• September 9, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Walter Shapiro writes for the Brennan Center for Justice on why candidates should reject campaign cash even without strict campaign finance laws.

    In The Boston Globe, Paul Elias reports on oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in three cases dealing with same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii.   

    A constitutional amendment to allow greater regulation of campaign finance advanced in the Senate, but partisanship could still stall the measure, reports Burgess Everett of Politico.

    Daniel LaChance argues in The New York Times that capital punishment is a failed government program.

    Mark Walsh of Education Week writes about the death of Lillian Gobitas Klose, whose refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1930s led to a Supreme Court case on the First Amendment. 

  • September 8, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In Salon, Gabriel Arana assesses the problems with the White House’s new immigration announcement.

    Ari Berman explains in The Nation how cuts to early voting in Ohio violate the Voting Rights Act.

    Erwin Chemerinsky, Faculty Advisor for the UC Irvine School of Law ACS Student Chapter, writes for the ABA Journal on how three decisions about bankruptcy law show how the Supreme Court’s use of reasoning is inconsistent.

    Slate’s Jamelle Bouie argues that those who deny racism are also the most likely to smear the reputation of African American victims. 

    Howard Mintz in the San Jose Mercury News interviews ACS Board of Directors member Mariano-Florentino Cuellar about his new position as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of California. 

  • September 5, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Brianne Gorod, Appellate Counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center.

    This post originally appeared on the Constitutional Accountability Center's Text & History Blog.

    Ever since three-judge panels on the Fourth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit issued conflicting rulings in July on the availability of tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the opponents of the law have been trying to rush their case to the Supreme Court.  That’s where they apparently think they have their best shot at succeeding in what D.C. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards called their “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” the law.  But thanks to an Order just issued by the full D.C. Circuit, their chances of getting the case in front of the Supremes just got a lot lower.

    The two cases involved are just the latest salvo in the ACA opponents’ continuing efforts to kill the ACA by any means possible.  In these challenges, the opponents of the law argue that the ACA, which was enacted to make health insurance affordable for all Americans, doesn’t permit people to receive the tax credits that actually make it affordable if they purchase their insurance in one of the 36 states that have opted to let the federal government run their Exchange.  Thus, they argue, an IRS rule confirming that tax credits are available to all qualifying Americans, regardless of where they live, is invalid under the statute. 

    It’s an argument that shouldn’t hold water in any court.  The opponents of the law rest their argument on one four word phrase—“established by the State”—but ignore the text of the rest of the 900-some page statute that makes it clear that federally-facilitated Exchanges are functionally the same as state-established Exchanges.  Even Justice Scalia should recognize that’s no way to interpret a statute.  As he explained just last year, “the words of a statute must be read in their context and with a view to their place in the overall statutory scheme."  Here, reading the words of the statute in context makes clear that tax credits should be available to all qualifying Americans.  Fourth Circuit Judge Andre Davis called the argument made by the law’s opponents “tortured” and “nonsensical.” 

  • September 5, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Leah Nicholls and Leslie Brueckner, Senior Attorneys at Public Justice. 

    *This post originally appeared on the Public Justice blog.

    Today we have both good news and bad news about our motion to unseal the court records in Harman v. Trinity, a federal whistleblower case involving defective highway guardrails.

    First, the good news:

    In response to our motion (which we filed on behalf of the Center for Auto Safety and The Safety Institute), the judge just ruled that Trinity Industries, Inc., a huge company that allegedly made secret modifications to a popular model of highway guardrails that transformed those guardrails into lethal spears, must show why records in the case should remain sealed from public view after the trial.

    Over the course of the case, many documents were filed under seal. We suspect that at least some of those secret documents contain important information on the safety of Trinity’s guardrails. This information could be used by safety organizations to help make our nation’s roadways safer and to help prevent another GM debacle.

  • September 5, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Leslie Brueckner, Senior Attorney at Public Justice. 

    *This post originally appeared on the Public Justice blog.

    Late yesterday, a federal court in Idaho denied the state’s motion to dismiss our constitutional challenge to Idaho’s Ag-Gag law.

    The court’s 33-page ruling affirms that Idaho’s statute—which criminalizes whistleblowing at factory farms—may violate the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    Big Ag is now officially on notice that these laws are constitutionally suspect.

    Proponents of Ag-Gag laws—currently on the books in 16 states—vigorously defend them against First Amendment challenge on the ground that they are merely “content neutral” efforts to protect factory farms from trespassers. The court in our case did not mince words in dismissing this argument: “it is a fallacy to suggest, as the State does, that the misrepresentation provisions prohibit only conduct and not speech.”