U.S. Supreme Court

Constitutional Rights in a Pandemic

When does public health override individual rights?

Lockdowns and social distancing impinge on activities that are protected by the Constitution. That’s been true in many states of church services and in some states of abortion. When the cases have come before they courts, they have often turned to a 1905 Supreme Court case decision, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, which upheld a state law …

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D.C. and Puerto Rico are not the same.

Blanket calls for D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood miss a critical difference: D.C. is the American capital. Puerto Rico is an American colony.

“D.C. and Puerto Rico should be states. Pass it on.” With passage of the D.C. statehood bill in the House of Representatives last Friday, variations on this statement have been gaining traction as a liberal rallying cry. Because they are not states, neither D.C. nor Puerto Rico have voting representation in Congress. The votes of …

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On This Date in History: Property Rights Won Big in the Supreme Court

June 29, 1992 was a great day for property rights advocates. But what came later wasn’t so good.

On this date in 1992, the property rights movement achieved its greatest victory in the form of the Supreme Court’s Lucas ruling. The campaign to protect property rights seemed to have huge momentum.  But things didn’t work out that way. For property rights advocates, Lucas turned out to be a false dawn. Mr. Lucas owned …

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Fancy Dancing on the Appalachian Trail

How to Use Textualism to Evade Statutory Texts

The Supreme Court’s decision in Cowpasture case allows gas pipelines to cross the Appalachian trial. The ruling didn’t get much attention because of its timing. It came down the same day as Bostock, which outlawed employment discrimination against gays and transsexuals. Bostock featured a big battle over the meaning of textualism. But Cowpasture was also …

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Trump’s Border Wall, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Separation of Powers

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules Unconstitutional Trump Administration’s Diversion of $2.5 Billion in Congressionally-Appropriated DOD Funds for Border Wall Construction

Late last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down the Trump Administration’s attempted diversion of $2.5 billion in federal funds Congress had appropriated for the Department of Defense.  The Trump Administration did so in order to finance President Trump’s proposed, controversial border wall at a level Congress had expressly declined …

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What Does Today’s Decision Holding that Employers Can’t Discriminate Against LGBTQ Employees Have to Do with Climate Change?

The case provides potent ammunition for using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon pollution

Today’s blockbuster opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia,  holding that employers can’t fire LGBTQ workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, may seem far afield from the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. But its reasoning could have huge implications for climate change action.   In saying that discrimination …

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The Conservative Assault on Presidential Administration

Are they afraid of “faceless bureaucrats”? Or Democratic Presidents?

Conservatives are on a campaign to reduce agency discretion. They don’t seem to realize that in today’s world, that really amounts to an attack on presidential power.  These days, it’s generally not bureaucrats or even cabinet officers who make the real decisions about regulation. It’s the White House.  So the campaign against the administrative state …

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Do Epidemic-Based Business Closures by Government Trigger an Unconstitutional “Taking”?

Longstanding U.S. Supreme Court Precedents Indicate the Answer is an Unequivocal “No”

Lately, an increasing number of public and private voices have been raised in opposition to business closures ordered by state and local governments in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.  In many such cases, that opposition has taken the form of lawsuits filed by business owners, claiming a violation of their constitutional rights.  Gun shops across …

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The Coronavirus and the Commerce Clause

Could Congress mandate CORVID-19 vaccinations? Not if you take some Supreme Court opinions seriously.

If we get a vaccine against a national epidemic, could Congress pass a law requiring everyone to get vaccinated?  That very question was asked during the Supreme Court argument in the 2012 constitutional challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate.  The lawyer challenging Obamacare said “no, Congress couldn’t do that.” What’s shocking is that this may have …

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Here Today, Gone to Maui

U.S. Supreme Court Issues Environment-Friendly Ruling in Major Clean Water Act Case

This week the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the Court’s most important environmental law case of the current Term: County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund.  In a somewhat surprising ruling, the justices rejected both sides’ argument over the scope of government authority to regulate water pollution discharges under the federal Clean Water …

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