A Possible Lawsuit

I want to solicit opinions on the following constitutional question that I am thinking of litigating.

Indiana bans the sale of alcohol in grocery stores on Sundays.  This is an old statute and at this point we are either the only state or one of the few that has such a law.  Every year noises are made in the Legislature about repealing this Sunday alcohol ban, but so far nothing has happened.

It seems to me that this is a classic (if rare) example of an irrational statute that should be declared unconstitutional.  I find it hard to come up with any logical rationale for this.  It’s not as if all alcohol sales are banned here on Sundays (restaurants can sell drinks and so can the stadium where the Indianapolis Colts play).  Why, then, is a distinction made between these vendors and grocery stores?  More broadly, what is the purpose served by banning alcohol sales on a Sunday that isn’t purely religious, which I assume was the original idea?

I would invite groups that want to subject economic regulation to judicial scrutiny to consider litigating this issue.  I’m toying with the idea of doing it myself (largely because I think it would be fun and that I can win), but perhaps I’m missing something.

UPDATE:  Michael Risch correctly points out in a comment that the Court upheld various “Sunday” laws in the 1960s. I would submit, though, that those cases are distinguishable because Indiana’s decision to restrict the sale of one type of good through one type of retail channel cannot survive rational basis review.


State Sovereign Immunity in Another State

In looking over the cases that the Court will be hearing in the next few months, one notable (if less sexy) one is Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt.  Hyatt presents the question of whether a state can deny sovereign immunity to other states in circumstances where the home state gets sovereign immunity in its state courts.  One of the Questions Presented asks the Court to overrule Nevada v. Hall, a 1979 decision holding that states did not have sovereign immunity in the courts of other states.

Hall would appear to be on thin ice.  It is inconsistent with the line of decisions that began in 1996 with Seminole Tribe and give the states broad sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment. Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote Seminole Tribe as the Chief Justice, dissented in Hall on grounds similar to what he later turned into law on related issues.

If the Court does overrule Hall, it will be interesting to see whether Justices Sotomayor and Kagan decide to embrace Seminole Tribe under stare decisis.  One can expect Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, who dissented in Seminole Tribe, to adhere to the view that this entire line of authority is wrongheaded.  The new Justices have not opined on this question, though, and thus it is possible that Hyatt will reveal whether Seminole Tribe has become settled law or not.


How CalECPA Improves on its Federal Namesake

Last week, Governor Brown signed the landmark California Electronic Communications Privacy Act[1] (CalECPA) into law and updated California privacy law for modern communications. Compared to ECPA, CalECPA requires warrants, which are more restricted, for more investigations; provides more notice to targets; and furnishes as a remedy both court-ordered data deletion and statutory suppression.  Moreover, CalECPA’s approach is comprehensive and uniform, eschewing the often irrational distinctions that have made ECPA one of the most confusing and under-protective privacy statutes in the Internet era.

Extended Scope, Enhanced Protections, and Simplified Provisions

CalECPA regulates investigative methods that ECPA did not anticipate. Under CalECPA, government entities in California must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before they may access electronic communications contents and metadata from service providers or from devices.  ECPA makes no mention of device-stored data, even though law enforcement agents increasingly use StingRays to obtain information directly from cell phones. CalECPA subjects such techniques to its warrant requirement. While the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Riley required that agents either obtain a warrant or rely on an exception to the warrant requirement to search a cell phone incident to arrest, CalECPA requires a warrant for physical access to any device, not just a cell phone, which “stores, generates, or transmits electronic information in electronic form.” CalECPA clearly defines the exceptions to the warrant requirement by specifying what counts as an emergency, who can give consent to the search of a device, and related questions.

ECPA’s 1986-drafted text only arguably covers the compelled disclosure of location data stored by a service provider, and does not clearly require a warrant for such investigations. CalECPA explicitly includes location data in the “electronic communication information” that is subject to the warrant requirement when a government entity accesses it from either a device or a service provider (broadly defined).  ECPA makes no mention of location data gathered in real-time or prospectively, but CalECPA requires a warrant both for those investigations and for stored data investigations. Whenever a government entity compels the “the production of or access to” location information, including GPS data, from a service provider or from a device, CalECPA requires a warrant.

Read More


Vanderbilt Law Review, Volume 68, Number 5

The Vanderbilt Law Review is pleased to announce the publication of our October 2015 issue:


Todd Haugh, Overcriminalization’s New Harm Paradigm, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 1191 (2015).

Adam J. Levitin & Susan M. Wachter, Second Liens and the Leverage Option, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 1243 (2015).

