Wednesday, August 10, 2022

What is so bad about Saul Goodman and other questions

Two questions about the penultimate Better Call Saul, with spoilers, after the jump.

What is bad about Saul?

As I wrote several episodes ago, the theme of BCS that decent Jimmy McGill becomes irredeemable Saul Goodman and we have moved deep into that. Last night included a flashback to a Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern-type meeting, early in the BB timeline, between Kim and Saul and between Kim and Jesse, both of which are designed to show how far Saul has gone.

Here is Rolling Stone' Alan Sepinwall, a critic I love reading and listening to and seems a generally liberal person, as far as he shows in his writing, on the Kim-Jesse interaction:

Jesse is only there because his buddy Emilio — a.k.a. Walter White’s first murder victim — has come to Saul seeking legal representation. (In the “Better Call Saul” episode of Breaking Bad, Jesse tells Walt that Saul got Emilio out of trouble on two different occasions, despite the cops having him dead to rights.) Like Kim’s various interactions with Saul and/or Gene in this episode, she says very little, just waiting for the nicotine to kick in and hoping that the rain will stop before she has to listen to too much of this overgrown kid(*) bragging about ways for criminals to evade the justice system. She believed passionately in her work as a public defender, but guys like Jesse, Emilio, and Combo are the dark side of that work — the ones who present an ongoing danger to others each time a lawyer like Kim or Saul gets them off. And she really can’t stand listening to the future Mr. Driscoll praise the legal chicanery of the man she hopes to never see again.

This is disturbing. On Sepinwall's framing, Saul is bad because he does what a defense lawyer is supposed to do--he defends clients and forces the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt before putting them in prison.  Sepinwall talks of "evad[ing] the criminal justice system" and "legal chicanery." Maybe Saul did something illegal or unethical in helping Emilio, Combo, and these other clients. But (again in the spirit of "show, don't tell") we have not seen it, nor have we seen it as different in kind from what "Jimmy" did. Jimmy/Saul did a lot of illegal stuff--lied to the court about Lalo's identity, helped deal meth, provided information on a murder, and laundered money. And maybe that illegal stuff is part of the representation he is does here. But, again, we have not seen it. Successfully representing even obviously "dead to rights" people in court should not be mentioned in the same breath.

Worse, Sepinwall distinguishes the criminal defense Jimmy does from the criminal defense Kim wanted to do (before she threw it away on the scheme that resulted in Howard Hamlin's murder), framing the latter as noble and the former as the corrupt work of the evil Saul Goodman, the "dark side" of criminal defense. In fact, it is the core of the work of a defense lawyer. A lawyer who only wants to defend innocent people needs to find another line of work. Kim wanted to limit her defense to indigent people who committed small-bore crimes and were caught in the system. Which, fine. But her work is not nobler or more moral than what Saul does (again, assuming he stays within legal lines as to in-court representation).

Could Saul and Kim be charged with a crime?

I pose this to crim law people out there. In last night's episode, Kim goes to the DA and signs an affidavit detailing their scheme (which she also show to Howard's widow): They falsely made it seem that Howard was abusing cocaine, caused his work on a case to implode, and destroyed his personal and professional reputation; when he confronted them about the scheme at their apartment, Lalo (who was there on a separate matter and not connected to the scheme) murdered him. There is some talk about whether she will be charged with anything; she says she does not know* and that hers is the only evidence of what happened.

[*] Howard's widow is angry about this, pointing out that she is supposed to be a great lawyer. Yes, because great lawyers know everything about all law. That is why Law Twitter is the way it is.

The question appears to be whether they could be charged in Howard's death. Could she (or they) and for what? Can felony murder extend that far--to murder by an unconnected person after the underlying felony was complete?  Is there some other theory of criminal liability for Howard's death? What about for the underlying scheme to destroy his reputation, separate from his death.

There is a separate prospect of a civil suit (which the widow mentions, although Kim does not have much money). Maybe defamation or IIED? Something else? There is a statute of limitations problem--six years elapsed in the BCS/BB universe--although I imagine a good argument for tolling based on fraud.

Leaving comments open because I would like to hear from some crim folks.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 10, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Assiging pre-1L summer reading

Have law schools begun assigning law-related books to incoming 1Ls--for example, books on how law shapes society,  lawyer mindfulness, and other topics that frame law, legal practice, and law school in some broader framework. Is your school assigning something? If so, what book(s) and what are you doing with them (discussion during orientation, integrating into 1L courses, etc.)?

Leave answers in comments or email me. (Irrelevant comments will be deleted--please don't fuck up a genuine question about legal education).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 9, 2022 at 03:20 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 08, 2022

Playing on Tisha B'Av

While Jewish baseball fans focus on who plays or does not play on Yom Kippur and the Koufax Curse,Tisha B'Av (commemorating the destruction of both Temples and all other pre-Holocaust tragedies to befall the Jewish People*) presents the pardigm Jewish holy day for which most Jewish-American baseball fans do not care whether anyone sits out.

[*] The Holocaust is marked by Yom Ha'Shoah, which is set near Israel Independence Day and Israel Memorial Day. Many Orthodox Jews, particularly Chasidim, fold Holocaust commemoration into Tisha B'Av. Jewish scholars debate whether the Holocaust is an extraordinary event or one of many great historic tragedies.

Until now. Tisha 'Av ran from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. Here are the results.

Saturday Evening:

• Alex Bregman (3B, Astros). 1-for-4 with a double and run scored (albeit meaningless in the ninth inning of a 4-0) game. Astros lose 4-1.

• Max Fried (P, Braves). 6 innings, 6 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 5 strikeouts. Part of the error that allowed two runs to score. Smacked his head on the field trying to make a play. Braves lose 6-2, swept in double-header, fall 5.5 games behind Mets in NL East.

• Rowdy Tellez (1B, Brewer): 1-for-2 after entering game in 6th inning. Brewers lose 7-5.

Sunday Afternoon:

• Bregman: 0-for-3. Astros lose 1-0

• Scott Effross (P, Yankees: 1 inning, 3 hits, 3 earned runs (that put game out of reach). Yankees lose 12-9.

• Joc Pederson (OF, Giants): 1-for-2. Giants win 6-4

• Garrett Stubbs (C, Phillis): (Rare start): 1-for-5 with a run scored. Phillies win 13-1.

• Tellez: 0-for-3 with a walk. Brewers lose 2-1

 

So Tisha B'Av looks a lot like Yom Kippur: Teams lose (2-6), Jewish players, especially pitchers, do anywhere from badly to not-so-great. I sense a pattern.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 8, 2022 at 07:16 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Abortion and state-created danger

Imagine a pregnant person in a state (Missouri and Ohio seem the current leading examples) in which doctors and hospitals have interpreted  state law to require an emergency to escalate before an abortion can be performed under a life or extreme-disability exception. The doctor believes that an abortion is necessary but the situation is not emergent and as she understands the law, abortion is permitted to handle imminent death or disability, not likely; the doctor waits until the woman suffers further complications, then performs the procedure. Could the woman make a claim against state officials for any harm in waiting for her condition to worsen?

State-created danger establishes substantive due process liability for third-party harms where government takes affirmative action that subjects an individual to new or greater danger at the hands of third persons or circumstances, in a way that shocks the conscience (either because done with intent to injury or deliberately indifferent to an injured person's rights). Here we have government action in the enactment and potential enforcement of state laws against doctors who perform abortions. That state action increases the danger to patients at the hands of circumstances (their medical condition) by affecting treatment--doctors do not act on their medical judgment out of fear of prosecution, causing  the patient's condition to worsen. Causing doctors to allow patients' condition to worsen before treatment shocks the conscience. Threatening enforcement shows deliberate indifference knowing that enforcement affects doctors' actions in a way that endangers patients. Going one step further, could a doctor (using third-party standing) sue for injunctive relief, showing that these laws affect their medical judgment, causing harm to many women, and therefore the state law is constitutionally invalid?

My (imperfect) analogy is lawsuits challenging municipal ordinances that impose consequences on landlords (fines, loss of license) whose tenants have too many disturbing-the-peace 911 calls (including calls from domestic-violence victims). Plaintiffs have argued that the laws make them more vulnerable to abuse by domestic partners because less willing to call 911 out of fear that their landlord will evict them to avoid the consequences for multiple calls. The suits that have been brought have settled, so no court has passed on the theory.

I admit this would be a tough sell, especially in a pre-enforcement action. It might be tough to limit to abortion/health care. Would it open the door to a claim against the state for raising the speed limit to 70, on the theory of "you knew people would drive faster and less safely, making me more vulnerable to a reckless driver." State officials could argue that they are not deliberately indifferent to the pregnant women but trying to protect fetal life.

Still, as abortion-rights activists look for legal theories to avoid the worst effects of Dobbs, it might be a theory worth pursuing.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 7, 2022 at 11:57 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Britney Griner and WNBA pay

I am sure someone has written this, but I will throw it out again. Britney Griner was in Russia playing basketball because the WNBA does not pay its star athletes enough money to build the type of financial nest that will carry her when her career ends at age 35-40. WNBA stars have been doing this for years because the overseas money--especially in Russia, where oligarchs own several teams and use sports to amass and show wealth and influence--dwarfs WNBA money. Russian teams and leagues also treat players better in terms of travel, accommodations, schedule, etc.

Nor is this the first time WNBA players have gotten caught up in Russian political intrigue. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi played for Spartak Moscow Region; the mobbed-up team owner, Shabtai Kalmanovich, was murdered.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 4, 2022 at 06:10 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Standing sucks up more stuff

The district court dismissed the lawsuit by three Republican House members challenging security screening (and the fines imposed for ignoring the screening) in the House building following January 6. The court held, properly, that establishing the screening mechanisms and sanctioning members for violating those mechanisms were protected from judicial review by the Speech or Debate Clause--they involve internal rules governing how the legislative body operates and conducts its business.

But the court based the dismissal on lack of standing--plaintiffs lacked standing because the challenged conduct (and the actors who engage in that conduct) cannot be questioned in any other place. But that is not how the Clause is understood. That the challenged conduct is legislative means it cannot form the basis for constitutional challenge in court; it does not mean the plaintiffs did not suffer an injury fairly traceable to some conduct.

It remains stunning how every constitutional and procedural issue gets sucked into the standing/jurisdictional framing.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 2, 2022 at 03:33 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Facial invalidity and universality

The concept of facial invalidity confounds the universal-remedy debate. The argument goes that if a court declares a law facially invalid--invalid as to all persons, beyond the plaintiff--then it must be able to enjoin enforcement as to all persons, beyond the plaintiff. The response rests on the judgment/opinion distinction. The judgment remains limited to the parties, because that is all a court can do. The opinion, explaining why the law cannot be constitutionally enforced against anyone else, has precedential effect--telling government and the courts what must (if binding precedent) happen in the next case if the government attempts to enforce. The executive may, in its departmentalist discretion, take that chance, although precedent tells him the state will lose in court. But a court cannot "invalidate" a law, therefore it certainly cannot "facially invalidate" a law.

The Second Circuit displays this confusion in Picard v. Magliano, a challenge to a state law prohibiting certain protests within 200 feet of a courthouse. The district court declared the law facially invalid and issued a (what I label) a universal injunction, prohibiting all enforcement of the law. The Second Circuit declared the law invalid as to the plaintiff (who wanted to hand out flyers about jury nullification), which the state conceded, and affirmed the injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law against him. But it declared that the law was not facially invalid because it was capable of constitutional application, thereby vacating the injunction prohibiting enforcement beyond the plaintiff.

That last move makes no sense because the initial injunction makes no sense. The district court never should have enjoined enforcement beyond the plaintiff and the Second Circuit should have narrowed the injunction for that reason. The facial validity of the law is about the scope of precedent and future enforcement.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 28, 2022 at 11:17 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

You need 5 to do anything

An interesting discussion on the Con Law Prof listserv this week about Justice Brennan's famous "rule" for his clerks that you need five to do anything. There are several ways to interpret that statement, suggesting different things about the Court and its actions.

The first is "if we have 5, we can do whatever we want." This suggests judicial lawlessness, power politics to impose policy preferences without regard to text, precedent, or law. It also reflects the accusation some have leveled against the current majority--they are doing what they want as policy because they can. And defenders of the Court respond that they are following Brennan's rule. And as Eric Segall would say, there is no law to be found anywhere.

The second, urged by several former Brennan clerks on the listserv, is "it takes 5 to do anything." Stated differently, you only can do anything with 5. This suggests humility in working within a multi-member Court--you need to get 5 on board, which might mean compromising and settling for less than you would like. But Brennan remained committed to lawyerly tools and did not advocate pure policy goals.

