Alan E. Brownstein

Alan E. Brownstein

Alan Brownstein is a Professor of Law and the Boochever and Bird Endowed Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality at the University of California, Davis, School of Law.

Columns by Alan E. Brownstein

Why the Challenges to California’s Reproductive Fact Act Are Likely Unpersuasive

Vikram David Amar, dean and law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, and Alan Brownstein, professor at UC Davis School of Law, examine a court challenge brought against a recently enacted California law regulating family planning clinics. Amar and Brownstein argue that the law should survive these constitutional challenges.

The (Limited) Utility of State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs): Part Two in a Two-Part Series of Columns

UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein continue their discussion of state religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs). Amar and Brownstein discuss the original purpose of state RFRAs, the pros and cons of enacting a general religious liberty statute as opposed to granting accommodations on a case-by-case basis, and the best way for states to move forward in light of these considerations.

How Best to Understand State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs): Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns

UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein discuss state religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs). In this first of a two-part series of columns, Amar and Brownstein argue that whether a state RFRA should apply in private litigation should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What a California Proposal to Authorize the Killing of Gays Says About the Initiative Process and the First Amendment

UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan E. Brownstein discuss the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act”—a recently proposed California initiative. Amar and Brownstein argue that despite the clear illegality and immorality of the proposed initiative, many of the suggestions that the attorney who proposed it be punished or that the initiative process be altered to prevent these types of initiatives are themselves unconstitutional in some cases, and at best ill-advised in other cases.

The Equality and Coercion Issues Inadequately Addressed in Town of Greece v. Galloway

U.C. Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein express their surprise and disappointment at the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway, upholding a practice of starting town board meetings with a prayer. Amar and Brownstein argue that the decision inadequately addresses legitimate concerns over the plaintiff challengers’ equality- and liberty-based arguments. They conclude that Justice Kennedy, who authored the opinion, must view reality quite differently from how he did when he authored the majority opinion in Lee v. Weisman and struck down state-sponsored prayers at public middle and high school graduations.

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.

Consistency in the Treatment of Religious Liberty Claims: Hobby Lobby and Town of Greece Viewed Side by Side

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, comment on two key upcoming Supreme Court cases involving religion: (1) the highly-anticipated Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. cases that will be argued in the Supreme Court next month, and that involve challenges under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers must provide contraceptive services in their healthcare policies offered to employees; and (2) Town of Greece v. Galloway, which involves the permissibility of state-sponsored prayers before town board meetings.

The Ninth Circuit, in SmithKline v. Abbott Labs, Bars Lawyers From Removing Gay/Lesbian Jurors: Part Two in a Two-Part Series

In the second in a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, continue their commentary on a Ninth Circuit decision regarding the use of peremptory challenges in jury selection to eliminate gay or lesbian jurors. Amar and Brownstein also note the strong possibility of additional developments that may follow in this area of law, and a host of others, regarding gay and lesbian rights, especially if intermediate level scrutiny is held by the Supreme Court, in the future, to govern all types of sexual-orientation-based discrimination.

The Ninth Circuit, in SmithKline v. Abbott Labs, Bars Lawyers From Removing Gay/Lesbian Jurors

In Part One of this two-part series of columns, Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, discuss whether it violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause for a lawyer to “strike” (that is, remove) individuals from a jury panel on account of their sexual orientation. Part Two in this two-part series of columns will appear on February 14.

The Question of Disparate Speech Impact in the Court’s Upcoming McCullen v. Coakley Case

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, analyze a very intriguing issue raised by a case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month, McCullen v. Coakley, in which the plaintiffs challenge a Massachusetts law limiting pedestrian traffic near abortion clinics, because they seek to speak with women who are about to have an abortion and to attempt to deter them from doing so. Amar and Brownstein focus on how such laws ought to be categorized under Supreme Court precedent.

A Breakdown of this Week’s Supreme Court Oral Argument in the Town of Greece v. Galloway Case Involving Prayer at Town Board Meetings

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram David Amar, and Justia guest columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Alan Brownstein comment on the Supreme Court oral argument in the Town of Greece Establishment Clause case. As Amar and Brownstein explain, the case involves the interesting issue of the constitutionality of prayer at town board meetings.

Precisely How Much Academic Freedom Should (Does) the First Amendment Afford to Professors and Teachers at Public Schools? The Ninth Circuit’s Take in the Recent Demers v. Austin Case

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, analyze an important and interesting decision, Demers v. Austin, involving the First Amendment academic-freedom rights of public school and university faculty members that was handed down last week by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Amar and Brownstein argue that that a more concrete and categorical framework for resolving academic freedom disputes than the Ninth Circuit's needs to be fashioned.