J.B. Ruhl & James Salzman, Regulatory Exit, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 1295 (2015).


G. Scott Edwards, Empowering Shareholders, or Overburdening Companies? Analyzing the Potential Use of Instant Runoff Voting in Corporate Elections, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 1335 (2015).

Joshua D. Foote, Hung Up on Words: A Conduct-Based Solution to the Problem of Conspiracy in Military Commissions, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 1367 (2015).

G. Alexander Nunn, The Incompatibility of Due Process and Naked Statistical Evidence, 68 Vand. L. Rev. 1407 (2015).


FAN 81 (First Amendment News) Parody Prevails, Copyright Challenge Fails — the Play Goes On

David Adjmi

David Adjmi

David Adjmi is an accomplished playwright. Three years ago one of his plays, 3C, was performed at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. The New York Times described it as a “darkly comic deconstruction of the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company.” But DLT Entertainment Ltd., (the sitcom’s copyright owner) didn’t appreciate the humor, so its lawyers sent out a  cease-and-desist letter. The claim was that Mr. Adjmi had borrowed too much. Though the play went on, the suit did too. The question was whether there was a First Amendment parody and fair use privilege to do what Adjmi did.

That question was answered recently by United States District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska who ruled that “despite the many similarities between the [play and the sitcom], 3C is clearly a transformative use” and thus can be performed, published, and licensed.

Bruce Johnson

Bruce Johnson

At first Mr. Adjmi was tempted to give in to DLT Entertainment Ltd’s demands because he lacked the money to stay in the legal fight. The plot then thickened: Patrick Healy, then theatre reporter for the New York Times, was incensed, so he “started a petition on Adjmi’s behalf, which was signed by many in the industry, including some fancy people, too, like Stephen Sondheim and Aaron Sorkin and Tony Kushner.”

Enter Bruce Johnson, a noted First Amendment lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine. The turning point came when Mr. Johnson and his firm took on the case, pro bono. They won it. As Mr. Johnson told American Theatre“We took this on a pro bono basis because we care deeply about the theatre,” and felt that “meritless legal claims should not be used to block free speech.” As he saw it, “DLT was hoping that its greater financial resources would overmatch whatever legal help David [Adjmi] could find, if anyone.” That disturbed Johnson “because it was clearly intended to have an effect on David and his efforts to protect his free speech rights.”

In the words of the Bard, “all’s well that ends well.” (See below)

Performance & Panel Discussion ←

The Arts Integrity Initiative at The New School College of Performing Arts, School of Drama, will present the first public reading of David Adjmi’s 3C, following the work’s landmark legal victory. Directed by Jackson Gay, this is the first public performance of 3C following the landmark legal victory.

A panel discussion hosted by playwright and New School faculty member Jon Robin Baitz will include attorney Bruce Johnson and David Adjmi, speaking publically for the first time, about 3C’s journey since its world premiere in June of 2012 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.


WHERE: The New School Auditorium – 66 W. 12th Street New York City, New York


Abortion Buffer Zone Ordinance Invalidated Read More


Upcoming Online Symposium on Merle Weiner’s “A Parent-Partner Status for American Family Law”

9781107088085During the week of October 26, 2015, we will be hosting an online symposium on Professor Merle Weiner’s provocative new book A Parent-Partner Status for American Family Law (Cambridge University Press). In this book, Professor Weiner critiques our current legal approach to parental relationships in which the birth or adoption of a child has little significance for parents’ legal relationship to each other. She argues that the law’s reliance on marriage, domestic partnerships, and contracts to set the parameters of parents’ legal relationship is outdated and requires a new legal and social structure to guide parents so they act as supportive partners and to deter uncommitted couples from having children together.  Drawing from psychology, sociology and biology, she proposes the creation of a “parent-partner” status within family law and shifts the legal framework away from the traditional focus on romantic relationships to the realities of parental partnership.

To discuss A Parent-Partner Status, we will be joined by an exciting group of scholars (including Merle Weiner): Richard Banks, Brian Bix, Naomi Cahn, June Carbone, Leigh Goodmark, Clare Huntington, Alicia Kelly, and Jane Murphy.

Mark your calendars October 26-31.