The third, from another clerk, was a statement of resignation in a case he lost--"well, they have 5, they can do what they want." Again, thsi does not suggest judicial lawlessness or accusing the other side of ignoring law in favor of personal goals. It reflects reality--"they have a different view than I do, but they have 5 and I do not."

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 26, 2022 at 03:19 PM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 25, 2022

More on preferred first speakers and the minimization of counter-speech

Two recent examples of the "Preferred First Speaker" problem and how it is warping discussions of speech and counter-speech, even among First Amendment advocates.

The first is the cancellation of a show by Dave Chappelle at a comedy club in Minneapolis, when club staff refused to work the show. Greg Lukianoff and Conor Friedersdorf regard this as another example of cancel culture and deplatforming of a world-famous comedian; while the club is a private venue, its actions are "bad for free speech." Ken White (Popehat) shows why this line of argument stacks the deck in favor of the first speaker and and against counter-speakers--no one asks whether the initial speaker's (Chappelle) speech is "good for free speech," only the responsive speech. At the same time, Friedersdorf and Lukianoff presumably would have been find had the club owner fired the employees who refused to work the show, without recognizing that their refusal to work is imbued with some free-speech interests. The point is that it is not enough to say "bad for free speech," without evaluating the competing free-speech interests. A lot was made about the show having been booked and canceled. But I expect if the story was "we refused to book Chappelle in the first place because our employees made clear they would not work the show," the reaction would have been the same.

The second is this National Review piece complaining about some University of Michigan med students walking out of the White Coat ceremony during a keynote speech by a UM professor who is a prominent anti-choice activist. The conservative reaction to this incident combines with the reactions to various "disruption" incidents to reveal how preferred the first speaker is. Opponents cannot protest loudly in the room, cannot protest loudly outside the room, cannot silently protest in the room, and cannot absent themselves from the room. Free speech requires that they sit silently and listen and say and do nothing, no matter how much they disagree. On this view, all protest and all counter-speech violates the free-speech rights of the powerful person given a formal platform. That cannot be right.

The piece also worries that this incident shows these students are not fit to be doctors:

One of those duties is to care for patients who may have different political views. If a patient says or believes something with which doctors disagree, they still must care for that person. One cannot be confident that they will properly serve this patent if they have cannot tolerate beliefs that contradict their own.

Note that "tolerance" now means not only allowing someone to speak, but having to stay and listen to what she has to say. Taken to its logical end, a doctor or medical student cannot protest or object to anyone's speech, because they may have to treat that person and doing anything other than sitting and listening to what someone has to say equals lack of tolerance and implies that they therefore would not properly treat that person. Third, it is iconic for this to come from the National Review--the only time I heard of doctors refusing to treat patients over political disagreements was in 2010-11, when several doctors announced that anyone who voted for Obama should seek care elsewhere.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 25, 2022 at 09:55 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Undermining judicial review

In my post on California's SB 1327, I noted Ilya Somin's post . He quoted the ACLU's May letter objecting to the proposal, in which it said the bill "creates an end run around the essential function of the courts to ensure that constitutional rights are protected."

This criticism--and it is a common one--misunderstands the procedural point. These laws do not eliminate judicial review; they shift its posture. Pre-enforcement offensive review is unavailable, pushing rights-holders into a defensive posture. A rights-holder must violate the law, get sued, and raise her constitutional right as a defense to liability. This action will begin and remain in state court, with (discretionary) SCOTUS review at the end of the process. This is recognizable as judicial review--a court passing on the constitutional validity of a law and determining whether it can be enforced--and allows courts "to ensure that constitutional rights are protected." It is wrong to say otherwise.

The problem with these laws--if there is one--is not that they bar judicial review, but that they require a less-preferable or less-ideal form of judicial review. Those who reject parity between state and federal courts do not like that litigation will begin in state court and that SCOTUS's discretionary jurisdiction may mean no federal forum. Rights-holders must "act at their peril" by violating the law and getting sued to obtain review, something they may choose not to do out of fear of liability. That creates a substantive problem--the loss of constitutionally protected activity. And it creates a procedural problem--the absence of statutory violations means "any person" will not sue, which mean the rights-holder has no opportunity for judicial review. The rights-holder also may be unable to obtain necessary binding precedent when litigating defensively. If the trial court dismisses on constitutional grounds, "any person" may choose not to appeal, taking his loss and going home until the next lawsuit, while leaving the rights-holder free from liability now but fearing the next lawsuit. Doug Laycock argued that offensive litigation provides three unique benefits--preliminary relief, prospective relief (beyond precedent), and class-wide relief--not available in defending a single suit.

These are valid criticisms of SB8/SB1327-type laws. But critics and advocates do not capture them through the simplistic "this prevents judicial review." Critics must explain why the model of judicial review the law allows is inferior and insufficient to offensive pre-enforcement litigation. Further, they must explain not why offensive pre-enforcement litigation is better, but why it is constitutionally necessary. And they must explain not why defensive litigation is worse, but why it is constitutionally insufficient. Screaming about "end runs" around judicial review does not make that case.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 23, 2022 at 04:49 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

California goes full SB8 on firearms, sort of

SB 1327, signed by Gov. Newsom on Friday, prohibits distribution and sale of assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, or unserialized firearms, as well as selling to people under 21. The bill prohibits public enforcement of these provisions and creates a private right of action that copies the elements of SB8--$10,000 statutory damages per firearm, injunctive relief, and attorneys fees; no fees for defendants; limited affirmative defenses.

California got the procedure right (much to my surprise), in making private enforcement exclusive and prohibiting public enforcement. The conversation around SB8 and copycats has focused on private enforcement as this powerful weapon ("bounty hunters" makes a great headline and political talking point, as someone pointed out on a listserv), as if private enforcement alone creates the bind for rights-holder that SB8 did. Private enforcement must be exclusive, otherwise rights-holders can pursue offensive pre-enforcement litigation against the responsible executive.

I am not sure how much effect this will have, beyond symbolism ("the left can play the same games as the right"). The law may not be constitutionally invalid--do the recent cases mean that states cannot prohibit any firearms, regardless of nature? The law certainly is not blatantly unconstitutional (if there is such a concept); no binding SCOTUS precedent establishes that the sale and manufacture of assault weapons or unserialized handguns is protected by the Second Amendment. The law does not target possession of assault weapons or subject owners to private suits for possessing absent an intent to give the weapon to someone else. The prohibited weapons are less pervasive and less at the core of "Second Amendment activity" than post-six-week abortions; the latter represented 90 % of Texas abortions, whereeas assault weapons are already prohibited by California law. Suits under this law are less likely to substantially disrupt ongoing seller or buyer activity.

To the extent sellers believe the First Amendment protects unregulated purchases (and thus sales) of assault weapons, this law may not hamstring them in challenging it. A seller could challenge the criminal prohibition in a pre-enforcement action against the government, obtain (it hopes) favorable precedent, then use that precedent to defend civil suits under the new law (an invalid ban would be as violative of the Second Amendment regardless of enforcement system). Ultimately, this looks less like SB8 and more like California's consumer-protection scheme pre-2004, in which laws prohibiting misleading statements could be enforced by the government or by "any person" civil litigation, leaving possible pre-enforcement offensive litigation in place.

I think the real "lefty" answer to SB8 is the one Rocky and I hypothesized--a prohibition on racist speech, exclusively privately enforced. That would reach a wide swath of likely protected activity in the way SB8 did, without allowing for pre-enforcement judicial review.

Immediate Update: Ilya Somin has thoughts. He argues the scope of potential defendants is quite broad and thus the law could have more effect than I suggest.  And he continues to urge that offensive litigation should be available against the sheriff who would enforce any judgment (we argued this fails for the same reason as the clerks-and-judges theory). Although to the extent one of the conservative justices would abandon procedural principle when the threatened substantive right is one they like, Ilya provides them the path.*

[*] To be clear, I am not accusing Ilya of inconsistency--he made the same argument about SB8 as about SB 1327. I am suggesting one of the WWH majority could use this to put a fig leaf over inconsistency

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 23, 2022 at 03:53 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 21, 2022

JOTWELL: Wasserman on Clopton on catch-and-kill jurisdiction

I have the new Courts Law essay, reviewing Zachary D. Clopton, Catch and Kill Jurisidiction (Mich. L. Rev., forthcoming), which describes a category of cases in which federal courts pull cases out of state court through expansive federal jurisdiction, then dismiss on uniquely federal non-merits bases. For further reading, see the response forthcoming in Mich. L. Rev. Online.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 21, 2022 at 12:23 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Better Call Saul--when Jimmy becomes Saul

Better Call Saul hit a significant story milestone last night. I want to consider a question (with spoilers) after jump: How bad a guy is Saul Goodman and is he qualitatively worse than Jimmy McGill?

Better Call Saul tells the story of how Jimmy "becomes" Saul, the "criminal lawyer" of Breaking Bad. Two strands make the story. The first is that Kim Wexler, the love of Jimmy's life, grounds him and keeps him from losing himself in his alter-ego. In mathematical terms, Jimmy-Kim=Saul. The second is that Saul Goodman represents a difference in kind, not degree, from Jimmy McGill. Jimmy is a fundamentally decent person and lawyer, committed to his clients and to doing justice; while he crosses ethical and legal lines, it is in service of a higher ideal and he always comes back around. Saul Goodman, by contrast, is an immoral, unethical criminal, engaging in all manner of wrongful conduct and out only for himself.

The story reached its point of no-return last night. Kim leaves Jimmy, wracked with guilt over the human costs of their scheme. The last seven minutes time-jumps some period for a montage of a Day-in-the-Life of Saul Goodman--he wakes up in a garish mansion next to a sex worker; has a horrible comb-over; wears loud suits; offers his companion a cereal bar on her way out the door; drives his Cadillac with LWYRUP plate; decorates the office with columns and the Constitution and an inflatable Statue of Liberty on the roof; and is fast-talking on the phone at all times. The idea--in reviews and interviews with show-runners--is that Kim bailed because she lacked Jimmy's complete moral flexibility, while Jimmy could compartmentalize and embrace his immorality, as Saul.

This story requires that Saul Goodman is truly worse than Jimmy McGill--that Saul exceeds the typical low-rung, fast-talking, as-seen-on-TV lawyer into outright criminality. Saul did illegal stuff on BB--arranging meth sales, money laundering. But we have watched Jimmy do illegal stuff on BCS. The story tells us that Saul is worse than Jimmy; the seven-minute montage is supposed to show us he is. But to my ear, they have not done it. Style aside, Saul in these seven minutes does not lawyer any differently than Jimmy.

Here is the substance of the phone snippets we hear from Saul:

    • Hard-ball negotiation in some type of PI case, emphasizing that soft-tissue damage gets his client paid regardless of X-rays and that it is better for the defendant to pay now or "bleed to death" in court.

    • Extended conversation with his secretary who updates him on new stuff. Here is Saul's side:

        • Something about telling his "my Zanex guy" "yes and today." It could be that he is representing someone charged with selling Zanex or it could be about getting drugs illegally; hard to say.

        • A new client charged with public masturbation; the joke is that Saul has multiple clients charged with that.

        • Ambulance-chasing to represent victims in a bus accident, obtaining victim names by leaning on a hospital employee he had represented on a DUI and planning a dramatic photo-op and media statement to try the case in public.

        • Scheduling matters for court for his convenience.

        • Listening to, and complaining about the sound quality of, a "Better Call Saul" radio spot. The ad is purely PI--insurance companies that will not pay for accident repairs, defrauded by brother-in-law, surgery gone wrong. He wants to stop the check for the spot and threaten the station with a lawsuit, preparing to stand for freedom of speech.

The montage and episode ends with Saul walking through a packed waiting room and into his office, then calling his secretary to send in the next client with "let justice be done, though the heavens fall."

This did not show us the so-called criminal lawyer. It showed an (exaggerated) version of the fast-talking smarmy, mostly-PI lawyer we have watched for six seasons.

My point, I think, is that, reviews and interviews are insisting on a premature conclusion. We have not reached the story's endpoint--fundamentally decent Jimmy has not become irredeemable Saul. The show has four more episodes, at least one featuring Walter White and Jesse Pinkman and likely showing further interactions between Saul and Gus' meth operations. My guess is some of these final episodes will show genuine Saul wrongdoing, something Jimmy did not and would not do. We are not (yet) there.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 19, 2022 at 05:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 15, 2022

Snap Relocation

Monet v. Tesla, from ND Cal. This is a products-liability claim alleging defects in Tesla's "autopilot" system. The plaintiffs are Arizona citizens. When the lawsuit was filed on November 16, 2021, Tesla was incorporated in DE and headquartered in Palo Alto, CA. On December 1, 2021, Tesla famously moved its headquarters to Texas. On January 4, 2022, plaintiffs served Texas. Tesla removed on February 2, 2022.

