Below is my column today in USA Today on the Obama Administration’s decision to cut off water to legal marijuana growers. Notably, the business concern today for the rollout of legal pot sales in Washington is greater demand than supply. I previously wrote about how a little known board had effectively moved to end the debate over the Redskins name, an example of agencies increasingly intervening in social and political disputes. This move by the Bureau of Reclamation is a prime example of such intervention into political disputes and a troubling precedent for the future.
Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category
Below is my column yesterday in the Sunday New York Daily News on the unfolding controversy over President Obama’s unilateral actions to circumvent Congress. The pledge of the President to “go it alone” has already resulted in court losses for the Administration and a growing separation of powers crisis. I testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws. I ran another column recently listing such incidents of executive over-reach that ideally would have included this potentially huge commitment under Obama’s claimed discretionary authority. I happen to believe that the President is right in many of these areas but that does not excuse the means that he is using to achieve these goals.
Below is my column today in the Los Angeles Times on a little discussed case that presents a far greater threat to Obamacare than did Hobby Lobby. The Hobby Lobby case is a huge blow for the Administration in terms of one of the most prominent provisions of the Act and recognizing religious rights for corporations. However, it is more of a fender bender for the ACA. Halbig could be a train wreck of a case if it goes against the Administration. We are expecting a ruling any day and the panel is interesting: Judges Harry T. Edwards (a Carter appointee), Thomas B. Griffith (a George W. Bush appointee), and A. Raymond Randolph (a George H.W. Bush appointee). In oral argument, Edwards was reportedly highly supportive of the Administration’s argument while Randolph was very skeptical. That leaves Griffith. It could go 2-1 either way, though in my view the interpretive edge goes to the challengers for the reasons discussed below. This case however is largely a statutory interpretation case, though it has the same separation of powers allegations of executive overreach that we have seen in other recent cases.
Below is my column in the Sunday Washington Post on the stripping of the trademark protection from the Washington Redskins. The decision effectively negates a decision in 2003 by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that barred a challenge to the Redskins name on the basis that such a challenge had to have been made soon after the Redskins registered their nickname in 1967. In 1999, another court issued a similar ruling. This use of the trademark laws creates a dangerous slippery slope as the agency identifies names that it considers disrespectful. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi celebrated the decision as sanctioning “disparaging or offensive names” and added “[w]hile we respect the right to free speech, slurs have no right to trademark protections.” But what of other “slurs” that reference ethnicity like the Atlanta Braves or the combative Kansas City Chieftains. There is also the cartoonist grinning Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. These teams have critics who say that the names and images are offensive. What is the objective line to distinguish such teams? The column focuses on the highly ambiguous standard in the federal law that would seem to make a vast array of marks as potentially violative and unprotected.
Below is my column yesterday in the Chicago Tribune. It remains unclear whether Bowe Bergdahl will be charged. However, the allegations are mounting over his disappearance from his base. This column explores some interesting possible defenses and their historical context. Bergdahl returned this week to the United States, a move that will likely magnify these questions for the Administration.
Below is my column this week in American Legion Magazine which juxtaposed my view of the Obama presidency with the opposing view of William Howell, the Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at the University of Chicago. Notably, a ranking member of the Administration this week wrote that more executive actions are being planned by the White House. These opposing articles capture the two very different perspectives of the evolving use of executive power in our tripartite system.
Below is my column in USA Today on the use of set aside categories based on race, gender, or other criteria for government contracts. While the set aside issue arose in the recent controversy over Braulio Castillo, there are legitimate questions that should be discussed over the efficiencies and equities of the system. There is also the question of self-identification on these issues. Veteran’s status is easier to confirm, though in the Castillo case we saw the definition can be wildly out of whack. However, we have seen controversies involving people who self-identify as having minority status based on questionable basis such as the controversy over Senator Elizabeth Warren who listed herself as a minority due to Native American blood. There is presumably some criteria for such claims when made in government contracts but I am not sure who where that line is drawn. The real question is whether it would not be better for Congress to directly fund programs to help minority groups rather than require special treatment in government contracting. Hopefully, we can have such a debate without rancor and personal recriminations. There are good-faith reasons to debate whether government contracting should be based solely on the best price and product determination in my view. It is not questioning the purpose of this policy but the means used to achieve it.
