FedSoc Blog

Seeking a Same-Sex Marriage Case Fit for History

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by Publius
Posted September 23, 2014, 8:46 AM

Seeking a Same-Sex Marriage Case Fit for HistoryThe New York Times reports:

The jockeying among the titans of the Supreme Court bar for a place at the lectern when the justices hear the next same-sex marriage case is as understated as it is unmistakable.

In a half-dozen briefs filed in recent weeks, some of the best lawyers in the nation spent many pages arguing that their case was the right one in which to establish a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. They pointed out the attractive features of their own cases and the shortcomings of others.

In legal jargon, streamlined cases without procedural pitfalls are said to be good vehicles. That made the fancy lawyers sound a little like car salesmen.

The case from Virginia, one brief said, is “an excellent vehicle.” The one from Wisconsin, said another, is “an ideal vehicle.” The one from Utah, perhaps the leading candidate, was said to be, with the swagger of understatement, “an appropriate vehicle.”

Read the full article.

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Air Force Removes “So Help Me God” Requirement in Oath

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by Publius
Posted September 18, 2014, 8:35 AM

Air Force Removes USA Today reports:

The Air Force has withdrawn a requirement that all airmen who take the oath of enlistment and officer appointment conclude with "so help me God," the service announced Wednesday.

The Air Force previously allowed airmen to omit those words, but removed that option in October based on its interpretation of 10 U.S.C. 502, 5 U.S.C. 3331 and Title 32, which contain the oaths of office. The Navy, Army and Marine Corps allow their service members to omit "so help me God," spokesmen for all three services told Air Force Times last week.

The Air Force sought a legal review of the rule by the Defense Department's General Counsel on Sept. 9, five days after the American Humanist Association announced it was representing an unnamed atheist airman, stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, who was denied reenlistment for refusing to say, or sign a form, stating "so help me God."

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Happy Constitution Day

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by Publius
Posted September 17, 2014, 1:21 PM

Happy Constitution Day from The Federalist Society

A great day to read or re-read the supreme law of the United States of America.

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Google Successfully Defends Trademark in Court

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by Publius
Posted September 16, 2014, 1:01 PM

Google Successfully Defends Trademark in CourtIn Forbes, Eric Goldman writes:

The “Google” trademark regularly ranks as one of the most valuable trademarks in the world. In 2011, Forbes estimated the trademark’s value at $44B, and a more recent estimate placed the value at $113B. Almost certainly, the “Google” trademark is Google’s single most valuable asset. Recently, Google’s opponents in a court case claimed the trademark had become “generic,” so everyone could freely use it without restriction. Fortunately for Google, the court decisively rejected the challenge, confirming that “Google” remains a valid and protectable trademark.

The court summarizes:

The word google has four possible meanings in this case: (1) a trademark designating the Google search engine; (2) a verb referring to the act of searching on the internet using the Google search engine; (3) a verb referring to the act of searching on the internet using any search engine; and (4) a common descriptive term for search engines in general.

The courts say that even if Google’s opponents proved that a majority of consumers understand definition #3 (Google as a verb for Internet searching), Google showed 90%+ of consumers understand definition #1 (Google designates its own search engine), so the term Google still functions as a source designator. As the court concludes, the “undisputed evidence is that the consuming public overwhelmingly understands the word google to identify a particular search engine, not to describe search engines in general.”

Read the full article.

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U.S. Tax Burden on Business Close to Worst in Industrialized World

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by Publius
Posted September 15, 2014, 9:02 AM

Photo by 401(K) 2012 (Flickr)The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments:

On Monday the Tax Foundation, which manages the widely followed State Business Tax Climate Index, will launch a new global benchmark, the International Tax Competitiveness Index. According to the foundation, the new index measures "the extent to which a country's tax system adheres to two important principles of tax policy: competitiveness and neutrality."

A competitive tax code is one that limits the taxation of businesses and investment. Since capital is mobile and businesses can choose where to invest, tax rates that are too high "drive investment elsewhere, leading to slower economic growth," as the Tax Foundation puts it. . . .

