ACSBlog

  • August 1, 2014

    by Rebekah DeHaven

    August 1, 2014

    On Monday, the Senate voted 50-43 to confirm Pamela Harris to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Judge Harris was a founding member of ACS’s Board of Directors.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on four nominees the following day:

    Madeline Cox Arleo to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey;

    Victor Allen Bolden to the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut;

    David J. Hale to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky; and

    Gregory N. Stivers to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

    On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on the nomination of Jill Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; cloture was invoked the following day by a vote of 58-33. Pryor is the 100th Obama judicial nominee to require a cloture petition, which is a testament to the continued obstructionism in the Senate. Her confirmation vote will take place in September when the Senate returns from the August recess.

    Also on Thursday, President Obama announced two new judicial nominations: Allison Dale Burroughs to the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and Amit Priyavadan Mehta to the U.S. District Court for the District of the District of Columbia.

    Of note, the vacancy crisis and its impact on the workload of judges was mentioned in an op-talk in The New York Times about wellbeing and long work hours.

    Our “Recently on JudicialNominations.org” posts will resume in September when the Senate returns to session following the August recess.

    There are now a total of 57 current vacancies and 24 future vacancies. There are 25 pending nominees. There are 19 judicial emergencies. Eight nominees remain pending on the Senate floor.

    For more information on judicial nominations, see the latest from “In the News” and “Recommended Readings” on JudicialNominations.org, a project of ACS.

     

  • August 1, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    The New York Times Editorial Board discusses a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board general counsel which found McDonald’s jointly responsible for the treatment of its workers at all of its franchises and argues that this should spur an increase in wages for fast food workers.

    Writing for SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston reports that challengers of the provision of the Affordable Care Act which provides subsides to those who obtain health insurance via the federal exchange are rushing their case to the Supreme Court, after two federal appellate courts delivered opposite rulings on the issue last month..

    At Politico, Laura W. Murphy compares attempts to reform the National Security Agency in the wake of revelations about the scope of its spying to successful efforts to limit the disparities in drug sentencing born from the War on Drugs.

    Benjamin Wittes writes at Lawfare about the CIA inspector general’s report regarding alleged hacking of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) staff files and records by the CIA.

  • August 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Joshua A. DouglasRobert G. Lawson & William H. Fortune Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law

    *This post was originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday issued two decisions that had the effect of upholding the state's strict voter ID requirement. Crucial to the court's decisions was its finding that, once it modified a different rule, the voter ID law did not impose too substantial of a burden on qualified voters who do not otherwise have the necessary identification.

    The split decisions entail both breathtaking judicial activism and ignorance regarding the difference between the federal and state constitutions.

    First, the conservative-leaning majority found that the voter ID law imposed a severe burden on voters because it would cost money for voters to gather the underlying documentation they might need — such as a birth certificate — to obtain the "free" voter ID. But the majority then forges ahead to adopt a "saving construction" of a state administrative rule to conclude that the law does not, really, require voters to pay money to obtain the documentation. It rewrites the administrative rule so that the voter ID law does not become an unconstitutional poll tax.

    To justify this maneuver, the court cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision that states "where a saving construction is 'fairly possible,' the court will adopt it." But that U.S. Supreme Court case said no such thing; it instead noted that if a saving construction of the very statute at issue is possible, then the court should avoid the constitutional question and decide the case under that statutory ground.

    Here, by contrast, there was no "fairly possible" construction of the voter ID law. Instead, the court requires state administrators to invoke their "discretion" under a separate administrative regulation — one that was not at issue in the case — to give voter IDs to voters who must pay money to obtain the underlying documentation.

    Second, the court conflated the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions to uphold the law. The plaintiffs challenged the law under the Wisconsin constitution provision that provides, "Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district." The plaintiff's argument, in essence, was that the burdens associated with obtaining the required voter ID took away the constitutionally granted right to vote for some citizens.

  • July 31, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    Andrew Prokop at Vox reports on the House of Representatives’ plan to sue President Obama, and what that means in a larger historical context.

    Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s interview with Katie Couric, where the 81-year-old justice revealed she does not intend to step down in the near future.

    At The Volokh Conspiracy, Dale Carpenter looks at the possible role that animus could play in potential same-sex marriage litigation before the Supreme Court.

    In a piece for Salon, Katie McDonough writes about strong new pushback on recent efforts to curtail reproductive rights, including a new measure introduced by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to work around the recent ban on abortion clinic buffer zones.

    Writing for The Atlantic, Connor Friedersdorf discusses the legality and ethics of the NSA suppressing former head Keith Alexander’s financial disclosures as he transitions into the private sector.

  • July 30, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Cameron F. Kerry. Kerry is the Sara R. & Andrew H. Tisch Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Media Lab. He is the former General Counsel and Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

    Yesterday, I moderated a panel on Microsoft’s federal court challenge to a warrant seeking email records that Microsoft stores at a data center in Ireland.  Microsoft is contending that the governing statute, the stored communications provisions of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), does not apply outside the territory of the United States.

    My take-away from the panel is that discussion of reforms to bring ECPA up-to-date with the way we use devices and cloud services in the 21st Century needs to take up the difficult questions presented by services and networks that flow freely across national borders.  As I put it during the discussion, “what does extraterritoriality mean in a virtual world?”

    The panel featured James Garland of Covington & Burling, who is arguing the case on behalf of Microsoft in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York this Thursday, along with other lawyers involved in the case.  The case has been the deserving subject of wide attention, including a stern letter from the European Commission’s Justice Commissioner and a July 27 New York Times editorial.  It involves a warrant issued last December for email records “owned, maintained, controlled or operated by Microsoft” for a particular email address.  Microsoft produced records located in the United States that did not involve the content of the emails, but objected to producing the emails themselves because they are stored in a data center in Dublin, Ireland.  They are there because the Dublin servers are closest to the country that the email customer identified in establishing the account, reducing latency in email transmission.  Microsoft only recently established overseas data centers and, so far as anyone knows, this is the first time any Internet service provider has challenged the extraterritorial application of authorities for law enforcement access to Internet communications.

    The issues center on the interpretation of Section 2703 (c)(A) of the Stored Communications Act in the decision by a federal magistrate in New York issued April 25.  In some respects, the issues are narrow:  for example, does the SCA contain language that overcomes the Supreme Court’s “presumption against extraterritorial application” of U.S. statutes; does the “warrant” required by the SCA to obtain most content of electronic communications incorporate requirements for a warrant under the Fourth Amendment?