamation action against The New York Times, concluding that the allegations of actual malice, in conjunction with the testimony heard in questionable evidentiary hearing, showed that Palin had not pled facts plausibly showing that the editorial-page editor knew or recklessly disregarded the truth of statements about the connection between Palin's PAC publications (which featured gun-sites over "targeted" congressional races) and the Gabby Giffords shooting.

The order includes a lengthy footnote explaining the use of the evidentiary hearing. He justified it because a "court must have some knowledge of the context in which the underlying events occurred in order to carry out the function with which the Supreme Court has tasked it" --the "context-specific task" of evaluating plausibility. Also, neither party objected, the facts established by the testimony in the hearing are not in dispute, and no credibility determinations were made. And although he did not mention it, it appears that none of the testimony contradicted anything in the complaint. The testimony in the hearing was combined with the facts in the complaint and used to measure whether the facts showed actual malice.

But all this ignores FRCP 12(d), under which a court converts a 12(b)(6) to a motion for summary judgment when materials beyond the four corners of the complaint are used. Iqbal did not overrule or repeal 12(d), so the need for knowledge of the context cannot necessitate such hearings. It also would have been simple enough for the court to take the evidentiary hearing and convert to summary judgment (although perhaps the parties would have demanded some discovery, if only on actual malice). In short, obtaining and using information beyond the allegations of the complaint cannot be justified under the current rules without converting.

The merits discussion also appears to make the hearing unnecessary, because much of the analysis suggest that the problem with the complaint was legal insufficiency rather than plausibility-factual insufficiency. The problem was not a dearth of facts or the conclusoriness of the facts, but that the facts alleged, even if detailed, could not establish actual malice. For example, allegations of hostility towards Palin, economic motive to criticize Palin, and failure to comply with journalistic practices--alleged, in varying degrees of conclusoriness--all are insufficient, as a matter of law, to show actual malice.

All-in-all, a good First Amendment decision (I should add that there is some great language about the First Amendment, political speech, and the narrowness of actual malice), but reached in a procedurally incorrect way.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 29, 2017 at 06:30 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (10)

Friday, August 25, 2017

More on pardoning Arpaio (Updated)

Thanks to Paul for flagging Marty Redish's NYT op-ed on the potential Arpaio pardon. Like Paul (and Marty), I do not know if the argument works. But I wanted to flag how his argument interacts with the version of "judicial departmentalism" I have been urging. My framing relies on Gary Lawson's version of departmentalism--the president can ignore judicial precedent as precedent he believes gets the Constitution wrong, but cannot ignore court orders. That includes the orders by which he is bound by as a defendant (e.g., the challenge to the travel ban) and the orders he must enforce on behalf of the federal courts involving other officials,even if he disagrees with the underlying constitutional judgment.*

[*] Lawson allows that the president might ignore a court order in extraordinary circumstances, but I put that to the side for the moment.

Marty's argument gives Gary's (and my) distinction a Fifth Amendment grounding. There is no functional difference between the president ignoring or declining to enforce a judgment and a president pardoning (or promising to pardon) another official who ignores court orders. If one violates due process, so does the other. And if departmentalism does not extend to one, it does not extend to the other.

Finally, if this becomes a concern, consider the federal courts' counter: Stop using criminal contempt and rely on civil contempt to enforce injunctions, including by jailing the recalcitrant official. There is no crime or conviction from which to pardon.

Update: Trump pardoned Arpaio on Friday.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 25, 2017 at 01:44 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The emptiness of "judicial activism"

The latest Slate Dialogue between Judge Posner and Judge Rakoff considers the meaning of judicial activism and judges using the bench to effect social change. Neither Posner nor Rakoff is having it. Both reject the idea that there can be judicial activism, that there is some clear "existing law" to be departed from in an activist decision, and that common law courts do not "make" policy. It ends up as a somewhat silly conversation, with the moderator putting forward every bromide about activism and misuse of the judicial power (even quoting Wikipedia's definition of judicial activism) and Posner and Rakoff rejecting the premise at every turn. But it shows the emptiness of the term and the concept of activism, which Rakoff labels a "myth."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 24, 2017 at 11:26 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Self interest or political stand?

One strand of criticism of media coverage of the 2016 election was that outlets such as CNN only called out Donald Trump's behavior when he started criticizing and attacking the press and its members. The institutional media, it was argued, was not a bulwark of liberty; it was a bulwark of the First Amendment, committed to criticizing attacks on free speech because they directly affected reporters and the press as an institution.