Rather v. CBS Contracts Story Omitted from Redford’s “Truth”

Robert Redford’s latest film, Truth, dramatizes the last stand of newsman Dan Rather, longtime face of CBS News until fired for a controversial 2004 broadcast about President George W. Bush. The film, which debuted this week at the Hamptons Film Festival in Long Island, New York and opens October 16, is based on the book by Rather’s producer, Mary Mapes, and is therefore biased.  It is nevertheless a rich story, with Redford playing Rather and Cate Blanchett portraying Mapes (all pictured nearby).  The true story culminated, moreover, in a fight between Rather and CBS about contract interpretation, although neither the book nor the film delves into this important topic.

Amid a heated 2004 presidential election, on a CBS 60 Minutes broadcast of September 8, 2004, Rather questioned President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam era. Rather implied that Bush exerted political influence to avoid that era’s military draft by entering the Guard, and then receiving special treatment to skip military duties. A media melee followed Rather’s show. Bush supporters challenged its accuracy, the authenticity of documents used, and Rather’s journalistic integrity, which many believed was compromised by bias against President Bush.

After investigation, CBS disavowed the broadcast and, two weeks later, an emotional Rather apologized for it on national television. But CBS and Rather disagreed on the overall journalistic quality of the broadcast and what to do about it. Rather identified important accurate facts in the broadcast, obscured by the firestorm, and urged a defense of those whose reputations, including his and Mapes, the broadcast imperiled.

For its part, CBS emphasized the journalistic lapses and wanted to let it go at that. Believing CBS was most interested in the politics of good relations with the White House, as Bush was running for reelection in a heated contest against Senator John Kerry, Rather retracted his apology and claimed CBS fraudulently induced it. The day after President Bush won reelection, CBS told Rather it planned to remove him from his coveted spot as anchor of the CBS Evening News—a stinging rebuke. Rather’s last broadcast as anchor was March 9, 2005.

During the next 15 months, through May 2006, CBS kept Rather on its payroll, paying his salary of about $125,000 per week ($6 million annually). CBS gave him irregular appearances on CBS programs covering less significant stories, and his former television profile diminished. He rarely appeared on the network’s big-time shows such as 60 Minutes. Worse, CBS prevented him from pursuing jobs with competing networks or other media. Rather claimed that CBS marginalized him by giving him limited staff and editorial support; rejected most of his story proposals and aired those it accepted at off-peak times; denied him the chance to appear as a guest on other programs; and generally prevented him from refurbishing his reputation. Read More


Hoyt v. Florida Oral Argument

I mentioned in a prior post that I’m listening to the Supreme Court oral arguments that are now available on the Oyez Project at Chicago-Kent.  One that was high on my list to listen to was Hoyt v. Florida, a 1961 decision that upheld a Florida law that only made jury service mandatory for men.  Hoyt was convicted of killing her husband by an all-male jury, on her argument on appeal was that Florida’s statute, which said that women had to affirmatively volunteer to be in the venire, denied her a fair trial.  The Court rejected this challenge unanimously.

The argument is fascinating because it contains a mix of modern gender discrimination arguments and traditional stereotypes.  Hoyt’s attorney made some claims that sound familiar (women suffered from broad discrimination, we would be skeptical of a man convicted by an all-female jury for killing his wife), but he also made the curious choice to say that his co-counsel who wrote most of the brief was a woman but he was arguing the case.  He also was more or less forced to rely on gender stereotypes (e.g., women are more emotional) to argue why women should be on juries.

Anyone, it’s well worth a listen.


Better Bankers, Better Banks

bbbbAnyone seeking a fresh and compelling assessment of global financial stability should consider the forthcoming book Better Bankers, Better Banks, due out later this month.  The simple central thesis is that banks fail because bankers fail and the logically inexorable prescription is covenant banking, meaning getting banker’s to assume personal liability for bank failures.  U. Minnesota business law professors Claire Hill and Richard Painter offer a work of elegant simplicity, as reflected in the book’s Table of Contents:

Part I: The Problem

1 Irresponsible Banking  

2 How Banking Became What It Is Today
3 Explaining Banker Behavior  

Part II: Solutions
4 Law and Its Limits
5 Covenant Banking
6 Responsible Banking

The sub-title suggests an intriguing twist on the normative thrust: “Promoting Good Business Through Contractual Commitment.”  I discussed the book and its themes with the authors on several occasions and read some draft chapters. I am now eager to devour the final.  My guess is the read will benefit not only policymakers and scholars but bankers as well.  Kudos to Claire and Richard.