Plaintiffs moved to remand, citing the forum-defendant rule. The court denied remand, relying on § 1441(b)(2)'s "properly joined and served" language. According to the court, the forum-defendant rule bars removal when the defendant is local at the time of service and removal. It further said that the rule that citizenship is determined at the time of filing applies to determining whether there is diversity jurisdiction (which is undoubtedly the case here, regardless of where Tesla has its headquarters), but not to the non-jurisdictional limit of § 1441(b)(2).

This makes no sense.

Diversity jurisdiction locks citizenship at the time of filing; diversity removal should follow that. A case is removable if it could have been filed in federal court in the first instance, which is determined by citizenship at the time of filing. Post-filing citizenship changes cannot create or destroy federal jurisdiction or make a case removable that had been non-removable for lack of jurisdiction. It should follow that post-filing citizenship changes should not make removable a case that was not removable for non-jurisdictional reasons, such as presence of a forum defendant. The time-of-filing rules eliminate the incentive to play citizenship games to create or eliminate jurisdiction, as well as simplifying the jurisdictional inquiry by focusing on one point in time. Tesla obviously did not move to Texas to make this case removable. But post-filing changes should remain irrelevant, both to avoid the temptation and to simplify the analysis.

The court errs in reading "properly joined and served" language of § 1441(b)(2) to override the time-of-filing rule. The forum-defendant rule prohibits removal when there is a forum defendant; whether a defendant is a forum citizen should be measured at the time of filing, along with all other citizenship determinations. The "properly joined and served" language in § 1441(b)(2) checks a particular type of plaintiff gamesmanship--naming but not proceeding against a straw forum defendant and denying removal to the non-forum real litigation targets. But it does so by allowing the parties to ignore the unserved forum defendant in removing, not by allowing the forum defendant to change citizenship in a way forbidden in all other contexts. Stated differently, the "and served" language punishes the plaintiff for gamesmanship or bad litigation strategy in failing to serve the local defendant, by allowing service despite the local;s presence; it does not give one otherwise-disfavored defendant a unique opportunity, available to no other party, to change its citizenship post-filing to allow otherwise-prohibited removal. And, of course, no gamesmanship could have been at work here, since Tesla is the sole defendant, thus not a strawman, and plaintiffs obviously intended to proceed against it.

The court purports to rely on binding 9th Circuit authority for the proposition that removal is proper where the defendant was not a forum citizen at the time of removal. But in Spencer, the sole non-local defendant removed; once in federal court, the plaintiff sought to add a local defendant, then argued that the case must be remanded because it now included a local defendant. The 9th Circuit held, properly, that post-removal changes to the parties that do not destroy complete diversity do not require remand. But the changes in Spencer involved the addition of a new party, not changes to the citizenship of existing parties that are ignored in other contexts.

Finally, note that the court's approach could affect personal jurisdiction. Because Tesla had its PPB in California, it was subject to general jurisdiction there (being sued where it is essentially at home). But would this post-filing citizenship change also eliminate general jurisdiction, because Tesla no longer is essentially at home in California? It should not matter in this case, since there should be specific jurisdiction because the car was likely designed and/or manufactured in California. But on different facts, the court's approach to post-filing citizenship changes can complicate jurisdictional issues.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 15, 2022 at 01:00 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 11, 2022

The limits of swearing cheerleaders and an obviouly hollow victory

Free speech folks were watching this Tenth Circuit case, arising from the expulsion of a high school student for a private, out-of-school Snapchat post saying "Me and the boys bout to exterminate the Jews" with a photo of them wearing WW-II-era foreign military hats. In other words, it raised the open question from Mahanoy--out-of-school online speech not about school but raising concerns for in-school bullying, harassment, threats, and discrimination. The court reversed the grant of a 12(b)(6), holding that Mahanoy applies, the school did not have an interest in regulating this speech (despite its content), and there was no showing of substantial disruption. Good all around-and perhaps a hint that lower courts will follow Mahanoy to a sharper in-school/out-of-school line.

But the court remanded for consideration of qualified immunity, which will almost certainly be granted. The events underlying this case occurred in 2019, two years prior to Mahanoy and during a period in which courts allowed schools greater power to reach out-of-school speech that found its way into school and that could be perceived as threatening or discriminatory. Certainly there is no SCOTUS or Tenth Circuit precedent establishing that similar speech cannot be punished. So this is a small victory for the plaintiff that will not last long.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 11, 2022 at 02:06 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Florida Anti-Woke lawsuit proceeds, standing is weird

The district court denied (mostly) a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, finding most plaintiffs had pleaded (just barely) enough facts. In particular, the court allowed the claims by a University of Central Florida professor to proceed, rejecting the argument that profs speak as the government when teaching and so lack First Amendment for their classroom speech. (For the moment--the court acknowledged that its conclusion rested on 11th Circuit precedent that may not be long for this world). This decision comes on the heels of the district court denying preliminary injunctions as to most plaintiffs because they lack standing.

This just proves the insanity of treating standing as a jurisdictional doctrine independent of merits. If it is truly a jurisdictional issue, it must be proven by evidence, not based on the pleadings. Moreover, in denying the PI, the court decided that plaintiffs had not shown (through evidence beyond the pleadings) standing. It should not matter that plaintiffs have (barely) pleaded it if the court said they cannot prove it. For example, the court denied dismissal of the rising kindergartner's claim, even though it previously said the kindergartner had not shown an injury because the kindergarten curriculum did not include  any statutorily proscribed material.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 11, 2022 at 01:00 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 08, 2022

What is the right time and place?

A group of protesters congregated outside of a Morton's Steakhouse in D.C. where Justice Kavanaugh was eating dinner, causing him to leave through the rear of the restaurant. Morton's issue the following:

Honorable Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and all of our other patrons at the restaurant were unduly harassed by unruly protestors while eating dinner at our Morton’s restaurant. Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.

First, I just checked the Constitution and the right to peaceably assemble is followed by "petition their government for redress of grievances," not to "eat dinner." Maybe dinner is well-grounded in tradition and history as an unenumerated right, although the move of "dinner" to early evening was more of an early-19th-century development.

Second, other than chanting and making, the statement does not say how the protesters were "unruly" or "unduly harass[ing]."* The Politico story says protesters called the restaurant and urged the manager to kick Kavanaugh out. But that would have bothered the restaurant manager, not Kavanaugh or another diner. It does not appear the protesters entered the restaurant or went anywhere they were not legally entitled to be.

[*] And would it be ok if the protesters had "duly harassed" Kavanaugh and customers? Does Morton's believe there is some appropriate and permissible level of harassment? Good to know.

Third, what is the "time and place for" protesting public officials? (Or to paraphrase Hillel--if not now, when; if not here, where?). The home is off-limits; non-official public outings are off-limits; the front of the Court was declared (by the Court) not to be a public forum; and there is fencing around the Court's grounds, denying anyone close access to where he works. So where is the appropriate time and place to assemble and protest a powerful government official?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on July 8, 2022 at 01:51 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Some jurisdictionality in Biden v. Texas

I do not do Ad Law or Immigration, so I do not much to say on the merits of Biden v. Texas. But there was some jurisdictionality thrown in, which is worth discussing.

The district court had enjoined enforcement of the Biden rescission, in violation of § 1252(f)(1), which deprives lower courts (but not SCOTUS) of"jurisdiction or authority to enjoin or restraint the operation" of certain provisions in non-individual cases. The question is whether the district court nevertheless had jurisdiction over the action as a whole, even if it could not issue the remedy it did. The majority said it did, because § 1252(f)(1) limited the court's remedial power but not its subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the case. Although § 1252(f)(1) uses the word jurisdiction, jurisdiction to issue a remedy is different from subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate. Justice Barrett dissented for Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch.* She rejected the sharp distinction between SMJ and remedial authority, because SMJ often connects to the remedy, citing examples of the amount-in-controversy in § 1332 and redressability in standing.

[*] Sort of. The three joined all but the first sentence reading "I agree with the Court's analysis of the merits--but not with its decision to reach them." Meanwhile, Barrett did not join Alito's dissent to the merits.

Obviously, I agree with the majority. Remedies, like the merits, should be independent of adjudicative jurisdiction. The problem is Congress using the word jurisdiction carelessly to refer to available remedies in a case the court can hear. I am glad the Court read through it. As to Barrett's examples, the amount-in-controversy is not about available remedies but about the size of the case. Meanwhile, the standing example just shows--again--why standing is about merits and not jurisdiction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 30, 2022 at 02:42 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Cue the converse abortion ad hoc nullification machine

The Times considers the First Amendment implications of abortion being legal in some places and illegal in others. And individual news reports about how Dobbs is being received and applied with respect to other rights and issues suggest this will not be limited to abortion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 29, 2022 at 04:50 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Limiting state-created danger and a different due process violation (Updated)

An interesting Fifth Circuit decision arising from a (notorious-at-the-time) 2015 incident in which a high-school football coach ordered two players to hit the referee. (One guess which Fifth Circuit state produced this case). The district court dismissed the claim against Coach Breed; it read the claim as invoking the state-created-danger theory (Breed increased the danger to the ref by ordering the players to hit him), which the Fifth Circuit does not recognize. The Fifth Circuit reversed, saying this is not an SCD case and therefore the plaintiff may have a viable due process claim on a different theory. Unfortunately, the path and conclusion are incoherent.

The court said SCD applies when the state actor "creates" a dangerous situation resulting in harm (to conditions or to third parties), but this does not include when the state actor orders or compels the third parties to engage in some conduct. This is a fine distinction that I am not sure works. What if Breed had told the players "unless you get completely out of control, Coach and I will not punish you?" if you hit the ref. Or what if the players discussed their plan to hit the ref while Breed was present and Breed said nothing, nodded in approval, or gave verbal assent ("OK")? Each of those facts can establish SCD, because the state actor creates or enhances the danger to the plaintiff by emboldening third parties by "approving" or "condoning" third-party misconduct or  by sending a message that a third-party can act with impunity. I do not see a meaningful difference between those cases and a direct command, order, or compulsion; if the former must be addressed as SCD (and rejected in the Fifth Circuit), so must the latter.

The court offered the difference that SCD requires deliberate indifference, while the claim here involves intentional harm. But DI is the legal standard and can be satisfied by the higher mens rea of intent to cause harm. And conduct short of a command can be done with the intention to inflict harm; the cops in Dwares wanted, if not intended, the skinheads to attack the protesters, even if they did not order them to attack.

If this is not an SCD case, what is the theory of liability? What did Breed* do that violates due process besides creating a dangerous condition? Is the act of ordering or commanding third persons to engage in misconduct an independent due process violation? If so, we are back to why orders/commands are different than approval and condonations; if the former are some unique violation independent, why not the latter, in which case what is left of SCD? Is it limited to orders to assault someone? But many SCD cases involve third-party assaults. Why is a command to third parties to assault different than approving a third-party assault (again, see Dwares). We return to that unexplained and unworkable distinction between ordering third-party misconduct and approving or condoning it.

[*] The court attempts to defend the distinction by arguing that Breed acted under color when he ordered the players to act, relying on close-nexus cases. But no one doubts that and it is beside the point. Those cases are about when private actors are deemed under color; they have nothing to do with whether the government actors who ordered the conduct are under color. In fact, it is beyond dispute that Breed acted under color--a government employee acting within his official position "on the clock" while performing his formal government duties. (Maybe if he had done this during the few minutes between the post-game handshake and getting on the bus he would have more luck).

The Fifth Circuit is the only court of appeals not to recognize SCD. I am all for ways around that problem. But some coherence would be nice.

Update: Following a series of email exchanges with a reader, I might see a workable basis for a distinction. It combines the under-color and liability elements and goes something like this: If the connection between the government actor and the private actor is sufficiently close that it places the private actor under color and subjects him to § 1983 suit**, the claim against the government actor rests on a direct violation; the government actor is, in essence, acting through his agent. If the connection is not sufficiently close as to to place the private actor under color, the government actor's liability must be based on SCD--the third party acted on his own as a private person, but the government actor did something to create or worsen the risk to the plaintiff at the third party's hands.

[**] If the plaintiff were to choose to sue him. Again, the ref did not sue the players here.

Thus, the coach is directly liable for ordering the players to hit the ref. He would be liable on an SCD theory if he  stood by and did nothing while the players discussed and planned to hit the ref. And we can have a debate about the case in which the coach said "we will not punish you if you hit the ref."

Not sure I buy it, but it makes some logical sense.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 29, 2022 at 11:06 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 27, 2022

Cert dened in Coral Ridge Ministries

Beginning on p.11, with dissent from Thomas but not Gorsuch (who has called for reconsidering NYT v. Sullivan) or anyone else. I guess the Court is not ready to undo the foundation of modern free speech.

