CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-RELIGION-REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION-US POSTAL SERVICE

May 27th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Groff v. Dejoy, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 14195 (3rd Cir. May 25, 2022) (Shwartz, C.J.)  Plaintiff Gerald Groff is a Sunday Sabbath observer whose religious beliefs dictate that Sunday is meant for worship and rest. As a result, Groff informed his employer, the United States Postal Service ("USPS"), that he was unable to work on Sundays. USPS offered to find employees to swap shifts with him, but on more than twenty Sundays, no co-worker would swap, and Groff did not work. Groff was disciplined and ultimately left USPS. Groff sued USPS for violating Title VII by failing to reasonably accommodate his religion. Because the shift swaps USPS offered to Groff did not eliminate the conflict between his religious practice and his work obligations, USPS did not provide Groff a reasonable accommodation. The accommodation Groff sought (exemption from Sunday work), however, would cause an undue hardship on USPS. An employer is not required "to accommodate at all costs." Ansonia, 479 U.S. at 70. Where an employer's good-faith efforts to accommodate have been unsuccessful, the inquiry turns to whether the employer demonstrated that "such an accommodation would work an undue hardship upon…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS

May 23rd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 2403 (S. Ct. May 16, 2022) (Roberts, C.J.)  Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.  In order to jumpstart a fledgling campaign or finish strong in a tight race, candidates for federal office often loan money to their campaign committees. A provision of federal law regulates the repayment of such loans. Among other things, it bars campaigns from using more than $250,000 of funds raised after election day to repay a candidate’s personal loans. This limit on the use of post-election funds increases the risk that candidate loans over $250,000 will not be repaid in full, inhibiting candidates from making such loans in the first place. The question is whether this restriction violates the First Amendment rights of candidates and their campaigns to engage in political speech.  The government has not shown that § 304 furthers their permissible anti-corruption goal, rather than the impermissible objective of simply limiting the amount of money in politics.  We conclude that Cruz and the Committee have standing to challenge the threatened enforcement of § 304 of BCRA.  We also conclude that this provision burdens core political…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-OUTDOOR ADVERTISING

May 16th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

City of Austin v. Reagan Nat'l Adver. of Austin, LLC, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 2098 (S. Ct. April 21, 2022) (Sotomayor, J.)  Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court. Like thousands of jurisdictions around the country, the City of Austin, Texas (City), regulates signs that advertise things that are not located on the same premises as the sign, as well as signs that direct people to offsite locations. These are known as off-premises signs, and they include, most notably, billboards. The question presented is whether, under this Court’s precedents interpreting the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the City’s regulation is subject to strict scrutiny. We hold that it is not. Respondents, Reagan National Advertising of Austin, LLC (Reagan), and Lamar Advantage Outdoor Company, L. P. (Lamar), are outdoor-advertising companies that own billboards in Austin. In April and June of 2017, Reagan sought permits from the City to digitize some of its off-premises billboards. The City denied the applications. Reagan filed suit against the City in state court alleging that the code’s prohibition against digitizing off-premises signs, but not on-premises signs, violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The City…

TERRITORIES-FIFTH AMENDMENT-DUE PROCESS CLAUSE-SOCIAL SECURITY INCOME BENEFITS

May 16th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

United States v. Vaello-Madero, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 2094 (S. Ct. April 21, 2022) (Kavanaugh, J.)  The United States includes five Territories: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U. S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. This case involves Puerto Rico, which became a U. S. Territory in 1898 in the wake of the Spanish-American War. For various historical and policy reasons, including local autonomy, Congress has not required residents of Puerto Rico to pay most federal income, gift, estate, and excise taxes. Congress has likewise not extended certain federal benefits programs to residents of Puerto Rico. The question presented is whether the equal-protection component of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause requires Congress to make Supplemental Security Income benefits available to residents of Puerto Rico to the same extent that Congress makes those benefits available to residents of the States. In light of the text of the Constitution, longstanding historical practice, and this Court’s precedents, the answer is no. The deferential rational-basis test applies. And Puerto Rico’s tax status—in particular, the fact that residents of Puerto Rico are typically exempt from most federal income, gift, estate, and excise taxes—supplies…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-FLAG ON GOVERNMENT FLAGPOLE

May 16th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Shurtleff v. City of Boston, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 2327 (S. Ct. May 2, 2022) (Breyer, J.)  When the government encourages diverse expression—say, by creating a forum for debate—the First Amendment prevents it from discriminating against speakers based on their viewpoint. See Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 828- 830, 115 S. Ct. 2510, 132 L. Ed. 2d 700 (1995). But when the government speaks for itself, the First Amendment does not demand airtime for all views. After all, the government must be able to “promote a program” or “espouse a policy” in order to function. Walker v. Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., 576 U. S. 200, 208, 135 S. Ct. 2239, 192 L. Ed. 2d 274 (2015). The line between a forum for private expression and the government’s own speech is important, but not always clear. This case concerns a flagpole outside Boston City Hall. For years, Boston has allowed private groups to request use of the flagpole to raise flags of their choosing. As part of this program, Boston approved hundreds of requests to raise dozens of different flags. The…

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-SPEECH-SIGNS ON RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

