Monday, May 02, 2022

Private enforcement and the state court option

Oklahoma enacted (although it awaits the governor's certain signature) an SB8 copycat. Reproductive-rights advocates have brought an original-jurisdiction action in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. This is the other option for rights-holders, to the extent state procedures are more forgiving than federal.

On the other hand, the hell with Oklahoma AG John O'Connor, who said this:

Once again, the people of Oklahoma have spoken through their representatives in defense of the rights of unborn human beings, and once again abortion clinics have run immediately to the courts to attempt to trample on the people’s voice and the most innocent humans among us.

Indeed, with SB 1503 they have literally attempted to sue before the bill has even gone to the governor’s desk, even though the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed preliminary challenges to a similar law not six months ago.

As to the first, hasn't Oklahoma joined with the rest of the Republican states to ?\"run immediately to the courts to attempt to trample on the people's voice" as reflected in laws and regulations enacted and enforced by the Biden Administration? As to the second, what does SCOTUS have to do with a challenge under Oklahoma law; I thought the people in Washington should butt-out of Oklahoma's business.

And kind of the hell with Bloomberg for reporting such a dishonest statement and politically hypocritical statement. But that is par for the course.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on May 2, 2022 at 09:23 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Everything wrong with qualified immunity

in this Sixth Circuit decision granting qualified immunity to two police officers who arrested and commenced prosecution of a man for creating a Facebook account parodying the local police department. To wit:

• The court skips the merits, ignoring the obvious First Amendment concerns and doing nothing to establish or further the meaning of the First Amendment.But the panel does not want to be seen endorsing obvious overreach implicating the First Amendment, so they suggest "doubts"that what the government did was worth the time and effort And they urge police, quoting Bari Weiss (!) to "say 'No.'" This seems like the worst of all worlds. The court recognizes and calls out the wrongfulness of government conduct, but not in a way that has any effect on the next cop to pull this stun (and there will be a next one). Instead, the court does something that I would have expected Fed Soc judges to abjure--issuing lectures to other branches of government having no force or effect.

• This was not a fast-moving, emergency requiring snap judgments in a life-threatening situation that courts should not second-guess. These officers had time and space to think and consider what they did with respect to an obvious parody and knew why they did it. Whatever the need for qualified immunity in the former case, it should not apply in the latter. And, again, because the court skipped the merits, there remains no Sixth Circuit precedent on these facts to move the right towards being clearly established.

• The court also rejected municipal liability, again on a narrow conception of who is a policymaker and what qualifies as failed training. Municipal liability is unfortunately and unnecessarily narrow, so I am not sure the decision is wrong based on prevailing doctrine.

This case again illustrates the problem of defining what it means to vindicate one's rights. Is it enough to avoid liability for enforcement of a law in a constitutionally invalid way (as the plaintiff did here)? Or should there be some retroactive, substitutionary remedy such as damages for making an individual deal with that process? Section 1983 exists, in part, to ensure the latter. Limits such qualified immunity and narrow municipal liability render that a less-effective weapon for that purpose.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 30, 2022 at 01:24 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

HB7 lawsuit

Filed Friday. Plaintiffs are a history prof at Central Florida, two public-school teachers, a rising kindergartner, and the owner of a DEI consulting firm. The choice to file everything in one action has its drawbacks. Consider:

• The First Amendment analysis and likely conclusion varies among the four educational plaintiffs. The prof has the strongest free speech claim, given the scope of academic freedom and its incorporation into the First Amendment. The student has the weakest claim, because I do not believe students have a First Amendment right to learn or not learn anything or to receive (or not) any information as part of the public-school curriculum.* The public-school teachers are somewhere in the middle, claiming some mantle of academic freedom but generally treated like most public employees. Query whether it would have made strategic sense to bring separate suits, allowing the court to focus on the unique First Amendment analysis for each and to earn a strong victory on the one obvious winner.

[*] if they do, consider the unintended consequences--a conservative student would have a viable First Amendment claim against a school board that prohibits, for example, teaching that Jim Crow was anything other than an unalloyed evil.

• The consultant brings a claim as an employer, alleging that the law infringes her right to present certain views in employee and organizational trainings by defining certain trainings (those that present certain viewpoints) as employment discrimination. But I am not sure this claim is appropriate for an offensive pre-enforcement claim. Any employment discrimination would be challenged by the employer filing an administrative or civil action. No defendant--the governor, the AG, members of the Board of Education, and members of the Board of Governors--is responsible for enforcing those provisions in that context. To the extent the consultant is concerned about what her employees might do, she may have to wait and defend on First Amendment grounds.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 24, 2022 at 01:26 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 23, 2022

FIRE on Florida's anti-woke law

Gov. DeSantis signed HB7 (the anti-woke law) that attempts to regulate what and how we can teach certain topics, including in higher ed. FIRE sent letters to every public college and university in the state (here is the letter to FIU) explaining how the law offends academic freedom and the First Amendment freedom to teach and write what we believe appropriate and urging schools to interpret the law narrowly or not to enforce. The letters argue much of what I discussed at a faculty meeting of another FIU unit last week.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 23, 2022 at 11:27 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Bad legal journalism

I (and most lawyers) regularly complain about how badly the media covers courts and law. I am particularly attuned to sloppy and inaccurate use of procedural terms (e.g., "enjoining a law"). I hope for better from a publication such as Bloomberg, which is dedicated to talking about law. No such luck, as shown in a story about efforts of Gov. DeSantis and his legislative lackeys to punish Disney's objections to "Don' Say Gay" by repealing its exclusion from the state's social-media law. The story begins "Florida’s governor may be able to impose swift retribution against Walt Disney Co. for publicly disagreeing with the state’s “don’t say gay” education law."

First, the author seems quite blase about the governor of a state seeking retribution against someone who disagrees with state policy and about legislators agreeing that "the governor’s anger was well placed, and we’re happy to take it up." So new legislation targets an entity when that entity takes a political position that angers the governor and legislators back the governor. The reporter describes it as "retribution," yet treats that as an ordinary thing that happens (and, implicitly, should happen) when members of the public disagree with government officials. As opposed to one of the core things the First Amendment is designed to prohibit.

Second, she misconstrues the likely First Amendment validity of the social-media law. She writes as if the Disney exclusion was key to district court's reasoning in declaring the law invalid, quoting another Republican calling this a "good bill" because it treats all providers evenly. She also calls reversal of the district court "a real possibility" simply because it is on review to the 11th Circuit. But the Disney exception was not central or even necessary to the district court's analysis, functioning more as an absurd cherry on the constitutionally invalid sundae of this law. The court found the law compels speech under Tornillo, making it invalid no matter how even-handed--government can neither compel some people nor all people to speak or to carry the speech of others. And the court identified three reasons the law is "as content-based as it gets" before mentioning Disney. DeSantis, et al live in a fantasy world if they believe expanding the scope of the law eases its constitutional problems, yet the reporter echoes their points as if they are legally plausible. There also is no way the 11th Circuit, as conservative as it may be, reverses on this; these laws are not valid without overruling multiple areas of precedent.

I wish writers and editors did better than this; I would expect it from those at a publication that specializes in law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2022 at 09:28 AM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another SB8 funder suit

This one in federal court in Texas (HT: Josh Blackman). Plaintiffs are an abortion fund and individuals who work for and contribute to it; defendants are individuals who have initiated state proceedings or sent cease-and-desist letters; both should be enough to establish standing to stop future actions (and thus get a determination of SB8's validity). Two weird pieces. First, the complaint contains no allegations that the defendants act under color, despite being brought under § 1983; the lawyers dropped those allegations in favor of a lengthy description of SB8's legal scheme that should not be part of a complain. Second, it seeks a declaration that Texas' criminal abortion ban is invalid and unenforceable (as the law at issue in Roe), but did not sue anyone whose job is to enforce that ban; courts can be free-wheeling with DJs (which come close to advisory opinions anyway), but they at least demand a proper adverse party.

It's always something. This again shows that offensive, pre-enforcement litigation in federal court is possible and workable. It required more work and is more of a pain-in-the-neck. But it is available and consistent with ordinary rules of civ pro and civil rights litigation.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2022 at 08:57 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

More universal injunctions

Sam Bray exposes the flaws in the district court's reasoning on issuing a universal injunction on enforcing the transportation mask mandate. I will add a couple points. First, the district judge committed every analytical error Judge Sutton identified as a problem with universality. Second, Sam's makes a point I have made and that is worth emphasizing: To the extent it may be difficult to identify who is protected by a particularized injunction, that is for the executive in its future enforcement decisions and the district court in enforcing its judgment; it should not be the predicate towards beginning with overbroad relief.

Finally, I co-sign Sam's conclusion:

[T]his is a deeply broken system.  * * * But it is a deeply broken system when the action and inaction of the various federal actors--House, Senate, President, agency reporting to the President--can be immediately swept aside by a single district court judge who chooses a remedy that is not only for the plaintiffs but for everyone.

* * * It doesn't have to be this way.