This case was never a good vehicle for overruling NYT because the statements at issue (labeling a ministry a "hate group") are clear protected opinion; the district court dismissed the claim on opinion and actual-malice grounds, while the court of appeals addressed the latter. Unless the Court wanted to undo the entire defamation edifice (at this point, who knows?), this was not the right case. My guess is that explains why Gorsuch did not join Thomas, as opposed to him changing his mind about undoing the First Amendment.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 27, 2022 at 09:45 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 26, 2022

More zombie laws and litigation strategy

Dobbs has created a new puzzle with respect to zombie laws that I had not considered. It is usually obvious when a law has been de-zombified--the judicial constitutional precedent under which that law is invalid changed. Dobbs thus de-zombifies all abortion laws (subject perhaps to rational-basis scrutiny for extreme laws). But sometimes it is less obvious, because the Court suggests de-zombification through its reasoning and analysis, although the precise issue was not before the Court. So does the logic and reasoning of Dobbs, along with Thomas' concurrence, de-zombify other laws violating other substantive-due-process rights that it cast into (at least) some doubt?

Relatedly, how does that affect the posture in which the constitutional question will be litigated and resolved? Does the logic of Dobbs render a threat of renewed enforcement sufficiently likely or imminent to allow offensive pre-enforcement litigation to determine the state of judicial precedent and the constitutional validity and enforceability of the law. (Courts would call this whether the rights holder can show a sufficiently imminent injury for standing; I argue we should call this whether a constitutional violation has occurred or is likely to occur). Strict adherence to imminence (which courts follow for everything other than the First Amendment) limits offensive litigation, requiring rights holders to await actual renewed enforcementand challenge the law defensively.* At a minimum, they must wait longer to see if the state expresses some intent to renew enforcement based on its reading of Dobbs.

[*] Ex parte Young says rights holders need not wait, that it is unfair to force rights holders to violate the law at their peril and risk liability as a condition of litigating their constitutional rights. How to square that with Whole Women's Health, which I argue was correct? The problem in WWH was the lack of a target defendant and a governmental enforcer to enjoin.

Take Texas's sodomy law, which remains on the books. It is at least an open issue requiring new litigation whether constitutional precedent must change because Lawrence is incompatible with Dobbs. The question is whether that is sufficient to allow offensive pre-enforcement litigation or whether rights holders need some greater indication that the state intends to resume enforcing that law. Stated differently, can rights-holders, having read Dobbs and identified an open constitutional issue, initiate offensive litigation to declare the state of precedent and determine whether the sodomy law remains constitutionally invalid and unenforceable? Can Texas defeat such offensive litigation by insisting that it takes the Dobbs majority at its word, that it sees Lawrence as good law, and that it knows it cannot successfully enforce the law and has no intent to do so?

Does the answer change when the zombie post-dates the apparent change in precedent? Could that rights holder show imminence of enforcement more readily if the legislature enacts a new zombie? Returning to Texas' sodomy law--suppose the Texas legislature re-enacts a sodomy law post-Dobbs; does that allow a rights holder to argue that the state reads Dobbs as calling Lawrence into doubt and thus intends to enforce the new law (otherwise, why would it have bothered enacting it).

A separate strategic question: Should rights holders push the issue of what Dobbs did to Lawrence now or should they wait to see what states do? On one hand, there may be a benefit to striking now. People are paying attention and discussing Dobbs' effect on other rights; the charge of hypocrisy would land with the public (not that the Justices care) if the Court follows Dobbs to overrule Lawrence two years after insisting it would not. On the other, this is a frisky majority and rights holders may be wise not to test what it is willing to do.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 26, 2022 at 04:43 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 25, 2022

First Amendment Roe-ism? (Updated)

Gerard asks a good question. I discussed a similar question after the draft leaked. Let me try another pass.

Lochner is more than an unenumerated right. The case also functions as shorthand for using the Constitution to protect economic activities against state regulation. That effort continues with recent efforts (some successful) to use, for example, free speech to hamper economic regulation--hence so-called "First Amendment Lochnerism." Can students understand that concept and what it entails if they have not learned Lochner?

Two more thoughts. 1) Lochner is important because the conservative desire to revive it affects doctrines such as the Commerce Clause and federalism; the "Broccoli hypothetical" in the ACA case was about importing Lochnerian limitatons into the Commerce Clause. 2) Although both involve unenumerated rights/substantive due process,they reflect different forms--one about economics and business and one about private personhood; there may be value in covering both.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 25, 2022 at 02:58 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pedantry

Is it overruled Roe or overturned Roe? I say "overrule," which is the term the Court used. Shepard's (ah, the days) used that term--courts "overrule" precedent and "reverse" lower-court judgments." I do not believe courts "overturn" anything in the formal (as opposed to colloquial) sense.

Now that we have the opinion and not only the draft, do we have any better sense of whether Roberts or Thomas assigned the opinion? And why would either give it to Alito? Roberts must have known Alito would produce a toxic opinion. And it seems Thomas would want to keep the opinion (this and the gun case would have made the Fed Soc two-fer). Did Thomas know he wanted to call all SDP into question so he needed to write separately rather than lose a majority on a small piece?

How should we describe the vote count? I went with 5-1-3 (majority, concurrence for result but not reasoning, dissent). I have seen others offer two related framings as a pair--6-3 for judgment (MS law valid, MS wins), 5-4 for overruling Roe.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 25, 2022 at 10:45 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 24, 2022

Zombie Laws

We have a real-time illustration of zombie laws and judicial departmentalism. A zombie law remains, precedent changes, and new precedent reanimates the zombie, at least prospectively.* Texas announced it will begin enforcing its pre-Roe zombie, prompting clinics in the state to cease all abortions. This chart shows three other states with an intent to enforce zombies, although Wisconsin seems less unlikely to enforce.

[*] Jonathan Mitchell argues that retroactive application would be permissible. I doubt states will try that.

Meanwhile, other states are enjoined from enforcing abortion restrictions. Those states move to dissolve the injunction, citing Dobbs as the changed legal circumstance, and the district court will grant the injunction, making those laws enforceable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 24, 2022 at 07:43 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thoughts on fearing for the darkness

Some random thoughts on a legal earthquake.

• The opinion appears substantively unchanged from the leaked draft, other than responding to the other opinions and obvious proofreading. Clearly Kavanaugh was the Chief's target. We can read his concurrence as trying to carve a gentle and less-provocative middle ground between the majority's muscular overruling and the Chief's decide-nothing-more.

• This day has been coming like a slow-moving train since Election Night 2016, if not Election Night 2014 (when the Republicans regained the Senate and Justice Ginsburg had not resigned). I recommend Orin Kerr's Twitter thread that captures how Democrats/abortion-rights supporters went from "Garland-as-fifth-vote-to-secure-Roe" to Dobbs in less than a decade. Anyone (*cough* Susan Collins) who did not recognize this day as inevitable since Election Night 2016--or at least since Kennedy's resignation--is naive or ignorant (or, as someone suggested, lying about believing those assurances).

• Did the leak work? If the goal was to hold a shaky majority, yes; if the goal was to pressure someone to leave the majority, no. If the goal was to soften the opinion's effects by creating a distracting process story or softening the sting of the opinion, no; people seem pretty worked up and ready to protest and act, even if they saw this coming. It depends on if we find out who the leaker is and why they leaked.

• There is no easy answer to what happens next, but some things to watch:

    1) How much did this decision embolden anti-choice states? Do they ban abortion without exception or do they allow exceptions (life, health, rape, incest, a month of leeway)? Do they resume enforcing restrictive pre-Roe zombies? Do they go after pregnant people or only providers? Do they go after those who provide information and funding? How aggressively will prosecutors investigate and prosecute miscarriages and other "bad" behavior by pregnant people?

        Consider Arkansas' (now-valid) trigger law banning abortion with only a life-of-the-mother exception. Governor Asa Hutchinson suggested the state might add a rape-and-incest exception if Roe is overruled. This is a version of the dog-catching-the-car. States have performatively enacted extreme laws that would hurt millions, knowing they were unenforceable but allowed for political points. Now that those extreme laws are enforceable, Hutchinson realizes the immorality or unpopularity of the extreme and might walk it walk it back. Do other states follow suit and show restraint when their choices have real effects on real people or do they continue the race to the bottom because they can?

    2) Relatedly, does Dobbs embolden those states to go after the other rights that conservatives hate as much as abortion--same-sex marriage, contraception, sex? The assurances from Alito and Kavanaugh (and many who criticized Steve Vladeck and Leah Litman) focus on the wrong actors at the wrong time, at least for the moment. The action occurs in two other forums first: 1) Will states push the envelope in other areas--will they enact and enforce new laws banning purchase and use of contraception or whether states will begin enforcing existing zombie laws prohibiting sodomy (the Texas law at issue in Lawrence remains on the books) or same-sex marriage (same in many states); 2) What will restless lower-court judges do with the signal from Dobbs and from Thomas' concurrence if states get frisky--it is not hard to imagine a panel of the Fifth Circuit declaring valid a Louisiana ban on certain contraception. These steps are necessary before we see what the Justices will do. And that process could take several years, during which the make-up of the Court changes or people stop paying attention to Dobbs' "abortion-is-different" promises.

    3) It is nonsense to believe the courts are out of this area. The dissent shows why, as does this paper by David Cohen, Greer Donley, and Rachel Rebouche. These controversies extend beyond substantive due process to free speech, the right to travel, and other non-disfavored rights implicated in an abortion context. Scalia warned about the "abortion ad hoc nullifcation machine," in which the connection to abortion limits other, supposedly stronger rights (he complained about restrictions on clinic protesters). Will we see that in reverse--will the connection of other rights to the no-longer-favored abortion context limit those other rights? For example, will the Court allow states to sanction political expression concerning illegal-in-a-state abortions, remaining "scrupulously neutral" about abortion and allowing states to limit certain speech in the name of limiting (unprotected) abortion? Alito and Thomas have supported restrictions on speech with which they disagree; will others follow suit?

    4) How much teeth does rational-basis review have here, if a state goes to the extreme? Is it unreasonable to make a pregnant woman endanger her life or health in favor of a fetus? Is there any other context in which the law requires an ordinary person to risk her life for another?

• Biden's statement attempted to create a campaign issue. He called on Congress to codify Roe (whatever that means). He add that if Congress lacks the votes to do that (which it does), people must elect representatives who will, making. The question is how politically salient this is for the (apparent majorities) who support reproductive freedom--can the issue galvanize supporters to turn out in large numbers in the way it galvanizes opponents? Supporters have had Roe as the guardrail for 50 years. Does its actual loss awaken everyone to the ballot in a way its threatened loss (which was obvious in 2016) did not?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 24, 2022 at 04:14 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2022

§ 1983 giveth, § 1983 taketh away

Everyone will be talking about the gun case and the prospect that, given this Court's direction, it will soon to be easier to wave a gun in public than to engage in some speech in public. So let me focus on two cases about the scope of § 1983.

Nance v. Ward (Kagan for the Chief, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kavanaugh) that a prisoner can use § 1983 to challenge manner of execution where the plaintiff's proposed execution method is unavailable under state law and would require the state to change its law. The need to change state law or regulations does not necessarily prevent the state from executing the plaintiff (the touchstone for Heck cases) but delays the execution until the state brings its law into compliance with the Constitution. Many § 1983 claims declare state law invalid and send it "back to the drawing board" to amend the law to comport with the Constitution (as judicially interpreted). Challenges to conditions of confinement can brought through § 1983 and those claims operate like challenges to method of execution--both challenge the implementation of a sentence (death or incarceration) and both may compel changes to state law (e.g., challenges to laws limiting the number of prison doctors or the regulations for prison population) to remedy that violation.

Vega v. Tekoh (Alito for the Chief, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett) held that Miranda violations cannot form the basis for § 1983 claims for damages. The point of deparure, unsurprisingly, is whether Miranda is a constitutional rule and thus a "right . . . secured by the Constitution and laws." The majority describes it as a constitutional prophylactic rule but not the Constitution itself, while the dissent (Kagan for Breyer and Sotomayor) argues that the rule is constitutionally grounded (per Dickerson) even if it secures a deeper constitutional commitment against compulsion. Miranda thus is enforceable only defensively, as a basis to suppress evidence in the criminal proceeding.