I had the same thought reading this piece by Dahlia Lithwick arguing that Trump's staunchest allies may be pushing back against his excesses, if not outright abandoning him. Her evidence: 1) the Boys Scout's apology for Trump's Jamboree speech; 2) the Joint Chiefs' announcement that they would give no effect to Trump's tweet announcing that transgendered people no longer could serve in the military; and 3) statements by the Suffolk County Police Department, and other departments and police associations, disavowing Trump's encouragement of unnecessary force against arrestees. Dahlia wonders whether "it's fair to ask whether everyone’s had enough of all this racist, homophobic, lawless, and violent “truth-telling,” and whether this trend of American institutions holding Trump to account for his spoken words might continue."

Bracketing the military example for now, it is difficult to view the others as examples of standing up to Trump as opposed to institutional self-interest and self-preservation. BSA issued a passive-voice sort-of apology ("sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree"). It neither accepted responsibility for a predictable occurrence, assigned responsibility to the President for overstepping, nor apologized for behavior (e.g., booing the former President) that departed from the organization's avowed principles.  BSA did not abandon the President; it distanced itself from the negative reaction to his speech. This half-statement reflected the minimum necessary to assuage angry current members and to attract potential new members. As for the Suffolk County P.D. and other police organizations, their statements were necessary to avoid the appearance of endorsing excessive force in order to avoid legal liability, both for themselves as municipalities and for their officers. People recognized that speech might become an issue in future excessive-force cases; these statements were the minimum to rebut a suggestion of condoning what the President described and the officers cheered.

It is telling that none of these statements mentioned or criticized the President or his specific words or actions or the organizations' members. BSA did not say it was not ok to boo the former President; Suffolk County P.D. did not criticize its officers for cheering the use of force. The statements were abstract and passive--political rhetoric was asserted into the Jamboree, stories about using excessive force were told--designed to express disagreement with an idea, but not criticism of the idea or the person who expressed it. We will be where Dahlia suggests only when that begins happening. Until then, it strikes me as wishful thinking to see this as more than self-interest.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 31, 2017 at 08:51 AM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Excessive force

Following the President's speech today, the Suffolk County Police Department found it necessary to announce to the public (and remind their officers) about the Fourth Amendment and strict department policies regarding use of force and handling of prisoners and the lack of tolerance for roughing up prisoners. So the higher-ups realize there is at least a perception problem. (The International Association of Police Chiefs also issued a statement, declaring that treating all people with dignity and respect is the "bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy"). On one hand, the exchange shows institutions pushing back against presidential lawlessness. On the other, the disconnect between police executives and rank-and-file is striking.

But I could see discovery in the next excessive-force civil rights claim against the Department becoming interesting, because a good plaintiff's lawyer could make hay out of this event. Cane she use the video and the department response to suggest the officer knew the force was wrong and used it anyway, defeating qualified immunity? Does the cheering rank-and-file show a departmental custom? What if the next involved officer is one of those sitting behind the President, identifiable, and visibly cheering/laughing/clapping officers are identifiable--can that be used to overcome immunity? Can a plaintiff's lawyer make a failure-to-[blank] claim by showing that the department did nothing to discipline or retrain the officers who visibly cheered/laughed/clapped?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 28, 2017 at 07:04 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Opinions About Giving Legal Opinions

Nowadays, news reports resemble the sorts of crazy hypotheticals that law professors love (and law students loathe).  And since we love far-fetched hypotheticals, many law professors have taken to giving our legal opinions about the political news item of the day.

In addition to having our own opinions about the latest news, law professors are often confronted by the opinions of their colleagues.  Newspapers, blogs, and Twitter are full of divergent opinions on these topics, and many of us end up having strong opinions about our colleagues’ opinions. 

Given the ubiquity of legal opinions (and opinions about those legal opinions), I’d like to offer five opinions about how I think law professors ought to share their legal opinions with the public.

First, be careful when you offer opinions that are available to the general public.  It used to be that law professors had to wait for a media call or have an op ed accepted in order to share their views on the legal topic of the day.  Not so anymore.  Blogs and Twitter allow us to give our opinions easily – perhaps too easily at times.  And although these platforms might seem like social media, it is important to remember that the opinions you give in these fora are public statements.  Even if you have only 70 followers, and most of those are your family and college friends, something that you tweet could be shared and read by total strangers with no background in the law and no sense of who you are.