Below is yesterday’s column on CNN.com on the ruling in the Michigan affirmative action case, which we discussed earlier this week. I was asked to write a response to the decision and jumped at the opportunity to feature a couple of the GW “justices” from my Constitution and the Supreme Court seminar. The class meets in the Spring Term and reviews one case a week from the docket of the Supreme Court for that term. We read and discuss a selection of briefs filed in each case and the lower court opinion. The “justices” then rule on the merits, explaining their own take on the underlying legal issues and the role of the Court in the controversy. We then take a separate vote to predict what that “other” Supreme Court will do. Over the years, I have found that the students are remarkably accurate in their predictions, far more accurate than most commentators. Indeed, I have often found the opinions of the GW Court to be superior to its more famous counterpart on Capitol Hill. At the end of the term, each student writes a majority opinion and either a dissenting opinion or concurring opinion. They can choose any case from the current term. Of course, public commentary following the release of a decision might raise some questions of judicial ethics, we can at least claim to have been more circumspect than some of the members of that “other” Court. So here is the column from CNN and thank you Justices Yvette Butler and Vincent Cirilli.
Below is a slightly expanded version of my column that ran today in the Los Angeles Times on the growing scandal over the defective ignition switches on the Cobalt and other cars produced by General Motors. Just this weekend, it was reported that CEO Mary Barra received a memorandum on a steering problem with the Saturn Ion on a different problem as early as 2011, but did not order an immediate recall. What is now clear is that the company spent years discussing the defect. Two engineers were recently put on paid leave by the company — a move viewed as too little too late by many, including some who want to see criminal charges. Ironically, I have been teaching the Pinto case in my torts class this week and today I will be teaching my new material on the GM Cobalt as an extension of that material.
Some have charged that GM was aware of this defective design before it lobbied the government for a massive bailout in 2009. The government handed over $49.5 billion to the automaker and the public ultimately ate a $10.5 billion loss when our shares in “Government Motors” were finally sold off in 2013. In addition to billions in losses, the public got cars that could put their lives in danger the moment they turned the ignition key.
Below is a longer version of my column that ran today in USA Today. The column was originally written for a longer format but had to be reduced to fight the page. The column looks at state of the Fourth Estate on the 50th anniversary of the decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. I do not wish to understate the threat against the media in 1964 but it is hard to overstate the threat against the media in 2014.
Below is my column in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. I recently testified on this issue in three separate hearings before Congress (here and here and here). Last week, President Obama proceeded to add yet another suspension order to the health care law. It is part of a broader array of such unilateral actions that raise disturbing constitutional issues under the Separation of Powers. This goes beyond the usual discretion in “filing in the blanks” or ambiguities of laws. These were not delegated or unanswered questions. These were largely core issues — dates and coverage issues — that were the subject of intense congressional debate. Indeed, in a number of cases, President Obama asked for reforms and was denied the changes by Congress — only to order the very same reforms by executive action. That is why this is not an administrative law but a constitutional law issue in my opinion.
Below is my column today in USA Today on the ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit over a ban at a California high school of students wearing tee-shirts with American flags during the Mexican heritage celebration Cinco de Mayo. The opinion is Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist., 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 3790.
Below is my column in Al Jazeera on the expansion of presidential powers in the United States. While there is growing recognition of the threat posed by the current powers exercised by the White House, it is important to keep the issue before the public if we are going to realign the tripartite system back to its original balance between the balances.
Here is today’s column in USA Today on the hazards of the holidays. While Halloween racks up an impressive array of torts, Christmas and New Year’s Eve produce a considerable number of accidents and crimes. The difference is that the accidents are often self-inflicted — many of which I have personally experienced. Indeed, my family shudders when I pull out the Christmas decorations in anticipation of some unforeseen disaster.
Below is my column in the Sunday Los Angeles Times on the basis for a pardon for Edward Snowden. It is clear that President Obama (and ranking congressional members) are opposed to such clemency. Snowden embarrassed a great number of powerful people in Washington, including the President. However, there is historical precedent for such a pardon and compelling arguments that such a course may be the right course for the country.