I confess to not finding this case a huge deal for a couple of reasons, even as an another instance (See Egbert) of the Court eliminating ex post remedies for constitutional violations. Maybe I am missing things. First, Miranda is an odd fit for a § 1983 damages claim against the police officer who took the unwarned statement because the violation is complete only if the statement is offered by the immune non-party prosecutor and accepted by the immune non-party judge. Thus the officer's constitutional liability turns on the actions of two other people. Assuming the officer did not use coercion or force, he did nothing "wrong" unless someone else does something.

Second, I do not understand why this plaintiff does not lose on issue-preclusion grounds. He twice moved to suppress his statements on Miranda grounds and the state trial court twice rejected his arguments. Unless there is something I do not know about California preclusion law, the state court's resolution of the Miranda issue should be preclusive in the § 1983 action. This point also undermines the majority's argument as to why a prophylactic rule is not a "law" for § 1983 purposes. The Court identified numerous problems--judicial economy, conflicting decisions, and federal review of the prior state decision admitting the evidence--weighing against allowing damages suits over even a prophylactic Miranda. But the whole point of  Allen is that the federal court in the subsequent § 1983 action does not review the state court; it is bound by the state court determination and then applies it to the new claim for damages. There is no concern for conflicting judgments or lack of deference; the federal court is bound by the state court ruling. At least where, as here, the state court finds against the state defendant/federal plaintiff. The conflict arises if the state courts find Miranda was violated and the rights holder sues for damages; preclusion does not apply (because the officer was not a party to the prior suit), so the federal court would have a new bite at finding no violation (Alito's preferred conclusion). What am I missing on this point?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 23, 2022 at 12:12 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

COD is for government

A 5-4 Court held in Shoop v. Twyford that a district court erred in ordering transportation of a prisoner to the hospital under the All Writs Act where the evidence to be obtained at the hospital would not be admissible under AEDPA. A jurisdictional problem popped up at SCOTUS--the transportation order was not final. The majority stated in a "terse" footnote that it was appealable under the collateral order doctrine because it burdens state sovereignty and creates public-safety risks; Justice Breyer dissented for Sotomayor and Kagan to argue this does not meet COD requirements; and Justice Gorsuch argued cert was improvidently granted because the Court did not take the case to extend the doctrine. At the very least, it required more than a footnote.

And this is an expansion, as the court of appeals held that state sovereignty that is implicated by any federal-court order compelling a state to do something. Breyer, likening the order to a discovery order, argues that having the state as appealing party should not convert an otherwise interlocutory order (such as a discovery order) into one subject to COD review.

Of course, the modern collateral-order doctrine is skewed towards appeals by the government as opposed to by private individuals. While not framed as "appeal is proper because this is the government," the unprotectable public interests justifying the COD arise most commonly where the government loses on a uniquely governmental issue--e.g,, individual-officer immunity, sovereign immunity, foreign sovereign immunity, discovery orders affecting foreign sovereign immunity. I do not expect, as Breyer  worries, a regime in which government can appeal a common order that a similarly situated private party cannot appeal; but it is not surprising to see COD review of a unique discovery order that applies only to government parties but never to private parties. For example, an order compelling transportation of a prisoner for discovery purposes applies only to government parties and is appealable; a common order compelling discovery, equally applicable to all parties, is not.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 21, 2022 at 12:33 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Tacky, if not offensive

The Dodgers will unveil a statue of Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium--in a game beginning at 4:15 Saturday.

Koufax was not religiously observant and he played on Shabbat. And this is not Jewish-American Heritage Day; the Dodgers are honoring a historically great Dodger who means something to all Dodger fans. That said, Koufax's Jewishness is part of his outsided legacy, much as Jackie Robinson's race is part of his legacy. The Dodgers must know he has unique meaning to a segment of their fans and to a segment who are not Dodger fans but who revere Koufax because of what he meant to American Jewry. To schedule this event in a way that excludes a small portion of those fans and ignores the symbolism of his Jewishness reflects, at the very least, a lack of thought.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 16, 2022 at 12:29 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Charter schools act under color

So says a sharply divided (especially rhetorically) en banc Fourth Circuit in a challenge to a North Carolina charter school policy requiring female students to wear skirts in furtherance of "chivalric" ideals incorporated into its educational philosophy. A majority holds that the school owner (but not private manager) acts under color and the skirts policy violates Equal Protection and that the owner and manager are liable under Title IX. There are two concurring opinions-0ne joined by the author of the majority and one authored by the author of the majority opinion. There are two dissents, including one by Judge Wilkinson heralding chivalry and alternative education in the face of the institutional forces of educational rigidity. Much pissiness all around.

I expect SCOTUS to take this next term. The decision creates a circuit split with three circuits (1st, 3d, and 9th) that held that charter schools do not act under color, including in making school and student policies. There also is a question of consistency with the one SCOTUS decision holding that education (at least for a segment of problem students) is not a traditional public function.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 15, 2022 at 03:06 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Journalistic malpractice, HPV-in-a-car edition

The underlying details of this case and story are too salacious for the media to resist. But that makes more obvious the wrongness of the coverage.

M.O. and M.B. had sex in M.B.'s car and M.B. infected M.O. with HPV. GEICO, which provided M.B.'s auto insurance, denied coverage and brought a federal declaratory judgment action. An arbitrator awarded M.O. $5.2 million from M.B., and M.O. filed a state-court action to confirm the award; the trial court allowed GEICO to intervene pursuant to statute and confirmed the arbitration award on the same day. GEICO appealed, arguing that the trial court did not allow it to meaningfully participate in the trial court, either to challenge the judgment or to contest its coverage obligation. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the insurer's statutory intervention right did not entitle it any minimal participation. It could have done that by defending the claim (rather than by denying coverage) or it can challenge its obligation to defend  through a DJ action (which is pending in federal court).

The court did not consider, address, or decide that GEICO must pay this award or that (and this is where everyone wants to make jokes) auto insurance covers injuries arising from sexual activity in a car because sex in a car is "normal" use of the vehicle.

Yet here is the result of a Google search for "Geico HPV." Several headlines and stories say the court ordered GEICO to pay or that GEICO must pay, which is not close to correct. Some stories describe the woman winning the award against GEICO (as opposed to her former paramour) and the court of appeals siding with her on her claims against GEICO, also not close. A few headlines hedge by saying GEICO "could" or "may" have to pay, which is more accurate, but the underlying stories get the details of the case wrong. And even those accurate headlines miss the point of this decision.The court did not say the trial court was correct in confirming the award or that M.O. should receive $ 5.2 million because her partner negligently transmitted an STI; neither issue was before it. The court held that GEICO was not entitled to challenge its obligation to pay by intervening in this proceeding and must challenge the duty to indemnify through its federal DJ action. But this decision--the one prompting this media coverage--brings us no closer to resolving the question of GEICO's obligation to pay.

I have read speculation that GEICO is pushing this "can you believe we must pay this absurd award" narrative as a tort-reform maneuver--a car-sex analogue to McDonald's coffee. If so, the media should be doubly ashamed for this journalistic malpractice--not only are they incapable of reading and understanding law and what a case means, they are allowing themselves to be manipulated.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 11, 2022 at 12:04 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Ministerial exemption and the Collateral Order Doctrine

A divided Tenth Circuit holds that denial of summary judgment on ministerial exemption grounds is not subject to immediate review under the Collateral Order Doctrine. The point of departure went to whether the ministerial exemption is a defense against liability or an immunity from suit analogous to qualified immunity. The majority said it is a defense against liability turning on a fact question--whether the plaintiff is a minister; it therefore was not effectively unreviewable on appeal. The dissent argued the exemption is an immunity from all litigation, lost if the defendant must wait to appeal.

Some quick thoughts.

The court divided is over what to do with language in Hosanna-Tabor describing the exemption as  a "bar" to a Title VII suit or claim. But that takes Hosanna's language out of context. The Court distinguished between a limit on the court's jurisdiction and a defense to the merits, defining the exemption (properly) as the latter. The Court did not consider or decide whether this defense was an immunity from suit or a defense against ultimate liability.

The defense-to-suit v. defense-to-liability debate makes no sense and it is too bad the majority and dissent spent so much time on it. As the Court recognized, "virtually every right that could be enforced appropriately by pretrial dismissal might loosely be described as conferring a 'right not to stand trial,'" and every right could be characterized as one or the other. Thus, it is not mere avoidance of trial that matters, but "avoidance of a trial that would imperil a substantial public interest." The question then becomes whether the religious defendant's First Amendment interests are sufficiently substantial and public to merit immediate review.

The other point of departure is whether the ministerial exemption is a question of fact or law. The majority said it is a question of fact--is this employee a minister, as defined. That precludes COD review, which is not available on fact questions, even fact questions going to defenses, notably qualified immunity, that are immediately reviewable.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 9, 2022 at 05:24 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Maybe there isn't a big difference between mostly dead and all dead

Like Westley in The Princess Bride, Bivens is mostly dead following today's decision in Egbert v. Boule. Unlike with Westley, I deny any big difference between being mostly dead and all dead. Here is my SCOTUSBlog recap[Update: And a short interview on All Things Considered] I did not expect this from the argument. While not friendly to the plaintiff's claim, the quesioning did not reflect  a desire from six justices to winnow Bivens to nothing--especially after declining to grant cert on whether to overrule Bivens.

But it may as well have. If the new single question in the Bivens analysis is whether there is any reason to believe that Congress is able to decide whether to recognize a cause of action outside of identical facts to Bivens, no new Bivens action is possible, because the answer is always yes. Credit to Gorsuch for being honest about where the analysis and conclusion leads. Meanwhile, without saying so, the Court has essentially granted virtually all federal officers at all levels in virtually all agencies more-or-less absolute immunity from suits for damages for constitutional violations. Maybe something identical to Bivens survives going forward--Fourth Amendment violation, pure law enforcement, no connection to immigration and national security. But not for long. And perhaps not if the agency has (as all agencies do) some internal disciplinary system.

So it is up to Congress to enact something like § 1983 for action under color of federal law, that also keeps in place the many statutory schemes (e.g., CSRA) that operate adjacent to Bivens. Could the changing nature and increased ideological diversity of constitutional claims--e.g., an increasing number of religious-liberty claims--create sufficient bipartisan support for enacting something? Probably not. But that will be the new focus.

I am working on the third edition to my civil rights treatise. The second edition was written in 2017 and published in 2018. I am stunned (and a bit frozen) by how much has changed in that short a period and how much the Bivens and immunity chapters must be rewritten.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 8, 2022 at 10:15 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Kevin Spacey is no Elizabeth Taylor

So holds the district court in the federal suit against Kevin Spacey in denying plaintiff's motion to remand. Spacey removed, arguing that he became a Maryland citizen when he began working on House of Cards. Plaintiff moved to remand, arguing that Spacey's homes in Maryland were tied to HoC, were temporary, and owned by shell companies, such that his real domicile was London (where he has been living for the past several years). The opinion illustrates how courts analyze and determine the evidentiary issues around citizenship.

The court also denied Spacey's motion for summary judgment, finding a genuine dispute as to whether Spacey's conduct (grazing Rapp's but while lifting him up, throwing him on the bed, and laying on top of him) qualifies as touching of "intimate parts" for purpose of abuse or sexual desire to bring the claims within the statute-of-limitations revival statute. I am still not convinced that whether something constitutes  an intimate part is a legal question for the court to decide based on the undisputed facts. But the rest of the analysis seems right.

I gave this case as my Civ Pro final last month. I am pleased with how many students got the SJ analysis spot-on.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 7, 2022 at 02:48 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (3)

Bivensing the 13th Amendment

From Logsdon-Smith v. Kentucky. Plaintiffs were sexually abused by a probation/parole officer. They sued the governor and the state for a 13th Amendment violation under § 1983; in response to a motion to dismiss arguing the § 1983 claim was time-barred, they refiled as a direct action under the 13th Amendment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed dismissal.

The 13th Amendment is not directly enforceable because § 1983 exists as the exclusive mechanism for enforcing that provision against state actors; Congress has enacted laws (including § 1983) to enforce the 13th Amendment; and the 13th Amendment provides for congressional enforcement and precludes an implied right of action, unlike those rights enforceable under Bivens . This makes sense, especially because the plaintiffs downshifted away from § 1983 because they blew the statute of limitations--it makes no sense to have § 1983 as the cause of action unless you have deprived yourself of the opportunity to file a § 1983 action, in which case you can rely on the Constitution. Plus, it seems like a futile move from the outset--Bivens actions are subject to the personal-injury period for the state in which the action is brought (one year in Kentucky), as are § 1983 actions. If a 13th-Amendment-Bivens claim were possible, it would be as time-barred as the § 1983 action.