But it will stay this way if conservatives object to "nationwide" remedies only against Republican presidents, and liberals object to them only against Democratic presidents. Selective outrage and what-about-ism on the other side's inconsistency are a recipe for continued stalemate. If you object to these remedies on principle, stick to your principle, no matter who is President and no matter what you think of the merits.

Critics of universal injunctions are like free-speech absolutists--cursed with intellectual consistency.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 20, 2022 at 09:57 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Restricting tenure, but not understanding why

Florida has passed a law designed to limit tenure by requiring tenured faculty to be reviewed by the Board of Trustees every five years. Gov. DeSantis announced the law at a press conference Tuesday (between promises to investigate Twitter's efforts to resist Elon Musk's takeover bid). The law does not specify a review procedure, so the devil will be in the details of what each university's Board comes up with.

The whiplash over the law's justifications is fun to watch. If I thought DeSantis or his minions had shame or self-awareness or that anyone in this state cared, I would say they have undermined their own cause. Instead, it is just Tuesday.

On one hand, DeSantis properly identifies the purposes of tenure--"to protect people so that they could do ideas that may cause them to lose their job or whatever, academic freedom"--and the supposed reason for limiting it--that "once you’re tenured, your productivity really declines." (Bracket for the moment whether the latter is true). On the other, he and others give the game away by ranting about indoctrination, smuggling ideology and politics, creating intellectual orthodoxy, and pushing ideas like socialism and communism. If  the purpose of tenure is to allow people to express unpopular ideas inside and outside the classroom, that must include those ideas that DeSantis and his henchpeople do not like and over which they want to fire tenure professors. So while purporting to limit tenure so it does not become a sinecure, they acknowledge they would limit tenure to stop professors from saying things they do not like or that students do not like. The goal is to ensure professors whose speech is "in line with what the state’s priorities are and, frankly, the priorities of the parents throughout the state of Florida."

DeSantis says he wants to protect "dissenting" ideas. But dissenting from what? It appears to be from the views that he and the state and the state's parents want. The point of tenure is that the governor should not dictate what professors teach and write. Unless he is not concerned that orthodoxy exists, only that professors may not share and express his orthodoxy.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2022 at 04:28 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Abstention is down on its luck these days

(Thanks to Gerard for the title):

Another district court has declined to abstain from an action to enjoin a state proceeding to remove a 1/6 insurrectionist from the ballot under § 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. This time it is the Northern District of Georgia in a suit by Marjorie Taylor Greene. The court does a better job than the Eastern District of North Carolina in Cawthorn. In fact, I think the court got it right. The state  ballot-challenge proceeding is a private dispute--between a challenging voter and the candidate--in a state-run proceeding, rather than a state-initiated and state-enforced proceeding. That resembles the PUC proceeding at issue in Sprint and does not fit the second category of a quasi-criminal civil enforcement action. And it does not fit the third category of a uniquely important judicial order (akin to contempt or pre-trial sequestration or post-trial appellate bonds), lest all private proceedings and all orders within those proceedings fall within Younger. (The Georgia court reached the correct result on the merits and refused to enjoin the state proceeding).

A distinct question is whether some other abstention doctrine should be in play, to keep state defendants from running to federal district court just because, as the EDNC court held, really important federal interests are in play. One possibility is Colorado River, which allows abstention to avoid parallel litigation. A better candidate Burford, which requires abstention in deference to state proceedings that are part of an integrated state regulatory scheme. Do elections qualify? Are they the equivalent of Texas regulating oil drilling?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 19, 2022 at 11:13 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Judge Sutton on universal injunctions

Judge Sutton wrote a concurrence (begins at p.18) critiquing the power to issue universal injunctions, both from an Article III and remedial prospective. Along with Judge Manion's concurrence, this is the best judicial explanation for why universal injunctions are improper and why arguments for them collapse under their own logic. Sam Bray reprints the whole thing.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2022 at 12:42 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

An experiment

I was able to reach Erie for the first time since spring 2019 (i.e., pre-pandemic). My approach to that has been to teach Erie and Hanna, then present the Erie flowchart we all use, then work through a series of problems demonstrating each analytical path.

But I am pressed for time. In 2019, I spent four 70-minutes classes on Erie last time. This semester, I reached Erie with about 250 minutes of class time (two 105-minute sessions plus another 50-or-so minutes).

My attempted solution was to have them reach Erie and Hanna, but to lecture on them in class, which took about 60 minutes of class time. I now have 210 minutes to work through the problems.

We'll see how it goes.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 17, 2022 at 10:40 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Solving the Procedural Puzzles of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Part II

Our second SB8 article has been published in SMU Law Review. This focuses on the commonality of defensive litigation against constitutionally invalid law and how defensive litigation might play out.The third piece, on New York Times as historical analogue, will be published in Houston Law Review next fall.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 14, 2022 at 06:01 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 11, 2022

Civil Procedure in the Chief Justice's Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary

Published in Stetson Law Review, part of a SEALS symposium on the Roberts Court's renewed interest in civil procedure.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 11, 2022 at 09:38 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

A wild hypothetical

So something that proved more complicated than expected.

In transitioning from Subject Matter Jurisdiction to Personal Jurisdiction, we discuss the underlying process of World Wide--Audi and VWA paid for WW and Seaway to successfully challenge PJ through state court and to SCOTUS, then removed when SCOTUS held there was no PJ and the state trial court dismissed the claims against them.

But then I posed the following to the CivPro ListServ and no one could figure out the answer: Suppose the trial court found lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed the claims against WW and Seaway. The case is now removable. If Audi and VWA remove, how does Robinson appeal the dismissal of the other defendants? Can Robinson's intent to appeal render the case not removable, perhaps by filing a notice of appeal before the Audi and VWA can file the notice of removal? If the defendants get into federal court before Robinson can appeal, his options seem limited.

This hypo is limited because unlikely. The strategy Audi and VWA followed is unavailable in most cases because § 1446(c)(1) prohibits removal of a diversity action that becomes removable more than a year after filing; it takes more than a year to brief and argue a motion to dismiss and more than one layer of appellate review. That limitation did not exist in 1980, which is why Audi and VWA could remove more than 3 years after the suit was filed. So this scenario likely does not arise in either direction.

Still, it exposes an interesting gap in the statutory framework. And it forced some creative solutions. Robinson might ask the federal court to stay the proceedings so the state appeal can proceed (and to not attempt to enjoin the state court from proceeding with the case). Or Robinson might amend in federal court to re-add the dismissed defendants, then ask the federal court to certify the propriety of the PJ dismissal to the state supreme court.

I stumbled on a third possibility this morning--Audi and VWA remove, then Robinson seeks a writ of mandamus to the 1oth Circuit, asking for review of the PJ dismissal. That prior order is part of the removed case. Robinson can satisfy the requirements for mandamus. This is extraordinary case. He does not have other adequate means to obtain relief, because the PJ issue affects whether the case should be in federal court in the first place--if the state court erred, the case should not have been removed and Robinson should not have to litigate in federal court, something that cannot be adequately protected if he must await final judgment in federal court. Robinson also faces the risk that the court of appeals would affirm subject matter jurisdiction, even if it believes the state court erred on PJ, because there was jurisdiction at the time of trial.

However unlikely, a fun problem that might expose a weird hole in the statutory scheme.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 6, 2022 at 11:54 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 04, 2022

"Favorable termination" requires non-conviction and nothing more

Here is my SCOTUSBlog recap on Thompson v. Clark, decided Monday. Kavanaugh writes for six, holding that favorable termination for a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim need only show that the proceedings ended without a conviction. Alito dissents for himself, Thomas, and Gorsuch, rejecting the idea of malicious prosecution as a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The result is not surprising given oral argument, down to Alito likening such a claim to mythological creatures--today it is the chimera, at argument it was a centaur).

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2022 at 09:53 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Bartholomew on Borchers on tag jurisdiction

The new Courts Law essay comes from Christine Bartholomew (Buffalo) reviewing Patrick J. Borchers, Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and "Tag Jurisdiction" in the Pennoyer Era, 72 Case W. L. Rev. 45 (2021), considering Gorsuch's Ford opinion and arguing for corporate tag jurisdiction.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 4, 2022 at 03:00 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 03, 2022

Working and playing on Shabbat

There Orthodox Jewish athletes have entered the Jews-in-sports conversation. Ryan Turrell was the star of some good Yeshiva basketball teams and has declared for the NBA draft; pitcher Jacob Steinmetz (coincidentally, the son of Yeshiva's basketball coach) plays in the Arizona Diamondbacks organizations; and pitcher-turned-catcher Elie Kligman plays at Wake Forest. Each hopes to make the top level of their sports as Shabbat-observant Jews.

What does having Orthodox Jews in The Show entail? According to reports, Steinmetz and Turrell plan to play on Shabbat, while avoiding driving to the game. One commentator sees this as a wise compromise and the evolution of full Jewish participation in American life, in which Jews need not choose between their identities as "Americans" and "Jews."