The index takes into account more than 40 tax policy variables. And the inaugural ranking puts the U.S. at 32nd out of 34 industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

With the developed world's highest corporate tax rate at over 39% including state levies, plus a rare demand that money earned overseas should be taxed as if it were earned domestically, the U.S. is almost in a class by itself. It ranks just behind Spain and Italy, of all economic humiliations. America did beat Portugal and France, which is currently run by an avowed socialist. . . .

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District Judge Rejects Ohio Law Requiring Truth in Political Advertising

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by Publius
Posted September 12, 2014, 8:22 AM

District Judge Rejects Ohio Law Requiring Truth in Political AdvertisingIn his ruling, District Court Judge Timothy S. Black cited House of Cards main character, Frank Underwood. The Washington Times reports:

In an opinion that cited authorities ranging from the Supreme Court to the “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood, federal District Court Judge Timothy S. Black said Americans should be free to battle out their political ideas without a government overseer ruling whether what they say is true.

“We do not want the government (i.e., the Ohio Elections Commission) deciding what is political truth—for fear that the government might persecute those who criticize it,” Judge Black wrote in his opinion. “Instead, in a democracy, the voters should decide.” . . .

He quoted Netflix’s “House of Cards” show in making his ruling: “The more modern recitation of this longstanding and fundamental principle of American law was recently articulated by Frank Underwood in ‘House of Cards’: ‘There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth.’" . . .

Read the full article.

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Commentary: Airstrikes Against ISIS Require Congressional Authorization

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by Publius
Posted September 11, 2014, 10:33 AM

Commentary: Airstrikes Against ISIS Require Congressional AuthorizationAt the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin argues that President Obama's airstrikes against ISIS are not authorized under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. He comments:

Any such extensive military campaign qualifies as a war that requires congressional authorization under the Constitution. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the power to initiate war. If the air strikes last more than 60 days, they also require authorization under the War Powers Act of 1973.

In recent days, the administration has taken to arguing that they already have congressional authorization under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which gives the president the authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” The administration has – justifiably, in my view – interpreted this to cover forces “associated” with al Qaeda as well as al Qaeda itself. But as Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution points out, that is not enough to cover the campaign against ISIS, because al Qaeda and ISIS are not allies or associates at all, due to their mutual hostility . . .

Legal arguments aside, getting congressional authorization is also valuable because it can help develop the kind of broad political support that makes it more likely that we will persist and succeed in the campaign despite possible setbacks. . . .

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Book Review: How Scalia’s Beliefs Changed the Supreme Court

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by Publius
Posted September 10, 2014, 1:48 PM

Book Review: How Scalia's Beliefs Changed the Supreme CourtAt the New Republic, Justin Driver has a review of Bruce Allen Murphy's new book, Scalia: A Court of One. He comments:

Given the size of his imprint on 
modern American law, Scalia’s ideas merit sustained examination by lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Even those who conclude that his ideas should largely be rejected have an obligation to understand them in their strongest forms. At times Bruce Allen Murphy’s biography performs an admirable job of elucidating his subject’s thinking. The book accomplishes this task most effectively by simply providing many generous excerpts from Scalia’s speeches and opinions, enabling the justice to make his various arguments for himself. Murphy’s biography also displays formidable research skills, as he seems to have uncovered every word that Scalia has uttered in public during the last several decades. But whatever the book’s virtues, they are dwarfed by its vituperative attacks on Scalia’s character and even 
on his religion. . . .

On no topic is Murphy’s treatment more objectionable than his fixation on Scalia’s Catholicism. Early in his book Murphy asserts that, alongside enjoying a good argument, Scalia’s central trait—one “that defined him at every stage in his life”—is “his unwaver
ing adherence to the traditional Roman Catholic faith he had learned from his Italian American parents during his childhood.” Murphy then proceeds to advance this argument with fanatical, one might even say religious, fervor. Indeed, relying only on this biography, readers might be forgiven for concluding that Scalia is primarily a religious figure who manages to squeeze in a little legal 
studying on the side. . . .

Read the full review.