FAN 80 (First Amendment News) Coming Soon: Philippa Strum’s Book on Whitney v. California

Those familiar with American legal history, including its free-speech history, know the name Philippa Strum. The senior scholar at the Wilson Center is the author of, among other books, Louis D. Brandeis: Justice for the People (1984) and When the Nazis Came to Skokie (1999). Her latest book comes out early next month and is entitled Speaking Freely: Whitney v. California and American Speech Law. The book is being published by the University Press of Kansas and is part of the Landmark Law Cases and American Society. Here is the publisher’s abstract of the book:

51N0zk7v72L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_“Anita Whitney was a child of wealth and privilege who became a vocal leftist early in the twentieth century, supporting radical labor groups such as the Wobblies and helping to organize the Communist Labor Party. In 1919 she was arrested and charged with violating California’s recently passed laws banning any speech or activity intended to change the American political and economic systems. The story of the Supreme Court case that grew out of Whitney’s conviction, told in full in this book, is also the story of how Americans came to enjoy the most liberal speech laws in the world.”

“In clear and engaging language, noted legal scholar Philippa Strum traces the fateful interactions of Whitney, a descendant of Mayflower Pilgrims; Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, a brilliant son of immigrants; the teeming immigrant neighborhoods and left wing labor politics of the early twentieth century; and the lessons some Harvard Law School professors took from World War I-era restrictions on speech. Though the Supreme Court upheld Whitney’s conviction, it included an opinion by Justice Brandeis — joined by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. — that led to a decisive change in the way the Court understood First Amendment free speech protections. Speaking Freely takes us into the discussions behind this dramatic change, as Holmes, Brandeis, Judge Learned Hand, and Harvard Law professors Zechariah Chafee and Felix Frankfurter debate the extent of the First Amendment and the important role of free speech in a democratic society. In Brandeis’s opinion, we see this debate distilled in a statement of the value of free speech and the harm that its suppression does to a democracy, along with reflections on the importance of freedom from government control for the founders and the drafters of the First Amendment.”

“Through Whitney v. California and its legacy, Speaking Freely shows how the American approach to speech, differing as it does that of every other country, reflects the nation’s unique history. Nothing less than a primer in the history of free speech rights in the US, the book offers a sobering and timely lesson as fear once more raises the specter of repression.”

Philippa Strum is arguably the leading Brandeis scholar of the last fifty years. Justice Brandeis’s opinion in Whitney v. California is arguably the most inspiring and enduring judicial account ever of the reasons for a strong free speech principle. It seems only natural that Philippa Strum should write the definitive book on Whitney v. California. And she has done just that, uncovering much new material about Anita Whitney and those who prosecuted and defended her. This fascinating book is truly worthy of Brandeis, who relished resourceful factual investigation, instructive analysis, and lucid writing. — Vincent Blasi

Other books in the Landmark Law Cases and American Society series dealing with free speech include:

  1. Whitney Strub, Obscenity Rules: Roth v. United States and the Long Struggle over Sexual Expression (2013)
  2. Max Lender, Gitlow v. New York: Every Idea an Incitement (2012)
  3. Kermit Hall & Melvin Urofsky, New York Times v. Sullivan: Civil Rights, Libel Law, and the Free Press (2011)
  4. Robert Justin Goldstein, Flag Burning and Free Speech: The Case of Texas v. Johnson (2000)
  5. John W. Johnson, The Struggle for Student Rights: Tinker v. Des Moines and the 1960s (1997)

Guns on Campus — Free Speech Under Fire? 

Justice Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller: “[The Court’s decision] “should not be taken to cast doubt on … laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools or government buildings.

Oregon is one of the seven states that now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public post-secondary campuses. (See Auyero commentary below)

* * * *

Guns-and-Free-Speech Tyler Kingkade, “Texas Professors Warn Allowing Guns In Class Will Inhibit Free Speech,” Huffington Post, Oct. 5, 2015

Greg Piper, “‘Ad hominem’ attacks on gun-rights supporters convince University of Texas student to back concealed carry,” The College Fix, Oct. 6, 2015

Mike Spies, “Texas Professor Warns That Guns in Classrooms Could Dumb Down Provocative Lessons,” The Trace, Oct. 6, 2015

Anthony Hennen, “UT chancellor: Removing gun-free zones will “inhibit our freedom of speech,” Red Alert Politics, Oct. 5, 2015

→ Javier Auyero, “What the ‘campus carry’ law means for higher education,” Fortune, Oct. 5, 2015

Jim Vertuno, “University of Texas holds forum on concealed guns on campus,” Washington Times, Sept. 30, 2015

Jennifer Sinor, “Guns on Campus Have Already Curtailed Free Speech,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct. 27, 2014

Court sustains First Amendment claim in occupational licensing case Read More