But how does this square the law of Shabbat, in which we can neither work nor play (barring the workaround they found for Hank Greenberg on Rosh Hashanah in 1934)? Do rabbis apply some sort of "necessity" principle--these players cannot pursue these activities, and thus use the gifts Hashem has bestowed upon them, without this workaround? An everyday baseball player who cannot play on Shabbat is guaranteed to miss about 35 games, almost 20 % of the season; no team could afford to miss a key player for that much of the season. And what might Steinmetz do on Yom Kippur, when (unlike Shabbat) most American Jews take at least a partial day off? It would be ironic if millions of less-observant Jews (and the occasional less-observant Jewish player) take the day off and attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, while a player who follows more of Jewish law and ritual in his daily life takes the mound. Not worried about being a role model for American Jews, he need only worry about the Koufax Curse.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 3, 2022 at 08:49 PM in Howard Wasserman, Religion, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 01, 2022

"Don't say gay suit" filed

Complaint here (my wife is friends with two of the plaintiffs). I am trying to figure out whether this runs into some standing/11th Amendment/EPY problems from not having the correct defendants.

The law prohibits schools and teachers from discussing certain topics in and out of class and requires schools to report LGBT+ students to their families; it subjects teaches, administrators, and school boards to suit by random objecting parents. Plaintiffs are a collection of advocacy organizations, students, parents, and one teacher; defendants are DeSantis, State Board of Ed, BoE members, Commissioner of Education, and several school boards.

Despite the similarity of the private-enforcement scheme Florida adopted, most plaintiffs do not have the SB8 problem. Their rights are violated because teachers, administrators, schools, and school boards--fearing private suit and liability under the law--follow this invalid law in allowing or not allowing certain speech and in doing or not doing certain things. In essence, the state legislature compels local governments to violate students' rights by siccing parents on those local governments for failing to violate students' rights. Although limiting speech and discriminating out of fear of suit rather than (necessarily) a desire to stifle expression or to discriminate, teachers and school boards in following this law in the classroom act under color of state law and violate students' and parents' rights. So I think a violation is sufficiently imminent if a student can allege "I have two mothers and it is clear that teachers will not allow any discussion of my parents in class because this law exists and they are worried about being sued."

The one plaintiff who might have a problem is the teacher, who is subject to enforcement only by a private suit by an as-yet unidentified parent, but no government sanction; that teacher is similarly situated to an abortion provider under SB8, in that he protected speech is chilled by the threat of suit by an unknown rando. The teacher's claim might depend on how the BoE or a local school board implements the law and whether they impose governmental sanction on a teacher apart from any private lawsuit. For example, does the school threaten to fire or sanction teachers who violate the law and gets sued? Or does the school threaten not to indemnify-and-defend a teacher who gets sued for violating this law? That would constitute further government action disadvantaging that teacher because of her constitutionally protected conduct and in furtherance of an invalid law.

That said, jurisdictional/procedural questions remain. Although DeSantis is the villain in the complaint's narrative (and really any narrative in this verkakte state), I doubt he is a proper defendant, because he plays no role in enforcement. I also wonder if a court might find some claims, although against a proper defendant, premature. Perhaps the necessary imminent harm to the plaintiffs depends on further action by someone  to put the statutory limits into action--a school or board imposing regulations with some penalties or a teacher actually silencing that student with two mothers who wants to draw a picture of her family.

I have focused on the procedure and jurisdiction rather than the substantive constitutional violations at this point. Some seem iffy. There is a First Amendment claim based on a right to receive information. But a student or parent does not have a First Amendment right to dictate the curriculum, so cannot base a violation from the school refusing to teach certain matters in the classroom. The question is whether equal protection adds something when that curricular decision is motivated by discriminatory animus (there are 14th Amendment and Title IX claim in the mix for that purpose). Or whether vagueness adds something because no one can figure out what the curriculum is.

The complaint makes noise (although does not base a claim) on the use of "diffuse" private enforcement as nefarious and invalid. I obviously reject the argument here for the same reasons I reject it as to SB8.

Update: And just like that: A parent in St. John's County complained about a teacher wearing a "Protect Trans Kids" t-shirt at school, and the school administration asked the teacher to change shirts (which she did). This is not directly about the new law; district policy prohibits teachers from wearing clothing or apparel with written messages. But I wonder if the regulation was honored more in the breach and that this (and other) teachers wore message-bearing clothing without incident. And if the new law empowered the parent to complain, where most parents let it go. The story illustrates a couple of things. First, it shows how we get state action from civil enforcement, unlike in SB8--legally empowered parent complains, school takes action, school's actions violate rights. Second, it shows what the legal arguments might look like. If teachers regularly wear message-bearing clothing but only the teacher with the pro-LGBTQ+ message is asked to change out of fear of suit under the new law, it helps plaintiffs establish standing by showing that having to change shirts was not caused by the neutral policy (which is ignored anyway) but by the school's actions in response to the new law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 1, 2022 at 03:03 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 28, 2022

Cert denied in John Doe relation back

The Court denied cert (without noted dissent) in Herrera v. Cleveland. The Seventh Circuit held (consistent with every circuit to consider the issue) that John Doe claims do not relate back under FRCP 15(c)(1)(C), because intentionally pleading a Doe placeholder when the plaintiff does not know the defendant's name is not a mistake concerning the proper party's identity. Too bad. I thought this case had a chance to get to the Court. The approach to mistake is arguably inconsistent with the Court's broad take on relation back in Krupski and has adverse effects on civil rights plaintiffs. Civ Pro professors and civil-rights activists filed amicus in support of cert.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 28, 2022 at 04:36 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Double it

The Utah legislature overrode Governor Spencer Cox's veto and enacted a law banning trangender girls from participating in girls sports. Cox garnered national attention last week in vetoing the bill while pointing out statistics on mental health and suicidality in transgender youth compared with the one transgender girl seeking to play sports in the state. The legislature also passed a bill allocating $ 500,000 for schools to cover the costs of defending the ban.

But that amount misses by a half. If the bans are declared constitutionally invalid, the boards are going to be on the hook for the plaintiffs' reasonable attorney's fees in successfully challenging the law, beyond whatever they spent to defend it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 26, 2022 at 11:46 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

More offensive SB8 actions

Abortion-funding organizations have filed lawsuits against the Thomas More Society (ND Ill) and the America First Legal Foundation (DDC), seeking to enjoin them from bringing actions to declare SB8 constitutionally invalid and to enjoin them from enforcing the aiding-and-abetting provisions of SB8. Both defendants have initiated pre-suit discovery proceedings in Texas court, seeking to gather information about the organizations' funding efforts; they use that as the basis for standing, arguing that it shows an intent to enforce.

There should not be a Younger problem. The target of a pre-suit discovery proceeding cannot challenge the constitutional validity of the underlying law that might be the basis for the suit; the organizations therefore lack the adequate opportunity to raise their federal constitutional rights in that proceeding.

The complaints have several potential problems as pleaded. First, they lack allegations that the defendants act under color, which is necessary to state a constitutional claim. Second, I wonder if they may be subject to a § 1404 motion to transfer venue. Plaintiffs went to the defendants' "homes" to get out of Texas. But if the purpose of a suit is to challenge the validity of Texas law and to stop the initiation of suits in Texas courts under Texas law, it seems as if a district court within Texas would be a more proper forum. I had not considered this issue until now and I have to give it more thought. Third, the fourth claim alleges SB violates due process by expanding who can bring state-court suits beyond Article III; that is nonsense.

As an abortion-rights supporter, I am glad to see the community moving past the simple approach of WWH (which was bound to fail) and identifying real, if more complicated, ways to challenge the validity of the law.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 23, 2022 at 01:53 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, March 21, 2022

Legal Misunderstanding March Madness

Via Mike Masnick at TechDirt. Here is the Spreadsheet for downloading.

Have fun. And watch for Fire in a Theater, underseeded at a 6.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2022 at 09:44 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Exclusivity and personal rights in bounty litigation

Those insisting that SB8 is unprecedented and those warning of every new law "modeled" on SB8 ignore that we have been leaving in a similar world for some time. Two Ninth Circuit cases show the prevalence of such laws and the broader implications of the surrounding procedural arguments.

California law requires businesses to post signs when their produces contain certain carcinogens. "Any person in the public interest" may bring suit against a business that fails to post signs; the penalty is $ 2500 per violation per day, with "any person" keeping 25 % plus attorney's fees. Like California's former false-advertising laws, private enforcement is not exclusive and the AG and other public officials can initiate enforcement actions.

In B&G Foods, the target of a state enforcement action brought a § 1983 action against the "any person" state plaintiff (a serial enforcer). The court assumed the "any person" was a state actor, then held the lawsuit barred by Noerr-Pennington, under which a person cannot be liable under federal law (including a § 1983 constitutional action) for the petition activity of seeking relief in state court. In California Chamber of Commerce, the court declared the state law constitutionally invalid as violating business' First Amendment rights against compelled expression; it enjoined the AG and an intervenor environmental organization from future enforcement.