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The BP Deepwater Horizon Case [VIDEO]

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by Publius
Posted September 10, 2014, 8:44 AM

Putting aside criminal cases, the stakes for all sides are perhaps never higher than in a class action case – mere certification of a class can increase the pressure to settle exponentially. But, of course, the class must be properly composed in order to be certified. In the recently-decided Wal-Mart v. Dukes case, the U.S. Supreme Court revisited some of the basic requirements for certification of a class of plaintiffs, including commonality. Other requirements of Rule 23 certification may surface in ongoing litigation stemming from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where defense attorneys are arguing, among other things, that the settlement agreement is being administered and interpreted overly broadly to include numerous class members who have not suffered any injury caused by BP. Our experts will discuss recent developments in class action litigation, including a pending petition for cert in the BP case. The Federalist Society presented this panel on September 4, 2014.

Featuring:

--Prof. Neal K. Katyal, Partner, Hogan Lovells, and Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law, Georgetown University Law Center
--Hon. Theodore B. Olson, Partner, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
--Moderator: Mr. Stuart S. Taylor, Jr., Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

Categories: Federalist Society

What Does Expanding Presidential Power Mean for the Future?

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by Publius
Posted September 09, 2014, 8:44 AM

Photo by Lucien Dalarun (Wikimedia Commons)At Vox Andrew Prokop looks at how President Obama is expanding presidential power and the Republican lawsuit in response. He writes:

When the voting closed, the House was 225 to 201 in favor of filing suit. All but 5 Republicans voted in favor — those opposed believed the lawsuit didn't go far enough. Speaker John Boehner chided the Democrats: "Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?" . . .

The lawsuit was limited to the delay of the employer mandate because Boehner's lawyers believed the narrow charge had the best chance of success in the courts. But House Republicans made clear they believed Obama's overreach was far broader. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) said the mandate delay was "only one of the many areas he has abused his executive authority." And Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) argued that the worst was yet to come, citing news reports that Obama was planning new executive actions on immigration. "These are not lawful actions," Lamborn said. "These are the power-hungry actions of a president who refuses to work with Congress."

It was a charge that, a few short years before, would have sounded perfectly natural coming from Senator Barack Obama. "I taught constitutional law for 10  years," Obama said in March 2008. "I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we're facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that's what I intend to reverse when I'm president of the United States of America."

But interviews with academic, legal, and policy experts make clear Obama has done little to roll back Bush's expansion of executive power — and that, instead, he's added a few innovations of his own. "The consensus is that he's not the disruptor in terms of presidential power that he purported to be," says Mitchel Sollenberger, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. "Instead, he's largely continued consolidating and strengthening it." . . .

Read the full article.

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Judge Posner’s Evolution on Marriage Equality

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by Publius
Posted September 08, 2014, 8:18 AM

Judge Posner's Evolution on Marriage EqualityChris Johnson, writing at the Washington Blade, has an analysis of U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner's evolution on the issue of same-sex marriage. He comments:

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner has earned the distinction of delivering one of the most sharply written decisions affirming a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but a look at the jurist’s three-decade career on the federal bench reveals it took time for him to reach those views.

Already renowned as a a legal scholar, the 75-year-old Reagan-appointed judge has become an overnight sensation for advocating marriage rights for gay couples. He won praise for his aggressive questioning during oral arguments of state attorneys defending bans on same-sex marriage before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and his ruling on Thursday striking down same-sex marriage bans in Wisconsin and Indiana. . . .

In a 1997 book review published in the Michigan Law Review, Posner was skeptical that the Constitution guaranteed same-sex marriage. The subject was “The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment” by Yale Law Professor William N. Eskridge, Jr. The book, which came out at a time when Hawaii was on track through the judiciary to legalize same-sex marriage, espouses the idea that courts must grant same-sex couples the right to marry as quickly as possible.

Although Posner acknowledges his belief that, without further study, same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children just the same as different-sex couples, he disputes the notion that the right to same-sex marriage is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. . . .