The alternative basis for dismissal makes less sense--that the state has 11th Amendment immunity because there is no clear congressional statement abrogating immunity. But that begs the question. The unequivocal congressional statement appears in the statutory cause of action. Congress should have the same power to abrogate under § 2 of the 13th Amendment as under § 5 of the 14th--both were enacted subsequent to Article III and the 11th Amendment and both limited state power and enhanced federal power.But congressional power or congressional statement is irrelevant in this case, because the absence of a congressionally created cause of action precludes any congressional statement. The question should be whether the amendment itself abrogates, which has nothing to do with a clear congressional statement. The answer cannot depend on the text; no constitutional provision--including those through which Congress can abrogate--expressly abrogates sovereign immunity because sovereign immunity appears nowhere in the Constitution. The absence of abrogation here derives from the absence of a congressional cause of action, which was the first reason for rejecting the plaintiffs' claims; it is not an independent basis for dismissal.

The court pointed out the "broader policy questions" about whether a one-year limitations period is too short for constitutional claims under § 1983. Courts apply the state limitations period so far as it is "not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States." A six-month period is too short and inconsistent with the purposes of § 1983 and the Constitution. Perhaps one year is too short, as well.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 7, 2022 at 01:22 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Two interesting § 1983 ideas (corrected)

1) Steve Vladeck has an essay at MSNBC on the Court's shrinking docket and slow pace. He makes a point I had not considered: The Court's shrinking docket means fewer opportunities for rights to be clearly established and therefore less ability for plaintiffs to overcome qualified immunity. This takes on a larger scope if the Court follows through on hints that lower-court precedent cannot clearly establish.

2) Angeli Gomez is the Ulvane Uvalde parent who urged police to enter the school, was handcuffed, released, and ran into the school to rescue her children. CBS reports that Ulvane Uvalde police told Gomez not to speak publicly about the events on threat of prosecution for obstruction of justice and violation of her parole. Popehat wants to represent her in what he thinks could be a viable § 1983 action. The two questions are whether a nonsense arrest threat, without follow-through, constitutes a sufficient deprivation of the First Amendment and whether there either is case law establishing that (nothing from SCOTUS, doubt there is a "robust consensus" from lower courts) or whether this is an obvious violation.

Edits: My apologies for getting the town's name wrong.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 4, 2022 at 12:08 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 02, 2022

For Shavuot, exploring the baseball records of post-retirement Jews-by-Choice

Shavuot begins at sundown Saturday. We commemorate receipt of Torah at Sinai--the point at which we all "became" Jewish--and we celebrate Jews-by-Choice by reading the Book of Ruth.

To mark the festival, I published an essay in The Forward considering the records and achievements of Joe Horlen and Steve Yeager, who converted to Judaism in retirement. The question is whether they should "count" as "Jewish" players and whether their records and achievements should count as "Jewish" in telling the history of Jews in baseball.

I had this idea in the fall. Some readers responded to my piece on the most-Jewish World Series by arguing that the '72 Series--in which Horlen, Ken Holtzman, and Mike Epstein played for the A's--was the first Series in which more than two Jews appeared. And if Horlen counts, so must Steve Yeager and his four World Series homers. I held the piece until now, timed to Shavuot and the celebration of conversion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on June 2, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

SCOTUS vacates stay of Texas social-media law (Updated)

SCOTUS vacated the Fifth Circuit unexplained stay of the district court injunction of HB20, Texas' social-media law; in other words, the law cannot be enforced pending appeal. This leaves the Texas law in the same place as Florida's, following  last week's 11th Circuit decision affirming the preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of that law. Justice Kagan would have denied the stay application, without explanation. Alito dissents for Thomas and Gorsuch.

Alito's dissent hits all the conservative Twitter talking points about social media that misapply or misunderstand First Amendment doctrine. Plus he adds a gratuitous footnote about § 230 requiring neutrality or creating a platform/publisher distinction. Special mention for accepting this verbal sleight-of-hand: "Texas contends that § 7 does not require social media platforms to host any particular message but only to to refrain from discrimination against a user's speech on the basis of viewpoint"--as if prohibiting a site from rejecting speech on the basis of viewpoint does not compel the site to carry that speech by eliminating one basis for the site to remove that speech.

Presuming the Fifth Circuit declares the law valid when it reaches the merits to create a circuit split and presuming Justice Kagan's position is based on posture and not First Amendment substance (she did not join Alito's opinion), the vote should be 6-3 that a state law violates the First Amendment in attempting to compel private entities to carry speech and speakers they would prefer not to carry.

Besides pushing troubling First Amendment arguments, Alito pushes a troubling procedural argument. He suggests that a pre-enforcement federal action is inappropriate because HB20 is enforceable for prospective relief (injunction, plus ancillary attorney's fees and costs) but not the sort of harsh retroactive relief (imprisonment or severe fines and penalties) as with the law in Ex Parte Young; a social-media site therefore can raise the First Amendment as a defense to a state suit for injunctive relief, also allowing the state court to interpret the law's vague provisions. But the Court has never held that EPY actions are limited to laws that impose retroactive sanctions for past conduct, especially where attorney's fees may impose greater financial consequences on rights-holders than retroactive damages or fines.

Although he did not cite it, I think Alito drew the wrong conclusion from WWH and SB8. The WWH Court was correct that re-enforcement offensive EPY actions are not constitutionally required and defensive litigation can be constitutionally sufficient. That does not mean an EPY action is improper whenever defensive litigation is available (which is always). The question is whether EPY's other requirements--an identifiable responsible executive officer whose enforcement can be enjoined--are met. SB8 could not be challenged offensively because the absence of public enforcement meant no responsible officer and no one to enjoin. HB20 is publicly enforced (while also allowing private enforcement), satisfying this element of EPY.

Update: On this last point about Alito's hostility to EPY actions, he includes this line: "While I can understand the Court's apparent desire to delay enforcement of HB20 while the appeal is pending, the preliminary injunction entered by the District Court was itself a significant intrusion on state sovereignty and Texas should not be required to seek preclearance from the federal courts before its laws go into effect." Putting aside the misuse of laws "go[ing] into effect," Steve Vladeck shows that since November 2020, Alito has voted publicly ten times on emergency-relief requests in offensive pre-enforcement actions that would stop enforcement of state laws pending resolution of federal pre-enforcement litigation. Of those cases, one challenged a Maine law; the others challenged New York or California laws. He never suggested those state courts should have a crack at interpreting the law. I do not believe he is trying anymore.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 31, 2022 at 07:48 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Misplaced anger over precedent: The example of DeShaney

Campaign-finance regulation advocates and much of the public regard Citizens United as one of the Court's worst decisions, responsible for the electoral mess that has followed. I find this unique attention on CU strange, as the Court built on a 30+-year-old framework that treated expenditures as protected speech, recognized corporations as equal speakers with individuals, and generally rejected equalizing and preventing drown-out as compelling government interests. CU did not break much new ground, yet it has become the alpha-and-omega of bad campaign-finance doctrine.

We are seeing this play out again amid reports that Uvalde police stood around and did nothing for almost an hour while the shooting continued. Everyone points to Castle Rock v. Gonzalez as establishing the (awful) principle that police have no constitutional duty to protect from third-party harms. But as with CU, Castle Rock broke no new ground. It built on the real culprit, DeShaney v. Winnebago County, which everyone is ignoring in the Twitter debate.

Castle Rock arose from a father who kidnapped his three daughters in violation of a restraining order. Despite pleas from the mother, officers did nothing to enforce the restraining order by looking for the father or the kids. About 10 hours later, the father appeared at the police station with the girls' bodies in his truck and committed suicide-by-cop. The mother sued the department on a theory that the failure to take steps to enforce the TRO deprived her of procedural due process; a 7-2 Court rejected the claim. Scalia (for 7) said the mother lacked a protected property  interest in enforcement of the TRO because the police had inherent discretion in when and how to enforce the order and enforcement had no inherent monetary value; Souter concurred (with Breyer) to argue that enforcement of the TRO is a process and there is no due process right to an underlying process.

The real constitutional injury should have been that the girls ls were kidnapped and murdered because the police did nothing--a substantive claim for deprivation of their life and liberty, not about the failure to provide process. That is, the injury was in the result (the girls were murdered), not by the failure to provide process. But DeShaney foreclosed that claim when it held that government action, never government inaction, violates substantive due process; government failure to protect people from third-party harms cannot be the basis for an SDP claim. The plaintiff in Castle Rock tried to use PDP to get around that limitation. DeShaney did not involve cops. But it, not Castle Rock, is the source of the problem and the reason there can be no constitutional liability for the Uvalde officers' failure to act.

DeShaney established or hinted at two exceptions. It acknowledged that the government has a duty to protect those with whom it has a "special relationship," typically where government has assumed involuntary custody over a person and thus an obligation to provide for his well-being. But every circuit holds that school does not constitute such a special relationship--school officials have no affirmative duty to protect students, which necessarily means police officers have no such duty when they are called to the scene.

DeShaney also stated that the government had not created the danger to the plaintiff or done anything to make him more vulnerable to it. From this language, lower courts developed the "state-created danger" theory, imposing SDP liability where the government takes some action that creates or worsens a plaintiff's vulnerability to third-party harms. Unfortunately for the families, the 5th Circuit is the lone court of appeals to reject this theory; short of the court changing its mind or using the case to get to SCOTUS, this is a non-starter in Texas.

If it were available, I am trying to figure out whether a claim is possible. An affirmative act is required--not mere inaction of doing nothing but some affirmative steps. So standing in the hallway waiting for a key cannot state a claim, nor can the failure to transmit or act on 911 calls showing kids alive in the classroom. Reports suggest the Uvalde police affirmatively stopped parents from entering the school (including cuffing one person) and affirmatively stopped federal agents from entering the school; that could do it, although plaintiffs must show causation (that their children might have been saved had local police not stopped others from helping) and that preventing help was conscience-shocking. Some courts have found liability on an inaction-as-message theory--the failure to act sent a message to the wrongdoer that he could act with impunity; I doubt that works here, because the shooter was not aware of or reacting to the inaction.

The facts of this case keep changing, so expect to learn more. But the police-critical narrative taking hold is "police get impunity for their actions, but have no obligation to act to protect the public" makes no sense as a democratic bargain. But the second piece of that narrative derives not from Castle Rock, but from DeShaney.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 29, 2022 at 09:58 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2022

Taking away rights?

Since the Dobbs draft leaked, I have been trying to figure out what makes the apparent decision to overrule Roe illegitimate and some egregious act of judicial lawlessness.

It cannot be the result simpliciter--that my constitutional understanding differs from that of the apparent five-Justice majority does not make their views wrong in any objective sense, much less illegitimate. It cannot be that it overrules precedent, because the Court has overruled precedent. This is also why it cannot be that recent appointees pledged fealty to stare decisis--case are always subject to reconsideration and stare decisis has standards for overruling cases. It cannot be that the stare decisis analysis is wrong, for the same reason that disagreement with substantive constitutional analysis is not sufficient.

Orly captures where I had tentatively landed--overruling precedent to eliminate or limit individual rights (Orly describes them as "fundamental human rights") and to increase government power is different and something the Court has never done.

But I am not sure the distinction works. First, cases abrogating and overruling Lochner limited or eliminated the due process right to contract, which had been regarded as fundamental. Any potential distinction turns on substantive agreement or disagreement with the right recognized in Lochner compared with the right recognized in Roe. Second, crim pro scholars can correct me, but it seems that the Court has overruled precedent to narrow rights for criminal defendants. Third, at least as to abortion, the Dobbs majority might describe itself as vindicating a right to potential life that had been acknowledged but given undue weight in Roe. Thus the framing--eliminating a fundamental right--does not capture what the Court did (or believes it did). Again, I do not share this view. But the argument that Dobbs is an illegitimate action by an illegitimate Court must hinge on more than "I have a different view of the law."

To be clear, I am not calling out Orly; I had landed on a similar explanation. But I am less confident it works.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 27, 2022 at 12:16 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Judicial takings and alternatives to offemsive litigation

This Seventh Circuit case (Diane Wood for Manion and Scudder) is weird and I am trying to figure it out. I think it illustrates broader points about the problem of offensive-or-defensive litigation on constitutional issues.

A group of property owners brought a state-court quiet title action against Indiana, arguing that they owned Lake Michigan beach-front property to the low-tide mark, as reflected in their deeds; the Indiana Supreme Court (Gunderson) held that Indiana holds and retains submerged property up to the high-tide mark. The legislature then codifed the decision, declaring its ownership and declaring laekfront property owner's non-ownership below that mark. A different group of property owners (non-parties to Gunderson) brought this action against the governor, AG, against the governor, AG, and heads of the agencies on natural resources and state lands, alleging a judicial taking and seeking a DJ and injunction that they owned the property to the low-water mark.. The  panel dismissed the claim on standing grounds, finding no traceability or redressability to the state officials sued, since they do nothing to enforce Gunderson or the statute defining the property lines and can do nothing to grant the plaintiffs title to the challenged portion of the lakefront. The court also identified federalism-and-comity based caution (reflecting the ideals, if not applications, of Rooker-Feldman) in hearing a case raising a novel legal theory that requires a lower federal court to review the merits of a state supreme court decision. The court dismissed with leave to amend, although I am not sure what they can do to salvage this action.