The federal plaintiff in B&G did what Rocky and I proposed--sued the "any person" state plaintiff as a state actor to enjoin that enforcement action and to establish precedent about the constitutional validity of state law. I think the court was correct in rejecting the claim, although for the wrong reason. I would say the state plaintiffs did not act under color because their enforcement authority is not exclusive and they do not keep the entire public-serving penalty. If these plaintiffs act under color, then every private A/G and qui tam plaintiff acts under color; it should not be that broad. At the same time, although seemingly consistent with Ninth Circuit precedent, this expands Noerr-Pennington by giving state and local governments petition rights. It thus protects private persons who act on behalf of the government, as opposed to petitioning on behalf of their personal/private interests, which was the original basis for NP. We may have to explore that more in-depth.

Chamber did not address whether the advocacy group acts under color, which should have been necessary to enjoining them from future enforcement. On the other hand, I credit the court with self-restraint in not enjoining non-party private persons from bringing new enforcement actions.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2022 at 04:31 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Endo and Beerdsen on discovery as practice

The new Courts Law essay comes from Seth Katsuya Endo (Florida), reviewing Edith Beerdsen, Discovery Culture, 57 Georgia L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022). The article and the review are great. I used this idea of discovery as norms and practices in teaching that section last week.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 21, 2022 at 10:45 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Maybe we have always been crazy as a nation

Long teaching story coming up.

I end the Discovery portion of Civ Pro by having the class argue the discovery issues in Coca Cola Bottling Co. v. Coca Cola. The case involved a contract dispute between a bottling company and Coca Cola following introduction of Diet Coke and New Coke; the bottler sought production of the formula for original Coca Cola, the court agreed and ordered production, and Coca Cola refused to comply with the order, resulting in sanctions. (Marcus, Redish, Sherman, Pfander included this as a note case--I repurposed it as an in-class hypo). I split the room in half, each representing one party. Many students highlight it as an especially fun class session.

Slate's Hang Up and Listen podcast ends each episode with the line "Remember Zelmo Beatty" (Beatty is a Hall of Fame professional basketball player from the '60s and '70s, the "remember" thing is a riff on an old interview in which David Letterman asked Shaq about old-time players and Shaq admitted to not knowing who Beaty was). I stole the idea end each Civ Pro class session by telling the students to "Remember" someone who is in some obvious or non-obvious way relevant to something we did in class that day. Sometimes it is clear--David Souter on the day of Twiqbal or Milton Shadur on the day of his quixotic effort to get defendants to follow the damn rules in their responsive pleadings. Sometimes it is more obscure--Raymond James Donovan on the day of relation back, Tennessee Williams on the day of International Shoe, or Preston and Charlotte Grace on the day of tag jurisdiction Sometimes it is about the day rather than the course materials--Robert Briscoe (the Jewish former Lord Mayor of Dublin) yesterday. (I leave it to readers to figure all of these out). Once students overcome the initial confusion of why they are supposed to remember some random person, they have fun with it; at least one person does an end-of-semester creative project with pictures or biographical information on everyone they are supposed to remember.

Today we did the Coca Cola problem and I told them to remember Roberto Goizueta Cantera, the CEO of Coca Cola during the New Coke fiasco. Goizueta was born in Cuba, educated in the U.S., and worked for Coca Cola in Cuba before defecting after Castro came to power. Nevertheless, in the public blowback to New Coke, some people pointed out that he was Cuban and suggested that New Coke was a communist plot.

Thus the title of this post.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 18, 2022 at 01:29 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 17, 2022

On permanent Daylight Savings Time

It is said that the fact that a law has bipartisan support proves it is a bad idea--if everyone agrees, there must be something wrong with it. I would add the same about any law that Marco Rubio proposes or supports.

Case in point is response to the bill--introduced by Rubio and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent--making Daylight Savings Time permanent. . Josh Barro takes down the idea (including a list of when sunrise might occur in major cities), which also was discussed on NPR's 1A. I have learned a few things.

    • As usual, bad understanding of public opinion has been used to support the law. Supporters insist an overwhelming majority wants the change. But what a majority wants is an end to twice-yearly time changes. There is no majority supporting permanent Daylight Savings as opposed to permanent Standard (I prefer the latter).

    • We tried this as a two-year experiment in winter 1974 (I do not remember it--I was 5); everyone hated it so much that Congress repealed the law that summer. Science supports permanent Standard time if anything--it is better for sleep cycles and energy levels to have light when waking up and starting the day than having light at the end of the day.

     • Some observant Jews are unhappy because it makes it difficult to attend morning prayers in synagogue before going to work or school in places where sunrise might be as late as 9 a.m. (although their bosses will be happy because they can work later on Fridays year-round, as Shabbat begins later).

Of course, the Senate did not debate any of this.

I cannot find the link, but one argument in favor of this change finds support in the habits of the pandemic experience. While working/schooling from home, people woke up later and went outside in the mid-to-late afternoon. Permanent DST conforms to those habits--no need for light at 7 a.m. if people are sleeping to 8 or 9, more need for light at 5 p.m. if that is when people venture out. Perhaps. But if the goal is to return to "normal" (i.e., pre-pandemic) life the disconnect between how we live and the light returns. My kid is back to  school at 8, which means leaving the house at 7, which means waking up at 6--all in the dark.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 17, 2022 at 10:11 AM in Culture, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Younger analysis was not much better

Gerard explains why the district court in Cawthorn was wrong on the merits. Here is why the court was wrong in not abstaining under Younger.

    1) The court held that the federal proceedings had gone further and faster than the state proceedings, therefore the federal proceeding did not interfere with the state proceedings. This reverses the presumption that a state proceeding be allowed to continue and that the district court stay its hand. Courts consider the relative progress of the proceedings where the federal action is filed first; courts abstain if the federal action had not gone very far. (This is problematic, because it creates perverse incentives for prosecutors, but it is what we are stuck with). It does not work in reverse; if the state proceeding is filed first, the federal court cannot proceed, full stop.

    2) The court also said the relative progress and the multiple layers of state proceedings meant Cawthorn did not have an adequate opportunity to raise his constitutional arguments i. But adequate opportunity is about whether the party has an opportunity to raise and have resolved issues in the state proceeding, including on subsequent state judicial review of an administrative proceeding. Federal courts do not superintend (otherwise-constitutional) state processes and decline abstention if those state proceedings do not move to the liking of the district court.

    3) The court said this case iimplicates "federal interests in interpreting federal law and the U.S. Constitution." As stated, this swallows Younger. All Younger cases require interpretation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution; if the state proceeding involved only state law, the federal court would not have jurisdiction from which to abstain. So if interpretation of federal law is sufficient, no court would abstain. The whole point of Younger is that any "federal interest" in interpreting federal law is not exclusive or can be satisfied by SCOTUS review of the state proceedings.

The Fourth Circuit should not reach the merits, as Gerard suggests, because abstention, as defined, is warranted here.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 16, 2022 at 11:15 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, March 14, 2022

What is a SLAPP law?

The Southern District of New York denied Donald Trump's motion for leave to amend to add an affirmative defense and counterclaim under New York's amended (and-retroactive?) anti-SLAPP law. I will test on this case this year or next, because it discusses several elements of denying leave to amend--undue delay, dilatory motive, futility. The court called out Trump's incompetent newish attorney for insisting that leave should not be denied for futility because they should not have to defend every use of the SLAPP at this stage; that argument ignored (or did not understand) that futility applies a dismissal analysis at the amendment stage--the court explores whether an amendment can survive dismissal and if it cannot, the court denies leave. The case also raises a nice Erie question--Judge Rakoff in Palin held the SLAPP law is retroactive but an intermediate state court held it is not; what is a district court to do going forward?

For this post, I want to focus on the court's analysis of the SLAPP law as it affects the futility analysis, because I think people are confused as to what a SLAPP law is and does. Trump wanted to add an affirmative defense and a counterclaim under the SLAPP law. The court rejected both. I think it reached the right conclusion for the wrong reason as to the former and may have been wrong as to the latter.

Defense

The court rejected the affirmative defense as futile because the SLAPP does not create an affirmative defense. It does not involve new facts and does not "knock[] plaintiff out of court if all the allegations of her complaint are true." Instead, it provides for recovery of fees for success and changes procedures applied to state-law actions.

But this seems to hang on semantics. We typically think of two types of defenses--failure of proof (the plaintiff cannot prove her alleged, disputed facts) and affirmative (new facts preclude liability if the plaintiff proves her facts). The SLAPP law does require new facts--the speech sued on must have some "connection with an issue of public interest" to trigger special procedural protections or to make attorney's fees available; although it is not clear Trump's lawyer pleaded them in the proposed amended answer (a distinct basis for futility), they are additional facts. Without those new facts, the SLAPP law still provides some type of defense--a way to avoid liability for a claim.

If the court is correct that SLAPP is not an affirmative defense to be pleaded in an answer, how or when does a defendant raise an anti-SLAPP law? Perhaps the law comes into play by providing the legal standards and mechanisms when Trump moves to dismiss. It is not a distinct defense, but the legal standard governing dismissal. I am not sure that is right. A party can assert failure to state a claim as an affirmative defense in a pleading rather than via motion; the SLAPP law provides a different standard for deciding a plaintiff  fails to state a claim. We might think about it this way--would/could Trump have pleaded the SLAPP law as a defense in an original responsive pleading? If a defendant planned to ask for anti-SLAPP attorney's fees (which are available in federal court) should he prevail, would he include that among the defenses pleaded in the answer? If so, it is a defense that can be raised in an amended responsive pleading.

