More Waiting

October 4, 2010

Today, I had the honor of partaking in the civic duty of jury duty once again. If you’ve never experienced it, imagine waiting in your doctor’s waiting room the whole day instead of just a few minutes — minus the part at the end where you get something to make you feel better.

I wrote a column for the Tampa Tribune several years ago on my first experience with this mind-numbing process lamenting the amount of hours jurors are required sit in a large room on uncomfortable chairs waiting on their name to be called. The lucky ones are those who get to wait the whole day without their name ever being called — sort of sadistic isn’t it?

After that first experience, imagine my surprise this morning when I was in the first group to be pulled out of the large waiting room to go through the actual juror selection process. Regardless of if I was going to be picked or not, I would be getting through this quickly this time!

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Constitutional Gay Marriage?

August 12, 2010

A timely cartoon in light of a California judge’s recent ruling concerning a voter-approved proposition banning gay marriage:

I think that section is in Article 8, right?


Kagan Confirmed

August 5, 2010

It’s official. Elena Kagan has been confirmed by the Senate as the newest Supreme Court Justice.

Here’s a previously-posted clip as a reminder of one of her views in case you mistakenly find yourself caught up in the euphoria of it all:

So much for that whole freedom of speech thing.


Legal Challenge to Obamacare Underway

August 4, 2010

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=obama+sebelius&iid=9183874″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9183874/obama-speaks/obama-speaks.jpg?size=500&imageId=9183874″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]The “individual mandate” section of the ‘Obamacare’ law passed earlier this year is now being officially challenged in the courts. A recent decision in a U.S. district court furthers this legal challenge by denying an effort by Kathleen Sebelius, acting in her official capacity as Health and Human Services Secretary, to have a case disputing the constitutionality of the law dismissed.

It’s an interesting read. Here’s one notable excerpt from the concluding remarks that summarizes the importance of considering the case:

While this case raises a host of complex constitutional issues, all seem to distill to the single question of whether or not Congress has the power to regulate — and  tax — a citizen’s decision not to participate in interstate commerce. Neither the U.S. Supreme Court nor any circuit court of appeals has squarely addressed this issue. No reported case from any federal appellate court has extended the Commerce Clause or Tax Clause to include the regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce.

It should be interesting to see how far this legal challenge goes.


California’s Balance Between Free Speech and Property

July 5, 2010

The previous post, posted here and on the YAL blog, generated an interesting discussion over California’s approach to balancing free-speech and property rights. One notable point made in the comments thread involved the case of Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins (1980).

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could extend rights beyond that of the U.S. Constitution so long as doing so does not violate rights protected by the Constitution. The case dealt with the California Supreme Court ruling that their constitution’s protection of free speech allowed for individuals to exercise their free-speech rights in a private shopping mall, despite the wishes of the mall owners. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the California Supreme Court that this did not violate the mall owner’s property rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments.

Justices of the Supreme Court of CaliforniaLegally, such a situation is allowed under the current precedent. In California, individual speech rights apparently can trump property rights in certain cases, with some exceptions (example). It’s in a way similar to the “public accommodation” approach in U.S. law that forbids businesses from not serving customers based on race. It transforms private property into something more — a public space.

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The First Amendment and Private Property

July 3, 2010

A story from OneNewsNow recently reported that the Pacific Justice Institute is suing a California shopping mall for what it believes to be a violation of constitutional freedoms. The alledged violation is that a mall policy bans the following:

… anyone [from] ever sharing their faith or political views with anyone else in the shopping mall at any time if they did not know that person prior to entering the shopping mall.

The story also reported that the mall had rules banning individuals from “wearing any clothing that displays religious or political messages.”

The problem with this argument is that the First Amendment, coupled with the Fourteenth Amendment applying much of the Bill of Rights to the states, prohibits the federal and state governments from abridging political speech or prohibiting religious freedom. It says nothing of private individuals or mall owners who have their own ground rules for individuals wishing to enter their property.

Americans have every right to express their political or religious views, but we don’t have a right to demand others allow us on their property to do so. This principle also applies to other freedoms.

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Words for the Weekend – 7-2-10

July 2, 2010
“Judges rule on the basis of law, not public opinion, and they should be totally indifferent to pressures of the times.”
         – former Chief Justice Warren Burger