Tag Archives: unconstitutional

Federal funding restrictions and the First Amendment

Generally, it is well-known that under the Spending Clause of the Constitution if you want federal funding, you have to abide by the conditions/limitations imposed by the government.  For instance, you could receive a federal grant as long as you submit X reports to the government every month.  And generally, if you are opposed to these policies/conditions, you always have the option of declining the grant.

Think, for example, of the grant offered to States if they adopt the federal Affordable Care Act Medicaid extensions.  Some States have agreed to expand, while others have rejected the expansion.  The States that choose to expand will receive monetary aid, while the rejecting States will not. See the May 29, 2013 image here.

The Supreme Court has highlights a new twist.  In Agency for Int’l Devep. v. Alliance for Open Society Int’l, No. 12-10 (2013), the Supreme Court has held that in some situations these restrictions run foul of the First Amendment – Freedom of Speech.

The Alliance for Open Society case deals with a organization receiving federal funds to combat AIDS/HIV.  As a condition for this federal funding, the government required the organization to adopt policies against prostitution and sex trafficking.

Justice Roberts pointed to how the court has interpreted the First Amendment.  Pursuant to the Freedom of Speech, the government is prohibited from telling people what they must say.  See, e.g., Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Inst. Rights, Inc., 547 US 47, 61.  Consequently, the Supreme Court held that the requirement violated the First Amendment.

The question for the Supreme Court then focused on whether the government can still impose that requirement as a condition for receipt of federal funding.  The Supreme Court explained,

As a general matter, if a party objects to a condition on the receipt of federal funding, its recourse is to decline the funds….

At the same time, however, we have held that the Government “‘may not deny a benefit to a person on the basis that infringes his constitutionally protected . . . freedom of speech even if he has no entitlement to that benefit.'”… In some cases, a funding condition can result in an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights.

This is a fine line being followed by the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court distinguished cases where the government infringes the Freedom of Speech with cases where Congress is merely deciding not to subsidize certain actions/scenarios/circumstances.

The Supreme Court explains these different scenarios as follows:

We explained that Congress can, without offending the Constitution, selectively fund certain programs to address an issue of public concern, without funding alternative ways of addressing the same problem.  In Title X, Congress had defined the federal program to encourage only particular family planning methods.  The challenged regulations were simply “designed to ensure that the limits of the federal program are observed,” and “that public funds [are] spent for the purposes for which they were authorized…

The regulations governed only the scope of the grantee’s Title V projects, leaving it “unfettered in its other activities.”  … The TitleX grantee can continue to . . . engage in abortion advocacy; it simply is required to conduct those activities through programs that are separate and independent from the project that receives Title X funds.” … Because the regulations did not “prohibit[] the recipient from engaging in the protected conduct outside the scope of the federally funded program,” they did not run afoul of the First Amendment.

(italics and marks in original).

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Court upholds Handgun-Sales Age Requirement

This case again shows that regulating firearms is constitutional.

In NRA v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 11-10959 (5th Cir. Apr. 29, 2013), the court upheld 18 USC 922(b)(1) and (c)(1).  These laws prohibit federally licensed firearms dealers from selling handguns under the age of 21.

The NRA claimed that this federal statute was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.  The court disagreed.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals explained:

In a critical passafe, moreover, the Court emphasized that the ‘right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.’ [Dist. of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570, at 626].  As the [Supreme] Court explained:

From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose… [N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ills, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Id. at 626-27 (emphasis added) (citations omitted).

Thus, the Circuit Court stated that “Congress designed its scheme to solve a particular problem: violent crimes associated with the trafficking of handguns from federal firearms to licensees to young adults.”  The court, further stated that Congress could have sought to prohibit all persons under 21 from possessing handguns or all guns.  Additionally, the court pointed that under the Census, 18-to-20-year-olds accounted for a disproportionately high percentage of arrests for violent crimes” in 2010.

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DNA collection of arrested individuals

This month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue of whether it is constitutional for the State to require DNA collection of arrested individuals.  The case is Maryland v. King.  The argument is set for February 26, 2013.