If the court is right, this decision does not hurt Trump. Without this new answer, he can move to dismiss the complaint (coming post-answer it would be a motion for judgment on the pleadings, but same difference for these purposes) and argue that SLAPP procedures apply to that motion. He will lose on that, as explained below; but he will be able to at least attempt to assert the law not as an affirmative defense but as the legal standard for attacking the validity of the claim.

If the court is wrong and the SLAPP law is a defense that can be raised in a pleading, the court correctly denied leave as futile for a different reason--the SLAPP law's procedural provisions (other than the fees provision) do not apply in federal court, where FRCP 12 and 56 provide the standards and mechanisms for pre-trial review and rejection of a state claim. The amendment would be futile because the new defense would not survive a Rule 12(f) motion to strike an insufficient defense.*

[*] Futility generally applies to new claims that cannot survive a motion to dismiss. But an affirmative defense, which involves new facts and new law in the same way as a claim, can be futile if it cannot survive a motion to strike (the counterpart to dismissal for a defense).

Counterclaim

The court held amendment was futile as to the counterclaim because the SLAPP law does not apply in federal court, so the counterclaim would not survive a motion to dismiss. This was wrong.

New York's amended SLAPP law allows a defamation defendant to recover compensatory and punitive damages on a showing of improper purpose in bringing the defamation action; it is analogous to the tort of abuse of process (which often is asserted as a counterclaim to a specious tort claim). A counterclaim cannot be swept aside on Erie/Hanna grounds. Used as a counterclaim, the SLAPP law does not dictate the manner and means for adjudicating substantive defamation rights in Carroll's claim (the manner and means derive from the FRCP); it provides a distinct set of state-law rights and remedies for Trump for a distinct injury. Regardless of the counterclaim's chance of success, it is different than ordinary procedural rules for defending the defamation claim and cannot be deemed categorically unavailable in federal court.

Again, I am criticizing the court's reasoning more than its conclusion to deny leave, which was probably correct. It might have found the amendment futile (and denied leave to amend) by focusing on other reasons  the counterclaim would not survive a motion to dismiss. Perhaps the SLAPP law is not retroactive; perhaps the proposed amended pleading did not allege facts showing improper purpose. Alternatively, the court may have rightly denied leave for reasons other than futility, such as undue delay--Trump waited more than 14 months before seeking leave without good explanation. But the court's reasoning in rejecting amendment is problematic.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 14, 2022 at 09:31 AM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2022

No offensive challenges to SB8 against licensing bodies

In Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson, an offensive challenge to SB8, eight Justices (all but Thomas) held that litigation could proceed against state licensing bodies (medical, nursing, pharmaceutical, etc.) to enjoin them from "indirectly" enforcing the heartbeat ban by using performance of a prohibited abortion as the predicate for an administrative sanction. The Court remanded to the Fifth Circuit, which certified to the Supreme Court of Texas whether state law allowed such indirect enforcement. The state court on Friday answered that certified question "no," holding that making private civil litigation the "exclusive" enforcement mechanism meant that no state body had any power to regulate or sanction any person for any SB8 violations in any way.

This is a setback, although a relatively minor one because the action against the medical board could have limited effect. An injunction would have stopped the boards from pursuing licensure actions against providers. It would not have protected those aiders-and-abetters (advocates, Uber drivers, etc.); the state does not license or regulate them or their behavior. And it would not have stopped private "any persons" from bringing civil suits. The suit and injunction would have provided federal precedent declaring SB8 constitutionally invalid and a speedier path to SCOTUS review of the merits. But it would not have stopped the main enforcement mechanisms or cleared the way for providers to return to medical practice as usual.

There may be a way to salvage this action and push federal litigation. One plaintiff, Alan Braid (the doctor who announced having performed a prohibited abortion in the Washington Post), is a defendant in two state-court actions over that abortion, one brought by the Texas Heartbeat Project and one by a disbarred Arkansas lawyer under house arrest. Braid could amend the complaint to name them as defendants acting under color and seeking to enjoin them from pursuing their civil actions. (Braid also has a § 1983 and interpleader action in federal court in Illinois against a third SB8 plaintiff who nonsuited).

Meanwhile, Braid can move to dismiss the pending state actions on the ground that SB8 is constitutionally invalid and proceed to litigate the constitutional issues defensively in state court.

In a bizarre way, this might help judicial challenges to SB8. As Rocky and I argue, this offensive challenge was dubious, given how SB8 was drafted and how it operates. Unable to pursue any "ordinary" mechanism, providers and advocates can focus on unusual-but-available mechanisms on which they are more likely to succeed.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 11, 2022 at 01:20 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 07, 2022

Disaggregating government and its employees

Civil rights doctrine suffers from strange and inconsistent disconnects between government and government officials, especially law enforcement. Municipal liability is difficult (and state liability impossible) because individual officers are the presumptive targets of litigation. Individual officers have qualified immunity because it is unfair to hold them individually liable for all but the most egregious mistakes (and even then . . .). But indemnification means the municipality pays any judgment and thus bears the costs, if not the liaiblity, for the rare non-immune constitutional misconduct. The government bears the burden (and costs) to handle misbehaving officers outside of constitutional liability.

But that disconnect leaders to this Second Circuit case holding that the New York Police Benevolent Association, the officers' union, could intervene in a lawsuit challenging New York and NYPD policies during the 2020 George Floyd protests. The PBA, on behalf of its members, had a distinct interest in defending police policies and practices against constitutional challenge, an interest the government of New York City could not adequately protect. It is true that an employer's interest may diverge from that of its employees. But the logic of this decision places the union, on behalf of its members, on an equal footing with the municipal government and the department (which has never shown itself hostile to or willing to do anything about misbehaving officers) in making public policy and in deciding what policies are constitutionally valid and wise.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 7, 2022 at 09:19 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 03, 2022

If only they could sue the state

SCOTUS holds that the (new) state AG should have been allowed to intervene when the (new) secretary of health services declined to continue litigating the offensive challenge to the constitutional validity of a 15-week abortion ban. Justice Alito writes for 6; Kagan writes for herself Breyer, agreeing that intervention should have been allowed but objecting to majority grounding its analysis in constitutional imperatives surrounding state power to defend its laws; and Sotomayor dissents.

Of course, all of this could be avoided by recognizing that the state enforces state law (through whichever individuals state law designates) and allowing rights holders to sue the state to stop enforcement of the law (by whichever individuals state law designates). Were the challenges to the abortion ban able to sue and litigate against Kentucky, there would be no need for the federal court to consider intervention; the question of who is deciding Kentucky's litigation choices and strategy could be resolved within the state executive.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2022 at 05:08 PM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heckling, counter-speech, and heckler's vetoes (again)

UC-Hastings Fed Soc invited Ilya Shapiro to speak, but he was shouted down by the audience (several videos in links). FIRE labeled this a heckler's veto. The Hastings administration condemned the students because "the act of silencing a speaker is fundamentally contrary to the values of this school as an institution of higher learning; it is contrary to the pedagogical mission of training students for a profession in which they will prevail through the power of analysis and argument." And it is threatening to enforce conduct-code provisions for disrupting the event, while continuing "efforts to ensure that we equip all community members with the knowledge and skills to engage respectfully, thoughtfully, and sensitively with each other and with a wide array of theories, identities, political viewpoints, and perspectives."

I have discussed the uncertainty about the lines among counter-speech, heckling, unprotected counter-speech, and hecklers' vetoes. But what I wrote here bears repeating and elaborating. The protesting students were in the wrong, but for narrow reasons. And it cannot be resolve by invoking the dreaded heckler's veto.

The students did not engage in a heckler's veto. They engaged in heckling, a form of Bradneisian counter-speech. Were Shapiro speaking on an open campus sidewalk and the protesting students shouted back from an adjoining sidewalk, this should be the result. Same if the students remained outside the room or outside the building producing similar noise. There is nothing improper in heckling or attempting to "shout down" a speaker.

The protest crossed the line and lost its protection via the neutral rules of the classroom forum,. Those rules presumably granted Shapiro (and the student group that invited him and reserved the room) a greater expressive right than the dissenting audience members; those neutral rules made Shapiro and Fed Sco preferred first speakers. The source of the heckler's veto is not the protesting students or the attempt to shout Shapiro down and prevent him from being heard. The source lies in the administration failing to remove the disruptive students or otherwise control the situation; governmental inaction or failure to protect deprived him of the ability to speak. The government could have shut the protesting students up or removed from the room; it can sanction them after the fact. The removed students cannot claim their speech rights were violated; by heckling in that time and place, they engaged in civil disobedience, an unlawful act for which they must be willing to pay a price. The open question is whether post-event sanction of the (improperly) protesting students is sufficient to overcome the charge of a heckler's veto; I would say not, but this is a separate question.