The outcome is correct, but the case highlights some weird doctrinal interstices. It also shows how constitutional litigation occurs outside the ordinary pre-enforcement offensive action against a state executive. Assuming judicial takings can be a thing, what are plaintiffs such as these to do?

1) The appropriate course for a judicial-takings claim is to appeal the state-court decision effecting the taking to SCOTUS. That is not available to the federal plaintiffs, who were not party to the state decision. That also explains why the court did not dismiss on RF grounds--the federal plaintiffs were not state court losers.

2) One possibility is that non-parties cannot suffer a judicial taking, since the state-court judgment had no effect on their property rights. Thus Gunderson may have taken the property of the owners who sued in state court, but not of the different owners who sued in federal court. This has intuitive appeal. Judgments in non-class-actions do not bind non-parties. It makes no sense to give a judgment a broader effect as a taking than as a judgment. Any "taking" of the federal plaintiffs' property arises from Gunderson's precedential effect in future litigation, but any taking should not happen before then. This point should apply had the federal plaintiffs brought a claim for compensation for the taking rather than an injunction (the court suggests they would have had standing to do that, because these officials could provide compensation). These owners are not (yet) entitled to compensation because Gunderson did nothing to their property rights, beyond precedential

The district court rejected any judicial-takings claim here because Gunderson did not strip these owners of established ownership rights, as required by the Scalia plurality in Stop the Beach. At worst it resolved an ambiguity as to ownership; at best it declared, as a matter of state law, that they never owned this land at all and it has always been state property. My argument provides another basis for rejecting that claim--as non-parties to Gunderson, their property was not lost because that decision did nothing as to their property.

3) The plaintiffs made a strange concession: that their challenge to the statute turns on their judicial-takings claim. "If Gunderson stands, it follows that the Owners never held title to the land below the ordinary high-water mark, and the legislation therefore had no effect on their property rights." I do not understand this point. The legislature owns state property, subject to judicial review and interpretation. The state supreme court having declared the state owns to the high-water mark, I do not understand why the legislature could not enact legislation declaring state ownership, whether consistent with Gunderson or consistent with the owners' deeds. To the extent state declarations of ownership below the high-water mark constitute a taking, why does the statute alone not effect that taking? This does not resolve the standing problem as the court sees it, since the defendant officials continue to lack power to grant ownership. But it makes the possible taking argument clearer.

4) Traceability and redressability fail because the court cannot order any of the defendants to grant the plaintiffs title to the contested land. How, then, can they assert whatever rights they might have? The court imagines how this comes up for the owners:

Gunderson recognized that members of the public have a right to walk on the beach in front of the Pavlocks’ house as long as they stay lakeward of the high-water mark; an injunction requiring the State to refrain from any action would not grant the Pavlocks the right to exclude. If Cahnman wants to sell his beachfront property, he may convey land only from the high-water mark. The requested injunction would not give him title to submerged lands that Indiana law (confirmed by both the state’s highest court and its legislature) says belongs to the state. To the extent the Owners’ deeds conflict with Gunderson and HEA 1385, the latter two sources govern. And if, for example, the Pavlocks tried to sue people who walked on the section of beach between the high- and low-water marks for trespass, or Cahnman tried to hoodwink a buyer by representing that he held title down to the low-water mark, an injunction against state officials would not prevent Indiana’s Recorder’s Offices from correcting that error, or Indiana courts from applying Gunderson.

This hints at how this sort of takings claim, if it can exist, should come to court. The Pavlocks sue people walking on  the beach for trespass; the trespassers cite Gunderson and/or the statute as the source of their right to walk there; the Pavlocks argue that the decision in their case applying Gunderson and the statute effect a taking; and that argument provides a basis for § 1257 review of the state court. Cahnman hoodwinks a seller; the seller sues him for hoodwinking him, citing Gunderson and the statute; Cahnman defends on the ground that Gunderson and the statute effect a taking; and that defense provides a basis for § 1257 review of the state court.

The hypothetical suit against the trespassers should sound somewhat familiar to Fed Courts geeks--it is basically Mottley. This suggests that the Mottleys could not have sued the executive when Congress enacted the law prohibiting free passes--like the plaintiffs here, they would have lacked standing. They would have been forced to proceed, in state court, as they did--Mottleyssue the Railroad for breach; RR argues impossibility based on the statute; Mottleys argue statute violates the 5th Amendment; argument provides a basis for § 1257 review.

Again, consider this another example of asserting constitutional rights outside the typical offensive EPY action. Some of these claims are somewhat offensive in that the Pavlocks initiate the lawsuit, although the federal constitutional issue is not the main piece of the claim and arises downstream in the litigation. Nevertheless, we accept this as appropriate procedure, not some conspiracy to eliminate judicial review.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 26, 2022 at 12:40 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Property | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Judge Newsom in the news

Three weeks of grading and a round of edits have limited my writing here. Let me jump back in with a short ode to the recent work of Eleventh Circuit Judge Kevin Newsom.

Everyone is talking about Newsom's opinion for a unanimous panel declaring every significant provision of Florida' social-media law constitutionally invalid. Although a few disclosure provisions survive, the opinion is an overwhelming win for the web sites--content moderation is First Amendment-protected editorial decisionmaking; social-media sites are not common carriers (and slapping that label on them is meaningless, anyway); and the state has no legitimate, much less substantial or compelling, interest in telling the sites what speakers or speech it must keep on the site. The decision creates an interesting procedural bind. A district court declared Texas' similar law constitutionally invalid and enjoined enforcement, but the Fifth Circuit stayed the injunction without explanation following oral argument. The plaintiffs in that case have asked SCOTUS to lift the stay and reinstate the injunction; that is pending. We are left with this weird sort-of splitt--all reasoned opinions (one Eleventh Circuit and two district courts) declaring the laws invalid against tea leaves (the unexplained stay and the tenor of argument) hinting at the Fifth Circuit coming out the other way. Is that enough for the Court to take the case?

Equally interesting is two Newsom concurrences. U.S. v. Jimenez-Shimon, written by Newsom for a unanimous panel, declared valid a federal law criminalizing firearms possession by undocumented immigrants and affirmed a conviction. He then concurred in his opinion to question the use of tiers of scrutiny for the Second Amendment (which should be based on text and history) and generally, with a nice thumbnail sketch of the many pieces of First Amendment doctrine that he calls "exhausting," "judge-empowering," and "freedom-diluting." Resnick v. KrunchKash reversed a jurisdictional dismissal, finding that a § 1983 action against a creditor for using state garnishment proceeding was not wholly insubstantial and frivolous. Newsom concurred for the panel to reject Bell v. Hood and the idea that a case is so frivolous as to deprive the court of jurisdiction; calling it an issue that had bothered him since law school, Newsom argued that a claim that pleads a federal issue on its face gives the court jurisdiction, even if the claim is an obvious loser. These are of a piece with his concurrence from last year adopting the Fletcher view that standing is merits, wrongly mischaracterized, and arguing that any limits on Congress' power to create new private rights comes from Article II rather than Article III.

I unsurprisingly agree with Newsom on standing and Bell and have written as much. It is interesting to wonder about Newsom's broader agenda. He is young (49) and conservative. Is this a way to position himself as potential SCOTUS pick? He does it not through outward insanity in destroying the administrative state and Commerce Clause, as with the Fifth Circuit folks. Instead, he is thoughtful and scholarly, pondering important-but-not-hot-button issues that have "bothered" him since he sat in Fed Courts as a law student and that he is trying to work out 25 years later.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 24, 2022 at 10:41 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 12, 2022

More overlapping jurisdictional doctrines

Another example of overlapping "jurisdictional" doctrines, in which courts take the same fact--whether an executive official has a present or future intent to enforce an invalid law--going to ripeness, standing, and EPY. The Eighth Circuit held that sovereign immunity bars a challenge to a Minnesota law prohibiting certain false statements in campaign materials, because the four defendant prosecutors, while responsible for enforcement, had no present intent to enforce the law. The court discusses precedent in which the court found standing and ripeness but held the executive had sovereign immunity because, while the responsible executive, he had no intent to enforce.

I continue to have several problems with this. First, it makes no sense for three doctrines to turn on one fact. Second, it makes less sense for a fact to point different ways for different doctrines--if there is sufficient threat of enforcement to establish standing, there should be sufficient threat of enforcement to establish an ongoing violation for EPY. Third, this is all merits and it would be nice if we treated it as such.

Finally, note that the court cited the SB8 case for the basics of EPY and the absence of an enforcing executive.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 12, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Random reactions to some items in the news

My response to some random news items.

Leah Litman and Steve Vladeck argue discuss the constitutional rights that could be on the chopping block if the Dobbs draft becomes the Court's opinion, with the provocative headline "The Biggest Lie Conservative Defenders of Alito's Leaked Opinion Are Telling." Conservative commentators and others have taken umbrage, especially to the headline and to the implication, pointing to Alito's efforts to distinguish abortion from other unenumerated rights and the supposed "popularity" of these other rights. As Leah and Steve argue, there are distinct pieces to this: 1) What GOP legislatures and executives might try to do and 2) How SCOTUS will respond to litigation over such efforts.

The lens of judicial departmentalism sharpens what is happening here. Legislative and executive officials have never been bound by SCOTUS precedent; they have been free to enact and enforce/threaten to enforce laws that run afoul of Roe/Casey, Griswold, Obergefell, etc. Those efforts fail in the lower courts, which are bound by SCOTUS precedent, and likely fail in SCOTUS in the absence of willingness to overrule precedent. If the Alito draft becomes the Opinion of the Court, it does not authorize previously unauthorized conduct in the political branches. It emboldens them to pursue these laws, believing that these efforts will be less pointless (because having a better chance of success) and less costly (because defeat in court means attorney's fees). One commentator (not sure who) argued that Roe is unique because it never gained broad acceptance, unlike Brown. Describing Brown as widely accepted is so ahistorical that whoever said it should no longer be taken seriously. But Brown illustrates how judicial departmentalism operates. The Southern Manifesto and pieces of "Massive Resistance" exemplified how political branches can continue to follow their own course.

The issue always comes returns to SCOTUS and how ready it is to overrule precedent. Massive Resistance failed when courts smacked them down (as happened in Cooper and elsewhere), except courts did not do that often enough. Similarly, if a majority of SCOTUS does not follow Alito where his opinion leads, fears from the left are unfounded. But it is disingenuous, as Litman/Vladeck critics do, to say that GOP politicians cannot and will not attempt to push the envelope--they always have been able to do so and always have done so. Just as it is disingenuous to argue that the Dobbs draft does not lay the rhetorical and precedential groundwork to overrule other cases because the Justices may choose not to do so.

Vice tells the story of Romana Didulo, a Candian Q-Anon person who convinced followers (who believe she is Queen and running Canada behind the scene) to stop paying their utility bills because water and electricity are free. The consequences to her followers, many of whom are financially vulnerable, should be obvious. This is a consequence (ironic? unfortunate? inevitable) of our approach to free speech. Because it is almost always impossible to stop or punish the bad speaker, consequences fall on those who listen to the bad speaker and engage in criminal (1/6 insurrectionists) or unwise (the people who stop paying their utility bills) activities. We hope the negative consequences prompt listeners to turn away from the speaker, who, deprived of an audience, stops speaking. But that is a long process and one that often harms those who cannot afford it, while the powerful remain insulated.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 11, 2022 at 04:49 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Academic Muppets

FSWTRWUXIAI-MCs

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2022 at 08:55 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

More confusion on legislative immunity

I wrote a few weeks ago about a Ninth Circuit case allowing a state legislator to pursue a First Amendment retaliation claim against legislative leaders who restricted his access to the capitol, wondering how this was not governed by legislative immunity. Further confusing matters, the Sixth Circuit holds that legislative immunity bars a First Amendment retaliation claim against the heads of a party caucus for expelling a member from the caucus (and denying her party resources). Unless there is a meaningful distinction in the legislative nature of "you no longer get to hang out with us in the legislative process" and "you must notify us before enter the chamber," both decisions cannot be correct.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 10, 2022 at 08:44 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Who assigned this and why? (Update)

Who assigned Dobbs to Alito--the Chief or Thomas?