May 2nd, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Oberholzer v. Galapo, 2022 Pa. Super. LEXIS 169 (April 18, 2022) (Nichols, J.)  Appellants Simon and Toby Galapo appealed from judgment entered in favor of Oberholzer.  It is claimed that the order entered against them was an unconstitutional restraint on their right to free speech.  The Superior Court vacated and remanded for further proceedings.  The parties are neighbors in Abington Township.  They are separated by a creek.  There was a question about where the property line was.  Starting in June 2015, Appellants erected signs on their property including primarily anti-hate and anti-racist statements, but which were clearly intended to be obnoxious.  The court entered an order granting Appellees’ request for permanent injunction in part.  The placement of the signs, said the court, indicated that appellant was targeting specific individuals with the signs that decry their perceived racist behavior.  As a result, the trial court ordered appellants to position their signs in such a way that they do not face Appellees’ property.  The court did not enjoin the content of the signs.  The court wound up amending its order permitting the signs to remain, but again requiring that they be positioned…

Constitutional Law

July 23rd, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FOURTH AMENDMENT-PROBABLE CAUSE-MALICIOUS PROSECUTION Thompson v. Clark, 2022 U.S. LEXIS 1885 (S. Ct. April 4, 2022) (Kavanaugh, J.).  JUSTICE KAVANAUGH delivered the opinion of the Court. Larry Thompson was charged and detained in state criminal proceedings, but the charges were dismissed before trial without any explanation by the prosecutor or judge. After the dismissal, Thompson alleged that the police officers who initiated the criminal proceedings had “maliciously prosecuted” him without probable cause. Thompson sued and sought money damages from those officers in federal court. As relevant here, he advanced a Fourth Amendment claim under 42 U. S. C. §1983 for malicious prosecution. To maintain that Fourth Amendment claim under §1983, a plaintiff such as Thompson must demonstrate, among other things, that he obtained a favorable termination of the underlying criminal prosecution. Cf. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484, 114 S. Ct. 2364, 129 L. Ed. 2d 383, and n. 4 (1994). This case requires us to flesh out what a favorable termination entails. Does it suffice for a plaintiff to show that his criminal prosecution ended without a conviction? Or must the plaintiff also demonstrate that the prosecution…

Supremacy Clause: Standing Gerrymandering

July 12th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Gill v. Whitford, 585 U.S. ___ (2018); Benisek v. Lamone, 585 U.S. ___ (2018).   U.S. Supreme Court has found that gerrymandering case must be brought by those with standing.  That was the holding in Gill.  In Benisek, the court found a lack of grounds for an emergency injunction.  In Gill, the plaintiffs were supporters of the public policies espoused by the Democratic Party and of Democratic Party candidates.  The court kicked the can down the road in both cases but spoke specifically in Gill about the standing issue.  Some of the standing principles articulated is that the harm asserted by plaintiffs is best understood as arising from a burden on the plaintiff’s own votes.  In this gerrymandering context, that burden arises through a voter’s placement in a “cracked” or “packed” district.  The plaintiffs failed to meaningfully pursue their allegations of individual harm.  The plaintiffs did not seek to show requisite harm on the record.  It appears that not a single plaintiff sought to prove that he or she lived in a cracked or packed district.  Instead, they rested their theory on statewide theory to Wisconsin Democrats.  This is a…

Constitutional Law: Fourth Amendment Arrest Excessive Police Force

May 23rd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Qualified Immunity, Excessive Police Force and Fourth Amendment Andrew Kisela v. Amy Hughes, 584 U.S. ___ (2018).  PER CURIAM. Petitioner Andrew Kisela, a police officer in Tucson, Arizona, shot respondent Amy Hughes. Kisela and two other officers had arrived on the scene after hearing a police radio report that a woman was engaging in erratic behavior with a knife. They had been there but a few minutes, perhaps just a minute. When Kisela fired, Hughes was holding a large kitchen knife, had taken steps toward another woman standing nearby Chadwick, and had refused to drop the knife after at least two commands to do so. The question is whether at the time of the shooting Kisela’s actions violated clearly established law. All three of the officers later said that at the time of the shooting they subjectively believed Hughes to be a threat to Chadwick.  Here, the Court need not, and does not, decide whether Kisela violated the Fourth Amendment when he used deadly force against Hughes. For even assuming a Fourth Amendment violation occurred—a proposition that is not at all evident—on these facts Kisela was at least entitled to…

Constitutional law – Pennsylvania Constitution, Article I, Section 5: The free and equal elections clause, congressional redistricting

February 9th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

League of Women Voters of Pa. v. Commonwealth, 2018 Pa. LEXIS 771 (February 7, 2018) Todd, J.  This case strikes down Pennsylvania’s Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 as unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The court held that while federal courts have been unable to settle on a workable standard by which to assess partisan gerrymandering claims, there is no barrier under the “great” Pennsylvania charter.  The 2011 Plan violates Article I, Section 5, Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The court examined each one of the congressional districts in detail, as well as the electoral history.  The court held that the 2011 Plan clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  The historial motives of adoption of the Pennsylvania constitutional provision at issue was to prevent the dilution of the right of the people of the Commonwealth to select representatives to govern their affairs based on considerations of the region of the state in which they live, the religious and political beliefs to which they adhered. Consequently, for all of these reasons, and as expressly set forth in our Order…