FAN 75 (First Amendment News) Justice Kagan & the future of Abood, the strength of stare decisis, & the relevance of Garcetti
This post marks the 75th weekly issue of First Amendment News. I want to thank our publisher Dan Solove for making this possible. Thanks, too, to all those in the free-speech community — lawyers, professors, judges, journalists, and activists — who brought me their news and kindly shared mine. And thanks to my fellow bloggers, both here and elsewhere, for their support. In the days ahead I will explore ways to make FAN better and ever more timely and informative. Thus, if you have any ideas (small or big), please pass them along. Finally, and consistent with the spirit of the First Amendment, I try to be fair to all sides in what I select and how I present it. So if you have some news to share, pass it along. Meanwhile, onward!
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This October will mark the beginning of her sixth term on the Court. At 55, she could spend another 27 years on the Court before she is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s age. So she has plenty of time, she can move slowly and deliberatively, and she can plant seeds in today’s dissents for harvest in a future year. She is, of course, Justice Elena Kagan.
Soon, the Court will schedule oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, et al., the latest public employees union case involving a First Amendment challenge to an opt-out requirement in a union-fee case. Among other issues, Justice Kagan has previously flagged two points that could prove to be important in Friedrichs. (1) how will the Court finesse the stare decisis question? And (2), how much latitude will it give to what it ruled in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006). Those two points are highlighted below.
________ Just How Binding is Stare Decisis? ________
In Brulotte v. Thys Co. (1964), this Court held that a patent holder cannot charge royalties for the use of his invention after its patent term has expired. The sole question presented here is whether we should overrule Brulotte. Adhering to principles of stare decisis, we decline to do so. . . Overruling precedent is never a small matter. . . Respecting stare decisis means sticking to some wrong decisions. — Justice Elena Kagan for 6-3 majority in Kimple v. Marvel Entertainment (2015)
One of the specific issues in Friedrichs is whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment. In that regard, recall that Justice Kagan joined Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 110 (2012), wherein it was said: “Of course, principles of stare decisis are not absolute. But the Court cannot be right when it departs from those principles without benefit of argument in a matter of such importance.” In Friedrichs it will have precisely that “benefit of argument” . . . assuming the case is not dismissed.
“Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed. answers the question presented in this case. Abood held that a government entity may, consistently with the First Amendment, require public employees to pay a fair share of the cost that a union incurs negotiating on their behalf for better terms of employment. . . The Abood rule is deeply entrenched, and is the foundation for not tens or hundreds, but thousands of contracts between unions and governments across the Nation. Our precedent about precedent, fairly understood and applied, makes it impossible for this Court to reverse that decision.”
Sensitive to the doctrine of stare decisis — a creed to which all would-be Justices feign allegiance when appearing before a Senate confirmation hearing — she roundly defended that doctrine as it applies to Abood:
“This Court’s view of stare decisis makes plain why the majority cannot—and did not—overturn Abood. That doctrine, we have stated, is
- a ‘foundation stone of the rule of law.’ Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community (2014). It ‘promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles [and] fosters reliance on judicial decisions.’ Payne v. Tennessee (1991).
- As important, it ‘contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process,’ ibid., by ensuring that decisions are ‘founded in the law rather than in the proclivities of individuals,’ Vasquez v. Hillery (1986). For all those reasons, this Court has always held that ‘any departure’ from precedent ‘demands special justification.’ Arizona v. Rumsey (1984).
- And Abood,” she stressed, “is not just any precedent: It is entrenched in a way not many decisions are. Over nearly four decades, we have cited Abood favorably numerous times, and we have repeatedly affirmed and applied its core distinction between the costs of collective bargaining (which the government can demand its employees share) and those of political activities (which it cannot).”
- “Perhaps still more important, Abood has created enormous reliance interests. More than 20 States have enacted statutes authorizing fair-share provisions, and on that basis public entities of all stripes have entered into multi-year contracts with unions containing such clauses.” [indented numbers added to text]
Notably, many of those same arguments, even worded the same way, were set out in her Kimple majority opinion, with the Chief Justice and Justice Clarence Thomas joining in Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent. Perhaps fearful of the application of stare decisis to future cases such as Friedrichs, Justice Alito began his Kimple dissent by stating: “The Court employs stare decisis, normally a tool of restraint, to reaffirm a clear case of judicial overreach.”
________ Garcetti’s Liberal Promise? ________
There is also the Garcetti point raised by Justice Kagan in the course of oral arguments in Harris: “[I]n the workplace we’ve given the government a very wide degree of latitude and there’s much that the government can do. It can fire people. It can demote people for things that they say in the workplace, not for things that they say as a citizen, but for things that they say in the workplace. That’s the fundamental lesson of Garcetti and of many, many others of our cases. So you’re saying, well, the government can punish somebody for saying something [as in Garcetti], but the government in the exact same exact position cannot compel somebody to say something they disagree with. And I want to know what’s the basis for that distinction . . . .”
SCOTUSblog Symposium on Friedrichs
Charlotte Garden, “Another battle in the war over union fees,” SCOTUSblog, Aug. 28, 2015; David Rivkin & Andrew Grossman, “Correcting the “historical accident” of opt-out requirements,” SCOTUSblog, Aug. 27, 2015; Catherine Fisk, “The Friedrichs petition should be dismissed,” SCOTUSblog, Aug. 26, 2015; Bill Messenger, “Will the Court continue to recognize a distinction between bargaining with government and lobbying the government?,” SCOTUSblog, Aug. 25, 2015; Ann C. Hodges, “Public-sector unions, labor relations, and free speech,” SCOTUSblog, Aug. 25, 2015; and Deborah J. LaFetra, “Overrule Abood to protect individual rights,” SCOTUSblog, Aug. 24, 2015.
Reed Opinion fuels Challenge to D.C. Panhandling Law
This from Martin Austermuhle at WAMU 88.5: “If someone walks down a D.C. sidewalk loudly expressing a political opinion, it’s considered free speech that’s protected by the First Amendment. But what if they’re homeless, and instead of making a statement ask someone else for money? Is that also protected speech?”
“D.C. attorney William Claiborne thinks so, and he’s hoping a D.C. court agrees with him.”
“Claiborne has filed a class action lawsuit challenging the city’s panhandling law, saying that it unconstitutionally infringes upon the First Amendment by distinguishing between panhandlers who ask passers-by for money on spot and organizations like the Girls Scouts who might ask for donations to be given later. . . . “
→ The First Amendment challenge is grounded largely in the Court’s recent ruling in Reed v. Town of Glibert.
→ See also: Clay Calvert, “Content-Based Confusion and Panhandling: Muddling a Weathered First Amendment Doctrine Takes its Toll on Society’s Less Fortunate,” Richmond Journal of Law & Public Interest (2015)
→ FAN 54 (First Amendment News): “Fourth Circuit Skeptical of Local Panhandling Law . . . Issue Before SCOTUS in Another Case,” April 1, 2015
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