I say “be careful,” not only because you are stuck with whatever reputational fall out might occur from a publicly expressed opinion, but also because your public statements come with an implicit aura of authority.  When we identify ourselves as law professors, that signals that we are experts whose opinions ought to be taken seriously. We should remind ourselves about that explicit claim of expertise when offering a public opinion.  And if you aren’t actually claiming that expertise—say if you are offering an opinion outside of your field—make sure to offer that qualification, and seriously consider whether you ought to share the opinion publicly at all.

Second, certainty when expressing a legal opinion is rarely warranted.  Just as we often respond to student questions by saying “it depends,” we should also acknowledge the same uncertainty in our public statements.  I’ve found it useful, for example, to remind myself that a legal opinion is no more than a prediction about how a court will rule in a given situation.  I don’t mean to suggest that legal opinions should be nothing more than psychological predictions about how certain judges will rule.  (I personally find those sorts of opinions a little tedious and somewhat presumptuous.)  But most legal opinions are offered in circumstances that are not identical to prevailing Supreme Court case law, and so all that we are offering is a guess about how courts will decide a case using existing statutes and case law.

There is real temptation to project certainty.  It may make us feel more confident to sound certain. Or we may want to impress the journalist who has called us.  Sometimes reporters are just looking for a sound bite to drop into their article, and at least some of them want you to speak definitively in that sound bite.  But a journalist’s job is to inform the public; and if we make it seem as though the law is clear in areas where it isn’t, then we are misleading the reporter (and in turn, the public) rather than informing them.

Third, be willing to rethink your opinions and to admit your mistakes.  The law professors that I admire the most are those who have changed their minds.  For what it is worth, this is easier to do if you don’t initially express your opinions with too much certainty. If you couch your opinion in terms of “here is what I think at this point,” you leave your ego plenty of room to walk away from that opinion after further reflection or after new information comes to light.

Fourth, be measured and thoughtful when you disagree with the legal opinions expressed by others.  Law professors are human, and they are more likely to engage with you on the substance of an issue if you are respectful in your disagreement.   I don’t just mean avoid being a jerk. I mean you should go out of your way to frame your disagreement terms that couldn’t possibly be mistaken as hostile or aggressive.  It is easy to mistake tone online, so you are better off saying “I really enjoyed this interesting post.  Do you have any thoughts on X?” where X is a piece of information that contradicts a factual point the other professor made, or where X is an opinion by someone else that goes the other way.  A less conciliatory tone is likely to get the other professor’s hackles up, and if someone’s hackles are up, then he or she is less likely to engage your substantive concerns.

Fifth, don’t assume that people are acting in bad faith when they give legal opinions.  In particular, please stop accusing people of giving legal opinions only because those opinions happen to align with their political preferences.  This sort of finger pointing gives further ammunition to non-lawyers who insist that law and politics are indistinguishable.  That isn’t true, and it is extremely corrosive to the legal academy when those legal naysayers can point to law professors accusing each other of partisan hackery in their expert opinions. 

We should, of course, all be careful to push ourselves on our own opinions to ensure that those opinions are impartial predictions of legal outcomes rather than partisan preferences. (There is evidence suggesting that confronting our biases can lessen or eliminate their influence.)  But we should assume that our colleagues are smart enough and honest enough to have done this themselves.  And if you are genuinely worried that someone’s opinion can’t be supported as anything other than political wishful thinking, I recommend trying to have that exchange with him or her in a non-public forum.

There you have it – my five opinions about how to give legal opinions.  I’m interested to hear your opinions on legal opinions. And I am quite open to being convinced that my own opinions are wrong. (Except for number four --- I feel quite certain about that one.)

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on July 20, 2017 at 09:12 AM in Blogging, Carissa Byrne Hessick, Current Affairs, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Citizen video and other § 1983 puzzles

In Fields v. City of Philadelphia, the Third Circuit joined the parade of courts of appeals recognizing a First Amendment right to record police in public in a non-interfering way, subject to time, place, and manner limitations. It is now the Fifth, First, Seventh, Eleventh, and Ninth Circuits, with none going the other way (prior to this, the Third Circuit had avoided the issue by twice holding that the right was not clearly established without addressing the merits). The case arose from two separate actions--one by a woman who was physically moved and held to keep her from recording the arrest of a protester, the other by a man who was arrested and charged with obstructing a public passage for recording officers from a sidewalk across the street.

Two thoughts.