I continue to reject the administration's command for respectful, thoughtful, and sensitive engagement with competing viewpoints and theories. Shapiro, like any first speaker, bore no such obligation--he could say whatever he wanted and need not listen to or respectively engage with any disagreeing audience member or what she had to say (I am not saying Shapiro would have approached it this way, only that he bore no obligation to hear and engage with any audience member). The administration was wrong to impose such an obligation on the heckling students. The students were in the (legal) wrong because of the forum rules, not because of some broader compelled commitment to respectful dialogue to which only they are subject.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2022 at 12:03 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Egbert v. Boule argument

My SCOTUSBlog recap and the transcript. A couple of moments of levity, which I used in the headline. The first involves Gorsuch saying the Smuggler's Inn "has been disparaged in its quality today" and Boule's counsel interjecting "unfairly." The second involves Alito, asking why Boule told Egbert about his arriving guest and wondering what he might do if "one of us was going to check in" and Kagan adding "suspicious characters," which made Alito laugh.

I do not predict these things because I always get them wrong. But the argument went better for Boule than I expected. Everyone pushed Egbert's counsel and the U.S. about how this case differs from an ordinary 4th Amendment Bivens claim and did not push back much on Boule's argument that the analysis ends when events occur near the border. I do not know if that means Boule wins. But they seemed to be wrestling with the mess they created in Abbassi.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 3, 2022 at 09:58 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

The future of Bivens

I am covering Egbert v. Boule for SCOTUSBlog; argument is tomorrow. My preview is here. The plaintiff is a character--he runs the "Smuggler's Inn" B&B near the Canadian border, has "SMUGLER" as his license plate, knew that some guests used his property to get into Canada (his land abuts a fenceless border), and was convicted of violating Canadian immigration law for helping people cross the border. The case arose from Boule trying to keep a Border Patrol agent from questioning a B&B guest and the agent getting pissed off and reporting him to the IRS and other agencies. Given the characters involved, the case resembles Wilkie v. Robbins--western iconoclast who does not trust or want to cooperate with the government and government officials responding by abusing legal apparatuses to make his life difficult.

The case will tell us what, if anything, remains of Bivens. The cert petition asked the Court to reconsider Bivens, but the Court did not grant on that QP. The agent (although not the U.S.) argues that Bivens extensions are categorically barred. The question is whether being a Border agent and/or being near an international border overcomes the many ways this case is closer to Bivens than to the Court's recent rejections.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on March 1, 2022 at 10:47 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 28, 2022

Quick thoughts on the Jackson nomination (Update)

1) The new attack appears to be "high reversal rate." Steve Vladeck shows some (noisy) numbers which suggest her reversal rate is lower than average. But why does this matter? Reversal means two or three randomly assigned court of appeals judges disagreed with her. It does not mean she was "wrong" or "incorrect" or "bad" in some platonic sense, so as to make her unqualified. This argument should run aground on the statement by (appropriately) Justice (Robert) Jackson--"we are not final because we are infallible, we are infallible because we are final." The court of appeals reversal is "right" because we have a hierarchical judiciary. It should not suggest anything about the wisdom or qualifications of either the trial judge reversed or the appellate judges reversing. I suppose someone could try to make a point about reversals suggesting someone outside the mainstream, whatever that means. But R. Jackson's comment works for mainstream as much as for correctness--the court of appeals defines the mainstream because it is final.

2) Jackson's trial-court experience will be a plus because the widest range of experiences among members of a multi-member body is a good thing. I am not sure of its broad doctrinal effects. I have been trying to think of recent major procedural decisions that made life difficult or easy for district courts and how having a former trial judge might have changed the Court's decision. Twiqbal was decided by a Court without trial experience (Sotomayor joined the Court a few months later), but but the Court has not done much with it in recent years. The 2015 discovery amendments empowered trial judges to manage cases, but those came about through the REA rather than through case resolution. Sotomayor was the lone dissenter on the narrowing of general jurisdiction, but I cannot tell how her judicial experience affected her position.

Jackson's trial experience may be less about forward-looking doctrine than about resolution of individual cases, especially those on the shadow docket. The increased activity in emergency relief and cert grants before judgment reflect a certain distrust of trial-court judges. SCOTUS gets to decide, not one district judge somewhere. Cares therefore should not remain in the trial court for long, the rhetoric of appellate deference disguises close review, and the trial court's decision (granting or denying relief) should not have real effect; the trial judge is a quick step for parties to clear before the real work begins on appeal, not owed real deference. Perhaps Jackson will push back on this trend and push her colleagues to show actual deference to trial courts.

3) The meaningful point is her experience as a public defender and defending Guantanamo detainees, about which Andy Koppelman writes.

4) Jackson will be confirmed, probably with 2-3 Republican votes (I read the over-under is 56; take the under). Everything around it will be noise, although with some "soft on crime" demagoguery to spice things up.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 28, 2022 at 04:29 PM in Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

JOTWELL: Erbsen on Bookman & Shanahan on lawyerless courts

The new Courts Law essay comes from Allan Erbsen (Minnesota), reviewing Pamela K. Bookman & Colleen F. Shanahan, A Tale of Two Civil Procedures, 122 Colum. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2022), which considers how procedure operates in the many courts dominated by pro se litigants. This is the latest in a run of articles and JOTWELL essays considering procedure on the ground outside of the federal courts we focus on in the classroom and in much scholarship.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 28, 2022 at 08:48 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Tenure

The latest Academic Freedom Podcast interviews Matthew Finkin (Illinois) about Dan Patrick's stupidity and the history of tenure. Finkin argues that academic tenure was modeled on Article III tenure (albeit with a lengthy initial probationary period) as a way of protecting the pursuit of "truth" in the face of hostile popular opinion. Finkin says that, from his litigation experience, state judges (who lack such protections in most states) struggle with the concept of tenure when it arises in litigation more than do federal judges (who enjoy similar protections).

So how should we think about academic tenure in a time when many people across the political spectrum have soured on life tenure for judges. If it does not work in the courts, does it work in the academy? Alternatively, why are they different? The obvious difference is power. Many object to one person exercising political power to affect millions (even if only as one of nine) for 35 years. Nothing academics say inside or outside the classroom affects so many people in so direct a way. Another difference is political valence. Those seeking to change Article III in some way come from across the spectrum; systemic attacks on academic tenure come exclusively from the right (although the left does not like and would like to strip tenure in individual cases). But the pushback to Article III reflects concerns about insulation, isolation, being out of touch with the evolution of law, politics, and society. Is that less of a concern for professors and why?

I have come around to the 18-year Carrington Plan (if Eric Segall's even Court cannot happen). At the same time, I am in my nineteenth year of teaching, my fourteenth with tenure. I started to really figure out what I am doing--as a writer and in the classroom--five or six years ago. I cannot imagine my career being over in four years.

One different point, intended more for humor: Someone floated a proposal to split offense and defense in baseball--nine players bat, a different nine players play the field. It is a dumb proposal, in part because we value both skills. We also sometimes trade one for the other--accepting the great-hitter/poor-fielding first baseman or the little-hit/great-glove middle infielder. Much as we might accept the great-scholar who is not a good teacher or the great teacher who does not write. So match the skills--does teaching align with fielding or hitting.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 26, 2022 at 08:59 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Solving the Procedural Puzzles of the Texas Heartbeat Act, Part I

The first of Rocky's and my (hopefully) three SB8 articles has been published in American University Law Review. This focuses on how providers cannot and can challenge SB8 through offensive litigation, including why WWH was correct and other offensive options the Court did not consider. AULR's editors were impressive in turning the piece around in less than three months after the Court's decision We are editing the second piece, forthcoming in SMU Law Review and focused on how defensive litigation may play out. The third piece, on New York Times as historical analogue, sits on a law review editorial desk near you.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 16, 2022 at 10:28 PM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 14, 2022

Weird procedure and Palin v. New York Times (Updated Several Times)

Jed Rakoff is an excellent judge. But his approach to Palin v. NYT has been procedurally bizarre.

First, he held an evidentiary hearing (testimony from James Bennett, the op-ed's primary author) in deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, without converting to summary judgment; the Second Circuit reversed. Second, Rajoff denied summary judgment, hinting that the evidence did not support actual malice by clear-and-convincing evidence but that it was not his job to weigh the evidence. This was proper, although unusual--most judges are not so forgiving of plaintiffs.

Today, Rakoff announced he would grant the Times's motion for judgment as a matter of law, although the jury is deliberating and he will allow the jury to reach a verdict. It is not unusual for a judge to let a case go the jury knowing he will grant JML. He gives the jury a chance to get it "right" and enters judgment on the verdict, insulating his opinion from appellate review. But he can resolve the case as he sees fit if the jury gets it "wrong." But it is unusual (and perhaps improper?) to announce that intention while the jury is deliberating. If any juror learns of Rakoff's announcement, that seems to provide a basis for reversal of a judgment on the verdict or at least a new trial--the deliberations become a sham if the jurors know how the case ends regardless of what they do. If there is a chance the jury learns of his announcement it presents at least a colorable new-trial or appellate issue that will make life tougher for the Times in defending the judgment. [Update: On further thought, Rakoff could grant a new trial, then grant summary judgment before the new trial begins or JML after the plaintiff's case n the second trial]

Further Update: Jury finds for NYT. This moots the above discussion, although it remains a weird process, unless we somehow learn that jurors learned about Rakoff's plan before the verdict. Watch out for news reports saying that NYT lives another day or that the Court or jury reaffirmed NYT, which reflect basic ignorance about what district courts do.

