Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks – August 1, 2014


Bostic v. Schaefer, US 4th Cir. (7/28/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Family Law, Government & Administrative Law

gaypride_flagPlaintiffs filed suit challenging Virginia Code sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3; the Marshall/Newman Amendment, Va. Const. art. I, 15-A; and any other Virginia law that bars same sex-marriage or prohibits the State’s recognition of otherwise-lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions (collectively, the Virginia Marriage Laws). Plaintiffs argued that these laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and enjoined Virginia from enforcing the laws. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that each of the plaintiffs had standing as to at least one defendant, and the court declined to view Baker v. Nelson as binding precedent. The court concluded that strict scrutiny analysis applied in this case where the Virginia Marriage Laws impede the right to marry by preventing same-sex couples from marrying and nullifying the legal import of their out-of-state marriages. Proponents contend that five interests support the laws: federalism-based interests, history and tradition, protecting the institution of marriage, encouraging responsible procreation, and promoting the optimal childrearing environment. The court concluded, however, that these interests are not compelling interests that justify the Virginia Marriage Laws. Therefore, all of the proponents’ justifications for the laws fail and the laws cannot survive strict scrutiny. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Virginia Marriage Laws violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the extent that they prevent same-sex couples from marrying and prohibit Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples’ lawful out-of-state marriages. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Read More: Appeals Panel Rejects Virginia Gay-Marriage Ban

Jackson Women’s Health Org., et al. v. Currier, et al., US 5th Cir. (7/29/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Health Law

Plaintiffs filed suit challenging Mississippi’s H.B. 1390, which requires that all physicians associated with the abortion facility must have admitting privileges at a local hospital and staff privileges to replace local hospital on-staff physicians. On appeal, the State challenged the district court’s entry of a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of the admitting privileges provision of H.B. 1390. The provision effectively will close the state’s only abortion clinic. The court held that, assuming a rational basis inquiry is a necessary step in deciding the constitutionality of an abortion regulation, H.B. 1930 satisfied rational basis review; Gaines v. Canada instructs the court to consider the effects of H.B. 1390 only within Mississippi in conducting an undue burden analysis; JWHO, the only licensed abortion clinic in the state, has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on its claim that H.B. 1390’s admission privileges requirement imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion in Mississippi and is unconstitutional as applied to plaintiffs; and, to the extent the preliminary injunction enjoined enforcement of H.B. 1390 against parties other than plaintiffs, it was overly broad and was modified to apply only to the parties in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court with modifications.

Read More: Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Mississippi’s Lone Abortion Clinic

State v. Tate, Wisconsin Supreme Court (7/24/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Criminal Law

Law enforcement obtained evidence by tracking Appellant’s cell phone using cell site location information and a stingray. Before tracking Appellant’s cell phone, law enforcement obtained an order approving the procedures used to track Appellant’s cell phone. Appellant pled no contest to first-degree reckless homicide. Appellant then appealed the circuit court’s denial of his motion to suppress, arguing (1) law enforcement violated his constitutional right against unreasonable searches; and (2) the order authorizing the tracking of his cell phone required statutory authority, which the court lacked. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) assuming that law enforcement’s activities constituted a search, the search was reasonable because it was executed pursuant to an order that met the Fourth Amendment’s requirements; and (2) specific statutory authorization was not necessary for the circuit court judge to issue the order that authorized the tracking of Appellant’s cell phone through cell site information and a stingray because the order was supported by probable cause.

Read More: Wisconsin court sides with police using cell phones to track suspects

Madison Teachers, Inc. v. Walker, Wisconsin Supreme Court (7/31/14)
Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Labor & Employment Law

Madison Teachers, Inc. and Public Employees Local 61 sued Governor Walker and three commissioners of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission challenging several provisions of Act 10, a budget repair bill that significantly altered Wisconsin’s public employee labor laws. Plaintiffs (1) alleged that certain aspects of Act 10 violate the constitutional associational and equal protection rights of the employees they represent; and (2) challenged Wis. Stat. 62.623, a separate provision created by Act 10, as a violation of the home rule amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution, and argued, in the alternative, that section 62.623 violates the constitutionally protected right of parties to contract with each other. The circuit court invalidated several provisions of Act 10, including the collective bargaining limitations, annual recertification requirements, and the prohibitions of fair share agreements and on payroll deductions of labor organization dues. The Supreme Court reversed and upheld Act 10 in its entirety, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ associational rights argument is without merit; (2) Act 10 survives Plainiffs’ equal protection challenge under rational basis review; (3) Plaintiffs’ home rule amendment argument fails because section 62.623 primarily concerns a matter of statewide concern; and (4) Plaintiffs’ Contract Clause claim fails.

Read More: Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds law curbing collective bargaining for public workers