In explaining the need for and importance of this First Amendment right, the court included this line: "To record what there is the right for the eye to see or the ear to hear corroborates or lays aside subjective impressions for objective facts. Hence to record is to see and hear more accurately." Recent experience with body cameras and police shootings shows this statement, at least in the absolute form presented in the first sentence, is wrong. Not that recording is not or should not be protected; only that it does not present "objective fact" or eliminate subjectivity. In fact, subjectivity likely is why the police officers involved in the incidents in this case stopped the plaintiffs from recording--they did not want video getting out that could be viewed by the public in an adverse way, even if they might have found a way to explain it away.

Second, this decision may be as significant for its discussion of § 1983 doctrine, showing how qualified immunity makes damages liability difficult, if not impossible.

The City asked the court to pretermit the merits and grant qualified immunity (as had two prior Third Circuit panels) because the right was not clearly established. The court declined to "take the easy way out." In justifying this approach, the court pointed to several considerations that SCOTUS identified as benefits to merits-first: the importance and frequency of the constitutional issue, the need of police departments for guidance on the issue, the purely legal, non-fact-bound nature of the issue, and the quality of the briefing (with amicus briefs from several advocacy organizations, a group of First Amendment professors, and DOJ's Civil Rights Division).

Nevertheless, after recognizing the right, the majority held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity because the right to record was not clearly established. There was no Third Circuit precedent and precedent from other circuits and from district courts was factually distinguishable (some of those cases based the right on the presence of expressive intent by the recorder, while the Third Circuit recognized a right to record, regardless of what the recorder planned to do with the recording). The court also refused to find the right clearly established based on Philadelphia Police Department policy recognizing a First Amendment right to record. The problem was that the plaintiffs sought municipal liability based on the failure of those policies to effectively instruct officers about this right; if the policies were ineffective, then they could not clearly establish the right so any reasonable officer would know there was a First Amendment right to record, as most officers did not know of the right.

Judge Nygaard dissented on qualified immunity. He argued that the right was clearly established given the unanimity in other circuits, Department policy, and 2012 DOJ recommendations that local departments establish policies to affirmatively set forth the First Amendment right;* those three things placed the right to record "beyond debate" and placed officers on unambiguous actual notice that they must allow members of the public to record their activities. Nygaard also argued that a reasonable officer's "lived experience" informed him of the pervasiveness of recording devices and their routine integration into daily lives, with the resulting First Amendment implications.

[*] Recent consent decrees with cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore included provisions requiring police departments to recognize and not interfere with the First Amendment right to record in public.

The majority's analysis demonstrates the unfortunate breadth of qualified immunity. Factual distinctions are always possible with precedent--the Third Circuit had previously accepted (or at least had not flatly rejected) that there might be a meaningful distinction between filming a sidewalk encounter and filming a traffic stop. It thus is possible that this decision will do nothing for the next case in which an officer prevents someone from recording, if the officer can find some small distinction to the incidents in this case--the recorder was on the same side of the street rather than across the street, the person was momentarily stopped from recording but not arrested, the plaintiff was recording a physical altercation rather than an arrest. The possible distinctions are boundless.

I also do not buy the reasons the majority rejected reliance on department policy as a basis to clearly establish the right. There is nothing inconsistent with saying that department policy should have placed a reasonable officer on notice that there was a constitutional right to record (thus clearly establishing the right) and that department policy was constitutionally insufficient because officers were ignoring it and department officials were not providing further training (thus establishing municipal liability). They go to different issues involving different standards.

On the other hand, SCOTUS' recent string of summary reversals rejects the big-picture approach to qualified immunity that the dissent took in relying on broad legal principles divorced from specific facts, with no applicable SCOTUS precedent. So while normatively preferable, Judge Nygaard's approach would  draw more attention and a possible summary reversal.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 9, 2017 at 10:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 07, 2017

The district court's injunction (Updated Twice)

Judge Watson in the District of Hawaii last night refused to rule on the plaintiffs' Motion to Clarify the Scope of the Preliminary in the travel ban case. The plaintiffs, he ruled, were asking him to clarify the meaning of language in the Supreme Court's opinion and order, not his order; that request should be directed to SCOTUS. Ilya Somin criticizes the ruling, pointing out that interpreting and applying the language of rulings from higher courts is what district courts do. Lyle Deniston questions whether there is a procedure for asking SCOTUS to clarify language in the opinion, short of a motion for reconsideration. Michael Dorf is a bit more forgiving, arguing that Watson's ruling is not crazy, given the confusion involved when cases are moving up and down the hierarchical judicial system.