Further, further Update: It turns out the use of NYT and actual malice as the standard is based in part on New York's anti-SLAPP statutewhich codifies actual malice (likely as a hedge against SCOTUS overruling)* although in an amendment enacted after the op-ed was published. Judge Rakoff held, as a matter of New York law, that the law applied retroactively and the instructions to apply actual malice applied the statute and the First Amendment. Overruling New York Times as the constitutional standard would not change the standard under New York law, meaning the result would be the same. SCOTUS typically does not take cases that turn on state law.

[*] This presents the opposite of a zombie law--a statute that continues providing heightened protection of individual rights when the Constitution does not require that heightened protection. Like RFRA or RLUIPA. What do we call them? Super Laws, as they not only are no undead but enjoy extraordinary powers? I wish I had thought to include this opposite category in the paper.

Further, further, further update: The jury found out via push notifications on their phones. The jurors insist it did not affect their deliberations. Judge Rakoff notifed the parties and gave them the opportunity to seek any relief they believe appropriate based on this, while noting that no party objected to his plan to issue his FRCP 50 order while allowing the jury to continue deliberating. Everyone is scrambling to figure out what effect, if any, this will have.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 14, 2022 at 07:17 PM in Civil Procedure, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 13, 2022

SSRN fallout? (Udpated Twice)

Are schools discussing or planning responses to SSRN on the Ann Lipton debacle-stopping their legal studies series (permanently or temporarily), stopping posting new papers (permanently or temporarily), something else?

Leaving comments open for real responses. I will delete unrelated comments.

Update: Several people say that HLR did not withdraw Lipton's publication offer and did receive a C&D letter (resolving a question raised in the comments). I regret the suggestion that faculty could, might, or should impose negative consequences on the review and have deleted that reference from the first paragraph.

Update, Update: Ann updated her post to report that SSRN restored the paper and posted an explanation to Twitter announcing that it had changed its policy of pulling papers while investigating defamation complaints.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 13, 2022 at 11:20 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (6)

Friday, February 11, 2022

JOTWELL: Smith on Citron & Solove on privacy harms

The new Courts Law essay comes from Fred Smith, Jr. (Emory) reviewing Danielle Keats Citron & Daniel J. Solove, Privacy Harms, 102 B.U. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2022), which explores how to better recognize and remedy privacy violations.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 11, 2022 at 10:04 AM in Article Spotlight, Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

New York Times v. Sullivan as Historical Analogue

Charles W. "Rocky" Rhodes and I have posted to SSRN the third piece in our series on SB8--Solving the Procedural Puzzles of the Texas Heartbeat Act and its Imitators: New York Times as Historical Analogue. The piece compares Alabama's defamation regime and the coordinated campaign of private civil litigation to silence the northern media and stop coverage of the civil rights moves, none of which triggered offensive litigation.

The Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8) prohibits abortions following detection of a fetal heartbeat, while delegating exclusive enforcement through private civil actions brought by “any person,” regardless of injury, for statutory damages of a minimum of $ 10,000 per prohibited abortion. Texas sought to burden reproductive-health providers and rights advocates with costly litigation and potentially crippling liability.

This Article—the third in a series unpacking S.B.8’s procedural puzzles—considers the historical analogue of New York Times v. Sullivan, the Court’s foundational modern free-speech case. Like S.B. 8, New York Times arose out of a campaign to deter locally unpopular-but-constitutionally protected activity through threat of hundreds of lawsuits and devastating liability; southern governments used state defamation law and private civil litigation to silence The Times and other media outlets from reporting on Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement. As with S.B. 8, state defamation law was enforced through private civil damages litigation. As with S.B.8, defendants faced severe monetary exposure through the cost of litigation and potential liability. But defendants in New York Times could not go to federal court ahead of any private lawsuit and seek to functionally enjoin the state’s trial courts. Rather, the paper litigated defensively, with successful review to the Supreme Court of the United States; providers can follow the same process to challenge the substantive validity of the Texas heartbeat ban.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 8, 2022 at 04:05 PM in Article Spotlight, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Teaching anti-canon

Gerard and Eric Segall reflect on teaching Roe/Casey, perhaps for the final time, in the shadow of Dobbs and the prospective end of constitutional protection for abortion. Gerard also notes that the end of affirmative action may be looming, raising similar issues for teaching Baake and Grutter.

It raises interesting questions about when and how to teach anti-canon, previously canonical cases that no longer are good law. Should we still teach abortion or affirmative action as "this is what the law was for 50 years and this is how and why it ceased to be the law?" Does it matter that the old law remains relevant to the sub-constitutional law being enacted in states and in Congress affecting the rights at issue (that is, as students watch states ban abortion, should they understand what the law was that stopped and now allows that)? Is it time-limited--teach it to the next generation of students (e.g., those who are teens now) who have living memory of these rights, then phase it out over time? Is there a difference between anti-canon that has been overruled in an area that remains alive as part of constitutional law, so teaching it shows doctrinal evolution (e.g.Korematsu, Lochner, Plessy, Dred Scott)? Specifically for Con Law, does it depend on whether we conceptualize the course as teaching current (judicially enforced) constitutional doctrine to people who need to take and pass the bar exam (and who may encounter a remote constitutional issue over their careers but likely will not practice "constitutional law") or as something like a constitutional history course?

I do not teach Con Law, but we have had similar discussions in Civ Pro. I continue to teach Conley (which, in fairness, continues to be sort-of good-ish law), but I have reduced Pennoyer to a five-minute lecture on the power theory of jurisdiction (although time constraints drove this choice more than no longer valuing the case). The difference is that no one saw Twiqbal coming, the way we are watching Dobbs and Harvard like slow-moving freight trains. Even Egbert, while calling on the Court never to extend Bivens to the First Amendment or any other case not named Bivens, is not calling on the Court to overrule Bivens and eliminate damages actions against federal officers.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 2, 2022 at 09:57 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Why I stopped allowing comments to posts

This was an attempted comment on my post (on which I forgot to close comments) about a First Amendment controversy that garnered national media coverage and a federal court of appeals opinion. I think it shows why I made the correct decision.

That's OK, Howard. You can keep deleting my posts. Just know that when you post incessantly about Jews and Israel (including in the context of baseball, where 99% of the players obviously aren't Jewish), let alone prohibit comments on such posts, you confirm most of the world's views about American Jewry: you are self-obsessed, selfish, and lack any ability to see how you are perceived by others. I sincerely wish you knew, for EVEN ONE MOMENT, how much harm and grief your lot causes Jewry in other countries. For the love of Hashem, stop and think about why you're posting so much about the tribe and the Aretz on a blog that's ostensibly meant for ALL American law professors. Get your head out of your own ass, for fuck's sake.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 1, 2022 at 05:47 PM in Blogging, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taking Pico for a ride and other preocedural musings on removing books

Some thoughts on the flurry of efforts to remove* books and materials from school libraries and curricula.

[*] Some people are upset about the use of the word "ban" in this context since the books remain available from other sources. That is a dumb argument, but I do not feel like fighting it.

This offers an opportunity to revive and underrated William Brennan First Amendment opinion--Board of Island Trees v. Pico. A plurality (Brennan for Marshall, Stevens, and most of Blackmun) held that the First Amendment limits school power to remove materials from the library based on disagreement with the content or ideas expressed in those books. The Court is more deferential to school boards than it was in 1982, so perhaps this will not fly. But it is an argument worth watching.

Many efforts give parents private rights of action to sue over  stuff they do not like. Republican officials laud themselves for following the Texas S.B. 8 trick of using the threat of civil litigation and damages to influence behavior and believing that will avoid federal litigation, while not realizing that not everything is S.B. 8. Schools and school board must make any changes to curricula or libraries, even if those changes are made on threat of a private suit and private liability; that provides a government target for a suit challenging any removal on First Amendment grounds. Imagine anti-Ruby Bridges Parent A threatens a suit because the book makes his child feel bad that his grandparents opposed school integration and the school, fearing liability, removes the book; to the extent that raises First Amendment issues, I-would-like-my-kids-to-know=history parent X who want the book to remain can sue the board to enjoin removal. The latter parent's First Amendment rights should prevail over the former parent's state-law rights.

Going further on procedure: Perhaps Parent X can intervene in Parent A's suit against the school, arguing that X's kids have a First Amendment interest that will be impaired by the state suit and that the school will not sufficiently vindicate? Alternatively, perhaps Parent X, seeing Parent A's suit, can ask a federal court to enjoin Parent A's state lawsuit because the judgment in that suit would compel the government to remove some materials and thereby violate Parent X's (kids') rights? This would seem to fit three exceptions to § 2283 (depending on timing) and not be barred by Younger.

