Posts Tagged ‘constitutional law’

Supreme Court and constitutional law roundup

Bundy group’s claims are non-starters legally

Les Saitz in The Oregonian examines the constitutional land and sovereignty claims of the Malheur occupiers, which tend to sound in what I have previously called folk law. Many in the group were arrested last night. One final point: the Bundy group can call itself a militia if it likes, but only in the same sense that Dorothy Parker could call herself the Queen of Rumania. Earlier here.

An article V convention? Wrong idea, wrong time

Some serious constitutional conservatives, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Rob Natelson for the American Legislative Exchange Council, have been promoting the idea of getting two-thirds of the states to call for an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Florida senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently made headlines by endorsing the notion. But I don’t think it’s a good one, as I argue in this new piece for the Daily Beast (the clickbait headline is theirs, not mine). It begins:

In his quest to catch the Road Runner, the Coyote in the old Warner Brothers cartoons would always order supplies from the ACME Corporation, but they never performed as advertised. Either they didn’t work at all, or they blew up in his face.

Which brings us to the idea of a so-called Article V convention assembled for the purpose of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution, an idea currently enjoying some vogue at both ends of the political spectrum.

Jacob Sullum at Reason offers a quick tour of some of the better and worse planks in Abbott’s “Texas Plan” (as distinct from the question of whether a convention is the best way of pursuing them). Much more: Thomas Neale, Congressional Research Service report, 2014. (cross-posted, with some additions, at Cato at Liberty).

Bill of Rights Day — and the return of the general warrant?

December 15 marked Bill of Rights Day, and Tim Lynch rounds up ways in which most of the constituent amendments in the Bill of Rights are under pressure from government today. And in a Cato Daily Podcast, Caleb Brown interviews Georgetown Law’s Laura Donohue of Georgetown Law School on the history of general warrants, important in the development of the Fourth Amendment, which many assumed we abolished but may be making a comeback.

U.S. government’s social media vetting for visa applicants (see update/correction)

“Fearing a civil liberties backlash and ‘bad public relations’ for the Obama administration, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused in early 2014 to end a secret U.S. policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, a former senior department official said.” According to former acting DHS undersecretary John Cohen, political “optics” inhibited U.S. officials from the fully legal course of checking the social media posts of visa applicants. The process came under scrutiny after the granting of a fiance visa to Tashfeen Malik, a resident of high-terror-risk Pakistan who had extensively discussed jihad and martyrdom online. [ABC News; but see below updates/corrections, which correct significant errors in the early reporting]

It’s important to keep straight that our Constitution restricts what the U.S. government can do to U.S. persons, but imposes little if any constraint on what it can ask of those seeking to enter.

P.S. Alex Nowrasteh talks with several immigration lawyers who say they know of instances in which social media postings by persons under U.S. immigration scrutiny got vetted. More: James Taranto (quoting New York Times’s statement that “immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks,” with “pilot programs” to do so in place since the fall of last year).

Update: contradicting widespread reports in the press, FBI Director James Comey now describes the couple as having expressed jihadist sentiment in private but not in public messages on social media [Washington Post] And the New York Times now apologizes for early, erroneous reporting based on anonymous sources which misled much of the press and commentariat into believing Malik’s extremist sentiments were in plain sight.

Supreme Court and constitutional law roundup

  • Supreme Court has blocked for now “an election with racial qualifications that could eventually establish a new government for so-called ‘native Hawaiians.'” [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, earlier on Hawaiian tribalization here, here, etc.]
  • Some scholars seem a bit evasive about historic British use of gun control to disarm minority religionists [David Kopel]
  • Occupational licensure and Connecticut teeth-whitening case: does mere protection of incumbents against competition count as “rational basis” for government action? [Timothy Sandefur, Cato]
  • Class actions: some predict Court not likely to do much more than tinker [Alison Frankel, Paul Karlsgodt]
  • Update: “California woman who bought Eurail pass in US can’t sue here for Austrian accident, SCOTUS says” [ABA Journal, earlier]
  • Supreme Court should defend interstate commerce against extraterritorial Colorado law providing that electric power entering state must have been generated in certain ways [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer]
  • “Old, cryptic, or vague” 14th Amendment: Judge Posner can’t have his Constitution and eat it too, thinks Josh Blackman.

Supreme Court and constitutional law roundup

  • “There is nothing in the Constitution that …even hints that the president’s power expands because Congress won’t pass the legislation he advocates.” [David Bernstein interview with Josh Blackman about Bernstein’s new book “Lawless,” on Obama administration vs. constitutional limits more from Bernstein on book]
  • “Will the Supreme Court End Affirmative Action? A Preview of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin on the Eve of Oral Argument” [Cato event Dec. 7 with Andrew Grossman, John Paul Schnapper-Casteras, Gail Heriot, Richard Lempert, and Wallace Hall, moderated by Ilya Shapiro]
  • Theme of this year’s Federalist Society lawyers’ convention was Congress, videos of related panels [originalist views of Congress, Congressional dysfunction, deference and delegation, prospects for getting legislative branch to reclaim lawmaking power]
  • Certiorari petition asks SCOTUS to review dischargeability of law school debts in bankruptcy [BNA; Tetzlaff v. Educ. Credit Mgmt. Corp.]
  • At Cato’s Constitution Day, panels looked back at an eventful SCOTUS term [Cato Policy Report]
  • Common law vs. statutes: Richard Epstein on Spokeo v. Robins oral argument [Hoover] Must plaintiffs show they actually suffered harm? [Daniel Fisher]
  • No, the Constitution doesn’t let feds cancel Redskins trademark as offensive [Kristian Stout, Truth on the Market; Ilya Shapiro]

“National Constitution Center’s ‘Interactive Constitution’”

Recommended by Eugene Volokh, the National Constitution Center’s “Interactive Constitution“. Its description:

On this site, constitutional experts interact with each other to explore the Constitution’s history and what it means today. For each provision of the Constitution, scholars of different perspectives discuss what they agree upon, and what they disagree about. These experts were selected with the guidance of leaders of two prominent constitutional law organizations — The American Constitution Society and The Federalist Society.

The writers include many familiar names and every contribution I’ve read so far, on both sides of questions, has been of high quality.