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Occupational Freedom, Competition, and the Supreme Court

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by Publius
Posted September 05, 2014, 9:11 AM

Photo by Jay Tamboli (Flickr)At The Library of Law and Liberty Blog, John O. McGinnis comments:

Next month the Supreme Court will consider an antitrust case [North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission] that pits federalism against occupational freedom. Over the last decade, individuals and companies who are not practicing dentists have begun offering teeth whitening services. In North Carolina a state board has told them to desist. What makes the case interesting under antitrust law is that the substantial majority of the board is elected by  dentists and dental hygienists—precisely the groups that stand to lose from this competition. The Federal Trade Commission challenged their action as a restraint of trade and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sustained it decision.

Antitrust law seeks a competitive marketplace. There is little doubt that it would condemn a private agreement among dentists to keep out competitors. It would be obviously the case that the potential competitors cannot evaluate health risks dispassionately.   But for reasons of federalism antitrust law exempts state action from its strictures even if that action is blatantly skewed to protect producers. Here the question is whether the Court will permit the state to cloak the actions of private competitors in its own authority.

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Full D.C. Circuit to Hear ACA Tax Credits Challenge

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by Publius
Posted September 04, 2014, 1:00 PM

Full D.C. Circuit to Hear ACA Tax Credits ChallengeThe National Law Journal reports:

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will consider a challenge to a key part of the Affordable Care Act—whether individuals buying health insurance on federally run exchanges can receive federal subsidies in the form of tax credits.

A divided D.C. Circuit panel in July ruled that individuals buying insurance through federal exchanges in the 36 states that declined to set up their own exchanges weren’t eligible to receive the credits. The U.S. Department of Justice asked the en banc court to reconsider the decision.

Arguments in Halbig v. Burwell are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 17, according to an order released Thursday morning by the appeals court.

At issue is an Internal Revenue Service regulation that interpreted the Affordable Care Act’s tax credit provision to apply to insurance purchased through the federal exchange. The ACA said the credits were for insurance bought through exchanges “established by the state,” which the challengers argued meant they were limited to state-run exchanges. The government argued for a broader interpretation.

Read the full article.

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U.S. District Judge Upholds Louisiana’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

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by Publius
Posted September 04, 2014, 8:45 AM

Photo by comedy_nose (Flickr)The Wall Street Journal Law Blog asks, "Game-changer or outlier?" You be the judge: 

A U.S. district judge on Wednesday upheld Louisiana’s ban on same-sex marriage, breaking with the vast majority of federal courts on a constitutional question likely to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Acknowledging he was sounding a discordant note amid a “hopeful chorus” of recent rulings, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said he was unconvinced that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. The judge said federal court decisions striking down gay marriage bans “exemplify a pageant of empathy,” but he doubted their legal wisdom.

“This Court is persuaded that Louisiana has a legitimate interest…whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others…in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents,” wrote Judge Feldman, leaving in place a state constitutional ban backed by 78% of Louisiana voters in a 2004 referendum.

The ruling ends a remarkable winning streak for the marriage-equality movement. Since the Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated Defense of Marriage Act provisions denying federal benefits to same-sex spouses,19 different federal courts have ruled against same-sex marriage bans in 16 states, according to Lambda Legal, a national gay rights legal group. Two other federal courts had ruled against gay plaintiffs in Hawaii and Nevada in older cases filed before last year’s high-court decision.

The string of victories also includes two appellate courts, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. Two other circuit courts are expected to weigh in with decisions this year.

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Fear-Based Instruction Can be Harmful to Law Students

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by Publius
Posted September 03, 2014, 8:56 AM

Photo by Jirka Matousek (Flickr)The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports:

Law schools have their own version of Scared Straight in the form of cautionary tales. Those are the stories that professors share with students about attorneys who suffered embarrassment or worse for a mistake they made. A good example is the story about the attorney who failed to notice an autocorrect error in his appellate brief that changed the phrase “sua sponte” to “sea sponge.”

But professors who sprinkle their classroom lecture with cautionary tales about attorneys’ goofs should themselves take heed, says Abigail Patthoff, a legal research and writing scholar at Chapman University in California.

In a new paper forthcoming in the Utah Law Review, Ms. Patthoff warns that such classroom tactics, if deployed unwisely, can make life even more stressful for beleaguered law students, whom she says are already “among the most dissatisfied, demoralized, and depressed of graduate student populations.”

Read the full story.

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