Archive for the ‘Constitutional Law’ Category

senate_large_seal200px-CIA.svgIn the same week as the State Department report endorsing findings that the CIA lied to Congress and brutalized suspects, the CIA is now admitting that its recent denials of hacking Senate computers was also false. Once again, however, there is not even a suggestion of discipline, let alone criminal charges, for CIA officials who lied to Congress (or allowed others to lie) and hacked into congressional computers.

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StateDepartmentCIAThe State Department has issued a document that endorses the findings of the Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks. The document notably avoids references to “torture” but discussed now the CIA brutalized suspects and misled Congress. Putting aside such word substitutions of “brutalizing” for “torture” and “misleading” for “lying,” there remains one glaring omission: not a single CIA official was disciplined, let alone criminally charged. One official even publicly admitted to destroying evidence to avoid its use in court in a torture prosecution. He was allowed to retire with honors and accolades. The Bush and Obama Administration steadfastly refused to prosecute such officials. Indeed, soon after coming to power, Obama went to the CIA to assure officials that they would never face prosecution.

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Seal_of_the_California_State_UniversityTriceratops-skull-Zachi-Evenor-002There is a controversy at the California State University where scientist Mark Armitage claims that he was fired for his creationist beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Armitage recently published a paper where he suggested that soft tissue that he found in a triceratops suggested that the animal died no more than 4000 years ago rather than the common view putting extinction at 65 million years ago. The school is investigating his claim of religious discrimination.

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250px-Lewis_F_Powell,_Jr_U_S_Courthouse,_Richmond,_VA_Sep_03250px-Meade_and_Prettyman_CourthouseBelow is my column this morning in USA Today on the rivaling health care rulings in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. I have been struck on this and other blogs with how quickly people criticize the opinions by attacking the motives and backgrounds of the respective judges. It is a signature of our times that we no longer debate the issue and try instead to discredit those with whom we disagree. We have learned to hate like the Queen Mother counseled in Shakespeare’s Richard III: to “Think that thy babes were sweeter than they were; And he that slew them fouler than he is.” The fact is that the ACA was a deeply flawed piece of legislation that was passed with insufficient review and editing. It was pushed through on a muscle vote when it was in subpar condition. There have been hundreds of serious drafting errors found in the law. Courts have been struggling with those errors as has the White House. Yet, such good faith questions have no place in today’s politics where every issue must be personified and treated as some low-grade political stunt despite long opinions detailing rationales in the two courts. To dismiss these decisions as the result of judicial hacks ignores those extensive problems in the law. This piece looks at that response and how we have lost the ability to engage in civil or substantive discussion on such issues. From a legisprudence standpoint, the two opinions are classic difference in how courts approach statutory interpretation. I would not call either opinion as strictly “textualist” or “intentionalist” but they certainly reflect these different views of the role of the courts and agencies in the interpretation of legislative text. While I agree with the merits of the change ordered by the Administration, I am highly uncomfortable with treating language in a statute as a “typo” or some oversight. Indeed, as we recently discussed, even key players who are now calling the D.C. Circuit interpretation “nutty” previously appeared to subscribe to that interpretation. For that reason, I favor the D.C. Circuit opinion out of concern over limiting the role of the courts and reinforcing the separation of powers. Here is the column.

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US-CourtOfAppeals-11thCircuit-SealThe United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has handed down a ruling that vacated an injunction of the Florida law barring physicians from discussing guns in their homes when it is not related to medical care. The lower court found the law violative of the first amendment, but the Eleventh Circuit found that it does not violate free speech. I have always found this law highly troubling on both free speech grounds as well as policy grounds. Just as I have long objected to legislatures interfering with teachers, I have the same reservations about their micromanaging doctors. The law is commonly referred to as “Docs for Glocks.”

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210px-flag_of_washington_dcsvg220px-CriminologygunglockUnited States District Court Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. has finally handed down a ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia overturned the city’s total ban on residents on carrying firearms outside their home. The litigants repeatedly went to court to try to force Scullin to rule during the five year wait for a decision. They probably now feel it was worth the wait. The court held the D.C. law was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The D.C. Attorney General’s Office and city council has continued to resist the rulings in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) and have spent copious amounts of money and time defending this law. The city could have drafted more tailored laws but seemed intent to re-fight aspects of its historic loss in Heller. The Office of Attorney General continues to dig a deeper hole both legally and financially for the citizens in such litigation.