Assume the following at conference: Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett want to overrule Roe, declare the MS law valid, and enter judgment for the state; the Chief wants to declare the MS law valid as not imposing an undue burden  and enter judgment for the state. Who is the senior-most Justice in the majority? What is the "majority" when in Conference and before any opinions have been written--is it a majority for the judgment ("the law is constitutionally valid, plaintiffs lose, state wins") or is it majority for a rationale or an answer to a QP (Roe/Casey are overruled)? If the former, the Chief keeps the assignment; if the latter, Thomas gets the assignment.

I raised this question (without a satisfactory answer) over the now-meaningless June Medical, where four Justices (Breyer for Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) declared the law invalid by balancing burdens and benefits under Casey and the Chief agreed the law was invalid but on the logic of WWH and considering only the burdens; did the Chief assign or did Ginsburg? Does the assignment work differently when there is a majority for a result but not for a rationale, as in June, as opposed to where there is a majority for a rationale plus extra votes for the result?

My best guess is Thomas assigned it. If so, I am impressed (and a bit curious) that he chose not to keep it for himself. Casey was decided during Thomas's first Term, meaning he has been waiting his entire time on the Court for this opportunity.

If Roberts assigned it, the choice of Alito creates all sorts of Kremlinology. If Roberts  (presumably) wanted to make the least noise, he would not have assigned it to Alito, knowing the likely tenor of the opinion. Or he assigned it to Alito intentionally, knowing he might draft an opinion (what my colleague called a "nuclear bomb overruling") that might scare off Kavanaugh or Barrett. In which case the "conservative leaker" theory makes sense as a counterpunch to that. Anyway, I doubt anyone thinks this way, which is why I believe the relevant majority was to overrule Roe and Thomas gave the opinion to Alito.

Update: This question was raised on the Con Law Prof listserv. No one knew for sure, although one former clerk says his understanding is that the majority is for the bottom-line disposition. This make some sense, the person argued, because some justices only have identified a conclusion but not a reason at conference. Alternatively, many cases may have a bottom-line majority but competing reasons, none garnering the initial support of any 5; the only way to identify a seniormost-in-the-majority is to go by majority for the judgment, meaning the Chief assigned Dobbs. It also would follow that the Chief, rather than Ginsburg, gave Breyer June Medical.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 3, 2022 at 11:37 AM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Of leaks and legitimacy

I am not as outraged by the leak as Paul is, although I agree it suggests something about the elevation of individual personalities over the institution. I want to weigh in on a couple points. (Update: Mark Graber argues that leaks, especially from the Court to the executive but also to the press, were common during the 19th century).

• Regardless of the source--Justice, clerk, court personnel--there are plausible arguments for the source coming from either side of the divide over reproductive freedom. A critic of the decision might leak hoping that public outrage might sway someone off the Alito opinion or, seeing that as a lost cause, to get an early start on generating political activism to prompt Senate action (a law codifying the right to reproductive freedom passed the House but is stuck behind the Senate filibuster*) or to get Democrats to the polls. A supporter of the decision might hope publicity surrounding the prospective opinion would shore-up Alito's majority; soften the public outrage when the opinion issues (closer to the election), so that the anger has dissipated by November; and distract from the story of the Court eliminating reproductive freedom (and perhaps other rights, more on that below) by offering the story of the leak, failed processes, and the Court-as-institution as a competing narrative. As a couple people have put it, the leak is a story, but not the story; the source might have hoped to make it the story, especially in the right-wing noise machine (which will suggest the source is from the other side). One person on the ConLawProf Listserv suggested Alito might be the source--knowing he will be forced to soften the language in the published opinion, he gets his raw thoughts into the world and becomes a Fed Soc rock star.

[*] Putting aside whether such a law is valid under the Commerce Clause or § 5, a question that the same five-Justice majority would likely answer in the negative two years from now.

• I do not understand the insistence that the decision is "illegitimate." I think it is wrong, uses (typically) bad history, and written with the usual Alito arrogance and causticity that grates on me (even when I agree with him). But it does not say anything that Roe/Casey critics have not been saying for years; it reads as the opinion overruling Roe that we have feared for years, at least as written by Alito or Scalia. But that should not make it "illegitimate" any more than Roe/Casey are illegtimate, as Alito suggests throughout the opinion.

What makes it illegitimate as a judicial decision--as opposed to wrong as a matter of substantive constitutional law--for people who do not subscribe to Eric Segall's view that the entire SCOTUS enterprise is illegitimate?

    1) It overrules precedent. No, because the Court has overruled or changed precedent in the past. It has standards for doing so. And disagreeing with how Alito applies those principles is a critique on the merits.

    2) It eliminates an existing constitutional right. That has never been part of the stare decisis or constitutional analysis. While perhaps a worthwhile constitutional principle (a judicial presumption of liberty, if you will), that again goes to correctness on the merits rather than structural legitimacy.

    3) Everything that went into how the five-Justice majority was formed--GWB and Trump losing the popular vote (such that 4/5 of the majority was appointed by a President who, at least initially, was a minority President); McConnell holding Gorsuch's seat open for more than a year; Kavanaugh perhaps perjuring himself; McConnell ramming the Barrett nomination through, Susan Collins Susan Collinsing, etc. But it seems to me that proves to much, rendering "illegitimate" any decision from this Court for the foreseeable future. And many might agree with that conclusion. But we cannot ignore the role of politics, a less "clean" process than the judicial is supposed to be, in the appointment process. Other Presidents and Congresses have gained or sought to gain political advantage through the Court. What makes this uniquely illegitimate.

I am not trying to downplay how bad this opinion is. I am concerned that "illegitimacy" is the new "judicial activism"--an illegitimate decision is any decision I disagree with written by a justice I do not like. That is not helpful to the discourse or to the functioning of any institution. Or it is the new obscenity--I know an illegitimate or judicial activist opinion when I see it (usually because I disagree with it).

• I cannot tell how much mischief the opinion can do in the future--whether it also takes out marriage equality, freedom of intimate association, contraception. Alito tries in several places to distinguish those rights as not involving potential life, although query whether that holds true for contraception, given some religious views about what constitutes abortion and the misunderstanding of how some contraception works. The rigid historical approach to substantive due process does not bode well for rights and interests that have developed in a modern, more open, more technologically advanced, and more accepting society.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 3, 2022 at 10:29 AM in Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 02, 2022

Boston's flagpole program not government speech

A unanimous-in-the-judgment SCOTUS holds in Shurtleff v. City of Boston that Boston's program of flying private flags (on a pole usually reserved for the city flag) did not constitute government speech and denying permission to a group to fly a "Christian" flag violated the First Amendment. Breyer writes for six. Kavanaugh joins the majority but writes a short concurrence to argue that "religious persons, organizations, or speech" cannot be excluded from "public programs, benefits, facilities, and the like." Alito concurs in the judgment, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, to offer a different approach to government speech. And Gorsuch, joined by Thomas, concurs in the judgment to complain about Lemon.

The meaningful dispute is over how to identify government speech. The majority relied on a multi-factor balancing test, considering the history of the expression, the public's likely perception or who is speaking, and the extent to which government shapes or controls the expression. The Court found that the first favored the city (with a lengthy discursive on how government communicates through flags, including the story of Boston flying the Montreal flag following a bet on a Bruins-Canadians playoff series) but the third favored the speaker, because the city exercised no meaningful involvement in selecting flags or crafting their messages. Labeling this  as private speech ended the case, as the decision to deny permission to the plaintiffs was unquestionably viewpoint discriminatory.

Alito continues relitigating Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans (the specialty license-plate case)--he includes a footnote explaining why the Court got that wrong. He rejects the balancing test, arguing that any of the factors can indicate government speech or government censorship. Instead he urges a clearer and more specific approach to government speech. First, the government must speak in the literal sense--a person acting within the scope of power to speak for the government must purposefully communicate a governmentally determined message. Second, government cannot express its message through a means that abridges private speech (citing, e.g., Wooley). As to the first point, government can deputize private persons as its agents who voluntarily agree to convey the government message or government can adopt private speech as its own, such as taking ownership of the private speech), but not by subsidizing, facilitating, or providing a forum for that speech.

Although Alito's approach is cleaner on paper, I am not sure it is clearer in application or produces more obvious results. Shurtleff did not involve government speech under any approach and Alito's first point (was the government communicating an intentional message) turned on the same control that drove the majority's third factor. Walker represents the point at which Alito and the majority will reach different conclusions. The question is where the different approaches go in the many cases in between.

A different issue--and possible future bomb--involves whether government has speech rights. Alito drops a footnote arguing the federal government does not have such a right, but that states might have free-speech rights against the federal government. The text of the First Amendment--prohibiting Congress from abridging--eliminates any free-speech right for the federal government against itself. But extending that restriction to state governments in the 14th Amendment as to private individuals does not answer the question of the speech rights of states as to the fed. So is the next line of lawsuit against anything policy from a Democratic administration going to be a claim that it violates Texas' free-speech rights?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2022 at 11:40 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Mallory?

This is the second post on next Term's SCOTUS case on general personal jurisdiction by Rocky Rhodes (South Texas) and Cassandra Burke Robertson (Case).

As we mentioned in our last blog post, scholars and practitioners have been waiting a very long time for the Supreme Court to take up the question of the states’ power to require consent to personal jurisdiction as a condition of registration to do business. Another case, Cooper Tire & Rubber Company v. McCall, appeared to be a strong candidate for a cert grant. It attracted substantial cert-stage amicus support, and we predicted that the Court would be interested in it.

Instead, however, the Court granted certiorari in Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co. and appears to be holding Cooper Tire for the decision in Mallory.

Both the petitioner and respondent in Mallory argued that Mallory presents a cleaner legal issue. In some ways, the parties are right—but Mallory does have some quirks of its own.

What is cleaner in Mallory is the legal background. Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute is unique in that it explicitly provides that by registering to do business companies consent to general personal jurisdiction in the state. This transparency is important to the case in two ways.

First, in a case challenging the state’s power, it is helpful to have a clear statement of the state’s law. The Georgia law at issue in Cooper Tire was less clear; although the Georgia Supreme Court followed state precedent concluding that registration impliedly demonstrated all-purpose consent to personal jurisdiction, the court expressed some uncertainty as to whether that precedent reflected the legislature’s intent and recommended that the legislature clarify the long-arm statute.

Second, Pennsylvania’s clear statement is helpful in determining the scope of consent. That is, as Tanya Monestier has convincingly argued, implied consent is not consent at all—it is, instead, a trap for the unwary corporation that would have no reason to expect that business registration would give the courts of a state the authority to hear any and all claims against that business, including claims that have no connection at all to the forum.

Pennsylvania’s explicit statute, on the other hand, gives fair warning to corporations about the effect of their decision to register. In that sense, it makes registration-based consent mirror an arbitration clause in a contract of adhesion—not a term that the signing party necessarily wants, but one that the party is willing to accept to obtain the benefits of the contract. The Supreme Court, of course, has been highly deferential to contracts including arbitration and forum selection clauses, even in contracts of adhesion.

A clear long-arm statute and fair notice are helpful to enforcement. But are they enough? We have argued elsewhere that there is one more essential piece of the puzzle that makes state-required consent different from private agreements: a sovereign interest in the case. That is, the state can explicitly condition benefits on consent to jurisdiction—but only insofar as the state has a sovereign interest in the underlying case. Jack Preis and Jeff Rensberger have similarly separately argued that some state benefit or a state sovereign interest is required to satisfy constitutional limits on exacting consent through a registration statute.

On that point, Cooper Tire appears stronger than Mallory. The plaintiff in Cooper Tire was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident in Florida. But the driver of the car, who was also a defendant in the suit, was a Georgia resident, as was the used-car dealer who sold the car and inspected the tire. Because the plaintiff wanted to sue the driver, the car dealer, and the tire manufacturer, it made sense to sue in Georgia. And Georgia has a clear sovereign interest in ensuring the safety of the cars sold in the forum as well as adjudicating the liability of state residents. Furthermore, it is not clear that any other forum would have had personal jurisdiction over all three parties—the used-car dealer, for example, seems to have no Florida contacts.

With Mallory, it is not evident that there is a sufficient state interest. The respondent has argued that there is no tie to Pennsylvania, but that is not entirely true—the plaintiff’s complaint notes that Mallory worked for Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania for the last part of his career before retirement, although there was no allegation that any asbestos exposure took place in Pennsylvania. And by the time suit was filed, Mallory was living in Virginia, not Pennsylvania. Still, the employment connection may provide some basis for the state to have an interest in the outcome of the suit—the state would, after all, have at least some interest in the employment relationship within the state. But if the Supreme Court were to adopt our view of the importance of the underlying sovereign interest, it may need to remand the case for further fact-finding. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant has fleshed out the state connection.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2022 at 09:47 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)