As way of background:

  • The federal government and at least 26 states (including California, Illinois, and Florida) take DNA samples from some or all who are arrested but not yet convicted of serious crimes.
  • Last month, President Obama signed into law the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act.  The statute will help pay the start-up costs for other states to begin testing people who are arrested.

So what does this issue mean?  The issue is whether the State, without a search warrant, can take a DNA swap of an arrested individual – who has not been convicted.

The Maryland Court of Appeals stated the 4th amendment, which bars unreasonable searches, protects people who haven’t been convicted from having to provide DNA evidence.  In addition, the court stated, “Although arrestees do not have all the expectations of privacy enjoyed by the general public, the presumption of innocence bestows on them greater protections than convicted felons, parolees or probationers.”

The Maryland Court of Appeals further explained that DNA samples “contain a massive amount of deeply personal information.”

 

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More on NLRB Recess Appointments

There is much talk on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the President’s NLRB recess appointments was unconstitutional.

Shortly thereafter, the NLRB released a press release stating:

The Board respectfully disagrees with today’s decision and believes that the President’s position in the matter will ultimately be upheld.  It should be noted that this order applies to only one specific case, Noel Canning, and that similar questions have been raised in more than a dozen cases pending in other court of appeals.

Below is a compilation of pending cases, as put together by SCOTUS Blog by Lyle Denniston:

  • D.C. Circuit — fifteen other challenges pending, most if not all of which will be decided on the basis of last Friday’s ruling.  The cases are either in the briefing stage, or awaiting a briefing schedule.
  • Second Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • Third Circuit — three cases, one set for argument March 19 NLRB v. New Vista Nursing, docket 11-3440; one case being held for that case, another in briefing.
  • Fourth Circuit — four cases, one set for argument March 22 NLRB v. Enterprise Leasing Co. SE, docket 12-1514; others in briefing.
  • Fifth Circuit — one case, in briefing.Sixth Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • Seventh Circuit — two cases: one decided, but not on the merits of the appointments power; one in briefing.Ninth Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • Eleventh Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • The only federal appeals courts in which no such cases are pending are the First, Eighth, and Tenth.

via Spreading challenge to appointment power UPDATED : SCOTUSblog.

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NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional

Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the NLRB recess appointments were unconstitutional.  It goes without saying that the possible ramifications of this decision, which may impact other NLRB decisions.

In Noel Canning, the NLRB held that the issue presented was mooted because the NLRB recess appointments were unconstitutional.  In its decision, the court essentially stated that the Senate wasn’t in recess.  The court reasoned that “recess” occurs when Congress is not in one of its regular two or three sessions.

via Workplace Prof Blog: D.C. Circuit Holds NLRB Recess Appointments Unconstitutional.

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Gun regulation: pinning States against Federal Government

I came across this very interesting piece of news.  Mississippi and Texas proposed and called for bills to make it illegal to enforce any of the new federal gun control measures.

Mississippi Governor Bryant called for a bill that would make it illegal for state and local enforcement to enforce any executive order from the President.  Similarly, in Texas, State Representative Toth introduced the “Firearms Protection Act.”  The bill would make “any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state’s boundaries” and “anyone trying to enforce a federal gun ban could face felony charges under the proposal.”

The question is, of course, how would a federal statute or executive decision interact with the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  The second amendment provides,

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

The Supreme Court’s most indicative decisions call for an interesting debate.  The Supreme Court has ruled that the government can enforce several restrictions on the right to bear arms.  Presser v. Illinois, 116 US 252 (1886) (upholding the state’s or Congress’s regulation of militias); Miller v. Texas, 135 US 535 (1894) (upholding the state’s ability to press criminal charges for owning an unlicensed gun);  Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 US 275 (1897) (upholding state’s regulation of concealed weapons); and United States v. Miller, 307 US 174 (1939) (upholding the National Firearms Act which banned the interstate transportation of unregistered Title II weapons).

This, however, does not mean that we would know to what extent a regulation would be constitutional.

via State Lawmakers Say No to President Obamas Gun Control Proposal – ABC News.

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