What Should the Supreme Court do With Town Board Prayers in Galloway v. Town of Greece? A Liberty-Based Analysis That Bolsters the Second Circuit’s Equality-Based Ruling

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C. Davis law professors, comment on last week’s Supreme Court grant in Galloway v. Town of Greece, a case which raised the question whether it is constitutional for a Town board meeting to begin with a prayer that—while the Town claims that anyone can deliver the invocation—has in practice nearly only been delivered by Christian clergy. Amar and Brownstein agree with Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the Town’s practice constitutes an unconstitutional establishment of religion, and thus violates principles of religious equality. But they also contend that there is another important constitutional issue here, regarding religious liberty, as well, and they focus their column on that issue. They also contrast the roles of Town Boards and of State Legislatures in this context, and note why analogies to public schools are inapposite here.

How a Case About Decriminalization of Marijuana Has Substantial Implications for the Rights of Gay and Lesbian Persons

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, comment on the connection between a case about decriminalizing marijuana, and another case about gay and lesbian rights—and in particular, about sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), which are now prohibited in California where those under 18 are involved. Amar and Brownstein describe SOCE methods, and the two cases, with very different judicial results, which confronted the question whether barring SOCE violates the First Amendment, and particularly the right of doctors to communicate with their patients. They then explain the central importance of the marijuana-decriminalization precedent when it comes to the SOCE cases, which may well end up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Establishment Clause and the Free Speech Clause in the Context of the Texas High School Cheerleader Religious Banner Dispute

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, comment on an interesting lawsuit that involves both the Free Speech Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The suit was brought by a group of public high school cheerleaders against the school district that told them to stop displaying religious-themed banners bearing bible verses and proclaiming things like “If G-d is for us, Who Can Be Against Us?” at football games. Does the Establishment Clause forbid what they are doing? And does the Free Speech Clause come into play? Amar and Brownstein address the complex constitutional issues that the case presents.

Assessing California’s New Law (And Others Somewhat Like It) That Tries to Regulate Funeral Demonstrations Without Violating the First Amendment

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, comment on California’s law attempting to regulate demonstrations at funerals, as well as similar efforts by the federal government and other states. Amar and Brownstein consider whether such laws are consistent with the First Amendment. As they note, the issue has arisen due to the activities of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based family group that has shown up to picket near the sites of funerals—including, often, military funerals. One of the group’s messages is that America is too tolerant of homosexuality. The group’s activities, Amar and Brownstein note, have already been the subject of a Supreme Court ruling, Snyder v. Phelps. In addition to analyzing the Snyder case, Amar and Brownstein discuss another analytical framework that they argue would better suit such cases than the one the Court invoked, and consider related questions such as how broad a no-picketing zone can be imposed to protect mourners’ privacy, and how long that zone can last, before and after a funeral.

Teaching (and Learning) About United States v. Alvarez, the Stolen Valor Act Case

Justia columnist Vikram Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, discuss the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Alvarez. As they explain, the case concerned the Stolen Valor Act, which imposes criminal penalties on those who falsely claimed to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor or another medal granted by the United States. The Court had to decide whether the Act violated the First Amendment. Amar and Brownstein offer a subtle analysis of the various doctrinal moves that were made, in the case, by the Justices who joined the plurality opinion, the concurrence, and the dissent in the case, respectively. They focus especially on a search for a limiting principle that goes just far enough, but not too far, in the case, and target their analysis especially toward law professors who seek to teach the case, and students who seek to better understand it.

Under What Circumstances Can a State Compel a Pharmacy to Provide “Morning After” Drugs Against the Religious Objections of Pharmacists? A Case From Washington State Illustrates Modern Free Exercise Doctrines and Dilemmas

Justia columnist Vikram David Amar and Justia guest columnist Alan Brownstein, both U.C., Davis law professors, comment on a recent Washington State controversy that raises the issue whether a pharmacy must provide the emergency contraceptive known as “Plan B” if the pharmacy’s owner objects to doing so, based on his or her own religious beliefs. (Such pharmacy owners believe that life begins at conception, meaning fertilization; Plan B prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg.) Amar and Brownstein note that the case is important and interesting not just in itself, but also because it illustrates many of the unanswered questions that concern the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. The federal judge who heard the case ruled in favor of the pharmacy owners, but was he right to do so? Amar and Brownstein consider the arguments on both sides, focusing especially on the Supreme Court case of Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. Hialeah, in which a church sought to sacrifice animals in its rituals even though doing so was against the law. They also consider variations of the fact pattern in the Washington State case itself, and consider whether they might yield different results.