Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2014-04

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether the Fourth Amendment Allows Reasonable Mistakes of Substantive Law Part One of a Two-Part Series of Columns

In the first of a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses a Fourth Amendment case in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split. In that case, Heien v. North Carolina, the Court is considering whether the Fourth Amendment protects against stops by a police officer who acts on the basis of a reasonable but erroneous interpretation of state law. Colb reviews the facts of Heien, explains what “reasonable seizures” are under the Fourth Amendment, and describes the differences between legal and factual errors. The second column, which will appear on Verdict on May 5, will address the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule and the impact of a ruling on the basis of good faith.

Adoption by Gay Couple Not Blocked by Illegal Surrogacy Agreement

Justia columnist and Hofsta law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a New York family court’s holding that the illegality of a surrogacy agreement should not preclude adoption of the children born from it. Grossman provides an overview of the practice of surrogacy and the legislation its advent sparked, and discusses New York law on that subject. She concludes that the court correctly balances the best interests of the children against the requirements of an outdated law on surrogacy.

Freedom, Taxes, and Forced Labor: A Strange Brew of Libertarianism and Marxism

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan sharply critiques the notion of “Tax Freedom Day” and the underlying idea that paying taxes constitutes forced servitude to the government. Buchanan describes the origins of that line of thinking and explains why, if taken to its logical conclusion, it makes no sense.

What Will the Supreme Court Do in the False Campaign Speech Case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, Argued This Week?

Justia columnist and UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a campaign regulation case in which the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this week. In that case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) challenged on First Amendment grounds an Ohio law criminalizing certain false statements concerning a candidate for public office. Amar predicts what the Supreme Court will do and contrasts that with what he believes the Court should do in this case.

Using the State to Bully Dissidents

Justia columnist and Chapman law professor Ronald Rotunda explains why the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is implicated by the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich for his donation to a committee that supported California Proposition 8, the California initiative that banned gay marriages in that state. He critiques the state law requiring disclosure on the grounds that it facilitates harassment of donors who wish simply to exercise their constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court Again Fractures Over Race

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. He provides a brief history of Supreme Court jurisprudence on race and contrasts that history with yesterday’s fractured opinions, which consist of a plurality opinion, three concurrences, and a dissent (with Justice Kagan recused). Dorf explains that while the decision has relatively low doctrinal stakes, the case exposes three important fault lines running through the Roberts Court.

The High Price of Badmouthing One’s Spouse During Divorce

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman discusses one aspect of the highly public divorce between Ira and Janice Schacter. She notes that a court recently held that the wife’s decision to vilify her husband in the press, which led to a reduction in his ability to attract clients, was sufficient cause to reduce her share of the marital property. Grossman comments on the judge’s reasoning and raises two key points that could bring the decision into question.

A Federal Court Looks at Wisconsin’s Political War

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a federal lawsuit that seeks to halt Wisconsin’s inquiry into potential abuses or misuses of that state’s campaign finance laws. Dean describes Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigations and explains the significance of a federal district judge’s denial of a motion to dismiss a case challenging one such proceeding that relates to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The Overland Park, Kansas, Anti-Semitic Killer, the Kansas RFRA, the Federal RFRA, and RLUIPA

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent shooting incident by a white supremacist in Overland Park, Kansas. She describes the suspect’s religious beliefs and explains how the Kansas RFRA, federal RFRA, and RLUIPA can be used if not to protect a murderer acting due to his beliefs, then at least other wrongdoers similarly motivated.

Animal Rights Activists Should Have Clear Notice of the Bounds of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)

Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on the March 2014 ruling by Chief Judge Lynch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which held that that five animal rights activists were not entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief stating that the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)—which criminalizes force, violence, and threats—is unconstitutional.

The Narrow (and Proper) Way for the Court to Rule in Hobby Lobby’s Favor

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, predict that Hobby Lobby will prevail in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. They add that it will be very important for the preservation of other important legal principles and public policies that the Court not rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor on too broad a basis. Thus, they comment on how the opinion should—and should not—be crafted.

Stalking Us as We Shop: HP’s New Smartshopper App

Hewlett Packard (HP) has unveiled a new mobile app that retailers can use to stalk people as they shop, to send them targeted ads and promotions. Called SmartShopper, it was unveiled at the Interop conference in Las Vegas at the end of March. It has the ability to send location-based smartphone offers to customers’ iPhones in real time. Promoted by Meg Whitman, CEO of HP, as a way for retailers to monetize their networks and build “tighter relationships with their customers,” this is not the first time that so-called stalker apps have been in the news as being intrusive of consumer privacy. Here, Justia columnist and U. Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry looks at two recent examples of so-called stalker-shopper apps, and legislative attempts to address these new ways of tracking our movements and behavior.

Just Shy of Bribery: The Roberts Court Embraces Francis Underwood’s View of Washington

Justia columnist and Cornell Law professor Michael Dorf critiques the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Comm’n striking down aggregate limits on individual contributions to political campaigns. Dorf argues that the Court’s plurality opinion is poorly reasoned and disregards the broader purpose of aggregate limits: to prevent wealthy donors from buying Congress as a whole.

Impeachment Insanity Has Consequences

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean describes a recent trend of hard-right conservatives using the impeachment process as a weapon against government officials with whom they have mere political differences. Dean comments on the “Impeach Obama” movement and explains why it is unfounded and dangerous. He explains how the trend is now also starting to affect state officials, and he cautions that the impeachment movement could have serious consequences and cause significant problems that its advocates seem not to understand.

Your Laws on RFRA

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s first and only decision on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and how it represents the Court’s inadequacy to apply RFRA. Hamilton describes the background of that case, Gonzales v. O Centro Esprita Beneficente Unio do Vegetal (UDV), as well as the unintended effects of the decision. She concludes that the Court should seriously contemplate its institutional limitations, think twice before discounting the government’s purposes, and employ common sense when considering the RFRA and the contraception mandate cases.

The “Agunah” Dilemma in Orthodox Jewish Circles

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on one manifestation of gender inequity inherent in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism—the “get” requirement for a religiously recognized divorce. Colb explains how this requirement gives the husband the unilateral power to decide whether and for how long the marriage lasts. She suggests that traditional communities should reinterpret divorce in a manner that allows any unhappy partner to successfully exit a marriage.

Undue Burden: New York City Police Officer Denied Opportunity to Take Sergeant’s Exam Because She Was Due to Give Birth the Same Day

Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a charge of discrimination filed against the City of New York for an allegedly unlawful testing accommodation policy. Grossman describes the facts alleged in the charge: an NYPD police officer was denied the opportunity to reschedule a sergeant’s exam despite that she was scheduled to give birth on the same day as the exam. Grossman then discusses the applicable laws, and she argues that the discriminatory policy is a manifestation of the erroneous mindset that pregnancy is a condition not worthy of even minor accommodation.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more