Finally, a matter of state procedure: If the removal of Ruby Bridges is required by state law because its presence  makes A's kids feel uncomfortable, does the removal of Ruby Bridges make X's kids feel uncomfortable, by denying the basic history of Louisiana in the 1950s? Perhaps A and X can sue the school for competing judgments. Or X intervene in A's suit to protect state-law interests in not having his kids feel uncomfortable. The key to defeating S.B. 8 is that "any person" can include a friendly plaintiff who wants to help Whole Woman's Health litigate the law. "Discomfort" is a similarly boundless concept that goes both ways and can allow some unexpected claims from unexpected sources.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on February 1, 2022 at 04:11 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Israel, Jewish teaching, and a strange law (Updated)

A teacher at a Jewish school in Westchester County, N.Y. has sued the Temple and Temple leaders, alleging that she was fired for writing statements critical of Israel on her personal blog (the post at issue was written after she was hired, before she started, and on my birthday, which may not be a material fact). The suit is brought under a provision of New York law that prohibits adverse employment action based on a person's "legal recreational activities," which the plaintiff alleges includes blogging (no comment). The story has garnered s attention, in the Jewish press because it exposes possible fault lines within the Jewish community over Israel and how anti-Zionism fits into Jewish teaching. A number of Jewish academics and leaders issued an open letter to the Temple supporting the woman.

The claim seems to me doomed under the ministerial exemption. Our Lady of Guadalupe says teachers are ministers (for FMLA and ADA purposes, but the First Amendment idea should carry), at least if their duties touch minimally on the religious. Paragraph 11 of the complaint says:

The job was secular rather than religious, and no religious ordination or training was required. The teaching responsibilities were essentially limited to the teaching and tutoring of the Hebrew language to WRT’s learners and students. The other job responsibilities involved assisting and supporting the development of social, cultural and community service programs for the teenagers in the WRT community. 

I doubt that is sufficient to get around the First Amendment. She is teaching Hebrew at least in part because it is necessary for students to learn prayers and "social, cultural, and community service programs" are part of the core of what a Temple does.

But I am wondering if we even reach the First Amendment. Does this law preclude an employer from taking action against someone who expresses or reveals objectionable views, views the employer believes inconsistent with its mission, if done as part of a lawful recreational activity? Can a kosher deli fire a waiter who attended the Unite the Right Rally? What if the Temple fired a custodian or security guard who attends a rally in support of Holocaust denial? If the law prohibits these actions, does that raise First Amendment problems as to the employer, who must employ someone with objectionable political views? If the employer could fire those employees, how does it get around this law? Can the employer fire a person not for their recreational activities (blogging, attending a rally) but for their expressed views, using the lawful recreational activities as evidence of those views?

Employment lawyers, please help.

Update: My colleague Kerri Stone offers this primer from a law firm discussing the law in the shadow of the 2020 protests. It seems to suggest that the law gives employees broad rights against adverse employment action for non-work expressive activity. It mentions a 2017 lawsuit by a NY Post sportswriter fired for comparing the inauguration of Donald Trump with Pearl Harbor and 9/11; the suit was dropped, but it might have had legs.

Update II: A reader emails to argue that the lawsuit is frivolous because the ministerial-exemption issue is so obvious and that this suggests an ulterior motive by the plaintiff, her lawyers, and those supporting her. There is a genuine moral question of whether and how synagogues should be open to competing views on Israel and whether support for Palestinian justice is consistent with Jewish commitments to social justice. But that is for the Jewish community and each synagogue to resolve. It does not belong in court. The ministerial exemption exists because courts should not be telling religious organizations what its. And that is why the reader suggests the plaintiff, her lawyers, and those supporting her may have an ulterior motive.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 27, 2022 at 10:09 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman, Judicial Process | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Breyer to retire

Story here. I presume Ketanji Jackson will be the nominee, which was part of the point of her elevation to the D.C. Circuit. Any chance Sinema or Manchin will throw a fit on this one?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 26, 2022 at 12:38 PM in Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Which parts of NYT v. Sullivan?

Sherry Colb writes about the cert petition in Coral Ridge Ministries, a series of defamation actions against the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling it a hate group. The petition, on which the Court called for a response, asks the Court to overrule New York Times or limit it to public officials and not public figures.

I have argued before that the talk of overruling NYT is non-specific to the point of inaccuracy. What do people want to eliminate--the actual malice requirement or the larger edifice created in later cases? Coral Ridge seems an inappropriate case for this issue, because this case should not fail on actual malice but because "hate group" is opinion based on subject criteria rather than a provable assertion of fact.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 24, 2022 at 01:13 PM in First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Which Jews? (Updated)

This Wall Street Journal essay by Mark Oppenheimer on rising antisemitism has generated some heat. The basic argument is that modern antisemitism in America targets the "shrinking minority of Jews who regularly do Jewish things in Jewish spaces"--attend synagogue or Jewish schools, shop at kosher markets, wear Jewish clothing, etc. But "for people who are Jewish but don’t do Jewish things, the U.S. is less oppressive than ever," as "gentlemen's agreement" antisemitism excluding Jews from neighborhoods, schools, clubs, etc., are "artifacts pf the past."

1) Some accuse Oppenheimer of victim-blaming, of telling that minority to stop doing Jewish things in Jewish spaces so as to avoid being targeted. That is not a fair reading. He is not telling anyone to stop attending these spaces. Quite the opposite--he  ends the piece by praising those who regard Jewish education or praying with fellow Jews as worth the risk. He was not blaming the "Jews who Jew it" or telling them to stop. He was making the point that the new American antisemitism is complicated--rather than an across-the-board societal phenomenon affecting all Jews equally, it is isolated and individualized.

2) Oppenheimer's premise is questionable on its terms. Charlottesville targeted all Jews, not only those who wear kippot and shop in kosher markets. Reports of recent antisemitic incidents seem to target Jews because they are Jewish while operating in secular spaces (although many of these overlap with Israel). Over the weekend, fliers were thrown in front of houses in Miami Beach and Surfside linking Jews to COVID and evil vaccinations (listing the Jews in the CDC, HHS, etc.); similar fliers have been distributed other places. No word on how they picked the houses. Was it random homes in two heavily Jewish towns? Did they look for mezzuzot? And is a mezzuzah "Jewing it," akin to wearing a yarmulke or is it akin to walking through life as Josh Goldberg? He may be right that violence seems to target the obviously Jewish. But a lot of antisemitism is non-violent.

3) The argument conflates institutional (or systemic) and individual antisemitism, so I think the base of his argument is flawed. He compares individual antisemitism, a lot of which is directed at Jewish spaces, with institutional or systemic antisemitism in secular spaces, which he argues no longer exists. But those are unique situations in which regular" Jews and "Jews who Jew it" may not be so different. Gentlemen's-agreement antisemitism in schools, clubs, law firms, and businesses appears to be an artifact of the past for all Jews--universities do not have quotas on Jewish students, regardless of level of observance. Meanwhile, if we focus on individual antisemitism, many Jews of all stripes have been targets  in many spaces. His argument might work if we compare violent antisemitism. High-profile violence appears to have been limited to "obvious" Jews. But that is a narrower and distinct argument.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 24, 2022 at 10:41 AM in Howard Wasserman, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Ann Arbor opts for more speech, not enforced silence

A group of anti-Israel protesters has demonstrated outside Ann Arbor's Beth Israel Synagogue every Shabbat since 2003. A tort lawsuit by some congregants against the protesters rightly failed. The Ann Arbor City Council last week passed a resolution "'condemn[ing] all forms of antisemitism, and in particular the weekly antisemitic rally on Washtenaw Avenue." and declaring "'its support for the Beth Israel Congregation, their guests, and all members of the Jewish Community in Ann Arbor, each of whom has the right to worship, gather, and celebrate free from intimidation, harassment, and fear of violence.'"

The Council passed the resolution on Tuesday evening, three days after Colleyville (which it does not mention), although it was in the works for several months. The synagogue had been calling on the city to do something for several years. The Council issued a resolution in 2004, a year after this began, but nothing more recent. The mayor has publicly condemned the protests and apologized to the congregation.

The resolution also "'calls upon the persons who rally to express antisemitism on Washtenaw Avenue to renounce extremism, disband, and cease their weekly show of aggressive bigotry.'” Which, that ought to do it, thanks very much, Ray. The group leader and the lead defendant is Henry Herskovitz, who I assumed was Jewish-but-vehemently anti-Israel; it seems he "identifies himself as a former Jew and has spread Holocaust denial and praised neo-Nazis in blog posts."

The Forward quotes Rabbi Nadav Caine that the synagogue declined involvement in the lawsuit out of hope and faith that the city would take a stand. That point is too bad. I had hoped the synagogue stayed out of the lawsuit because they knew the lawsuit could not and should not succeed. While they could not stop the congregants, they knew enough not to get involved.

David Super has a post about performative politics, which I may want to discuss further. Performative politics can take many forms. This resolution is one example of the form--dictum with no legal force and no likely practical force. But Brandeis might have had such performative steps in mind. Like the synagogue, the city can do nothing to stop these speakers or their speech. But they can take a public stance against those speakers and their speech as part of the public dialogue.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 22, 2022 at 11:44 AM in Constitutional thoughts, First Amendment, Howard Wasserman | Permalink | Comments (0)