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WEJohnson33251412949c6bd4ffff8144ffffe907I just saw this story about how Petersburg police and prosecutors have been under fire after an internal memo surfaced from 1st Sgt. Carl Moore, telling officers not to speak with defense attorneys and suggesting that they could lose their jobs if they help strength defense cases even by telling the truth to counsel. Petersburg City Manager William Johnson (left) is making no statement at this time: he was recently arrested for allegations of assault and domestic battery against his wife. Petersburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Cassandra Conover (right) was also criticized for thanking Moore despite the memo’s conflict with ethical rules governing prosecutors. However, I have not been able to find anything more recent on this story about the instructions or the ethical review.

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_51889481__47552719_daughterThere is an interesting (and tragic) case out of France where Andre Bamberski, 76, was convicted for organizing the kidnapping five years ago of retired doctor Dieter Krombach. Krombach was accused at the time of raping and murdering Kalinka Bamberski, 15: the daughter of Bamberski and the step daughter of Krombach. When a German court refused to extradite Krombach for the 1982 murder, Bamberski had him kidnapped and dumped (tied up) in front of a French courthouse in 2009. Bamberski was found guilty and was looking at ten years but was given a one-year suspended sentence.
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I have received a fair number of emails over the debate last week featuring my views on executive power on the Senate floor. The debate concerned the growing fight over immigration and I have been asked by journalists if I believe that the President is also violating the Separation of Powers with the suggestion of unilateral measures in the area. I am indeed troubled by the suggestion of a new round of unilateral actions by the President. However, the details are still unclear.

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Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

Since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted in April of this year to declassify its long-awaited Torture Report, the intelligence agencies have been working behind the scenes to convince the Executive Branch to further sanitize it or keep it entirely secret.  Needless to say, the declassification process used to prepare the report for public consumption has been dragging on.  With the CIA and other defense agencies working overtime to keep a lid on the report, the truth may never reach the public.

What can Congress do to make sure that its report gets declassified and distributed to the public if the President agrees with the intelligence agencies and does not order the release? (more…)

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Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 9.17.22 AMThere is an interesting twist this morning on the controversy over the Halbig decision that we have previously discussed. As I have stated in testimony before Congress and columns, I do not view the law as ambiguous and agree with the conclusion in Halbig as a matter of statutory interpretation, even though I think that the change ordered by the Obama Administration makes sense. Nevertheless, the White House and various supporters have insisted that the key language in the law linking tax credits to exchanges “established by a State” was a typo and nothing more. One of those voices has been Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who played a major role in the drafting of the law and was paid almost half of a million dollars to consult with the Administration on the law. He told MSNBC recently that “It is unambiguous this is a typo. Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states.” However, a libertarian group just uncovered a video showing Gruber saying quite clearly after the passage of the law that this provision was a quid pro quo device: state exchanges for tax credits. Conservative sites have lit up over the video below showing Gruber essentially describing the very tradeoff identified in Halbig.

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23ARIZONA-now-master180We previously discussed the botched execution in Oklahoma and the questions that it raised about our methods of execution. Now we have another horrific execution story to report. In Arizona, it took almost two hours for the prison to execute Joseph R. Wood III. The execution took so long that his counsel had time to file emergency papers with the federal court saying “He is still alive.”
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250px-US-CourtOfAppeals-6thCircuit-SealBy any measure, former Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree was a disgrace to the bench. The worse of his violations was his affair with the wife of a man in a child-support case before his court. However, while calling McCree’s conduct “often reprehensible,” a three-judge panel ruled that his affair with a litigant before him was still covered by judicial immunity when the former husband Robert King sued for damages in a civil rights case. The United States for the Sixth Circuit barred such recovery as a matter of judicial immunity in what will likely be a highly controversial decision.

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230px-CPR_training-04190px-Falk,_Benjamin_J._(1853-1925)_-_Eugen_Sandow_(1867-1925)Below is my column today in the Chicago Tribune on the rivaling rulings in the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit over a critical provision under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). As an academic interesting in statutory interpretation and legisprudence, the opinions are fascinating and capture two different but well-argued views of the role of both courts and agencies in dealing with legislative language.

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Patch_of_the_San_Diego_Police_DepartmentThirty women who work at two strip clubs, Cheetahs and Expose, are suing the city of San Diego and police Chief Shelley Zimmerman for what they allege were “license inspections” that were really photo ops for officers who snapped pictures of dancers in dressing rooms during a raid on July 15, 2013. (No, those are not supposed to look like two stripper poles on the police patch).

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