I agree that Judge Watson was wrong, for the reasons all three commentators describe. I want to make explicit one point that I believe is implicit in their posts (and that Remedies guru Doug Laycock made on a listserv): The injunction, albeit as modified by SCOTUS, remains Judge Watson's order and it remains his duty to enforce that modified injunction. And that entails figuring out the scope of the injunction, which means figuring out precisely how SCOTUS modified it, which means figuring out what SCOTUS meant in its opinion. The trial court must do that in the first instance--SCOTUS can reverse that interpretation on appeal if it disagrees. My point is that this goes beyond the ordinary situation of lower courts determining and applying SCOTUS precedent to a new case or even to the same case (for example, applying a new legal standard to evaluate the merits of the claim). This is about a district judge enforcing his own injunction going forward.

The plaintiffs have appealed the denial of the motion, presumably because this is an order refusing to modify an injunction. My best guess is that the Ninth Circuit summarily reverses and tells Judge Watson to determine the scope of his injunction.

[Update, Saturday, July 8: I want to say I was half-right. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, because the order did not do anything of the things enumerated in § 1292(a)(1), because it sought a declaration rather than an injunction, and because the plaintiffs could still seek injunctive relief in the district court. The Ninth Circuit added that the district court "does possess the ability to interpret and enforce the Supreme Court's order, as well as the authority to enjoin against, for example, a party's violation of the Supreme Court's order placing effective limitations on the scope of the district court's preliminary injunction." In other words, plaintiffs filed the wrong motion. They should have moved to enforce the district court's injunction-as-modified or to hold the government in contempt of the district court's injunction-as-modified--and in the course of resolving those motions, the district court must decide what the Supreme Court said and meant. Presumably, that is what the plaintiffs will do in the district court. [Second Update, Saturday afternoon: Motion to Enforce, or in the alternative, to Modify]

The Ninth Circuit's was surprisingly rigid. Courts of appeals typically take jurisdiction under § 1292(a)(1) if the order is within sniffing distance of an injunction or its enforcement. Plus, it was obvious that the plaintiffs were asking the district court to enforce the injunction according to its proper terms (based on SCOTUS modification) by determining those proper terms. In some sense, the Ninth Circuit did tell the district court it was wrong and that it did have power to decide what SCOTUS meant; the plaintiffs simply captioned their motion incorrectly. This is different than what the district court said, in directing all issues to SCOTUS.]

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 7, 2017 at 01:09 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (4)

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Cult of Nina Totenberg?

Dahlia Lithwick offers advice to the White House Press Corps. on how to do the job without cameras, now that the White House has barred recording of press briefings. The piece is mainly tongue-in-cheek (she urges TV news organizations to adopt John Oliver's dog-centered visuals), but I want to push back on two of her serious points.

Dahlia urges the press to stop covering the press gaggle, to "cover what happens, as opposed to the spin." I agree that the press should stop covering these briefings, which have become forums for lying and obfuscation, exacerbated by the inability of many reporters to ask effective and direct questions (as opposed to convoluted multi-part questions that enable obfuscation). She likens the press briefings to the "drama and theatrics" of oral argument, which the SCOTUS Press Corps. has learned to ignore in favor of focusing on the opinions as the "work product that emanates from the Court." Two problems. First, the SCOTUS Corps. does not ignore oral arguments, in-depth, as displays of the Justice's personalities and styles and with the attendant tea-leaf reading. Second, I am not sure how practices in covering the Court translate to covering the White House, because much of what happens in the White House never produces concrete "work product" that the reporters can read, parse, and analyze. The alternative to the press briefings is more informal interaction with WH staffers and more speaking with people off the record, as well as more reporting on the President's latest tweets. Which is not a bad thing, as it produces a more honest picture of what is happening.

Dahlia also urges WH reporters to be nerds, like the SCOTUS reporters: Ego-free, writing about the opinions, and not striving to be among the "competing cults of personality" that "tower over the news in America." There is no Cult of Jess Bravin (who covers the Court for the Wall Street Journal). But there long has been a Cult of Nina Totenberg (especially during the '90s, when she did double duty at NPR and ABC) and there long was a Cult of Linda Greenhouse--they were as known as much as personalities and commentators as for the cases on which they reported. The journalists who cover the Court do a marvelous job, and I have no reason to doubt that it is a "kind" and "ego-free workplace." But in writing about the Court, they offer not only cold analysis of the case, but opinion and commentary, which makes them as much a part of the story as are WH reporters.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 1, 2017 at 08:41 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (3)